Well, many of you would have heard of the Monday’s Child poem/rhyme before. For those who haven’t, here it is:
Mondays child is fair of face, Tuesdays child is full of grace, Wednesdays child is full of woe, Thursdays child has far to go, Fridays child is loving and giving, Saturdays child works hard for his living, And the child that is born on the Sabbath day Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
Now I have to admit that my sibling and I actually believed that rhyme to be true, and would often use it to tease each other. It took us many years to realise those were not ‘predictions’ but only a rhyme!!
My Little Prince has learnt a new version at school this week. I have been asking him to repeat it for me all weekend. Because I LOVED it.
Read this, and you will most probably agree:
Monday’s child is red and spotty,
Tuesday’s child won’t use the potty.
Wednesday’s child won’t go to bed,
Thursday’s child will not be fed!
Friday’s child breaks all his toys,
saturday’s child make an awful noise.
And the child which was born on the seventh day…
Was a pain in the neck
Like the rest Okay?
I’m pretty sure this was written by a harried mom!
You can’t not empathise with her now, can you?
(PS: God bless all children, they are truly precious, no matter how annoying they can be at times :-))
Every now and then, something beautiful comes my way to show me that Life is the greatest humbler!
For instance, all of you (my regular readers) know I have been in India during the Easter break. I usually carry bundles of old clothes (in great condition) to give away to maids/helpers back home. This time again, I took a box of clothes and my mum distributed it among some regular helpers. One particular shirt was slightly over-sized and hardly used, and we decided to give it to our fruit-seller for one of his three sons. He accepted it with his usual quiet demeanour and left without saying a word. I wondered if he even appreciated that it was still a good shirt and would use it for his child, or quickly sell if off for a few rupees on the footpath the next day!!
Let me quickly clarify that I was NOT looking for ‘gratitude’ as people sometimes do. My belief is that people who receive things from me are actually doing me a favour by helping de-clutter my house and in turn, my life! So there was no question of gratitude. Only, a subconscious wish for some sign of ‘acknowledgement’.
Anyway, a few days passed, and the incident had completely vanished from memory.
Late one hot summer evening, the door bell rang. Mum answered it, and was surprised to see none other than the fruit-seller. He simply stood there, quiet as he always was, looking looking tired in a crumpled brownish-yellow shirt that was once probably white.
Mum was surprised, because it wasn’t the time to buy/sell fruits! She opened the door anyway, not knowing what to expect! Usually, helpers who visit late in the evening, are looking for some help, usually in the form of money. We waited to see what he would say/ask for.
To our surprise, the fruit-seller just passed his hand around the half-open iron-grill-gate and handed over a bag overflowing with fresh peanuts (monkeynuts). And walked away without a word.
We stared at each other – dumbstruck, tears brimming our eyes. A big bag of nuts. It would have probably made an excellent snack for three hungry children that were waiting for him back home. Yet, he chose to give it to us. In his own quiet, humble way, he had shown us that to give something, one only needs a big heart!!
The magnanimity of the poor fruit-seller left us utterly humbled!!
I don’t think I have words enough to explain the lesson in humility that I learnt that day. It was certainly one of the most beautiful incidents ever.
I wish we had more of such people around. They certainly make the world a better place!
The Principal of a boys only school. He was jovial, old and respectable. The boys loved him. The parents respected him immensely. He was after all, ‘Reverend Father’.
He was kind to the boys, and insisted on meeting the friends and relatives of the boys. So every fun-fair day, or ‘fancy fete’ day, as it was called in those times, the boys would take their sisters and their friends to show them around the school. Rev. Father would call them into his room. Brightly-lit, spacious room, the shelves respectably lined with thick volumes. The children loved the room. It was, after all, the safe haven that belonged to ‘Reverend Father’.
Rev. Father would always offer the children lollipops. While the boys sat on the chair opposite the huge teak wood table, Rev.Father would call the girl over to his side. One hand would go protectively around the back of the little 6 or 7 year old child, drawing her close to him. The huge table almost hiding her, so her brother/friend could only see her neck and above. Rev.Father would stoop to the child’s level, and ask normal questions very kindly, ‘What is your name, my child?’ ‘What does your daddy do?’. You know, the sort of questions any caring, elderly person would ask!
While in the meanwhile, his right hand would creep up the little child’s thighs, get into her panty, and fiddle away, until the barrage of questions stopped. Usually, the child would remain silent. WHAT DOES A 6 YEAR OLD KNOW OR UNDERSTAND?
* First, the child is taken aback.
* Second, the child is confused.
* Third, the child has no escape!!
Once her turn was over, he would give her more lollipops, and wait serenely for the next child.
So this went on, until one of the kids realised SOMETHING WAS WRONG, and complained to her mother. The mother was SHOCKED. She questioned the other children’s parents. Then, she was FURIOUS.
