Saturday, November 30, 2013


Sometimes I feel that the whole of social media is just one big adda!  My article in today's Deccan Herald Living on this topic - It's virtually anytime meet-up in the gizmo world

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tooth fairy tales

Ever wondered what two 6-year-olds talk about? Here's a sample. (I've tried to stay true to their language)

Scene: My kitchen. I'm making chapatis, and Puttachi and her friend K are sitting at the kitchen table, having dinner.

Puttachi: Look how much my tooth is shaking.

K: Look how much mine is shaking. Anusha's tooth is shaking so much that today in school, blood came out of it.

P:  Ganesh's tooth also. When my first tooth was shaking, lots of blood came out.

K: When my first tooth fell, the tooth fairy gave me a gift. She left it under my pillow, but she forgot to take the tooth away.

P: (laughs)

K: Why are you laughing?

P: The tooth fairy is your parents.

K: What? No. The tooth fairy is really there.

P: No, there are no fairies.

K: But you are always talking about fairies.

P: Oh I looooove fairies. I love to imagine them and think about them.  But actually there are no fairies.

K: There are fairies. They live in the sky and come down sometimes, like the tooth fairy. Like Santa Claus also.

P: Santa Claus is also not real.

K: Santa Claus is real. He gave me three gifts once.

P: Santa Claus is also your parents. Your parents gave you the gifts.

K: Noooo why will my parents give me three-three gifts? It was Santa Claus.

P:  (looking at me) Amma, how do I make her understand?

At this point, I quickly changed the topic. I sure hope poor little K hasn't been too scarred by Puttachi. I can just not understand how someone like Puttachi who is always in her fantasy-world can be so clear and particular about reality!

Friday, November 08, 2013

More of Puttachi's thoughts on the Ramayana

So we are into the two-dozenth retelling of the Ramayana.  I have written before about how I've told Puttachi the Ramayana in different stages, adding on layers and sub-stories with each retelling.  And since the last post, we've progressed, and so have her questions. 

If you remember, last time, she'd asked me 

Did Lakshmana also try to lift the bow? If he had, do you think he would have been able to lift it? Then he would have married Sita, no? 
Why didn't Lakshmana's wife Urmila also go to the forest? Wasn't she bored? She should also have gone. 

This time, she asked me:

She: Amma, when Hanumanta went to find Sita, he offered to take her back with him.  Why didn't she go?

Me: She wanted Rama to come and defeat Ravana and then take her back.

She: I think Sita is quite silly, Amma.  She should have gone with Hanumanta.  See, war could have been avoided.  So many people were killed in the war, such a waste.  All that would never have happened if Sita had gone with Hanumanta.

Me: (Smiling at her logic.)

She: (eyes lighting up) Ohhh.. Amma... I think I know why!

Me: Why?

She: Perhaps Valmiki* just liked long stories..... like I do!

*Valmiki wrote the Ramayana.

Monday, October 21, 2013


While we were exploring trails around the homestay, we were told that there was one path through the plantation that made for a good walk, except for the abundant leeches there.   I had had only one experience with leeches before.  One had latched onto me during our trip to Wayanad last year, and naturally, I discovered it only after the fat leech, full of my blood, slid down the inside of my jeans.  I wasn't bothered.  After all, it doesn't hurt.  The only thing is  that blood keeps flowing from the wound long after the leech drops off, until the anticoagulant it has injected wears off.  After this instance, I observed with fascination the occasional leech we passed by, how they stand up on one end, and probe the air with the other end, push themselves forward, stand up and continue probing.

Once I got back, I looked up leeches and read about them, about how they inject anti-coagulant and analgesic into our blood before starting the sucking.  And I marvelled at what an amazing creature it is.   So when our host at Mugilu, when talking about the plantation walk, warned us, "In case you have a phobia of leeches..."  I shrugged it off. 

We went to the plantation, and started walking.  Puttachi noticed a big beetle, and we stopped to watch it.  I bent down to look at it closely, and then I saw next to it, a leech, standing on end, probing the air.  Hey look, I said, and then I saw one more next to it.  And then another, and another. All of them standing on end, probing, searching.....  Then Puttachi said, hey, look at your shoes - and we all looked, leeches were already on our shoes, and crawling up our jeans.  I looked down again, and suddenly it seemed to me that the ground was full of leeches, and I felt that the entire forest floor was rising up and reaching out to me through these filament-like fingers, wanting to suck my blood.  It was like a nightmare. I  couldn't breathe, I clutched my head, tears flowed down my cheeks, and I said something like, "I can't I can't I can't I can't...."   I've never felt that way before!  At first, S probably thought I was joking, and then he realized that something was really wrong, and we all immediately walked back up to safe-ground.  We spent the next ten minutes pulling leeches off our clothes, and checking our shoes and socks to see if we were clear. 

That was such a revelation - sometimes you cannot explain why you are petrified of some things, and why you are not..... in fact, the very next day, our host showed us a leech that was walking on his hand, looking for the right place to latch onto him, and I watched it again with the same fascination as before, from inches away, and felt no fear.  It was only down there, with leeches all around me, that I felt that kind of panic.  

Lessen learned. I'll never pooh-pooh phobias again. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

A short holiday at Sakaleshpur

We took a little vacation this week in Sakaleshpur, about 200 km from Bangalore. On the way to the homestay, we stopped at Manjarabad fort, a star-shaped fort built by Tipu Sultan in the late eighteenth century.  [Click for google image]  He built it as a defensive location.  And it must have really worked well as a lookout place, because the views from the top are quite spectacular.

We stayed at Mugilu, a lovely little plantation homestay.  Clean and comfortable cottages, superb location, wonderful hosts, tasty and home-like food,  the most stupendous grasslands next to it, and loads of inviting walking trails.   

These are  a few pictures of the grasslands.  We walked, ran, played frisbee, and just sat on the grass.  

We, in places like Bangalore are so unused to places where there is not a single soul in your line of sight.  When we were walking on these grasslands, S and Puttachi went ahead, and for a while, they weren't in my line of vision.  I looked around then, and nobody, not one person was in sight, though I could see so far into the horizon!  What a wonderful feeling it is - the feeling of being totally alone with nature!

There are a number of trails that take you up and down the gently sloping hills, next to bright green paddy fields, towards streams, and little huts and villages, and lots and lots of cows. 

We walked a lot, and could have walked a whole lot more.  When we wanted a break, we just sat down on the grass, and were silent.  We could see the sights like the one below.  We could hear the lowing of cows, and the strikingly loud noise of their eating grass.  An odd bee or two buzzed around, and the wind whooshed through the trees.    We could smell the fragrant grass, and the pleasant smell of fresh cowdung.  And we could feel the heat of the sun on our backs.  Ah, bliss.

The picture below is that of paddy fields early in the morning - and Shunti, our guide, companion, and Puttachi's obsession for the duration of our stay.  She is one of the three dogs that live in Mugilu, with the couple who runs it.

