Thursday, July 9, 2009

Destiny Decides....!!!

In my last post several months ago I had poured out my heart. The response of all my friends in blogsphere gave me support and encouragement. Some of you have written warm comments and expressed concern over my long silence since then. This has prompted me to write again today specially for those friends. But this will be no good piece of writing, as I feel uninspired at this time. so please bear with me.
After spending a wonderful 4 week vacation with my daughters in the USA; I was feeling a new energy and zest for life. Even now my mind is certainly free and I have a sense of freedom from any control or captivity. However; before I could work out a long term plan of living, destiny intervened and took all my decisions for me.
On my return from the US, my husband had a second fall and dislodged the implant in his spine which had been there for 7 months. The fall rendered him completely immobilised and another major surgery became imminent. It threw my own thought process out of gear. The choice was clear. Me being who/how I am, I put away all my thoughts of independence and went ahead to assist him in his surgery - lock stock and barrel. I dont know if my decisions were right or wrong, but I do know that I could never have walked away over this situation. As I write this post I am a week old in the hospital and he has undergone a long and intricate surgery to remove the old and displaced implant. A new and and bigger titanium implant has been fixed in his spine, and liquid protein has been injected for fusing the fractured portion. I believe we will be able to go to rehab and then home in a few days.
Having set my mind free, this phase of being in the hospital though caring for the same person who feels no remorse ever for any wrong doings, and inspite of being in similar circumstances as before, it has still not been as painful as before. Nothing has changed on the surface, but there is a definite calmness in my heart. It hurts many times very deep down, but only momentarily. Freedom from within myself embalms my wounds. The cross road of my life does make me this what I want; am I doing right; is this who I want to be. These are all the questions I want answers to, but have none right now.
I am relaxed in my heart that once this phase is over, I will probably have my life back. My life that I want to live - may be not a very eventful one, but more peaceful one, where I have all the time to be myself.
But for now, and perhaps a few weeks, it is the hospital. ... 24 x 7. wakeful nights. Feeding by spoon. Doctors, nurses, ward attendants, physio therapy, wheel chair, walker, baby steps, and the works. **************************************************************
My vacation with my daughters in the US was just beautiful. I will always cherish all the times we spent together. Here are some pictures from the vacation.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Letter From A Free Mind.

My dear Adam,

After 20 years of co - existence I have decided to call it off and free myself from the mental ties that bound me to you rather tightly.

At first this binding was too tight; I mistook it for your love and posessiveness; and I revelled in it. While your grip remained the same, my own mistake began to dawn on me: that I was being mentally held as a captive and perceived as an object of use rather than a human companion. I mistook the bindings to be bondings. Some of my feelings must have revealed themselves to you, so you began to tighten your grip on my mind. We floated ahead in life together - you: basking in the power you had gained over my life; and me: blissfully unaware of how deep the binds had etched themselves into my being. There were always other priorities too - for me: the children and for you: to make more money disguised in the shape of age old saying 'to provide for the family'. In our own way we pursued our individual goals but together, while we emerged as a dysfunctional family. I wonder what took it so long to emerge. There could be a thousand reasons - my total commitment to you which blinded me to all your faults; your taking my commitment for granted, our one goal (common) to see our children prosper; & a million things. But I AM glad it took so long. The good that came from it was that both our kids were only partially hurt (hopefully, coz they are normal kids). Your inner prsonality had begun to show it's true colours but by then the children had already left home to be independent individuals.

But the toxic material underlying our priorities eventually raised it's ugly had....At times I wonder if cancer feels like this.
You have changed your guise from covered to open abuse and my rejection of being subjected to it has surfaced openly. Some where along the line we had begun to live 2 separate lives under one roof. Lives of mingling pain, chronic conflicts, self denials, ingoring problems, bad memories and built up negativities along with a feeling of general ill being. Dissatisfactions rose to disproportionate heights and bitterness has become the backdrop of our life.Your binding has suffocated me, and hurt my insides. I have lost myself some where.

But that was yesterday - a long long yesterday which lasted for more than 20 years. But not today. My today has changed. I am going to breathe free of any suffocation, and I am going to stop hurting my insides. I need myself and I am going to find me back for myself. Your binding has already come loose because of my resolve. My breathing has become easy as I have decided to restart living life. I know it is a tough call. It will be a long struggle, probably an ongoing process, but at least the process has begun and I will find all the resources to free myself from your ill bindings, dear Adam.

