A full circle!

“You know, microwave causes cancer?!  I have decided to stop using it.” This got a bemused, almost sneered look on my mom’s face, the first of it’s kind, especially considering she had come to visit me after a year.
Over the course of her trip, I kept showing off all my latest lifestyle changes…organic eating, the boycott of processed foods, the stainless steel additions in the kitchen,  my yoga routine, the all-natural beauty regime, and even the reincarnation of the balti-bath (well, the water campaign by Shekhar Kapur combined with my clogged shower head sealed that deal!).
She didn’t say much, but couldn’t hide the “Havent you come a full circle?” look on her face.  
She left a few days later, leaving me behind with the thought to ponder on.  
The truth is, not very far ago, my arguments with my mom were around these exact things…
“Why would you heat on a stove, when you have a microwave? It’s like living in the dark ages.”
 “Why don’t you give the new Maggie a try? It’s now fortified.”
“Yoga?!  Anything that boring cannot be healthy!” 
“High time to chuck the stainless steel, Mom. Everyone in the US uses non-stick cookware. And trust me, they are more health conscious!”
“A warm shower is the only way to really feel clean.”
Ironic, it may seem!  But the fact of the matter is, aren’t we all trying to come to a full circle in some way or other?
  • How come natural healing practices are taking center stage, when we have advanced so much in allopathy?
  • Aren’t we at the onset of an organic farming revolution, after having spent millions in research of chemical fertilizers?
  • Why are we starting to bike/walk to work, when we now own multiple cars?
  • Why are some of us so excited about those new flour mills in the neighborhood selling fresh chakki-ka-atta when we can readily get it in grocery stores?
  • What about that daily dose of sun we now feed our vitaminD-starved bodies, having refrained from it for the fear of skin cancer?
  • What about the resurgence of the eastern-style squatting toilets now being popularized by the Westerners?
  • And isn’t simplicity the ultimate sophistication these days?
  • And isn’t the appeal of being an “Aam Aadmi”, an endorsement of our back-to-basics mindset?
So all this advancement, inventions, systems, and gadgetry! Should we have really bothered? It’s as if everything we created has had an evil side-effect that we are now striving to compensate for.  Have we really progressed then, if we are constantly trying to fight the evils of our own progression?
If better sense prevails, looks like I may wind up where I started off. In a household where there wasn’t a microwave or non-stick cookware or a cupboard full of processed foods; only squatting toilets, balti-baths, fresh chakki-ka-aata, and lots of sunshine.  
And here’s how we may wind up:
How about that for a full circle of evolution?J

—————————————————————————————————- 
 This post is dedicated to my Mom; the force behind me restarting this blog and the inspiration behind my full circle of evolution.

My French (Hair) Affair

“Need an appointment for a haircut,” said I. “With whom? M’am,” bounced back the alluring voice. “Well, Who do you have available?” “You are in luck today, M’am. Our French Hairstyle Director, Laurent is available, if you can make it at noon.”

