Sunday, August 14, 2016

#Women at work - The fruit seller

I see her busy at her shop right across the road from our apartment building. She has a small outlet stocked with fresh flower and fruit. Somedays I see her attending customers, somedays she is polishing the fruit with a piece of cloth or arranging them in meticulous piles.

I pass by her shop some half a dozen times a day and she never fails to give me a smile. She knows I love flowers as do the kids. She also knows I prefer gerberas and roses for my vases as against the ones she keeps - marigolds, Indian roses and jasmines which are used more often for religious rituals. And yet when I am buying fruit and she has a specially pretty rose she hands it over to me with a 'take this for the kids'.

And so H and N here's a lesson for you - Take pleasure and pride in whatever you do, no matter how small your job, how tiny your business. You don't need to have a lot of 'things' to be generous. All you need is a big heart.

When most shop keepers take a siesta break (a ritual in my city), she doesn't go home. She sits quietly enjoying her break. Her hands keep busy as she picks out flowers from a basket on her lap and threads out colourful garlands, readying for the evening rush.

Somedays she talks to me. A lot of it is in Marathi but I nod along even though I don't understand all of it. I ask her why she doesn't shut shop for the siesta. 
And she says, 
"My husband passed away recently. When he was alive, he was always pestering me. 'Why are you always at the shop? I need you here at home to serve me lunch. I need you to sit with me while I eat,' he'd say. 
I'd get annoyed and I'd tell him - the children are there to take care of you. How much can a woman do? I have the shop to look after.
But he would have none of it. We'd have arguments but I did go home each day." 

I nod along, the feminist in me not quite happy with the story.

She continues, a trifle wistfully,
'Now he is gone and no one asks me to come home. I have children, son, daughter-in-law but they don't know if I've eaten or not. I'm happiest here at my shop.'

I don't know what to say. The feminist is a trifle confused and chooses to stay silent.

And here's lesson number 2. This one is for me: Relationships are complicated. No one relationship is quite like another. It is easy to pass judgement, to give advice but different things work for different people.

I cannot end the post without wishing everyone a very happy Independence Day. And I'm glad I wrote about this lady today. Isn't she a symbol of Independent India? Of doing her own thing and being at peace with herself?

Despite so much that is not quite right with our country, we do have things to be proud of, things that set us apart, make us special.

Today, I shall focus on all that IS right with my country and it is that which I shall be celebrating.


Linking up with Parul for the #Women at Work bloghop. If you have a story about a working woman do share.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons

Picture Credit: PIXABAY

The other day I was at the vegetable vendor's picking out well.. obviously - vegetables. As I moved to the tomatoes I was joined by a boy of about 14. He dug into the basket turning the tomatoes this way and that, picking out some then dropping them back, then picking out some more. Finally he asked me, ‘How do you know which is a good one?’

Deja vu struck.

While we were growing up we lived in a joint family. While my sister and I did our chores (my mum saw to it) most of the mundane outdoor tasks were handled by others in the family. It might have had to do with the fact that we lived in a crowded area and mum wasn't certain we could negotiate the roads safely on our own.

One day, perhaps the house help wasn't around or maybe because my mum decided it was high time I learnt to do this, she handed me a bag, some change and asked me to go buy vegetables.

I mean, seriously? Vegetables? The teen me was completely appalled. I could imagine going out and buying stationery or books or sweets or clothes. But vegetables? What a mundane, unfashionable, low brow task to be saddled with! My entire teen self quailed at the idea rejecting it outright.

I refused.

“If you can eat vegetables, you can go buy them too,” said my mum and I saw her face settle into that familiar determined look my sister and I disliked and dreaded. If you know even a little bit of my mum you will know she can really dig her heels in, specially  when it comes to, what she thinks of as, teaching us a lesson.

I didn’t stand a hair’s breadth chance. So there I was with the most embarrassing jhola (cloth bag) in one hand and the money in the other off to buy vegetables at Chantu ki dukan - that’s what the vegetable vendor was called! I bent my head, praying I wouldn't bump into anyone I knew, as I threaded my way through the crowded street.

I cannot recall what I bought. I just remember picking up a handful of something, mumbling out, ‘Half kg of this’, handing the money and walking home in a blaze of self-consciousness.

And here was this boy, how easily he asked for my help and how gladly I gave it! Standing side by side in a rather companionable silence we picked out tomatoes. I wish I had been more like him when I was his age.

So dear H and N, here's the lesson for the day:
People are more likely to offer help than laugh at us if only we cast aside our nervousness and ask for it. We might be laughed at for pretending to know something but the moment we voluntarily expose our vulnerability and  enlist someone’s assistance we create a bond putting them firmly on ‘our side’, so to say.

No matter where you are - at a new school, at the library or in the sports ground, don't be too shy or scared to enlist people's support, even if they are strangers. Ask for help and you shall get it in greater measure than you ever expected.

