Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Life has much unpredictability and incertitude. I think God has willed it that way. He’s incorporated infinite possibilities, few ups and more downs to make us strong and resilient to take on life’s journey in our stride. Actually, He tried to provide a level playing field to all without giving a vantage position to anybody. But things do get messed up.

He springs surprises here and there, good ones to make us ride on cloud nine and despondent ones to plunge us down to deflate our pride and self importance and to keep us grounded. None is immune to the shifting sands of time. This duality of our existence makes our short sojourn in this universe both exclusive and inimitable. After reflecting on these philosophical highs, I climb down to experience the real world.

In fact while negotiating our way in the world as individuals or as members of the family, we face myriad situations which attest our vulnerability to events around us. For example, snatching of chains or purses, day light daring robberies and other such incidents are common occurrences these days. We sincerely sympathize with the victims in silence and feel alarmed; especially the way things stand today.

One day reality comes crashing like a sudden flash of lightening, and we find ourselves at the receiving end of one such incident. Stunned, jolted and feeling insecure, we try to reconcile and placate our ego with platitudes and self survival arguments. But you’re what you’re!

An unexpected shocker overtook me last summer. We had gone to Solan (from our summer dwelling unit in Kumarhatti) for some shopping on a sunny afternoon. Knowing that the bazaar is always congested, we decided to park our car at a safe place and walked to the shops. Walking in the shopping streets is like participating in a boxing bout. Jostling crowds, milling about, (as if there is no tomorrow) on potholed narrow roads are daunting to say the least. (I keep trying to save my elbows and shoulders from being hit by vehicles or other shoppers because all the time one is brushing past others.)Walking there is an art and only permanent residents are conversant with it.

Our purchases done we decided to take an auto rickshaw to reach the car park. But as soon as we sat inside the auto, two women came rushing (from their bearing they looked to be from lower strata of society) and packed beside me as there was space only for one. Generally I am a person who’d have objected to being sardined, but I don’t know what went wrong with me that day, I just resigned myself, thinking it was public transport. The women I think at once gauged that I was an outsider and a fair target for being conned.

The ride was most uncomfortable and noise decibel deafening. I kept my purse in my lap tilted towards the woman to create a barrier between the two of us. In the maddening commotion on the road, I felt dazed; my sole concern was to reach our destination as soon as possible. The woman next to me with a sleight of hand must have opened the zipper of my purse and removed about 10 k (in two packets) successfully. This possibility would never have occurred to me. They got down on the way.

Within minutes we reached the parking lot. I opened my purse to pay the auto driver and found it empty. I felt alarmed but still I had no inkling of the impending realization. My hubby paid the fare and jokingly remarked, “Ladies stuff their purses and can’t find anything.” When we sat in the car, I impatiently searched my purse again and in a flash, truth dawned on me that the woman indeed, had made a clean sweep of the currency notes. I remained shaken for days, with confidence getting a severe drubbing. Of course I learnt a lesson in hind sight.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


A patient wait for a turn around in the weather, after bearing the winter’s onslaught, has paid off at last. Change is apparent all over. Finally nature’s circuit is being bejewelled by spring’s bounties. My morning walk in the park is a witness to the change wrought around. Observing the surroundings, I was struck by the ushering in of the heart warming spring fest in a spectacular spontaneity. As if the transformation from a withered look to the resplendent one is the handiwork of a magician’s deft hands. The
plants, shrubs and trees appear to have woken up from a deep refreshing slumber. The riot of blooming flowers together with new shoots, fresh and glistening,like the washed face of the earth, after a rainy day, signify the umbilical bond between man and nature and which we're forgetting, as “the world is too much with us.”

Spring dispenses its charms and its aromatic self, unobtrusively and soothingly without crying hoarse from the roof tops. Here nature casts its gems in our path freely. The priceless trinkets of nature’s benedictions overwhelm us in spring. We receive its visual pleasure for the moment and in our memories for ever. Wordsworth’s wonderful poem ‘The Daffodils’ celebrates the joy and fragrant beauty of spring. The poet is enamoured by the sight of blossoming yellow daffodils and the spectacle becomes embedded in his imagination and he poeticizes, “They flash upon the inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude.”

