Remember the library in town?

I belong to the old school. I love libraries and the service they do. When I had found out about the well-connected and easily accessible public library in the town I live in, I had not been happier! My love for libraries comes from appa, who had always encouraged library usage to buying books. And so the habit stuck; as I moved cities, the libraries changed, but the books remained the steady companions!

So recently, when appa mentioned that the British council library of Trivandrum had to be closed down, a place he had frequented as a student, I felt a pang of disappointment. Although, I have never been to this library I reminisced my own visits to the British council at Chennai, during my final year of engineering enduring a long bus journey.  The visits had a profound impact on the reader in me, in channeling not the reading, but learning. If you ever get lost, let it be in a library, is it not?

My discontentment led to googling to find out why the library had closed down.  It threw up blogs of much disheartened folks, expressing their theories of lack of funds, dwindling memberships, low readership and many such in similar lines. Even the British library at Bhopal had closed down around the same time. It only caused me more distress and I reluctantly braced myself to believe that the web-surfing, channel-surfing, iphone-loving generation had no respects to pay to the aging library.

In today’s world, when one is being spoon fed with an e-book reader and many sellers mushrooming in the market; apple being the latest with the ibooks release, who wants libraries they say? A single click can get you to the virtual library and collection of books, blogs, newspapers and what not in your own nook.  I might never be able to fathom the e-reader, even if I were tempted with a sleek design and attractive covers (N, are you listening?). No book can ever be read and the page still left unturned.

A kindle for each, her/his own; when did we forget to feel cozy in the coffee-colored pages, warmed with the touch of many readers before you, who enjoyed, loved and left their reader blessings for the next one? An e-book may never tell you such stories, in its callous, marketing exterior. And yet here I am ironically leaving a digital footprint with this blog space, crying out for the love of keeping our libraries alive.

Someday (which is sadly not far away), when learning and reading is a solely digital experience, I wish this post to will make its mark to remind the future generation that someone from their past remembered the dear old libraries!!

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Wheels of time

My grandmother was a pleasantly lean, tall woman; my earliest memories of her are in an elegant deep purple kosha-podavai*, treading lightly around the house and praying silently in the black-floored pooja room. I have not known her as anything but demure and soft; she expressed excitement and anxiety in the same mellow tone. It is for the same reason, I never believed that she had once upon a time, spent hours grinding dosa batter in the antediluvian aatukallu**, now safely fallow in the backyard of my paternal home.

I have always pictured the women, handling the aatukallu, ammi# and antique air-blowing firewood stove, to be loud and brawny. These instruments need all the endearment, patience and physical power a woman can possess; and it only seemed to further my belief by the fact that my grandmother had suffered from chronic asthma worsened by the years spent under the firewood stove. It makes me wonder if women forget to take care of themselves when they are taking care of their family?

My aunt used to travel 6 hours by train one way to go to work and come back, just so that she could cook food for her family the next day. It didn’t matter that she might reach home when her child was fast asleep and she was gone before he wakes up the next day. As long as he had her hand-cooked food for support he knew that she loved him. In the toiling, sweltering pune-bombay and Bombay locals, how many times have we not witnessed women cutting vegetables and preparing half the meals, just so that when they reach home after a tired day, they can do everything for the same families, they are out earning to feed!

Have you ever stopped to think for a second before commenting on how much she (whoever she is) has put on weight/lost all her hair/turned pallid after her marriage, on why it is so? She must have stopped caring for herself, she might not be finding time to gym, she might be  swarmed with familial interests to find it too selfish to think for herself! And yet we conveniently blame her for not being proactive enough to lay the dinner table for her husband, for not pulling a Paula Deen for her kids and yet expect her to look like a stunner.

I am talking about women who have taken pride in being a mother and wife, who have and are fulfilling their filial, wife’s and bread-winner’s duties to near-perfection, losing themselves in the bargain; losing themselves with pleasure! For isn’t she always caught in the unstoppable wheel? Be it my grandmother, who toiled at the obdurate aatukallu, my mother whose hands have turned callously hard with years of washing and waning, my aunt who endures knee aches due to all the train travel… and I who want to find an outlet to this ironic circle of pain for love, not having realized what it means being a mother yet! And someday I will be part of the sacrificial legacy too… Won’t we all??

