Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dawn at Dusk

May 2009 issue of Good Housekeeping

GH blurb: Vasanta had started feeling lonely and unwanted as her children and grandchildren got more and more busy with their own lives. Their pesky but well-meaning neighbour Mridula held the perfect solution to her quandary.)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Love Redefined

Feb. 2007 issue of Good Housekeeping

(GH blurb: At last Malini and Shekhar would have their own home. They would start a new life with their best friends by their side-----)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Male Bastions

This appeared in Today in Oct. 2004.

Women everywhere seem to be soaring through glass ceilings practically every day. Recently I gate crashed a male bastion too. I took my son to a gents beauty parlor (Is
that an oxymoron?) to get his hair cut.
Big deal, one may say. But just think. When we were kids, the words salon and beauty parlor were unknown. Saloon was a fancy place with mirrors and talcum powder where a man went on Sunday and came back with short back and sides, hair slick from a good champi and chin glistening after a professional shave. Such a visit entailed an immediate “head bath”.
As kids we lived in Army cantonments, away from the town proper. Maybe for this reason, a barber used to come home to attend to my father, rather than Dad going to him. Once in a while, the barber was directed to “bob” our hair too—my sister’s and mine. That was the height of hair-fashion!
The humble barber shop became the hairdressing saloon, or just the saloon. Its latest avatar is the parlor, and its up-market cousin, the salon. Men don’t just go there for a shave or a haircut, but for everything from threading and waxing to perms and facials.
When my son was much younger, I would nonchalantly whisk him off to my parlor to get his hair trimmed. Now, it was out of the question. I dared not even suggest it, knowing I’d be met with an exasperated “Mommmm!”
All these thoughts chased across my mind as I sat waiting while my son was in the chair. Wodehouse’s “cat in a strange alley which expects a half-brick bunged at it any moment” must not have been half as jumpy as I was. Though not really expecting a half-brick, I was nevertheless acutely aware of invading somebody’s privacy. What if a guy wanted some waxing done? Would he go ahead anyway or come back later when the parlor was free of pesky intruders?
There was a father-son duo getting their haircuts side by side. I gazed wistfully at them and rued the fact that my husband was working on that Sunday, thus depriving my son of male bonding. On the table beside me lay a couple of magazines, their covers hidden by newspapers thrown carelessly on them. I reached for one, then checked myself. What if it turned out to be a “men’s-eyes-only” sort of magazine? The point was not whether I would get embarrassed, but that maybe the men there would feel uncomfortable.
From time to time, the hairdresser would ask me for any preference in style for my son’s hair. I replied in monosyllables, my knowledge of spikes and mushroom-cuts woefully inadequate. Not to mention the fact that my son was probably outraged at the hairstylist going over his head (literally!) to consult me.
At last it was over and I thankfully got up to pay. Stern resolve: No more taking such jobs off hubby’s carefree shoulders. Bank work, car servicing, yes. Ferrying kids, dealing with laborers, yes. Gents salon, no.
The door opened and another lady came in with her son.
Sorry guys!

Cell's Bells

(Woman's Era July (Second) 2004)

