Happy New Year

As the year 2014 comes to a close, it is as if everybody suddenly became a Chartered Accountant and tapped the year-end nooks of their brains to peer through their books and publish them with a profitable turn. WordPress sent me statistics, in which they are trying their best to make my poor blog look popular. I know my blog’s standing – it is not one of those sites that gets a 10,000 hits every time a post is out there, but it is wonderful to see the things WordPress’s algorithm says to make me feel good. Did you know that the total number of people who came to your blog could have filled Sidney’s Opera House upper balcony? Imagine that. Or did you know that if an octopus read your blog, and used a Squid’s ink to write, there would be fifty jellyfish on your blog right now? (Of course, I made those up, but you get the gist.)

When I look back, I am happy that we got 4 books out in the past year along with enjoying the pace of life and navigating its many turns, slides and ladders. It is like playing a game of Chutes and Ladders that the son is into playing these days.

This is also my 500th post and I managed to post 52 posts this past year – that is about a post a week!

Halloween, Mother's Day, Christmas and St. Patrick's Day In The Jungle
Halloween, Mother’s Day, Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day In The Jungle

Then, of course, Google Plus and Facebook came up with their own versions of the year-in-review with the best pictures of the year. Facebook got in trouble for picking the pictures with the most number of likes and it ticked off some folks whose pictures of sad events had gotten the most likes.

http://time.com/3647800/facebook-apologizes-year-review-post-pain/

All this is fine when it comes to relive the best memories of your year. But when it comes to reviewing a year in my mind, I find I like to look at the ups and downs together, for that is how life is. We don’t always publicly share our troubles, and we don’t want to look back and relive those times. We find that we relish developing and nurturing our many relationships, friendships, put our mind and efforts into doing a good job at what we undertake. But it all goes into making us who we are and strengthening us from within.

Here is wishing all of you a wonderful year in 2015. May it be filled with the essence of life, joy, good health, happiness and lots of laughter.

Happy New Year!

A Nefelibata’s Santa Claus Myth

I rarely save the works of art that my children produce. For one, there are so many, and for another, while some of them are hilarious, they are no masterpieces (yet! – I read somewhere that good parents don’t say things like this and always leave the doors open for whatever the future might bring. If the future springs the brilliant artist, I don’t want to be the lousy mother thwarting the Sotheby’s auction, do I?)  So, I have no way of comparing the drawings of the six year old daughter to see what hidden psychological messages were in there. According to this news article, deciphering a six year old’s drawings can give us remarkable insight into their minds.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/12/08/368693069/kids-drawings-speak-volumes-about-home

I tried analyzing the work of the 3 year old son, and I could make out nothing. He asked me to guess what the picture he was holding up was, and I told him it looked like a very shiny pig or a jellyfish. He cackled loudly and said that he tried to make a pink christmas tree. I don’t mind tapping Freud from his grave and asking him to interpret that, but I am pretty sure, he’d choose to remain dead.

Jellyfish or Pig or Pink Christmas Tree?
This is my drawing of course, because I did not save the original one – but you get the gist.

Anyway, this brought an interesting question to mind. What if I interpreted my own drawings? I had in a recent drawing placed a house on a dog’s tail (which was kindly brought to my attention by a reader later on)

See house on dog's tail?
See house on dog’s tail?

What would that mean in the light of the latest letter to Santa? The daughter had asked for a dog. She very well knows there is no Santa for the past few years at least, but just plays along to see what she can get.

Regular readers of the blog know that the request for a dog in the household rears its head every now and then. It is usually silenced by me (a trifle vehemently at times) or in a more wishy-washy sort of manner by the husband, who then looks sorry when confronted by me on what he meant by saying, “Maybe we will think about one in a few month’s time.”

“How many months?” asks the daughter expectantly

“What do you mean by months?” I say pushing a couple of daggers out of my eye sockets, and the husband scurries for safety.

