Wednesday, November 28, 2007

To write or not to write??

Eve's lung tagged me to write about things I wanted to write about but could not get to actually doing it.Here I go-

I wanted to write about the young girl in Gawahati who was stripped and molested by those opposing a protest rally by students. I could not bring myself to express in words the agony I felt.This was an instance where words truly failed me.I hang my head in shame that this happens in a country where women are worshiped as Devis.

I wanted to write about a tyrant of a Principal who would treat her employees as if they were her bonded laborers to the extent of holding back their salaries to show how powerful she was.But then I decided that she was not worth a mention let alone a post.I prefer to write about those poor people who stood up to her against all odds.

I wanted to write about my colleagues who were given their full salary after 14 long years.Here again I found myself groping for words unable to express their joy in the right words.But I felt elated that the powers that be finally relented.Ihad written about them here

I wanted to write beautiful poems like Vishesh. But unfortunately they don't sound right.So I leave it to him to delight us with his pieces.

I wanted to write a piece on life in a typical Tambram home some 40 years back.I haven't done it out of sheer laziness.May be I'll do it one day.

I wanted to write about arranged marriages from a parent's perspective.I dare not do so for fear of alienating a good number of my readers.So I keep my views to myself.You my readers are too precious to lose.

I hope I have done justice to the tag.I invite anyone interested to carry it forward.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Adoption laws??

Adoption of children by a childless couple has been happening since time immemorial. There are contradictory opinions about whether the adopted child should be told about his/her adopted status or not. If yes then when is the right time to divulge the information? The reactions of the human mind are strange and unpredictable and there is no guarantee that the child is going to react positively to the news if and when it is disclosed. They say blood is thicker than water. But is it really so? Don’t the years of nurture put in by the adopted parents count? I have the example of a few cases that make me conclude that the adopted parents are lucky if their wards take the news well but it would be better to be prepared for the worst.

I do not know their names so I have decided to give them names of my choice. On second thoughts I feel that naming them is not that important. This could happen to any of us whether our child is adopted or not.

I met the mother and daughter some 12 years back when I went to a friend’s place on invitation during Navaratri. They were visitor's at my friend's place having come there on a short vacation from New Delhi. The child was about 5 years old and unless otherwise mentioned one would not realize that she was adopted. Unfortunately the father had died soon after the child’s first birthday but the child was a source of joy and the mother worked hard as an assistant in a reputed institution in Delhi to give her the very best in life. I am a regular invitee to their house during Navaratri and I’d make it a point to enquire after the child’s progress when ever I visited. But the report I got this year was alarming. The girl was now a school drop out and is probably into bad company. She remains out with friends for days together makes atrocious demands for cash sometimes at gun point. She regularly steals money from her mother’s purse has removed the adoption papers from the locker of her mother’s almirah. The slightest rebuke makes her violent and she challenges her mother to ‘throw her back into the gutter’ from which she picked her. She claims to be working in a call center thereby justifying her absence at night. Her mother is now emotionally dependent on her and the girl is well aware of the fact. My conclusion is that the girl is into drugs and since she is the nominee to all her mother’s assets there may be others involved in encouraging her to threaten her mother and terrorize her to submitting to her unfair demands. In these days of HIV/AIDS spreading like wildfire I wonder if the mother is equipped to deal with the girl as well as those behind her. Any way that is beside the point.

The mother feels guilty about not having disclosed her adopted status at the appropriate time and feels that the shock of having found it out by herself perhaps led her to revolt. She tries to convince herself that drug abuse is not involved. I did not have the opportunity to meet the mother and I report the story from what I learnt through her sister who is in Jamshedpur. I personally feel that this could have happened even if the daughter was her own and not adopted. But then this is one of those issues that have no answer or solution. Blinded by her affection for the adopted daughter the mother refuses to take her for counseling or to find out what her problem happens to be and whether she is indeed working for a BPO. After all who’d hire a school drop out who has failed her 9th standard? Her main fear is that of losing the daughter for ever. And the sixteen year old is well aware of this. In this case the girl accidentally found out about her being an adopted child. I don’t have detailed information about adoption laws but there appears to be a condition making it necessary for parents to inform the child of his/her status at an appropriate time.

