Friday, October 31, 2008

Township Tales - Rajyotsava

Somewhere, sometime, I had started off our Township Tales - and for no reason at all, it came to a standstill. I remembered our township again because of the date - Nov 1st - the highlight of the year in our township was the Rajyotsava Celebration.

The planning and organization for the Rajyotsava Celebrations, which was held throughout the month of November, started much earlier. The "Township committee" drew up a careful calendar of events, and nominated a "Sports committee" and "Cultural programme Committee". The heads of the respective committees plunged into sincere and thorough arrangements.

Through November, there were games and competitions and other events. The sports events consisted of Carrom, Badminton, Table Tennis, Chess, Cricket, and so on, all of which we played in all possible versions - Singles, Doubles, Mixed Doubles, Team Events... you name it, we had it. Since the participants consisted not only of children, but also adults, all the events were held in the evenings after the adults got back from work, and they went on until late at night.

On ordinary days, we kids usually stopped playing and got back home by 7 30 pm, with only occasional forays after dinner to chat up with a friend (but those occasions were rare.) But during November, all deadlines and self-imposed rules disappeared. Our parents also became very lenient during this period, allowing us to do things that wouldn't otherwise have been tolerated.

For example, I would be eating dinner with the family, when someone would shout out from the Community Center, loud enough for everybody to hear......

"Shruuuuuuuuthiiiiiiiiiiii... your carrom match starts in five minutes!"

Me: *mouth stuffed with food* Can't you postpone it by fifteen minuuuuuutess?"

"Nooooooooo, it is a doubles maaaaaaatch, your partner is free only nooooow, if you don't come right away, the other team will receive a byeeeeeeeeee!!!"

Horrors! How could I allow that? I would ditch my food and dash out in a trice. And my mom would understandingly say nothing, and keep my plate aside for me to come back and eat later. Bliss.

And there was something exciting about playing a night match of Badminton on the lawn. With real floodlights. We felt so important!

There were other events like Memory Test, Singing, Fancy Dress, Quiz, Antakshari, painting, and other games like putting the ball in the bucket and seeing who could light the most candles with a single burning match... we participated in everything that could be participated in.

Whether we lost or whether we won, the whole experience was head-spinningly exciting!

Along with these events, the rehearsals for the main function were held through the month. Invariably, my mom was in charge of training the singers for the group songs, and the rehearsals took place in our home or in the house of others who were in the group.  These rehearsals were accompanied by hot tea and snacks made by whoever was hosting. There usually was a whole lot of giggling, and I have stories just from these rehearsals that I air out whenever I meet friends from the township, causing great mirth. I was also be in the group, and a couple of years, I played the keyboard accompaniment.

After all the rehearsals were concluded, the matches played, the competitions held, and the winners decided, it was time for the Grand Finale. The actual day of celebration. The Main Function. The Gathering.

This day, sometime towards the end of November - this day, I can tell you - was VERY exciting. Just writing about it is producing goosebumps in me.

It was usually held on a Saturday, which meant half-day at school. By the time we got back from school, the arrangements would have begun. Someone would have started arranging light brown folding metal chairs on the lawn, and a wooden stage would be getting ready. Red screens and curtains would be lying by the side, ready to be put up. We'd run home, have a quick lunch and get back to "oversee" the arrangements, and then go back home to have a nap because the programme would go on late into the night.

We'd be awakened from our naps by the setting up of the microphone and sound system, accompanied by feedback screeches and "Allo, allo, 1-2-3 testing.." We'd tremble, our excitement reaching a fever pitch.

Sharp at 4 30 pm, we'd turn out in new clothes (or costumes), and salivating mouths, to partake of snacks and tea, to a background of songs about the greatness of Kannada and Karnataka being blared from loudspeakers. After that, the programme began with a huge screech. Invariably some Sandalwood personality (one time it was Master Manjunath of Malgudi Days fame) or an Office Biggie would have been invited, and their arrival would be marked with a lot of buzzing and whispering.

The programme would then start with an invocation, followed by speeches, and then the cultural events, in which we'd also participate, presenting the songs that we'd rehearsed so long for. The fancy dress and prize distribution followed - and then dinner.