The cell phone is a glamorous accessory to be flaunted everywhere--- at parties, the theatre, PTA meetings and on the road. This is what I felt especially when I saw the characters in TV soaps, clutching a cell phone each. They do take things a tad too far. Calling each other from one room to another, for heaven’s sake! Of course, one may argue that the houses are palatial, so it is an elegant alternative to hollering down the corridor or up the staircase! (Whatever happened to the intercom?)
I recently became the not-so-proud owner of a cell phone. Not so proud, because it was a hand-me-down from hubby dear, who wanted to get the latest model. Anyway it serves my purpose, which is to keep tabs on the house when I’m out of it (and to let those at home keep tabs on me!)
I may be computer savvy, but I feel like a dinosaur when it comes to using the mobile phone. The other day, I tried to SMS a list of school uniform items to my husband’s phone and simultaneously tried to use the built-in directory to send it to him. The SMS went all right, but not to him. My phone still has the numbers of some of my husband’s colleagues and associates. So somewhere out there is some associate of my husband’s, feeling very puzzled indeed about a message that reads, “2 shrts, I shor, 4 prs sox”. Did I mention that I’m not very good at word-contraction either? I just hope that it didn’t go to his boss. I fervently hope that my mystifying message is lost in the cellular equivalent of cyberspace!
The mobile phone and driving don’t mix, just like one is not supposed to drink and drive. So the alternative is the hands-free attachment, which lets you talk, and still keep both hands on the steering wheel. The fun starts when people use the hands-free option when they are walking or sitting—they look like they are talking to themselves!
The kids dare not touch their Dad’s phone, but they have a proprietary interest in their Mom’s mobile, because I am always asking them for help about it! Their fave pastime is changing the ring tone. This results in great confusion when I’m out, because I do not respond when my phone rings, but frantically try to answer when some other person’s does! When I do hear it correctly, I waste precious seconds fumbling for it in my voluminous purse, which is stuffed with more odds and ends than the attic. Of course it stops ringing the minute I finally lay my hands on it. I have deleted missed calls before retrieving the numbers they were from, because--- yes you guessed right--- I pressed the wrong button.
So where does one keep the pesky little thing so that it is easy to get at? There are purses with a special pocket for the purpose, but one may not want to carry such a purse everywhere. The cell phone case which can be attached to the belt is fine, so long as one is wearing trousers. And having it dangling from your neck seems to give the little gadget too much importance.
Well, I have now joined the ranks of women who walk around with it in their hands.

Empty swings

Pulished in Today (10th April 2003) under the title, My son and 'toosun'

One warm winter afternoon, I watched my son swinging in the park, all by himself. A laborer working nearby broke off to speak to me.
“Doesn’t he go for tuition?” she asked, indicating my son with a nod.
“No,” I said, refraining from adding smugly that he didn’t need to.
“Neither does my son,” she said.
I was wondering what to make of it when she went on, “He is supposed to, but he plays hooky, runs off somewhere to play. Me, I have to come here to work, so I never know whether he has gone to study or not. He doesn’t realize--- if he doesn’t go for too-sun, he’ll end up like me, breaking stones for roads.”
My first reaction was indignation. Why should she suppose that because my son was playing in the park, he was playing truant like her son? By “does not go”, I had meant “does not need to go” whereas she took it as “is supposed to but does not”.
I shook myself out of this grammatical reverie and thought about her remark. My indignation dissolved as I looked around. Where were all the children? Was not my son playing by himself? Everybody was at tuition classes. They are now the rule rather than the exception. No wonder the swings are empty. No wonder the laborer thinks my son plays truant. It must take a sizable chunk of her wages, but it was worthwhile expenditure for her.
A vegetable seller I know says he prefers to finish off his entire stock in a couple of hours. I am curious. What does he do the rest of the day? A job perhaps? No, he wants to get home and supervise his children’s studies. “Of course, they have tuition, but unless the parent takes an interest the child slacks off,” he says.
After TV, tuition seems to be the great leveler --- everybody has it.
I am aware of mixed feelings—wistfulness about the empty swings but also a gladness that those whom we consider uneducated are enlightened enough to dream of a better world for their children.


Then and Now

A shorter version of this article, titled Nuances of Now and Then, appeared in Today (24 Feb. 2003) the afternoon paper of the India Today Group. A column called My Space was started with this article.


Then: A ‘tallish’ girl stooped and wore Kolhapuri chappals. Her parents wrung their hands in despair.
Now: A tall girl stands up straighter and wears at least four-inch high stiletto heels. Guys around her wish they were six-footers.

Then: A girl went from frocks to lehengas to half-sarees to sarees. Even then, she tripped, clutched her pallu and relied heavily on safety pins. Georgettes? No-no!
Now: Sweet-sixteens go from jeans to sarees overnight (for Teachers Day, or the farewell party). They carry themselves with grace and élan. Backless blouses? Sure!

