Category Archives: UAE

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.

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Change Begins at Home and it Begins Now

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When I enjoy writing quirky pieces of humor then why are my thoughts and words directed to a well of seriousness?

Is it because they involve a blood-curdling, stomach churning atrocity on an innocent eight-year-old and now an eight-month-old girl child?

Is it because it took a #nirbhaya, #kathua, #unnao and so many others that went unreported for lawmakers to be forced into taking more stringent legal provisions against these hideous crime?

Is it because I enjoyed a carefree childhood surrounded by adults who only saw a little girl at play and absolutely nothing more?

Is it because? Never mind.

While we raise our voices against the din of injustice, are we doing enough to bring a change in our own homes?

What about those men who deem it their right to a place on the table first with a piping hot meal served to them with all the women in close attendance to wait on them while even the pregnant woman gets her turn only after the men have had the lion’s share?

Or that parent-doting son who sucks up every iota of his parent’s attention and love simply because he becomes the rightful heir to the Patriarchal throne while the daughters are a mere responsibility who have to be safely married off.

Or the daughter-in-law who silently bears the brunt of becoming the inevitable punching bag of the men and even the other women in the family for every misfortune that has occurred since her arrival into her husband’s household.

If we do not stand up against these barbaric acts against women and the girl child now, we are not human enough.

Change begins at home and it begins now.

Save the Earth! It is the only planet with chocolate….

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"The doctor said I need more calcium, so I'm switching from dark to milk chocolate."

What do you do when you know that global warming could target one of the sweetest solutions you have always counted on — that chocolate (or the cocoa plant) is at a risk of extinction in a few decades?

I decided to drown my melancholy in an entire bar of chocolate that I realised at the other side of my criminally-calorific break must have been saved up by one of my children.

Luckily, the brain had me covered with the build-up of the goodness of endorphins and serotonin that magically transformed my guilt and melancholy into an inexplicable feeling of warmth and goodness — albeit temporarily.

The word ‘chocolate’ itself feels like an invitation to joy, happiness and a reason to smile, unlike words like ‘eggplant’ that causes a certain adult and a child in my household to try hard to keep up a straight face and suffer from a sudden onset of ‘loss of appetite’ while the other child — who is still on the road to learning the tricks of the trade — is seen to scream her disapproval.

Chocolate comes wrapped in the pleasures of delicious moments that trigger sweet childhood memories.

Being the Five-Star and Dairy Milk generation of kids, my cousins and I willingly shared our clothes and sometimes even our homework but fought tooth and nail for a fair share of the rare chocolate treat that was painstakingly divided to the last millimetre.

On the bright side, it was during these rare moments that we put every apparatus in our mathematical instrument box and our math skills to good use.

Summer vacations meant freedom from school work and hovering in stealth mode near my aunt’s refrigerator trying to get our hands inside the colourful tins of chocolate that it treasured — the wrappers of which were saved away between the pages of our notebooks where both its ‘chocolatey’ scent and memory lingered on for days

Along with chocolate are coffee, potatoes, apples among many others in the global food chain that are found to be at a risk of extinction. While the company, Mars, is working on using scientific methodologies like the gene-editing technology to aid in developing plants that will be able to survive in the expected conditions, we have one more ‘sweet’ reason to do our bit in saving our home from the devastating effects of global warming.

As for me, the gnawing grief is making a comeback with the effect of the ‘happy chemicals’ waning. Now if you will excuse me, I need to grab another bar.

 

This is an extract from the publication in the Off the Cuff column of The Gulf News. For the entire article please click here.

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter!

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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?

 

 

Fashion-ing the Ideal Parent

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"I'm looking for a book on how to raise kids easily, but I can't seem to find it anywhere..."

Sid can compete with Maggie Noodles where dressing up is concerned.

The exercise consists of snatching the first pair of clothes that falls in his line of vision; this lesser activity multi tasked with more important activities  that usually involve a bat and a ball. The rest of the grooming routine usually requires gentle or loud reminders from one of his parents.

So we were as shocked as he was when he was shortlisted for a Fashion Show at school – the proceeds of which will be used to fund the education of underprivileged children in India.

