The Birthday Chart

The year 2001: I stood in the tiny telephone booth – I felt like a performing musician. I had one hand acting like a earplug to zone out the background noise. Only it wasn’t the orchestra I was blocking out, it was the street noise. I must also mention that my “audience” comprised of one bored tea delivery boy waiting for the telephone booth owner to noisily slurp the last few drops of the steaming tea. I was palpably excited about making an overseas call to my fiance to wish him a Happy Birthday. I may have been a “very successful software engineer” in my parents eyes, but I was still a dutiful daughter to parents who shouted into the phone. I suppose in their minds, a louder tone somehow speeded up the conversation.

The call connected, and my heart raced, just a trifle slower than the meter. I wished my fiance a Happy Birthday, and asked him eagerly whether he wore the shirt and tie I had picked out for his birthday. I visualized a suavely dressed engineer with a smart creased shirt, and tie in sunny California. He semi-truthfully lied that he did. (He said he didn’t wear the tie, but crumpled the shirt enough for it to pass off as less than formal. ) Years later, I found out that the shirt I had lovingly picked out for him was in a colour he did not particularly admire, and I also found out that the only time he will sport a tie is at our wedding! My loving-husband-gift-giving story had started off with a bang.

Year 2002: I did not yet have a car of my own. So, I hitch-hiked with my cousin and furtively bought a gift and kept it hidden for several weeks before springing it to him. I watched the gift gather dust on the leftmost corner of our closet well above the average human-bring’s reach. I hadn’t yet wisened up to “returning” something meant as a gift. But Time will take care of that.

Year 2003: This time, I decided to use my father’s most trite advice. (The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.) Just a gift wouldn’t do, a hand-made cake is what is needed I decided. So, I made a cake, and called our close friends and cut the cake. I was smart this time, and got him to return the gift I bought.

Year 2004: I managed to successfully glean any attention away from his birthday by being wholly pregnant and having my baby shower/seemandham etc the next day. He will be cutting a cake along with me for the baby shower wouldn’t he?

Year 2005: By now, nobody has any expectations to either impress each other with gifts or home-made cakes or store bought cakes for that matter.

Year 2006: Health conscious was the word. No sweets we decided, and we had the birthday cake replaced with a brownie. (My daughter really wanted to eat brownies)

Year 2007: Here is a post linking his ‘birthday celebration’. In short, we did everything but celebrate HIS birthday and landed up spending the afternoon with my daughter’s classroom having decided to celebrate her birthday in class instead. Ah…sweet practicality! AS for the gift, it another story!

Year 2008: We mutually agreed that I would take him along and buy him something he likes. Mr. Practicality came swinging by, and while I took my little one to a class, he went and bought something on his own around the time of his birthday. I suppose the Gajjar Halwa from last week-end doesn’t really count.

I don’t like the idea of this post. If I were to graph it out, I’d probably be snorting in his general direction somewhere down the line. Ah well…. Hubby, you will always know the sounds emanate with love!

Happy Birthday Dear Husband!

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I’d love an encore

Yesterday we attended a Tamil Light Music concert by S.P.Balasubramanian and his troupe. Lead singers were SPB, Chitra, Sailaja and an emerging talent, Srikrishnan. I had multiple sound tracks going on within the auditorium. My daughter said she too knows how to sing, and sang – “I am a Kangaroo, and I don’t live in the zoo…” to a backdrop of K.S.Chitra’s national award winning rendition of “Paadariyen, Padippariyean”. Luckily, I got my daughter’s musical genius to stop manifesting itself too much. She stopped singing early enough to avoid an unceremonious armed bodyguard escort out of the auditorium of her disgraced parents cheered on by piqued fans. I hushed her into silence by promising her a complete concert dedicated to no musician but herself the moment we get home!

Chitra stole the show, in my opinion with her genius. Her unassuming self was so evident, and yet she swayed the whole audience with every single one of her performances. At some pitches, I felt my ears vibrating with joy, and she smiled through them all – she did not even seem to be straining herself. There was one person who loved her career – one could see it in her passion to sing. Her “Ovoru pookalumae solgiradhae” song which won her another national award, evokes an array of emotions in me every time, and this time too, I was left yearning for an encore of the number.

A new talent emerging in the South, Srikrishnan also performed last night. If ever there was an award for an image/voice disconnect, I would recommend Srikrishnan. Somewhere in the baggy suit that walked onto the stage was a nervous thin lad. He kept falling at people’s feet asking for their blessings, and bending over forwards in deep bows. I sometimes felt a suspension thread from the ceiling was needed to pull him backwards just to remind him of the equilibrium involved in standing upright. And then, he sang.

He had a fantastic voice, and delivered difficult songs with great ease. His Tamil diction was pardonable, even likeable because of his voice. The only song where I could not bear it was “Kaalangalil aval vasantham”.

