Monday, January 11, 2021


Neha was fuming. She had come in from work early to find the child unbathed and watching a video. As her baby was eating she didn't want to interfere right then and went to her room slamming the door shut.

This was it. There were too many such instances of her nanny deliberately flouting rules. She had to get a new one. Devi was beginning to think of herself as indispensable. When she had specifically told her- no videos at mealtimes.

She called her husband. No answer. She dropped a hurried text. Devi put video while Aadu eating and then texted her mom. Her mom called.

"Ok now calm down. Don't get angry with Aadya.

Can you stop interfering?

Huh? Then why did you text me?

I was just frustrated. I need someone to listen. I don't need you questioning my parenting. 

Ok- I will keep that in mind. I am sorry. I will never interfere again. You barely ask about us anyway and when you do you just shout...

Argh.." she cut the call

Hands still trembling- she called a nanny agency. Yes they would get back if they had anyone suitable. And then another. 

They would manage the interim, she told herself. But it was important to have someone they could trust. 

But Devi was trustworthy. Up to a point. She did put her down for her nap and kept her on a schedule. And could be relied to pick her up from playschool. Maybe it had been a difficult day. Aadya could definitely be a handful. Also- the research around TV was inconclusive. 

She took a deep breath and came out. 

Pretending to read something so as to not look at her, she said carefully. "Devi- why was Aadya watching a video while eating?"

"Arre didi- she just kept crying for Mumma, Mumma, wouldn't eat at all. I told her Mumma is at work and let me tell you a story but she just cried and threw things. And I knew you would be upset if she hadn't eaten by the time you got home", she said deftly moving the question back to her. Would you rather your child starve for your ego? Her tone was obsequious but the subtext was unmistakable. Neha felt her cheeks go warm. 

"So then, why didn't you call me to check?"

"Arre she was missing you so much, if she heard your voice so would have been inconsolable".

Neha glanced at her child, happily playing now. She had not evening received her daily hug today as Aadya had been totally engrossed in her video. 

"Aadya beta you were asking for Mumma na?" Devi crooned. Aadya looked up. And she gave her Pavlovian response. 

"Mommy I missed yoooouuu". 

Neha knew she had been played but as she scooped the child in her arms, she asked herself. Would she rather let her child starve for her ego?

Wednesday, January 06, 2021


There, it started again. Stress took a deep breath and clutched a sturdy neuron. A particularly nasty jolt made him lose his balance but he saved himself by hanging on to a peripheral neuron just in time. All around him he could see Pity, Anxiety, Fear and Anger in various self rescue modes. Just ten mins he mouthed, if their luck held today. They had made up a song to pass the time. 

Today though seemed somewhat easier, thought Stress. He felt lighter, somehow. Must be muscle development through all that hanging. But then he looked around and realized that everyone looked somewhat deflated. In corporeal terms that is. 

Ok, this was serious. They really needed to assert themselves or they would shrink to the size of a bloody brain cell. He had met some Stresses like that when She went out. Some of her particularly smug friends. The thought of their situation made him blink back sudden tears. 

And down here Joy was becoming increasingly hard to ignore. Look at her getting fatter by the minute. It wasn't that long ago when she was a frail waif they enjoyed trampling over. The moment she spoke out..squish ! They could do that all day. 

But She downloaded this app and started practicing some meditation technique. And Joy flowered. They realized that the first time they squashed her and were thrown off by the impact. And now she rolled about, a big ball of Joy looking so very smug. 

But personally he would keep a watch on Love. He was one dark horse. Always cozying up to everyone. It had been easy to brush him off earlier but these days he seemed to be getting insistent. He said he had an Awakening and really came into his own. It couldnt be more uncomfortable. Warm hugs whenever they met ! And they always left him somewhat breathless like the life had been squeezed out of him. Anger, who had to endure the brunt of his hugs, certainly looked like a shadow of her former self. 

Stress panicked. When the dreaded ten mins were over and the closing chorus sung (Dont Stress, Dont Fear, Hold Tight, My Dear). nice touch that, they woke up Sloth who was hinding inside a capillary. 

"Get a move on !

 Assert yourself ! 

We cant be having this everyday ! 

Or we will soon be reduced to surviving on scraps." 

 Sloth was looking at Sorrow. "She knows", he mumbled. 

"She has started running", said Sorrow quietly, while the others looked on in Horror. He is fading fast. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

The Tree House

Creating desires is tough. Transferring it is much easier. As easy as drinking a cup of tea. With the brew decided by me. 

