Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Rapunzel Story

“They have silver in their hair, gold in their heart… and magic in their hands.”


Source: DesiComments.com


Or at least in my grandmother’s hands. This is not just because every dish she prepared made my taste buds go ‘this is nirvana!’ or even the simplest tea she brewed was so much better than any I ever had so far. It was because her hands worked magic on my hair. Every afternoon when I came home from school, I would get over with my ablutions, and before mother could place my bowl of rice in front of me, I was off to see grandma in her room, where she sat caressing her tresses with oil. My grandma had luscious, beautiful, wondrous, jet-black hair. She loved to tell me her story of her Rapunzel-like long hair and how when granddad’s parents came to see her, the first thing that amazed them about her was her hair. They asked not one question after that. And just like that, their marriage was settled.
“They liked your hair so much that they wedded their son to you?” I had asked incredulously.
“Absolutely!” Grandma had answered with that beautiful laugh of hers and the familiar twinkle of her eyes. “In those days, one’s hair was one’s pride.”
“It still is.” I had said. “But hardly anyone has the kind of black hair that you do.”

But it was evident why that was the case. Grandma oiled her hair daily, not missing even a single day. And that is what she had done to me as well. Every afternoon, I would sit in front of her, my arms around my knees and my mane spread out. Grandma would then run her old veined hands over my hair. First slowly, and then with a little emphasis to ensure that every strand of my hair got the massage and nutrition it needed. She took care of her hair like a plant, watering (oiling) it, and helping it grow by nurturing it carefully.  No wonder I too had long, black and shiny hair. Not just because of my genes, but because Grandma had put so much effort into caring for my hair.

She always insisted on coconut oil. She said it was the best oil for one’s hair.

“What if my hair is oily or say, dry and flaky? Isn’t there supposed to be different types of oil for different types of hair?” I would ask when I entered adolescence and saw my peers doing all kinds of things to their hair and feeling just a little bit left out.

Coconut oil is the best.” She would say with a finality that no one could contest. Parachute was her constant. And consequently, our staple.   

***

“Come on everyone! Be seated quickly!” I ordered.
Mom, dad, grandpa, my little brother, uncle, aunty and their two daughters were all seated as per my instructions. We were going to witness something today.

“What is it? Will you tell us?” everyone was asking.
“Just wait and watch.” I said and switched on the video.

On came all the snaps that we had taken at different times in our life - right from when we were tiny tots to weddings, birthdays, celebrations, occasions all the way to our current year. There were also photos from times much before we were born.

“Who is that?” My cousin exclaimed at a black and white photograph of a beautiful woman with long black hair that reached her knees.
“That is your grandmother, kid.” Grandpa said fondly, a tear escaping his eye. “This was the picture I had taken of her when we got married.”

Everyone gasped in surprise.

“How did you arrange these pictures? They look ancient! And so beautiful.” Mom lauded my efforts, making me blush.
“This picture relived all those moments again.” Grandpa said a little sadly.

It had been three years since Grandma had left for her heavenly abode. I still remember how we used to celebrate Grandparents’ Day when Grandma was alive, with all due ceremony, cake and music and good food…

But ever since grandma’s demise, this had seen a cessation. There was no more celebration, no more cakes, no more laughter, no more good times on this wonderful day.

But this time, I was determined to celebrate Grandparents’ day. Because I am sure that's what grandma would have wanted. Because she would have liked to see us together and happy. Because it was simply the time to #LoveJatao.
So, I had done all I could to gather our fondest memories and to relive all our cherished times.

I rushed to the kitchen and brought out a tray. In memory of Grandma, I had arranged a cake, with ‘To our favorite Rapunzel and her Prince’ etched on it in lovely pink icing.

Grandpa had tears in his eyes. As I fed him a piece, I'm sure I heard grandma’s beautiful laugh somewhere. She was still with us.

***

Happy Grandparents' Day!
Hope you cherish these moments with your grandparents forever!


***

#LoveJatao #ParachuteAdvansed #BlogAdda
I look forward to hear from you how would you celebrate Grandparents Day. Do share a selfie with your grandparents on Sept. 10, 2017 on Twitter or Facebook with #LoveJatao & tag @blogadda to win a goodie from Parachute Advansed.




