Saturday, May 23, 2015

H, R, HR, and being your own FDA


It tells you something, when the headline of "Maggie noodles 2014 batches recalled by the FDA"  shares the front pages of newspapers   with the PM,  protests by farmers, planes landing on the Yamuna Expressway ,  black money,  and the Delhi quarrels between the CM and LG.

And while I can understand why someone needs to certify drugs , I never could see why someone needed to certify foods.

Until now. 

Long long moons ago,  there was much discipline in the way we lived . That was how "management" happened instinctively in families. Mostly by the mothers, the Executive Directors.  To be sure , there was HR.  Human Resources Management.

There was more consideration about the "H" in "HR" than the "R", or the Resources that lay around.

 We were our own FDA, and our own cops. And we did our own appraisals and took them seriously.  I count many HR managers amongst my friends, and they would possibly be the first to acknowledge the contribution of their domestic  "Executive Directors"  in making them what they are today.

  Matriarchs of families cooked seasonal foods, traditional foods, along with foods that were prepared in summer, sun dried well on terraces, and then stocked  for year round usage,  as accompaniments , on kitchen shelves. Kids guarded the drying stuff on the terrace as part of their summer holidays, and shooed off inquisitive birds et al. There was a wide variety in the foods we imbibed throughout the year.  At mealtimes as well as snacks.

One of the biggest differences between childhood then (> 50 years ago)  and today, is strong knowledgeable mothers vis a vis those today who mindlessly give in to every whim and fancy , in a family unconcerned about food values.   

I've known someone who once had to travel to the native place urgently, left her college going sons to their own resources,  and on return, indulgently mentioned that in the 4 days that she was absent, the fellows managed to consume 45 packets of Maggie noodles.  The empty packets were the proof. It wasn't that regular food was unavailable ; there were places that would provide a dabba service, canteens etc. Maggie didn't grow in your backyard, and had to be bought, just like the dabbas.  But their choice was clear.  (What my son wants , my son gets.)

I've known some ladies who aspire to make pav bhaji "just like in the hotels",  blobs of butter, shining oil, perhaps food color et al, and they never forget to mention how Coke or Pepsi is mandatory on those days because "In my house , it is a must, no one has pav bhaji without it..."  . 

And I have known well educated and informed ladies , who pride themselves on their Chinese dishes (after having attended classes) , who display horror and surprise at the fact that I cook all that without MSG.  Ironical, because the horror is misplaced. 

And what to say about mothers who dote on expensive high fructose corn syrup loaded fruit juices for their kids, and then crib and discuss on how fresh fruit prices have gone through the roof.  And they  are always the ones who look for kiwi fruits, imported apples , pears, extra large grapes, fair and lovely bananas,  and assorted fruits sold with individually suck fancy labels.   

I grew up enjoying seasonal vegetables and fruits.  There were certain fruit preparations which were traditional and seasonal, and one learned to appreciate and enjoy them.  As a child one loved sweets, but something that has always remained with me throughout half a century is that, doing exercise earns you a meal.  I didn't know then what a calorie was.  And anyone overdoing sweets (or any other  special item ) out of normal proportion at a meal, was gently admonished. Being able to eat like a glutton was never considered an achievement.    

The unwritten rule at mealtimes was that you ate what was served on the plate ,  regardless of whether the vegetable qualified as your favourite . Asking for seconds was optional.  And so you always started the meal with one representative of everything  that was  cooked,  long before someone designed the food pyramid. The various preparations  offered a plethora of tastes and textures.   Some of us tried shoving unpopular veggies behind dal katoris  and got found out.

And it was never all serious.  Raw mangoes, guavas (off the neighbor's tree) , tamarinds (red and green), Rai amlas ,  were all enjoyed secretly, with spices and salt,  on hot afternoons on the shady part of the terrace,  while everyone else napped ,  and matka cooled water drunk immediately because it tasted so sweet.  Families even made ice creams  in pots, where the churning work was outsourced to the kids and their friends. Seasonal fruits, saffron, sitaphal and such , were perennial favourites as ice cream flavors.  

Traditional snacks and festival food preparations had much to do with the seasons and the soil. These were prepared and relished during those days, and offered to friends, but we never made meals out of these. Unless of course, it was Puran Poli.  That too, in moderation .  We were introduced to delicacies of other parts on India too, and loved them.  But like the Bard said, "For everything there was a season...."

When food processors first appeared on the Horizon, my mother was in the process of acquiring a ghanti or electrified grain grinder.  The existing option was the manual stone grinding , which was laborious and time consuming and the public grain grinding places at the chakki,  where the entire output came with huge temperatures and assorted mixed grains from the previous grind. She felt the excessive commercial grinding power destroyed the nutrition due to the heat generated.  To this day, we see the difference between food prepared from the home grinding ghanti and commercially ground flours. I still have my mothers chutney stone, and use it. 

Clearly, this isn't the place to praise anyone.

But it is certainly the place to point out, that sometimes, taking unpopular steps is necessary to introduce and convince kids about good food.  There is something to be said about seasonal and traditional versatility   in our foods. Traditional practices of cooking foods, that not only preserve but even add nutrition (think cast iron kadhais).

And there is something to be said for taking the trouble to introduce kids to this at a young age.  So they can make sensible decisions when faced with a food ad tsunami, made up of 50%  inaccuracies .

It is difficult in a society, where some folks get their self esteem from being demanding and having people give in to their demands.  And a mother trying to improve some one's eating habits gets made fun off by those who didn't bother with them in the first place .

Like I said , we need to concentrate on the "H" in the "HR".

Today we are awash in the "R"'s as in Resources.  Most resources today come glamorized.

There is , as in life, an over emphasis on  "looking good".  Even in food.

Many resources claim that they make life easy. And convenient . Even in food.

Like stuff that discourages  active chewing, and encourages mindless swallowing.  

Sometimes, swallowing  of claims, rumors and distorted facts emblazoned in television and print ads.

(Having said that, I wonder if it is a sign of the times, that the first thought that came to mind when one heard about Maggie people being booked for excessive quantities of lead in the food,  was whether some one was getting back at someone ?  (banning 2014 manufactured batches in mid 2015, given the consumption rate of Maggi Noodles,  kind of boggles the mind..)

On second thought, would the FDA do similar actions  against cosmetics producers using harmful products in things like fairness creams et al ?  

At the end of the day, what really remains is the ability of generations to use native intelligence acquired thru generations, common sense , and be their own FDA....


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ambassadorial Times


I actually learned driving,  in 1967 , on an Ambassador car , that our family owned. I even remember the license plate number and the color of the car.