When I first found out that I was a witch, I wasn't sure how that helped in today's world. It was not as though I was born in some picturesque village in England, where I could live in a mysterious old world cottage covered with ivy and honeysuckle and brew concoctions to cure arthiritis. 

I am in a large city in India, where the ailments are so dire, that magic can only soothe and not cure. Here people need money more than magic, and doctors more than shamans. 

The Magic Tea House (see what I did there? heh) has a huge peepul tree growing in the middle of it. In its shade are small teakwood tables and chairs with pale green and yellow cushions. Natural lights from the many windows and a glass ceiling above. I didnt want to go overboard with the conjuring. 

You can find me behind the ebony wood counter, with displays of various teapots and loose leaf teas. I also do non magical cakes. The market for that is huge with the magical teas. 

At first I was nervous about putting word out, what if they took me away? But one evening as I flipped news channels I realized I was onto something. India has an astrologer for every affluent household and god- men and women for those left behind. 

The premise is simple. The difficult part of any magic is conjuring up the emotions. Have a strong enough emotional driver and the rest is basic transportation and transformation. 

So this is what I take and what I brew. There are no free teas. Even after you have paid. You want success, give me some vitality, you want health give me some joy, you get the drift. It is a good rebalancing act. 

I am selective with what I can take and what I can give. Think of me as your family astrologer, but with better tea. And actual magic. Not as God. And certainly not as someone with a medical degree. 

Insecurities monetized. Converted to food and health for the needy. No magic here. But possibly the best rebalancing of all. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

In the spirit of the first karva chauth

Since I got married late, my facebook "Karva Chauth" post was not riddled with pictures of friends posing in bridal wear with channis (sieves) and lotas. My KC was pretty low key as well on account of some meeting demands in the morning and evening. I kept the basic fast, but without the heavy saree and jewellery, which, in hindsight, would have taken me the better part of the day to wear and hence considerably shortened the conscious phase (sniff).
But just as an aside- I can’t understand the sudden concern of the vigilante about the logic of fasts increasing the husband's life. The way I see it, is every-time we pray, most of us at least, strike a bargain with God, saying, "If u do this, I will do such and such in return". Here the bargain is pre-decided, that's all. The same people don't question the logic of prayers. 
My husband also kept it to give me company but also as a mark of protest against the “Establishment”- the one which suppresses women. Establishment please take note.

So when I embarked on this hallowed matrimony phase, though considerably late in life, (as I wanted it to be perfect?), I had a starry eyed view of the first year of marriage. Hence almost 9 months into the process, I guess this is as good a time as any to take stock. And I clearly haven’t done a lot of stuff right it seems…

I wasn't the glowing- chuda clad married lady you see at airports- I'm sure we have all seen them, glowing, chic, complete with a new pair of shades and handbag and red/ fluorescent painted nails. The chudas are just the added touch, but the whole demeanour is that of the newly married, and which stays weeks or maybe months after the ceremony!
I assumed marriage or perhaps the make up artist would impart that ethereal, everlasting glow and I was excited for my post marriage glowy phase. And I looked nothing like that ! 3 days post the ceremony, well it was just me! So much so that when I happened to be in Delhi 2 weeks post, my mother looked at me and exclaimed “ You don’t look married at all !”. 
Now please explain to me, except for the customary ring, sindoor and mangalsutra (all of which I had dutifully donned), what else comprises “looking married?”And what’s with the “now that you are married” phrase? 
It seems as though the ceremonial fire is expected to melt and mould the older you into a new improved, elegant, married version, in the process automatically making you more concerned, less selfish, more giving. The lady of the house !! Lady Bountiful ! The “Now-that-you-are-married-Lady”..
Clearly I was much hardened.

The other thing I thought the first year of marriage would be all about is exotic weekend getaways and vacations. But here again, I seem to have drawn a blank.
Me to the Husband- “ So I was thinking for our vacation in Jan..”
Husband- “Can you please stop this holiday planning now and move on to better things. Higher things?”
Me (thinking) - “Higher? Well we could go to the Alps....”, but thankfully I stop myself and instead say “How do you mean- higher?”
The Husband looking up from his reddit thread-“Well, I don’t know. But something worthwhile not this hedonistic behaviour- give back to society, go save the world, ok like I was thinking, we really need to sit down and discuss our retirement fund....”
Me (thinking again but this time in horror)- “I know I married late..but is it this late??
Now the husband has done his share of vacation planning during his ten years in the US, so now, like the Buddha, he has migrated back in search of meaning and suffering souls to deliver. I on the other hand, postponed the holiday plannings to post my wedding... and... as luck would have it, I seem to have made some serious miscalculation here...