Now there will be no undercurrents of supression, or the wounding of my soul. My today has begun. It may be a shorter today than my long yesterday. But a shorter life well-lived is far more worth living than decades of mere co-existence full of pain and hurt.

Today's me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Writing A Book Review For Penguin Books..!

Last two days kept me very busy with some thing other than writing blogs. It took me to a related field of writing - writing a book review for Penguin Books.

Shobhaa De, a famous Indian writer is on my blog list; and on one of my regular visits to her blog I came across the launch of 'Blog A Penguin Classic'. The publishers Penguin Books (India) were sending out review copies to selected people for reading their range of 'Modern Classics' and for writing a review of what they have read. This appealed to me immensely. ...what better than to be able to enjoy reading a book, and then to try your hand (or your pen/key board, actually) at writing a review?
The next day after I clicked to show my interest in their promotion, I received in my courier mail, a beautiful and an elegant looking book: Selected Stories by Parashuram. Being a voracious reader, I was lost to the world for two days as the book is a tough read.

..... this is the actual picture of my book while I read it at night.

Some of the stories were fun read and some were serious stuff; but all very interesting.
The serious stories had
intense situations, and many layers of mind blowing characters that it took me two reads for a couple of stories at least, to understand their depth.

Then came the writing part. Having never written a book review before, it was a challenge to write about a masterpiece; that too a translated one. It took me some serious research work and reading other book reviews before I could put my pen to paper. ooops !! my fingers to my key board....God! how things have changed in our lives..!

By the time I had read a few reviews my mind was already racing up. After burning the mid-night lamp (3.00 am), I had a skeleton 'review' sitting on my desktop. That night I slept peacefully over it, and the next morning with a fresh mind I re- read my review. With a bit of editing done, I dashed it off to Penguin Books. And there it is now on their website waiting to be lapped up, and commented upon. Pls do the honors, my friends.

How did the review turn out ? Pls let me know..!

check it here:

If this one doesn't work pls try: and look for Parashuram's Selected Stories Reviewed by Shaheen Saeed (that's me)

A wonderful experience : reading and writing this review. I hope I can do more of these in future.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Songbird's Nest - Nature's Miracle ..!

The Songbird's nest would hang in one of those patio baskets ...........

Last week was official farewell to winters in this part of the world. Bright sunny days, sultry afternoons, but soft sunny mornings and cooler evenings mark temperature changes and hint at the setting in of hot summer days. It is also the breeding time for some of the common tropical birds like the passerines commonly known as Songbirds. Locally they are called Bulbuls (derived from the word Nightingale) because of their loud hooting sounds. Last year during this season I visited my sister in Bombay. Today, as I saw the Songbirds hovering over areca palms and bougainvillae in my little garden, I was reminded of the time my sister and I enjoyed the nature's miracles at our doorstep. We had noticed that a familiar looking Songbird would be seen everyday in the patio garden where my sister hung baskets of beautiful green creepers that swung half way down from the ceiling. One day the songbird arrived with a dried twig in her beak, and flew from branch to branch as if in search of some thing. She had a jet black furry head, with bright red spots under both her eyes. She was about 6 inches in size with an elegant slender longish body. Before long she had built a neat round nest inside one of the baskets. We had watched the progress of her little new home, and waited for her to return there each night.

........ in search of an ideal site for her nest.

My sister's excitement was rubbing on my brother-in-laws curiosity. He would often be seen with his digital camera trying to sneak in for a shot of the Songbird/nest. That day the songbird stayed in her nest all day and night. She flew away early morning (probably in search of some food) for a short time. When my sister climbed up on her ladder to peak into the nest, she screamed for the camera. The shot we got was rather blurred; so she brought the basket down on the ground all the time looking out for the one who layed those beautiful, soft, pink, spotted eggs.
.........This was the shot we got of 2 eggs before we hung it back and the Bulbul arrived soon after...!

Here she sits on her ivory tower hatching her eggs.... !!! (this picture was taken from a distance by zooming in) ..............

