A hero once again

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It was my first day at the new work place. I was filled with fear and excitement. I looked forward to a new boss, a new work environment and new friends. More than anything else I was looking forward to new opportunities that came my way. The office was certainly bigger than my previous one and more posh. And though I know that the employees matched the ones at my previous work place in intellect, qualification and looks, somehow the surroundings gave them a more dignified look.

 

Days turned into weeks and weeks into month. Soon I started referring it to as “my office” against the initial term “my new office”. I started feeling as much a part of it as others. A funny thought crossed my mind – a new comer would look upon me as a “dignified” employee like I thought about the others on my first day at work. I made ample of friends and soon had a close knit group. One of my close friends used to rave about how wonderful her boss was. The admiration extended to his looks, attitude, walk, talk and what not. I was eager to see this boss of hers who my friend so deftly admired. So there we were trying to catch glimpses of him in the canteen or at the coffee machine or even the wash room.

 

I was pregnant at that time and went on my maternity leave soon after. I returned back after a long span of time. It was almost 4 months that I was away from my desk that spoke of work alone, the continuous chattering in the canteen and the giggles with my office friends. It felt good to be back. Lot of things changed for me – a new desk, new project, new manager and new role. My new role was demanding and I found myself working 14 hours a day to meet expectations of my manager. One day my manager asked me to work on an extremely important presentation that was to be presented by his boss in the Director’s meeting. I gave in my 120% and sent across the presentation for review. The next day I found review comments in my mail box. I was taken aback for by the comments – it was not the comments itself but the author of the comments that surprised me. The author was my friend’s boss who she admired so much. I went ahead to incorporate the same. I closely studied the comments and found them to be very intelligent and meaningful. The same week the presentation was made by my friend’s boss at the meeting where I was also a spectator. I was simply awed by the speech, the attitude and knowledge of the person.

 

From there on, I kept a track of his activities and learnt more about him from all the sources I could deploy. I came to know that he headed an entire unit of more than 2000 people. He was responsible for 30% of the company’s revenues and had paved his way to seniority in short span of 7 years. He was married with a toddler daughter. I don’t know how exactly it happened, but he became the “Hero” for me. Everything he did was just superb or out of the world. I respected him and awed his achievements.

 

And suddenly one day I heard the news. At first I refused to believe it. I thought it was either a lie or it was someone else they were talking about. But ultimately I gave in to the fact that it was the truth and it was here to stay. My “Hero” had an extra marital affair with one of the company employees. All this was his personal life. I didn’t care about it at all, but still the image of the “Hero” started receding in my inner thoughts. It was on my mind for a couple of days. I thought about it more than I would think about some individual whose doings didn’t affect my life in anyway. Eventually the rut of life and my hectic schedule at work jolted me to concentrate on more significant matters.

 

All this was more than a year ago and I had almost forgotten about it. I would prefer to use the word “almost” since somewhere my brain (or was it my bosom) refused to believe what seemed evident to the human eye. It somehow didn’t sound convincing that a person of such demeanor and geniuses could be so weak willed and infidel.

 

And it again happened. A piece of news that was even more unbelievable and unconvincing than the previous one. My “Hero” seemed to have divorced his wife and abandoned his daughter for his lover.

 

To me marriage is like a relationship out of heaven. Only the lucky few get to enjoy the unequalled companionship and love of marital bliss. And the ones who are luckier get gifts of God to share the love in the physical form of children. So it is unthinkable to imagine a sane person giving up all this for any materialistic pleasures. I knew that “The Hero” worship that I was doing all this while will come to a complete end finally.

 

But the days that followed was a revelation to myself. Instead of the “Hero” receding away into the horizons, he was more clear and visible. I was confused. How can it be? Is it that I have lost all rationale for human relationships and respect for the righteous? Is it that I have been too plagued by hero worship? I suddenly felt a shiver. Maybe I was losing the capacity to make judgment about people.

 

It then stuck me. One of the most important characteristics that I want in my partner is fidelity. Trust forms the ultimate basis of any relationship. My “Hero” had not wanted to be untruthful to either his wife or his lover. So he had made the difficult decision and chosen one. I was happy – to have found the reason for the return of my “Hero”.

When I failed to get into the IIT!

