Saturday, January 22, 2011


Adi and I like to spend our time together reading books, eating out and playing. We spend sometime at our favorite place, The British Council Library - where the children's section is really a fun place to be. Kids, as young as one year old, park themselves in this section, crawling around and making gurgling sounds and the older ones learn to watch their steps so that they don't tumble over the crawling kiddies. Stylish moms also are a part of this space and they vary at different levels, of course.

There are the dressed-to-kill moms, who are swathed in diamonds and branded wear and you feel frightened to go near them, fearing they would break a bone if you approached. There are simple, working moms like me who slog 24X7 and have really no time or aptitude to dress like Barbie dolls (also the realistic realization that why waste all that time and effort when you know you wont look like one!) and then there are the absolutely down to earth moms who are very grounded, conservative and definitely, more simple and sensible than the rest of us.

So, here in the kids section, its an interesting zoo of sorts. 
And sometimes, there are conflicts.

For example, two boys, may be eight years old, were playing games online. Adi goes over to them and wants to join them and of course, they dont even look at him. So, Adi starts counting from 1 to 20 softly.

One boy tells him very rudely, "SHUT UP"
Now, that got me really really livid coz no one talks to my baby like that!
However, I've always been able to maintain my cool externally and I don't typically get into childish, gut breaking or tear wracking avatars like a lot of hep moms. 

I told this boy, very firmly, "Look, don't speak to a small boy like that please."
This boy was well behaved and replied, politely, "Sorry, auntie (ouch!  i must think of some effective home remedies!)  but his counting disturbed my focus on the game. It was irritating me."

I liked the way he put across his argument, it was logical and yet respectful of whom he was addressing.

So, I said, gently, "I am sorry that Adi disturbed you but you can't shout at a four year old boy. He is still a baby, right? You are much wiser. What you did is not good."

The boy said, "Sorry. " to me and then to Adi, "Really sorry for speaking like that."

Now, that is good and classy behavior, perhaps it comes from parents who are well balanced and taught the right code of behavior.

I find myself respecting that little boy and patting myself on the back for dealing with this in the right way.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

God always answers

God is everywhere and in everyone but when I need to crib, I can't crib to just everyone or anyone. 

So, I sat, making a very solemn, fed-up-with-you-god face and sat down to pray in a cribbing mode. 

I told Gd about all my problems, or rather my version of it, and gave him an ultimatum - listen and do something abt it, or at least, tell me something.

Just after my prayer, I had the feeling that the message will reach me. It usually does after I've cribbed and whined:). God has never let me down though He doesn't mind if I try some of my melodramatic dialogues on Him:)


Immediately after the prayer, I went to watch TV.

Amitabh Bachchan was on TV, giving an interview to a Malayalam channel. 

He said, "Whenever I become depressed that things don't go my way, I remember my father's words. He said that when things go your way, good. When things don't go the way I want it to, very very good. Why's that? Because then you can be sure it is God who's made that decision for you and His decisions are always better for you than your own."

The fact that I saw this right after my prayer reinforces my belief that God always answers, provided you are ready to listen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What's My Real Name?

All of you know me as Swapna, which is my official name. However, when my paternal grandmother named me, she had given me a first name, a name that was added before Swapna.

In a way, that is my real name because that was whispered into my ear during the first naming ceremony that we Hindus follow.

Most of you are my dear friends and so, may know it though you don't call me by the name.

Tell me - what's my real name?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Geethu, I love you too

Today is my sister's birthday. She is in Australia, far far away from home. I called her twice. Once, I called her to wish her and then, I called her again because Adi wants to talk to his "Gee Maa." Her name is Sangeetha and he wanted to call her "amma" coz she and I look alike in many ways but hearing us call her by her nickname 'Geethu', little adi got confused and began to call her "Gee Maa."

Geethu and Adi have a special bond. Praying for me through rainy day pradakshinams in Guruvayoor and Chottanikkara and doing the saptaha reading of Sri Sathcharita, my sister's prayers for Adi even before he was born is something that I can never forget. She would call me every day to ask how I felt and whether I am fine and she was doing that throughout. She and I spent a whole week shopping for the things that Adi would wear once he was born. Every little item was chosen with so much love and care by Geethu. 

When Adi was born, she loved to take care of him whenever he was howling or soiling the diapers. Her world really revolved around Adi.  Even now, she never forgets to call and talk to Adi at least once a week.

Right from the time I was carrying Adi, my sister used to talk to him (to my stomach:D) and used to sing songs to him and constantly make an effort to engage with him. The best part was that he would kick whenever she asked questions, as if he could hear her and understand her. In a way, it used to make me mad because I was the one he was kicking with full force everytime she asked questions...I had this funny feeling that she wanted me to get kicked:) She was crazy about Adi even before he was born and that takes me back to the time, when my sister was born. 

