30 November, 2008

Happy Birthday Appu !! :)

(Picture Courtesy : graphicsarcade.com)

As you round off the ninth year
And bound into the tenth, my dear
I know not if the fact struck you
You’re about to step into the double digit age anew

The single numbers have been left behind
With memories filled with treasures to find
When did you grow up so fast ?
Oh ! When did you grow up so fast ?

I remember the little baby
A bundle so pink and chubby
We watched you as you learnt to walk
We listened as you learnt to talk.
As you worked your way up the age chart
Numbers you did learn, so also your ABC’s
But somewhere along the way
You naturally learnt to say Thank You and Please
When did you grow up so fast ?

Your smiling face ; spreading happiness all over the place
Singing, dancing, laughing all mingled
Whoops of joy and cries of glee of “Come play with me”
Swings, slides and the monkey bars
Gave way to badminton, swimming and cycling far
When did you grow up so fast ?

Kindergarten flew past and then came primary school
And through it all you were calm, composed and cool
I still remember that day at the school assembly
When you so effortlessly made my knees go wobbly
The tears streamed down my face then
For, I was indeed a very proud mother hen.
Your humility shone at the assembly that day
As you, confidently had your say
May the humility and graciousness stay with you forever
As you, my little bird, soar higher and higher.
When did you grow up so fast ?

Gone are the days of Falguni Phatak
And in its place, there’s quite a bit of drama and natak
That’s inherently a part of growing up
As natural as your now saying “Yo Wassup” ?
As you make your “whaaaateeeveerrrrrs” drawl
There are times when I wish time wouldn’t fly but crawl
And as you now stand almost upto my shoulder
I know very soon I’ll be looking up at you ;
Yeah Right ! Whaaaatteeeeevveeerrr !!!
When did you grow up so fast ?

Amidst your goofy humor and the stand-up comedy shows
There still exist a lot of self-doubts, I know
Be proud of who you are and what you are;
Always strive to do your best
Put in a lot of effort and always give it your best
More so, when you are being put to the test.

So remember, my not-so-little darling
You are our shooting star
With determination, courage and boldness.
As you travel life’s journey long and far
I hope and pray that you find loads of happiness ;
May you always be blessed with joy and cheeriness.

Happy Ninth Birthday, Dearheart :)

I love you more than you can possibly imagine.

Love n Hugs n Hugs n More Hugs :)


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28 November, 2008

Why ?

It has been two days now. Two days since this whole carnage began. And as I watched the news on TV yesterday evening and listened to the news on the radio this morning, I realized that the feeling that had manifested itself was one of total numbness.

Numbness at the sight of pictures of hotels still burning

Numbness at the sight of blood and gore

Numbness at the sight of people and children alike injured and crying

Numbness at the heartrending sight of people wailing

Numbness at the terror that hangs in the air

Numbness at the smoke and the cries that shroud the air

Numbness at the sheer audacity and brazenness with which these attacks have been conducted

The list is endless ………… but the feeling, if at all I can call it one, is that of total numbness.

I can’t bear to watch the carnage, the bloodbath on the news reports, the news on TV – something inside me says “put the damn thing off”. I cannot bear to listen to the news – something inside me says “put the damn thing off” ……..

........... fact remains that I can’t.

The city that was my home for the first twenty four years of my life, a city that has quite literally moulded my spirit, a city that I still carry within my heart of hearts, a city that is even today so dear to me despite having lived abroad for more than a decade, a city with so much spirit that it fills me with pride to say “I am a Mumbaikar” ………. that very city lies torn to shreds, bleeding, in tatters.

Nothing makes sense … nothing.

Called family members yesterday and they’re all safe. Yet nothing …….. absolutely nothing feels right.

Having seen the carnage caused by the bomb blasts in 1993, those very images play across the mindscreen – bodies being carted by the truckloads, a missing arm here, a missing leg there, the whole city stunned into silence …. silence broken by high pitched wails of pain and terror, of loved ones lost ….. and the mind asks the same question now as it had fifteen years back “To what end ?” “Why ?” “When will all this mindless bloodshed end ?” “Will it ever end ?”.

