25 October, 2007

Navratri - Celebrations and then some ...

Like every other festival that is celebrated, Navratri too is very rich in meaning. This nine-day festival is celebrated in a unique manner. A different form of the Mother Goddess is worshipped on each different day. On the first three days, the Goddess Durga (Goddess of Valour) is venerated. The next three days are spent in the worship of the Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth). and the last three days are a celebration of the Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Learning and Arts).

Through childhood – for me – Navratri was a time when we decked in our Pattu Pavadais and all the little girly accessories. It was a time when outdoor playtime was relegated in favour of visiting all the Mamis who had “golu” at their homes. It was a time when, to be very honest, more than the “golus”, what ruled the roost was the neivedyams or prasadams in each mami’s house.

It was also a time of excitement and sheer joy. Of looking forward to something. The unpacking of the Golu stand, the golu dolls and trying to imagine and then decide as to what that year’s theme would be. Then to go shopping for the necessary stationery and “create” to one’s hearts content.

We used to have “golu” at home too. While my mom used to be totally steeped in tradition, for me it was an opportunity to unleash my imagination and try and get a little artistic. I still remember with distinct clarity about how I used to look forward to Navratri because that gave me a legitimate reason to paint clay pottery. Especially the broad pottery in which my mom would be growing the Paligai.

Pali means row of trees and this ritual symbolically refers to planting of trees by for the upkeep and happiness of the family. In modern days, this consists of sowing germinated seeds of nine kinds (navadhanyam) of pre-soaked cereals in a mud pot.

It also meant countless possibilities with regard to the Golu stand. There were years when the Golu stand was decorated like a chariot too – complete with wheels made out of thermocole and coloured and painted till they dazzled.

The only part that used to sober us up a bit then was the possibility of facing the ever increasing multitude of mamis. Mamis who were all resplendent in their kancheevaram silks and jewellery and bling blings on their ears and nose. Mamis, who, with their eye for detail, would have put hawks to shame. Mamis who would scrutinize each and every girl they came across and file her away mentally for future reference. Mamis, who took it upon themselves to act as catalysts to non existent marriage proposals. Mamis, who considered it their birthright to bully girls into displaying their prowess (or the lack of it, in my case) in the musical arena.

Out here in HK too, Navratri is one of the festivals which sees the Indian Community here at its active best. The Gujarati Mandal is seen organizing Garba and Dandiya. The Mamis are seen visiting each others’ houses for Vettalai Pakku. We had quite a few Mamis over for Vettalai Pakku and on many a days Yours Truly was one of the mamis visiting other Mamis for Vettalai Pakku.

Aparna made sure that her wardrobe was an ever changing one – what with many of the salwar kameezes and lehengas and chaniya cholis and pattu pavadais and the huge collection of bangles in just about all available colours being put to very good use.

Abhay has already started to look at Nabratri (that’s how he pronounces it – now to add to his already existing accent he seems to use a very Bengali twist while saying Nabratri) as a “girls’ festival”. The minute he saw either me or Aparna in our Indian costumes – pat would come the question “You going for Vettalai Pakku ?”

Confusion arose when he asked mommy “What is Vettalai ?” and mommy told him “Vettalai is a leaf”. And the poor little guy pointed out to the various potted plants that we have at home and said “There are leaves at home. See (with that famous index finger pointed at the plants). See. So many leaves.” Knowing him, he might well have been questioning the sanity of the girls on their quest of the “Vettalai leaf”.

Navaratri is a festival that is celebrated throughout India – in virtually every state people worship the Goddess, people worship Shakti during these nine days. The Raas Garba, is again a dance which is performed essentially by women. Among the South Indian community too, the tradition of exchanging Vettalai Pakku is again a ladies forte. Navratri, essentially, celebrates the universal feminine force in the Universe – Shakti.

Through it all, however, one thing does keep niggling at the back of my mind. In the very same country which worships the Goddess reverently over a span of nine days, there still abound plenty of instances of female foeticide, of female infanticide. The horrors of dowry deaths still rear their ugly head way too often. Females are still looked down upon in many parts of the country. How does one correlate these facts ? What is the cultural parallel that one could possibly draw ?

