Category Archives: The Lighter Side of Life

Is Boring the New Cool?

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'I need to reset his internal clock...does anyone have the correct time?'

My friends and family will readily agree that I fall into the category of humans who can be fittingly termed as ‘boring’, and I only have my upbringing to blame.

Father had been the embodiment of rules, discipline and regulation, and age has only reaffirmed his conviction that respecting your body is directly proportional to leading a boring, disciplined lifestyle that involves doing the same activities at the same time, every single day of your life.

As children, we woke up, ate our home-cooked meals, played outdoor games, studied, watched the news (and smiled when Doordarshan aired the movie that had been released more than a decade ago) and slept at the same time every day.

Studies have shown that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit.

So obviously the pattern that I have followed all my childhood has become all that I am – systematic and boring.

When Sid suggests Pizza, a batch of soft, fluffy rice cakes are ready.

When the husband suggests a late-night movie, I am already dozing.

If the majority in the household won (which usually is the case) and food has been ordered, I am left hyperventilating two minutes after the time promised has elapsed.

And during a pleasant weekend morning when the sleep-deprived majority is lost in the lap of dreams, I am enjoying the rare privilege of a walk in the park with my sleepy son tagging behind me, wondering what was the big deal about the ‘nature walk’ that he was promised.

When the organization that I previously worked for lured its employees into an option of night shift with a hefty allowance, I opted out as going against the pattern of clockwork that governed my life was against my life principles and I stuck to the constant of day shift.

My friends who made the shift spent the weekends sleeping, the week days in a haze and used up their hefty bank balances at designer boutiques that sold trendy plus-sized dresses and beauty salons that promised to replenish their lifeless skin with fragrant chemical combinations.

When the world applauded after the discovery of the microscopic biological machinery that controls the circadian rhythm or our internal body clock won the Nobel for Physiology or Medicine, I was thrilled that even at a time when the three scientists – Jeffery Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young – were progressing with this amazing discovery using fruit flies, Father called it ‘discipline’ and we annoyingly termed it ‘dictatorship’.

Not sure if my not-so-cool ways will help me live till a 102 but now that it is official, I will proudly proclaim that boring is the new cool!

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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.

Nature’s Child

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It was an honor when I was presented with an opportunity to spend a morning with an enthusiastic group of children at The St. Anne’s School in Palakkad, Kerala. A session that kicked off with a fun quiz, then gravitated to an interactive session to share bits of wisdom using write ups from my blog.

By early afternoon, I taught some, learnt some and had a big group of eager, happy teens (who forgave me for using their Physical Training hour) as my new friends.

This is what one lovely student of St. Anne’s Convent wrote to me.

What do you think?

 

 

It was a new moon night,  a dark night that seem to make the crickets chirp louder and the countless stars that dot the Earth’s inky roof, dazzle and shimmer brightly than ever.

Mother and I sat under this dark canopy.

Breaking the enveloping silence I asked, “If you had a chance to become a bird, which bird would you choose?”

She smiled, a slow smile that warned me of the direction of her thoughts and her wise words that will soon add color to the dark night.

“You tell me, what would you choose?” she asked, throwing the question back at me.

The answer was obvious.

“A dove,” I said. “A beautiful, white dove,” I added for emphasis imagining myself flying free on the expanse above. If I were a dove carrying an olive branch, then I became the embodiment of peace and by my own lonesome self, I was a white beauty.

Oh! I couldn’t wait to become the ‘dove’ of my dreams or would it be a white swan, gliding gracefully in the placid waters.

“I would choose to become a crow,” came my mother’s voice, interrupting my flying thoughts.

“A crow?”I asked surprised.

Who would want to be an ugly, black crow? There were more than a million of them anyway.

Mother sat up, switching into what I usually termed as ‘her philosophical mode’.

“The crow is not ‘bird brained’ like most of the other species of their kind.  They are considered to be one of the most intelligent species in the bird family as other than appropriating time for life’s basic necessities and raising a family, they indulge in group play among themselves and others of their kind.”

“This black bird has survived and thrived among us in the city scourging on our leftovers, cleaning up what has been dirtied and destroyed by us humans, becoming the lowly scavengers that keep our environment clean.”

I listened in rapt attention to the wisdom doled out by Mother as the black-coated crow slowly elevated to the rank of a super bird, my pearly white dove clearly forgotten.

“Beauty is beyond just a fair complexion. Beauty is confidence, the will to be yourself and most importantly to have a beautiful mind and become useful to the people and the environment around you.”

“Appearances can be deceiving, my dear and fairness creams can only whiten your skin, not your thoughts,” she concluded.

On that dark night, Mother’s wise words made me see a multitude of colors on the shiny black coat of a humble crow!

Shreya is a Grade 8 Student studying in St. Anne’s School, Palakkad.

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Taming the Blue Whale

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'Mom, when you need parenting help, do you call grandma for tech support?'

One evening I caught Sid maneuvering his way about a sheet of newspaper that had flown out of its place onto the floor. He went about his task and on his way back, he jumped over the newspaper, high-fiving into the air before threading his way back to his room.

Little Princess who assumed it was a new game got busy jumping on either side of the fallen newspaper.

“Will it be too much of an effort to just put that paper back into its place?” I asked my son.

His eyes rounded in shock, making me wonder if I had asked him about putting the moon back into its place in the infinite sky.

As I continued my rant, the instant shock was quickly replaced with the usual glazed look – one that made me wish that I had a piece of technology that could decipher his thoughts at that precise moment.

“Your little sister learns from you, so you need to set a good example,” I continued.

But as my mind buckled under the strain of toggling between giving him a healthy dose of motherly advice while wondering what was going on inside his, I said the inevitable,

“Look at me. Do I ask you do anything that I do not practice myself?”

I got no answer – just that glazed, distant look.

 

“Have you heard about the Blue Whale game?” I asked him later in the day, gingerly peeking into the screen of the tablet that had his attention for a little more than five minutes.

“Hmm,” he said without taking his eyes off the screen.

I settled myself on the table munching on a crispy pancake, seating myself where I could get a view of his screen while pretending to browse through my phone.

“Heard of that 18-year-old Pakistani boy who made this anti-Blue Whale App? You must get that app. It tells you to do positive things like helping your parents with a chore or waking up at 6 a.m.”

He looked up. That glazed, forlorn look in his eyes.

Is there an app to track his thoughts?

“You know tasks that we did out of sheer responsibility during our times and those that require an application for your generation,” I ranted on for effect.

“Ma, did you not tell us that it is unhealthy to fidget with the phone while eating?” he questioned in all innocence.

I gently pushed the phone aside, my focus instantly zeroed onto the pancake before me.

Is ‘practice what you preach’ one of the positive tasks listed by the young man?

Then I would need the Anti-Blue Whale app!

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.

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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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.