Home is where the phone is #CBF16

When I signed up for the Cherished Blogfest, I thought it would be quite easy. I hadn’t blogged since April and this seemed like a great way to restart. Writing about something I cherish, how difficult can that be?

But when I actually got down to it today, my mind was a blank. I wasn’t the sort of person to treasure objects and did not have any memorabilia or keepsakes. I believed in not holding on to the past, no matter how beautiful. That only stopped you from living fully in the present, didn’t it?

So I asked myself, what was the one object I valued the most right now.

The answer came quite easily: my phone.

Phone

I know that sounds prosaic and maybe I just lack imagination, but there is no getting away from the truth.

I’m not a gadget freak obsessed with the make or version; neither am I addicted to Pokémon GO. But I fear that if I lose my phone I may lose myself.

The first time I realized its importance was after a longish trip to the North East of India, where my folks live. Having spent months in that little village in the foothills of the Himalayas, big city Bangalore was disconcerting. I was headed home to my immediate family, but had a small part of me stayed back in the hills and tea gardens of my childhood?

Where did I truly belong, I wondered on the long drive back home from the airport. The city where I currently lived with my husband and son? Or the town where I spent my childhood years and still felt strongly connected to? Perhaps home was the village where my aging parents now lived? Or could it even be Goa, where we rushed to every chance we got, for some sea, sand and sorpotel?

My reverie was broken by a beep. Absent-mindedly I picked up the phone and began to scroll through the WhatsApp messages. There was one from hubby to say ‘welcome home,’ another from my father, inquiring if I’d reached safe. The next moment I was laughing away at forwarded jokes, chatting happily with friends.

And then it came home to me. That I belonged right there, in that moment, inside that taxi cab, stuck in traffic between two destinations. I belonged nowhere but was connected to everywhere.

They say life is a journey and one must travel to find oneself. But whenever I feel lost during this quest I only have to reach out for my cherished object. I am at home anywhere in this universe–as long as my phone is with me.

 

Advertisements

‘Z’ for a to Z

 

There was a little girl who loved to stay home and read comic books. She couldn’t play outdoors due to her ‘A’ for asthma, and this made her feel like she was different from her classmates.

But surprisingly whenever she went on a ‘J’ for journey to the village, she came back feeling healthy and strong. The sunshine and the tea gardens did her a world of good. She especially loved visiting the ‘B’ for basti bazaar, and chatting with her grandpa, who always carried a ‘U’ for umbrella. During the ‘X’ for X-mas vacations, all her cousins came down and it was so much fun!

cousins

She felt that her  ‘H’ for hearth and home was in the village and it was difficult to return to city life once again.

But luckily, she made new friends in school and ‘C’ for ‘catching up’ with them made her feel that she was not an ‘O’ for outcast, after all.

She couldn’t be with them all the time, but she had a faithful companion at home — her ‘D’ for dachshund. She knew that her canine friend would be with her in troubled times, be it  an ‘F’ for ‘falling out’ with a friend or even an ‘E’ for earthquake! Her buddy never let her wallow in  ‘R’ for regret for too long and taught her the importance of  ‘L’ for ‘letting go’ .

Sometimes, wonderful human beings like ‘M’ for Manisha come along who make the world a brighter place. But ‘N’ for nothing is ‘P’ for perfect and those you love have to go away sometimes.

Life is never easy and one has to  ‘K’ for ‘kindly adjust’ to circumstances — not expect to be treated like a  ‘Q’ for Queen. Unless you have a wonderful help like ‘S’ for Sarita at your beck and call!

But ‘Y’ for yay! She is now really looking forward to a ‘V’ for vacation when she can happily forget about all her ordeals while trying to ‘W’ for Work from Home. She can be ‘I’ for idle, think of ‘G’ for ‘gau mata’ , visit all the the blogs on Z for a-to-Z, and indulge in her favorite  ‘T’ for timepass which is … planning the next big adventure! 😉

pooh adventure

 

 

 

‘Y’ for yay!

