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An Affair to Remember!

Another oldie, an impromptou piece, during a session in J-school.

For G, my best friend in years. For your simplicity, honesty and liveliness that remain untouched even to this day.

Childhood fantasies seldom cease to exist in later years, or refuse to hold on for too long.
However, for me it turned out to be a classic case of first love, and the affair still continues!
It all started when my younger sister’s birthday was around the corner. A little girl myself, I was seized with a sudden urge to present her with something unique that carried a lot of personal touch. All I could do was use my creativity. Soon I brought out thick paper, crayons and all the assorted junk and lo! My first greeting card was born – all laced up and colourfully done with little dolls, florets, bells and ribbons. The real seeds I must admit were sown during the New Year few months back, when I made a simple card for my parents with borders done in paisley and a sweet little message.

But this time it was a marathon exercise that took me more than half a day! On the D’day, the bubbly winsome smile that lit up my sister’s face is still vividly etched in my memory. After that there was no looking back. Cards became an eternal part of my life, a penchant, which I never grew tired of.

Many a times, I would rush to my mother to enquire about the festivals, anniversaries and birthdays. All that was now left for me was to fiddle with my colours and ideas. Effortlessly I would design them, each time making it a trifle more unique. Occasions would remain incomplete without a greeting card from my side.

A Good Luck card always instilled much needed confidence. A Thank You card never failed to generate a warm response at the other end. A card with an apologetic note would have a melting effect and soon the ties of friendship would be in safe hands.
Today of course things have changed quite a bit. The elaborate card making sessions have taken a back seat. But not the one to be deterred, even today, I ensure a readymade card bought from the stores, never gets posted without a personal touch from my side. In a small way my tryst with this simple penchant continues…

*****
Because some things are meant to stay

Sunflower in my Garden

Few days ago, tending to a couple of plants I turned quite nostalgic.
On a different note, some of them have complained of the long sabbatical my blog has gone into. The timing couldn’t have been better to reproduce one of my favorite articles.

The train chugged lazily into the platform. It had been a strenuous journey during the peak of summer. It looked as if the locomotive in its serpentine charm was actually conspiring with the Sun-God. What else could you say when it arrived a good eight hours late? The journey proved to be a perfect foil to what could otherwise have been a perfect ending to the perfect summer holidays at our grandparents’ place.

Thankfully we were soon bundled off into the waiting car and were now heading home straight. Inside the somewhat cool interiors of the vehicle, I was safe from the wretched heat, but only after we reached home and saw my friends from the neighborhood, did I return to my usual self. Even in that tired and battered state, I gestured them to drop in at my place soon, so that I could show them all the purchases that I had made during the vacation. After a nice hot bath and cool glasses of lassi the elders settled down to unpack everything. By then, a couple of relatives also began to troop in while I was still waiting for my friends.

I decided to go and see for myself what was keeping them, when with a sudden gasp I remembered something! How in the world had I forgotten all about it? The heat was doing strange things to me, else how could I be so forgetful? With a great sense of urgency I dashed to the front porch, searching impatiently for it… and there it lay… the sunflower. Bathing in the evening sun in all its majestic splendour and waving daintily at me. Immediately, clutching my cheeks, my eyes shining with delight, and my mouth forming a perfect ‘O’, I squealed with ecstasy. I was enamored by its sight, to say the least, and I kept repeating to myself, “A sunflower in my garden…”

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Queer Thing, This Multitasking

When I was in school, my friends said there was a sure shot way to excel in Math. Practise it while listening to music. I was apprehensive of even trying it. The reason: There wouldn’t be any music playing in the examination hall. What if I get stuck? Scary, isn’t it?

But I still wanted to be able to do more than one thing at a time. So when this friend of mine told me that she completed her Physics records while watching the Sunday mega serial, it seemed like a great idea. Saved time, and you watched TV without feeling guilty and would be doing more than one task. The following Sunday when I settled down on the diwan, with the physics record, and the TV remote, and a kid sister in tow, I didn’t know my two-tasks-at-once funda would die so young. My father’s stare (or was it a glare?) and my Uncle’s non-appreciative attitude had me back into the study.

So it’s always been that way: In school, it was no memorising for the test during games, no talking during the class, no peering into someone’s answer sheet during the test, and at home, no reading while eating, no watching TV while eating, no talking while eating/studying/sleeping/dreaming… so on and so forth

Think you’re getting the connection? Good. Don’t yawn…

I understand that it was necessary to teach us good discipline and to stay focussed, but now I am suffering, aren’t I? Think about this. When it was time to jump to lucrative offers, the monster called Multitasking was gleefully lurking around the corner.

