There is this house which is filled with women, apart
from one tiny pug, aptly named Pugloos, who has no idea what he is doing in
that house, and with a name like that, I am not surprised, poor soul! He floats
around, confused, his eyes clouded with cataract, bumping into corners and
people. He barks occasionally, just to remind people that he is a dog and very
Luckily, there are some alert neighbours who keep an eye
on the house, and no one can come in or go out without their know-how. There are
CCTVs all around the house that work overtime to record comings and goings. To
top it all, the inhabitants have offspring who keep strict vigil over them.
The ages of the women in the house range from 80+ to 40+
and they all have their own favourite spaces. If, N, the oldest, a bundle of
energy, likes the bedroom which doubles up as a music room, and the easy chair in
front of the television, J, the second in command, a cheery meticulous soul,
prefers the living room and the verandah in front where she can pick up calls
from her daughters, living far away in the US. She spends times watching old
classic movies and providing instant recipes, when asked.
B is a tiny little dynamo who bustles around, speaking
her mind and clashing with all the others in turn. Size has nothing to do with
it, after all. She can be pugnacious;
surprisingly, the word has nothing to do with ‘pugs’, two of which are cosily ensconced
under chairs and under feet. Pugloos has been mentioned earlier, but he has a mini
partner named ‘Midukki’ (which means ‘a smart little thing!’), aptly named for
she, like most of the women mentioned above, has a mind of her own.
The two other women in the house are less visible. K,
quiet but diligent, works upstairs like an automaton, sweeping, swabbing,
dusting and ironing. She also has the honour of bathing the two pugs in a grand
bathtub which is only used for this purpose. Baths by humans are had, stretching
precariously over the bathtub, hoping against hope that the bather does not
topple in by chance.
M could be wearing the Potter Cloak of Invisibility, so insubstantial
is she. Her domain is the kitchen where she churns out set dishes, mostly
approved by N, whose taste buds have a mind of their own. M talks once a year, and
when she does, she is not heard because people around have forgotten that she
has a voice. So, she lives on, like Moaning Myrtle (Yes, I admit I have Potter
mania), unseen, heard rarely, barely existing.
Getting back to N, there is no doubt that she is the big
dynamo, having lived her entire life like one, getting things done in a jiffy
at the click of a finger. So, she does get mighty riled if her little dynamo, B,
does not snap up and do things her (N’s) way; hers (B’s) not to reason why. B
has her moments when she shuts down completely, exhausted after having run up
and down the stairs about twenty-seven and a half times, bringing down a book,
a pen, around four pairs of spectacles in varied shades and for varied
purposes, a half-read Kindle and a smart phone that has never been used smartly
before… you see the pattern?
J has all the right qualifications to live in this house.
She is a sister-in-love, a doctor, a septuagenarian who otherwise lives alone,
and a go-to person at every stage. However, her biggest asset is her sense of
humour, which causes her to giggle at the funny situations within the house, amidst
two dynamos who never tone down, two others who never snap up and two canines
who are in between. Her full-throated laugh can diffuse a clicking time bomb
and it is a mercy that she is around to do so.
So, the other day, N decided that she was at the right
age to play table tennis. Orders were given and even in a state of lockdown, two
TT racquets and several balls were brought over home by an obliging gentleman. Then
it was discovered that there was no net and the same gentleman procured the
same, after which he was invited to play with the zealous sportswomen in the
house, namely the older two.
Unfortunately, neither could hit a ball since they were
rusty, not having picked up a racquet for over half a century. As a result, they
all had a lark, a few booming laughs and that was the end of the game.
Likewise, B was made to scrabble around for an old board
game. “Let’s play Scrabble!” came the order and after two days of desperate
hunting, that too was given up as a bad idea. Hardly a red-letter day, pun
Through all this, there was one thing that kept N at the top
of her game, actually two things. One was watching her daily soaps, with the
television at top volume. The neighbours could watch the soaps on mute as the
volume was generously being provided next door.
The second thing was music… the love of her life. This
was the time when N decided that she, (read B) would sort out her audio and
video collection. Since N had a healthy collection, she placed the lot on her
bed and began listening to them, one by one. Every time she finished with one,
she would place it in a cabinet that had been bought off the local post office,
a wooden one with plenty of tiny cubby holes, each of which was labelled. So,
Lalgudi Jayaraman went into one, Ananda Shankar into another. Malayalam film
music lay alongside Hindustani classical, Bombay Jayashree had her own niche,
while ‘Bhavayami’ had no niche, because it was played and played and then,
played again. Yesudas hits had pride of place, with instrumental music and
English rhymes nestling in a corner. All very well, till N decided to take all
of them out again and listen to them once more. Guess who had the onerous task
of clearing up after!
