RIP Skipper

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It was one of those dreaded early morning phone calls. Only this time it was my mother, calling from the ground floor of our 2-unit house. Her calm, tender and concerned voice said, “Skipper is gone”.  We had been awaiting this moment, even praying for it in the last few days and yet when it came, it seemed too soon.

Around thirteen years ago, Skipper was brought to this house as a teeny –weeny scared puppy, to be a watchdog. But with time, she became our companion and friend, my mother’s sole- mate during the days when she was alone at home.  As she grew into a beautiful, affectionate dog, who welcomed strangers and friends alike into the house; she also ruled over the house, breaking rules slyly when we were not watching.  Sleeping on the bed or sofa, which she knew was out of bounds for her. Grabbing a biscuit on a plate kept for a guest who had dropped in for tea, licking the kid’s faces when they bent down to tie their shoe laces; running out of the gate and looking at us expectantly to chase her back in.

But the past few months, as she battled one health problem after another, suffering in mute silence, only her eyes belying the pain, I wondered if it was the right thing, bringing a pet home, pampering and protecting her, turning her into this soft delicate creature?  On her last day, as she walked around restlessly, rejecting food, refusing to sit or be fed and at one point, when she finally rested for a few minutes at my feet giving me the look –tired, but undefeated, knowing her end was near, I knew that  it was the right thing. She had lived a good life, bringing joy into ours as well as sharing our joys and woes. Now it was our turn to share her woes.

We prayed that she didn’t suffer for long and now that she’s gone, we can already feel the void which will only grow in the days to come. We won’t have to safeguard our food from her anymore or worry about her fur shedding on the sofas. But we will miss her greeting at the gate – a wag if we‘re on time or a loud bark if we’re late. We will miss the pitter-patter of her paws on our wooden floor every morning at breakfast time waiting for her share of egg. We will miss the times when she would stand in front of us, butt -facing, asking for a butt-massage!

We will miss you Skipper, you will always have a special place in our heart.

RIP!

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Deepa:

Aptly put! A succint, spot-on article about how women are percieved.

Originally posted on Kafila:

Guest post byVEENA VENUGOPAL

To me, the most memorable scene in Dev D is the one where Paro takes a mattress from home and ties it to her cycle. When she reaches the edge of the field, she abandons the cycle, lifts the mattress on her shoulder and marches to the clearing where she lays it down and waits for her lover. There are no words spoken and the camera holds her face close. Her expression is one of intense seriousness. You can see her desire is a field force of intensity that fuels every step. She is determined to see it through, to let that desire take over herself completely; not surrender to it but to let it explode out of her. You know that when she meets Dev, the sex would be passionate and powerful.  And yet, in the south Delhi multiplex where I was watching the…

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Musings at Dawn

Something struck the lamp on the wall.

I know .That doesn’t make sense. But that’s what my hand just wrote of its own accord. Its 5.45 am, not too early, but early enough for me to be groggy to write. This is the first time I’ve attempted writing at this time of the morning right after waking up. It’s still dark. I’m writing in the dark in my dairy sitting in bed. Three reasons- 1 -I like writing in bed, 2-I don’t want to switch on the light as it will disturb the rest of the family; 3- writing on the PC/laptop in the dark with the light shining into my eyes gives me a headache.

I know I will be typing all this later into the laptop, but I don’t mind the effort, I mind the headaches. So, I write in the dark in the dairy.  In fact, I can even write with my eyes closed (another Arjuna in the making?); the hand familiar with the formation of letters doesn’t need light or guidance. The only challenge is to keep up with the thoughts running astray.

This is an exercise advised by an author for amateur writers. The exercise is to write down thoughts, anecdotes or stories, whatever it is that comes into one’s mind the first thing after waking up.  I wonder –can writing be taught or is it an inborn talent. I should hopefully know in the next few months. I spend all day long, writing, reading and dreaming up stories. The kids have been upset with me for not spending enough time with them, not giving them enough attention. What to do, sometimes in the midst of a board game, an idea strikes and I scamper off to find my laptop just like a child who’s just spotted the ice-cream truck on a hot summer day and doesn’t want to miss it. Perhaps, I should forget the ambitions, the aspirations and make the kids happy.

