life

The Car….

Haven’t written on QTOL in a while, long enough for QTOL to be technically non-existent. But as I was telling Lakshmi QTOL is a space I write only when something comes to me. Not something for which I can make a timetable.

 

So just as life would have it, as I returned home on my first day of freedom (I just quit a full time job) life presented me with a QTOL moment!

 

I live at a chaotic street junction. The evenings on that road are usually jammed with traffic. As I stepped out of my taxi waiting to cross the street, in the middle of all the Bombay traffic flanked with taxis, the Hynudai Santro’s, the City Honda’s the Ford Icons, the Maruti Getz and the many more of those flashy and modern age cars out of nowhere a ‘bottle green’ antique car makes its way. (Since I am horrid with cars, don’t know what particular car this was) I only know it was bottle green with a long bonnet and a small square sitting arrangement.

 

As the car passed me I couldn’t but give a hearty laugh!

 

Right inside were 5 neatly packed ‘bawa’ men (Parsee). Dressed in their traditional white ‘Dugli’s’ and ‘Pagris’ (the traditional white shirt and cap dress). The car was being driven by the oldest of the lot may be over 75-80 years with a long flowing white beard. His front seat companion was a 30 odd gentleman clean-shaven. The back seat which would have otherwise fitted two was packed with three skinny gentleman, two 75 odd years and one again in his 30’s!

 

As I stood there with this car slowly passing me by in traffic it almost felt as though these guys had just zoomed down from Hogrwartz! Out of their school class in their uniform being dropped back home by their headmaster. The guy on the wheel looked like an exact replica of Dumbledore! And their Dugli’s though missing the flowy feeling of the magical robes definitely had a charm of their own! In that crazy moving traffic and the chaotic street corner these 5 gentlemen in their car definitely seemed to have landed from a wonderland setting a pace of their own to the world around them!

 

And suddenly in the midst of my surprised laughter I found one of the back seater’s looking straight at me. In that odd moment, for the fear of not offending them I turned away to continue my hearty laugh to myself! The laugh was definitely not a mocking one but that of sheer pleasure of seeing life at full swing!

 

A big cheers to those 5 men in the car. Hoping they have a great ride!

 

P.S: As I walked back home it struck me .Why is it that if you catch a random person laughing at you the first thought that would cross our minds is ‘they might be laughing at me mockingly’ and not that ‘they might be laughing at something that made them happy looking at me?’ and also may be that guy who caught me did not think that. But why would it cross my mind that he might feel offended?

 

Here’s hoping that more laughter gets interpreted as happy than offensive! hehe

 

And for all those have yet not met a Parsee (the Zorastrian community in India) please go out there in the search of one right away! They are by far one of the most amazingly entertaining set of people I have met so far!  I am sure they are the only bunch of oldies I can find packed in an antique car in Dugli’s floating along Bombay traffic!

 

 

 

 

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An Award for the Sleeping Beauties and Other Random things

Now no one really likes to compete with never ending soap operas – but then there are these rare occasions in life when we can say that we are truly touched – and this is one of them. Our friend Mandira at Churning the Word Mill thinks that we are…..
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Thank you Mandira!! 🙂

Unfortunately Mandira is also consumed by grief over the sad untimely demise of this blog – The Quaint Treasures of Life. The “not to be missed” rib tickling obituary will tell you more.

We have made it quite clear that its not really the lack of ideas or time or the absence of will to write that caused this sudden lull in QTOL. Our blog atmas are incorrigibly INTP.

Meanwhile here are some of the things I have been consumed with while “not blogging” on QTOL – this list excludes work that I do for a living:

  1. QTOL isn’t a good place to rant. The past few months I’ve been more in a rant mood than a “so let’s look at quaint things in life :)” mood. Worry not, there is no pent up aggression. I have ensured that a considerable amount of Neha’s chat real estate is occupied with my rants.
  2. I have been busy earning the distinction of Cyber Squatter by blogging on my mom’s blog – until this effort was stopped in its tracks with a “I don’t want to cook” syndrome.
  3. I have been regularly deleting mails that say forward this email to 5 people and you’ll be blessed with good luck, forward to 15 people you’ll be blessed with gold, forward to 20 you’ll be blessed with diamonds, forward to 100 you’ll own Google, forward to 1000, you’ll become god. If you don’t fwd, you’ll be struck with bad luck for the rest of your life. if you ignore and snigger, then the devil will fry you in hell alive.
  4. I have been trying to figure a way to disable a facebook account. I hate to sound dumb, but I actually couldn’t figure how to do this for quite sometime. My random urge to sign in and figure what facebook was all about resulted in days of inbox overflow with overzealous people who wanted to hug me, kiss me, throw something at me at the drop of a hat.
  5. I have been day dreaming about doing a whole lot of things – illustrating a Children’s Series, traveling around the world and getting paid for it, running a marathon (idea credit – here and here), taking an offbeat holiday with Neha (idea credit – here), writing a book, running a retail outlet exclusively dedicated to kitchen gadgets, blah, blah and blah.