Each day, we waited with baited breath to see the little chicks coming out of those eggs.
During this period I learnt that songbirds or Bulbuls are commonly found in Asia, Middle East, Africa and some parts of Europe. Most species are known to be monogamous; they feed on nuts, seeds, and worms. They have also adapted to living in cities along with human race.
On the 11th day, early one morning two red blobs of flesh were delivered from the 2 egg shells.
They were a restless pair and very very noisy lot. The mother bulbul always shot anxious glances before she flew away in search of food for her new family. A few days later, the new-borns developed their feathers, and we knew that soon they would fly away. They grew beautiful feathers just like their mom. One day the mother bird arrived with her mate; - there was a lot of commotion, chirping, and fluttering of wings; and then the four were gone. They sat perched on the parapet wall for a few minutes, as we watched them and silently prayed for their safety. Then they were gone.
Next morning the patio bore a sombre and quiet look; but we knew that the Songbirds family was safe, happy and chirping away in some garden..!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ironies Of Life....!!!

There are times when you just take stock of your own life's happenings. It's debits & credits and the bottom line of your life's balance sheet. It appears totally out of balance, and I some times wish I could have done things differently. On one of those days when there is no one to share your inner feelings, you know where to express them. So here is a vague account of life's ironical imbalances.

I have a huge house, but a home is missing from my life
I have lots of conveniences, but very little happiness
I have a lot of income, but have no money
I have a world of experiences, but I lack judgement of human beings
I am highly educated, but have no knowledge of why is my life this way
I am capable of achieving the impossible, but cannot cope with normal chores
I solved many relationship issues for friends, but failed to resolve my own
I have won the highest oratory award, but have difficulty conversing with my spouse
I have made many a laugh & smile, but found only tears in my own eyes
My morals are impeccable, but my morale is very low
I have added many years to my life, but not life to my age
I have learnt to smile, but cannot hide the pain
I have an illusion of living, but I have no life.

Does any one else also feel this way at all or am I the lone ranger ...?

PS: This post was awarded Best Post Of The Day, on March 17. 2009 at Authorblog by David Mcmahon, Journalist and Internationally-published Photographer.

Many thanks David, for the honor..!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Festival Of Colours...Holi...!!!

Markets are already flooded with heaps of gulal (colour) - they are arranged in pyramids and sold loose. Vendors sit on street corners selling gulal to passers-by. Gulal is made up of many rich colours like pink, magenta, red, yellow and green....!!!

The spirit of Holi is colour - rich and vibrant, flung into the air and smeared with laughter on friends and loved ones. It recalls, very simply, the secret of life: a shifting panorama of sights, movement and feelings. Colours denotes energy - the vivid, passionate pulse of life. Colour signifies the vitality that makes the human race unique in the universal scheme. Holi, the festival of colour, is also the enactment of spring. It is, in a metaphorical sense, changing earth’s dull garb of winter for the fresh blue of the March skies, the bright colours of new blossoms, the brilliance of the summer sun washing everything with its red-gold hues.

A Bollywood actor models the colours of Holi.

Children, friends and neighbours gather on the streets and a riot of colour takes over. Coloured powders called 'abeer' or 'gulal' are thrown into the air and smeared on faces and bodies. 'Pichkaris' are filled with coloured water and this is spurted onto people.

An enthusiastic group of students enjoying the spirit of Holi..!!!

Water balloons are thrown at friends and neighbours in the spirit of fun. Sometimes, mud baths are prepared and people are 'dunked' into this amidst much laughter and teasing. The visitors carry 'gulal' or colour to pay their respects to elders by sprinkling some on their feet.

Holi knows no bars, everybody feels it is their right to enjoy and enjoy they do. Songs, dance, drinks, Foods everything goes in excess when it is time for Holi.

"Life just turns Colorful" when it is time for Holi.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Cell Phone for A Buffalo...!!!!

Buffalo’s tummy (sp) rings surprise !

This happened in a small town of southern India. The cell phone usage in India is humungus ! A buffalo was taken aback when it heard a mobile ringing in its tummy. 7 missed calls were recorded in the cell phone that the buffalo swallowed. There were 7missed calls!
A Farmer lost his mobile near his cowshed on Monday. He suspected it may have fallen off his shirt pocket while he was cleaning the shed.
The mobile handset was packed in a plastic pouch and the buffalo had swallowed the pouch. The farmer forgot all about his phone. However, on Wednesday morning, he was surprised to find the pouch in the buffalo dung heap. The phone was not damaged as it had landed on the soft heap. What was more surprising was that the phone had recorded seven missed calls! No one knows what the callers heard. But the buffalo must have heard a ring every time a call was received. It must have wondered from where the moo-sic was coming....!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Minu's Relationships...!!!