Hitherto while asking for a dog, she had relied on techniques such as “You don’t have to do anything. We will look after the dog.”  (By saying ‘we’, she includes the toddler brother who stands around nodding enthusiastically without having the least idea as to what it takes to have a dog in the household. The few occasions he has been in the presence of one has been spent like a monkey on a tree with a lion prowling down below) The matter gained traction again a few months ago and I wondered where the renewed vigor was coming from. Now, I was getting the old oil, “Oh! Don’t you miss not having someone to cuddle up with, now that we are all grown-up? Hey! You know what might help? A dog!”

It was only when I went to talk to her teacher a few weeks ago that the mystery was unraveled. Her teacher had told them how to form a convincing case, say, on how to get a dog, and she assures us that she had never held a class in such rapturous attention. Apparently, she had told them to come up with points that will help their cause, for example: come up with what the other party will gain out of the proposition. The daughter, having racked her brains, could easily see how I would poke holes in the We-will-look-after-dog theory, and went in for the psychological wringing.

Well, I was not buying it (yet). Let me explain why. There are some images that cannot be easily wiped from one’s brain. Two vicious specimens come to mind. Both of them were not more than 5 inches in height, long and had tempers like vipers about to be curdled in whatever-vipers-are-curdled-in and bites like adders. To their considerable repertoire of talents was the fact that they could smell like hounds ( which they were), and ornamental nose though I had, it was completely useless in detecting dogs hidden behind bushes. The results had been extremely disturbing. A physical education teacher of mine, once saw me leg it up 67 stairs at one go in the pouring rain and opined that the best way to train me for the forthcoming Athletics Championships was to set a couple of dogs after me. Not pleasant I tell you. Not pleasant.

Now, I know that dogs in the United States are extremely docile beings and rarely bite. But I am not sure I can move past the canine horrors of my past and embrace a dog in the household.

More than any of that,  I am not sure I need another living being to look after, I have 4 large fir trees, 3 fishes, 2 children, 1 husband, 1 apricot tree , 1 cherry tree, many plants to nurture and often have visiting parents. Maybe the Myth of Santa has to be officially busted this year, I thought to myself and peered at the letter below the tree and saw amendments.

There, in brackets it said: (I know my mom will not like a dog, so can I have some king doh if not a dog?)

I like this pragmatism even though she is lost in the clouds of her imagination, an imagination liberally spotted with unicorns and dogs sometimes. (I found an interesting word that means just that by the way – Nefelibata)

Buoyant Force, Tensile Strength & Parasailing

To think that we would leave Puerto Vallerta, Mexico, without the pleasure of para-sailing was gnawing at the old heart. I mulled the thing over and decided that the best thing to do was to ask the valet who was greatly impressed with us, to holler and let us know when the parasailing man comes around. Apparently, he was not one early to rise and early to bed. He took his time and came around noon. I like folks like that in general, for I am not exactly a lark. It isn’t too much to say that had I been born a bird, I would have lived life thinking shriveled worms were food and that too becomes hard to come by as summer progressed. I may have tweeted from the trees to all who could hear about the sad state of affairs, but gone on to peck at wild grains and enjoyed myself anyway. But the problem was that we were to leave for the airport home-bound at 1 p.m. and if the Parasail-er came at 12 noon and then, had to go through his waiver forms and insurance checklists where would that leave us?

The husband looked at me amused. “Forgotten we are not in the US have you?  I don’t think this guy is going to bother with forms, documents and waivers. “ said the husband in query to my quizzical expression. The sun shone down and hope raised its beautiful head and sailed along side the distant parachutes in the sea once more. At noon, two men came dragging a parachute behind them. That was my cue. I ran on the beach towards them. It looked like another lady was going toward them too and I knew that if they took her on, both of us had an even slimmer chance of parasailing that day. The morning’s practice run had done me a wave of good and I pumped through the sands as fast as I could waving my hands in the air and trying to attract their attention. I have been seen to better advantage certainly, but that did not deter me. Shy birds don’t catch worms or get their fills of wild grains for that matter.

Now, let me give you a bargaining tip : Don’t let on that you are eager to have something when you negotiate price.

