The Green Frock

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Since morning I was scavenging the net for an image of a green frock to match the description of the one that has been lying locked up in my memory since my childhood. Not that I coveted one as a kid or for that matter I owned one, but this one was an image created in my mind’s eye from what mumma had described as hers from the time when she was a little girl.

Before I proceed I do want to say that after checking out the numerous images that popped up, I felt a pang of not having a daughter which is not the first time. This happens every time I see these beautiful dresses lined up in malls with all the accessories that go with them. Also I had a tough time zeroing in on the image that could be a close match cause all I got were designer clothes. Since the green frock in question, worn generations back just pales by comparison I picked up the one which I thought would do some justice at least.

This is a memory of my mom’s childhood as told by her, so here goes…

This was the time when the “purdah” system was still prevalent and the ladies would go out in horse driven “tongas” which would be fully covered. My mumma was still a young girl so whenever a movie would release she was allowed to go for a movie with her brothers and cousins during the day. The movies that would play during the noon were movies of Fearless Nadia, famous as the stuntwoman, a masked cloaked adventurer in “Hunterwali”.

Post the movie Mumma would become the Hunterwali, wrapped a scarve around her face and her brothers and cousins would become the other characters and a proper sword fight and rescue would ensue. The swords of course were made of the wooden stalks pulled out from the traditional “Modhas”.

The senior ladies of the house would also plan a movie but that could happen in the night when all the kids and male members of the joint family that stayed in the Jodhpur haveli were done with their dinner and all the kitchen work was over for the day. The kids were put to bed early lest they too would insist on accompanying their mothers. The ladies would get ready to go and the all covered Tonga would then be summoned.

Mumma could almost every time sense that a movie plan was brewing. She would quickly finish her dinner and go to bed like the other kids but before getting into bed she would comb her hair and would be basically ready to go. As soon as the ladies including her mother, her elder sister and others would get into the Tonga, mumma would run to the ledge of the terrace and start crying and would cry harder as the tonga would turn around the periphery of the haveli, all the while moving alongside on the terrace above. For the fear of waking up the other kids invariably my grandma would call out to her to come down fast as they waited.

This was the time the green frock would come in play. It would hang neatly on a peg ready to be picked up on specifically such an occasion. Mumma would quickly run, change and soon enough would be on the way to a movie, safely ensconced in the warmth of her mom’s love and care.

This was the extent of my mumma’s naughtiness way back in a time when just to ensure girls learn to sit in one place and develop patience they were given a mixture of rice and grains to separate. We would hear this again and again and enjoy it every time, and that is part of the reason that as I write this I have a visual almost as if I was right there as it happened.

It is difficult to imagine our parents as kids and such anecdotes from their childhood is all that we have to believe otherwise. Don’t know what prompted me to write this but I just relived it as I did and found myself chuckling at my mumma’s cheekiness.

Family Pic Ma

(My mumma in the center flanked by her brothers and my grand parents on the extreme left)

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Happy Triggers

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Memories just pop out of nowhere and all that is ever needed is a trigger that makes them surface from the recesses of the mind. Just today morning as I stood watering the garden I heard an auto rickshaw rumble by. I craned my neck to check the occupants, a natural reaction I suppose. It was a neighbor probably back from a shopping spree.

The rolling in of the auto rickshaw transported me years back when I and my sister were still small and papa was posted outside. We would eagerly await his arrival. Whenever we would hear an auto rickshaw come in especially at odd hours of the night we would invariably run outside and more often than not we would be greeted with Papa’s smiling face.

All hell would break loose and we would be jumping with joy oblivious of the time of the day and the ruckus we would make. Papa in the meanwhile would somehow manage to keep his balance between paying off the driver to handling his luggage and handling both us brats who would catapult at him vying for his attention and trying our best to be carried by him back in. We would run up and down the little aisle that led to our home in the building we were in, calling out to mummy that papa was here only to understand that she knew all along that he was expected. Our life would suddenly be so complete and perfect in that moment.

Papa barely could take three days off from his work and whenever he could he would travel sixteen hours in a bus to get to us for a couple of days, when he would have to undertake the same arduous all night bus journey back to Bhopal, where he was posted. A tug of war would always ensue on his arrival and we would always get after his life to stay a day. This would happen every time and knowing this was standard procedure invariably he would tell us he was staying only a couple of days and then on our insistence he would extend a day. Our joy would know no bounds.

