Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Salt and Cherries

The Namak Dabba in our kitchen when we were young, would always be either an old Dalda container, sometimes hunched on one side because of the heat from the kitchen fire.The spoon inside used for measuring or sprinkling was always a plastic Lactogen milk spoon.

The salt tin was used, abused, from all fronts.
Sometimes, callous cooks would used the haldi spoon and turn the white into a dull yellow.
Instead of being annoyed with them, my mum would say- it's ok- it's salt after all.

With today's packaging innovations, we see beautiful packets of butter, ghee, biscuits, cakes, pickles... and more. Even bottled water has attitude. The Salt packaging is still the most basic.
Makes no difference to noone.

How many of us live a salt life- always adding taste and flavour - always indispensable- but never appreciated.

Noone writes eulogies about us. Noone even says a thank you.

There is no premium, no mark up.
And oneday we will slip away like a ship in the night.
Unless we learn a lesson or two from the cherries.
The fruit with the least amount of goodness compared to most others.
That wins hearts and minds by its sheer red colour, shape and brightness.

It is used as toppings on the best of desserts and is applauded for enhancing the very appetising factor.
Cherries have wormed their way into minds and refrigerator shelves .
And have a place of pride.

Moral of the story.
Don't be superflous like the cherry.
But bring out  the salt worthiness in you by showing the world that you matter.
For if we treat ourselves like salt, the world will do the same.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Escapes and Escapades

What is ESCAPE?

We talk about it at home, in research groups, at work. Everywhere.
And whether, given the chance, we truly escape or cling on to things we have tried escaping from.

Tried looking at some common escapes in our lives.

Like the vacation we have planned for ages and have sworn we won't get into work mode.

And then sign off with an automatic email reply- available on personal gmail " for urgent matters".
What can be so urgent when we are on a break?

Or the  men who compulsively hangout with the boys on a weekend to escape from wives and girlfriends.
They do need that break after a long week of work.
But  all the bonding, jokes and camaraderie, even highs, are mostly over conversations on- you guessed it- womankind!! Uh Um... isn't that what the escape was all about?

( applies  vice versa as well)

Or the women who rant and rave and weep about a non existent loveless  marriage.
And look for "alternate means" of happiness. We all have the right to be happy.
But then continue  with the same bonds  as well. Best of both worlds is always comfy.
( again applies vice versa)

And there are the little Escapes.
The books we buy. And leave unread.
The masalas in the kitchen cupboard for that new recipe. Yet untried.
The half written book.
The mildewed bag of Japanese crackers.
The unused passes to the new show in town.
The  impulse purchase trinkets yet to be worn.
The neighbourhood spa  that we have never stepped into.

All of these and more, bought or got as escapes from a boring world , but yet to be indulged in.

Maybe we are like the elephant in chains.
When the chains are removed, he doesn't run away.
He doesn't know he is free.
He likes being cared for by his mahout.

We often use "Escape" as an excuse to do things we want to.
While maintaining status quo.

Status Quo is unreal.
It is the Ultimate Balance, but before that, every escape or action has an impact.
More far reaching than we ever imagine.

Maybe we should take a leaf out of Coelho's Alchemist.
Maybe our happiness and escape lies at our doorstep.In our own lives.
We simply haven't  discovered it!!!

Happy weekend everyone and happy escapes and escapades:-)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When STD calls meant High decibels

Remember STD calls in the days of  yore.
Not calls really. Bookings.
My aunt would "book a trunk call" to Guwahati- all of 10 hours drive from  where we were in Dibrugarh.
But it was an event.

Because trunk calls were booked mostly  for breaking news.
Usually bad. Sometimes good.

There was a sense of emergency when such calls were booked.
One of us youngsters were designated to guard the phone and holler if it rang.

Once the call was connected, the designated speaker would start off with a shout if not a yell.
Immediately breaking into the news delivery , almost akin to the way brands deliver the statutory warning message on audio.
The high decibel voice is maintained- repeating meant more time and more money.

An audible sigh of relief would be heard around the room once the call was over.

No question of calling to just say a hi.
Or wonder what's for breakfast.
Or whether mum has  visited the jeweller's place before the wedding season
Or simply a call to say "I am missing you"

We have the power to do that today.
To express what we feel in just a dial.
To say what we want to in a split second.

Do we do that enough?
Or do we still call our parents only on Sunday evenings....

Friday, September 16, 2011

Letting Go

The day started off earlier than usual.
Meetings at work.
Teaching session in the evening.
Late night lawyer session.
Back to the warmth of home to see Zoya snuggled up in bed.
The soft snore of peace and comfort.
That children are blessed with.
Because, unlike us, they can let go.

It is hard to let go.
Why should we see ourselves as losers while others win the war?
Why should our enemies even dream of a victory
When we are right, we have the power, we can hold on.
Not give in.

We have been conditioned to be winners.
We applaud those who make it big.
We look up to the ones who  emerge survivors.
We want to be heroes.
We are heroes.

So what if it is at the cost of our own freedom
Our own happiness
So what if, in our not giving in, we are giving up many things?

Maybe it takes greater courage to let go.
To settle for less. Scale down our negativity.

May leave us poorer on many counts.
But will give us what we want most.

To do what we want.
To indulge in what we like.
To move on the road of happiness.

Or maybe, to simply snore a peaceful sleep at night.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Special Eyes

A dark skinned little girl toddles along with her mother.
Her mother is more than beautiful. She is gorgeous... fair gold polished skin, rose blushed cheeks that would put any blusher to shame, dark almond eyes... and a laughter so infectious that men and women would swarm around her just by the sheer sound.