The lock-down has had its advantages, no doubt. It has kept
us all out of trouble and has shown us what all we can do when pushed to a
That was exactly what happened in the house filled with
women as well. While sorting out her old files, papers and letters, while
listening to ceiling-pounding music resembling the Shiva tandava, N hoped to
compose the Ganga, one of her dream projects. She even suggested that she
should start dance classes for the other women (B, K and M), who, till now in
their lives, have shown no interest or flair in anything even closely resembling
the arts. J would maintain the beat, of course, along with her giggles.
J, for whom cleanliness is a mantra, opened out the
refrigerator, the kitchen cupboards and the adjoining drawers and got them
squeaky clean… a lesson which hopefully will live on even after she goes back
to her home. Her own refrigerator back home was getting the same beauty
treatment via her telephonic chats to her Jeeves.
B continued to live her life in between the onslaughts
from the big dynamo and watching her own soaps and movies, her main grouse
being that she could not visit her favourite banks and supermarkets. Not that
she had to worry for the supermarkets had provisions to deliver. (Pun again
K, who otherwise lives across the road, shifted in, bag
and baggage, so that she could avoid meeting the virus on her way in and out.
She had a break from her normal life, and I wonder if she did regret her
decision after moving in.
Finally, the one person whose life did not change in the
least was M, who continued to live like an insubstantial sprite, the silent
worker who knew that, though invisible, she was essential to the running of the
household, mainly the kitchen.
For as someone wise put it, Virginia Woolf, I
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has
not dined well.”
Black holes have piqued the human imagination
for quite a while now. However, when I was growing up, ‘black hole’ referred to
something totally different. If a book disappeared, it went into the black
hole. When Grandpa’s spectacles were not to be found on his nose, they most
likely went into the black hole. Those green vegetables knew exactly where to
slide down into from my plate… (oops, not meant for the ears of little children!)
In short, whenever anything went missing, we
visualised it going into this pitch-black hole with its mouth wide open. It was
a universal joke in the family.
The national lock-down proclaimed by the Prime
Minister meant that we were all to stay at home, and not stick a toe out unless
essential (which meant different things to different people, of course!) For
twenty-one whole days, at that!
What could we do over twenty-ones days? Speaking
for myself, I vowed to read, write, cook, listen to music, do a one-mile Zumba
session at home and speak to my two moms every day. However, there were still
hours and hours left over and since my sisters and I have been brought up by a mother
who saw red every time the word ‘bored’ was used, there was no question of
letting it slip into my mind. As she used to say, “Normal is boring. So, do
things out of the ordinary and create your own magic!”
“Let’s clean the whole house!” I exclaimed to
my better half who was doing multifarious things at the same time. His list
consisted, apart from helping me in my household chores, of watching NDTV, rushing
to his laptop to tweet about something he had watched, adding several tweets,
ticking off people from politicians to film stars and everyone in between. In
between he would send off WhatsApp messages to the three hundred and twenty-one
groups that he is on.
“You start! I’ll join you soon!” came his reply.
And so, I did, starting with my wardrobe, sifting
the clothes I wear from those I don’t. The third pile was those that I had
clean forgotten about… brand new kurtas, crisp dupattas, smart tops and several
filmy scarves which I had bought for travelling, and which never did travel
with me. The last time I had cleaned out my wardrobe, I had friends accosting
me all the time. “New pinch, huh?” The pinches hurt less than telling them that
there was a bottomless black hole deep inside my clothes cupboard.
Apart from clothes, many other Eureka moments
came when I located a couple of handbags, earrings in rainbow colours that had
forgotten to glint in dark corners, two saris which I had bought for friends ages
back (finders, keepers!) and a pack of playing cards which never materialised
when my sisters and I were together. When that was done, I moved onto my chest of
drawers, which had four sections, all stuck together like an advertisement for
Fevicol. After a relentless struggle, I managed to open each one, an exercise
which reminded me of another old advertisement for Sona Masala where a person
opens a cupboard in the kitchen unwittingly, only to be buried deep in an
avalanche of masala packets. Talk about finding hidden sona (gold)!
