Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shoppers Shock!

I went to one of those branded fashion stores that had unveiled their summer collection and i thought its a great chance to just check out what the design range and prices are like. I usually like to buy stuff from there if its affordable, of course.  

There was this nice young affluent family who were making a lot of noise in the womens' trial  room section where girls and women were trying out stuff they wanted to buy. I noticed this family because they seemed so cozy and full of laughter, which is usually the case when there are more than two family members nearby. 

The father was striking because of his booming voice and too loud personality. He looked like perhaps he is in his early forties, the mother looked like she was in her thirties.

The daughter seemed to be in her teens, she looked very young, pampered, i-always-get-what-i-demand types. She had a high pitched voice and she talked down to the sales girls and seemed to find fault with everything around her. She had this scratchy, whiny type of voice that just got onto your nerves even though she looked pretty and had a really nice smile. Personally, I find it difficult to be friendly with people like that because they take this high and mighty attitude and inflict it happily on others around them, thinking that is a fine and acceptable way to behave, which is not the case.

The family seemed to have come on this really important mission of choosing the girl's first 'inner wear' stuff. That's ok. I can understand that. 

What I couldn't understand or find acceptable was that the girl's father was the one who was choosing all of it very selectively.  He would hold up stuff, peer at it, debate about it and I found this behavior very unbecoming in a store that was full of women. He was the only man in the womens' trial room. Even girls who had come with their husbands or boyfriends had come in to the trial room on their own, leaving the guys to stand outside at a decent distance away from the trial room.

Maybe this is a new Indian upper class fad or something, I don't know nor do I want to know but it was shocking to find the father debating about the measurements and the designs so intimately with the daughter and the sales girls. He talked like a man who knows too much about womens' inner wear, which is fine if he hadn't been articulating it so loudly for all the women to hear! 

The sales girls were being given instructions to get measurements right, to get the brand right, etc. When the girl is trying out stuff, the father is hovering around outside asking her, too loudly, "Does it fit?" "Is the color okay?" "Should I check?" "Can I get you another measurement or brand?" "Is this good for gym?" 

The mother - whom I frankly felt sorry for - sat in a corner, looking completely defeated. Not even the sales girls paid her the slightest bit of attention. The daughter too addressed only the father as "Papa." 

The way in which he was deciding for his daughter - discussing it vis a vis her anatomy so loudly - i can't believe Indian fathers would go into such hour-long details about this with their daughters. I felt sick but I consoled myself thinking that perhaps these upper class affluent families did things differently from ordinary families.

What do you think?

♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all those who want to see a better value system in the society. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people who work towards a better society and a happier world. I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who 's the Mean Kid, really?

Flown turbulent skies and bumpy air clouds?

That's how the past couple of weeks have been like for me while dealing with my five year old Adi. Still, I've got to admit that I love every moment that I spend with my son. It's like going through a roller coaster ride because temperamentally, we are opposites. He is fiery and I am serene. He is stubborn and I give in easily. He is very unpredictable and well, i am not....i could go on actually.....but you got what I am saying, right?

Well, in the last two weeks, Adi and I - this is a mom's hunch of course - have become a lot more closer than before. He seems to intuitively understand my thoughts and feelings. He accompanies me when I go for my evening walks. That is a fantastic time when he tells me his little secrets and I tell him mine. We have these 'adult to adult' conversation and I really feel that it brings us closer when I stop treating him like a kid. 

Today, he was running after and calling one kid, repeatedly. This kid stays on the ground floor and has a habit of ignoring Adi whenever Adi calls him. This has been irritating me for a while and I just let it go. But this evening, Adi went rushing after him calling him and this little guy didnt even look in his direction and totally ignored him. I felt angry because he has been doing this to Adi several times.

Just after Adi and I came back home, this little guy comes home and calls Adi. A delighted Adi runs off to play with him.

When Adi came back and told me he had had a great time, I said, "What kind of a friend do you have? He doesnt even acknowledge you whenever you call him and now when he wants, he calls you. He is a mean friend. I don't want you to be friends with such kids. He is mean and selfish and rude."