And if you thought that was all, no. This was followed by late night Housie - where we delighted in losing money and cursing those who always seemed to win lots of money (But they buy ten tickets - they will anyway win!)

I don't think I have enough words to tell you how exciting these times were for us - but we would revel in the memory of it for days afterwards, reliving each moment, breaking down every event for careful contemplation and ruthless remarks.

And after all the excitement died down and the routine of school swallowed us again, we would look forward to the next Rajyotsava.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What to do when you don't know where to start

What do you do when lots of things are happening, and you have so much to write about but don't know where to start? Take up tags.

The first one, by Emma.

My earliest memory: These.

Ten years ago: I was studying in the first year of engineering college (or had the second year begun?) - and I was troubled with life's great problems like not having completed writing the practical record, and wondering how I could eat an entire chapati and visit the toilet and get back in the ten minute break. I was making great friends, laughing at strange teachers, and, as I was to realize later, having a very good time. Was that ten years ago, really??

My first thought in the morning: It's cold - I hope Puttachi hasn't kicked off her blanket.

If you built a time capsule, what would it contain: Lots of food, lots of books, a laptop with internet connection - that is, if I have to go alone. If I can take somebody along, I'll add to this, Puttachi, her things, and something to sleep on.

This year
- has been great. Very different. Some of the sweetest times with a sweet little child. I have started working from home in a field that I always wanted to work in, but never had the courage to make the switch. Am making some major changes in my life - which I will talk about shortly. And there are some more happy moments yet to come. A unique year.

14 years from now: Why 14? Why not 5, or 10, or 20? Anyway, 14 years from now, I will be exactly as old as my beloved aunt - and I hope I will be as young, graceful and enthusiastic as her!

Now, for the second tag: By Sachin.

7 things I abhor.

There was a time when I abhorred a lot of things. So much so, that I had made an entire list

At this point of times, these are the things I abhor.

1) Reality shows on TV - especially dance shows for children. And especially those that eliminate kids dramatically and bring tears.
2) Saas-bahu shows on TV
3) Public urination
4) Parents who scold their tiny tots very rudely, and spank them unnecessarily - I hear things like "Saayisbidthini! (I will kill you)", "You are an utterly useless boy", and worse things - said with such rage and venom that it frightens me. I feel like gathering up the child in my arms and give him/her a reassuring hug.
5) Child murderers, child rapists, paedophiles, and the kind. Before I had a child, I would just shudder at news like this and leave it at that. Now, it chills me to the bone. And I cannot even imagine a punishment great enough for those criminals.
6) Terrorists
7) People who do not care about animals and the environment.

A very happy Deepavali to the rest of you!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Talking, understanding and deciding!

Did you know that it helps to actually sit down and talk to your child, actually explain things to her, regardless of how young she is?

A few weeks ago, at dawn, Puttachi awoke, perhaps to a bad dream, and started crying. I held her and tried to comfort her, but she continued whimpering. I would have held her for longer, but I had to visit the toilet urgently. I tried to pass her on to S~ and sneak away, but she caught on and bawled louder. So I looked into her eyes, and told her, "Puttachi, Amma needs to go to the toilet. I will be back in a minute. Until then, Papa will hold you. Alright?" Puttachi didn't answer. But she looked at me seriously. I then handed her over to S~, and left. No protest.

I was at my parents' place last weekend, and Puttachi followed my father around like his shadow. When my father had to leave for work in the morning, Puttachi watched him come out of the room, dressed to leave, and she grew uneasy. When he moved towards the door, she wailed and followed him, stamping her feet in protest. My father looked at me with a questioning "What shall we do?" look. "Why don't you explain to her where you are going and when you will be back?" I suggested. My father knelt, got down to her level, and said, "Puttachi, I have to go to work now. I will be back in the evening, and then we can play. Ok?" Puttachi listened with concentration, and then smiled, and waved, "Bye!" She then turned and sauntered in coolly, and went back to her toys.

It is working. Talking to her as if she can understand. And perhaps she does understand a little. Many of her could-have-been tantrums have been nipped in the bud just because I gave her a sincere, long-winded explanation on why she cannot have her way right now, and why she can later. I have no idea if she understands anything at all, but she does tend to listen to me after that.

