#10YearChallenge : Few weeks back, my social media timeline was full of photographs with this hashtag. Well, here it’s a little different. I wrote this story for my niece Simrita in 2009 (She turned 8 then) as a birthday gift. Ten years later, in 2019, she is all set to join college in couple of months. Two days back, I found the story in my Gmail inbox when I was in a combative mood to delete old e-mails. I am sharing this short story out of love, affection and nostalgia. I am also realizing that how fast kids grow up. Simrita is all set to celebrate her birthday on February 15.
A birthday to remember
Sui Moi is a beautiful little girl who’s just seven years old. And let me share a secret about Sui Moi — she’s crazy about her birthday (in addition to watching Tom and Jerry on television and eating large pieces of chocolate cake). She has always thrown big birthday parties for her friends. She loves to call all her six close friends and also three close friends of her brother Koko Moi who is six years old. Koko Moi loves his sister a lot and is always ready to think of new ways to bring in special surprises for Sui Moi’s birthday. Are you wondering when’s Sui Moi’s birthday? Her birthday is on January 15.
This year Sui Moi as usual had lots of plan in mind before bringing in another birthday. She along with her papa (whom we will call Papa Moi), mama (whom we will call Mama Moi) and Koko Moi had checked out the menu of a restaurant from where she had planned to order the food her party. And with every passing day, she was getting excited about her birthday. So also Koko Moi. He spent hours in painting a huge card for his sister.
But alas, sometimes things just don’t go right in spite of our plan. On 15th January morning, Papa Moi got a call from the restaurant saying that there had been a fire in the kitchen of the restaurant the previous night. Though no one was hurt in the fire but they had closed down the restaurant for some repair work. That’s why, they wouldn’t be able to deliver the food and they would give back the advanced amount. “Oh No, God can’t be so cruel to me,” screamed Sui Moi when she first heard the news and tears rolled down her cheeks. She couldn’t imagine what would happen to her party which she had so meticulously planned days in advance. What’s a party without food? What will she do? There are just some hours left for the party. All these years, Sui Moi’s birthday parties were much loved among her friend circle for the decoration, food, fun and loads of laughter.
But as they say every cloud has a silver lining. And immediately there was a family discussion on what to do next. Both Koko Moi and Sui Moi wore a very sad look. But then came brilliant ideas from Papa Moi and Mama Moi who declared cheerfully, “Let’s cook for the party and as they say nothing tastes like homemade food. All four of us will be the chefs and the party will rock as usual.” Sui Moi at first thought Papa Moi and Mama Moi were joking. But seeing their determination, she and Koko Moi decided to go ahead with this sudden plan.
The first thing on the menu was something from Koko Moi. Well, you might think he’s a little boy but don’t forget that he’s our little champ. So, Koko Moi said with a big grin on his face and a packet of Gelatin powder in his hand, “I will make Jell-O sweets for everybody.” Bingo… and Sui Moi said immediately “I am going to be Mama’s assistant and help her in the kitchen.” And immediately Papa Moi said, “Hey you guys, don’t forget me. I am also going to have fun in the kitchen and make some delicious potato sandwiches. But before that let me rush and get the cake and of course some packets of chicken nuggets and pizza bases.”
With so much of enthusiasm in the air, everybody got into action. And Mama Moi immediately rushed to the kitchen to boil some potatoes so that Papa Moi can make the sandwiches once he returns from the market. And she asked her assistant Sui Moi to take out capsicum, mushrooms, tomatoes from the refrigerator.
Then Sui Moi said, “Well, Mama, how about putting some music so that we all can dance a little while cooking.” Our little Koko Moi simply loved the idea as he’s always the first one to shake a leg. Even as Papa Moi went to the market (this time he went alone cause there are so many things to do at home and Koko Moi was too busy to go with him), Mama Moi braced herself to cut those capsicum, mushroom, onion for making pizzas. And Sui Moi then had a request, “Mama, can you make those lovely chilly egg fry which you made just a week back.” Mama Moi hugged Sui Moi and said tenderly, “Darling, today is your day. So I will do anything for my dearest princess.” And she took out eggs to boil while Sui Moi watched her with a big smile on her face.
In the meanwhile, Koko Moi was all set for making Jell-O sweets. He added the powder to the boiling water given by his mother… and after that he put them into small containers to be put in the refrigerator.
And then after 45 minutes, Papa Moi came back from the market with packets of chicken nuggets and pizza bases and a huge chocolate cake (which he had ordered the previous evening). Everything went off smoothly and with music in the background, cooking for friends became almost like a picnic at home. So, in the end the guests at the party had : Delicious crusty pizzas, potato sandwiches with oregano, chicken nuggets, chips, cookies, colorful Jello-O sweets. And of course they had chocolate cake. It might sound funny but some of Sui Moi’s friends just couldn’t get up from their chairs after polishing off such a delicious home-made meal. After taking rest for a little while, they all danced like crazy and screaming at the top of their voice, “Sui Moi’s party rocks.” Ha ha, what’s new, didn’t we tell you before?
