Dussehra notes - the 9 day plus 1

When did Dussehra come and go? As you clean away the dried flowers and decorations to prepare for Diwali, you see how fast time flies.My little boy has already completed 5 months!

We attended a community Jagraan on the third day of Navratri. Sonny boy was very patient with the grown-up circus around him.The small time country singer put me off badly - there was nothing charismatic or devotional about him, all that he did was flash his paan-stained teeth and he continuously asked the devotees to raise their hands in the air. The music was loud and garish.I came back somewhat deaf.

In the weekend we played dandiya until midnight and the greater highlight was the midnight snacking and hunting for flavoured paan in the sleepy by-lanes of Begum Bazar.

On Saptami, we paid obeisance to Maa Durga and partook this year's much awaited khichudi-beguni-dalna-payesh - in true Bong ishtyle!Yes, all the aunties come in big red bindis and the men flow in their Kolkata kurtas and slippers!And the antakshari in Bengali was hilarious to say the least because the emcee was schoolmarmish!

Dussehra is a little painful for me - suddenly all the festivals are over for the year save Diwali and an odd one here and there.You do bid a happy colorful farewell to the goddess and look forward to next year and the fallen marigold lives to tell the tale. Kids and adults equally look forward to the burning of Ravan - and our inner demons. It is a little painful because some of our inner demons refuse to pale away - they offer quite a dogged fight and it's only a matter of time before you thrust that ultimate blow. The same goes for family - you hope things will change for the better, you can only hope because the fight is theirs, the spoils are ours. 

On our way home, the goddess showed me the lighter side of life as her devotees danced to a popular Bollywood item number - chikni chameli. Seriously - "Aaayee.. chikni chameli chup ke akeli pahua chadha ke aayee.." 

Matheran Revisited

Matheran is very different than what it was in our young salad days or maybe,we have matured and changed since. Decision around which dates and where to stay didn't take long- V is a an ace!Packing was my responsibility - all things in one rucksack - baby's,his and mine.His memories of the place were as remote and distant as mine. He had trekked this place with his friends and I had come here with colleagues from work.Very very different situations.And, now, it's about our small world.

Day of departure-
Check drill of what we carried and the jazz from tickets to diapers, mosquito repellant to moisturising cream and what not.Remembering the mistakes of my last trip to Matheran, i made my bestest-sure not to goof-up this time, especially with a 4-month in tow.You just can't afford to. The 9-day Ganesh festival was on, so Hyderabad looked crazy. We reached the station on time and boarded the Hussainsagar Express (Sec-Mum).Very homely compartment - we ran out of what next to eat.Sonny boy got frightened to sleep in the lower berth otherwise very well-behaved.Our original plan was to get down at Kalyan at 2AM and take the connecting local to Neral, at 4AM.We chucked that and decided to get off at the last stop, Mumbai and take the local from there. I am so glad we did that.

Day 1
As our train rolled in at CST(formerly VT) at 5 am, V promised to show me a different side of Mumbai and the gentle morning air also brought back old memories of a young man's tryst with Maximum City.I heard so much about Mumbai never sleeping, i believe that now. As we left the station, V very helpfully refreshes my memory with an unlikely starter - this is where Kasab..I was like yes, i know but don't take his name please!Hopped into a quaint cab and V wanted to show me the iconic Gateway of India and the Taj by the sea. It is no longer open to the common man at all times after the infamous 28/11 bombing.Barricaded, we saw it in passing as much as we passed by the iconic hotel. As i stared out to a sleeping Mumbai, i imagined how a regular day must be with the humming janta,traffic, chaos and din. I could hear the streets breathe and sleep and a crow cawing once in while.We headed off to Marine Drive for a cuppa by the Arabian Sea.No, we didn't see any actor/actress jogging by as many claim.Of course, we were seated bang opposite the iconic Air India building at Nariman Point. It was so heartwarming to see so many families and bunches of youngsters in happy chatter enjoying a cup of tea at dawn.A lot of morning walkers and the municipal boys in their cleaning drive.V tells me Marine Drive always holds a special place for any aam Mumbaikar, i am sure it does. We also came across a small time scribe who was on a signature campaign to have more toilets installed.

