Sunday, November 9, 2008

Who's innocent?

Are children innocent?
Cute, cuddly, chubby cheeks with cherubic smiles, kids can win your heart at a glance. But those angels' faces may hide imps' hearts. Dennis the Menace, Calvin and Hobbes and Lord of the Flies, though fictional, are true to life. Check it out with some real life samples here.

One year old Sylvie had a serious occupation: pulling clothes down from the bed and putting up shoes on it. Then she retired for the night at late afternoon and got up at 2 a.m., regularly.

My own four year old wasn’t an angel either. He assigned himself a daily chore of re-arranging shoes: all wrong pairs together, facing away from each other.

Kim, three and half year old, made her friend drink Amway liquid soap. But she was smart enough not to drink it herself.

“What does Mummy call you”? I asked three year old Ashwin.
“She calls me Da...” then changed his mind in mid sentence. “She calls me 'Monkey',” he said instead.

Zac, a wee little boy, had just started school.
When Zac's dad heard someone calling his son “Jackson”, he corrected him. “He's not Jackson, his name's Zac, short for Zachariah,” he said.
“But he told me he's Jackson,” protested the other.
“I'm his father, I gave him the name. So I know better,” Zac's dad had to assert.

Aby and Beny, two brothers, are a classic. They fought constantly. Then came time for Aby to start school. At the admission interview, the teacher asked “Do you fight with your brother?”
“No,” Aby replied. “I love my brother. Why should I fight with him?”

Beny also joined Nursery. One of the class boys said he was going to marry the pretty teacher when he grew up. Aby told that to Beny at home.
Aby, older and wiser, said, “By the time he's old enough to get married, the teacher will be in her grave.”
“What will she do in the grave?” Beny asked.
“Nothing. She'll just lie down,” Aby replied.
“Instead of that let her get up and cook for him,” was Beny’s judgment.

Then Beny got tired of studying. “When can I stop going to school?” he asked.
“When you get married,” they told him.
“When can I get married?” he asked.
“When you finish all your exams,” they answered.
The term exams came and were finally over after a week. Beny came back from school greatly relieved. “Mamma, I've finished my exams, now I can get married,” he announced.

The two boys were so boisterous their mother longed to have a little girl for a change. Her wish came true and Christie was born. But Christie didn’t behave much different from her brothers. When she started toddling, she drank distilled water. Her mother took her to the doctor. Soon after coming home, they had to run back. Christie had eaten mosquito repellant.
Their aunt, whom they address by her first name without any pre-fix, had an operation. As she was recouping, the kids sat on her bed and had a conference.
“The doctor cut Mamma’s tummy and three of us came out. But when they cut Bina's tummy, how come there’s no baby?” wondered Beny.
They thought very hard. Then Aby, the eldest, got a brainwave.
“In the old days, doctors were honest. They gave the babies to their mothers. But nowadays they keep the babies for themselves,” he explained.
Serious allegation!

Another kid told me he wants to become a dacoit when he grows up.

Well, these are our ‘innocent’ children. How about the rest?

(Some of the names have been changed to protect identities)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


It had been a tiring day for me, so my husband graciously offered to make the afternoon tea. Telling me to lie down and rest, he buzzed off towards the kitchen. I gratefully slumped down on the bed and was halfway in the process of closing my eyes when his head popped in through the door. "There's some used tea leaves in the pot. What shall I do with it?" he queried.

"Throw it away and rinse the pot", I replied patiently.

He buzzed off a second time. I was once more about to close my eyes when back he came to ask "How much water's to be boiled ?"

"Two cups", I said and resolutely proceeded to close the eyes. A few moments later he reappeared with the question "How much tea should I put in?"

"Two teaspoons." Off he went again.

Some moments passed. Then came my hero's voice again with yet another question "What's to be put first in the cup ?"

"Sugar, then milk powder, then pour the tea." He hurried away again.

By this time I was really longing for tea. I sat up and waited eagerly. Minutes ticked by. The tea-longing became feverish. Still it kept me waiting.

