Books & Musings

Books, thoughts and a lot more…


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The New Normal – Our remodelled home

For years now, 5 to be precise, my over 1000 books have screamed to me to be released. I was helpless had no home for them. I chose to ignore. But time came and I couldn’t bear the separation.

Luckily for me my husband shares this craze and drove with a great force the reorganising of our living room, to house our enormous collection (joint and individual) , collected over the last 10 years.

Here are some photographs. The ladders – have been made from scratch. The blue bookcase has been bought out.

We gave away tonnes of books to make sure our books fit this “limited” space we have created. I took my last set of pregnancy related books to give to my yoga instructor so she can loan to 1000 odd pregnant women she helps every year.

At last I can feel relaxed. Sat on my rocking chair and read for half an hour, uninterrupted. It felt like a privilege I am experiencing after a long time.

I read Zizek – for half hour. And after ages could actually fathom what I was reading. I sat on our rocking chair, had a coffee and not a soul around. I experienced peace like I had not done in a long time. All the time while I was reading, like a child who has received a new toy, I kept pinching myself to know it was true. How I missed reading. How much I missed holding a book in my hand – browsing through tonnes of books and settling down to read one.

Also by the time I finished this post my younger one had 101.2 deg fever and I had to stop half way and finish up later. Life moves on yes – but sometimes when you lock up parts of you somewhere it becomes very difficult to fully experience and enjoy whats around you.

My home library is back – so am I.

p.s. After all this bliss feeling for a few seconds I had two sleepless days as my son was down with a viral attack.

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Tolerance intolerance – potato potato

I have visited my blog after so long that I had forgotten the look and feel of it. (I was pleasantly surprised to see such a lovely green – it was refreshing.) Being a mom and having your own law firm leaves you very little time to do much else.

I have always always written without structure or structuring my arguments or my thoughts and believe strongly that – my mind will etch the design. Sometimes what comes out is great – sometimes not so much — eh.

I have been forced to come back because this tolerance intolerance debate is killing me. The entire senselessness of it upsets me. The fact that educated people believe Aamir should have been careful or that educated people feel Aamir should be less vocal. I say educated because I am referring to people around me.

This morning I was going through FB (on my pot – because that’s the only time I literally get for checking out what is happening in other people’s lives). I was actually surprised to learn that more than half of my friends and family “are intolerant”. FB is filled with pro-modi and anti-modi jokes, hate speeches against politicians and what not.

It occurred to me that some of them were so close to me and my family that I probably should be worried about exposing my daughter to them – what if she picks up the wrong values.

Bringing up a child has become ever so much more complicated today. Social media has given a voice to all – which is great – but are these voices drowning common sense, sensibility, responsibility, love and espousing hatred, intolerance and creating factions based out of non-issues.

I think the answer is to simply move on. Focus on your work, your child and your life. This social integration is making me feel more lonely that ever before. Wherever I turn I find someone who I don’t agree with.

This makes one understand the true meaning of tolerance. Love your friends and family no matter their views – however strong and repugnant they (their views) may be. Remove your relationship from the purviews of their views on non-subjects. Tolerance …


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Principles and Habits

This blog post is unlike any other I have written. I humbly take the risk of sounding like a self help book while I pour out my thoughts on living, daily chores and routines all inextricably connected to parenting.

I think about the habits, that I (and that includes my husband) don’t want our daughter to inculcate. TV watching, iPad addiction, bad language, indiscipline – so many threads that need to be battled on a daily basis. She is only 18 months old but I believe firmly that it is the old habits (good or bad) that ‘die hard’.

It is so tough and almost impossible to be a good parent. It is not always possible to avoid using the iPad or watching TV in front of our daughter. But how do you explain the principle to the 18 year old without inculcating the habit first.

The truth is though principles are the thread on which lifestyles and habits should be based, habits are inculcated first. No understanding of the underlying principle is necessary for an infant to cultivate habits. For instance, brushing teeth as soon as you wake, wearing pajamas before bed, potty training. We are always focusing on the habits. Putting principles before habits is like putting the cart before the horse. Hygiene is first a habit and then based on the study of microorganisms. Habits habits habits…

When I was about 18 my dad gave me 7 Habits of the Highly Effective Teens. The book said – learn to say no, ward off peer pressure and all such things. At the time, I did not fully understand the import of the book. I took two lessons from the book. Firstly, our motto in life should be – “Nothing Less”. Secondly, success is a habit.

I understand now, the true import of the word habit in the book and the focus on habit by Stephen Covey (the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People who inspired the teen version) and his son Sean Covey (the author of the teen version of 7 Habits).