That evening I caught him staring at the mirror spiking his spiky hair.

By the next morning, I was concerned. He had brought out the entire cupboard on full display matching t-shirts with pants as I am usually known to do.

Later that evening, we sat in the audience and watched him walk the ramp along with his partner, pausing to pose and give a half-smile before making an exit.

On our way back home, he was full of excited banter about the fun time backstage and his new friends.

As soon as we got home, he rushed into the washroom without a reminder. As I looked out of the window to check if the Sun had miraculously set in the East, he appeared to be relieved having washed off the hair gel and make up.

My son was back to being his disheveled self, ready to curl up with a book.

Every experience – the good, the not-so-good and awesome childhood experiences contribute to making our children the adult that they become; developing values that will anchor them to safety whenever the storms of uncertainty and change threaten while reinforcing a solid foundation to building a fulfilling life.

As a mother, I wish to drag my children back into the protective embrace of my womb, but I remind myself that the my greatest gift to them will be the wings of experience that will help them learn to fly high and drink life to the very lees as we guide them unhindered by the weight of our dreams and expectations reliving the fun, silliness and joys of childhood with them.

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Wishing you all a Happy Sunday!

Why are Women Terrified of Cockroaches?

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Science calls it katsaridaphobia.

The husband calls it a silly overreaction.

I can only say that this six-legged creature single-handedly sums up my personal insect hell.

With the school term coming to a close, families chose this time of the year to move back to their home country or make another apartment their home.

This move has shook up a few other families from another kingdom that must have been  thriving and breeding undisturbed in the dark crevices of drain pipes or have been forced to relocate too after the depreciating chemical barriers have been re-erected by the real-estate staff, who are seen prepping the house for its new tenant.

One roach decided to take an evening stroll and managed to invade the carefully-guarded, pest-free, chemically-barricaded fortress that I call home.

That night I sleepily walked into the bedroom and caught sight of this unwelcome guest scampering  about the white floor on its spiky appendages.

In an instant, I was wide awake, sleep gone, eyes popping out of sockets, breath caught midway between the lungs and the nostrils, adrenal medulla overworking – pumping in adrenaline for fight or flight reaction.

The mind trying to shut out the image that is crawling and wrecking my system.

When I had mustered up enough courage, I rushed to find to the husband.

On hindsight, I marvel the reaction and the multitasking power of a shocked human mind and body.

Only that my mind had been rendered that shock by a creepy crawly as big as my pinkie.

The husband was amused. He found the creature and sent it off to insect heaven.

The only relief has been that the children were locked in dreamland and hence did not witness their mother outperform them in a state of utter frenzy.

The following morning on, my paranoid eyes have been searching for unwelcome family members and a search party of the deceased invader as the hands have been cleaning better and disinfecting effectively.

But try as I might, I cannot understand why women who have crossed frontiers, shattered glass ceilings can be reduced to a shaking, shrieking, chaotic lot when it comes to cockroaches?

 

Good morning Friends, Wishing those on the other side of the world, a happy weekend while wishing my friends on this side of the world, a great beginning to a new week.

Sneezing Away a Beautiful Winter Weekend

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"Hey, you have got great empathy!"

The awesome months of winter are welcome with an endless stream of outdoor activities — along with coughs, sniffles and examinations.

I am grateful that we are spared the ‘examination’ bit as my children are yet to enter that phase of schooling, but there is no sure way of escaping the sneezes that develop into a cold and then a fever that makes a burning entry in the dead of a cold winter night when I have to toggle between checking temps, administering medications and comforting a delirious child while fighting off the urge to allow my drooping eyelids succumb to sweet slumber.

It is a joy to see the scorching days of summer give way to cool winter mornings.

Every year, the husband and I resolve to take advantage of the weather and include a walk into our routine, but I have long since made peace with the fact that sticking to resolutions is not in my stars. Nor is a slim, trim and hour-glass shaped figure.

Spooling the tape back a few weeks this winter, I wished to make weekends special by spending as much time as I could outdoors. Once I had zeroed in on one of the many events that would hold the interest of my children and us, I meticulously planned out the weekend.

