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O’ Google

“How did you ever do your projects?!!”

This question came from bewildered twins from my neighbourhood who had decided to tap on my generosity to help them complete their school project due tomorrow. Ostensibly, to avoid the wrath of their parents who would have blasted them off for procrastinating for so long.

So it was affectionate Aunty M, with a laptop and a printer and time to spare!

As I was navigating through Google identifying suitable pictures to add to the now almost completed 10-page project, I was telling them, that during our time, we had to cut pictures from glossy magazines. We would also trade pictures amongst classmates because not all of us had magazines delivered to our homes or with the pictures we need.

That had astounded them!

Responding to their question, I said we went to the school library to gather data for our projects and sifted through large volumes of books to get what we needed. And then wrote our own essays.

“Library?”

“But how would you know which book to choose?”

“Well, if it was a History project we would go to the History aisle and start looking for books for the period we are interested in, likewise for Geography, it would be another aisle with books lined according to regions and so on.”

“Yes, but didn’t that take like the whole day or several days to figure out which book, which page, which para to get the information from?? I mean, you had to read many books to figure out what you need, right?”

“Yes it did. That is why in our times, we couldn’t afford to keep our projects pending till the last moment.” I said with as much severity as is appropriate from an affectionate neighbourhood Aunt. “We had to spend a lot of days and hours gathering the information we need. We were lucky if we got the material we want from the library or the pictures from magazines. If not, we would have to talk to the elders at home or our teachers and take copious notes. If we didn’t find apt pictures, we would have to draw diagrams and graphics on our own.”

“Well, you could have simply Googled and saved all that time?”

“Yes, dearies, but we didn’t have Google that time.”

“Oh no! how did you all survive?”

“How did you get answers to your questions??”

The questions started coming fast and furious.

“As I said, library, elders and teachers.” I responded

“Well, how did they know the answers? They couldn’t have known everything?!”

“Well, in those days, they did.” That’s the best answer I could manage. Well, actually Google wasn’t there to validate the answers, but I didn’t say that out loud.

“HMMMM”

“With no Google, how did you all cook?”

Change of track now.

“What do you mean? We cooked food like the way we do now, over cooktops or ovens. No change there.”

“Well, what about recipe? How did you all know what ingredients and condiments to put?”

“We had cookbooks?”  Trying not to alarm them now.

“Cookbooks? You mean you had to read books to cook?”

“Yes, I mean, you didn’t always have to read to cook. The elders knew the recipe by heart. And even now you do read the recipe off Google to cook, right? Same, but from books, if need be.”

“Yes, but how did you all know what the ingredients looked like or how to wave the skillet and shake the pan and toss the condiments to get the perfect mix, without the cooking videos?”

“We didn’t have that and it didn’t matter. Most of the time, folks shared recipes amongst friends or were passed down from one generation to another and that is how most cooking were done.”

Ohhhhhh!

“How did you all figure out what to buy, at what price, which is the cheapest but the best quality and durable and long lasting?”

“We went to the market, visited several shops, and then selected what we need?”

Those were day long trips, going from one shop to another, looking at metres and metres of fabric and bargaining for the best price. Walking or mainly being dragged by the parent, from one end of the market to the other, in the quest of that perfect fabric, with no end in sight. If we did get that perfect fabric with the choicest blend of color and pattern, it was followed by getting measured by the tailor and then mother haggling with him to get the dress ready before the impending festival. These were not so happy memories for me. There was never ever a promise of ice-cream and very seldom would we get one. But here I seemed to be in a competition to show that we had a good life too, so I didn’t get into the details.

“Well, how did you all go anywhere?”

This time I knew what they were getting at.

“Just like you all do now, walk, bike or drive.”

“Yes, but how did you all navigate without Google Maps?”

“We had paper maps.” This didn’t sound so remarkable, so I actually showed them the small folded booklet which opened up to show the map of Delhi. They seemed very unimpressed, I presumed because the paper, once glossy, now looked yellow and tattered.

“Paper Maps will not tell you the Estimated Time of Arrival or the traffic congestions.”

“Also, you cannot possibly be looking at these paper maps while driving?”

“That is unsafe driving, just like texting and calling”, chirped the other one.

“Well actually, if we drove intercity, we did carry such maps around to help us navigate. Within the city, we managed by asking passers-by or bystanders, hawkers and the like, the direction.”

“How would these people know the direction without Google?”

“Because people actually looked around and noticed things more, and knew their neighbourhood, I guess. We have reached destinations never visited before, guided by so many of them. Never got lost”.

A pause. But I could see the whirring inside their little heads, as I braced myself for the next barrage of questions. What could that be?

“How did you know the weather forecast?”

This part was tricky.

“We didn’t. We got up each morning, looked at the sky to figure out how the day would be. Again, the elders in the family would sense the direction of the wind, and let everyone know, very accurately, whether it would rain.”

“But there was no way of knowing the weather if you were flying to a different city?”

“Well, no. But the seasons were not so erratic those days. So, in winters we would pack woollens and in monsoon, the umbrella.”

I could see from their questions and from their expressions, that I am not impressing them at all.

For them, a world without Google was incomprehensible.

I mean to do school projects, you have to go to the library and search for the most appropriate book and read and understand and then write with your own hands, the whole thing in your notebook? Isn’t it just easier to ask Google and then copy and paste relevant parts and paraphrase somewhat, to avoid plagiarism?

You have to read books to cook? And come on, you have to stop the car, wind down the window, and ask the hawker for the direction and even trust that they know?

Oh! mankind has come such a long way!

They didn’t say it, but their faces did.

Unseen Heroes

The sudden sound of the mobile ringing seemed like it will shatter everything around. I hastily grabbed the phone and answered it, so that the sleeping household isn’t disturbed.

