Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Couple

There are couples, and there are couples. But this couple was different.

He was tall, and broad. He had a swarthy face, and hair that could have been a wig used by the villains of yesteryears to hide a bald pate. Except that he didn't really look like a villain - he was grim, but mild. He walked stiffly, and his hands were always in his pockets. He always looked at the ground.

She was thin, almost frail. Her salwar kurta hung from her frame like from a clothes hanger. Her wavy hair was tied back with a clip, she walked with a slight stoop, and was slightly pigeon footed. She always had a handbag on one shoulder.

My sis and I met them every evening on our way back from music class, walking on the uneven footpath of 8th main.

There was something different about this couple. As persons, there was nothing striking about them. They were both plain looking. Individually, you wouldn't have taken a second look at them. But as a couple, there was something that drew you to them.

They always walked, whispering softly to each other. They never ever smiled, but they didn't look sad either. It was as if they were always having a calm, serious discussion.

They never looked at each other. The man always looked at the ground, while the woman's head was half turned towards the man, at an angle of 45 degrees. She never looked at him, either, she looked at some far away point.

Their ages were indeterminate. As teenagers, we weren't experts at guessing ages, but we couldn't place them in any decade. We finally decided that they must be in their thirties - they definitely looked old enough to be married. The man could quite well be forty, but we weren't sure.

Every evening, it was the same sight. The two of them walking rather aimlessly on the crooked footpath of that busy main road, very occasionally sitting on the steps of a commercial complex and talking unhurriedly.

Were they married? We thought not. We didn't know any married people who would go out in the evening, walk without purpose on uncomfortable footpaths and sit on steps of buildings and talk, and then go back home. They looked more like office-goers, or colleagues who met after office hours and had discussions.

Another strange thing about them was that we couldn't fathom from which part of India they were. Having lived in a colony with people from all over the India, we were quite good at guessing which state a person hailed from. With these two, we couldn't even guess whether they were from the north of India or the south or the east or the west.

Once, we decided to catch them in conversation so that we would know what language they spoke in. For half a dozen evenings, we slowed down when we crossed them, and deadened our ears to the sound of traffic to try to catch what they were saying. But they always stopped speaking when anybody was around. Just once, we heard the sound of the woman's voice trailing off - a soft voice, with a neutral tone. But it was too less of a sample to take a guess at the language.

There they remained - the strange mystery couple, walking together every evening, for years.

I am sure you are looking forward to a surprise end - you are thinking that I am going to tell you that I met them again after fifteen years, Chintu-Mintu in tow, or something like that. I wish I could.

But this is one of the stories that you strive to complete by yourself, one of the mysteries that you solve in your head and convince yourself that you have the right solution.

This is one of the stories without a conclusion.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why chronicle?

Here is a part of a comment for the previous post by LAK.

Loved the post. Tell you what, do save this in hard copy as well, for her to read when she grows up---you won't be able to repeat these words then---in fact you'll love to read it then too. When my kids were small, I wrote about their antics to my mom, sis and friends. Now I've got back those letters from my mom and the kids and I love going thru those handwritten snippets of emotion.


My parents stayed in Germany for a year when I was about two years old. Communication, not being what it is now (to put it mildly), there was hardly any interaction between the family back home and my parents. But everybody wanted to know the latest antics of the only grandchild of the family (me), and so my mom wrote long letters back home on thin onion paper. She wrote about me, what I do, things I liked, things I said... and when she came back, she collected the letters from them, and kept them with her. She showed them to me when I was a teenager, and I had the greatest time reading them.

These letters contain those moments, those stories, which are run-of-the-mill, ordinary, but these mirror the real two year old me. These little things, which would otherwise have been forgotten, since they aren't too dramatic, were handed back to me to relish.

There are stories in every family about every child - stories that circulate wildly, are retold at every gathering. Stories like the time Peevee was missing for hours and was then found in my parents' room, playing with talcum powder that she had spilled all over the bed and floor. Like the story about my then two year old cousin K1 who came out of the room carrying his new born brother K2 like a kitten, and mouthing, "Nange paapa ishTa." (I like baby).

These stories, being dramatic, are remembered, but what about those other moments - a child's first witticism, a cute habit he had - what about those? Most of them fade out of memory.

Unless of course, a treasure happens to come by in the form of my mother's, or LAK's letters - which is one of the main reasons I keep an account of Puttachi's antics.

There is no guarantee that Puttachi will grow up and enjoy what I have written about her. But I believe she will. She will probably marvel at the number of unknown people who followed her life. But again, she might not like it either, which, if she takes after me, is improbable.

