Sunday, December 6, 2015

Hope is eternal!

It has been a roller coaster of a week for me as, I am sure, has been for a lot of us whose family dropped out of contact in a flooded Chennai.  A week of unsuccessful, not to mention, frantic phone calls and whatsapp messages trying to reach the unreachable.   A week of listening to ‘This route is not available, please try after some time’ in Tamil, English, Kannada, Telugu and other unidentifiable  regional languages of India leading to the pulling of what little hair was left on my head. 

News of reservoirs being opened to dump excess water, water entering houses to sweep away hard-earned belongings, cars submerging under water throughout the city, power outages everywhere….what was, just a week ago, an active and thriving city turned into a devastation of nightmarish proportion.  To one who is averse to checking news of any form, Facebook was my one point of contact with the real world outside this past week.  Pictures and news of the devastation poured in through the social media giving my flighty imagination a boost to soar high.

I imagined my aged parents wading in chest-high water trying to get in to a rescue boat that the army sent to evacuate the area.  I imagined my mom losing balance and falling in the water.  I imagined my Dad holding a knapsack of his important documents over his head trying to help my mom to the rescue boat.  I imagined my sister and her kids all alone in a dark house that was slowly filling up with water.  After reading a FB post that said 40 crocodiles had escaped from a nearby park, I imagined the rescue boats on the streets being escorted by crocodiles on all sides.  All in all, I imagined way too much but that is nothing new.   I have been known to knit a king size blanket from a 2 inch thread all my life.  J

What my fertile imagination neglected to show me was the incredible acts of kindness shown by strangers throughout the state helping one another.   Thanks to FB, I saw people opening up their homes to give shelter to those that had lost theirs, strangers cooking and distributing food and medical supplies to all they can, college students wading in chest high water to rescue people marooned in their buildings with no food or water.  I saw humanity surface and stand tall against all odds.  I saw the rich and the poor work together to save their city.  I read stories of Hindus and Muslims and Christians and Sikhs working together to provide relief to those affected around them. 

What is it about disasters that bring out the best in us, I wonder.  Why aren’t we able to bond like this every day and break through the walls of religion, caste and language?  Why does it take a devastation of a massive kind for us to put our differences aside and stand together? 

This very moment what do I feel?  What am I proud of this day?  I am NOT proud to be a Tamilian.  I am NOT proud to be an Indian.  I am NOT proud to be a Hindu.  This day, I am proud to be a part of the human race.  It gives me incredible pride to stand with those that see the suffering of others and feel their pain.  In today’s world of constant chaos, of terrorism and bickering, I feel hope watching a flood-ravaged city practicing the rules that Mahatma Gandhi lived by - tolerance, compassion and kindness.  It gives me hope for the future. 

May TamilNadu rise up from the ashes and live to tell this story of incredible human kindness.  May the people that lost a lot find the strength to put back their lives together and move on.  May God have mercy on TamilNadu and put a cork on the rains that is still lashing out at the battered city.  May we all, who live far from the disaster, find it in ourselves to donate money generously to help our friends and family back home.   As someone said on FB, may the Bay of Bengal also find a good psychiatrist soon and get out of depression. :-)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Driving with Meena!

I took a short road trip with a favorite niece of mine yesterday.  In her early twenties, she is everything that I am not.  Young, hip-hop and adventurous, she is also ridiculously smart.  She munches on Math for a snack and sips on Science for a drink.  Poor child…she has problems that way but all her brain power turned to unrecognizable mush yesterday after 3 hours in a car with me.

I am an excellent driver.  No one can say otherwise.  Safety is the name of the game when I am behind the wheels.  If your self-worth is somehow tied to your ability to beat others, get in your car and drive by my side.  There are days when you can get off your car and walk on the road and still be faster than me. 

Seeing the gap between our car and the one in front of us, my niece turned baffled eyes at me yesterday and said “Chithi (aunt), do you realize that there is enough gap here to fit an entire continent?” to which I smiled proudly and nodded.   Unsure of the next move, she asked gingerly “How do you feel about stepping on the gas Chithi?”

I have a feeling that this particular moment will be etched in her memory forever.  In fact, I bet she is lying in a bed somewhere this very minute wondering what bad karma put those words in her mouth that opened the floodgates of my unsolicited wisdom. 