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When I failed to qualify the IIT, it never stuck me what it must have meant to my mother who has nurtured me from my childhood with her dreams for me. To me, it was another of those exams that I didn’t do as well as I expected. The result being that I had to settle with a REC instead of an IIT. It was no big deal for me. But Mum was terribly upset. I just couldn’t relate to it.

 

 

I graduated like any other engineer and got into the most coveted fields into one of the most coveted companies in India. My job took me locations beyond the seven seas, something that was not very common in our family. I could see my mother swell with pride on my professional growth. But looking back, if I tried to comprehend the pain that my mother went though when I didn’t get into IIT; it was not understandable to my mature mind.

 

 

I eventually tied the nuptial knot and four years after my marriage I was blessed with a little bundle of joy. Every evening I couldn’t wait to get my priority tasks done at office and rush home to hear the adorable gurgles of my son. I had hired a nanny for him who looked after his every little need when I was not around. People would prefer to term her as a maid but I used to get very offended if someone referred her by that word. She was like a mother to my son and we respected her a lot at home.

 

 

Our little bundle of joy turned two and I carefully selected a play school for him. I would term it more of a play area because he had to spend hardly two hours there out of which the first fifteen minutes were spent in settling down, the next half an hour was scheduled for games, after which there was a lunch session. Lunch session was followed by all the kids getting queued up to use the washroom and then it was time to go home. So the last quarter hour was spent in getting ready to head home. All these activities were interspersed with prayer and poems and songs and dance. So the day arrived when I took his little hand in mine and led him to his first school. Most often, most of the children cry for the first few days and hence the teacher requested me to leave the nanny with my son at the play school for the first 3-4 days which I did. On the fifth day, the nanny was not allowed to come in and my son was left by himself at school. I was very eager to know how the day went by for my son at school. My son’s nanny called me as soon as she came home after picking him from school. She told me that he cried a lot and ultimately dozed off to sleep. He refused to play or eat there. But the teacher assured me that things would change gradually. So the next day I was anxious to find out what happened. I was waiting for my phone to ring after 12:00 noon. And it soon did. The nanny told me that the story repeated at school — my son cried a lot and ultimately dozed off to sleep. The teacher had conveyed to me that I am not ensuring enough sleep for my son during the night and that is why he is sleeping in the day time during schooling hours. Though a bit disappointed, I analysed the situation. I knew that my son slept through the night for 9 hours. In addition he supplemented this sleep with an afternoon nap. So it was something else. It then stuck me that it was the medicines that I was giving him in the morning. It is rainy season out here and most of the kids have running noses and a dry cough. My son was also one amongst them…So the next day I decided to skip the medicines in the morning. Doing this, I was very hopeful that he would not sleep during the school hours. So the next noon came and again I was waiting for the phone to ring – a hopeful, jubilant and anxious mother. And as soon as the phone rang, I jumped at it and even before the nanny could tell me what happened, I blurted out “He wouldn’t have slept today, right?” And much to my dismay, my son had slept off that day as well. My heart sank. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. It was as if someone had slapped me. I thought about it endlessly that day and through the weekend. And finally I accepted the fact that it was the first time that my son has stepped out of the security of a home and he is simply going to take time to adjust to the new environment. So I should just be patient and give him more time.

 

 

Monday came by and it was the usual day. It is normally a hectic time at work being the first day of the week. I was buzzing in and out of meetings and telecons. The phone rang for the umpteenth time that day and I picked it up expecting it to be from my senior manager asking me the status of the reports I was working on. To my surprise it turned out to be my son’s nanny. She had just picked up my son from the play school and she said that my son didn’t cry at the school today. He played and ate with the kids and while leaving the school he frantically waved good byes to his playmates. I put down the phone and found myself crying. I just couldn’t wait to share this with my husband. It was so simple – my son enjoyed his playschool now but yet to me it meant the world.

 

 

And then I knew what it meant to my mother when I failed to qualify the IIT.

Winter commences

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Winter… the word springs up different emotions in people. To some, it is marked by the winter vacations and Christmas gifts that Santa brings. To a good lot, it means getting new winter wear, taking out rugs from the attic and ensuring that the heater system is in place. To the poor, it would mean a tough time ahead with not enough warm clothes and food to eat.

