Understanding Mr Kapoor

“There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him”
Antonin Artaud

How does one define genius? An individual who doesn’t speak the language of the ordinary, someone whose vision defies stereotypes. Who decides the extraordinary? A bunch of book critics...art gallery owners…stuffy academicians! In a society that enshrines the ordinary, how does one understand a person whose vision is beyond the scope of the ordinary? It takes another man of exceptional capability, to appreciate and fathom a genius. A painter who unleashes his soul on the canvas, a scientist who challenges the conventional, the actor who refuses to compromise, musicians who strike an unknown note… Isaac Asimov, Sylvia Plath, Joyce, Kafka, Bach….the examples are far too many.

Stories of individuals who lived a misunderstood, tortured life, battling polarized opinions and dying in penury. Their work discovered and celebrated later – recognition earned posthumously. It took a Salieri to understand Mozart (and Salieri was Mozart’s most bitter rival). Did you know Einstein won the Nobel not for his path-breaking theory of relativity but for his little known photoelectric effect? Why? Because at that point of time it was beyond the comprehension of many – only two fellow scientists Silberstein and Eddington, understood its far-reaching potential. Ironic isn’t it?

I was going to witness the work of a maverick artiste – revered as God by many and labeled pretentious by a few. It is tough to define Anish Kapoor – an architect, a sculptor extraordinaire, an installation artiste. Hailed as one of the most influential sculptors of his generation, he is unfortunately mostly unknown in the country of his origin. I hadn’t heard of him, till he was invited to exhibit some his iconic work in the cities of Mumbai and Delhi.

It takes time to warm up to Mr Kapoor’s works – you don’t start oohing and aahing instantly. Just like the movie “Inception” where you took twenty minutes before you even started grasping Nolan’s world of dreams within dreams. Anish Kapoor dwarfs you with his vision, it’s so expansive. His architecture defies convention – a foot bridge that looks like a bubble, a subway built like a large bulbous organism suddenly breaking into a void, spirals of nothingness. His work transcends architecture, sculpture and art. A void bored into a mountain, sculpture that blends fabrics with steel, a gigantic foghorn sitting on a coastline. Each piece taunts you with its absurdity. He presents his interpretation of universe through his gigantic pieces. His shapes evoke images of the human body. Illusion is central to his work.

His fascination with the void is evident in most of his works, a hole of nothingness with you at its brink – terrifying yet fascinating. A polished stainless steel “S Curve” that almost seems alive! He loves playing with single, solid colours – vivid plashes of yellow, the deep purple that creates an illusion of depth , the vibrant crimson that so defines our culture. His art is typified by the absence of edges – it’s flamboyant, smooth, you have this unbearable urge to touch and feel the texture, caress its smooth lines.

Of what started as a Am I wasting my time here ended with me feeling blessed to have witnessed art this extraordinary. In Kapoor’s words…Earlier it was me trying to tell the world what I’m saying and now it’s other’s clamoring to tell me what my work is telling them!

I don’t think I’ve reached a stage where I can interpret Anish Kapoor. All I can say is, only in letting go do we find our true selves. You never know what hidden gem you’ll unearth. Good, bad or ugly, just embrace it with an open heart.
Our creative genius is the fountainhead of originality. It fires our compulsion to evolve. It inspires us to challenge norms. Creative genius is about flying to new heights on untested wings. It is about the danger of crashing.
~~ Gordon MacKenzie

The Big-O Crisis

Pic courtesy:Ifood.TV
The Big-O crisis has sent the Indian junta into a tizzy. The hottest topic of debate, our netas are raising hell over it (Wireless Radia can heave a sigh of relief). CNN-IBN reporters have shifted bag and baggage to mandis, not for their new-found love for subzi but to clandestinely film seedy hoarders spilling the beans. The Onion is now breaking news. It has made Sharad Pawarless.

The great Indian leveler, the most egalitarian of vegetables – the onion is sought after by Aam Admi to Ambani . Every palate craves for it, unless you have renounced the world. Our kitchens whisper softly into its pink glistening skin …you complete me. The poor peasants’ meal is incomplete without a bite of the pungent bulb. It adds chutzpah, that crunchy zing to our meal. Of course the wicked veggie it is, it is layered to bring out the tears, but do we mind?? Naah.

