The ladies’ compartment was quite crowded, and I found a place to stand comfortably. And as I looked around within the restricted space, I could see a cellphone with a half-done word-building game. A young girl held the phone in her hand. Puzzles are something I get easily addicted to, and I could not resist myself. She was stuck on a word, and I thought I knew the answer. As I peered into the young lady’s phone over her shoulder, I felt like a trespasser. Like those nosy aunties who ask too many questions. But I was stuck, since movement was quite restricted, and we were like packed sardines.
So there I stood for a little while, with the two sparring voices in the head. I could completely empathize with Hamlet, and could feel the ‘to be or not to be’ moment, or rather, ‘to speak or not to speak’. After a few tense moments, I just blurted out the word. She looked up, startled. It was too late to look away. I apologized for poking my nose, as she typed in the word and it was correct! Phew! She smiled and said that was okay. She moved to the next level in the game. My internal chatter had reached a frenzy as the voice was telling me to just shut up and mind my business. So I tried to act nonchalant and stood quietly, trying very hard to not look in her direction.
And then I heard a soft voice – “it’s a four letter word?” she was asking me for help! Gleefully I joined her in the quest for words, and we continued to slay. And in no time, I had reached my destination.
Those were the days when joint families were common. She would be pampered by all the aunts and uncles in the house, and also taken out on outings. Those days, the shops closed by maybe 9 pm, and the streets would be deserted after that. It was one such night that the uncle and aunt had taken her out to visit some friends, and were returning on the scooter. She must have been around four at the time.
As they were on this lonely stretch of the road, the girl had an irresistible urge to eat cake. Not just any cake, but Japanese cake. She started a singsong whine – ‘unnncle, I want caaaakeeeee’. The shops were all closed by then, and poor uncle didn’t know what to do. As they went further down the road, they found a shop that was still open. But he didn’t have cakes. Thinking the girl was hungry, uncle bought some bananas and gave her one to eat. She quietly ate the banana. As they went further ahead, she started again. ‘Unnncle, I want caaaakeeeee’. Now uncle didn’t know what to do. He saw another shop and stopped there. The shopkeeper didn’t have cake, either. But he had ice cream. So poor uncle thought that the ice cream would make up for the lack of cake. So the ice cream was eaten too. And further down the road … yes, you guessed right. The whine started again. ‘Uncle, caaaaake’.
This went on for some time till uncle realized (after some bars of chocolate, some fanta, and a tender coconut) that the whine would not stop till she had had the cake. So this time, he went straight to a place where he knew the bakery would be open (yes, away from the route to the house). And she gleefully jumped up and down, and pointed to the tiny round cake on display. And finally the whining was put to an end.
Uncle had a good story to tell everyone back home.
A common sight these days, in any public place, is heads bent over the android phones. Oh so intently, like their lives depend on that message they are sending or the video they are busy watching. This has been such a common sight that it has given rise to a lot of memes and videos telling us of the disadvantages of being glued to the screen. Every time I travel by the metro, I am greeted by this common sight.
As I take the metro in the morning to my classes, I change metro lines. So I take two trains.
Today, on my way back, I saw this young lady so intent on watching Big Boss on her mobile that she was standing quite close to the doors. I silently prayed that she wouldn’t fall off when the doors opened at the next station. Well, she managed to get off without any problem. (I couldn’t click her picture as the train was crowded).
As I changed trains, there was a rare sight that awaited me in the ladies compartment. I did a double take. And also clicked a picture of the girl (cropped for privacy reasons). Take a look!
To the girl in the picture: If you are reading this, dear, be careful as you get down the stairs (I saw you with your eyes still glued to the book as you approached the stairs)! You reminded me of my younger days, when I was just as crazy.
But well – I guess a book is any day better than the smart phone!
Do you agree?
It was a Sunday, and I was inspired to cook sonny boy’s favorite breakfast. ‘Healthy home cooked food!’ I thought. I set out to make kandha poha, which he likes. We had got up late, and he wanted to order in, but I told him that the breakfast would be ready quicker than the delivery from outside (along with the lecture on the benefits of home-cooked food, of course! I am Mom-bound to do that!).
And thus I set out to cook. I chopped the heap of onions and started tempering, when my phone beeped. I set the flame to low and as I waited for the onions to turn brown, I happily read through the messages, watched videos, and replied to some personal messages. It was my ever-active nose that told me something was going amiss – just in time to look up and see that the brown shade of onions I had been waiting for, had passed me by. They had transitioned and reached nirvana – to a pure black!
