The Window

Satyajit Ray’s Charulata followed the Bengali babu from her window through her binoculars… it was poetry in motion… it not just depicted her curiosity or sheer amusement of seeing that man everyday on a particular time but what is more critical to note is the window… the window in some metaphorical way depicts her soul, it’s a window to her life outside that reflects what she feels within. The loneliness, the bird in the golden cage occurrence…

The window: It’s a world out there and it shares a glimpse of that to you…

window-home

Wherever on earth you may be, upon a hill top on a tree house or a brick house in the village, a sky scraper or a thatched hut… a window there is…

The window narrates a different story everyday… of changing seasons and raging weathers, of spring and summer, autumn and winter. It brings you wafting smells from a sweetmeat shop somewhere or freshly washed clothes. The window brings you sounds of the world… a vendor, a street crier, a bark and a faraway lark. The window shows you people who keep time, and all who wait for others, many who have been there ever since you looked out of that window… a paanwala or a cobbler, the local grocer or the laundry man, or the parsi uncle who washes his car clean twice a day 🙂

The window shows you a world you have never known… sometimes almost mirroring what you want to see… that mouthful of sky, the breeze that brushes on your person, the rains that splatter on your sill, the clouds that scurry past, the bird that nestles cosy ina flowering pot you have… the world outside changes its look, it’s garb, it’s feel and what it has to offer… and you wait this side of the window… with hope.

The window brings hope, anticipation, a wait, a story, a faraway fragrance, thoughts that conjure up desires and wishes, colours and sounds… The window is a story. The window is a hope. The window is a soul. The window is a mirror to the society. The window is a picture frame that changes every passing minute. The window tells time and lets you participate in every moment that turns into a page in history.

We all have our windows and we all have our stories…. The window is a peek into our lives and a look into what’s happening outside in the world. The window: A summary.

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Rail Gaadi :-)

The other day while riding across town with the Hubby we passed by a railway crossing… as expected a train passed from there at about the same time… it whistled…and IT WHISTLED…it whistled it’s way through the inner depths of my soul … and I immediately knew what this generation missed… what my children would miss… A Journey By Train in a Three Tier Compartment (read non-AC) complete with bedding, trunks and a separate basket for food and even beverages 🙂

Train - Image Courtesy: shevlinsebastian.blogspot.com

Train – Image Courtesy: shevlinsebastian.blogspot.com

Rewind to early 80s’. I still went to school in a blue uniform and red pair of socks…yeah absolutely that… and my brother still trotted half asleep to his class and most of India still cooked on ‘Junta Stoves’ and or Pump Stoves…seriously. At the clang of the school bell announcing the start of the Winter vacations, my brother and I would run home… excited that we were also like most kids in our class going on a vacation. We would enter home to see frantic activities around our luggage to be packed, about all that mum would cook to keep in the fridge to last a day or two at least for those not travelling and last minute ideas for gifting purposes for the relatives that we would be meeting. We were too little to help around the packing et al, and we were more than happy to revel in the happiness of the moment… to be travelling 🙂 My brother and I would pack our school books (I still see kids carry text books to vacations), take along our Ludos and Snake Ladders and cards, and may be once in a while chide with Mum to let us pick our own clothes for the trip… Since in those days the markets were still very region specific, a lot of things weren’t available everywhere unlike today when everything is available everywhere. So yeah, since our trips would usually be to cities in Uttar Pradesh (that’s where my maternal side of the family hailed from), we would carry items that weren’t available there… so in would go five to six boxes of Shrikhand and Aamrakhand, fried shrimps and prawns, cakes baked by Mum and other inedible stuff that were actually for gifting purposes 🙂

pro_amul_shrikhand image courtesy Amul.com

pro_amul_shrikhand image courtesy Amul.com

Cut to the actual journey and that was the best part of it all. The luggage was usually a couple of trunks, an army khaki bedding and another case specific to carrying food for the entire journey, that would last us a good 18 hours or so. Mum’s food case would contain a variety that would hardly ever adorn anyone’s dining table in one go… fried rice, chapatis, a couple of sookha sabzi, curd or yoghurt, if Winter then a flask containing hot water and if summer then a flask containing ice, washed but uncut salad ingredients, bread, jams, butter, sugar and salt, wafers, biscuits and may be some sweets too 🙂 Scrumptious don’t you think?! My brother and I would wait for the train to chug along since mum would promise that all that food would only be served once the train wheels rolled…

Image courtesy indianexplorations.com

Image courtesy indianexplorations.com

And then there would be the eternal quest to get the window seat… remember I said it was a 3-tier general compartment… so the experience of the window seat was the ultimate… peering out of the window to see the tail of the train curve into a C, take in the sights and smells of various stations, look in sheer amusement and hazel eyed at all the scenery… well, I for one always thought that I recognised all the trees moving past and that they were all going round and round and coming back in front of our window again and again, Baba buying tea in kulhads, bananas, magazines and sometimes some extra snack if we got too reckless. Baba with his passion for nature and Mum a geography teacher would engage us in rendering the knowledge of how the soil differed in every state as we passed through each one, how to identify a Chiku tree from a Mango tree, identify the changing clothes and attire of people across various states as also the way they all differed from state to state in how they build homes. They both were such amazing story tellers… and so knowledgeable. We played games like ‘Name-Place-Animal-Thing’ or even Memory game where baba and mum would challenge us to remember all the stations that we had crossed and repeat them all over again in a sequence… such fun, I tell you.