Anyway, if it so happens that she couldn't care less for these records, I will anyway most definitely enjoy it. I will probably look back at it, and laugh perhaps, of how naive a mother I was, or how different Puttachi was back then.

Either way, blog I will.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ten Months

The main update for this month is that Puttachi Walks. Not yet, as in walking all about the house without support, but she has taken her first steps, and she gets better each day. With the use of her legs, she has simultaneously found another new use of her feet - exploration. What was previously being examined with her hands and mouth, now needs to be explored with her feet too... leading to more falls!

She has been climbing steps (crawling) for a while now.. but she hadn't climbed down stairs until last week. She has a cute way of climbing down single stairs. She goes right up to the edge, swings her legs over, assumes sitting position, then stands wobbling on the lower step, then stoops carefully, and sits down on the lower step.

For the rest of the update, I will give it to you in the style of a Tag that Wunderyearz has tagged me with.

Before I start, I will describe to you The Exciroutine - what she does when she is excited (which is very often). She draws herself up to her full height, takes a deep breath, her eyes open wide, her mouth twists in a near grimace. Her arms fly up to her shoulder height, and she flaps them about like wings. Sometimes, it is like beating invisible drums. Simultaneously, her palms screw-unscrew-screew-unscrew an invisible light bulb at lightning speed. Sometimes, the action is that of locking-unlocking an invisible lock with an invisible key. While her hands are busy, her feet are rubbed against each other like a fly rubs its "hands" together. Occasionally she shakes her body, like the way you would shake a container into which you have just poured sugar, to settle the contents.


Things Puttachi is passionate about.

- Me.

- Her Papa.

- Dogs. You need the strength of three people to control her if she as much as spots a dog. She performs The Exciroutine. She squeals and roars for all the neighbourhood to hear. At least one dog has been known to run away from this crazy child, terrified.

- Animals, in general. Elephants, lions, and other animals on discovery, Cows on the Road. When there are animals on TV, she crawls right up to the TV stand, stands up and tries to touch the screen.
When we ask her "Puttachi, what does a cow say?" She says "Ambaaaaa!" And "What does a tiger say?" She roars.

- Bougainvillea. Wherever she spots the bougainvillea, she gives a long drawn squeal, does The Exciroutine, and then bends her head sideways and looks at the bougainvillea almost with love.
- Flowers, in general.

- Doormats and footrugs. She crawls right up to the doormat, stops, and then slyly looks towards me to see if I am watching. When she sees that I indeed am, she giggles naughtily, sits down very close to the doormat and starts The Exciroutine. I can almost hear the voices in her head.
Devil - Go ahead, touch it!

Angel - No, no, Amma is watching.

Devil - Go on, Puttachi, it looks so inviting... nothing will happen!

Angel - No, no don't, Amma said no, it is dirty.

Devil - Go on! There is a nice looking scrap of paper right there.. I am sure it will taste heavenly. Go ahead, take it!

The Devil usually wins, and a hand hovers over the doormat, then she looks up at me sideways again.
Me: Puttachi, NOOOOO!
Puttachi takes hand close to doormat.
In a flash, I am over her, scoop her up and take her away, with her laughing wickedly and delightedly. It is almost like she expected this, but thought she would try her luck anyway.

- Kids of all ages. She thinks everybody is her friend by default. When shy children do not respond to her, she bends towards them nonetheless and touches them softly on the cheek, bends her head sideways, smiles and gurgles.

- Music. She hums along to any piece of music. She sways to it, and sometimes dances too. She then pats her leg like a Taala.

- Ta-ta. As in going out. A few days ago, 90 percent of the intelligible words she spoke consisted of the word "Amma". Now, 90 percent of the time, she says "Ta-ta". She makes for the main door/balcony saying "Ta-ta, ta-ta". If she sees anybody dressed to go out/wearing shoes, they've had it. They have to escape when she is not looking.


Things she does that drives me/us crazy:

- The fact that she wants to put everything, and I mean EVERYTHING into her mouth. But just sometimes, for example, she takes a scrap of paper to her mouth, then turns and looks at me. I shake my head, and she puts it down, surprising me completely!

- Put her down and she has to make for the nearest forbidden item. Sometimes I feel that the entire day, all I have done is bring her back from where she is, to safety.

- When she has had enough food, she spits it out with a vengeance. Even after she has done spitting, she spits out saliva, as if to get rid of the taste. Then she proceeds to play with whatever she has spat out.