The little girl is always shy because people look at her with surprise and wonder how she is so dark.
But her mother always  jumps to her rescue. Saying she is the most beautiful child in the world.
The little girl then sits on her beautiful mother's lap and her mother tells her how real beauty lies inside us and only people with special eyes can see that beauty.

Many years later, when my mother, sister and I would be lost in thought, I would dream about someone with special eyes who would see my inner beauty. And carry me away to the clouds. Where there would be only laughter and love and happiness.

With my father "missing" for so many years, my mother bore the brunt of a society that always questioned her status. Was she to be relegated to white, or was she a wife in waiting? She loved dressing up and was always looking her best. Dressing up created a mood of optimism, with me staring mesmerised at her every day and wondering how lucky I was to have such a beautiful mother.

The single and wife in waiting also made my mother prey to every conversation, every social visit where there was a man- so what if that person was a colleague at work, a friend or even a relative.

She never let anything get in her way.
We grew up- three women in a new city- with the strength that mother instilled in us everyday.
We liked seeing her happy, and she always laughed for us- even if her laugh sometimes shook with the pain of carefully hidden tears.

I wanted to make my mother happy.
I wanted to give her everything she lost with my father.
I studied and studied and worked and worked.

So that oneday I could give her back what she gave us.
 But then life engulfed me with family, relationships, career and unknowingly, my plans for my mother got postponed.
Maybe another day.
Could be next year.
What's the hurry? She is always around-  my work can't wait.

Till four years ago, in the early hours of dawn, I woke up to the ominous ring of the phone.
And I realised that everything that I  thought couldn't wait is still around.
Except my mother.

My life changed after that.
I put myself  and my happiness before  everything else.
Took calls that I could have never dreamt of before.
Moved cities, offices, clients, colleagues.
Carried my life and menories in a suitcase.

I am happy with what I have today.
My work, my family, my friends... with everything.

I realised that when I am happy, I can make everyone around me much happier.
And in this journey, I have found many  who have special eyes.
Just like my mother said, so many years ago.

Friday, September 9, 2011

That day, long time ago...

It was a regular Sunday that day, when my father left for work. He always went to check on work for a couple of hours on Sundays. Mother checking school note books- she was a teacher. My sister and I whiling away time in the garden. Me day dreaming as usual . Chicken steaming in the pot on the stove. The Hawkins cooker jumping with shrilly whistles and releasing the aroma of dal and spices. The gardener  hunched up over the weeds around the rose bushes. Crows and Mynahs out chirping each other on the giant Xilikha tree.

The clock struck one. Mother called out the maid to set  the table for lunch.  She was still checking the notebooks and pushed the pile to one corner, while Bandana put out the mats, glasses, dishes and water jug. Mother asked her to leave the food in the pantry, since Father was not yet home.

Like all wives, she started murmuring, mostly to herself , about how men spend all the time at work.
I was now reading a book, curled up on the divan next to her .

The clock kept striking. My mother put down her red ball point pen which had ticked and crossed more than fifty notebooks all morning. The first signs of worry creased her beautiful face. She asked me to call up the office.

That was it. Hundreds of calls to a room where only the walls bore witness silently to what may have happened. Pen still on desk. Umbrella leaning against the stand. Visitors, well wishes, security, police. Family, relatives, distant relatives. More calls, more visitors.

My mother getting a job. We leaving our big home and life for another place, another school, another set of neighbours and friends.Strange looks, questions. Three women walking down a completely new  road replete with challenges. And always waiting. For my father to come home.

He never did.

But he left us with something that made us believe in life.
With  Hope.
That oneday he will be back.
That oneday things would be the same again and we would be happy and smiling.
That the table could still be  set for four.
That his coats and shirts could still be left in the almirah.

With this hope we had the strength and courage to lead ten long years.
Till one fateful day, ten years later,  my father's remains were discovered.
He had passed away that day itself. September 9th.

Killing everything around us but our spirit.
And the gift of Hope.

I have written this story for the first time today.
Because I have come to terms with the fact that when all the dots are joined, the picture is always positive.
We just need to believe.

Thank you Daddy, wherever you are.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Birthday Cake

It's the one thing we used to wait with bated breath for.
In the earlier days, my father  would drive home with a white paper box carefully balanced on the cushioned rear seat of the Amby. With the Digboi Stores cursive logo proudly perched on the packet.
We would crowd around the table, mother, father, the help, some early bird friends, as my mother gently opened the white box and revealed the pink iced roses and the all important letterings in sugar- Happy Birthday.

Birthday cakes have the ability of lifting the occasion to a high.
Even when there is no party or do.

In fact, during the latter years, when we moved towns, our birthdays were signalled by a cake from Diamond Bakery in Guwahati and a gift from mother. And maybe some friends in school.

But we never felt short changed. So long as the cake was there, all was well.

Birthday cakes at work now are about singing, smashing, laughing and uploading on FB and Twitter.

Shows how important rituals are in life.
In adding a meaning or significance to an otherwise regular day.
Injects an "occasion" even when there may be  none.
Adds magic to when there is one.

Holds true for brands as well.
It is not easy to make a brand a ritual.
Needs to have strong relevance and a connect that goes beyond product usage and consumption.
But once it gets into that mould, it is there to stay.

Coming back to the birthday cake, it will always be the best way to show a person that we care.