At last, after some ten minutes' wait, back came my husband, yet unaccompanied by tea cups. Instead, he was shaking a scalded hand. We frantically looked for the elusive Burnol tube that was never found twice in the same place. We tried all the places it had resided in before—under the bed, behind the bookshelf, on the dressing table, inside the shoes, under the pillows —all in vain. In sheer desperation I happened to look into the medicine box where it had never been found before. There it was, playing hide-and-seek. I grabbed the thing by the neck and squeezed it out on the scald. Then the chivalrous knight marched back to the kitchen, determined not to give up the fight though wounded.

At long last he marched back, triumphant and beaming, carrying the trophy—the much awaited tea.
"It calls for a celebration", I said.
"Yes, it's a great victory", he solemnly replied.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Rajan whistled as he walked briskly out of his one room and kitchen rented house. His cheery mood was further brightened by the mid-November morning sunshine. His dark face and bright eyes looked radiant with delight. Indeed, Guwahati looked beautiful under the autumn sun. Houses, trees, roads, even garbage heaps on the roadside seemed to wear a hallow.

He reached the Zoo-road bus stop and waited. The first bus that came was overcrowded, with several passengers hanging over the footboard. He boarded the next one that followed immediately. Here, too, he had to stand along with several others as the seats were all occupied. By the time they reached Chandmari Colony the bus was jam-packed. When they stopped at Guwahati Club a girl's voice behind him said "Please let me pass." He moved aside the best he could to make room and turned to look at the speaker. He caught sight of her as she passed him to get down. A slim figure of medium height, clad in mekhela-chaddar, long hair worn in a single braid. A fair, sweet face. Inexplicably, her picture etched itself in his mind.

He reached early, it being the first day of his work. Cotton College was no new place to him, as he had studied for his degree there. Many of the lecturers, now his colleagues, had taught him. He was warmly welcomed. Some shook hands with him, some thumped him on the back. Some commented jovially "Aha, you have sported a mustache. Grown into a man, eh?"

But then, someone struck a discordant note. He overheard a remark "How come they appointed bahira manuh (outsider)?" That stung. But he set it aside as he got busy meeting people and attending classes.

On the way back home in the afternoon, he assessed his day. He was happy on the whole. He managed the classes alright in spite of his nervousness. His new colleagues had been kind and encouraging. But then, with a twinge he recalled the discordant note—'outsider'. It struck a nerve. Why was he always an outsider everywhere? When he was a child his cousins in Kerala, his father's native place, used to call him 'Hindi walla' because he spoke Hindi with his parents. And in his mother's hometown in West Bengal he was a 'Madrassi'. In Assam, his family's adopted land, where he was born and brought up, he was called an outsider by some of the 'local' people. His father had taught him since early childhood to be an Indian at heart. But no one else he knew seemed to recognize the existence of an Indian in real life.

Perhaps his parents were responsible for his plight. By their inter-cultural marriage they had offended their respective families, and caused him to belong nowhere. His father, a Convent School teacher in Dibrugarh, upper Assam, had created quite a furor in his family circles when he decided to marry his colleague, a Bengali girl. Being very 'Indian' minded, the couple had adopted Hindi as their family language which became their only son's mother tongue. But growing up in Assam, Rajan spoke Assamese also as well as any local. In fact, he unconsciously identified himself as an Assamese.

Life went on, Rajan liked his job and was becoming quite good at teaching. Saturday was his off-day from work. In the afternoon he went to the District Library to read. As he walked in, his heart missed a beat. He saw her—the same girl he had noticed in the bus the other day. He passed her by as he would any stranger. But on the spot he made up his mind to come here every Saturday, in the hope of seeing her again.

