A Life Full of Care

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"I'll shake your hand as soon as I'm done downloading this hand sanitizer app."

This Friday we ditched routine and ventured out for a morning at the beach.

Sid enjoyed the yo-yo with the husband while Little Princess rolled around in the sand, the calm and clear waters revealing starfishes basking in the morning sun, building sand castles while filling her pocket with treasure (shells, rock and lots of sand) as her tiny fingers toiled hard on digging into the wet sand getting more sand on herself (and me) than the castle itself.

At the fringes of the shore stood a young mother and her little daughter watching us while hiding their faces, gleaming under layers of sunscreen (surely an SPF 1700), under the shade of a big umbrella cautiously avoiding the sun, the cool waters and the sand.

The mother, an obvious germophobe, squirmed at the sight of Little Princess – who was still reeling from days of making her way around my in-laws’ garden (back in the India) chasing butterflies on her bare feet, her tiny fingers squashing the life out of centipedes (until they all convened and went into an emergency hibernation to prevent their extinction from the area) and catching dragon flies that joyfully flitted about – now heading to get her sandy hands on a star fish that had washed ashore.

Her antics, that I labeled cute, had not impressed the mother, for in apparent shock she quickly cleaned her daughter’s hands with a thick dab of sanitizer (as if to sanitize the mere memory of what had just convened before them) before quickly threading their way out of the shores balancing her umbrella that was designed to block every ray of the pleasant morning sun.

I wondered if she indulged in an occasional shot of sanitizer to clean off the friendly bacteria that resided in her gut.

But the mother obviously cared, like I did with my first born for the first few months of his life competing with the slim, attractive and ever-smiling concerned mother in the disinfectant advertisement in soaking every object that came into his contact with the white pungent liquid, only to see him fall sick at the drop of a hat.

Cleanliness is close to craziness in a world where being extra sanitized and absolutely germ-free with anti-bacterial soaps, alcohol-based sanitizers and perfumed hand washes has become a fad with the industries that thrive in this new high feverishly raising their researching standards for more ‘attractive’ solutions to kill germs and bacteria, that actually benefit and strengthen our immune systems.

This has, in turn, benefited the rising pharmaceutical industry and doctors (with degrees longer than their name) treat strange allergies that have made an appearance among our children.

It is time we give our children a childhood that they deserve , a few friendly germs and all, while you relive the joys of being a child once again!

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On the Other Side of the Break

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'Hope you had a good break...Welcome back!'

It is said that you can never forget how to ride a bike. Google explains that the type of memory that understands the ‘how and what’ of things or the procedural memory is responsible for this.

I cross my fingers, mutter a silent prayer and hope that registering the technique of writing a blog post too is the responsibility of the procedural memory for the fun, excitement and thrill of being amongst family and friends back home in India has kept me away from the blog for much more than I had anticipated.

Luckily, the technique of cooking three simple meals a day is one that I have still managed to remember for like any Indian family – all meetings were planned around food (all of them NOT cooked by me) and the joy of togetherness included full and happy stomachs.

When a cousin surprised us with his visit, we decided to celebrate at a South Indian restaurant that served more than a dozen varieties of starters which were relished in fervor as we chatted, laughed reminiscing old times while we carried our laden stomachs to try and retry the elaborate varieties on the main course.

My sweet-toothed sister-in-law insisted that the few sweet days in her company is sure to get sweeter with the choicest Indian sweets that begged to be relished.

As for Mother, her expression of love was served on a table laden with a variety of delicacies that only her passionate hands could magically cook up.

As I drag myself back to reality, suffering the withdrawal symptoms of a joyous break, it is evident that at the end of every happy holiday is the shock of weighing scales that tip up to unreasonable figures, clothes that have mysteriously shrunken in size and the concern that Google is unable to convince me if recollecting the technique of writing a blog post is the job of the procedural memory.

 

 

 

I am Home!