Then: ‘Real’ men didn’t know where the kitchen was. They were stern fathers. They didn’t show their emotions.
Now: The ‘complete’ man wields a mean skillet. He changes diapers with the same ease as he changes gears. And sometimes, he sheds tears.

Then: Padding.
Now: Liposuction.

Then: The vamp wore sheer clothes, sang a ‘cabaret’ number and temporarily stole the hero away from the heroine.
Now: The vamp is extinct. The heroine gets her clothes and songs.

Then: Our parents left us at home when they went to watch an “A” movie.
Now: Our kids change the channel when they foresee a ‘scene’.

Then: We spoke to our grandparents in the vernacular and looked forward to grandma’s laddoos.
Now: Our parents speak to our kids in English and take them out for pizza.

Then: The maid gratefully accepted whatever food and clothes you gave her.
Now: She criticizes your culinary skills and your fashion-sense with equal disdain.

Then: Shopping with a jute bag was the equivalent of ‘dorky’.
Now: We flaunt eco-friendly jute shoppers with bamboo handles.

Then: “Sorry for the interruption.” “Rukawat ke liye khed hai”
Now: “We’ll be right back--- after the break!”

Then: “Frogs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails, that’s what little boys are made of.”
Now: My son has seen a frog once, and a snail, never.

Then: We paid attention in class and scrupulously noted down the homework to be done.
Now: They go to the phone as soon as they get back from school and ask, “What was the HW, yaar? Can you fax me the diagrams?” or, “My notebook has gone into your bag, can you courier it to me, please?” or, “Chill and go on that trip, you can photocopy my notes later.”

Then: We spent hours in the library.
Now: They spend hours on the Net.

Then: I swore I would never say, “When we were kids……”
Now: I swear and say it!


Children's book: Bahadur, The Tiger

This book for children came out in 2002, copyright Pauline Publications, Mumbai(www.paulineindia.org)
It has three stories.

(A story about a tiger, who, contrary to expected norms, is not at all brave. He seeks a solution to his problem, in magic.)

In a jungle, there once lived a tiger cub. His mother had named him Bahadur. He was a scared little tiger who jumped when he saw his own shadow!
He went and hid behind his mother when his father roared. He froze when the leaves rustled. He didn’t like it at all when the monkeys chattered at him. And the monkeys, being monkeys, teased him all the more for it. They pulled his tail. They swung down suddenly from a tree above him, making him back away in alarm.
His mother, the tigress, was very upset about all this.
“Oh, Bahadur,” she would say sadly, “You are a TIGER! Other animals are supposed to be scared of you!”
“But I’m so little Ma,” Bahadur would say miserably.
“So what? All animals are small at first. If you carry on like this, you will grow up into a great big tiger, of whom nobody will be afraid! Would you like that?”
“No, Ma,” Bahadur shook his head and slunk away. He wandered aimlessly until he came to a quiet pool. He looked down into it and saw himself. No, he was not a baby any more. Soon he would be a young tiger. Did he want all the other animals to laugh at him? No! They were supposed to tremble with fear at the mere mention of his name.
If only he could become brave by some kind of magic! -----


(A baby rhino has no friends because he is perceived as ugly.)

Ramu Rhino was sitting all by himself again, his back to the others.
"What is the matter Ramu," his mother asked. She had sent him out to play and now she found him sitting away from the other baby animals. “Don’t you want to play with your friends?”
“Friends? They are not my friends, Ma. Nobody wants to be my friend. They say I’m too clumsy and big. When I run, the others are afraid I’ll crush them.----And they say I’m ugly too!” Ramu sniffed.------

----Now, among the playmates was a handsome young peacock named Parimal. He had just grown a beautiful long tail and was very proud of it indeed. All day, he strutted around, showing off his plumes.He kept twisting around so that he could admire it himself. He would not pass the smallest pool or puddle without stopping to look at himself adoringly. Oh, how he preened! The other animals and birds made him even vainer. They would admire his tail, his rich blue colour and beg him for any fallen feathers.------