It was the cab driver confirming pickup.

I checked my clock … 2:30 AM!

Still an hour from pickup time.

Felt a pang of guilt, on his having to wait for me, at this unearthly hour, so I mumbled that I will be ready to go in half hour.

Honestly, I was lying awake, worried about the cab not turning up. And then spiraling into a dread about having to book an Uber and hoping to get one and reaching airport on time.

That worry evaporated, a sigh of relief.

I could have tossed and dozed for a few more minutes but remembering my promise to the driver, I got up and got ready and was ready to board in half an hour.

Outside, it was drizzling steadily, overcast skies, clouds looked like white shrouds floating eerily. The pitter patter of the rain, which would otherwise arouse the poets to break into rhymes, felt different at this hour. The greyish, dreadful, silent and cold night, hours away from dawn, brought in a melancholic start of my day.

As we neared our condominium exit gate, the security guard, stopped us and peered inside. On seeing me, activated the barrier to let us pass. The guard was alert and fast, in spite of the dreariness around him, he was duty bound.

I expected the roads to be free of traffic, and so did Google Maps, which intimated me that I should reach my destination in 40 minutes.

When I board a ride at night or late hours, my senses are on high alert. And so I was today, scanning everything as we passed by.  

And I noticed things, which I wouldn’t have usually during my day drives. The streetlights, standing in straight rows, were bright and glowing although there was a halo around them. And around the halo the rain drops fell and looked like sparkling gold trinkets. The trees and shrubbery, stood too, in grim submission to this bleak weather, knowing well, that the sun will be out and there will be brightness around.

The car was doing good on speed but suddenly slowed down and the scene outside changed. There was a shop where I saw many two-wheelers parked and there was a hustle bustle of activity. There were many young men standing about. Some with raincoats or wind-cheaters and some without any cover from the rain. They all were very busy as if racing against a clock. I realized those were the milk/grocery delivery vendors reporting for their duty and collecting their wares for distribution. Just next to this shop, the newspapers, wrapped under swathes of plastic cover, were being unloaded from a vehicle, and there too, were two-wheelers parked with vendors ready to load.

Not more than an hour ago, when I had woken up, I was feeling upset at having to catch this early morning flight, to travel for work. This was just one day, or maybe a few in a month.

But these vendors, they report to duty on this ungodly hours, come what may—storm, rain, fog or cold—to get the milk and bread and newspaper at our doorsteps. Mostly, even before we are out of our bed.

I felt a sense of awe. Many times, when I haven’t found the milk packet or the newspaper at its place, I had called up and complained heartily. Never realizing what goes behind, bringing those daily essentials to our reach daily.

As we kept going, I saw the municipality sanitary vans lining up in various parts of the city, to keep the city clean and free from water logging.

The traffic was less, but I saw several vehicles carrying goods and wares, groceries and other essentials, snaking across the city, ensuring that the households have the bare necessities, to fill the tummies  of kids and office goers.

We were close to the airport, and as we crossed the city limits, we saw a police picket, checking on vehicles exiting and entering. Wearing heavy trench coats, they were alert and brisk.

A forty minute ride that morning gave me a new perspective.

For me to do even a single day’s job well, there are many unseen heroes who are behind me, who until then, I have never known or acknowledged.

The security guards at our gates, the city police, and our soldiers at our borders, ensure I sleep peacefully each day.

The street I would use for my morning jog, would already be swept by the sanitary workers, long before, I step out.

The cab drivers ensure I reach my destinations.

The vendors move like shadowy figures, long before I am up, to place the milk, egg, and bread and newspapers at my doorstep, for a smooth start of my day.

I may be missing out on many other unseen heroes. But I know now that if on some days any of them would just like to sleep in for a bit more, I will understand. I will wait patiently.

As we prepare for our 75th Year of Independence celebration, my salute goes to these unseen heroes, who keep our household running.

Revolt by the Sandwich Generation

Soham and Snehal were utterly exhausted, tired to their bones. Their life was the proverbial “hectic and a mad rush”, typical of their generation.

Getting up daily at sunrise at the sound of the alarm, without a moment to spare or snooze. This is followed by an hour of jogging and Pilates at the gym. The monstrous membership fee alone pushed them to be there every day.

And then managing the madness within the multi-generation household.

Rushing back from the gym, they would nudge their two daughters out of their beds and get them ready for school. Every day a different form of theatricals evolved around this process. However hard Soham or Snehal tried to keep everything ready the night before, still there would be a missing sock or a hair band. Do these things have limbs to walk away? Or there would be a stain on the uniform. Not to mention the extreme slow-motion on the part of Riya and Halley, showing no inclination or interest whatsoever in getting ready. This would be interspersed with tears and howls and occasional fights breaking out between them. Soham would be fussing over them and imploring them to keep moving and keep getting ready.

Snehal would rush into the kitchen and start preparing their breakfast. The kids never agreed on the same things which meant preparing two different menu. Soham and Snehal tried their very best to maintain their calm, biting their lips a thousand times to stop from screaming at their children. If they do, then their grandparents would barge in and take the kids’ side and that would just stretch the morning drama a bit more. No time for that.

Once Snehal had really lost patience on Riya, and had yelled at her. Later, she got a condescending lecture from the mother-in-law (MIL), which she did her best to ignore but the event had another unexpected turn.  She got a letter from the school’s principal, a very patronizing one, which talked of how the kids should be allowed to grow in an environment full of love and tenderness; that they should not be afraid to express their thoughts and feelings, and that they should not be traumatized by the elders in the family. Snehal slapped her forehead hard. Her first instinct was to go and yell at Riya some more, but that wouldn’t have helped, so she just gritted her teeth. For the peace of the household, and for a morning free of yelling and screaming, just grit your teeth and get on with it. That had become Snehal’s and Soham’s morning mantra.

