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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Another Man's Wife - Manjulal Bajaj

Another Man's Wife
ISBN: 9789350094921 
First Published: 2012
A collection of nine stories based mainly around rural India, with women as central characters

Fiction, Drama

No profanity.

Favorite Quote:
When you are in the presence of a good story, it is the only possible story - no other stories exist in that moment. ("Marrying Nusrat")

In 2012, I had reviewed A Calendar Too Crowded, and I was so disappointed by the depiction of women as either defensive or sorry figures. It was, therefore, with mixed feelings, that I took up Another Man's Wife.

Bajaj's women are not defensive. They are defiant and strong, with shades of grey. They aren't always right or moral, and that's perfectly alright. I loved every minute and every story of it. The simplicity of the stories, set amongst the most varied of backgrounds and Indian history, made for a riveting read.

Take for example, the first story, "Ripe Mangoes", where the protaganist is sleeping with her daughter's tuition teacher. As the story progresses, we end up loving her, EVEN when she slaps her daughter and says "Stop Snivelling, you little bitch."

Or the story of Ulsha Minj in "the Birthmark", a slave turned wife, who decided not to abort her girl child. Tackling one of the biggest problems for Indian women, this story could have easily been preachy or condemning. It was neither, and much more importantly, the ending was quite unexpected.

Or the story of "Me and Sammy Fernandez", a story of a husband-murderer set amidst a beautiful jazz background in Goa. Again, it's not the story itself that is riveting. It is the way each element is played out - the father who opposes the love marriage initially and becomes the crusader of rights for inter-caste marriages; the man who changes after marriage, and the woman who keep giving herself excuses to stay in it. 

Or the story of "Marrying Nusrat" with it's thoughtful little touchers - be it a teenager getting a nickname when he mishears "PRA" as "Pyaare", the struggle of the shift from a village to a city ("To be a poor man in a big city is a terrible thing - the only bodily fluid you can discharge with dignity is sweat") or the background of old hindi songs playing on a transistor in a tea stall.

Or the story of "Under a moonlit sky", which shows the plight of houseboat owners in Srinagar during the terror attacks, something I have frankly not given much thought to (and if I had read this first, I would have been more generous with the "Shikara" owner in Dal lake). While the houseboats resort to desperate means to survive, the once honeymooners of the houseboat are desperate for completely different reasons.  

This book is not a sob story. It's the story of women who are fighters, women who have not given up, and are happy with taking their destiny in their own hands. This book is not just about strong women. It's the story of middle class and rural India, who have their own battles to fight. 
Its fairly obvious by now, that the book is strongly recommended for a read. At least one of the nine stories is going to resonate with you. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Of Empusa and Turongs

The Hurons and Turongs lived on the opposite sides of a very temperamental river, Empusa. They weren't very good at farming, but the presence of the moody and ferocious river (very aptly named by the way), and the fact that each side owned 30 acres of land, sort of forced their hand into it.

Come springtime, the two families hired temporary labourers to till the land and sow the seeds. Empusa was fine with it.

....Until one day, when she decided she wasn't.

She unleashed herself on the Hurons in full fury. She overflew her banks, destroyed all the saplings and swept off the soils, ODing on the fertilizers.

Turongs could hear her go, and knew that it would be their turn next.
"Why, it sounds like she is laughing!" They said, with reluctant admiration.
"We have to build a canal and ensure that she stays on the right."
"Yes, she must not turn towards us!"
Thus decided, the Turongs started an elaborate mission of creating a canal. 

Four days later, Empusa was relatively calm. She turned and started watching them, laboriously digging and planting the walls.

"What are you doing?" She seemed to ask.
"Trying to one-up you!" Turongs replied.
"So, the canal is to make me turn right?" Empusa asked and snickered.

Turongs stopped working, unsure. 

"What's so funny?"
"Well, everybody knows that Turongs don't make a right!"

She cackled, turned and destroyed their farm in a single swoosh.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Sambar is calling!

As a family, we have had a jinx which was turning out to be a hard one to break – the jinx of no holidays. In the last 1.5 years, we planned, paid and cancelled five holidays. Five! It was getting to us, to the extent that we wanted to go on a holiday just to get it over with. 

After a lot of planning and replanning, the Tadoba safari finally happened. It was a gamble to go at this time, but happy that it paid off. 

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is one of the oldest tiger reserves in Maharashtra, and it is to the State Government’s credit that they have stood by their animals. There are no stalls, and no noises within the reserve, except for the ones made by the inhabitants. Though the spotting of a tiger ensures that about 50 odd cameras start clicking simultaneously, trapping every moment, it is all done in a silence so complete, it feel therapeutic. 