The politicians will be back in full force in a couple of days time – crooning and chests swelling with pride as they say “The spirit of Bombay could not be broken. Bombay is back on its feet and how ?!!”.

Well – ask people who have lost their spouses, ask the children who have lost their parents, ask the elderly parents who have lost their children, ask people who have been maimed for life, ask people who have been rendered handicapped – all to such senseless violence – ask them if they could pick up the pieces of their lives and come to terms with what happened. Ask those people whether they could hold onto something as intangible as “faith” in the aftermath of such a carnage. It would indeed be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

And where are those politicians now – who, a few weeks/months back were shouting themselves hoarse from the rooftops about how Mumbai is “their city” ? Where are they ?

The heart bleeds and even as picture after picture of the aftermath of such meaningless massacre flood the senses, the eyes refuse to get wet, the tears refuse to flow. All I feel right now is a numbness that is pervading the senses.

The question that keeps a resounding beat inside my head and my heart is “Why, Why Why"

Why ?

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26 November, 2008

It's camp time yet again ...

Yes – Appu’s off to camp once again. She left yesterday and will be back only on Friday. And this time around, there are not going to be any cosy dormitories for them to bed down at night, no heaters to keep them warm, no warm water for shower in the mornings …. basically this is what has been termed an “Eco-Adventure Camp”.

They’re going to be out at sea (quite literally – that term in the figurative sense applies to the parents) on banana boats and what have you. They’ve been warned ahead of time that this is a camp that is going to wear them out physically because there are lots of looong hikes involved, most of them uphill.

They are going to be visiting a monastery, speaking to the monks there in Mandarin (Putonghua), finding out more about their lives and their way of life. This probably is an attempt to make the kids realize that living life frugally with just the bare minimum to keep you going is not just something one reads in books or watches in a movie – there are people who have willingly chosen to live lives of peace with just the basic requirements to keep them going day after day. Again, there is not going to be any transportation ferrying the kids to and from the monastery – they’re going to have to walk. And having been to the monastery ourselves, we do know that it is going to be quite a walk.

For their stay – the kids are going to have to pitch their own tents out in the open – in a space between a meadow and a beach. They are not going to be having any cushy mattresses or quilts or blankets to keep them warm and comfortable. They’ve had to carry their own sleeping bags this time around. There’s going to be no pillows to rest their heads on – they’ve just carried a pillow case and will, in all probability, be stuffing their day jackets into the pillowcase to make a makeshift pillow.

There’s absolutely no electronic equipment around – no TV, no lights at night, no telephone, no IPods – nothing. There’s going to be no midnight pajama party – cos by carrying snacks in their backpacks into their tents, they’d be risking inviting some critters and insects too – for their pajama party or the aftermath thereof.

At night, to make sure that a sense of adventure does not lead the kids to roam around in the wilderness, there is going to be a security detail all complete with security dogs too. Speaking of which, they’re going to have plenty of animals to keep them on their toes, quite literally. The meadow is said to be a wandering ground for wild buffaloes and it has been reported by the children who had been on camp last year that they saw a snake too.

The children are going to have to use the public toilets at the beachfront and that thought, in itself, is scaring the daylights out of me. Public toilets are such a fertile breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria and fungi. And if any of the children need to use the toilet at night, they will need to inform a security guard who will then accompany the kids to the toilet. This is a nightmarish scenario. Especially these days when the motto is and should be "trust no stranger".

I found myself missing her yesterday and there are three more days to go before she gets home. And this time around, I find myself surrounded by this strange niggling sense of disquiet.

Worrying and getting anxious comes naturally to parents – it is an inherent part of parenthood, so much so that one could even go to the extent of calling it inborn or innate.

