Remembering ‘billi’ and ‘rasta’ in the unending chaos of NDLS

I deboarded the Shatabdi late last night at New Delhi Railway Station, aka NDLS. Waiting for Rahul to pick me up, I walked out onto the main road staring at the glitzy multi-level parking opposite the station entry and the long line of cars streaming in, winding their way out, looking for parking, honking, waiting in strange place. And I thought of all the zillion times I have dashed into this station, usually on the Ajmeri gate side where trains to and from Lucknow tend to loiter. I have missed trains and boarded moving trains and also waited for hours on these platforms. I have come here by auto and car and recently by Metro as well. NDLS has been incarnated and reincarnated, but the chaos caused by simply too many people always remains. I was smiling, standing there by myself.IMG_6231IMG_6233And then I remembered the most hilarious incident I associate with NDLS. Rahul and me were here to drop someone off, I do not remember whom. Just as we turned left into the station entry (at the same point were I stood, but back then it was dingy and potholed, narrower too), the car before us braked suddenly and came to a complete halt. There was no car in front of them, but they wouldn’t budge. From the corner of my eye, we saw a cat slink into the shadows. I remember our eyes meeting for a brief instant, Rahul’s and mine, before it dawned on us. We were expected to cross that line first! ‘Billi rastaa kaat gayi thi’, the cat had crossed in front of them and superstition says that if you cross that line first, you get bad luck! So this car just sat there, passing the bad luck to us, as we overtook and drove past the fateful cat line!

Suffice it to say that no bad luck chanced upon us, but we now have another beautiful memory of NDLS and a story to recount to our grandchildren, who hopefully wouldn’t encounter the madness of people so steeped in superstition (wishful thinking I know!).


Soaring like kites on a windless spring morning!

One weekday morning in mid-March, when the kids were enjoying Spring Break, Rachna came up with the brilliant idea of flying kites! None of us are experts at this clearly skilled job, but then Rachna owned some fancy Chinese kites sourced all the way from San Francisco. We were all delighted and we showed up in full strength at Gurgaon’s Tau Devi Lal Park- Mum (nani), Udai, Aadyaa, me, Rachna and Nupur, who was to get to work after this morning adventure.

IMG_5719IMG_5750As it happened, it was one of those lovely spring morning with a delightful nip in the air, BUT no breeze. Zilch! Not a leaf moved and we spent a few moments of despair, breathing in the scent of the roses, delighted with being out at dawn, but wondering how the hell we would fly these kites!

Not ones to give up, we found another way to do this. And get in some serious exercise at the same time! We taught ourselves to float the kite up in the air and then RUN. Run, run, run as fast as we can so the kite lifts into the air just as the wind rushes into our lungs! Oxygen rush coupled with the excitement of getting the lovely kites into the air- what a heady start to the day!

IMG_5723IMG_5733IMG_5731IMG_5737IMG_5748IMG_5769IMG_5774IMG_5778IMG_5779IMG_5784IMG_5785IMG_5787IMG_5788IMG_5802IMG_5804IMG_5856Of course, we were so tired in a bit that we call sort of crashed into one of the covered gazebo the park designers have obligingly built. Here we proceeded to eat a picnic breakfast, receiving indulgent and slightly mocking smiles from a few young men from nearby Wazirabad who were into a serious workout session in the same space! After a bit, we noticed a little boy, about the same age as Udai, curiously looking at our kites.

Finding an opportunity to sidle out of more running, we tired adults made the necessary introductions. Aman (he’s a village kid, same grade as Udai, studies in Scottish High where he claims the English is too tough!) , Udai and Aadyaa spent some more time running around with the kites till they too were tired out and the kites were too heavy from being dragged through the dewy grass! We promised to do this again, on a windy day.

IMG_5821IMG_5824We can’t thank Rachna (the kids call her Bausi!) enough for that wonderful morning! Looking forward to more bright ideas from the brilliant Bausi soon…



Freedom is precious. Let’s value it, not abuse it! #Elections2014 #VoteSmart

Last week, I found myself at Teen Murti House in the heart of New Delhi. This is where the Nehru Planetarium and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library are located. I was here to attend a talk, a couple of hours too early. On impulse, I decided to stroll through the museum, a great alternative I though to sitting under a tree and scrolling through my phone!

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, lived and died in this house. The grand building witnessed not only many important moments of a young nation’s history, but also absorbed the vibrations and echoes of many meaningful debates and reveries, I am sure. I had heard terrible things about the museum, of how badly the great photographic collections was displayed, how much more is possible, etc. But I am a sucker for museums and I set that sort of negativity aside during my time there.

