Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label festivals. Show all posts

Monday, December 5, 2011

Break a leg!

Just popping in to tell you that my short story has appeared in the latest issue of Femina (the December 14 issue, with Asin on the cover)! I love Femina and I've been reading it since I was about nine (hi mom!). It started off as a covert love affair, with every new, minty fresh copy of Mummy's Femina as it used to be in those days, being surreptitiously smuggled into the loo where I'd spend a blissful twenty minutes or so lost between its covers, before my mom started hammering the door down. We lived in Moscow those days, in the erstwhile USSR, with trips to India being few and far between. Once every three months or so, we would get a goody bag of sorts from India, a tangible link to home, with VCR tapes of the latest Hindi movies, mangoes or sarson ka saag or kamal kakri depending on the season, various types of attas and pickles, copies of Champak and Tinkle and sometimes, Target for me and my sister, and a copy of Femina for my mom.

Safe from the ever alert eyes of my mother I would pore over every page of Femina, reading and re-reading articles that I particularly liked. The short stories often featured in it were a huge personal favorite and I still carry deep mental imprints of some of the stories that left a lasting impression, even though the paper clippings that I tried to preserve are long gone. So it was a huge honor when I got an e-mail from Femina asking me if I would like to contribute a short story for the magazine. Its a three part story titled 'Break a Leg' and it will appear in three consecutive issues of Femina starting with the Dec 14 one, so if you get a chance to read it, do please let me know what you think won't you?

In other news, my sister is down from the US for a couple of weeks and I've spent the last few days at my parents' gorging on my Mom's awesome Konkani dishes like batata song and matar chi amti and then spending the afternoons passed out in a food induced stupor, rousing myself only when Nikki, who is not one for afternoon naps, or really sleep of any kind, decided she would play 'horsey-horsey' with me as the horsey, or Red Indians and proceeded to send some eardrum splitting shrieks my way. My sister also got me a goody bag of a very different kind as a gift, and while this one didn't have the Tinkles and the Targets of yore, which I sometimes still miss, it did have a wonderful array of creams and lotions and body scrubs and what-have-you's which saw me spend the weekend steeped in Bath & Body Works bliss. And now its on to my favorite time of the year; family coming down from different parts of the globe, the festive season right around the corner, birthday and anniversary a few corners further down and then a big family wedding. This time I'm planning to go all out and introduce Nikki to Santa and his band of helpers. Rudolph is already a bit of a favorite in these parts ( I suspect it has something to do with the red nose). I'm getting us a tree and decorations and have plans for a traditional X-massy spread if I can manage it. Now all I need is a modern day, Johnny Depp look alike Santa to make the festive season really cheery. And you? How're you planning to ring the new year in?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Of saying goodbye and savoring life's special stuff

We've spent the last two days hanging out with my sister, Nikki's C Paachi, who flies out to the US today for higher studies. While I restricted my goodbyes to a semi hug and a rather eloquent grunt in my characteristic expressive style, I'm sure C knows that we're all going to miss her lots. What makes this whole going away business a little better is that she's going to be back in under six months to get married (hurray!), an event everyone in the family is quite looking forward to. Nikki had a fun two days spending time with C Paachi and her grandparents which got me around to thinking about how important it is for kids to spend time with family growing up, to know that there are other loving, dependable adults they can confide in and look up to, apart from their parents. I'm hoping Nikki gets to spend a lot of time with close family as she grows up and have been making an effort to get together with family I have in and around town whenever I get the chance. It is specially fun and also a little touching to see Nikki bond and thoroughly enjoy herself with my little nephew R, who's a couple of years older than her. I have a photograph of C Paachi with R and Nikki in which C is holding Nikki and R is standing next to her. The snap beautifully captures R grinning mischievously at Nikki while she grins right back with an equally saucy, exhilarated expression on her little face, a testimony to the fun times they've shared. We're lucky that P also has a large extended family, with lots of kids close to Nikki's age and even though she was too small to really interact with them the last few times we met, I'm sure she'll enjoy her time with them as she grows older.