Adi looks at me and says very firmly, "Amma, you can't talk about my friend like that, ok?He is my friend and you should not say that about my friend."

Something in his voice stopped me in my tracks. I thought to myself - why ami nagging my son for something so silly? I was behaving like a mean kid! Adi, on the other hand, was handling it with more maturity. 

That moment, I told Adi, "Look, I am sorry. I didnt like your friend but you are right. I shouldnt say bad things to you about your friend. Sorry."

Adi was happy. I had got his point. Sometimes, we see our mistakes too late. I don't want that to happen with me. If I make mistakes, I want to be aware of it so that I don't repeat them again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Malayalam Movie Review: Watch Seniors & Get Back in Campus



I didn't plan to watch "Seniors." The promos didn't impress me. A close friend smsed me saying that she loved the movie and that I've got to go and watch it. That made me sit up. She doesn't usually sms me about a movie.  I booked my tickets. I expected it to be a comedy or something of the sort relating to law college. The four stars - Jayaram, Biju Menon, Manoj K Jayan and our swantham Kunchaks ( as we gals call him affectionately) packed in a real entertainer under the direction of Vysakh - the same director who made the movie Pokiri Raja (starring Mammooty and Prithviraj). I enjoyed the movie. It had so many entertaining moments, packed with college campus pranks, fun and mysterious moments. Some scenes that I found totally hilarious can't be mentioned here so I guess you've just got to watch it and find out for yourself. The music was awful and left one with a feeling 'please end it fast so that we can get on with the movie!'

The story is about 4 friends who are waiting to welcome Jayram, who's just got out of jail for killing a girl during his college days and had to undergo a 12 year sentence in jail. The friends, who had become quite successful and respectable by then, unite with him. They even buy him a fab house but that is not what he wants. He wants them all to go back to college and relive those days that he had missed. They know he is innocent and they want to see him happy because he had lost 12 years of his life.

From here, it becomes entertaining and mysterious. The "senior" guys come back to college with a real bang and we are kept guessing about the killer throughout. By interval, I had guessed it pretty well but I liked the way they explained it.

Personally, I feel that the role didn't suit Jayaram. He needs to identify characters that suit his style and give him more opportunities for performance. Siddhique's role in this movie was far better and meatier. Jayaram's roles are getting far too repetitive and that's not good for him as an actor. I didn't like his portrayal of this character he represented in the movie. He didn't fit in with what it required.

Biju Menon's performance stood out in terms of the characterization. His dialogues, body language and expressions were so funny. I always saw him as a very serious actor but this movie brings out the really funny side to him. However, as an actor, he needs to get back in shape if he wants to do more vibrant and interesting characters.

Manoj K Jayan didn't get a great role but he made the best of it. His charisma and stylish presence oozed through the character. In some places, he slips into a 'feminine' mode which is totally unsuitable for the person & icon that he is. It comes across as contrived or artificial. In terms of his looks and screen presence, he towered over the others. The director, in my opinion, underutilized his acting capabilities. The hero, who delivered amazing and mature performances in Malayalam classics like Salaapam, Venkalam, etc. deserved better.
Kunchacko Boban, the evergreen heart throb of Malayali girls and now fast evolving into a serious actor, delivered a mature performance. Though his screen presence was fragmented particularly due to Manok K Jayan's magnetic charisma, this young actor has great talent and ability that would have reached greater potential in this movie if he had been given more memorable moments and dialogues to match it. Again, an under utilized actor in this film and more of eye candy.

As always, Siddique and Shammi Thilakan rendered memorable performances. 

As a regular Malayalam movie goer, I felt disappointed in the way the female characters were etched out - totally uncool, predictable and boring. In Malayalam especially, we have such fine artists. You can just step into any of our colleges and meet some truly interesting characters  - none of them made it on screen even in character roles. Or, in Pokkiriraja too, the women were just running around trees. Not all Malayalam directors can be like Kamal and Lal Jose, who among contemporaries create 'real women' as characters in their movies.  

