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Friday, March 27, 2009

Morning Cheer!

Putting her to bed and making her sleep is a perennial fight! Various strategies, carrot dangling, and more often than not a whack succeed in making her succumb. Yesterday night the tussle was on in full swing, and AD was at her crankiest best, throwing a tantrum so that she be allowed to watch Jungle Book. I tried to calm myself and instead of the light whack strategy, decided to 'talk' to her. I sweetly told her (while grinding my teeth in anger within...the time was 11:45pm and my patience level was at its lowest ebb!!!) that she needed to sleep and sleep quick so that she could wake up with a smiling face just like Mowgli does!

Surprisingly...she slept soon after. Whether my words had any effect or she was too tired to resist sleep any longer, I know not.

I woke up today morning with a 'HA HA HA' sound by my side. (Believe me, it was really the theatrical HA HA HA!).
My AD, with her eyes closed, was laughing out loud. And she instantly opened her eyes, shining with happiness, and informed me ...
"Ma, shokaal hoye gechhe...dekho ami Mowgli'r moto haashi haashi ghoom theke uthechhi...ekhon ami Mowgli dekhte parbo!!" ("Ma, it's morning! I have woken up with a smile/laugh, just like Mowgli....I can watch Mowgli now!!")

I was too stunned to react...was she dreaming of the morning cheer & Mowgli all night??

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Einstein @ 5 or Tagore @ 4? Make a choice and make it FAST!!!

AD’s playschool cum Daycare Centre has been recently acquired by a franchisee run company. In its previous avatar, it was a Mom and Pop establishment informal setup with excellent infrastructure, lot of space, warm and friendly teachers and care givers and a high standard of hygiene. In its present and more glamorous avatar, it has assumed a pseudo corporate getup! Amidst the various improvement schemes, a newsletter- cum- group mail system has been introduced through which we get notices, information about the school & activities and also feedbacks sent by various parents and guardians are circulated to all other parents.

Today I received one such email …a feedback from a parent singing paeans about the school . I was about to click the window shut, when something in the latter part of the mail caught my eye and I couldn’t help but read on….a wish list for his 9 month old baby enrolled in the daycare.
Just reproducing the relevant part of the email :

“Wish list from our side:
1. In addition to the good care that day care kids are getting, we will really appreciate if some brain development programs are conducted for kids of age 6 months and more. We attended a session in our office from K...Gl... school staff ( Please go through the website and see their presentation. We are not suggesting you to copy them, but we feel there is no harm in getting good things from anyone. They have some programs for brain development based on research done by an American scientist Glenn Doman. They claim that babies of 6 months can learn reading. Curious to dig further, we searched internet and found many web sites and research articles that support this fact. For example: see the video (with sound ON) at the home page of this website - . Also there are lots of videos available on you tube...."

I was initially amused and then wondered, where are we heading? Is it really needed….a 6 month old baby reading?

What’s next? PhD in Astrophysics at the age of 5yrs?

Why cant we let babies be what they are supposed to be ....just babies! And let them grow at their own pace!!!

The sky high and sometimes impossible dreams parents dream on behalf of their kids put tremendous pressure on the kids to perform. Some kids either baulk under the burden of expectations or just give up on life in general. With students' suicides on the rise, isnt it time, we, as parents introspect....restrain our ambitions from setting unattainable targets for the child and let them 'grow' and 'bloom' first into good human beings and not mere degree spewing/money-churning machines.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Final Goodbye!