What followed is anybody’s guess – yes, restart with the chopping of onions and chillies, the seasoning, the whole process and, not to mention, to see a ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry!!) face with the ‘I-told-you’ look.
Thus the not-so-new-year resolution was born. No WhatsApp/social media in the morning. At least till the cooking is done. Would you all agree?
As I got into the 7:10 metro this morning, I was happy that I would be on time. I rejoiced too soon. As we reached Majestic, where I had to switch metro lines, the train did not leave station for about a good eight minutes. And again, at the stop just before the one where I got off, it again stopped for another ten minutes or so. It seemed there was some snag and the authorities were taking care of it.
The train was jam-packed, and people fidgeted on being late. It was with mixed feelings that I restlessly looked this way and that. Then I realized there was nothing that I could do at that point of time. Getting off the metro and taking a rickshaw would mean more loss of time. It seemed safer to bear this delay. So I just accepted the situation and looked around at the crowd.
The young people were, quite amusingly, engrossed with their smartphones. There was a young lady watching a video with great interest. Another young man was busily at a game. One was engrossed in a chat, with that dreamy look in her eyes. These were the ones that seemed unmoved by any delay.
And then there were a few who must have been really getting late. The ones who were vocal were those on their way to work, it looked like. One started cribbing and I wondered if he was worried about a missed meeting at office… Or did he dread facing a Hitler boss?
The older generation sat calmly. One such elderly gentleman pointed out that we should support the system. ‘What if you were on the road and got stuck in a traffic jam? Who would you blame then?’ He asked. Point there. By then the train had started, and had arrived at my destination. I got off the train pondering on the thought if I should rue the missing out of more than half of my class, or be glad it was just a small snag, or whether to be patient with the system.
It was just a delay. I chose to count my blessings.
You begin with an empty bowl.
This was the writing prompt.
I had hit the writer’s block, and I was going through the chores, thinking of the ‘empty bowl’. It was not until late that evening as I emptied the garbage bowl in the recycling bin that I got that ‘aha’ moment.
You cannot fill a bowl which is full. You need to empty it, to fill it with what you want. This sentence I heard first when I turned towards spirituality. At the time, I did not fully understand it. I got the words, yes. But the depth of the meaning hit me only after some time. Easier said than done, though, and we need to put in constant efforts.
Coming back to the bowl. I collect kitchen waste in a bowl. Around evenings, or when the bowl is full, I transfer the contents into a bigger bin on my terrace. I have some good manure this way. And I am saved from the tantrums of the garbage collector in the mornings (you will be nodding your head in agreement if you live in Bangalore). And as a bonus, I get some tiny saplings now and then that spring forth to life, from that heap of waste. I had a few tomatoes recently. There is a small plant that looks like some gourd. So it is a win-win situation all the way.
So, as I emptied that bowl today, the thought came to me that our minds are similar to this bowl. We collect garbage as we go about our lives. What others said or did, or did not do. And the anger, resentment, sadness, and all the other negativities that go with it, get collected in our ‘bowl’. And then the mind is a place of filth. We need to empty the mind of all the garbage, for us to fill it with new things. When the garbage finds a right direction, new life springs forth.
As we empty the mind’s bowl, we make space for fresh and productive thoughts. And thus a new day starts, with an empty bowl.
They popped up from nowhere, these little ugly gremlins. The minute I was about to start, up sprang one. He came from somewhere in the head region, a place I did not know existed until now. It is called the land of doubts and fears, I believe. He had the most convincing list of doubts and fears. As I tackled and finished him off, the next one was ready. This fellow had a totally different set of thoughts that made me wonder if he were right? Oh! The torture! No sooner than I had put this one to rest, there were a couple more that had appeared. This went on for quite some time. I was totally exhausted by the time I had demolished the thousand-something-th one. Heavens! I finally confided in a friend who suggested I use the spray ‘self-talk’.
This seemed to work and I was inspired again. I was full of bright ideas. They were brimming, no, spilling and overflowing out of the head like a river in full spate.
Fully inspired, I now sit down to write. Yes! I have loads of topics! I have the most wonderful words coming up in the brain space, straining to be let out and spill themselves on to the paper, or rather my word file on the computer. Yes! I have got it all planned out. I spray a generous dose of gremlicide, called confidence. I sit down in front of my laptop. And I start. What? Well, these words seem shy now. They were doing such a jig in the brain just a while ago, and now they are shy and reluctant to come out. They seem to hide for cover behind other words. ‘You go first’, ‘no, you go’, they seem to say. So I sit for hours in front of the system, trying to coax them out onto the word file. Then after quite a long wait, I log off, as I have other things to do and I’ve got to feed myself!
