Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I do have a small black dot on the sole of my left foot, and seem to have spent a lot of my life galumphing across the world. Tomorrow I head out for a brand new city, on my last expedition of the year. This year I visited several cities I'd never visited before, including Darjeeling, Vishakhapatnam, Raipur (on my second ever visit to Bhilai, after a gap of decades), Dhaka, Singapore, Pune, and, finally, Hyderabad.
Let us see where the coming year takes us!
All good wishes for 2012, my dear readers. May Life be good to you and your dear ones.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
He called her at 4.30 a.m yesterday morning, telling her that he was suffocating.
She rushed to the hospital, as did her sister.
When we met her today, her greatest sorrow was that she could not save her father.
He had fractured his femur, and was in the ICU awaiting surgery.
He was over eighty, and a heart patient, who had lived a full life.
An active man, unable to move because of his fractured thigh bone.
But to go this way?
To be brought down from the third floor by a crane, in a sling, probably already dead of suffocation?
All because we do not strictly enforce safety regulations.
Corruption and callousness rule.
So many lives have been lost.
My mother stayed in this hospital for ten days.
My father was treated here in the emergency room.
I am thankful, always, that they both died at home.
People are born and people die, every single day.
So do natural calamities.
But something like this is horrendous, simply because it didn't need to happen. It should not have happened. Such a tragedy should never happen again, but it will, as long as ignorance, callousness and corruption remain.
I am numb with fury and grief.
How many more deaths will it take for our systems to work as they should???????
Monday, December 5, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
He later accompanied the singer K.S. Chitra in the extremely successful album "Piya Basanti", and Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal and K.S. Chitra in the 2006 release, Ustad and the Divas.
He passed away on the 27th November after a prolonged illness.
RIP, Ustad Saheb.
Your voice is truly unforgettable.
in crumpled, colourful cotton sarees
wrapped around their shoulders
against the early morning chill
in animated conversation
each holding on a leash
a pug, a Lhasa Apso and a Labrador.
The pug and the Apso look bored
and somewhat suspicious
while the Labrador wags his tail
and smiles a benevolent smile.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Sue and I spent a delightful weekend with Aneela and her family in Dhaka, and were heartbroken when we left the adorable Arhaan in tears at the airport. He insisted that I was Sue, much of the time!
Shortly after our return, I tagged along with the SRE to Singapore where he had a conference to attend, while I had a wonderful time with Moppet's Mom (whom I'm trying to convince to blog again) and the delightful Moppet and Munch, whom I last saw in 2008, when young Munch was a babe in arms. This lazy blogger will now post a few photographs of Singapore, just to tell you that I'm back, and will try and write again when I have the house a lot more organized than it is now.
The Cavenagh Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Singapore. Now used as a convenient foot bridge between the Museum of Asian Civilisations and The Fullerton Hotel.
The Christmas lights are already up on Orchard Road!
Another bridge, as viewed from the one in the first photograph.
This beautiful elephant stood majestically in the lobby of the Asian Civilisations Museum, which was absolutely wonderful to visit. (Thanks for the great suggestions, Moppet's Mom).
It is part of the wonderful Elephant Parade, which is trying to to attract public awareness and support for Asian elephant conservation. We saw many beautiful and colourful elephants all across Orchard Road and other places too.
More when I'm better organised, folks. Now to get back to clearing up stuff!
Saturday, November 5, 2011
I am sharing, with his permission, a blog post of his that I love:
Do read the article he has linked to, here, for a little piece of sheer joy:
You will love his wheelchair! I quote:
My wheelchair prefers the outdoors. Over the years, it has travelled down mountains, explored jungles, gone up a river by boat, watched sunsets on beaches, crisscrossed the Western Ghats, ferried across the Brahmaputra. It has also hopped onto airplanes, trains and jeeps, and once rolled itself all the way into the Ganga, my protests notwithstanding.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
As soon as a daughter/sister grows out of her childhood,
the repository of the family honour,
An honour so flimsy and so weak
that it requires the protection of whips and steel
and guard dogs, and locked rooms
and watchful eyes that follow her every move.
God forbid that she speak to a male classmate
Even an innocuous chat can be misconstrued
as violating the family's honour.
An inquisition may follow
that leaves her stunned and furious and defiant
and ready to defy such diktats.
The paranoid create what they fear the most
perhaps fearing their own inner demons,
part of their own pasts.
For whatever reason, the girl remains
a prisoner of archaic beliefs,
her mother and sisters too, recruited as jailors
all in the interest of her own future happiness
where marriage to a good boy
(never a man, I wonder why)
chosen by the family is the only acceptable option.
The father whose daughter dares to consider
someone else suitable for matrimony
He cares for his daughter so much,
he cannot let her jeopardise her future
And this doting father, who always but always loved his little girl
thrashes her mercilessly with his belt,
the buckle piercing her skin,
the leather strap bruising her tender flesh.
He is, however, a much kinder man
than the one who gets his daughter's beloved killed
or drives him to suicide
Or threatens him/bribes him
to leave his daughter alone.
Or the brother who kills his own sister
for daring to love.
Guide your children well, dear sirs,
your sons and your daughters........
guide them and teach them and trust them,
and let them go out into the world
Well armed with wisdom and courage
with faith in you, and faith in your love.
Please don't imprison them
in the cage of Family Honour.
It cannot be more precious to you
Than your beloved child.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The very thought of domestic violence is chilling. It is something that should never happen. And yet it does, in many homes, in all social classes, with varying frequency. My questions here are very difficult ones- does a single act of violence signal the end of a marriage? Should it? What does a couple need to do to be able to go beyond it? Can they? Is physical violence more demeaning than verbal violence that goes on and on, destroying the victim's self -esteem? There are so many many questions, and no simple answers. So much depends on the earlier nature of the relationship, the perpetrator's genuine remorse and horror at his act, the victim's own assessment of the situation....
A few examples from real life, names obviously changed. After a huge verbal fight, Ria is screaming and threatening to jump off the terrace. Amit catches hold of her arms, but her struggles are violent and the parapet is low. She is in real danger. Amit slaps her hard, and she collapses, trembling, in a heap on the floor, not quite believing that Amit hit her. She has, herself, hit him several times, but since she is a woman she doesn't think of it as abuse. Amit feels terrible about hitting her, but feels that he had no choice. What do you think? This relationship didn't last, despite several attempts at rapprochement.
