Monthly Archives: March 2015

Relax, Nothing’s Under Control

Our group of eight is flying from Nairobi to Oman, with a changeover at Abu Dhabi.

We have a two-hour gap for the changeover. Our flight from Nairobi takes off after a one-hour-fifteen-minute delay. We are not overly worried, we can still make it, we reassure ourselves.  Pilots do make up for lost time, at least some part of it, we discuss.

The post-holiday weariness is evident in all our eyes. The energy we traveled with, the endless photographs we took, the curios we picked up, the local flavours that we experienced and wondered at, all these seem so far away now, though we’ve just wrapped up a wonderful holiday.

We board, and sleep on the long flight, a dreamless sleep of fatigue, punctuated by in-flight meals that our tired bodies require.

We land, and anxiety hits us as we have only about 40 minutes left to disembark, and board the next flight . But, we are going to take on this challenge, yes, we are.

There are a few passengers sharing our plight as we make a beeline for the exit. We charge out and run, our sleepy legs jolted awake with cruelty. Our razor sharp eyes blindly follow the transit boards.

Eight people racing, up escalators, down others, running on travellators, with duty free shops and boarding gates whizzing past. We are close, ten more minutes left. There is a long corridor stretching ahead and we run, run, run.

We are sure that when the ground staff see us, they will hold the flight.

Just as we turn a bend, a member of the ground staff from the airline waits for us, waving.

Relief pours out in rivulets of sweat as we run with a sense of purpose now.

When we reach him, he says, “Are you taking Flight so and so to Oman?”

Eight heads nod vigorously.

“Relax! The boarding gate is closed, and the flight is taxiing on the runway readying for take off. We are putting you on the earliest available flight, which is at 2.45 a.m tomorrow. Just another five hours”, he says.

We just broke some Olympic records in sprinting there!  Eight indignant faces stare back at him, gasping for air.

We resign ourselves and settle down for the long wait.  The laughter comes much later, as we recollect our sprint through the airport.

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Boomeranged

‘Mom, children and food’ – one could write books, and more books on this topic.

“Chew slowly, don’t swallow without chewing, don’t place your book where your plate should be, vegetables cannot be scattered around the plate with the claim that you’ve finished your food. Don’t do this and don’t do that.”

From baby food to mashed vegetables to staple Indian food, my children have now reached a stage, where they ask for food, yummy food, all the time. So, I am happily learning new recipes.

With my new found happiness, I am glad to note that the children’s taste buds are ready to try and explore different cuisines.

So my husband and I have decided to take the children out to sample different cuisines whenever we can.

Mom’s observation – It is very difficult to stop a child from speaking out what is in his or her mind.

We start with Indian food, but from a different part of the sub-continent. It is a fine dining restaurant and I hiss warnings till we are seated. I keep telling them the dos and don’ts. I also tell them, “If there is a dish that you taste and do not like, do not make a face or say that you don’t like it. Instead, say, “This is interesting”, and I will understand.”

The children took my tips to heart and as we moved from starters and soup, to the main course, both kids would look at us and rate each dish – this is very good, hmmm this is interesting, and sometimes THIS IS VERY VERY INTERESTING (the ones they didn’t like at all).

We had fun and I came back satisfied. At least they had tried something new.

A few days later, I had friends over for dinner. The table was set.

One of my friends asked my son, “What has your mom prepared?”

My son peeked into each dish and gave his rating – this potato fry is very good, this stuffed bittergourd curry is very very interesting don’t try it, the starters are excellent, again, the stir-fried veggies, that’s interesting, skip it if you want.

And as my friends looked puzzled, I explained the ‘interesting story’ that had so beautifully boomeranged on me.

Letter’s on Auto Loop

Back in the day, when fax machines were used extensively by corporates, a funny incident happened at my workplace. I remembered this earlier today, when I heard a ringtone that sounded like a fax machine’s answering tone.

In those days my job involved a lot of communication with customers and, consequently, I had to send out numerous faxes.

Since many departments shared a fax machine, we had a runner, who would collect the documents from various units and then fax them to the respective numbers.

Our old runner had taken up a new job elsewhere, and we had a new runner, who was still learning the ropes.

He was an enthusiastic young lad with a sparkle in his eye and smile on his face.