We were back at CST to catch the local to Neral, killed time nibbling sabudana vadas. People here are so dang punctual, read their newspapers religiously and a host of other things.Passing by different stops,Mumbai  stinks I must say, no cleanliness drive in the world can save this city.The sights and smells drove Sonny boy mad, he was already tolerating the humid weather.So relieved to reach Neral,we had a quick vada-pav breakfast and set off to Dasturi. The number of hair-pin turns can leave you a little queasy.From there it's a horse-trot or a trek or hand-pulled buggies or better still, the newly refurbished toy train.

Our hotel had some amazing Gujarati cuisine lined up for us. Old-fashioned housie in the evening while the youngsters foosballed and some of us played badminton; and there is always the idiot box.

Day 2
We were done with breakfast. I wanted some much needed sleep while V decided to take a walk in solitude. He promised to be back by noon for piping hot lunch.He got me the freshest wild flowers from the valley and he did seem to have enjoyed a proper workout.Two incidents left me gaping.

High-way Robbery
V had picked up a bottle of Fanta to keep him company. As he went deeper into the woods with the sunlight peeping through the leaves, he had little idea that something like this could also happen to him. Generally, he is always prepared for any eventuality but this time around i had packed, remember?So no knife,no torch and a host of other things. Out there in the distance, this fairly strong guy stood in the middle of V's path. Both of them stopped and sized up each other.First, there was silence, each asking the other to back off but well. When V decided not to budge, two others from the bushes showed up. And it was a uh-oh moment for V.He had nothing on him, not even stones or a stick. The stares didn't take long to turn to menacing gnarls. The message was plain and simple - hand over what you have and leave, no questions asked.V had no option but to surrender the bottle of Fanta. The monkey grabbed and opened it, guzzled it down in 3 shots and disappeared into the bushes.Whew!That was close.

Ropeway Crossing
After the highway robbery, V trekked to Honeymoon Point (yes, there are such names) and came across this bunch of adventure lovers who do this. He did a Hamlet - to do or not to do. Like all married men, he assumed happily his nagging wife won't allow him such privileges. But the loving husband made sure he left my contact information with the organisers just in case. He tells me he saw the most breathtaking view of the valley and that there is no point of recovery in case there was a mishap. It took him 4 minutes to cover the valley and one is left dangling in the last minute at Louisa Point as the person on ground hauls you in.

A bunch of flowers from the valley for the wife. And it was an afternoon dedicated to reading a graphic novel Indian by Choice on the couch while V and Sonny boy enjoyed their 40 winks.A pleasant horse-trot to all the view-points in the evening.

Day of departure
We made sure we took the toy-train ride all the way to Dasturi and it was the same old. Just that, at the station we learnt our train got cancelled thanks to the Telangana whatever. We took the local to Karjat and a kind TT put us in an AC suite to Pune. Sonny enjoyed the fields of bright orange and pink cosmos flowers at the window. The return trip was all the more memorable - leaky bus roof and Sonny boy decides to watch Pawan Kalyan's Telugu movie Gabbar Singh through the night.

Cute because Chinese or the other way round

Family re-union lunch for V and me with Sonny boy at an upmarket restaurant, mostly haunted by Telugus who loved a spicy fare.As we walked to the lift, we found ourselves in the company of a not-so-young but not-so-old bunch of Telugu women,very sartorially turned out who started greeting Sonny boy.He was in the best of his social manners, flashing a smile here and there to whoever called him baby!One of them asked if she could take him in her arms,we okayed. We were 7 people in the lift and of course, the baby.  

And that tiny lady in the Pochampalli sari remarked - 'Enduku he's not crying,huh..' Silence. She has a few gray hairs and clearly looks a mother of 3 grown-up teenagers. Is it a norm that a baby qualifies to be a baby only if crying? Smiling babies are not babies if that is what she meant.

While every other lady took turns to coo and squeal along with Sonny boy, this same woman follows up with another one - wondering if the baby is Chinese because he is cute.That's when all the other ladies ganged up against her and shut her up with - "What a stupid question!"

I could have well taught her to go back to school and do her geography lessons again.No, that's old and does not work anymore.She is a working woman, so she should spend her money travelling instead of visiting temples and buying saris or gold.

V shot back in chaste Telugu - "India is a pedda country..so many states and regions, each very different from the other..Assam lu, Meghalaya lu..North-East lu just like South lu..
Ahaan, she joined in - "I only wanted to confirm -North East. See!"

