Commuter Blues or Benefits

Everyday, I spend two hours on a train commuting to and from work. I use that time effectively as follows:

!) 8.33%: Dhyana – an extremely effective form of meditation taught to me by my father who excels at not only dhyana but also at the 45.01% chunk mentioned below. This art is to be practised with eyes closed in a supine position, preferably. (I settle to do this in an upright sitting position due to the circumstances on the train!)
@) 1.66%: The delicate period between Dhyana and light sleeping
#) 45.01%: I wouldn’t term it deep slumber, but my jaws plop open, my head inclines in obtuse angles, and generally draws several arcs along the way – all with eyes snapped tightly shut.
$) 16.67%: This chunk is during the evening commute. Standing while constantly observing those comfortably seated for visible signs that their destination is approaching. Once identified, I strategically position self near their seat, avoid eye-contact with others eyeing for the same seat, and make a polite move when the seat becomes empty. Just before plopping to sit, I offer the seat to others contending for the same seat. Decorum demands that they gush and let you sit.
Caution: This is a risky thing to do, and does not always pay off. Several times, I have people enthusiastically taking up my gallant offer, while I start out on Point ($) all over again.
%) 25%: Spent reading a magazine or a book, occasionally gazing out at the places we pass.
^) 3.33%: Also during evening chunk, moving towards the door that opens nearest the escalator on the station, so that I may start charging home as soon as the train doors open.

Save for points (!, @ and #), I also observe people around me. The train is quiet considering the number of people on the train. Most people indulge in the same activities mentioned above, only in varying proportions.

Yesterday, however, was different. We had in our midst around ten high school girls – all squealing and chatting excitedly. The perpetual frowners frowned at the cacaphony, the bored ones looked askance, the elderly nodded their heads at the young bloods. To me, the sheer enthusiasm in their voices was like music.

I started wondering about my own school and college days. It all seems so far away! I remember when I took up my first job in a software sweatshop in Bangalore, and boarded an eerily quiet company bus, I swore I would not be like that. That evening all freshers conducted a meeting, and decided to make our journeys more pleasant and fun. The next day, we presented our bus-driver with some music CDs, swayed to the music, swapped stories, giggled over trivia!

Somewhere along the way, our bubble burst, and we started sleeping during our long commute! When was that? I don’t remember – it was no historic event. Maybe, it was the pressure of a heavy work day, or just the fact that age restrains people, but slowly I mutated into a serious looking, boring commuter myself.

Niagara Fauna Research Crew Update

We all just came back from a hectic Niagara- Buffalo trip. For all those who are wondering what there is to see at Niagara, I would like to enlighten you that the fauna there is quite abundant. In fact, the smallest member of our crew, aged 1 year, did not waste time looking at some water pouring down a cliff – instead she studied with avid interest an “Annnniiillll’s” activities read Squirrel’s activities. She also saw 3 pairs of Chikidoos & Chikadees playing happily without a “Miaow” to disturb. (Please refer to previous blog on “BestSeller in Bratsdom” for more on Chikidoo & Chikadee)

Peechu Update:

No trip is complete without all the details. Here is an important update of an important activity in the life of the youngest member of the Niagara Fauna Research Crew. She went Peechas in all important landmarks:

(1) Las Vegas airport during our change of flight
(2) Maid of the mist boat tour at Niagara falls
(3) BART train on the way back from Niagara. Thaatha alias Grandpa displayed an agility belying his true age, as he admirably saved co-passengers from the terrific smell. He darted out of the train, trashed the diaper, and charged back in – Bravo Thaatha!
Reports have it that the station was closed to traffic for the next 1 hour before the source was isolated!!!!

So, that summarizes our Niagara trip. We saw several squirrels and some birds at Niagara Falls. Most importantly, we forged a long-lasting relationship with the squirrel there. The “Annil” hops on a flight several times a day to play “Ring-a-ring-a-roses” before every naptime and meal time with lil Kittens.

PS: We caught Fall colours at its peak, and gulped in the scenery, though the incessant rain did not allow us to take any photographs!

Here a cake, There a cake

We celebrated my daughter’s third first year birthday party yesterday – Phew! I have to practice saying this. Just to keep the record straight, I decided to blog it that she is really only a year old! As long as she doesn’t think every year ushers in 3 parties, I am fine!

