Tuesday, 27 March 2007

In Sickness and In Health..

Yes! That was it! The marriage vows or whatever. of course in our case it was some mumble jumble in front of a smoky fire. I had to sit and be demure. The groom gets to say everything. For all anyone knows the bride can be dumb and still everything will go smoothly.

Although at that time I was bursting with speech and all that, here I am today, completely unable to speak. Struck dumb, you can say. Something has occurred inside the throat. Feels like a lump. I have some -itis as far as I can tell from google search - Tonsilitis, Laryngitis or some such. I have put off meeting with the doctor out of general lethargy. He is going to give antibiotics, multi-vitamins, ask me to drink warm fluids, stay off oily and spicy things, gargle in luke-warm salt water, and take rest. So, there, without even a proper diagnosis, I know the treatment. And its not as if doctors diagnose any more. They sit on the fence, it could be this, it could be that. Just in case here is a course of broad spectrum medications that will kill whatever it is, with stomach lining being the collateral damage.

Anyhow its nice to not talk for a few days. Although I had hell explaining to the auto driver (car having chosen this particular day to be at the service center, of its own volition and free will), and am about this close to losing it with the child who insists that I not only read her a few hundred books but read it loudly and not in a hoarse whisper, its all good. Gives me a legitimate excuse to drink lots of tea and update blog instead of working. So I am not complaining.

For the record, here are the various remedies recommended by all that I meet:
1. Hot milk with turmeric, pepper powder and sugar (winner with max. points)
2. Warm salt water gargle
3. Honey in grape juice
4. Sage infusion gargle
Sage is a silvery-green plant with leaves that offer a memorable fragrant.
(from here. Blame them for the weird English)
5. Vicks drops - ten per day

I hate the idea of milk because in my opinion it increases phlegm. Likewise grape juice which is citrus and generally not on when colds and so on are around. I am trying the other three also with limited success. Sage only because its mum's reco on it.

So till later,
The Hoarse Whisperer

Update: Dragged myself to doc after a quick call to husband to assure him that I was dying. Doctor said to:
(a) Sip Warm Liquids such as Clear Soups, Rasam, Tea, Coffee, Protinex
(b) Gargle with some shady petrol-like fluid in a bottle
(c) Eat Antibiotics starting with the letter Z
(d) Take Multivitamins
(e) Do steam inhalation
He said it was a pleasure to meet me, and wished it was in circumstances when I felt better. Was he coming on to me? Tough to say. Nevertheless he did not make a diagnosis, except to mention in passing that my blood pressure was low.

Still Hoarse.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007


We took a little walk on Monday night, post dinner. It was quite a relaxing day overall, I had done some long-overdue cleaning, visiting a neighbour so that the kids could play, taken a nap, and gone to watch the lake and the swans in the evening, met more kids, and returned home. A walk around the building seemed like a good idea. She promised to relax and try to sleep in the stroller so I wheeled it out.

The air was still, neither warm nor cool, just pleasant. Felt much better than being inside. We were just going to revolve around our building, there is a fair bit of light, and guards posted every twenty meters so no cause for worry. In any case this is Mumbai. I have returned home in the wee hours of the morning, driven through water filled streets late at night, all alone, and never felt unsafe. And this is here, right in our own building. I dismissed the chill and we went around, tak-tak-grint; tak-tak-grint the wheels played on the patterned tiles.

A lone palm tree loomed up, high into the sky. I have seen this tree many times. It evokes a sense of pride somehow, see, we have greenery here. Not quite a concrete jungle. But now I saw it, valiant in its attempt to rise above, surrounded by the innumerable paraphernalia of construction. Steel rods poking out menacingly mere meters from the tree trunk. Cement and pans and what not strewn about its base. On all sides. Oh! What a brave tree to still climb, climb up to the sky!

I recall just a few years ago, maybe three, or four, maximum. I used to walk and walk here with my mum. Mum is a big walker, she is never satisfied, if we did five circles round the building she would say, you carry on, I need a few more rounds. We used to feel great, that if we needed to walk, all we had to do was ride down in the lift. Mum had a big house back home, with a garden, two large coconut trees, healthy, potted plants of crotons and flowers of various shapes and colours that she tended to diligently. The red-oxide floor was cool under our feet, had resisted attempts at modernizing with ‘Mosaic Flooring’ for years. But she could not take a post-dinner walk, no, not alone as a woman. Our walks here late at night were therefore special, and cherished. We used to look around, and chat and chat. “Ma look at that tree, and that one, and that one.” She is also big into getting fresh air. So she would walk around fast, come to me going slower (carrying the child, in the tummy or later, in my hands) and say, you guys stand here, lots of wind here, nice and cool. So we would wait, between the two tall buildings. I would try to talk about the wind tunnel effect but she would be impatient, “Okay, I’ll be back in a bit” and off she would go, walking as if there were actually wheels underneath the sari.