Have you ever been in a situation like this, where you've been to embarrassed to ask for help? Do share. I'd love to add your experience to mine when I talk to the kids.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Brothers and sisters and memories #CBF16

About a year back the twins had to make a family tree and while helping them I found my side of the family far outnumbering the Husband’s side - my five siblings to his two. It was only later that I realised I had included my cousins in my count of siblings. But then the Hindi language doesn’t really have an exact word for ‘cousin’ and that’s how it was with us.

We didn't live together but the summer holidays would see the six us of in our hometown. Since we lived with our grandparents our home became the place where some fifteen to twenty of us would gather for one whole month of crazy celebration.

It was an old house, not too large. We wonder now, how we fitted in. What's more we managed with a single washroom between the entire bunch of us. (We now have two washrooms and three people in the house, with the husband being away, and yet there’s constant squabbling).

Studies and work finally put an end to the tradition and almost a decade rolled by since we were together. We tried to meet up a few times but the magic half-a-dozen was never complete.

Then last month one of our cousins was in India for a couple of days and we decided to give it a serious shot. We realised how hard it is for six people to drop their responsibilities even for the space of a single weekend!

One had to postpone dropping off his daughter to boarding school, another one rushed back from a a holiday with his family, yet another one wrapped up a seminar she was organising.
The Husband flew down to look after the kids(and attend a PTM that had to crop up just that weekend), while I was away.

After much planning and coordination we were there, together, in my aunt’s house. Nothing seemed to have changed. Of course the figures were fuller and the hair was thinner but that was about it.

US: Then and now and that quote is one of my favourites

It was like we’d never been away. We sat around the dining table and talked. Then moved to the verandah and talked some more, then decided to take a siesta and ended up talking again. 

It was two days of catching up, piecing together memories, one filling in details the other one left out, debating who’s fault it was in ‘that’ incident, digging out long-forgotten nicknames, laughing over incorrigible pranks, reminiscing about the time we smuggled cigarettes, got caught and got the blasting of our lifetimes.

And there was food —- enough to feed a garrison.

Those two pictures, taken at the same place, years apart, will remain one of my most cherished memories. Nothing can beat the warmth and affection built over years of togetherness and I shall forever be grateful for that. The memory of this trip will last a long long time but we're not going to wait another decade to meet again. 

and also to 

Do click on the link and head on for a healthy dose of gratitude.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Three films and a weekend

After that weekend post on my peaceful coexistence with clutter, on a bit of a rebound, I decided to clear up our CD collection. Did I tell you we got rid of cable/Tata Sky a few months back? Yeah well, so over the weekend, the kids watch their DVDs, and I thought it would be a good idea to get them in order.

However, I stumbled upon some long forgotten films - a treasure, really. As a result the cleaning was quite forgotten and I sat down for a film-festival of my own.

First it was You've Got Mail

I could do an entire post on that one. Kathleen (Meg Ryan) owns a tiny bookshop while Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) heads a giant bookstore (that drives her out of business). The two bump into each other in a chatroom and a love story unfolds. Films on books and book lovers are a complete treat. Wasn't Kathleen’s Shop Around the Corner just the cutest? I loved how cosy her storytelling sessions were and how she knew just the right book for every child. 

I felt her heartbreak when she could not meet the competition from Joe Fox. And yet I couldn't hate him for he’s sweet too. Their interactions are absolutely heartwarming. 

Some of the dialogues really spoke to me. Consider this one:

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?

and this:
When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life ever does.

My favourite however, is this one:
Kathleen: ….What happens to me when I'm provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said.

Kathleen Kelly was definitely the hero of this film for me.

Then I watched Mary Reilly

This one was hidden away with a bunch of more famous Julia Roberts starrers and I had completely missed watching it. Roberts plays Mary Reilly, a maid to Dr Jekyll, with a dark past and an abusive father. She gets embroiled in Dr Jekyll’s experiments as he changes each night to Mr Hyde. He’s a little in love with her but can’t tell her and she’s a bit in love with him too. Mr Hyde however has no such compunctions. He scares her and yet she feels an unexplained attraction. It’s a bit of a dark film but very engrossing. Do catch it if you can.

And finally Sense and Sensibility....

for the hundredth time. 

**Gush Alert**

Jane Austen’s story is of course a favourite (and I won’t even go into that. If you haven’t read it you just should, rightaway) but I also love everything else about this 1995 film. The setting is lovely, the English countryside is breathtaking and the two characters of Elinor and Marianne contrast beautifully. Each of the supporting characters are just right for their parts.
But the bestest part of all was that I completely forgotten it starred Alan Rickman (Snape) as Colonel Brandon. As the strong silent Colonel, he was …. perfect. I could have whacked  Marianne on the head for ignoring him so but then he does get her in the end so it was all forgiven. 

Then there was Hugh Grant being Hugh Grant - the perfectly awkward gentleman - quite his forte. The two ladies Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet were a treat too. Lovely lovely film.

All in all a weekend well spent. As for the cleaning  - that’ll have to wait yet another day. 

How was your weekend? Do you like to re-watch old films?

Linking up with Mackenzie at Reflections from Me


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