And she won’t be lying in a bed with her eyes closed, I guarantee you.  She will be staring up at the ceiling in a trance-like state.  How can I be so sure?  Because this is a genetic gift from my Dad to all of us.  Whenever we put on our thinking caps, we tilt our heads upwards towards the ceiling and just stare.  It is as though we are imploring the powers above for some divine assistance.   The truth is none of us have mastered this art of staring at the ‘mOttu’ like my Dad.  We try but we just don’t seem to have his dignity.

Rambling back to my niece’s question "How do you feel about stepping on the gas?" I opened my mouth and let the wisdom of my age spew at her.  I am not kidding when I say spew.  It was like empty-your-guts kind of puking.  I left her in no doubt about how important a human life is and how much I value mine in particular.  I even quoted from Swami Chinmayananda thanks to listening to my husband's many glorious "Hurray! I got THE call; now let me help you get ready for yours" spiritual discourses.  Hope I did him proud when I continued asking my niece questions like “Where do we have to go in such a hurry?”, “Will the world stop revolving if we are late by a few minutes?” not to mention, the quintessential ‘Will it be worth it”? What little wisdom my 4 molar teeth gave to me, I wanted to imbibe in her.

As the official navigator of our trip, she told me that I needed move to the right lane but I had 4 miles to do it.  The minute her lips closed, I put on the indicator and started begging the motorists on the other lane for a little space prompting my niece to assure me that there was no need to hurry.  So now I had to explain how it is better to do things ahead of time 'just in case'. I quoted eloquently from the life of my Dad who made us all go to the railway station and wait in the platform several hours before the train would come on each of our vacations.  And he always said 'Just in case' too.  I even remember helping the janitor sweep the platform sometimes.  

With her ears profusely bleeding from my ‘thou shall not drive faster’ and 'thou shall prepare ahead ,just in case' lectures, she was exhausted and put her seat back, closed her eyes and quietly slipped in to a painless sleep.  That left me and my restless mind all alone on the I-95 corridor behind a wheel. So I did what I usually do to entertain myself while driving.  I started singing but I decided to give my niece a break at last.  After all, I recognize pain when I see it.  Switching from my usual boisterous aka obnoxious voice, I went to a softer rendering of a krithi in Varali ragam.  I really didn’t mean to put talam while singing but one thing led to another and before you know it, my voice had risen to dangerous levels and my niece woke up to find me waving my hands in all directions and singing at ear drum-piercing decimals.  When she looked around, she found that other motorists, after one look at me, were slinking away from us clearing the road ahead for our journey. 

All except one.  This guy was behind me for a while, I think.  When I woke up from the coma of singing, I realized that he was tailgating me.  Seriously? Tailgating me?  I decided that I shall deal with it swiftly and with a vengeance.  My niece was afraid now as I am notorious for my temper.  ‘Chithi, what are going to do?” she asked in fear.  My face contorted in fury, I looked at her and said “No one tailgates me and gets away with it.  No one. (I have always wanted to say that.) This is how we deal with it.  Watch and learn M”.  And then I changed lanes and gave way to the other guy.  

Yeah, that is how you deal with it.  Now let me see how he tailgates me.  That should teach him to not mess with the likes of me.  Hah! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Deepavali - an introspection!

A typical abcd (American born confused desi), my daughter asked me yesterday ‘Amma, what is Deepavali?’  The first answer that popped into my mind, of course, was that it is the day that Indians all over the world make lots of deep-fried savories and sweets and indulge themselves in to gluttony.  When my kid put her hands on her waist and glared at me, I realized that I had inadvertantly voiced my thoughts.  Chastising myself, I quickly scanned through my mental pages for that story of the death of the demon Naragaasura that led to the celebration of Deepavali and explained to her that the day symbolizes sweeping away the dark and bringing the light into our homes.  When she nodded and walked away, I patted myself on the shoulders (because my back is wayyyyy in the back) for that grown-up like answer. 

Still, that question lingered on my mind throughout the day.  Yet another Deepavali has come by and as always, I have been focusing too much on the frills of the festival ordering sweets and snacks, buying new clothes, making plans to celebrate with firecrackers and getting together with friends and family to party.  Where in all this is the sweeping away of the dark and the evil? 