Parenting is (and similarly life is) therefore the constant struggle of bridging the gap between principles and habits (most of which are already formed). To be good parents, we need to be good people. Come on, none of us are bad people. We are actually people with poor habits. While it is true that the principles matter the most, habits are what establish behaviour in the long run.

Understanding emulating is the key. Children are like monkeys – and imitate everything we do. This copycat tendency of children casts a huge burden on parents. To constantly watch oneself and to avoid actions that are natural is a difficult task. Sometimes, circumstances force us to let go. Identifying the bad / poor habits and replacing them with the good / desirable habits is step 1. Introspection is challenging and the result demoralizing.

All of this and more is whizzing through my head every day and causes me to constantly be on guard. I want to let go and relax. The advice often is – don’t take yourself so seriously.

But the problem is – my daughter does.


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Eat, Pray, Love – Not necessarily in that order!

I just don’t know what it is about good food – it makes me extremely happy. I am sure there is a perfectly neurobiological explanation for it.

I was watching (no prizes for guessing) Eat Pray Love and I had this urge to order spaghetti in carbonara! But I settled for Spaghetti in Pomodoro (mostly because I am vegetarian).

Mia Spaghetti!

Mia Spaghetti!

 

I also ordered a something something malanzane! The food arrived. I dove into it. Exquisite. It made me so happy; extremely happy in fact. I cannot believe I almost forgot the chocolate cheesecake with almond flakes on top. My mouth is watering. (Mia Cucina is the place that has given me this happiness and I highly recommend it.)

As regards prayer, I am not sure how much I have prayed as much as tried to discover myself. But that’s a very difficult balance to achieve. One needs to be a part of this world and yet one needs to shed the illusions and seek oneself. Yes it does sound tough, the truth is, that prayer is just a part of every day life. Then slowly prayer dissolves into everyday actions. Bathing my daughter, sending drafts out to clients, talking a walk, going to a temple – all of this becomes a form of prayer.

Now we come to what really matters in life and that which is so difficult to achieve – love. The old man in the movie says that it’s ok to lose balance for love. The balance that has been achieved with so much difficulty – you can lose for love.

Lately, I have lost my balance. I quit my job (which people who really know me would know how difficult it must have been for me). I gave up financial independence. I gave up the pride of my own house. Everything for love – the love of a daughter. It is one of the most beautiful kinds of love that I have ever felt. I think I am beginning to understand what my father feels when he looks at me.

This love is unique because it is internal. It has no external forces acting on it. I am reading a book by Edward de Bono, where he says that man’s greatest invention is the bicycle. It makes man so much more effective and efficient and simply uses man’s own force. It does not require any external force. The same is with love for your daughter, your children.

It is a love that that does not require to be requited. It is something I fee from within me. A powerful force, something I never knew existed or which I was capable of.

Her smile fills my day with happiness. Yes, not just joy but happiness. I feel full, like my heart is overflowing. Actually in that one instant all my woes seem to be forgotten and I only want to embrace her.

I go to bed looking at her beautiful, serene face and wake up to her chuckle. I don’t want more. I don’t want any more.


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Remember Shakti – An unforgettable night!

It was a long drive to the Amphitheatre at Kharghar (Mumbai) for the Remember Shakti concert. We also had to wait in a long queue to get into the Amphitheatre and be seated for the concert.

John McLaughlin, Mandolin Shrinivas, Selva Ganesh and Zakir Hussain appeared on stage (and in that order) to greet an ecstatic eager crowd. The show started within minutes of them taking their respective seats. Mandolin Shrinivas performed a fantastic solo, and the mood for the evening was set. We didn’t know that 2 hours had passed since the show started and it was time for them finish!

The show was initially dominated by Mandolin Shrinivas and John McLaughlin. It was divine music. As a non-musical person (i.e. a person who has no background in music or an education in music) I was transported into a different world, where the stars and the moon seemed to be dancing enchanted with the performance of the guitarist and the madolin player. Was it classical? Was it Jazz? It did not matter. The sounds produced, the rhythm and the energy was simply astounding.

Zakir Hussain and Selva Ganesh then took over. Selva Ganesh gave a solo performance on the Kanjira. To think that the tiny instrument, most basic in its structure can produce such magnificent music! The crowd went ballistic. He also supplemented it with the Gadham, playing both instruments simultaneously, which produced a unique melody. I was awestruck.

I had previously seen Selva Ganesh perform a 20 minute solo on the Gadham. But this was something else.

The finale was by Zakir Hussain on the tabla. He produced at least 6 different sounds during the course of his solo.

Tears in my eyes, love in my heart and one of the best experiences I could hope to provide for the child in me.