Oh well, while I search for something higher I am reminded that I have a lot to learn at very basic levels. 
Now the PHD process in the US, clearly did not make great demands on my husband’s time, because in between his work, socializing and holidays, he managed to read up extensively on every conceivable topic under the sun and have an opinion on it. Consider exhibit A:
We are on a trek and being chased by monkeys. One of them is holding a banana.
H- “So did you know that the Banana as a fruit has been domesticated very recently, and each new variety is different, as they are clones. So monkeys probably started eating it recently"
Me- :Umm..", eyeing a particularly agile one, "can’t say I do"
H- “Yeah I read a book about it. It's called (hold your breath)- Bananas”
Me- " You read a book on Bananas…." privately thinking to myself that it just about describes him…

So he saunters up one fine day, saying- You know I feel we don’t talk much anymore, you know discuss stuff”.
Me – looking up from the History of India by John Keay (you never know when these things might be useful), mumble that maybe I am not the debating type.
H- “No I mean, that day when all of us were discussing organic food safety standards, you barely said anything”.
Me (reminding myself that I did after all marry a professor)-“well I did say FSSAI..” but, quickly changing tack, ”Oh that’s cause I was thinking about China..”(I learn fast).
H (interested)- “Well what about China
Me (confidently)- “Well you know, whether there will a crash
H- “And?
Me (slightly less confident)- I don’t know, debt levels are unsustainable, the shadow banking debt especially, and..and.. the government is trying to fix it through monetary policy, ( I am rambling now) but this is a bubble waiting to burst..
H- “Ohk, continue
Me- faltering now…" know ultimately infrastructure creation has to be supported by real demand…” Giving up….” No that’s all I thought"
H- "We were there for 4 hours…"

But these major missteps aside, there are a lot of positives as well. I do enjoy the fact that there is someone out there waiting for you for dinner and heating it up :p, someone who looks after you when you are unwell and otherwise too, who watches TV too loudly every night and youtube videos the first thing in the morning. And someone I can show this to, and we can both laugh at it. Clearly there is a lot of hope. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Since I am reading “The Everything Store”, or the pursuit of happiness