* nine yard saree worn by women from Brahmin families.

** hand powered stone grinder used to mix rice and lentils into a dosa batter

# hand powered stone smoother used to grind chutneys and spices

The way to a man’s heart…

…is undoubtedly through his stomach. When amma had narrated her experience as the coy new bride, almost paranoid to serve her husband with her first hand-cooked feast, I had laughed. I had declared haughtily in feminist-air to hiring cooks or ordering food or letting him stay hungry in response to a prospective husband. But upbringing and good judgment had taught me otherwise and here I am almost two years away from wedding bells and all the rest, slogging away in the heat of a kitchen hearth, doling out meals for a foodie partner, who believes a paunch is nothing short of – ‘a sign of prosperity’ ! Bigger the better, isn’t it??

My metamorphoses from a lousy cook (one who couldn’t stand her own cooking) to an edible one had taken a long time. All the inexperience starting with lighting of a gas stove had tumbled over as a rude reminder of my inadequacy. Okra fry turned out like soup, rajma was disrespectful, chapattis like rock and sambhar sweet. Amidst this phase of disaster, almost four years ago, I had made a modest meal of thair-sadam and aalo fry for N, who during that time was neither friend nor more than friend; somewhere in the grey area.

He had thrown loose remarks of the thair-sadam being as tasty as his mother’s and stated the ironically mashed mutilated aalo fry was delicious. I had almost not believed him, but the prospect of being complimented was too overwhelming to counter. I had basked in the words, not because they came from N; not at all. But for that encouragement I needed to further my cooking and having found the perfect guinea pig!

Forty months and after, fifty disasters and five hundred odd successes and later, N and I make a good team at the kitchen counter.  I definitely don’t believe that too many cooks in the house can ever be a problem; and as long as one can take over when the other is having a tough day, there could be nothing more comforting.

So today, when N lip-finger-smacked at the dum biriyani (ann’s recipe), which I perfected after around eight attempts, owing to my first experience with meat(chicken in this case) he quips “I can finally say that I married you for the right reason!” Men! I sigh. Clearly their heart is never ever in the right place!

Small Wonder

Almost eight months back Ash and Nan, two good friends, had quipped over lunch in 80s filmy style “You are going to called uncle and aunty soon!” After a momentary brain shut off moment and N’s bewildered “What uncle? Whose uncle?” to the remark, N and I had beamed at Ash’s then flat tummy and the moment after was restored in the required shower of congrats and laughter. At that point I am sure even Ash and Nan, who became parents, couple of days back, had no idea what bliss the seven pound wonder was to bring!

As baby Ish grew from a little egg, he had unknowingly become a part of all our lives. I am sure he would remember our voices from the everyday lunch shenanigans, late night parties, argumentative mafia game, surprise baby shower, movies and even the beats of the dance floor. He had been safely harbored and watched over. To see a smiling Ash walk the corridors, growing pleasantly larger with life, was an unconscious comfort.

As baby Ish made a bold entry to the world three days back, playing his part of mischief and survivor spirit, we had all rejoiced. As the tiny package of life cried, yawned and wobbled last night, I was enjoyably petrified. He was a real miracle and the moment I set eyes on this forty-eight hour old survivor, I had realized why babies are so over-hyped. They have to be fussed over.

And for the little celebration in the tiny hospital room, like a pack of incorrigible kids, we feasted on chocolate cake with strawberries on Ish’s behalf. While he hiccupped, blinked and gave nonchalant lip smacks to the distracting junta.  With a great many laughs, ‘gyan-sessions’ on parenting, a baby-biter (yes! he loves to bite babies) teased to no end, we had reluctantly left the bundle to get his much-needed sleep.

As we drove home, I couldn’t but help smile to the blissful being, so unaware of the crazy world he is part of, the pinnacle of pure innocence… For, I have never been surer that, when HE makes babies,  ‘God does not play dice

baby ish with a proud mom and dad!

