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Tuesday, 14 May 2013


(A Tribute to my Mother on her 12th Death Anniversary)

Maa, tujhe salaam...
Years ago, you told me that when you were in the family way in the year 1949, you prayed every morning that you be blessed with a baby girl. A few months later, I landed up in your lap and ever since, I have always been proud of being your daughter.  As I grew up, I learnt so many things from you that you have become an integral part of my being.

When I was only five years old, you asked me to go and watch whether the cook was doing his job properly. When I pointed out to him that a black bug had fallen in the daal, he dismissed me by saying that it is burnt dhania. I brought it to your notice and you appreciated my alertness profusely. You actually taught me supervision.

When I was six years old, they did not teach English in school in those backward places where we were posted but you yourself taught me English. You taught me never to be cowed down by  circumstances.

When I was only nine years old, you used to direct me to go around the huge bungalow to check whether the orderlies had properly secured all the doors. When I detected a few unbolted doors and brought it to your notice, you admired me no end. You actually taught me undertaking responsibility.

When I felt scared of going in the dark holding a lantern in my hand, you taught me Gayatri Mantra as a weapon against fear. You taught me to fight against baseless fears.

At the age of ten, when I was studying for my exams and you were confined to bed, you asked me to look after my baby brother also. When I protested, you explained to me how I could handle both by giving him some toys and by keeping an eye on him while reading my books. You taught me basics of multi-tasking.

When at the age of thirteen, I made my bed and folded the blanket or cover-sheet and it did not match corner to corner, you asked me to do it again and not do a shoddy job. You taught me the importance of being a perfectionist.

When I neglected my studies and ran short of your expectations, you told me, “If you study well, you will become something one day. Otherwise, you will keep rotting at home.” You inculcated in me ambition and a desire to excel.

When I avoided entering the kitchen, you told me in clear terms, “When you grow up, you will not have servants like we have now. If you want to enjoy good food, you must know how to cook it yourself.” You inculcated in me an interest in cooking and a need to be independent.

When I picked up the only apple in the fruit basket, you asked me to cut into multiple pieces and give one piece each to all those who were present in the house. You taught me the value of sharing.

When I divided any item for sharing, you directed that the one, who divides, should be the last one to pick up to ensure that one does not try to take a bigger pie. You taught me to be fair in deals.

When I complained about non-availability of all the expensive books as a reason for insufficient preparation for exams, you told me that knowledge comes from reading the books and not by possessing them and that, the library was the place where all the books were available. You taught me never to cite lame excuses.

When I wanted to send an orderly to buy a First Day Cover from the Post Office, you asked me to pedal my bike up to GPO and stand in the long queue to pick up the FDC to add to my collection. You taught me to move my own limbs in pursuit of my hobbies.

When I wanted to buy a suit, you told me to go to the market and pick it up myself. You only said, “It is summer time. So get cotton and a light colour. It should not be more than Rs 3 per meter.” I went from shop to shop until I found a soft pink cotton material with floral designs within a total cost of Rs. 10.” You taught me decision-making within laid down framework.

When I wanted to give that suit for stitching, you asked me to do it myself and helped me understand the basics of stitching. The profuse praise bestowed on my achievements encouraged me to be self-reliant.

When you asked me to see that all my four younger brothers finish their homework and do not fight with each other when you were away, you taught me team-management.

Although you left us twelve years ago on this day, I do not miss you as you still live in me and in my thoughts. Your values guide me in whatever I do. When in confusion, I always think of how you would have tackled this situation and I find the right path. If I start chronicling all that I imbibed from you, I will fail miserably. I can only say about you what poet Kabir wrote about God.

सात समंदर की मसि करौं लेखनि सब बनराइ।

धरती सब कागद करौं हरि गुण लिखा न जाइ॥

(If I make ink out of seven seas, pens out of all the wood in the jungle and convert the entire earth into paper, they will not be sufficient to write about your greatness.)

Thank you, Mom for always being my guiding star!


