Astrology be damned

In Indian astrology, there is one day every month, called Chandrashtami, for everyone, according to their birth star, during when it is best if they not get out of bed because Murphy throws a party.  My dad is a firm believer of the Chandrashtami and warns me before our days of Chandrashtami (we share a birth star).   I don’t believe in Chandrashtami, or anything to do with astrology.

My day today started with me ignoring the alarm. This, however, is not a rare event and the alarm is ignored every day.  But today, my kid had to attend a debate workshop all day, which meant, I had to get her breakfast and lunch ready and drop her at the workshop by 9.  Waking at 7.30 does not bode well, especially when I am out of bread and must make something from scratch.  The hormones on a roll didn’t help as well and I had awoken in a panic having dreamt that I forgot to pick the kid from the workshop.  The kid must first GO to the workshop, for me to pick her up, must she not?

So while I freaked out at my own delays, the kid chose today to be at her sluggish best.  Yes, it was her workshop, and I shouldn’t be the one to freak out, but try telling a time-obsessive hormone crazed nerd that.  After jumping around as if on fire, and getting hysteric at the kid who changed clothes five times because “this one is too crumpled” and “this one is ugly” and so on, I dragged her out the door, and rushed to the venue of the workshop with a minute to spare, and the kid realised that she did not wear her ID card because I rushed her.

I may have used the eff word multiple times in public, and loudly too.

I should have just left her to face the music of not wearing the ID, despite her teacher having drilled into her head yesterday that she absolutely had to wear her ID, but moms are a weird lot.  At least some moms are.  Considering that the workshop was conducted in the building right next to our campus, I muttered to myself all the way back home, picked up the ID, rushed back to a teary child, used a couple more expletives at her and walked back, clocking in all, at least four kilometres up and down in half an hour !

But that was just the beginning.  Did you know millipedes bite?  They are in general a peaceful creature, but when taxed beyond endurance, they can stingeth like the adder, as I discovered the painful way. As I took the shortcut through a marshy area, one of them took sanctuary between the feet and the slipper, and feeling the massive weight descend on it, gave the feet one solid bite before being squished into pulp.  And while I hopped around in blinding pain on my feet, a wasp found my pant intriguing and entered it, flew up and deciding to take a nip of the moving part, stung a juicy one on the right thigh, just above the knee, while I crushed it instinctively right there with its sting lodged within my flesh.

I can’t remember how I managed to reach home, strip and pull out the sting and scream in agony, but it seems those I did, in that order. You’d think I would be a spent force by now, and I am, largely because the trauma of the millepede bite or the wasp sting or the general tension of the morning has loosened the bowels, and I am making multiple trips to the bathroom when I am not groaning in pain.

Add to this a bedlam of eight human-sized suitcases being packed by my guests who leave today.

Today apparently is NOT a chandrashtami day for me.  Ha.


City thoughts

I am a third generation city-native on my mother’s side and a fourth generation city-native on my dad’s.  All around me are people (including the better half) who are recent immigrants to this city.  It bothers me when these new entrants diss my city, and when I was younger, I’d scorn (in my mind, that is, the skies would fall if I could put it into audible words !) at them (including the better half, there, private linen public wash) and tell them (in my mind) to go back to the rural outback they call home.  These days I don’t mind.  Note that I don’t say I don’t care, but I don’t mind.  It still cuts me to the quick when my dirty, big, crowded, polluted city is bad-mouthed by these new comers –  I am the only one allowed to diss my city because this polluted city runs in my veins.

I hear all kinds of reasons for people to denigrate my city – that it has no character (people have character, not inanimate places, for god’s sakes), that it is dirty (India is dirty, my friend, my city is no exception), that it is deprave (seriously?  Depravity does not exist in your rural home?  Wake up and smell the sewer, folks), that people are selfish (please show me a generous non-city dweller), crowded (you immigrated to here, as have countless others, for a reason – a better livelihood) and this is my favourite – city dwellers are emotionless.    The last one, in particular, used to get me hopping mad (anger is an emotion too) in the past, now I am more zen about it.  I had one particular gentleman tell me that the urban folk lack in finer feelings, heaven knows what that means.  I gently asked him to name a single place in the south of India that patronises art the way my city does. He said that by “finer feelings”, he meant romanticism.  Just yesterday, I cried at the last scene of “The Englishman who went up the hill and came down a mountain”, weep when I read a well-written sentence, and sob at music-  I gave up arguing because it was not worth it.