This question left a very distinct uneasiness in my mind yesterday.  I went through the day taking comfort in the routine of washing dishes, doing laundry, making pav bhaji and taking classes all the while knowing that I must face the question eventually.  I even made it to bed last night successfully feigning happiness.  The churning of the stomach as I woke up today told me that it was time to deal with it and take stock of all the dark that hides in me. 

Ego, I fear, is the worst dark in me.  This little monster has had a free run in my life for way too long.  This Deepavali, I will try to sweep it out and brave this world without that protective cloak.  My inspiration to lead life with a willingness to humiliate myself actually comes from an unlikely source – my dog Leia.   

There is truly no dog in this world that she cannot be friends with.  She can browbeat every aggressive dog out there just by being passive.  You growl, she will bring her best toy and share with you.  You kick at her, she will come and lick your face and wag her tail.  You intimidate her by any hostile behavior, she will completely ignore that and call you to play.   What can one do in the face of such passiveness except offer a hand in friendship?  There must be some truth to Gandhiji’s strategy of winning a war through non-violence.  This Deepavali, I take an oath to emulate Leia and follow her strategy of meeting all hostility with friendship. 

Ego is just the beginning of a long list of dark in me.  Impatience, a tendency to procrastinate, a temper hot enough to sting those around me, a fear of breaking conventional boundaries, a fear of confrontations, an almost impossible set of expectations from my children, a loving husband that I constantly take for granted, my family by birth and marriage that I love very much but never take any initiative to keep in regular touch…….my mile-long flaws glare at me from the mirror. 

If you expect me to conquer all of them in one Deepavali, you are the uncrowned leader of the LaLa land.  J I doubt if my heart can take annual introspections like this so I am happy that after ego, I still have enough evil lined up to cover a decade of  Deepavali festivals.

Wishing all my family and friends a joyful Deepavali.  May peace reign in our hearts this day and forever.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The secret to any successful relationship!

I goof up a lot. Big and small, I make them all. Enough to know not to judge anyone harshly. And I do own up to my mistakes…eventually! My goof ups can be broadly categorized in to two kinds – one is the common, run-of-the-mill, meenasankaran variety while the other is the spooky, unnatural kind. I own up to the first one and blame the second on the powers above.

Take last night, for example. I was caught once again in the middle of a Physics Jeopardy camouflaged as a family discussion. The relativity of time and space was the hot topic of the night as we had just come back from watching the movie Terminator 5. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s creepy full-toothed smile at the end of the movie was too funny but did anyone want to talk about it? No! It was all “Time is not constant,” “Traveling near the speed of light can warp time and space,” and some such nonsense. It was a trying time for me as usual. Pretending to be intelligent for a whole half hour is no easy task and honestly, I was getting tired of it. I decided that I was going to have my share of the conversation and racked my brains looking for an interesting scientific topic. 

Hah! Yes, I got it. Excited, I stood up and blurted, “I know what plants require to stay alive”. There was a general look of confusion in the room. Happy to have everyone’s attention at last, I declared with a beaming smile that all plants needed sunlight, water and chloroform to survive. When roaring laughter erupted around me, it was my turn to look confused. It was when my daughter asked me ‘Are you planning to kidnap a plant Amma?’ that I realized that I had mixed up chlorophyll and chloroform.  Oops! Still, I thought it was an overkill trying to literally roll on the floor like that. Anyway, after a bit of well-deserved sulking, I had to admit that I had goofed up once again. 

Now, coming to the other kind, I react very strangely to the news of an impending birth of a baby in a family. Naturally, I am happy for the parents-to-be and wish them both tons of fun changing diapers in the wee hours of the night. After putting the goodwill aside though, the news of a pregnancy causes very abnormal gastrointestinal problems for me. 

For example, say you are pregnant and you share the happy news with me. After hurriedly offering you the customary congratulations and wishes, I’ll rush home and immediately start my regime of medications. When you start your pre-natal vitamins, I will break open a bottle of Tums. When you pop a folic acid supplement, I will pop a calcium one. Why? Because at the end of your first trimester, I generally have full blown heartburn; at the end of your second trimester, my heartburn will move up the ladder to acid reflux and when you are ready to push that baby out on that hospital table, I will almost positively graduate to an Ulcer. I have concluded this to be the result of acute stress – the pressure of making it to see a baby within a few days of its birth. 