On another note, one thing I have learnt is not to underestimate how much a child can understand. They catch on to keywords in your speech, and by the tone of your voice, they know exactly what you are saying. Naturally, S~ and I have started spelling words, speaking in Hindi (She seems to understand English too), so that she doesn't understand what we are saying.

One more thing - I realised that kids are never too young to want to take a decision of their own! Just about a week ago, someone was telling me about a two-year old who insisted on choosing the clothes she wanted to wear. "That early?" I was really surprised. The very next day, as I was trying to get Puttachi to wear her trousers to go out to the park, she made a huge fuss coz she wanted to wear her old pink pyjamas instead. Phew! It took lots of talking and some distractions to bring her around to wearing what I wanted her to wear. And I know I will not be on the winning side for much longer!

She also wants to make the call on what she will eat and when, and how. I thought I had a baby. What I have is a young, independent seventeen-month-old decision-maker.

Life never ceases to surprise you!

[Aside: Thanks a million to everybody who took the time and trouble to vote for me in the Bloggers' choice awards. The voting has closed, and the winner got 489 votes, and my count when I last saw it was around 27. :) But what really matters is that 26 of you (1 vote is mine :D) actually took that effort to sign up and vote for me - and that, for me, counts as a lot!]

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Suitable Book

... it is, to have in your library - and to read at least once, if not many times. (If not for the size of the book, I would have read it again right after I finished it.) Ok, and the book is.. of coure, A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth.

This book has never been recommended to me. (It hasn't been dis-recommended either. It's just that I haven't heard any reviews about the book). I have just heard about it, and on an impulse, I picked it up a few months ago. And am I glad I did!

Because, never have I read a book that is so vast, teeming with characters, brimming with stories, involving so many people, so many events, and so much of everything. And in spite of being about 1400 pages long, there is never a boring moment. In fact, if not for my other commitments, I would have liked to sit down and read it at one go.

There are many striking and unique things about the book.

For one, it is like a banyan tree, as one of the characters in the book talks about his own book. It starts from one person, and then branches out to talk about his/her family, then branches out from the family to talk about their friends, acquaintances, their extended family, and so on.... until you have a vast canopy of people you seem to know.

In spite of there being hundreds of characters in the book, you don't get confused when a character suddenly appears out of context. This must be because every character is very well-etched, very memorable.

In spite of it being such a long story, with the characters going through many joys and tribulations, their essential character remains constant right from the beginning of the book up to the end. For example, How Mrs.Rupa Mehra is behaving at the wedding at the beginning of the book is exactly the way she is behaving at the wedding at the end of the book.

I had to go to Mysore for 3-4 weeks in between, and I thought that lugging along such a heavy book was impractical, and so I left it in Bangalore. One week into Mysore, and I was actually missing the characters! What might Maan be up to? What could Lata have decided? - I found myself thinking. The characters really get to you. Then there was this other time when I actually found myself thinking, hmmm.. "this happened in the fifties... I wonder if any of them are alive now." I had actually started believing it is a true story!

And along with attachment to the characters, come tears, of course. I found myself weeping quite a bit reading the book. I have noticed that tears come more easily when I read nowadays. Has it got something to do with being a mom? Or is it that I have started understanding people and situations better, and I empathize with them more? I don't know.

The book is liberally sprinkled with delightful alliterations, and excellent use of metaphors and other figures of speech that I can't even name. It makes the reading experience totally enjoyable.

There is generous use of sarcasm and irony - which lend a touch of humour throughout. All the follies and weaknesses of the characters are dealt with almost with love. It makes you laugh and love the characters in spite of everything.

It is not easy to get into the shoes of the other sex, and write accurately about their thought processes. But Vikram Seth has done just that.

His attention to details is quite mind-blowing.

And there are other small matters that matter. For example, Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor, who is a silent, shy lady, always in the shadow of her politician husband. Though she is such a major character, not once is her name mentioned. She is always Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor - perhaps an indication of the life she lives.

And then the most remarkable thing of all - Vikram Seth writes with amazing authority and familiarity about all and varied matters, like religion, caste, beliefs, law, politics, music, literature, shoemaking, sensibilities, social graces, psychology, lifestyle - everything. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of effort that has gone into writing this book!