Are you wondering, what all Sui Moi got as B Day gift:
* She got story books, toys, cookie packets, nice colourful stationary sets, a beautiful necklace and a lovely beaded bag.
February 4 is World Cancer Day.
I have spent six years of my adult life in caring for two cancer patients (my mother and my husband’s sister). I have lost both of them to this dreaded C. Caring for them, loving them and watching them putting up a brave show have been life-changing. Far more substantial than what I learnt in JNU, India’s premier university. What are the lessons actually?
- Health is wealth.
- Family is fundamental. If you are lucky, your family members are your angels. More so when the going gets tough.
- Money is important. Money enables you to have choices.
- Small is beautiful. So, there is immense beauty in taking a shower by yourself, standing in front of the mirror and putting on your lipstick, enjoying a cup of tea or cooking a simple meal of dal, rice and egg curry.
- Physical pain can make you feel naked. It can be really soul-destroying.
- Ordinary can be extra-ordinary if you know how to be mindful.
- Hospitals can be terribly lonely even when they are crowded.
- Enjoy the present moment. You don’t know how one biopsy test can change your life’s narrative.
- Be gentle. There’s no substitute to being gentle. When you are gentle within yourself, you are a better care-giver.
- Looking after a cancer patient makes you erase irrelevant elements from life (This will happen if you listen to the truth within yourself). Somehow you start appreciating a sense of minimalism. Over the years, I have developed an aversion for anything in excess.
- It helps when you have solid friends standing by you. Having a conversation always makes things lighter. Never say ‘No’ to a good session of laughing. And to a large extent, friends are outsiders to the situation. So, they can give you a better perspective. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
- It’s very necessary to refill one’s inner self even as you are spending days and nights looking after a person. It could be a walk, conversations, a nice meal, good book, music, a new hair-cut, looking at the sky or just soaking in the Art of Being. You give better when you have something to give. For that you need to replenish your own self.
- Be kind to yourself. Some days, you will feel as if you are losing the battle. Some days you will feel the warmth of sunshine. Don’t run away from feelings. If you want to cry, go ahead. Tears can make you feel lighter. Don’t feel ashamed. It’s fine to be vulnerable.
- No matter how dark the night is, the morning will always break. And there are chances that you might feel a little better.
- One day, you will be larger than your experiences. Till then, be open and compassionate.
I had just walked into the coffee shop of a five star hotel in Ahmedabad. I settled down on my chair and put this purse on the table. Then I saw the young woman who worked in the coffee shop rushing towards my table.
“Did you go to Bhutan?” (She asked)
“No, I didn’t go. My friend got this gift for me from Bhutan.”
“You know, I am from Bhutan. I am so happy to look at this purse. It reminds me of my home, parents, my brother. Right now, I feel as if I am there and enjoying the cool air, the mountains.”
“You must go to Bhutan. Bhutan will love you and you will love Bhutan. Please let me know before you go,” she told in the same breath.
In less than five minutes, I felt she travelled from Ahmedabad to Bhutan.
We exchanged mobile numbers and she really took care of us that evening. With her charming smile and grace.
Home is a feeling. Home is not just about physical space. And you never know, when and where home will pop up and make you happy. And at the same time leave you with a sense of longing for home.
I am yet to make that promised trip to Bhutan. I will definitely go there for Tara’s sake if not anything else. For the time being, a slice of her home is always travelling with me in my handbag.
What can be more precious than home?
(A very happy and prosperous 2019 — From Gypsy on qwerty key board)
I have been thinking to write a post for quite some time. But somehow, I just couldn’t find the time to sit quietly and write it. How do I start the first post of 2019? Well, I owe this post to my friend A.
A… is one of my close friends and I have known him for almost 25 years. He writes beautifully on cinema, sports and life and is a published author. A recently went to Bhutan on an official trip. When we talked after his trip, I asked him excitedly, “Did you go to the Tiger Nest monastery?’ (I know, it’s a real tough trek). What he told me in answer to my question has stayed with me and the wisdom in what he said is relevant to many of us. I am putting his words in the following lines. Over to A.