Sunday, 20 August 2017

Shanti Didi


I saw her sitting in the room, coiled up in a corner, while her mother wiped the floor of our house. I was too hungry so I rushed to the kitchen, got myself some garlic bread with jam and was about to get back into my room when I stopped.
She was a little girl, barely nine years old. She must be hungry too. Thinking so, I got her a plate full of bread slices with jam smeared on them. “Have it,” I pushed the plate in front of her. She got up immediately, sprang to full attention and stared at me like she had never seen me before.
“Don’t you like bread?” I asked her to which she nodded, took the plate from me and began eating. It made me really happy for some reason to see her eat.
After that day, I met her again two weeks later when her mother brought her to our place once more. “Sit,” she instructed her daughter, who crossed her legs and sat down on the floor, staring at the wall as if it was the most interesting television show possible. But as soon as she saw me, her gaze locked on me as if I was now the most interesting phenomenon in her life.
I guessed she wanted something to eat like the last time, so I foraged around in the kitchen and arranged some stuff for her. She looked at me intently and then began to gulp down everything on the plate. What a sweet hungry girl.
“Taaanku.” She said to me.
“Thank you, you mean?” I asked her.
She stared at me as if I was speaking in an altogether different language, which I now realize I must be.
“Do you go to school?”
She shook her head. I frowned. How come her mother hasn’t enrolled her yet? She is young surely, but old enough to be in a school.
But there was no point in asking her why she hadn’t been put in a school.
“Do you know how to read?” I asked her.
She nodded vigorously. I was kind of surprised. I supposed she was being homeschooled.
Just then, she picked up a newspaper lying nearby and raised it high in front of her. She then began to speak. And speak gibberish she did. She pretended she was reading the newspaper. She went on for about five minutes without stopping. She spoke nothing of any sense whatsoever. I couldn’t help but crack up. She looked so adorable, so sweet and yet so stupid. But what caused me astonishment was her confidence. She was speaking like she was spouting some high-profile news items, probably replicating people she had seen around her.
And then it struck me. What was that advert I had seen regarding Nihar Shanti Amla Oil? I dialed 8055667788 and took the phone to her. It was Nihar Shanti Amla’s new concept – Pathshala Funwala. As soon as she got hold of the phone, her attention was completely diverted. It was as if I didn’t exist. After about three minutes, she handed me the phone urgently, pointing to the buttons. I put the phone to my ear and realized that the voice was asking for an option to continue the English lessons.
From that day onwards, whenever she came to our house, I would call up 8055667788 from our landline. When the English tutorial by Shanti Amla called back, I would give her the receiver. She would then spend hours listening to the lessons.

One day I saw her on the street, walking with her mother. I had gone to the market for groceries.
“Hi didi! How are you?” began a chirpy voice.
I turned, saw her mom as taken aback by her words as I was. I stopped anyway and greeted her with a smile.
“Do you go to school now?”
I had talked to mother regarding her schooling and it came out that they were not planning to send her to an educational institution but after we coaxed her mom to do so by offering to pay for her school fee, she had started going to school.
As they say “If you change nothing, then nothing will change”.

The sweet girl nodded.
“She is the best in English in her class, her teacher told us that day. All thanks to you, bitiya.” Her mother said to me, overwhelmed with joy.
I waived away the thanks.   
“She really loves the fact that they call her Shanti Didi now!” exclaimed her mother happily.

Then it struck me. Her mother’s name was Amla and hers Shanti. Talk about coincidences!


“I am blogging about Pathshala Funwala by Nihar Shanti Amla Oil in association with BlogAdda

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Granny and Europe



Source : https://www.easyjet.com/en/holidays/germany/

My granny is a typical Indian grandmother. Refusing to go for anything apart from what she has been used to since the beginning of time.