And when we wanted to get back to the room, we put our feet up, book in hand, and watched this sight from our balcony.  Early in the morning and during rains, this is a specially beautiful sight due to the clouds coming in.

And there are a number of spots around the place, in case that is what you want to do, this ancient, quaint, Sindhu Brahma temple being one of them.  And yes, cows were grazing here too.

 You can tell we had a good time, huh?

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Shame, shame"

One of my favourite sights is that of little girls, toddling around in short frocks, their frilly underwear peeking from underneath.  But very soon (far too soon) as the little girl grows, it stops being acceptable.  The moment an inch of her panties are exposed, people stand around, and apply a look of disgust on their faces and chant, "Shame-shame."

Around the time Puttachi was about two  years old, I started putting shorts underneath her frocks so that she wouldn't get sand in her underwear at the park.  I later realized that this served another function too.  She could jump, and twirl, and turn somersaults, and do whatever it is that little children must do, without people crowding around and shaming her with the shame-shame chant.

I detest that "shame-shame" chant.  See, I understand the need for making children realize that certain parts are private.  But that is what they are - private.  Not shameful.  These are beautifully evolved, highly functional parts that help us excrete, egest and reproduce.  Why on earth should one be ashamed of them? Why should we express disgust at the underwear that covers them?

I struggle to inculcate in Puttachi the concept of which parts of the body are personal and private, in view of educating her about child sexual abuse. I have to remind her again and again about what is private and what is not.   If I had gone with the shame-shame strategy, it would have worked immediately.  She wouldn't have nonchalantly  lifted her shirt to show any random person the mosquito bite on her tummy (which she would have done until recently.)

But I think it is worth it.  It is not likely that she is going to be ashamed of her own body.  It is not likely that she is going to be like the mortified little child who went into hiding because an outsider accidentally saw him in his underwear.

I think it is essential to make that distinction between shameful and privacy, and teach our children accordingly.  What do you think?

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The story online, and a media report

The story, "Kanchenjunga" is now online [Link]

And here is a media report from Asian Connections, Canada, October 4, 2013.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Won a contest!

Another happy dance from me!  My story, "Kanchenjunga" won the Tagore-O'Henry Short Story Contest.  The prize is $500, which is the largest sum I have won in a writing contest so far.

I'll post a link to the story once it is published online.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Duet" - story in Helter Skelter Magazine.

I'm still around :)  Dropping by to tell you that my story, "Duet," has been published in the New Writing Anthology of Helter Skelter Magazine.   

In the introduction to the anthology, writer Sharanya Manivannan, one of the judges, says, "the poignance of Duet stayed with me well into the next day after my marathon afternoon of reading and rating."   

I would love to know what you think!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Star

Since a month has  passed since The Star was published in eFiction India, I am putting the story up in its entirety here.


Vanaja just had to be the best at everything. Even as a child, she constantly competed with everybody. She wanted to have the longest plait, the largest bruise, and the neatest homework. If she jumped rope two hundred times yesterday, she wouldn't rest until she managed two hundred and ten today.

Her mother had no idea how to handle her rather malcontent child, and she soon learnt to let Vanaja do whatever she wanted. Vanaja carried her fierce competitiveness to college, which, of course had to be the best in the city, and for which she worked harder than she ever had. But when she got there, she found that she couldn't top the class as easily as she could at school, no matter how much she worked at it. So, she compensated by enrolling herself in all sorts of events, and winning every kind of prize that could possibly be won.

Right after she graduated (with distinction,) her parents decided that it was time she got married. Vanaja made an exhaustive checklist of attributes, and checked with meticulous care the credentials of every prospective groom against it. Finally she settled on (and married) the one who scored the best in terms of education, career, and looks.

She was the perfect homemaker. You wouldn't find a mote of dust on any surface in the house. She prepared tasty dishes and served them in the best china she could afford to buy. Her home was decorated with the choicest articles, painstakingly selected and bought at excellent bargains from various handicrafts exhibitions across the city. She was a wonderful hostess, always having guests over at home and preparing fabulous spreads. She was always well-turned out, with not a hair out of place.

And inevitably, she transfered all her ambitions to her husband. He had to make the best presentations, buy the best car, rent an apartment in the best complex (until they saved enough to buy) and just had to be promoted whenever his promotion was due.

And when her son Akash was born, she transfered all her expectations onto him. Even at the hospital, she gushed about how his bawl was the lustiest among the babies born on the same day as him, how he weighed the most, and how he was the pinkest of them all.

As he grew, she kept an obsessive watch over his development, charted his every step, agonized over every delayed milestone, and exulted at everything that he did ahead of schedule. She entered him in Beautiful Baby contests and sent his photographs to diaper companies.

Before the year had gone by, she had listed out all the babies in their neighbourhood and confirmed that her son was sleeping, walking and speaking well-ahead of everybody else.

And then, a couple of years later, Vanaja met Akhila at the local park. Akhila's son Prajwal was just two months younger than Akash, and they went to the same school. For the first time, Vanaja found someone who seemed to be nearly equal, or did she dare admit, even ahead of Akash in certain respects.

For Vanaja, Prajwal became the embodiment of all the other boys in the world. To get Akash ahead of Prajwal in every way – this became her sole ambition in life.

She had to concede that it was a challenging task, because Prajwal seemed to be naturally good at everything. He wrote the alphabet and counted upto ten before Akash did. But Akash learned to count up to 100 before Prajwal did, and Vanaja basked in her private glory for days after that.

Akash was far more athletic, but Prajwal was better at colouring, and so Vanaja bought colouring books of all types and put Akash to the task of colouring with crayons, colour pencils, and even paints, in anticipation of further challenges to come.

Prajwal's mother Akhila seemed totally unaware of this contest, and that annoyed Vanaja. It is really irksome when you are in intense competition with somebody who doesn't even know about it.

Everything came to a head when the events of the Annual Day function of the school was announced. For the pre-school play, Prajwal was chosen for the lead role of the naughty child Lord Krishna. Akash was to be a tree.

Vanaja performed the mental equivalent of throwing herself on the bed and covering herself with a blanket. She spent entire days wondering where she had gone wrong. She compared the two boys as they played in the park, looking for any sign that Prajwal was more charming or attractive than her own son, and having genuinely not found anything, again got into a twist about what had gone wrong.

She concluded that in some way, the teacher had become biased towards Prajwal. Perhaps Akhila had sent a better card with Prajwal on Teacher's Day? Perhaps she had paid some underhanded compliment to the teacher at one of the parent-teacher meetings? Perhaps....

This wasn't in Vanaja's hands – that much she realized. So she resigned herself to make Akash the best tree that anybody had ever seen.

She bought him a brown T-shirt and brown trousers to represent the tree trunk. Then she made a large cardboard cutout of a tree's foliage, with a circular opening in the middle for Akash's face. She scoured the hobby shops for felt of the best and brightest green, and cut out actual leaf-shaped pieces and pasted them all onto the cutout. She attached red balls to it to represent fruits.

