28 June 2009

Living in each moment

In an organizational training program once, our trainer had asked us to contemplate over the last good meal that we had had and write down our feelings about it. Very few of us could wax eloquent about it. The point of the exercise was that life has become so busy for us that we rush through many experiences throughout our day without savoring them. The simple pleasure of a well put together meal escapes us as we are worrying about catching the bus or the train for office. We miss the delicate rainbow on the horizon while driving to work as we are intent on the traffic and news on the radio. There is no time to stand still and observe the beauty of nature, fragrant pastures, tasty offerings, chirping and twittering of birds and bees.

Ever since I attended that training, I've made it a point to savor each and every moment of my day. I appreciate a tasty meal now and can remember its taste for days afterward. I take the time to enjoy the scenery while driving to office. I stop to smell the fresh scent of the earth after the first rain. Or of the flowers in bloom. I can distinguish between the various moods of the speaker on the phone, especially of my family. I can sense when my maid is not feeling well and is getting ready to ask for a day off! Ditto for my colleagues at office.

And what is the result of this you might ask? I feel that I am truly alive now. I am more in touch with my senses and can know what I like or do not like instead of just going through the motions. I now know why I like certain foods and why I don't like others. I can bond easily with others as I can sense what they are feeling and react accordingly. When I see a breathtaking view, I thank the Lord for making me able to see it. When I see a baby giggling, I can wallow in the pleasure of innocence. When I am folding the laundry I love the fresh smell of the newly washed clothes. When I meet people who are slow, I no longer feel impatient. Instead I can appreciate the fact that God did not make all of us alike, else life would have been very boring! I thank the slow person for slowing me down from my hectic pace. When I read a good book, I take time to think about what I liked about the book. I thank the author for taking me through a great experience through book. When I stumble or make a mistake, I laugh and say "it happens". I've become humble, grateful, and yes, enlightened.

A woman's life

"A woman’s life is more than marriage and children" - heard this dialogue in a movie(Miss Potter) on TV. This is in such direct contrast to what we have been taught or heard since childhood(especially in India) that the gears of my brain started spinning. I remember my grandmother telling me once that her parents had drilled into her that "baiche aayushya mhanje phakta chool aani mool"(A woman's life is all about the stove and her children.) But my grandmother was made of sterner stuff. Inpsite of being married off at the age of 15 and having had her first child(my mother) at the tender age of 17, she completed her studies and eventually got her graduate degree in BA. By God's grace, she was blessed with 5 daughters(and no sons), most of whom have had a career alongwith their married life. Having a father who believed that his daughter should walk the same line as his son helped me become the independent woman that I am today.

But I see many of my peers, who worked hard during school and college and started off with promising careers, succumbing to this school of thought either wilfully, or in some cases, against their will. Somewhere along the line their ambition got stifled in the domestic drudgery. Or in some cases, a break in the career ended up being the end of it out of sheer inertia. Or perhaps, current financial stability lulled them into a false sense of security. Of course, work is not just about the money it brings at the end of the month. It is about making judicious use of the valuable education each of us underwent. It is about having a life apart from taking care of our husbands, children and home. It is about having an identity and a sense of purpose. It is about having that extra bit of income we can call our own, which we don't feel guilty about spending on frivolous things such as expensive accessories, lavish gifts for family, cosmetic products to maintain our youthful looks or spending a couple of hours a month pampering ourselves in the parlor!
It is also something to keep us sane from the boredom of when the children are grown and ready to fly from the nest. Working for our living makes us more decisive, confident and empowered - in control of our destiny. This of course leads to happiness for the woman as well as her family. I've also read somewhere that a woman who deals with the subtle politics of a work environment, soon learns to be street-smart. She can pass on this knowledge to her children too so that they can start their lives with an advantage in this fast-paced world.

I have seen friends give up flourishing careers in pursuit of the perfect balance between time for oneself and one's family. And I've seen those same friends regretting their decisions in these times of recession. I myself have been guilty of feeling so frustrated with the responsibility of running a perfect household and doing justice to my professional committments that I've contemplated giving up work many times. Thankfully, my parents and my husband have always encouraged me not to get bogged down by little frustrations. With a little help from the spouse and other family members, it is always feasible to enjoy a good balance between work and family life.