A grand colonial building!

A grand colonial building!

Kushak Mahal, Tughlaq's hunting lodge is inside the Teen Murti campus, just opposite the Planetarium building

Kushak Mahal, Tughlaq’s hunting lodge is inside the Teen Murti campus, just opposite the Planetarium building

A lovely spring afternoon!

A lovely spring afternoon!

Inscription next to Jawahar Jyoti, the eternal flame that burns in his memory

Inscription next to Jawahar Jyoti, the eternal flame that burns in his memory

An aside: It is a sign of the times that Cambridge educated Jawahar wrote to his father in chaste Hindi, something that the most of us English-medium folks would find hard to do today. I felt a bit ashamed!

An aside: It is a sign of those times that Cambridge educated Jawahar wrote to his father in chaste Hindi, something that the most of us English-medium folks would find hard to do today. I felt a bit ashamed!

I walked through pictures from Nehru’s early life without much interest, but the fascinating perspective of the freedom struggle that the display offered got me thinking. Few of us realize what a long way we have come and how precious our freedom is! I read the names of hundreds of people on those walls, brave people I didn’t even know about who had dedicated their lives to a cause, because of whom we can dream the dreams we have today.

Even fewer question what we are doing with this freedom? Are we choosing to reinforce prejudices and stereotypes that our colonial masters reinforced for political and economic gain or are we working to create institutions and processes that set our nation on a new path of change (Historian Romila Thapar talks about this)? In fact, are we really free?

Isn’t that a great question to ponder over today, as our nation goes to polls. India is the largest democracy in the world and its relatively high voter turnout astounds the West repeatedly. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, this puts a great responsibility on each of us to vote intelligently and to vote for change and NOT vote for people who reinforce the old stereotypes and continue to play us against each other for narrow political gains.

I’m not even getting into how we abuse our freedom everyday (break traffic rules, bribe the cop, have differential rules for others and none for ourselves!). I’m not going to ramble about how we need to become better citizens and better people, find ways to work with each other, contribute to our own community and neighborhood, etc. To me, these are no-brainers! We know all of that, but we choose to ignore it because we believe the future of our country is in the hands of THEM, corrupt politicians, stupid egoistic bureaucrats. Perhaps it’s time to think differently and take that future in our hands, in whatever way we can!

We are fortunate to live in a democracy. The wise men (and some women) who wrote our Constitution and set up our democratic processes gifted us many powers we don’t bother to use. I’ve been reading up and thinking deeply about these issues and only beginning to understand what these powers are. I’ve made many friends in Gurgaon (you know who you are!) because I’ve been curious about these issues and I laud the dedication of those who take up citizen activism at sometimes great cost to themselves. And I see great hope for a country that has people like these as its citizens. I’m learning everyday that citizenship is as much about GIVE as it is about TAKE; it is as much about our relations with EACH OTHER as our relations with THE STATE.

Here is a pic I took from the display at the museum that puts my thoughts in perspective.IMG_5992




Indian language writing – the translations just dont work for me!


Avid readers, you will find this interesting!

Originally posted on sitanaiksblog:

Being an avid Indian reader, and  constantly searching for new and interesting authors, I have periodically tried to read Indian language writers in translation. At the outset, I must confess, that although I can converse/understand a few of the Indian languages, my reading skills are limited and certainly inadequate for any serious reading. So, I have to resort to English translations and therein lies the problem…

I often pick up books while browsing a bookstore and Sivakami’s ‘Taming of women’ was one such. I had read great things about this Dalit Tamil writer and also seen a positive review of the English translation.

I have struggled through the first 100 pages  and gave up. The story, if at all there is one, revolves around the women around the life of Periyannan and the power equations between him and the many generations of women who live in his house – wife…

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Citizenship starts with making your community better: Thoughts on the AAP manifesto

I watch Kejriwal’s antics and I laugh, along with many who make fun of him. I doubt his capabilities, I wonder about his future. But I also admire his courage. Not just him, but all those who has taken the ultimate step towards making change possible. All those who have joined the AAP, given up being ordinary citizens to become people with a cause. I am excited to live these moments of history, experience these cataclysmic changes.

I, like many of you, am afraid to commit. I am shy, scared, ambivalent. I do not understand politics as deeply as I think I should. But I do care, about myself, my family, my nation. And I firmly believe that the way ahead can only be with the participation of all of us in the democratic process, in ways deeper than just pressing the button on the EVM every now and then!