Reverend Father had molested several little girls who had entered his room. Sadly, some of the boys even KNEW ABOUT IT, and despite that, they went ahead and brought their unsuspecting friends to him.
And then what?
Well, what do you expect? A Bolly-wood style Morcha? A protest or a people’s movement against the sick Rev.Father? A formal complaint against him, after which he was thrown out from his post, or probably even imprisoned and punished?
Ha! HA! HA!
It was best to keep quiet. Nobody would believe it. Nobody would talk about it. He was above all this. It was a respectable colony. A respectable school. A calm and wonderful neighbourhood. All that was not to be sullied. It was best to keep quiet, and avoid the sleazy old man.
He was, afterall, ‘REVEREND FATHER’.
This happened two decades ago.
I wonder, had this happened today, will our reaction be any different?
Will we fight child abuse? Will we take up the issue with other parents, will we protest against such molestors? Will we put any effort to get such perverts punished?
Or will we, as always, simply ‘hush’ it?!!!!
To read more about Child Abuse Awareness, please head over here.
Pick-up time. The children chattered excitedly, as rains lashed.
A little girl quietly waited for Nanny.
She looked up, surprised. Her eyes sparkled.
She ran and hugged the woman.
The woman pushed her away.
‘I only came because its raining. Can’t come everyday Ok?’ she snapped.
‘Yes Mummy’ Sofia nodded.
The sparkle had disappeared.
PS: I actually witnessed this incident when I went to collect my son from school this evening (names have been changed.. rather, assumed). One moment, the little girl was so excited. The next moment, it was all gone. Like a balloon had been deflated.
I wonder how many times we behave like that Mother. Not realising that the absence of a smile, or a hug, can dampen the spirit of our beautiful precious children? Don’t mean to be preachy, but I do hope, we will more consciously try, to reciprocate the wonderful and endless love that our children shower on us….
It wasn’t until late December that I found the envelope. It was addressed to no one. It bore the seal of ‘Vrindavan Home for the Aged’. That is how I realised it (perhaps) belonged to my father.
Before you stand on high moral ground and fire me for having sent away my old (and ailing!) Dad to the Home, do try to understand, and if possible, even believe that I truly did not want to send him there. At sixty, he was fit as a fiddle. We used to fight over the TV every evening, and would both finally lose to my son, who decided that Ben Ten was the right programme for us. So we, the boys of the house, would sprawl on the sofas and watched the inane aliens fight gory wars.
I digress. Like I said, the envelope, slightly yellowed and crushed, was addressed to no one in particular. It just bore my address. I assume my Dad had written it for me! Which made me curious, as he was not the sort of person who would write letters! If my memory serves me right, he was particularly not fond of reading or writing. So this was special. I didn’t quite want to open it. The last two months had been rather painful. First, the agony of losing him. Second, the fact that I had left him to die alone. I can never get over it. Ever. And third (perhaps, the most important reason) – I was afraid… of what the letter might contain!!
It was my birthday. In no mood to celebrate, I decided I would open the letter after all…
You know how much I hate to write!
Bang on! This was definitely from Dad!! My lips curved into a smile.
I want to let you know something… its been on my mind ever since you left me.
I stiffened. It was not like I left him! It was HE who decided to leave us. Vidya and I pleaded. So did little Prithvi. But he had made up his mind.
I like this place they call ‘Home’. Its spacious, airy, the nurses take care of me. I have no complaints.
I visited him almost every Saturday. I would take his favourite food. Sometimes, Vidya and Prithvi came along, at other times, they didn’t. Dad would always recognize Prithvi, no matter what! The moment he saw his chubby little grandson, his wizened face would break into a smile. I felt relived that he liked the Home.
But you know… I want to write this before I can forget everything.. before my traitor of memory fails me. Sometimes I cannot even remember your face. At other times, I feel like you are standing right next to me. I know you are there. Its just, I don’t remember who exactly you are .. or at times, who I myself am!! I have to confess that part is a little scary.
So that was why he wrote the letter!! When he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it had come as a brutal shock to all of us.
On most days, he was very normal. The same old Dad who steadily picked his nose as he sat in his oversized armchair, watching children play cricket on the street! On other days, he would turn into a complete stranger. He would just stare at the ceiling. At times, he would simply grab the nearest object and smash it into the wall. He would walk down the street, to buy a packet of chicory, and wouldn’t return home until dark, when one of us would go in search of him, only to find him sitting on a broken bench, looking dazed and confused.
Finally it was he who suggested being moved to the Home. We wanted him around. He, however, was adamant. He left a day after Prithvi’s fifth birthday. We had a great party. He joined in the fun. I almost called the Home to cancel the move. But the next morning, he woke very early, bathed, and packed a little holdall with a couple of shirts and bare necessities. He did not give us any opportunity to try and persuade him against going. Before he left that morning, he blessed us with wishes for a ‘long and happy married life’, and said, very simply, and as a matter-of-fact, ‘Tell Prithvi I love him the most!’