Somethings, sometimes just remain questions. The answers are ever elusive. This, I guess, is one of them.

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23 October, 2007

Off the Cuff !!! .........

......... That's how this got penned down. Totally out of the blue. Read on ......

The whole project was rather simple. At first glance. It was almost a routine project.

“It’s just a matter of getting all ten of them to cooperate”. “Things can’t get any simpler” thought the Project Manager.

“OK. All of you, listen up.” "Alright. That's enough insubordination. Now listen to me" screamed the Project Manager, knowing within the heart of hearts that noncompliance was the order of the day.

The ten merrily carried on concentrating – totally absorbed, focused and engaged in their own whims.

“Gather around. Time to get to work.”

A note of desperation and futility was fast creeping into his voice.

No response. The ten in question were flailing around wildly – each one doing their own thing. There was no synchronization, no organisation and absolutely no question of harmony.

“Each one to one’s own” said all ten together.

The Project Manager’s frustration was quite evident. The project in question had to be completed within the deadline. If not, there sure was going to be hell to pay. And he certainly did not want to be at the receiving end of the volley that was sure to be aimed at him.

He had to get these ten together to finish off the project. Somehow, anyhow ……

He just had to.

The Project Manager tried to group them into two clusters of five each. One cluster would work while the other cluster rested and then the other cluster would work while the first one rested.

“Alright. You five – get going on this one” said he.

This ploy did work a bit, for the five atleast started, albeit slowly, on the job. It was very slow going because for every bit of the job that got done, a tiny bit of it got undone.

“Collateral Damage” thought the Project Manager. “Can’t be helped.” He reasoned.

Time seemed to fly past and the project was more than halfway through. The first five worked and then the second five.

He was just beginning to see shades of light at the end of the tunnel when suddenly ...

............ without any warning, the door flew open and in walked both the Bosses.

“Uh Oh” thought the Project Manager to himself, growing shades paler by the second.

“There’s going to be trouble. Big Trouble”.

The only thing he could do was brace himself.

All ten of his workmen seemed to shrink and curl up out of sheer fear – because they knew only too well how disastrous the consequences of an uncompleted project could be.

There was a moment of utter silence. Deafening silence. The lull before the storm.

“What have you been doing ?” yelled Mom and Dad, almost unanimously.

“Why have you spilt all my beads on the floor ?” yelled Mom, fuming and almost incoherent.

“And who do you think is going to clean all this up ?” she shrieked.

The Project Manager, all of three years old, looked up.

Words failed him.

“If only all ten of my fingers had listened to me, obeyed my instructions at the same time” he thought to himself.

“If only …….”

[This was penned down about a month back. Since it is not going to be serving the purpose for which it was originally intended, I decided to post it here. This way, when Appu and Abhay are old enough to read this on their own, they can spend quite a bit of time comparing notes and looking back on the times they'd found themselves in the "Project Manager's" shoes :-) - with a very evil "Boss" to contend with, of course :-)]

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18 October, 2007

A Rendezvous with Mother Nature

Hongkong has been at its polluted worst over the past few months. Pollution levels have hit a new high and many a bulletins advising people with tendency towards asthma or related breathing disorders to stay at home and not venture out are being seen issued.

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ~Elwyn Brooks White, Essays of E.B. White, 1977

The skyline that Hongkong was and is famous for, nowadays is, for the most part, seen shrouded in a dense thicket of fog. Normally clear outlines are extremely fuzzy. Almost as though the skyline is enveloped in cotton balls.

As is normally the case, weekends mean outings for both the kids. Needless to say, we, as parents, play the role of chaperones. And we do see a lot of conspiracy between both Appu and Abhay when it comes to pre-deciding where they want to go on a weekend. Over the past few weeks both have been hankering at us stating that a visit to the Victoria Peak is long overdue.