For Snehal, it is managing two sets of parents. While she had to look after the well-being of her in-laws who were staying with them for a long-term basis, she had her parents living in the sub-urban area who needed attention too.

Multi-tasking in the morning, Snehal would manage the kitchen, get several cups of tea ready for the in-laws, get breakfast of choices and lunch ready and packed, at the same time lending a hand or shoulder to Soham, as he continued to grit his teeth and struggle to get the kids ready for school.

The patriarch of the house would drink endless cups of tea, with milk and sugar, buried behind the newspaper, oblivious of the drama going on in the other room, but with his own yelps and expletives thrown in at the news. Whatever happened during those hours, natural calamity or human disaster, failed to grab his attention or budge him from his armchair in the balcony.

Next to him the matriarch sat, with her green tea, humming a devotional song, and urging the gods to give some peace and sensibility to her daughter-in-law, who apparently is totally struggling to manage a small household. She too, ignored the kids’ tantrums, and never would get up to help, except on those days when she would hear Soham or Snehal yelling at her beloved grandkids. Oh, her third cup of green tea is long due!

Really, Snehal has become so inept at managing the household. In a moment, she will dump the half-finished cooking on to her, and race off to office, the matriarch grimaced. She always knew Snehal will not cut it, and had said so to Soham, several years ago, but no one had listened to her!

On the other side, Soham and Snehal felt that they work for 48 hours in a day to keep the household and their career running.

The grand list of shopping, as the parents/in-laws did not like to shop online. The vegetables were not fresh and the groceries were overpriced according to them. Soham would have to take his mother to the local vendors for vegetable and grocery shopping. There his mother would spend several happy hours haggling with the vendors, meeting many of her friends doing the same thing and then compare prices. Grocery done, next would be the temple’s turn or maybe doctor’s clinic or just anything else.

Some days, he would have to drive his father to the banks and then wait in the car while his father pottered around the bank, and then settle down to chat with some friend or the other.

There was the driving the kids to school, ensuring their homework are done, attending parents-teachers’ meetings, taking them to extra-curricular activities during the weekends, nursing their fever, cold and tantrums. And then the two sets of parents—repeatedly teaching them the use of smartphones or laptops, meeting their demands of taking them for buying groceries, to temples, banks, post offices, doctors, friends get to gather, wherever they would prefer to be.

Thus Soham and Snehal were tired to their bones. Day in and day out. All seven days. No respite from their tedious routine. They had to cut short their last vacation as one set of parents had fallen ill. The humdrum of the house would always fall apart if one or both of them were not at the rudder.

For days, Snehal had been eyeing the Gucci vanity bag she had seen through the window, but always felt a pang of guilt and never could get herself to buy it, which she could afford easily. She earned very well but was always stricken by guilt when she bought anything for herself. She felt she was unjustly indulging on herself and then would end up spending more and buying for her daughters and also for the mother and MIL. The latter two, to keep them appeased and avoid the raised eyebrows on her expensive purchase for herself. She was vacillating about the Gucci; it would be such a nice accessory to her evening gown!

Both of them felt sandwiched between the two generations. They couldn’t express their true feelings or frustrations as that was considered to be bad, irreverential, uncool and just not the way they had been brought up.

Their office life was demanding with long and unpredictable hours as well. Pressure and demand of deliverable deadlines, the annual reviews and the rat race to the top! But there too, they had to gulp down any sense of despair or frustration and keep their feelings to themselves. Any display of emotions and they would be counselled to join a Yoga class and practice deep breathing and meditation.

Then suddenly one day, a switch flipped.

Halley did not like her cereals today. She pointed out to her Mom and then to Dad but none of them responded. She was ignored. That has never happened before. Her immediate instinct was to lie down on the floor and start pumping her fists and yell at the top of her lungs. That always yielded what she wanted. But she hesitated. Just yesterday, when she was at it, for something else, she had been bitten by a tiny ant, and thus was scared to try that feat. She gave a questioning look at her older sister, Riya. She was troubled to see a puzzled look on her sister’s face. Something seemed to be off.

His father was hiding behind the newspaper, when on other days he would be helping Halley and Riya with their breakfast and fussing over them and beseeching them to finish their food. It would start by gently nudging them out of their beds, helping them with their bath, ironing their school uniform, braiding their hair. Mom would be making lunch boxes and getting breakfast and lunch ready for the rest of the family and in between help Dad manage them. During this time, the world revolved around Halley and Riya. Just to make their exit to school smooth, they got whatever they wanted from their parents.

Actually, today, no one had woken them up or helped them get ready. Halley was too sleepy to think why so, and thus had gone through the motions of getting ready mechanically, but at the breakfast table she was now wide awake. And she felt something was amiss.

Mom was furiously peeling potatoes and not paying attention to anyone either. Not anyone at all. Gramps asked for a cup refill and was cordially ignored by both Mom and Dad. Granny seemed worried too and scuttled away to her prayer room.

Things seemed very ominous.

Halley didn’t finish her cereals neither did Riya. Her mother snatched the half-eaten bowls, dumped them in the dishwasher, and almost shoved them out of the door and into the car. The car ride to school was dreadfully silent, with both Halley and Riya trying to figure out as to what could have happened that their parents are not all over them as they used to be. The car ride would always be a fun ride for them with either of them trying ruffle each other’s hair or crumpling the uniform or just punch or pinch or tease each other.   Mom or Dad, whoever would be driving them, would keep pleading them to be quiet and behave, but between the traffic on the road and the chaos at the back seat, they would always choose to (helplessly) focus on the former. But … bewildering today!