I remember being rather proud of the way I had
decided to organise the entire chest of drawers – cosmetics and perfumes on
top, accessories (hair dryer, straightener, trinkets in the next, important
documents (bank, passport, fixed deposits) in the third. The fourth was termed
medicines and miscellaneous and had a place under the sun for everything else
that I owned.
A month later, all four sections could be termed
miscellaneous, as mysteriously, things had travelled from one to another, like
sneaky little eels, and ensconced themselves comfortably in slots which were
not made for them.
It began when my better half put his hand
into section two, where he had a tiny little corner to keep his after shave lotions
and his accessories, and pulled it out with a jerk, with a safety pin hanging
on to it for dear life. Obviously, he was livid, because he has this constant
complaint that I own three full cupboards for my clothes, and he has one tiny cupboard
for his. However, when visitors come to stay, it is his clothes that get
shifted out into the study for want of space. He does have a point, I concede!
After all, men do like their man caves.
I peered down at the chest of drawers. This
was not going to be easy. Rolling up my sleeves, I plunged into the task,
determined to ‘kill’ all the extra stuff that lolled about, taking up space. Halfway
through, I realised that murder does not come easy, especially since deodorants,
sprays, lipsticks, bindis, nail polishes, combs, hairbrushes and kajal sticks tend
to stick around forever.
The second section was even more sneaky. Buttons
from dresses that I had disowned ten years ago vied with mini mirrors that I
had picked up from various fairs, tiny wooden toys that were part of my
granddaughter’s treasure trove jostled for space with picture postcards picked
up when I had visited the UK in the early 2000s.
And then, out of the blue, came a sight to
warm the cockles of my heart. A week back, we had gone to pick up hand
sanitisers to combat the Corona virus, and the shelves had been empty. “Sorry,
Ma’am, people have been panic-buying. No sanitisers, no liquid soaps and no
masks available,” the shopkeeper had said with a rueful expression that seemed pasted
on to his face. He had just spent an entire day reeling out the same litany,
and I remembered what Mom had told me when I was growing up grumpy.
“Change your expression. You never know when
the wind turns, and you’ll be left with that expression.”
Maybe, the wind had turned for that poor
Anyway, back to section two and there it lay –
a whole bottle of sanitiser, blinking up at me in perfect innocence as if to
say, “I have no idea how I got here!” Anyway, my whoop brought my better half
rushing in, and we cheered the bewildered bottle of sanitiser till it blushed
or would have blushed if it could.
The excavation continued, and the treasures
kept appearing. Three cakes of foreign soap which had quite lost their fragrance,
pens which I had picked up because I love picking them up, four pairs of
spectacles that had vanished into thin air, a torch that my husband had bought
with great love and lost immediately after and finally, five tiny boxes with
one Geldhof chocolate each which I had picked up on our last visit to South
Africa. I only mention the brand because it is among the best in the world and
had cost a fortune. Sadly, I had clean forgotten about them. And there they lay
in all their glory, the chocolate having melted into a mushy, most un-Geldhof
The next two sections were easier to manage. How
wrong can one go with documents and medicines, after all? Very wrong, it
seemed. I allowed my husband, who had finished all his tweets, and come to see
what I was up to. Apparently, it was a bit too quiet for his liking. However,
the moment he saw the documents, he pounced on them.
“There it is… I’ve been looking for these all
over the place.” Followed by a snort,
“Imagine, I assumed that we had lost these
papers in the floods.” He didn’t specify which flood… we had been in three over
the past five years. Anyway, that was of no importance at the moment. His
tirade continued, “Do you even realise the sleepless nights I have had wondering
where these are?” My reply, “At least you’ve found them now,” did not go down
“Yippee, we have reached the last section.
Medicines.” There were pills of all colours, little phials, bottles with
coloured liquids, droppers, band aids with cartoon characters (courtesy our little
granddaughter), crepe bandages, an elusive thermometer, and a general smell of Vicks
There was finally light at the end of the
And yet, after twenty-one days pass
peacefully in lock-down mode, and life hopefully returns to normal, and the
virus is laid to rest (whenever that happens) and we all get back to whatever
we were doing before Corona, there will be one thing that will never change. For
the next time I hunt frantically for a lost pen or a handkerchief, I will know
the black hole still exists, biding its time for yet another mysterious version of hide-and-seek.