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As the mercury soared and the rising temperatures competed with the humidity, we decided to take our vacation party from the confines of our home to my parent’s home, where mess does not usually include shredded newspaper or toys that squeak, and the kids and I could effortlessly topple, upset and upturn the routine of its occupants who woke up, slept and ate at the same time every single day.

We have managed to bring the Sun with us for the rain Gods are on vacation after a brief spell.

My parents who found Little Princess’s creative zeal and post-midnight antics cute over Skype are now  seen to oscillate between being caught under her spell and reeling under the pressures of her new-found ideas, games and undiminishing energy.

The week has been spent enjoying the warmth of family, relishing the tastiest pani puris from the smiling street vendor whose disposable polyethene gloves are crinkled and worn with use, walking under the broad canopies of the gulmohar and banyan trees in Cubbon Park that is bereft of the Page 3 ‘hip’ population who prefer to crowd the zillion malls that litter the city, riding pillion on my brother’s bike up the misty roads of Nandi Hills, and staring endlessly from the hired Uber cab at the dozen bikes and cars that stand shoulder to shoulder, some of them ‘Working from Traffic’, amidst the menacingly slow moving traffic while I thank the Gods for small mercies like that of ‘Working from Potholes’ that is yet to catch up in this city.

When I wake up to the smell of mother’s filter coffee and can write this post uninterrupted – I know I am home!

I am Home!

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dc4f7e0cfa977e351a786e0b147e59dd

As the mercury soared and the rising temperatures competed with the humidity, we decided to take our vacation party from the confines of our home to my parent’s home, where mess does not usually include shredded newspaper or toys that squeak, and the kids and I could effortlessly topple, upset and upturn the routine of its occupants who woke up, slept and ate at the same time every single day.

We have managed to bring the Sun with us for the rain Gods are on vacation after a brief spell.

My parents who found Little Princess’s creative zeal and post-midnight antics cute over Skype are now  seen to oscillate between being caught under her spell and reeling under the pressures of her new-found ideas, games and undiminishing energy.

The week has been spent enjoying the warmth of family, relishing the tastiest pani puris from the smiling street vendor whose disposable polyethene gloves are crinkled and worn with use, walking under the broad canopies of the gulmohar and banyan trees in Cubbon Park that is bereft of the Page 3 ‘hip’ population who prefer to crowd the zillion malls that litter the city, ride pillion on my brother’s bike up the misty roads of Nandi Hills, and staring endlessly from the hired Uber cab at the dozen bikes and cars that stand shoulder to shoulder at traffic snarls, some busy ‘Working from Traffic’, and move at a menacingly snail’s pace while I thank the Gods for small mercies like that of ‘Working from Potholes’ that is yet to catch up in this city.

When I wake up to the smell of mother’s filter coffee and can write this post uninterrupted – I know I am home!

Hello Friends, hope you are all well. Been MIA for more than a week, but will catch up will all your posts very soon. Wishing you all a happy Sunday.

Plane Lucky

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'This is you captain speaking...I have just been fired...so...good luck!'

Do you remember an ancient way of travelling – making a journey without a ‘Travelling Update’ on your social media account. (Don’t look at me! Just borrowing somebody else’s brainwave from FB)

While we are on the ‘ancient’ talk, did you hear about the 80-year-old Chinese woman who delayed a flight for nearly six hours after she threw coins into the plane’s engine for good luck?

Lady luck, after all, stood by her after the Shanghai police refused to take action and unforgiving passengers spent their waiting time clicking selfies with her and uploading them on social media.

Wonder if a superstitious Indian has tried a hand at good luck the Indian way – tying a string of hot chilies and lemon, after they heard about a pilot’s artificial arm that came loose during landing or of the pilot who realized that he was not qualified to land the plane in fog just minutes before landing and decided to turn back.

Could the leaking bag that contained curry powder that set off smoke and fire alarms in an Air India flight, that caused 12-hour delay, be the result of a more grounded and refined lucky charm by a superstitious Indian?

Luckily, no one found out. Not yet.