(A lazy crow neglects his studies at school, with dire consequences)


Papa and Mama Crow were very excited. They had built a cosy little nest up in a shady tree and mama Crow had laid three eggs in it. Now they seemed ready to hatch.
“Yes, I think our babies are ready to come out,” mama Crow cawed in joy. Papa Crow looked on with his beady eyes shining. A tiny tapping sound came from within one egg. Soon a crack appeared and the egg shell split open to reveal a fuzzy little crow-chick. This was soon followed by another egg splitting. The crows had two daughters. But mama Crow was worried about the third egg. Why wasn’t it hatching? -------

-----Old Grandfather Owl held a school for young birds. As soon as the birds were strong enough to fly up, they joined the Treetop School!
Oh, the things that were taught there! The birds learnt a lot from the old owl. What things to eat and what to avoid; how to clean their beaks. A class was held separately for those birds who could sing. Madam Koel was the music teacher.-------
------Shyam just spent his time playing hide-and-seek with his friend Chalu Cuckoo.----


Monday, November 13, 2006

At the Traffic Signal

(Woman's Era: November (First) 2002)
(WE's blurb: Two women--- waiting for the traffic lights to change---)


“Relax!” exhorted the red light at the traffic signal. Avinash drummed his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently. Megha, sitting beside him, fumed inwardly. The red light seemed to jeer at her—relax indeed! As if one ever could! She shot a sideways glance at Avinash. He was still drumming on the wheel. But he didn’t do that when he was alone, she bet. “Now, because he is going slightly out of the way to drop me, his time is suddenly precious,” she thought resentfully.
Megha knew she was being unduly harsh on her husband, but she could not help it. That was how she felt. Only she knew the Herculean effort it took to get out of the house. -----

----- She as wife, mother, bahu and general dogsbody was expected to put herself out catering to everybody’s needs-mental, physical, and emotional. Why blame others, she herself saw her role as that of a giver, a nurturer. She had to be flexible, accommodating everything and everybody smoothly. The fabric of life could not have a single wrinkle!-----

------ Could she call herself a 21st century woman? Certainly not! Why, she was so flexible and accommodating that she had not even combed her hair before leaving home, so as not to delay Avinash. She set about doing it now. Avinash demurred, “Don’t do that – people are staring.”
“Let them,” she huffed. If she began to care what even strangers thought---! As she turned her face automatically to the window, her attention was caught by a woman who had drawn up alongside their car, riding a scooter. Now, there was a 21st century woman for you! Her very appearance radiated confidence. She seemed at ease, an ease born of freedom. The freedom to go where she pleased, without depending on anybody. --------Feet encased in no-nonsense sandals—she could see that the toenails were varnished. Her own toes curled—how long was it since she had had a pedicure?---------
Her eyes met the other lady’s. They both hurriedly looked away. Megha thought, “Huh, she must be thinking what an idiot I am—can’t even comb my hair before setting out! If I had been working, I’d have been organized, efficient smart ----”
Rachna tilted her head sideways as she adjusted her helmet strap. The action brought into her line of sight the car standing to her right. She could see the lady in the passenger seat. As Rachna looked, the lady began to comb out her hair with quick, practised strokes. Then she ran her fingers through her long hair and shook it back. Rachna looked away in case she was caught staring.
That one act by the stranger in the car brought home to Rachna everything she did not have, everything she wanted to do. To be able to comb your hair in a car with someone else driving—ah, that was luxury. That was pampering.____

-----Oh to be able to just get up and go! No half-day leave, or arranging an ‘on-duty’ or asking someone to cover up for you.--------

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Crow and Two Girls

A Crow and Two Girls

(Woman's Era: June(First) 2000)