Just to be extra careful, before attending the interview, I thought I should look up for its meaning. I was actually fine with the meaning, but the example sent me into a tizzy.
Multitasking: “… doing several things at once. For example, a CEO could be involved in simultaneously listening to a telephone board meeting on mute, participating in a credit committee, IM’ing daughter, signing legal documents, while checking email on blackberry.”

Gulp…


I had left Math miles away, but the music was there. I mean, my quandary now was, how do I face the music? Then some kind hearted soul suggested that women are inherently, inadvertently and invariably endowed with Multitasking skills. “You just have to feel it in your bones and then you would realise.” (Sigh! Wish I had been more regular with Horlicks and Sandoz). She added, “For all you know you might already be doing it, but may not know it.”

Think…!

And then one fine day, it struck me! Yes I knew it! However I wanted to be sure. So I asked my colleague and a good friend (until then) of what she thought of my simultaneous ability to stir the dal and come up with an interesting plot for my next children’s fiction. “I can’t really comment until I taste your dal.” Huh! That left some bitter taste and I resolved never again to share my recipes with her.

Yuck!

Anyway I moved on to a job I wanted. Thankfully my manager didn’t mind that little lag in the “skill”. He was sure I would be able to refine it over time. Refine I did, the meaning.
Some soft skills pundits by then had started advocating that multitasking was nothing but prioritising. Needless to say I jumped and grabbed the new found definition.
Now multitasking wasn’t so difficult. I finally struck gold one fine day, when I brought the project to a closure, took care of bugs of another project, worked on the white paper, made preparations for the birthday party of our team mate, handled the errant printer. I decided to treat myself to the expensive stole that I had been eyeing at the store.
But before that, during the meeting next day morning, I bragged to my Manager as to how I had successfully “multitasked” the previous day – but carefully avoiding to use the word. It was for him to see, you see…
“All without sacrificing my tea break and without having to stay back late”, I quipped for an added measure! Now it was time for the much awaited compliment.
“Oh wonderful! You have proven ability in Time Management…”

Slump!

Notwithstanding the slightly altered confidence level, (which thankfully escaped without any major casualties), I stick to my guns… err… the latest definition.
Do tell me folks, what you think. Encouraging responses (only) are welcome.

Meanwhile I should strengthen my resolve — to never become a CEO!

Hurrah!

An Odd Monday

Sia was settling down to a dreary and contrast start to the week. Mondays were rarely like this. It was always accompanied by freshness, a sing-song and spring-in-the-steps feeling, almost carrying with it a eulogistic quality.

The first thing that signaled the uncharacteristic day was the weekly plan column in the work folder. She had Zero meetings, no clients to deal with, no carry-overs from the past week and nothing new scheduled. Her personal mail box was empty, while the online fraternity also seemed to have gone into hibernation. Whatever happened to them? She missed the little sister at the other end of the globe. Usually dropped to wish her a good morning especially if they hadn’t spoken over during the weekend. Hmmm… the incessant snow must have had her snuggling into the comforter quite early. Sigh! Her only source of remaining ‘connected to the world’ was shut.

In four hours, all she did was a little reading, receive the news of latest resignations in the team and introduce herself to a petite ami joining as a Front Office Executive.

Lunch time came and went. A hurried, half-hearted affair.
With a gloomy Monday failing to whip up an appetite, the tummy was also too dull to protest.
Phew! How one abnormal day could add to the distraught and emptiness.

Five blogger friends — but not one seemed to have found time to update during the weekend.
The newsletter? Another diasppearing act, ugh! So post-lunch was also to be boring. After all how much can a quiet tea pep you up?
Tried exchanging mails, but in vain. There was to be a call from a friend to give an update but the phone kept returning a voice message. The radio didn’t play any great songs either. Just kept reminding its listeners of “Love your pets” day. Her mind immediately thought of the guy who loved animals and she missed him sorely. Even last night she was reading his book for umpteenth time. Wish she had brought My Family and Other Animals along. Would have lent some comfort.

Evening drew in at last and she was wondering at the strange Monday she had to endure in years. The ride back was bumpy but she didn’t mind. She would go home and settle down with a pomegranate juice and the Durrell guy and continue reading his book (for the umpteenth time).
Thank God, she had no exciting news to share today. What with nobody within reach, that sure would have proved another dampener on a Monday. She couldn’t help smiling at this thought, and the fact that another day was round the corner. Before she knew it would be another week, by which time her Mondays would be restored to their rightful place.
A gentle breeze was blowing outside and she smiled another happy smile.

Where Art Thou?