My enthusiasm failed to ebb even after the husband appeared to only show interest in the culinary options available in the area or when I heard Little Princess sneeze.

By Thursday evening, Little Princess had bright red patches on her face, a sore throat and a rasping cough. We spent the early hours of our meticulously planned fun weekend nursing a sick child who quivered with soaring temperatures.

The rest of the weekend and the next four weekends were spent with paediatricians and general practitioners as we took turns borrowing the nasty cold from one another. I whiled away waiting time at the hospital catching up on the details and pictures of marathons, food fests and other events through the eyes of reporters and photographers of the newspaper and social media.

On the plus side, the frequency of our visits encouraged the friendly staff at the hospital to welcome us with more-than-just pleasant smiles. I also learnt that a doctor’s job was no easy task with getting to meet and greet sick children and exasperated sleep-deprived parents.

With a few weeks left before the mercury rises and our household making a return to some form of normality, we are hoping to go to any place other than a hospital. The husband is hoping to catch a movie, but there is no extensive planning involved for I am not looking forward to catching one of my children sneezing away our weekend plans — yet again

 

Hello Fellow Bloggers, hope you are all doing well. This is an extract from a piece published in the Gulf News. Please click here for the entire article.

Wishing you all a great Sunday.

The High Cost of an Impromptu Visit to the Supermarket

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On a cold winter evening, I snuggle in the blissful comforts of a warm bed with a book for company. But bliss can only be complete with a steaming cup of filter kaapi.

The intoxicating aroma of the ground beans cloud my caffeine-deprived mind nudging me to drag myself out of the warm comforts of the bed and pay tribute to the beans.

As I pour hot water into the filter and the gentle drip of thick coffee become music to my ears, I remember that the milk has all been used up.

There are  two options before me – a phone call and an extra buck can bring the precious bottle of milk right by my doorstep in about the time that I can chide about my unorganized ways or I can save the buck and get some exercise with a quick walk to the supermarket where I can pick up a fresh bottle of my choice of milk – from among the low-fat, full-fat, double-cream, half-cream options.

A quick browse of the counter beside it and then every counter and asile after and before it will soon stack the cart with everything that I would and would not require on another rainy day.

Realization and regret on my impromptu shopping spree strikes only after the bill has been handed over. I force myself to see the bright side of the situation, thanking my stars that I had chosen to carry the card instead of digging deep into my pocket.

I must confess that the free tutelage on haggling from the experts in my younger days during the many visits to the local market have been wasted by the supermarket revolution.

I, like the rest of its loyal customers, will queue up with a cart full of what I think are the choicest picks from the zillion brands and trillion varieties made available, willing to part with a big chunk of my bank balance and shed tears of joy when they surprise me with a gift voucher that will ensure that I am back on yet another shopping spree with a paltry discount in return for more than a decade of loyalty.

As for my caffeine-deprived, cold evening – my choice has been made and so has the phone call. I am sure the delivery person will be at my doorstep even as I dig deep into my wallet to fish out the extra buck and the music of the dripping coffee has come to a halt.

 

Some Siri-ous Thoughts about Technology and the Generation Gap

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"Would you mind if I ask SIRI for a 2nd opinion?"

It was hilarious to watch the Italian grandmother’s reaction when she heard the smart assistant give precise answers to her queries even after she called it ‘Goo Goo’. This viral video took me back in time to an afternoon when Father and I had visited the community centre back at home where a crowd had queued up to witness a new piece of technology that was up for public display and demonstration.

This was a time when the Oxford dictionary and common man understood the definition of ‘mouse’ as a rodent with a pointed snout and a long tail that usually kept the occupants of the house running after it when it made an unbidden visit and technology was at its infancy and we were yet to trust complicated computing machines that could supposedly ease our workload. We looked in awe at the wonder gadget — the mouse — placed inside a locked glass enclosure to be carefully removed and attached to the keyboard by the ‘mouse expert’ during the hourly demonstration.

When computers replaced typewriters and swivelling cushioned chairs, the outdated wooden ones, Father, for whom the change presented a bit of a learning curve, spent evenings at one of the many internet cafes that had sprouted in the vicinity. These cafes had dial-up internet connections that grated and whistled noisily while the operator-cum-instructor imparted precious knowledge on the complex technique of sending electronic mail.