There are many instances which I remember when papa would surprise us with his visits and today as I recall them I am filled with the same childlike joy that I felt back then. One time we were watching a movie at “Soochna Kendra”, which was about three blocks away from home. The movie “Guddi” was being screened on the projector when someone from the building told us that papa had just got home. I remember we ran all the way back home without stopping to catch a breath. Then there was the time when we got up in the middle of the night since we heard sounds from the kitchen only to find that Papa was home and mummy was preparing dinner for him.

All these memories have come flooding in, bringing with them the feeling of pure joy and also the realization that we had a happy childhood. Our parents ensured that. To think that mummy papa both have gone away leaving us secure in the knowledge that they were with us every step of the way and it is now time that we do the same for our children.

Missing both of them but happy that they are together again.

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The Plight of Being a Daughter’s Mom

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The doorbell was ringing persistently, almost as if someone had forgotten to lift off the finger after pressing it. I ran to the door to open it and was shocked to see my mom, who was clearly looking flustered, worried and out of breath. While it was my turn to mirror her expressions her face visibly relaxed on seeing me.

I had left home barely fifteen minutes back to visit my aunt who was recently back from a hospital stint of almost four months. I would daily visit her around the same time to spend some quality time with her and my cousin and today was no exception, except for the fact that mom had shown up looking so worried. I knew something was wrong and my thoughts had immediately gone on my grand mom who was 80+. I was sure something had happened to her.

Once mom sat down and caught her breath after gulping down a glass of water and told me why she was there I almost died laughing. The thing was that no sooner had I left on my ride to get here, she noticed a bunch of boys from our neighbor hood leave soon after. She was sure they were following me and I could be in trouble. In the absence of a phone and the fact that she did not want to waste time waiting for a rickshaw to show up in the sweltering heat, the only option was for her to walk it up to ensure my safety. Thankfully it was only a short ten minute walk and not any further.

Today this incident has surfaced out of nowhere from the recesses of my mind probably in the wake of the molestation incident that has become the topic of discussion. As I look back it makes me wonder how long that ten minute walk would have seemed to my mom back then. I could laugh off the incident but being a mom myself I understand only too well what would have transpired in her mind.

Being a mother to two boys I suppose I can relax since I do not have a daughter and the fears related to her safety should not haunt me. But should my role as a parent end here? Should I not be worried about how my sons will behave around girls? Should I not be worried about the kind of upbringing I am giving to them? Is it enough to ensure good education and careers for them and assume rest will fall in place? As parents of a male child are we doing enough to sensitize them towards their female counterparts?

With the innumerable incidents of molestations, rape, acid attacks against women happening all around us, just reacting and having drawing room discussions about them enough or do we need to do more? We talk, we discuss and then we forget till another headline screams for attention and shakes us out of our reverie.

I think as parents we need to step back and check what kind of an upbringing are we giving to our boys … are we teaching them to respect women enough so that they can learn to regard them as their equals and not objectify them.

The incident that surfaced in my memory happened almost three decades back. I wonder if much has changed since. I am sure mother’s having daughters still worry as much till their princesses’ return home safely. We have evolved and progressed as a society in almost all areas but lot remains to be done in this domain. We all need to start from the basics, almost from scratch to ensure a fear free environment for both our daughters and mothers.

 