But these days the modest onion is bringing tears of the other kind – tears of frustration. The naughty little bulbs have been playing truant and prefer the cool comfort of dark-dank godowns. This has sent prices spiraling skywards and has raised a stink so strong that the government had to wake up and smell the onions (coffee is so passé). They have been tardy as usual, while the onion mafia is laughing all the way to the bank. Traders have been hoarding stockpiles of the smelly bulbs while the government is pottering around with ad hoc fixes. Thanks to an official missive, onions will cease to be globetrotting veggies and will be homebound till mid-January.

The onion deprivation has done a lot of good for our neighborly ties. For once we are looking forward to something from Pakistan – 40 truckloads of the humble bulbs all the way from Sindh to ease our Big-O predicament.

Inflation-hit onions have also been taking on the role of the great Indian unifier with aplomb. For once there is no north-south divide. If dosa makers down south have bid adieu to the bulb, then Mughlai chefs up north are using bread crumbs to thicken their gravies. And it has given way to some unique dishes like the Mutton no pyaaza.

Since our breaths are far from oniony, the sparkle is back into our conversations. We welcome this temporary reprieve from holding our breaths and not choking on our own words. Breath freshener companies are far from amused though about this new development and are now banking on garlic to come to their rescue. Another not-so-amused person is Graham Onion, the English cricketer. TV presenter Gaurav Kapur has been insisting the cricketer choose his reserve price per kilo for the IPL auctions.

But the elusive onions are rediscovering themselves in various avatars.

    Pic courtesy - Reuters
  • As the new ice breaker. Alone and getting bored at a party? Just say the magic words where are the onions at the buffet table and Whoa! you will have hordes clamoring to voice their opinions and don’t forget to pitch in with the choicest of gaalis for the government to keep the passions ignited.

  • As a sought after accessory. Many BJP workers are using them as a fashion statement and are now wearing them as garlands. Behen Mayawati has also been making surreptitious enquiries about 3-ton onion garlands (who wants currency notes anyway).

  • Sheila, the not so jawaan edition, has squarely laid the blame on the media for fuelling the onion price scare. But just when our kitchen austerity has nearly succeeded in bringing onion prices down to Earth, the ubiquitous tomato is demanding its share of limelight. The tomato is on its way to becoming the new onion.

So if you still haven’t decided on a Christmas present yet – ditch that box of chocolates. A kilo of onions snuggling on a bed of tomatoes, wrapped in red and gold, is priceless!

Bloggers from Delhi meet-the unofficial version

I almost didn’t make it for the bloggers meet. Not that I wasn’t keen. Having read so many accounts of Indiblogger-meets, I had been waiting for the Delhi version for months. And every time I read an announcement about a new meet (even Dubai got one), I would sulk and wonder, why not Delhi?

Well it did happen, out of the blue, at such a short notice that I was far from amused. In winters we Delhites come out of our self-imposed hibernation and make the most of the weather. People eligible, ineligible get married, the city comes to life with its many exhibitions and concerts and we party like apocalypse is just round the corner. And moi goes on an overdrive inviting her long ignored friends. And it was on Saturday 18th Dec, the same day as the Indi-meet I had chosen to throw a dessert party for my close friends (yes, such a thing exists especially for people who think cooking is a mind numbing chore). I was supposed to make paatishaptas (a sweet crepe with a coconut-kheer filling). Of course the drama queen I am, I had been stressing about it for days. But my fears were not entirely unfounded, I have made this Bengali dessert precisely twice in my entire lifetime and ended up bragging about it on FB and that’s what got me in trouble. And now this meet, I so wanted to go to but couldn’t. How can I? I will be spending the entire day bumbling, fumbling in the kitchen, completely engrossed in my culinary misadventures.

I spent the entire week apologizing profusely….to my few blogger friends from Delhi for my inability to make it (two to be precise) …. I even sent a preemptive text to my friend apologizing for my imagined culinary disaster.

It was the last minute mail from Vineet Rajan from Indiblogger that changed my mind…. Hope to see you at the Delhi blogger meet! Mom will also be there. And his Mom is none other than “Zephyr”, one of my favourite bloggers. That was it, I took back my apology notes and there I was on my way to Religare Art Gallery, the venue for the meet.