The earlier car was a sea-green Hillman , with the sort of horn you don't hear today, and as children , we always knew someone was reaching home, when a signature honking with a 1-2-123 beat was heard  on roads with the then minimal traffic near our house.  This car had trudged up hills, blown radiator lids in the ghats, and even successfully made it to a hill station , stuffed with passengers, and a radiator with a banana skin tied on top to replace a lid which actually fell into the valley. The banana skin thing was a truck driver's idea.  The car had also driven down the mountain to the coast, with passengers sitting on mattresses loaded on to the rear seats, en route to leaving a child (not me ) to a residential technical Institute in Mumbai (from where I am now actually writing this) .....

Growing families and the firm belief that larger spaces enabled the transport of entire sets of relatives from point A to Point B , probably made folks zero in on the Ambassador , which was acquired , after advancing for years and years,  through a  huge wait list.  In those days, the choice was between Fiat and Ambassador, and it was, regardless of the technical specifications,   like choosing between  a delicate girl, and someone who was healthier.  My mother even once thought the Fiat as "taklubi" , and I suspect the idea was that a car  should have an ability to be hardy, and to hold its own in severe circumstances  and not collapse .

Silence was never a virtue in these cars,  you never changed the hand gears according to speeds specified in some manual, but actually by sensing the engine sound as you accelerated. There was no power steering then, and turning these cars at sharp angles was an achievement that kept your upper limbs in excellent health. Seat were designed for maximum usage , and clearly with the possibility that people would sit on laps, given the amazing leg room in the rear seats. Bucket seats were unknown, which was nice. I mean why should the company decide how many folks can occupy one seat ? 

The trunk of the car was very spacious, and nothing was sacrificed  to, say, modern design considerations.   These cars also came with something we used to call, for want of a better word, "handle".   This was in addition to the usual "jack" , using which we learned how to change punctured tyres in our time.   Whenever the car did not start after pulling a thing after switching the ignition on, someone would get out with this handle, poke it in through a hole way in front below the radiator, and rotate the shaft in a motion similar to extracting sugarcane juice.  For some reason it was always done with a jerk,  and at some point, the air-petrol mixture managed to ignite and get things moving, so to speak. 

Trunks and Bonnets did not ever open with some magic click from the driver.  Someone always tickled something below the bonnet , moved it and lifted the bonnet, showcasing the engine in all its glory.  A  collection of so many interesting shapes and sizes, at so many levels, where you could use a screwdriver to minutely tune things, and some experts could even do it by ear. There were steaming radiators, where someone always shouted at everyone else to stand away,  while opening the lid, and occasionally got scalded by the hot water. Those were the days of a complicated arduous climb up the Bhor Ghat from Mumbai to Pune, with mind boggling fearful acute U bends combined with a sixty degree simultaneous slope,  and everyone stopped up the plateau, after a tunnel, with bonnets open, and radiators cooling, with folks refilling the water in there, while other folks bought ice golas from vendors who frequented the place.

Being part of a family function, could mean being the driver, who transported numerous relatives from house to wedding hall in minimum number of trips, thanks to people occupying every single available space in all the seats, and laps of people. Seat belts and such restrictive stuff had not entered the Indian market,  were probably considered fashion then, and no one knew what air bags were. Small kids often stood leisurely leaning back against seats (front and rear), buffeted by weighty adults who kind of packed the kid in. It was considered  completely normal to ask your driving age son to give you and your ten friends a ride to the house of your eleventh friend who was having a Haldi Kunku. And it was often a prize winning , wordless, sometimes quietly  protesting performance from a  son, accompanied by so many ladies , in rustling silks, jewellery, flowers , some younger ones on laps of older ones, heads hitting the roof,  all of them vociferously wondering if they just missed the turnoff  to whoever's house, and should they go reverse and go back....

The sturdy car bore all these excesses with equanimity.  It was built  for societies such as ours, with bad roads, potholes,  lots of travelling luggage of assorted shapes, folding stools, random additions to number of passengers at the last minute, and people with a knack for pushing cars when stuck. When there was an engine problem,  there were people who would delve in and adjust settings , screws and levels, since nothing was packaged and covered like a black box, a la today's cars.  It also made members of the family,  semi expert on things like Carburettors, fast and slow settings, Shellac, Delco, Bendix Wheel, Starter, Fuel pump, dynamos, Armatures, washers, accelerator springs and so on. And no one ever cribbed about drying a drenched Delco point after driving through flooded roads in torrential rains.

When I moved on to a Fiat consequent to a life status change,  everything was so light. In comparison, driving the Ambassador felt like driving a tank.  The Ambassador was like a strict tough school teacher, who ensured you put in the requisite strong effort changing steering wheel  gears, doing laborious sharp turns, and proper reversing.  Because all that training is good for you. (Like learning math tables up to 29).

 The Fiat was like a holiday ; everything was easier on the biceps and triceps, and for some reason the steering while , although not of the "power" type,  could be twirled occasionally with one hand. It was actually like a female version of the Ambassador.  By and by, our  Fiat retired after 38 years of meritorious service, and is in Vanaprsathashram at a automobile repair teaching department at a  polytechnic at our native place in Kokan..

Those were days of no expressways, people drove with windows open, sometimes assorted handkerchiefs and towels drying in the breeze, anchored somewhere inside the car.  Hot seasons saw wet khus mats on the top of the car.  You stopped when you saw someone selling local fruit,  or a chai tapri away to one side.  Or a famous vada place . Someone would see a temple and one would stop to  honor a grandmother's wish.   We didn't really have radios, but plenty of kids sang popular  songs and played antakshari during the journey.   External communication from the car was  simply non existent. (I mean if you said "Bluetooth", a shocked driver would  simply take you to the nearest dentist, and saying "Ice Cream Sandwich", would get the benefit of a strict maternal glare. )

Life has changed. Today's cars  talk less. They glide.  Trying to do it noiselessly, on roads that haven't changed at all. Its like trying to do a fashion show in the middle of Bhuleshwar. 

 They also cost more.  Most are air cooled,  and it is in the fitness of things, and probably not a coincidence, that the radiator cooling spot in the Bhor ghat , disappeared with the advent of the expressway.  Today's cars are also selfish.  One seat , one person.  Compulsory seat belts.  When malfunctions happen, entire packaged engine parts are changed. Banana skins are not used.  Looks are important. And so are dynasties. German, Korean, Japanese, US and yes , Indian.

Mumbai's weather has not appreciably altered from the old days, but every modern car now come with AC.  With the result, that people are unable to otherwise tolerate heat.  And they get easily rattled.  When life gets too easy,  you get demanding  and  lose temper easily.  Speed is of essence in everything. Whether it is the expressway,  responses, phone calls,  food preparation,  or just about anything.   Which includes losing temper.

 So you have road rages.