So, to add on to the latest of fads of e-lists, here are top 5 reasons why one should go to a tiger-reserve:

  1. Get electronics-detox: I left the mobile at home, and surprisingly, didn’t miss it for 36 hours. Of course, there was anyway no signal for a phone call, leave alone a 3G.
  2. Re-introduce yourselves to silence: I don’t know when we last encountered silence, and were at peace with it. There is so much to hear in silence – one’s thoughts for starters. My son, who would be hard-pressed to be calm at any given point of time, just sat down next to the lake and stayed still. 
  3.  Be the visitors, for a change: Animals have the right of the way in a jungle. We wouldn’t know that in a zoo, or in a national park. In a safari, however, there is no human to nudge the animals towards the viewers. We have to be lucky, not entitled to view them. Once, a set of 4 wild dogs sat down in the middle of the road, and all the jeeps stopped. They waited patiently for the dogs to get up and go back into the wilderness. There was no honking, no talking and certainly no stone throwing – just a patient waiting. 
  4.  Understand how fascinating a jungle truly is: Since there is no human forcing the animals on to the road, it’s up to the guide to track the animals – and they track it in the most interesting way possible – through the Sambar calls. Sambars are supposed to be dead accurate in pointing out where the tiger is. Her single sweet call resonates through the jungle, warning everyone (even the monkeys climbed up on trees when they hear it). Our guide stood on the jeep, head cocked, tracing the Sambar call, and giving us an update on how she is moving. We thought he is joking, when he pointed a finger at where she might come, and there she was. 
  5. Acclimatize yourselves to the real king/queens of the jungle: A 200 kg tiger is an awesome sight. I don’t think anyone who has seen her/him can ever get used to the sheer size and power of the beautiful beast. Sinewy limbs and curves define her, and you‘ve got to admire the beauty that is capable of killing you, should the opportunity ever arise. She knows that, and the power of that knowledge sets her free in the reserve. It’s a different ball park in a zoo of course.
Waiting for our next safari already!!

PS: The photos are sourced from Google Image search and are not taken by me. :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

The intricacies of the side hug

I can do a lot of things - a successful side hug is not one of them.

About five years ago, I evolved from the arms-on-shoulder girl to a bear-hug woman. The sheer joy of giving and receiving so much love in a simple platonic strong-hold is so comforting. But, for the life of me, I cannot master the side-hug. There are a lot of mind-blocks attached to it:

  • It seems akin to air-kissing - the half-heartedness of it.
  • I never know when which hug is intended.
  • Arm pits. Enough said.

Considering that the Side-Hug is the new Hand Shake, I had resigned myself to accept and practice it.

But then, the inevitable mortifying episode happened. I had to meet the partner of my firm - in a hotel - for dinner (All hints for why I thought this was semi-casual). I come in, and he gets up and says in genuine pleasure, "It's so nice to see you!", with arms wide open. Obviously pleased, I go straight on and hug him. 
Turns out, it was meant to be a side hug. For a full 2 seconds, I am awkwardly wrapped around him, and he is trying to bring me to the side.
So, I made a mental note :

  1. No hug, until it is initiated.
  2. Only side-hugs with bosses.

Things were falling into place, when 2 days back, the same thing happened with a colleague of mine. Giraffe that she is, It was really awkward that I was standing on my toes, going all out, while she is wondering what to do.

Seriously, I give up. New rule - Only Side-hugs. Period. If you come and go all frontal on me, I'll go berserk.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Charting Parenting Expectations

I remember one of my friends once mentioning that she is planning to have kids. 
“Why?”, I asked casually. 
She sounded surprised at the question. “Because I am going to be 30! Everyone my age already is a mother.”
“But that really can’t be the criteria for wanting kids.” 
“You already are a mother. You don’t know the pressure we go through”. 

Hmm. Before I start this post, let’s get a couple of things out of the way: 

  1. I am a very happy and content mother. I have a son I adore, and who reciprocates that back. 
  2. I have a very happy life. Enough said. 
So, despite being that spoilt, I still warn every wanna-be mothers to think it (it=baby fetish) through. There are very strong reasons for that warning, and I thought of making some charts to explain it (just so, next time I can send a link to this post instead of lecturing the poor souls!)

Things to look forward to while parenting
  • Time Crunch: No time for hobbies, sleep, friends or for exercise.

Average time spent for various activities

  • Advice overload: Everyone who has an internet connection (or memory) is going to give you an advice.

Sources of advice

  • Finance crunch: There are some additional (unexpectedly expensive) factors to consider.
Sources of Expenditure

  • Stress Hike: Every parent, working or otherwise is going to go crazy with guilt, and the sheer number of things to do. 

Stress and Multi-tasking levels

  • Songs Crunch: The choices narrow down inadvertently. 

Frequency of songs heard/sung

Of course, there are some major perks as well. Your life gets a direction, and you (finally) get some perspective. Specifically, there are two things I could think of 
  • Energy Spike: Coming back home is not about resting, but looking forward to some cricket/football time. 

Average energy levels during the day

  • Work-Life Balance: The chaotic work-life balances and OCDs are finally sorted out.

Average Work-Life Balance in a week

Happy parenting (or non-parenting as the case may be)!

Source: Imagination and experience :)