But to me, winter means my “Nani” is going to be home. My Nani (maternal grandmother) as we call her lives in the north of India. During the winter, it is very cold there and the temperatures often dip to below zero degrees. Given her age and fragile bones, she prefers to spend the time at a warmer place and our home is a natural choice.

So come winter, and Nani is here. The train from Lucknow comes to Surat station almost in the middle of the night and we sit at the station waiting to catch a glimpse of the train. During the nights, the train announcements are also few and not exactly accurate. But the wait itself is a part of the time I reminisce about those times. And there we see her alight from the train with lots of luggage of all shapes and sizes. There will be just one briefcase but so many bags… each stuffed with treasures unknown. We just can’t wait to go and unpack those at home.

And in the middle of the night, rather than going back to bed after picking up Nani, our eyes eagerly await the surprises which Nani brings in those bags. There are huge varieties of namkeens and sweets, some clothes that my cousins would have sent from the north, ceramic toys that are a specialty of that place, and what not.

What follows this initial excitement is a series of days of new things being done each day. My mom used to enjoy chatting with Nani to catch up on the family gossip and I used to lie there pretending to be asleep – though I hardly used to understand the gossip since the language was a different dialect of Hindi that I was not familiar with.

My Nani loved movies and TV. I used to have the afternoon fights with her over which serial to watch since she typically preferred soaps and mythological serials.

The best part of the whole visit was the innumerable movies that I used to watch in theatres with Nani on her pretext.

I just can’t forget the sunday head massages that Nani used to give me. Some of her golden nuggets of advice which she used to bestow upon me in the form of are still precious and valuable to me till this day.

My Nani is no more. She passed away 3 years ago.

I regret not having spent enough time with her. I wish I had done a lot more for her then I actually did. I wish I held her hand and sat through when she was ill rather than saving my leaves at office. I wish I visited her more often than I did. I wish I pressed her feet while she slept. I wish I read her out the books she loved so much which she couldn’t read any more because of her poor eye sight. I wish I listened to her endless stories of her youth which I remember getting bored with.

To me winter still holds the same significance…It brings my Nani back to me.

The right way

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Sheela stood perplexed. It was as if someone had slapped her…

Sheela was a software professional working in Pune, India. She was a God fearing person who truly believed that she was lucky to have everything in the world – a loving family, good career and a high paying job. She was thankful for this fortune and always looked out for an opportunity to help the underprivileged, especially children.

She always had some ready change for kids at the signals. She used to keep biscuit packets in the car and give it away to any child she found begging. She chose to celebrate her birthdays by cooking a small meal and making numerous food packets. She would then distribute the food packets to the people sitting outside the temple when she went to pay homage to God.

But this article in “India Today” totally left her dazed. The article talked at length about how gangs of people exploit street children and force them to beg at the signals. Most of the proceeds collected by these children are seized and they are given a piddly amount for themselves. At times, children as young as 15 days old are “rented” out as “softer targets” to accompany a woman to beg; this ensured that onlookers shell out money more easily out of pity. Sometimes, children were stolen from well to do families and made a victim to this trade.

It was as if someone had slapped Sheela. All this while Sheela used to derive utter satisfaction and peace when she was helping the children. She vowed that she would no longer abet begging. She stopped giving away food. Her heart would ache seeing the children beg and she not even doing a small bit from her end.

One day, she was on her way home after work. Her mom had asked her to pick up lemons for the “pav bhaji” tonight. She stopped right outside her building on spotting a pull up cart full of lemons and sweet corn. The cart owner was a small boy around 9 years of age. There was a spark in his eye and a smile on his face. After paying for the lemons, she got on to a conversation with him. She found out that the boy was not really the cart owner but he ran the stall on behalf of his neighbour who paid him 300 rupees a month for the errand. The boy ran the cart from 5:30 pm in the evening till 9:30 pm in the night. During the day he attended school. Sheela’s heart melted away. Here was a boy who at such a juvenile age understood some of the hard facts of life – studies will take him a long way and hard work pays! She wanted to encourage the boy and give him accolades for his work. She was not sure how. Over- paying for the lemons would be like giving away alms. She thought of something!

From that day onwards, Sheela was seen at the cart every evening on her way home. Either she was buying lemons or eating sweet-corn. Sometimes, she would drag a colleague to the cart for a corn. The huge stock of lemons that she used to collect, were distributed to the neighbours. At times she used to make lemon juice and take it to work and give it to her colleagues.