In school, Ms Mathews asked Halley for her English homework. Halley had not done it. She instantly turned on her tried and tested little girl innocence, clutched her forehead, and whimpered to her Ms Mathews, that she had a bad headache the evening before and thus had gone to bed early. She expected full sympathy from Ms Mathews and may be also a hug. But she was startled to see a big frown on Miss’s face. Ms Mathews ordered Halley for the school diary and scribbled a complaint for her parents. Not only that, she ordered Halley to stand outside the classroom. Halley was shocked. This has never happened to her ever. She sometimes had skipped her homework and always got away easily, in the past. Not just her but everyone else in the class got full empathy when one was too sick to do a homework. But the class full of little girls and boys sat perplexed today, as they were looking at a very different Ms Mathews. Demanding and checking homework, giving surprise tests and sending students out of the classroom otherwise. The classroom, too, just like the car ride to school was deafeningly silent today.

Halley did not want to take a complaint today for her parents to sign, given what she saw in the morning, she felt it would not go well. Last time, when this had happened, after she had quarrelled with a boy in the class, her mother had gone and complained to the principal that the teacher was being unjust to Halley. Today, Halley wasn’t sure, how her Mom would react to this note.

Back at home, when the patriarch asked Halley’s father for the newspaper as it was always his unspoken fundamental right to read the paper first; he was ignored. Next, he asked his son how to Transfer Funds but was snapped at. He felt he was asking for the first time, maybe he has asked once or twice before, but was aghast to be told that he keeps asking the same questions over and over again! Not to be cornered or dismissed, as that was not what his generation tolerated, he then asked his son to take him to the Bank and was again told very curtly that it will not be possible.

Like his grandkids, he was bewildered. He always faced problems with his laptop, and Soham had always helped him patiently. He just had to say it and he would be taken to the Bank or the Post Office. Although it was always for some important work he had, he would meet so many of his friends there and stop and talk to them about how appalling the world has become. Soham wouldn’t mind and he would either sit in his car and continue with his office work on phone or would run some errands for the house, which his mother would have given. Never complaining. What has happened today?

He racked his brain to understand whether he or his wife have had any arguments of sorts or has he said something to Soham or Snehal, his daughter-in-law, which hasn’t gone well. He couldn’t think of any. His son looked very different today and so was his daughter-in-law. He didn’t get his tea refilled and had asked for sandwich for breakfast but just got buttered bread dumped in front of him.

The matriarch fervently ran her fingers through her prayer beads but continued to worry about the situation at home. The grandkids were neglected today and did not get proper food in their tummy. They will be starving the whole day. She usually takes her cups of tea in the balcony which is already laid out for her, but today she had to fetch it from the kitchen and actually pour the tea for herself and her husband. After her prayers, when she sat down to have her breakfast, she found there was none! She had to get up and toast a bread for herself because nothing else was there to eat. When she pointed out to her son, Soham, that Snehal seems to be too caught up with her office work and not paying attention to the household or her children, she was told to leave her alone! She was too stunned to respond. Her son had never talked back like that. She was an elder and she had to be respected and everybody and everything in the house should be handled the way she wanted. That was the order of the day always. After commanding everyone in the household, she would then sit in the foyer area with her crochet or knitting and soon would be joined by other ladies in the condominium. They would pass many happy hours talking of life, past and current, blaming their daughter in laws cooking skills, boasting of their sons’ growth and prosperity. There were no dearth of topics. But today she seemed to be losing control and her mind kept drifting to the very erratic behavior of her son and daughter-in-law?

She had then asked her son to take her to the vegetable market. She relished haggling with the vendors. She met many of her friends there and they would always try to outdo each other in buying vegetables in the cheapest rate. But his son ignored her, picked his bag and left for his office.

The oligarchs of the family looked at each in utter disbelief. They just had to say and it was a command for their son and daughter-in-law, but today the world seemed to have taken a different axis.

After dropping the kids, Snehal drove to her office and arrived 10 minutes late. She completely ignored her ancient boss’s frown and the look of censure and went straight to her workstation.

Snehal’s parents had called twice already when she was in a meeting. Seeing the phone beep for the third time, she was worried, and she excused herself from the meeting to take the call. Her mother wanted to know what her YouTube password was as she wanted to watch a recipe and try to it for lunch today. Exasperated, Snehal had disconnected the phone and returned to her meeting.  Her mother probably had thought the network was bad and had tried several times more, but now Snehal didn’t answer. Her mother was worried and bewildered too. At her daughter’s behavior and then how to cook lunch without knowing the recipe!

Snehal made up her mind, she will leave early today from work and get the Gucci bag, for herself, and nothing for anyone else. No guilt, she deserved to pamper herself.

In his office, Soham had walked out of a very boring meeting, amidst raised eyebrows and frowns, and was now busy booking a trekking expedition in the Andes for himself and Snehal, just for themselves. They deserved it.

A day in the life of a newspaper!

Last week the way my family reacted, meaning losing it all, when the internet went down for a few hours, made me lament on how utterly dependent on the web we are. Our life is controlled by this mesh from everything such as news, to quenching our sudden curiosities, studies, office, banks, entertainment, and every other activity of daily living.

Well, with everything at our fingertips (literally) now, how did we ever manage when the internet was not so encompassing a decade or two back, and non-existent before that. When the phrase world wide web conjured a completely different sci fi imagery.

My mind goes back to the years I was growing up without the internet.

Let’s start with the news of the day.