I hear the pitter-patter of unclipped paw-nails on the wooden floor. Skipper is up. She’ll be sitting at the foot of the stairs, waiting eagerly for one of us to come down when she’ll start wagging her tail that will go thup-thup on the wooden floor. This wooden floor is a funny thing. One can hear the squeak or shuffle of footsteps that is characteristic of each member of the house. So one knows exactly who is going in which direction and no-one can sneak up on another. That’s a good thing I suppose.

I hear a train hooting loud and persistent, perhaps warning some errant early morning walkers. An auto is spluttering the first specks of the day’s pollution, a lone crow is plaintively crying out to another non-existent one. It’s strange that we don’t hear any crows during the day, in fact no birds at all. There was a time when the Bangalore dawn was redolent with the chirping of birds, the heady fragrance of the Sampige flower. During the summer hols in slow lazy Bangalore, walking down sankey lake, we used to admire  the shaded tree-lined boulevards ,  sprawling houses and the cool soothing breeze carrying flowery perfumes . My cousin and I would pick a house and hope that there would be a handsome guy in there we could marry- just because we fell in love with the house. Now, of course I have my own ‘sprawling house’ with my own ‘handsome’ guy in it.

A breeze is whooshing causing some of the windows to creak (they badly need oiling- I‘ve spent many a night in disturbed sleep due to those creaking windows). I hear the clitter-clatter of vessels, the tic-tic –ticing of the automatic burner. The maid is here. She has turned on the gas to heat the milk. It’s time to end my little world of musings; time to get out of bed, get kids and their lunch-boxes ready. Another new day, another new attempt at finding voice.

My interview with author/journalist Sobha Narayan

http://www.khabar.com/magazine/features/longing_to_belong

Longing to Belong

By Deepa Padmanaban Email By Deepa Padmanaban
February 2013

Longing to Belong

Shoba Narayan is living in India and loving it. Why did Narayan, a successful author who spent some of her “best years” in the United States, go back to her homeland—and what was her life like in this country? She has written about her experiences in a new book that was released in India recently. Another India returnee spoke to Narayan.

In her recently released second memoir, Return to India, renowned journalist and author Shoba Narayan poses this question to herself in a Shakespearean fashion, with an immigrant twist: “To be American or Indian, to return or stay?” She elucidates the challenges of an immigrant in America and the dilemma of wanting to return to the home country after living in the U.S. for almost two decades—a dilemma that every immigrant has probably faced at some point in her life.

Having made the trip to the homeland myself after living in the U.S. and encountering some of the questions especially as a parent, her book resonated with me on many levels. I decided to interview Narayan, partly to hear her unwritten thoughts and to validate my own experiences. Narayan, who has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Time, won the MFK Fisher Award for Distinguished Writing. She published her first memoir, Monsoon Diary: A Memoir of Recipes, in 2003.

For decades now, young Indians have been attracted by the ethos of the American dream, in pursuit of a better life and better opportunities. Narayan, too, starts off her book by expressing her staunch desire to go to the U.S., partly wanting to escape the influences of a traditional South Indian upbringing. In her usual honest and humorous style, she pokes fun at herself and her well-meaning but conservative family who try to dissuade her from going abroad. The trepidation and joy accompanying the process of applying for and getting the student visa, and finally arriving in the U.S. with a sense of relief and excitement are familiar terrain to most Indian immigrants who have gone ashore as students.

She states that “the best years of her life” were as a student in Mount Holyoke College, her first home away from home, where she explored a variety of subjects such as music composition, cross-country skiing, and theatre, and experimented with new cuisines. At the same time, she faced the challenges of an immigrant student—living on a tight budget and trying to make ends meet by doing odd jobs. I ask her how living in the U.S. as a student helped her personally or professionally. She replies,“As a girl growing up in India, there were too many voices in the head—too many people telling what to do and what not to do. Living geographically away allowed me to find myself. It was a liberating experience. I think that everyone should have the gift of foreign education if they can afford it, to explore different cultures and open one’s mind.”