All through the next week he was restless and impatient for Saturday to come. His thoughts were dominated by dreams of a fair, sweet face and graceful form in mekhela-chaddar. Sure enough, she was there again the next Saturday. This time a half-smile of recognition passed between them but he did not dare talk to her yet. The next time they met again he summoned up the courage to address her.
"Excuse me, are you a student?" he asked lamely. He cursed himself inwardly for his awkwardness, for his lack of the dashing romantic hero's air. But she answered politely "No, I'm a teacher. I work in P.C. Girls' "
"I see. I work in Cotton. My name is Rajan Nair. May I know your name?"
"Dipika Das"
They parted, neither having anything more to say.

But meeting 'accidentally' every weekend at the library, they soon became 'friends'. Once they even found an excuse to visit a restaurant together and then went for a stroll in Nehru Park. They chatted and laughed, looking into each other's eyes. From that day Rajan classed himself a happy lover.

The next Saturday she did not turn up at the library. He was crestfallen. He sat there a long time pretending to read, in the hope that she might show up. At last he despaired and went out. He had no way of contacting her either. Naively confident of meeting her every time at the library, it had not occurred to him to ask for her phone number or address. He spent a tormented weekend.

Come Saturday, he went to the library as usual, hoping to meet her. As he entered the compound a young man accosted him asking "Are you Rajan Nair?"
"Yes, I am. What was it?" he responded.
"I've brought you a message from my younger sister, Dipika. She does not wish to see you any more. Her marriage has been fixed."

In shock and pain Rajan blurted out "I was hoping to marry her!"
In polite words but cold tones the man replied "I am sorry. She could never marry an outsider."

Rajan's world became dark. He rushed home, fell flat on his bed and sobbed like a child. "Dipika, am I an outsider to you, too?" he murmured to himself. Then a thought formed in his mind. 'Was her brother speaking the truth? They may be only forcing her to keep away from me'. He decided to meet her by hook or crook and find out the fact from her.

On Monday afternoon he took leave from later classes and waited outside her school. When she came out he begged to have a word with her. She hesitated, but agreed on sensing his desperation. They found a quiet restaurant and went in. The moment they were alone he asked "Is it true that you are getting married?" She looked down and did not answer.
"Tell me, Dipika, just tell me the truth", he urged.
"Is this your own wish or is your family forcing you?"
"They are not forcing me."
"O Dipika, how you fooled me! I have given you all my heart", he sighed.

"I'm sorry, Rajan. I like you a lot too. Had you been an Assamese I'd never marry
anyone else. But it can't be helped. We have to consider what society would think."

That harsh, jarring note again. Coming from her. It tore his heart. They walked out with a grim air. He escorted her to the bus stop.
"Take my best wishes. Happy marriage!. As for me, I'm an alien here as anywhere else. I can't stay here after this. I must leave the country."
She looked at him with pity. "Where will you go?" she asked.
"My uncle in Canada has been inviting me. I had refused, saying I wanted to stay here and serve my country. Perhaps I should reconsider and try my luck."
"But if you feel an alien in your own country, will it be any better in a foreign land?"
"It will be different, at any rate. You'd go there expecting the alien treatment."

The bus came. She boarded. He walked off in the opposite direction.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Wherever i go, whatever i do, there’s one quality for which i’m usually easily number one among the people i’m with. Yeah, i always knew i had this, but didn’t quite realise the number one factor until a colleague pointed it out. This guy was appointed to tell jokes at a function in our college. He listed a few of the teachers who could be labelled ‘-est’ in different ways, like the tallest, best singer, best draught player, and so on. And then he announced my name as the short-est.

Yes, i have to admit i’m vertically challenged. In fact, people keep rubbing this in. Colleagues, friends and family like to tease me about it. But you know, i don’t really mind it. Not even during the sensitive teenage years. True, were it possible, i’d love to add several centimetres to my height. But since it can’t be done, i don’t fret too much.

But the real sore point, the lack that really hurts, is in the matter of the brain. I feel soooo deficient in knowledge and intelligence. My ignorance is abysmal. And my grey cells are in the habit of taking French leave.

Like once, when we went to a zoo, we came to a gate marked ‘Pre-historic animals.’ I looked in and saw two huge dinosaurs towering high. I was delighted. How wonderful to see these creatures in flesh and blood! But to my great disappointment, they just stayed in the same position and didn’t move. Why, they were only dummies!! I could cry in despair while my friends laughed at my silly-ness.