I tell her this very often so I don't mind admitting here - I cried so much when she was born because I desperately wanted a baby brother who would hopefully dote over me and protect me like they showed in most of our movies. A sister - oh no! - that meant I'd have to share my stuff with her but most importantly, my parents' attention would go to the squiggly roaring creature that they said is my sister....can you imagine how badly my world was rocked on that day?
I didnt go to see her on the day she was born because that way, it seemed as if I could shut out her existence. Of course, when she came home, it was a storm because people couldn' t stop adoring her because she was the most adorable baby in our family and very very conscious of it too. She used to command us all and we would do her bidding automatically! I began to seriously plot a way to do away with her.....she knows it too and still teases me about my devious ways.  And as kids, we could never agree on anything and literally fought like cats and dogs, I like to believe that I was more saintly of the two but she was definitely the better behaved one:)

When we grew into adolescence, I don't know but everything changed, especially our relationship. She became my daughter, than my sister. She says I was more like a possessive mother, keeping an eye on the people she talked to, the books she read and stuff. She says fondly that i was an insufferable nag. Her friends say that I was always hanging around her so they were sort of forced to see me as the fence around the plant and I ended up keeping them away from her. Funny, I never realized it then but now I see it could be true. Anyone who hurt my sister would get a bad deal from me and that was a sure thing. The same - vice versa. If anyone hurt me, you could be sure that she would knock the living daylights out of that person. And this remains the case even now. If I believe that some one has hurt my sister, that person has to seriously watch out for me.

Simply put, we became sisters in the real sense of the world. If my world falls apart, I talk first to my sister because I know she won't sit in judgment of me because she knows me better than I know myself. It's the same for her.

I miss my sis. We fight every two minutes about the silliest things but we love each other like crazy too.

Today, she sent me an sms that brought tears to my eyes:

"Thanks so much to you all for calling me several times today...means a lot to me. You are a wonderful sister...i guess I am lucky to have you as my you lots, Geethu."

Oh, - thats the best part about being sisters - we get all emotional on birthdays and we forget that we nearly hated each other for the first decade of our life - and now we can't bear to be without each other. Voila, c'est la vie!

Happy Birthday, Geethu. I  love you too.

Book Review: Serving Crazy with Curry by Amulya Malladi

A nice and respectable South Indian family comprising of Avi, the rich father who loves and cares for his daughters more than anything in the world, Saroja, the excellent home maker and cook, who loves her husband and family but fails to win their respect because she is constantly nagging them about what they should have done or could have done. There is also the strong-as-rock factor, Vasu, who is the grandmother, a strong woman who made bold choices that her daughter, Saroja does not forgive her for.

Their two daughters are Shobha and Devi, as different from each other as chalk and cheese. Shobha is the supposedly perfect daughter, wife and professional. A VP at the age of 30 years, her loveless marriage and inability to have children taunts her from within day by day, making her hate everything and everyone in the process. In particular, she feels frustrated that she has to keep working hard at being perfect and poised for her parents and for the whole world because she had never done differently.

As written: “But sometimes when you wore a mask for a very long time, it became your face. And Shobha had worn the mask of a strong woman for so long, no one including her, bothered to look beneath it to see the fragile mess she was in.

With an ability to rebel, question and do unspeakable things, Devi, whose attitude is so much like her grandmother’s, turns life upside down for everyone in her family when she attempts to commit suicide. Her family forgets their differences and rally around her, trying to give her a reason to live life with zeal, like before. The one thing that frightens them all is that Devi stops talking after “the incident” as they called her suicide attempt.

Instead, she begins cooking with such passion that her family begins to relish their dinner gatherings more than ever before. Every recipe is a traditional one that Devi questions, probes and modifies. Every dish Devi creates becomes a reflection of her emotions that she battles within. It becomes her way of communicating with her family members. For example, she serves the piping hot and spicy rasam with delectable pastry, leaving everyone clamoring for more. Each family member begins to see Devi’s life in their own personalized contexts and eventually, the grandmother’s death brings them closer to each other despite their differences with Devi. Ultimately, they all want her to live and not die.

And this is the poignant note that Devi writes about the grandmother she was closest to:
I wish I was kinder…I wish she lived. Death is final. Beyond it, nothing lies. No dreams, no future, no tomorrow. Death lives in all our tomorrows. Saying goodbye is never easy to some one who is already gone….My love for her is beyond tomorrow, beyond today, and beyond forever.

Some books are great because they have great stories to tell, others are great because they have great characters who have simple, unforgettable tales to share. This book, authored by Amulya Malladi, captures the best blend of both, fine written and logically structured, with the right dash of suspense, family drama and an authentic Indian feel to it.


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