Manasi and Vinay have been married for a while. Manasi was head over heels in love with Vinay, he perhaps less so. After the initial euphoria faded, he lost interest in Manasi. Since they were staying with his parents, the occasional kitchen dispute would occur, and would add up in Vinay's mind as yet another black mark against Manasi. Gradually his disenchantment with her grew, as did the distance. Manasi tried to do anything she could to gain his attention, including going out with male colleagues in the evening and coming home after having a drink or two.
When 'provoked' by this attention-seeking behaviour, his only response was to hit her. When this became a regular pattern, a heart-broken Manasi went back to her parents, and the couple divorced.
Dipti is deeply ashamed that she actually hit her beloved husband when he kept nagging her to drive when she didn't want to. He thought he was boosting her confidence as a driver, but she was exhausted after a long day and just lost control. She shocked herself with her action, and is still contrite about it, though she has been forgiven long ago.
Ramesh has slapped his wife a couple of times, is grieved about it, but feels helpless at times. She will go on and on and on about whatever is upsetting her (usually his mother) and there is no way she is willing to stop. He is ashamed of his actions, and yet does not know how to deal with the situation. Rani does not feel that she has provoked him- she feels that all she wants is for him to listen to her vent without getting enraged. Neither of them feels that their marriage is over, both of them are trying to learn to communicate without anger, although they know have a long way to go.
Mita remembers her father banging his own head against the wall- that would be the only way her mother would stop ranting when she lost her temper. Although he never raised a hand on his wife, the children would be terrified. Was this a violence on his family? He injured himself, but the entire family was pained.
When a spouse deliberately breaks things to express his/her anger- does this count as domestic violence??? The classic stories cover breaking china and glassware and remote controls, TV screens etc., undoubtedly better than hitting a spouse, but nonetheless damaging. The funniest story I heard about this was when a friend's mother was throwing plates and glassware on the floor and breaking them, and her spouse was handing her things to break. Despite her rage, she would calmly put aside the more valuable items, like the Pyrex dishes, and then take the next proffered plate and smash it.
Many of these couples are perpetuating behaviour they have seen in their own childhood. Some of them recall violent physical fights with their siblings in their childhood, which continue with their spouses in adulthood. Adulthood requires us to control our hands and fists, and yet many of us have smacked our children at some point of time or the other. Smacking , slapping, hitting or punching anyone is not desirable behaviour. Nothing justifies it. But surely a single/occasional episode does not/should not signal the death warrant of a relationship in which both partners are willing to learn and willing to change.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
It opens during the Ramzan fast, where the protagonist Salim, (an adopted son of the ruler) and his cousin Ahmed are looking at musical instruments in a shop in Chowk, one of the oldest markets of Lucknow. There they encounter a pair of eyes and hands (the figure being clad in a burqa) , which leave a lasting impression on the young Salim. They do encounter the lady again, and a common love for music, both Indian and Western, brings them together. This involves a large degree of secrecy and intrigue, as there is little or no interaction between Oudh's nobility and the British outside the official world of treaties and negotiations. The home lives of both Salim and Rachael are depicted with great charm, and the minor characters all ring true.
Do check out Sangeeta Bhargava's blog for excerpts.
Wajid Ali Shah has to leave his beautiful city and moves with most of his entourage to Kolkata. (The kingdom of Oudh was formerly protected by the British under treaty, and was finally annexed by them, and the Nawab was exiled to Kolkata). The iniquities of British rule are clearly spelled out. The destruction of a once beautiful city, the cruelty and violence perpetrated by both sides, the brutal attacks on the Residency in which many women and children were also killed, all are depicted vividly. Despite the widespread death and destruction, despair never rules, and in the saddest and hardest of times, the human spirit and love triumph. The book reads easily, with characters that are all too human, and descriptions that bring alive the splendour of the Lucknow of the nawabs. Daima, Chutki, Nayansukh, the ever hungry Ahmed, Begum Hazrat Mahal, the protagonists Salim, aka Chhote Nawab, and Rachael Bristow, the English colonel's daughter, are beautifully delineated.
History comes alive in these pages.
I think I particularly loved this book for its portrait of a city I have lived in and loved, much of which has been destroyed, yet whose past imbues its present with a flavour and a fragrance that is unique to Lucknow.
The blurb reads:
1855, Lucknow. As tensions simmer in the heat of colonial India, a prince of Avadh and an English woman defy their societies' prejudices to fall in love. But in a world where private happiness is at the mercy of wider events, even as Salim and Rachael are drawn closer together, their privileged lives are about to be torn apart. Trouble begins when the British annex Avadh and banish the king. Determined to recover what is rightfully his, Salim seizes the chance to fight back when a small mutiny flares into bloody rebellion against British rule. As unrest spreads across the subcontinent, the ancient city of Lucknow proves one of the most dangerous places to be. Torn between their loyalties to each other, their families and the opposing sides that threaten to raze the city to the ground, can Salim and Rachael's love prove strong enough to rise above the devastation surrounding them, and survive together to a world beyond?
The World Beyond is published in India by Rupa & Co., and is available on Flipkart.
Also published in England by Allison and Busby
Saturday, October 8, 2011
A view from Thodlakonda.
From one of the many parks dotting the beach road
A stream outside the Borra caves
Each coral was at least one foot across
My gallant archer, outside the tribal village museum at Aruku Valley
The SRE and I spent his Puja break in Vishakhapatnam, aka Vizag, a city I had long wanted to visit because of its fabled vistas of both the sea and the mountains. It more than lived up to our expectations. We relaxed, strolled along the beach, lazed, and then, of course, had to have a day of driving in the hills!!!! These were not as steep as the mountains in Darjeeling or Bhutan, but were hill roads nevertheless- not scary, but rather tiring, especially when you encounter lengthy traffic jams both while going to and returning to the beautiful Aruku Valley.
The people we met were warm, courteous, and hospitable. We had only one encounter with Andhra style cooking, a dal fry at a restaurant in Aruku Valley, which was probably the chilli-hottest dal we've ever eaten.
We had a lovely time, and I want to visit many more places in my beautiful country.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
An initiative to raise awareness about violence against women has been started by a team of bloggers, who had also brought us CSA Awareness Month this April.