There was no system of instant news reporting (like now, sometimes even before it happened!!). There were no random video clicks of important events by a random passer-by who happened to be there with a cell phone poised, like someone filming the first plane hitting the first of the twin towers. (I often wondered as to how that can be a coincidence but more on that later!). Photographs, in black and white, were taken by professional cameramen who positioned themselves in designated areas during an event. News were meant to be written by professional reporters. And yes, newspapers were a vital part of every family.

The person who woke up first in the household had the responsibility of opening the main door and picking up the newspaper. It was a custom of opening the door, bending and scooping it up, and cursorily reading the Headline. Newspapers were not covered in full page advertisements those days in glossy papers, and the topmost headline meant something, and it carried its stately importance throughout the day, oft referred over and over in many conversations.

But the person, picking up the newspaper, daily, was not to open the folded pages, but the custom was to keep it in a designated area marked for the day’s newspaper. No written rule, but usually the person picking up the newspaper, was much below the pecking order which was followed to read the newspapers.

 Ah yes, there was a pecking order.

The highest rung was reserved for the patriarch of the family. He would read the newspaper, page by page, probably sipping the morning cuppa, and while doing so, read out loud some portions to the matriarch of the family, who is too busy preparing lunch bags and getting the kids ready for school, and will not get to the newspaper until noon. But worth getting to hear some of the news in advance.

Once the patriarch leaves for work, the person next in the pecking order gets the chance, and then the next and the next. Each person had their favourite place in the house where to read the newspaper and which page to go to first. The sports page or the international page, the fashion page or just the job advertisement. Once done, one had to carefully fold the newspaper and keep it neatly in the same designated space for the next reader.

I have never seen this pecking order being disturbed much and the newspaper always found itself back to its designated spot after each reader.

If some kids got their grimy hands on the newspaper, disturbing the pecking order, they were certain to be reprimanded and accused of crumbling the paper, staining it or keeping the pages out of order. It was best to wait till we returned from school, by when everyone would have read the paper and it would still be found in the same place. We would then be allowed to leaf through the pages, cut some items out for our scrapbook, or if it is raining outside, furtively, tear a page out to make a paper boat. And then swear loudly, if caught, that the page was not from today’s newspaper.

Because after the newspaper had its glorious day, it would have to be kept away in the store area. That responsibility usually belonged to the last in the pecking order and mostly to the children. And if anyone needed a sheet of paper to either wrap a book, or use it as a layer in a cupboard, or in this case make a paper boat, one needed to take the newspaper which was at the bottom of the pile. And days later, when the shelf in the store would be groaning under the weight of the daily newspapers piling up, scrap dealer would be called to take them away but not after a zealous bargain with the matriarch, on how much it actually weighs. The gains from the sale were used to buy something for the house.

So that was the life of the newspaper of the day and its reverence in our lives.

The only other form of news would be the 9 o’clock news in the radio. Now that was another significant object till it was displaced by the television, few years later. The radio claimed its revered spot during dinner time which also coincided with the nightly news. The responsibility of tuning the radio to get to the desired bandwidth rested on the important shoulders of the patriarch, and then over the years, passed on to the most responsible child, mostly the oldest. There had to be a hush silence as the elders listened to the news. No dinner conversation but listening to the crackling voice doling out the day’s news, the only source of what is happening in the world. Years later, this place was claimed by the television, and dinner was around it, everyone glued to it, and not much paying attention to each other, but to the riveting moving pictures on the screen.

And what do we have now?

Some of us do still take the newspaper. While the bending and scooping is still there, we cannot get to the headlines, as you know, we would have to leaf through several glossy pages, and there is no time in the morning rush for such a luxury. And even if we do get to the headline, isn’t it outdated already? As we have already seen it, heard it, read it, over TV, social media, and the ubiquitous chat channels, oh so many times, already!

The news and the headlines of yesteryears were something our folks ardently relied on and swore by.

Now, we are not sure. Fake and real live side by side and it is for us to decide what to believe.   

Oh what a day!!

All of a sudden, there were shrieks of agony and screams of despair emanating from everywhere. Accusations and angry snarls followed soon. From every room of our house. It seemed that an all out war bugle has been sounded and all means of assault will follow soon.

From one room there were roars of blasphemy and from another one a song which was playing a tad too loudly stopped and a howl so loud filled the air that our furry companion looked alarmed but dismayed that he now has to do better. There were shouts, confusion, ruckus in others, sounds of things being flung and hurled.

The members of the family started to pour out of their rooms, which is where they are found all the time these days, squealing in high pitch of anguish and despair, something about doomsday coming too soon in their lives.

The family was eyeing each other in a hateful accusatory manner and were taking those aggressive stances, which you see in a battlefield, ready to attack each other at the slightest provocation or if they get an idea who is the reason behind their appalling state.

Before you think, we are an ancient clan or savages, that is not true. The reason for this became quite apparent in a minute and it  could be summed up in three simple words

The internet is down.

Pathetically dependent are we on the internet, and if it goes down, the world around us seems to break into tiny pieces of calamity, hopelessness, despair, chaos, and life comes to a complete standstill.

For me, it gave me a sense of peace, when I looked at all my family members, aged 6 to 70, standing around, although ready to pounce on the perpetrator or just anybody.

I have never seen them all together before at one place, at the same time, never even on the dining table together!!

It was a treat to me and I was misty eyed.

I too was, hunched on the kitchen board,  watching a Youtube, learning how to cook an entrée, and was following directions, on how exactly to cut the onion slices.

Yeah you got it, seeing the family together was not what got me misty-eyed but the onions had. But it also meant that now I don’t know, what to do next, and how to get the lunch ready, for the family to continue to be together.

I have to improvise and fast, if I would like them to dine at the table, in a less hostile manner of course, and come have lunch together. I cannot order in. Ooops!! The internet is down, the apps will not work … hmmm…!! If I call the local diner directly, they will be confused and not know what to do, perhaps.