I suppose we need to move with the times.   The newer cars are here to stay  in their different categories, shapes, colors, makes, fancy engines and fancier names.

But  somewhere, there is a thought, that  we lost something wonderful, when we gave up our eclectic ambassadorial lives  in this modern world.

Clearly, it wasn't just a car. It was a lifestyle......   

      



     


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

SAHM and HFM....


One of the unfortunate side effects of being part of a Digital World, is that there is a need to label  everything.  You might question this,  saying one always used adjectives to qualify and describe stuff.

And there is a difference. The domain of the adjectives is more personal, local, subjective, and open to random useful change. Like milk, that boils, sometimes splits, curdles, aggregates, even gets hung up , and becomes paneer without making a song and a dance about it. 

 Labels is something more global. Someone decides what can be called cheese, and you comply, varieties/definitions/parameters  et al, without worrying whether you really need it. At some point you start believing in labels.  And forget that things were just fine before that.

Like with the label SAHM.  Otherwise read as Stay-At-Home Mom.   

In a boring digital world, this means someone who alternates between cooking, cleaning, child-managing, official picker-up of stuff around the house, catering to whims and fancies, visitors,  advising relatives,  and then stresses out at the lack of intellectual  pursuits and  what is called "me time" . (All these things are again labels, that mean something specific.  Intellectual pursuits defined by your professional training, and "me time" could be anything from stationery cycling , reading, writing,  gym , singing, socializing,  et al)

In my time, my mother was what you would call a SAHM.  Thankfully she couldn't be bothered by nomenclatures.   She was a post grad from Columbia University (1948) in Food, Nutrition and  Child Development, and was in her element  as a SAHM, despite assorted  obstacles in her path by those , who had very narrow views about things. 

She learned to drive  a car, so as to be useful when my father was posted away from home in his transferable job. At a time when  bread was becoming ultra fashionable at breakfast time, (with people mindlessly devouring it slathered with butter and sugar), her kids had fresh moong dal khichdi, sometimes bhakri, with poha papad  and ghee  along with a small glass of fresh orange juice, for which she would drive once a week to the big mandi to source her juice walla oranges, to the great delight of the vendors.  As someone who never tasted an egg in her life, she ensured that her kids had occasional omelettes with loads of dhaniya etc, and a lot of her effort was directed towards sourcing hand pounded rice, so necessary in our  B-12 deprived  vegetarian diets. I remember the Khadi Village shops would sell this rice, and after they stopped,  she had a threshing "hole" installed in our garage, and two old people would periodically come and do the slow manual dehusking of paddy she sourced and purchased  from admiring farmers on the outskirts of the city..

All this was just part of what she did.  She and my father played badminton and tennis on weekends, in a plot in our colony, with our neighbors. No special clothes, sarees tucked in , Bata canvas shoes, sometimes barefoot, and as soon as it was possible, we children started on our own regular sports in school and out of it.  One of my most abiding unforgettable memories is that of doing 30 suryanamaskars  everyday, till I was 13, without which breakfast  strictly, did not happen. 

She could do everything she asked us to do.  

When I started learning swimming, and  gave  the usual fake excuses, she got determinedly into the water, in her ancient swimming suit, and I  quietly followed suit, soon doing deep water jumps etc. All of us soon learned cycling (which she already knew)  and  eventually cycled daily to school  for miles. She was part of the group that often ran behind us, as we tottered on the bikes, pedalling on for dear life, during the learning days..  

This wasn't all.  She thought school was only part of what our brains attempted. And so we learned music, musical instruments, calligraphy with reeds, and  there was even a guy who came to teach sanskrit shlokas , because we went to English Medium schools, and she felt we shouldn't miss out on those.  There was never a running down of any cultures or religions.

The purpose of writing this is not to eulogize her.  Nothing would be enough. 

But the purpose is to show, how you do not need to fit,  in labels defined by society , as a Mom.  SAHM or otherwise.   You could have me-time, us-time or just time.

You have your own education, possibly in a unique filed. You continue to learn.  Your education is not over.  No one can be allowed to define your levels of expertise.  Your general life education is something you need to realize.  Your children are unique in the sense that you can guage their capabilities and guide them uniquely at various ages, and instill confidence in them. Young kids often pick up different languages  very fast below the age of 5.  Simply playing with different kids everyday.  Encouraging your kid to be bilingual or even trilingual is a great achievement.

Sometimes you find that you have inherent teaching abilities.  You do not need a job to prove anything to anyone.  Creating games for your kids as they play with friends at a very young age, could be your forte.  This is no less, and perhaps much more than doing something for someone, so he/she can make money out of it.

I have , at various times, been employed, unemployed, and now retired, but thanks to a general awareness of being gifted a wide education by my parents,  frustration and disillusionment has never been an issue.  It has been a continuing education all the way.

Being a Mom,  SAH or otherwise, is many things. Which do not need labels.  It is a smooth analogue sliding into one or more roles, innovatively, as per your needs .    

Sometimes it even improves your sense of humor

When I decided to take early voluntary retirement to attend to my father , and the kids education requirements,  someone asked me , "What do you do the whole day, now that you are home?  .  Dont you get bored ? "

 This required the taking of a deep breath , to cool down.

 I told them , "I do nothing. Take naps in the afternoon. "

Later, with the daughter into serious swimming, I did get into the pool myself to renew my aquaintance with the sport.  Waiting for her workouts to get over, I was once sitting next to the wife a a very highly educated person, in the viewing gallery, where she had stopped by  during her evening outing.

"Kya aap ko yeh sab pehenke swimming karnemein kuch sharam nahi lagti?"  was what her biggest worry was. 

Once again a deep breath. And then I let go .

"Kya hain na, jab mein yeh sab pehenti hoon na, tab khudko Madhuri Dixit samjhti hoon aur Pani mein jati hoon swimming karne....."

I cannot describe her expression in response to that.

Like I said, it improves your sense of humor.  

And so to hell with labels like SAHM.  Discard the labels.  

Be a HFM  (Have Fun Mom).   

                      
   




 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Trash Can Philosphy....


I once heard someone call someone a Trash can.  Clearly, not Trash, but Trash Can.

And it really set me thinking.

Contents of a Trash Can, regardless of their origin, history, nature and value, are basically regarded as good-for-nothing or plain junk.

While being called "Trash",  may have something to do with the thrower's concept of dirt clashing with  the  throwee's concept of right, wrong, and debatable, and the thrower's concept of beauty, misguided sense of high standards,  inability to tolerate anything other than one's own opinion, and a very touchy Amygdala,  being called  a Trash Can is something else.

It says that one is then a fitting receptacle for  everything useless and bad.