She’s been on quite a few camps in the past few years. Never before have I found myself looking at the clock every half hour and wondering as to what she must be doing. Never before have I found myself unconsciously telling myself “oh she must have had her shower by now” “hmmm she must have had her dinner by now” “God – hope the poor thing sleeps well and gets a good night’s rest” …….. the list was rather endless. The list IS rather endless, I mean. Time and again, thoughts keep wandering off and the worry keeps niggling.

It’s like a dull kind of a toothache actually – it keeps bothering, it keeps irritating and it keeps interfering with your daily life. It’s in the background and not in the forefront, but its definitely there. The anxiety, in its own way, quite unobtrusively, makes its presence felt.

I haven’t been able to put my finger on “why” this sense of disquiet is not giving way to one of acceptance. Probably because on a social level, she’s been having a tough time this year. The social and exclusion bullying that I’d written about earlier has not completely been resolved but she’s learning to cope with it better. Yet, it is still there – simmering below the surface. And with everyday life, even if she has been hurt or is confused or needs advise or needs to talk it out – there is the comfort factor of parents at home.

In a way, deep down within my heart, I know she’s going to miss that “one-on-one” time when she can open up and voice her qualms, her worries or reservations or seek counsel about any doubts or misgivings that she may have. Yesterday night too, I found myself hoping and praying that she’d have slipped into an exhausted slumber.

Or maybe its just me and my imagination playing tricks. I do so hope that is what it is.

I do so hope that she comes back from camp, thoroughly having enjoyed every minute of it – tired but happy. I do so hope that this camp proves to be a learning experience in more ways than one – for her and for us. In more ways than one, I do hope this brings her face to face with the knowledge that there exists a core of strength within herself that, when tapped into, helps go through and survive any situation. That, in itself, would be life’s biggest lesson learnt.

(*sigh*). Now who was it that said “growing up is easy” ??

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12 November, 2008

I Want v/s I Need .......

How the whole fact had not really struck me all along, is a question in itself.

Or maybe, at a subconscious level it had indeed registered but had not been upgraded to the conscious mind. Hence, it probably must have been around in my subconscious mind – idly sauntering, taking a rather leisurely walk.

The whole thought process began when Appu’s latest project assignment came in from school. It was a project wherein the concept was “recycling and reusing” and one where the children had to use their mind creatively.

They had been asked to imagine a scenario wherein each one of them is stranded on an island. There is no one else on the island except for that one child. The island has trees and fresh water. Nothing else. At first glance, though this solves the problem of drinking water and food, there is absolutely nothing else on the island for them to make their lives comfortable or try and get off the island. While taking a walk along the island, each child comes across one flipper, 2 bottles, a broken ship mast, a fishing net with a hole in it. And they need to think as to how they could use these items to make their life more comfortable on the island.

For the past week or so, there have been countless thoughts put forth, there have been discussions between the children over telephone and countless brainstorming sessions on the school bus – on the way to school and while on the way back from school. Appu has been through 3-4 drafts on paper as to how these things could be used to make her life more comfortable on the island.

It was just yesterday, as she was sitting with me and discussing this in length, that the penny dropped.

While I was going through the drafts that she’d prepared, she was also telling me about the discussions that the kids have been having in the school bus on this project. Through it all, one factor stood out. It could not be ignored. It was right there. Bang in front of the eye, yet had failed to register all along. It brought to light a fact that holds true with many people through this globe. Especially children. The up and coming generation.

None of the kids had focused on the fact that first and foremost what they needed to do was work towards the bare essentials. e.g You need to protect your feet – you need footwear, albeit makeshift. You need to sleep and for that you need some sort of makeshift bed or mattress or some such. You need to have fire – for protection from animals at night and maybe also to cook raw food. You need to have a shaded place where you could protect yourself from the sun. You needed to use leaves and bark to make yourself some makeshift clothes cos it has to be assumed that when one is stranded on an island, one does not get stranded with multiple changes of clothes.

All these and many many more – which are the basic essentials. Which led me to wonder as to how and why these basic essentials had not figured in any of their discussions. It led me to wonder as to how they could have missed out on these necessary requirements. It made me think – for this was one of those questions that just would not go away. The answer, when it did come to mind, was rather simple.