She was soon known as the Lady with the “lemon” to her neighbours and colleagues.

The last good bye

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Ahmed looked lovingly at his son who was rubbing his eyes with the onset of the morning sun. The entire family comprising of his wife, four year old son and a toddler daughter were sitting in the kitchen for breakfast. His wife Salma had prepared some tea and was distributing the loaves of bread that she had got from the household the previous evening where she worked as a maid.

Ahmed was hungry but looking at the limited number of loaves, he picked up the one on his plate and gave it to his son who was hungrily finishing off his. Ahmed took his son lovingly in his lap. As soon as he did so, his daughter started shrieking loudly wanting to be taken into his lap too. Ahmed took his daughter and placed her on his lap and both the children were tugging at him. Uncontrollable tears rolled down his eyes which he managed to hide from his wife.

He remembered this time of the year five years ago. He was working as a helper in the house boats on Dal Lake owned by the big hotel. At that time he was newly married to Salma. Between the money earned by both, they managed to make ends meet. One day, he was visited by his childhood friend Shabbir whom he has not seen for many years. Shabbir had changed considerably since the time Ahmed had seen him. He had aged beyond his age and wrinkles appeared on his face on forehead. Shabbir had come home with two other friends. Salma fed them all food and then disappeared into the shadows leaving them to talk. Shabbir and his friends had come there for a mission. They talked in hushed tones about how prestigious their work is and how Allah would be pleased with them. They invited Ahmed to join their group. Ahmed was blissful in his newly attained marriage and was looking forward to welcoming their first child into this world. But he was lured by the fact that on completion of the mission he will own his own piece of land and maybe a house boat. Added to that, he will be doing a service to God and his people. Ahmed agreed to meet Shabbir next day at a designated place after dark.

Next day Shabbir introduced Ahmed to “Mir Saheb” who talked about the good work their group was doing. He formally christened Ahmed into group and swore him to secrecy. Initially, Ahmed continued to work in the houseboat during the day time and used to limit his group activities to the night or when he found time. But over the months to follow, he gave up his job at the houseboat and dedicated himself solely to the mission.

Money at home was dwindling and there was one more mouth to feed now. Salma often encouraged Ahmed to join back the work. But Ahmed behaved strangely. He used to be at home in the day time usually but go out when it is dusk or dark. Sometimes he used to be away for days without informing. On being repeatedly questioned, he used to answer “I am doing us a favour. I will soon tell you”.

On the arrival of his daughter, Ahmed looked back at his life and thought at length. His family was going hungry at times. Salma was working very hard during the day to get some food for the family. But for the past few weeks due to the arrival of their daughter, the family had to mainly rely on kind neighbours or leftovers brought home by his son from the nearby boat houses. He had a strong inclination to move back to his job and forsake the group. But as soon as he made his thoughts public to Shabbir, he convinced him that the end was quite near and they would be now “free”. This was around a year ago.

A fun filled glee from his daughter brought him out of his reverie.

He cast a loving look at his wife and whispered an inaudible “Please forgive me”. He kissed his daughter and hugged his son and left the house without looking back. Today was the fated day when he was chosen to be the lucky one to be the live bomb for the blast at Jamia Masjid.

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I am not sure about the mindset of the people who are convinced to give up their lives for destroying other people’s lives. But I am definitely sure that they have a throbbing heart with feelings of love, compassion and hope. They live a dream of being in a better world and bringing about a positive change. If such strong conviction, determination and drive could be rightly channeled, world would definitely be a better place to live in.

Men are really from Mars!!

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I am married for the last 9 years and have a son who has just turned 5.

To give a brief back ground on myself, I have been born in a totally liberated family and have a working mother who has brought me up on the “high” ideals of how women should fend for themselves and should not take crap from the male chauvinist world. Result is that I am quite independent in all ways and secretly favour women in my day to day dealings. Before you draw other conclusions, let me give you examples. The day I needed to consult a pediatrician for my son on an urgent basis and I landed up in a nearby hospital; the receptionist asked me whether I would like to see Dr. (Mrs.) So & So or Dr. So & So. I sub consciously selected the Mrs. doctor for no obvious reason. If I am at the bank I am waiting for a customer service executive to see me, I hope that the female executive gets free and calls for me rather than the male executive.

