HAD IT NOT BEEN SAME? – III

So, Mr. Bose, now that the confusion is resolved, we would again like to apologise to you and Mr. Murli as well and would like to take your leave.” Manohar said, holding his wife Satya’s hand, who was smiling sheepishly.

Oh! Come on now Mr. Swamy. You don’t need to be. Besides, after all this, I can’t let two of you go without having dinner.” Mr. Bose said.

Oh yes! In fact, because of this namesake, I had such a good laughter after so many days.” Murli said, grinning.

No, we landed here just like that, committing faux pas, should have ĺthought about the invitation card. It’s our fault we came without thinking a bit. We are already too embarrassed to stay.” Satya spoke in dismay.

Murli turned his face to Satya, looked into her eyes and said, “It’s perfectly ok, Mrs Swamy. Please don’t feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. I brought you two to accompany me.” He said, smiling from ear to ear.

Satya, who was also looking at Mr. Murli, blinked her eyes, breaking the short eye contact and turned her head to fix her hairdo.

Absolutely, Mr. M.Swamy, Mr. M.Swamy & Mrs Swamy, be our guests and enjoy the rest of the party”, Mr. Bose said, signalling a waiter, and handed Murli a drink. Satya, however refused one and picked up a glass of water for herself.

You two, just enjoy and please don’t feel weird about anything. I have got my car, so we can go back together after dinner.” Murli said to Manohar and Satya, excusing himself as he had to go to meet his friends.

Oh! Okay”, Manohar said.

No thanks”, Satya interrupted. “We will book a cab.

Save fuel and care for the environment”, Murli turned back and shouted as the volume of the music was getting louder. “I will see you in a few minutes”, he said and went away.

Such a funny guy he is”, Manohar said, sipping his drink.

It’s all my fault Mano, I should have checked first, but I got so excited at the glance of party invitation only that I completely neglected the norms. Obviously, hardly anyone knows us here and inviting for a party is out of question.” Satya said

Calm down sweety. Its all right. Just enjoy. It was destined for us to come here.” Manohar tried to persuade Satya.

Yeah…destined…Had it not been same” She thought in her mind.

UNLOCKING IN LOCKDOWN

We all felt a blow when the lockdown was announced due to COVID-19 and now it’s been more than one month. We have been staying in the comfort zones of our homes, not visiting any place, not meeting anyone and doing all the chores mostly be ourselves and our family members are sharing the load. Unimaginable, unfeasible, undoable and unthinkable it used to sound earlier, yet we did all the paradoxical tasks and managed well.

One of the most difficult tasks was how to keep our kids busy. Many of the children were already attending online classes. But, for my sons, it was vacation time after their sessions got over (in our state, the new session starts in June). My younger one, not even once, asked to take him out of the house, as he is occupied in playing and fighting with his elder brother. Though my elder son was perturbed initially, he resorted to various activities and while doing so he found a couple of new interests like Domino Art, trick shots and the magical world of Harry Potter. His creative side is booming and all thanks to this lockdown. 

Meanwhile, in the other part of the country, my parents who are away from their home, since 10th March, want to go back to their place. Though they are in my aunt’s home, safe and secure, without facing any difficulties, they still want to go back to their own house. My brother and I need to counsel them constantly, as travelling at this time is highly risky. 

Amidst this lockdown are the people who have suddenly started exploring their artistic side or unlocking their right brains. Many have become cooking champs, trying new dishes every day, in order to fulfill their gastronome craving. Trust me, even I have never ever cooked continuously- this much and for this long (and with this much fondness). Phew! I have become a maven. Most of our group chats on WhatsApp have someone or the other posting a picture of a delicacy every day. 

My brother, who hardly held a paintbrush in his life, is painting beautiful sunset scenes on canvas. My husband turned a hair stylist by trimming our sons’ hair and giving the two ‘wolverine’ lines like Virat Kohli used to have.

I feel we have literally evolved in this lockdown. Our perspectives have changed and we have a learning for life. We are living without the things that we considered as necessities. So, we all deserve a pat on our backs for handling this pandemic emotionally and physically as well. Stay happy and stay safe.

LOCKED DOWN IN LOCKDOWN

Towards the end of February, we finalized the Candyland theme for our younger son Abir’s birthday, who was turning 4 on 18th March, due to his unconditional and interminable love for chocolates, candies, lollipops and everything that’s sweet!