When she was finished, it truly was the nicest tree that you would have ever seen.

The evening of the performance arrived, and Vanaja sat somewhere in the middle of the audience, camera in hand, waiting to capture for posterity the most beautiful tree in pre-school play history.

The characters came on to stage, little huts, trees, and tiny children dressed as cows and cowherds and village lasses – all of them forming a background for the village scene in which Krishna, the butter-thief was being reprimanded for his mischief.

"They have put Akash right in the middle of the stage," Vanaja whispered to her husband, who nodded. Someone sitting in the row behind her said, "Look at that wonderful tree, with the red balls that look like fruits." Vanaja glowed.

But in spite of herself, she had to admit that Prajwal looked charming, with the little tiara and the peacock feather stuck into it, and that stung her.

On the stage, the play progressed - a group of little girls dressed in sarees scolded Krishna for stealing all their butter and curds.

Just then, one of the boys in the play, dressed as a cowherd, got bored with standing around, and was attracted by the round red balls hanging from Akash's branches. The little cowherd sauntered across the stage, went up to Akash, and plucked one of the "fruits."

Akash's hands were not free, and so he stuck his tongue out and made a fierce face at the cowherd. The cowherd plucked one more fruit, and started bouncing them on stage.

A titter went through the audience. Akash was angry now. He lifted one leg and kicked the cowherd on the shin. The cowherd turned and kicked Akash back.

A few people laughed. Akash tore off the tree from his shoulders, and hit the cowherd with it. The cowherd pummelled Akash with his fists, and in the next moment, the two tots were rolling on the ground, screaming and clawing and pulling at each other's hair.

The audience was in an uproar. Meanwhile, the play was still going on, Krishna had being tied to a heavy stone mortar as punishment for his mischief, and he was dragging it along, but nobody paid any attention to it. All eyes were on the tree and the cowherd until a teacher ran out from behind the curtain, and dragged the two little fighters away.

The audience laughed and clapped, while the play ended unceremoniously.

"Disgraceful," muttered Vanaja's husband. "Why did he have to fight like that?"

But Vanaja did not hear him. She was floating on a cloud of supreme triumph. Nobody would have even noticed Prajwal. Akash was the star of the show.


Monday, August 19, 2013


This link - The day I stopped Saying "Hurry up"  reminded me of myself. I have spoken about this before, that I sometimes feel like a monster who can only say the words "Bega Bega Bega!"  (Quick!)  I sometimes joke to Puttachi that the word I say most often in a day is "Bega."

I wrote that two years ago, and things haven't really changed much.  Puttachi is still a dreamer.  And I still have to hurry her.  When I am hopping and looking at the time and fretting that it is getting late for school, Puttachi still wants to instruct her eldest doll daughter (in doll language, mind it!) to look after her younger doll daughters.   When I am tearing my hair out that she will get late for badminton class, she still wants to dance and watch her shadows move.  When I am hounding her to go to bed and close her eyes bega bega, she still wants to fluff her pillow up and smoothen the covers until they are perfect, and smile at some memory and..... hug me until my ribs ache.

I detest myself whenever I say bega bega but sometimes there is no go.  That's why I haven't put her in any summer camp during vacations until now.  No way did I want to say bega bega to her even during vacations.

But I wanted to try and see what would happen if I didn't hurry her.  A couple of weeks ago, she came back from school, took off her shoes and as usual, entered her dreamworld.   I didn't say anything to her - didn't ask her to go wash up, or change, or anything.  I just continued with my work. I talked to her if she talked to me, but I didn't bother her at all.  An entire hour passed, and Puttachi went on playing whatever she wanted to play, where a scrap of paper became somebody's food, and where a seed was a precious stone....

And then, suddenly, she realized she was very hungry.  And that led her to the realization that she still had to change and wash.  And that made her angry, and, her bad temper got compounded by hunger, and she threw a very rare tantrum.  Finally, I had to calm her down, help her change, and give her food.  That was when I comforted myself with - relax.  Sometimes you just cannot help it.

Things that help me deal with a dreamy child:

1) A structure and a schedule helps her. I guess when her brain is too full of important things like making paper-pulao for her dolls, mundane things like changing, and washing aren't important.  So we decided on a schedule/time table - we call it Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 - which makes her focus and do every task one by one until she is done with all the boring stuff, following which she can drift away to her dreamland again.

2) Sometimes I set an alarm and challenge her to finish all the necessary but boring work before the alarm rings.  She enjoys this race against the alarm.  But not all the time.

3) At times, I have to lure her with a story to get her work done quickly.

4) If nothing else works, I join her in fantasy-land 

What works for you?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Beauty parlour epiphany

Going to the beauty parlour is high on my list of most-hated activities.  I keep putting it off for as long as I can, and finally, I call the parlour and quickly make an appointment before I change my mind.  Since I'm wired to honour appointments, I know I'll stop conjuring up reasons not to go, and I'll go.   

The major reason I don't like parlours is that no matter which parlour I go to, they all treat me as fair game to heap me with advice.  Firstly, I am that specimen who doesn't straighten my hair (horrors!) nor colour my hair (double horrors!)  Besides, I apparently have a face that is a great example for the "before" in a "seven signs of aging" cream commercial and I get a whole lot of advice on what I need to do to my face to become presentable, and that usually includes the most expensive facial available at their parlour.  They put me in front of the mirror and map out my face, telling me what is wrong with what part, and all I can see wrong with my face is the frown of anger and annoyance.

Anyway, to avoid getting commented upon, I had started taking special pains to appear my best before going to a parlour.  Know that old joke about the woman who frantically straightened out her home before the cleaning-lady came in, saying, "I can't let her see my house like this?"  I'm like that when it comes to parlours.  I take more efforts to make myself "presentable" to go to a parlour than to go to a party. At a party, nobody comments on my looks directly!

And yes, I knew I was being silly, but I couldn't get myself to stop being affected.  And since I don't like to slather myself with chemicals that will keep my hair and face conforming to the prevalent standards of beauty, and since I am too lazy to research and sustain the use of natural products that are supposed to do the same, it is a kind of status quo for me. 

And then, yesterday, something happened.  I was at the parlour (a new one, because the lady in the old one commented a little too much about my looks) and this girl who was attending to me said the same things - the usual litany of how terrible my face and hair is and what I should do about it.  But - it was perhaps the way she said it, or maybe it was just time for an epiphany - I didn't get angry.  I just stood back and thought, "Shruthi, she's just doing her job."  Just like I cannot bear looking at a badly-written book or a poorly-crafted resume without an urge to edit it.  Just like an architect might look at an ugly building and think, "Oh I would have done it another way."  Just like a tailor sees a dress that doesn't fit well and feels the urge to set it right.  Just like that, this poor girl feels the need to turn my face and hair into that category which current societal standards calls beautiful.  It is not her fault at all.  She has been conditioned by society about what beauty is.  She is just doing her job. 