I shared these thoughts with P last evening as we drove back home after saying goodbye to C and we got around to talking about what we'd like Nikki to grow up with, the important stuff, the stuff that really matters. We were both agreed on the importance of family and close friends; I hope Nikki has a wonderful, loving set of friends she knows she can rely on and turn to anytime as she grows older. Growing up, we were always moving cities and I would often be the new girl in town or in school or in the park, the girl who was left out of birthday parties and sleepovers and movie nights because nobody knew her well enough yet. Sure I would settle in eventually, get to know people and make friends but it was always difficult those first few days when everybody was comfortable in their own little groups and you were the only outsider who didn't fit in any where. In retrospect though, I feel this has always made me appreciate my friends more and I am truly thankful today for the wonderful group of friends I have.

A love for books and reading is another thing I hope to pass on to Nikki, followed closely by a love for music. There is no greater joy than losing yourself in the wonderful world of a beloved book, retracing the adventures in an old favorite, the thrill you feel when you connect instantly with a new book or the quiet anticipation of an evening tucked up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book left half way. Except perhaps, the joy of waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and the strains of a ballad by Richard Clayderman on a Sunday morning. Or some smooth jazz or perky funk beats on a Friday evening as you wait for dinner guests to arrive. Or the instant mood lift as you listen to an old favorite on a rainy afternoon or on a long drive back home. So Nikki gets a generous dose of  Floyd and U2 along with Wiggles Dorothy the Dinosaur and she seems to enjoy both equally well! Of course The Papa Man ensures that there's a generous dollop of 'Tere Liye' and 'Singh is King' thrown is as well and both those numbers have little Miss Nikki doing a vigorous shake-that-booty each time!

I am hoping to celebrate all of the major festivals in a big way now that Nikki is here. Before we had Nikki, festivals were equated with days off, a chance to get away from the stress and pressure of daily life but now I look forward to spending these special days in a leisurely manner with Nikki. Enjoying the beauty of colors on Holi, basking in the warmth of family and togetherness on Diwali, always a gala family event, discovering the magic of Santa Claus at Christmas, making modaks together for Ganesh Chaturthi and beautiful jhankis for Janmashtami. Festivals, also mean holidays and holidays are another important part of growing up happy! Long and lazy summer holidays, short winter breaks, even weekend getaways, I want to ensure we take some time out every now and then to get away from our regular routines and travel the world and spend time together, sometimes to meet new people and do different things, sometimes to just enjoy a slice of solitude.

Which brings to me to the importance of enjoying  your own company and being comfortable with yourself. That wonderful place where you know you can step out and have a great time over coffee with friends knowing equally well that you can go right back and have just as wonderful a time all by yourself. I hope I can teach Nikki that. Along with the power of dreaming big, beautiful dreams, believing in them without being afraid of failure and taking risks. Living the most exhilarating life and being the best person she possibly can be. And always knowing that two people, mom and dad, will always be there for her no matter what.

This list could go on and on so I thought maybe I'd leave it at this. Or maybe I'll keep coming back and adding to this if I feel I've missed out on something that really should be here. What about you though? What are those special things you know you want your children to grow up with?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Weekend Tales, Concluding Part: Nikki's First Holi

I've just realized that when one goes and writes a post titled Weekend Tales and then goes on to add Part One in a burst of impulsive inspiration, one better come back and finish it before the next weekend rolls around. So onward ho to the second and concluding part of the Weekend Tales.

Holi morning didn't start off too well with both the maids deciding to play hooky. My part time help, who does the cleaning has been systematically bumping off members of her extended family over the last fortnight, possibly in anticipation of the long Holi weekend. "Father in law's brother went poof!" she explained gracefully two weeks ago when I looked askance at her for having not turned up the previous day. Apparently the relative in question had kicked the bucket after a cardiac arrest, and she had had to take the day off. A few days later it was the maternal uncle's cousin, who smashed his head because the ceiling collapsed on it and then the paternal chachi who met with a road accident. Just when I had resigned myself to a maid who seemed to be blessed with more than her fair share of worldly woes, she turned up the day before Holi and said that she needed the weekend off because her father in law's brother had had a cardiac arrest.