And then, we had a scooter that we kept for sixteen years till it practically fell apart. And in all those years, i just couldn’t remember its registration number. And not for not trying. And to this day, i can’t memorise our landline phone or our car number.

My brainy kid sister once called me mentally retarded in one of those young-days sibling squibbles. And i’m still trying hard to disbelieve her.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

Please wish me, people. But don’t ask my age—i’ve lost count of it. Never was good with figures any way. Doesn’t matter. I’m glad to be alive and—if not exactly kicking—still walking and talking. Let me take this chance to share some of my life’s motto, hope you don’t mind. Here we go:
1. Honour God, give Him your best.
2. Do good to others as you can. Try not to harm anyone.
3. Live simply and travel light. Cut out fussy frills.
4. Laugh at yourself.
These, in short, are my goal posts.

This year’s birthday is a little lonely, with the children grown and away. Just a cake with hubby, that’s it. O yeah, i’m expecting a bouquet from my colleagues tomorrow. I’ve usually avoided birthday bashes. But it used to be an occasion for family time.

Like once in Bangalore, when i got up in the morning, the hall had become alive with plants and flowers. The family was waiting to wish me. My two children, who normally had to be woken for breakfast, had got up early to decorate the house. They had secretly bought all those potted plants the day before, i’ve no clue how they did it and hid it. That was a glorious day!

Another time, this too in B’lore, the guys were out of station and only daughter and i were home. She asked what treat i wanted. I chose an excursion to a bookshop. So, late in the evening after work, we set out on her battered, rickety kinetic and bought books. Then she treated me to dinner at a posh restaurant. By the time we came out it was 11pm. Then we found the back tyre had a puncture. So we pushed it to the workshop quite a bit away. Traffic had thinned, and the road was quiet. We were thankful for the workshop that stayed open 24 hours. It was midnight by the time we started back for home. I wouldn’t like to repeat such an adventurous birthday, but it sure was a memorable one.

And then last year, they bought me the latest Harry Potter—wasn’t i glad!

Okay then, Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

my rival

Martha and i are fairly good friends now. But our first acquaintance was on an unpleasant note because she started off as —
My rival

Life has not been the same since Martha came. She was originally supposed to be our servant. She was invited home one day in late September, a couple of weeks after my birthday, by my husband and our son. My husband, who had conveniently forgotten to give me a present for my birthday, decided to dub her my belated birthday present.

My birthday present? Servant? What a joke! She became the queen of our lives. She was put up in the better bedroom of the house. Right from day one she started ruling over our family. She captivated the hearts of my middle aged husband and twenty-ish son. They simply adored her. They wanted to spend all their time at home with her. In the pre-Martha days, my husband used to call me (when he was in a good mood) the heart of the home. Now Martha became that. Rather, the queen of hearts of the home. Before she came, both my husband and son used to 'Hi' me and sometimes even stop to chat when they came home. No more. They would rush straight looking for her. Or if they address me at all, it is to ask about Martha. Is she alright? Is she comfortable? What did she do today?

Disgusting, really! Of course, Martha is young, pretty, brainy. In all honesty i have to admit that though i can't help casting the green eye on her. She is charming. I can well understand my son's feeling for her. He is a young man. But my not-young husband, shouldn't he have a bit more sense?

After days of hair-pulling and nail-biting, i decided to put on my thinking cap. Then light dawned: the saying “If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em.” I decided to join them. Make friends with Martha too. Love her as they do. Kiss her feet, figuratively.

I approached gingerly as she was sitting regally in her room. I talked to her, sweet words hiding a bitter heart. I requested her to do some work. But Martha is no fool. My sugar-words did not deceive her. She repulsed me bluntly and flatly refused to do my bidding. I was stymied. In a panic i called up my son, telling him Martha's rude to me, is misbehaving with me, and so forth. He, the boy i had borne and brought up, had the cheek to reply that Martha would not misbehave if i treat her right!