When Prithvi returned from school that afternoon, he searched for Dad in every room of the house! And when he didn’t find him there, he cried himself to sleep.
There’s one little person I always seem to remember. A lovely cherubic little boy. Let me try to recall.. Preetham.. or was it Prithvi? Yes, I think it is Prithvi. My darling little angel. He visits me often. I can’t often remember his name, but I know that he is part of my soul.
I fought hard to blink back the tears. Dad wouldn’t be kind to anybody who cried at the drop of a hat!!
So, my dearest, I had better finish this letter quickly, as I might just not remember about it in some time.
Very often, nurses wipe tears rolling off my cheeks. Sometimes, they say ‘tut..tut..’ and walk away, cursing (in a rather filmy style!) my ‘supposedly wicked’ son who they think has left me here.
Little do they know, that these, in fact, are tears of joy.
Joy at a life well lived. This is the happiness of a husband, who found a good and loving wife. The pride of a father, who raised a strong and caring son. And also, the yearning of a grandfather. Whose only (albeit greedy) wish was that he had a few more years to spend with his grandson, frolicking in the park, or sneaking away from the watchful and loving eyes of his Mummy, to lick an ice-cream cone. But then, I’m just being ungrateful.
I could have lived with our children. But you know, much as I hate to boast, I think our son adores me! So does Prithvi. I want them to remember me as their Hero. Not as a senile patient who couldn’t recognize them! No. That wouldn’t work for me.
So, this is my big secret. I want you to know, my dearest, that every time I remember us, and cry, it is only to say that I have lived a very happy life.
I think I will see you soon.
Dad’s last letter. It had not been written for me. Or for Prithvi. But for Mum. I was stunned, at how Dad never let us see how much he missed her. I hoped they were together again.
To me, the letter had a cathartic effect. I don’t know if I can ever stop feeling guilty, but this day, I felt a little better. He knew what he was doing. And he did it not just for me, but also for himself.
I guess he was right afterall. When I think of Dad, I only recall a tall, strong man, who would throw Prithvi up into mid-air and catch him as he fell squealing with delight. I remember him as a level-headed counsellor, who simply declared that every workplace had its share of politics, and it was upto me to handle it or steer clear! Vidya remembers him as a loving father, who would make her a cup of ‘straang filter kaapi’ when she returned home from work every evening.
And Prithvi.. well, he does not remember much of him. When we happen to mention Dad, he perks up, curious to know more about his childhood friend. We cite him examples of how Dad used to pretend to be his Horse and ‘giddy up’ as Prithvi ordered him to! Prithvi chuckles shyly when we mention such incidents.
Often, he walks into Dad’s old room (that has now been converted into a Study) as if looking for something.
Sometimes, I follow him, and find him gazing at a picture of Dad’s. At other times, I find him dozing in the big arm-chair.
Well, whatever it is he is doing (or not doing!), I get the feeling this room is his favourite haunt. He seems happy here.
As for the letter, I placed it back in its envelope, labelled it as ‘First Letter Written’and tucked it far, far away inside my wardrobe. I could perhaps give it to Prithvi when he is grown up enough to be deceived by ‘Success’ manifesting itself in the form of money or fame?! Will it make any sense to him, I wonder…
Or perhaps, I will simply start writing a letter of my own…. hoping that I too, can be a Hero to my son, as Dad is to me.
I was wondering if my Friday Feast posts were turning boring, when Deeps said she was actually looking forward to it!!! So I plunged into writing this post, on a Tuesday, and scheduling it to be published on Friday (Whoa @ my commitment to blogging, no?).
This Friday, I have not one, but Two Feasts for you!
1- ONE-POT STIR-FRY MEAL
As always, a quick n easy one-pot meal idea : Stir-fry noodles/rice
Utterly simple – Roughly chop up loads of veggies – Spring onions, onions, baby corn, carrot, capsicum (all colours), cabbage, mange tout, beans – toss them into a pan with a tablespoon of oil. Stir-fry them on high heat, for about 2-3 minutes, until they get slightly brown, but not fully cooked. Do remember to keep the veggies crunchy.
Now add in some salt to taste. I don’t usually add Ajinomoto as I cannot serve that to my little brat. If you like, you could add in a tablespoon of soy sauce and vinegar. Or a ready-made packet of Knorr hakka noodles masala (which tastes quite good!).
Finally, throw in the cooked rice or noodles (as you like), toss briskly, without mashing either the rice or the veggies. Basically, you are doing a stir-fry and not cooking food.
For the more enthusiastic folks around, a side-dish (cauliflower manchurian or paneer manchurian and the likes!) could be made as well. I usually just stock up on the Knorr Manchurian or Knorr Schezwan packets, and use them sparingly on my feeling-lazy-days!