But wait, guess who the real killer was?
I'd say go and watch it. You will feel that you're back in campus again!
 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Buddha: What He Represents & His Legacy to Humanity

Coming from a traditional Hindu family, Buddha Purnima is not something that I grew up understanding or celebrating. My father used to tell me the story of the young prince who saw suffering all around him and abandoned a princely life to understand the cause of such suffering. As a kid, I thought the prince must have been a little bit of a nutcase to leave behind such comforts and luxury to find out the cause of suffering.

I couldn't understand why he had to put his body through such rigorous pain and hardships to find out why suffering exists. Couldn't he have just enjoyed the blessings that God had given him in life? The very fact that he did not even acknowledge the existence of God itself told me he really is a nut case. These were my thoughts at a time when spirituality was not yet a complete path in my priority list. I am sure you are wise enough to understand.

I thought, as Malayalis do when unnecessary curiosity comes their way, "Appam thinna porey, kuzhi ennano?" (Poor translation - isn't it enough that you are eating delicious unniappams - do you have to count and find out where they came from and how they were made and spoil the enjoyment part of it??)

Today, I understand better. When young and handsome Siddhartha the prince evolved into the Buddha, the world began to change and reflect on the important lesson that he had taught us. From a textbook story, the Buddha began to mean something more profound to me. Buddha Purnima is a tribute to the great monk who attained enlightenment as indicated by the full moon.

I am not a Buddhist but as a sai devotee, I do embrace many of the principles of Buddhism. For example, in Buddhism, it is clearly stated that we begin our life from previously created karma but by changing the way life seems to be, we can change our present karma with mindfulness and by contributing positively to the welfare of the society. 
Like Shankaracharya who taught us "Tat Twam Asi" and that we are merely a speck of the Absolute Divine, the Buddha taught us that we live life under a false "I" feeling which if we abandon, we will experience absolute bliss. 
 
It is the same "I" that Jesus Christ also let go of by the cross and today, the world worships him on the symbol of the I that is crossed out, that is no longer false but is the path to a higher realm of consciousness.

Buddha's greatest gift, among many, is that he taught us to discover the self within using a spirit of dedicated inquiry and mindfulness. He chose the toughest path but he gave us the simplest teachings as his parting gifts.

Today, of all days, I bow before the greatness of Buddha, with the realization that it will take ordinary mortals like me several births to reach even that stream of consciousness that he easily grasped in his lifetime.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

With Compliments from Adi.

Adi brings home a friend. She is a very sweet looking girl who is wearing a princess-like dress. Being some one who loves to appreciate, I can't resist complimenting her and telling her she looks very beautiful in that dress.

Adi tells me matter of factly, "I told her you look so pretty and beautiful and lovely too but she is not believing me. Amma, please tell her again."

HMMMM!

The tough part came when little Adi turned into mischief mode and i know there is just no stopping him. He pasted cake slices into her lovely tresses and she was so upset. Obviously! She came running to me and showed me what he had done.

I gave him a tough scolding just then and he said he was really sorry about i and didnt know cake can stick like that since he isn't a girl.  He showed me his hair to prove the point!

I spent sometime consoling the little distressed girl. We handled the tresses carefully and managed to remove the cake bits that were clinging while Adi was watching on with a very repentant look on his face.

Then off they went to play together but not before I told him very firmly that its important to treat friends with care and i extracted a promise that he wouldn't ever do anything like that again.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Conversations with my Mother

In India, we believe in what the Vedas say: "Maathru devo bhava, Pithru devo bhava, Acharya devo bhava, Athithi devo bhava." Mother comes first, before the Father or the Teacher or the Guest. 

At the cost of sounding like a spoil sport, let me confess that I don't believe in "Happy Mother's Day" that is being celebrated today.  Indian culture, since time immemorial, has always revered and given the mother a sacred place of importance. However, the society forgets it conveniently whenever it suits the occasion, and therefore, a day is dedicated to total lip service and giving of cards. Traditionally, we in India show love and respect to our mothers most of the time.