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Yellow Chilli – An indicator of the state of your liver after dining there

The title of this blog clearly describes the experience of dining at Yellow Chilli, Hirandanani, Powai. I would however like to expand on the title and write an essay on why one should never eat there – ever.

Food – The presentation and quality of food were both abysmal. It was a buffet with no room to walk around the display and serve oneself. The waiters would brush against you while crossing you owing to the lack of space. The starters, a vegetarian seekh kabab and some paneer tikka were both atrocious. The seekh kabab had definitely been made the previous day. The spread consisted of 3 – 4 vegetarian dishes and 2-3 non-vegetarian dishes. Its not that I have forgotten what the spread looked like, but the waiters had no clue whether a particular dish (a Fanash something) was vegetarian or non-vegetarian. That was the sad state of affairs. The ragda pattice was served cold by a chef who looked bored to death. I wish I had taken pictures. The soup was made of curd, clearly of curd which had gone bad the previous day and was heated and mixed with haldi (turmeric) and thankfully served hot. The vegetarian pulav consisted of half cooked rice with sweet corn and nothing else. It felt like someone had forgotten to shop for vegetables. The dal (yellow lentils) were thankfully not badly done but lacked any discerning taste whatsoever. Overall, the worst eating experience of my life.

Ambiance – The place looked almost run down. Paint was peeling from the walls, and cutlery and napkins came out of a cupboard that definitely had been bought at a flea market. The seating was particularly uncomfortable and there was no walking space between 2 tables.

Staff – The staff, though courteous was untrained, and very poorly dressed. The uniforms had not been washed for a week and some of them were torn. One had no buttons at the cuff and had one arm folded while the other fell loosely at the wrist. The staff had no clue as to whether a particular dish was vegetarian or not.

Cost – A meal for three cost approximately INR 1300 (each buffet lunch costs INR 461 including taxes). Not worth even a single penny spent there.

Why did I go there in the first place? It was supposed to be a place which had the blessings of Sanjeev Kapoor, India’s first star chef. But it was very disappointing. I would discourage one and all from visiting this restaurant or any other that bears this name.


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A Generation of Insensitivity

Wake up Sid! Well, he did wake, briefly and went back to sleep.

Wake up Sid, is seemingly a pleasant and likeable movie. However, it leaves much to be desired. If the plot were that Sid found his passion, and after tasting success there, he returns to his father’s world to help sustain or grow the establishment he built for his family. It would en have been a great story.

Anyway, the point is not about the movie having a good or bad story. But this movie inspires a thought process; a look into our young generation I.e. people in the age range of 15 to 25. This is a generation of insensitivity.

Is Sid’s struggle really a struggle and. If it is, is it worth documenting? What happens once he learns to make eggs and gets one paycheque? He re-enters his fathers domain,happy to accept the wealth and luxuries he rejected. I wonder if the movie maker is secretly laughing at the audience fir liking the movie and many who appear to relate to it and who cannot see the reality of Sid. But I doubt it. The movie maker seems to have a conviction about Sid. He probably belongs to the generation of insensitivity too.

Why did neither Sid, nor his similarly placed friend Tanya, value the establishment created by their parents? The movie seems to suggest its “cool”. Is there no value placed on creation? My story would have ended with Sid going back to lend a hand to his father, while pursuing his passion.

I wonder whether people could see how shallow Sid’s “struggle” is. Shallower still is his parents gratitude and pride in having their son back. Parents are reduced to hoping, “my son/daughter is not “wasted”. At least he isn’t drunk all the time. Look at so and so’s son/ daughter. Thank God!”

As parents, all they seem to expect of him is to rise to the level of mediocrity, which gives them immense joy. The point is not about one Sid, the point is about the insensitivity of Sid, which to my mind is the biggest factor contributing to make him a failure. He is insensitive of his mother’s yearning for him, his father’s disappointments, his friends’ life (love life and otherwise), his flatmate’s love for him. How can one expect such an individual to be sensitive to the world or what happens there.

Will such a person pause to check whether his actions are hurting the environment? Will such a person stop to think whether – more parking means less gardens for kids to play in? Will such a person think? Does such a person think?

Children of Men – visualised an end owing to apathy of the human race. Is the world set to end thanks to the insensitivity of this generation?

Is the previous generation to blame? All children have been exposed to is the struggle to acquire material means, which seems more or less under control, at least for the urban lot depicted in the movie. Being a new mother of a 2 month old, I cannot help but wonder what her generation would be like.

One can only hope that, Sid (every Sid) wakes up at this level and moves on to the next, where he is able to see how is action or inaction hurts the system and people in the world. Is this the first step? The title -Wake up Sid – hopefully is in the present continuous tense.