- It is next to impossible to keep her in one place when bathing/changing/drying her hair.

- In the supermarket, she picks up things from shelves as we pass them by, and has often knocked down many things.

- She is never still. Her hands, legs and head are ALWAYS in motion except when she is asleep.

Things she says often:

- Amma.
- Papa
- Ta-ta
- Ajji/Ajja/Thatha - for her grandparents
- Mamm-mamm (food)
- Ai-gi-giyaaa/Au-gu-guyaaaa/Ingi-yaa/Ugm/Ibn (No apparent meaning)
- Umba (no apparent meaning)
- Dir-dir-dir-dir-dir/Gir-gir-gir-gir (When irritated)
- Phhrrrrrrrr (spitting air - when frustrated)
- Aa-aa-aa (rising notes) - when happy, when she sees something she likes.
- She repeats anything we say immediately.


Books she read recently:

You mean books she ATE recently. (;)) - Ok seriously.. she loves to look at books.
- Baby's first colours - she loves this.
- Mickey-Donald's baby books
- The clownfish
- Nursery Rhymes
- "Don't cut my hair!"
- Animal Record Breakers - her current favourite.
... and all newspapers and magazines

Songs she listens to over and over
All sung by me of course --

- Aane banthondaane
- Nammooralli Shivanobba
- Naayi mari naayi mari
- Putaani Krishna
- Kuri mari Byaa
- Ditties that I made using her name.
- Oh Susanna
- Yeh Dhara
- Sa-re-ga-ma.
- Old McDonald
- Where's the Party Tonight
.. and many many more.

Things that makes her the person she is:
- Her smile.
- Her eyes - big, black, guileless
- Her eyelashes - oh, how she uses them to her advantage, batting them oh so innocently!
- Her hair - that frames her face, sets it off.
- Her enthusiasm for everything.
- Friendliness - man, animal and object - all are her friends.
- Her very animated and expressive face. She uses her eyebrows, lips, cheeks, chin, everything to convey the expression of her choice.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tantrik vs Rationalist

We need more shows like this! [Link via India Uncut]

A long, long tag.

A very self-indulgent tag, courtesy I Love Lucy.

Read at your own risk.

Ten things you wish you could say to people right now (don't list names):

1. Please stay put for just half an hour longer.
2. Call me!
3. I miss you :(
4. Keep in touch, dude!
5. &%$& (&$@# %$#!@#!!!!!
6. Stop wasting time, silly! Just go ahead and do it!
7. I appreciate your concern but I am doing what I think is right.
8. We really should meet more often.
9. I should have made it easier for you.
10. I love you!

Nine Things About Yourself:

I've written a lot about myself in many previous tags - I can't think of anything new to hold your interest - so I pass this :D If you want to know about me, I direct you to the Tags page.

Eight Ways To Win Your Heart:

1. Smile a genuine smile.
2. Talk a bit, and let me talk a bit.
3. Be frank, not rude.
4. Respect my feelings.
5. Listen to me.
6. Offer a shoulder whenever I need it.
7. Make me laugh.
8. Give me my privacy.

Seven Things That Cross Your Mind A Lot:

1. What shall I feed Puttachi next?
2. Where shall we go today?
3. What will x/y/z be doing now?
4. When will Puttachi go to sleep?
5. When will I see x/y/z again?
6. When will I be able to do what I want to do?
7. What if...?

Six Things You Wish You Never Did:

1. Try to be someone I am not.
2. Enter the software industry.
3. Try to please people.
4. Let people's comments affect me.
5. Read novels too much, instead of going out more.
6. Be rude or indifferent to my loved ones.

Five Turn-Offs:

1. Foul language
2. Body odour and bad breath.
3. Crowding me (both physically and emotionally)
4. Roving eyes.
5. Chauvinism.

Four Turn-Ons

1. An honest smile.
2. Sparkling eyes.
3. Warmth
4. Approachability.

Three Things You Want To Do Before You Die

1. Travel a lot.
2. Run a marathon.
3. Write a book.

Two Smileys that Describe You

1. ;)
2. :D

One Confession

I am disorganized.

There, I have bared my heart like I have never done before :D

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Right Mindset

My sis sent me this excellent link about the work of Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, and her book "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success".

While I urge you to read the article completely, I will highlight a few points here which appealed to me particularly.

I have always wondered what it is that makes some people successful. Why they strive, achieve, and reach where they want to, and go further. Why what works for one doesn't work for another. Is it motivation? Is it innate talent? Is it the ability to work hard?

