Friday, August 3, 2012

A Day in the Life of an Alwarite While the rest of the world gets up with ‘Good morning!’ , we, the Alwarites, get up with ‘Jaldi karo paani chala jayega, bijli chali jayegi’. But have you ever wondered how ‘caring’ our public departments are? You may not care about your health but our Water-works does! Take health for example. Would you get a regular work out if it wasn’t for the philanthropic water-board? Firstly, it decided to transform all slothful citizens into early-birds by starting the supply at 5:30 a.m., then to prevent the inevitable wastage, it releases just a wee trickle which can at the most fill your underground water-tanks. Add to that our wonderful Public Works, who, for some reason are digging up the city, which inevitably means a broken water-pipe every day, left unattended as long as possible. Both of these combined means that on the lucky days when no pipes are broken, you have to be up and running and bending to reach the tap in the tank the moment your eyes snap open. Should you mind it so much? No! Look at the benefits, hubby is bright-eyed and bushy tailed even without the first-cup of tea and gets a vigorous work-out running, bending, bending and running again to ensure all tanks and buckets are full for the day. Electricity board chips in with a power-cut so you don’t even think of cranking the booster-pump on. In one stroke, they’re saving electricity, giving you a free work-out and saving water, as you wouldn’t dare to waste such hard-earned water. Actually, these two boards are not just thinking of only your physical well-being, think of the emotional boost, the sublime sense of achievement when you see the tank filled up to its brim with sparkling water. Where else could you get this valuable lesson in being so happy with so little? There is also the greatest lesson ever of self-reliance- why rely on any board for basic-necessities? Get your own inverter, your own water-pump and free yourself of dependence! Employment generation is another thing which is often overlooked by people cribbing about bad governance. The streets are humming these days with a number of water – tankers. On the days when the Public works is successful in disrupting the meager water-supply we turn to these helpful people with their water-tanks. Imagine the number of people who must’ve got regular work because of this! And then there are those who refuse to buy water- their basic necessity, they say, and take out rallies in protest. But have you ever wondered how many people get work writing placards or making those combustible effigies? For that matter, dare you blame corruption for a number of things including bad roads which disappear with the first shower of rain? If you do, you’re plain myopic. Such roads ensure steady work for a number of contractors, engineers, laborers etc. etc. for years, didn’t you know? Where would they be if roads lasted for years together? And if you look a little deeper, who’s behind it all? Our governance, of course! Ineffective, you think? Just be in their shoes for a while and imagine what all they have to contend with. Starting with making plans full of loopholes, to handing out work which ensures steady income- for them of course, (what did you think?); to ensuring nothing progresses smoothly and then the most important part- make sure of following the ‘monkey on the pole’ principle- 3 steps up, 2 steps down- this way nothing will ever be complete, which will ensure years of work for everybody! Do you still blame the authorities for not taking their work seriously??

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Withered blooms

How green is my garden!

Our gardener and I share a love-hate relationship. I love seasonal flowers and he hates them. He thinks of flowers as pests and keeps wondering what earthly use are they. If he could have his way he’d transform our little garden into a vegetable patch. “You can eat fresh vegetables everyday!” is his standing argument, for which he has encroached a third of the area and planted his utter favorites – gourds, methi and spinach.

No amount of persuasion with this ‘maali baba’ works, so I usually pitch in myself, while he watches with a disdainful sneer. My experiments always start with sowing the seeds, waiting patiently for a month for the plants to sprout, losing patience and invariably ending with a shamefaced visit to the nursery for plants ready to bloom. Despite the fiascos which happen every year with monotonous regularity I haven’t lost faith in myself- one day I’ll grow, and not buy, my seasonal flowers.
And a month ago I found the big polythene bag bulging with seeds. They were not labeled but I was sure that they were the same I had painstakingly collected last year. I rushed with it to the garden- getting our all-in-one office boy to strew them in the characteristically empty flower- bed was a matter of minutes. And then the wait began.