There was this moment when I was expecting my first child. Throughout the pregnancy period, I chanted the un-debated mantra “It does not matter whether it is a boy or a girl”. But my husband having been through the 5 years of courtship followed by the 9 marriage years knew that I was edging towards a girl. It took me repeated assurances to convince him that I will be as nice to our son as I would be to our daughter. And as if by divine vengeance, we were blessed with our son. And much later, when I was expecting our second kid, I just avoided the thought of “How would I handle the third man in my life”, if I have another son!

There are so many eccentricities of the male world that drive me crazy. As if one man in my life was not enough, God sent one more to prove his point. And the unexplained similarities in the behavior can only be attributed to the fact that “Men are from Mars”.

If my husband is looking out for something in a drawer (which is very much there in front of the naked eye)… I am sure he will not find it. It will take constant cajoling and finally a visit from me to that place to spot it. So now when my son keeps ranting about how his toy which was he has left in his room before going to school, is no more to be seen – I can relate to it exactly.

I could never understand the constant detailing and studying of “cars” that I have to now get so used to. I can comprehend that a sane person would want to go over each and every detail of each and every car in the market when one is getting ready to buy a car (but imagine trying to study a merc when you want to target the “Santro” segment). But talking about cars and their features all day long when it one does not even intend to buy one – just does not make sense to me. I had got used to blocking my mind with my own thoughts when my husband used to start on his “cars” ritual. But with my son, that is not an option since he has frequent questions like “Mom, which was the car we had seen yesterday?” or “Mom, which type of cars have a wiper for the back screen” and so on.

And when the weekend comes with its inevitable list of to-do’s and shopping – it is met with the same groans and grimaces from my son which my husband used to give some years ago ( After lot of hard work, I have managed to change him a bit). My son will too have the “change – agent” in his life sooner or later.

TV mania is something that comes with its own benefits. When my husband used to stare at the idiot box for hours together without acknowledging my presence, it used to be a point of quarrel for us. But now I have learnt to use it to my advantage for quietly slipping out for my personal errands when both father and son are glued to the television.

The last but not the least is the inexplicable craze about video games. The amount of time that my husband could remain glued to the computer games was definitely more than the longest date I remember going with him on. I thought I had obliterated this obsession soon after marriage by my constant nagging and begging. But it has now taken a revival with my son coming into the scene. It started with educational computer games for my son and now it is not unusual to find both the men in my lives fully drowned in a game of “Road Rash” or “Wolf 3D”.

I have resigned to my fate and when it comes to one of these “Menly” things… I just remind myself “I am from Venus…”.

A stranger who changed my life


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Suchitra is her name!!! I came to know about her from a Calcutta based agency who dealt with household help. I was at the threshold of welcoming our first child into this world and was at a loss of how to manage the logistics of resuming my job after my maternity leave. Mine is a nuclear family with parents flying in every other weekend but living their life in different cities. Hence, if I were to fulfill my dream of continuing my career inspite of a kid, I needed to find someone who could assure me that my baby was in safe hands. After a fruitless search for around 3-4 months, I was left with little choice. Hence I resorted to this agency assuming it to have some level of reliability and authenticity.

I negotiated terms and conditions with the agency and subsequently she arrived by train to my place – to a city which she had never before seen or heard of, to someone’s house she never knew or bothered to authenticate. She was around fourty though the face looked younger. She had a warm smile on her face which showed the weariness of the 38 long journey hours. There she stood at my door hugging her small bag and waiting to be shown in. I got to know later that she barely ate anything during the journey partly because she was apprehensive of what lay ahead of her and partly because she was afraid of spending off the 150 rupees given to her by the agency for travel expenses which was the only money she had. I quickly ushered her in and settled her.