While she embraced all aspects of American culture at Mount Holyoke, it was when she moved to Memphis for a master’s degree that she chanced upon the concept of “straddling two cultures.” As she interacted with Indian families who had assimilated into the multicultural ethos of America at work but came back to Indian homes and socialized with like-minded Indian families, she also became aware of the apparent generation gap—what she terms as a “gaping hole” between India-born parents and their America-born children.

And it was after she started her own family (after an arranged marriage) when her daughter was born that the first conflict between Indian and Western values rose in her mind. She was worried about the mixed messages her daughter was receiving from her—her role as a traditional “Indian bahu” in front of the Indian uncles and aunts and an aggressive feminist in the presence of Americans. In a bid to inculcate Indian values, she even tried to assume a sartorial identity, wearing saris every day and taking her daughter to the temple, but the phase didn’t last long. Though her husband believed that it was possible to achieve the best of both worlds, she felt one couldn’t choose both. But aren’t there many Indians in the U.S. who are able to achieve a balance between the two cultures, I ask her. She replies, “Yes, certain Indian communities do seek out cultural experiences actively for their children such as Bal Vihar or Bharatnatyam classes, mostly in areas with a large Indian base. But it’s the little things that mattered to me—the familiar sights and smells of childhood, the social fabric in India that allowed a casual interaction between friends and neighbors, and the luxury of dropping off one’s kid at a neighbor’s or aunt’s place at short notice.”

Gradually, Narayan encountered the “moving to India”question as other young Indian couples discussed the booming economy back home and their plans of returning home. She had moved to New York by then and witnessed the chaos that ensued after 9/11. So, my next question to her is: Does she think that 9/11 played a role in Indians returning? After all, until then, very few actually made the journey back though the dream of returning home remained. Narayan pauses before saying, “I think yes. America never had a Department of Homeland Security before. It was unheard of. America had tightened its borders to outsiders. But then there was the recession in the U.S. which hurt or helped depending on who or where you were. And it was also the booming economy, the buzz of entrepreneurship in India that attracted people here.”

Eventually, after years of introspection and discussions, a job opportunity for the husband brought them closer home, first to Singapore and then to India. The book ends with the author and her family making the decision to move back to India. She doesn’t touch upon her experiences on returning home, but I ask her if the journey had gone as she had expected—did the children learn Indian values? She says, “It did not happen in a structured way as I had anticipated. But rather in a nebulous but organic way, through stories narrated by grandparents, watching Grandmother drawing kolams or breaking into a classical Carnatic song. Living in India makes you realize that you’re not the center of the universe, makes you selfless and forces you to think in a multipronged fashion. Here you learn to live with a certain lack of control. Besides, here I can walk into their school wearing a sari without causing them any embarrassment!”

Narayan says her book was in the works for about 10 years. This insightful and poignant memoir, with a basic theme of family, culture, and identity, is sure to resonate among all immigrants, those who are living abroad and those who have moved back. In the end, it is also the story of a person whose ideas and opinions change with the vicissitudes of life, but whose value systems remain the same.


Belated Happy New Year!

A Belated Happy New year to my blogger friends. A month of the new year has already passed. Time flies quickly. This is my first post in the new year. I had taken a hiatus from blogging, as I was busy with stuff. Good stuff.

I was attending a writing workshop -  to see if I can do something with my love for writing. Between attending classes, reading , writing and critiquing assignments and the usual routine of home and kids, blogging took a back seat.

But I’m back now.  Do bear with me as I catch with your posts and slowly crawl back to my blogging schedule too.

 

 

Deepa:

A thought provoking tribute to the anonymous women victims.

Originally posted on nilanjana roy:

(Photograph: Ruchir Joshi)

(Photograph: Ruchir Joshi)

That girl, the one without the name. The one just like us. The one whose battered body stood for all the anonymous women in this country whose rapes and deaths are a footnote in the left-hand column of the newspaper.

Sometimes, when we talk about the history of women in India, we speak in shorthand. The Mathura rape case. The Vishaka guidelines. The Bhanwari Devi case, the Suryanelli affair, the Soni Sori allegations, the business at Kunan Pushpora. Each of these, the names of women and places, mapping a geography of pain; unspeakable damage inflicted on women’s bodies, on the map of India, where you can, if you want, create a constantly updating map of violence against women.