On my way, I nearly perished of the mad-bad Delhi traffic. What are a zillion people doing on the road and that too on a Saturday!! I was afraid that I would end up ranting about the traffic mess during my formal intro at the gathering. It took me nearly two hours of what should have normally taken 40 minutes to reach Connaught Place. But when you are in Delhi, you forget what normal is.

I was late but so were many others and I entered the hall all smiley faced, my hair flying in all directions. At the entrance I was greeted warmly by Vineet but the ill mannered lout I am, all I could manage was “where’s Mom” (his not mine). She had yet to turn up.

It was at the meet I came face to face with the truth….we bloggers are a bunch of boring nerds. I almost fell asleep during the introductions (a notable few did sparkle though). And some of us are endearingly shy. Anoop Johnson, our MC for the day did try to liven up the proceedings with his crackling humour.

The Delhi meet also had a very important social cause associated with it - The blanket of relief “an initiative to distribute blankets to help Delhi’s homeless fight the biting cold”. We had a fun quiz too, conducted by mydala (Indibloggers’s social partner) where we were asked soul searching questions as – what does Cinnabon taste like(sweet, sour ,salty) what did the guy say when he threw his wristwatch out of the window …..And we went mad screaming out the answers, why! because the giveaways were free Cinnabon hampers.

Zephyr, Tikulli and moi-Pic courtesy Tikulli Dogra

And to make us feel 16 again, we were given chart papers to hang from our backs and asked to get as many comments from fellow bloggers. After the meet I have come up with a new wisecrack….I thought I was almost famous till I went to an Indiblogger-meet. No one, absolutely no-one, barring ten people (or was it nine) reads my blog. But the brave soul I am, I don’t let such trivialities deter me….. Hi I am Purba…Purba Ray….My blog is A-musing, yes with a hyphen in between…. I did have a few coming up to me saying… You are Purba aren’t you…Loved your article on…and I silently let out a whoop of delight. But I did get to meet Zephyr the author of CyberNag, her L&M and her very cute granddaughter. I was dying to give my favourite blogger a tight hug but showed remarkable restraint. It was a pleasure connecting with Tikulli, IHM, Abha, Richa, Pankaj Batra, Sangeeta, Ankita, Arushi, Prerna and reconnecting with old friends Prateek Varma, Himanshu Shekhar and Desh.

Unfortunately I had to leave mid-way, my patishaptaas were beckoning to me. But I left with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I did let out an anguished cry though, at the sight of Janpath and all that tantalizing rastaa shopping and sadly no time on hand.

But my story does have a sweet ending. I had a rocking mid night adda session with my friends – the patishaptaas to my utter horror turned out remarkably well and the husband chipped in with a big batch of the yummiest malpuas. And now the statutory warning…..Dear readers, to avoid incurring my wrath, steer clear of asking where’s my share of patishaptaas? I will not be making them again, at least not in this lifetime. But I am looking forward to another Indiblogger-meet, preferably on a Sunday (when the traffic is almost sane) and at a non centrally located place (to avoid the rush). Is anyone listening????

Your Weekly Dose Of Spice

These days we need scientific research to tell us how to flirt, what makes us happy, the colour of lipstick to wear to attract a man’s attention. Incredulous findings that make you almost choke on your morning cup of coffee - a bunch of good-for-nothing nerds, who will waste half their uneventful life researching and come up with path breaking findings- Women who thoroughly dust their houses have a high chance of becoming pregnant… Chewing gum can give you wrinkles around the mouth… Men crave sex even in old age and the difference is most pronounced in the 75-85 age groups….Men are programmed to have a lustful, wandering eye and have affairs.…. Having a younger man for a husband lowers your life expectancy. I am convinced these researchers are of the male variety. But it makes for fun reading and you can look up from the paper and say “Guess what they have come with now!!”

Here’s a sample of the latest findings. Money can buy you happiness, but only if you earn more than your friends. Studies have revealed that yes the rich are happier, but what matters is earning more than others and not the actual amount earned. So for the sake of your happiness people, never ever ask your friends about the digits they earn!! Better safe than sorry.