The days later went by rather in a daze. I was blessed with a baby boy and my maternity leave neared to an end. “Didi” (is what I called Suchitra since that is what is used commonly in Bengali to refer to someone older) seemed to be fully ready to take up the responsibility of looking after my little one whilst I was away at work. As the days passed by, my trust in her grew more and more. She looked after my son with the care and attention of a mother. She sat through the nights with me when my son was unwell with inexplicable pains or fever. She shared my joys when my son took those very first steps in life and when he uttered those first words that are a mom’s delight. She was there to comfort and cradle my son when he felt agonized at being away from me. She used her instinct and called me at work at the first bouts of diarrhea my son experienced so that I could immediately take him to the doctor before it became serious. She sat outside my son’s school during his pre-school days when he couldn’t bear to be alone and I was unable to take leave for extended times. She shared the happy times in our lives – working hard when there were guests to entertain and the not so happy times by keeping mum and disappearing in the shadows. She planned well ahead in time to cater to my son’s demand for ‘sabudana khichdi’ by soaking the ‘sabudana’ hours before. She was always around to sneak a bowl of my son’s favourite “bhindi” at the dinning table when I was cajoling him to eat the “paalak sabzi” that was cooked. She never demanded a raise but was always grateful for the raises and bonuses she received. When she went to her village for a vacation, she cut short her trips because she couldn’t bear to be away from my son. She played hide and seeks with my son when he wanted to play, slept with him when he was scared, gave him a hug when he needed one and showered him with praises at his smallest achievements.

One day, I contrasted myself with her.

I was lured to quit my previous employer for the “Infosys” fame and the promotion that I got. Every project that I delivered to the customer’s expectations, I expected a pat from my delivery manager. I went through exhaustive trainings to help me plan my work, learn the Infosys processes, align myself with my customer and meet my unit objectives. Anything I did above expectations, I was quickly given accolades for my achievements. I had my team and my seniors to help me cover up for the mistakes I make in my work. I didn’t think twice before I fired printouts of materials that I could manage with soft copies. I expect a salary hike every single year that goes by and expect a promotion every other year. I need project parties to build team spirit and recognition for slogging away to glory.

That was the day I was humbled with Didi’s perseverance, efficiency, loyalty, meticulousness and love! I don’t understand the motivation and inner strength that keeps her going…maybe the day I understand; I will be a better human being.

My 50th Birthday

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I wake up with the first rays of sunshine that comes through the bedroom window. I look up from my bed and see my mother and father till asleep. So I gurgle once… no reaction… I gurgle again… my mother stirs in her sleep but goes back to sleep. So then I start crying loudly. Good, I now have their attention. Both of them get up and rub their eyes. My mother is the first one to realise what is happening. She picks me up and takes me in her arms. She puts me across on her shoulder and tries to put me to sleep. But I am through with the night’s sleep and I resist by trying to rise from that position. But I am again trust back into sleeping posture by my mother’s firm hand. So again I start crying. My mother then changes my position and puts me in her lap and starts rocking and patting me on my forehead and sings a lullaby in her sleepy voice. I again try to resist by trying to rise up but the lullaby only gets louder. So then I decide that the only way to put an end to this is to close my eyes and pretend to be asleep. I put it in my agenda that I will teach my family about the pleasures of waking up at 5:30 am when I grow older.

As soon as I do that, my mother kisses me lightly on the forehead and puts me in my crib. I wait patiently for their day to begin because mine began quite some time ago. It is a good 90 minutes and I am almost again dozing off to sleep when I hear my sibling (Anna as I have been taught to refer to him) come and proclaim to me “Good morning, chelli.” (Chelli means younger sister in telugu). I give him a wide smile and look forward to being carried to the living room. My father comes and gives me a warm embrace and all of us are finally seated in the living room for our morning tea.

My mother comes in with a tray with some bread sandwiches and tea for everyone and a bottle of milk for me. She goes back to the kitchen to get a glass of milk for my brother. My eyes sparkle at the sight of my milk bottle. I show my excitement by telling in gurgling sounds that I need to be given my bottle immediately. I don’t know why they don’t understand my language. I resolve that teaching them the language is one of the next things in my agenda as soon as I am older. By then, my mother comes in and thankfully takes the bottle of milk and puts it in my mouth. I feast on my breakfast like a juicy piece of hamburger. I have had more than half of the milk when my plexus sounds off and I am full. So I drop the bottle of milk from my mouth. My brother immediately sees that the bottle has fallen off, and he takes it and puts it again in my mouth. I again kick it out with my tongue. This time my father does the kind deed of putting the bottle back into my mouth. I was almost sure that I would have to repeat my morning behaviour of satisfying their wishes and hence gulping down the entire milk, when the door bell comes to the rescue. Everyone is distracted by the coming of the laundry fellow. My mother starts complaining to him about the poor quality of clothes he has been ironing and my father catches hold of the newspaper which is stuck to the door.