You are welcome.

When I reached the men, and asked them to state a price, they grinned. The sun caught the gold glinting in their tooth filling, and their eyes sparkled. They knew this customer was in the bag. None of the little tricks around not wanting it really, but doing a good turn to benefit the tortilla-winner of the family. No Sir. I still tried, so half-heartedly that they smiled even more, and said, “Come. Come Señorita. Just give big teepps okay? Big teepps.” (Tips)

I smiled, consented and dutifully pulled on my look of intense concentration to listen to the training they were to give me before the adventure. The husband turned his head by 3 millimeters and I knocked his knuckles and asked him to concentrate too. By the looks of it, there was a life jacket, but it was not one of those life jackets that instilled confidence in the wearer. The straps were broken for one thing, and for another they did not look buoyant enough. Not that I weighed the thing in air and studied the difference of displacement in water or any such thing, but I just knew. For another, if I fell into the ocean from  a height of 150 feet, life-vest or no, buoyancy force calculated or no, the shock of it would have me convalescing for a goodish amount of time. Obviously, I wanted to understand what to do in case of change in wind directions, changes in pressure or if the sea below grew choppy. There was a tiny boat that had a slimm-ish looking rope attached to the parachute. Somehow, everything the men said to make me feel as ease were doing the exact opposite. (Señorita! Very safe – new rope. Just 5 months old. Just give big teepps and I bring you down safely okay!) The mind boggled to think that depending on the tips, the rope could let you plunge into the ocean or be sturdy enough to get you back to land. But the Apparently-Brave do not dwell on the ratio between the tensile strength of ropes and tips.  They fly.

The sparkle in their teeth and eyes were a little distracting, but a butterfly could have grasped the directions, for that was all the time it took.

When I whistle you pull right shoulder rope okay Señorita? If it is becoming dangers, then I whistle again and you pull left side rope. Simple. Okay start now.

“What? No No. Wait. That’s it?”

That’s it – very easy. Very safe. Just remember teeppz.

“What if I hear a third whistle?”

I whistle only two times. How you will hear three whistles?” he said with a kindly expression that one adopts while talking to the idiot child.

“Okay okay. Fine! What if I don’t hear your whistle? I am going to be 100 feet above the ground. “

Don’t worry Señorita. We are there. We will get you down here.

I saw there was no point arguing, so I nodded and the next moment the boat took off into the ocean and the parachute lifted. Higher and higher it went taking my spirits with it. I looked around whole-heartedly enjoying the views from up there. The heart beat a little faster at first, but then settled into a steady, euphoric state that I could get used to. Maybe this is what people say when they say that they dip into their inner selves and experience pure joy. I gulped the salty air, drank in the fantastic views and lifted my hands in a smooth glider-like motion and at once a great feeling of gratitude filled my heart. To have experienced something like this is pure joy.  I have since had the pleasure of talking to a wonderful person who attempted parasailing at the age of 74, and she whole-heartedly agreed too. This feeling is there to dip into whenever you choose.

parasailing 2
That is some other person parasailing – a picture I had taken the previous day while lolling around with a book

I can’t say that I looked forward to the pull-right-strap-on-first-whistle (or was it the left strap?) part of the landing, but when I saw that I was nearing land again, I tucked in my nose and stuck out my ears as hard as I could to hear the whistle. Right enough I heard it and then, I heard the second one too. So, I used all my strength and tugged on the left and right or the other way around.

Wonder of wonders. The husband had apparently set their mind at ease on the tips they could expect while I was flying, for had I not seen such a smooth landing, I would not have believed it possible. I landed on the exact spot from which I had taken off and that too like a butterfly descends to sit on a flower. I gave them a delighted and effusive ‘Thanks’ and asked them to give the husband the same experience. The older of the men, touched his hands to his heart ( What is Mexico without a touch of melodrama?), and said, “I will do for him also Señorita.

parasailing

The men beamed with the teeeeppppzzz and we floated back to the hotel to pick up our belongings.