The month has simply flown by! Just one more day left and one more alphabet to go!

It seems like yesterday that Damyanti told me about the a-to-z , and encouraged me to sign up. I did, mainly because April was still faraway and it all sounded more fun than scary.

Before I knew it though, the dreaded day had arrived! Not having prepared anything beforehand and quaking with nervousness, I agonizingly typed out my first post, A for Asthma.

I half hoped no one would notice it!

But wonder of wonders, someone not only bothered to read it but also felt that it was a “Very Nice Post.” My heart swelled with happiness at this first ever comment, left by Hollywood Nut Jeremy.

For the second post I wrote about my village bazaar, all the time thinking to myself, why would anyone be interested in this tiny, forgotten corner of the world.

But then Liz Brownlee stopped by to say, “how fascinating to have a little window into such a different life!” I was over the moon!

“I can’t wait to see what other adventures you will have to share,” added Donna L Martin, motivating me to go on, giving me a sense of responsibility about this endeavor — that there was no stopping, now that I’d begun.

As the days went by, I discovered more great writers and even better human beings — Jemima PettPam Margolis, Keith Channing, Curtis Bausse,  Megan MorganSubhmohanty, and soooo many others! There are many more I know and I hope to add you all to this list soon — now that I won’t have to write everyday and can read all of you in peace 😉

And your love letters, Gulara, will of course have to be read all over again!

So a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Damyanti for encouraging me to be a part of this madness; my friends Sukanya, Dipti, Malobee, Bhaswati, Deba, Urmi and Tuski, for tossing up interesting words everyday; and Arlee Bird for starting this whole crazy fun thing!

Today, I am surprised to be feeling more sad than relieved that we are close to the end!

But for now, we can all pat ourselves on the back for having successfully completed this challenge…well almost! Yayyy!

jumping kids.jpg

This post is the 25th in a series of 26 posts that I am writing throughout the month of April as part of the A to Z challenge 2016.

‘X’ for X-mas

George Uncle was a grey haired, kindly, good-looking gentleman, who ran the cafeteria at the airport where my father worked. Sometimes Baba would take me and my brother there to watch airplanes land and take off. But an even bigger attraction for us were the delicious treats that George Uncle loved to surprise us with on such occasions  – ice cream, pastries, a plate of chilly chicken or even mango custard!

mango custard

 

Christmas was another occasion made special with a rich, gooey chocolate cake sent by him. We waited impatiently for Baba to arrive home every Christmas eve, knowing there’d be something for us.

All these treats were welcomed with a quiet smile by Ma, so it was a great mystery to us why she began to hyper ventilate when one Christmas eve Baba sheepishly handed her a packet of home made sausages.

“Chee! Chee! Chee!” (Everything must be repeated thrice for dramatic impact — my mother knew this successful formula even before Ekta Kapoor, the queen of TV soap operas stumbled upon it.)

This was followed by a pregnant pause.

Then, in a calmer, sterner voice, reminiscent of my school principal Sister John Berchman, she said, “Phele dao. Ekhuni!” (Throw that out! Now!)

Baba looked wistfully at the packet, took one last whiff and disposed of it with a heavy heart.

Needless to say this was a huge shock to me and my brother!

x-mas 2 cats

It was the first instance of ‘beef ban’ we had experienced, that too imposed by Ma. Our religion did not permit us to consume beef, Baba explained.

Several years later, as fate would have it, my father was transferred to Cochin, in Kerala by his company. I was shocked to learn that Hindus there consumed beef with relish! The state has people of every religious denomination – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and beef is a truly secular food that unites it, just like it’s many festivals.

Onam, for instance, is a harvest festival celebrated by all Keralites regardless of race, religion and creed for over 10 days!

And so, me and my brother received some early lessons in love and generosity from George Uncle and in tolerance, from God’s own country.