Feeling virtuous about rising early, I leave my house and head for the park on my morning walk. Visitors to Delhi invariably gush about these ubiquitous parks. Well-maintained or not, they are there, at least. Some have a couple of swings and slides and so they are entitled to be called children’s parks. Some others can actually boast of a lawn and flowers. All of them can be turned into palaces for weddings overnight, courtesy the tent-house-wallahs. Chandeliers, fountains and something like “Hunny Weds Happy” emblazoned in flowers are de rigueur.
And so is the case with “my” park this morning. I am not a witness to the splendour of the night before. Only to the debris of the morning after. I wrinkle my nose in disgust. No civic sense, I mutter to myself, and pick my way around gingerly to avoid the remains of the mountains of food.
I chart a course for myself by which I can avoid that particular area altogether. Which is as well, because a crow has come to investigate the pile, and I don’t like crows.
As I set up a brisk pace, I think about the myriad things I do think about at this time of the day. Out of the corner of my eye, I register two ragamuffin girls wandering about amidst the forlorn, drooping tents. With their hair dry and tangled, they are a common sight everywhere. They poke about in dustbins and in places like this park for scraps to sell or eat. I don’t give them a second glance.
A couple of laps later, I notice the girls again. They are not looking for food or kabari. They are pulling off garlands of flowers from the poles and boards. I just hope that no officious resident comes and hollers at them for adding to the already considerable mess.
But the next minute, I check myself. They are not pulling off the flowers at random. They are carefully unraveling the strings. They want those faded, no-longer-sweet-smelling flowers.
My interest is awakened. I don’t stand and stare, but I do slow down my pace. My gaze follows those raggedy girls.
They make their way to the swings, and there proceed to wind the flowers around the chains of the swings. Soon the swings are flower bedecked. A pretty sight. I am reminded of Madhubala singing on a huge flowery swing in a black and white film of yore.
My preoccupation leads me past the heap of leftover food that I have been avoiding. The crow is still there. He appears a dull black to the disinterested gaze. The morning sun catches his feathers and I notice they are iridescent with purple, blue and green hues. Colours that I normally associate with the splendour of the peacock.
The rag picker girls are dirty, unkempt, illiterate. Yet somewhere in the depths of their hearts or minds, there is a spark of creativity, an eye for beauty.
Somewhere in their drab lives there is a minute to spare to play with flowers.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Visiting Granny

(Woman's Era, March (Second) 2000)

Visiting Granny

“Hey Mom, let’s go to Ammamma’s place for the weekend!” say my kids. (Ammamma is Telugu for maternal grandmother.)
“OK,” I say, and set certain things I motion, like giving the maid the weekend off. Hubby dear is out of town, hence this sudden trip.

“Are we going this year?” two wide-eyed little girls hopefully ask.
“Yes!” my mother says, her eyes smiling more than her mouth.
“Ooh!” we hug our precious knowledge to ourselves and rush off to finish two months’ holiday homework in five days flat. My mother gets busy, making cakes, laddoos and sev for the journey.

Saturday morning finds me hailing and autorickshaw, with my daughter and son bouncing up and down beside me. I carry just an overnight bag---which has hardly any clothes in it – more of the kids’ stuff like colouring books and their favourite Teddy and Bunny.

The morning of our journey dawns after days of agonized waiting. The car to the station is loaded down with suitcases, trunk and bedding, not to mention a basket of eats and the ubiquitous surahi.
“Write as soon as you reach there.” My father says through the barred window of the train carriage.
“Yes. Please take care of yourself. The mess food.........”
“Don’t worry about that,” he says and goes off to buy us some comics. Meanwhile, my sister and I have explored every nook and cranny of our compartment, blackening our hands thoroughly.

The autorickshaw rattles and bumps along the 7 kilometres to my mother’s house. The petrol fumes make my eyes water.

The train huffs and puffs along on the 2080 km route, the steam engine spewing sooty smoke back towards us. Our faces, pressed against the bars of the window are streaked with black. My mother’s eyes are watering. No, those are tears.
“You are thinking of Ammamma,” we whisper.
“Yes. It is all right,” she reassures us

My son fidgets “Are we nearly there, mom?” he asks petulantly, "I’m hungry.”
“Just wait,” I soothe, “only a few minutes more.”