Carol Dweck tried to figure it out, and...

The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.

What’s more, Dweck has shown that people can learn to adopt the latter belief and make dramatic strides in performance.


When she tried to explore why some people treated obstacles as challenges, where other people became discouraged by it, she found...

People who attributed their failures to lack of ability [...] would become discouraged even in areas where they were capable. Those who thought they simply hadn’t tried hard enough, on the other hand, would be fueled by setbacks.


Her research led her to conclude that there are two kinds of people - Those with "Learning Goals", and those with "Performance Goals", i.e. The former want to increase their ability, while the latter want to show off their ability.

People with performance goals, she reasoned, think intelligence is fixed from birth. People with learning goals have a growth mind-set about intelligence, believing it can be developed.


See this excellent diagram for the complete picture.

There is one more important thing that she says.


But aren’t there plenty of people who believe in innate ability and in the notion that nothing comes without effort? Logically, the two ideas are compatible. But psychologically, explains Dweck, many people who believe in fixed intelligence also think you shouldn’t need hard work to do well. [...] “The fallacy comes when people generalize it to the belief that effort on any task, even very hard ones, implies low ability,” Dweck says.


If you have been reading through this and increasingly feeling that you are one of those with a fixed mind-set, there is hope for you. Dweck says it is definitely possible to change your beliefs.

Dweck has also applied her theory to kids' moral education. Here's a sample - of how to motivate your child.

Reading this article has set my brain whirring. I hope it does the same to you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Geometry

For some reason, I remembered Geometry yesterday. I realized with a start that it had been one of my favourite subjects in school. I wonder why I liked it so much. Perhaps it was because it was "different", a break from the monotony. You had to draw, and I liked drawing. Perhaps it was because we got to use a lovely, shiny Geometry Box, and the fascinating instruments inside. Or perhaps, the subject simply appealed to me - who knows?

I remember my first (and only!) Geometry box so well. It was an orange Omega pencil box, with a blurred cherubic kid smiling on it. Inside, sitting prettily in an orangish-red frame, were the shiny divider (the purpose of which is still vague to me), and the compass (the instrument most misused). Below these were the two set squares, a protractor, and a small 6 inch ruler. I loved to take all the instruments out, and arrange them neatly by the side of my book while I drew.

Geometry for me goes nearly synonymously with our first Geometry teacher. She was extremely particular about everything - what we had in our boxes, and how we drew.

Other than the little pencil that we affixed to the compass, there had to be two extra little pencils in your box, all sharpened to perfection. There had to be three long pencils at least, which protruted high above your hand when you clasped it. Again, they had to be very sharp. Other than this, you had to have a sharpener (or mender, as we called it back then) handy, for emergencies. Clutch pencils (or pen pencils, as we called them), though enjoying a lot of snob value otherwise, were explicitly taboo in Geometry class.

Our drawings had to be perfect. A double line, or a vague arc, or worse, a point that was too huge, would bring out the volcano in the teacher. "Look at this point!" She would roar. "It is as big as my bindi!" She would then proceed to cross out the entire diagram with the dreaded red pen. She has also been known to throw particularly untidy books right across the classroom, and throw unsharpened pencils directly into the dustbin.

We would draw our diagrams with painful care, keeping our erasers handy. (We called erasers "rubbers" then. Oh well.) "Scent" rubbers smelt good and looked pretty, but left dark grey marks when erased with them. So it had to be good old Natraj or Camlin erasers. After finishing the diagram, we would take it to the teacher, and stand before her, trembling. In other classes, we could look forward to "Good" or "Neat" remarks. But in Geometry class, all we hoped for was just the teacher's initials. But more often then not, we came back holding pages full of deep red gashes, and stinging rebukes ringing in our ears.

But I must say this for us, towards the end of the year, most of us escaped without red marks in our books - we were finally perfect.

And I must say this for the teacher, her training lasted for years. Many, many years later, during Engineering Graphics, or Electrical Drawing, if I happened to make a smudged line, or a double point, a voice would boom from the deep recesses of my mind.. ".... AS BIG AS MY BINDI.... " and I would hurriedly fish out my eraser and make amends.

Even when Geometry graduated to theorems and postulates, with more theory and less drawing, more lenient teachers and less red marks, it still remained a favourite subject for me.

Did you like Geometry?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A lesson from Discovery.

I was showing Puttachi animals on Discovery yesterday. The programme was about the Wild Hunters in Africa, and I was keeping up a running commentary.

"Look!" I said, "Look how fast the leopard is running - there, it caught the deer..... Look at the leopard eating the deer..."

