Category Archives: Books

A stitch in time that would have saved a ‘Messi’ day

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Needle work and me — we have a very complicated history.

I wish it was a beautiful complication like Sleeping Beauty that culminated in a happily-ever-after.

Mine always wound up in a tangled disaster. The school deemed it compulsory to take up ‘Needle Art’ as part of the ‘Art’ curriculum. We girls did not take up this cause and wish to make a choice between ‘Innovation’ or ‘Robotics’ as my children can on this day as this was a time when a sewing machine, not a computer, held a pride of place in every household.

Grandmother had a flair for creating magic with a needle. Mother inherited grandmother’s culinary skills, but not her dainty fingers that worked its magic on pillowcases that still adorn some of the beds in our ancestral home.

It makes me wonder where I stand with respect to inheritance.

Mrs Sharma, our art teacher, had explained that needle work only required choosing the right needle from the kit and then developing an endearing friendship with it. Together, you and your needle, she had said, can sew wonders.

I became friends with the scissor. It was an easier friendship — one that did not require choosing from a box full of them and cutting was easier than stitching.

After weeks of creating absurd patterns, I once happened to embroider a single perfect red flower — so much so, that my handiwork brought tears to my eyes. After all a teeny-weeny part of grandmother’s gene had seeped in and had finally been rendered awake.

When I excitedly showed it off to the teacher, she turned it over and shook her head in dismay. Her eyes only saw the tangled mess on the behind. Needle art had to be perfect on both sides, she had said sighing. On that day I understood that it was impossible to make a grown-up happy as in their search for absolute perfection, the beauty of imperfection was lost.

I spent the rest of Mrs Sharma’s classes with my dear friend — the scissor.

When the Fifa World Cup fever gripped the world and our household, Sid pulled out his lucky Messi 10 jersey from the depths of his cupboard. That day, I noticed a single stitch by the shoulder that screamed red. ‘A stitch in time’, I heard Mrs Sharma’s warning, but chose not to take heed and did what I usually do — pretend that my eyes had not seen it.

Day after day, my eyes unintentionally caught sight of that single stitch, but I quickly averted my line of sight and continued the exercise in pretence even when one stitch ran into three.

On the day of Argentina vs Iceland match, the jersey ripped open at the shoulder. That evening, as I faltered with a needle and a thread, Lionel Messi missed a penalty kick and his team settled for a draw. By now, Mrs Sharma’s finger-wagging look had rented a permanent space in my head.

Even in sport, there are some aspects that can be logically or scientifically explained — like Pele’s famed banana kick (an off-centre kick that causes the ball to change direction midair before dropping to the ground) that works under the Bernoulli effect while there are others that have no logic at all — like a torn ‘lucky’ jersey, that could not be worn by a little Messi fan sitting half a world away, that is believed to have stood between Messi and his missed penalty.

As Sid sulked, I gingerly requested the tailor down the road if he would undertake the trivial task of sewing the jersey. The kind gentleman took less than a minute to complete the task and even refused to charge me. I stood there embarrassed coaxing him to accept something.

“It was a breather, a minute away from monotony,” he said smilingly.

I thanked him wondering if I could ever say that for myself.

 

Dear Friends, this has been published in the Gulf News. To read the article click here.

Wishing you a wonderful Sunday!

 

 

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A Walk to the Post Office Down Memory Lane

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'They're extinct now but when I was young you'd find these everywhere...let's go to the next gallery they've got a 'bobby on the bear' and a 'postman' there.'

As I go about like clockwork with the very boring but constant sequence of actions in life that calls itself routine, I hear the familiar ‘ping’ on the phone.

This should be Mother sending in her good morning message with one question that when answered will quickly be followed by a series of ten or more questions that usually revolve about the general well being of my family here and me.

This ‘ping’ could also be a message from a friend or one more to add to the endless stream of messages from the seemingly polite but consistent banking or business sectors who have shown keen interest in my welfare and prosperity.

In the days of yore, the midday cycle bell that announced the arrival of the postman was one Mother looked forward to and got us children racing one another to bring home heartfelt stories and messages transcribed in flowery handwriting that had travelled far inside sealed inlands and envelopes.

If our postman was the bearer of the dreaded telegram, he waited until the seal was opened to unveil its brief contents. He offered his condolences if the news was bad, but good news ensured a cup of tea or a sweet and a tip.

This was a time when red post boxes dotted every street. A time when we poured our heart, vented our sorrows and shared our joys and woes on paper and when securing a government job was the final destination in every job seeker’s journey.

In a shrinking world where we are under the spell of technology locking our eyes with screens rather than humans and establishing firm relationships with devices rather than people, are we tunnelling our lives into the confines of our digital caves?

Even as we embrace the ease of the technological revolution and social networking, should not we exercise prudence in its use driving home the same to the generation that will follow us? Will robots be the most valuable companions of our future when we wake up from our digitally-induced dream? Will I, like my mother, wait hours to receive a single line of hope from my busy daughter?

Another ‘ping’ and I pick up the phone and smile at Mother’s messages, quickly typing in a sweet response. I know that my answer to one of her queries will balloon into a full-fledged conversation.

But that is what makes a conversation with Mother so special.

 

Good Morning dear Friends, hope you are all having a wonderful Sunday. This is an extract from my publication in the ‘Off the Cuff’ section of the Gulf News. For the full article please click here.

Off the Grid

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'I lost my homework on the cloud.'

The children had been invited to a birthday party.

A minute after the husband dropped us off after agreeing to meet at the same point after the party, catastrophe struck.