Portrait Workshop

Remember Mona Lisa’s smile – that makes you wonder whether it’s a smile or a smirk or simply a case of a pout gone wrong. It now seems there’s something wrong with her eyes as well. In what mirrors the book and Hollywood movie ‘The Da Vinci Code’, art historians claim to have uncovered a real-life Da Vinci code, after they found tiny letters painted into the eyes of the Mona Lisa. The experts examined the Mona Lisa after finding a book in an antique shop that claimed there were tiny hidden symbols in the eyes. “The question now is what do they mean?” Any guesses? But from what I’ve seen at the Louvre, one tiny painting encased behind a glass façade and a horde of Japanese clicking with wild enthusiasm, I wish the code reads it’s me you morons, Da Vinci in drag, gotcha!!

And if we are talking of Da Vinci’s Code can the Holy Grail be far behind. A new survey of online flirting by a dating website Badoo.com, claim to have found the Holy Grail of flirting. Yes, the secret is finally out -the best internet chat-up line for men to use is “You have beautiful lips”. So after you are done with playing a/s/l, a/s/l you can get down to business fast It’s safe, it’s foolproof and it’s works 99.99% times.

But one thing that’s definitely not safe and way past its expiry date is the 2,400-year-old bowl of soup, excavated from the ruins in China. Sealed in a three-legged bronze cooking pot, this culinary find was dug up from a tomb near the ancient capital of Xian by Chinese archeologists. For over 2000 years nobody touched that soup! It must have been really bad.


At least some things are changing. The Leaning Tower of Pisa which has been leaning since 1178 A.D is now straightening up its act thanks to an eight year restoration project. Engineers have managed to correct the tower's famous lean by 46 centimetres, returning it to its 19th century position. What do you think they’ll call the Leaning Tower of Pisa now – Leaning but now straight?

ut before I sign off I have to share this precious nugget of information with you. Christina Aguilera who’s turning 30 this month, has proclaimed she is not worried about getting old. Sweetheart you should come to Incredible India where you are “officially” young, till you turn 35. You need to be 25 before you can even hold that mug of frothy beer - officially of course. At 40 Rahul Gandhi, heir apparent is the young leader of India. And at 76 Karunanidhi rocks with his many wives! (Men crave sex even in old age and the difference is Bmost pronounced in the 75-85 age groups)

Come to India, the country of eternal youth.

Let’s Give Silence A Chance

How many times have you rambled about the weather, when you had nothing better to say? I hear it around me all the time. People who love the sound of their voice, who will drone on and on filling you up with every painful detail of their life (just like my last post), how ungrateful their servants are, what an adorable creature they are. Men who can’t talk beyond their office, women who think their child is a reincarnation of Einstein.

Those of you, who read my posts regularly, might have assumed that I love talking. I was a bubbly, talkative kid, a nightmare for most of my teachers. I still am a people’s person and a sparkling conversation makes my spirit soar. Unfortunately with age and experience, I have become picky. I am quick to pick on vibes and clam up the moment I sense negativity. I can light up like a 100 watt bulb and flicker uncertainly - I can sit in a crowded room and still feel alone.

Have you noticed people who talk too much are mostly poor listeners? A family acquaintance who can talk non-stop detailing his experience with the carpenter and the intricacies of his new door, a friend who uses you as a sounding board to vent her miseries, a colleague who loves giving minute to minute details of her latest shopping expedition. And the moment you open your mouth to say something about your inconsequential life, their eyes glaze over. And I can’t help but think of this classic line from Jab We Met...”Mein apni sabse favourite hoon”. But even if many of us have a lifelong affair with ourselves, we are terribly afraid of our own company. So afraid to sit alone in a cafe, uncomfortable at the thought of going out for a movie alone. What will people think? Will they feel sorry for me? At home alone, we are afraid at the prospect of having nothing to do. Emptiness scares us, loneliness intimidates us. Is it why we are terrified of old age?

It is during these times our avocations come to our rescue. Remember that rainy day, when you were forced to stay indoors. How you took shook off dust from your long forgotten stamp collection album and smiled wistfully as you leafed through the pages. Running your hands lovingly over the stamps, each with its own unique story. Pulling out that musty smelling book from the shelf and reliving your first flush of romance. That’s why it’s so important to have hobbies ; it is the best gift you can give yourself. Unfortunately we have too many distractions vying for our attention. The television, the internet, the DVD player, the phone you can’t live without. It’s as if we dread being alone with our thoughts.