It was a ‘business as usual’ kind of day at work, probably a day or two since the new runner had joined work. I called him to send off a fax. The process we usually followed was that once the fax was sent, the runner would come back with the document and confirmation slip, which would then be filed.

He was gone for a long time, but I had a lot of work to complete so couldn’t go and see what was taking him so long.

Just a few minutes later, I received a call from the customer to whom the fax was sent.

She was frantic and said, “I have received 20 copies of the same document. Looks like your fax machine is on auto loop or something. Can you check please?”

I ran to the communications room to find the runner still by the fax machine.

I asked him if there was a problem with the machine.

He looked puzzled and said, “I have been trying to send the letter, but it keeps coming out on the other side, I’ve tried more than 20 times.”

I burst out laughing. When I asked him, he said he was using a fax machine for the first time, and another runner had told him how to feed the document into the machine, but had not told him that the document would come out at the other end after being scanned and sent.

I explained the working to him and we shared a good laugh.

The Sounds of Annoyance

I had just gone back to work after my maternity leave.

With a baby at home and tiring days at work, I grabbed every little opportunity that I could, to catch a few winks.

On one such evening, I had come home with my ‘Things to do’ list still over-flowing. After spending time with my little one, and putting her to sleep, I got down to my chores. And that’s when it started. A mechanical whirring and grinding that grated on my nerves.

The noise was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think. The source of the noise, I found, was from a five star hotel, with whom our building shared a compound wall. When I went out to check, it looked like some kind of maintenance work was going on. And the noise continued to deafen. I was worried that my daughter would wake up.

My husband came home, and needless to say, was equally aggravated. Thankfully our little angel slept on.

I was in a foul mood and decided to write to the local community newspaper the next day, I thought up dire threats that I would issue to the hotel’s managing staff. Maybe a complaint to the police would also shake them up, I thought. Outrage, and anger simmered. My neighbours came by, and we raved and ranted.

The droning went on till the wee hours of the morning. We barely slept that night, and I woke up with a pounding headache. I was on the warpath, ready to take the hotel guys to court. I was on a mission.

I kick-started my day with many mugs of strong coffee.

At 7.00 a.m, the door bell chimed loudly. A beautiful woman in a saree, and a man in a formal suit stood at the door. They had a huge bouquet in their hands.

They gave it to me and said, “Ma’am, we are from the hotel behind your building. We are here to apologize for all the disturbance that we caused last night. One of the main water pipes burst and had to be fixed immediately.”

“Oh, ok”, I said, not really knowing what else to say.

“And Ma’am, please accept this cake from our bakery, though it cannot compensate for the inconvenience caused to you”, said the elegant lady.

I thanked them for having come by, in person, to apologize. I said bye and walked in.

When I opened the cake box, there was a message written in white icing on the cake which read –

“We are sorry. Let’s make up with a cake.”

I smiled. I smiled as I remembered how angry I was the night before. I smiled as I realized that simple and thoughtful acts like these go a long way in helping us forget and forgive.

Of toothpaste and butter

When we were growing up, we watched commercials on television with the same fervour as we did the shows, and then nagged our parents to buy us all those lovely things that were so beautifully presented, with their catchy tunes and visuals. The commercials were full of promise, and wonderful treats.

Advertising has come a long way since then, what with all the digital sprucing-up and visual effects.  Their appeal to children has only increased.

I remember two funny incidents about how television commercials influenced children.

A few years ago, a new gel tooth paste was introduced in the market. The TV commercial showed a young lad, who brushes his teeth with the gel tooth paste, and suddenly finds himself energized by fresh breath. He is then surrounded by a glowing blue spiral that spins & glows around him, to enhance the message.

One of my nephews was very taken with the commercial and had his parents buy the tooth paste for him. Very excitedly, he went in to brush his teeth. A few minutes later he came running out crying, asking all of us why there was no gel spiral around him.

The other incident happened with my son. A few years ago, he was watching a commercial for Amul Butter, whose tag line was ‘The Taste of  India’.

Many days later, when we were in the supermarket, my son came running down the aisle whooping for joy, saying loudly, “Mom, I found the taste of India. Can I taste India, now, please?”

Whether it’s a simple tooth paste or every day butter, a great commercial can truly impact little minds!