I have also seen women who work because they need the cash. In such cases, the work is just a necessary evil that has to be got through and hence they never excel at what they do or learn on the job. Such work fails to give them any satisfaction, confidence or independence - thereby reinforcing a feeling of entrapment. They think that they have to work in order to keep the house fires burning whereas other women get to laze around the house all day. All this martyrdom eats away into the happiness of the family. If these women start enjoying the work that brings them their financial freedom, they would feel so much happier.

I know of many women who are not married, or married but single now, but lead fulfilled lives through successful careers. Infact it is turning out to be the norm for this generation as more and more women value their independence over marriage and kids. However, I believe that a woman's touch is not only essential to a home, but it is vital to a woman's happiness to be the pivot in a household. Her natural management and nurturing instincts are best exploited, and satisfied, when she is running a household or any other kind of establishment. Also, who better to pass on one's talent and knowledge, but to one's own kids! In the words of my maid - "Bhagwan bina mandir nahi aur aurat bina ghar nahi!"

Thus, where the adage of woman's place being in the kitchen was true once, times have now evolved to the extent where men are taking up their share of the household responsibilities. A woman need no longer restrict herself to her home or shy away from working for a living. Nor need she think that marriage and kids are the end of a thriving career or waste of a good education. Being a woman is about marriage, children, family and oh ...so much more!

20 June 2009

Rain, rain, don't go away!

Having waited all month in vain
Of drought, there is a scare.
But oh, the promise of rain
Has brought a smile everywhere!

Clouds gathering in the darkening sky,
The wind threatening to rip my curtains,
On a lazy afternoon, has made me spry
As I hasten to protect my home from the rains.

Dashing from room to room,
To shut the doors and windows,
As it thundered with a tremendous boom,
I hoped that there'll also be rainbows!

I rushed out onto the terrace,
To feel the first precious drops,
On my flushed and excited face,
Taking instead the watery wallops.

I watched the children gathered below
Drenched to their skin in the downpour
And trees swaying in a graceful bow
Lapping up the water to their roots' core!

Rain, rain, please don't go away!
Amid inconveniences like mud and potholes
The people of India want you to stay
And pray for your stay with our hearts and souls!

07 June 2009

All about salt

What a strange topic to write about you might say! Well, today I observed a fast on account of Vat Savitri puja- the ritual practiced by married Hindu women for the well-being and long life of the husband. While consuming the saltless fasting food, my train of thought was directed to all things salty :)

I was reminded of the childhood story of the king who wanted to know which of his four sons loved him the most. After hearing exaggerated claims from his 3 elder sons, the king was quite taken aback when his youngest son told him that he loved him as much as he loved salt in his food. The king was quite crestfallen at this. But then the son made him eat food without salt. It was only then that the king realised how critical salt was to the taste and edibleness of food.

Salt is the common name for the substance sodium chloride (NaCl), which occurs in the form of transparent cubic crystals. Although salt is most familiar as a food supplement, less than 5% of the salt produced in the United States is used for that purpose. About 70% is used in the chemical industry, mostly as a source of chlorine. Salt is also used for countless other purposes, such as removing snow and ice from roads, softening water, preserving food, and stabilizing soils for construction.

Did you know that the Romans paid their soldiers an allowance of salt called a salarium - hence our word salary and the phrases 'worth one's salt' and 'true to one's salt'? And if you 'salt a mine', you add valuable ore or something similar to make potential buyers think that they're getting something worthwhile. Here is some trivia that I came across on googling on salt-

Salt of the earth - No, this is not the famous movie or the song from Rolling Stones album. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, 'the salt of the earth' is used to describe 'a person or persons of great kindness, reliability or honesty'. What was the origin of this phrase? Well, in the Moroccan city of Fez, the Jewish quarter (Mallah) is very old and was home to Jews who did a lot of salt mining. They were considered very useful to the community, and it is claimed that the expression 'salt of the earth' originated here.

Salting an account - It means when you put such a high value on something that you raise its market value. Of course, salt is traditionally a mark of social worth.

To sit below the salt - It means that someone has low social standing. It comes from an old custom of placing the family 'saler' (salt cellar) halfway down a long dining table. Those seated furthest away were the lowest rank. And people of distinction sat 'above the salt', near the head of the table.

Take with a pinch of salt - This expression, from the Latin cum grano salis, means that there's a grain of truth in it, not too much.

05 June 2009

Its a small world !