But age old mother’s recipe comes to my rescue and I quickly got the family to help me out.

Sometimes, internet being down, can be counted to bring families together. To actually look at each other and just talk and do family chores together.

In the modern world, it is not love which brings a family together, it is the malfunction of internet which does.

My book is live on Amazon!

My book is live on Amazon!

http://www.amazon.in/dp/B09NYHJW32/ref=cm_sw_r_oth_tai_DSD3GY3MHC4XZM0SBRA4 

It is also available in other countries, both in Kindle and Paperback editions, too. Please do read, and if you like, place your comments on the websites.

Nightmare turned true!

Isha cursed herself as she looked around for shelter from the fierce thunderstorm around her. She should have packed and left too, when all her colleagues decided to shut their laptops and head home before the impending storm. But she was nearing a deadline and she had thought she had time to quickly wrap things up and then leave.

How wrong she was …!!

The thunderstorm was nothing like she had seen before, and definitely not caught outdoors with one, raging wildly. The rain fell hard on her body like pelting stones. She was completely drenched in seconds, her umbrella no match to the wind which snapped its bars.

There was a flash and a ears splitting crack of thunder boomed all around her. It was like the sound of thousand drums which suddenly beat in unison and seemed to crack her heart and bones into pieces. Quite afraid now, she ran and took cover under a large Ficus tree as more lightning streaks appeared in the dark ominous sky and the deafening sounds followed.

Her mother’s word echoed into her ears! Never take shelter under a tree during a thunderstorm.

She looked up at the majestic tree, planted by a wise man several decades back, to provide shelter to the pavement, for resting travellers, to stop and ponder over what next. The tree, however, looked far from majestic now. It was caught in a frenzy trying to defend itself from the thundering storm. Its branches clamouring wildly, and the sounds which emanated where far from the rhyme or rhythm which the wandering travellers would have heard. It was a howl of terror, something which Isha wanted to do too. The madly swaying branches looked like a dervish swooning and flapping his arms and legs wildly in meek submission to the effects of an uncontrolled power.

Isha looked around and could not see any souls around. No birds, no beasts and no humans around. Only that man in a black attire, across the street. She looked towards him and could see the eyes glistening, probably the glasses reflecting light. She seemed to remember seeing him when she had stepped out of office, but had not given much thought.

She contemplated moving away from this tree but the next huge Ficus tree was closeby too. Standing in between the two trees will not be a good idea either. Through the haze of hard pouring rain, she spotted a bus stand few hundred meters away and decided to jog towards that. She was drenched anyway and how wetter can she be.

She carefully started jogging towards it, avoiding puddles which have formed over the pavement covering treacherous holes perhaps. Few cars whizzed past with high beams. But other than the sound of howling winds and crack of thunders, her footsteps was the only evidence of another living soul …

She reached the bus stand, not much cover but she didn’t care. As she started wringing her dress and her hair to rinse the excess water, her eyes fell across the street. She saw the man in the black attire, his eyes still glistening. Has he been stalking her? Did he also run while she was?

A foreboding fear streaked across Isha’s body just like the lightening in the sky.

This man, if he had some sinister motive, could easily bound across the street and get her.

Isha choked with fear.

She looked around wildly for help … but from where, from whom?

She saw the familiar figure of a yellow green cab with unoccupied lights on, and started waving frantically at it. She kept looking fearfully at the dreadful figure across the street, afraid that, he might, seeing his prey can escape can quickly cross the street in two leaps and get her. There was no traffic at all to stop his movement.

Isha, now beyond any sense of wisdom or judgement, started waving and shouting at the cab, knowing that her sound is muted with all the cacophony around.

The cab was moving too slowly. Is it that the driver is unable to see her? Is the car having some technical problem? Then it is of no use. But at least it seemed to be coming her way, albeit slowly, too slowly. At least another human being!

What seemed like ages, the cab finally reached the bus stand and Isha grabbed the rear door and plunged inside, shutting the door hard, and heaving a sigh of relief.

The driver was in a black attire and he turned, with eyes glistening, he asked “Where to, madam?”

Isha’s hand flew over her mouth as she let out a piercing scream …

And sat up in bed …

Oh!!

Are you a tea leaf?

As I sipped my morning cup of tea, in the serene, autumn/winter is coming weather, with my mind far, far away, I was jarred to the present moment, when I tasted a tea leaf.

The immediate action was to remove it, but it also made me think, philosophically. Yes, the ambience helped!! 😊

That same tea leaf, which 10 minutes ago was the most important factor of my tea making process, without which I would not have had my steaming cup, that tea leaf which gives the beautiful color and taste to the cup which has become staple for my mornings, that tea leaf which stimulates me for my day to come, that tea leaf which fetches hefty sums basis where it has been plucked from, is now being rejected and ejected?!

How easy it is for all of us to become a tea leaf? Sadly, very much.

After we have served our purpose, if we do not #reinvent#upskill#reenergize#definethenextpurpose#takeupthenextchallenge, we will all become a tea leaf!

(Oh, by the way, I have found a purpose for the tea leaf, to turn it and its siblings into a compost for my balcony garden!)

I’ve missed you …!

A screeching sound of a car braking suddenly and a burst of yelling with expletives!!

But nothing can stop Puffie as he ran behind Avi. Avi on hearing the screeching and yelling had momentarily looked back but seeing Puffie fine, he had kept running.

Puffie ran as fast as he could to catch up with Avi so that he is not left behind in the football game. If he is late, he will not be included in the game. He loved chasing the ball with Avi and friends. Most of all, he just adored Avi’s company and loved doing what Avi is doing or just hanging around with him.