It describes an ability  to mindlessly accept anything that is thrown at you. And a pathological  inability to refuse. It could be really good useful things.  But thrown at you as trash, they lose value.  A trash can's job is to be available, open, and accepting. Sometimes it overflows, and causes problems, and dogs, scavengers, and others are known sometimes solve this peril of plenty. Cows in particular are excellent trash researchers.

Across the century,  as potential and now confirmed Trash Cans, there has been  so much physical imbibing of trash by us.

Harmful chemicals used in ripening fruits, and making them look so called color perfect.  Which we so admire and eat, every season. Mindless marketing of leafy greens grown  in suspect soils by the railway track, and an avid buying of these by those who think this is cheap.

Cooking substances cleverly adulterated by unscrupulous traders/manufacturers, and blindly used by an entire generation smitten by and taken in by ads, as metanil yellow, iron filings, sawdust , papaya seeds etc get a new life in your trash can anatomy.

Carcinogenic chemicals in shampoos, fragrances, deos and creams,  which hide maliciously behind shining hair, bouncy silky hair, fairness creams , age controlling creams as they lather and dry, leaving all the bad stuff quietly behind.

Careless food labeling, unverified and unchecked , particularly where ready to eat fast food is concerned.  A flood of trans fats, MSG and sodium, that hides behind fancy pictures, misleading advertising.  Unscrupulous  bottling of vague water , fancy labels, and selling to those , away from metros, desperate in thirst.  

There is even more when  someone is labelled a  Trash Can.

Mental imbibing  . Of Trash.

Mostly Pressure Trash .

The ability to accept random nonsense as gospel truth under pressure, mostly family and society related.  A newly developed ability to close eyes and ears and mouth at important times, sometimes defying anatomy in the case of ears.

The ability to lose the use of logic, because you are seen to stand out in defiance.

The ability to accept wide ranging abuse, and and the capacity to hear about it being justified.

The tendency to listen to rumors and accept it as scientific fact.
     
The ability to  stand as an onlooker, under some one's pressured teaching, when something terrible is happening to someone around you.

The ability to be part of a gutless herd , because it is fashionable to make sexist jokes, insult , and use shocking swear words , and to hell with everything and everyone else.

The list of Mental Trash is endless. 

In a world where everyone wants quick results, status, and   an attainment of some kind of dubious standards defined by someone selling something, be it false dreams or something concrete,  it is so easy being a Trash Can.

Sometimes, the Body rebels, and  sometimes the Mind.   Of course this assumes that the Trash Can has a mind.

The body may sometimes be treated by the advances in science, at huge costs.  The mind, already in Trash Can mode, is willing to accept it all.

When it is a question of the mind, the treatment is often very specific, involves many others, support systems, and observers.  Sometimes medicines too.  And it is all about remembering that you are the Trash can and not the voluminous Trash itself. And that, as in a real world, the Trash Can is to be emptied .

This is the age of cell phones and Apps.  There is an App for everything.

I wonder if we as humans could download an App called "UnTrash"  and install it somewhere in our brains.

Any Trash detected approaching you, and the App  would ring alarm bells in your ears, and create an allergy on your skin.    Should be so useful, given that most folks today walk around with earphones in their ears.

However.

Nothing will stop someone from calling someone else a Trash Can.   But then one can always be, an Intelligent Trash Can.

And you don't need to search or this Intelligent App on any Play Stores.

History says that the first Intelligent Trash Can happened way before Intel et al were born.

That was when we started the first compost pit.   







 







   

Friday, April 17, 2015

Memories, Melbourne and other Matters......


My mother grew up at a time, when computers were not only not there, they weren't even on any horizon that she could see.  While life went  on peacefully with traditional hardware making things in life relatively easy,  the software was mostly in the head.


At some point, calculators happened, and the initial reaction was that they threatened the "learn your tables" philosophy.  The progression, if one can call it that was interesting.  My parents and their contemporaries knew tables, of 1/4, 1/2,  3/4 , 3/2 , and one could sense immediate applications of the same when one accompanied folks to the mandai or vegetable market. The vendors probably knew the tables too, and a decent truthful calculation by the vendor often earned respect from the purchasing parent.   As children we learned tables of all integers till 30, and had to recite them daily before dinner.  Somehow, we escaped fractions.

It was not just the mathematics.  There was a method to remembering things.  You associated events with people. You associated, relatives with people. You associated professions with people. And if you discovered any cross linkages, you remembered those too,  creating more and more links and indexes as life went on.  All sitting nicely in your  brain.

As an adult, it was fairly common for me to meet at my home  in Mumbai,  someone from , say Pune,  and sense that maybe I knew them. A quick call to my mother, and a summary later, she would rattle off how the person was linked to some one's someone, who was connected to me in a  roundabout way.   In the Maharashtrian way of defining relatives, aunts/uncles/nephews/nieces  are never defined in general, but have specific names based on how they originated, which side of the family, and how close (once removed, twice removed etc). It was amazing that my mother's generation had this inborn constantly updated mental software, that allowed them to link people, and more important, store and retrieve this information at random and at will.

And so, when my mother identified someone  as someone's brother-in-law's maternal aunt's  cousin's daughter ,  a light was supposed to go off in my head.   And all this time it was totally clear as crystal to my mother, how we knew the person, as I tried to follow half way there, and gave up.  

One of the reasons they were able to do this, is because they continuously used their brains, and kept the algorithm alive.  "Use it or Lose it" was not an old saying, but was really meant for us.

Some of it rubbed off on me . For other times, there is always Facebook.

A few days ago, I got a message from someone in Melbourne. It was someone (SG) who often commented on some food poetry  I wrote on a friend's  recipe posts.  I didn't know the lady, but had, as they say, seen her around on Facebook.

Turns out, that her uncle (twice removed, ie not a direct relation, but through  her mother's aunt) was  on her FB friends list, and she found me on that uncle's friends list. ( It happens that I am related to him by marriage).  She ecstatically messaged me defining the complete people link in detail, and giving some of her own family history, and the place where she spent her childhood years.

Turns out that , my in-laws spent their early married years, with their young children, in the same city , same area, and when I messaged her back with this information, she was probably thrilled to bits.  She told me , that she had actually spent her childhood knowing my in laws, knew the entire family complete with their childhood pet names, and often stayed over at their place as a child.

This lady is older than me, (I am 65), and if you actually analyze all the linkages of the people that link me to her, I end up being an aunt of hers.....

As if this was not enough, the next evening, I got another message from someone else (SC) in Melbourne, mentioning my mother by name , and asking if I was her daughter. Enthused, we spoke on the phone, and it turns out that she knew my mother very well about 35 years ago, and then lost touch after going to Australia.  This lady too , is 71, and says she remembers meeting me at my parents place in Mumbai.