But this is not what I had wanted to write, although, I obviously get carried away when I talk about my city and my nativeness of it.  What I set off writing is that after a really long time, even years, I got to ride our city metro today.  My city was the first in the south of the country to get a metro train (“Electric train” it used to be called) that ran between the northern and southern suburbs through what used to be the centre of the city.  Although the electric train was widely used by the native city dwellers when I was a kid, I never got to using it too often. My mother’s cousin lived in a place that used to be “suburbs”, but is now part of the main sprawling city, and every summer, we’d make a one day trip to their house. We’d walk up to the railway station, which was a fifteen-minute walk away from my parents’ house, take the train to our destination, and take a public bus from the station to the relative’s house.  I didn’t quite like the relatives – I was a bit scared of them because they seemed to fight a lot, but I would look forward to the trip just for the electric train ride.

In the past two decades, more metro trains have been added to my city, to connect other parts of it.  There is one particular route that goes past where I live now to the place that I was born and spent my early childhood.  Our ancestral house was sold years ago, and I have found not many reasons to visit there, except for my favourite temple there.  My father, however, is honorary director of a local small bank because the directorship has run in the family – my grandfather and his father were honorary directors before him.  So, I have a largely passive account in the bank, which needs activation at least once a year.  Today was the day I chose to activate my account and this took me on the metro. The entire trip took three hours, but it was three hours of complete zen.  Time slowed down, as I took in the sights of my city, feeling it in my bones as the crowded city passed me by in its various shades and hues, and in my childhood favourite temple, which always brings me a sense of calm.  To top it off, the bank people treated me like royalty because I am the daughter of their venerable director and all that, to the point of me wanting to sink into the floor, but truth be told, I did feel happy.

Every time I take the metro, I come back feeling tranquil (finer feelings there, my friend) and decide that this must become at least a monthly routine, to take the metro around my city.  As I did today.  But I suspect I would take the metro again next year, to activate my account and decide again to make this a habit.

Matriarchal investments

Exam times for the kid is when I get an extra dose of guilt.  Other moms out there send messages asking for model question papers, solutions to problems and exam related stuff and my answers invariably are “I don’t have it”, “I don’t know”, and “umm..”. Closer to the exam, I follow the kid around like Mary’s pet asking her if I am a terrible mom because I am not invested in her education and what not, and the kid, already stressed by the impending exams, gets exasperated and is seen yelling for help – “Appa, get this mad woman off my back – she is not allowing me to study for my exams”.

You’d think that all the guilt would make me more invested in my child’s education.  No.  The kid can go stuff her coordinate geometry where she wants, I ain’t part of it.  Not that my participation in coordinate geometry would help because despite my many centum scores in school, I have the visualization capacity of an earthworm and I don’t give a dang whether the mirror image of (1,1) is (1,-1) or (-1,1) or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious . Chemistry, however, is an exception, and I take it upon myself to make my kid the next Marie Curie, without her glow of radium, of course, but that gets my kid into conniptions as well because “mom,  I really don’t have time to know the philosophy of the Azimuthal quantum number  in ninth class, I have an exam tomorrow that wants me to know the three kinds of pollution”.   Tsk tsk.  Where goeth thirst for knowledge?

The sense of guilt, however, gets misplaced.  While the kid’s brain is beyond my scope of investment, her stomach most certainly is not.  How can the brain work if the brain is undernourished?  Didn’t a college dropout once say something to the effect of stay hungry, stay foolish, which I choose to take in its literal sense?  So I invest like the dickens in the kid’s stomach and stuff her face every few minutes with food – bread, milk, peanuts, almonds, banana, raisins, dates, coffee, cookies, chocolate (ahem !) and a lunch of many courses, that I lovingly force feed the kid, followed by a large cup of sweetened yogurt.  The kid turns an interesting shade of green, locks herself in her room and threatens to burst, spilling all my investments around unless I stopped this matriarchal madness NOW.

I’ll give her an hour or so to digest and resume my investment, I suppose.

Fitness, food and fancy fluff

The “fancy fluff” was just for the F.  I doubt if there would be anything fancy or fluffy in this post.