And then, I relaxed.  I smiled and nodded at everything she told me, and said, "No thanks" to the most expensive facial and hair spa available at their parlour, and asked her to get on with whatever I had gone there to get done in the first place. 

I feel liberated! :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kids and Maids - 2

I have written before about why I am uncomfortable with children being left entirely in the care of maids.  Once again, I reiterate that I know that many people don't have a choice, but yet, I have to stress that leaving kids with maids calls for far more monitoring than is currently done, from what I see.

Here's another incident. Puttachi's friend K was visiting, and both of them went to the park to play.  There, a child X, of the same age as Puttachi's came out to play, accompanied by her maid.  Puttachi and K were on the swings, and the child apparently wanted to play on the swing too, and there are only two swings..

So the maid came over to Puttachi and said, "Your father is calling, Go go."   Puttachi, with her newfound street-smartness, said, "No, I can't hear anybody, I won't go."  But K got up and said, "Let me go and look."  The moment K got up, the maid caught hold of the empty swing, and the other child came running and sat on it, and both of them laughed and laughed at K.

K felt sad, and Puttachi felt sorry for K.  So she also got off her swing, and they went to play the seesaw.  No sooner did they sit on the seesaw than X said she wanted the seesaw.  So the maid  came over again, and said, "Really Puttachi, your father is calling."  Puttachi refused to believe her, but K again said she would go and see if it was true.  Puttachi asked her not to go, but K got off.  Sure enough, the maid came running, caught the other end of the seesaw and tried to get X to sit on that end.  But Puttachi was angry, and she sat down hard so that the other end of the seesaw was up in the air and wouldn't come down low enough for X to sit on.  Meanwhile, K came back, confirming that indeed, nobody was calling for Puttachi.

So this maid lied to and cheated another child to get X to play whatever she wanted.  So what is X learning?  I have already noticed a sense of entitlement in that child.  Added to it, she is being told that cheating to get your way is okay.

Puttachi told me, "Can you believe that that aunty did this, Amma?  When  you want something, you have to ask politely. I would have given her my swing in a while if she had asked me.  Instead of that she lied to us."

I'm troubled by this.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tiger mother, Mouse mother

A couple of years ago, this article made big waves on the parenting scene. - Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.  The piece is an extract from the book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua.  All of a sudden, everybody was talking about it, there were reams written about the horrendous parenting style of this lady and people were wondering how her children are even normal.

I read all the opinions.  Buried amidst all the negativity was a review which suggested that this one article is not all that the book is about.  That made me want to read more, and finally, last week, I read the book.

Amy Chua is a second generation immigrant from China, living  in the US, married to an American, and raising two daughters in the Chinese style of parenting.  First thing I learned - this book is not about parenting.  It is just the story of a mother trying to bring up her daughters with the parenting style that she herself grew up with.   Second, unlike the provoking title of the excerpt - "Why Chinese mothers are superior" - nowhere in the book has the author said that Chinese parenting is superior. She has frequently brought out contrasts between Chinese and Western parenting, but that's it.   Third - and most important - she has been very honest about how this style of parenting worked with the first daughter and backfired with the second one.  In fact, this book is about the mellowing of Amy Chua's parenting style.

So, the title of the excerpt on WSJ, combined with what the excerpt was about - made  Amy Chua very unpopular indeed (And I'm pretty sure it didn't hurt the book's sales!)

I am not going to endorse the Chinese way of parenting, because I don't agree with that kind of authoritarian parenting.   It strives on pushing the child to achieve its highest potential, trying to bring the best out of the child,and going all out for it, even if it involves strict discipline and unquestioned authority and rote learning. But I could totally understand that kind of parenting, and the Chinese belief that children owe them everything, and demanding unconditional filial love and devotion.  That's very Indian in nature, so I could "get" it, but was still able to view it dispassionately.  I can understand why Westerners, on the other hand, find it horrifying.

But what the book did for me was make me think.  Sometimes about things totally tangential to the main topic.

1) The author says that western parenting assume fragility, while Chinese parenting assumes strength in the child.  This is something that really made me reconsider my approach to several things in connection with how I bring up Puttachi.  S, that way, is tougher with  her than I am - he assumes strength, I assume fragility.  (Less than some others do, but still.)  Perhaps believing that your child can do something (but not pushing, just aiding) can actually give the child confidence, enable her to actually do it?  I'm sure, yes.

2) Amy Chua believes that you will have fun at something if you are good at it.  So, until you become good at that thing, she says, you have to work really hard until you reach that level where you start having fun.  This is why, she says, she pushed her children to practice music for hours everyday, whether they wanted to or not. [They are terrifying overachievers, btw]  How do you know you will like it unless you try and stay with it until you are moderately good at it?  That Is her line of thinking.    That extreme pushing, of course, I don't agree with, but this concept of - you have fun when you are good at it - and you've got to stick with it for a while before you quit - it is something to think about. And maybe apply in our lives. How, where - yet to be seen.

3) For her daughters' music, Amy Chua went all out.  Making them learn from the best teachers, pouring money and time and effort into it, commuting long distances if need be, even taking along the instruments on vacation (and booking hotels with pianos so that the daily practice doesn't cease)- and practicing during vacations even if it meant not being able to see the sights,  practicing into the nights, again and again and again, until every note is perfect....
This kind of dedication is something totally alien to me.  If I want something, I stretch a bit - and if I don't get it, I give up.  This is totally, absolutely wrong.  I know it, and people had told me all along that what I do is wrong, but reading this book somehow gave me the wake up call.  Again, not to the extent as in the book - that is extreme.  But to a certain extent, such dedication is a must if it is something you believe in and want to get better at.  S has this ability to stretch and then stretch more and keep stretching - and he makes me do it also sometimes, which annoys me because that is not my nature.  But for anybody to become even remotely good at something, this is necessary.  And now that is something I just ought to incorporate into my life. I have suddenly started worrying that I am passing on this laid back attitude to my daughter.  I hope she has S's nature, but meanwhile, it is time for me to wake up and brush the dust off myself.

Anyway, everything else aside, the book was a witty, funny, honest, sometimes scary account of life in Amy Chua's houehold.  It was an enjoyable read.  [Btw, here is her response to the comments on that original excerpt ]

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Puttachi had forgotten to take her English workbook to school one day, and so the teacher asked her to complete her work at home.  This was English composition, and one of the questions was, "My best friend is _____"  She filled it up -  "X and Y." (Names changed. Obviously.)
The next question was, "My friends like me because ________"

She:  Amma, I don't understand this.
Me: Ok, let me see... why do you think your friends like you?
She: I don't know.
Me: Think.  What is it about you that makes your friends like you and want to play with you?
She: I don't know... (totally confused.)
Me: Ok, let's think about it this way.  Why do you like your friends?  Why do you like X and Y?
She: I like them because they are my friends. (her tone was as if it was a very obvious thing.)