A Flight to Remenber

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Hi Friends! In the wake of the incident of a family having a daughter with autism being escorted out of a flight I too want to share my experience with all of you. In doing so I am hoping to highlight the importance of autism awareness and I hope more and more people are able to appreciate the cause we strongly believe in and action for.
This incident happened some four years back when my son (who has autism) was about ten years old and we were on our way back to India from Auckland after a month long holiday. The flight from India to Auckland was a pleasant one, and mind you it was a long one (From Delhi to Singapore: 6hrs + another 10hrs from Singapore to Auckland + the layover time in between transit).
We were looking forward to getting home and had a three day break planned at Singapore, for another mini holiday before winding up our trip.
All went as planned; we checked out from our hotel well in time for any last minute hitches and were very much in time for our flight. Saksham was well prepared, well fed and all set.
As the plane was about to take off we thought we’ll take him to the loo so that he is comfortable and does not have to get up till the “fasten your belts” sign is switched off.
Most of us are aware of the kind of sound a toilet flush makes in a flight, so we always made sure to take him out and then flush just to ensure that he does not get overwhelmed with the sound (something common with the kids on the spectrum). However unfortunately for me, because of the confines of the bathroom his leg accidentally pressed on the flush button and within seconds all hell broke loose. He was in a major meltdown, kicking, screaming, biting, head banging and the works. The plane had already started taxiing for the take off, but all that was a blur at the moment. There was nothing we could do to pacify him. In fact within seconds of this I was bleeding from a lip cut, my hubby was scratched all over his face and arms and my elder one, then just 13, stood and watched helplessly the ordeal with tears brimming in his eyes.
The co passengers were all stunned, but some of them came forward to help… in fact I remember a tall burly fellow trying his best to pacify our little bundle but to no avail. I saw some had tears in their eyes and were very sympathetic. None complained or said anything.
Very soon we noticed the plane had stopped, in fact it had been docked right back, and we had the pilot and the flight attendants right next to us who told us very calmly and politely that we would have to de-board considering the child was so stressed.
Within minutes we were escorted with utmost dignity and with a very empathetic attitude out of the plane where a person from the airlines was waiting with our checked in luggage already arranged in a trolley. This person was also supposed to manage our ticket re-booking for when we were ready to fly again and escorted us to the concerned departments so we could do the needful without hassle.
As soon as we were out of the flight our lil man was a picture of calmness as if nothing had happened .( A change of scene is what helps ease a meltdown).
Soon we were back at the hotel where thankfully the room we had vacated was still available. We sat there absolutely numb, not knowing what to do next, feeling almost trapped, since our visa was on the brink of expiring and the only way out was a flight. We could neither eat nor sleep. Thankfully our friends there came to our rescue and took us to a doctor, who heard us out and helped us to finalize the way forward. All this while the staff from the Singapore airlines was in touch with us and managing our tickets so that we did not miss our connecting flight from Singapore to India.
On the day of the flight just before boarding, we went to the hospital where the Doctor was waiting for us and promptly put Saksham on a sedation medium so that he slept thru the flight. He also provided us further medication for our ongoing flight along with the necessary paperwork for custom clearance for carrying medication in person. When we reached the airport to board the flight with Saksham fast asleep from sedation, the staff was ready for us. They allowed us in the flight even before the business class passengers and made sure we were comfortably seated. Throughout the flight they kept checking with us if we required anything and assured us support in whatever way they could.
Saksham got up with about an hour to land and I did not take him to the loo in case he got reminded and lost it again. But my fears were unfounded, he was his comfortable self and it was a major relief when we landed in Singapore, our mini holiday reduced to half a day. The best part was that the staff of our ongoing flight to Delhi was also well informed and left no stone un- turned to make our journey comfortable. All credit to Singapore airlines, who almost hand held us, all the way back to India and their parting shot was, “Do Fly with us again”.
Writing this for all of you, has brought back memories of the flight which gives me both chills and a feeling of warmth from the way we were treated with understanding and empathy right from the word go.
These two incidences are sharply contrasted because there is one thing that sets them apart. While what happened recently is fraught with ignorance, the one we faced was about awareness. We were lucky to have people around us who were aware and because of that we could handle such a tough situation.
The only solution then is to spread awareness so that acceptance follows and people can take appropriate action. Having said that, however well prepared parents may be, while taking their special ones out on a holiday there will always be unprecedented triggers in the environment that can set off such responses.
Show empathy, learn and be aware and give the benefit of doubt to parents who are already going thru tough times on a daily basis. They have a right to enjoy life too whenever they can steal these moments from this roller coaster ride they have been strapped to, definitely not out of choice.

The Nudge

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It was one of the many mornings that come and go but today there was a restlessness that I felt in my heart. I was aware that it was that time of the year again when the world tries to make a difference in the life of children with Autism by spreading awareness. I too wanted to do better than the last year when we had got our home decorated with blue balloons, lit it up in blue, asked friends and family to dress up in blue and send me pictures which I had compiled together to make an album on Face book, share a bottle of blue fruit champagne, got a local bakery to put up a print out on autism surrounded by blue balloons  to draw attention of the customers and offer chocolates to all the kids that came in that day, in a bid to spread awareness. Wasn’t too bad considering I had only become aware of WAAD, World Autism Awareness Day, a fortnight before it is celebrated the world over on the 2nd of April every year.

This year had to be a step better, I needed to be heard a notch higher. On an instinct I decided to meet the Principal of Ryan’s International, Ms Sarita Katiyar, where my elder son attends school. I have met her often on my school visits and she always came across as a warm person. She knew that my younger son is on the spectrum, so when I went and met her with an idea of the Ryan’s children presenting a skit on autism awareness, she immediately agreed to it and gave very positive inputs and promised me full support.