“People appreciate and never forget that helping hand especially
when times are tough.” Catherine Pulsifer
People also never forget that unthinking hand that
clenches and moves away in times of strife, that hand that thinks more of
itself and refuses to see the larger picture. Covid-19 has taken over the world
and understandably, the world is worried. One little but deadly organism has
brought it to its knees.
Alarming reports have been coming up about a certain kind
of ostracism that has raised its ugly head. Ostracism against the very people
who are risking their own lives to help fight the dreaded virus, namely members
of the medical profession and airline crew members.
What could be more unfair than this? Airline crews have
been travelling across the world, airlifting passengers from COVID affected
countries, and bringing them back to India, working long, strenuous hours,
sometimes without a break.
Doctors, nurses and hospital staff have also been slogging
it out, going without food or rest, trying to save lives. Their lives run like
clockwork, as they bustle around from patient to patient, administering
medicines and timely care.
On the 22nd of March, 2020, the Prime Minister
asked the entire country to observe a Janata curfew. His second request was
that people should applaud the services of all the selfless crusaders fighting
the virus. The whole country followed suit, a gesture that was much
appreciated, only marred by groups of ‘covidiots’ who came out in hordes to
clap and clank vessels.
That one gesture should have united the country, shouldn’t
Unfortunately, not, or so it seems!
Airline crew members have complained of discrimination by
vigilante members of their housing societies, who have either ostracised them
completely or asked them to look for alternate living arrangements. Others have
had the word QUARANTINE stuck outside their houses by irate neighbours. Sadder
is the fact that even their children are being boycotted by the other children,
all because they have parents working in the airlines. As one female crew
member said poignantly, “We require your support. We are silent warriors. Help
Doctors and health workers are also facing the same
discrimination in their housing societies. After having slogged for long hours
treating patients, they come back home to find themselves being ostracised for
the exemplary work they have done. A newspaper report recently spoke of several
doctors and medical students being evicted from their homes in Warangal, Telangana,
and being rendered homeless by their landlords.
These are but two instances that have been publicised.
How many more must be out there in the vast ocean of the population that makes
up our country?
In the first place, why are these wonderful people risking
their own lives to save others? Only because they have been taught by their
professions to do so, and because they still believe in the ideals that make
them what they are. We must remember that they are helping, nay, rescuing others
who would otherwise die. They are containing a pandemic that would kill whole
populations, left untended. They are angels of mercy, silent warriors.
So, isn’t it our responsibility to allow them to do their
jobs without being stressed; don’t we have a duty to take care of their
families who have been left to fend for themselves only because social responsibilities
come before personal ones?
Unfortunately, they are being treated as outcastes, as
carriers, as unclean, as untouchables by the same community that is being
served by them. Where is the justification for this abhorrent behaviour? How
can these close-minded people be so selfish and stony-hearted, when tomorrow,
they might need the services of the very same people they are discriminating
against? After all, the death toll in
the aftermath of Covid-19 is rising every single day.
The television channels and the whole of social media have
been talking repeatedly about the precautions to be taken against the virus. What
we need to remember as a society is that these precautions are to be taken
against ‘covidiots’ who violate the law and put themselves and others in
danger. These precautions are to strengthen the fight against the virus and
make people aware of what they need to do to protect themselves and their
My fervent prayer to all citizens everywhere is this:
please do not discriminate against the very people, the 'covid-warriors' who are helping us all in in
the circuitous chain of containing Covid-19. If not for them, we would have no
hope of survival. These wonderful workers are being highly unselfish and
generous in giving of their time, their expertise and even their health. What
keeps them going is their spirit and their undying faith in the goodness of
Please do not take away their spirit and undying faith.
If they cease, so do we all!
Do you remember those days when children played outside
with their friends? Wide, open spaces when they didn’t have to worry about
being mown down by speeding vehicles, or falling into open potholes, or being
accosted by strangers. Those were the days when families lived together, and
everyone knew every other person. Those days when life was simpler, and
technology was a word that hovered somewhere in the future.
Children grew up together, playing rough and tough games,
wallowing in the mud, unabashed about getting their clothes dirty. They climbed
trees, plucked green mangoes, and often came home, covered with scratches and
reeking to high heaven. Their spirits would be high as they scrambled to have
cold water baths, squealing with glee as they saw tiny rivers of dirt flowing
into the sink hole.