Birthday gifts, return gifts, décor as per the theme, everything was procured, but it was only that we were not able to decide on the date for the party basically because my husband was in Dubai and COVID-19 was gradually spreading and hence wanted to postpone it to 14 days after his return on 17th March. I wasn’t agreeing for post celebration because I felt that would be too late and just like everyone else, I never imagined that COVID-19 would be declared a pandemic. I was convinced only when the first case of coronavirus was registered in our city. 

Even when Holi celebrations were getting cancelled, I didn’t have the slightest thought that the situation would turn so grim. Even before the official home quarantine orders came, my husband had already decided to go into self-isolation after his return and we all, including kids, followed suit. Convincing my elder son, Arjun, was a big challenge. With schools getting closed and exams being cancelled, his outdoor play was the only thing that kept him busy. The thought of staying inside the house for 14 days was a big challenge for him to accept. However, I made him understand that it was required for every person who comes from a foreign country. For my ease, I got him books and toys for his entertainment for two weeks. 

Things had turned worse by the day my husband was returning from Dubai. Incoming flights from many foreign countries were getting cancelled. Owing to the increasing precautionary measures, my husband decided to stay in a separate room and we strictly started our safety regime. Kids were not allowed to enter his room, although they badly wanted to give him a big hug. It was Abir’s birthday and we planned a small surprise for him by decorating a corner and placing all his gifts there. He was excited, but he wasn’t ready to believe that it was his birthday because for him, birthday meant a party with his friends around him. However, we managed to persuade him that we will have a big party afterwards.

It’s so good to be home” quote came true for us when the next day, all the foreign flights were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Being thankful to God was the only thing that I was doing every now and then. 

After a couple of days came in the ‘Janta Curfew’ and then finally the Lockdown. Shoddier times had started, I felt. In the middle of the night, I used to get up to check the number of COVID-19 cases. 

It should not touch 100”, I thought.

It should be within 500”, I prayed.

It shouldn’t cross 1000”, I dreaded.

I started having dreadful dreams and panic attacks. 

Stop watching and reading news and ignore messages on social media”, my husband suggested.

With the responsibility of the whole house work and KIDS, I was trying to manage everything alone, but all this stress made me weak. I immediately stopped visiting news sites, ignored forwarded messages and switched to praying and meditation, which really worked for me. 

As I wrote this article, I asked Arjun also to write about his feelings, who’s very upset as our summer vacation trip to grandparents got cancelled.

Our mandatory self-isolation is over now, but we have to continue our quarantine as per the government guidelines. Things are better as my kids can now play with their dad and I have got a helping hand too! We are enjoying our family time by playing Scrabble, Carom, indoor Cricket and watching comedy shows and movies. 

We all are going through a terrible phase. Neither we, nor our older generations have ever witnessed such a lockdown due to a pandemic or any other reason. But then, this too shall pass. Keep the faith!

WHY THE HULLABALOO OVER WOMEN’S DAY?

On November 19th last year, I wished my male fellows as it was International Men’s day. One of them was taken by surprise, so much that he went gaga over my wishes. No wonder after all these years, we have been celebrating Women’s Day with great pomp and show, while Men’s Day is getting recognized slowly. I feel the celebration of Women’s Day is more of the previous guilt that people have inside them for taking the feminine power for granted.

Favouring sons over daughters, wishing the birth of boys instead of girls, making the world a better place for men than women, this gender discrimination was and is still being
witnessed in many parts of the world. My dad tells me that when I was small, I used to feel angry if in any television show, the mother-in-law made a face over the birth of a girl. I used to ask my parents, “Why do the eunuchs come for the custom of badhaai (congratulatory ceremony) only when a boy is born?” I used to often laugh at the older generations who used to make a queue of baby (girl) births for the want of a boy!

As I grew older, I was very much sure that our generation is going to knock down this
practice of wishing and celebrating ‘son birth’ only. But I was wrong. In spite of the
educated lot, including many women today still prefer a son because of some silly reasons.
“It’s so difficult for a girl to roam around freely. It’s so unsafe these days.”
“It’s always a burden to have a girl, so many expenses on her marriage you know.”
“You don’t have a girl na, you won’t understand.”
It’s a plight to know their state of mind.

In a study by the University of Virginia in 2011, researchers concluded that women were 47% more likely to get hurt in car crashes due to the car safety features which were designed keeping men in mind. The features neglected the varied musculature, neck strength, height, preferred seating position of women, making them more vulnerable to injuries. Why?