Death is a full stop. An end of a lifetime, an end of dreams, aspirations.
What stays back are memories, slices of life....of moments shared, of funny times and sad.
In a lifespan of three decades and a little more, not that I have spent a lot of time with him. A short holiday now and then during childhood, another few days scattered througout my growing up and grown up years were all that I spent with Mamu. But there are those who leave a stamp on your life without really playing a major active role in it.
He was one such human being. Jovial, full of fun and wit, with a wonderful camaraderie he shared with almost everyone whose lives he touched. Memories of Mamu will always be of a giant of a man, with a loving smile and a hearty laugh! A singer whose rich baritone could put many a 'singing star' to shame, a story teller par excellence, whose ghost stories could send shivers down our spines, a giver of my hand in marriage to SD (he conducted my 'Kanyadaan'-giving away the bride) are some beautiful memories that I have of him.
But it was during the last two years of his life that I realised that apart from being a genuinely good human being, what a strong willed, optimistic person he was.
A valiant fighter he was, fighting tooth and nail against the ravages of cancer and a failing heart, but always ready with a smile and joke. He carried on his normal lifestyle, driving around, going to work, participating in social functions, amazing us and the doctors, making us wonder where, amidst all his pain, he got the strength, to smile, laugh and be so cheerful!
A connoisseur of good food...though in recent times, he could not touch his previous favourites due to medical restrictions galore. That, however, did not stop him from regularly visiting my foodblog, appreciating and egging me on to write more...even giving lists of his favourites dishes.
His enthusiasm about anything we 'youngsters' did was so infectious & encouraging. Even on his last day, he had a joke or two for the nurses and visitors!

His pain is no more as neither is his mortal form.
But the soul, wherever he is, wouldnt want us to shed tears. Rather, I can only visualise him chuckling in his characteristic style, cracking a joke or two, seeing us all down in the dumps.

A regret I'll carry all my life is why I didnt make that little extra effort to go and meet him as he so often would remind me..I just couldnt imagine everything would be over so soon....his zest for life was such!
Goodbye Mamu....I only wish AD could grow up and meet this wonderful Dadu...but that was not to be...
Well, Mamu.....the heaven will be a funnier and happier place now, with you around, spreading the cheer and sunshine !!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hyderabad on the Rocks!

Millions of years in the making....smoothened and polished to perfection by the ravages of the elements. Cradling the cycle of life on a miniature scale in its nooks and crannies. And a mute witness to the birth of a city, its growth, its political turmoil, and again fast paced heady rediscovery and growth of the modern times! And then the silent bystanders were blasted away..silenced forever exposing in its place, ugly scars which tell no tales. Yes...the city is growing, its roads are widening but environment is being held ransom!

The unique grey-black granite structures which lend Hyderabad a distinct spot in the geological map of the world and has rendered a rustic awe-inspiring charm to the city’s landscape are what I am talking about. They are almost like pieces of abstract art and are a sheer delight to the eyes. However, insensitivity to the heritage nature has bestowed on us, a nefarious greed to encash on the real estate boom of the last few years and frenzied and unplanned growth of the city, has resulted in destruction of these beautiful rock structures which dotted the terrain of this city...located right in the heart of the Deccan Plateau. In most places what remain are skeletons of the erstwhile beauties....ugly quarries in place of natural splendours.

Geologists say that these are amongst the oldest and hardest rock formations in the world dating back to 2500 million years ago!!! The Government has woken up after the mass destruction is almost over to ‘protect’ a handful of the more prominent structures. But what about the other not-so-prominent, yet fine pieces of nature’s artwork? Just last month one such structure, right in front of my daughter’s school was blasted away to make way for a palatial concrete atrocity!

I am all for growth. I, like millions of my countrymen, want to see India at the pinnacle of success…as a leader of the world. But at the same time, I want my country to retain, nurture and cherish the bounty of nature that we are blessed with. Economic development will cease to happen in a country indifferent towards social and ecological responsibility. Our insensitivity towards ecology, lack of basic civic sense, a growing disparity between the haves and have-nots are not what leaders of the world ought to be. A balance must be sought. Where material progress, infrastructure growth happens… but not at the graveyard of ecosystem equilibrium.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Say, I Care - With Books

Reproducing a mail I received from a friend JHUMPA GHOSH, closely associated with NGOs working to promote sustainable livelihoods in communities in and around rural and semi-rural West Bengal and upliftment and improvement of their life in general.
They have taken up a cause to come to the aid of children who due to various circumstances have to put a halt in their education midway.

I request my Blogger friends to please spread the word to help this cause which will help hundreds and thousands of school going children. Some are talented beyond imagination. Most are so keen to study further. A little help, a small encouragement from our ends will go a long way in ensuring that the fate they were born to, doesnt become a permanent curse on their lives.