When Chitra and Srikrishnan sang a medley starting off with Chitra calling for “Lord Krishna”, her musical cries reached an all-time high and the auditorium watched awed. Krishna, Krishna Krishna – she called with devotion and piety dripping from her voice. It was sort of ironical to watch the puny Srikrishnan standing trembling beside her.

SPB as usual stunned the audience with his persona, his voice, his humour and his involvement of the crowd. His sister performed too, and though my friends did not seem to like her, I thought she was quite good too.

My husband likened it the concert to a good cup of coffee – you are left thirsting for just a little bit more, and the taste lingers on as you yearn. Though I am not much of a coffee lover myself, I agreed.

My Leave Saga

The context : I need to take time off for my brother’s wedding.

Not that I am jealous of others who have a lot of leave at their disposal (specifically my siblings who both seem to have picked countries where leave is abundant!), but here is my leave saga. Patience is a virtue. Though people who have been witness to my outbursts of anger scarcely believe this when I say it, patience is a skill I have acquired, and use it rather sparingly. I lay waiting like the Ibex hunters in the snowy Himalayan ranges. Apparently, in the snowy stretches of the Himalayas, over 18000 feet above sea level, the sure footed Ibex graze. Slaying an Ibex requires more patience than skill. It was this strategy I used. One wrong foot, and my entire wedding presence could be in jeopardy.

You see, for the past week, my mind has been in a restless uproar. How do I get leave to attend this wedding? Even if, for a moment, we don’t delve into the depressing depths of leave disparities between the developed nations of the world, I was walking tight rope here. I had tight deliverables and low leave balance.

I also think this a right spot to cite statistics regarding leave, just to make you people realise how tough life is(Source: a friend’s blog whose source is an article she read in Via magazine)
Japanese have an average of 17.5 days per year. The French who gave us the word ‘Leisure’ – get 36 days and take 94 percent of them. In England one gets 24 days vacation time. Dubai gets 30 days with a paid ticket to their exotic destinations, and food coupons to dine in, and resort packages to stay in while on vacation. (Okay, I exaggerate, but I am allowed to do that!) US get 10-15 days off, and what’s more, on average people only take 11 days of that.

So I am justifiably piqued (in my opinion of course!) I digress. Let me get back to the saga of my leave. Like a child promised a candy for good behaviour, I did my best with a smiling face, and my entire being worked tirelessly towards the service of the organization. I ignored slights, and brushed off the hard times I had to endure. I delivered projects ahead of time, I waited for my boss to be in a good mood before springing the request on him. I was rewarded – aah, sweet manna of heaven! I got oral approval for leave. When I commence the New Year, it would be to a new beginning with zero leave balance. (But one does not dwell on the depressing, they dwell on the happy thought that there is a vacation to look forward to!)

And with that, I would like to give the signal to all concerned to go ahead with your plans. May the wedding preparations begin!

Education for Life

I read an article in the Times comparing the number of school days for children in the USA against the number of school days in other countries such as Korea, Japan, china, India, Australia etc. No surprises there – US ranks amongst the lowest in the world. Now thanks to the fuel escalation problems, a few schools are contemplating the move of reducing the week to have more hours per school day for 4 days, and reduce the totals number of school days from 5 to 4 per week. I am not sure I could stop with just outlining a few problems with this approach, but I’ll try not to ramble on…

1) Regardless of the number of hours spent in school, children are still left with one whole day apart from the week-end twiddling their thumbs and thinking of “recreational activities”. I have my serious doubts whether the studious teenagers would dedicate their unsupervised time and energy to finishing up their homework or additional research.

Holiday Homework
Every vacation, we left school with the familiar brown coloured sheets detailing our holiday homework. The holidays would start, and the holiday homework would find itself buried in my room and mind. In my mind, it would raise its head every now and then reminding me about the unfinished work as the holidays went slipping by. My intentions were good, but there was just not enough time! I had to pick berries, gather materials for our toy-house construction, cycle all over campus, read Enid Blytons and cook up adventures in my mind to solve. Before you knew it, it was the last week, and I was scrambling to complete my holiday homework. Countries may be different, but I am guessing children universally would dilly-dally till the last moment to do any work. I very much doubt that children would spend Friday toiling over their schoolwork while their parents are at work. My guess is it would still be done only on Sunday night afer giving considerable strain to parental nerves!

2) The parents would have to arrange for care for the children on this day. Companies are not giving us 4 day work weeks, they would still expect employees to be present on Fridays.

3) This point is the most jarring one. In a separate study comparing vacation times among US, Britain, Australia, France and Japan, US ranked the lowest. The number of Paid time off in the USA seems to be close to the lowest in the developed world!

I am uncomfortable with this. I thought Education and schooling was meant to prepare you for life! This model teaches children to expect a lackadaisical 4 day work week, and then when they start working – BAM! We strap them to their jobs and whip without a vacation!