Domestic violence, (and other spheres of violence against women) is like a mythical beast that many of us have faced, all of us are aware of, and one which many of us would like to sweep under the carpet and pretend that it doesn't exist. Sad to say it exists, gets huge media coverage, and seems to grow from strength to strength, and yet, even if we know that a woman has been beaten by her partner, we hesitate to even ask her what really happened. She hesitates to confide in any one, neither wishing to be perceived as a victim, nor wanting her spouse to lose face. With repeated beatings, she may even begin to believe that it is her fault. It can even be fatal- many women lose their lives to domestic violence.
Violence per se is a function of the ego, of frustration and rage that knows no boundaries, of physical power over the victim. Violence is perhaps a latent part of each human being, hard-wired into us as a measure of self defence, originating at a point in human history when fight or flight was the key to survival. When, however, a survival mechanism becomes a tool for oppression and subjugation, something is seriously wrong. When violence begins to define a relationship, that relationship is doomed.
I love what OJ has to say:
My brand of feminism, in addition to my personal experiences, does not permit me to only call this Violence Against Women. Hence the sub-title Women Against Violence. And, I fervently hope, men and transgenders too.
Yes, we truly need all humans to be against violence! It solves nothing, and adds vastly to the burden of human misery in the world.
Non-violence was central to Gandhiji's beliefs.
Let it be central to ours as well. Practicing non-violence as a way of life may just transform this often cruel world we live in.
Friday, September 30, 2011
The proud father (on the left) and uncle.
Our family's youngest dog, the beautiful black cocker spaniel Mahi, delivered her first litter yesterday. The mother and babies are doing well, but since she is not letting anyone near them, we don't yet know the sex of the puppies. One of them didn't want to suckle, so has been fed by a dropper- yes, he's a boy, who has been named Piglet (for now, at least).
The vet had said that the pups were likely to be black, since it was likely to be the more dominant fur colour (the father is the pale gold American cocker spaniel, the bigger dog in the picture), so we are very pleased to see the little golden brown pups.
More puppy updates as and when I get them!
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
My old computer has finally retired, after several attempts to revive it over the last year or so.
During the last couple of months I would actually give the CPU a tight slap to start it, poor thing. It would also spontaneously shut down, which was, as you can imagine, extremely annoying. The monitor's colours had been looking quite ill for about a year, and there were many programmes that were next to impossible to use on it. After much thought, I decided to get a new desktop, rather than a laptop.
My younger son and one of his friends have done a marvellous job in planning, buying, assembling and installing this new beauty. They have also loaded it with some wonderful music. Thank you, boys.
Our first computer was bought in late 1995, I think- an HP Beanstalk. I still remember the mouse being completely out of my control the first couple of times I tried to use it. It was replaced about four years later with a model that connected to the telephone line, and e-mail became a part of our lives. Domestic internet usage was limited in those days, and the kind of instant connectivity we have today was unimaginable. The third one was bought from Chennai, when we were living in Gummidipoondi- I used that for about seven years! That was the machine on which I started blogging (the one which has just been made redundant, poor thing), and which gave me access to some wonderful writing and some great friends. I wonder what changes will occur in this new machine's tenure!
Saturday, September 24, 2011
The first time you accidentally poke your poor baby with a nappy pin, you die of guilt. (The fact that the said baby was wriggling away to high heaven is completely besides the point). The baby who was safely immobile, suddenly rolls over and lands on the floor, screaming. The infant who tumbles out of your arms and falls, and throws up........ remembering all this will induce guilty nightmares, I think.
Then the years of school, and homework, and unwilling to do the said homework children and your reaction to them. Smacking your kid because he/she didn't lay out his school uniform the night before and is now hysterical because the wretched school tie can't be found in the morning rush.........
The scared faces of your kids when you and the spouse are engaged in a gargantuan fight. You wonder how deeply you are scarring them, but the battle continues....
It goes on. The reasons for the guilt may change, but the guilt remains. With grown up kids, again, you can feel guilty about practically anything.
The SRE and I had gone to Bhutan last July. Our tickets were booked, and we were leaving early on a Monday morning. The youngest kid was home from college that weekend, and I also had a house guest whom I had to entertain. The son was not too well on Saturday evening, and on Sunday morning was running a high temperature. Our doctor was consulted and medicines were started. Our guest was sent to the airport with the driver. We seriously contemplated cancelling our trip, but were duly scolded by the unwell son. We thought we could drop him to the hostel on our way to the airport, but we had a very early flight, so that didn't make sense either. My trusted maid works only part time, but she promised to look after him and feed him, and said she was just a phone call away, if he needed anything after she had left.
The driver was also given a shopping list of soups and fruit to buy for the invalid. I knew that the boy would be miserable all alone and ill, but he insisted that he would be alright and that we had better go as scheduled.
We called him as soon as we landed at Paro, we called him from Thimphu. I'm sure we were calling him with irritating frequency. We were pretty miserable holiday makers ourselves until we spoke to him on Tuesday afternoon- he was much better and was back in the hostel. (Afterwards he did acknowledge that being all alone and ill was no fun at all).
Talk about a guilt trip.
I don't think you can ever be immune to mommy guilt, even when your kids are adults, leading there own lives, running their own establishments. If you are aware of anything wrong in your child's life, it's probably your fault anyway!
Monday, September 19, 2011
The same table, as it is today.
Our bedroom window sill, and Boseji's corner.
In recent months, Flipkart has become my new best friend. It is just so easy to order a book online and have it delivered to your doorstep in a couple of days! Flipkart has made me forget both my beloved lending library and my main reason for borrowing books from the said library- not enough space in any of our bookshelves. This reasoning has never appealed to the SRE, though- he is an inveterate book buyer. (I'm not quite sure whether he ever finishes a book, or whether he absorbs it by some kind of osmosis, but that is almost completely besides the point).
A narrow table, which used to have decorative thingummies and a fruit basket on it has become a bookshelf with the help of bookends, but is also overflowing. My bedroom window sill is laden, as are other odd surfaces, as you can see in the photographs above.