I completed my graduate degree from a city in Gujarat. After graduation, I took up a job in a city in Maharashtra. I lost touch with most of my graduation batchmates after that. Many of them left to pursue further studies in the US. Others took an indirect route - they got married to NRIs. And a third bunch of folks went to make hay while the sun shone in the dotcom boom in the US. I too joined the last bandwagon post my marriage, alongwith my hubby.

It was while commuting by bus in the initial days of my stay in bay area, California, that I met a classmate. "Hi, Nilambari", thus greeting me as if we were still in our class in college, he breezed into the seat next to mine. What were the chances of that?! Surely higher than that of bumping into the same classmate some months later in Disneyland of LA on a crowded weekend while waiting in the queue of a ride!!

I met yet another classmate, this time on the commuter train to my office in San Francisco. She was sitting right across from me. I didn't recognize her at first in her new hairstyle and new -er- personality. She used to be this demure girl in college, with a single oily braid and dressed always in punjabi suits. But she had metamorphosed into this confident, professional lady in a trouser suit and a chic hairstyle. She however had no problems recognizing me; am not sure if that is flattering or not :)

There was another incident where yet another classmate called my name across a crowded aisle in a department store. The meetings were not always co-incidental, they were planned too sometimes. We were a close-knit group of 6 girls in college - all serious and scholarly and boringly sincere. 3 of us moved to US after marriage, 2 to UK and one stayed on in India, but moved in different cities in India. We made it a point to meet each other whenever possible. Infact, I've met one of them in 3 countries so far - US, UK and India!

In the past six months, I've had the good fortune to meet three of my very close friends from college in my current city in India. My hubby has been born and brought up in this city and keeps bumping into someone or the other in cinema halls, department stores, cousin's weddings etc. I have always envied him the facility to be able to call his batchmates and meet them at will. Infact, many of my colleagues go out for reunion lunches, or dinners, with their batchmates. But I've realised that being spread out over the globe is no reason to lose touch or feel isolated. Not only has science made transport, or communication, amazingly easy and affordable, but people too have become more global. No more is it a chore or a financial burden to visit a friend in another town or even in another country. I felt so happy when I took my parents to a college friend's house-warming ceremony recently and my mom commented on how I've kept the candle of friendship burning with my friends from college! Thank you, dear mom, you made my day.

03 June 2009

Marathi movie - Me Shivaji Raje Bhosale Boltoy

I finally saw this much-hyped marathi movie recently. My mother and sister-in-law(bhabhi) saw it recently and wouldn't rest until they made the entire family see it :) So much so, that they almost bit my head off when I commented in jest that the name of a local mall should be changed as it was too ghati and did not match the sophistication of the mall itself. I regret my words after watching this movie, however.

The movie is so popular that it has been declared tax-free in cinema halls all over Maharashtra. Inspite of being mired in plagiarism controversy at the onset, this film picked up momentum over time and is a raging success everywhere. True, it does borrow the concept of Lage raho Munnabhai loosely, but it is definitely not a copy or even an inspiration. And it does not preach Shivajigiri, like Lage raho teaches Gandhigiri. Its simplicity and inspiring message for ALL Maharashtrians is what has made it a hit among students and middle-class Maharashtrians.

What I liked about the movie is that it has taken a progressive stance on Raj Thackeray's 'Marathi manoos' by including the people from other States who have settled in Maharashtra for decades. The film is not about spreading regionalism. Infact, far from denigrating people from other States, through the historical figure of Shivaji, it takes a rather grim appraisal of why marathi people have been left behind in the rat race. It not only derides the marathi businessmen for taking pride in the fact that they have no branches anywhere (something to be ashamed of really), but also reproves the meekness and laid-back attitude of the middle-class maharashtrian.

The director has woven the character of Shivaji and his right-in-command - Raiba very cleverly into the plot. How the protagonist applies anecdotes from the life of Shivaji to his own life and resurrects his self-esteem, and even his own identity, in the process, is what the movie is all about. Admittedly, it is shamelessly didactic, but its been done with so much finesse, and yes, even wit, that one can easily forgive the lapse. The dialogues and performances by Sachin Khedekar(protagonist) and Mahesh Manjrekar(Shivaji) are the highlights of the movie. The film demands respect for the much misused title of Ghati attributed to Marathi community in general. Says Shivaji that like one has regards for communal sects of Sardar, Shetty or Thakur, the tag of Ghati should be equally acceptable to all and, to start with, the Marathi Manoos himself.

A thought-provoking, feel-good film. Definitely worth watching!

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