What to say.

Enduku - "Why" in Telugu
Pedda - "Big" in colloquial Telugu
lu - The plural sign in Telugu,also extended to masculine nouns. 

Pedicure-ing my baby

I don't know who used to trim my nails when i was a baby;all through my school life it was always my father who religiously took out time every Sunday to ensure my nails were trimmed neatly with a blade.Yes, a blade. He hated the nailcutter because he could not see the inside of it and feared it might slice the skin here and there. A blade, in his opinion gave him more control and hold. Not to worry, i began to wield the blade soon enough effortlessly.And guess what, on my first job away from home, my father tucked a nailcutter in my bag asking me to upgrade in life. Poignant enough,i find it so strange my father pushed all of us to adapt to the changing times but refuses to change himself. I am informed he still does not use a nailcutter and old as he may be, his nails are still neat as ever, perfectly trimmed.

My husband picked up a real cute nailcutter, a penguin-shaped one for sonny boy when he was 3 days old. Yes,sonny boy made his entry to this world with already grown nails and baby nails are ouch,sharp!It hurts when he scratches. Little does he know who/what/where he is scratching. Half the time, he is hurting himself. And how often will one put him on mittens.It's a sweaty humid country. I have a pet peeve towards long nails. No,i don't chew them. I just like and have always maintained short, prim and propah nails. Yes, i also paint them and buffer them time to time. I wanted to trim them asap but how and when. 

Then, in jumped the elders saying the baby has to complete 40 days before i trim his nails.And, Dadi told me to kiss his nails and blow them away like wishes every Monday and every Wednesday. The nails shed, apparently. Baby nails are soft,so they scale and shed, to tell you the truth irrespective of the day. Meanwhile, his paediatrician chided me for growing his nails. I looked at him helplessly and told him this is India and every newborn has so and so rituals and traditions to follow. He said, that's the point - this is India. Everyone comes with ample free advice. Just nod and move on but never offend anyone. 

When the day came to trim his nails i thought i should wait for him to go to sleep then i remembered my mother's myth/belief to never ever cut nails while asleep. Apparently, one's life gets shortened.You get the drift. So i was stuck. It seemed daunting but i must thank the little man for being patient with me. I made him lie on my lap facing me and told him stories as i went snipping the extras. I almost felt as if i was holding my breath underwater. It's not easy. And now it's a weekly exercise. 

The father refuses to come anywhere near when i ask him to trim his son's nails. You know why. He is so terrified he might hurt him. Yes, Mother Courage - we have to prepare for,god forbid, any unintentional hurt too.Phew!

Eid Mubarak

My childhood memories of Eid in Shillong are very faint, we did not have too many Muslim friends. I understood the meaning and import of Ramzaan and Eid only after I was in college thanks to a Muslim friend of mine. Her family treated me as one of their own. And boy, I looked forward to Eid for my favourite paratha and rajma besides the sewaiyan which Aunty used to prepare.

I missed that warmth and verve when I came to Hyderabad for the first time. I remember tagging my room-mate to our office driver’s house for Eid somewhere near Tolichowki. We were greeted with the customary fragrance of Attar and Eid embraces and led to a room meant only for the women. The same evening, we also visited another colleague’s house near Mehdipatnam and I remember, his wife had prepared quite a spread for all of us.

Thereafter, Eid memories for me were just another holiday and people around talking of haleem and biriyani. This year, my husband insisted I should see Charminar in its midnight glory. I almost nearly missed it thanks to the viral marathon in the house. I am glad I didn’t miss it this time. My only worry was our son, will the little fellow be able to deal with the madness and rush. God, he did and beautifully. I called up an old student to check the traffic conditions in and around Charminar knowing how paranoid my husband can get driving a big beast.