Emboldened with this response my next stop was McDonald’s. This because it is a child friendly organization and I was hoping that if I could request them to put up a chart on autism awareness and dedicate a corner for the cause and decorate it with blue, at least some people might get curious about it and Google for more. But guess what?? After an initial meeting with the duty manager ( Mr. Amit), I was soon talking to their store manager ( Mr. Anshul Sharma), who in turn introduced me to their area manager( Ms Poonam Choudhary) . Over a fortnight and a series of meetings, it was decided that not just a corner of one store but all the Jaipur vide stores of McDonald’s were to go blue in support of Autism Awareness.

What followed were meetings with the Directors of Disha foundation Ms. Kavita Verma and Ms.Arpita Agarwal, Directors of Approach Autism Mr. Anurag Srivastava and Ms.Garima Srivastava, and the Principal of  Kid’s Planet Ms Nisha Sharma to work out the nitty gritty of organizing the event. A meeting with Ms Girishita of Rajasthan Patrika, ensured a week long countdown with pictures and information on Autism, which I regularly sent them for their media portal, “Media Action Group”.

Soon enough banners were printed with the logos of Disha( a multi disability school), Approach Autism, McDonalds, Ryan’s International school, Kid’s Planet, Credent and Skorpious Films, who all partnered for the cause and contributed in making this a very successful event. Media too was present to cover this.

On the day of the event, everyone wore blue. McDonald’s store at Gaurav tower became the venue of the event, and was beautifully decorated with blue balloons and lights. Children from Ryan’s School Padmavati, dressed in blue gowns performed and sang beautiful songs.  Our special children on the spectrum came down with their parents and care givers and enjoyed.  A special child Dhruva showcased his talent to tell the day on which a given date falls on. Badges, “I Understand Autism”, were pinned up on walk-ins as they were told about Autism and a signature campaign was conducted. McDonald’s generously treated the children and volunteers to burgers and ice creams. The whole ambience of the place was ethereal and full of joy.

As I write this and look back, I realize what I had set out with and what ultimately was achieved was possible because there were people out there with lot of love, patience, warmth and willingness to make a difference, in their heart.  All I did was to nudge them, like one does a domino. A little push and the effect starts. It is all there within us, we just need to recognize it and then there can be no stopping.

Post this event; I have loads of new friends, loads of promises, and loads of ideas to make it a bigger and better event next time round. I guess all I have done is to set the ball rolling and now it is up to all of us to make sure it does not stop at any court.  If it is some encouragement, I have just been told that McDonald’s is seriously contemplating to continue this drive next year as well and with all its stores North India vide joining in. I want to name this event, “The Nudge”.

(On my bucket list for next year, “Light It Up Blue” for Jaipur, which could not be possible this year due to the “Code of Conduct” in place for the coming elections, though the letter drafted for the cause had reached the CMO).

Music To The Rescue

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I was sitting around, looking out of the window at the relentless downpour and feeling a wee bit gloomy. The weather has been like this for the past couple of days. Trapped indoors with cold and wet weather outside playing spoil sport, can be a huge dampener. I knew I had to do something drastic to pull myself out of this ever increasing depression. … and guess what or rather who came to my rescue ….. Kishore Kumar.

I just put some Kishore Kumar romantic songs, which hubby dear had downloaded on to the iPod and voila !!….. The mood changed from one of gloom to one of romance…and joy de vivre !!  The incessant rain suddenly was melodious music and it surely lifted my spirits. The numerous mundane chores which were lying around postponed for another time were suddenly taken up and done away with. Such is the effect of music.

The lyrics, the composition and the melodious voices, which put love on the pedestal almost to a point of reverence….truly amazing. I’ve grown up listening to this music over the radio……Vividh Bharti. Song after song…gems after gems….to suit all moods ….. making you smile, making you cry……. making you mushy.

But for them, ‘Antakshri’, would not have been possible, You sit to play and the songs that you’ll sing will be the older ones. The latest ones, however good they may be, just elude you.

Would  our children be singing the same songs, would they be playing ‘Antakshri’, like we do whenever all of us cousins get together, and sit up  singing the night away. I really wonder if they will ….. though I surely want them to carry this legacy of music forward….. for which I guess we’ll have to make a conscious effort ……. cause music alone is one force which binds us.  It transcends all languages, all boundaries…… and reaches out to our souls.