As for the lucky people who are enjoying their summer break travelling around the world, here is a reminder to make your ‘Travelling Updates’ and upload pictures for there are those on the bright side making the most of uninterrupted rare moments to take a peek at them all, just as I made the most of the last 40 minutes of ‘Spider-Man: Home Coming’ browsing social media with my little ‘Spidey’ fan taking a snooze beside me after more than an hour of jumping, walking and exploring a nearly empty theater.

Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday!

On the Bright Side

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'Look on the bright side. Global warming is heating up the water, helping to evaporate all the oil.'

“Awesome Mausum (weather in Hindi),” came the melodious voice of the RJ on the car’s radio followed by the weather update of 42 degrees and 42% humidity.

Really? Only 42 degrees? It surely felt like 62.

But when the husband broke into a sweat rubbing his hand after touching the steel buckle of the seat belt and the children groaned on their ‘hot’ seats, I was relieved that it was not a case of hot flashes but just normal UAE temperatures at this time of the year.

A stray thought of tapping into the heat and try cooking the family’s favorite Indian pancakes on the bonnet of the car crossed my mind, but other than Little Princess I was sure that no one might find the idea hot enough.

Soon the interiors of the car began to feel like a very bright sunny day atop the Himalayas under the influence of the cool fabricated air and we glide through the road that is free of traffic jams as for this time of the year, air fares compete with the rising temperatures and the traffic jams take to the skies.

Environmentalists claim that global warming could make the heartland of the global oil industry – The Persian Gulf – suffer heat waves beyond the limit of human survival making the region uninhabitable before the end of the century.

Then, would the Burj Khalifa make its way to Mars giving visitors one more reason to visit the red planet?

 

As for now, I should live in the moment and enjoy the ‘bright’ holiday season, the empty roads, the ‘hot’ summers offers and make merry (hay) while the sun shines. I abolish my ‘tall’ woes and join in with the husband and Sid on a heated discussion of whether Roger Federer might make the record breaking win with the eighth Wimbledon title as Little Princess mimics her brother’s words inside the cool confines of the car.

 

Chocolate-Coated Memories

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A friend who has recently moved into the UAE confessed that she allowed herself one full bar of chocolate a day. In order to appease her guilt, she relished one half in the morning and polished off the other half through the rest of the day.

Being the ‘Five Star’ and ‘Diary Milk’ generation who fought tooth and nail with our sibling for the bigger half when we just chanced to get our hands onto one, weren’t we all guilty of such sweet pleasures?

During our school vacations, my cousins, brother and I waited for the arrival of our uncles (who lived abroad). We gave them our best smiles and a cheerful welcome as our eyes strayed towards their big suitcases that would soon get a ceremonious opening,  spilling the many fantasies they contained.

The many bars of chocolate that later filled the better part of my aunt’s refrigerator led us to believe that our lucky uncles lived in a fantasy land where bars of chocolates grew on date palms.

But upon my arrival into the UAE on a hot summer afternoon and –  40 plus degrees, a new home, the new husband who politely accepted the burnt and sometimes bizarre-tasting results of cooking skills I thought I possessed (not with practice but genetically acquired), a new job and new friends later –  it became evident that only dates grew on date palms and chocolates occupied huge racks in supermarkets and they all came with a price tag attached.

As the world celebrated World Chocolate Day on July 7, 2017, let me confess that to this day, chocolates tasted best when they were sneaked out of my aunt’s refrigerator and gobbled up, one bar at a time, while hiding from the prying eyes of my brother – who sat in another dark corner doing the same.

Are you a chocolate lover?  What is your chocolate-coated memory?

 

Dear Friends, Good morning.

I have been taking some off-screen time due to conjunctivitis. I will be catching up with all your wonderful stories, that I have missed last week, over the next few days. 

Wishing you all a happy Sunday!

The First-Child Experiment

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As I clumsily balanced the extraordinary bundle of joy – my first born – in my inexperienced hands, tears of joy, pride and happiness had only blurred the vision before me, not the blueprint of his future the husband and I had developed over the previous nine months.