So on Sunday last, we did make our way towards Victoria Peak. The way I say this – it kind of makes it seem as though we had a choice in this issue. Truth be told, we didn’t. Not unless we wanted to risk serious damage to the existent amount of grey cells, which, atleast in my case, seem to be following the Theory of Diminishing Marginal Utility.

As we made our way to The Peak, pollution was making its presence felt. But once we reached the Peak, the weather was just purrrfect. The kids thought they could jig around within the airconditioned confines of The Peak Mall but little did they know that they were in for a surprise. Their parents had something else in store for them.

The Victoria Peak has a lovely road trail about 4 kms long. It is as good as walking a full circle around the Peak. The trail ends where it started. A perfect circle – all around the mountain.

So last Sunday the kids got a taste of what it feels like to be on top of the world –quite literally. And the flora and fauna that we feasted our eyes upon needs to be seen to be believed.

[Many thanks to Vic for endorsing the use of pictures snapped up by him, in this post.]

Despite the fact that we are now well into autumn, we found lots of fresh new leaves on the plants and trees and plenty of budding shoots.

Steep rising hill on one side and a steep fall on the other. Moss covered hillstones on one side of the pathway and a dense thicket of woodlands on the other. The vista from the top of The Peak was absolutely breathtaking – as always. And the air – pure, clear and cool and refreshing.

And aside of the time we visited Vic’s uncle’s farm in Kerala when we traveled to India last, this is about the closest that the kids have come to actually communing with nature.

To their amazement, they discovered that spiders do actually spin webs. And to add to the marvel, they saw firsthand that a teeny weeny spider could weave a web large enough to cover the entire circumference of a plant.

Much to their wonder, they realised that moss is slimy. So far, the only inputs as far as moss was concerned, had been visual. That it is green or at times yellowish green. But to touch moss, to feel it and to have the brain compute and coordinate the sense of vision and touch w.r.t moss was indeed a novel experience for them.

They realised, much to their amazement, what some berries originally look like on the plants on which they grow. Berries, which are later processed, dried, salted commercially and which later end up on plates as food.

They saw, for the first time, fully grown bamboo trees. Lush green and lithe as springs, yet strong and wiry.

They saw and realised that fern too is beautiful in its own rich diversity.

They saw the setting sun at far closer quarters than they normally do. A fiery orb of fire cushioned all around by frothy foamy cottony white clouds.

Nature can be so visually creative and delightful. A little splash of colour transforms the whole panorama into a different canvas. There were a few signs of autumn too. Leaves turning red on some trees while some trees were already barren with the leaves having fallen out. Yet, in the midst of autumn, mother nature gave strong credence to the cycle of life – what with little buds growing on the shoots of the barren trees.

A sense of calm pervaded the atmosphere. That lulling silence of being surrounded by Mother Nature herself. The ever soothing, all calming, wonderfully peaceful and ever relaxing feel of being far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, of being surrounded by the lush flora and fauna. The reassuring, serene greens of the vegetations dotted by occasional splashes of vibrant colours. The hum of the omnipresent insect world among all that greenery, the chirping of the nesting birds. The intermittent sound of water trickling along the hillside alternating with the reverberation of a strong stream of water gushing its way down the knoll, creating a path of its own, for itself.

The trail sure was tiring for the kids, but a good kind of tired. Abhay needed to be carried around for a while when he claimed that his legs were “hurting big”. For a while – for he was back on his feet after that. The kids also had a nice time calling out “hellos” and “byes” to all the doggies which were walking on the trail with their guardians. For that matter, I guess, Appu and Abhay have not seen as many dogs on the same day ever.

All in all, it was a lovely day, a day of relaxation and most importantly of respite from the mad rush of city life, albeit for a few hours.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb

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13 October, 2007

An extremely busy little elf ............

....... with a red Xmas hat perched on his head, has been spotted in the Krishnans’ household over the past three – four days.

This little elf is often found drawing, coloring and painting furiously. And with a concentration to match. Wonder if Santa is planning on giving out a lot of colored sheets as Xmas gifts this year. Such is the absorption and diligence towards drawing and coloring that even loud noises fail to disrupt the little elf’s “colorful” endeavours.