Anyhow, i swallowed my pride and asked him what i should do. He told me. Then slowly, with a lot of bungling on my part and rude rebuffs on hers, we started to get along. The animosity between us melted gradually. She is learning to tolerate me and i am trying to forgive her for stealing my family's affections from me. We may never become the best of friends but we can at least learn to live under the same roof. I am even beginning to be glad that Martha came home. After all, she is a good PC (HCL Pentium 3).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Terrorism by militants, political or religious extremists, communalists, government forces... is growing and growing. Why is there no sight of an end? Because violence begets violence. And more violence. It keeps multiplying.

We were in Assam till the first half of 2004. The deeds of those who called themselves ‘liberators’ of the people were horrendous. The retaliation by government agencies was the same. The worst sufferers were mostly innocent people caught in between.

Here are some protest verses i wrote back in those days.


Full of life and fun
the little boy
just turned seven
looked forward to future
to do grown up things—
ride a bike, fly a plane,
bring mummy and daddy presents.

A loud burst
the spirited chatter
for ever.
a bloody mess
and deep pain

Republic day 04

i’d love to celebrate;
fly the flag,
sing and dance;
but i’m scared.

scared of those who
silence songs with

sound of bomb is
louder than

but louder still are
cries of orphans and
ravaged women.

what price liberation?


our homes are drowned in
flood of blood
and tears.

they come from jungles,
loot, shoot,
commit carnage.

then come bigger guns
from cities;
more carnage,
more cries.

those on higher grounds
watch it all in a

they cluck or chuckle
while our homes are drowned in
flood of blood
and tears.

Sorry to offend your tastes and sensibilities with this ‘bloody’ stuff. But reality needs to be shown, however unpleasant.

Friday, July 25, 2008

the trip

My boss wasn’t happy to grant me leave as she was going on work tour just around the same time. I felt like crying. The daily hurry to work and back was driving me nuts, i badly needed a little time to breathe. Besides, the visit was crucial for other reasons.

She thought it over for two nights. “So, what have you decided?” she finally asked.
“I can’t go if you say ‘no’, and i’m too old to throw a tantrum”, i replied.
“You feel like throwing a tantrum?”
“Okay, go, but next time make sure we’re not away at the same time.”

I could’ve grinned from ear to ear and whooped and jigged. Instead, i demurely thanked her and walked out sedately. But i couldn’t contain my excitement while saying bye to my colleagues.

D received us (hubby & me) at Ajmer station though our train was two hours late. The half hour drive to Pushkar was on winding road through rocky hills. It felt so good to be free of Mumbai heat and jam.

D had booked us a room on the second floor of Lake Palace with spacious balconies overlooking the lake. We could see both sunrise and sunset from there. On one end of the compound was a music school.

The first evening, after bath and refreshments, the music teacher treated us to desh raag and guzzar toda in the music room. Listening to Indian classical live was quite an experience. Then he took us on a walk round the lake, explaining as we went. On the way we passed ruined durbar halls where Shah Jahan had sat in olden times.

Around nine thirty, we came back to the hotel for dinner on the rooftop restaurant. Several locals and firangis were hanging around on the terrace, some strumming guitar and crooning in turns. They greeted the music teacher loudly as we sat down. We asked for a Rajasthani thali but it would take a long time to prepare so we had to settle for an ordinary Indian one.

Next day D took us home. His original house was a chief priest’s haveli on the lake bank. But he gave it away to relatives and now lives in an ashram his father built in a harijan colony when he followed Gandhiji around during the freedom fight. Lovely family. D’s elder daughter had taken leave to cook for us. Sumptuous Rajasthani meal starting with ‘bati’.

Evening we sat on the hotel balcony and listened to live music from the school and dined on the rooftop again. Next morning we had breakfast at D’s old haveli. Malpua sweet was a new delicacy. Then we roamed around the ghats, D telling us old stories about them. Gaughat had been visited by Queen Victoria and other dignitaries. We went into Brahma temple, supposed to be the only one in the world. (The temples of his two wives overlook from the tops of two hills on opposite sides of the town’s outskirts). Our guide lamented that policemen are now guarding the courtyard where in old days rishis used to sit meditating.