The world and its whimsical ways are strange. If the child turns out to be normal no credit is given to the parents whether adopted or natural. The moment things go wrong every one starts giving their expert opinion. Those that sympathize with the child accuse parents of over indulgence or indifference and if they are on the parent’s side they blame the child’s lineage laying the blame on bad blood. Neither of this really helps. Any child can fall into bad company and adolescent crisis is not unique to a particular group. Drug peddlers are on the look out for victims and a child who is confused is an easy prey. As parents one need to recognize signs and deal with it accordingly. Blaming one’s fate is not going to help nor would be helpful to indulge in self pity. No one wants a child to go astray but should the worst happen let it be faced and rectified before it is too late even if it is at the risk of losing the child's affection. Children are sharp and will understand your good intention pretty soon. One needs to remain patient. And in case the misunderstanding persists but the child's behavior is corrected, one can atlest watch his/her growth from a distance and it would be better than witnessing their downfall and not being able to do anything about it. It is the responsibility of the parent to deal with the situation in an appropriate manner and for adopted parents it is like walking on tight rope.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tag of weirdness

Seven weird things about me-

Preethi has tagged me to reveal 7 weird things about me and to further tag seven people to continue the tag. Having done a similar tag earlier, let me try. Though I have to think of a new list of weird attributes to do justice to the tag.

I have the tendency to think of something funny and giggle or smile. I mostly do it in the privacy of my home but sometimes I giggle to myself while traveling in a bus or in a boring situation. I quickly check if others have noticed it and regain my composure.

I normally see people dress up for the evening and look tidy and trim when I drop in. Evenings are my time to relax and I wear soft and soothing clothes and dress up only if I have to go out. This may be due to the fact that I’ve spent the entire day in a starched sari duly pinned up and am happy wearing dangly stuff that pass off for clothes at home.

I forget where I’ve kept my stuff and tend to look for them in the wrong cupboard though I seem to easily locate my husband’s misplaced belongings. Things have improved a bit these days with pass books in one folder and certificates and things in another. When my husband was working he was worse than me but since retirement he does a good job of organizing things. The only problem is that his lectures are non stop.

I used to sob my heart out while watching melodramatic masala movies till about 10 years back. These days I laugh at the very same situations. I cannot explain the change of heart. May be the actors overacted or I over reacted. Whatever the reason, my children would stop watching the movie and check out if I had started shedding tears. I remember my friends in college hushing me up.

In really tensed up situations I tend to say something out of context. Like when my daughter needed to get admitted for her delivery I asked her if I should grind the soaked dal for vada. I am sure my son in law must have thought that I was crazy. I can’t help it. I get muddled and unable to think straight, I tend to say or do something silly.

I cannot bear parting. I’ve cried for each of my teachers who left school to get married. On one occasion a co - passenger asked me if I was related to my Geography teacher noticing the way I cried when we went to the station to see her off. I’d cry when I left home for the hostel and cry again when I left the hostel to return home. When my younger brother got married I cried along with his wife and my daughter almost disowned me for it. But strangely the tears seem to have dried up these days and I make do with quivering lips and a crooked mouth.

I love reading portions of an impressive book over and over again. I sometimes re-issue library books for the purpose. When I am out of sorts I take up a really funny book and read the funny parts to overcome my bad mood.

Now the difficult part of tagging seven others- I think I’ll ask Sunita, serendipity, dotm, rajk, tys on ice, prats and nz to take up the tag if they wish to.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gup shap.

I feel that there is some basic difference between men and women. Whether it is in their genes or cultural tuning I wouldn’t know but I do feel that men-or at least those that belong to my generation suffer from a blindness that has no name. We’ve heard of color blindness and night blindness. But how do you classify when men look at things without actually seeing them. My husband for instance needs me in the house all the time. It used to be-
“Where is the gas lighter?” at five o’clock in the morning. This question would annoy me. I certainly don’t hide it under my pillow. Earlier I’d get up and give it to him and come back to get on with my dreams. These days I close my eyes tight and continue to dream. He must have learnt to locate it or perhaps uses matchsticks but he has stopped asking me. The next question would be
“Where is the milk?”
Why they don't try to locate even medium or large sized objects is something I don’t understand. Even while I write this post my husband is asking for the TV remote. He is the actual ‘controller’ of the remote and it is invariably found on the sofa. I don’t even touch it with my little finger but the question is always popped at me. As if I go about hiding everything. I personally feel that they shoot the question even before looking for a particular item. A gent’s towel is not the size of a lady’s handkerchief to be folded and kept in my purse nor do spanners and screw drivers attract me. But it is always ‘where is this or that.’

One evening when I came back from work every edible item had been left open. The cooker with cooked rice in it, dal, and sabzi lay open on the kitchen slab. Curd and pickle on the dining table. Lids of all sizes lay strewn all over the place and this was at least two hours after he had his afternoon meal.

I woke him up from his afternoon nap and demanded to know why he hadn’t bothered to keep the curd and dal in the fridge and why each and every item had been left open. He had no answer except that he was watching an interesting match on TV and forgot about it. He did not even see the curd and pickle lying open.