Spooky Midnight Visitor

It was the Monsoon season in India and the rain lashed mercilessly, accompanied by heavy winds that howled through door cracks and key holes, sometimes carrying thin sheets of water into the house through the cracks at the bottom of the door.

The season was characterized by days of continuous and heavy rain, that rendered umbrellas useless, as the rain changed direction with the wind. Fallen trees and power cuts were very common, as we huddled together, and played family games.

On one such night, as the rain fell in heavy sheets and the wind actually caused the windows to rattle, we went to bed early. Soon, we were fast asleep.

It must have been around 1 a.m. in the night, when the calling bell rang. We had just bought an electronic calling bell that played one of twelve tunes, in a sequence, each time someone pressed it.

Needless to say, we were startled, when it rang at this unearthly hour, playing ‘Bach’. We hugged our mom, as our Dad went to check. When he looked out of the window to see the porch, there was no one there.

My Dad called out sharply, “Who is it?” There was no reply.

The calling bell rang again. Now it played ‘Mozart’. My younger sister started crying.

We were worried if an intruder had chosen this rainy night to steal, or attack us.

My Dad secured the back door with a chair and did the same for the main door of the house. After checking all the windows, all of us went back to bed.
The incident had us worried for a few days; then, as with everything else, the worry faded, though it came back now and then to haunt us.

At the tail-end of that year’s monsoon season, we finally solved the mystery of the midnight caller.

It was yet another rainy day, with very heavy winds. The door bell rang just as we all sat down to have lunch. When we opened the door there was nobody there. While the door was still open, a heavy gust of wind blew through the house, and it was so strong that the doorbell played ‘Mozart’ again.

Phew! Our midnight visitor was the monsoon wind.

So many stories in a cup of tea!

Tea stalls in India are ubiquitous. You will find them on busy roads, sometimes more than one on a road; outside theatres, outside office complexes, near the vegetable market, everywhere.

Most of them serve coffee, tea, hot milk and a limited menu of yummy snacks that vary depending on the time of day.

The beverages are served in small cups made of thick glass. I am yet to see a tea stall that is not doing brisk business throughout the day.

Some of them play the latest Bollywood hit numbers. The owners of all these tea stalls know their regular customers and their unique preferences – less sugar, black coffee etc.

They laugh and joke, their hands boiling, sieving and serving, without missing a beat. Nerve centres in people’s days, where they come to recharge or unwind.

I remember one such tea stall near my parents’ home. Every evening, my Dad and I would stop by to have a cup of tea, laced with fresh ginger and cardamom, when my kids and I stayed with them during the holidays.

And when we sipped our teas and chit-chatted, many regulars would also be there. A man, whose wife was in hospital, who would come there, with a thermos to buy coffee to take with him to the hospital, after work. There was a group of sales executives, with their ties loosened, discussing their sales calls over a cuppa. They joked with the tea stall owner and went on their way. There were two nurses who stopped by to buy snacks for their children on their way home.

There was an old woman, who would also visit the tea stall at the same time. Her wizened face bore the grooves of many wrinkles, wrinkles that had witnessed her hard life. She did odd jobs in the area and from what we knew, she lived alone. Making ends meet would have been a challenge. But, every evening, she would come to the stall, neatly dressed, with a string of jasmine adorning her loosely tied chignon, and a big red bindi on her forehead. She had bright eyes and a mouth that looked like it had smiled a lot despite the difficult journey.

On one such day, as we sipped our tea, the old woman walked to the stall and placed her coins on the counter, asking for her usual tea and bajji. She proceeded to enjoy this with relish, slurping the tea in an almost musical way. She would nibble into the bajji and then sip. We watched her, enthralled. This was probably an important part of her day. Her eyes stared into the distance, as we wondered what thoughts visited her mind.

And after she finished her tea, the stall owner called out to her, “Amma (Mom), do you want another cup?”

She replied, “Don’t have change.”

The owner said, “There’s an offer today, buy one get one free.”

Her eyes appreciated his generosity and kindness, but her shoulders stiffened proudly, as she smiled and walked away, nodding her head to say no.

The tea stall was a world unto itself. People dropping in to unwind, stopping to catch up with friends, sometimes relaxed, sometimes in a hurry to get to their next appointment, sometimes happy, sometimes sad.

So many stories in a cup of tea!