"It's not possible. I have too much work."
I could have laughed at the ridiculousness of her statement. Work? Really? She would give that lame an excuse?
"And pray tell me what may that be?" I turned to look at her, my face all smiles.
She gave me a stern look and said, "You have no idea how much work a home requires. You won't understand. You are way out of it all now. Always outside for work and studies. You won't understand. "
"At least tell me, no? I will try to understand."
I was so looking forward to this conversation. It was going to be so much fun.
"Please, please, please. Pleaseeeeeeeeee…" I began ranting the way I used to when I was a kid and wanted some particularly stomach-upsetting delicacy.
"Well, it’s not rocket science. The house requires maintenance. The daily puja, cleaning, washing, cooking... "
"Which is all done by the respective maidservants.” I cut in. “But go on.”
She glared at me.
"You leave them women alone and they will flutter about, sit all day in front of the television and do nothing. They are the biggest shirkers possible. They-"
"Okay okay! I totally agree. But nothing will happen if we seal the house and go for one month. No need for cleaning. You will be free from any responsibility. At least for some time."
Granny clearly wasn’t convinced. "Listen. I will tell you what to do.” She began. “You go to Germany. Do that cun-convection-whatever thing and come back and then we will go to Sagar Ratna and have a huge party.”

It was all I could do not to burst into laughter. Only granny could place a meal in Sagar Ratna over a Europe trip.

I knew this would be both entertaining and exasperating. But I had only so much time. I had to get my point across.

"Convocation, granny. It is my convocation. And you know how much I want you to be a part of it. I won't accept any of your reasons. You must come. You have to come. I assure you, you will love it. I will be wearing the graduation robe and the special square graduation cap. Don't you want to see me awarded? In front of so many students and teachers and their parents and well-wishers? Please please please don't say no. I have been planning this for ages. And didn't you say you wish I hadn't gone to Germany alone? Now I'm taking you. I wouldn't be alone anymore."

Granny's face was working furiously. I knew in her heart of hearts, she wanted to be there. But she just didn’t want to leave the country where our family had lived and perished. She saw herself as a custodian of that legacy. And she wouldn’t give it up. At any cost.

“You know I would love to. But seriously I can't leave everything and just go. It doesn't work that way. And you are talking about this chilly country. The temperatures go negative. You yourself said that. How will I manage?!”
“Oh granny granny granny! It will be spring this time of the year. It won't be cold. Winter is gone. And summer will be here soon. There will be flowers and sunshine and sparkling lakes. It is all very pleasant indeed. You will love it. "
"But beta... I'm not used to the environment. I don't even know the language. What will I do there? "
"But I will be there with you, all right? Just come. You won't regret it. I promise.”

For a long time, she busied herself with putting things here and there. Cleaning the spotless vase. Wiping the photo frame and staring at the family photograph. Tilting the clock. Smoothing the cushions. In short, doing anything she possibly could in order to avoid answering me. There was no need for any such work but granny has a habit of fussing about things. It was not that difficult for her to come. But the real reason she didn't want to go was -

“I don't like the idea of living in a foreign country. This is my birth place. I want to live here. I don't want to live anywhere else.”

I knew this was the actual reason. She just hated the idea of being in a ‘foreign’ setting. She was a woman who was born in the pre-independence era. Although by the time she grew up the tensions had ceased, she was still not very comfortable with the idea of settling in a different country.
I respect her choice. But I wanted her to witness my convocation and experience the joy and pride on having raised her granddaughter single-handedly into a winner. I had just finished my graduation and had come top of the class. And I wanted gran to witness this achievement and feel proud of her own efforts. I wanted to tell her how much her toil, struggles and sacrifices meant to me. Without a family and no one except granny to call my own, I had never imagined reaching where I had reached and achieving what I had achieved. To convince her to let me study abroad was a gargantuan task in itself, but she had agreed eventually and had extended whole-hearted support. It had been tough though to leave her here. All alone. But it was turning out to be tougher to take her abroad. 
But then I had to give it a try.

Source : http://www.businessinsider.in/32-things-everyone-should-do-in-Germany/articleshow/49757870.cms

“I am not asking you to live there. We will come back next month. It is only a matter of a month. You will see me convocated and we will tour a few places in Europe. Germany. France. Eiffel Tower, remember? And Italy too.The Leaning Tower of Pisa! It really leans to a side, you know! And there are beautiful cathedrals and so much more that you would love to see. It will be a nice break. "

Granny's eyes were shining. She was feeling proud already. But the doubts lingered inside her.