Minu is my house maid. She is about 26 or 27 years old but she does'nt know how old/young she is. Wiry thin, very dark, tallish, and agile....! When she came to me for a job, I was in dire need of some one to cook, as I had just taken up a new job. In India you always have a maid servant, a cleaning lady and a car driver no matter what. So whenever I have travelled for longer durations to US (which has been very often) this was one thing I missed most....being waited upon - a sheer luxury. Minu walked in at a time when my earlier maid had walked out on me without a hint. she negotiated a fat salary, and I accepted. (at that point in time I would have paid her a lot more had she asked for it). Minu had come riding a bicycle, which I thought was smart. I have the weirdest dislike of dumb females even as servants because I find it impossible to impart even simple instructions to them. (my folks at home tell me I must not have smart servants from honesty/ security point of view; besides they insist that smart ones are hard to come by - would'nt they get better paid jobs if they were smarter ?) Anyways, I hired Minu instantly.
She had told me she had about 4 year's experience in cooking vegetarian food. I thought it was good enough. we anyways didn't eat too much meat. Plus I could always train her up to cook chicken and fish which are about the only non vegetarian items on my menu. With my 10-11 hour job routine, she was doing pretty good. All I had to do was to write out a whole week's daily meal menu from Monday-Sunday next (and leave it stuck on the frige door), and make sure that all grocery items, veggies, etc were available in the kitchen.
After a few days Minu asked for advance salary. I paid her when she told me that her husband was out of job during rainy season etc. Normally I don't encourage advance salary system.

Minu has a family of her own. A husband who, I discovered much later, has no permanent job but an ego of the size of a King. she has a toddler son - who smiles all the time like his dark, thin mom. Her husband's parents live with her, but are too old to work for their living or to help her in household chores. Minu thinks it is more out of convenience than because of their age.

A couple of months later I quit my job, due to personal reasons....!
Minu works continuously in my house, without breaks, leave, or absenteeism. And she always has a smile for me. She mentioned to me once that her husband is very surprised that Minu doesn't take a single leave in this job, whereas most of her earlier jobs were lost due to her absenteeism without notice.

Minu's typical day begins at 6.00 am. when she first finishes her personal morning chores. ( she lives in a 'place' which is 10' x 8 ' and has walls of tin sheets but doesn't have a toilet) they have to use the public toilet which is way out. They have no water supply inside the house either.

She has a shower (read bath in a tin sheet enclosure within her 10' x 8' place. She washes her own clothes, her husband's clothes and her son's clothes. Most occasions she has to wash her parent's in laws' clothes too. She cooks morning & afternoon meals for her baby boy, husband and his parents. She also bathes her son, feeds him breakfast and is ready to leave for work at 8.45 am. She rides her bike as fast as she can and manages to reach work by 9.30 am. On the days that her son is unwell she brings him along to work, as her family will not take care of him. At work, he is restless and she is pre occupied with him...! I understand how she is trying to balance everything. But I get into problems if her son gets ill for many days in a row. She is apologetic, but has no other way to deal with the issue. It surprises me no end to know that the child's grand mother is not willing to care for him at home or to help the daughter in law, who is the sole bread earner of the family.
At home she has no cooking gas. So she has to go stand in a long queue (during work) at the ration shop to procure kerosene oil, which serves as part of her cooking medium. The other half is done on wood, which she buys from her salary. Her salary buys grocery, baby food, provisions and everything else for a family of 5. There is no electricity in her house . Her husband has purchased an old run down car battery and has just connected a wire to it. The wire holds a single bulb which is the only light they have during evenings.
On certain days, when I have people over for dinner/party, she gets delayed going home. Her husband creates regular scenes on these days, though I escort her home in my car with a huge tip, and food enough for the entire family. On a couple of occasions I sent her in the car with the driver, and that was enough excuse for her husband to beat her up. He insisted that she was having an affair with my driver. At such times Minu's demeanour on the following morning is glum and the smile on her face is replaced by dark circles around the eyes. She has no hesitation in telling me the happenings of previous night with full details. I ponder and suggest to her...'why don't you go to your mother's for a break...?' It will be good for her I feel. But Minu has no where to go. Her father had walked out on the family (consisting of Minu's mother and her 2 older sisters) when she was barely 8 years old. A year later her mother had remarried and moved to another town leaving her 3 daughters to fend for themselves. She had her own children from this marriage. Minu's eldest sister (15 yrs) worked as a live-in maid for a catholic family and later left for Dubai as a maid for an Indian family to care for their new born baby. Minu and her other sister lived with their grand mother for a few years. That life came to an end when the grandmother died. The 2 sisters were then employed as domestic helpers in the kitchen of a girl's hostel by a woman caterer. That way Minu had a safe place to live in. 2 years later the catering contract was discontinued as the hostel itself closed down. But Minu had already met a man (currently her husband), who was a casual labourer doing some maintenance work for the hostel. She married him without much ado. So she has a home and family now. But she slogs 18 hours daily to keep it going.