Once they were squeaky clean, they would often sit
together, as the twilight hour spread its mantle over the evening, and their
grandmothers or aunts would come outside, their faces illuminated by the flame
of the lamp in their hands, chanting, “Deepam, deepam”. The children,
and the adults, would pray together as the lamp was placed on the little stone
platform outside, in the midst of which a tulsi plant would grow,
tenaciously fighting to survive all onslaughts of weather.
This was the hour when the elders would chant prayers in
their sonorous (or otherwise) voices, and children would have to repeat them
after, one reason why most children in the generation could rattle off mantras
in a jiffy, I, for one, remember chanting two whole chapters of the Bhagavad
Gita all because my grandparents and I would sit and chant them together, in a
large prayer room, which abounded with the idols of every god in the Hindu community.
As a little child, I had my favourites – a tall blue Krishna who had a
mischievous smile on his face, a pot-bellied Ganesha who always remained in my
heart, and numerous others I loved to look at because they were so beautiful.
In fact, my sisters and I used to play a guessing game which consisted of
identifying different idols by just their description.
I often wondered about my relationship with God. It was
not as intense as the one that my grandparents had, as they spent three hours
in the morning and evening, to complete their prayer sessions. My parents never
forced me or my sisters to pray… in fact, the only time I did pray was at night
just before I went to bed. I would read my book and when I felt that my eyelids
were closing, I would pray for my whole family, for my friends and for all
those who were in my mind at the time. Even today, the litany continues, and
while the essentials haven’t changed over the years, many other names have crept
in, and when I finally drift off to sleep, I feel a sense of contentment; a feeling
that my prayer could just have reminded God to keep my loved ones safe.
What I do remember of my childhood days is that there was
a sense of peace and contentment that drew us all in. I recall the various
schools that I attended, my dad having been an Army officer, the ease with
which I sailed through classes, happy because I could play games in the evening
with my friends. Games like Hide and Seek, and Dodgeball, Seven Stones and Aeroplane,
games that built up our stamina and made us sweat. Books were strewn around all
over our house, and reading was a habit that crept in naturally, and stayed
Monsoons were no problem. There were days when I got drenched
on purpose and survived. On other days, we sat and played board games like
Scrabble and the ubiquitous ‘Name, Place, Animal, Thing.’ My dad got me
interested in stamps and match labels. I still remember those beautiful stamps from
Zambia in interesting shapes… luminous triangles and rectangles that I could never
stop looking at. Match labels were a different kettle of fish. Dad and I used
to put the labels in water and wait for the glue to come off. Then we would
gently unroll the label, dry in and stick it in our albums. We had one album
each and prided ourselves on our unique collection.
My little sister was born when I was seven. So, till
then, I had the rule of the roost. My favourite pastime was sitting outside in
the afternoon, when everyone else was enjoying their siesta, and making mud
pies with my little kitchen set. I could sit for hours, creating little tea
parties for my dolls, all of whom had filmy names like Sapna, Sandhya, Sadhana and
One day, I laid hands on a foreign magazine from a second-hand
store, and I fell in love. For the first time ever, I gazed in fascination at paper
dolls, which I could cut out along with a whole wardrobe of clothes that could
be put on them. After that, there was no looking back. I collected over a
hundred paper dolls, christened them all, created families and careers and
lives around them all. Fred and Frank were farmers, Penny, Daphne, Betsy and Barbara were from different walks of life - ballerinas, teachers, school children, party folk. In short, I had a whole fun family of
Allsorts - TypePad
My sisters loved my paper dolls and they could play with
them only as a rare treat. I clung on to them (the paper dolls!) till I went to
college, and then I reluctantly handed them over to my little sister, who was
Those were the days. The days when the word ‘bored’ did
not appear in our dictionary, and we could keep ourselves occupied on our own.
Social media was an unknown term. Even the television appeared only when I was
in high school and Chitrahaar and the weekend movie were the only two
programmes that we enjoyed watching. Later, of course, Doordarshan came out
with some wonderful serials which we all devoured.
It seems strange to think back on a time when there were
no computers, mobile phones, data sticks, USBs, WI-FI and the like. However, what
we did have was quality family time, the great outdoors and hours of concocting
games and hobbies to keep our interests alive. As children, we were tough. Parents
did not believe in sparing the rod, and I think we grew up the better for it. ‘NO”
was a word that was used often and there were no innuendoes hovering around,
waiting to fall on our heads like Chicken Licken’s sky. No hints of psychological
trauma resulting from a scolding, a declined party invitation or a stern note
from a teacher. Oh yes, teachers had the liberty to chasten, ground or punish
and there was not a squeak from the parents or the students. In fact, many of
these students came back to thank their teachers for having moulded them into
good human beings.