"But..."
"Let the butts go into the ashtray. Here is your ticket. We are leaving next Friday."

There went my master stroke. I had carefully chosen the date so she wouldn't have any cause to protest. Only a stubborn unchangeable stance could help me win this battle of negotiation with grandma.

Source : http://www.hickerphoto.com/photos/germany-pictures.htm

And so on a sunny Friday morning, I stowed our bags into the cab and waited for grandma to finish staring at the door of our flat.

"It's locked. The lights and gas are off. The maids have been informed. The milkman and the newspaper guy have also been instructed. The neighbors have been told. It's done, granny. Time to leave."
"This is the first time I'm leaving the house for so long." She said, staring wistfully at the boarded doors and windows.
"Oh heavens!" I sighed. "I should have taken you away ages ago!" 
Saying so, I ushered her into the cab.



As the cab zigzagged its way towards the airport, I felt light. Much lighter than I had ever felt on leaving India. Because most of the times, I felt guilt overriding me that perhaps I was selfish to leave granny all alone in that flat. 
But then I had my ambitions. And I know granny wanted the same for me. 
But no such feelings that day. I was feeling happier than ever. I couldn't wait to take her to my university, and sightseeing across Marienplatz and Deutsche museum and maybe Lake Starnbeg where we could do some boating...

"I don't much like these stuck-up air hostesses, acting all polite full of lofty words..."

There went granny and her complaints!
We had barely gone through the security check when granny had come into her element. 
Oh well, it was just the beginning. I was expecting this.

"...and mannerisms like some robots or dolls. No genuine feeling-"
"Namaste!" A woman greeted us as we boarded the flight.

I almost choked with laughter when I saw the surprised expression on granny's face. Despite herself, she smiled at the air hostess. Being an Indian, you can't not smile or return the greeting when someone says ‘namaste’ to you. It’s kind of hard-wired into your being.
Thank you, Lufthansa. I chuckled to myself.

We stowed our handbags in the luggage area and sat. I made granny take the window seat.

“You will see Lotus Temple from above.” I pointed towards the window. That cheered her up considerably.

"2 Veg meals," I answered the air hostess as she asked for our meal preference.
She smiled and went away.

Next time when she came, I was ready. Our tables were down and I had convinced granny that if she didn't like the food, we could send it away and get something else instead.

“What else will they have? Apart from bread and cheese and wine?" she said aloud, rolling her eyes.
I blushed a little, hoping no one would think we are stereotyping Europeans.

"Here," the woman came again and handed us our meals.
"Any drinks? Tea or coffee?"
"One tea, and one orange juice," I told her.

She promptly handed out the drinks, gave us a winning smile and went on ahead.
If granny didn't like the burger, I had decided that I would swap it for some instant noodles. One can't go wrong with noodles, you know.

Before I had finished my thoughts, a delicious scent wafted up. To my utter surprise and delight, I saw granny uncover chapatti, rice with palak paneer and raajma. A tiny curd sat in the corner as well.
Wow. That was decidedly Indian. Since when though, I wondered.

"Indians have gone everywhere, haven't they?"
Granny asked me while mixing the rice and curd together, once she was done with the other dishes.
I chuckled.

“Was the food to your taste, granny?" I asked her after she had finished.
“Not bad,” she said, wiping her mouth neatly with the tissues.
“Well, shouldn’t be since the likes of Kunal Kapoor and Vinod Saini prepared today’s meal.”

I gleefully watched granny’s expression change to astonished admiration as I showed her the facts written in the airline magazine. I had often seen her hunt for Kunal Kapoor’s recipes on Youtube and watch similar cook shows on TV. She definitely held these culinary giants in high regard. After all, they were the pride of the food in Leela Palace. 

The best part was post this incident, granny was all praise. By the time we land, I was sure she will give her best smile to the flight attendants. Because, and I was so happy for it, she was really enjoying the entire experience.

Her fears of everything foreign had thankfully been hugely quelled, thanks to Lufthansa's homely care. Later, as we laid back, granny watching a Bollywood flick on the entertainment TV with earphones plugged in, her expression all serious and her eyes earnest, I couldn't help but feel proud that the airlines and perhaps the world was turning out to be more Indian than I thought.