So the last we heard about Blinky was when she lost her coveted elf status for love (here). Please read this post after the one below  J
So after wondering the locales for a while, desperately unhappy, Blinky set out to find happiness. And since she was once an elf, she prayed very hard to the Elf Queen and Santa for one last inspiration and set off.
Being pragmatic and knowing that atmosphere does play a role in mental well being, she started her travels in the south of france, (Neha thats coz you couldn't leave these things entirely to chance, you had to do your bit in the happiness pursuit :p). She came upon a charming little cottage on the edge of a cliff surrounded by rolling green fields, with the sea just visible below, white and frothing and lashing against the rocks. It was a beautiful location and she thought maybe that was it.
But then she saw him, tall, youngish looking, setting up a curious assortment of things. Of course he was a wizard, she realized when she saw the staff.
He beckoned to her and asked her what brought her there. She answered that she was just looking around and asked what he was doing.
‘I am building a happiness store”, he said, “an everything store”. “Where you can find lasting happiness”.
Blinky thought wildly that Santa must really miss her (those strawberry cookies were pretty amazing). What she was just supposed to go to the store and buy the stuff? He had lost his finesse and imagination though. “Probably came from the sugar high’, she thought unkindly
And she was just about to ask how much, when she stopped and looked around. Yes the store had everything material you could possibly wish for. But Blinky had worked with Santa.
“These things can’t buy you lasting happiness ! “ she said.
He replied testily that he knew that but one had to start somewhere, this was the first day but it was a venture he was really excited about.
“Oh then you need to have feelings, experiences” she said. “Have that in your store”.
He approved and offered her an apprenticeship.
“Iv just finished one, I can’t risk being typecast” Blinky countered. ‘How about business partner?” she negotiated.
Well so that was done and The Happiness Store- beta came up. There were counters for every experience you could possibly imagine. Business was brisk, and learning even more so.
Evenings were times for intellectual debates on what constituted lasting happiness. They chose a different setting each day from their coffee and conversations experience counter.
“ Well altruism” she suggested,  and they added a counter for that, accomplishment- a ladder where you could accomplish whatever you wanted, right from flying to diving to the bed of the ocean !,  the experience of being beautiful, the experience of the first date, music, parties, intellectual conversations, the list grew more exhaustive every day.
And they noticed a pattern among their customers, the ones who came for momentary experiences of dizzying happiness, and they came most often, but over time , she saw that effect was wearing off, she saw regret post the experience and hopelessness. They debated setting up a counter for hope but realized that it did not work in isolation, the ones who tried to build more lasting happiness- through learning of a new skill, becoming kinder, nicer, helping others, making friends, meeting interesting people, they didn’t come that often, but even they ran out of that happiness from time to time.
And what about they themselves? After the initial dizzying euphoria, the effect was fast wearing off. Blinky couldn’t understand this and mentioned this that evening.
“I just realized what we keep reading, that happiness is a state of mind !! I can just choose to be happy”, she said excitedly and was really happy for a moment.
“Try” he said sarcastically, adding that they needed to add a counter for the good idea experience.
He was nothing if not meticulous and hardworking; she thought and shuddered when she remembered the counter he had designed for “work will set you free”. It was when they were watching a documentary on something called Nazism in another parallel universe that he was persuaded to change the name.
She tried very hard. “I don’t feel anything”, she said eventually.
“Yes that state of mind thing works when there is something to look forward to. Else all you feel is empty”, he said adopting a sanctimonious expression which always made her roll her eyes.
“But why is this happening to us, how can we tire of everything so fast”, she said?
“Uh I may have forgotten to mention that this is a wizard’s house, and we wizards experience in minutes what other people do in years, that’s part of the reason why we are so wise”, he added sheepishly.
“So normal people can go through life with a mix of these experiences, and not tire till it was too late but we have pretty much reached that stage. “
She was afraid to ask the next question. “So how old am I, technically”, she asked almost in a whisper.
“ Well about a hundred”, he said and noticing her expression added kindly,  “well, I am a hundred and fifty”.
Blinky thought of that dashing Elf she had once fancied and always hoped to return to. He did have a thing for older woman, but strictly within the same generation.
“How could you keep this from me ! “, she stormed.
“What are you fussing about, aren’t Elves immortal”, he said. Wizards on the other hand, live till about five hundred.
‘I gave up my immortality for love”, she screamed back.
“Sounds like the plot of a bad movie”, he grumbled.
“So is there no hope for us?”she questioned? ” I think I should leave this place now”.
“There is one thing the store doesn't provide, and thats love”, he said. " But you probably know all about that", he said wickedly.
She glared at him and thought back. Yes finding something/ someone you loved.... no but even that didn't last. She couldn't remember the last time she has thought about the guy.
He was watching her with an unusually somber expression, as if willing her to say it.
"So there is no such thing as lasting happiness?" she ventured
No there isn't he said, I realized that a while back (the smug expression was thankfully absent). But its very good for business as you get a high percentage of repeat customers !
He realized that the joke fell flat.
But Blinky as usual had to have the last word. "If there is no such thing as lasting happiness, then why are we aiming for it?"
"Well I am aiming for something better", he said irritatingly. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No I am not dead yet

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Of greed and fear

Well, the greed part was more of an attention grabbing gimmick :D. What I really want to write about today is fear. In all the "about me", know me better posts there is one integral aspect of my life which hasn't come forth. And that is my deep , irrational cynophobia (or more commonly known as the fear of dogs)...

My earliest memory is of a chubby, tiny (well I was never tiny) me, waddling through rose bushes, and running for dear life while being chased by "Lucy", my aunt's mean Alsatian. And not to mince words here..Most dogs are equally mean, but some are more mean than others. (Disclaimer- I am not targeting any species, group or cult here, views are personal, for every one mean dog you have many cute, cuddly, loving etc dogs and so forth..So peace?). And Lucy anyway nurtured this deep hatred for me cause she always had to be tied up when I visited. So when she saw the 5 year old me pottering about in the garden she gave a yelp of delight and made a dash towards me. I gave a subsequent shriek of horror and tried an unsuccessful exit while screaming my aunt's name at the top of my lungs. And she finally rescued a much scratched and bloody me (that was the bushes not Lucy). So the fear which till then was more budding in nature was deeply ingrained from that day on.

My second encounter of the third degree kind was with "Silky", a name possibly on account of her coat? Silky was a childhood friend's Pomeranian (aww so cute??). No shudder. This one actually bit me.I felt that silky coat against my skin and felt as though a million insects were crawling on it. And was the cause of many painful injections.