For some, amnesia becomes a way of self-defence: there is only so much darkness you can swallow. They turn away from all the places that have become shorthand for…

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Let us channelise the anger

Deepa:

The 23 year old Delhi rape victim has succumbed after putting up a brave fight. The citizens had expressed their outrage in the last week, but we need to channelise it. Justice Verma has asked citizens for suggestions on how to deal with sexual harrasement and rape. Reblogged here from Indian homemaker’s website.Some of the suggestions by readers:
1.Make rape a non-bailable offence, 2. Create registry of sex offenders. 3. Sensitise Police force 4. Set up rape crisis centre
Laws and course of action need to change.

Originally posted on The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker:

Most of us think it is common sense, but it is not. Take a look at these posts, the police, these rapists, this cab drive, this rapists’ lawyers, many commenters all over the internet, many Indian men in talk shows on television, many political leaders – all seem unaware that sexually assaulting a woman is a crime no matter how much they hear about how some victims actually ‘ask for it’.  It’s like they know, it’s not such a nice thing to do, but then “you know, some women seem to ask for it and being men they can’t help it.” [Linking soon]

There is zero effort to teach Indian men that sexually assaulting a woman is a crime. Movies that show sexual harassment of women by men who claim to ‘love them’ and want their safety (by sexually harassing them) have no disclaimer (unlike smoking scenes) that what they are showing…

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Photo Challenge: Changing seasons

Seasons in India aren’t as pronounced as in the America or Europe.Though, we do have the Monsoons and the scorching summers to boast about !!

Now,its officially Winter - In some places, winters can be quite harsh and mild in others. But what is common mostly are the drying branches and the thick fog or mist enveloping the morning air .

The Western Ghats – 3 weeks earlier.

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This time of the year also heralds the North East monsoons , as the name suggests mainly on the East Coast, bringing to life gushing waterfalls and green vegetation.

The Eastern Ghats – last week

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The Daily Post’s challenge for the week is ‘ Changing Seasons’.

Mother

Mother,

Witty and wise

You gave me a perfect life.

With your X-ray eyes

You always knew what’s inside,

Worry or Joy

You were there by my side,

With arms –a-welcoming

Be it day or night.

You were patient with me

When I couldn’t tell wrong from right.

It seems only yesterday

When you were my guiding light

But now it’s my turn

To make sure you’re alright!

Expressive Mudras and Movements to depict a story of good over evil

I recently donned my dancing bells after many years for a performance in my son’s school. It was exhilarating to perform in front of young admiring eyes with the creative juices lending shape to expressive mudras and intricate movements.  It was storytelling week and 3 of us moms came together to portray a mythological story, through the classical dance form, Bharatnatyam.   Hindu mythological stories are generally based on the rivalry between the Devas (Gods) and the Asuras (demons) signifying the time transcending conflict between good and bad. One such story comprising of many sub-stories is the Dashavatar (Dash –meaning 10 and Avatar- form), the 10 forms taken by Lord Vishnu, the protector of the Universe to nurture good and fight against evil.

The first form taken by Vishnu is MATSYA (fish).  Long ago, a demon, Somasuran snatched the holy Vedas from Brahma, the creator of the world and jumped into the ocean to hide the Vedas. Vishnu then took the form of Matsya—a huge fish—and swam to the depths of the ocean, destroyed the asura and brought back the Vedas to earth.

KURMA, the tortoise, is the second incarnation of Vishnu. Once, the Devas and the Asuras decided to get together to bring out the Nectar of Immortality, hidden deep in the ocean. They had to churn the ocean for the Nectar to come out of the water. For this, they used a mountain, Mount Mandar as the churning staff and the King of snakes, Vasuki as the rope. With the Devas on one side and the Asuras on the other, they churned and churned, when suddenly, Mount Mandar started to sink. Vishnu then took the form of a huge tortoise—Kurma—lifted the mountain on his back so that the churning could continue. Of course, when the nectar finally came out, Vishnu ensured that only the Devas received it by tricking the asuras.