Then again, in a manner which would have had my mother nodding in approval, the talk got around to some relatives on my fathers side that she was connected to by her marriage, . Five minutes later, it turned out that she even knew the person i worked for before I retired, and was his first landlady in his early marriage years.

Just when I was taking a deep breath, she tells me that that she and the previously mentioned SG (also now in Melbourne),  both have great grandmothers who were sisters. And somewhere in between she lets me know that I sound just like my mother when I speak ......

In a way, all this gladdens the heart.  People look out for folks and initiate friendships, value old links, and respect genealogies.  It isn't all about  being on Facebook and "liking".  It isn't  about beeps and notifications reminding you about events like birthdays, family group messages and stuff.  It isn't about operating systems outside your brain reminding you about who is who, and offering you a template about what's a good thing to say to them.

I have nothing against computers, cell phones and their capabilities.  I have everything against lazy brains that leave everything to these contraptions, and blindly ape murdered English language syntax,  and substitute  screen games for human conversation.

Having heard about fancy chess folks  who play against computers, it  boggles the mind to think, that perhaps, my  mother , had she been alive today , could have played a game against a computer, trying to find the connection between me and the above two ladies. 

Possibly , the machine would have gone into an infinite loop trying to figure out who was  who, amidst all the agitated relational databases and indices .

She would have won, hands down.

Mind you, hands down, but not idle hands. She would have been busy making something for her grand kids, while explaining the linkup to me.....

Just  remembering her today.  Her birthday . She would have been 98......

      
 




     

Saturday, April 04, 2015

#Mychoice Festival


Deepika Padukone's  #mychoice  #Empowerment Video, made by Homi Adajania went viral over the Net. Very slickly made, geared to a certain audience, it evoked tons of reactions, and everyone and their uncle are now making videos .

What is not known is that this has inspired so many others , to whom #Empowerment  is something someone spells wrong, instead of saying "I am powered" .

Never mind. What is important is the POWER and the #mychoice video

Balu Rasad Zadav,  well known exponent of the saying "when you empower a politician you empower generations to come", has just made one.  Set in a field, green after unseasonal rains, interspersed with cows from his shed , he sits on a charpoy, bare chested in the sun, chewing away many things. " Its #mychoice, whether I head the state, or a family member does. Its also #mychoice to decide where to apply the word "Communal forces". So what if I cannot spell empowerment.  . (Turns around and spits, as a sidey dives with a spitoon singing Gimme Red ).  "The Railways have never been the same since I left. Harvard students  never came after I left. So finally, i had to send my 40 year old married daughter to a Harvard Conference. You must have seen her photos at a lectern speaking at the Student Conference.  Backdrop Dekho ji.  These Harvardwallahs are so communal, they said they did not invite her. Why ? Because she is 40 ?  (Chews some more, moves it all into the left cheek. Chews some more. Decides to spit, then changes his mind.) .Arre Bhai, in Delhi, 40 and 50 is the new 25. Powerful children of  powerful parents are permanently qualified . Age is just a mind set (Chews angrily, and spits to the right, misses the spittoon.  The flunky standing at second slip, moves into first. That's empowerment...      

Then there is Pinjrada Wall,  who has inadvertently appeared in so many videos, that he decided to finally make an official #mychoice video.  Naturally, set in the capital, amidst Lutyens architecture, he is seen driving up, sorry, being driven up, in a box type car, his face wrapped in a muffler.  "Its #mychoice what headgear to wear,  and yes, the Gandhi topi certainly keeps the muffler in place along with my red tooth contraption" .  He runs up the entrance steps of what could be his office, followed by a bunch of fellows in topis but without mufflers.  They are received with flowers, and once in the office, he beams as he sits on the chief's chair. Removes his topi, places it in front of him, smiles at the others seated opposite him, and starts plotting for a meeting. A knock on the office door, and he says "Kam in e..."  causing whoever was outside to freeze.   It's the cops with a police dog, come to sniff bugs in his office. The dog keeps pulling away from the door, refusing to go in. Pinjrada Wall is heard shouting    "Kam in e..."  louder, and the police dog drags his minder away from it all.  He probably knows, that the next word to be heard from the sanctum in "Kutte" , and he doesn't want to be part of any #mychoice videos.  On his way, the minder respectfully nods at Admiral Lakshman Das, Unshant Vibhushan, and  Yogasan Ladav, all walking away .

And how can you forget Mantri Tu-asa-kar,  minder of that wonderful small place on apna west coast,  who has been so stung, by so many folks in various levels of exposure , lying unchecked on the golden hot sands. He has been left with no alternative to make his own #mychoice  video, exhorting folks via a loudspeaker, as he rides in a jeep on the sand, telling them to cover themselves. " Who will marry you if you turn dark ?  It is a question of your future. Please getup, cover yourself; go have something cool in the cafe ; 20% off  to those who mention my name ".  After several rounds dodging brave ladies in sarees doing parasailing on the beach, and flying above him, he returns back to his office. The film shows him being saluted by his staff and escorted to his office, through a crowd on nurses gathered silently outside.  "Ab kya hua !  Kai zhala! "  he exclaims as he sinks into his deep chair with a towel on the backrest.  He receives a delegation , as his AC is put on its highest setting. Shuts his eyes, leans forward, and  tells them,  "All this sitting in the sun, will make you black, and ruin your marital prospects , so first thing is go home, apply besan haldi, wash your faces and come back again tomorrow ....  My government is committed to being Fair and Lovely ...."  

Hmm.

It really is not possible to review videos made by so many worthies.  Then someone had an idea of a shortcut method, that of editing videos of legislatures where the members tended to have free for all fights , threw hardware around and ran to the well to do a chorus in front of the speaker.

It's OK. Not everyone can be Deepika.

Not everyone can wear fashionable clothes, brilliant smiles,  proudly display artistically  radially flying hair (which actually reminds me of an Amul ad), and display what filmy types describe as a "come hither"  look.

All the better, for it allows the public to tell these guys, to simply "go thither"  and stay there.  


Friday, March 27, 2015

Aga Aga Mhashi....

Forget the World Cup 2015.  Dhoni. Smith. Maxwell. Kohli . New Zealand.  AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn.

Cricket , as we know it, has been through a number of changes.  Test Cricket, stuffily, but unwillingly turning a blind eye to One Day 50 over cricket; which in turn sniffed at, but still allowed the shenanigans of  T-20 Cricket. 

The original red cherry, changed color occasionally, with the advent of games played after the sun had set (some say on the British Empire).   The number of balls you could bowl, to get a team out , changed, depending on whether it was a 50 over One Day game or T20, twenty over game.  While bowlers got desperate and batsmen whipped their bats around , someone decided how many threatening balls you could bowl in an over, and made a rule. 