What a Paradox! Mothers in India have no right to name their children!

Yet in practice, mothers cannot name their children. For all important occasions, they are given the step motherly treatment by the orthodox society. They cannot take part in traditional ceremonies of their children. 

For example, Mothers cannot introduce 'vidya' or knowledge to their children through the traditional 'ezhuthinirippu' or holy writing ceremony. I don't have a problem with fathers playing a dominant role in the family because I grew up in a conservative Menon family, where men are the decision makers, and the women play a supportive role.

Vedas say 'Matru devoh bhava but women kept at a distance from Vedic Rites

However, I have always felt that ceremonies that keep mothers at a distance is grossly unfair and unjust. If the Vedas say Mathru Devo Bhava, why do the priests not let mothers take part in ceremonies? Because these practices are man-made. They have self-interest and jobs to keep or safeguard. Even today, a woman, even if she is more well versed in the Vedas, is not accepted good enough to be a priest. She is not considered 'pure.' Crap. 

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba angered the orthodox Hindu community by:
  1. Stating that it is the mother who has the right to initiate the child during such ceremonies. 
  2. Indian women have every right to conduct spiritual ceremonies for the welfare of their children. He says that mothers' blessings are pure, unconditional and equivalent to the grace of God. 
  3. The mother is equivalent to God and the society cannot take away her importance in her child's life on such auspicious occasions.
In Prashanti Nilayam, He established that no naming or writing ceremony, or any traditional ceremony wherein the mother is kept aside will be conducted. Such a ceremony has no meaning unless the mother is made a part of it. 

An Indian Woman's Life: Before Marriage, After Marriage
My mother, traditional and quiet though she is, has played a pivotal role in my life. Before she got married, she didn' t believe in God. She used to be a very hot tempered person, who wore very fashionable clothes and had everything done exactly the way she wanted to.  If anyone tried to correct her, well, she gave them a piece of her mind! She never minced words.

Her family says that she never missed a fashion trend. She had short, bobbed hair, and she wore make-up, sleeveless clothes, got gold jewelry made whenever a design caught her fancy, never thought about cutting expenses and so on. 

When she got married, she says that her priorities completely changed. My father never asked her to change but seeing that he had traditional beliefs and led a traditional life, she changed her way of life and conduct to blend in with his. But the thing is, it was her conscious choice!

During the early years and during the years when we were growing up, my mother never spent money for herself. Understanding came first, adjustment came later.  She saw happiness in his happiness - something that she is steadfast about even today. 

When her daughters got married, her advice was simply this:

1. The family's welfare should come first.

2. Parents are always there for you but we don't want to let you use us a sounding board whenever you have a tiff.  Your father and I had many ups and downs. I never complained to my mother because I believe I have to work on it, not my mother. If we do that, we are likely to end up fighting in public for the silliest reasons. 

3. Marriage is very sacred and it is for life. When you unnecessarily involve others in your disagreements and ask their opinions, it will bring heated exchanges, it will ruin relationships and bring down trust between the husband and wife. 

My mom has kept her word to this day. She has never asked me unnecessary questions, probed into my life or my sister's or asked or intervened to give advice about our marriages. or how we should do things or manage relationships. I really respect her for that because very few mothers can do it with true conviction.  

I asked her, "You used to be so hot tempered. How is it that you are so calm now?"


She says that it comes with an awareness that you are not in your own family to show your tantrums. You are in the family of your loved one. If you have that awareness, you will learn to be calm because if you lose your temper, you also hurt the person you love. It's that simple for her.

Once I asked her for whom she has made more adjustments, for her husband or for her children, and whether she felt she was losing her 'individuality'.

This is what she said to me, "I am not a modern woman in that sense. For me, my husband is my god. Even when I want to choose something to wear, I ask him. I never asked anyone 's opinion before marriage. For me, my husband is my happiness. If he doesn't like what I cook or what I wear, what's the point of having 'individuality'? If I cannot contribute to this family's peace of mind and happiness, what's the rationale? That is what we, as women, must first understand and accept. Together, as husband and wife, we make joint decisions and make  sacrifices for the welfare of our children." 