Hmm…a French Stylist! 
Just like a French kiss, the thought of a French hairstyle conjured up images of passion, style, romance and…Eiffel tower (There goes my Indian stereotyping self. Anything French = Eiffel tower!). But then came the fear of the unknown. No doubt, the risk (of going with a new hairstylist) was significant.  I’m past that age where a hair style could be treated as a fleeting crush. Well, it is a serious affair! A hair style is a matter of personal identity or crisis (if it goes wrong. i.e.).  Now it may be hard for men to understand this mental turmoil. So let me put it this way: For a woman, her hair style is as grave a matter as a man deciding what company to work for. 
 Also, it would mean breaking the loyalty with my old hair stylist, the chummy, effervescent, and always reliable, Ansar.  What had he done to deserve this?  Finally, an epiphany to break out of the nested loop (You knew I was a software engineer, right?!). A timely recollection of the lecture I had received on risk-taking from my husband the other day. And I thought, What is life without a little risk? For what its worth, my husband would be proud that I started somewhere. And with a name like Laurent, chances are that he could be related to the YSL fashion family.  
So mustering up all the courage, I retorted back with a meek okay to the receptionist.
An hour later, I’m in the salon trying to look for a gora face in the huddle of the posh but popular salon. What is it about the fair skin, and the extra credibility it gets entitled to! But instead, I got escorted by an oriental-looking female. Could it be that she’s Laurent? You never know in France. She could be an immigrant with an adopted unisex name.  Luckily she was just the hair-washer! 
Finally, my eyes lay sight on him, as I get seated in my hair-cutting chair.  A meticulous dressing style with a matching demeanor! Every bit like the French man I had imagined him to be. Enough to get me all excited about the possibilities of a French transformation. But my heart skipped a beat when I saw his client. A model-like woman to whom he was giving an uber-cropped-cut…a la Madhu Sapre style. What if he proved to be too haute couturish for me?!
With hope in my heart and Hanuman Chalisa on my lips, I waited for him to turn to me. He just looked at me. Felt my hair. “I don’t need a very short cut. You see, my hair is very limp. A short cut won’t look good. All I need is layers, just to add volume. You see!” I burst out like an accused defending herself in court. But I got no indication or acknowledgement out of him. All he did was, take out his scissors, pulled my hair and started chopping them at a 45-degree angle. Could it be the mark of a true craftsman? Maybe. Or maybe he does not understand English! I didn’t know whether to feel lucky or doomed.  Then for the next 20 minutes, he looked very much like a man on a mission; cutting my hair at every possible angle.  He was at it with same dexterity and commitment, as a French composer orchestrating his first ballet performance.  For a while, it was just the snipping of his scissors and the uncomfortable silence between us. 
I decided to break the ice. “So where are you from?” “From Paris,” he said. Hmm, that Eiffel Tower association was not too far off.  “So what brings you to India?” me trying hard to engage him. “My wife. She’s from India. She’s studied here and wants to live here.” Oh good, feeling happy that I hit his talking button. “What does she do?” “Oh, she’s an engineer but has her own company now.”  Ah an Engineer, you say? Pouncing on the chance I’ve been waiting for. “I’m an engineer too,” I said, with the hope that he’ll take the cue. He should know that as an engineer I’d have a certain geeky reputation to protect. That a hanky-panky hairstyle just won’t work. And that his conventional wisdom should be overruling any creative liberties he’s been taking. But to my surprise, he retorted with, “Blow dry, please!”. What? Are we done here? I thought bemusedly, but dare not say it. Even after a good shuffle and a puff, I was not seeing it. What kind of a hairstyle was this? It felt like an un-hairstyle to me. I was about to get up, when he said, “I want to see how your hair looks before I cut.”  Are you kidding me?! What was the last 20 minutes all about?  But what option did I really have? Go underground with my current hairdo or succumb to this man’s wishes.  
And for the next 20 minutes, his scissors seemed more daunting than a surgeon’s knife. My heart sank with every snip, rose back up at each swizzle. I got the impression that my hair was posing a challenge that was bringing out the fighting spirit in him.
And finally, the golden words, “There you are, pretty lady!”
I grudgingly turned up to see my own reflection. Hmm, my hair was certainly shorter than what I wanted it to be, but it did look cute in a non-conventional yet conventional sort of a way.  I could learn to live with it. In fact, even flaunt it without being flamboyant.
All and all, a surprise happy ending to an emotionally-charged roller-coaster of an affair!
For the next time though, I’d go for a French manicure before I think of a French coiffure. Nothing against Laurent, but I don’t think I have the stomach for so many butterflies!
ps. A smart risk is a dumb risk with a lot of thinking!

A parody of paradoxes

I had resisted it. Even ignored it. But the new year kept peeping at me; the ostentatious display of the date by the calendar nudging me for days now.

Finally, I give in. Time for some reflection, some new resolutions.

So I ponder. Something new, something unique. But what?

As I reflect more, I can’t but get more confused.
I have tried them all before: Follow your heart, Live in the present, Balance your life, Manage your time, Be Healthy, Make New Friends, Be good, Be fair, Spread Joy…

Very apt goals. Just why haven’t they worked?

Some more thinking.

How can you follow your own heart, when you’re expected to meet expectations of all around you?
How do you always live in the present, while striving for a future goal?
How do you balance your life, when you set yourself up for multiple priorities?
How can you think of time management, while spending hours on Facebook? 🙂
How can you be healthy, when you’re always stressed about being healthy?
How do you make new friends, when you can’t keep up with your old ones?
How can you be good and fair, when good and fair are not accepted?
How can you keep spreading joy, when you’re fighting your own glooms?

Such is our world. Very complex, a little paradoxical. 

And our life: A  parody of paradoxes, I say.

I am Salman Khan – My version of the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom

The sight of my 3 year-old son sing and dance to the tunes of the “Debanng” song hit me like an epiphany. It was as if the actor in him is tearing his shirt and dying to come out. And the deal got sealed when I started noticing his eye rolls, spreading of his hands (a la SRK style), and the projection of his voice. (Have you seen him scream?! How handy could that be when he’s looking out for his heroine in the woods!).