When the older son was visiting us this summer, Amitav Ghosh's River of Smoke was gifted to him by the fond parents. He read it at top speed, and I borrowed it from him, knowing full well that since he would not be taking it back with him to the USA, the other kids and I could read it at leisure. I read it, and lent it, along with The Immortals of Meluha, to Sue. It came back a while ago, and was kept on the narrow table along with The Secret of the Nagas, a more recent acquisition, courtesy Flipkart. I'm sure you know that River of Smoke is a large book, not easy to lose, but that is exactly what I did.
I was talking to the oldest child a few days ago, and since the youngest kid will be travelling to Delhi by train this October, we decided that I would send several books across with him, including River of Smoke. I pulled out several books that I had enjoyed from my window 'shelf', and dumped them on the narrow table. I was, however, puzzled to find River of Smoke and its companions missing from there. Being me, I vaguely wondered where the books were, and then got busy doing something else.
At the back of my mind, though, there was a niggle. Where were those three books? I looked into all our various bookshelves, even under the cloth covering the narrow table, and in some random unlikely places just for fun, but there was no sign of them.
The younger son had been away from Kolkata, so he had hardly been home, but I still asked him, this weekend, if he had, perchance, borrowed them. He said that he hadn't, so I let my brain worry a bit more.
This morning I asked the SRE if he'd seen them. He said he remembered seeing them on that very table, but had not touched them. He wondered if the maid had cleared them away. That, I said, was not possible, because she never touches our books. He looked at his half-unpacked-since-Thursday-evening-suitcase lying on the bedroom floor, and asked me to look in there, and of course there were no books to be seen. (Quite surprisingly, he hadn't bought any on his last trip). We remained most puzzled, and realised that there had been no recent visitor to our house who could have possibly taken the books- the last non-resident, non-family, non-regular worker was the electrician, repairing and replacing a ceiling fan which was moaning and groaning away to high heaven, making so much noise that it was impossible to live with.
An unlikely book pincher, we thought. There had been no guests, either.
The SRE thought that either we or the books were now in a parallel universe. I thought that maybe they had chosen to dematerialise just because I was planning to send one of them off to Delhi. Such things have been known to happen, especially in my life. We were pottering around in the dining room, and wondering what could have possibly happened, when I suddenly remembered . I flicked aside the curtain above the divan, and there was the missing threesome, all present and correct. If I could have kicked myself, I would have. Once again, it was the Cleaning Monster's fault, coupled with her general absentmindedness. Since I was sick and tired of seeing piles of books all over the place, I thought of commandeering the dining room window as an interim book shelf, and at that time the only extra books on the narrow table were those three, and they managed to be completely hidden by the curtain. (In the first picture you will see a single curtain, in the second you can see one of a pair, drawn back to let the light in).
I do try very hard to be organised, but ours is a big household, and if something is not kept in its designated place, it can be very difficult to locate. And cleaning sprees, or clearing up stuff in a hurry, can lead to some major displacements. I still shudder to think of the time I'd managed to misplace all of our life insurance policies. Phew. Yes, original LIC policies, which I had cleared away into the unlikeliest of places. However, (thank God for this), I'm not the only one. One evening I gave a slim plastic folder of credit card statements to the SRE, who had needed them for income tax reasons. Within minutes, though, the folder went missing. He was sitting on the bed, and the folder was supposed to have been kept in one of the drawers of his bedside table, but it was nowhere to be found. We went through all the drawers, and he hadn't moved from the bed, but there was no sign of the wretched thing. We gave up in despair, wondering anew at our foolishness and the malevolence of inanimate objects, and went to bed. The next morning I was, once more, inspired. I pulled out all the drawers and found the folder lying bent, at the back of the chest which the drawers slide into. Bah. The drawer was so full that the poor folder got squeezed out of it. No malevolence, no dematerialising, and no parallel universe.
I am absolutely convinced that we are made for each other. And that we also need a competent secretary, archivist and librarian in our home.
Friday, September 9, 2011
The SRE and I have dovetailed certain idiosyncracies into a strange pattern that usually suits both of us, but sometimes has innocent bystanders wondering at our sanity. This morning was a case in point. The specific idiosyncracies relevant to this morning's fun are as follows:
1. The SRE hates carrying a house key if he can possibly help it.
2. I'm paranoid about taking my personal house key out of whichever handbag I'm using at the time, so if, at any time, I step out of the house without my handbag, as, for example, when I go for a morning walk, I take the 'spare' key.
3. I do not take my mobile phone out for a morning walk.
I left for my walk at five thirty a.m., not quite sure whether or not the SRE would go to play golf or not, although he had planned to. When I got home, the car was still there, so I asked the car cleaner to come up and take the car key. The car key wasn't in its usual place, so I went into our room to check. There was no sign of either the car key or the SRE. (Yes, I even knocked on the bathroom door). His wallet, however, was lying on the dressing table, which was odd, because he needs to carry it to pay his caddy. (Besides the minor fact of his driving licence also being ensconced within it). I was rather puzzled, then looked to see if his golf clubs were in the house or not. They weren't, so I tried calling him on his mobile phone. I kept getting his caller tune, but no SRE.
Picking up the spare key, his wallet and my phone, I went downstairs to look for him. The car was still there, and the car cleaner said that he was walking around the building. The watchman told me he was in the lane outside our building, and there he was, trying to call me on my mobile phone.
The poor man was most relieved to see me. He had come down at six a.m. and realised that he had left his wallet in the house. He started heading out on the route I regularly follow, but then realised that Nature seemed to be calling, so he thought it prudent to walk around our building.
Unfortunately, if you walk in a more or less circular path around a building, there is a great chance of missing someone walking in through the single pedestrian gate, especially if that person doesn't know that he or she is being looked for. It would have been simple enough for him to tell the watchman on duty to tell me that he was walking around the compound and waiting for me. I think he had too much on his mind to think of such simple solutions, poor man. After several rounds he probably thought that he was more likely to find me in the lane. Also, he wasn't answering my calls, as his phone had been 'silent' since the important meeting he'd been attending all of yesterday. An unanswered ringing mobile phone is something I find truly nerve-wracking.
I think we were both quite overjoyed to finally find each other. He did go and play golf, with his wallet! I am seriously thinking that both of us need to change a habit or two, to prevent such chaos from happening again. Knowing us, though, we may well find some other way of totally confusing ourselves.
Monday, September 5, 2011
My oldest child calls up on Sunday morning with a huge smile in her voice.