“Oh! Stop it will you?” was his retort. “It doesn’t take place everyday!” Thank God it doesn’t. It would cause my blood pressure to soar. Honestly I don’t see a woman doing this however interesting a program on TV may be.

The second problem area is the selective deafness he seems to suffer from.

“The dal is in the fridge.” I’d tell him. “Heat it up in the microwave just before lunch.”

I’d come back and see that he has not taken out the dal at all. He had mixed rice with sabzi and eaten it up.

“But the dal was in the fridge” I’d protest.

"Oh was it? I did not know”

“I told you and you nodded your head as if you understood.”

“Did I? I don’t remember you telling me anything.”

The truth was that engrossed in his paper he had not heard a word of what I said nor seen me leave the house.

“Appa was better than you.” I’d say referring to my father in law.

And it was true. My father in law managed a lot for me. After I left at 7 in the morning and the children and husband followed me, he’d go around the house not only putting out lights and checking on the gas regulator but he’d keep track of dhobi account, servant’s salary and newspaper bill. He’d take care of the children’s home work and tell them bed time stories.

“Last month we did not get the news paper on the 3rd since 2nd October was a holiday” he’d announce. Or “The dhobi has lost a towel. I’ve asked him to look for it. I am not paying him unless he gets it.”

It was such a relief to have an elderly person attending to minor details of house keeping. My husband may ultimately do the same for the children but right now all he does is to irritate me.

Having said this I remembered a piece of advise my mother in law gave me long ago.

I was upset at something that my husband said and was about to retaliate when she shut me up much to my irritation.

“Wait till you reach my age” she said. “You can get then away with saying anything you want and he won’t even bother to listen to what you say. The bonding will be such he will not mind it even if he heard you. But not now my child. You need to grow old together before the privilege is yours.”

I now realize that she was speaking from experience and I tease my husband saying that I have his mother’s permission to boss over him once he retires!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Deepavali is the festival of lights and is celebrated all over India with a great deal of enthusiasm. In fact it is a week long celebration starting from Dhantheras to Bhai Dooj with an extra day on either side. The Bengali community worships the Goddess Kali on Diwali day, Marwari and Gujrathis worship the Goddess Lakshmi and the residents of the Gangetic plain celebrate the home coming of Lord Rama from exile. We Tamilians celebrate Lord Krishna’s victory over Narakasura. Stories abound with each community finding its own reason to celebrate the day. To my mind, the festival is indicative of the ultimate victory of justice and righteousness, whatever the obstacle. It is also a way of reminding oneself that we need to dispel the dark side of our society and replace it with light. So let us all celebrate Diwali by-

Remembering that there are several needy people out in the open without a shelter over their heads. We may not be able to build them homes but let us not shatter their hope of a better tomorrow.We seem to have a lot of things but no time to relax and enjoy the fruit of our labor. Let us take time out to spend time with our near and dear ones.

Let us surprise a long lost friend by either visiting him or with at least a phone call. I know that I need to visit one such person whom I remember quite often but never find time to meet. How would she know that she is very much in my thoughts? Social visits are almost non existent but isn’t Deepavali an appropriate time to say ‘I care for you’?

Finally let us remember that we may be among the fortunate few but the wheels of fortune keep turning and in our short span of purposeful life let us make ourselves useful to society so that the world remembers us, not by the amount of wealth we’ve amassed but by the good will we’ve managed to earn. We need not go about conquering an external enemy let us begin with a self introspection and decide how best one may light up the lives of others in whatever small and insignificant manner. After all don’t little drops of water make a mighty ocean?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On being rich...

I have been rather lucky with domestic helps who have been not only loyal to me but have recommended me to others before quitting my services under some compulsion. Except for one servant who worked for me for a very short time they have all been very honest and trustworthy. I sometimes wonder if the law of averages will soon catch up and I’d be stuck with a real troublesome servant in my old age? But then let me make hay while the sun shines. I have a very sweet girl working for me right now. She is in her early twenties and is likely to get married in a year or two. I do hope her replacement is equally good. It would be difficult for me to monitor their work at my age when I’ve never done it before. I’ve been wanting to devote a few posts to these wonderful people who became an integral part of my family and have made life so much easier for me. I realize that they belong to an underpaid and over worked group. I may not be able to do much but I do try to treat them with the dignity they deserve because they do a job that I find difficult to handle continuously for more than a week.

So let me start from Rajamma.