Dreaming of the impending graduation ceremony and laying my head on granny's shoulders as she flicked back and forth through the various things to watch, I dozed off contentedly. 

The flight had been a good start to our Europe trip. It was then that I decided to write something for Lufthansa Airlines. After all, the airlines managed to cheer my granny up! What could be a bigger achievement? 

As my eyes closed of their own accord, I started dreaming of all the places I would be showing to granny- all the beautiful mountains, lakes, palaces, museums, castles and cathedrals in Europe. Aah...that was a pleasing prospect. Germany, wir kommen!



~This post is part of the #MoreIndianThanYouThink activity by Lufthansa in association with IndiBlogger.~

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

~**Spotlight**~

Author Focus 
"Mock, Stalk & Quarrel"

Satire is a kind of poetry in which human vices are reprehended. Or so John Dryden said. What I like best about satire and sarcasm is that they tell the truth, which is why anything even remotely connected to satire piques my interest. 

Mock, Stalk & Quarrel, a collection of satirical tales, identifies powerful voices that can wage an ideological war against issues that matter. Twenty-nine voices, indulgent, tolerant, amusing and witty, were chosen to create this collection. 

This is the book I am talking about:

https://www.facebook.com/MSQTheBook/



You might not want to miss the launch of this exciting anthology. So, those in Delhi on 25 November, you might want to drop in to the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi for the launch.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1310445652338955/

For those not being able to attend, do not despair! We are organizing a Kolkata launch on 26 November, 2016.  

Tête-à-tête with Amrita Mukherjee



Dostoyevsky said, “Sarcasm: the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.” 
Let's hear it from one of the authors of the book- Amrita Mukherjee.

Something about our Author-in-Focus:

Amrita Mukherjee has worked in publications like The Times of India, The Hindustan Times and The Asian Age in India and she has been the Features Editor with ITP publishing Group, Dubai’s largest magazine publishing house. An advocate of alternative journalism, she is currently a freelance journalist writing for international publications and websites and also blogs at www.amritaspeaks.com. Amrita’s debut novel Exit Interview earned the tag “unputdownable” from reviewers and readers alike. 

     1.     Please tell us something about yourself. 

I am a non-conformist, hyper extrovert and positive person. I take a keen interest in other people’s stories and my friends often joke that you never know when you find yourself in Amrita’s fiction.

     2.     When and how did you start writing?

It was a strange juncture in my life. I had lost my brother to cancer, my son was born 20 days later and I had quit my well-paying job after a few months. To grapple with my emotional turmoil I started writing my first book Exit Interview. And my late brother always said I would write one day. It was a way of honouring his memory probably but I hadn’t thought so much then.

     3.     Any challenges that you faced while writing?

My son was 10-months-old when I started writing. So the story had to flow between diaper changes, bathing and feeding time. I was gone the moment I heard him cry when I came back I had lost the plot. I had to start all over again.

     4.     What do you think about the future of writing/publishing industry in India?

Chetan Bhagat often gets the brickbats because many people claim he’s been selling mediocrity but I feel he was the one who allowed Indian authors to dream and opened up the market for Indian writing. Now publishers are willing to take up manuscripts by Indian authors and with new publishing houses coming up the possibilities are increasing. I particularly think Readomania being a comparatively new publishing house is bringing out phenomenally good books and these are the kind of books which you would want to keep in your bookcase and read again and again.

     5.     What do you think is the need for satire in today’s time?

The times we live in we need satire to keep our sanity. We live in such insecure times that we really don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and hit us like a bolt-from-the blue. Did any of us think that one fine day at 8pm our Rs 500 notes would become defunct? I guess that’s when you need satire to look at a serious situation with a tinge of humour and survive through the process.

     6.     What do you think are the easiest and the hardest thing about writing short stories?

If you have the story figured out you can actually finish it in two days but you haven’t then God help you. You might keep struggling with it for months and still not get it.

     7.     Any writing rules/rituals?

I try to create a structure in my notebook or in my mind before I start writing. I also keep notes sometimes of incidents, happenings, research that I would want to include in my future stories.