Some of these have been so very consuming, that even if I took time out to watch the leaves of the Gulmohar flutter like a butterfly in the wind – I din’t bother to write or share. Perhaps, its time to change that or to imitate a motivational speaker “The Time for Change is NOW”.


Fairy Tales…

Fairy Tales! You grew up on them as kids. Most kids love them, and if one had to take a guess on who’s got better choices on things, kids or adults there wouldn’t even be a debate on this issue…hehe 

But then I just got thinking… as one grows up why do most people grow out of fairy tales? or why do adults start believing that fairy tales are unreal and its time to get realistic? I have never got why realism gets almost equated to accepting that life’s not so nice! 

If one actually takes a look at the notion of fairy tales aren’t they the most real things in the world? They have the absolute mix of the good, bad and the ugly…the struggles and the triumphs, the king and the popper.. all of this with the ‘one big happy ending’! Isn’t that what life’s all about?  

For people who may question this I would want to tell them that dude you haven’t reached your end as yet so how can you write it off? And who on this earth living any life will ever be able to deny the mixed bag that the present always is… 

So except for the bit that all characters in most fairy tales are always ‘beautiful’ and ‘handsome’ and the perfect life is when the ugly becomes beautiful and the poor becomes rich…the base of most of them is about happiness isn’t it? And whether it’s the story of Cinderella or Pinocchio the point is about life may be a struggle but its got happy endings!  That’s of course if you choose to ‘believe’ so. That reminds me of another thing. Most characters in fairy tales who do make it brilliantly in the end are somewhere people who believed through their story, and isn’t that an alternative to just optimistic thought? Who would debate that optimism can carry you better than pessimism in a real rut?

 So yeah I tell u adults! Don’t know why they get us off track in life! lol


Snapshots

Three images which stay in my mind over last one week, in the order that I saw them. 

First- On an extremely hot afternoon I made my way out of the Kanjur Marg station (a central suburban station in Mumbai). The journey from VT to Kanjur Marg took me 35 min in the train and I found myself complaining of the extreme heat and how over crowded and stuffy the train journey had been (I did surprise myself by feeling that way!). As I stepped down the over bridge on my route to the auto, the tiny lane was also quite hot and dusty. In the middle of that lane a large steel drainage gutter lid had gone defunct. The gutter had obviously stopped functioning and the lid lay there slanting one foot inside the gutter making a slant.  

A crowd of kids (ranging from 3-8 yrs) from the near by huts were surrounding this defunct gutter, taking turn to use the sliding lid as their own private little garden slide! The circle around the gutter went in circles, one kid taking the turn after the another and each having an absolute blast as they slid themselves down that 3 feet by 2 feet slide! Each kid had that expression of absolute joy and amazement as they made their way down. Only if I was not to rush to the meeting I would have stuck around there a bit longer and may be tried joining them in their game! 

Second- As I sat on Marine Drive on a breezy evening, gazing at the sea and the sky, evening walkers, kids out for their evening play time and friends on a stroll gathered on the side promenade. One kid took my attention away from the sky and the sea for quite some time. 

He was with the person who would be taking care of him as his mother sat catching up on her phone. The kid, about 4-5 yrs old was riding his just newly acquired bicycle (the bicycle still had fresh plastic covers which were not taken off). He rode for a bit, and then for a longer time than he had ridden his new possession he was more enthralled at pushing the cycle, beating it up, and kicking it. Lifting it again, pushing it till it went a bit far, waiting till it dropped and kicking it again.  

After sometime the kicking and the hitting got the better of me and I got back to my sea and the clouds 

Third- On my way back home tonight, around 7 p.m as I walked down towards my house I was passing one of those famous bookstores which lots of people keep hopping in and out of. This store has definitely added a lot more traffic and crowd to my earlier relatively quite street corner.  

Just outside the store the mother carried her 5-6 yr old daughter who had just been taken to the bookstore, presumably waiting for their driver to come and pick them up. The same bookstore had an under bridge area right opposite where a lot of street families live as well. 

As I walked passed the mother daughter duo, they were being daunted by one of the street kid girls begging from them. As I walked, my ears overheard the daughter telling the mother “please give her something na!”, and my eyes caught the mother quickly giving her daughter a stern look of ‘no’, and her hands trying to send the beggar kid away  

Don’t want to say anything more… just wanted to share these images as they linger on in my mind… the subtleties of life as they keep popping up all around us… reiterating life the way it is!  