Is that only men drive and women don’t?
Is it because women are born with safety features, unlike men?
Then, why this perspicacity?

The discrimination is in their pay-scales too. Assuming that women will not easily quit
because of their family responsibilities, they are taken for granted and paid less as compared to women. This pay-gap is visible in film industry too. Renowned Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut says, “My male counterparts are paid thrice the amount. No one can guarantee the success of a film so why such discrimination?” 

Women are still considered as economic burden in many households, even if they are
economically independent. It’s an irony that a woman is addressed to as the weaker sex,
despite the fact that she leaves her parents after marriage, works at home and manages office too, carries a baby inside her, goes through terrible labor pain and the post-partum trauma. Still the weaker sex?

I feel Women’s Day is more of a hullabaloo.

I don’t need a reserved seat in the metro.
I can stand too.
I don’t need a special quota either.
I can work hard too.
Just give me the equal status.                                                                                                                               I am also like you.

SPREAD SMILES, NOT VIOLENCE

In the year 2003, a Bollywood movie Pinjar was released, which was based on the novel of late Ms. Amrita Pritam. It was a period movie depicting the stormy times of the people during the India-Pakistan partition. I went to watch with my family members as I was looking forward to it, especially after listening to its songs on loop and dancing on a few as well. I never imagined that the movie would be so heart-wrenching and traumatic. As soon as the interval came, I said to my cousin sister, Prabhjot, “Thank God, we were not born in that era!”

In the light of recent violent activities, I don’t feel lucky either. So much hatred and so much anger was witnessed in Delhi that everyone got worried. More than worry, most of the people like me felt bad and miserable about the incidents.

What did the rioters gain? The departed soul had no religion. What are we going to teach our children? Have those people lost their sense of feeling? Such thoughts were erupting in mind. I was careful enough not to watch or listen the news in front of my children. And there, on the screen, I saw a child weeping over his dead father. “Stay away from the news”, I told myself. I preferred clicking on the ‘Hide this post’ on the disturbing posts that I saw on my Facebook and prayed for peace to prevail.

I commend one of the posts written by Randeep Hooda 3 years back:
If you are Muslim and suddenly start feeling unsafe in country where you lived for more than thousand years..
If you are Dalit and start feeling insulted on every moment of life..
If you are Hindu and suddenly start feeling that cows are being slaughtered everywhere…
If you are a Jain and suddenly start feeling that your religious piety is being compromised…
If you are Punjabi and think all the youth are on drugs.

Just do one thing…
– Stay away from social media…
– Don’t watch news…
– Stay away from debates on religion…

Just look around you at your friends who belong to different castes, communities and religions…
And you will find that you are living in one of the best countries in the world!! 

This is so true. The moment we watch anything on social media, we tend to get agitated, share it more and get trapped into the vicious circle. These debates are not going to do any good for you and the discussions go on endlessly.

Just look around you at your friends who belong to different castes, communities and religions…
Each one of us is a creation of God, so respect everyone and treat them equally.
And these lines from a Punjabi hymn have been running over my mind ever since:
Awal Allah Noor Upaya (In the beginning God created light)
Kudrat Ke Sab Bandey (Then He made all the mortal beings)
Ek Noor Te Sab Jag Upja (From that One light, the entire universe welled up)
Kaun Bhaley, Kau Mandey? (So how can some be good and some bad?)

 

 

COOKING FOR LOVE

Cooking was never my area of expertise before marriage, basically due to three reasons. Firstly, my grandmother, too old to work, was always scared of me working on the gas stove alone, so much, that whenever my mom would be away, she would never let me go into the kitchen only. In case I insisted, saying that it was time for her evening tea, she would stand with me in the kitchen even if she would get tired of standing there and ensured the knob of the gas stove was off before she went out. 

Secondly, with my mother, my job in the kitchen was only to assist her like laying the table or serving chapatis. Though, she would let me make one small chapati at the end, she never compelled me to learn cooking. I remember once she got high fever and I, along with my elder brother tried to share her work load, and so decided to knead the dough. My brother messed up with the quantity of water and ended up in pouring lots of it, for which I asked him to put in more flour. These steps of pouring in water and then adding more flour ended up in a pile of unkneaded dough and we proved ourselves to be disastrous in dough making.