We were treated like royalty by the traffic police. Got decent enough parking near the High Court, we walked a total of 3-4 km through lanes and bylanes. Arjun was the most awake and he saw the world backwards and frontwards from his father’s shoulders while his father went away clicking pictures with one hand. We lapped up piping hot butter masala dosa and vadai at one of the roadside eateries. The baubles and shimmer and glitter took everyone by storm. My fever vanished. Everyone seemed to be out shopping then, the poor the rich and just about everyone from dry fruits to clothes to sandals to bangles. It felt good to see so many people out shopping at that unearthly hour. I was given the second odd look once in a while while my husband and son enjoyed the exclusivity. We picked up some nutmeg.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle and the jostling, suddenly we had arrived at the foot of the Charminar. All around were scattered peels of fruits and leftovers of shopping cart discards. But the magnificence can’t be beaten. We stopped by for some sugarcane juice and decided to hitch an auto ride. Hard luck, no auto wanted to come the High Court side. I was so tired chasing and trying to keep pace with my husband. I remember screaming at him if he was catching some train. He told me he wanted to save our son from the pollution. I was like, yeah right. Little fellow had a sound sleep back in the vehicle.

Two days later was Eid and we visited old childhood friends of my husband. It took us the entire day and platefuls of sewaiyan and dates. Old world hospitality and conversations and a quaint accent of Hyderabadi wafting through the attar incensed air. I was a little annoyed with myself for my inability to wish my friends. Better late than never. Eid Mubarak!

The mosquito net

It was 1981 and mom, all of 23 was in her 7th month with her first child. She trailed Dad all the way to Uppal in Hyderabad from a sleepy town in Assam. The office provided quarters – a big room with 2 single beds (which could be joined to make a single one) and an attached kitchen. The common bathroom was outside in the hallway. The Goyals lived next door and there was this other family. Life was very comfortable despite the small stipend – weekend visits to Charminar and Salar Jung, the Zoo and rides on horse-drawn tongas and no windows but curtained double-decker buses. Sugar-cane juice and black and white (Isolate 2) photography were the weekend treats. Vegetables and fruits were in plenty and very dirt cheap.

Summer is summer. The fan ran non-stop and mom would tie soaking wet clothes around the bed poles as a sort of cooler As the days advanced, she took to sleeping alone in a single bed and craved for a mosquito net. She informs me the mosquitoes are peculiar this side with a white spot on their heads, almost as if they  are wearing Gandhi topis. So off they went to the bazaar one weekend and brought home a nice mosquito net for a decent bargain. Both hoped for some respite and relief and some peaceful sleep.

She was woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of the front door being opened. Oh, dad just stepped out to visit the bathroom. The door was kind of ajar and there was a gentle breeze outside. And she felt relieved she was not a feeding pit for those bellowing mosquitoes grr-ing outside the mosquito net. Just then, she felt a poke in her tummy, she was lying on her side with her eyes on the door waiting for dad to come back. She thought, must be the hyperactive baby inside her. Then, another poke. She turned and lied on her back. She felt the poke again and, wait. This time it was a long stick from outside the mosquito net. There seemed to be two people standing outside the mosquito net and one was holding the stick. She sat up with a fright and called out for dad. There was no sign of him, the door still open and creaking, and she was left with no choice but flung herself out of the bed and ran towards the door only to find it latched and when she turned back, the strange visitors had disappeared. And, she heard dad snoring in the other single bed.

She woke dad up and went hysterical for sleeping so deaf to all her shouts and screams. Dad had no idea so much had happened within 3 feet of each other. The mosquito net was brought down and it was a sleepless night for many reasons. The next day, the mosquito net was disposed (actually burnt) and those pokes and visits never happened again.

Valentine's Day

2006 - I remember ‘celebrating’ my first Valentine’s Day with my best friend A, and her elder sister – our MD. We never believed in love per se but what the heck.Of course, we were always broke, research scholars that we were. MD always bailed us out. The Horticulture Deptt of our home state put up a stupendous rose and strawberry show and live music by a very old band at our favourite All Saints’ Hall. Old and young, married and unmarried but much in love – pride and happiness at the homegrown Dutch roses and the strawberry spread, again home-grown. We decided not to go restaurant-hopping since we would be ‘disqualified’ for all ‘couple’ benefits. MD bought us a box of strawberries each and the roses came for free. Those were the days, my friend.

2 years later, when I met him and I told A, she was the happiest but she said she’d travel to my part of the world to approve/disapprove after meeting ‘the love’. She was not disappointed. And, the Valentine’s Days that followed were forgettable. We simply did not believe in that one day, found it too yo! And we were definitely not part of the cappuccino crowd. You can imagine the kind of gifts I got from him– a hammer and a tool-kit when I was moving house, or a global travel adapter or a fish-net for my aquarium – yes, very practical ones, nothing remotely romantic.

