Jan 17, 2009

Bloom Where you are planted

Although I work in the IT industry, I am not an IT person – I am a non techie – someone with a humanities background stuck in an IT company –When I started learning the language (Japanese) I had visions of myself wearing ethnic clothes from Fab India, doing literary translations and discussing Indo- Japanese art and literature over coffee. The only thing that has come true is that I wear ethnic clothes. Instead of doing literary translations I translate technical specifications and instead of discussing literature over coffee I spent my time with so called techie nerds who think Yasunari Kawabata is not worth knowing because he didn’t write an idiots guide to Java programming.
I wrote this post earlier about being stuck in a job we don’t really like but the truth is that in this country literary translation jobs are as rare as unicorns and what gets the bread butter on your table are usually jobs which we don’t like 100%.

My mom had a poster on her office wall that said [Bloom where you are Planted]. She always wanted to be a doctor but due to some quirk of fate, she ended up a teacher. Once when I was cribbing to her about my job, she told me how badly she wanted to study medicine and how disappointed she was when she couldn't. But she said “Once I was a teacher I put all my disappointments aside and tried my very best to be a damn good one”. And she has whole generations of grateful students to show for her dedication and commitment.
And so as I toil and tumble, and grumble about my job, I try to Bloom Where I am planted.

Jan 7, 2009

The month that was

Sometimes recession has its benefits. One of the benefits I got was that I managed to get almost the whole of December off to spend with my brother and sister in law who were visiting from New Zealand. The month was spent in Chandigarh in the “new house” with its huge floor to ceiling windows and airy rooms. But the only problem was that Chandigarh can be really cold in winter and airy rooms and floor to ceiling windows that are so delightful in summer aren't that great in winter.
Any how before Bhaiya and Bhabhi landed in India, there were frenzied discussions on the phone on how this holiday was supposd to be quality family time and mom shouldn't be spending it all in the kitchen cooking for us. We didn’t want mom in the kitchen but we still wanted to eat all the delicious holiday food; so we promptly went ahead and hired a cook in honor of Bhaiya’s visit. Harbans the cook came armed with his own tools - One huge kitchen knife and his own kitchen towels. And once he was firmly installed in the kitchen out poured dish after dish of sumptuous food.
The day started with cups of ginger tea which the cook brought to our rooms. After that we hogged on paranthas .. aloo, methi, gobhi, mooli; you name it we had it. And when Paranthas got too monotonous we shifted to bread rolls and Gajar halwa.
And when all this got too boring we spiced it up in the evenings with chaat and tikkis or pakoras.
Does it seem as if we spent all our time eating? Well ya actually we did! Rest of the time was spent in talking and catching up and generally arguing and giving in to incessant demands from a very adorable niece and nephew to either play ball or go to the park or the Lake.
And since I am so fond of bullet points…The highlights of the visit were:

  • The good food whiffed up by the cook.
  • Sitting on the big comfy sofa, legs curled up beneath us, conversations – sometimes desultory and lazy, sometimes animated arguments, sometimes just reminsces
  • Shaivalini (my niece) excited about the treasure hunt I organized for her. I bought 10 gifts for her (as she turned 10 this year) and hid them around the house. Even I couldn’t have imagined her excitement as she found each gift.
  • Bhabhis Birthday on 19th December. Two adorable kids with hand made birthday cards. Yellow roses and orchids. Early morning scramble to get the flowers and birthday cards in order before bhabhi emerges from her room. Mission failed due to Dad missing at the last minute and Vibhu (My nephew) howling because we didn’t let him hold the flowers. The howls eventually brought Bhabhi out before we could surprise her with the flowers.
  • Visit to numerous parks and Sukhna Lake and McDonald with the two kiddos. The kiddos had a lot of fun because I never said no to anything they wanted to so they had a great time playing in the mud, having fries and ice creams at all times and generally having a blast.
  • Watching Innumerable Dvds of Thomas and Friends. Vibhu loves it and his day doesn’t end till he has watched Thomas the Tank engine at least a trillion times. Every one in the family now knows each and every train engine in the Thomas and friends series intimately.
  • Sunbaths and Saunas, lazing around in the balcony eating oranges and drinking juice.
  • My birthday on 6th January. We decide to celebrate it on 6th even though it’s a week day. Later move it to 3rd as I had to absolutely get back to Delhi on 4th.Venue decided- Ramgarh fort. Venue changed to a restaurant as both kids down with tonsils and too sick to be out in the open. Later venue changed to home as both kids still not well enough to go even to a restaurant. On 3rd Venue changed from our house to Bhabhi’s mom’s house as the kids not well enough to brave the cold and come to Dadi’s house from Nani’s. So we put the food into huge containers and went to “Naani’s” house. Kids too irritable and cranky for a Birthday celebration.