From that day on, I set on a mission. He will be the next Salman Khan.
Like a typical Indian mom, food is the first thing that was put into consideration. His daily diet plan which now includes (carbs, proteins, calcium, vitamin A to Z, and the right kinds of muscle-building fats) went into strict enforcement. The Bournvita jar got thrown in the bin, my munna (Note to myself: I better start calling him “muns”; Munna could just land him into “Bhojpuri” movies.) deserves Pediasure. (C’mon, the premium price must not be for nothing. Maybe they put better quality DHA in it.). Also contemplating whether I should go organic for him. After all, more the investment, better the ROI.
I’m also looking for a baby cream that will retain his fair complexion. Gone are the days of tall, dark and handsome. All the macho actors are gaining confidence through their fairness creams these days. And outdoor playtime will have to be squeezed to fit in power yoga (coz Kareena and Saif swear by it). Oh, so many things to worry about. But glad that posing for the camera will not be one of them. Thanks to those digital cameras, he’s so used to extended photo sessions that he can pose in his sleep now. Well, but the best thing is that part of the weekend will now have to be spared for frequenting the designer label malls. We’ll need that regular dosage of latest fashion and style into our lives.
And rest is all contacts. But not to worry, I’m already on the lookout for those filmi-types circles I can hangout with. If push comes to shove, we’ll need move to Mumbai..eesh Bombay.
(And If all else fails, there will be some reality show where he can beg, borrow or bribe his way into. And even if he’s not good at dancing, singing or whatever it is that he’s supposed to do, I’ll make sure he cries beautifully and looks good while doing so. I’m pretty sure that one of the movie celebrity judges will open her arms for him. Shh..but that’s a trade secret!)
But lately I’ve started noticing that my husband is unduly disciplined about playing cricket with him every night. Could it be that my husband is harboring a secret dream of making him a cricketer?!
Oh Lord, that could be THE CONFLICT of interest, I worry. After a lot of turmoiled thinking, I reconcile. Luckily for me, I do know a few cricketers who came to their senses and entered Bollywood eventually. Plus dont all cricketers end up acting anyway (for their advertising contracts)?! And btw, we’ll also need to keep that MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad as a 2nd backup career option for him. (His grandparents would be heart-broken otherwise.) Well, he can study for his CAT between the shoots/practice sessions if it comes to that.
So I’m scouting for his school admissions these days. Its frustrating that you have so many options,  but none for parents like me i.e. a school that would focus on overall personality development, along with equal emphasis on academics, sports, performing arts, social skills, and of course where he can make the right contacts for future. The only respite may be the after-school trainings and classes that he’ll be attending, as soon as he turns 4. Didn’t I see just a picture of Sachin Tendulkar with a cricket bat at the age of 3? He may already be late.
But I don’t understand why he keeps obsessing about airplanes and animals. What has that got to do with acting or cricket?
And for a fleeting second, a thought crosses my mind. ‘Am I living my dream through my son’s life?’ 
‘Well, maybe!..’ I say to myself, ‘but that’s what star moms do, right?!” 
 

The Grippin’ Zippin’ Tale

‘Good luck! You’ll need it’ said George, the bulky British instructor, trying to get an expression out of me. ‘Yeah, yeah…I’ve done many such adventures before. This is nothing thats not up my ally.’ I thought. And so began my Sunday “Flying Fox” adventure, at the Neemrana Fort, Rajasthan.

We had heard about Neemrana from friends before…but ever since I found out that it operates a “zipping tour“, my adventurist soul had been aching to go there.

5 ziplines (with one of them the longest in Southeast Asia), a two-hour aerial journey, a bunch of college kids for company (as opposed to my 3-yr old, who my loving husband decided to babysit for while I zip), should keep it all very exciting – I figured. Conveniently they forget to mention the hike to the starting point. Well, no big deal! Its just a kilometer and a half to the top of the mountain from where we start zipping. But hang on..its 1.5 km where the first km is all vertical, that too under the gruelling Rajasthani summer sun. And on a path that would give the Registan desert a run for its money. So after the first ten minutes, I’m gulping water like a camel. The flying fox folks – the British company that operates the zipline tours had given each of us a bottle of water, anticipating the need of the hour. After the next 10, thoughts are racing. ‘Why am I doing this? What do I have to prove? I’m sure I’m never doing this again. Why cant they operate a trolley like the ones they have on the ski slopes?’