I laughed.  But then I stopped.  Could this be one of the secrets of a good relationship? Unconditional love and affection? Not liking someone for their qualities, but just because?  I'm sure there's something very deep in here, but I'm not able to put my finger on it.  See if you can help.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Change of plans

Remember how Puttachi wanted to be a doctor, teacher and a mother all rolled into one when she grew up? She had stuck to this "decision" for the longest time.  Things have suddenly changed.

In her words, "Amma, that plan got cancelled.  Now I want to grow up and become a scientist and bring the woolly mammoth back to life."

Friday, July 05, 2013

In another anthology

One of my stories found a home in the Pageturners"Across the Ages" anthology.   It will be published soon.

Funny thing is that as of now, two of my stories have made it into anthologies (previous one) - and both are about a female senior citizen in a park! (Not the same one, though!)   But the two stories couldn't be more unlike each other :)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Puttachi stuff.

Puttachi was asked by her English teacher to write a few lines about her mother. Mother's name, what she likes to do, what she does for Puttachi, and what Puttachi does for her.  This was what she wrote. 

Oh yes I melted!

On our way to school, we pass a beautiful Indian Almond Tree (Badami kayi mara)   It had very long branches, and it covered the entire road.  We had seen its broad, lovely leaves turn a striking red, fall off and cover the ground with a thick carpet.  We saw the new green leaves sprout.  And now, the foliage had thickened, and the shade under the tree was particularly inviting. 

Just yesterday, on the way back, Puttachi had declared that it was her most favourite tree in the world, and that she would like to spread a mattress underneath it and go to sleep.

So, this morning, on our way to school, it was a shock for us to see that one of the tree's branches had snapped and fallen off, crushing a car underneath it, and blocking the whole road. And more importantly, for Puttachi, the sky was visible where there had been a canopy.  Horrors.  The dam burst and her tears flowed.  "The tree is not dead, Puttachi, the branches were probably too heavy for the tree, that's all," I said, but she wouldn't listen.  "My tree, my tree's shade!"  she cried, and she went to school with a tear-stained face.  Sigh!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 30 - Many things made me feel good today

I woke up to one of my travel stories published in Sunday Herald - about a lovely walk along the Thames in Henley, England.

In other news, my mother told me that while S and I had been at the movie last evening, she showed Puttachi some of my sketches and paintings and Puttachi was apparently completely floored.  "Show me too," I said.  "I've completely forgotten what I'd made."

So my mother took out all the sketchbooks and painting books that she has so carefully hidden away, and showed them to me.  One of them in particular struck me speechless.  Literally.  Haven't had that happen to me in a while.  

See, this sketch is not perfect, I know.  I'm sure an expert will point out a hundred technical mistakes in it. Even to my own untrained eyes, I can see that it is not very symmetrical, and it does not have a good 3D effect.  But good enough for someone with no prior experience of sketching.    But what I could not, and still cannot believe that there was indeed a time when I had the patience to sit with a sketch and concentrate on doing justice to all the tiny details. 

After my speech came back to me, I said, "How jobless I must have been to make this!"  I checked the date - and sure enough, I found that I was indeed jobless at that time.  It was when I had torn a ligament and was on rest for 6 weeks.  And apart from doodling, I haven't made a single serious sketch after this one.

And in case you are wondering, this is the Channakeshava temple at Somanathpura, one of the most beautiful examples of Hoysala architecture, and my personal favourite carved wonder - small, and exquisite.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 29 - Outrageous prices

Saturdays are always difficult in terms of writing.  Something is always happening, and there isn't much time to sit down and think of something to write about.

Besides, I've spent all my available time enjoying the music and the amazing liveliness of this random video

We had been to watch Man of Steel today, and before that, we were loitering around the mall, and I played a little game I play with myself when I am jobless - check out an outfit, guess how much it is priced, and then check the actual price.  Today, I found a cotton frock in Puttachi's size.  It was well-tailored, good cloth, and I thought ok, considering the label, about 1000 bucks.  I checked and it was nearly 5000 rupees.  5000 for a frock.  The last time I was so surprised was when I lost my way and found myself in an upmarket store in UB city.  I picked up a handbag and said, "4500 for this?  I can get it for 450 in 4th block!"  And S said, "Check the price again."  I checked, and it was 45000.  I fell over backwards.  (Not exactly, but I did crash into the nearly invisible glass door on my way out.)

People who actually pay money for these things - even if they can afford it, why would they?  Are brands really that important to them?  I feel really sorry for them, actually.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 28 - Spirit

People who know Puttachi well know that she is very cooperative, which has worked very well for me.  But there was one aspect of her cooperative nature which has worried me for a long time.  And it is this - she doesn't resist much to anything, doesn't put up too much of a fight.

Here is an example of a regular occurrence at the park, when she was younger.  She is about to climb the steps of the slide, and someone comes, and asks her to move aside.  She dutifully moves, lets the other child go before her, and then she climbs up.  Or worse, the other child pushes her, and she frowns, her face crumples, but she doesn't fight back.  If she is on the swing, and some other child aggressively asks her to get off the swing, she climbs down without another word.

And except when she was physically hurt, she didn't seem to be affected by it at all.  

And if I convinced her about something being good for her, she would accept immediately.  That also worried me - why doesn't she protest even a little bit?  Am I doing something wrong?   Here's something from an old post of mine - a conversation on the way to an ice-cream shop

Amma, I want pink ice-cream.
Amma, will there be pink ice-cream?
          I don't know, let's go and see.
If there is pink ice-cream, I will feel happy and eat it up, but if there is no pink ice-cream, then I will see which ice-cream they have, and I will like it (ishTa maDkotini), and eat it up. 
Should I rejoice that this child knows the secret of happiness? Or should I worry that she is going to become too accommodating and compliant?

We had once been to someone's house, and the lady of the house gave her child and Puttachi some snacks in two bowls - one blue, one purple.

Puttachi: I want the purple one.
Other child: No, I want purple.

The lady gave her child the purple one and said, "See Puttachi, blue is also nice."

Puttachi said, "Yes, blue is also nice," and ate from the blue bowl.

The injustice really bothered me.  Now, there are two things here - one, Puttachi laid claim on the purple bowl first.  Second, the bowls are at the other child's disposal, and the child can eat in that bowl even later.  So if it were me in the lady's place, it would have been a no-brainer.  I would have convinced Puttachi that the other child had dibs, and that Puttachi could eat in the purple bowl even later.   In fact, such things did happen at our place, and Puttachi had compromised several times.  Now, because people know Puttachi's nature, they take advantage of it and she has to compromise even when she has first rights?  I was very upset.  But Puttachi didn't seem to be bothered.  Later on, I asked her casually if she had wanted to eat in the purple bowl, and she said, "Yes, I would have liked it, the purple was so beautiful, but blue was also okay."

Or could it just be a kind of maturity?

