Category Archives: Earth is our Home

Engineering the Perfect Dream

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The children gave life to beautiful poetry as the three judges – two English teachers and I, found ourselves oscillating between being entangled in the perfectly delivered lines  and the dilemma of deciding which candidate was better than the other.

The trophy went to the most-deserving class and the individual who had put up a perfect show, but we all agreed that every one of the kids who had confidently come up the stage and performed was a winner at the English Coral Elocution of Grade 5.

I had looked back from my seat set before the stage and was overjoyed to see eager parents encouraging children, not for the Science Quiz or the Science Olympiad, but the English Elocution.

This being an Indian school outside India does not change the fact that we are striving hard to produce more Engineers than mosquitoes with the dengue virus.

Science and Mathematics becomes the subject in focus. Always.

Luckily, this has nothing to do with learning and understanding the intricate pattern of our complex body functions or enjoying the magic of numbers but just the key to realizing the dream of adding another Engineer to the outrageously increasing number.

If by any stroke of bad luck, the child took interest in the literary works of great authors and poets, it was gently nipped in the bud before the interest snowballed into the love for Literature.

The perfect child of a parent who yearns a respectable place in the society becomes an Engineer.

A software engineer will be the perfect cherry on the cake of aspiration.

Pledge your enslavement to a non-Indian-based software company that will promise to keep your bank account consistent with a 6-digit number and slogging a couple of extra hours not only adds color to your appraisal and keeps the boss happy, but is a sure technique to be treated to a grand welcome by your family akin to that given to the valiant warriors who return to their kingdom after a fierce battle.

If you wish to take your dreams abroad, then divine intervention in the form of a deity in a South Indian temple will be a sure help for quick and easy attainment of the US visa.

A few slipped disks, rising blood pressure and heart ailments after hours of neck-breaking dedication can be taken care of with a gentle sweep of your insurance card but rest assured that your dream home becomes a reality.

As a five-year-old, Sid said that he wished to become an astronaut after he watched an episode of Mickey Mouse singing and dancing around the rings of Saturn and during his time on Earth, he hoped to juggle a career of racing on the Formula 1 tracks and become the next Tintin.

But now that he is well aware that dancing around the rings of Saturn has its risks and aspiring to become an investigative journalist is akin to being on a literacy mission in Taliban-occupied Afghanistan, he says he is looking into a few safer options.

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Knots and Vows

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“Why did you not have a wedding reception?” the young man asked us, tongue-in-cheek.

This question, which was purposefully  intended to get an upper hand in the conversation, was about our wedding reception that was replaced with a family gathering and a traditional ‘sadhya’ sans the DJ night, dance or the grandeur, solemnized more than a decade ago.

It had been a time when a traditional ‘Malayalee’ wedding entirely comprised of a simple ritual of tying the knot and exchanging garlands before a crowd of women, decked up in their heaviest silks and every piece of jewelry that they owned, catching up on gossip and men discussing politics – all of whom comprised of relatives and friends.

We realized that the appointed beautician must have learnt and refined her skills making up Kathakali artists for everyone unanimously agreed that I looked like an overdone Christmas tree; however, the photographer was pleased for I shone bright as a tube light in high voltage with little effort from his side.

We stood clumsily balancing the weight of heavy garlands smiling, posing  for pictures and trying hard to decipher the endless stream of faces who claimed to be related to one of us.

Our parents solely shouldered the responsibility of playing the graceful hosts ensuring that every one of the guests was well watered, fed and taken care of.

We took the leap with no instruction manual or GPS that guaranteed the safest and best path through married life, but just our parents’ blessings and love and respect for one another.

All the advancements has not brought forth a detailed instruction manual for the newly wed but Wedding Planners have managed to lure couples and their families into a week’s ceremony – DJs, outdoor photo shoots and all.

Over-enthusiastic parents and bags of money are a sure help to make beautifully-crafted everlasting memories that can be frozen and framed on the walls of your home and social media pages.

So, as our young man smiled his cheekiest best – a sparkle of triumph in his eyes, we smiled too for our experience teaches us that not all questions need to be answered. Sometimes it is best to let the other person bask in the shadow of their empty triumphs and check how far we have come.

 

sadhya : Traditional South Indian feast served on a banana leaf.

Kathakali: a form of dramatic dance of southern India, based on Hindu literature and characterized by masks, stylized costume and make-up, and frequent use of mime.

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!

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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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.

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.

 

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.

Recycling Slogans for a Greener Planet

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Little Princess took a cutout of the Honorable Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, embracing the French President in a bear hug at their meeting in Paris where they together put a common front on the need to fight for climate change, for her ‘news clip of the day’ at school.