I am left to play by myself and everyone busies themselves in the daily routine. Mom and Dad are off to work and Anna comes to me and tells me that we will be watching “Spiderman” on the DVD player. I have seen the movie umpteen times along with Anna. I don’t want to see it again but I give in since I have nothing better to do. In the middle of the movie, I start gazing out at two sparrows that are playing in my balcony. Anna suddenly sees me straying and boxes my ears. He tells me to concentrate on the movie. Learning to box back is something that I quickly add to my agenda.

In the meantime my nanny comes and sees that I have wet my pants. She whisks me away for a bath and puts me to sleep. The rest of the day quickly passes by and my resolve to learn boxing only gets stronger.

Evening is marked by the arrival of my parents. My father remarks “How is my flower petal” and picks me up. Mom readies to take me and Anna down to the park. I ride my blue and pink pram proudly while Mom pushes me around in the park. As soon as we set our foot in the park… a hoard of kids surround me calling me names like baby, Kavya, etc. Anna takes great pleasure in shooing them all away as if they were insects. Mom tries to show me off to her friends by telling them of the new antic I picked up recently. She tries in vain to get me to do the antic in front of her friends but I refused to budge. I am no joker here. As soon as my mom’s friends move away, I start doing my antics only to get a grimace from my mother. We head back home as the sun sets.

After dinner, we prepare for bed. Mom and Dad are having a tiff over a wet towel left by my Dad on the bed. Meanwhile Anna is playing with me with my rattle. He holds up my rattle for me to catch it in the air. On the 10th try, I managed to grip it tightly and Anna is exhilarated. He rewards me with kisses. Meantime Mom comes and takes me away to put me to sleep. I gurgle and show resistance but with little success. Teaching the language is pushed up at the number one item on my agenda.

I am cradled to sleep in my mother’s lap and I snuggle and am soon lost in wonderful dreams.

I am six months old. I am not sure what my name is since I am being referred to as Chelli, baby, Kavya, Guddan, Flower Petal and what not. I will let you know as soon as I find out my name.

A Better India

eunuch

“Zoo, Zoo, Zoo… we are off to the zoo”. My older one went ranting around the house from the wee hours of the morning. He was excited to the core since the time he caught me telling my husband that “Let’s take the children out to the zoo.” His little sister who is nine months old and is still alien to the concept of zoo’s and movies and all that, could feel her brother’s excitement and jumped around with him.

So we were finally packed with water bottles and biscuits and sandwiches and loaded ourselves in the car. My older one grabbed the window seat and pulled the pane down. We were barely out of our building gates when we were stopped by the pandemonium caused by the arrival of three eunuchs. As soon as we drove by, they cowered around our car and one was quick to stand next to the window where my son was sitting. The other two crowded around my husband’s window asking for money. My older one started telling me “Aunty is calling you, Mama”. I tried my best to feign ignorance and shield my younger one from the eunuch. My husband taken by surprise was fiddling with his wallet to give out some money. He gave a tenner to each of them and we moved on.

My son was asking me “Mummy, why was Aunty asking us for money”. I managed to give some vague answer. Honestly speaking, I didn’t have an answer for him. Neither did my husband. Normally, the logic that is used by the society when someone begs is that the person does not want to work hard and get a dignified living. Hence he/she resorts to easier ways like asking alms, thievery, etc.

In this case, they resort to begging because the society makes them beg. We do not recognize them as equal and respectable members of our society. No one is ready to employ them or take the efforts to change the mindset that thrives in this land of “Akbar, the great, Rani LakshmiBai and Gandhiji”

I recollect a news clipping which talked about a couple who gave birth to a baby eunuch. The husband and in-laws spurned the baby and wanted to give it up. The mother fought back and decided to keep the baby, only to invite a divorce sheet from her husband.

India might be fast moving from a developing nation to a developed nation. We would have succeeded in sending people to the moon, and launching our own personal satellite system. But it will be truly developed when there is respect for humanity here. I am not sure how the society will reform to accept the eunuchs as an integral part of our culture. I am not sure whether I will take the step towards this reformation? Will you?