She is returning from a two and a half hour breakfast meeting with Ma'am, who was in Delhi for a short while.
I'm smiling too, inside my heart.
I am proud to be a part of this wonderful lineage of teachers, even if it's been years since I taught a class.
I recently came upon my mother's old school certificates. She had completed what was known as the Vernacular Lower Middle in 1940, and the Upper Middle in 1943, growing up in a small town in U.P. By the time she passed her upper middle school exams, at the age of fifteen, she was already married, taking care of an ailing mother-in-law, who did not survive for long.
Her firstborn, my brother, was born when she was a little over sixteen years old.
My sister was born when she was twenty five, I when she was twenty seven.
My parents spent their early married life in fairly turbulent times. They were staunch nationalists, and would go and hear Gandhiji speak when they could. My father managed to study as well as work in a government office, and had graduated in 1953, thirteen years after he had passed his high school exams.
In 1957 my father was selected for a posting in England. He sought his father's permission to leave the country, and was told that he was free to go anywhere in the world as long as he could take his family with him.
My earliest memories are of our house in Teignmouth Road, of my mother helping us make clothes for our toys, particularly for our golliwog. And satin drawstring purses from remnants. I remember being utterly fascinated to see how turning a raw-edged piece of sewing inside out gave it a smooth finish.
In 1959, my mother attended English language classes. We remember her textbook, Essential English. I also remember not feeling happy the evenings she wasn't at home. Her fondness for learning didn't abate- she did baking courses (despite never eating cakes or eggs) and lampshade making courses. In the early sixties she did her Montessori training, and my sister and I were absolutely fascinated by her neat 'homework', files and boxes of flashcards. We used to love going to her school when we could. She would ensure that we learned Hindi from her, against our inevitable return to India, despite our protests. There is a whole lifetime of memories associated with her, far too many to write down here..........
There is so much I have learned from her, despite the inevitable differences which often cropped up between us as I grew up. But, as a young child, I could not have wished for a better teacher.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Here is a map which shows you the layout of this township.
The SRE and I first got lost here a few years ago when we went to drop young Suki home after watching Sue act in Proof. Suki guided us to her home, and also gave us clear instructions on how to get out of Salt Lake, but being rather dumb and befuddled by the darkness and roads which all look just the same, we managed to get ourselves well and truly lost. Since it was late it was also hard to find someone to give us directions, but we eventually got back onto the main road, and back home.
Early in 2010, a good friend of the SRE was in town. We sent our driver to pick up the couple and bring them home, and then dismissed him. The four of us went to the club where we were all meeting yet another couple for dinner. We decided to drop our friend and his wife back to Salt Lake, and actually managed to follow directions and not get lost. What a triumph!!!
A short while ago we learned that a dear cousin of the SRE and her husband were moving to Kolkata, and were staying, for the time being, in a guest house in Salt Lake. I went over one morning and spent the day with her, my trusty driver locating the place with relative ease. We called them over for dinner with us on Saturday evening. I did ask them to stay over, knowing fully well that locating their guest house at night would not be easy. However, they decided to go home and the SRE insisted on our dropping them there. We did get very near to their place before we got majorly lost in the grid of straight roads and roundabouts that is Salt Lake, since the cousins are also very very new to the place. A few confusing/confused directions were taken from a stray cabbie or two, and we deposited our most relieved guests at their gate. After which we proceeded home, getting misguided by the lack of street signs and stray guides who gave us the most flimsy of directions. We ended up several kilometers off track ( my only comfort being the fact that our petrol tank was full), when we reached a broken down road which had a metro line being built over it. This brought us to the Salt Lake City Centre, from where I more or less knew my way! One wrong turn and a u-turn to correct it, and we were back on familiar, known roads. Such awesome relief! I think I've told you before that I am the family navigator, but it is a role that I find exceedingly stressful now. I still like to follow the routes I'm driven on, and to note to myself the landmarks on the way, and the SRE doesn't utter a cross word either, but I feel huge silent waves of unease emanating from the poor man when he doesn't know which way to go.
Being lost and found that night got me thinking very seriously about life and beyond, and how important it is, if one is to tread unfamiliar paths leading to something worthwhile, to have a road map, and a guide to help you understand the way, and how to overcome the perils on the path. Ustad Amir Khan's wonderful dhrut bandish in Raga Marwa comes to mind-
Guru bina gyaan na paavey. Here is Rashid Khan singing this beautiful, meaningful bandish.
Going through the various journeys of a single lifetime, one encounters many guides and teachers. Even within a single relationship, one is both the teacher and the taught. The other day the SRE had to pay an emergency visit to his dentist, on a day when the driver was on leave, so I guided him around the long way that I knew well. He needed to make another early morning trip the next day, and proudly called me from the clinic, having got there comfortably all by himself. I felt most proud of my dear pupil! I cannot even begin to list the number of things he has introduced me to and taught me about, areas in which I am now reasonably competent.
Children, friends, enemies, strangers, pets, Nature.........all can teach us valuable lessons.
And if, like me, you are lucky enough to have Ma'am as your teacher, you can never be lost for long! In the most difficult of situations her wisdom and common sense shine like a beacon, guiding you through the trickiest of life's situations.
Truly, as the Adi Shankara said in his Gurustrotam:
Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Maheshwara. Guru Sakshath Parambrahma, Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha.
(Translation: Guru is the creator Brahma, Guru is the preserver Vishnu, Guru is the destroyer Siva. Guru is directly the supreme spirit — I offer my salutations to this Guru.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Do you find juicy, challenging cryptic crossword puzzles
in your little corner of heaven?
Can heaven even be heaven for you without fodder for your
It's supposed to be just the soul that rises,
way above mere thought and other functions of life,
but who really knows???
This other world I imagine you inhabiting now
has crossword puzzles and sharp pencils,
and a mother who makes sure
her son's life is on track, in the world she left long years ago.
Her beloved is with her now,
and together forever, they look over a densely wooded lake
hearing the bird calls at dawn and dusk,
and he plays his ragas to her, and she translates Rafi songs....
And always, always the crossword puzzles,
an ironic passion for one
who rarely uttered a cross word.
My imagination fails magnificently,
I can only see you as you were.
I can only pray that your soul is at peace.
Rest in peace, my friend.
Rest in peace.