The rest of the evening was spent repeating the words, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi says, we need to save our Earth.”

What was left unsaid was that as Mr. Modi vowed to protect the environment just as Mr. Trump dumped the Paris Climate Pact while the self-assured new diplomat from France – Macron – had gone a step ahead and recycled Mr. Trump’s slogan –  ‘Make our planet great again’.

As we leave the future of dear Earth in the hands of our political leaders hoping it gets a much-deserved new lease of life and a breath of fresh air –  are we doing our tiny bit to sustain our home – for us, our future and our children?

Little Princess and her class decided to celebrate Environment Day with puppets made from recycled material. I wondered what could be ‘effectively’ recycled – the cozy couch that was the husband’s favorite seat, the television or could it be Sid’s cricket bat?

We settled for Sid’s old socks, old newspaper, lots of old buttons and yarn. Even my cousin (God bless her) did her bit and recycled her daughter’s doll’s dress (without her daughter’s knowledge of course) for me.

The puppet which was carried to school with much zeal has not yet returned and the news clip continues to make its trip to school and back untouched.

But when I left an empty can of milk by the kitchen counter, Little Princess picked it up and dumped it in the little bin that holds old plastic and cans that will soon be dropped at the nearest recycling center and she jumped up and down saying, “Prime Minister Modi says we need to save our Earth.”

Okay, I have done my bit!

 

References : http://gulfnews.com/opinion/thinkers/macron-finds-his-feet-in-a-world-of-strongmen-1.2038431

The Health Bait

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As a child, hospitals meant dreary places with stark white walls that reeked of disinfectants, ruled by doctors who reminded me of villains in movies brandishing big syringes instead of shiny black guns. The unsmiling nurse who wielded his stinging powers with cotton balls soaked in disinfectant rubbed unceremoniously on a fresh wound, became the formidable doctor’s trusted accomplice.

Other than the sugar-coated diagnosis that has a chance of spelling doom to our happy existence or life altogether (bank account wiped out squeaky clean) and the battery of tests that usually accompanies anything more than a common cold – my fear for doctors and hospitals has dissipated over the years.

With exuberant doctors zealously throwing themselves on building patient relations and multi-specialty hospitals competing with five-star hotels in luxury, gourmet food and exorbitant bills paid with a flick of the insurance card, it is not surprising that the easy-going, busy, fast-food-addicted humans of the techie generation find every reason to visit these ‘health resorts’ to relax, recover and rejuvenate from their life-style acquired illnesses.

If you are the boring few who drag yourself out of cozy beds for a morning walk or fall into the old-fashioned fussy minority insisting on boring, healthy home-cooked meals with a belief that it is not fad-diets or vitamin supplements but mental well-being and happiness that is the secret to glowing health – then you have a high chance of being penalized for not paying your dues to the hospital industry with a battery of tests the next time you visit your physician with a common cold.

Just in case you are a pretty face thirsting for fame, then it is recommended that you shout from rooftops about your pathetic story of a battle with clinical depression, for this can rise you to overnight fame (and an overflowing bank account) with the prestigious job of being the fresh face and brand ambassador of the trending ‘#Depression Movement’!

 

 

 

Digital Dilemma

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When Mr. Narendra Modi, the honorable Prime Minister of India, encouraged a switch from e-governance to mobile governance, a few government officials worked feverishly on updating their Facebook status and uploading pictures that threw light on their political influences and milestones in order to impress him, especially during important meetings chaired by the Prime Minister himself.

Mr. Modi was quick to banish these hand-held pieces of technology into his meetings, the likes of which worked a few hundred seconds faster than light and kept busy government servant’s eyes and mind captive under its enticing digital spell, while the matters of the nation took a backseat.

I always assumed the founder of I-pad, Steve Jobs, had touch screens instead of walls at home. Astonishingly, his children had limited access to technological wonders created by him and went to schools that focused on hands-on learning. Luckily, his creations have been put to good use by leading schools that have switched to e-books and use games like Minecraft as teaching tools leaving Gen-Y parents confused and little children with glasses as thick as soda bottles.

I have nothing against technology but even in the digital era, isn’t moderation the key?

So, before the digital bug bites and later swallows us whole reducing our brains and cognitive functions to the size of a pea and before my children stumble onto games like Blue Whale (that has the blood of 130 Russian teens on its vicious hands), I have decided to put my family on a digital diet.

I plan to start by accidentally switching the WiFi off when I intend to have a conversation with the husband or unintentionally slip the I-pad into the microwave oven when I need to give Sid a piece of my mind.

But may be it is a good idea to make a date with Google in order to find out the best solutions to my new-found predicament!