Much later, we rejoiced the day Father brought home our very own personal computer. Patience was a virtue for after the dial-up had finally made the connection, it took just one wrong number on the landline phone to terminate it.

These childhood tales have now metamorphosed into hilarious bedtime stories that get Sid to laugh incessantly and beg for more instead of getting him to sleep.

Earlier this year, when digital class was no more an option at his school, Sid got his tablet. The thought of my son owning a piece of technology that threw open the doors of the internet world was daunting. While he excitedly spent the first day exploring its features, I hovered about explaining the perils that the limitless world of the internet posed. It was about then that he discovered the virtual assistant — Siri.

At first, he was curious about the robotic voice behind the glossy black screen. Little Princess joined in the questions that ranged from ‘Hey Siri, Who are you?’ to ‘Hey Siri, do you like ice cream?’ This was soon seen to gravitate to academic doubts and questions like ‘Hey Siri, can you find my Math notebook?’ I must admit that it hurt to see that my son found ‘Siri’ more resourceful than his mother, but it was concern about the misuse of technology if left unmonitored that I restricted screen time.

Even though Siri has always resided in the complex interiors of my phone, it was the hilarious answers that my children sometimes got in return for bizarre questions that got me to activate the virtual assistant on my phone. It was impressive to get ‘Siri’ to pull out selective emails, send messages, make calls and set alarms with a simple voice message. But my family was not very happy to be woken up at 2am after the phone jarred to life with what appeared to be an alarm that had been accidently set during my trials.

While the older generation is hesitant to adapt to technological advancements, the children, for whom technology has been an integral part of their existence have taken to it like ducks to water. Father, who had been both worried and excited when he was handed a sleek, shiny smart phone called me up asking me to accept his friend request on social media. Sid is now working on a science project that involves moving suspended objects that can be controlled by an application.

I wonder where that leaves the middle generation — who can rock in a fetal ball of nostalgia at the sound of dial-up connections or talk about heavy desktop computers as if they were dinosaurs, but continue to be enthralled at the pace of technology and is striving hard to keep up pace in the virtual world as much as the real world and real people. Siri is sure to have one or a hundred and one answers to that question too!

 

Hello Friends, hope that you all are having a wonderful weekend. The above is a piece that was written for the Gulf News and has featured in today’s ‘Off the Cuff’ column. You can read it here. Wish you all a wonderful day ahead.

 

Snippets for a Better Tomorrow

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"I wish you'd start recycling your old newspapers..."

One activity that I love to unwind with over the weekend is to sit down and catch up with a pile of a week’s worth of newspaper. A little tower of them, when I have to make up for the previous week as well. It just about feels like you are catching up on an entire series of that popular soap or the highlights of a series of matches that everyone is talking about but you were too caught up in the web of chores and responsibilities to sit back and enjoy. The advantage is that you never miss the details and you save the stress of figuring out that nail-biting, heart-thumping finish as you have already heard it.

I am also among those people who cannot drink in every inch of the newspaper or a magazine without cutting out (read tearing out) an interesting article for later reference or to enjoy a read of the same at another time.

My cutouts for that week will depend on how I feel like on that particular day.

If it is a period after a stint of holidaying and binging, my cutouts would range from  eating right or eating less to a series of yoga postures that seem graceful when performed by the toned woman in the pictures but close to impossible when it is your turn to try. Sometimes it is sport and other times a dose of inspiration.

Instead of cutting out just the article of interest, I usually save up the entire page.

Little Princess is delighted to see her mother tear up paper and just to keep my catching up going without untoward tantrums  from her side, she gets her turn at tearing after I am done with mine.

Now these saved-up snippets overflow from shoe boxes that occupy the uppermost deck of the cupboard. Having realized that the tomorrow has never come and those life changing alterations that I had once resolved never became, I recently took a quick peek into one. I was left in a fix as to what part of that paper inspired me to save it up. I am even left wondering if Little Princess swapped hers with mine.

Now, I might need another weekend to deal with those.