"What?!" I screeched looking at her agape. I have my flaws, but a weak memory isn't one of them. "What do you mean he had a cardiac arrest? He just died two weeks ago!"
"This is the other one" she explained patiently, the way one does to an obdurate child. "There are five of them you know."
I would have believed her too if she hadn't gone about her chores humming under her breath and swaying her hips to Uff Teri Adaa on her mobile headphones (yes, they are like that only in these parts).

Anyway I was just about dealing with that when S turned up on Holi morning and said she wanted the day off too. Now I have nothing against the help taking days off, especially so on festivals, as long as they inform me in advance. I had told them as much a few days before Holi, asking them if they wanted a holiday and they had both declined. Clearly they are more in favour of springing nasty surprises. I was telling S as much when our friends S & K landed up at our doorstep armed with colors, and S used the opportunity to make good her escape, throwing a cheeky Happy Holi at me as I glowered at her retreating figure. I fumed and fretted for a bit, wearing the living room rug thin with my pacing, when I remembered that it was Nikki's first Holi and the least I could do was make sure she had a good time.So we bunged Nikki into her pram and donning some old tees and tracks headed downstairs where our society had organized a Holi party and a glamorous sounding rain dance.

The kids from the society were spread out all over the society lawns, looking like little warriors, complete with double bottle packs strapped to their backs and strategically aimed pichkaaris, but apart from a few menacing shrieks thrown our way they pretty much left us alone after catching sight of Nikki. Nikki on her part was fascinated by all the riotous activity around her and was looking this way and that, all agape. We passed a makeshift 'Holi stall' heaped with gujjiyas and thandai and made our way towards the dhinchak dhinchak beats emanating from the venue of the rain dance. This was clearly where all the action was happening, we realized as we got there and spotted the multitudes of revelers dancing in gay abandon. Now our society is full of expats, making for an interesting fusion of Koreans and Iranians and Canadians, and they seem to enjoy all the Indian festivals even more than the resident natives. I first noticed this during Diwali, as I watched a group of expats letting off a series of firecrackers with ear splitting war cries at 3 am as the rest of the world slumbered on. They were at it even ten days down the line, making it necessary for some society members to intervene and politely remind them that the festival had ended long back and could they please postpone the merry making till next year. Clearly, the ticking off hadn't dampened their enthusiasm any and they were all out in full force to celebrate Holi the way they thought fit. One enthu chappie, who'd probably had one glass of bhaang too many was running around with a box full of eggs, threatening to pelt the rest of the crowd and the security guys were beginning to hover around zealously. We watched safely from the sidelines, till our friend S, overcome with the Holi spirit smeared some color on a passing Korean. The guy looked stunned for a minute before shaking his head wildly and charging towards us with an ear splitting shriek, and we noticed that he had a bucket full of what looked like colored muck in his hand. The sight was too much for Nikki to bear and she promptly burst into tears, making me beat a hasty retreat towards the basement parking, from where I scurried into the safety of the elevators.

P & S were not so lucky and they turned up at home a little later covered in purple goop, startling the daylights out of Nikki who refused to have anything to do with them till they were scrubbed clean.
We spent a quiet afternoon at home, playing with Nikks and were joined by some friends later in the evening. Nobody was in the mood to step out for dinner and we were considering the various home delivery options when P decided it was time to don the chef's hat and dish up some P specials. Now P is a fabulous cook but I gently reminded him that the groceries in our home that day were running dangerously low. Clearly I had underestimated his culinary abilities. Give me some onions, tomatoes and garlic, a bowl of cooked rice and a can of baked beans, and I'll be on the phone in the next five minutes dialing Dominoes. Give the same stuff to P and he'll saute the onions and garlic, puree the tomatoes, blend them in with the rice and baked beans, garnish generously with grated cheese and bake the stuff till you get a mouth watering Mexican-ish dish. And he didn't stop at that. He took all of the leftovers in the fridge, including Nikki's khichdi, kneaded them along with some atta into a soft, pliant dough and made some amazing Leftover Parathas. It may not sound terribly appetizing, but they were honestly the best parathas I've ever eaten, and the rest of the group gathered at home thought so too! The dishes were licked clean till they sparkled and we sat around, content and stuffed, singing odes to P the Master Chef.