Should I, should I not? One of those eternal conundrums in life.
Should I discourage beggars or should I take mercy on them? I wish I could be like K, who willingly fishes out little coins from her tiny pouch, meant explicitly for this purpose. Or should I be like H, my colleague, who either ignores them or deals with them firmly?
Is there a way to sit on the fence? I cannot reconcile this…
Leave it!

So, where was I? Conundrums… yes.
Should I believe in miracles? Should I not? Hard time for a teen who has grown on a staple diet of Amar Chitra Katha The class teacher was handing the corrected answer scripts for Maths exam. Names were being called out in alphabetical order, followed by loud declaration of marks. Miserable scores. Grumpy faces, tension writ large (what will we explain at home?).
My plight was pathetic — only the rosary was missing. Such were my frantic prayers that I didn’t realize a bumble bee whoosh past me, uttering a sweet buzz. It didn’t sting or bite me. Soon my name was called and I had scored 89%! Way back then, I thought the bumble bee came to deliver a miracle.

I am riding in an autorick. Just as I am getting off at my favourite temple, I realise the wallet has been left behind at home! My previous stint as scribe, meant surprises lurking around, ‘dead’lines and unearthly hours. As a handy measure, I always kept extra currency in a small red manila envelope for food and transport. Eleven months later, the bag is still the same, but would the red thing still be there? A bit of rummaging and hey presto! Half a minute later I am paying the auto driver! Did I utter Miracle?

Listening to the rain outside, lying awake in your bed, discovering an old tenner in your jeans pocket just when you need it… Ah! I am getting it… There are all little joys, coincidences and surprises that life is blessed with. There! That makes it easier to trick and eventually train myself to be more rational. Miracles are kind of old fashioned anyway.

Of course the jeans don’t have to be jeans really. They can be anything, even a duffel bag. In my case, it used to be blazers. Every winter, when it was time to take them out from the dry cleaner’s cover, it was a Pandora’s box. I would find an old chocolate wrapper, a scrunchie, an old Re. 1 note or even a piece from scented eraser! Till about the time I was a teenager, I had two blazers, besides the school blazer. One, in a kind of tweed bought at Kashmir emporium which I wore during regular outings to the park and the nearby market in the evenings. The other was a hand me down that originally belonged to Mom. Bought at Simla, it’s a pleasant green with beautiful embroidery of orange and red flowers and warm silken lining. I loved wearing it with slacks for the Republic Day parade and other such special occasions.

I open the trunk, gently remove it from the covering and caress it. Not bad, not bad… Just that the sleeves are shorter and the buttons have to be left unfastened. Overgrown it considerably, but feels just like those days. Old things have a way of hugging you warmly, connecting you with time and place, and unleashing a flood of nostalgia…
Can I have a miracle please?

Kapi Nirvana

The bay is quiet — more or less. The regularity of the keyboards and the occasional drone of the photocopier meld with the quietude. Post lunch drudgery adds to the mood. The unusual concerto drags itself into another hour.

Bold attempts begin only after this. A small head bobs out of the cubicle to survey the scene. A little bolder, Huey now taking the support of the chair’s armrest cranes up a little more, which invites two other heads in his direction. Dewey and Lewey follow it up with quick exchange of nods. Taking a cue, Huey walks up to their cubicles. “Just gimme a minute,” whispers Dewey. “You are always the one for overtime”, scoffs back Lewey. The hurried whispers catch the Team Lead’s attention. Heuy returns a weak smile. Hope the Lead doesn’t think anything of this. Anyway, he is more interested in the final document than conspiracies.

The routine quietness continues, unmindful of the mild commotion.

Suey however, is alert enough to take the hint. Brushing the back of the dress, she gathers herself out of the cubicle with élan. No sooner has Joey heard the gentle click-clack of her shoes, he does a Ctrl+Alt+Del. If only he could lock his gaze with hers… if only she had bothered to linger on for a few seconds more…

There is something about her, which always makes him get up without a fuss.

Dovey gets a tug at her scarf. She isn’t too pleased to be distracted from the post lunch cartoon strip mailer. But the gang is restless without the dope, so she has to join them.

Hoggy has got up too, but suddenly remembers his wallet. “What if we decide on a bite as well?” Escaping the gritted teeth and nasty grins, he does a detour.

In the meantime, Meuey has suddenly gone careening towards the restroom, to avoid suspicion.

Parts of the groups make way through Exit 1 and 2 respectively. The scattered the safest. They wait at Exit 3 for the last of the lot to emerge.

Minutes before the glass door shuts, those inside suddenly become aware of the resonance of animated banter, busting the silence of the corridor.

The Manager too looks up from his Notebook briefly, and shakes his head in amusement.

It’s coffee time folks!