These children have not come across any situation that has required them to think or question the possibility that the basic necessities of life would not be available for them. Right from the time their minds were capable of registering their surroundings, right from the time awareness and the concept of self has set in in them, the basic essentials have always been there for the taking. There has been no dearth, there has been no scarcity. They’ve never had to think twice about whether there was going to be food on the table, whether there was going to be a roof over their heads, whether there was going to be someplace where they could relax, whether they would have something to spread on the floor and lie down and sleep on, whether they would have fresh water to drink, whether they would have footwear to slip on their feet before they got on the road.

The list, come to think of it, is endless. The problem for these children, if at all one does exist in present days, is the problem of plenty.

And this brings one to the age old question of Want v/s Need !

What or how much is it that we actually Need ? Honestly speaking, needs are relatively few. We don’t “need” most of the stuff that we actually end up accumulating over a period of time. We don’t “need” the fancy gadgets that we surround ourselves with. The kids don’t “need” as many toys as they have :).

So then, why do we have so much of stuff in our homes ? Why do we have so much of stuff inside our minds ? Why do we carry around so much of baggage ?

Funnily enough, we do all the above and much more because of the factor called “want”.

Human beings never cease to “want” something or the other. It is omnipresent, it is universal and it pervades the conscious human mind like nothing else does. It is this “want” factor that creates so much of clutter – in our living space as well as our minds.

And when we are such living examples feeding heavily on the theory of “want” rather than “need” – is it any surprise that our children too fail to see the necessity to differentiate between a “want” and a “need” ?

It's a mystery to me;
We have a greed, with which we have agreed.
You think you have to want more than you need.
Until you have it all, you won't be free.
~ Eddie Vedder : From the song "Society"

How does one lay stress on the fact, how does one try and inculcate in children an awareness, how does one explain to children the necessity to differentiate between a “need” and a “want”.

How does one get them to appreciate the difference between a need and a want when we, as adults, as their role models, fail to – more often than not.

How does one get children to grasp the gravity of the situation while dealing with a "problem of plenty", while we, as adults, tend to discount the very same "problem of plenty" when it comes to us – more often than not.

As Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher once wrote,

"He who considers wealth a good thing can never bear to give up his income; he who considers eminence a good thing can never bear to give up his fame. He who has a taste for power can never bear to hand over authority to others. Holding tight to these things, such men shiver with fear; should they let them go, they would pine in sorrow."

If human desires are endless, if human “wants” are endless – will not our worries, our qualms our uncertainties be endless too ?

Is this not a vicious circle created, tended to and fueled by us, the human race ?

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06 November, 2008

Diwali Assembly 2008 .....

The school that the Nutty Siblings go to has always celebrated all festivals and they make it a point to explain about different festivals to the children at school. Diwali has always been celebrated on a grand scale with the children at school putting up dances/skits/speeches - all by themselves.

Aside of the two campuses where the Diwali Assembly was held earlier this week, the children put on one extra performance today - specially for the Year 6 students and for the parents of all the children who were performing in the Assembly.

Like their Deputy Principal mentioned today, each and every step that was taken on the stage, each and every word that was spoken - had all been written or choreographed
by the children themselves.

Aparna too had been a part of the Diwali Assembly this year. She, alongwith four of her friends danced to the tunes of "Yeh Ishq Hai" from the movie Jab We Met.

There were, all in all, about 7 groups of children who performed at the Diwali Assembly and the one common thing about all of them was - They Absolutely Rocked !!!!

And here's the Nutty Siblings dressed up in traditional outfits for the Diwali Assemblies in their respective campuses.

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01 November, 2008

Halloween 2008

Halloween or Hallow E’en, as it is called in Ireland, means “All Hallows Eve” or the night before the “All Hallows” also called “All Hallowmas” or “All Saints” or “All Souls” Day.

In Old English, the word “Hallow” meant “to sanctify”.

