of thoughts in ebb and flow

Archive for April, 2011

Summer madness

Getting married is something you can never be fully prepared for.  And if it is one that crosses boundaries – be they of religion, caste, language, geography – or whatever other dimension that serves as a division and not a union – it serves up surprises all the time. For me one of the surprises was of summer madness in the family I married into.

I had observed with an element of amusement (and many a time gnawing hunger) how breakfast was a `might happen’ in the new family, how an entire meal could be composed of what I earlier classified as dessert (e.g. modaks), that rice is eaten before rotis in the meal sequence, that plain cooked arhar dal without any garnishing or chaunk is an accepted, integral part of a home meal and so on. But four months into married life I came up against a shocker. The family that worshipped a thousand deities like most Hindus abandoned all of them in favour of paying obeisance at the altar of just ONE God.

Come morning, noon and night this God spread its tentacles to every nook and corner – hiding in straw under the bed to occupying significant shelves in the fridge. It was truly omnipresent in our home. It manifest its presence in various hues – from green to reddish tinted to yellow to golden. It permeated our spirits in various forms – from firm to soft to liquid. It was demanding – it dominated all conversation and significant energies were spent in ensuring it was cared for well. Routines were established for its care, responsibilities farmed out to family members – who would go out to identify the best ones, who would ensure it was well `nested’, who would pick the ones for special attention each day and so on.

To my utter dismay slowly all cooking was abandoned and the kitchen counter tops too were  relinquished to make way for its increasing tribe.  The Ratnagiri Hapus (Alphonso) ruled over us and for three months of summer we became a family that ate, drank, talked, walked, dreamt mangoes. Now I liked mangoes too. Maybe more than liked .. a little love. But what I saw here was sheer madness. My saying `No thank you’ to a fifth mango of the day begot me incredulous looks and I could almost hear the cries of `Infidel’ `Traitor’ and suchlike that remained unsaid only because at four months of marriage I was a bit of a novelty too.

Now with fifteen years of this under my belt and exposure to many other similar zealots I am beginning to appreciate some of the positive aspects – like locking away the kitchen for three months. But I am yet to succumb to being snooty enough to turn down any mango other than the Hapus! My son is on his way there though – the Ugandan one we had yesterday barely got an appreciative nod and the Raaywal’s I once tried to tempt him with met with a `why not just sip on the Mango Slice bottle’ look L

As for me – the sight and smell of raw mangoes sprinkled with red chilli powder still makes my heart skip a beat (for reasons that don’t all quite fit in with the subject of this post 😉 ) – and the Hapus can wait for its turn on MY table.

Daily Commute

There it is again. Cars for as far as the eye can see. Office remains tantalisingly close and unreachable. But I have evolved (!). No more impatient drumming of fingers, cursing city (un)planners under the breath and slow but sure progress up the irritation barometer. I remind myself that a long commute is something I once wailed for so I shouldn’t be complaining now right?

For a significant length of my corporate life I have been the object of envy among friends and colleagues. You would be forgiven for thinking it was possibly for meteoric vertical movement or  amazingly juicy assignments or a rapidly swelling paycheck. But No. It was none of these typical reasons. But the envy was there all the same.

It had become almost painful for me to answer their question “And how far is your office?”  I would say, “.. er… 10 .. 10 minutes away”. `Wow. That’s lovely’ would be the answer. “And is the traffic bad?” and I would say, “ Well, depends, sometimes if the kids around are late to school I am in mortal danger of tumbling down the stairs as they rush past. Also I have to watch out for the neighbour’s friendly dog as I pick my way to office thru the flower beds.” Yes. I was amongst those who strolled to office and back and I never heard the end of `how LUCKY’ I was!

Human nature being what it is I managed to find some negatives to my lucky situation in life. I am always the person who heads turn to if there is some urgent work to be attended to on weekends, I told by boss sulkily. I can’t let my hair down and be generally crazy (thanks to living in the company campus). It is boring to see the same people in office and out of office. I don’t want to run into colleague’s wives and parents and pets all the time. It drains my meagre reserves of social niceness.  But, most importantly, I don’t get to transition.

You are in a high energy high momentum zone as you rush about getting breakfast and lunch organised, cajoling the kid to wake up and get ready, shout instructions to the maid, keep the garbage out lest it is forgotten, get the milk to thaw, then boil, then cool all in the space of half an hour, pull out something ironed, something co-ordinated from the wardrobe.. and rush out hoping you haven’t forgotten something time-critical and you-dependent. The echoes of argument you had with your mom/maid/husband/child are still reverberating. You need to sort things out in your mind. Arrive at a place of (resigned) peace, dwell in nothingness for a bit and then begin to think about the work to-do list, deadlines and then have an inspired `next big idea’ for the team. In the same manner at the end of the day you need to move from the work zone frame of mind to a twilight zone and then into picking up the home and family thought threads once more.

This transition from home role to work role is ESSENTIAL to being effective (and retaining ones sanity). It cannot beaccomplished in a Maggi 2 minute style. Or if it can, I have not been blessed with the temperament / skill /knowledge for it. Or, as the bard put it

All the worlds a stage

And all the men and women merely players

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts

.. and a trip to the green room in between can help delay the final curtain-call!!

I was lucky to have a workplace so close to home but I missed the forty-five minute train ride I’d gotten used to in my Mumbai days. That commute did more for my mental and physical health (or should I say agility) than I gave it credit for in those days! Come to think of it now, those public transport rides were nothing short of character-forming. Like…. but let’s not get into that one right now! Let’s have some `transition time’ from this post

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