Early mornings would see everyone queuing up to use the compartment wash room and whilst Baba and Mum would accompany us every time we wanted to empty ourselves. Mum would wait impatiently for her hot hot cuppa of tea in a kulhad and vacations were only times when we kids were allowed to have tea as well… such a sense of adulthood would dawn upon us!

Image courtesy Outlookindia.com

image courtesy panoramio.com

Common sights to behold were Wheeler & Co. publications stalls, mobile stalls carrying toys, and colourful shades for kids and even rattles and harmonicas, the few odd Drinking Water taps that would have everyone queue up to fill their Cool Kegs or water bottles for the rest of the journey, some odd Marlboro man getting off for his drag and some very helpless looking ladies with their children looking to find a seat in the compartment. The cacophony of the garam chai le lo salesman, to the off tuned iktara being played by the toy stall guy, to the bleeding techni-coloured Savitas and Manoramas and Champaks and Chandamamas, to the very frail TC or Ticket Checker who roamed the train and the station with the gait of a Royal Bengal Tiger and a crown of supremacy visible only to the train passengers… all of this lend a historical feel to it and it all came together like a confluence of the five senses.

We would squirm in our seats waiting for the journey to end and meet our cousins… the journey was too long for us seven -eight year olds to enjoy all of it.

But today, the journeys are different… train journeys are nothing but restricted to Second ACs and First ACs. So you can just minus the entire experience of feeling the breeze caress your face, the fragrance of flowers in some stations, the aroma of a hot elaichi chai in some stations or the enticing pakoras being fried in some stations. Highly santitized environs with industry packaged foods so you don;t have to lug around food for the journey take away the regional peculiarities of travelling in India. It feels disconnected. Kids no more get to see the difference of the red soil to black soil because of the tinted window panes and we are all too busy with iPads and iPhones to look around at what is passing by.

Sigh! An experience which was a gift from the 80s’ and were such an inseparable part of growing up… our children are sure missing this fun.

image courtesy tumblr.com

Satyamev Jayate: You Have Our Sundays :-)

Wow… What a Spectacular Show… What a Revolution… What a Breather… I can just go on… a show that claimed to touch our hearts and ‘Touched’ it did. Moved us beyond tears, overwhelmed us and showed us the mirror… Couldn’t have been more well done.

Image

For the first time in many years of television in India has now come a show that talks to us, does not talk down to us, does not preach lofty ideals, just talks to us. No aggression, no cranky pangs of sarod in the background, no glycerines, no melodramatic dialogues,  no palpitation causing anchors… just good old talk… well researched, well packaged, very sensitively brought to the fore the victims making them heroes of our society who are fighting silently the battle with age old superstitions, social ills and rising above it all to live a life of dignity. 

To say that a country of more than a billion will just march together to fight aeons old social ills just by watching a television programme is a tall order, but it has done what was needed… taken the first step… reaching out… using television to make good use of it… of documenting and soul stirring. 

The first episode today spoke painfully about female infanticide and foeticide in our country, what and how it’s done, what can be done to stop it et al… and never for once did it make us feel helpless and left any negativity in us. It portrayed a social ill with affirmation and faith that it can be eradicated and change can be brought about. It glorified heroes very subtly and left them with the dignity that they so deserved.

Such an honest concept with very genuine efforts of making television meaningful… 

Thanks Satyamev Jayate… You have our Sundays, you have our support and Thanks Aamir Khan for making Telelvision a Must-Watch again 🙂

http://youtu.be/MXg6Usdjl5c

Cheers

Mall-ed!!!

The area around home is suddenly blanketed with a desire to turn everyone into a buy-all consumer… one weekend that I happen to go out of the house and I see half a dozen Malls that have mushroomed in a distance of 15 kms…. Can u beat it? And no, they are not small ones… they are huge, imperious, monolithic and dominating to an extent of  looking down on us humanity. It feels like structures that have come up to usurp us all to satisfy a big fake desire of consumerism. I stay in the countryside, far removed from the city … with villages near and about my apartment. And yet, the malls stand, night and day, with all their lights on, for all the 24 hours, waiting upon us to kindle a desire in us to ‘want’ something, not necessarily need!

Image courtesy: Featurepics.com 
 
My husband and I walked into all of them one weekend at a time, with no want or need, but just an inquisitive mind. And the dreary, deserted look of the malls haunted us. The shops and the shopkeepers looked starved of customers, the customers looked aloof whose only interest lied in the food courts and of the various palates available to try, the slogans screamed into the concrete structures not touching the buyers minds or hearts and yet they multiply, a dime a dozen by the day… the Malls!
 
I am missing something, Big Time… U know what?! the buzz in a market place, the want in a customer’s life, the sound of real money in his pocket, the hope of a growing economy in his heart and a brimming shopping cart that summarizes all of the above. May be the Malls wouldn’t look so parched then!