Cricket test whites, a completely inappropriate color for 5 days of swishing and falling in the outfield , not to mention rubbing balls on trousers  to polish them , have only benefited dhobis and now given way to kindergaarten type matching track pants and tees in horrible colors , thanks to completely irrelevant companies agreeing to sponsor costs. 

They even made rules, for where fixed number of fielders could stand for part of the game, in a circle way inside,  from the boundary. It is however pertinent to note that the Silly nomenclatures  such as ,  silly point, first slip, second slip have been kept unchanged.  Some guys went unnecessarily ballistic putting magic lights on the stumps and bails,after the stump microphone stuff got boring  with the wicketkeeper chitchat.

Which brings us to the point.  (And it is not Silly .)

The innovation in cricket. Moving stumps. Also alternatively called Sustainable Eco friendly Cricket.  

Refer the above graphic. 

Introducing, Dagdu, the first brand ambassador, and Aga Mhashi, the bovine second.

Aga Mhashi , the moving medium, that holds the stumps.  Needs no bails. Uses no wood . No cutting of trees.  Dagdu bats in style within a crease defined by 1.5 tail lengths. The aforesaid tail belonging to Aga Mhashi.

The pitch has copious amounts of straw, to keep the dust in check as well as for Aga Mhashi to imbibe , during the  team Milk Interval happens on and off  the field.

The amazing thing is that about wide balls.  Anything that gets bowled outside the four legs of Aga Mhashi is a wide ball, and the batting team gets 4 runs.

You can do away with the wicket keeper altogether  sometimes. And make him a slip or something. (Which might just be possible given some slippery stuff which could be around unpredictably).

 Anything that hits the batsman's legs, and then Aga Mhashi's legs, and bypasses the new slip (taking his name seriously) ,  gives you Leg byes, as Aga Mhashi turns and glares at Deep Fine Leg.  The no of runs you get depends on how many Aga Mhashi's legs the ball  touched.

You may not even need umpires .  Maybe just one at the bowling end.  The square leg umpire will possibly cease to exist, and so will the third umpire, who had nothing to do than watch TV the whole day. 

A careful perusal  of the game,  the actual play, a chewing of the cud while  coming to a decision, and a solid whack of the tail on the batsman's rear will indicate an "out!", while a sneeze and a snort will give him a "life" .

While the ICC is still coming to terms with this, BCCI has instructed IPL to ban red color uniforms on teams .  A suggestion to ban red outfits on T20 cheerleaders was shot down because of inadequate red yardage. Someone has typically gone to court on this, and the head of BCCI is currently consulting temples and astrologers because of Aga Mhashi's  place in our culture,  and the need to cut down on the  use of wood.

The software companies currently minting a fortune,  designing and coding softwares that show imaginary extrapolated balls flying over the stumps, hitting middle stump, missing leg stump etc, are in the throes of   alternate system design, given that the position of stumps will now be a function of time. At some point Aga Mhashi might sit, and stumps may be at knee level, harking back to the old  cricket days, with wicket keepers mobilizing to pounce.

Lot of theoretical research happening at the world's leading universities in England, using perturbation theory , trying to predict the path of the  natural movement of Aga Mhashi throughout the session, and therefore the stumps.  It has also introduced a new method of bowling where the ball zigzags to the batsman.  

Someone suggested that the symbol for the partial derivative in the differential equations used to predict random stump movement, was similar to Aga Mhashi's tail, and the ICC Committee has referred this to a select committee in Baramati, which has much bovine expertise.  Several Bihar politicians who have life long expertise in Aga Mhashi prototypes, as well as  Power Play, have been co-opted onto this committee.  

In the meanwhile, cricket goes on.  New Zealand and Australia, preparing for the One Day 50 over World Cup 2015 final ,  are thrilled for their respective dairy industries, and plans are afoot to get a prototype of Aga Mhashi as part of the presentation party during the final.

Dagdu, the iconic batsman pictured above, just had a question.  

He wanted to know, rather,  his bowler wanted to know,  if SarpaTee (underarm)  balls would be allowed, now that the stumps were raised and moving.

It appears that one of the Chapell brothers of Australia had something to say on that.     

Details awaited ....           

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Analogue thoughts in a Digital World....


Just came across The Death of Common Sense : When Love and Grief becomes "Disordered"....

We as humans have unique brains that evolve in a very fine way,  using external stimuli, internal memory systems,  reactive systems, information feedback loops and seamless connectivity with biological processes.  Every human being is unique, and knowingly or unknowingly , is great enriched by one's living experiences.  Be they, happy, sad, terrible, shocking, or what have you.

  Life actually flows on, with a large number of mental and physical tributaries joining in and many off-shoot flows departing along the side , all over time. And one often sees solutions to life problems within one's self, while being part of this flow.

  One of the undesired side effects of the digital age we live in, is the tendency to compartmentalize things and give them names. The tendency to sit on the banks of the flow and make smart comments.  Which are then organized, and uploaded somewhere,  celebrating one more label, one more theory, one more fancy phrase, where a hand on the shoulder would have sufficed.

Digital micro memory management and mega speeds have got everyone enamoured of high speed machine thinking, without paying attention to the entities being crunched. Fast publishing . 

And so today we have  the New England Journal of Medicine(NEJM)  defining a "prolonged Grief Disorder (?)"  (question mark mine),  described as " "condition is characterized by intense grief that lasts longer than would be expected according to social norms and that causes impairment in daily functioning."   The article also mentions possible treatments with antidepressants/antianxiety drugs.

Hello !   Life, regardless of how standardized it is as in the west, and how varied and non standard it is , as in the east, has one thing in common. 

The subjects are human beings, who are all unique, have unique brains, which have learned and developed abilities, based on the society around them. Something that causes grief in one type of society may never get a second look in another type of society.  Some societies have too much standardization built in.  In western societies, average "bereavement leave " is 3 days.  And pharmacology kicks in when understanding fails.

Grief is NOT a malady.  It is a state of mind, not always a consequence of a physical personal loss; but it is a slow coming to terms with a turn  one's life has taken.  It could be  age related loss of elders, a sudden unexpected loss of someone, or shocking circumstances,  or some event related to a close friend or associate.

It is not something that happens, and then gets cured because some medicines teach your mind to think differently.

Societies have their own systems to alleviate grief of people. It is almost always based on interaction with others, and not on either isolation of self  or organized social interaction "norms"...

Some societies have lots of rituals, where the person is kept busy planning and participating, with the help of family, close and extended, while the grief flows silently in the mind in the background.  These rituals are not always religious, but are sometimes social. There are days specified /suggested  for getting back to your normal life after a loss, but that is about physical life. 