VARAHA, the boar, is the third form of Vishnu. Hiranyaksha, a demon desiring to take control of Mother Earth, rolled her into a mat and carried her to the bottom of the ocean. When Mother Earth called for help, Vishnu took the form of Varaha the boar. He dived into the ocean, destroyed Hiranyaksha , picked up Mother Earth between his long tusks,  and put her back in her place in the universe.

NARASIMHA (Nara, meaning man, and Simha, meaning lion) is Vishnu’s fourth avatar. Hiranyakashipu , a demon was blessed with a boon wherein no man, no animal and no weapon could kill him. His young son, Prahald, was a great devotee of Vishnu and always prayed to him. One day, Hiranyakashipu livid with his son asks, “Where is this Vishnu of yours?” Prahlad replies that Lord Vishnu is everywhere; he lives in a grain of sand as well as in a big pillar. Angrily, Hiranyakashipu walks to the nearest pillar and breaks it open. Lord Vishnu appears as Narasimha (half man, half lion) from the pillar! He takes Hiranyakashipu on his thigh and disembowels him with his sharp claws.

VAMANA the dwarf is the fifth avatar of Vishnu. Bali, an Asura king and grandson of Prahlad , had defeated all the gods and became king of all three worlds. During a Yagna (a religious ceremony conducted in the presence of fire) held by Bali, Vishnu appears in the form of a small, holy man. As per custom, Bali promises to grant anything he wishes for. Vamana says that he only wants three paces of land. Bali is amused and grants him the wish.  Vamana then starts growing in size until he reaches the sky! He takes the whole earth with his first stride; heaven with his second. Then he turns to Bali and asks for the third piece.  Bali has now realized that this can be none other than Lord Vishnu, so he bows down and offers his head. Vishnu steps on his head and pushes him to the underworld, where he still rules as king.

PARASHURAMA is the sixth avatar of Vishnu. He was born to the holy sage Jamadagni and his wife Renuka. Though born a priest, Parashurama was a warrior who was an expert in wielding the axe, his favourite weapon, which he received after many years of penance from Lord Shiva. He avenged the death of his father killed by a king of the Surya Vamsha dynasty by destroying the entire dynasty with his axe. He fought evil forces throughout his life and became a symbol of justice.

Virtuous RAMA, the prince of Ayodhya is the seventh form. Rama is considered the ideal man; courageous, respectful, kind, strong, brave, loving, and just. To fulfil a promise given by his father to his step mother, Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana have to spend 14 years in exile in the forest. One day, the 10-headed demon king Ravana, wanting to teach Rama a lesson as he had once spurned his sister Surpanaka, carries away Sita to his kingdom, Lanka. Ram fights a huge war with Ravana with the help of a great monkey army, including Hanuman, kills Ravana and rescues his wife, Sita.

BALARAMA (Bala meaning strength of the arms), older brother of Krishna is the eighth form of Vishnu. In one incident, when Balarama was feeling tired and dizzy, he called out to the Yamuna River asking her to flow near him so he can take a bath. The proud Yamuna refuses angering Balarama who uses his plough to dig trenches around her that reduces the mighty Yamuna into small streams.

Mischievous and naughty KRISHNA is the ninth form of Vishnu. Brought up by his foster mother, Yashoda, he charmed all the women in the village in spite of troubling them with his pranks and antics. His uncle, Kamsa, a terrorizing King, sends innumerable demons to kill Krishna right from his infancy as it is prophesised that Krishna would kill him. Krishna not only destroys all the demons but also fulfils the prophecy, killing Kamsa eventually. Krishna is also the conferrer of the Bhagavad Gita, the spiritual and philosophical doctrine of life.

KALKI, the tenth and the last avatar of Vishnu is yet to appear. It is said that Vishnu will take the form of Kalki in this current era, known as Kali Yuga and will move with ‘great speed’ on a ‘Big White horse with a sword ‘in his hand. He will come finally when evil and immorality at the pinnacle, destroy wickedness in this world, restart creation and restore truth in people’s lives.

For the non-believers, the Dashavatar is also construed as the evolution of life starting from water based creature to more physically and intellectually developed life forms. But in the end, it’s a great story depicting humanity, values of life, andt of good winning over and evil!