 Puttachi:  Amma, am I taller or is X (her friend) taller?
Me: What do you think?
She:  I know I am taller than her.
Me: okay.  (Puttachi is taller, but I don't want to make these things an issue, so I don't offer any comment.)
She:  But X keeps telling me that she is taller.
Me: So do you tell her anything?
She: No, I don't.  I just let her think she is taller.  I know I am taller, so I just keep quiet.
If only she retains this wisdom even in the future...

Or is it just that she avoids confrontation?

Whenever I worried, my friend M would tell me "Perhaps that is Puttachi's strength."  Yes, perhaps.

But come on, some kind of resistance? Tantrums? Anything?

I'm glad to report that she is finally showing that spirit that I had always wanted her to show.  On one hand, she is still accommodating, empathetic, understanding, and kind..  On the other hand, she has started recognizing injustice, and she reacts appropriately to it.  The other day, some kid shouted at her to get down from the swing, and she stood up, put her hands on her hips and said, "Ask nicely.  Even then, I will get down only after five minutes.  Wait for your turn."   Few things have pleased me more!   I realized that this is what I wanted, and this is what I was bothered about.  I did not want her to take things lying down, but stand up for herself.  Not to compromise.

I'll keep you updated on this  journey!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 27 - Everything comes back!

When we were kids, we used to tease our mother about her "colour sense."

Mother:  Shruthi, please bring the orange box from the fridge.
Me:  Where, where, can't see any orange box.
Mother: Right there, top shelf.
Me:  I just see a white box with a yellow lid.
Mother: Yeah that's the one.

And then Peevee and I would go into splits and tease our mother endlessly.

But then, last week,

Puttachi:  Amma where are my pink pyjamas?
Me:  Not washed.  Wear your blue ones.
Puttachi:  Blue?  I don't even have blue pyjamas.
Me: You do.  The one we bought at xyz.
Puttachi:  That's not blue!  That's dark grey!  Ha ha ha haaa!!  Why did you call it blue, Amma?

And I go - gulp.

I guess, during childhood, you want precision, you are particular about things - but after sometime, you are satisfied with a vague description of everything....  Has this happened with you too?

Similar things happen, not only with regard to colour.  I say something is in the left cupboard, and I would have meant, the left of the usually-used right cupboard, and I expect her to understand, while Puttachi searches in the left-most cupboard, and can't find it....  such things used to happen with us and our mother too!

But that's not all.  There was another thing my mom used to do (still does.)  She would be thinking of something, and then suddenly speak aloud about it, as a continuation of the thought process in her head - and all of us, who had absolutely no context, wouldn't understand head or tail of what she was saying.  "Huh?"  we would blink, and then she would realize and start from the beginning.  Oh how we have pulled her leg about this!

But, yeah, you guessed it.  From the past one month, this has happened with S and me.  And I am the one speaking without any context.  And S is the one left wondering.

What else did we tease our mother about?  What else is in store for me?  :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 26 - Books from different cultures

I have spoken before about the connection I feel with books written in Kannada.  The culture, the language, the societal norms, the people - all are familiar, and strike a chord with me.  This holds good for books about India written by Indians too.  No matter which Indian state the story is based in, I can feel the book when I am reading it.

Though most of the books I have read are probably British and American, I find myself increasingly going back to Indian writing.  But lately, I have realized that books from a few other countries give me that connect  as well - maybe not to the extent that Indian writing does, but still.

Stories from Africa (Chimamanda Adichie, the Mma Ramotswe series), Afghanistan (Khaled Hosseini), and to a small extent, South America (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende.) to name a few.  And of course, books based in Japan and China, though its been a while since I read those.  Though the culture of these places is very different from ours, the sentiment is the same, if you know what I mean.  I can see why a character reacts in a certain way.  I can sense the weight of history of the culture and country in the stories. I can see and understand why this history matters, and how it influences the behaviour of the characters.  And the more I read such books, the more I want to read.

Any inputs from  you?  Any recommendations?  (As if my to-read list is not long enough already!)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 25 - Power Naps

When Puttachi was little, my day was tough.  Everything that came with being a full-time carer of a little child, and along with it, managing a house with all the cooking and cleaning and other things that go with it.  By afternoon, I would be ready to drop.  It used to be okay when Puttachi had naps, for I would crash alongside her.  But she gave up naps very early, just after she turned three.

It was at this time that she started school, and driving her up and down, and squeezing in walks and chores and cooking and me-time in the available 2.5 hours when she was in school was tiring in itself.  So, after she came back and ate, she would start playing, and I would be on the verge of collapse.

It was then that I accidentally discovered the power nap.  There was no question of taking long  naps when Puttachi was awake and mobile.  So, I used to just lie down next to her on the bed when she was playing, and I would fall asleep.  Within minutes, Puttachi would shake me awake, and I would find myself so refreshed that it was unbelievable.  The refreshment definitely did not seem proportional to the time I actually slept.  After a few times, I decided to make the falling asleep intentional.  I set an alarm, and told Puttachi not to move from my side, and not to disturb me until the alarm rang.  Of course, I was (still am) fortunate that Puttachi did as she was told, and is very empathetic too, so it worked.  The alarm would be for 12 min, out of which I would actually sleep for 10 min, but that was enough to last me the rest of the day!

10 minutes - like an instant battery charger!  I still do this.  In fact, Puttachi herself sometimes looks at me and orders me to take a nap.  She even sets the alarm for me.  And sometimes, if I haven't been able to catch a nap, S can make that out by the way I walk and talk in the evening that I haven't had a nap!

I don't need the nap every day, and this kind of intense nap doesn't come easily if I lie down when I am not too tired.  I have to be really very tired - it is then that it works best.

If you haven't tried this, try and see if it works for you.   I'll accept your thanks later.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 24 - The joy of exercising your body

By no stretch of imagination can I be called a fitness enthusiast, but I try.  Apart from a healthy diet, I try and get in some exercise on most days.

Mostly, I walk.  Sometimes, I do yoga.  Occasionally, I just do some stretches.  I am nowhere near those who go gymming and running regularly, or swim or play a sport every day, but I try to keep up whatever little I do.  I intend to step up my exercise regimen, but... all in its own time.

But the beauty of it is that even this little bit of exercise does me good. I cannot make out that exercise has been helping me until I stop exercising for a while.  And then I can really make out the difference.

Regular exercise keeps me  in a good mood, more alert and interested in my day.  My digestion is better, I  suffer less from PMS, and on the whole, I feel better about myself and about life.  Isn't that reason enough to exercise regularly?

Small things make me feel good - when I run up three flights of stairs and don't collapse with exhaustion, for instance.  Or when I'm walking along the road, and I don't have to literally heave myself up on too-high footpaths, but instead cruise along - feels great.  And then during the actual exercising itself - yoga, for instance - the stretches feel so good.  Anybody who has experienced the pleasure of a yoga stretch will know what I mean.