Yes, Avi was the person he adored the most and looked up to in the world. Well, why not, it is because of him, Puffie is alive today.

****

It was the night when he was following his siblings and Mother, in a storm, he had not seen before in his life and was trying his best to keep pace with his family. Once or twice, his Mother stopped for him to catch up with them, as he struggled with his wobbly legs. But he was so pathetically slow that his Mother did not stop anymore. One of his stronger siblings even growled and kicked him, when Mother was not looking, irritated that because of him they are not able to reach safety sooner. But Puffie, that was not what he was called then though, was trying his best!

He used to be his Mother’s favourite with curly browns and dark eyes, but soon his stronger siblings had dislodged him from that affection, as he could see now. But he was doing his best not to be left behind in this dark stormy night!

And then he just slipped and fell into a ditch. He yelped and howled, first out of fear and then to get the attention of his Mother and siblings, but none could hear him in the din caused by the storm. The more he struggled, the more he kept getting stuck and sank further, until he was too tired and just gave up and just kept sinking …

He was jolted back to consciousness, when he found himself being picked up, out of the ditch and someone carrying him away. The storm seemed to have stopped and it was morning. He was too weak to protest, he just kept clinging for support.

He vaguely remembers what happened next.

The one who was carrying him was a little boy, named Avi. On reaching his home, Puffie remembers a lot of loud noises, while Avi still kept holding him tightly. The warmth which he felt from this, was some sort of a comfort for Puffie.

But it was short-lived and he once again found himself out in the world. But this time not in the ditch but on the grass outside Avi’s house. He was too weak to protest, to hold his head up, he just lay on the grass. The warmth of the sun was as much reassuring as the warmth he felt from Avi, well almost.

Puffie doesn’t remember how long he was outside, but he does remember that he was carried inside again and given warm milk. He finished it off and then again lay back to sleep. He just wanted to sleep for some more time.

What followed, was being christened as Puffie, and becoming a member of this wonderful family. He soon figured that Avi’s Mother can also be his Mother, if he listened to her. And he did, very dutifully. He also figured that Avi’s Father is someone he should keep a distance. Once he wanted to sleep over his boots and hadn’t realized that Avi’s Father’s feet were inside them. The shriek which emanated and the kick he got on his tummy, and the way he flew across the room, were things he had never forgotten.

But Avi’s presence, love and care, made Puffie forget everything from his past and settle down nicely into his new life and family.

He did what Avi did. When Avi studied, Puffie would wait patiently and quietly for him to finish. When he played with his toys, he would play too. The best part was of course when they went out in the lawn and played frisbee or ball. He slept when Avi slept, he woke up with him, he ate when Avi ate and played with him and pretty much his life revolved around Avi.

But there were days when Avi would go off in that yellow bus. Puffie would be heart broken and then follow Mother all around the house much to her chagrin but sometimes she would be in a kind mood and just let him.

Puffie would wait patiently for Avi to come back and get ready to go to the park to play football. Today was another day, when Avi and he had been running towards the park and he narrowly escaped from being run over by a car. He didn’t care. He didn’t die. He was running after Avi, who was getting stronger and stronger and now was able to run faster than him. He did not want to be left out of the football game. He loved chasing the ball just like Avi and his friends.

****

Puffie’s life continued in blissful ignorance that Avi is growing up. They still did things together but sometimes, Avi would throw him out of his room, (Puffie always thought it was his room too, but!!) and have his friends over. Once he had managed to get in and was shocked by the loud sounds coming out and red, blue and all other kinds of light flickering around, and Avi and his friends jumping around madly. He couldn’t stand the sound and what he saw so went to check on Mother.

Time passed and nowadays, Avi doesn’t go to play in the park anymore. Puffie misses that a lot. But still he finds comfort just laying down and waiting for Avi to finish his studies. It seems that that is all he does these days. But Puffie doesn’t mind as long as he is able to look at his most adored person.

Then one day, he found Avi weeping over his pillow. Puffie’s heart broke into pieces. He vowed to take revenge on whoever did this to Avi, but he didn’t know what or on whom. He jumped over Avi and just held him tightly. Just what Avi would do, if something happened to Puffie.

Puffie remembers that day clearly. Avi weeping and then all the family gathering in the dining room. The atmosphere was sombre. Puffie stood by Avi, ready to protect him from any harm. He did not know what or from whom but he was ready to do anything. There were again loud voices and Puffie was shocked to see Avi getting so angry and shouting back at Father. He has never seen Avi behave this way. It frightened him a bit, but it also caused a lot of concern as to what is happening with his Avi.

That night, Avi held Puffie closely and told him that he couldn’t get admitted to the college and course of his choice and thus was going away. Far, far away from Puffie and the rest of his family. Puffie understood some of it but not all, he loved being held by Avi, and just lay there with him.

But then it happened. He saw a lot of frantic activities around the house. When he tried to check out or help, he was mostly pushed away and chided to mind his business. He felt left out of something exciting and so he just went out to the garden to sulk.

That night again Avi held him tightly and told him that he is leaving and going far, far away. This time Puffie sensed that this might be true and felt a surge of sadness and despair. Oh, what will he do without Avi?  Isn’t Avi considering taking him along with him? Surely, he can but why isn’t he? Puffie’s heart sank at what seemed to be ominous days ahead.

And then Avi went away and Puffie was left alone. As far back in his life he could remember, he and Avi were always together. Agreed, last few years, Avi had managed to find time with his friends and didn’t include Puffie as much, but those were okay. He had the morning runs, the evening walks, games at the park some days, the dinner together and swapping stories at night. But all those good old days were gone.

Puffie kept sitting near the door everyday hoping that maybe Avi hasn’t gone far, far away as he claimed but has gone to school and will come back. But days went by and Avi didn’t come home.