Hope and renewal co-exist and are constant in nature and amazingly visible in spring. Two contrasting states overlap on the Neem and some other deciduous trees. Each gives space to the other. There are tiny baby leaves on the ends of the branches, and down under some weather beaten grayish brown leaves are still hanging calmly. The timely pruned branches of evergreens and perennials are having a blast of glossy, eye catching, green hued, new sprouts, heralding the rebirth of nature.

On a micro level, at the home front and in the neighborhood, spring has unravelled its charms no less generously. My rose bushes are aflame with flowers and today when I stepped out of the door I was greeted by newly blossomed red lily, growing along the boundary wall. The lawns are much greener now. “Can you imagine my oval shaped thorny potted cactus is budded now and I expect blooms any day? Isn’t it a spring’s marvel that a prickly cactus bears the most delicate pink petalled flowers?” The Marigold in my back yard came to flowering early, in the beginning of March. My cherished herbs curry leaves; mint, aloe vera and Tulsi are out of hibernation and regaining their lost glory fast.

In my front neighbor’s side yard (a corner house) there are a couple of Bottle Brush trees. They are laden with flowers and their boughs hang downwards with the weight of the flowers and thick leafing. The mango tree is loaded with tiny white flowers signalling a bumper crop of mangoes. Together with other plants these weave a kaleidoscope of dazzling colors all around.

The mornings and evenings are luxuriously breezy and invite one for a relaxing walk. The wind envelops the body and massages it tenderly while passing by. There was even a light shower last week bringing in an invigorating coolness and bright clear sky.

Early summer vegetables have started arriving in the market. The advertisements for cool drinks and other beverages are already filling the T.V. screen and shop counters. April is waiting in the wings. Let us enjoy its moderate climate before the summer months cow us down.

Friday, March 23, 2012


It was about ten years back when we lost our ‘Nutty. We had left him in the care of a friend, as we went abroad and he died in between that period. So sad was the news that we didn’t have the nerve to inquire about the circumstances leading to his death. The loyalty and affection which he showered on us, pulled at our heart strings and made the remembrances so very painful.

It was our daughter who persuaded us to have a dog as a pet, promising that she would look after all his needs. When her aunt informed us that her Pomeranian bitch had had her litter fathered by her own Apso, and that one pup was reserved for us, we were overjoyed. Off we went to her place without wasting time. The very sight of cute little ‘Nutty’ (name given by our daughter) with white and brown patches on his generous coat, thrilled us and we wanted to have him there and then. I for one had serious reservations about keeping a dog, but on seeing Nutty, I fell in love with him instantly and brought him home.

The first few days were a challenge, though. Feeding and taking him out for urinating frequently was no mean task. And then he was to be potty trained. There were other irritants also. Nutty tore to shreds a few pair of socks, pulled the sack cloth under the sofas and chewed the ends of bed sheets hanging on sides. Mercifully he soon outgrew these hiccups.

As expected all the duties regarding him fell on my already busy shoulders. Our daughter cut her job only to cuddling him, stoking him, whenever she wanted a break from her studies.

Though having Nutty was like an addition of one more family member, yet I started loving him so much that I didn’t balk at the duties, which actually I had self imposed on myself.

However, with our care and love, in no time Nutty grew into a healthy, spirited and active young dog with sparkling brown eyes. One thing endearing about him was his gentleness (though to strangers his growl was menacing) and the other was that he ate almost everything which we ate. When we had fruit he’d sit patiently, waiting at my feet with an expression, which clearly conveyed that he was waiting for his share.

One incident I remember vividly. We were having fried fish in the company of some friends. Nutty kept moving around us (he never created any problem while making his way in our midst). At that time I noticed him sniffing the air as fish has peculiar smell. So I gathered that he was ready to have his mouthful of the delectable stuff. I placed a couple of pieces in his plate. Surprisingly, he rushed towards his plate, but immediately drew back in disgust, probably because of the strong smell. Then I saw him barking at the plate. Once or twice he put the piece in his mouth and brought it out. It was evident that he was perplexed that how come, everybody consumed it and he could not. After a sort of battle with his taste buds, he munched the pieces slowly, while we watched the whole drama furtively.