The Corona virus has invaded our lives, forcing us to spend
time at home with our families. It has grounded us and made us rethink our
priorities. For some, this enforced solitude is a punishment, a time to bite
their nails into jagged ends and chafe at the confinement.
For many others, it is a time of reconciliation, of spending
magical moments with their children and loved ones at home, of discovering the
simple joys that they had been taking for granted.
Social media does come out with the most unbelievable
videos. The other day, when I was browsing, the title leapt out at me.
“World's Shortest Horror Movie”
Being a horror buff, I couldn’t help but peek at it. It
was truly horrific.
Several passengers wait at a bus stop on a rainy day. As
they huddle together, one of them coughs and spits into a large puddle on the
road right in front of them. Suddenly a bus speeds by over the puddle,
drenching all of them in water, and in today’s scenario, maybe even a virus
that could infect them all. Horrific, indeed! For those wanting a peek, here's the YouTube link:
Corona virus is in the air, literally. And in droplets
and infected hands and all surfaces in the world touched by humans. One glance
around would make you feel as if you are in a sci-fi movie, with masked minions
whose eyes dart around in trepidation. Spaces which were once crowded are now
deserted, shelves in supermarkets as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. Airports
are cancelling empty flights, while travellers sit, cowering in remote corners,
hoping against hope that they are not seated next to coughing or feverish passengers.
Different governments have geared up to fight the virus
in varying degrees. While many nations struggle to contain the virus, India, I
am proud to say, is at the forefront, with Kerala, I am even prouder to say,
being the epitome of efficiency. The erstwhile Nipah virus, which was more virulent,
was handled wonderfully by the tiny state and contained. Those lessons have
come in handy today in the days of Covid-19 as well.
In general, the population is taking all precautions
possible to remain uninfected. Washing hands with soap and water, using alcohol-based
sanitizers, refraining from touching their faces often, using Namastes instead
of the usual hugs, and remaining glued to every health update that comes from
However, the human race does have its share of idiots, in
many cases, educated ones, who think that they are a rung above the rest. It is
these people who sneak out of airports, hospitals and quarantine centres, thinking
inanely that the sky will not fall on their heads. Albert Einstein put it, “Two
things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about
Take the example of three folks who deliberately omitted to
mention to the Cochin airport authorities that they had been to Italy, because
they had finally boarded from Oman. One would think that once they had sneaked
out, they would stay in hibernation and refrain from floating all around the city.
No such luck. These characters went to a mall, attended a church function, and
walked into every relative’s house in the vicinity. Tracking their trail was an
onerous task, but it was done as a huge number of unsuspecting people came
under the scanner.
What about the wife of a Bangalore techie who escaped to
Agra the moment her husband displayed symptoms of being infected? They had honeymooned
somewhere in Europe and once he was in quarantine, she made a run for it and
disappeared. Sadly, she did not leave out any mode of travel; she took a flight
from Bangalore to New Delhi, embarked on a train to Agra and finally got to her
parents’ home by cab. One cannot even imagine the number of people she infected
on her madcap adventure.
Finally, when the health officials traced her to her
parents’ home, her father tried to put them off the trail, insisting that she
had gone back to Bangalore. She was discovered inside the house in the company
of eight other family members, and it took the presence of a District Magistrate
to get them forcibly across to the district hospital for screening.
Shakespeare had something to say in such a situation. “Both
stupidity and wisdom are as infective as the flu.” In the above case, one does
not need to be a genius to figure out which category the subject falls into.
One British gentleman sauntered out from the hill station
of Munnar in Kerala where he had been under quarantine and made his way to
Cochin airport where he was tracked down by health officials after having
tested positive for Corona virus. Seventeen others in his group are also under
quarantine. 250 passengers who had boarded the flight were taken off, made to
undergo tests and they finally took off, amidst frayed tempers and the realization
that inanity makes the world go around, even if it was after four hours of
My sister had a different story to tell me about a
colleague of hers who went abroad, came back via Germany and was told not to
come in to work. Fourteen days of quarantine stretched before her like a never-ending
highway of fun and frolic and she went off to the nearest skating rink to work
off all that energy. By the time she returned home, she had not only developed
a cough and a fever, but also infected all those unwary skaters who had no idea
how close they had come to stupidity.