Excuse me while I ramble

The last few weeks left me breathless, gasping for time. My soulmate – my cook went off for two months for her annual vacation leaving me with anxiety pangs and petulant desolation. Her replacement was a nightmare, someone who couldn’t differentiate cumin from aniseed and looked at the pressure cooker as if it were a UFO.

I also had relatives over for a short stay. And when you have visiting relatives, you can’t get away with shortcuts. You are expected to cook proper meals and put on your best behaviour. I remember as a child, how I excited I would be every time we had our gaggle of relatives visiting us during the summer break. I would be in a fevered state of anticipation of the good times ahead and thought Maa was a big spoilsport with her concern for all that extra work. How drastically your perspective changes with age – now it’s me who frets about the extra effort and the infringement of my valued personal space.

This series of unprecedented events also coincided with me enrolling for yoga class, besides my regular workouts at the gym. My cleaning lady in her endeavour to further spice things up decided she needed a break too. It was harrowing – piles of unwashed utensils, spending most of my day in the kitchen cooking while my trainee cook looked on. And I wasn’t willing to compromise on anything. I had to attend my yoga classes, household chores couldn’t take a backseat either and I didn’t want to give up on my blogging. For me writing a post is not about switching on my computer, thrashing the keyboard and magically producing a post. I do get my bursts of spontaneity but most of the times my write-ups, especially the memoirs, are a labour of love. Sometimes I spend days working and reworking my articles.

Stranger than fiction

We are living in strange times.

Image courtesy: Toonpool.com
A group of villagers from Shahbarsa UP, tired of the inept ways of their village heads made a local beggar Narayan Nat, apply for the post of Village Pradhan. He was elected to the post last month. Although Nat is entitled to a Rs 1500 honorarium, he is no mood to quit his “family business” of begging. He now has people lined up, waiting politely for their turn, who not only drop coins in his palm, but also get their problems addressed. A village head, who begs to differ.

Definitely more honourable than stealing. Neera Yadav, former Chief Secretary UP is fast emerging the new age feminist. Why should only men be corrupt, what they can do I can do better. Close on the heels of Raja of scams, comes the Maharani of scams. The lady in question has caused a loss of 5000 crores to state exchequer, thanks to her large scale bungling in land allotment during her tenure as Chairperson of Noida. She has many other unique distinctions to her credit. During her 25 years of service, she was one of the most corrupt officers of the UP cadre. So much so, that the IAS association voted her as the corrupt bureaucrat No. 1. Last heard David Dhawan was trying to ink a deal with Neera Devi.

The Unbong Bong

I think I look like a Bengali even though I don’t have the trademark lush, long hair and am not exactly doe eyed. I definitely don’t sound like one. And no, I never wear a red bordered sari and don’t get into paroxysms every time I hear Robindro Shongeet. Sometimes people are surprised when they come to know I am from the cultural hotpot of the East.

I am a “Probashee Bangalee” which translated means a Bengali who has never lived in Bengal. As a Bengali born and brought up in Punjabified- Delhi, where people think India begins and ends with North India, I am often confronted with stereotypes. People assume all of us were born clutching a fish and have it morning, noon and night. The Bhadrolok’s love for fish is legendary but unfortunately I am not one of them. Neither am I a big fan of rice. My unconventional preferences made my Mum fret incessantly. She would often prophesize doom for me – what will happen to you if you get married into a conventional Kolkata family! Well, I did get married to a true blue bong who loves his fish as much as he does his Strauss but don’t startling contrasts make the best unions?

Although I love Kolkata, a city that has a soft corner for its three eph’s - Phish, phootball and phriends, where it’s diligent citizens express their displeasure by going on strikes - I do feel like “an Englishman in New York”, during my visits there. Most of its populace has an opinion on everything, argues with passion and is a closet revolutionary. The bhodrolok loves breaking into Keats at the drop of a hat and every adda is interspersed with a soulful rendition of Nazrul geeti or Robindro shongeet. And you are the only silent one in the room sitting with a silly, ignorant grin.

Not that it’s any better in Delhi. Tell a new acquaintance that you are a Bengali and you can bet your chhola bhaturaa that the first reaction you’ll get is Roshogulla. Yes, we invented this sugary dumpling but we invented many more legendary mishtees too. So why not a ledikeni, shondesh or chamcham? Didn’t William Cowper say” Variety is the spice of life”. And if I hear anyone say “ Aami tomake bhalobaashi” again, you can bet your sorry ass that am going to stuff your face with a treacherously bony Hilsa. Yes, just saying it feels good and dear readers please consider this a manual on what not to say when you meet a Bengali.