I don't know if this is the case with everyone who fears something. But the moment I spy a dog, the rational part of my brain seems to sputter out and die, only to be replaced by a deep overpowering fear, skin crawling and nausea. Its something I am trying to fight against. I have tried to trace the root of this fear. It could be a subconscious reaction to my mom tightening her grip on my wrist every time she crossed a dog, when I was very young, she is pretty scared herself or what I always maintain, the fact that maybe I was a slave/ convict in my previous reincarnation and was chased down by a pack when I tried to escape. I am reformed now(Disclaimer again)....

But enough of the philosophical speculation.
Now living with this handicap in a place like India presents its own set of problems and planning.Where at almost every nook and cranny you are bound to chance upon a member of the species, (yes yes again I know usually they mind their own business and the likes) a dog free existence is a utopian concept. And please don't ask me "even puppies???". I hate that. Puppies more. Cause at least dogs know the ways of the world and propriety. Puppies are finding out.....

So existence in Pilani was a series of minor heart attacks. There dogs would prowl the hostel corridors with gay abandon and I would gingerly skirt the corrdidors with the wariness of an army novice negotiating hidden mines.

Back in those days when I went to engineering college, we had dinosaurs in our backyard and no cell phones. Getting a phone call from home meant, your name being shrieked out by a multitude of women, till you scrambled out of your room. The telephone enjoyed a place of honor in the corridor along with the full length mirror and was seated on a brown rickety table. That day I was perched on the table, talking to mom. I usually have a third eye for dog presence nearby, but that day I must have been really engrossed, cause when I looked around there were about 5 dogs surrounding my table, gamboling playfully and trying to put their paws up.
My mom tells me later that she thought I was dying of asphyxiation when she heard my strangled voice. A gladiator couldn't have felt worse than I did at that time. Well my convict self would have I guess.

My life flashed before my eyes and I thought how ironical it was that instead of being surrounded by loved ones when I was dying, well that place was taken....
I could hear my mom's hysterical voice over phone urging me to be calm and chanting various "mantras" - yep she is very religious and equally scared (its so funny when I think about it ). But now I whole heartedly support all her religious fasts cause when i unclosed my eyes which were screwed shut the dogs were miraculously leaving. I sprinted back to my room as fast as I could while mom I think took some nerve soothing medicines.
Another incident which comes to mind is when I agreed to go on a picnic with Giddy and her friends when I was visiting Bangalore. (Giddy please remind me to pay you back for this). We went in a TATA Sumo some 5 of us and one dog. Giddy had "forgotten" about the dog she claims. Anyway there was no turning back then. The dog was called Twincy or Pincy or some such terror inducing name. Its owner also professed being scared of it. And the worst part was that it didn't have a tail.

Now in the absence of any other insight into the species I usually relied on the tail (as we had been taught in primary school) to determine danger levels. Now in the absence of a tail, I had no forewarning. So I sat in front, with Pincy behind. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, a role reversal of sorts and I sat with my hackles raised ready to pounce out at the slightest sign of Pincy's movement towards my general direction...

I have made a complete fool of myself on many occasions given this irrational fear, clutched random strangers, missed classes (yes)and generally made a laughing stock of myself. I have also been branded a sinner...

Well the last incident happened in school. I was in class 1 or something, and we were having moral science (this was a convent) taken by our principal Sister. Now the Sisters had a pet called Susie and it was white and docile and generally very nun like in appearance and behavior. It was similarly respected in school.
While the class was going on Susie ambled in and made straight for my desk and promptly sat below it. Now my fear for Susie then was matched by an equally strong awe for the said Sister at that time. So I sat petrified, fighting back tears, afraid to make the slightest movement lest Susie should become aware of my presence. I am sure I stopped breathing.
So the Sister was asking some random question like "Who all would like to go to heaven?", which a sensible 7 year old would pass off as rhetorical. Well they wouldn't and the entire class promptly put up their hand. The entire class except me. I was sitting on a live bomb remember ?

And this brought Sister's wrath down on me. "You dont want to go to heaven?", she asked incredulously little realizing that heaven at that time seemed closer to me than she could have ever imagined. I sat as though turned to stone and she came towards me. At which Susie gave a yelp and disappeared and I could hear again.

The trick to conquer your fears they say is to laugh at it. Over time I have tried to do the same. Now I affect a nonchalant attitude whenever I see a dog nearby (like it cares)and it has helped a bit. I must learn to whistle....