Kerala

 

This post is the 24th in a series of 26 posts that I am writing throughout the month of April as part of the A to Z challenge 2016.

‘W’ for Work from Home

This piece was published yesterday at Rediff. It is reproduced here with a few changes.

At my office desk one afternoon, staring at the computer screen before me I wondered, and not for the first time, ‘What am I doing here?’

My expression was severe and my headset firmly in place – in order to strongly discourage anyone from coming up and saying ‘hello.’ Not because I do not like people – just that I couldn’t risk someone peeping into my screen and discovering that I wasn’t working on a PowerPoint about Delivering excellent Customer Service or whatever it is I was supposed to deliver. Instead, I was having Koffee with Karan –taking sips of caffeine (in reality) and rapidly firing my witty responses and winning the hamper (in my head).

But apart from escaping into other people’s more exciting lives, I also needed to plan a getaway from my immediate surroundings, before I was found out! As usual, I turned to my life coach Shah Rukh Khan for inspiration. I heard his voice in my head say, Agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaaho toh puri kainat etc. etc.

And voila!

A bit of aimless surfing and I found myself staring at an article titled, The best jobs for smart but lazy people. (I’m sure the ‘smart’ was inserted simply in order not to offend the ‘lazy’.) The universe had obviously conspired to bring this before my eyes, filtering away other interesting pieces like, The best recipes for those who have no time, or How to lose friends and insult people.

Topping the list was the job of an English teacher. What’s more, the classes would be virtual, with technology enabling you to conduct lessons right from the comfort of your bedroom, or while sipping tea on a mountaintop in Darjeeling or lying on a beach in Goa –the possibilities were endless!

Now was the time for AzaadiTear down the cubicle walls, break down the management’s doors! (Before you charge me with sedition let me clarify that I meant it metaphorically. The boss followed an open-door policy, i.e. he was a lonely man who kept his cabin door always open, in the hope that someone would drop in for a chat).

Disappointingly, not only did he readily and animatedly accept my resignation, but almost looked happy at my departure. Perhaps this was just another sign that the universe was guiding me towards my destiny.

work from home

It has been five days now since I landed my dream ‘work from home’ project, and here is an update on how it is progressing:

Day 1 @ Work from Home 

After practicing how to say  a pleasant but formal, friendly but business-like ‘hello’ for several minutes, I am all set to launch into my first lesson, titled: How to smoothly conduct business meetings.

Strangely my perfect ‘hello’ is greeted by complete silence at the other end. The greeting is repeated several times and when finally the pleasant but formal tone has been replaced by a high-pitched, irritated one – there is a response:

– Oui! Allo?

– Ah! Jean-Sebastien, are you able to hear me now?

– Yes, but there is some delay.

-Well it’s a long distance from India to Europe (sheepish giggle at own poor joke).

10 min into the lesson and we are inexplicably disconnected. I don’t know about other business meetings but this one wasn’t going smoothly for sure.

Day 2 

The subject we are working on is Conflict Management. A most interesting discussion is underway when suddenly a frenzied screaming alarms me and my poor, faraway participants!

Cause the walls start shaking
The earth was quaking

… You Shook Me All Night Long

My husband is unwinding with some AC/DC  and a glass of scotch, and has suddenly decided to crank up the volume to maximum! Pressing the mute button I hurl a few obscenities at him, before proceeding to soothe the frayed nerves of my poor learners.

I see a conflict of unmanageable proportions looming at home, soon after this lesson is over.

Day 3 

The topic today is, Why I love to travel.

After a wonderful beginning, where my learner recounts his trips to Madagascar, Machu Pichu and Madrid, I suddenly don’t see him anymore. The audio is fine but the video is no longer available! A quick check reveals that the broadband’s net speed has dropped from the promised 10 Mbps to 30 Kbps. I switch to 4G but it promptly turns into 2G.