Uh oh..what is this?! Is this water leaking from my bottle? S##T, I only have 1/4th bottle left now. How did that happen? Water is important. And leaking water is not good..followed by flashes of James Franco drinking puddle water in “127 Hours” running through my brain. I definately dont want to be drinking water from an Indian puddle! Calm down, calm down! I said to myself. I fastened the lid of the bottle and that took care of the leak. After that point, I decide to concentrate only on the entertaining banter of the college kids..that encompassed everything from hair straighteners to their sex lives.

And so we reach the top…the cool breeze already starting to soothe my nerves and my dehydrated-self. We rush through the instructions and practice to get to the first zipline. The sight of the first zipline, about 350ms horizontally and vertically, from the highest point on the mountain makes me skip a beat. My nerves have started getting the better of me..and I ask George – ‘What if we stop midway?’ George is in full form now , ‘Then there’s only 2 options you see..you can either cut the chord and jump, or you can take the opportunity to build some muscles by manually crawling the cables’.
I remember and miss my son and husband, not knowing what the next hour will entail. I decide I’ll go last..at least I’ll learn from watching others. They all zip through, some willingly and some unwillingly. Finally its my turn. I’m more mentally prepared now. I can do it. And there I go…the jitters vanishing as I flying through the cable, like a dove in the sky. Its actually enjoyable. I start seeing the other end now..Oh cool! And suddenly I remember..George had asked me to brake. So I put my other arm on the cable and start braking. But George is shouting..‘WHY ARE YOU BRAKING?’ I dont understand. But I’m completely stopped now with still 50 meters to go. I quickly understand and realize that the braking was not supposed to happen until his signal.
Well, I do use the opportunity to build some muscles after all!

Lesson #1: If you can conquer your fears, you can make it. If you cant, you dont.

The next one is more tricky he says. Its the longest and the steepest and with the current wind direction, almost a 90% chance that we wont make it all the way to the end just by gravity. I’m determined that I dont want to build any more muscles. I wont look good with bulging biceps I figure. I decide to use my first trick and let a couple folks do it first. Both of them dont make it. I ask why. George says, ‘they are not keeping their bodies inclined enough so as to use their body weight as a counter balance to the wind direction’. Oh okay, I keep that in mind. Its my turn now. This time my motto is to follow the rules, even if its from the smart alec George. And viola, I do use my body weight effectively this time to finish exactly at the finish line. (Finally, all those extra kilos on my body found some use!)

Lesson #2: Follow the instructions and keep faith.

The next zips were just pure fun. Felt like a monkey jumping from one end to another.

Thanks to my BB, I could capture pictures of the fort from above..the never seen footage is for your viewing pleasure! 🙂


And more thanks to my stark supporters, my son and my husband. Without their cheering, shouting and clicking pictures for 2 hours, it wont have been so much fun.

Lesson #3: Enjoy the ride. Thats most important.

Btw, for all the eager souls: If I did it, you can too..Its lot of fun if you can endure dust, sun, and cowdung smell, hike a mountain without complaining, and just let it go when George asks you to. And would I do it again? Only if they start running a trolley for the hike up the mountain. 🙂

Of traditions and values!

My mother calls me today. ‘Did you know it was “Gudi Padwa” yesterday?’, ‘Well, yes..I saw some updates on FB!” ‘Then what did you do about it?’ ‘Well, err..nothing’. The lecture starts…‘You are supposed to do this and this..How will you teach your son about traditions when you dont follow them yourself?’.
So unlike her passion for sports, where I’ve somewhat managed to redeem myself by my cricket-watching this season…I dont “meet expectations” on her scale of the religious barometer. On the contrary, I’m a disappointment.

Well, my take is…teaching kids traditions(esp. the religious ones) is like teaching them the tools..and not the art. Why do we have traditions? Traditions are to affirm values. And religion is just one of those values. To me, values such as truthfulness, honesty, discipline, hard work, ethics are equally important, if not more. Esp. when we are aspiring our kids to become the next generation Sachin and Sainas. We need to create traditions/rituals that inculcate these values.

Btw, I’m not against religious traditions nor am I preaching against it..Just one humble suggestion though: If you have a religious tradition/ritual that you follow in the house, good to also ensure that the kids understand why these are followed..There has to be a value associated with each of these. In fact, I found this interesting link Indian Traditions: Why do we on Indian traditions and the values it depicts.

As far as I’m concerned, the family tradition he’s learning right now is yoga. Its spiritual to do yoga together as a family every other morning. Also, something that will make him healthier one day. For the rest of the traditions, I’ll leave that to grandma.