This year it looked like my persistence was about to be paid off. Tiny, bright green plants sprouted and soon covered the barren flower-bed. Excited I emptied a bucketful of fertilizer and was rewarded with a fresh burst of growth which threatened to choke the bed. Getting to thinning down the plants, I carefully plucked plants by handfuls and replanted them in all the flower-pots and remaining flower beds. Still there was a surplus and working on the ‘do unto your neighbors ….’ principle, I distributed it freely to neighbours, advising them sagely to plant not more than four plants per pot.
“What is it?” one of the ladies asked, eyeing the tender green plants.
“Oh, flowers…,” I said with a superior smile, these people knew so little about plants, “multicolored flowered, they’ll bloom in March!”
“They look familiar, you know…” she said a bit doubtfully. I couldn’t help laughing, “Oh, they do, but don’t worry they’re those lovely flowers…”

I rediscovered the joys of nurturing- watering the plants diligently, swatting away our pet when he tried to eat the labours of love and everywhere in our garden I could see the pearls of my hard-work.

But something was missing. The one thing I do know about flowering plants is that they start budding when the weather turns warm. And mine were just going on sprouting more and more leaves. Maybe they would bloom late, I told myself and sprinkled some more fertilizer in the hope that it’d hasten flowering. They became positively luxuriant but still no budding.
And then, the other night it suddenly struck me, how come we had such a huge packet of seeds? Our measly buys from the nursery yielded hardly a spoonful, so where had that big polythene come from?
The next morning I surreptitiously compared the leaves of Baba’s spinach patch and my plants- they looked distressingly, alarmingly similar. I bit of tiny pieces of both- they tasted exactly the same!

I brought out the offending polythene bag and held it under Baba’s nose, “Which seeds are these?” I asked him, half-sure of his answer myself.
He took out a handful, peered carefully and put it back, “Spinach” he said happily, ”Keep it safely, we’ll use it next year,” he beamed more broadly, “this year you’ve done a very good thing by filling all those silly flower-beds and pots with spinach….”

Did I wait to hear more? I did not.
I was on my way on the oft-beaten track to the nursery.
And the neighbors are yet to know the truth.

A small voice: Celebrating Myself!

A small voice: Celebrating Myself!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Celebrating Myself!

Celebrating Myself!

Wow and thanks for giving me this opportunity to actually get around to think whether I am celebration-worthy! And Lo! What do I find? I am! Like so many of us ‘unsung heroines’ out there; like every lady with gumption out there!

The problem with us unassuming types  is the ‘Oh, no, it’s nothing’ syndrome, no matter how good we are, how tough and fruitful our journey has been, we brush it off with ‘oh everybody does that’. Yes, they do and we do and that’s why we ought to feel pride in our achievements – however small they are. Our humility, I can assure you, has only one outcome- being taken for granted and rightly so, if we can’t appreciate ourselves, why in the world anybody else would?

So, the title got me thinking- furrowed brows and all! Have I really done, as in, done anything stupendous? What is it about me that I can celebrate? Is there anything at all? Does being my mother’s only support in her last days count as important? Is raising a fabulous kid an achievement? Is holding a family together worthy of an award? Could I or would I give any credit to myself for becoming and being the person I am? Has my journey from a gawky girl to a self-possessed forty-something (you’ll never know forty-what!) been as simple as it looks?
Noooooo!!! NOT AT ALL!

I think, the fact that everything about me is a lesson in DIY- Do-it-yourself, is cause enough to celebrate. From choosing to study Literature when everybody around me was hollering ‘MBBS’!, to finding my soul-mate, to sticking to being a full-time mom and leaving a lucrative job against popular wisdom, to finding my passion for writing (you had guessed it, hadn’t you?) , to getting over rejection slips and plodding on till I got it right and published…..the list is long….I did do them all!
Add to that, that I was a novice at everything, being a wife, mother, teacher and writer and didn’t have the benefit of ‘mentors’, not even a Ma-in-law to teach me the basics of home- management!

And I learnt it all one tough step after another by myself! And I think I have proved myself in every field. Well- my hubby has survived 26 years of me, sonny is a source of pride and joy, students have been tremendously successful and more than anything, have become friends to me and lastly, kind editors are publishing my work- if that doesn’t entail a full-blast celebration- what does? Bring on the roses and tulips (glasses, I mean, but naturally!)
On a less boastful note, I take pride in saying that people who matter to me and vice-versa can always and I do mean, always, count upon me for love, support, sympathy and yes, hard-knocks when they’re needed. In a world that is increasingly becoming all about facades, with me, you get what you see – no pretensions, I personally feel, it must be so exhausting to pretend to be what you’re not. And I am proud, very proud of the fact hat I belong to the endangered species of those who never need to pretend; who have the courage to be always themsleves.
There have been many contributors in creating the person I am- the direct and the indirect influences; some taught me what to do and some, what not to..….both equally important.

And I think that means bottoms up for them all and yet another celebration!