Small villages, Kantabelia and Madandanga in the Nadia district, have been facing a nagging problem of continuing education after the fifthstandard. The village school is till Class IV, and after completing that, if students wish to continue with their studies, they have totravel 5 to 10 kms. That is where the problem lies. Each year, a major percentage of students drop out due to this reason. For they say,that, the added travel expense would be a burden on the family income, not to forget the cost of books. In an ethnographic research in a collaboration with KIIT School of Rural Management, Bhubaneswar it has come out that a large number of students drop out every year after primary education because of the inability of their parents to buy books. In an educational awareness programme, a proposal for a mobile textbook library for class V to class X has been offered from Change Initiatives. Change Initiatives is already running a project - Telecenter on Wheel (ToW) - over there (Some details on ToW are available here, here and here). A manually run tricycle van has been equipped with ICT tools forinformation dissemination in rural communities. The library would bean added feature of the same. A set of textbooks for class V to class X and a few children story books kept in ToW have been displayed as amodel library. The library will start functioning from May 2009 alongwith the academic session. The members of the library will be allowedto read the books only. The van will be taken to the nearby villagesby rotation. The van has a portable three set tube light so thatstudents can read at morning as well as evening hours with adequate illumination. Change Initiatives has requested the local schoolteachers to involve the guardians and villagers as volunteers for the library. ChangeInitiative also proposed the local teachers to organize a meeting withpresent and retired teachers for making this initiative a success. Andwe are also planning to give books to needy students of Kantabelia andMadandanga for the session of 2009-10. Change Initiatives is seeking support from people like you for thesuccess of this mobile textbook library. You can contribute by donating the new textbooks and/or old used textbooks according to thenew Madhyamik and HS (Madhyamik - Class X boards & HS-Class XII Boards of WB Boards)syllabus, from Class V-XII. If you wish to support us but don’t have the books, we could send you the booklist and then you could buy them for us. We also need to encourage the reading habit of the students, so if you have fiction or non-fiction books that you wish to donate, please letus know.

The address where you need to send these is:
Change Initiatives
GC-79, Salt Lake City,
Sector –III,

You could also contact Arundhoti Dutta (9831898803) for any further details Or mail at

All donors would be acknowledged, through the books they donate.

Your help can bring hope to many students finishing school, who are presently forced to leave study, start earning, stay home and lookafter their younger siblings or migrate for a better living.


Donations to CHANGE INITIATIVES exempt from income tax under Section80G of the IT Act, 1961.
CHANGE INITIATIVES, an NGO based in West Bengal, India, does development research and works for sustainable development with communication tools such as ICTs, videos and print.
The aim is to promote sustainable livelihoods by facilitating communication, raising awareness, promoting knowledge and enhancing access to information in communities

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Of a Woman by a Woman

I was reading an article on Women in Workplace and how glass ceilings are being shattered here-there-everywhere. During the past few days, the media has done its bit to woo the fairer (?) sex. Advertisements on Billboards, television channels, print media and so forth... On women, their progress, their achievements and also the flipside of it all....their backward subjugated role in a major segment of the society irrespective of the social / economic strata to which they belong!
Normally I'm the unsentimental kind. Not one to be swayed by the much commercialised sugar dripping DAYS...the Valentine's, the Mothers, Fathers, Friends and what not....they do not touch my heart. The selling of emotions leaves me cold. I dont feel compelled to wish or send a card to the concerned persons in my life because I just cannot contemplate restricting their significance to a DAY per year. And thankfully, none of them care a hoot either for these DAYS!!!

However, today was a trifle different...
On the eve of International Women's Day, the other working woman in my house returned to her home. My live-in maid (M), after an almost month long break, came back from her village. I've spent several bytes of cyber space recounting her workplace activities (here). But after three weeks of super juggling and multitasking, to say that I was elated to have her back, will be an understatement.
This evening when I saw M, I was shocked....the healthy woman who had left my home three weeks back, to meet her ailing mother, had come back a dark, skinny, starved and almost unrecognizable version of her former self. She had fallen ill, she said. And running around for her mother's medicines had supposedly taken its toll.