Ah, these wicked torturous words!! You just wait till I catch you all! Just you wait! And until then, I will try and pass this experience for my Day1 of the thirty-day challenge! I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and hoping they’ll be kind to me soon … and I’m ready for Day2
It has been raining cats and dogs since the past so many weeks. I read the news about Kerala limping back to normalcy from devastating floods, and that Coorg is now on the road to recovery.
As I sip my morning tea, I look outside to see a bright sun. Ah! The sunshine lights me up, as I look at the mounting pile of laundry. Finally, today I can wash the clothes and put them out to dry! I hate the smell of shade-dried clothes.
Happily, I go about my day’s work and put the washing machine to task. The washing machine goes on with its work. And just fifteen minutes later, I see clouds gathering. The clothes are merrily getting a wash. And soon, there is a heavy downpour. It continues well past the the evening. And after the rains have stopped, the clouds show their presence. I look up at the skies and feel as though they had a good laugh at my expense.
Now, did I say anything about shade-dried clothes?
How many times have we heard women say ‘I want to work from home!’ with such a longing? Visions of sitting with a cup of steaming hot chai, after everyone has left home. Finish cooking. Supervise the maid. Sit in front of the computer for a while, and work. And then around the month end, feel that sense of pride with the paycheck. Oh yes, quite dreamy. But what is the reality?
The negatives first. At least what I went through. Initially when I started working from home, I realized that I was sleeping at about 3 a.m. And at times I had to get out of bed at 4 a.m. (not after sleeping at 3… I would be dead by now if I did that!), and straight away log in to the system. Because I had a deadline to meet. ‘Pure inefficiency’, someone commented. Oh yes. I was so inefficient that I could not complete my work on time. That was because there were so many other things that came up during my ‘office time’. Like the maid who went missing, the loving phone calls from bored friends, or the sweet lady in the neighbourhood who dropped in for a long chat – ‘I was just passing by, so I thought I’d say hello to you!’ ‘Oh! Hello! So sweet of you! But dahling, this is my work time!!’ I could not say that to her face. And the sweet lady remembered me almost every day! And then there was the young neighbor who was at my door with her year-old baby in tow. And before I could say anything, she thrust the kid into my arms and said, ‘I’ll be back…I need to go somewhere urgently and can’t take the kid!’ Sigh. Inefficiency it was. Until I started telling people clearly that it was my work hours and I would not like to be disturbed. Rude? Not really. I would call that efficiency now. But yes. The odd jobs (could be anything at all that requires your time and attention) that come your way, because ‘anyway you will be at home, right?’ cannot be avoided. Sometimes the totally lonely feeling, if you know what I mean. I miss the crowd, noise, and chatter of an office.
Now for the plus points. I can log in to the system in my night gown. No one to see. I don’t have to worry about what to wear. About which shoes and bag would match my outfit. No worries about transport. Rains? No worries! And yes, there is that small beep that comes at the end of the month to say that your salary is credited.
Thank God for the blessings!
I know that you are far better now than you were in your twenties. Wiser and smarter with all the experiences and lessons that life has bestowed you with. But there is more, my dear. From where I see things. Pay attention to what I say, so that you will be the happier for it when you reach where I am now.
First: Get rid of all the clutter. The physical, mental, and the emotional. I know you have started doing it. Keep at it. You can’t stop and say ‘I am done’. It is an ongoing process. You like to travel light. It applies to life too. Less clutter will make the journey of life easier.
Second: Forgive. I know you will say I am trying my best. Yes. Even that “…..”. YES. Those people first. Difficult, but not impossible. Forgiving clears your own soul.
Third: Love. Love with all your heart. Even those who you feel are not worthy of your affection.
Fourth: Accept people as they are. We can’t change others. Their qualities are what makes them unique. Just as you are, with all your quirks. We can only change ourselves.
Fifth: And the last, but definitely the most important. Pray. Pray for all the people that touch your life. And for those you don’t know, either. Pray for the upliftment for all living beings.
At eighty, this is what I want you to have achieved. The rest would have fallen in place if you did this.
All my love,
You, at eighty. (If you live till then!)