A Decent Burial

I have mentioned before about the fact that most of my fond memories revolve around my brother who is about six years younger than me. He’s a very special child sensitive and intelligent with unique interests.

One of few things that he is passionate about is wildlife – for years I never saw him watch anything else on television beyond National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet. He devours pages after pages of books on animals and birds and rattles off their Latin names and their unique behaviours in an excited tone equivalent to “everyone on earth has just landed gold”. He has always had birds as pets at home and brings up their babies and their babies’ babies with tons of love and affection. I can still remember the excited glint in his eye as a middle school-er when he discovered the first batch of eggs his friends had laid, his crushing disappointment when a clutch failed and his over whelming joy at the sight of new born chicks.

It’s amazing to see him interact with his birds – they respond to his voice, play with him, communicate their worries as parents when a clutch of eggs are laid, let him clean and monitor the health of their new born babies – birds can be so much more personal and attached than one can imagine.

When we moved into a flat of our own in Bangalore after years of travelling through cities and various neighbourhoods, one of first things that we did was to convert his balcony into a well equipped aviary complete with rounded mud pots for nests, nesting material, lovely bowls for food , a smallish tub for them to have a bath and a smaller private area for those who need some space alone because of sickness or injury or plain simple maladjustment.

One of the biggest things that this lovely relationship has taught my brother is “death”. He experienced his first encounter with this heart wrenching separation when he was about 12 years old. One of his birds had fallen very sick and no amount of care could nurse Maco back to health. It almost broke all our hearts to see Maco’s partner hover around his body, trying to wake him up. Its a scene that’s burned in my memory like no other.

After some time when Maco’s partner had reconciled, my dad went ahead to take Maco out of the aviary and proceeded to wrap him in a newspaper and a plastic bag to “dispose”.

“Dispose”??!!!! My brother was extremely angry – now combined with the sadness of this loss you can just imagine how red his face could have gone. In his own words he wanted a “decent burial” which was “respectful”.

And so this Sunday morning was spent performing Maco’s last rites. After a few minutes of searching my brother and my dad zeroed in on a burial spot on an empty plot of land. My dad dug up a small grave while my brother put Maco in. They offered a fist of earth each as a token and said a few silent prayers before covering the grave with earth. To end the ceremony, they planted a small sapling of a bush nearby over Maco’s grave.

Losing a loved one is very sad, but giving a “decent burial” full of love and respect is indeed one of the best treasures of life. It’s a lovely acknowledgment of their moving on in their journey; an acceptance of their passing into another world and a higher plane.


HahaHeheLol

Not so long ago laughter – voluminous, throaty, uncontrolled – had not really been an incessant part of my life. Yes, I was happy and did have “32 sparkling teethy peals” but then HahaHeheLol would become one of my greatest friends and treasure in life only in the December of 2003.

Although it may seem fairly recent if one compares it with human lifespan, I know that the events that took place in the winter of 2003 will remain one of the most QTOLish moments of my life. Just to clarify, I was doing my masters at TISS in Bombay which doesn’t have much of a winter – so this had nothing to do with the weather.

But then it had everything to do with the spirit of Christmas. Having spent three years previously in a Catholic College that gave me the joy of being a part of all the fun and festivities, I was feeling sad about missing out on all of that in TISS. Thankfully though, the campus did have Christmas celebrations and most importantly everybody seemed tuned into the Secret Santa game. “Yippie!!”, I thought and smiled to myself. “Some things in the world continue to be sane”.

Masters in Social Work turned out to be much much harder than I had thought. Apart from tons of assignments, academic pressures and blues of being away from home, the atmosphere was extremely tumultuous. The world suddenly seemed a little too upside down for comfort (note: it already was, which is why many of us were there at TISS – ‘to change’). Each day presented a bunch of new realities that we were supposedly being trained to analyse and develop strategies for – from communities living on garbage dumps to facing an eighteen year old lecherous boy as a ‘child with rights’. By the mid of first year the meaning of ‘develop strategies for’ on campus emerged as endless nonsensical debates, generous amounts of ambiguity and extremely polar ideas. TISS at this point was like being in the company of an eclectic group of beings who’d have issues with the fact that something was a ‘non issue’. The most cliched question of the moment was always ‘But who decides?’, indicating the ever lasting ambiguity of individual freedom versus working in the interests of people. In short every single conversation would begin and end in concentric circles. Now if one adds a dollop of hostel woes, ranging from ‘smoky reeking corridors’ to ‘sleeping with bright lights and loud noises’, to this already confusing and tumultuous situation – you’d understand why I was yearning so much for a game of Secret Santa.