I saw not just tiny fingers that were clasped tightly together but those that would master not one but many musical instruments or would they clasp the scalpel and go on to revolutionize Medical Sciences?

My eyes drank into his perfect features and wondered if he would become the face of World Cinema.

Or would he be the next ‘Armstrong’ to step onto the moon of the next inhabitable planet in another galaxy?

He could be anything.

Or still better, he could be everything.

My smile and eyes shone with pride as the doctor who had stood witness to innumerable such extraordinary moments of proud parents, smiled politely.

Over the next few weeks we understood that our son who carried the weight of our dreams on his developing shoulders cried, threw up, screamed for attention at 2 am like a baby should.

I made sure I bought more bottles of disinfectant than Formula as every toy, every dress, every piece of furniture he touched or might touch were wiped squeaky clean.

The husband suggested that I sing him nursery rhymes as lullabies so that he would be ahead of his class at kindergarten.

Every new event was researched, all of them captured and celebrated.

Then came along Little Princess.

She has thrived four years sans bottles of disinfectant and meals that did not include at least three types of food from every group in the food pyramid.

We did not rush to the most qualified Pediatrician and bombard him with questions when the thermometer showed her temperature to rise by 0.005 degree Celsius.

No extraordinary techniques or extensive research were required as she sailed from one developmental milestone to another, not because she was less difficult but because as parents, we were.

So when her kindergarten teacher complained that she was too busy tearing the sheets of her neighbor’s book as her class progressed with alphabets, I feigned an expression of shock for how was I to explain that I let my second-born shred a handful of paper while I spent evenings helping Sid with his homework or the fact that she had learnt 20 lines of Sid’s elocution poem by heart than the alphabets that her class had progressed with.

But I knew, as it has been with everything for my second born, this too shall pass.

Published!

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Dear Friends,

I am very happy  to inform you that I am taking my passion for writing a step from my blog to the ‘Off the Cuff’ section of the Gulf News. After reading my work, the Editor has willingly agreed to publish it.

Today, the first post was published. Please read and let me know what you think. Wishing you all a happy weekend.

Organically perplexed

Thanks to extensive marketing techniques, coupled with a drastic increase in the educated lot of customers opting for anything that claims to be produced organically, we now have even a new brand of bottled water that claims to be organic

Published: 17:12 June 29, 2017Gulf News

Pranitha Menon, Special to Gulf News

Every morning, after the cows were milked and fed, my maternal grandfather would walk up to the vegetable patch that bore the fruit of his hard work and his passionately green fingers, a basket in hand. He would scrutinise every one of his beloved plants, pulling out an unwelcome weed or a half-eaten ripe vegetable — the remnants of a stray mole’s dinner after it had eaten its fill, as he carefully chose the day’s harvest.

Most of what he brought back would get a touch of grandmother’s magical fingers and become lip-smacking dishes for a hearty lunch. The rest would be dried or pickled and carefully stored in enormous jars that would join the many others in the dark confines of the attic and found their way back into the kitchen only on a rainy day.

At home, father made his way to the vegetable market every evening with a cloth bag in hand. The place would be abuzz with vendors who occupied every inch of the sidewalks, selling their day’s fresh harvest. I watched father make his choices — sometimes striking a bargain and at other times giving into their demands.

There was the old lady who had spent the day picking and bundling up fresh herbs and leaves that father bought without a second thought and almost always paid a rupee extra earning him a blessing in return.

There was the smiling coconut vendor who gave away a tiny piece of sweet white coconut meat to children who accompanied his customers, a goodwill that earned him many customers with happy, hungry children in tow.

Those were the days when ‘organic’ was confined to the Oxford dictionary and goodwill was yet to become a marketing technique.