Just then a hyena entered the scene and tried to sneak away the leopard's kill.

"Look Puttachi!" I said, "That hyena is trying to steal the leopard's food. Should you take something that belongs to others? No! Bad, bad hyena!"

The hyena, however, did manage to snatch the kill away from the leopard, and went a few paces with it, before it was frightened by an elephant. The hyena dropped the kill and ran off, and the leopard retrieved it and dragged it up a tree to feast on it at leisure.

"Yay!" I said, "Look, the leopard got back its food. Serves the hyena right!"

On the screen, the hyena was then shown sauntering away. The voice-over in the programme then said, "The hyena lost her chance. She is on the lookout again. She needs to find food before the end of the day to feed her hungry cubs."

Zap! The entire perspective changed. The poor hyena was looking for food to feed her cubs. That's all. She was doing what she is best at doing - scavenging!

The screen then showed two little hyena cubs sniffing the ground, looking for scraps of food. A lump appeared in my throat.

The next scene was of the mother hyena loitering near a pride of lions. The lions were resting after a full meal, and the hyena was apparently trying to see if she could manage to get hold of something leftover from the meal. But unfortunately for her, she got too close to the lions for comfort. A male lion came across, pounced on her, and clamped his mouth on her throat. Her legs twitched for a while, and then she lay still.

The voice-over said, "The lions will not eat this hyena. She was just treated like a pest that had to be eliminated. With this, the lion took not one life, but three. The hyena's cubs cannot survive without her." And the camera showed the two forlorn little hyena cubs again.

I had to sit still for a moment - struck dumb. To the leopard, and then the lions, the hyena was an intruder, a pest. But the hyena, on her part, was doing what she had to do. She was looking for food for her cubs.

We are so quick to judge people, and to attribute negative characteristics to them. Who knows what instinct, what compulsion, or what pressing need they are acting under!

I think everybody deserves the benefit of doubt.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Movie mania

I have been watching quite a few movies these days on DVD. More than I have ever done all my life. I surprise myself, considering that I have a major interrupting factor in my life right now.

Anyway. I am hardly a fan of movies - especially Bollywood movies. but I must say that some movies of late have much to be said about them.

I don't know why i am trying to review movies, considering that i am a pathetic reviewer, but i am doing it anyway.

The following four are thanks to my dear friend SP, who gave me four cds on my birthday, and asked me to select two, but when she found I hadn't watched even one of them, she left them all with me.

Manorama - Six Feet Under - A taut thriller. Gripping. Not one unnecessary scene. Good acting. A must-watch.

The Blue Umbrella - Surreal, beautiful photography. Pankaj Kapur is brilliant. Though I wish his accent had been more understandable.

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi - I am sure it is a good movie. I mean, I know it is a good movie - but it threw me too far away from my perfect, happy world of the present. Too disturbing. Hated the ending, but liked it too. Great performances by everybody.

Chak De India - Whoa! Loved it. Loved the girls. Liked the restrained Shah Rukh Khan (Last time I liked him was in Fauji). Cheered loudly at the eve-teasers-bashing-up scene, forgetting that Puttachi was sleeping a few feet away.

Thank you, SP! Do take back a couple of your CDs, I am done :)

The rest -

Om Shanti Om - The less said, the better. I am thinking hard of something that I can say I liked.... I pass.

Jab We Met - Oh, what a fun movie! Loved it. Loved the dialogues. See, this is the kind of movie you should make if you want to make a nice, light, mainstream movie. Tolerated even Kareena Kapoor, effusive though she was. And Shahid Kapur? WHY hadn't I noticed him before? How loveable he is! And what a natural, easy actor he is! Ok, Shruthi, stop gushing.

Cheeni Kum - A surprise. Didn't think I would like it, but I really did. Even the side actors were unforgettable. The romance between AB and Tabu was light, restrained, and the dialogues were fun! The little six year old girl in the movie was, as usual was smart beyond her age, but she was not the angelic goody-goody type, but on the contrary, delivered her dialogues in a near monotone with a deadpan expression. And so, I liked her too. The only grouse I have against the movie was that they made too much of the Miracle Iron Pillar of Qutb Minar. Too much melodrama there too. Could easily have been avoided.

Johnny Gaddaar - Another unexpected surprise. Very fast-moving, more twists than I could even guess. Worth a watch.

And the movie I have been most eagerly waiting to watch - Taare Zameen Par - hasn't yet had the honour of being watched by me. Soon, very soon.
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