I resumed gymming after a two-week break.  I hope I don’t get any further breaks in the near future, partly for the sake of my fitness, but mostly because I don’t want the gym membership to expire unused.   My body hurts, but I don’t think that is because of the gym.  My joints have been hurting for a while now, especially when rising from a sedentary position, and I refuse to google and get hypochondriacal about it.  The body will fix it itself if I just let it be.

But, before I can gloat with a holier-than-thee chin up, I more than negated the gym session with home-made cinnamony apple cobbler with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I refuse to get sucked into the vortex of guilt because it is the left-out eighth deadly sin to feel bad about home-made cinnamony apple cobbler with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  For all my hatred of cooking, I can sometimes excel.  The watchword there is “sometimes”.

Our family (and I am its leader) is big into food, which, is unfortunate, because I am the main food provider and I am usually a bad cook.  All three of us in the house need something to eat every two hours or we are rabid.  We eat small portions at every sitting, but eat often.  For instance, it is nearly 5 pm, and our meal plan today has been this (the husband is at home today and the kid has study leave for her quarterly exams).

  1. Half a tumbler of coffee at 7 am for the adults
  2. Half a tumbler of coffee + 1 Marie biscuit each at 8 am for the adults. One tumbler of Bournvita for the just-awoken kid.
  3. Half a cup of rice each with buttermilk kozambu and beans paruppusuli at 9 am. We have switched to eating rice for breakfast because it seems a pain to cook three meals a day.  And no, we are not cereal/oats/toast people.
  4. A three-course rice meal for lunch comprising one cup of rice each (I often replace rice with cream of wheat – samba godhumai ravai, for myself), with buttermilk kozambu, beans paruppusuli, pepper rasam, and curd at 12.30 pm.
  5. Coffee for dad and daughter and tea for me at 2.30 pm
  6. A small piece (by small, I mean, three table spoons) of apple cobbler each, topped with a small (one table spoon) scoop of icecream at 4.30 pm.  This is not a regular feature.  It could be a sandwich each, one dosa, each, chaat, fruit salad etc.
  7. Plan: Bean burrito (with home-made whole wheat tortillas) for supper. One each for the adults and two for the kid.  Probably with mixed vegetable soup and store-bought nachos.
  8. Plan: Either juice or milk and a small piece of chocolate each.

The intricate details may vary, but these eight meals are fairly regular.  There was a brief time when I decided that I was eating too much.  So, I switched to the three-solid meals plan, and none of us was very happy with it because it gave us migraines and an obsession with food.  I notice that people around me do not eat as many meals.  I have also noticed that they eat large portion sizes at the limited number of meals they eat.  We, on the other hand, never feel “full” after any sitting.

I often wonder which is better – eating small meals throughout the day (I agree it is a pain to decide the various meals and make them), or eating two or three large meals.  I then lie down and the feeling goes away.

I attempted meditation today, but ended up either dozing off or thinking about “Name of the Rose” that we had watched last night.  But that’s ok, one can’t force-meditate.  What matters is that I sat in one place for 15 minutes with the intention to meditate.

I just yawned.  Ideally no one should post a piece that makes the writer yawn but I suspect I will.  If I just made you yawn as well, you’re welcome. I just made you take in more oxygen into your lungs than you have been in the past two minutes.

So long.

Sharing my world

What colour do you feel most comfortable wearing?

I gravitate naturally towards maroon-red shades. I am partial to wine red.  But these days, I don’t care.  I seem to have gone from bad to worse in terms of my dressing pattern –  I seem to strongly need comfortable clothes and for some reason, comfort is directly proportional to ugliness.  I have a dinner party to attend this evening, and am a little lost on what to wear, because all my comfortable salwars are faded to the point that you can’t make out any colour, and the sarees that are grand and elegant are oh-so-uncomfortable.

My current house guest is a DRESSER, the capital letters are very much intended.  Not that I am being judgemental or anything – she is passionate about dressing up and spends hours daily deciding what to wear, wearing it and accessorising it with matching jewellery, footwear, creams, lotions, colours, brushes and what not.  And looks stunning.  This exacerbates my shabbiness.  Last week, I offered to take her to the local mall, and she was scandalised that I picked up the car key, while still in the clothes I had been wearing at home – a comfortable kurtha that used to be wine red, but now is a whine red!  She begged me to change into something else and wasn’t particularly satisfied with the one I changed into, but too bad that’s all I had.  She was shocked that I had four pairs of clothes in my cupboard (not including the formal sarees).