Another part of the house that the little elf is seen very very frequently, is the kitchen. Of late, the elf has developed a very confident and convinced fascination for cooking and its related activities. Ranging from simple errands like fetching an egg or a slice of cheese from the refrigerator (which also provides the elf with ample opportunities to peer into the cool confines of the refrigerator and take stock of all the goodies stocked in there) to slightly more demanding activities like whisking an egg in a bowl without spilling a single drop onto the floor – are something which the little elf totally takes in his stride.

Thanks to the little elf, making something as simple as a vegetable sandwich has turned into an artistic parody of sorts. The little elf turns something as mundane as spreading chutney on a slice of bread – into something arty. He swishes and spreads the chutney on a slice of bread with a flourish – pretty much like little Tolouse of the Aristocats who paints with a brush. Today morning saw the little elf helping out in making a vegetable sandwich for dad’s breakfast. In covering a slice of bread with chutney, the elf managed to “spread” various shapes like a little square, a little circle, a little rectangle – by which time the chutney was spread all over the slice of bread. Then the dainty arrangement of the vegetables and a slice of cheese to top the whole thing off before the sandwich was proclaimed “done” by the little elf with a flourish and a loud and delighted “ta daaaaaa – I did it !!”.

While stuffed toys had never really been an interest, the elf seems to have taken a little brown teddy under his wings. He conscientiously and diligently puts the little teddy to bed before the elf himself turns the lights out and gets into bed – next to the teddy, of course. The little elf is also seen rushing off to get a small little blankie for his teddy. A lot of improvisation has been noted here too. Since all the blankies are way too big for teddy, the little elf has resorted to using small terry cloth hand towels as a blankie for his teddy. Yesterday saw the little elf trying to provide a pillow for his teddy. The pillows proved too big for little teddy. As his “chronological elders” watched with interest, the little elf spied upon his powder puff. “Ta – daaaaaaa” exclaimed the little elf as he then proceeded to arrange teddy’s head carefully on his newfound pillow ….. err … the powderpuff.

This little elf apparently relishes talking in circles. Couple of days back the little elf was found asking for “face chips” to eat. Since the “chronological elders” are somewhat used to this riddly talk, they soon concluded that “face chips” was just a fancy reference to “good ole Pringles”. To the elf’s credit, every box of Pringles does have a ‘face’ on it. Ta – daaaaaaa. !!!!!

The curious little elf’s penchant for questions is nowhere near the waning phase. If at all anything, it seems to be entering a new level of the waxing phase by the day. Some of the questions that have been put across to the “chronological elders” include

“Why does leaves fall down ? Why the leaves don’t fall up ?”

“Why the cows don’t lay eggs ? The hen lay eggs. Why the cows don’t lay eggs ?”

“Why the cows don’t sleep on beds ?”

“Why the cows don’t live in houses ?” “Why the cows live in sheds ?”

The mystery of this “bovine fascination” is yet to be unraveled. The “chronological elders” are yet to decipher and get to the bottom of the little elf’s apparent enthrallment with the Moo Mooosss.

Yet, one thing is for sure. Come Christmas, the “chronological elders” certainly know what they are going to ask Santa to get them for Christmas.

“A bag full of answers” !!!!

Ta-Daaaaaaaa !!!!!!!!

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09 October, 2007

Quirky Ole Mom !!!

Mom has been driving us totally nuts over these past few weeks saying “I’m swimming in a sea of tags”, “There are tags sprouting out of my ears and nose” (though we have not seen any, to be honest), “I’ve got so many pending tags to do” and the like.

She’s driven us nuts to such an extent that we just decided to pool our heads together, share our thoughts and help mom out by doing this tag for her. Atleast that way, we hope that we would not have to hang on to sanity by a sheer thread. Our sanity, we mean !!