My sister and I make up games to play, apart from the usual word building and name games. We have to pass two nights and a day in the train. We count the number of tunnels we go through, and the rivers we cross. We crane our necks to catch a glimpse of a tiger (wild hope!) in the jungle on either side of the track and are rewarded by the sight of a shy deer, sometimes.
“Hey, curve, curve, curve!” my sister sings out. We never get tired of catching sight of the engine and all the bogies ahead of ours, from our window as the train rounds a curve.

“Hey, that signboard wasn’t there before,” says my daughter, “Do we turn here?”
It turns out that we do. We are nearly there.
“For heaven’s sake Mom, don’t tell Ammamma about the card we made for her----we’ll give it to her ourselves.” That is my self possessed seven-year-old daughter.
“Oh, no,” I protest. “When did I ever---“
“You might,” she says darkly.

“Please Mummy, don’t cry when you see Ammamma. Please!” That is me, as we near our destination, afraid to see an adult cry.
“No, no,” my mother hastens to explain. “I cry out of joy. But I’ll try not to, hmmm?”
The train chugs to a stop at “our” station. My mother scans the faceless multitude for a glimpse of a dear face----yes, there is her brother, scrutinizing the alighting passengers equally anxiously. Then the recognition, the joyful meeting, the ‘how-big-you-have-grown’ to us. We are hopping with excitement. The rickshaws outside the station are examined by us kids and the most luridly coloured one and the one with the most bells are accorded the honour of taking us home.

The auto skitters drunkenly to a halt outside the apartment block my parents live in. My children rush into the gate as I pay the driver. I sling the bag over my shoulder and stroll towards the flat. The children are ringing the doorbell---leaning on it actually.

The rickshaws jingle up to the gate of the sprawling house with the red roof of earthen tiles. There sitting on the verandah, are my grandparents. We leap off and run pell-mell through the gate. My mother, smiling through her tears, follows. My grandmother holds out her arms to us. Her smile holds such warmth, such affection, and her voice smiles a welcome too.

My father opens the door to us and my mother is standing just behind him, her arms held out to my children. Her smile holds such warm affection, such joy at seeing us, and I hear a smiling welcome in her voice.
No, nothing has changed.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Wardrobe Blues

Wardrobe Blues

(Woman’s Era; May (First) 1998)