After I finished schooling, I developed the hobby of baking chocolate cake. After 3-4 attempts, I did fairly well, but soon got bored with it because the preparation time would take ages! Sadly, there were no readymade cake mixes available at that time. 

I remember the first dish that I prepared was Shahi Paneer, which I learnt from my next-door neighbour and my best friend Jyoti. She was too good at cooking and I developed a little interest in learning new recipes from her. Apart from drooling at Femina’s Bachelor of the Fortnight page, I started to look at various recipe pages too.

Once when I was in Dehradun, my uncle got a new microwave oven in the house and I experimented making desserts in it. I made Instant Rabdi, using bread crumbs and milk. The result was pretty good.

When I neared mid-20s, my father used to show concern that I should learn cooking.  However, my mother just said, “She will learn herself when she will go to her in-laws”. 

The third and the last reason for me remaining a non-cook was my lack of interest and my mother-in-law who used to prepare the scrumptious main course, while I continued doing my job as assistant in the kitchen after marriage. I started cooking independently only when my husband and I moved to a different city. I still remember calling up my cousin sister Kuljeet, asking her how to cut French beans. Thank God we have smartphones now and everything is on our tips!

Your whole perspective changes when you become a mother. It was only recently when I actually started ‘loving’ to cook. Experimenting the dishes for the first time has become my new hobby. Just to make sure that my kids eat nutritious food, I have tried making Chhole Bhature, Khakra, Quesadillas, Set Dosa, Paalak Puri, Paalak Paneer, Methi Malai Paneer, Veg Biryani, Pao Bhaji and a lot more. The best part is that I fared well in the score card of my husband, who’s an epicure and never ever makes false praises, no matter how much hard work one puts in!

I love Pao Bhaji and wanted my sons also to eat the bhaji. The problem with them is that if they see a piece of carrot or beans or peas, they will simply not eat. So, while preparing the bhaji, instead of mashing, I made a thick paste of the boiled vegetables, by churning them in food processor so that there’s no piece left. The kids loved it and I felt very relieved after feeding vegetables to my picky eaters.

Another dish I tried for my kids was Pink Dosa, which I made by adding beetroot juice to the dosa batter. The kids enjoyed eating the unique coloured dosa as much as I enjoyed making. 

There’s a snack which goes into their lunch boxes every week- cutlets. These are protein rich cutlets which I prepare by mixing powdered soya chunks (using grinder), bread crumbs and mashed potatoes. I use cookie cutters to give them various shapes and shallow fry them. The kids just relish these hi-protein cutlets.

It’s easy to order food and try new dishes, but once you have kids, I guess one learns to start experimenting with food. At least that’s what I did!

REBEL FOR GOOD

Sab gussa karte hain, main ghar chod ke jaa raha hun” (everyone scolds me, I am leaving the house) are the lines of an old advertisement where a 4 year old is sitting grumpily in a railway station, with his small bag, but returns home when his postman uncle tells him that his mother has prepared jalebis (a special sweets). We often hear such cute stories of little rebels and let go because they are too small to understand and follow their impulses.

I always preferred to go with the rules until I realised something good can also happen when you break the rules. When I was in Class X, two of our classmates went to play during the transition time, after the bell rang for another period. They came back to the class as soon as the next teacher entered. She got angry, obviously, and punished them. To my surprise, the whole class retaliated and everyone wanted the teacher either to let those two go or punish the whole class. I, along with my best friend failed to agree with our classmates as we felt that those two boys were at fault. However, our teacher got pleased with the unity of our class and withdrew the punishment. That day I realised that it’s perfectly all right if some rules are broken, provided there shouldn’t be any negative implication on anyone. 

During teenage, many times I opposed my parents, fought with them when scolded for being out late with friends after the 8’o clock deadline, for wearing clothes which they felt inappropriate,  for not getting permissions when I needed and for other whole lot of things.

Rebelling against my parents for the love of my life was one of the least things in my mind. I had earlier agreed to their rule of arranged marriage, but the destiny couldn’t find a suitable match for me. Later, when I found my eternal love, my parents opposed. Since I was confident of my choice, I continued to portray my conflicting views in front of their emotional saga, until they agreed for our match. Lo and behold, just after the engagement, they were more than happy with their son-in-law!

There is a ‘rebel’ in everyone of us and standing up against anything, for a good reason should be the mandate. One just has to remember the limits, lest to offend anyone.