It came in the form of an Earth shattering realization that I had left the better part of my brains, my eyes, timepiece, GPS, camera, my Swiss Army knife, my digital toy all rolled into one – the smart phone, back at home.

I had to solely rely on my brains – or whatever little that I had brought along – to weave my way to the venue as the e-invite and the host’s contact numbers were safely tucked away in the digital confines of my absent phone.

Even as I tried hard to shake the free-floating anxiety that kicked my imagination to life and conjure up a few dozen disasters, I was pleasantly surprised that my memory of the place along with the old fashioned method of asking directions when in doubt was all it took to get my excited children to their destination.

I watched the children do funny dance moves, jump trampolines, shoot zombies unobstructed by the lens of a camera. And I must admit, it felt unhurried and carefree.

Out of habit, my hands habitually dug into the handbag for the phone but stopped midway when I heard my finger tips – enjoying an unanticipated holiday – singing my praise.

By the end of that day, I had real memories and a bunch of new ‘real’ friends.

I am no smart phone addict but it felt intimidating to be left out of the loop, but strangely liberating to make real conversation with children or another device-free Mommy without the interruption of the beep of a message or a phone call.

This leaves me thinking back in wonder about my younger, pre-mobile days when I walked the streets, lost my way, boarded the wrong bus but got home safe and sound.

My children might never have the privilege of getting lost in this well-connected world or feel liberated from the shackles of the grid unless they, like me, are forced to spend a phone-free, live-in-the moment day with only anxiety and real humans for company. 

 

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Dear friends, hope you all are having a wonderful Sunday.

Research has it that an average human swipes his phone 80 times a day. As much as our phones are a smarter extension of ourselves, it is time we ask ourselves if the digital grid is enticing us into a digital fantasy that is robbing us off reality.

What do you think?

 

 

A Competition Called Life

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Classroom

“Seize every minute of this day”

“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going”

There is no dearth for motivation on social media. Reminder in 50s and 100s every morning is a good thing so that we put on our running shoes and throw ourselves into the breathless crowd that is racing against time to achieve set goals and targets.

On a weekend morning, we decided to seize the day treating ourselves to an early lunch followed by a visit to the shopping mall.

After clicking pictures with a robot that walked, talked, sang songs and did all that was expected of it, we took a cue from Sid and made our way to a bookstore to get our dose of food for the brain (while we seize the rest of the day).

Little Princess settles in the seating area with an improvised Peppa Pig storybook that appeared to be bigger than her and did a snort with every page turn.

Sid already had his nose in a fact finder.

It was then that we bumped into a friend who was leaving the store balancing a bag full of books. After the pleasantries, I enquired about his wife and son.

“They are at home preparing for his Olympiads” he said, “I am here to pick up some additional reference material for the KenDoku competition that is soon to follow.”

“Some books on logical thinking and the public speaking course that he takes,” he explained, “we let him play chess during his free time so a book to perfect the game too,” he finished.

I was reminded of the robot that we clicked pictures with as it had gone about perfecting all that was expected of it as the proud father gave us an account of the rigorous effort that went into preparing their son to keep pace with the pell-mell rush to stand out in the rising competition.

I looked at the husband hopelessly.

Sid spent his evening reading books, playing with friends, attempting hard to get a tennis ball across a net with a racquet – none of which qualified as academically enlightening.

Even his weekly swimming classes were not geared on getting him to swim the English Channel but to be able to save his life or another if a situation may arise.

Disappointed at being unable to exercise our bragging rights in this area of parenting, we bid him adieu after managing to lend our ear with a smiles and nods.

On our way back, I find myself questioning my ‘unambitious’ parenting ways.

Little Princess has learnt to snort.

Sid rants on about his new find – ‘Monday with the Mad Genius’ – a fact finder about Leonardo da Vinci. The ‘Salvator Mundi’ that was sold for $450.3 million has piqued his interest.

Questions and doubts that build up into a full-fledged quiz about his newly acquired knowledge ensues, leaving me fumbling and scrabbling at Google’s doorstep.

My son may be far from the mad rush of competition where children are dragged from pillar to post perfecting every task among the endless ones on offer, but I am glad that I find myself in this blissful scrabbling mess as Sid embraces childhood at his own pace – one fact finder at a time.

 

 

For the love of Reading

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Books are windows into a vast world

My seven-year-old came home from school the other day with a report card, and he told me that he had been awarded prizes for the year. I eagerly opened the envelope, my chest heaving with pride, to check the number of subjects that my son had excelled in. I was puzzled when I saw the word ‘reading’ beside his name. Upon further enquiry, I understood that he, indeed, had won a prize for reading.

It is not unknown to me that my son takes pride in his little library, with its collection of encyclopedias and story books. He makes it a point to take some of them to school, to share a few interesting topics with his friends in class, but the idea of applauding and encouraging him by rewarding his efforts and those of many others who have won, too, is a great initiative by schools. Teachers and schools have indeed taken up the UAE authorities’ Year of Reading campaign a step further, by keeping aside time for its students to read out topics of general interest to the class, write reviews of books they pick up from the library and write short stories that are published and displayed on common boards. All of this is done, apart from the usual academic portions that are required to be covered for the year. Books are windows into the vast world outside the confines of the little, closed community we live in. They give insight, knowledge and wisdom to the reader. Encouraging children to read is encouraging and educating tomorrow’s citizens and the many generations to come.

Kudos to UAE’s declaration of 2016 as the Year of Reading .

Happy Reading!!!!