The mind is its own person, and takes its own time. All a function of a specific person who is grieving.  You cannot and should not push it. 

I have known situations where someone lost a child shortly after birth, and the immediate  aftermath, was spent dismantling cradles and things that would affect an aged elder closely related to the child, who was arriving, was physically afflicted with something that would become worse on facing the mental trauma on being subjected to such sights.  Personal grief quietly stepped aside to let something else occupy the visible mind. This, in a society, where elders in the family are valued, and not wished only on specific days etc.  The grief quietly seeped back, and kept simmering as it were, occasionally bowing to external situations, which was like a slow nuanced  effort to come back to normal.

Other situations, where  the answer to "To be or not to be"  was revealed quite suddenly in an earth shattering instant.   A grief , preceded,  sometimes followed by, a sense of huge anger, despite knowing that normal human life has a beginning and end.  A wanting to be alone, but social responsibilities, and memories of how a previous generation handled these things, teaching a thing or to about handling the grief.

Sometimes , losses are anticipated, and predictable. Even so, the feeling of hurt is the same. One often looks inward then, imagining the good times in the past. It is about a mind trying to quietly comfort itself.  The human mind is a very strong entity, and must be given the freedom to come out of it all, in a way it knows best. Forcing neurons and synapses to do things based on medications spoils it all . 

Grief is never about death alone.  It can be over disillusionment,  hurt,  sudden frightening-but-not-yet-life-threatening health issues, and unpleasant surprises .   This kind of grief sometimes explodes irrationally,  but then again, having people around  to vent it on, and talk it over with , often works , to start with.  This is not an organized talking, but a reaching out to those one values.  Sometimes, one quietly writes, perhaps to get it all off, as they say , because the written words can often be later deleted, but a hurtful remark to another person cannot. Such things work in societies where nuclearness is not the norm, and folks hang around the bereaved, trying to fill in the unhappy blanks, as it were , in  someone's troubled life.  While no one thinks they are interfering, these societies also have experienced family folks who can sense if someone is, and such folks are quietly discouraged.

And so Grief is NOT a disorder.  It cannot be quantified, and classified at discrete levels. Simple, Complicated, Post Traumatic Stress based, etc etc.  Barring situations where someone turns violent or goes into a dead faint, pharmacology is clearly not the answer.  A societal understanding  and empathy is.  

You cannot define what is a good period to grieve. You also cannot classify causes of grief.

What causes grief to someone, is a very very personal thing.  A lifetime of training the mind, based on one's bringing up, life experiences, environment, and realizing limitations ,  teaches one to handle it all, and one emerges stronger for it, in one's own time. 

Multitasking is a gift to mankind, and our brains do that in wondrous ways, constantly in learning mode.

We call that Common Sense. 

You cannot medicalize it.  And you cannot let it die. 

Because that grief , will be very very difficult to handle.....    

   

   



    

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cycle memories.....


Vehicles, per se, are entities that enable you to go from point A to point B, faster, than you would, on two God-given legs.

And back then, more than half a century ago, in a city that is often referred to in Marathi as  विद्येचे माहेरघर or the "Maika of Education",  children wold learn cycling as soon as they started primary school.

The one big gents adult size cycle, would be used by folks from small kids to older adults.  Insufficient height never deterred anybody, as kids stuck their legs across through gaps below the horizontal bar near the seat, and pedalled away at an angle, for any amount of distance. Then there were kids who managed to sit on the cycle seat with someone's help, developed a pedalling style where the pedals lost contact with the foot 50% of the time, but you managed to go forward, and stopped only by braking  and having the bike tilt sideways, as you reached a desperate leg to the ground. 

Learning to ride a bike was a family thing with brothers and sisters running alongside, holding your bike from behind, and beseeching you to fast-pedal, as you looked ahead, along the small road in your colony.  The fast pedalling took your mind off the anxiety , triggered by thoughts of someone letting go of their bike support, and by and by you realized that you created balance when you concentrated on the work in hand.  Several bushes were banged into in desperation to make the bike stop, till the existence of front and back (left and right) brakes was noted.  You never ever made a fuss about scraped knees, thorn pricks, bumps on the head etc. 

There would be cycle shops at almost every corner, renting bikes by the hour and day, handling punctures, and pumping air into tyres and tubes.  There were ladies bikes, with the missing central bar, and standard handle bars, in the sense that you did a sedate ride to school/college etc, and never gave the impression that you were racing, even if it was only against time.

Raleigh was a big name and it was a big day when I got my one and only bike.  Unlike today, vehicles then were lifetime purchases. For some reason , we all had to acquire a municipal badge to use a bike on the road, and this was affixed to the bike.  We also had small battery lamps which we would attach to the front of the handlebar when we rode in darkness.  Really posh folks would have something called a "dynamo lamps" which burned brighter the more you pedalled, thanks to some armature stuff attached somewhere near the rear wheel.

Riding miles and miles to school was very common, and one would often come across classmates on the road, and ride alongside discussing homeworks, teachers, rumors about where cops were checking cycle badges, etc.  When you were a bit early, there was an element of "cruising"  in your ride, as you  pedalled at a "comfort" pace. Cycle stands amidst trees in school compounds were very common, thanks to the easy availability of trees and compounds in those days.

There were often cycle trips to places of interest around Pune, carrying tiffin with us. And it was a very common site to see students and young kids, with badminton rackets fixed through the pillion carriers, cycling urgently to practice, early mornings and evenings.

Many of our schoolteachers also rode to school on their bikes, and it was common to see many many women using bicycles , some in uniforms, some in 6 yard sarees, and some , simply more at ease in 9 yard sarees.  No one gave them a second look.

It was , of course, customary for older folks to crib about random unruly cycle traffic around 10 am  in the morning and 5 pm in the evenings on weekdays, more so on the arterial popular roads.  
 
Of course , we had our share of those who did their version of eve teasing by letting off air in the bikes, and passing comments, but things were never as blatant as they are today. The words "cops" and "corruption" were then unrelated (to a young mind), and the most that happened when  they caught you without a municipal badge (then called billaa) on your bike, was they let off air from your bike wheels, and shouted at you, making you late for wherever you were going.

Going "double seat"  carrying friends either on the rod in front, or sitting pillion on the "carrier" was considered an advanced thing.  Small kids sat in an attachment to the handlebars in front, where there legs hung out over the front wheel, as they faced the traffic.

Cut to the time ,  in the last few decades of the last century, when my own kids were small,  and one remembers riding a cycle, doubleseat,  to the kindergaarten, to drop and pick up the child. Living on a wide institutional campus, it was common to see older male adults, giving doubleseat cycle rides to family adult females, proceeding to work/school etc.