Kulhad Wali Chai…

Oh I love Winters… my favourite time of the year… the warmth of the blankets and the rajaais, the dohars and the shawls, the oh-so-clumsy monkey caps and the very sylish mufflers… the dread of touching cold water, the romanticism of sitting by a camp fire, the soft smelling cold-creams and moisturisers, the wearing of skin-coloured socks with hawai-chappals, the roasted moongphalis, the garma garam kababs, the strong espresso and the earthy tea in a kulhad nestled in between our palms and the warmth of the kulhad adding to the coziness that winter brings in our life…. oh, i miss winter and i love winter and most of all, I love and miss Kulhads!

myindiapictures.com

myindiapictures.com

What are kulhads… well they are traditional terracotta cups without handles used to serve tea, coffee, lassi, kulfi …
They are unglazed and crude to look at and the hot tea would have lent a moist wet earthy fragrance to the entire experience of sipping chai from a kulhad and that is what makes it so amazing

image: facebook.com

image: facebook.com

My mum’s from Uttar Pradesh and our winters in childhood were always in UP… Kanpur and Varanasi to be precise and we used to look forward to the kulhad experience… We never had that in Bombay and we hated the cheap plastic cups and thermocol glasses that were handed out to us in the trains when we asked for tea or coffee…

I miss the kulhad… there is so much being talked about the environment and the harm that the plastics can do to us… then why isn’t anyone trying to revive the Kulhad? While I do know that one minister in India had tried to bring back the kulhad to it’s good old glamour and utility, but it fizzled out because of the continued use of plastic and paper cups.

There are lots of things that constituted to make my childhood earthy and beautiful which I fear my little one may not even get exposed to by the time she is a little older. I am not an environmentalist and wouldn’t know the intricacies of choosing or not choosing kulhads over paper cups. I wouldn’t even know the nitty-gritties of business if there were any, attached to the whole idea of wanting to get back the kulhad…

All I know that as a consumer I am losing out on some amazing experience, miss some very earthy memories and really wish we could do our bit to bring it back… however, obsolete many people may think it was or is, the kulhad sure holds a prized place in my memory and my winters are not complete without it.

image: glowimages.com

image: glowimages.com

Playing The Part

“Oh Wow… you are a mother of two children?… Man, you don’t look it?!”
“OMG… you don’t look married… that’s awesome!”
“What…. your children are in Engineering?! I thought your kids were in KG!”

“What?! You have a few months old child?! I thought you would have elder kids”…….. Okay, now that is usually what I get… while the ones above are what my peers and people around me get…
And that has got me to write this post…

Increasingly there is added pressure on Not looking the part… you are not meant to look what you actually are or rather what your actual status is…

So if you are in college, you should look like a school going girl; if you are married or working young you should look like you are still in college, if you have kids you should look like someone who is not married at all and so on and so forth.
And not surprisingly the men do not have any such social issues or problems or concerns for looking their part…I mean they can look and be all that they are and not are and its okay… but Woman… you have to NOT look your part…
So the market is flooded with anti-ageing creams and wrinkle fading creams, ads show younger looking moms with each passing day with grown up kids, Kellogs would have you believe that Lara can owe all her svelte sexy figure to them and them only and I am now left completely confused about not what is my role in life now but surely how the world expects to see me….

mirror_reflection - Image courtesy - the sgl.com

mirror_reflection - Image courtesy - the sgl.com

It is a quiet dissension in my head and it is growing with each passing day. So I am walking a few good miles, running the treadmill, am on all fours working my *** off at home and trying to lose all the pregnancy fat… and while some may say, isn’t that good for you and your health?! and while I do agree that it is good… what is not good is the pressure under which I am doing it.
I may choose not to give into that pressure, but trust me, men if you are reading this and the women who are reading it will agree, the pressure is daunting!

I have friends of my age and older who are looking younger by the day, married ones are sexily carrying off haulter necks with sindurs almost as a fashion accessory, the ones with kids are tiptoeing on stilettos and are slipping into stretch jeans and are throwing abundantly the statements of vanity and may I also paradoxically add determination of getting back their youthful halo.

I am caught hence, wondering everyday on what should I look like today… a young mother?! or just a mother?! a homemaker?! a content homemaker?! a young mother aspiring to get back to work?! And while I am still struggling everyday with these questions, the wardrobe throws back the same quandary of what should I wear to look the part that I don’t look and then finally and obviously what should I look like?

The television is increasingly defining what women are supposed to look like in my country…

I have never found myself being hit so badly by the advertising world or by the society we live in… I have very quietly always been able to manage an offbeat fashion, a style, and always carried the look and lived the part of a self aware woman who was more keen to set standards rather than be following the ones around her…

But sadly I have become a victim today…. find myself in a quagmire of self effacing questions and social concerns…

I know the part I am playing now… but I am so sure I don’t know what to show…So Are you not supposed to look the part? Will my child be made fun of if her mother looks a mother and not someone out of the Dettol and Santoor ads?

This post is more a reflection of my mind today than ever before and all my posts before this…. would love to hear your views and get inspired.