You see, historically speaking, I have never been known to visit a baby in its baby state. Usually the baby grows up and walks on its two legs and comes over to meet me. This is not for lack of trying on my part, I will have you know. I go to the store well ahead of the birth and buy cute little baby gifts and have them ready in gift bags.  Then I wait for the call. After I had successfully chewed off all my nails, the call usually comes announcing the baby’s birth. This is the make-it or break-it moment. The moment that could change my soiled record. But then, it all begins.

My car falls apart; a ligament around my knee tears like a soggy papad; my shoulder hangs out of the socket; I start talking funny delirious with fever; an allergy specialist declares that I am allergic to the world around me and orders me to live in a sterile bubble. After I win the war with all these elements one by one and at last pick up those gift bags in exhaustion, my dogs start throwing up. Just about this time, I tend to give up and halt all attempts to try and go see the baby. There is a greater power at work here and who am I to question it? Now the wait begins for the baby to grow up and pay me a visit. When they do come around to finally seeing me, I make it a point to pull out their pending gifts and show them the little baby boots, the plush blanket and the tiny little newborn dress that I had bought for them. Children are much more forgiving than the parents, I tell you. 

Luckily I have borrowed an ingenious method from a cousin of mine that very effectively deflates the anger of those annoyed parents. For that matter, this works like a charm on anyone.  Every time I see a hostile person, I offer them a profuse apology. I am never stingy with my apologies, you see. I simply walk up to them with a sheepish smile and say ‘I am soooooo sorry’. Just like that. Sometimes they are confused because at that point in time, I had not committed my mistakes yet. In confusion, when they ask for a reason, I tell them ‘Just put it in my account and keep track of it.  I am sure you will need it at some point.’ 

I believe strongly that this is the solution for all relationship problems.  All one has to do is walk around saying sorry randomly and remind folks to put it in their account. They can pull one up and use it the next time you goof up. In my humble opinion, one can never apologize too much. We never know when we will need them, do we?

On that note, I want to say how very sorry I am.  If I haven't offended you already, I do hope that you will credit this to my account for future use to be used against any mistake I have yet to make.  Because I do believe that a willingness to bow and concede to the opponent is the key to any and all successful relationships! 

Here is another one (just in case) to cement our relationship!  Very SORRY! I am feeling very relieved now.  I think I have enough apologies lying around in my account to cover a couple of hundred mistakes.  Whew! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Documentation for Dummies!

'M, come here for a minute and bring X and Y with you' my husband called in a voice that suggested that we were about to have a family meeting. This is a routine matter for us. Every once in a while, he will call, we will gather; he will speak, we will listen; he will dismiss and we will disperse. I always think in hindsight that I should have taken a notepad with me because the words of wisdom he doles out in these family meetings deserves to be passed down to generations. Sometimes I wonder how he manages to walk up straight without sagging under the weight of all that knowledge and wisdom. It can't be easy for him, I am sure.

To my 'Can't this wait? I have Sambar on the stove and it's not ready yet', my husband gave an indulgent smile and said no. Of course not! Switching off the stove I walked behind him looking back only to make sure X and Y were following. The next challenge was gathering around the toilet bowl in the pea-sized bathroom which was the venue of our current meeting. If you haven't seen our family recently, you probably cannot understand the mammoth (pun intended) difficulty of fitting the four of us around the said bowl but after a bit of creative maneuvering, we all took our rightful place and waited for the meeting to commence. As my husband cleared his throat to begin, I realized I had once again forgotten the notepad. Darn it!

'As you all know, this toilet has been leaking for a while now' he stopped and looked at us for confirmation. Promptly we all nodded and he continued 'so I have come up with a plan to prevent water getting wasted so much'. X, Y and I gazed at him with undiluted awe. He deserves a halo behind his head, I thought reverently, as he got ready to share another one of his many master plans with us.

Bending down to point at the knob below, he said 'Remember to turn this counter clockwise every time before you use this bathroom'. He paused to see if we were following and we did what we always do best. We nodded vigorously anxious to relieve his mind of all doubts. How could we not follow him? He even demonstrated 'counter clockwise'. That is how good he is to us. I can't believe how fortunate we are to have his guidance in complicated matters like these. Satisfied that we got it, he proceeded 'After you flush the toilet, wait for 20 seconds and then turn it clockwise until you can turn no more'.

