Happy Diwali

Diwali is a time to be happy with friends and family. I am delighted to say that I had a fantastic Diwali. We spent the week-end in the refreshing company of friends who have come to mean family, and children whose innocence and love is like having a pick-me-up tonic (when the day starts at least!).

I am glad to inform my readers that I did not make any sweets or for that matter any savoury. In fact, we had a lovely lunch with rasam and koottu (And no – no payasam either). It is not that I do not like sweets or “karam” – I like them. I just cannot see the rationale behind sweating for days on end standing in front of the stove, with aching legs to boot.

So far, everybody without an exception has wished me a Happy Diwali, and asked me what I made. The pressure to “make” something for Diwali is beginning to show on my tired brow. I did what my family likes best on Diwali – I had our friends over, and we had a fantastic dinner. We had my daughter’s friends over and enjoyed the company of the kids, dancing and playing with them. It just did not involve sweets.

But I learnt an important lesson this Diwali – “I did not make any sweets at home” is not a satisfactory answer. After every call, I hung up with the implied disappointment voiced over my lack of “motherliness/domesticity” for not producing a sweet factory. It is the right thing to do, even if one particularly does not enjoy it. It is the right thing to do even if it means undoing your loved ones efforts at the gym over the past few weeks.

I am glad to say this though: I made us all some memories that would bring a smile any day.
Here is wishing you all a very Happy Diwali!

Economic Upheavals

The economic climate has been bad. Inflation is up and things are not looking good on the sensex fronts. When such trends play out for longer intervals in time, everybody feels the pressure.

Droning on about Economic ratios and sensex points means nothing to drive the point home. We (my sister and I) have explained the economic upheaval using the effects it has had on the life of my 12 year old nephew living in Dubai. Granted, he is not one of the impoverished, malnourished lads – but he has problems too.

Case 1 :Canteen money for breakfast

Once in a while, when he is a good boy and the moon rises in the morning, he gets ‘canteen money’. This means he gets Dhs 5 to buy his breakfast from his school canteen instead of home food. He is usually very excited on these days. Till last year, he said, this would give him

2 mini pizzas – Dhs 2 @ 1 each

1 cutlet – Dhs 1

I juice- Dhs 1

Savings – Dhs 1

Then the juice became Dhs 1.50 , the cutlet became Dhs 1.50 and the savings were gone. He was upset but he could live with that. Recently, when he got the fiver, he started to wail .”Oh please increase my allowance. I can’t eat with Dhs 5. The mini pizzas are Dhs 1.50 each and the school has reduced the cheese on it.” Apparently, he has to either let go of the juice or the cutlet! He had Physical Education in the morning-so he would be “hungry and thirsty”!

Such opportunities present themselves merely to satisfy the sermonic yearnings every parent harbours. The parent can talk on about their pasts, and how handling money is a privilege that one must thank the Almighty for. Reminiscing is also allowed – one could talk about the number of “Priya” sweets a 10 paise fetched earlier, and talk fondly of the coin, now missing from circulation.

Once the preaching/pretending-to-listen ceremony was wrapped up with, a decision was reached to increase his canteen money to a princely sum of Dhs 7.

Case 2 : Birthday presents

Said nephew wanted to buy his best friend a birthday present – a Parker Pen. He window shopped, shortlisted the pen , noted the price- Dhs 20. That is 2 months worth of pocket money. So he saved up for 2 months , put his Dhs 20 in the wallet and asked to be escorted to the shop. And voila, the pen was now Dhs 24!! The poor guy was flabbergasted and said ‘Amma – I can’t buy the pen. The price went up and his birthday is next week. What to do? “.

Which God grants two admirable opportunities in a week to a parent?! The sermon was modified, delivered and wrapped up with the ceremonial extraction of promises for ongoing good behaviour.

He was given Dhs 4 for the pen.

Line Leaders & Gate Holders

We had a parent teacher conference this morning. I learnt a bit more about their day than the information I pieced together based on her stories.

Reading between the lines, the class spends half their time moving between various places in the campus. The most often visited spot being the restroom. Apparently, they form a line to go from the class to the restroom and back. There are restroom breaks before and after the following activities:
1) Play time (twice a day)
2) Nap time (once a day)
3) Snack time (twice a day)

I try not to work out the number of minutes wasted in getting all brats lined up to go over the entire exercise, but cannot help admiring the teachers.

Now, all this talk about restrooms and forming lines leads somewhere – like as I would to bore you with the bowel movements of 3-4 year olds, the line-forming itself has an interesting story that I hear everyday.

Apparently, there are two coveted positions within the class:
1) Line Leader
2) Gate Holder

Line Leaders:
The Line Leader is assigned the task of standing in front of the line, and gets to “lead” the children to the restroom or playground. The days my daughter is conferred the honour is an important day in her life, and she regales her experiences with zest. I found out that the line leader is the first to follow the teachers wherever they go. The line leaders are decided on round robin policy.

Gate Holders:
There is a gate separating the playground and the remaining classrooms. The gate holder is the person entrusted with standing with their backs against the open gate to make sure the gate does not swing on anybody else. This post too is determined using the round robin policy.

I like the way these positions make children feel valued and treat their responsibility earnestly. Soon, she would grow up, and there would be competition for any sort of leadership position. Before that happens, I want to cherish this sweet wisdom of round-robin policies to give everyone a chance to lead.

Security & Me

I appreciate security. I appreciate the notion that I can go about my business dealings in a secure, risk-free manner.

Nobody can access my Pre-tax savings. I have been accumulating reserves paycheck to paycheck. I sit like a mother hen and imagine it grow. Considering imagination is the only course of action open to me now, it is a pretty good occupation to indulge in. Nobody can access my Pre-tax savings, not even myself.

I have been slacking with reimbursements and claims. As I groggily started my day, I decided to attack all of the ‘Pending’ items on my to-do list. Transit claims, expense claims – the works.
I enter the site with determination. The site believes in security and so do I. It prompts me for a user id and password. Determination slowly turns to trepidation: This is where the trouble usually begins – each one asks for a different userid/password combination. I try to keep the passwords along the same lines, since there are atleast 8 different systems in the company I work in, dealing with different aspects of my life. The problem comes when each system requires me to change my passwords at varied intervals.

System 1 determines changing passwords once every 3 months is good enough, while system 3 wants it to be on a monthly basis. System 2, on the other hand, does not really care whether I change my password or not, as long as it is 32 characters long and has atleast 2 numerals irregularly spaced every 13 characters, and has atleast one special character to boot along with a rather simple requirement that the letters used cannot all be lower-case or upper-case. And it really only asks that you don’t start the password with a capital letter.

I finally hit upon something – I appeased all the password Gods and dutifully complied with all the rules. I saved the passwords cryptically in my drafts folder. And for somebody to get to my drafts, they had to plunge into the very depths of my brain, and and use advanced data mining techniques for connections and links to mundane details in my life, before they could find the password.

I had the system under control. Till it was determined that keeping one’s email for too long is risky business too, and implemented a 30 day rolling deletion policy on email. One fine day, my drafts which contained the goldmine of information was deleted, without a trace of retrieval!

So, here I am enjoying a perfect day mailing random system administrators about my imperfect memory, and requesting system resets. They comply and remind me: I must only remember not to use any of the last 8 passwords I have ever used on the site. Given that I don’t remember any of the passwords, is there a way to tell me which are the 8 I previously used, I ask innocently.