What is your favourite type of dog? (can be anything from a specific breed, a stuffed animal or character in a movie)

I am not fond of dogs.  I’d rather that they mind their business and I, mine.  I admire German Shepard-s from a distance – my childhood neighbour had a gigantic one called Mickey, who she said was gentle as a lamb, but I was terrified of him.  I have been chased by a Pomeranian as a child, and continue to stay clear of them.  There is a really affectionate stray mongrel that my better half calls “Ramabadran” who loves me to bits, and it breaks my heart when he whimpers for me to pat him.  He is the closest that has come to being a favourite dog.

List at least five favourite flowers or plants.

I don’t think you will meet any South Indian woman who won’t put jasmine at the top of the list.  Rangoon Creeper is my next, given that it shares its Tamil name with my mother.  All other flowers come right behind.

What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

I was able to focus on my breath and stop from reacting to a slightly instigating situation last week.  This inspires me more to not forget my breath.  Considering that my hormones will shortly start bothering me, I am holding on to my breath more tenaciously than ever now.

The week begins…

…with one good news – we got our first woman defence minister, and one bad news – the third gender has been derecognized in my country’s labour law framework.  I must stop reading the newspaper in the morning.



The house guests left to spend time with other relatives this weekend, and won’t be back until the end of the week, during when they would jam-pack eight large suitcases with India and return to their land of milk and honey.  It has been whirlwind days when they were around, and interestingly, the more chaotic and noisy the home became, the deeper I dug my feet into the metaphoric ground and withdrew into the silence within me.  Having rambunctious guests at home is perhaps my biggest instigator of instinctive zen.  With them gone, the mind is slowly resuming its mischief as thoughts begin to spiral and the zen is broken.

The downside with the guests was that I became extremely lax with my food control and exercise routine –  I have not set foot in the gym for two weeks now and my portion control has been booted out, especially with the large jar of Kirkland chocolate covered almonds that seductively beckon me every time I enter the kitchen.

I had requested my guests to bring me wine, because the ones you get here are less than substandard, and the good ones are fairly expensive.  I must have given them the impression of being an alcoholic or something, for what I got was, apart from a small bottle of wine, which was empty in one evening, among four people two of whom were heavy drinkers – three rather large bottles of Absolut and five miniature bottles of Ballantine’s and Johnnie Walkers.  The pretty bottles have been put on display above the loft because hard liqueur is not our glass of alcohol. I was tempted to try out cocktails – Bloody Mary and Screwdriver for instance, but the last time I even tasted Vodka – a teeny weeny sip that got me gagging – I suffered a whopper migraine, so I’ll stick to my tee-totalling lifestyle, with an occasional sip or two of wine thrown in, when available.


Karma and philosophy

A universal truth was reiterated this morning.  I had cooked a couple of traditional items – bitter guard pittlai and fire roasted brinjal chutney – which turned out exactly the way my grandmother made them.  While I relished eating them, my family was not too happy about my choice of recipes today and seeing their scrunched up faces, I remembered the innumerable times I had scrunched up my face the exact same way when my grandmother had made them at home. What goes around, comes around, Karma is a dog and such truths are truths indeed.  For a moment my irritation flared and I almost yelled at my family for disdaining food that sustains life but realized that this was merely payback for my actions.

Last week, I had been to the beach with my daughter for a brief while because my guests had to be taken to an Ayurvedic medical man near the beach.  As I dropped them at the dispensary and headed for the beach, it started raining, and everyone else in the beach cleared out.  The rain, however, stopped in five minutes, and the kid and I had the beach to ourselves – it was overwhelmingly beautiful and serene, but the kid freaked out at the darkness and expanse of the horizon and the absence of people around!  To make things worse, a gipsy woman followed me around offering to read my palm and tell my future.  I told her that my future is a function of my own action, and I’d rather not know about it now – she muttered and went away and my daughter is convinced that she is a witch who cast a black spell on me, and something bad is going to happen.  It’s during times like this that I wonder if they switched the bassinet in the hospital.


Have a great week ahead, folks.