Uh oh! Oh God, please no! Not Math! Not at a time like that. I could see myself in the bathroom reciting 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3 one thousand………………….I looked at X and Y in despair but they are made of sterner stuff than me. They were looking at my husband with a look that seemed to say 'Is that all you got'? Unfazed by that, of course, my husband continued to patiently demonstrate the knob-turning technique until he was sure the process was etched in our little brains. Such was his training that I found myself practicing the turn unconsciously in the air while watching TV last night.

'But appa' Y interrupted his training session and asked 'What about when we have guests at home?' Thrilled and thoroughly pleased by this intelligent question of Y, my husband beamed a smiled at her and proceeded to solve this new problem. His ability to instantly provide solutions to problems is spooky, I tell you. Give him a problem and he will give you a solution right away but if you are the kind that needs some hand holding with implementation, I suggest you knock on a different door with your problems. How much can one person do? He can't both think and act now, can he?

'This is what you do' he laid out the plan for us. 'Make a document that gives step by step instructions on how to turn the knob and how long they are supposed to wait before turning it again. Be sure to take a picture of the toilet bowl and put an arrow in red (he really pays attention to details, doesn't he?) to indicate the position of the knob. X, you are good at drawing, right? I want you to draw examples of clockwise and anti-clockwise motions and put it under the bullet points. After all, we want to make it easy for our guests to enjoy our bathroom' he finished.

I blinked the tears of pride that were welling up in my eyes. Such thoughtful and thorough documentation instructions are worthy of a Fortune 500 company's IT department. And here is my husband, brimming with the milk of human kindness, using his skills so you can pee in peace (using the instruction sheet that is soon to go on the wall over the toilet) if you ever plan to stay over in our home.

Is it any wonder that we adore him? J

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother’s Day!

Honestly, I was the worst child ever. How my Mom put up with me when I was growing up is beyond my understanding. If I had been her, I would have disowned me in a heartbeat.

It is no exaggeration when I say that I was brash, demanding and outright obnoxious. Without considering how I will be leaving my Mom to face the fire-breathing dragons of our Land (my Dad and Uncle in righteous anger) for my adventures, I would happily hop off to play cricket and kabadi with the boys on the street. Knowing very well that playing board games or putting kolam/rangoli might have fetched my Mom some brownie points for good child-rearing over summer vacation, I had thoughtlessly opted to borrow (or steal, if you want to be technical about it) my Uncle's 2 wheeler to take a joy ride around the neighborhood. One time, I overheard my Dad's sister giving helpful pointers to my Mom as to what she could do to make me better. J

That's not all. When I felt the first pangs of hunger, I needed food right that second. I mean, right that ticking second. The fact that I woke up hungry most days and went through the day in a constant state of hunger is a whole different matter. And, it is not like I would eat anything my Mom cooked. No way! The Meena's 'approved' list of dishes was, yes, pathetic but definitely non-negotiable. Naturally everything I liked had a direct or indirect connection to potatoes therefore making them 'oh no' items for all the adults in the family.

My mother would wake up at 4 am most days and claim her Kitchen kingdom with the enthusiasm of a 5 star hotel chef on his first day of work. When people talk of multi-tasking, I snicker. Discreetly of course because hey, I know it is wrong. My mother was the true mistress of multi-tasking. A quick peep in the Kitchen window would show her starting her day at the stove by putting water and milk pot side by side for the morning coffee ritual. From then on, it was a whirlwind of action getting breakfast and lunch boxes ready for my Uncle and my Dad who would step out of the house by 7 am.

When I say lunch boxes, it is the nothing like the totally pitiful ones that I pack for my daughter to school here. No sandwiches and yogurt cups then. Sambar rice, yogurt rice, one healthy veg, one koottu or keerai (palak), papads all packed nicely in 2 steel carriers by 7 AM. A well-played first innings indeed. After a short 2 minute tea break, the second innings would begin with my sisters and I creating a tornado in the house to leave for school at 8 am. Off she would go to whip up a spicy tomato rice for me, onion sambar and a plantain roast for my elder sister, rasam and a beans curry for my younger sister. As we rush out of the house without so much as a 'thank you amma', she would wave us off with a smile and enter the Kitchen for the last and final innings of the morning. It is now time to cook 'pathiya' food for my aunt who was bed ridden with a painful rheumatic arthritis.