The welcome scene enacted by him on our arrival from our jobs, could melt any heart. He’d run here and there like mad, excitedly jumping and encircling us, exhibiting utmost joy. And it’d take a few minutes to pacify him, after acknowledging his love with endearing vocalizations

Nutty was intelligent enough to decipher our moods and emotional state. If he saw me incommunicado he’d sit near me so unobtrusively as if he was not there. At other times if he found me receptive, he’d cheer me up by wagging his tale as if he was making it clear that he understood me fully.

In winters he slept on an improvised small bed in our bedroom and never would disturb us in any way. Only when he noticed our movement in the morning he’d show urgency, indicative of his need for being taken out for the call of nature.

Nutty’s contribution in making us disciplined by default was most significant. No matter what, he insisted on his morning outing which was with his master, whereas the evening stroll was in my name. Both of us enjoyed the activity.

Nutty afforded us great pleasure. Sometimes we miss him dearly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


For almost a week, I experienced utter misery and disgust, as a consequence of my own recklessness. Though the ominous signs were time and again warning me of the impending discomfort, but I didn’t heed. Actually, dear hubby had been cautioning me repeatedly, not to sit at a stretch for hours before the computer and to take short breaks. I just ignored his concerns and continued my browsing and typing like crazy. Even my body gave signals of ‘all is not well’ and wanted me to take notice of neck and shoulder stiffness and pain, a symptom of over use

It was the dreaded sciatic nerve getting pressed and giving excruciating pain which radiated from buttocks to thighs to the calf of my right leg. I was almost whining, as no posture helped in reducing pain. Most part of the two nights I remained awake uttering sighs. Finally I had to take recourse to pain killers which I always try to avoid. As a result, I had to shun sitting at the computer or watching television. I was completely immobilized. The oft quoted maxim ‘To err is human’ will  stay relevant till eternity. The realization stopped me from being too harsh on myself.

Since the activity which I love the most became impossible till I got well, better sense prevailed and I laid my hands on a health book, gifted to us long back by our son. In fact, this book has proved to be our family doctor for so many years and saved us, I don’t know, how many visits to the hospital. This book treats illness holistically. It explains home remedies, exercises and wellness techniques. All the time assuring that things will improve if you cooperate with yourself for getting better. So my perusal gave me hope and reassurance that after following some home remedies and preventive measures I‘d recover soon.

As I’m prone to similar episodes, I’d do better to put in extra efforts to  avoid reaching the state of helplessness.

Now the regimen of regular rest with ice pack under the lower back for ten minutes, followed by ten minute walk on even surface.Together with keeping the correct posture while sitting and many other precautions, I’m pursuing religiously. I should not expect less caution at sixty plus.

Our body mechanism also works on ‘give and take’ policy. You take care of it and in return it gives you service ungrudgingly. The wheels of human machine need lubrication now and then, otherwise they get stuck and refuse to budge.

Monday, March 19, 2012


My dining room window is a gateway to the panoramic view that unfolds of pulsating and vibrant  humanity, as it moves up and down the road. The window in question covers the whole of one wall of the room and overlooks the road beyond the front lawn and the boundary wall. Interestingly; it acts as conduit to the other, more gripping world. Even when I am alone, I never feel lonely because I remain more or less in touch with the happening world outside. Actually, each life has the seeds to whet the imagination for penning an original and entertaining story around it.

Ours being a corner house, provides me visual access to two roads and about five houses in the neighborhood. When having my meals, I take the chair which faces the window, so that I’ve a full view of the happenings on the road. I simply enjoy observing people when they don’t know they are being tracked and exhibit their natural styles.

It is, in fact, a lot stimulating to watch people and then make guesses and thread tales on the basis of their mannerisms which are distinguishable to the observant eye. There are those, like students, professionals and others who are daily travelers. Out of them there are always a few who draw your attention by their unusual behavior and become an inspiration for a write up.