One day, within 2 weeks of starting work Minu came upto me and said....'madam I need to tell you some thing very important...but promise me, you will not be annoyed'. I was thinking she may have broken one of my crystal pieces; that really makes me very angry. So I told her...'if you did'nt break any crockery I will not be annoyed I promise'....she told me she was pregnant, but does'nt want the baby. it was a mistake. I was shocked, coz i had my job to go to....who would cook my husbands meals. He only eats home made freshly cooked food. So I took 2 days off from work, and one sunday made it 3 days. Minu was back to work on the 4 th day, but very weak. With healthy afternoon meals, and milk to drink she progressed healthwise.

She worked all 4-5 months of the long rainy season, earned money for family meals, gave the husband pocket money for smoking cigarettes, cooked at home, washed, cleaned, helped with festivals, by working at home and taking holiday from work. On normal days she returns home by 6.00 pm. Cooks dinner for her son, feeds him, and then cooks dinner for the rest of the family. She does the dishes, cleaning, and fills water from a nearby public tap. On some days when there is not enough water supply she carries home a 10 litre can of water from my house on her bike. She hits the bed not earlier than midnight, she says.

After the rainy season, the husband complained of back pain, leg pain etc. I am not sure it was pain from lack of nutrition, or real pain or no pain at all. After all Minu was already providing for every one for almost 7 months, and the habit would have caused a virtual illness . He remained unemployed for several more months.

Minu has a heart of gold. she loves to cook new dishes for a party, and to show her skills in salad display and dessert servings. When a particular dish gets appreciated by the guests she flashes smiles with pleasure. But I worry for Minu: she doesn't get enough sleep, rest, and food (at home). Only in my house she enjoys having a cup of tea and afternoon meals. She winds up work by 5.00 pm, and is gone riding, riding, riding her red bike. By now the entire neighbourhood knows who my cook is. Not by her name but by her bike. The bike by the way, belongs to her ex employer who lent it to her, but Minu just quit the job, and has not returned the bike yet. She says she will give it back, one day.

Minu thinks her life is really good - much better than many other women who live around her. For one, her husband is not an alcoholic; secondly he wants to look after the family, (that he actually hardly ever looks after, is quite another matter) and he is a macho male. She has a son she dotes on. She is quite in charity with her parents in laws inspite of all odds being against her.

Minu's relationships are of another nature. Her equation with her husband is of one type, the relationship with her in-laws is another type; her bonds with the little son are quite on another level; and the connection that she has with me - her employer, is way out of ordinary. She does n't ponder too much over any of them and sashayes from one day into another day blissfully unaware of the complexities of life in general and relationships in particular.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Feelings of a different "Nature"

Just when all the world is fighting turmoils, terrorist attacks, bomb blasts, political rivalries, presidential elections, and the world financial meltdown; I am seeking inner strength from nature and it's gifts. God lives in these bounties i feel and the sheer existence of pure nature is next to Godliness for me. I do not need a diety, nor the son of God or the unseen Almighty in whose name the pervert islamists kill innocent lives, and infants who are nature's gift to humanity. I pray to this creator of nature for my confessions, and ask for my family's well being. I ask for forgiveness of my sins - known and unknown; and I seek it's blessings in my own inner ways. It gives me solace and I find a connection with some thing super natural. This super natural strength gives me courage to fight set backs, and empower my hopes; it gives my hopes a soaring flight to unseen heights; and I see myself synonymous to nature and I revel in it's colours...!

Does God live in colors........???

Or does HE live in fountains, trees or the sky ...?

I don't know the abode of God, but I have strong feelings that he lives in places such as this sylvan horizon where the sky, the earth and river meet in golden solitude.
Does anything here brings to your mind the turmoils of urban life - presidential elections, terrorist attacks, bomb blasts, political dramas, election campaigns, road accidents, cold blooded murders, inequality or poverty and sufferings inflicted by man.