Mom has been tagged by Aunty Moppet’s Mom and Aunty ChoxBox to list out five of her quirks. We’d rather refer to them as OCDs cos that makes us sound all grown up. Now someone who has lived with our mom would know that it is an extremely difficult task to list five of her quirky habits ….. errr …. OCDs.
FIVE !!!
Oh Boy !! Five quirks in mom is something we could dish out before one bats an eyelid. So, what we mean is that it would be very difficult to STOP at five.

We’ve always wondered why mom colour codes Dad’s wardrobe. All the jeans together, all the black trousers, all the blue trousers, all the grey trousers ….. shirts too ..... all the shades of blue are set out on hangers one after the other, all the white ones are set out one after the other, so also all the grey ones, all the striped ones ........... you get the drift right ?

When mom’s in the kitchen, we wonder, many a times, whether she’s in there cooking or constantly mopping the floor and the countertop. Water on the kitchen floor drives her insanely nuts. So for every ten minutes that mom is in the kitchen, it would be safe to assume that she spends three minutes mopping. That explains, in effect, why we end up eating such gourmet stuff (**eyes rolling**).

When mom is talking to someone standing, it is a good idea to disappear from the vicinity. Cos she has this habit of waving her hands animatedly while talking. Standing anywhere close to her is hazardous.

Try watching a movie with mom around. It can drive you to the depths of despair. She is forever looking for loopholes in the story or the script. A movie is a movie right ? Oh no !! Not in her case. According to mom, this is the reason why she does not watch any Hindi soaps on Star Plus – cos she says that these soaps have scripts which have loopholes the size of the Grand Canyon.

Mom also has this tendency to look for spelling mistakes in just about anything and everything that she reads. Ads, banners, wedding invitations, thank you cards, magazines, newspapers – anything !!! On this count, we’ve almost give up hope. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel here cos this habit seems almost compulsive. And the glee with which mom lays her hands on Aparna’s spelling book or her homework sheet makes Cruella De Vil seem like a saint in comparison !!!

Mom never steps out of the house without her eyeliner and perfume on. Even if she is on her way to the fresh market to stock up on vegetables – she has got to have her eyeliner and perfume on. In fact, when mom had to go to the hospital late night – the night Abhay decided that it was time to make his appearance into this world – she made it a point to wear her eyeliner and perfume before rushing off to the hospital. That’s really stretching things – dontcha think ??

Mom seems to have this premonition everyday that the whole of Hongkong would be dropping in for lunch or dinner. That’s how well stocked the fridge is. Or should we say – that’s how well stocked our fridges are. Oh Yes !! We have two refrigerators and if we manage to squeeze in a pack of bread into either one of the fridges at any given point of time – that’ll be the day !! The same goes for the kitchen shelves. We can virtually hear the shelves groaning out of all that weight they need to carry – that’s how well stocked the shelves are !!

The whole of HK coming over for lunch or dinner is something we can still consider plausible – knowing how loopy mom is. But picture this – the whole of HK descending upon us to take a shower at our place. Inconceivable ??? Ha Ha Ha !!! You don’t know mom. We do !! The bathroom shelves are always – repeat always – well stocked with shower gels and shampoos and toothpastes and toothbrushes and what have you. The works – basically !! And talking of facial tissues and toilet tissue rolls – let’s not even get to these !! We are yet to see the day when we ran out of tissue at home !! And judging by the way things are going – this possibility does not even seem remotely likely !!

Mom hates SMS language. The sight of SMS language seems to do something to her. Her head starts to shake from side to side and does not seem to stop. Her hands kind of develop a frantic shiver to them. Eyes start to roll. And then come the barrage of complaints. Mom reading SMS language is like a snowball at the top of the mountain. By the time she is through reading the message she is like the snowball which has gathered both speed and snow on its way down to the foothills – destroying everything in its pathway. Sizewise anyways mom resembles the snowball that rests at the foothills after having gathered all that snow on the way down !!! But SMS’s make her a mental snowball too.