I particularly notice a college going young man (I know his antecedents) with a bag (almost empty) slung over his shoulders. What strikes me about him is that he is always glued to his cell phone. Not even once have I spotted him without the gadget raised to his ears. The question arises who is the recipient on the other end, responding to his obsession, days on end and exactly at the same time daily. First I thought it must be a girl friend. But his expression belied that presumption. For a few days he became a subject of my intense speculation till I came to a mirthful conclusion, which makes me smile to myself while penning it down ( a la Sherlock Holmes). It occurred to me like a flash in the dark that may be there is not even a ghost at the other end; he is simply fooling himself by thinking that he is smart enough to delude others.

My keen observation and psychological insight hinted that presumably this is his way of warding off self consciousness, when alone on the road and the act provides false buoyancy to his stride. I’ve seen him closely in the process and never there is any sign of emotion on the face, his lips moving mechanically. George Orwell terms this type of speech as “duck speak’ (ref. his novel ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’) where only the vocal cords are in action and brain is closed. I’ve a hunch that he keeps on repeating a couple of sentences parrot like as they do in auto suggestion. I hold this view, right or wrong.

This led me to reflecting i.e. how much more despairing and troublesome life (probably very tragic also) would be if we come to know, for sure, what the other person is up to. The suspense and thrill will disappear leaving us shell shocked 24x7. God has made man to be such a unique entity that no body can fathom the complexities of the human psyche fully. God‘s handiwork can’t be measured in formulas. Not even theoretical formulations backed by years of extensive research have maintained their findings conclusively for ever.

However, the study of the human mind, is a fascinating arena with endless possibilities.

Friends, what do you think of my analysis?

 image courtesy: The internet.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Words give form to ideas which are communicated through grammatically structured and semantically sound sentences. Words weave magic in the experienced hands of a master craftsman: the literary artist. Words are an arsenal in the hands of leaders who sway public opinion in their favour for nefarious purposes. World History is replete with examples of the vicious use of language to manipulate the sentiments of the people. Hitler’s propaganda machinery is a case in point. His megalomania led to near destruction of the world and changed the course of world history. Words are like a two edged sword, hence to be used sagaciously. There are umpteen instances where the oratorical skills of the well meaning leaders turned the tables on the unscrupulous elements and brought forth tremendous changes.
I had forged an amorous relationship with words long back, after I joined college. The first two books which I got issued from my college library were Pearl S. Buck’s, “The Good Earth” and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, “The Hound of The Baskervilles” Both books introduced me to an entirely new but fascinating world of fiction where ingenious use of word formations articulated a mesmerizing world of gripping stories. I learnt about pre- revolution China from the first book and suspense, mystery and horror as the core of the detective fiction from the second. (Later my interest in Doyle’s detective series deepened to such an extent that his mysteries turned into unputdownables till the unraveling of the plot in the end.)
Sherlock Holmes as the legendary fictional detective: enigmatic, mysteriously romantic, with his long coat, pipe and his alter ego Dr.Watson held sway over my curious and impressionable mind for long. It was during these years my interest for reading and learning new words developed and became a lifelong passion. (My father got me a copy of “Oxford Pocket Dictionary” which became my best friend and loyal companion till it was replaced by a regular one).I kept making a personal dictionary of my own; the habit has stayed with ever since.
Words are powerful entities and extend their semantic boundaries regularly, defining new concepts, and conferring nomenclature to changes which are taking place in the universe all the time. Words keep pace with the needs of the expanding world by assimilating words from other languages and cultures and by coining new words.
Battles are won or lost depending on the oratorical dexterity of a General to revive the sagging confidence of his forces or of a teacher to lift the students out of examination fever or of a parent to calm a restive child or of a lover to reassure his beloved.
Word games are proliferating in print media and being lapped by young and old. All time favorite ‘Scrabble’ has its loyal fan base. Testing the vocabulary and comprehension of the students are an integral part of school curriculums, language proficiency tests and competitive examinations.
The contribution of the popular ‘Reader’s Digest’ with its attractive page, “Word Power” has readers (including myself) addicted to the page and the first thing which they check out is this interestingly conceived page.
Words will always remain inadequate to express the infinite world in which we dwell. Language says Saussure (father of modern Linguistics) is a living organism and flexibility in its connotative sphere is inbuilt. Words denote particularities but connote concepts as they combine two aspects of the language phenomenon i.e. concept vs. acoustic image.
In his book “Literature and Science” Aldous Huxley says that ‘words empower us not only to communicate scientific quantified regularities but also to weave oceans of human experiences and emotions in a purified, highly sensitized and nuanced language.’
For a writer an enriched vocabulary opens up possibilities of forays into an ‘El Dorado’.