26th August, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Actually being in the hills, though, is a different story. It is cool, and tranquil, and beautiful. The air smells fresh and lovely, and the people all seem gentle and courteous.
Lotuses in Renuka Lake
The turtle enjoyed his snacks, as did the big fat fish in the lake!
A glimpse of heaven!
Badolia Falls- a temple in a waterfall, between Jamta and Renuka Lake.
Did I tell you I love pine trees?
The colours of the lantana- Nature is so generous here.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Getting a suitable domestic help in urban areas in India is becoming increasingly difficult. Since we are having a servant quarter to offer to the likely candidate, we were placed in a slightly better position. So when Verma family, husband, wife, a son, a daughter, and a grown up brother of the husband offered to move in, we had an internal debate. Oh! What a large family. They will gobble up our water and electricity resources, and considering that they may have occasional visitors too, our house may become some sort of a serai. Eternal noise, with the rumbustious younger siblings fighting daggers drawn, as is customary, was another issue for consideration. But the family appeared to be neat and clean, with good reputation, as Mr.Verma was known to us for some time as a good and popular sweetmeat maker of the area. The grown up brother was a contract worker in the steel plant, Mr.Verma engaged mostly in his cooking assignments outside the house, children likely to be away in their respective schools, the bespectacled wife who was our main target for being appointed as the maid-in-waiting appearing to be sufficiently dim-witted; this was the combination which could be acceptable inspite of having large number of parts. There being no other alternative available at that point of time, we said, yes, and the crowd marched in pronto. This was some five years ago.
Mr.Verma was totally illiterate. I offered to teach him the Hindi alphabet, as a starter. But he was adamant in not learning, for he considered that he was a good cook only because he was illiterate, and even a rudimentary knowledge of letters will separate him from his art irrevocably. His wife could read and write a little bit of Hindi, but also appeared to subscribe to the theory of proficiency in cooking and literacy being incompatible to each other. We were informed that the children were earlier forced to join the school by their uncle, who himself did not have a formal education, but was an avid reader of Hindi newspapers. This guy appeared to be the most reasonable of the lot. The son, however had a surfeit of his father’s genes and never put his mind to studies. Only the daughter, who was about thirteen years of age, was good in studies and showed some promise in this direction.
After about one year of their having joined us, Mr.Verma started developing ambitions of making it big, and assembled a mobile fast-food stall. The shop became something of a hit in course of time as the quality of fare served was quite good. He borrowed more and more money to keep the joint running, and expanding it further, without knowing how to regulate the growth of his business, or where to stop for a breather. The end result was that he failed to timely repay the instalments on the loans and got into the debt-trap irretrievably. One fine morning after intense pressure was mounted by the loan sharks for repayment, he just disappeared, never to show his face again in this city or anywhere in its proximity. The loan givers pestered his family members for several months, confiscated the mobile cart and then faded away from the scene, realizing that nothing more could be achieved by knocking at our doors. All this time we shielded the Verma family as they were serving us loyally. The maid was working quite sincerely doing all sorts of odd jobs around the house willingly, although she was visually-challenged, and was drawing a princely sum of two hundred and fifty rupees per month from the state government, as compensation. We had developed sympathy and sense of protection for the lady for the misfortune of her husband having deserted her, and for her infirmity. Other family members also were doing their bit in running our household. A sort of equilibrium had thus been achieved. And then suddenly, another bolt from the blue struck the Verma family. The youngest member, the ten-year old boy, could not withstand the pressure of studies and constant exhortation of elders to do better on this front. Following in the footsteps of his father, and having inherited from him the habit of usurping others’ money, he too disappeared to an undisclosed destination with some four thousand rupees in his pocket.
We were all deeply upset, and his mother was simply devastated. She stopped taking any food, and was crying all the time. Her husband who left her about a year and half ago was a grown up man and could take care of himself, but the son was a mere child, she used to tell everybody. Was he able to feed himself? Did he have a shelter over his head? Was he even alive?, she went on thinking on these lines and the thoughts used to be followed by fresh bout of crying. I contacted the local City Superintendent of Police along with an influential friend of mine to lodge a formal complaint about the missing boy, and sought his help in locating the boy. There was no result. I came to know later-on that such complaints are not followed up vigorously as the Police have to handle more serious assignments in their normal work schedule. We did our best to console the maid, but she became something like a zombie, and lost the will to live.
A local shop keeper who is also a family friend of the Vermas brought a good news one day that he had seen the missing boy a day earlier in a nearby town, where he had gone in connection with his business. The boy is working as a waiter in a road-side eatery, he informed, and when he addressed him by his first name, the boy disowned his own name and just bolted from the place. The owner of the eatery was quite helpful and sympathetic, and surprised the boy by arranging a meeting with his mother and uncle next week in his own shop. The boy although cornered, refused to return home, but agreed to remain in touch with his mother by telephone, and occasionally visit her at his convenience. This too was a big relief to the beleaguered mother, as she found her son hale, hearty and happily living his own life; and she came back home quite satisfied.
The girl-child in our psyche is not only a non-asset, but a positive liability. She has to be kept under close supervision lest she goes astray, and married off at the first opportunity. So, why spend money in educating her? Our maid servant was firmly convinced of this philosophy, and didn’t like her daughter studying any further. We tried our best to convince the lady otherwise, giving her several examples, including one from our own close family when the daughter looked after the ageing parents with great love and care till their last days. We even agreed to bear all the expenses of educating her daughter as long as she cared to continue her studies. The mother reluctantly agreed, but the girl was quite enthusiastic about further studies. She passed her class twelve examination in first division last year and then did a course to acquire proficiency in computer application. Her education continues even now for a bachelor’s degree in commerce, and on computer-application, on part time basis. She came to know from her friends that there are many openings for young educated girls in the hospitality sector, in malls which have mushroomed in the state capital during the last few years and in a multinational fast food joint, the branch of which had opened in our neighbourhood recently. She applied for the job, and due to her good educational record and knowledge of computers, she was selected in all the establishments. Both her mother and uncle were quite upset by this development, as once the girl accepts the job, they thought they will lose all control over her, and maybe she could fall in bad company due to lack of their supervision. The girl had by now achieved the age of eighteen, and was mature enough to take her own decisions. She dug her heels in for taking up a job, assisted indirectly by us; and as a compromise formula she was allowed to join the fast-food outlet, which is situated close to our house. The gross salary offered to her in this place was the least of the three options, but still more than the combined take-home pay of the other three earning members of her family.