You may think, sure a lot of mothers those days cooked and cared like this for their families. You would be right but what makes my mom special to me is that after almost 5 hours of cooking, she would find the time to sit by my aunt's bed side and talk to her about the morning activities and ask for her advice about next day's menu and simply keep her company. Who does that, you tell me. God must have had a bad 'Math' day when he put a dozen people's quota of goodness into my mother alone.

My mother lived her life as an example to us. What little I have learned about helping others, I learned watching her. There was an old man in our neighborhood when I was growing up. We had nicknamed him 'Tuesday begger' as he always came to our door on Tuesday mornings alone. He had principles too, you know. He would beg only once a week in each neighborhood. Politicians should have his scruples. He would come in the morning before we would leave for school. In all that morning madness, she would take a plantain leaf, place it on a plate, serve hot rice with sambar, vegetable, a glass of buttermilk, one banana and feed him. She would wait for him to finish his meal and pour cool water for him to wash his hands and send him off his way with a one rupee coin. Who does that, I ask again.

Today, my mother is just weeks shy of 80 and is recovering from a knee surgery. She is the most loving, generous and compassionate person that I know and I consider myself blessed to be her daughter.

Happy Mother's Day Amma! I hope to be at least half as good a mom to my kids as you were to all of us. Thank you for putting up with all my nonsense all these years. J


Friday, April 24, 2015

Happily ever after!

'Mom, call me… need to talk to you ASAP', my daughter had sent me a message few weeks ago. Between the time I saw the mail and managed to get to a phone, my mind had assumed its favorite 'Sivaji ganesan' role and overacted as usual. Even as I dialed with shaky hands, I imagined her lying helpless and pale in bed at her college dorm burning up in fever yearning for her mom to be at her side.

Like I said, my mind over(e)acts at times. Being the only active part of my body, I think it tries to balance the scales every now and then by going in to overdrive. When my daughter picked up the phone at the first ring, I pounced with 'A, are you okay? Are you in pain? Don't worry, Appa and I will come and get you soon. Take a couple of advil and lie down until we get there.' Next to seedless green grapes, Advil is the most popped/prescribed item in my diet.

While I stopped to gulp air, A interjected with a puzzled 'Amma, who said I was sick?' Apparently, all she wanted was to discuss her course selection for the next semester with me. Really A?? You couldn't say that in your email?? How many more grey hairs would you have me 'henna-rinse' each month? As it is, the petition to increase my beautician budget from 3 months ago is still pending with her Dad. Anyway, I was glad she was okay.

Also, she was not completely without worries. Driven by a goal to finish her degree early, she has been cramming her semesters with tons of gruesome science courses and has been juggling her time between her classes, labs, homework and volunteering. I have never seen anyone with such clarity of mind in setting goals but knowing where you have to go doesn't automatically make your path easier, I guess.

Sometimes I wonder how the kids of this generation handle so much pressure without falling apart. If I have to live their lives for a day, I will take up my Dad's offer from childhood without blinking where he had often offered to buy me 4 cows and 4 sheep to shepherd as an alternative to going to school. Cattle will stomp on Chemistry any day, if you go by Sheldon Cooper's 'Rock, paper, scissors, lizard and spock' logic. What puzzles me most is how these kids dress up. How come they all wear their underwear inside their pants and not outside like Superman? Then how will this world recognize them for what they truly are? You would think all their fancy education would tell them how to dress the part. Duh!

I cannot recall a single day from my childhood when I had worried about life after college, about paying off college loans, landing internships or finding part-time jobs to fund further education. Life was much simpler for us. We were the 21st century version of Jane Austen's Bennett family.

My sisters and I were raised lovingly by a large joint family whose collective aspiration was to get us all married as soon we graduated. My mother aka Mrs. Bennett's visits to the local temples fetched her not only divine blessings but also information about families with eligible bachelors in the 20 mile radius. I don't recall her stepping out of our house without our horoscopes in her purse. Next to the 'sundal' prasadam, our horoscopes were the most popular item distributed in the temples those days.

In anticipation of someone knocking on our door to check on our availability in the marriage mart, my Dad and Uncle were forever in a 'ready' state to prostrate at their feet for that favor. My Uncle loved us as his own so much so that he handwrote our 'assets' painstakingly on the back of our horoscopes before they were distributed around town – 'Fair complexion, docile (a small lie never hurts anyone, he believed), sings well, can put 'kolam'/rangoli and excellent cook'. His love for us knew no bounds really.