And for all those who’re wondering how my conversation with mom ended…Here goes: ‘Guess what mom, I started tennis lessons yesterday.’ ‘Oh..thats nice. Keep it up.’

Allz well that endz well.

What does "cricket" mean to you?

Resonating with the mood of the hour..tons of thoughts battling to find space in my mind. While 90% of Indians are now catching up on sleep after the victory dancing last nite, I’ve decided to streamline these thoughts before they vanish through the crevices of my mind.

Cricket culminated in a “larger-than-life” story yesterday..Over the last few weeks, I saw it being associated with politics, religion, corporate practices, upbringing, value systems, entertainment and lo and behold, even sex and porn. (Ms. Pandey as a case in reference.) It truly became the one all and be all for us Indians..more like the “Bhagwad Gita”!

Personally also, it has been an enlightening journey…
A story of a true convert. For all those who know me well, they know I was never a cricket fan. On the contrary, I used to hate it. My parents never missed a game..and I never watched one “ball-by-ball” in my life before. How can people subject themselves to 8 hours of mindless TV watching? What can one possibly get from it? But now I know…You can actually get wiser if you so wish..and not just by drinking Bud(weiser) through the match! I’m proud not only bcos India won yesterday..I’m proud that I, for the first time, understood what it means. Cricket and this win has been a manifestation of patriotism for me and likewise for all Indians(-at-heart). How could these billon+ Indians proudly show their love for India, had it not been for cricket? Way to go, cricket!

Equally enlightening has been the “bonding” experience with family, friends, acquaintances, and even random strangers. My parents now think of me as a “worthy” daughter. :)Yesterday, a total stranger (that too a seemingly snooty-looking Delhiite) wanted to take a photo with us..just bcos we had a flag and he didnt. Btw, cannot ignore the significance of “social media” in that regard. Would the feeling of watching and winning be so euphoric, had I not been able to share it with my loved ones and friends across the globe?! I dont think so. Thank you, FB!

So my advice to myself and others who care to follow: Allow yourself to indulge in new experiences. And keep your mind open. You never know what you’ll learn from it.

And at a societal level, it has showed us that:
Even though the confluence of good and bad is ever so pervasive in our psyche, the good news is that we are still in the practise of celebrating the “good” and abandoning the “bad”. Some feel if the 1 Cr award money is justified for the players. My take is at least its sending the message that you can make crores by doing “right” things in India, not just through corrupt means. India needed this victory to show to themselves and to the world that…We can also do it, the “right” way!

So to all my fellow “cricket-fans”, spare a thought! What does “cricket” really mean to you?

A gift to myself

Birthdays bring new possibilities…A second chance or in other words..yet another chance. With hubby away and therefore a traditional celebration out of the way, I decided to take it upon myself to plan my birthday.

If I were to reborn today, what would I do differently? I thought hard.

Every year I’ve received gifts from others..I decided to start a tradition where I’d gift others. Would gift folks who dont normally receive gifts. I started the day with gifting my house help. I gifted my maids, the cook and the driver. The look on their face amusing..One of them even thinking if this is an indication that I’m expecting a birthday gift in return. I had to ask them to just smile and make my day. Of-course the smarter ones started showering me with their well-wishes.

The next installment of gift-giving was stalled bcos of the Cricket World Cup extravaganza that has now made my birthday somewhat of a historic date. So, armed with sweets and clothes(some new, some designer-wear stuff that my kid has outgrown), I went to the lesser-priviledged neighbourhood today…(cant take credit for the originality of this idea though..Its been somewhat of a family tradition I finally felt like following.)

As soon as I got out of the car and signalled the kids with bags of clothes and sweets, there was an uproar. Kids flocking onto me, pleading, begging, crying. And towards the end, grabbing and snatching out of my hand..felt like a deer in the middle of hungry tigers (well, in this case tiger-cubs). To my chagrin, a “survival-of-the-fittest” battle had even started on the side. Stronger kids snatching away clothes from the weaker ones. My act of benevolance was turning into a road-rage..Well..call it a “street-rage” since no motorists were involved obviously.

All and all, though the rowdiness was un-called for, the heart did tickle. Just knowing that I’d been a source of their momentary joy and excitement. And amongst the crowd, there was a little kid whose eyes twinkled and lips slowly parted when I sneaked a “BabyGap” jeans into his hands.

Just a glimpse of that smile was a gift to myself. A birthday well-received and well-spent.