We went back to D’s house for lunch. The grown-ups told us that the teen aged grandson and granddaughter had nicknamed me ‘Chinese Aunty’ and liked me because they like Jackie Chan!

Sunday we went to church in Ajmer and then sightseeing. Each of the places we visited could fill a page to describe, so i won’t try it here.

Pushkar is a geographical interest. It has lakes, gardens, and sand dunes within a small area, and is surrounded by hills. It is also rich in temples, myths, history and many other things. It’s getting too long for a blog. I’ll tell you the stories in another form some day.
Sorry, i can't figure out how to put in labels for the pictures. Just guess it!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Give me a break!

The alarm rings. You open bleary eyes with great effort and get up. You shuffle into the kitchen and brew strong black coffee. Sitting by the window, you sip from the steaming mug. As the hot liquid glides down your throat, you begin to wake up slowly. Opening your Bible, you read a short passage and try to meditate, praying for guidance for the day. Then the day’s rush starts.

As fast as you can move you cook lunch, get breakfast ready, make tea, and pack the lunch boxes. You gobble a sandwich that refuses to go down as your gullet is constricted with tension. You force it down with tea. You dump all the dirty plates, cups, etc in the sink and sprint to the loo. The dentist had told you to brush each tooth at least ten times, so you count each stroke, making the movements fast. You take a hot shower and dress with hands trembling for fear of not moving fast enough. You quickly run a comb through your hair that’s been cut short for the sake of convenience. No time to apply make-up. How often have you envied a well-turned-out face and resolved to try for it! But that Lacto Calamine lotion and Lakme lipstick are still lying unused. Congrats, you managed to dab on some moisturiser (though sweat will wash it off in no time) and eye-liner (that’ll at least leave some trace). You grab your bag, chunni and sandals and race for the door.

“Have you taken your phone?” hubby asks. “Your watch? Glasses? Train pass? Umbrella? Bus fare?”

Oh no! Both lifts are moving and in wrong directions. The one below your floor is going down and the one above going up. You press the button and wait, hardly daring to breathe. One stops at your floor at last....

The bus is crowded as usual. ... You somehow manage to wedge your handbag between you and the man’s paunch rubbing against you. “Itna bada pet leke kyong aaya?” (“Why did you bring such a big belly?) you complain in your mind....

At the station, you edge your way to join the current of human mass moving the way you wish to go. If you happen to be caught in the wrong one, you’d move in the opposite direction. Crowds, crowds, crowds. Whew! You make it to your platform just on time. The train’s already there, about to move. You slump down on a seat and shut your eyes to catch up on a bit of sleep....

After the day’s work, you retrace the steps. Human jam. Traffic jam. Your nine to five job takes up twelve hours of your day. Piles of washing, cleaning, and cooking waiting at home. And writing to do.

Guess i need a break. Got to slow down. Or break down. Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

As we rush

With apology to James Thomson. His rushing in a train with a travelling companion seemed so sweet and peaceful. But then, that was way back in early part of 18 C. Compared to his, our daily rush to, and with, work sometimes feels pointless.

As we rush as we rush for our train
Our bags in a hurry we pack;
But at times all the haste is in vain
For traffic jams hold us back.

As we rush, as we rush with our work,
Our friends and our families keep moving back;
But the threats that in dark corners lurk
Will never leave our track.

We will rush on in tension and fear,
Though machines are fast, and our brains we rack—
For we carry the back-logs with us, dear,
On our way more and more tasks stack.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Kan nitin feh mual a hla,
hun indaih loh reng a na.

Mup mup, nuai nuai,
huai huai, luai luai,
thlarau nei lo an ti
he khawpui hi.

Kiltin ah, nitin in
khawi lam atrang in,
hei zat engtin nge
an punkhawm le?