And what is a book review without casting a few doubts? The social circles that Meenakshi and Arun Mehra interact with - was it really like that in those early fifties? Backless cholis? Dancing freely with the opposite sex? Affairs? And forget all that.... Lata and Malati interacting so free with the boys in their college? Really?

Anyway, I am sure I am missing a lot of things, but on the whole, it was a thoroughly enjoyable book. Sometimes, I read it standing up, bending down, with one eye on the stove, you know - things like that, just because I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I don't have to mention that I am really upset that the book is over. I now need to recuperate for a few days before I start the next book.

And in the wedding at the end of the book, Mrs. Rupa Mehra tells Varun Mehra that she will find a suitable girl for him. Mr. Vikram Seth, I for one, will not be averse to another "wrist-spraining, purse-straining" book of the same kind - A Suitable Girl.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Blogger's Choice Awards

My friend Vidya has been sweet enough to nominate my blog for the Blogger's Choice Award, in the category of the Best Parenting Blog.

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!

Now, people, I need your help. :) Please go to this site, and sign up here

Now go to this page, or just click on the badge above, and please vote for me!

Thank you!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wake me up when September ends...

Well, I have woken up. I wasn't exactly asleep in real life - in fact, I have been suffering from lack of sleep. Too many things have been happening, and I am trying to digest everything! More on them when the time comes. Many things have been happening on the work front, due to which the time I get to blog has gone down a lot.

Anyway, on to Puttachi matters. She turned sixteen months old about ten days ago.

If there is one thing she is, she is a perfectionist. I have always been the take-it-easy kind of person. As a result, I was hounded first by my mom and now by S~, and now it looks like I have to answer to my daughter. There is no escape. :(

If she takes things from one place, more often than not, she returns them to the same place. When she is eating, even if a tiny bit of food spills anywhere other than on her bib - on the high chair, on her leg, on her dress or on the floor, she insists that it be cleaned before she continues. If I want her to eat the rest of the food, I just have to clean it. I think I should be glad that she doesn't mind food falling on her bib. If she did, I would have needed a hundred bibs for each meal.

Then there was this time I was mixing her food, and she was dancing around me, impatient. "After this, let's add some ghee..." I said, and then realized that I hadn't kept the ghee ready. I looked back to see Puttachi go to the ghee, pick it up carefully in both hands and bring it to me. I added the ghee and kept it aside and continued mixing the food - and then I realized that Puttachi had closed the lid of the ghee container, and was taking it back carefully to its place! Phew!

Even in the middle of the night, she remains a perfectionist. She sometimes wakes up because of thirst, and I give her water from a steel container with a screw-on lid. As soon as she is done drinking the water, she points to the lid, and doesn't go back to sleep until I put the lid back on. And this when she is so sleepy that she cannot even keep her eyes open.

When we go out, if I take out something from her bag, like a handkerchief to wipe her nose, and if I delay putting it back into the bag, she starts dancing around impatiently until I put it back inside. Then there was this time when we were about to go to the park. I took the key, went to the door, and then placed the key on a chair, and bent down to slip her shoes on her feet. After I was done, I got up and took my bag. I had forgotten about the key. Little Miss Perfect goes directly to the key, picks it up and goes to the door, and holds out the key to me. What will I do without her? :)

She also likes being entrusted with work. She assumes a very busy air and a look of responsibility appears on her face, and she sets about the work with great seriousness.

She now speaks in little sentences, most of which can be understood only by me. Sometimes, she tries to tell me something with great passion, and I try my mightiest to understand - when I finally do, the poor little thing becomes so happy, that she laughes loud and claps her hands with delight.

When she learns a new skill, she knows that she is doing something momentous. Like today, she drank water from a steel tumbler all by herself without spilling a drop - and she was so excited that she wanted to go on drinking water!

She remains very friendly, and I don't know if all kids are like that, but from her behaviour with other children, especially in the park, I feel that she is a really kind and considerate child. I hope I am right!

She loves to sing and she loves to dance, and she wants to watch this a thousand times a day. She absolutely loves books (yay!) and sometimes, I have to literally drag her and lure her away from her books to go to the park. But once she gets to the park, it takes all I have to drag her back!
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