We used to feel real good looking around. There were tall buildings, yes, many of them, yes, but there was the garden - lush green grass, a few shrubs, some young trees, and a sand-pit. There was the other big garden across, coming up, with promise of more lushness, more sand. And then there was always the ‘Jungle’ as we call it. A nice wild place with wild dogs running wild, and a path cut through for walking. Also a fair bit of open space, and a view of the little hill behind which you can see the airplanes heading to the landing strip. Lots of flowers when the weather was good. The old gardener was industrious, watering and cutting and pruning. We liked that word, Industrious, sort of described us both too, of course.

And last night, I suddenly realized. Open spaces, four in number, one on each side of us, have been dug up. Those menacing steel rods are poking out. The promise is of very tall buildings. The hill, well, there is one word for it, raped. Yes, the hill has been raped. The smaller buildings that dot the landscape around (small as in a mere seven floors high), do not block the view or the wind, but have lights and air-conditioners on all day long as industrious people work round the clock. The short-cut down the stairs that takes us to the road behind directly is un-passable thanks to the cloud of cigarette smoke there. The same people who work all night also take many cigarette breaks, and they take them here, under our noses so to speak.

A relative that visited me a few years ago is reported to have gone back home and told everyone that Kenny’s place in Mumbai is horrid. You can stretch your hand out and touch the person in the next building, that close the buildings are crammed together, it is so claustrophobic, the lady is supposed to have said. Of course when I heard about it, I was incensed. Maybe Mr. Brown and Mr. Gray in Warren, Vermont have houses that have windows that are further apart than mine, but surely this is untrue of my beautiful flat. Mom took care of handling that matter anyway and I have not heard any more of it. But now, what seemed to be a gross misrepresentation of facts is proving to be more of a prophesy! Chills the spine.

In another ‘gross misrepresentation of facts,’ a young teacher had told my parents in a sort of complaining tone, that I, Kenny, was ‘complacent.’ I looked up the word, and was suitably incensed. From the Oxford Dictionary:


adjective smug and uncritically satisfied with oneself or one’s achievements.

— DERIVATIVES complacency (also complacence) noun complacently adverb.

— ORIGIN from Latin complacere ‘to please’.

Short-tempered yes, excitable, yes, immature, yes, but complacent? I fretted and fumed and tried a billion cogent arguments to refute his claim, in my head. Of course when I tried to say them aloud, the three crisp points I had laid out in my head disintegrated into a bit of babbling and blubbering when I encountered the cool appraising eyes of my parents, who did not believe or disbelieve the teacher. On hind-sight, I think that was also a look into the future. Today I believe that I am complacent, and what is more, do not think that that is negative in any way. I am complacent of my abilities to have a meaningful life, to be a good mother and wife, to be good at my job, and the other things I do, but most of all I am complacent of making good decisions in life.

I had peeped into my office for a bit too. With all the talks of expansion and reservation and modernization, the open area in front of my window is the victim. A brand new shining building is to come up there. Complacent as I am, it feels like its time to make a few hard decisions.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007


"School-whool jati hai kya?"
the hapless child is often asked. You see, it has inherited all three pairs of genes from dad so that it is tall, especially when it stands next to me.

So we thought, chalo, lets get it into school-whool. It talks all over the place, can recognise Hrithik Roshan and Shah Rukh Khan, and knows names of a few brands of dinosaurs, we should be all set. I found out a few local schools. Moms, paediatricians, creche in-charges, all sang praises of this or that school. I rejected many of them because they had weird sounding names, one because they asked me about my religion, and so on. Narrowed it down to two.

I had to put in lots of effort, borrow a five rupee stamp from my assistant, steal an office envelope, get elusive father's signature, remember deadlines, deal with the fat security guard with the glass eye at the holy gates, listen to office staff person wave me off with un-sleeved arms saying "no you cannot borrow my pen. its a family heirloom inherited from Shah Jahaan and is encrusted in diamonds. you look like you steal office envelopes," and finally uff.. managed to submit form with self-addressed, stamped envelope. This was a school, lets call it, oh, school #1.

In school#2 meanwhile, people were at lunch (of course I went during my lunch hour, duh). Two tries and I was like, forget it, they did not even have a jewel-encrusted pen in the office. They are perpetually on vacation it seems. Which is cool and all but all mothers of overly active three year olds will freely admit that vacation for child is nightmare for mom. The husband (ha! revenge for introducing me as "this is the wife") was strangely worried about the school thing so we went across in full suit-boot one day at 10:30 am to school#2.