In a short time, she developed good credibility in her place of work, due to hard work, her basic intelligence, pleasant personality and courteous behavior. Her fast-food shop which was a favourite destination for my grandchildren anyway, became more so because of the personalized care now being given while servicing their order. Orders for supply of food items are being accepted in this joint telephonically, but sometimes we place the order personally also, as the shop is situated close by.
A few days ago, I walked into the shop, and asked the manager to call Miss Verma. The manager who had seen me on earlier occasions also chatting with this girl did not take kindly to this request. He said, “Sir, I will call her, but tell me why you want to meet Miss Verma? And how do you know her?” I liked his protective instinct, as there are a few young girls working in the outlet; and it was good of the guy to feel responsible for them. Meanwhile the girl also came out from inside the shop, and overheard the query of the manager. I could read the concern on her face, as my reply could lead to lowering of her social status amongst her colleagues. I said to the manager, “Son, this young lady shares her residential address with us. Her mother is our governess, and she manages our household. I have come here to place order for some food items.” The manager seemed to be satisfied; and so was the girl, as evidenced by the broad smile on her face. I took the seat at a corner table, waiting for my order to be processed. And having nothing better to do, I started having some random thoughts, with the Vermas centre-stage.
God Almighty has ordained that all features of the universe should have balance, and so should the sex ratio of human race. For every male child born somewhere, a female child also takes birth such that parity is maintained on overall basis. Any act to artificially disturb this balance by termination of pregnancy with female child can upset the societal fabric of the race, and is fraught with grave danger. Still, when a girl child is born in many regions of our country, it is an occasion of great disappointment, particularly when it is the first or subsequent issue. The fact is, and it has been proved time and again, that daughters are more affectionate, devoted, helpful and loving towards other family members, and specially towards the parents. The preferential behavior towards the male child has therefore to end. On the literacy front, the percentage of literates to overall population of India has increased from 12% in the year 1947 to 74% in current year, which is an encouraging figure. But the literacy figures of males and females in the year 2011 are 82% and 65% respectively, which again shows a bias against females. The percentage of formally educated persons, of both sexes, has also to increase exponentially. History has shown that no nation can advance towards leadership position till its citizens, both men and women, are well educated. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, women are oppressed, kept under wraps, insulated from education and treated as second class citizens. Such societies can never raise their standard of living or make a mark in the comity of nations; in science and technology, in sports, in humanities, in literature, in healthcare or in any branch of human endeavour. For example the nationalities of Nobel laureates or Olympic medal winners can be seen for comparison. It will be found that higher is the level of education, more stellar is the performance. This message has to go down to people, loud and clear.
Suddenly I heard my order number called on the intercom system, loud and clear. I picked up my parcel of food, paid my bill, and made my way home.
Published in Daily ‘HITAVADA’ on Sunday, July 17, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
I had been in Delhi a while ago. I had borrowed a book from my daughter to read on the flight, and had kept it in my suitcase, as I was going to buy a gift for my young nephew whom I would be seeing en route to the airport, and did not want to carry a book in my handbag while visiting a book shop. I also bought myself a few more books, and in the general confusion of leaving the House with the Three Dogs, all the books were packed into my suitcase, apart from what I'd bought for my nephew.
I thought I'd buy a book or magazine at the airport- I knew that the terminal had a good book shop, Odyssey, which was fairly well stocked. Unfortunately, it was no longer there- most of the shops in Terminal 1D, (apart from the many restaurants and food shops) had apparently packed up and moved to Terminal 3. Ah well, it wasn't the end of the world, I could survive for a few hours without something to read. But there in the corner of the building was a toy shop, which I decided to examine. A couple of shelves held some children's books, which I browsed through. And there was the treasure that had been waiting for me, something the very existence of which I was unaware of: Jaya Madhavan's "KABIR The Weaver-Poet." ( The following is from the Tulika website)
KABIR THE WEAVER POET by Jaya Madhavan
I am so glad to have found and read this book- it is so simple and so profound, with an absolutely delightful narrative structure, and a compelling insight into Indian society, both that of a few hundred years ago, and of the present day. And of course it deals with Sant Kabir, whose timeless writings are as relevant today as they ever were.
This post was inspired by Peccavi, whose comment on the post 'Remembering Kabir in Istanbul' reminded me of this wonderful book.
Friday, July 15, 2011
I did many more words, but was left with a handful of unsolved clues, including this. I decided not to break my head over this and wait till the next morning's paper.
Can you guess why I couldn't fit it in? Because I was spelling the word as 'treachourousness'.
I wonder why the old brain was exhibiting such quisling qualities.
I didn't even think of checking the spelling in the dictionary. I am most annoyed at my treacherous brain. It needs a lot more exercise, methinks.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
This always brought to my mind this Kabir bhajan:
Ud Jayega Huns Akela, Jug Darshan Ka Mela
( The swan will fly away all alone, the world is just a fairground to observe)
It seemed particularly apt, even in purely worldly terms, for us wanderers far away from home, enjoying the sights and scenes of a country not ours.
(How he obsesses about one particular model of battery operated toothbrush is another story altogether).
Methinks the bathroom challenges him in several ways.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Din hai suhana , aaj pehli tareeq hai,
Khush hai zamaana, aaj pehli tareeq hai
( Such a beautiful day, it's the first of the month
Everyone is joyous, it's the first of the month).
The first of every month was meant to be pay day, a day of celebration and joy. In our credit card world, perhaps it doesn't mean so much. I do remember a time when my household was run on a shoe-string budget, and the prospect of the first of the month brought great joy to us all. The kids would get their pocket money, there would be enthusiastic grocery shopping, and careful planning for whatever occasions that particular month would hold.
The first of each month meant many things to many people.
For me, it remains a point of honour to pay whoever works for me, on the first of every month.
The first person to be paid is the car cleaner, who comes to our door to collect the car key.
I can be sleepy and absent minded early in the morning, but if I remember the date on the previous evening, I keep his money under the car key, all ready for the morning, and his delighted smile makes my day.
Around the first of every month is when I need to order our medicines for the month.
Groceries can be bought randomly, almost ad hoc, but I'm uncomfortable till I've sent the list of our prescription medicines to the chemist.