      8.     Tell us something about your story in MSQ. How did it come about?

I was working with Dipankar Mukherjee, the owner of Readomania for my next book. He told me this competition Mocktales is on and asked me to send a story. I had never written on a theme so I wasn’t sure how I would fare. But an incident had happened in Kolkata around a woman in shorts when this idea came to my mind. My story is named The Dress Code.

      9.     Tell us about your previous work.

By God’s grace my debut novel Exit Interview published by Rupa Publications in June 2015 was well received and critics and readers said it is “unputdownable”.  It was on the Starmark Bestsellers List for months and did well in Dubai as well, where I lived as an expat. The book is based on the life of a woman journalist who moves through the ups and downs in her life as she travels from Kolkata to Dubai to Egypt.
 
      10. What is your current project or your next release?

My next release is a collection of short stories published by Readomania.

      11. Trivia:
·        
     Favourite food: Crabs
·        Fave books and authors: Keeps changing but Chander Pahar and Hungry Tide are my all-time faves. I love Ruskin Bond, O’Henry and Jeffrey Archer.
·        What makes you happy? A hug from my son.
·        What gets you angry? Disrespect.
·        Your best piece of work till now…I guess yet to come.
    
     12.  How do we connect with you?

Blog/Website: www.amritaspeaks.com
Twitter: @amritamuk

     13.  Any message for the readers?


It is wonderful people still read despite such busy and stressful lives that we all live in. And I would want to thank my readers for all their appreciation for my blogs and my first book that enthused me to keep writing. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Beat On...


Scene : Morning.

Action : Get up.




Decide whether to rush to class sans breakfast or get late after having some breakfast. Because let’s face it, you are never going to have the best of both worlds. At least not I. Not in this life.

Once you miss breakfast, all sorts of cravings start sprouting within you. Although half your mind is on your rumbling empty tummy, it is still better to attend the class and procure some attendance, especially when it’s a strict prof you are dealing with.

Come the first break and you start piling on junk, starting with maggi, and moving on to eclairs, patties, hotdogs, mouth-watering samosas and what not. By lunchtime, you are full of stuff that hasn’t sated you and yet, you are hungry.

So, my first chhote kadam towards health was…yes, having breakfast.

Although it was a Herculean decision to part with sleep, a little tweaking, a little extra prep at night (setting my bag, clothes and doing all those things I used to dutifully do while in school), a little will power (which is strangely difficult to summon at such times) allowed me to somehow create a semblance of jentacular balance.

The second effort was not an effort for me at all. I don’t particularly like elevators, being a big fan of open spaces. So, choosing stairs over elevators came naturally to me.     

The biggest challenge though was eating better. If there is something I can’t compromise on, it’s delectable mouth-watering junk food.

Patience. 
I discovered a little workaround. And it’s on the very lines of the above paragraph.

Eat at the mess. Even if the gravy seems full of water. Even if the chappati looks shapeless. Even if pizzas equate to heaven. 
Have the mess food. Choose health more often. Reduce a lot of eating out. I know it’s easier said than done. I haven’t been able to manage it either. I am not proud to admit that. But trying does count, right?

There is something though that I did manage. It was to have meals on time. You see, skipping is a sin. 

Skip rope, not your meals.  

Now we come to the king of hearts. 
:drum roll: 
The Happiness Quotient. How much is yours?

You know people have ample stuff to say about happiness. They talk about it, discuss it and search for it everywhere. But happiness is not a shirt button that has rolled under the bed. This is something I remember reading a long time ago.

Happiness is really being okay with everything. Those tales of it being a state of being are actually true. You know the oil drops theory, right? Take care of the drops of oil while touring the mansion. To make it clear, just chill. Whatever happens, all is well. It will always be. Or at least that’s my mantra.

And if you wish to make your heart go on and on, just like that famous Titanic song, then you must must must find your own ways to revamp your lifestyle. 

If I can find these teeny tiny ways, you, my genius friend, can surely come up with better ideas and ways of being active, healthy and happy.

Dear heart, keep beating on...

~I am joining the Saffolalife #ChhoteKadam initiative in association with BlogAdda and follow these small steps for a healthy heart.~