And, last year, when the elders decided to solemnize our engagement, the pandit chose a day we had been disdainfully laughing our heads off all this while – 14th Feb’11. Umm..well, the pandit informed us helpfully that it was ‘shubh’ to help preserve love in a marriage. After the ‘sagai’, we were packed off in the evening to go enjoy dinner and the works and come back home early. We were officially ‘a couple’.

This year, ‘the love’ who is husband now tells me on Monday that he has a surprise for me. He promised to be home by 5 in the evening.The surprise was he didn’t come home till 12 in the night.

14th Feb this year, he took a day off for me. We had a bad idli-sambar breakfast at home. I made it up with nice sambar-rice with papad and dahi in the afternoon and, ice-cream. Slept like logs. Washed and cleaned the house. He fumbled around saying he left something in the car and needed to get them. I can’t tell you how wow the surprise was – a stunning blue Kanjeevaram. By the way, I was not yet over my Sunday thrill when he gifted me a lovely silk sari, just my kinds type. We went to the temple where I first offered to play city tour-guide to him 3 years ago. That is another hilarious story. Another time.

Then, off we went to our favourite Green Bay bakery for our evening round of snacks and tea, this is close to my old workplace. And I was nervous when he asked me to buy whatever came to my mind at the jeweller’s. I told him I am not used to such things. And, he said reassuringly, we have a lifetime to get used to such things. It was a gulp moment for me. When we left the jeweller’s, I was sporting a lovely pair of ‘baalis’. Glee! We landed at our favourite restaurant – and well, another awkward moment there. At the entrance, the restaurant staff ‘instructed’ hubby dear to pick up a rose and hand it to me. We were like okay!

As we were ruminating over the years gone by, we realized how time flies so fast. So many things have happened and so many are in the pipeline. We smiled as more couples with and without children in tow of all ages poured in for their evening celebrations. As we were leaving, we saw the waiting lounge – young and old, in their finest finery.

So, what goes around comes around. Both of us shed our cynicism and agreed we cannot put away this date – love is love but we still don’t and won’t belong to the cappuccino crowd and no mush, yes, no mush. We rounded off the day with a sumptuous 'meetha paan' which resembled a cone ice-cream. So much for Valentine’s day.

What is your name, Madam? My name is Madam

It's been ages I had interesting conversations with the autowallah bhai log. Around  Diwali, i met a kind soul who drove me home safely through an unavoidable potholed road.He charged 10 rupees more than the actual meter fare and for a change, i didn't feel bad giving him his premium. I also offered a box of Diwali sweets.His face lit up and he was tad guilty, left with a 'Happy Diwali, Madam!'

Yesterday,I was outside a big retail store with a big bag and of course,the waiting autos are always the foxy ones, negotiating with them is a real hurdle. So I don't even look at them - simply ignore. I flagged a running auto, a young boy driver and I must say,I am partial to brand new autos.He had absolutely short hair, seems to me, he shaved his head weeks ago.I didn't say a word, just hopped in and he had that 'please,meter pe 10 rupaiya, madam' look. I gave him a hard stare and told him to take the nearest left and exit to the connecting road. He mumbled a grumble but gave up mid-way, more like a student who has been denied a free period.He defended he won't get any return passenger. I retorted he should never give up hope.He said he lost all his hair hoping.I was like - come again? I preached if he got up everyday that he would not get any passengers.You can always expect 2 kinds of reactions. One, to extract their pound of flesh, some autowallas drive over potholes purposely and make you regret you ever hired them. Two, well the obvious - drive properly.Well, my young boy drove properly, more out of love for his new auto.And, methinks, he is not from the city, once in a while, he asked me directions. Two, he also gave me options of shortcuts or regular U-turns which meant more fuel and more fare.I left it to him and he took care it was optimum for both.

I was amused a little. I remarked at him that he does not look like a local, he confirmed. He was from Mahbubnagar and I asked him what about his family. He said he has none. I asked again, mother-father? He was puzzled, and answered of course, his parents were there. Then, what was he thinking - wife and kids . His parents were in Annaram.On further enquiries he said he is a class 9 drop-out and he was more interested in autos and lost interest in school.I asked him if he ever wanted to finish school. He said yes, his mother is after his life egging him to write his 10th.I asked him, if he wants to. He said yes because he feels bad his friends are in college.I asked him his age, he quickly defended saying he is not so grown-up as he looks but is much younger. I told him I didn't say he looked old. He reluctantly revealed he was 17.And what about his driving licence - he was like 'ho jata'. Very good, I told him his entire life was there in front of him and tomorrow, his kids would be very proud if their dad managed to study a little more.