So on this lovely December 2003 afternoon, in a rather unpleasant DH (Dining Hall), we all had to pick small chits of paper with names of people who we were to adopt secretly – and send them gifts, goodies and letters, or torture them till Christmas eve. Soon I became a temporary mother. But then there were unfortunate souls whose names had not been picked. An ominous poster declaring their orphanhood was put up, requesting people to adopt. The idea of two children dint appeal to me, so quite frankly I still don’t know why I adopted ‘HahaHeheLol’. It just took a small suggestion from rather cute and diminutive neighbour Chandni and I had a daughter who was going through as much of a cranky bad patch as I was. Perhaps, this is what is called destiny.

Over the next few weeks, I don’t know what got into me, I sent my child loads and loads of handmade gifts with lovely handmade paper in numerous varieties. Even a small silly note would be laboriously made, I spent hours together each night getting my act to make each day special for my child. It was midnight oil burning at its best. No , this wasn’t a competition, and I dint even know ‘HahaheheLol’ – in fact we had not even exchanged pleasantries. But somehow her booming laughter, excited ‘show off of gifts’ in class, her small notes drizzled with a hundred ‘lols’ – these smaller things just made my day. This world of sheer joy, laughter and child like excitement seemed so far away from endless debates and assignments. And yet it was so truly life like and so much ‘human’ in essence.

I even sent her an embroidered handmade paper folder!!!

Neha and I got to know each other pretty well through that game and we’ve shared a lovely friendship ever since. We’re so connected that one would think that perhaps there is a mini device that aligns our wavelength and thoughts together. We go crazy over little things, laugh like raccoons over frivolous stuff, love the quaint and argue like children. The Internet’s biggest boon has been the fact that I have been able to share the same amount of space and time in spite of the distance – over email, IM or this blog. I continue to receive virtual or sms notes splattered with dozens of smileys, hahas, hehes and lols.

Thanks Neha, alias HahaheheLol, for all the laughter and joy you bring into my life.


The Unbreakable Synchronicity!

For all the mechanical boringness of machines, there is something inherently beautiful about how cycles of ‘a day’ keep churning themselves over and over again! I am someone who would find routines absurd and boring and yet there is a simple beauty in certain kinds of synchronicity!

Yesterday when the rains kept pouring down, the sky felt like an excessively HUGE water bag which had just burst open and kept emptying itself. I was standing by my window spacing out on the rain and noticed something. In that chaotic rain day when perhaps a lot of us would have stayed home I saw the Milk Man coming on his cycle, completely geared in his rain wear, stopped in front of building next doors and was off for the deliveries in the building. (A lot us on a heavy rain day might wonder how we may reach work by bus/car/cab but how many of us doubt that whether the milkman who comes on his cycle may not be able to make it?)

Then on my way to work, I noticed a garbage truck. The men in the middle of fighting the heavy downpour were busy emptying the bags dolled out to them from the entire line of restaurants on the streets, dumping them and moving on.

For all the milkmen, the garbage men, the vegetable sellers, things that we are so used to just ‘being there’, do we even realize how awesome these guys are? Most of the middle level management in this country might suffer from not turning up on time and having the lazy (Indian standard time) attitude but have we noticed how punctual, on time and perfect most of our milkmen and dhobis (Laundry men) are! If they had to be the ‘standard’ for ‘Indian Standard time” we definitely would have a different definition doing the rounds!

I use to always wonder as to how my dhobi manages to collect clothes from some 50 odd flats in my bundling, remember each and every one of them and return them in exactly the same way without misplacing or mixing up a single one! I have the same fascination for my Milkman who comes every evening to all the houses, takes orders (which may vary on a day to day basis about the amount of milk to be delivered the next day) and delivers the exact number of bags the next day! I have still not figured out how they manage this! (And we tend to assume, mundane regular jobs don’t require skills!)

Sometimes I think these jobs are the ones that need the most skill and discipline and enormous amount of creativity to not get bored with the same thing day in and day out!

I was smiling at the beauty of how regularly these cycles keep turning themselves…not a single error and no single delay. I burst out laughing at imagining what would happen the day….the milkman would turn up late .. followed by no garbage being collected… to the dhobi coming late… and the dabba wala never turning up! 🙂

So cheers to these guys out there! And the cycles which keep rolling out, hoping that one day I shall come close to that level of efficiency.

I am sure all of us if we looked at our days had many more of these people and things that decorate our lives and make sure our days stay under control.

Which are your favorites?