Funcionando en México

Puerto Vallerta, Mexico found itself entertaining some folks who were determined to make the most of the couple of days in the place.  We gorged on fruit smoothies, had our fair share of entertainment by looking up the local art galleries like we were aficionados, and enjoyed a kind of a salsa-belly-dance program put up by the staff at the resort that made us look down at our own flourishing mid-sections a bit wanly (but we quickly washed this uncharitable thought straight down to the belly with another smoothie). The room had a dashing view of the ocean and the mountainous coasts nearby, and I enjoyed lolling around with a book in hand. The husband liked the idea of room service and we found ourselves eating at midnight just because we could (Could those poor belly dancers do that?). All fine so far, but for one snag. The day after we landed, we were to run a half marathon and say what you will about a run like that, it demands that you put in the time and effort before hand. Last minute efforts can only take you so far. We thought of it every now and then and then waved a hand away at it, and the thought went away – lifted and replaced by a beautiful tropical thought of taking a walk in the beach, or worse, lying down on the beach with that book.

puertov

On the day of our departure, however, I felt like I had to do a great many things in Puerto Vallerta. We had not done parasailing yet, we had not run in preparation for our half-marathon, we had not been to the cool, swirling waters. Say what you will about the Nourish-n-cherish household, but we do not hold back on whims like that. We take spurs-of-moments for a spin, we act impulsively, enthusiastically and then, wait and lick our wounds and let the experience ferment itself till it can turn into a good tale for the blog.

I set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. and got up promptly at 8 a.m. The husband is never pleased with the alarms I set, but that makes for another blog entirely. The mists of sleep shroud me and refuse to disperse when the blasted alarm rings every time. This is one of the times, I am lost for words and the poor h feels like a complaint lodged in the wee hours can have an effect on me and improve my alarm setting capabilities. I like his optimism.

Anyway, so there we were, at the hotel entrance at 8:15, ready for a run through the streets of Mexico. The hotel valet looked us up and down politely and said that people do run sometimes and we were welcome to try, but it is not a hot pursuit in Puerto Vallerta. I disagreed. It was the hottest thing to do. The temperature was a raw mid-90 F, the humidity a trifle high, but that apart, ideal conditions.  We ran on the streets of Puerto Vallerta for a good 4-5 miles taking in the sights of a stirring business community. Small shop owners were up and about splashing water on the pavement outside their shops. They came out with their little hooks and started hanging their wares for folks to see. The humidity, splashing of water before the shops, hanging-the-wares, everything reminded us of India and the more we looked the more similar people were. Some people smiled at us, some could not mask their curiosity as they looked at us, children peeked at us shyly, some looked warily to see why mankind does things like running when there are hot Huevos Rancheros to be devoured.  We gave them all a pleasant time by thumping up and down their pavement on the way to the beautiful Pier.

Running_mexico

We beat it back to the hotel looking like dogs thrown into a stinky pool and panting like the best of them. The high temperature and humidity in the place had drenched us with sweat through and through.   A dog on the sidewalk gauged our conduct with professional interest. I felt that we must humor him and tried a dog shake to shake off the clinging moisture, but apparently I don’t make a very good dog, for the fellow was not impressed and turned away. The mild sea breeze we encountered at the pier was long gone. We may have made poor dogs, but red-faced monkeys? We could have taught them a lesson or two. We crawled up the stairs to the hotel lobby and the valet asked us where we had been with concern in his eyes. I told him we had run to the pier and back.

“To the end of the pier?” he asked, his eyes widening with surprise.

“Yes. “ said I

“Very good Señorita. Great Señor” said he.

I don’t know about you, but when we impress hotel valets (who came to know of our existence about an hour ago) like this, we beam widely. We are not the kind of folks who regularly impress those around us with displays of our physical prowess and this kind of enthusiasm strokes the dormant hero in us. We feel like we have the potential to achieve great heights and that is why you could have seen me charging down a beach and chasing a man with a parachute an hour before we were to leave for the airport.

Part 2: Parasailing Adventures.