When, at the beginning, the Creator was giving out body
parts, grey matter must have been in short supply. How else does one explain
why certain people behave the way they do, given that they are in the midst of
a global crisis? Is it because they feel that the world revolves around them or
that they are invincible? Whatever the cause, when there is a pandemic on,
there is no gainsaying the fact that a few irresponsible folks can cause a whole
lot of damage by pretending to be ‘cool’. Such people need to be prosecuted,
especially if they have put others in danger through their selfishness.
There is a huge group of like-minded people in the world today,
slogging to contain the spread of this virus – the medical community, the
travel community, the airline staff, scientists, laboratory testers, Anganwadi
workers, good Samaritans making masks, sanitizers and liquid soap for hospitals
and for the general public, educators, shopkeepers… all significant links in
holding the community together. Hats off to these amazing, benevolent people!
The common slogan is, “Stay at home! Don’t expose
yourself to large crowds. Maximise social distancing.” Weddings, large parties,
gatherings and celebrations have been brought down significantly. However, just
when one decides to heave a sigh of relief that the virus is being contained,
there comes a news item of some religious event that cannot be curtailed
because it would hurt the sentiments of the said community. Hearts sink at the
sight of hordes of people getting together with one common thought. “God will not
harm us, because we are performing this ceremony with reverence and faith.”
Unfortunately, the Corona virus appears to have a mind of
its own. It spreads with alacrity, from person to person, through a random
sneeze, a chance hug or an innocuous kiss. The fact remains that God helps
those who help themselves, and if keeping away from large crowds is what helps
us, then that is what God wants us to do as well. Friedrich Schiller obviously
meant what he said. “Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.”
I remember first hearing the stories of Lord Vishnu at my
grandmother’s knee, when she, a deeply religious lady, would describe the
various avatars in graphic detail. I would listen, wide-eyed, entranced as she
turned into the mischievous Krishna, the diminutive Vamana, the steadfast Rama
and of course, the majestic Narasimha, half man, half lion. After one such
recital, I remembered eyeing every pillar with awe, never sure if the image
rooted in my imagination would spring out and catch me unawares.
So, when I set out to read Piyusha Vir’s ‘Dashavatar’,
published by Readomania, I looked forward to going back to my childhood.
The prologue fascinated me. “When I first set out to
write the stories of Vishnu, little did I know what a gigantic cauldron of
wealth I was diving into.” How true, especially as the author ended by saying
that her aim was to take a second look at the stories and analyse how they fit into
The stories themselves are easy to read, as mellifluous
as my grandmother’s narration. However, what comes across is what I missed when
I was little – the glaring parallels across history and mythology, with
references to the Great Flood, and the emergence of a saviour every time the
world reeled under the burden of evil. Manu, the first man in the New World
could easily be Noah, his gigantic boat the Ark with two species of all
animals, plants and seeds aboard it.
Modern axioms dot the pages of this book of ancient
stories. For instance, before the churning of the ocean, Vishnu advises the devas. “Diplomacy and tact are as important as your physical strength. Remember,
often there would be times when you need to make friends out of your foes.” Don’t
those words ring a bell concerning the political arena even today?
What about the Halahala Visha that emerged from the
ocean, potent enough to allow darkness to rule the mind and negativity to rule
the heart? Any thoughts on that?
“Arrogance, pride, and greed for power dictated the
actions of the asuras. They terrorised the people, ruled with threat and fear,
and indulged in acts of mindless cruelty.” Vishnu’s Varaha avatar appeared, as
did every other avatar, to deliver good and erase evil. The unscrupulous avarice
of mankind and its corrupt and vile practices paved the way for the cleansing
of the world by ridding it of their insidious influences.
Lord Brahma comes across as an over-kind deity, granting vows
at the drop of a hat, and one can hardly dare to wonder if this could be
attributed to his lack of judgment or to the overweening play of Fate.
The story of Lord Rama and his Sita proves that, over the
centuries, man’s attitude towards women has not changed in the least. As one
citizen in the court, blinded by years of patriarchy, said smugly, “Then why did she do what
she was not supposed to – step outside her boundaries, that is, when clearly
instructed not to? Should she not be punished for that?” According to them,
Sita was to be set up as an example to any woman who stepped outside the
boundaries of maryada and made to suffer the consequences. Chilling sentiments,
that are being followed to this very day, sadly!