It isn't easy for everybody, but do fit a little exercise into your day.  That small investment will prove its worth by making your day better and easier for you.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, where I will pontificate on power naps.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 23 - Imli Chutney

Strange, huh?  A food post, all of a sudden?  Just wanted to share with you this chutney that makes everything interesting.

If you google for Imli chutney, you'll get lots of recipes, and so I won't bother

There is the Khajur-Imli chutney, made with dates and tamarind.  And then there is the hunisehannina gojju, made with lots of ginger, and south-indian style seasoning, that goes well with huggi/pongal.

But mine is a 5-minute version, and I make a little bottle of it every two weeks, and I always have a stock in the fridge.  It makes everything interesting.

Sprouts?  Add a little groundnuts, and a spoon of imli chutney, and you have a tasty snack.  Curds - add a spoonful, and see how great it tastes.  Eggs?  I tried giving Puttachi eggs in various forms, and though she ate it all dutifully, she fell off her chair in wonder when I boiled an egg, sliced it, and poured a spoonful of imli chutney over it.   Now it is a staple at our place.

It is also a formula for instant chaat.  Boil some chickpeas or something, add imli chutney, and even if there is nothing else to go with it, it can easily be called chaat.

How I make it - forgive me, I have no patience for recipes and proportions, but what I do is:

Heat tamarind paste and jaggery syrup together with a little water. Add salt, kala namak, chilli powder, ginger powder, roasted cumin powder, and then boil it well.  For thickness, you could add a thickening agent like cornflour or rice flour or something, but I don't bother with that also.  Once it boils well, cool it down and bottle it.  Store in the refrigerator.

And yes, I have all the above ingredients always available in the said forms, and that's why it is a five-minute process for me.  

Warning:  Too much of anything is not good, obviously, so if you are dealing with kids, you'll need to make rules about what you can eat it with, and how much.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day 22 - Raising smart, independent girls

One of the most important - or shall we say, the single most important thing about raising little girls is to get them to be independent.  Society is full of overt and subliminal messages about the suitability of women being meek and submissive and dependent on somebody else for their life's decisions and happiness.  It is very hard to fight against the current.  But, bit by bit, little by little, we have to.

Puttachi is completely into dolls and babies, and much of her play revolves around her dolls getting married and having babies .... but yet, when she was watching Brave, where the queen tells Merida that all girls should get married, Puttachi said, "That's so silly.  We should get married only if we want to.  And we should have babies only if we feel like."  I relaxed.  As long as she knows that..... :)

Similarly, the way we talk to girls, the stories we tell them, the role models we point out to them - all this matters in what they think of themselves and their abilities.  And this holds good for boys too!  Responsible parenting of boys involves raising them to respect women and believe in their abilities.  Because, just as girls are exposed to society's messages, boys are too!

A Mighty Girl shares a lot of links to news of smart, independent girls who make a difference in their own lives, and the lives of people around them.  They point to books and movies that portray girls and women in a positive light, and show that girls can do anything that they want to.  They also link to articles that show how to talk to girls (and to boys too) so that they all grow up with a healthy respect for themselves and their abilities, and that of the other sex.

Please share other links, resources in the comments. Thank you.

Day 21 - Losing myself in learning

When I was in school, a classmate and I had decided that we would be archaeologists when we grow up.  I don't quite recall what we thought archaelogists did, but we were pretty serious about it.  I have also conducted "excavations" in my backyard.  Gradually, the idea about growing up to be an archaeologist faded, but naturally, my interest in the subject didn't fade away.  I always read with interest stories of ancient cultures and reports of new findings of old artefacts.

Now, I'm thoroughly enjoying this archaeology course I am taking from Coursera.  The videos, the required readings, the exercises - everything interests me greatly..  Today, I started research online for an exercise, and it led me to the history of archaeology in India.  I was so intrigued, that I clicked and clicked, and all morning, I've been engrossed in reading about the origins and the fathers of Indian archaeology.   And then, suddenly I felt  hungry, looked at the time - and realized it was lunch-time.

Isn't this the best way to learn?   Choose something you really want to learn, and then lose yourself in it?

Someone asked me - "Why this course?  Why do you want to learn about archaeology? Of what use is it to you?"   Honestly, that thought had never crossed my mind.  I thought for a bit.  What use is it to me?  I have no idea.  I don't see me "using" this knowledge in my life, practically.  But I feel a keen desire to learn about it.  And that, as I see it, is reason enough.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day 20 - Detective Daughter

One of the great things that S does with Puttachi - he gets her to answer her questions herself.  He guides the way, of course,  and suggests what questions she should ask in order to arrive at the answer to her original question.

He has been doing this ever since she was very small.

For example, I say, "Come on, let's go to Ajji's house."
And she says, "Which Ajji?"
My instinct would be to answer immediately.

But, S doesn't do that.  He says, "Think, Puttachi. Which Ajji's house could it be?"
She looks confused.
S: Where is B Ajji's house?
She: Far away.
S: So if you go there, will you come back tonight itself?
She: No, I'll probably stay the night, because it is very far and by the time I reach, it will be dark already.
S: Right.  So if you have to stay overnight, what will you need to do?
She: I have to take my clothes, toothbrush....
S: Correct.
She: (looks around) I don't see anything around.. Amma hasn't packed any bags.... meaning we are not going to B Ajji's house.  That means we are going to V Ajji's house!
S: Correct!

This, I have found, is a great way to get her to be curious and to think for herself.  The above was just an example, but S does it for every single thing.

To add to it, Puttachi was a fan of Slylock Fox when she was younger, and typically, the father-daughter team would solve it together every Saturday morning.  After that, she gets kicks from deducing things on her own, and glows when I call her "Slylock Fox"

A simple example - "Amma, I saw you buying Palak yesterday, and you are making chapatis today, and I know there is paneer in the fridge, which means we are having Palak-paneer today with chapatis!"

This week, I brought the book Bumbletown Detectives from the library, and it involved deduction based on visual clues - and she loved it so much that she wants to keep it for a few more days! I think she'll love a treasure hunt - my aunt had arranged one for her when she was three - I simply must get over my intertia and organize one for her now, with some complicated clues. I'm sure she'll enjoy it.

In short, I believe that this habit has helped her think and question and deduce and analyze better, which is always a nice skill to have, isn't it?

Try it out!  If not anything else, it is fun!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 19 - The inner editor

After I started writing regularly, a problem arose.  Unbeknownst to me, (I always wanted to use that word :))  an editor had taken birth within me.  And that is a good thing, but it can be a bad thing too, as I am finding out the hard way.

Previously, I first wrote whatever came into my head, and then I edited. But now, as I write, my editor is on alert, and I find myself editing as I write.  This is kind of limiting.  I need to have that openness, nothing-can-stop-me attitude when I am first putting my thoughts down.  The editing is necessary, but it can happen later.  I now need to figure out how to work around this.