We were slipping into a gentle, food induced stupor when the doorbell clanged, and two more friends, A & A, breezed in. Now A & A are famous for their Holi parties, where the bhaang flows freely and where the venue of the party resembles a dormitory at the end of the day with stoned men and women sprawled out all over the place as far as the eye can see. This year though A & A had not hosted a party, choosing instead to party hop all over town and partake generously of the bhaang and other beverages that other people were offering. It was no surprise then that they were in rollicking high spirits and after wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a very happy Diwali they proceeded to smear us with colors, before making an exit as sudden as their entry.

"Oh I hope I didn't use that permanent color on you dude!" A called out to me gaily as he left, causing me to snap out of any left over stupor and begin scrubbing my floors valiantly. I was lucky and the floor was spotless in no time. "Thank God he hadn't used the permanent one!" I said breathlessly to P when I was done with the scrubbing. That's when he pointed out that A had used a different color on my face. Another half hour of scrubbing later I knew where the permanent color was. And so did the rest of society, when I went to the gym the next morning with flaming pink and purple cheeks looking like a Red Indian who had forgotten to take off the war paint.
Sigh. I told you my list of embarrassing anecdotes can top yours any day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nikki's first Diwali

This Diwali was really special for us as it was Nikki's first. It was also one of the few times we've celebrated Diwali at our own home, Diwali usually being a time in the past, when we would scoot off to either of the parents' homes for a much needed break from the grind. I was determined to ring in Diwali day in style, and forced a grumpy P to rise and shine at the crack of dawn, well actually more like 7am, for the traditional ubtan bath for us and the not so traditional top-to-toe one for Nikks. That done we did a small pooja at home and proceeded to decorate various nooks and corners with the collection of diyas we've acquired over the years, paper lanterns, string lights and even a traditional rangoli replete with Goddess Lakshmi's feet drawn just outside the main door. Lunch was at the parents, so we zipped off there and proceeded to gorge on the traditional spread of aloo gobhi, rajma, matar paneer, rice kheer and the not so traditional ones of cheese balls and baked vegetables contributed by my dad, a recent convert to Nigella Lawson's 'style' of cooking.

Some of my aunts & cousins had also come over so we got to catch up with them after ages. Or rather they got to catch up with Nikki, since post her birth nobody seems even remotely interested in me or P. Her Majesty was plonked down on a mattress expressly deployed for her repose and surrounded by a circle of her admirers, who then proceeded to entertain her with a variety of weird noises and facial expressions. I overheard one of my uncles wryly remark to someone that the cacophony took him back to his recent trip to the Amazon rainforest. But it was great to watch Nikki bask in all this affection, as she bestowed benign smiles at a particularly impressive cluck (the eldest aunt) or facial expression (cousin M doing her rendition of a baboon).

The love fest had to be wrapped up soon though coz we had to head back to our own place for Lakshmi Pooja. On the way back P insisted on spending the better part of an hour shopping for all kinds of ghastly crackers, and we reached just in time to light up the house and all its diyas and then do the traditional pooja. It was Nikki's first pooja but the young spitfire was way more interested in the crackers. I was a little worried she'd get scared by the noise but she was enthralled instead by the spectacular show of firecrackers on display, courtesy several society residents. As a rule I detest crackers but the thrilled look on Nikki's face as she gaped at the crackers going off, mouth all agape, made me forget my usual anti cracker rant and I found myself joining in her wide eyed joy. The noise and smoke that all those crackers were generating however killed our plans of venturing out for a stroll, so we spent the rest of the evening at home. Then Nikki sprung the big surprise of the evening by falling asleep on her own (!) and staying that way in spite of all the noise! Must've been my Diwali gift from someone up there!


P is extremely cheesed off about the fact that he didn't get to burst any of his lovingly purchased crackers and is threatening to make up for it next year, along with 'his girl' who will be a sprightly almost-two-year old by then. Time to start planning a vacation for this time next year, in a cracker free zone!