I, like many of you, am loath to take either side on the Cong vs BJP, RaGa vs NaMo debate. I see them both as part of the same problem. Even though I abhor right wight politics, I do not see the Congress being able to, at this time, provide any stability or direction. AAP’s short stint in Delhi confused me. Like many of you, I wondered if this was the end before the beginning. I also went over the various choices again and again in my head.

This morning, though, something clicked. I was tired of hearing people make wild calculations about who would win and then try to take sides as per these estimates. It seemed to be a lot like betting on the horses. This is not a horse race, I thought. I’m not gambling, I’m trying to take a rational decision about who to vote for! I decided to vote by gut feel, for the sort of politics that I am willing to live with.

I read the AAP manifesto and it echoed a lot of things I have felt and said about how I want my nation to be. It, most of all, was rooted in the idea of giving power back to the people, the idea of deepening democracy. A few analysts feel it toes the Congress line and in a sense, there is a common left of political intent. (Aside-All manifestos must talk about the same stuff; modus operandi, collect a list of current hot topics and put in a point about each!) But therein ends the similarity. In tone, the AAP document empowers citizens. The Congress manifesto reads in a top-down fashion. It sort of lords it over us, the masses. It is a critical difference, I think. The AAP’s document is also a lot   more succinct and well-organised. The BJP is still silent, as of this moment (I just checked their website).

The idea of devolution of power is problematic, especially for us Indians who have been used to someone or the other being our mai-baap for centuries. But it’s time gave a chance to party that says of itself: “It is not a party that will solve your problems. It is a party that wants Swaraj; that wants power to return to your hands, so that you can solve your own problems.”

This is just my own personal point of view. Each of you reading this is entitled to their own perspective. I am not trying to convert you. But please, those of you who follow the strange logic that they should vote for XX because they will win anyway, please rethink. Either you should just admit that you agree with XX’s political agenda, or you should follow your heart and vote for the right candidate in your constituency. Please remember, citizenship starts with making your own community better!

How much does this matter to you?


I so agree. We need to put our weights behind a party that promises alternatives. No one knows what they will or won’t do, but if anyone will try, it’s them! At least let’s give them a fighting chance!

Originally posted on The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker:

I don’t think there should be any confusion anymore.

 The point is not even whether you think Modi is better than Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, or any other potential prime minister. What matters here is where you draw the moral line between what is acceptable in a politician and what is a deal breaker. []

And then take a look at -  AAP National Manifesto 2014 This is the party that we are being told is going to do nothing. Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 12.00.50 PM Provisions of’Right to Reject’ and ‘Right to Recall’, Animal Welfare, and here’s something we have been asking for:

i. Implement comprehensive and long-term public education programmes to end the culture of gender-based discrimination and violence. These will include: SMS, radio and TV public service campaigns, accessible lesson plans for schools, modules for training teachers and to train professionals such as doctors and lawyers. To this end we will…

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Will Modi be able to check these goons if he becomes PM?

Last evening, I attended an interesting talk at the Nehru Memorial library by Neema Kudwa who teaches at Cornell. She was speaking about the relationship of history and memory with urban planning, urging planners to delve deeper into how cities work and how people experience their urban environs over time. Her research in India looks closely at Mangalore, the second richest city in Karnataka and a centre for higher education.
At some point during the question answer session, an interesting discussion in the religious politics of this region. She spoke about the strong strain of RSS and extremist Hindu groups even as the area has historically had prosperous trading Muslim communities as well as Catholics.
Naturally then my eye was drawn this morning to this news item reporting the sexual assault of a Congress councillor by extremist Hindu groups in a town only 15 kam from Mangalore. Women like her, of course, are targets of a twin bias of misogyny and communal hatred but what diatribes me most was he threat by the goons that when Modi comes to power, we will teach all you Muslim lovers a lesson!
Of course, all those of us who are neutral about religion or refuse to believe that a Hindu is superior, all those of us who respect and love our Muslim friends because they are good people (not just because they are Muslim certainly!), are banded into this category by these people.
I shudder to think what sort of anarchy we are to expect when Modi comes to he helm, if he does. With polls coming nearer, the clamour for him gets louder and people like me fear for the future. Yes, even people like me who are Hindu by birth, who practice Hindu rituals, who are the so-called majority.
Will Modi be able to restrain these sort of goons? Will his plank of development, which also remains to be really tested, be strong enough to convince the muscle flexing crowd to reign themselves in and wait for economic prosperity? I fear for minorities and I fear for women, who can be assaulted for befriending a Muslim while the infamous bhartiya sabhyata simply looks the other way!