M too was today's Woman; A working Woman. Not by choice, rather by compulsion. Married at fifteen, widowed at eighteen with a one year old child, she had started working since her child was 2 years old. The child was brought up by the grandmother. M was the youngest of seven brothers and two sisters. When she joined me a year and a half back, I had asked M, a woman in her late twenties or early thirties, why she had never remarried..she still could, I told her. She couldnt, she replied. Her brothers had promised her a piece of land in their village, on condition that she retain 'purity of character', by not remarrying!!!
And we talk of Women's emancipation!
I wondered aloud - what's the guarantee of actually getting the piece of land from the brothers, who do not hesisate to demand money from the widowed sister, for the mother's upkeep and treatment. Their justification was M's duty, apparently, as the mother was taking care of HER daughter!!
"They're my brothers after all...they cant cheat me. And if they do, that's my destiny!" was her naive reply.

The sentimental mushy mood I was in, I forgave her for her work-shirking, lazy attitude. I excused her habit of procrastination and gossiping nature. It was here at my home, her workplace, that M was indulging herself in a life otherwise devoid of any indulgences.....

As you & I wish our women friends and colleagues a Happy Women's Day, basking in our confidence and right to choose, remember we are a minority. In our country, women like M belong to the majority, for whom life is all about a constant struggle, to stay afloat. Choice is not a word they can afford to have in their dictionary. For them, being a woman, is a curse of destiny.


Monday, March 02, 2009

FunnyMen aka PoliceMen

Just couldnt not write about the traffic police of the city after sharing roadspace with them for almost 2 long years!

They are a strange lot. Almost docile, followers of Gandhian principle of non-aggression and non-violence, Policemen here (in most cases) are caricatures of their profession! They dare not fine a lady driver, despite her violating many a sundry traffic rules for which her male counterpart will be fined. But there again the fine would vary depending upon how much cash he is carrying. They are considerate enough to allow the offender to keep the change!! And if the offender is the assertive and hostile kind, they'll just let him go.....

Barring a few bulky mustachioed ''Men-in-Uniform", the rest of the lot are lanky, giggly just-out-of-teens "Boys-in-Uniform". And if the consequence of their immaturity and inability to handle the daily morning /evening choc-a-block traffic condition hadnt been so frustrating, their antics would have been downright comical.

Scene I : A group of two or three lanky, malnourished twenty something boys-in-uniform, standing in a cluster right in the middle of a busy crossing. A digital camera in hand, one of the group is showing something and the other two (or three) gangly chaps are giggling away, their backs to the honking traffice jam. Red light has turned green and green into red...the cars are all in a go-as-you-like mode. Chaos all around. But the boys (in their new avtar as cameramen) are oblivious to the pandemonium surrounding them...

Scene II : A lone youth-in-uniform, again with his back towards the chaotic rush all around, is happily chatting away on a cellphone, laughing and talking. That he is on duty which requires contant vigilance is a fact he is apparently unaware of.

Scene III : Again at a busy 'chaurasta', manned by a burly mustachioed man-in-uniform, geared up for action with a baton in hand, supervising another skinny chap in an ill-fitting uniform, shooting images of the passing cars on handycam. So what if the traffic has gone berserk and Autorickshaws, Cyclists, Mercs, BMWs and modest mortals like us, are vying for inches of roadspace. Neither of the Laurel-Hardy police duo bothers to budge from their self-designated spots on the road to clear the jam.

These are a few of the many scenes I am a witness to, daily to and from work.

Now coming to the catalyst for this blogpost?
SD received an inland letter. We were pleasantly surprised, because in todays age of e-communication, inland letters are remnants of the past and we were receiving one after almost a decade or two. We teared open the blue folded sheet in anticipation and wonder only to be deflated and disappointed that it was an e-challan (Traffic ticket) for jumping signal!! And that's when the mystery of the utility of those handycams and digicams was solved!

Just a question to City Traffic Police dept? Innovative and effective though the idea may be to punish the violaters, wouldnt automated cameras be a better idea and let the 'men' do the manning of the commotion that our road traffic is?

PS: I am waiting for an opportunity to click pics of the antics of the men in uniform. If and when I successfully do so, I will amend this post and add the pics