Meanwhile school#1 sent back golden envelope and said "come with child and original birth certi on such and such date at such and such time."

In school#2, in-charge madam was there in her chambers. There was an aquarium in the chambers. Child was all set with aquarium and fish and gold fish. Madam was really nice, smiling, asked us what we wanted, answered our questions leisurely, said wait for the memo next month and put in application. We reiterated our thing about nursery and LKG and height genes and what not. She was reassuring. We came away after staring into two classrooms - one with little yellow chairs, the other with little red chairs. LKG, afternoon session, three sections.

Back to school#1, which, the perceptive reader will realise, is what this whole post is about actually. We had to attend that thing - you know - not an interview (of course not; else I would have to prepare her for it and all, like them), but something that looked suspiciously like one. We were suitably armed. Husband had his blackberry, and was sweating a bit. I wore my specially dusty Man-Sandals, and did that trick I do where I drop my Nokia and it goes to bits and I put it back again and BINGO! it still works! I arrayed child in a nice frock with a hanky pinned in front. She also wore matching sandals (matching with me that is). Her hair was combed. So we were ushered in. There were butterflies on a computer screen. Child went away to screen ignoring nice aunty. Somehow brought her back to the situation at hand. She was asked to sing a poem by nice aunty. WHOOP. My stomach went. "Dhoom Dhoom Just Take my Love.." is what I expected, at least a "Aaj Ki Raat, Hona Hi Tha..." thankfully a Twinkle Twinkle was sung. I think it was a success, as a chocolate was immediately profferred much to the performers joy.

I tried to justify my sandals by asking about the school, Open House and such random things. Husband pitched in too with such stuff. We were politely, the smile never faltering, dismissed with a "If she is admitted, such state secrets will be divulged." What are her chances? "You know, we have our process" Ouch. Ouch. We hid our faces and returned home, all sober and oh what woe to be parents and what not.

Anyway we discovered a few weeks later to our immense, profound joy that she was admitted! Of course the way we discovered this was by the ominous statement "Please come to the school at such and such date at such and such time, with your check book." OH! Check book? Whatever for? OH! Fees. But school is in like June or something innt it? OH! So we went, with check book, thinking - Cool man, we cough up like 10k or something, and tell them, we will be back once we hear from school#2 - come on, its nursery for heaven's sake.

Two checks, sum total of 55k. Rupees. Not Paise. Now. Not in June. We had a two minute conversation in the corridor with the smiling lady who said stuff like sensory and play-way teaching and three whole hours of school and toilet training is assumed and so on. Open house in June, talk to the teacher then and express your especial concerns about your child (perhaps she does not yet know the last verse of Baa Baa Black Sheep, or woe or woes, thinks Red Riding Hood found the Magic Beans). Parents left right and center making out checks with glee on their faces.

School#2 better come through for us, 'cause we thanked school#1 for indulging us, hugged our check book and scooted. Nursery, for heavens sake. Not even real school if you thought about it. Whats that? Free and compulsory education upto 14 years of age? Sure, here I come.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Route No. 11

It took me about forty five minutes to get to work a couple days ago (usually takes ten). I was caught in snarling, pulsating, ululating, rickshaw-car-boat-truck-bus-motorbike traffic jam some two minutes from home. Boat? Oh yeah. You call it a Scorpio, an Innova, or some such. I call it, very simply, a boat. This reminded me again of another place it used to take me forty five minutes to get to. Long time ago.

The school bell rang at 9 am. My (bestestest) friend and I left home at 8:15 (am). We cycled the three kilometers in forty five minutes flat, stopping at every possible interesting scene along the way, screaming for any classmate whose house happened to fall along the way, going back and forth over puddles till we were completely wet, and in general extracting as much fun as we possibly could even before we hit the school. This, of course, was after we both lucked out one birthday (hers in March, mine in April) and were bought shiny red bicycles. Mine was an Avon SLR. Hers was a BSA SLR. Mine cost about Rs. 100 less than hers. But I did not mind! Mine was redder!

Before that fateful birthday we got to ride in Appa's scooter. A green Bajaj Super. If a Scorpio is a boat, this one was surely at least a bus. We again stopped at lot of places along the way, and picked up lots of kids in the green uniforms heading to our school. Being the smallest of the lot (this had nothing to do with age), I got to ride up front, standing. Rest of the gang piled up behind, wedging bags and water bottles and sundry other things around the place. In addition to the colourful appearance thanks to bags and uniforms and what not, we managed to call attention to ourselves by a few other means. One by the fact that Appa did not believe in hurrying anywhere so we went at 25 kmph, max. Then there was the singing. Sometimes one of us would loudly recite a poem that we had to learn by heart for the exam. But mostly Appa sang his special compositions for us. I was always 'kulli' (short girl) in the poems. He switched deftly from Kannada to English to Tamizh. He managed to include all the riders, and siblings of the riders that he was aware of, into the songs. It took us a good forty five minutes.