Left in a dilemma

This week, when I was at the supermarket, I spotted bunches of fresh green palak leaves stacked to perfection on one side with its equally-fresh organic counterpart stacked on the other. I was left in a dilemma as to whether it was healthier to feed my family to cubes of cottage cheese simmered in blanched and pureed palak leaves that have been treated to a good healthy dose of pesticides, or a crisp green batch of the same that have been treated to manure (or dung) from organic-fed cows and generously watered with freshly-treated sewage water.

As my not-so-green fingers and pathetic gardening abilities, that I have not inherited from my maternal grandfather, forbade me from growing my own batch of herbs, I thought that my family will be better off on a diet minus the delicious ‘palak paneer’. I instead chose a batch of perfectly-rounded, red hydroponic variety of tomatoes. I have not bothered snooping around at Google’s doorstep trying to find faults with the hydroponic technique of farming, as ignorance, in this case at least, is bliss.

As I glanced upon the white glistening crystals of organic sugar, I willed my mind not to think of the not-so-organic techniques employed to give it its beautiful white sheen.

At the poultry section, I came across a variety of eggs, priced exorbitantly, that had a picture of a fat, healthy and happy hen that appeared to be smiling. Upon checking, I learnt that the smiling hen had actually been put on a vegetarian diet as the owner had decided to go on a mission to improve humanity’s brain function and immunity with this brand of eggs. We must applaud the owner for this creative marketing strategy and forgive the fact that this person is just earning some extra bucks in the process.

Thanks to extensive marketing techniques, coupled with a drastic increase in the educated lot of customers opting for anything that claims to be produced organically, we now have even a new brand of bottled water that claims to be organic. Yes, you heard it right — ORGANIC water.

There is already the Smart Water that apparently improves brain function, Vitamin Water to boost your health and Diet Water to make you skinny.

What could be next, a new range of gluten-free water or trans-fat-free water?

Thank goodness that even in this world of ruthless industrialisation and inhumane marketing strategies, somebody still cares about our health.

Pranitha Menon is a freelancer based in Dubai.

http://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-cuff/organically-perplexed-1.2050884

Not My Cup of Tea

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In India, a cup of tea is the most common beverage to kick-start your day.

Extensive promotions of Western-style coffee bars that have sprouted across the country luring the ‘cool’ generation with lattes and other caffeinated beverages are yet to rob a country of its love affair with a hot glass of ‘chai’.

In my family, tea is more than a ritual that you begin your day with.

It is the elixir of life itself.

The deliciously warm magic potion became a joyful addition in times of happiness, an aromatic balm that can soothe your sorrow, a faithful companion on a bored day, a welcome addition to the warmth and flavor to a plate of crispy ‘pakoras’ on a rainy day, a soulful mate fueling your thoughts in times of quiet intellect or simply because you crave for yet another cup.

It has been the essential and integral part of the rhythm of life for every member of my family – except me.

I was the Horlicks baby who had the audacity to throw up at the mere sight or aroma of my family’s favorite beverage.

I gradually got used to relatives stop midsentence an intense session of gossip and stare with their open mouths unceremoniously showcasing their tea- stained dental makeup when they heard me refuse a hot cup and chose to sip on water instead. Mother was bombarded with questions as a few handy tips were thrown in along with plotting ways to introduce me the beverage before I turned into a complete anti-tea outcast.

A few had gone a step ahead and declared that my I-don’t-drink-tea ways might even come in the way of my happy marriage, an area of research that even the acclaimed Stanford University is yet to prove – the correlation between a happy marriage and passionate drinking tea.

Luckily, my in-laws or the husband are blatantly unaware of this prophecy as they are more than happy to lend me a cup of coffee during tea times at home.

To this day, I have friends and family who don’t waste a moment to comment on my antisocial untea-friendly ways as I politely refuse a cup and stick to my choices.

Over the years, I have fine-tuned my tea making skills with variations as per what the occasion demands. I have even come to enjoy ‘the Sulaimani’ or the spiced black tea.

So if you happen to visit us at home, be sure to enjoy a steaming cup of cardamom or spiced ginger or mint tea but with a traditional filter-‘kaapi’ lover for company.