The modern version of Halloween celebrations originated from the ancient Druidic fire festival called “Samhain” (which is pronounced as “sow-in”). Samhain was the beginning of winter or the Dark Half of the Year. Since the Celts started their day at sunset of the night before, Samhain came to be known as “The Evening of All Hallows”. Samhain was considered a very magical time when the dead walk amongst the living – a time when the veil between this world and the World of the Ancestors was drawn aside. The Celts believed that all laws of Space and Time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.


Many Irish immigrated to America in the 1800s during the Irish Potato Famine. They brought with them the traditions of Halloween. Traditionally, the lanterns were carved from turnips, potatoes or beet and lit with a burning lump of coal or a candle. These lanterns represented the souls of the departed loved ones and were placed in windows or set on porches to welcome the deceased souls. Turnips were not available as readily in America and the pumpkin served as a replacement. The pumpkin Jack-o-Lantern has been an integral part of Halloween celebrations since the Victorian days and is now considered a universal symbol of Halloween.

Trick or Treat

The custom of Trick or Treating however, is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts but from an ancient European custom called “Souling”. On “All Souls Day”, people would walk from village to village, knocking on doors, asking for “soul cakes”. These were square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes they’d receive, the more prayers they’d promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At that time, it was believed that the soul remained in limbo for sometime after death and that prayers, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.

Halloween 2008

Most of the children in our apartment block were out Trick or Treating yesterday night. Lots and lots of children waiting for the lifts in the lobbies literally caused people to gasp in total shock. Imagine a solitary person in the life coming down to the lobby and the lift doors opening – only to be confronted by a mass of little people – all dressed up and raring to go Trick or Treating. There were princesses, there was a Spiderman, there was a Batman, there was a Superman, there were witches aplenty, there was an evil Rock Star with a balloon guitar, there was a little tiger cub, a little piggy, Jerry Mouse, Count Dracula ...... It was a sight to behold and the kids had loads of fun.
“Trick or Treat, Trick or Treat – Give us something good to eat” was a chant that was reverberating across many floors as the children zipped from house to house collecting their treats.

Taking one of the elevators yesterday reminded one of good old days – of travel in Bombay’s local trains. Absolutely jam packed, no space to move or budge and intermittent shouts of “hey get into the lift – come on guys move a bit – get into the life – there’s room”. Interspersed with bits of squeals from the littler ones in the elevator whilst on their way up or down were high pitched giggles to the accompaniment of “heeeyyyyyyy I’m getting all squished up”.

The security guards in our apartment complex exhibited a wide variety of reactions too. Some just stared helplessly as swarm after swam of little people swept into and out of the apartment blocks. Some guards were irritated at the sudden surge in human traffic, displacing the routine rhythm of the rather sedate traffic that they normally witness. Some guards were really irate and pretty soon realization must have dawned that protesting against a whole bunch of kids who were buzzing very high on sugar, was not going to get them anywhere except into trouble. For the most part, most of the security guards – be it within the apartment blocks or be it the guards doing their patrolling rounds – were plainly delighted to see the kids all costumed and possessing levels of excitement that was nothing else but infectious. Most of the guards were walking around with huge grins plastered on their faces and “oohing” and “aahing” at all the little swarms that were sweeping across the apartment complex.

The exhausted Trick or Treaters ended up in the local park for a little Halloween Party. Already high on sugar but thirsty, the first thing the kids did was gulp down glasses of Coca Cola, Sprite and Fanta. But the little bees were too tired to buzz around, despite the liquid sugar hitting those brain cells. Most of them were seen munching on goodies which included chips, French Fries, Chicken Wings, Sausages, Macaroni, Fried Rice, Batata Wadas, Patties and what have you.

Once the hunger pangs were sated, they were seen swinging around the place like a bunch of errr ... children .... before grabbing their Trick or Treat bags once again .... for, at the park, a whole big bag of goodies awaited them. :)

Here’s Halloween of 2008 in pictures

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