“Honestly, I have nothing to wear!” Not a very original statement, I’m afraid, but true, none the less. It didn’t sound original because of the simple fact that it is the refrain of women all over the world----class, creed, race no bar!
I stood in front of my cupboard crammed to bursting point with clothes, clothes and more clothes. And yet I wailed that oft-repeated chant, “I have nothing to wear!”
Hubby, heartless as usual murmured,” So what’s new?” and went back to the sports channel on TV. It was left to me to rummage in my war-ravaged almirah for something suitable to wear. This was one hour before zero-hour-----the time we left for a party.
It was not so much not being able to decide. The problem rather arose because I could not remember what I had worn the last time when I had partied with the same crowd.
We have so many “circles”. Hubby’s old school friends. Old college friends. Mine, ditto. My colleagues. Past and present colleagues of the husband. Relatives. Neighbours. Was it any wonder that my head spun in circles having to keep in mind all these circles?
Hubby dear couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. “So what if you repeat a sari? Who’s going to notice anyway?”
To which I had the pleasure of replying sweetly, ”Everyone is not like you darling. You wouldn’t notice if I turned up in a tent!”
Of course, there are some circles where it really doesn’t matter what you wear. Old school friends fall into this category.
After all, when someone has seen you in a shapeless pinafore and tight well-oiled plaits, she hardly bothers with your outer appearance----be it your new perm or your prized Dhakai. For someone who has seen you as you are, day in and day out, through the years it really doesn’t matter if you are shimmering with diamonds or not. Your company is scintillating enough.
I was musing so, when my husband broke into my reverie. “Aren’t you ready yet?”
“You’re a fine one to talk,” I retorted testily. “It takes you one minute to fling on shirt and trousers. You cannot compare yourself with me!” Muttering to myself about it being a man’s world down to the smallest thing, I hurriedly chose something. I was reasonably sure about it too.
On the ride over, hubby conceded, “I guess, you have to keep track of these things; otherwise you’ll have to put up with comments. Behind your back, at that! Why become fodder for feline and canine instincts?”
“Eh?” I was puzzled.
“I mean catty and bitchy yaar!”
Maybe I was paranoid, but at the party, whenever someone’s gaze lingered a little too long on my sari, I must have worn the same thing at the last do!
A few days later, hubby announced, “Another party coming up!”
That sent me into a frenzy of organizing my cupboard. Matching blouses, petticoats, chunnis, bangles were all found, or bought. Accessories went into neatly labeled trinket boxes. For the first time in years, I had the luxury of being pampered, albeit by myself!
But, came party day, and I was back to square one. No doubt, my cupboard was neat and organized, but the question remained: What on earth had I worn last time?
My husband was exasperated. To be fair, he was justified. But somehow, I could not help it. Everyone has some pet quirk. This was mine! And so the whole scene was replayed.
This time, hubby tried to score by saying, “I don’t know! My mother never made a song and dance about clothes. She always managed to remember what she wore and when.”
“Of course she did, dearest,” I replied mildly, though fuming inside. But I had to let fly a barb.
“She didn’t have much else to concentrate on. She probably could remember what everybody else wore, too!” How was that in the canine-feline department!
“Well, can you?” he quizzed.
“You know I can’t. And that is because I have a million other things on my mind. I am not scatterbrained, am I? Who remembers the kids’ marks in every subject in the last exam? Who remembers their exam schedules, their fee payment schedules, their school trips, their vaccinations? Who remembers the insurance premium, the sports club membership? And all this without writing anything down, I’ll have you know!”
“There you are! You’ve given yourself an idea,” hub, ever the organizational expert, said brightly. “Keep a small diary. Note down, column-wise, the date, the occasion, the crowd and what you wore. You can even have a column for accessories!”
“Brilliant, oh L& M!” I smiled.
“I must be, for you to call me Lord and Master after so many years.”
“Take care I don’t go back to calling you MCP!” I shot back.
Well, that bit of efficiency lasted exactly for 2 parties. After that the little diary got lost, as little diaries are wont to do.
But some of my husband’s operations management had rubbed on me and I hit upon another idea.
On a small strip of paper, I wrote when I had worn a certain sari and stapled it to the sari so that the chit would not get lost or mixed up in another sari. Now I felt I would not repeat a sari at least for a decent interval.
I managed to label quite a few saris this way, and felt justly proud of myself. Our resident logistics expert (read my husband) also was happy, since he was not called upon to help me decide what to wear.
So there I was at this party, circulating and enjoying myself hugely. I was talking animatedly to a circle of friends, when someone behind me picked up my pallav to admire the border.
Or so I thought. For it was a particularly canine-feline lady, and she said in a carrying voice, “Didn’t I see you in this sari some time ago? October 12th, to be precise. You must be very fond of it, na?”
My first reaction was puzzlement. How could she know? As far as I could remember, I had worn the sari for a family function, so there was no chance of her having been there. Indeed my slip of paper had said so.
My hand flew to my mouth. Where was that slip? A surreptitious search confirmed my worst fear---- I had neglected to remove the offending bit of paper before wearing the sari! There it hung, at the edge of my pallav securely stapled for all who cared to see! At that moment, I was like Sita, praying for Mother Earth to open up and swallow me----
All that is water under the bridge now. But it still rankles. One solution is to wear a sari only once, before discarding it like a fabled actress of yesteryears. That idea does not really appeal, besides making us bankrupt.
I have only one viable option. I am taking a correspondence course from my mother-in-law on the subject.