A sad realization dawns — forget taking lessons from Munnar or Mahabalipuram, with this sort of unreliable internet, I wasn’t getting out of Marthahalli anytime soon.

Day 4

A most interesting subject today: How to manage Gen X and Y – the challenge faced by every organization.

About three slides into my presentation, I am distracted by a strange notification popping up: ‘Your troops are ready for battle!’ Damn. The pest of a son has infiltrated my workstation — downloaded a game called Clash of Clans!

I bring my focus back to the subject at hand and decide now is a good time to share a video with the participants. I had kept the relevant YouTube page open and now copy-paste the link to the ‘chat window’. It is a video I have carefully selected, which depicts a scenario that may come up when dealing with gen X and Y employees.

But when my learners click the link, I hear strange words, intercepted by what sounds like gunfire!

“All units, all units this is Spaceman.”

“5,4,3,2, 1. Deploy!”

Mystified, I click on the link myself and realize that what is playing is a video titled, Call of Duty –advanced warfare!

The pest has not only downloaded a game, but also been watching this video while I was busy touching up my lipstick in preparation for the lesson.

Why are there no tutorials on How to manage the gen Z’s at home?

Day 5

My computer has crashed and I am trying to conduct the lesson over the phone. (I do get mobile network sometimes, when I stand in a specific pose, at a particular window with my head angled a certain way).

There is a power cut since morning and the temperature is close to 40 degrees! You can imagine that it is not easy to talk about How to beat Stress, given the circumstances.

 

A week of working from home, and I’m already fantasizing –not about seasides and hill stations — but about stable internet, uninterrupted power supply, air-conditioned environs, non-interfering colleagues — in short, an office cubicle.

 

‘V’ for vacation

It is the first word that comes to my mind because a vacation is what I so crave right now!

Like an annual pilgrimage, we religiously go to Goa every year for a holiday.

goa

The pace slows, the wine flows and the fried Pomfret irresistibly beckons.

pomfret

 

I would love to travel to many other places but have not had enough opportunities so far.

Meanwhile, as long as I can have tonnes of food and rest, any place is a holiday destination for me. As they say, ‘the real adventure is in your head,’ (or maybe on TV for some). The place is quite incidental.

‘U’ for umbrella

My grandfather’s. He passed away many years ago, while I was still in school and I haven’t thought about him in a long time.

But it is raining in Bangalore today and that makes me think of dadu (grandpa) and his chaata (umbrella). He always carried it along — a big, black, ungainly one — wherever he went. Sometimes others laughed at him because of that.

umbrella

‘Dadu, why do you always carry an umbrella with you?’ I asked him once.

‘Because it may rain.’

‘But it is a sunny day today.’

‘Well then it will protect me if the sun gets too hot. And what if it does rain? Who will look a fool then?’

‘What if the sun stays mild and it doesn’t rain either?’

‘Then I will use it as a walking stick. I can also chase any stray cows and goats out of my way.’

That was grandpa for you –a logical man, though he was not very educated and had lived in the village all his life.

Some think my atheism is all new fangled nonsense, born out of reading too many of the wrong kind of books. But in truth, my first brush with atheism was perhaps as an 8 year old.

My grandmother would host a grand Laxmi puja (worship of Goddess Laxmi) every year at our home in the village. Dadu helped diligently with all the preparations.

‘Will Goddess Laxmi bless us all?’

‘There is no Goddess Laxmi.’

I was too appalled to react. Finally I gathered my wits about me and asked,

‘Well why do you worship her then?’

‘Do I have a choice? Your grandmother will kill me’he said, with eyes full of love and fear of the woman who’d been his companion for close to half a century!

‘But…what about all the other Gods and Goddesses? Surely they exist! Who created everything? That mango tree? Those rice fields?’

‘Well who created God then?’

‘But, but…erm…’

Dadu always had the last word.

***

This post is the 21st in a series of 26 posts that I am writing throughout the month of April as part of the A to Z challenge2016.