Sugar rush and insomnia ring in my daughters birthday!

Aadyaa is turning six tomorrow. Her infectious enthusiasm has had us all work overtime to prepare for a party. She has worked, opined and supervised many aspects of this event and I can only learn from her attention to detail.

I feel proud, emotional and excited. I never thought I would be the kind of mum who gets into a tizzy over organising a birthday party. But it’s not the stress, it’s the creative juices that drive me. A few moments before midnight and a few years before Aadyaa gets into the routine of bringing in her birthday the night before, I’m pondering…

I have, many a time, longed for time away from my kids. I still do. But with Udai turning 10 later this year and Aadyaa turning six, finally all that stuff the auntys and more experienced mommy friends warned me about is coming true. My babies are not going to be babies for much longer. I see, in my minds eye, Aadyaa’s turn to independence, I see her grow and move away, no longer my shadow. With Udai, the transformation is already underway.

I want to clutch at these experiences now. Laugh with them, play, do stuff together, nonsense stuff. Roll in the garden. Today evening, we were dancing in the lawn, some imaginary ballroom scene! Time is flying by and perhaps I want it to slow down.

Gosh, so much mush! It doesn’t sound like me, even to me! Sugar high perhaps. Insomnia definitely.

Go to sleep Mukta and happy birthday Aadyaa!


The transformations that Indian women experience! Musings…

I took the Delhi Metro today after a longish time. It’s always an entertaining experience. The people watching especially. The ladies’ coach in particular!

Today, I was struck by the multitasking that women manage, or have to manage. In front of me, a newly married young woman was frantically calling home and no one seemed to be answering the phone. Finally, she got through to her domestic help (I think) and instructed her to put her washing out to dry (she had hand washed clothes than ran color and left them to drip dry in her bathroom). After this call, she was visibly relaxed. Another young lady was calling home to check on her guests who had clearly come in from out of town and were being given all sorts of assurances about her getting back home on time, taking care of some taxi arrangements, etc.

I was also struck by the many women who wore symbols of marriage in a very overt manner. Newly married girls wearing the traditional ‘chuda’, the red and white bangles plus gaudy clothing. Also prominent sindoor, toe rings, mangalsutras, etc etc. It’s cultural, sure, and nothing wrong with it. But then I saw these two sisters chatting. One was college going and dressed in skinny jeans, top and sports shoes. The older sister, just a few years older I presume, was in salwar kameez, bindi, sindoor, bangles and all the get up of a married woman. And I wondered about the transformation that she went through. Was she proud of it, embracing the tag of ‘married’ like young women in India are taught to? Was she proud, of being in the married people’s club, perhaps looking down on her friends who hadn’t managed  a membership yet? Or did she just adopt these ways without thinking, because everyone did it? Did she, at times, long to slip into her jeans and t-shirt, did she rue the lack of choice?

I have been in those shoes and I’ve aspired to be the ideal daughter-in-law, the ideal wife, the ideal mother. I don’t know who I needed to, still need to, prove myself to. I don’t know what made me think I wasn’t already good enough. I’ve come a long way in being a little more comfortable in my skin. But I’m still finding the balance, and still processing the transformations that women undergo to just be women in our society.

Fruit team: Space conquerers


The next one from UD!

Originally posted on theamazingud:

Continued from Fruit Team 2 and Fruit team 1

Spawner fruit and broccoli were stranded in space, surrounded by alien colonies.

“You better upgrade this house. We have to in order to survive,” said spawner fruit.

“You better give me some builder fruits,” said broccoli.

“Okay,” said spawner  fruit.

“Okay, now builder fruits,” said broccoli, “make this house bigger so it looks like a warship. Make sure you use strong materials, put veggie monster spawners where you think it is appropriate and make sure you make awesome  defences.”

When they were done with it it looked like this:

“Space colony No.1 sighted!” said broccoli.
“Set orbit around it,” said spawner fruit.
“They’ve sighted us!” said broccoli.
“Well, if it’s that way then, ATTACK!”said spawner fruit.
“All missiles have been aimed at them.FIRE!”said broccoli.
“Their attack team has been routed,” reported a veggie monster.
“Now let’s take down their planet,”said broccoli.

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