It's a day of new beginnings, one twelfth of a new year, perhaps, but, nonetheless, a day of newness and renewal.
This month I'll
walk more, eat less,
save more, spend less
swim more, read less.........
There will be some changes that you hope to make, and some that just end up as good resolutions.
Half of 2011 got over yesterday, people. A happy second half of 2011 to you all!
Tell me, what does the first of the month mean to you?
Saturday, June 25, 2011
is easy to spy,
rolling along the carousel
But can you really tell
that it's yours
when it's turned turtle?
Poor disorientated thing
Doesn't call out your name
You can almost see it
Struggle to be
Right side up,
And the toughest is the
first in, last out part
you wait and you wait
with so many doubts
wondering if you'll ever get
the bag, and how
will you manage if you don't?
What will you need to buy at once,
what can be borrowed,
what can be done without?
More bags emerge,
And you wait and you wait
with a dwindling crowd
witness the joy as each person
grabs his or her bag,
At last, your bag appears
You yank it off the belt
with a prayer of thanks
check the tag,
(even though you know it's yours)
and gladly leave the world
of baggage belts
Until you check in your
baggage on your next flight.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The rain came today in full force,
here, in Kolkata.
(Yesterday was just a gentle prelude
a "quality of mercy" kind of rain.)
The maid didn't come.
And in this age of cell phones,
she could phone and tell me
long before her
The older son is here
and he kindly offered
to do the washing up
But I declined.
delicious droplets blowing in
through the open door
and a cool breeze
all added up to
Zenful dish washing.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
There were, of course, no sub-titles either.
We knew, even before seeing the film, that boats capsize in a storm, and there are identity mix-ups, as in those days (circa 1920) marriages took place sight unseen.
The film was absolutely beautiful. The visuals, the costumes, the period flavour of the interiors, the beautiful cast, poignant music, all added up to something wonderful.
Except that we could not follow the story.
My friend tells me that I snored a couple of times.
I told her to nudge me the next time I did so.
I struggled to keep my eyes open, and my friend yawned frequently.
We emerged from the hall feeling extremely stupid.
I came home and consulted my current fount of all wisdom, the internet. I found a few good links that told me the story, which I promptly sent to my friend. At least we know now what we'd seen, even if rather late in the day!
P.S: I particularly like the Upperstall synopsis and review.
Edited to add: The friend who had seen it and followed the movie had been able to do so because (she told us later) that she had read the story before going to see the film!
Thursday, June 9, 2011
This post is not about Onir's brilliant movie, which hits you hard with the truth of each of the four stories. Do see it if you can.
The Soul of Alec Smart has tagged me for this, and it seems to require a lot of introspection and even more revelations about me. I wonder if I even know myself so well..........
Every phrase needs to be completed with three answers about yourself. Easy to figure as you go.
Mostly easy going, as long as you don't tread on my toes.
Paradoxically fond of having both lots to do and nothing to do.
More anxious than I care to admit.
Peace and quiet. I hate noise in residential areas.
To ultimately live in a house of my own, so that I don't have to keep moving myself and my worldly goods across the country.
To get rid of a lot of those worldly goods!
A family that means the world to me.
Wonderful friends who have enriched my life unimaginably.
A deep sense of gratitude for all that is good in my life.
That the world was less of a mess in so many terms- wars, environment, corruption, gender inequality, hunger and poverty, education.......
That I had the will power to be a lot lighter, and much less of a glutton.
That I knew a lot more about a whole lot of things. Well, I'm living and learning.
Violence in any form, especially mob violence.
Oppression and injustice, and the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots.
Fanaticism and fundamentalism.
Debilitating illnesses for self and loved ones.
I hearThe sound of birds chirping every morning and at dusk.
The pain of others, which I try to alleviate but often cannot.
An undercurrent of intolerance, injustice and unfairness in the conversations of many.
For missing/misplaced documents/keys/my husband's reading glasses/things that are right under my nose.
For inner peace and harmony.
For my role in this particular stage of my life.
I wonderAt the beauty of this world- of mountains and forests, trees and birds, babies and young children, wrinkled old joyful faces.
At the incredible depth and vastness of Hindustani classical music.
At man's inhumanity to man.
I regretThe grief others have caused to their dear ones, including me, by their lack of foresight and/or prudence.
My inability to smoothen the paths of those dear to me.
My lack of motivation to achieve cherished goals.
My family and other animals!
Nature in all its glory.
Music of many kinds, movies, theatre, dance, art, literature- all things that enhance and enrich lives.
I alwaysDouble check my house keys before stepping out of my front door.
Carry a large handbag.
Have extra strong sugar free mints in the bag!
For a more peaceful world.
For my late brother, who predeceased our parents.
For my children when they face tough times.
Walk 4-6 days a week.
Drink lots of water.
Keep my house reasonably tidy.
I am not
As fit as I'd like to be.
Very forgiving. I take my time.
Confrontational if I can help it.
I danceRarely now- I used to 'waltz' with my son when he was young.
When I want to express my freedom and joy at being alone.
When the beat gets inside me- I've been known to do a little jig in malls if the music's right.
I singBrilliantly in the bathroom!
Old Saigal songs.
Less than I used to, thanks to the discriminating listeners in my family!
Say never: you never know what Life will make you do.
Wear synthetic materials if I can help it.
Manage to be as organised as I'd like to be.
I rarelyOffer unasked for advice.
Wear make up.
Wear high heels now- my feet are getting crabby:(
I cryWhen I lose my temper.
At some memories of loss.
At suffering I cannot help heal.
I am not alwaysKind.
I loseThings that are right under my nose, then I'm agitated till I've found them.
My cool, sometimes.
I’m confusedBy this tag!
By instructions on electronic equipment.
By many of the applications on my phone, most of which I choose to ignore.
I needMany more bookshelves.
Less books. I do buy some, but I'm also a library user, but the SRE buys books quite compulsively.
A house with fabulous storage facilities and no clutter.
I shouldPray without ceasing.
Be a little less morbid than I've been recently.
Of Sant Kabir's 'Ghar Nyaara'.
Of not being diabetic.
Of being above such mundane things as chocolates!
This took a lot of thought and a fair bit of time. Whoever is inspired by this, please do take it up!