Extreme Makeover

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Watched a program called extreme makeover today. It was about two people. A man who was deaf n dumb, his ambition in life, to become an ambassador/voice for his kind ; and  a woman, mother of three boys, wife  a single mom since her hubby ,an army man,  was always out on duty.

The man needed a makeover coz he was going to be the voice . With his front teeth missing, a much receded hairline n a pot belly, not to mention the crooked nose, the team of makeover had a task to get to but not as daunting as the one they had to undertake on the woman in question.

She had a figure one  could kill for, the kind everyone slogs for achieving, after working out hours together in the gym, and abstaining from all the sinful foods that so beckon you. She used to be a beautiful woman once, as was evident from the earlier pictures that were shown, until one fateful day when her husband, back from one of his numerous duties, unknowingly brought with him, a deadly companion. As she unpacked his rucksack, she felt something crawling on her face, which she brushed aside on a reflex. It was actually a spider, which as an after effect left a trail of destruction on her face and in the scalp of her hairline. It was badly disfigured. She had been   coping with the embarrassment of living this way for the past three yrs, till this makeover happened.

It was heart wrenching  to watch these two people coping with all the stress, living away from their families, going from one operation to another, from one specialist to another, but it was equally heart warming to see them emerge fully healed and reunited with their families. A very emotional moment for us viewers too.

I suppose these people were chosen for a makeover not just because they needed to be beautiful, but because they were beautiful inside. The man would still have continued being the voice of the mute and the woman would have continued on her journey of bringing up three beautiful children, albeit a little self-consciously.

Also it got me to think how little did it take to destroy beauty, which we swear by and feel so proud of. I guess the trick is to be beautiful inside, and once this extreme makeover is achieved, rest automatically follows.

PROCRASTINATION

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The dictionary meaning of  procrastination is to postpone doing something.

All of us, with the exception of  a few, are addicted to some degree of procrastination.

I remember the time when mom would wake us up for school and we would go, “just five more minutes please”, and trust me those five minutes of sleep were more fulfilling than the entire night of sleep. I would tell mom to wake me up on the Sunday as well, so that I could go right back to sleep. Till date the biggest grouse mom has against me is,“ You do everything, but always do it at the last minute”. My hubby still doesn’t get up till his alarm has rung four times at least. Whenever I remind him to do something, he says “kar loonga”,( I’ll do it), so much so that I tell him that, “kar loonga”, is his midddle name.

I guess it starts from there on. If anyone calls you, you do not go immediately, instead you go, “one sec”, or “gimme a minute”. I see procrastination in all walks of life.

We all know that certain things have to be done, yet we keep postponing it till we can’t any more. Is it the thrill of doing things the last minute and the pleasure and confidence that you derive thereafter for accomplishing it, or is it just force of habit. Irrespective of what prompts us to procrastinate, we just do postpone things.

The only people, I can think of, who probably do not have the luxury of this habit are probably the doctors, who can’t possibly say we’ll save a life a wee bit later, or the daily laborers who have to earn their bread for the day for their families ( I am sure I am missing quite a few here). Though I am sure given a chance they would too.

Just one thing though, procrastinate anything, just do not postpone life. Live it to the fullest  today, for tomorrow may have another story to tell !!

The Backyard Tree Springs Back

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The patience has finally  paid off.  Spring is here. As I look out of my kitchen window, I see my tree and notice that suddenly, as if out of nowhere, little tendrils have sprung out all over. Nice pale green ones surrounding little buds. I experience a happiness beyond words, the kind that springs from the deepest core of your heart.

As each day passes, there are marked changes. Every morning as I make a hot steaming cup of tea, and stand sipping it, the beauty that is unfolding right before my eyes leaves me breathless.

The tendrils have now transformed into miniature leaves, almost shaped like stars. I have seen the full grown ones before they shed during autumn so I know what to expect,  no prizes for guessing that.

The birds are slowly returning to make it their home once more. The branches are still visible and are making a huge display before they disappear behind the ever growing leaves, to remain in oblivion till the next autumn. Some fruits, all withered, brown n spiky still hang on from the last season, not hanging on to dear life, but I suppose hanging out there to give the necessary  support n guidance to their younger generation. The old guard will leave once the young brigade is all ready to take charge.

That’s what life is all about. Giving way to the next generation, passing on the baton of life, leaving a legacy that inspires the generations to come with its beauty and serenity.