On Karvachauth, when most of your colleagues are decked up like Christmas trees and avoid the mere mention of water and grub, you standout like a sore thumb in your unadorned avatar and almost feel guilty glugging water from your bottle. I had to patiently clarify to my students that, yes I am married, no my husband is not planning to dump me and yes I do wish a long life for him. Once at the bus stop when one of my students wanted to know why am not wearing bangles, I told him with a straight face “In our culture the men fast for their wives”. He actually believed me. I feel like an alien when my friends excitedly exchange “kuttu ka atta” recipes during Navratra. But then, I feel out of place during the rest of the year as well- when they discuss Big Boss antics, Khatron Ke Khiladi, Mere Baap ki shaadi (is there such a soap? If not, producers please take note).

So what does that make me? A confused Bengali! A neither here neither there species! Or a Bengali proud of her roots even if she is a stranger to most of it. For me it’s a process of constant learning and unlearning. The other night as the husband read out one of Tagore’s poetry to me, we just couldn’t stop marveling at the timelessness of his works. My mother often gushes about Sunil Gangopadhay’s work and doesn’t think too highly of my choice of Indian authors who write in English. But does that make all Bengalis literary geniuses, just like we assume that southern states are home to mathematical wizards? Not really. So the next time if I hear someone say, you must be good singer no, most of you are …. that I owe my writing skills to my Bengali gene pool ,I will insist on reading out the entire Gitanjali to you in a quivering, emotion choked voice. Just like a typical Bengali!

Dedicated to Radhakanta, whose "fishy" enquiries prompted this post.
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It's A Gay World After All

Image courtesy : fugly.com
 All of you who thought Ibis was the name of a chain of hotels meant for the budget conscious traveller, here’s news for you. It’s an avian variety that was happy but now gay. The females of this species are not too thrilled about this development though.

Scientists believe that pollution in water is turning birds into homosexuals. Apparently white male Ibises have been giving a cold shoulder to the females of their species and prefer cosying up to each other instead. And since Papa Ibises now prefer other papas, baby chicks are not seeing the light of the day. It appears poisonous metal compounds entering the food chain is the culprit behind the altered sexuality of these birds. I would have preferred the male pigeons taking a shine to each other. Those of you staying in high rise apartments would be well aware of this feathered menace. In fact I had devoted an entire post to my pigeon litany. It is quite irksome to see and hear their constant furious coupling and then be privy to their irresponsible parenting. Baby pigeons keep tumbling down from their precariously perched nests on our AC compressors. And the rapidly multiplying population merrily poops all over our balconies. Papa pigeons it’s time you brought your alarmingly growing numbers under control.

I remember reading somewhere that the rising pollution level is also to blame for the changing sexual orientation of men. When I was in school gay meant happy and boys getting close to each other did not invite You are so gay comments. We merrily sang We are Springdalians happy and gay! And NOBODY sniggered. Well things have changed. Men now prefer pink, and all the eligible men are either married or gay. And now there’s even a fresh new preference on the block – the flexisexual. There are quite a few women who can’t seem to make up their mind and swing both ways. Visibly straight women do not mind singing I kissed a girl, just to try it, I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it. It felt so wrong, it felt so right. Ah the permutations and combinations of the modern world.

Educating Tee

Education is akin to religion for the great Indian middle class. Even as you are changing your baby’s nappy for the 25th time, fantasising about a good night’s sleep and dying to turn the clock back to your non-motherhood days, your family elders start making excited plans and knowledgeable predictions about your newborn’s future. Oh she loves tearing pages off the book....so you think she will be an educationist? Doesn’t she look cute jamming her fingers in electrical sockets....she will undoubtedly be an electrical engineer. Look at her, trying to dissect the cockroach with her fingers....yes she will be a doctor. Unfortunately my daughter was a big drama queen and loved looking at herself in the mirror....nobody dared suggest her vocation based on that.