Dear friends let’s share a few gag bags to revel in the word play.

Gossip: A person having a great sense of rumour.
Flattery: Giving someone your candied opinion.
Marriage: A bachelor’s blunder to taste the thunder.
Lock: A device to keep your neighbour’s honest.
She wanted to see the world, so he gave her a world map.

Friday, March 9, 2012


All of us have a collective consciousness which helps us to live harmoniously in the social set up and a personal one which is unique to us and defines our individuality or persona. It is the latter which differentiates us from others and makes us special. That is why God has created each one of us in an exclusive mould. This distinctiveness is the greatest gift of nature bestowed on us, ensuring an enviable position among all other species. I shudder to think of the crazy and scary world of sameness depicted by Aldous Huxley in his negative (hedonistic) utopia, “The Brave New World” It is actually a warning to the world leaders to maintain human dignity in the face of unscrupulous capitalism.

Though science has explained the universal phenomenon in rationalistic parameters, and has debunked the myths which were the product of ignorance and fear about the mysteries surrounding us, yet not even the psychoanalysts have succeeded in unraveling the complexities of the human psyche. At best their findings are half baked and require extensive research.

This dichotomy has proved to be a gold mine for the literary artist to try to excavate the multi layers of human consciousness to create a treasure trove of literary collage, delineating man in his infinite avatars.
The individual peculiarities are a fodder for this write up of mine. The writer’s muse doesn’t distinguish between high or low; rich or poor; illiterate or educated while taking up the subject of the discourse. My story below is based on the above premise.

I hired Urmi (name changed) as a part time help for our short sojourn in the hills. Within a few days, she became quite free with me. She’d narrate sourly her quarrels with her husband and also that he was good for nothing and spent all his earnings on alcohol. She rued the fact that whenever she protested he'd beat her up. She went on and on with similar stories every other day. Naturally I was  moved and always sympathised with her and soothed her.

One day, however, she really amazed me. While mopping the floor she started conversing and when I referred to her husband’s unsavory ways in some context, she sprang to his defence and said, “Ma’am ji, a husband is a husband! What is a woman’s life without a husband? Yesterday when I reached home from work he had prepared dinner for me and served me himself.” The statement amused and touched me for its pure subjectivity in favour of her husband.

Another thing which intrigued me about Urmi was her habit of knocking at the door when she came to work. I told her repeatedly not to disturb me and enter right away, as I left the door unlatched about the time of her visit. But she kept the practice ignoring my insistence to the contrary. I tried many times to make her disclose the reason behind this particular action of hers, but she’d give me an enigmatic smile and looked the other way. That meant I better adjust.

Apart from this, Urmi followed unexplainable and tough principles which were hard for her and her employer. One day I asked her to transfer the vegetable from the cooker into a bowl and take it home. After finishing the job she left. When I went to the kitchen to prepare dinner, I found the cooker washed clean and cooked vegetable was indeed transferred to the bowl but surprisingly it was not taken by her. The next day when I questioned her, she excused herself by saying, that in haste she forgot it completely. It was believable. A few days later the same thing happened again. I was enraged and compelled her to tell me the truth. Some persuasion and she came out with it. “Ma’am ji, I’ll take only that which is directly given in my hands by you. I don’t take things by myself.” Her logic was hard to comprehend but I was rendered speechless.

In this confused and cynical world, this poor hill woman had her own strange values to live by and had the guts  to stick to her convictions. I really admired her faith in herself and her simplicity. She was indeed a woman of a kind!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Is there a substitute for the unconditionality and the expansiveness of parents' love? Of course, none. The memory of the purity of such a sentiment inundates your being now and then and bring into consciousness, some precious moments long forgotten. And they are so poignant that they need to be written about for emotional catharsis. This revelation of the personal space turns out to be enriching both for the writer and the reader. It is like a prayer which comforts and blends the past into the present. Here I recall a sweet anecdote where my parents are the chief protagonists.