Hei ang zozai zingah,
hetiang mipui karah
hmelhriat awm si lo,
biangbiak tur awm lo.

Che rawk rawk,
kal hmawk hmawk,
tlan dawr dawr,
thawk bawrh bawrh,
hmanhmawh reng reng
ni leng!

Tlai hlau ke-pen an,
thawkmawh zing-hmel an
‘welcome’ an ziak lo;
‘min hnaih suh aw,
muthilh ka la mamawh,
breakfast ka la ei lo,
ka khuih hman lo sam pawh,
lipstick hnawih ka la ngai,
kan buai ngei mai!’

Feh kawngah hei zawng kan tlan,
Enge kan um, enge kan man?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Duhthu Sam


Samah sam luat a awm em ni?
Sam zel mai dawn lungruk duhai—
Duhai tin kim tawng mah lo i'
A dam mah na a riang thinlai.

Theih chang teh se hnu chhawn ka nuam
Lun lua, ri luai vangkhawpui hi,
Chungmu iangin sa huai phairuam
Kirtiang rel san ka nuam a ni.

Len lai rel in va tum i la
Lentu chawi vel tukram dai an,
Tah chuan run rem a rem mah na
Kum tluang hluan hring siahthing hnuai an.

Va zai, tui thiang, ri mawi ngaiin
Tuan va rel i', tlai ni tin in.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

a little kindness

On March 24 afternoon, we landed at Pune railway station to attend a seminar. We asked an auto-wala to take us to YMCA. “Seventy rupees,” he said. We bargained and he came down to fifty rupees. We felt we were being cheated, but couldn’t help it as we had no other way of getting there.

Quite a different experience on the return five days later. A Muslim driver in white kurta and cap took us. At the station, the metre read 2.10. We thought it told the fare too as in Mumbai, so my husband took out twenty rupees. “It’s only fifteen rupees,” the man said, “the figure is for kilometres.” Hubby was so touched by his honesty he complimented him and they shook hands.

In the train, a young shoepolish-wala came round offering his service. Hubby shook his head. But on seeing the expression on the polish-wala’s face, i asked hubby to hire him. His fee was five rupees. We had a ten rupee note, no one had change. So we told him to keep it all. His face brightened as he said “thank you.” After another round as he was getting out, he again thanked us. A gift of five rupees had made him that grateful.

This reminded me of another incident in Bangalore station a couple of years back. Hubby and son had gone to fetch some stuff while daughter and i waited. Porters were mobbing us and we shooed them away as best we could. But one chap hung on, practically begging us to let him carry our things for only twenty rupees. But we didn’t. When the guys came we just picked up our bags and left. We’re in the habit of travelling light and carrying our own baggage. Habit won, and so deprived that poor man the chance to earn a little income. I still feel bad when i think of that.

Each day we’re faced with many small decisions that have to be made in a moment. To cheat or be honest. To be kind or indifferent. And a little kindness has such a way of brightening the day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good Friday thoughts

I’d been refusing to watch the movie 'The Passion of Christ.' Couldn’t bear to see even the bits of clippings on TV. I avoid such painful sights as much as possible. And to think it’s real—not just fiction! But the Gethsemane scene shown by someone at a seminar impressed me so much i bought a CD and watched, but had to stop half way.

No wonder even the traitor Judas regretted his betrayal so much that he committed suicide. If only he knew Jesus would still forgive and welcome him if he turned back to Him!
This poem is my interpretation of Judas’ character and motive, see if it makes sense to you.

He tried to use the Lord
as a means
to gain his end.

He followed Him about
with heart set on

He saw Him at work—
turn water to wine,
feed the hungry,
heal the sick,
raise the dead.

Wouldn't such a powerful leader
multiply gold
to make His followers

But that wasn't His plan.

So he stole
from the common fund.

Growing greedier by degrees,
he sold the Son of God
for thirty pieces of silver.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

just thinking

Fighting alienation

Once while travelling in a train the TT, seeing my face, asked whether I could get him a khukri. Another time, on a guided sightseeing trip in Chennai, a vai guy gave me a friendly greeting and asked “What country are you from, Madam?”