When we see mom sitting around with our pencil bags beside her and a sharpener in her hands – we smell trouble. In big, black, block letters. Cos Mom sharpens pencils to de-stress. Whatever that means. But when she’s sitting with a whole load of pencils and a sharpener (at times we find her sitting bang next to the dustbin so that not a single scrap of pencil shred lands on the floor or furniture) – it is like a neon billboard saying “Keep Away” “Danger – Possibility of Explosives/Explosions Abound”.

Talking about mom’s quirks is like opening the Pandora’s Box. And you, aunties, asked us to list out five ……

Did we not say right at the very beginning that stopping at five was going to be extremely difficult.

P.S : Hey Mom – we know this does make you sound batty, wacky, barmy and quite loopy. But to your credit, we must say that Doctor Who once said

“Anyone remotely interesting is mad, in some way or another”.

Signing off

A & A

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02 October, 2007

Quippy musings and then some ....

Abhay’s latest nick for himself is O’Malley – as in O’Malley the Alley Cat.
He is often heard repeating the limerick “Abraham DeLacey, Giuseppe Casey – Thomas OooooMalley – O’Malley the Alley Cat.”

Many a times we have a late night show just before bedtime with both Appu and Abhay belting out at the top of their voices and banging on the mattresses and pillows – at times one of the smaller pillows serves as a guitar. And the kind of bedlam that results from them belting out “Everybody wants to be a cat” would put Scat Cat and his gang to shame.

Couple of weeks back, when they were watching The Aristocats on TV, Abhay suddenly got all animated and something had him tickled pink. When asked as to what he’d found so funny, he chimed “That’s two girl geeses”. Sure enough, there were the two geese giggling away to glory. Their names are Amelia and Abigail, said Appu, rather helpfully. Because, you see, that is the kind of information that one is expected to file away in ones mental files – cos that is the kind of information that would need to be retrieved in times of absolute crisis.
And when Abhay was asked as to why he called them “Girl Geeses” and not “Boy Geeses” – all we got in reply was a demonstration of the way Amelia and Abigail walked – with that exaggerated swagger of the hips !!!

Abhay also seems to have found a novel way to practice his phonics. "A for Aparna" – he starts off with a straight face. Then appears that mischievous twinkle in his eyes as he continues chanting “B for Baparna”, “C for Caparna”, “D for Daparna”, “E for Eaparna”, “F for Faparna”. Till date he has not managed to get past “N for Naparna”.
By the time he reaches N for Naparna he is totally off his rockers laughing OR both of them are off their rockers laughing OR Aparna is staring daggers at him – her reaction depends on her frame of mind at that given moment.

A few days back Abhay wanted to drink “cow juice”.

Yeah – I guess just saying “milk” is way too complicated and convoluted. And the siblings’ way of resolving this so very difficult and knotty issue (of calling milk - “milk”) is to spring a surprise and straightforwardly ask for “cow juice”. Charming, ain’t it ??

Our pet turtle, Timmy, tends to gather a bit of moss on its shell over a period of time. So, every once a week, we use a soft bristle toothbrush to slowly brush the moss off its shell and by the end of the brushing session, its shell looks squeaky clean. A squeaky clean shell on a rather huffy and piqued turtle !!
Today, Abhay was watching the proceedings with a great deal of interest as Timmy’s shell was brushed clean. As is to be expected, he was full of questions – Whats Whys and Hows were flying around.
A while later, he came back to Mommy with a very serious look on his face saying “Timmy have teeth on the shell.” I guess the blank look on Mommy's face made him proffer an explanation immediately. According to Abhay, Timmy must be having teeth on his shell because Mommy was brushing Timmy’s shell with a “teethbrush”.

And what can evoke laughter better than a quip from Mr.Exasperation ?

A few days back, Abhay was sitting on the sofa after having had his milk. And all of a sudden, he burped and covered his mouth with a rather shy smile. Now he burps rather loudly for a guy his size.
“What was that Abhay ?” asked Mommy.
“A Burp” came the reply. And then he says
“I Burped. Now my gas is finished.”

Here are the siblings during the Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival celebrations at Abhay's school.

And finally, a picture of Abhay taken by Appu at HK Park.

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