So thats how it went. its rather strange isn`t it... we spend most of the yr waiting to get together;then when we do get together its such a whirlwind of a holiday...catching up, talking, arguing, eating, visiting,shopping, sleeping..before you realize it its over and you are left with your nostalgia and a kaleidoscope of memories .. and you tuck away each and every memory in your mind, to be taken out later and savoured ... as you eagerly wait for the next family vacation.

Jan 5, 2009

A story for Shaivalini

My brother and his family visited us from New Zealand in Decemeber and I spent a blissfull month with them in Chandigarh.More about that later, but here is a story I wrote for my 10 year old niece Shaivalini. Shaivalini loves to read and paint and she also writes stories. She is a very creative and imaginative child and I wanted to gift her a story written by myself because I know how much she appreciates creative writing.

Bina and the Bird
There was a little girl called Bina, who lived high up in the mountains in a house with a red roof. She lived with her grandpa and her grandma and had a dog called buddy and a goat called Tinker Bell as pets. In front of the house was a big vegetable garden in which grandpa grew corn and all sorts of vegetables. Behind the house were cherry and chestnut trees. In winter the mountains would be covered with snow and nothing would grow in the garden. But the chestnut trees would be full of chestnuts. In the cold winter evenings as the snow fell outside; Bina’s grandma would roast the chestnuts in the pine wood fire and Bina would sit munching those as she listened to stories from her grandfather. Most of grandpa’s stories were about the birds and animals that lived nearby.
Summer was when Bina had most fun. She would spend all her time in the garden playing with buddy. This was the time when the flowers would be in full bloom and the garden would be a riot of colors. Summer was also when the cherries in the cherry tree would ripen. Bina would spend hours sitting in the cherry tree eating the cherries. She was a strong and sturdy girl and could climb up the trees almost as well as the squirrels. Buddy loved to eat cherries too but he could not climb trees and he would mope around the tree feeling very sorry for himself till Bina climbed down. Sometimes Bina would throw the cherries down to him so that he could eat them too.
Bina could sit in her favorite cherry tree and daydream for hours. One of her favorite day dreams was that she is flying high up in the blue sky along with the birds, as free as them. She often wondered how beautiful the world would look from up there and how it would feel to play among the clouds.
Summer was also the time when the corn ripened. Bina’s grandma would put the corn out on the roof to dry. The birds that lived in the cherry and the chestnut trees loved to eat the corn and they would come flying down to eat it as soon as grandma had spread it out. It was Buddy’s job to shoo them away. Buddy didn’t like to eat the corn but he loved to run after the birds. But the birds were always too quick for him.
One day as usual Grandma spread out the corn to dry. Soon the roof was filled with birds trying to eat the corn. As soon as Buddy saw the birds he ran after them. But this time one of the birds was not quick enough for Buddy. A swipe of his paw hit the bird hard and the poor bird lay there on the roof chirping piteously. Bina shooed Buddy away before he could do further damage and ran inside with the bird cupped in her hands. When grandma examined the bird she found that half of its wing was broken. She wound it up tightly using a piece of bandage while the poor little bird lay there in Bina’s hands chirping feebly. Grandpa took an old shoe box and filled it with straw and cotton wool to make a bed for the bird. “There, the poor thing should be comfortable in this” he said.
Everyday Bina would get up in the morning and run to the cardboard box to see how the little bird was doing. After she came back from school, Bina would take the little bird out in the garden. She would talk to the bird telling it about her school, her friends and about her teacher Miss Lotty who wore thick spectacles and always gave a lot of homework.