“I’m an Indian, from Mizoram,” I answered.

The chap’s face fell. “We’re neighbours then. I’m from Silchar,” he said in a sort of despondent way. He lost all interest in me after that.

We were invited to attend an annual meeting of a particular clan of Keralites in Bangalore. They requested me to come in my Mizo dress and sing a Mizo song. I’d never dare sing a solo among my own community but believe it or not, I called up enough guts to actually sing ‘Kan zotlang ram nuam’ before a crowd of pure Malayalees. I grabbed the chance of publicizing my people and our lovely songs.

Outside the northeast region of India, we people of the Mongoloid race are called ‘Chinkies’, ‘Nepalis’ or ‘Assamese’. Or we get mistaken for foreigners. Most of us who come out of the region have lots of experiences to recount, irritating or amusing, depending on how one takes it. We could either react by drawing back into our shells, or go ahead and face it, making our marks in the process. Like HT Sangliana, MP and ex-super cop of Bangalore, has done.

Pu Sangliana is a chink like us, was placed in the tough job of a cop. He faced racial prejudice and taunts like any of us. He had to fight crime and corruption, both on the streets and in high places. No easy task among your own people, doubly difficult in a big city where you’re considered an outsider. But he did it! And won the affection and admiration of a ‘strange’ people. They even made Kannada films on his life. A Kannadinga guy told me that when he was a child, his elders used to tell him stories about Sangliana.

Let’s listen to his message to us North-easterners in an interview with the writer some years back:

“The Northeast as a whole is very beautiful, fertile, and only if they work harder there's no difficulty in eking out a livelihood. And they should accept that Indian citizenship is an absolutely beautiful citizenship. We should all have a full sense of belonging to India. The more we feel Indian, the more we'll become owners. And nobody can call us second class citizens. India is a big and free country.
“Insurgency has to stop. People in the mainland are surging ahead; living condition and per-capita income are improving everyday. The Northeast is behaving like a small village. All of us should have broad mind and determination to fight for our own future, not by taking up arms but by working harder. We have a great opportunity to come up in every aspect of life. Let us have quality young men and young women who can stand on their own feet and lead the North-eastern people.”

Sound advice, don’t you think?

Monday, February 25, 2008


when dream dies

when dream dies
it's hard not to cry.

so shed tears,
grieve a while,
then bury the dead
out of sight.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Indian Shore
(With apology to Arnold's 'Dover Beach')

The sea is calm tonight,
But on the land
Lies restless fear,
And on the streets
Stalk evil and dark deeds —
Lying, cheating, stealing, robbing,
Stabbing, shooting, grenade-lobbing.
The sea of faith
Was once a soothing balm,
But now the so-called 'faith'
Only brings contention, superstition,
Fanaticism, and terrorism.

Are the leaders' hearts
Made of lead and stone?
In their power game
They scatter rage and hate
With not a thought for the people's fate.

Ah, Love, let us not grow
Too close together,
Lest we care for one another
And feel bad to exploit each other.
For what is life, unless
One can further one's ambition, and climb
Up and up the success ladder
By standing on another's shoulder?
What is love worth?
After all, what matter most
Are power and wealth.
What if one's soul be lost?

Sunday, February 3, 2008


in search of images

what image can i draw
for this pain,
this despair?

what image for
lost possibilities,

what image for
regrets with
no consolation,
no second chance?

what image can express
the emptiness,
the silence?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008



a patch of rain washed sky
palms waving in the wind
sunlight streaming

bumpitty bumpitty
three legged cart

abarram parrillakalla kandillagarra
attention please
duk chuk duk chuk duk chuk

billboards garment shops
suburban houses
crossing gate
dammed up traffic

green fields coconut palms
red roofed cottages
ducks in a pond

dadak dadak dadak dadak
undulating hills
green forests
rocky walls

tunnels long and dark