Thursday, 9 May 2013


Adyant, my Guru for unlearning violence
“Spiiiider,” screamed Adyant, my four-year-old grandson in fright. I dropped my book and rushed to the spot only to find a big spider near the backyard door. My spontaneous response was to kill it and I did so. As I went in to bring a tissue to clean up the mess, Adyant asked inquisitively, “What did you do, Dadi?”
“I killed it,” I said proudly, feeling great that I had eliminated the cause of fear for my darling grandson.
“You KILLED it? Why did you kill it, Dadi? That’s not a good thing to do.” Saying this, he appeared quite miserable, feeling of internal pain showing on his tender face. 
Looking sideways to hide my embarrassment, I sounded defensive, “I killed it because it was scaring you Baby?”
“You could have thrown it out,” was the solution offered by him.
“Poor spider! Has it died?” he looked very sad and hurt.

Like a wise old grandma, I immediately resorted to diversionary tactics, “Come on! Come on! Forget it. I will show you the book that I have brought to you from India.” We both merrily romped up the stairs to reach my room where I pulled out one of the Amar Chitra Katha Cartoon books, which I had lovingly carried for him to acquaint him with Indian mythology. After all, he is an Indian child and should know about our mythological characters although he is staying in Canada, I had thought.

The book that I took out depicted Lord Krishna’s life and story. Adyant was so happy to see the book that he grabbed it from my hands and ran to his room with me trailing him. As he excitedly leafed through the pages, he saw Lord Krishna killing Shishupal with his chakra and Shishupal’s head flying off his torso with splashes of blood all around. Seeing this sketch, Adyant was again miserable. “Why has this man killed him? See Dadi, there is blood.” I wanted to explain all that ideology about the triumph of ‘Good’ over ‘Evil’, but Adyant would not listen, “Dadi, he must be a bad man, no? He has killed this person.” His eyes became narrow with disgust and face distorted.

I quietly took the Amar Chitra Katha from his hand and put it back in my suitcase. At night, I took all of them out and scanned each one from my newfound perspective about violence, blood and gore. I leafed through Dashrath Putra Rama, Pawan Putra Hanuman, Durga Mata and found violence on every single page. I cannot let my little grandson be exposed to this type of violence and quietly consigned them back to the suitcase. 

My dreams of educating him on Hindu mythology through these books were badly shattered. However, I got a new perspective on violence through the unbiased eyes of this innocent child. He taught me a real lesson in non-violence that day. Thank you Adyant for being my guru!!!


In the evening of life
As the phone rang and the caller said, “Hello,” I instantly recognised his voice.
“Good morning, Sir,” was my respectful response. Yes, he was my boss some three decades ago.  Exchange of pleasantries and he announced that he was visiting someone in my area and intended to visit me too during that trip.
“Wonderful! We have not met for ages. It’ll be great to catch up with each other,” I said.

He was there in the afternoon. For the two hours that he sat with us, he talked of nothing but how he had thrown his weight around in the organisation when he was working; how everyone was so afraid of him; and how even very senior officers had to bow to his personal whims and fancies all the time.  And believe me, all this in the organisation from where he retired almost two decades ago.  I lost count of how many times I suppressed my yawn!

His daughter, who had driven him down, kept smiling while looking indulgently at her father. I could not figure out whether she was happy to see her almost 80 years old father talking non-stop on meeting an old colleague or was she actually in awe of him. As they were leaving and he continued his self-proclaimed importance, I politely whispered to his daughter, “This is what we are left with in the end …memories of our almost 40 years of association with the organisation.”

After they left, I could not get over the fact that in those two hours, not once did he talk about his ailing wife whom I also knew and who is bed-ridden at present. He never uttered a word about his children who have had their share of pains and pleasures in life. There was not a single mention of his grandchildren or his current state of health.  He did not talk of any common colleagues that we had worked with except when they were part of his ego-trip. His total concentration was on himself and his so-called achievements that had no relevance for anyone then and are totally meaningless now in the evening of his life.

Why do we love to live in a fool's paradise?
Is life about concentrating on self and thinking of I, me and myself only? What is the psyche that makes a person so much in love with himself that he does not even want to look outside?  Family members usually do not pay any heed to the person’s ego trips of which he is so used to while working during his official life where others, particularly sub-ordinates are forced to listen to him and helplessly nod their heads in agreement with a genuine-looking plastic smile on their faces. The better the performance, higher is the reward by way of favours from the superiors. Do we tend to internalise that flattery and start believing that we are the best to that extent that we continue to live the rest of our life in that fool’s paradise? Who are we trying to befool? Is staying in that make-believe world easier than accepting the reality of “Here & Now”? 

Many questions and many answers but at the end of it all, I could only feel sorry for him.