It is usual for parents, grandparents and everybody else still alive in the family tree to take the business of educating their latest addition in the family rather seriously, more so if you hail from the Eastern states. The grandma will insist on teaching Bangla limericks even as your baby drools. The grandma’s dad on ventilator will give you a grim lecture on the need to inculcate serious studying habits at an early age. The granddad will read out Kafka to his granddaughter, her baffled expression be damned. And you will let out an exasperated sigh and exclaim “Can I first potty train her please????”

I guess I was unusually casual and gave more priority to sundry things like trying to keep my baby from plunging herself in a bucket of water or dissuade her from sticking a pencil up her nose. One fine sunny afternoon, standing on our ground floor balcony, reality hit me with a loud thud. It was neighbour's barely two year old son confidently rattling off English alphabets and numbers, while his Mum proudly looked on. Try as I might, I couldn’t share her jubilation and before her bonny boy could move on to Greek, I mumbled an apology and ran inside. I have been a bad, bad mom. My Tee is a good six months older and all she does is play around with the jhadoo & karhai and yelp in joy every time she sees the maid mopping the floor. A bleak future awaits her and she will curse me as she scours utensils for a living.

Soon it was time for Tee to go to preparatory school and for me to join back work. I realized a little belatedly that our baby girl didn’t know a word of Hindi. The husband and I had made a conscious decision to speak to her only in Bangla, so that she gets her mother tongue right. No “come baby, run to Mama, sit...stand..” for us. But kids can adapt wonderfully. By the time Tee was four she was speaking fluent Bangla, Oriya (courtesy our maid) and functional Hindi. By the time she was six, she was speaking good English, but had forgotten her Oriya.

Most mothers take schooling more seriously than their kids. They may have had carefree childhoods and barely passed their exams, but they want to make sure their progeny turn into an Einstein or Bill Gates. They derive a vicarious sense of achievement from the trophies their children bag. I had a simple criterion – I wanted Tee to go to a school where studies are the last priority. I wanted her to go to the school I went to. From clay modelling, to rendering songs for the dead departed children of Hiroshima, to teaching pre-delinquent kids, to whistling at ward boys under the garb of hospital service, we did it all. And if we had time left, we studied. And strangely our academic results were great. I wanted her to have a childhood she’ll cherish and I wanted a carefree motherhood for myself

Tee did have a carefree childhood but our parenthood was far from stress free. In class II, her class teacher banned unhealthy preserves and peanut butter from their sandwich. All my mornings were fraught with anxiety, wondering which unsuspecting vegetable’s turn it was to get sandwiched that day. Her weekly hobby class with its long list of unusual requirements gave me endless nightmares. 25 ice cream sticks, three medium sized white pebbles, 25 pink feathers, and the dreaded list was unfailingly sent just the day before. As if it’s usual to have a flock of pink feathered birds who shed on demand. Or it’s normal for every household to have a collection of ice cream sticks, handpicked from garbage cans. The school’s fancy dress parties on its founder’s day had me on the boil. Fishing out accessories, running to the neighbourhood boutique to get fancy ensembles stitched. Since my sewing is more like a cobbler’s and my craft skills almost non-existent, it was the husband’s duty to create elaborate Red Indian head gears or make antlers for her butterfly avatar. Yes, dadhood is a lot of hard work too. We had our proud moments ..six year old Tee on stage playing the fretting Mom, complaining loudly about her son’s TV watching habit....shimmering on stage doing her Japanese dance and chattering incessantly between breaks, completely oblivious to the audience...

Tee sat for her first board exams this year and it coincided with my leaving my job after months of dithering. Most of my colleagues assumed it was for the sake of her studies. I didn’t want to disappoint them and happily nodded in agreement. I’ve had very little to do with Tee’s education. True, when she was younger I helped her out with her revision but as she grew older I just let her be. Did keep a watchful eye on her, nagged her once in a while but since she always managed good grades I happily maintained a safe distance. It was when I started spending time at home I realized how little she studied. During her preparatory leave, she watched television, read her many story books and when she got bored entertaining herself she would sit and study. I was alarmed and would often shed copious tears imagining her sorry results. Well I did shed copious tears and that too in full public view at the Langkawi airport, but they were tears of joy as my mother read me out her results. Tee managed to stun us all with straight A1s in all 4 majors. Sadly it has given her a license to shut me up forever. But it hasn’t stopped me from worrying and shedding more copious tears...what if she doesn’t get admission to any of the good college in Delhi....what if it is Dronacharya College in Bhondsi ....


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