Since I am known for my silly songs, I cannot pass up this opportunity of another one …
Lil girl Keerts had a club
Eeeaa EeEaa Ooo
A Princess Cake here, and a Mickey cake there
Here a cake, there a cake,
Everywhere a birthday cake!

My sister and family decided to wish her everytime she cut a cake or celebrated her birthday – a decision taken in haste, I can tell you! The strain was beginning to show. Calendars were drawn up, and reminders posted to track the various events around the globe! Feverish phone-calls ascertaining the day was indeed her party day! The anticipation of photographs taken in some fancy outfit! Oh – the mind swaggles (if ever a word like that existed!) See…..this is where I wish I were an artist – I could draw a pencil sketch of the brain, and several exclamation marks around the head, a pair of zombie-like eyes and a dotted line to show the tottered motion of a tired brain tracking birthdays – but, you get my drift, and I shall not babble further.

Anyway, the birthday parties served as a reminder that she is growing up amidst loving family and friends.

On behalf of my little girl, I thank “The Keerthana Fan Club” members for making her parties a huge success! Thank you Thaathas, paachees, athais, athimberes, pemma, peppa, maamas, aunts, uncles, akkas, annas and paapas too!

Columbus Jr

If Christopher Columbus were to announce his co-discoverer today, my father would probably stand a fair chance of making the list. Let me explain.

My father loves travelling, and usually our home is cluttered with travel magazines with fantastic photographs. It was his first trip to the USA last year. We had been to Lake Tahoe and Reno during the Winter season, and were thrilled with the amazing sights that the lake and mountains had to offer in the snow season. After a lazy night gambling at the casinos, and a hot supper, we hit the comfortable beds laid out for us in the suite.

The next morning we found ourselves opening the curtains to find the whole world bathed in fresh, white snow. There had been an unexpected storm, and mounds of snow had been dumped over the countryside overnight! The beauty is unimaginable especially for my parents – we hail from the Southern State of Tamil Nadu, India, and snow is never seen in those regions even at an altitude of 8500 ft. The fresh snow managed to rekindle the children in them, and they were filled with glee!

After the initial euphoria died down, my husband and I set about managing the immediate concern at hand viz. getting back to the Bay Area. We had travelled there by road, and by the looks of it, all roads leading in and out of the Lake Tahoe were blocked. Luckily, we had driven out there in a rental car. Soon, we were busy making calls to the rental car company arranging to return our car at Reno, booking our flight tickets out of Reno (before the rest of the people thought of the option, and flights got full), arranging a drop to the airport early the next morning etc. We had even arranged to extend our stay in our current suite by a day. Thank God for cell-phones!

Throughout this flurry of activity, my father sat with a pensive look on his face, evidently in deep thought, staring out at the snow. After the last of our calls had been made, my father’s voice crackled to life!
“Ahem Saumya”, he said. I’ve heard that tone of voice before, and it generally means his gray cells have been at work, and had something to proclaim.

I listened as he unfolded what he thought we could do in this situation. He said – “We have come here in our rental car, isn’t it?” I nodded, not sure where this was leading. He quipped – “In that case, why don’t we request the rental company to see if they will take the car back here, and see if any flight tickets are available?”

You see why I call him Columbus Jr??? After all the arrangements had been made, he comes and proposes the exact same thing! I must grant it to him though – in an entirely new country, new lifestyle and the works, he had assessed the situation, and come up with a novel idea. If only, he had paid attention to what was going on in the room ! Dear, dear parents – the very virtue that makes them so lovable!

As I pen this blog, I can already envision my daughter’s blog in a few years from now proclaiming me to be Madam Curie Jr – such is the Circle of Life!

Best Seller in Bratsdom

Putting my one year old daughter to sleep is a challenge posed to all, regardless of age, patience levels and relationship to her. Various methods are tested, tried, refined, and the process is ever-evolving. You see the little brat learns to resist and overcome every method too!

One of my recent methods has been to unleash stories on her. Though I am heavily criticized for the story-line from time to time, I have to fight for my rights here. Most of my stories contain an intricate mix of emotions. Consider the Chikudoo, Chikkidee story for example. The story has drama, suspense, thrill, anger and remorse!