“On the day of the Tiger Nest trek, I stood at the starting point and told to myself, ‘Listen A, all your life you have never gone on a trek. So, at this stage of your life why do you want to do something just to impress your boss and probably your colleagues. Why should not you be just yourself and give the trek a miss and enjoy the other beautiful experiences offered by Bhutan. After this conversation with myself, I felt good and then there was no need to impress anybody. They say, the Tiger Nest trek gives you a fascinating view of Bhutan and the view is really breath-taking. Many people consider this trek as a spiritual experience. But what surprised me was that when my team members came back after the trek, none of them talked about the view or the soul-elevating experience. All that they were talking was how some team members could not manage the trek, how miserable some people were and how some people really huffed and puffed with no end result. They were interested in talking about other people’s misery rather than the view, the beauty of the trek, the unique experience, the nuances and the like. So, my point in life is do what your heart says. You need not do anything to impress anybody. If you do something in a superficial way, you will never enjoy the experience as it will be a manufactured one.”
So, here’s to 2019, life and my friend A’s mantra of listening to one’s inner voice and living life by one’s core values. Not by other people’s approval. If you listen to yourself intently, you will always know the answer. So, be mindful in 2019 and listen to your heart. Have a wonderful year.
She: (Excitedly) You know.. Kasturaba Gandhi died on the lap of Gandhiji. She was one lucky woman.
He: Kab marna hai tum ko (When are you planning to die?). I will keep my lap ready.
Statutory confession: I am no expert in man-woman relationship. I also believe that a relationship is deeply personal. This piece is just based on my experiences of being in some meaningful and not so meaningful relationships. Yet, I have immensely enjoyed this roller coaster ride called ‘being in love’.
Silence is ‘not’ golden: There was a poster in my friend’s hostel room which said, “If you can’t understand my silence, you can’t understand my words.” I don’t know whether my friend took it seriously or not but yours truly definitely took it seriously. So, I just thought that my silence would speak, solve all problems with my man. All that I would need to do is to sit in one corner of the room, maintain a Buddha like posture and if need be, shed some pearly tears. But real life is much more than a poster. Understanding silence is very serious business (more so for your man). I have realized that most men are not really good at understanding silence. They find it easier when you express yourself. So, the next point is a natural progression of this one.
Argumentative Indian: Amartya Sen, please forgive me for using your famous book title in this context. But I have discovered the joy of arguing. Well, it doesn’t earn me money but it gives me immense pleasure. And being a student of social sciences, I make sure that my argument is both historical yet contextual. Man, I know I am a late bloomer. But I never knew that there’s so much of fun in arguing. Sometimes it feels like a high octane tennis match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Feasting .. no more fasting : I thought I had this secret AK 47 weapon with me. Of not eating. Rather refusing to eat whenever we had fights/disagreements. Well, over the years, I have realized that man-woman relationship is a tad different from Gandhiji’s Satyagraha or Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption fasting agitation at Jantar matar, New Delhi So, I have surrendered my secret weapon with great happiness. Now, if I have a fight/disagreement, then I make sure to order mutton biryani, kebabs and polish it off with a plate of caramel custard or rabri with jalebi. Life feels uber delicious. The weighing machine sometimes look alarming. Well, everything is fair in love and war. And, didn’t somebody say love is all about layers? I am just adding layers to myself.
Still tectonic plates, dormant volcanoes: For years, I dealt with innumerable earthquakes, volcanic eruptions within myself. I was operating from a high disaster zone called ‘heart’, But of late, things have settled down. There has been no need for any disaster management. The tectonic plates are all still. And the volcanoes are all lying dormant. Life feels disaster proof.
(This was posted by my favourite Priyanka Chopra on her Instagram feed)
This too shall pass: When you are young and head over heels in love, you think this comes with a stamp of eternity. But then you grow up and you experience life, death, relationships, you realize that everything evolves in life. Evolution is the truth of life. So, the older, wiser me has decided to take a chill pill and curl up in the couch and revel in the line ‘This too shall pass.” Be it happiness, sadness, laziness or even dreadful Indian summer.
Nobody is going anywhere: The younger me had this terrible thought in her head —“If it ends.. what will happen?” Well, it took me some years to understand that nothing begins, nothing ends (To quote Osho). Nobody really goes away anywhere. And the husbands (and lovers who behave like husbands) find it most difficult to go away. They somehow manage to stick on, for different reasons. Even when I threatened my hubby recently with this killer line, ‘I would put you on OLX,” he just didn’t move an inch. I have a feeling my husband may have a similar tale to tell about me. Fair enough, I think.
Social media has other ‘social’ uses: I am not a great fan of people flaunting their love on Facebook. Most of my friends who write long love notes to their spouses on Facebook are not in a happy personal space (their off line confessions say a different story). I prefer to stay away from professing love on Facebook. Life seems blissful. Sometimes no virtual information is good information too. Unlike many other contemporaries of mine, I am freed from the pressure of being a Miss Marple / Lady Agent Vinod/ Bobby Jasoos or even to change profile pics thrice in a week.
Take love seriously but not the lover: I am fascinated by the idea of love. I feel just being in love makes me a better person. The lover is a part of the whole, large, beautiful concept of love. I fiercely protect my right to love. I love being in love.