Baby Ish with proud mom and dad!

The social butterfly

Last summer I had accompanied N to the long line of iphone lovers to grab his 3Gs. Amidst the hot coffee and free doughnuts for apple customers, I was more excited than him for the fact that I no longer had to wait for computer access to update my facebook status. All I needed was a tap and the lives of over hundred friends and another handful of good/close/best friends would be delivered to my palm and my life in theirs. I had (have) succumbed to the facebook genre projecting the I-have-a-good-happening-life syndrome!

Like every facebook-addict I am religious with my updates; filtering the good and funny, leaving the controversial or hurtful bits to never find way to my online presence. To the facebooking world I am the girl with a happy life and sunny days. That is not to say I am a hypocrite or liar; far from it. My cloudy days are left to ruminate and un-facebook. But that is me. That is where I wish to draw the line.

So when should the social butterfly, rein in her wings and end the flight? Who polices enough is enough in the tweeting-facebooking-myspacing-blogging-world?

A couple of weeks ago, I read this news about a tweeting mom, who lost her son in a pool drowning accident. There was a hoard of controversies hovering the time of her tweets and the death of her child, angling negligence, insensitivity and the like. From a conventional stand point she had but grieved and expressed her deepest pain online to 5000 odd followers. Similarly, not long ago, a mother had caused a media frenzy with her tweet about being relieved about her miscarriage.

Now from a just angle, how is it any different from gloating about your love life? Is sad news more personal than a happy one? And if it is so established, should it or shouldn’t it be conveyed online?

These and a gamut of related questions pawn the social-networker; the one throwing his closet open and letting the skeletons haunt the grapevine craving social-mob. You are but manifesting your own Paparazzi, loving and loathing judgments from random strangers comfortably termed followers. And whether that is good or bad, happy or sad is yet again a matter of personal standing!

So the next time you want to unleash your worst fears or unprecedented calls for sympathy and empathy to the online family who like, cheer and follow your best moments, step back and give it a long thought. I am sure you do not want to be chastised by an arbitrary follower for being a miserable human being, when all you want is a virtual shoulder for support.

When snowed in…

It is but impossible to dislike snow in New England. I, for one, love the snow and the way the world smells in a whitey aura before the snowfall. The past ten days, I spent watching one snowfall after another. Putting aside the grueling dressing-up for snow shoveling and the biting chills, I had a wonderful  winter break and like a student ready to brace the next term, I will be heading to work tomorrow hopefully overcoming Monday blues!

So, the next time you are snowed-in, here is a leaf or two from my book for winter fix –

♣ Invite friends over (especially ones who love to cook!!)

♣ Get enough firewood. Light the fireplace! The warmth simulates conversations other than red wine of course!  (Trust me it works)

♣ Overstock comfort food for a snowy day (Potatoes, icecream, rice, curd, pickle, chips, milk, Nescafe)

♣ Use no-snow-days or no-snow-hours to munch popcorn and catch up on the movies (I watched 3 idiots, up in the air and Sherlock Holmes; and liked then in the order – best, better and good)

♣ Wear all the warm clothes you got, almost like Joey wearing all of Chandler’s. Now head out, brace the wind, the -2 F and erect a 5 ft snowman! Here is the one we made, though I admit he is pretty undernourished!

♣ Get everyone in the house involved for the driveway cleaning; saves you some energy and you get your work done through manual labor in exchange for food and shelter (wicked wink)

♣ Try new recipes but not when it is snowing so hard that the pizza delivery guy cannot be called when the experiment goes haywire.

♣ Play complicated games like RISK through the night, so that at every move you learn a new rule and in the end you have no idea what you are playing for!

♣ When, with Netflix, On Demand, HBO, Star, Cinemax, Encore and all the rest, a group of six cannot come to a movie consensus within one hour, draw a deep breath, and snuggle with a book in a corner.

♣ Lastly, annoy everyone by updating your facebook status every 2 min! And coax the ones beside you to like the status!

So, for the next snow storm that is brewing in the coming weekends, what do you have on mind??

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2010 ahead!