** For those who scoff at my bedtime stories, and cannot identify the underlying emotion, I am highlighting the feeling **
Chikudoo and Chikkidi were two little birds who were best friends, and they were talking to each other: “Kuvvi kuvvi” they coo-ed. *Harmoniously*

While they were cooing to each other, a cat with malicious intentions stalked them. This villainous cat shall henceforth be referred to as “Miaow”, since in bratsdom that is the noise that cats make. How did the cat stalk the birdies? Ta dam ta dam ta dam ta dam ta dam ta taaa da dum – dish! *With dramatic sound effects*

Chikudoo saw the cat coming, and screamed to Chikkidee : “Fly away Chikkidee – Miaow is coming” *Thrill and action*
Chikudoo flew away, but the Miaow caught Chikidee *Suspense – what happens next? Will Miaow free Chikadee?*
Chikudoo saw that Miaow caught Chikadee, and angrily shrieked – “Miaow, I am velly angee with you, why did you catch Chikadee?” *Anger*
To which miaow retorted – “Go away Chikadoo, I am going to eat Chikadee” * What an unco-operative cat?*
Now Chikadee told miaow that she too is angry with Miaow for catching her.

Every cat can handle one tiny bird’s anger, but two birdie’s anger is too much even for Miaow. So, he starts crying, and says “Unh unh unh – please don’t be angry with me – I’ll let Chikadee go!” *Remorse*

And so, Chikadee and Chikudoo fly away happily, leaving a sad Miaow * The happy end*

There are more stories – like Mickey plays hide and seek story, Minnie Mouse learning to put “Kolam” in Trichy, and many, many more! Those willing to risk a narration of these can get in touch with me, or stand outside the door while I put my daughter to sleep the next time!

Children of Heaven

On one of our recent shopping sprees with our nephew, we landed up debating whether to buy Nike shoes or Reebok shoes for him. The arguments were strong for both brands:

Nike:

  1. We were in the Nike store when the argument was taking place
  2. We were nearly running out of energy after a tiring day managing three kids and 4 adults
  3. Cost-wise, we got a good deal.

Reebok:

  1. One of his brat friends, whose name I can’t remember, bought Reebok shoes when he came back from US after a holiday. So, it was a major standard to be measured against.

Fullstop. Period.

So, after haggling for what seemed like hours, we convinced him to buy Nike and set a standard of his own. Ultimately, he settled for a pair of football shoes (since, he had agreed to buying Nike, he could not agree to buying the model we suggested, could he?!) So, for the times when he might play soccer, shoes were purchased.

I could not help relating to the times we grew up in, when Nike and Reebok were names only dreamt of. My husband used to wear slippers to School – most boys did. When it comes to Athletics or running races, slippers could be extremely uncomfortable, and were prone to slipping off one’s feet. So, the brazen lads would run barefeet without a second thought to gravel or the coarse mud. One problem remained to be coped with. Most children were poor – and by the time you came back from the race to claim your slippers, they were stolen. In order to solve this – he used to slip the slippers on the palm of his hands, and run as fast as his legs would carry him, and as gracefully as slippers around his palm would allow him to.

When you visualize this, it seems hilarious. But alas, such is the state of affairs in most areas of the world. No luxury to think about shoes for every occasion or comfort! In a way, the capitalist economy has dampened the thrill of getting new things for our children – I can still remember the heart soaring when he used to get new things as children.

PS: I’ve borrowed the title from the movie (but this seemed an apt title)

Ducks & Fishes

Recently, my nephew and niece visited me in California. AS long promised to them, I took them to Sea World at San Diego. The day was bright, and my 2 year old neice, Shama, was excited to the core waiting for her namesake’s show to commence – “Shamu – the killer whale “. The show started and I heard a piercing squeal over the hum of the crowd, followed by a dull thud on my arm! Innocence personified, it was Shama squealing excitedly

“Chitthi – anga paaru FISH!”.

Rumour has it that the poor killer whale attempted to drown itself in its own pool on hearing what its namesake called it! That poor whale spends a major portion of its day consuming 180 pounds of fish, and proudly weighs 3000 pounds. To have an umbrella sized character call it a “Fish” is enough to dampen the spirits of even the most optimistic whale!

Without further damaging the whale’s ego, I moved onto the Penguin area only to have her proclaim loudly to the crowd : “AAAAAIIIII DUCK!!!”

I discovered to my utter horror that in her world all species in Sea World could be classified in two:
(a) Ducks
(b) Fishes

I loved the fact that they travelled 8000 miles across the globe to see ducks and fishes! Kids – tut tut tut!