Puffie was heartbroken. Now his morning walks were with Father who didn’t play with him and his evening walks were with Mother who would sit on the chair in a park and not let him go anywhere. He missed running around and playing frisbee but nobody to play with. Once he tried to play with a kid who had come to visit them, but realized that he is not as fast and agile as he used to be when he played with Avi. That saddened him. With Avi gone, not only is he lonely, but his strength is leaving him too.

These days he found comfort in laying around a quiet corner of the house. He didn’t bother to check who is coming and going. He just got up for his food and walk and pretty much just slept the whole day.

****

Then after what seemed to be a very long time of gloom and darkness, there were frantic activities around the house again and he sensed that Avi is coming home. This time again he tried to make himself useful and didn’t mind being pushed away. But try as he might, he was not able to do much. So he went and lay beside the door hoping to catch the first glimpse of Avi as soon as he arrived.

And there is Avi!! Puffie suddenly got a new rush of vigour and energy and ran towards Avi and almost toppled him over. Avi laughed as he always did and held him tightly.

Puffie was happy again. Exhausted from his sudden burst of energy and run, but actually euphoric. And just like he always did, he followed Avi around the house. This time he struggled to keep up, but he did not let him out of sight. He was not going to anymore.

That night as he lay beside Avi, he got up and held Avi tightly. Avi held him back.

I have missed you, Avi, Puffie said, as he slipped away towards a patch of sunshine.

Old fashioned mockery

I pressed down at the accelerator with all my might, with the other foot inches away from the brake, should things go out of control.

The engine whirred as if ready to shoot off like a missile into the space!

The car jerked wildly, lurched forward, ready to begin its journey, but seconds later the engine puttered and died down, greeted by cheers and cat calls from the audience.

Nah! Am not a NASCAR driver!

Neither are the audience the sophisticated spectators of a sportscar rally!

It is me and my car, stuck in a rainwater filled pothole, whose depth I had grossly miscalculated by several inches, not that I had any way of knowing.

The spectacle was being witnessed by men who had no business in my affairs but always took out time to enjoy a hapless woman’s plight. They seem always to materialize out of nowhere whenever one such woman is driving and is caught in some traffic or road intricacies.

I am driving in the city, which is known to the world to help organizations to move to the cloud, but somehow in its weird frame of governance, had never been able to maintain the roads before nature’s cloud closed in over it.

The audience, however, is omnipresent and are to be found in other cities as well.

I have been driving for more than a decade, a good, rule following, driver I am.

But if I ever have trouble negotiating a treacherous road, a traffic snarl, parallel parking, invariably I will see such folks stop to enjoy my discomfiture. The smug, the sneer, the mock, all evident from their expressions and gestures.

Why would folks take so much of pleasure at someone else’s, not known to them and never will be, discomfort. What do they get out of it? I often wonder but have never been able to figure out.

Once when I was slow to start off, when the light turned green, there were loud honks from all side, and the traffic police rapped at my window, and told me that women like me hold up traffic! On another occasion when I thought I would be able to cross the intersection when it was amber but couldn’t because a fella in a creaky cycle decided to float up in front of me, I again got a rap on my window and this time was told that women drivers like me always try to jump the light.

On taking a U turn, I perhaps might have taken a wider turn than a sharp one and was told that I lack finesse in handling the car.

I have been squarely blamed for traffic snarls, because evidently, I had not been quick enough to move my car through the narrow space created for a second between a bus and a truck, or wasn’t bold enough to bump out another car and move ahead, or perhaps stopped to give way to another vehicle.

If I happen to have one inside my car as a fellow passenger, I am asked to reduce my speed or flick the indicators miles before it is intended. Earlier in cars with stick, there was this added sermon as to what the correct gear should have been. Thank god, one discourse less!!

And the attention I would draw while trying to park in a narrow lot!

Anyway, back to my hapless plight, not one from the audience did really step in to help me out of the muck filled hole. I stepped out of the car to check the damage to my bumper and how deeply embedded are the wheels. The sight despaired me. The left front wheel was three-fourths into the hole and the right front wheel seemed to be off the ground. There was a pile of stones on the roadside and reversing did not seem possible.

As I stood pondering over my situation and thinking whether I should continue to try the same way, stamping on the engine, audience be damned, I heard a voice from heaven.

Ma’m, please start your engine and we will push your car. That will help you get out of the pothole, but be sure to move right quickly so that the left rear wheel doesn’t fall into the hole.

There were two young boyish adults, with rucksack on their back, on fancy bikes, probably on their way to college or tuition, who decided to help me out.

I nodded.  I had never liked being in centre stage, and I usually blank out in such situations and thus wanted to grab any help forthcoming.

I started my car and prepared to press hard on the engine. I didn’t have to use all my might this time. With the push from two able bodied humans, the car very easily lurched forward. I remembered to turn right quickly to avoid getting into the hole again and was out of the woods. Aaahh!

I looked back to thank the two boys, but they were well on their way!

Well, there is goodness in the world!

In spite of being in situations of mockery, I can perhaps think of many more situations, where I have got help, which perhaps outnumbers or shadows the mockery.

I can remember now of a situation, when I was in a traffic snarl (may be caused it), and someone stepped in, stopped several vehicle and paved way for me to move out.

Once when my car, would not start at a traffic light, I got two of our uniformed representatives, push my car till it did and they did so on their own.  

I have had help in changing the car tyre and so many more ….and I have had so many of those parking lot agents taking over from me to park my car.

Well, I will accept all the sneers and mockery which come along as I navigate through treacherous roads, as long there is goodness in the world!!

Sounds familiar, ladies!!

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