Krishna tells the villagers to worship the rains, the
land, the crops and the mighty mountain, instead of indulging in frivolous festivities
in the name of blind faith, words that still echo, over the centuries.
Dashavatar stands out, not only for the nature of its
story telling, but for the truths it expresses so tellingly. The apt illustrations and the classic cover pique the imagination as well. I have no hesitation in saying that this book is one that can be savoured by all age groups.
As I set this book down, I do so with a sense of shock
and awe. The tenth avatar of Vishnu, Kalki, is yet to be manifested, a winged
being on a white horse holding a sword. “He shall appear when basic humanity
would have ceased to exist and we, as a world, would have reached deplorable
levels of cruelty and depravity. The predictions say that only the evil and the
corrupt will rule the world. Power and money will become the only criteria to judge
a person’s worth.”
cold-weather-cartoons - clip art - free clip art - NX91jd
Being a grandma is the most fun one can think of, but
the cold in Johannesburg is another thing altogether. Absolutely wrong timing,
I say, having a baby at the start of winter, when wet wipes, bum cream,
diapers, cold hands and red, flowing noses are the norm. And with a brand new
baby in hand, one who is so tiny that he gets lost in his clothes, the cold gets
to one all the more.
Let me speak for myself. I, for one, love winter when
it is just right, along with a steaming hot cuppa green tea, a warm shawl, thick socks and just a nip in the air. However, when the temperature drops and
I cannot feel my toes, and wooden toilet seats feel better than ceramic ones,
it is time to tuck in and hibernate.
Green Tea cartoon clip art - KISS png
Grandmas, of course, cannot hibernate. They are the
go-to persons as far as the first hand chores go. Not that I mind, because the
warmest I feel is when I wash dishes in water scalding enough to take my skin
off. Priyanka, my daughter, clucks impatiently as she almost burns her hands
after I have had a go at the dishes. But anything to stave off the cold, I tell
Washing Dishes - Cliparts Zone
Going out is a chore in itself. I lug on the layers,
blow on my icy hands, and rush into the car which is mercifully heated.
Likewise, the baby’s bedroom is heated and it is bliss to stay ensconced within
the duvet till the time it is time to burp, change or rock the baby to sleep.
Four of us snuggle in the warmth of the heater – Grandma, mama, and the two
kids, though the big sister, Zoya, sleeps in her own cot, replete with a pretty
duvet, a sparkly unicorn, a bald baby doll and a sequinned bunny. Of course, we
need to check whether the warm, furry thing on the bed is the cat, Tyrion, who
loves a quick snuggle himself.
When we got here in May, the weather was perfect – sunny
days and balmy evenings. June waltzed in with the chill setting in. At first, I
couldn’t understand why people around smirked when I asked them if it was going
to get colder soon. Now, I know! As the old song goes, “The rain in Spain falls
mainly on the plain.” In my case, the chill in Jo’burg falls mainly on my
bones! Or is it Jo’brrrg!
Come morning, husband dear gets togged up in his warm
jacket, his woollen cap and his gloves and sets off on a brisk walk. “Coming for
a stroll?” he asks. One look at my horrified face is enough to elicit a chuckle
as he strides off in true military style. As a result, despite the rich food we
eat here, he looks the same, even as, in my case, I find calories sneaking in
and making their homes in my entrails. Or wherever it is they hide away!
June is on its way out and if I were to misquote T S
Eliot, I believe that July is the cruellest month. Temperatures are going to
drop further, and I can only imagine the state that I will be in... Frozen, and
in no state to mimic Elsa and sing ‘The cold never bothered me anyway.” (Let It
Elsa - Frozen - PopSugar
Instead, I will be like an Eskimo, covered from head to
toe, just my eyes peering out from within the layers, attempting to hibernate
as much as possible. Probably scaring myself when I peer into a mirror and see visions of a Death Eater, courtesy Harry Potter. Cloudy skies, freezing winds and a frost that bites into
the bones... time for braais and barbeques, warm fires and hot beverages,
desperate glances at the elusive sun and new woollen clothes that hopefully
look smart. So folks, if you do not hear from me in July, think of my
fingers wrapped in mittens, unable to type, as I contemplate on the month of
August when the cold starts abating, maybe by the 14th or so.
Shucks, the day we leave for the warmer climes of India!