Coming back to our stress-free childhood, my wise sister attributes it to a 'lack of expectation' from us. All we had to do was graduate and get ready to pick our wedding clothes. I am happy to say that my sisters and I rose to the occasion and completed the task set for us with flying colors. We, the Bennetts, lived happily ever after and never had occasion to wear our underwear on top of our pants.

How about you?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Meet Bob!

Many months ago, I walked into a store and met Bob and my life has not been the same ever since.  Thanks to Bob, I find myself looking at life these days through a pair of slow-motion spectacles where all frantic movements have trickled down to mere frame-by-frame motion sequences.  
Bob was one of the two sales people in that store that day.  He had a sweet smile and kind eyes so naturally I picked him over the other salesman.  Wearing an answering smile myself, I walked towards Bob and asked to see a few products in the store.  What followed was the longest 2 hours of my life.
It is important to mention here that I dragged my kids in to that store with me after assuring them that I will get them both an ice cream cone as soon as we got out of there.  ‘Just a few minutes’ I promised my kids.  I didn’t know that Fate was holding its jiggling tummy and laughing at me right at that moment.
Watching Bob go to work was a revelation.  I learned that Bob did not believe in rushing things.  Have you ever watched words take a slow tumble out of someone’s mouth, letter by letter?  I did.  I almost cupped my hands in front of his mouth at one point to catch those precious words but luckily caught myself in time. 
Our conversation mirrored a chess game between a chess master and an amateur.  My mouth opened, hurled out the words and shut itself while Bob had to think deep and hard before he would allow a word to form in his mind.  I felt tears of joy burning at the back of my eyes every time we were treated to a full sentence.  My daughters had to pinch my sides to keep those tears under check.  It has been many months now but the fading pinch marks in my side still brings dear Bob to my mind.
In my heart, I know Bob meant to show us the products before Sun went down the horizon that day.  I have to believe that.  He had no meanness in him, you see but seconds stretched to an hour as Bob walked between the stock room and the sales desk.  He had such gentle movements.  It was like watching a swan gracefully sway through the room.  The carpet heaved a sigh of relief beneath his shoes each time Bob glided over its surface.  Why, you ask?  He left not a single shoe mark, that’s why.
After the 8th trip back from the stock room, Bob seemed a bit tired.  Sure, who won’t?  I wished the other salesman would bring Bob a glass of water to drink.  After all, he hadn’t moved an inch in the last hour.  Standing in the same place and chatting easily with the 10 or more customers I had seen come in to the store in that hour.  It just didn’t seem fair.  Sure, he sold stuff to those 10 people, but hah, big deal!  .
Glaring at his colleague for his lack of compassion, I suggested to Bob that he take a break to rest his legs for a while before resuming his 9th trip trying to bring us the product we actually wanted and not the ones that he could find.  He looked at me with such gratitude. 
As the clock ticked by and crossed 90 minutes, Bob managed to walk out at last holding what I was looking for.  If it weren’t for my creaking knees, I would have leapt over the sales desk and kissed him in sheer happiness.  Instead I broke out the 10,000 watts smile that I usually save up just for my husband.  Waking up from their naps in the corner sofa, my kids were now looking hopefully at me.  I smiled at them reassuringly and whipped out my wallet to close the sale and be on my way out.  Not so fast, said Bob. 
Apparently computers puzzled Bob.    It was really sweet the way he looked at the tip of his pointer finger carefully each time he used it to push in a key on the keyboard.  After each push, he would gently lift his eyes to the screen and smile as he saw his hard work translated on the screen.  The whole thing was nothing short of a well-choreographed waltz.  There was a rhythm and a beauty to it.  He was gentle with those keys. Every now and then, the fingers will hang suspended in air while he would look confused at the computer screen.  Fearing the wrath of my daughters who were drilling holes in my back, I decided to step in and move things along.  Gently, I scooted over to the other side, peeked at the computer and walked Bob through the steps of running my credit card and closing the sale.  The sheer joy on his face at the end was well worth the wait, I thought.  My daughters somehow didn’t think so. 
Aren’t you happy you met Bob today? :-)