Soon, I was at my doorstep. He pleaded with me to give that extra 10 bucks. I looked at him with a stern but gentle stare. I handed him the meter fare. He accepted it fairly. Then, I handed him 10 bucks with the promise that he will write his 10th open schooling exam.And wherever and whenever we meet again, he should shout out with the update.I asked his name - Venkatesh. He asked my name - 'What is your name, Madam?' I said, 'Madam!' And, that I used to teach kids his age.He held that 10 rupees, wondering whether to return or ..I didn't turn back.

A suitcase of hopes

I was looking outside the window-sill, found the rain water outlet so absolutely clean. Before I could turn around and ask, my mother informed me Guddu and Bhatt uncle got it cleaned. My school can be seen across our house, a half-constructed parapet and a little girl running around in white stockings with a nice red-jacket on and her mother calling out her name.

Everything seemed very distant and all the voices drowned in that feeble winter sunshine. There seemed to have been a light drizzle. And there was this crumpled invoice of a failed courier in my hand. That dark steel gray suitcase never reached me. I had not paid attention to it in months. It was sent on the 3rd of August, 2011 and today is the 26th of January, 2012. There was a helpline number I could call on the reverse of that invoice. Some Mr.Kirti answered my call, he tells me its about 5:30 pm in Mumbai and the office is about to close for the day. I gave him the consignment number and he agreed such a parcel came and was never delivered to the rightful owner and they conveniently informed us – Lost In Transit. He was kind enough to assure me the parcel is safe.

Suddenly, I hate myself for not following it up on time. The courier people offered compensation but I stood my ground. I thought of consumer rights and the counter measures, anything not claimed over a period of 3months can be disposed in whatever manner by the courier people. But they said the suitcase was safe.

I began wondering what about the contents inside. This aunty told me she sent an orange saree with a black and gold border, meaning ornate heavy stuff. Mother told me, my favourite saree was also in that suitcase. I was like, oh no – you mean the silver one with that blue and dull gold brocade? She said yes. I was even more determined to get hold of the suitcase. Kirti told me the suitcase was in some godown in Pune. Why on earth, Pune?

I dialed the courier people again, since it’s a toll free 24/7 hotline. A young woman answers my call and I could almost sense domesticity in the background - a cranky husband and a cantankerous kid and our lady was munching on something. I rattled off my missing bag story to her. She could not care a flying whatever, she told me she was eating dinner and she will see into this on Monday. I was very desperate and told her, that one of her colleagues spoke to me and assured me that they’d go out of the way to ensure this got sorted out at the earliest. I don’t want to sound sexist but I hated her so much at that point in time. I came down like a ton of bricks on her and questioned her work ethics and what about that glorified thing called customer care and service and how they could be so careless of a missing baggage for 6 months. Mother interjects that she had packed some homegrown herbs and foods. It was so agonizing to learn that, I almost felt like saying woh sab jaye tel lene but the sarees are heirloom to me and I’d do anything to remove the odours and smells of 6 months.

I wake up in the morning to find my husband packing for his Europe trip and gosh, it was the same steel gray suitcase standing next to his favourite Samsonite. Very endearingly, he told me to have a look and see what needs to be added or subtracted. Of course, I won’t find those 2 sarees – the orange one with the black and gold border and of course, my favourite one, the silver one with the blue brocade. The silver one is with mother and the orange one does not even exist. It was a 4am dream. 

By the way, I have been shopping to my heart's delight without burning any hole whatsoever anywhere. I began the year with an envious Kashmiri collection -a chignon saree,a heavy embroidered party stole and a salwar suit that I admire day in and day out and would hate to see the tailor cut to size. A few days ago, went berserk getting Rajasthani mojris and jootis of the choicest colors and don't kill me for getting about 8 MP handloom kurtas in different hues and dyes. Oh, another update, a friend's mom in Baroda just sent me 2 splendid Bandhej salwar suits in glorious shades. I am already over the moon. And,these are not gifts.