I’ve inherited my fondness for winter delicacies from my parents. Though I try to follow their recipes but I can never match thE exacting deliciousness which still lingers in my taste buds. I recall the days when preparations for making Alsi (flax seed) pinnies (sweetmeat) used to be in full swing in our house. This was the only kitchen job in which my father would take full interest and help mother in the cumbersome process.

First he’d hunt for a shop with best quality Alsi (flax seed).This done; he’d sieve it and clean it thoroughly, while basking in the sun, sitting in the veranda. Then my mother’d roast it on a low flame and let it cool. Then dad took over the drudgery of crushing it in our traditional pestle and mortar (there were no electric grinders available in those days). The task was rather tough even for my ‘cucumber cool’ father. Alsi seeds are smooth and slippery. He’d put small quantity of Alsi in the mortar and with every hit of the pestle, seeds would spring out on the floor causing a lot of hardship for dear dad. It used to take hours and even then the result was no where equal to the grinding quality of modern day gadgets. At best it was coarse grinding.

On the day of the finale (a Sunday), I’d find both my parents busy as bees in the kitchen. Mother absorbed in roasting whole wheat flour in a large round bottomed iron pan ( special pots and pans were stored in the upper shelves of the kitchen for such purposes) and father measuring Shakar( brown sugar) or crushed gur,(Jaggery) desi ghee (clarified butter) and readying almonds, raisins, dry ginger powder, coarsely ground aniseed (saunf) etc. I’d leave them thus engrossed and go up to the roof to study. I wonder why they were so indulgent towards me that they’d not ask me to help.

I’d come down only when the salivating aroma wafting from the kitchen became irresistible. I’d find dad mixing the whole stuff sitting in a Piri (my grandmother’s gift to my mother) - a sort of low stool with woven seat- (the one which we can only find in the emporiums now). I’d join them and lend a helping hand in pressing the comfortably hot stuff into round pinnies.

We’d eat one each morning with a glass of milk. It was sufficiently satiating with plenty of nuts and other stuff. The delicacy was a reservoir of nutrition, fiber, and promoted heart health and immunity against coughs and colds.

Its taste could beat the best of modern day sweets. The physical sensation of gorgeous sweetness in the mouth, and the concentrated attention of enjoying every bite can only be experienced. Even now my mouth waters in the memory of that delicious stuff in which apart from the healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, my parent’s enormous love was infused to create that heavenly wholesome goodness in the end product.

I sometimes reflect over the simple pleasures which we as kids enjoyed and are missing in the fast paced life today. There was an all encompassing bond and unpretentious camaraderie between my parents and me. They were my alter ego and I expected the world from them.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


The main thrust of my blogging endeavour is to portray life in its various manifestations. Out of this infinite field, a few exceptional ones stand out in the mind’s eye and put forth in words.

To an observant eye, life presents a rich canvas of diverse images and unexpected experiences. Some are intense, some amuse and some sadden. All leave an imprint on the subconscious, while enlightening us about the ways of the world in the process.

In the context of above premise, I can’t help narrating a funny anecdote regarding a harmlessly deceptive angle associated with cell phone use. And also how the survival instinct makes one adopt silly methods to save one's skin in trying situations.

It so happened that at one time, my hubby and I were volunteering our services at a group of educational institutions, and were asked to contact one young man in case of any problem. In fact, problems, there were many. But the said person appeared to be overburdened, as he stopped picking up our calls and later on when confronted in person, would make some excuse or the other. That didn’t help him for long, as the place was in the hills with limited space, entailing frequent encounters by default. (Looking back I can understand his predicament of being overwhelmed with work and unable to deliver.)

Then he devised an ingenious ploy. On seeing us from a distance he’d turn his back and pretend to be talking on his cell. (I saw through his trick quite early, but started enjoying the scene.) Obviously there was no question of disturbing him, though he faked to be in serious conversation. Naturally we‘d pass by, postponing to get something urgent fixed in our suite. This went on for quite some time. Later on, out of curiosity, I shared the finding with another couple who too was engaged in labour of love like us. Smilingly they corroborated being aware of the gimmick of the man but just ignored it because of his otherwise good manners and an important position in the set up.

Thank God he never came to know that we knew his trick, because, we left the place soon after.