They are extremely simply and taste divine. Just follow the instructions on the pack and its really easy to make the side-dish. Otherwise, ofcourse, you can do it from scratch, and there are loads of recipies on the internet, that I don’t want to bore you with now!!
Personally, I am very happy with this one-pot meal. Its simple, easy to make, tasty and well, let’s face it -what could be healthier than vegetables?
2- THOMAS DOSAI!!!!
The second Feast for today, is specially meant for your Kiddies and Kiddos: A yummy dosai in the shape of a Thomas train (with wheels!), decorated with cooked potato and spinach 🙂
My mum used to make dosais in the shape of Ducks and Houses when we were young!
The important thing to remember while making dosai in different shapes, is the temperature of your tava. Heat your dosai tava slightly, not too hot (otherwise the batter will become clumpy), and not too cool either (as then, the batter will not cook!!).
When the tava is warm, ladle the batter onto it. First draw a circle, and then a little rectangle adjoining it. Lastly, spoon a tiny bit on the top to make a funnel! Don’t forget the wheels!!! Cook little circles of batter, and just arrange them under the train before you serve.
You can top this with any veggies to make a face. The possibilities are quite endless, really! I am quite sure your child will wolf this down in no time 🙂
This one is for mommies and daddies of children who happen to be fussy eaters 🙂 A lunch-box idea that is really and truly easy peasy for the parent, and even easier for your child!
(Apologies for the poor picture quality).
1- Roughly chop veggies like baby corn, carrot, beans, capsicum (green, red, orange and yellow – really just any colour available), cabbage and a little onion if you please. Stir-fry these for about 5 mins in a teaspoon of oil, add a pinch of salt. Add some cooked white rice (basmati makes a great combination).
2- Complement the rice with a few cherry tomatoes and fruits like apple, grapes or peeled orange.
Voila! Your child has a lovely balanced meal!! And the chances are pretty good, that he/she will gobble this up without making a fuss. Mine did 🙂
Happy weekend, girls and boys 🙂 and uncles and aunties 🙂
Reticent. That is what best describes me. Probably. My mum would have found the right word. Had she been around. Infact, had she not left, I would probably not be – reticent.
She was wonderful – my mother. I don’t remember her being pretty. Nor attractive. But when she came to collect me from school, my friends would spot her bulky frame, run towards her to greet her. They would tell her about what they did in the classroom that day. She would be all smiles. Crows-feet around her eyes. Yes, that’s what I remember most about her. When she smiled, her eyes would sparkle. And crows-feet would form around the corners. She would laugh heartily at what Gabbi or Maya said. Or at Ben screaming like a Dinosaur! If Sophia hung onto the fence, crying for her Mommy, my mum would promptly tell her ‘Don’t worry darling, I saw your Mommy on the way, she is going to be here very soon!’
And all the time, I would watch – hiding behind a play tent –her eyes would be looking for me. Searching… searching…And when they found me – they would light up, like she had witnessed fireworks in the sky!!
Anyway. The days we spent at the hospital. She would lie limp on the bed. I would chatter. Incessantly. She would smile. Mostly! Sometimes, she would simply ask me to ‘shush‘. I couldn’t. Well, that’s me. Excited, animated, energetic. I think – well, I know – that that spirit is what she loved most about me.
That last day, I went to wake her up. And when she did, I ..I .. cannot explain. Pale, ashen face. Hollow eyes. Dry, cracked lips. Almost, an ugly ghost in the place of my beautiful mother.
I shrank. ‘Go Away!!’ I screamed. I ran out of that room, screaming ‘Just go away!!’. That was the last I saw of her. They didn’t allow me at her funeral. They thought I was too young.
How do I remember – you might ask. You see, some things – events, faces – just get etched – deep, deep down – somewhere.. somewhere beyond even Memory! Just like a photograph. Flash, click. The moment captured – for eternity.
Sometimes, I wake up, looking for her. Wake up right in the middle of a dream – Of me waiting behind my school fence. Hiding behind a play-tent. My eyes, searching. Searching…
Sometimes, I pretend to go back to sleep and continue the dream – and try to imagine that I’ve found her.
Her face is beautiful again. I cannot bring myself to see her ‘other’ face. Even in a pretend dream – it is too difficult.
I simply stand and stare. She waits, with a smile that lights up her face.
And I? I have so much – just so much – to say to her. I have to tell her that Maya hurted my feelings. That Ben invited me to his birthday party. That.. that..I’m so clever that I know all about the continents.
But not a word comes up to my lips. My dry, cracked lips. And suddenly, my mind goes blank. There is only one thing that I want to say. Only one.
But my throat hurts so bad, that I’m unable to bring myself to say it … ‘Mummy, I’m sorry I got afraid’.
You see, I am reticent. I really am. Because none of it matters any more.