The second problem with this annoying editor is that she is interfering in my enjoyment of books.  Well-written books are not a problem.  I can immerse myself in them completely.  And sometimes, when the writer deals with something particularly well, the editor pauses, and takes note, and even says, "aaaah!"

But when I am reading books that aren't quite well-crafted, the editor keeps screaming.  
"That adverb is unnecessary!"  
"Use the active voice!"  
"Yikes, imagery is overdone!"  
"Come on, you could have been more subtle!"
"Oh, stop with the description!"

Imagine reading a book with somebody screaming inside your head.  Not happening.  Good thing, I suppose, in one way - it is an automatic filter - I'll know instantly when to stop reading.  But on the other hand, if the story is good and I want to complete it, it is agony.

Please tell me whether this happens to you, and how you deal with it.

Day 18 - Quality vs Quantity

I had just put up a post which was boring even by my standards.  It kept bothering me and so I took the post down.  As you can see, I haven't been feeling communicative since yesterday and I feel it is simply not worth putting up substandard posts just for the sake of writing something.

So what is this, you ask.  No comments.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 17 - Link to online book

Today is a day where I don't feel like writing anything at all.  I have a number of topics in my head but I just don't want to write.

So, I'm just going to take the easy way out and use this post to point you to the online version of the book I helped create through Storybook Me.

You can also read the other books in the series here

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 16 - Feminism

Feminism is just common sense.  A sense of equality and justice, and the belief that what holds good for one, holds good for the other.

Thankfully, the impression that feminists are rabid, crazy creatures, is fading now, with more and more people, both men and women, proudly calling themselves feminists.  

But, being brought up in a conservative and patriarchal society like India, feminist ideas don't come naturally to most of us. Some beliefs are so steeped in our psyche that to step aside and look at those ideas anew, you need a trigger, or else, you need someone to plant the seed of a new outlook in your head.  Sometimes, it is just some random thing that encourages you to question what you've always believed to be right.  But once you start thinking and questioning, your world will expand by leaps and bounds.  It can be painful at times, to realize that what you have been taking for granted is fundamentally flawed.  But it can also make you happy, and free. 

If you wish to look, there are hundreds of people writing beautifully about such topics all over the internet.  But if you are lost, let me show you a good place to begin - IHM's blog.  It is a great go-to spot for issues relating to the Indian context.  I urge you to explore the archives too.  You'll also find resources, and links, and you'll be taken to the blogs of other people writing about women and patriarchy and misogyny and feminism.....  and once you are attuned to this way of thinking, you'll start questioning things yourself.  

Let me know how it goes.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day 15 - Half asleep

Whew, this day nearly got away from me!

Been on my toes since morning, except for some time sitting in a car, which, I can tell you, isn't too pleasant in Bangalore.

Finally, the day is done, and I am half asleep, and every bit of me wants to curl up with a book, and then go to bed.  [sidenote - anybody else out there who thinks that one of the sweetest moments in life is to sit in bed with a good book just before bedtime, listening to the patter of rain outside?]

But yet, here I am, writing this, hoping I am making sense, and wondering why, when I set my mind to it, I can make the time for anything even in the most uncomfortable of circumstances.  Well, I guess one needs to have a project worth being committed to.

This was one of the reasons I set myself this challenge.  To see whether I could keep this up even when I can hardly move my fingers across the keyboard.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day 14 - The breadfruit tree

The school I went to was a very small one when I first started going there.  Just a handful of students, a few loving teachers, a small shed or two where classes were held, and lots of trees.  Sometimes, we had classes under the trees, and most of the classrooms were the kind where you sat on the floor on mats and wrote on little desks.  It was lovely.

As the school grew, new buildings had to come up, and the trees needed to be cut down.  The first one to go was a magnificent breadfruit tree.   It had been the backdrop for most of our activities, and when our teachers told us about its fate, we were really upset.  

We were asked to draw pictures of the tree as a keepsake.  I remember the picture I drew very clearly.  The tree had a little broken branch jutting out from the trunk at a height that was within an adult's arm's reach.  Our headmistress used to hang her bag from that branch.  My drawing included that too, and I remember it made the teachers laugh.

When we went back to school after the weekend, there was just an empty space there.  

I told this story to Puttachi last night.  She dissolved into tears, and couldn't be consoled.   

Day 13 - Body Beautiful

When I was trying to understand the source of the pain in my foot, I did a bit of reading on the structure of the human foot.  I was highly impressed.  What a marvellous feat of engineering! (Yes, I'm talking about the foot.)  Its structure, flexibility, its ability to bear so much weight - it is nothing short of wonderful.   And it got me thinking.  How often do we look at our feet and whine about their ugliness, or about how tanned they are, or how misshapen our toes are or how wide our feet are, and all along, the foot  is an elegant body part that does so much work for us.

But that holds good for everything - we are the result of thousands of parts of our body working well in tandem - our stomach, our heart, our kidneys, lungs,  intestines, little glands that we haven't heard of but are vital to our well-being, our brain (Our brain!  I've been reading VS  Ramachandran's "The Tell-tale Brain" and it makes mysteries and thrillers fade in comparison.)  - so many beautiful parts in  perfect harmony.

This magnificent body of ours, working so hard, and so smoothly, to enable us to - whine about how ugly that very body is!

Ridiculous, or what?

Hair too dry, nose too blunt, eyes too wide, skin too dark, legs too fat, lips too thin, breasts too small, teeth too crooked, tummy too flabby - all we can think of is what's on the outside, and we feel inadequate.   Why?  Because we are aiming for a standard of beauty that is never within reach.  Never within anybody's reach.   Movie stars, who are supposedly supremely beautiful, go in for nose jobs and chin reconstructions and tummy tucks - what does that show?  Nobody can truly be happy with whatever they look like, if they try to strive for some silly standard of beauty!  Such a waste of time and energy!

But that is not all!  We transfer that feeling of inadequacy to our children too!  Look at this beautiful letter a daughter writes to her mom.  Heartbreaking.  But that story is playing out in millions of homes all over the world even now.  

What do I hear you say?  That even if we don't give our children these wrong ideas of beauty, they will get it from outside anyway?  From peers, and from the media?  Yes, they will.  It is inevitable.  But if you inculcate into them a healthy sense of respect for their bodies,  maybe they will be grounded enough not to be too swayed by those images that the media thrusts at them.  Just maybe. Worth a shot, right?  If we start throwing at them false notions of beauty right from childhood, then the poor things don't have a chance at all. 

But I know, easier said then done.  I'll finish writing this, get up, catch a look at myself in the mirror and cringe at how frizzy my hair is.  That's called social conditioning.(and the lack of hair conditioning, in this case.)   Who said that frizzy hair is ugly?  Why is it supposed to be ugly?  That's what I am trying to get at.

Trying to look beyond all these notions of beauty is hard, but we can do it.  It is just not worth the agonies that women, and even men, go through every day.  And more importantly, we owe it to our children.  Let them, at least, grow up free from the constricts of these silly notions of beauty!
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