Slowly the bird stop being afraid of Bina. It would perch on Bina’s shoulder chirping and singing to itself whenever Bina took it outside. One day grandma said “Look the wing is almost healed now; soon the bird should be able to fly.” And as if to prove grandma right, that afternoon when Bina took the bird outside it tried to get off her shoulder and fly about for a while. The poor bird wasn’t very successful at first. It could only give a few short flaps of its wings and then plop! It fell in the garden among the marigolds. Laughing Bina ran to pick it up.
But soon the little bird grew stronger and stronger and could fly round and round the garden without falling down. “It’s soon going to fly away to join its friends.” Said Grandpa happily. But Bina wasn’t happy. She had made friends with the bird and she didn’t want it to fly away. She wanted the bird to stay so that she could play with it and tell it stories. So Bina went to the market and bought a cage for her Bird. The cage was really big and had a lot of space for the bird to move about. It had a small perch on which the bird could sit and sing if it wanted and it also had a little bowl for food and water. Bina thought the bird would be very happy in its new home. “It’s so much better than the card board box” she thought. Bina hopped and skipped all the way home with the cage. As soon as she reached home she put the bird in its new cage. Look little birdie she said, “isn’t this a nice home. You have a perch to sit on and a pretty little bowl to eat out of”. Bina hung the cage with the bird inside in the balcony so that the bird could look at the other birds and trees outside and feel the fresh air.
But the bird didn’t seem too happy in its new home. It stopped singing and just sat in its cage looking sadly at the other birds flying by. How strange thought Bina, I wonder why the bird is not happy !
“I wonder why my little bird is so sad” said Bina to Grandpa. “I think it’s sad because you have locked it up in a cage. Now it can’t fly about the garden as it used to. ”Said Grandpa.
“But Grandpa, I’ve got it such a beautiful cage. Why does it need to go outside? I feed it all kind of yummy things and talk to it and sing to it all the time.”
“That’s because in the cage the bird can’t fly; it has no freedom. It can’t feel the wind in its wings nor can it race his friends up to the clouds and play with them”.
“You should let the bird go” said grandma. “See how unhappy it looks.”
But Bina didn’t want to let the bird go. “It’s my friend now I’ll miss it if it goes” Said Bina.
That night as Bina lay snuggled up next to her grandma she had a dream. She dreamt that she was a bird flying high up in the sky. Up and up she went till she could almost touch the sun and everything down below looked so small. She flitted in and out of the clouds playing with them. On and On Bina flew, enjoying her freedom and singing to herself.
She grew tired of playing and flew down to sit in her favorite cherry tree. Suddenly something dark fell on her. She tried to fly away but couldn’t. A bird catcher had caught her in his net. Soon the bird catcher took her home and put her in a cage. It was a big cage and the bird catcher gave her tasty things to eat but Bina was not happy. Her cage felt dark and cold and she felt as if she couldn’t breathe. She looked out longingly at the flowers and the trees, they were so near yet she couldn’t fly out to them. Suddenly Bina got up with a start. So this is how it feels to be caught in a cage. No wonder my poor bird is so unhappy she thought.
Next Morning Bina ran to the cage and took out her little bird. “I am sorry little birdie” she said, “now I understand how unhappy you must be in the cage”. She went to the window; lifted her hands and let the bird fly out. Up and up the bird flew, soaring high towards the sky, and with it Bina felt as if she was flying too!!

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