Rajamma was perhaps in her early thirties when she started working for us. In fact she was my senior by 4 months having taken up the job a little before my marriage. She was hard working and for lunch, her family depended on the left over food that her employers gave. She would only cook at night. Always well dressed, she carried herself with a quiet dignity and picked up culinary skills from her employers as bonus. She learnt to make rangoli designs and a fair amount of Knitting, crochet and embroidery. She worked part time in 5 households and the poor woman wanted to educate her children so that they would never have to work as servants. She worked for me for 22 long years and till date she remains in touch with me. She comes to me with her problems and trusts me to handle her bank account which she manages to maintain without the knowledge of her family. Unfortunately her children did not study well though her sons manage well enough as ‘dosawallahs’ and daughters are married off. She sends her grandchildren to English medium schools, sending them to private tutors for extra coaching. Her grand daughter had not performed well in the 1st terminal examination and was being scolded by her when my daughter paid them a brief visit.

“Don’t worry,” laughed my daughter “your grand mother is a real Hitler. We have all been scolded by her at some point of time.”

She is well off now but has not forgotten her days of hardship. The amount of sweets that she distributes for Deepavali would put us to shame. Such is her generosity. Destiny had her washing soiled clothes and spittled vessels but I had always felt that she was a class apart. And I was right. Her parents were well off and led a fairly secure life in Burma. During the Second World War they had to abandon everything and come to India as refugees. Being uneducated she had to work as housemaid to earn a living. But it did not dampen her spirits and she continues to aspire high for her grandchildren in very much the same way that she did for her children.

Then there was Kamala who worked for four years when Rajamma left our services due to an arthritic knee and found it difficult to climb stairs. Kamala was good at her job and also very honest. However, she had a problem. She would talk almost non stop. She had teen aged sons of the same age as my son and the teen trouble faced by me did not escape her either. She would spend an hour after her arrival giving an elaborate account of the way her boys troubled her or how irresponsible her husband was.

“Kamala it is getting dark. Why don’t you start work?” I’d say.

“It’s okay didi, I’ll go by the main road. Nothing to fear. There are lots of people on the road even at 10 in the night.”

My husband would return from office to be greeted by Kamala with a broom or a swab cloth in hand, in animated conversation with me.

“She should be paying you for listening to her sob stories.” He would grumble. Why don’t you ask her to finish work before I return?”

Though rather annoying I let her work for me because she was not only honest but also very self respecting. She also worked for another family in the neighborhood. The poor woman trusted them with 25,000 rupees of hard earned money that they offered to fix in the bank on her behalf, because the tedious paper work involved baffled her and opening an account in her name appeared rather difficult. In her innumerable gossip sessions she would tell me about the falling rate of interest and express her relief about having fixed the amount for 5 years at a higher interest rate.

Time flew and the stipulated 5 years also passed by. However there was no talk of renewing the fixed deposit or returning the money. Kamala turned to me for help but there was no proof of her having given the money and I could not interfere.25, 000 rupees plus interest was a lot of money for a poor person like her. But her reaction set me thinking.

“Tell me didi, will they become rich by robbing me of my hard earned money?” she asked, “Will it last for ever? Never mind the money. I’ll always remember that babu (meaning our neighbor) helped me when my son met with an accident and today he is earning more than 10,000 per month. He’s got a new lease of life and God willing he will earn much more than what I’ve managed to save in all my life. I’ll consider the amount as donated to some charitable cause.”

I had no answer.

I sometimes wonder what the word poor stands for. Are Rajamma and Kamala poor? I have seen propertied people with chauffeur driven cars pounce on calculators to calculate the amount they stand to benefit when the government announces a 5% increase in DA as if their lives depended on it. And here we have a woman like Kamala, willing to forgive a person who had swindled her of a life time savings. Having money does not automatically make one rich. I end with an oft repeated story that seems to have some relevance to Kamala’s story.

The sage Narada once complained to Lord Vishnu that here he was repeating his name a thousand times per day and the Lord was appreciating a devotee who hardly found time to remember him. The Lord asked Narada to hold a bowlful of oil and go around the temple premises once. Narada dutifully did so. Around the same time a woodcutter came, set his load on the temple floor, folded his hands in devotion and thanked God for giving him good health to work hard and support his family and prayed that God should continue to bless him in the same manner. Narada looked down upon the devotee who found time to remember God only once a day. The Lord asked Narada how many times he remembered him while going around the temple premises with a bowlful of oil. Narada admitted that he was concentrating on the one job assigned to him and found no time to remember God and the woodcutter’s devotion was indeed superior since he worked hard to make ends meet yet he did not ask for material comforts but thanked God for enabling him to work for the well being of his family. Does it not automatically indicate who was the richer person?