On rare days, we would walk. Appa's scooter would be broken. He would be out of town. My cycle would suddenly get punctured, the front tire would lose all air, the chain would fall off just as I was leaving. Walking to school was a bit laborious. Uphill in parts. We did not mind, but stuck to the roads so as to save some time. Walking back home though would be awesome. We would dawdle a fair bit. We would walk through the woods (yes! such things as trees existed in those days!), we would scare each other with ghost stories, and sprint past especially tamarind trees (everyone knows that tamarind trees house creatures that grab little children). We would collect the red seeds that I only know as Gulganji. We would grab a Gulmohar flower, take that sepal or whatever thats under the yellow petals, and attach them as nails. No one doubted that this was the purpose it was meant for, if not why would it have exactly five things, one for each finger? We would come home all flushed from the activity, very late, to find adults hanging on the gate with a scowl. 'How long it takes you to get home. We were so worried..' We called this Route No. 11 - as in bus number 11; 11 representing our two legs (you get it?).

Time had an elasticity then. That three quarters of an hour packed in so much fun. Now I am cursing at the green Auto, flinching at the red spit from the Sumo, and in general cannot wait to get to where I am going. Perhaps I should try more of Route No. 11. Will need a face mask (too much pollution); backpack (cannot carry laptop in sideways bags anymore); water break (may get too dehydrated otherwise); extra dress (cannot go to work so sweaty); baseball bat (just to whack a few of the more nastily driven automobiles).....

Monday, 5 March 2007


Tangential foray into fictional stuff again

It was the four of them together, their heads low, laughing at something, laughing boisterously, the smoke curling from their cigarettes in unison, like a cloud of mutual admiration and love. She watched from behind the curtain at the door, the curtain waving gently in the breeze, her hands steady on the tray, balancing the four china cups of coffee with determination. Wistfully, she wished she could join them in their laughter, unknowingly she took a step forward, into the wide, open verandah where they sat, and smoked and laughed.

The minute she entered their line of vision and saw their happy smiling mouths, her apprehensions and jealousies vanished, and she turned hostess. Handing over the coffee, steaming, placing the extra sugar deftly on the center table, confident that the coffee would be appreciated with deep aaaaahs. As it was, at the first sip, again as one, the four men closed their eyes and said ‘aaah. Wonderful coffee’ ‘Yes yes’ ‘As always’ ‘but I think you have done even better than usual today.’

It was with a satisfied sadness that they both, shoulder to shoulder, husband and wife, stood at the gate and waved them good bye. The men trooped out, their laughter carrying them forward. They walked to the end of the road and then parted ways, each heading sort of reluctantly towards their respective homes. Still the couple watched them, finally when not even the glistening oiled back of hair of the last person could be seen, they walked back into their home, the air still around them, the house eerily quiet in the immediate aftermath.

She bustled about clearing the tray and cups. He sat down, not even making the effort to help out in the activity. In their years of marriage that was one thing they had figured out, it was better all around when he did not try to help. The first time, a cup had smashed to pieces, the second time the glass, and the third time led to a bit of a fight as he had been careless in the washing. After that they both wordlessly agreed that there were some things that he best leaves alone, like anything to do with the kitchen, the house, the children, in fact, pretty much everything other than the scooter and his office stuff. His wife handled with unending energy and efficiency every other aspect of their lives.

His thoughts flitted back and forth over all these things. His friends, three of them, carried over from his college days. All of them in the same profession of teaching. But teaching different subjects and in different colleges. Between them they covered Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and English. The lines between the subjects blurred in their discussions, there was a pleasing unity, and a focus on the teaching part of the exercise which is what interested him the most.

She came into the open verandah now, wiping her hands on a towel hung from her waist, and held in by her sari. He briefly toyed with the idea of giving her a brief summary of their most interesting discussion, about the University examinations, which they had merrily dissected and dismissed, but he could not muster the energy and so retreated back to his thoughts.

She thought briefly, joyously, that now, today, he would include her in their midst, and have a discussion with her. Her mind sifted through the clever and intelligent comments about examinations that she would make, her own independent opinions, although she had overheard what they had been saying. A brief smile spread on her lips and eyes, but as she saw his face close up again, she pursed her lips back, and said, ‘the children will be here soon, let me go in and make dinner.’

Stay, stay here a while, lets talk, he wanted to say. But he let it pass a few minutes, and then the silence was a bit too long and it was awkward to say it so he kept quiet and watched her as she stood up, her feet flat and her look determined as she flicked open the door curtain and entered the dark house.