Apathy of the 'police'

A couple of years ago, my landlady's YWCA city wing visited the Chanchalguda jail and she came home with 3-4 items prepared by women inmates and prisoners, the scheme is sold under the name Sudhaar Products from Central Jails and Prisons. It was very encouraging to read that the annual Numaish mela also had a stall dedicated to Sudhaar Prison Products. My husband and i were there last evening. From furniture to bed covers,towels to candles and soaps, there was pretty much everything. There were a few long-serving prisoners who did the PR. We picked up a bar of hand-made soap, wrapped in simple butter paper and waited for the counter-guy to issue us the receipt.There were different counter guys for different central jails - Warrangal, Cherlapalli,etc and they were issuing receipts for every damn item sold.By the way,our soap was from the Cherlapalli jail.The need for a receipt here was more in terms of promoting their cause through social media and all  those with eco-friendly advice of saving paper here can hold their horses. Had the soap wrapper carried some information on that particular Sudhaar product and price, we would have still parted in good faith.

But then,bullies exist everywhere - our counter guy from Cherlapalli here was a very bald man who came close to abusing and threatening us in Telugu to return the soap and that he won't issue a receipt.He must have attended until 12th std but the education was not forthcoming.We tried to understand his logic - he said he has made a manual entry in his sheet of paper that 1 cake of soap has been sold.We were like, good for you but no heavens would come falling if a similar piece of paper was given to us.The Warrangal counter guy was more forthcoming, he was more than willing to issue a receipt but the police ego of his colleague bullied him into meek surrender.Another spectacled half- paan chewing henchman also tried to flex his police muscles with us.But then, truth hurts - we told him, he was useless and doing no service to customers by making a redundant entry in some random sheet of paper,it would be productive if he wrote us a receipt. The bystanders, were as mute as the rocks in the Outer Ring Road. They were happy collecting their receipts and their bags. It was not a big deal but it got into us that the stubbornness needs to be corrected and the  police need to appreciate why a consumer right of a receipt is important for all and especially, being the guardian of the law, it is more important the habit is inculcated by them. I was almost reminded of how police constables wanted easy money but bargain for a receipt and they take to their heels.

Being insistent helps, the head in-charge, a smiling man calmed us down and said, he will issue a receipt.He acknowledged that however small or big the amount, a receipt will be issued. We also told him to train his subordinates to be a little more customer-friendly in terms of listening.But then, a grudge is a grudge. He issued the receipt in the wrong book - the Central Jail of Warrangal and tore the bill with all his smouldering smiling anger, that half the information on the top of the receipt remained with him. The embarrassment was tantamount -- we said thank you, but no thank you. Everybody was left red-faced. We actually felt we were inside a prison and thought how tough it must be for those who are wronged and not given a chance to negotiate. Those in power, clearly love to revel in power without a sneeze or a toss.

Random random random

Another year went by in the city and it still fees like i left school just yesterday. I have a Peter Pan disorder. Also, I am prone to getting nostalgic at the drop of a hat as much as i claim to have moved on. Got some heady knocks and learnt some priceless lessons on the way, especially from near and dear ones and friends and former colleagues.No point  intellectualising family and friends, each has their quirks and we have little choice but work around them, the options are few - endure,indulge or ignore.

I have literally gone places last year from status change to what not.I can't tell you how much i hate packing now, even unpacking is a nightmare. Many  think  i have changed - oh yes, if i am pausing by to catch a breath.

Living is an onward journey, with interesting chapters.I am not of a philosophical bent to say Life aha! It brings sheer joy to know comrades and 4am friends are following their hearts and dreams. Many are enjoying parenthood - the miracle of life does not cease to tire anyone.We don't get to meet or speak in days or years but that they are under the same sky somewhere is comforting. 

I realised i am sentimental about challenges even with family. There are some things which are non-negotiable.I paid less alms last year and i am proud of it. Husband keeps small biscuit packets in the car and they are better than alms. Husband and i distributed surgical masks to traffic constables at signals, those surly guys smiled for once.I gave up eggs for 3 months on a whimsical challenge and celebrated the feat last night with a bread omelette I watch less TV,boring movies, dont touch the camera and read fewer books these days, and i am not fretting. I have an awesome ManFriday who brings tulsi saplings for my garden when i'm least expecting them.

Life is good, the chinks will iron out.