She says that in all these years, she has never asked my father for a birthday present or a wedding anniversary gift or a dinner out or anything of the sort. When asked why, she told me, "This may sound boring to you but it is the truth. These are all external things that cannot make you happy forever in any marriage. A marriage that has a strong foundation doesn't need it. The real things that matter are the little sacrifices you make for each other in daily life. That's what one remembers and recalls in the end."



I think that's the best advice that every mother should give her daughter. And trust me, only a mom can be as loving and firm in saying this.

There's no other way to say this but plainly and sincerely, I love you, Mummy,for the person you are and the values you taught us. Mummy, I may not agree with all of your traditional views on marriage and motherhood but I LOVE you for everything you taught us by leading a life of grace and simplicity. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

History of Dubai & Some Poetic Philosophy

The day we reached Dubai, we went for an evening boat cruise along the Dubai creek. To most tourists, Dubai creek is a natural seawater inlet that divided the city of Dubai into two- Deira Dubai and Bur Dubai. What fascinated me more was the historical and cultural significance of this beautiful creek.


Dubai's formation is attributed to be around 4,000 years old but it was only in 1833 that it gathered some shape. This is the year when the Al Maktoum branch of the power clan of Al Bu Falasah of the Bani Yas Bedouins shifted from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. More significantly, this saw the reign of Sheikh Maktoum bin Butti who lead them to Dubai and became its ruler from 1833 to 1852. Young, ambitious and intelligent, this leader set the foundation for the open port city as it exists and is flourishing today.

It was not so easy though. Pirates from the Gulf were known to attack the port, due to which a series of co-operative treaties had to be formed and negotiated in 1892. 

By introducing a radical concept - offering tax exemption to traders - Dubai tempted businessmen from all spheres spanning gold, silver, textiles, dates, teak, spices and many more to settle there. With this highly business-friendly initiative, Dubai established itself as a flourishing trading hub between India, Africa and the Middle East.


Coming back to the Dubai Creek, history gives us some interesting insights. 

The shallow creek waterway didn't help Dubai much because it was not deep enough for ships to be accommodated. Again, Dubai's Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed (1958 to 1990) who is considered to be the founder of modern Dubai risked a great deal by mortgaging the entire emirate to pay for the huge cost of dredging the Dubai creek. The rest, as we all know, is history. His vision and love for taking risks paid off with rich dividends. Big ships sailed into Dubai and in 1966, oil was discovered, further strengthening Dubai as one of the world's leading trading hubs.

In the night, we enjoyed the cruise. Lights, like shining jewels, seemed to embrace us from everywhere. The breeze was laden with the scent of food and expensive perfume, the conversations were warm and punctuated with laughter.




Guests had a great time sampling the delicious spread of food. There was a segment for vegetarian and non-vegetarians. The salad section offered a terrific spread too, as you can see in the picture below.



My husband can be seen at the non-vegetarian section in the picture below.


The following picture showcases three desserts. As many of you know, I love making desserts more than eating them. So, I couldn't resist taking some pics.

The first one shown below is tastier than it looks, but I don't recall the name. It tastes like kheer/payasam but it has soft bread like pieces in it that feel yummy to bite into because it simply melts in your mouth like butter.


There is so much more I'd like to write about my Dubai trip. As a writer, I see places as opportunities for story telling than anything else. Every place has a story, a secret jewel in its soul, that waits to be discovered. Dubai is full of such secret jewels, but one needs enough time and patience to begin the voyage of discovery itself.

To me, the story of Dubai, right from its historical beginnings to its present day iconic status, is one that intrigues. The saga reflects the kind of great leadership that set the foundation for it to flourish. 

Dubai, like a temptress, has burst into our senses because of the riches, both culturally and materially, that it offers despite its initial limitations that ceased to matter once it was ready to become a beautiful enchantress.



♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all those who love to travel, see new places and experience the newness of it all with wanderlust. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people who enjoy travel. I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

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