 This was not in Pune, but in Mumbai, which, if you exclude our campus,  clearly, did not have the original bike culture described above. 

When the bicycles finally happened in Mumbai, it was with fancy gears, handlebars that made you bend in a permanently racing stance,  wearing some kind of skin tight unbreathable knee pants in wild colors, and  a helmet on the head to top it all. 

There was never a leisure element to these rides, it was almost always a fast dedicated kind of ride.

Today, in Mumbai, and possibly in Pune too,  motorized two wheelers with fancy names and powers have replaced bicycles. When kids get bicycles, they have training wheels, because no one has the time to run behind them , to teach them balance.
There  is a sense of obsolescence built in , given the bike sizes, clearly teaching today's kids, the theory of use and throw.

Buying a bicycle is no longer a big life event.  It is like buying a phone. There are constantly enhanced models.  We copy the west in the paraphernalia, but conveniently  ignore the road discipline, and the need for dedicated  cycle paths , for those , who still wish to commute, without petrol and diesel.   Cycle badges no longer exist, and cycles now cost more than a quarterly suburban first class railway pass.

People now buy stationary bikes, with no balance issues, and pedal away in place, withe the handle bars having laptop/notebook/cellphone attachments.  The only person you interact is with yourself, with your ears covered with some headphones, supposedly making music, while something else  simply records your distance in kilomteres as you pedal away , going nowhere.

And so it is with great delight that I present to you, folks in Mumbai, who are actually going somewhere useful, on their bicycle, possibly with all the gears missing, no fancy outfits, and just an amazing entrepreneurial streak.

Out in residential and shopping areas, there is sometimes a typical cycle bell that tinkles, indicating the arrival of the  Idli Wada bicycle  vendor.  Fresh Idlies offered for amazing prices, along with yummy accompaniments like saambar and chutney.  And yes, I see  dosa gridle too.... 

The bicycle and its attachments are a wonderful study , for , I think, students of management and design. 

The photo is courtesy Pushpa Moorjani , from her blogpost here.

Almost 27 years ago, my mother, then in her early 70's,  was visiting us , and my son, then in primary school, dragged her to see his new bike. It was something with  fancy easy rider handlebars, but was extendable to an adult size. Being on the taller side, he would drive it around confidently.

Grandchildren think grandmothers can do anything. This grandmother could cycle. 

He wanted to show off his bike, and cajoled my mother into riding on my own normal conservative ladies bike, with him on his fancy bike , for a short distance to the Devi Temple on campus.

On the return trip, fortified by prasad, the fellow insisted on exchanging bikes. His grandmother obliged. And folks on the Temple road were treated to a grandma on a easy rider style high handle bar cycle,  pedalling to the best of her ability, much in a Kakubai-meets-Peter-Fonda  style and trying to keep up with an excited grandchild.  

Much applause.

Today, the cycles are no more, the grandma is no more, and the children have grown up and moved on.

But the cycle memories remain......





Thursday, March 05, 2015

Kya Aapke pass ye sab hai ?


My friend Zephyr Nag just posted  Time to Give Beauty A MakeOver .  All about how commercial interests succeed so well today in always keeping young folks insecure where beauty/fashion/etc are concerned.

 5 years ago , I posted  what you see below.  Clearly, nothing as changed.

Now reposting, in solidarity with my friend Zephyr ...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 
RICH ME,  POOR ME

A friend posted this on FB.

A site with the amazing name of 99labels.com has compiled a list of must-have fashion items for men and women . And they then ask you to indicate what you have and what you don't have , or are dying to acquire or whatever.....

My already open mouth kept getting bigger and bigger (along with the eyes), while the brain gets into a fast reverse mode. I don't even know some of the things.

Till a few years ago, a single pair of chappals was just fine; sturdy enough for daily skirmishes to get a foothold on the steps of the Mumbai buses, and beautiful enough to wear on "occasions". Fashion magazines were what you saw at an upmarket dentist's before he delved deep into the recesses of your mouth, and you ignored all those women shown wearing sarees the wrong way, mostly in what was considered a shameless manner.

The list kind of puts me in my place, socially.

Here is my take on the stuff.

For Women

1. Little Black Dress : Never had one. Little would be a misnomer.

2. Black Flats : But I've always worn flat black chappals or sandals. No heels, mostly out of consideration for other folks, possibly walking alongside. Teetering on heels is not considered smart.

3. Gold Hoop Earrings : The last time I wore them was in class VI. At that time they were not called hoops, but rings. I lost one that year carelessly, and then the earring variety changed in class VII. I now wear them as bangles.

4. Mac Waterproof Mascara : Not that I swim with full make up, but I wear glasses, which actually have a hidden benefit. People on the other side (in front) see my eyelashes automatically bigger due to the lens curvature.

5. A Black Clutch : I don't understand this fuss. Why a clutch ? Why not a decent shoulder purse? And why make a fuss about "hands-free" phones and stuff, when you ignore "hands-free" shoulder-hanging purses ? We always use a clutch when we go buying vegetables, so that we have one less bag to carry, and its easy to use it frequently at the various fruit and veggie stalls. And you can always stuff it amidst the beans and tomatoes.

6. Sling Bag : This is my eternal fashion statement. I have tons of these, in various sizes, and once even lugged a chutney stone by train , from Pune to Mumbai in one such bag, to the amazement and delight of the ladies in the second class ladies compartment of the Deccan Queen Express....

7. Gucci /Hermes-Berkin/Chanel/Prada Bag : Are these the guys who have been copying Linking Rd stuff and selling it in air conditioned shops, with uniformed security, and heavily accented two dimensional sales women ?

8. Light-Colored Cotton Saree : Is this anything to ask ? This is like asking if I have potatoes in the house. Just for the record, I have several. Sarees as well as potatoes.

9. Summer Scarf : In my childhood, this always meant something tightly wrapped around your hair and ears, when you cycled for early morning 6 am PE classes in college. But mostly in winter. While I can see , why someone tearing through Pune's two wheeler infested polluted traffic on a hot day might need one, I've realized today, that loosely throwing one or tying it fancily around your neck, for no particular reason , probably classifies you as smart.

10. Bright Colored Umbrella : We never match our umbrellas to our clothes. Tough and sturdy black umbrellas that fold once, are the ultimate fashion statement , amenable for use as protection from rain, and occasionally as a weapon, in Mumbai. Colored, beautiful umbrellas are OK, but have been known to be stolen from dripping buckets, kept outside Xerox shops, when you go in to get some important work done.

11. A Red/Purple/Blue Handbag - Why not orange and green ? Be patriotic, folks.

12. Over-Sized T-Shirt : Actually , 40 years ago, we started this fashion, when extremely tight fitting tees were considered hurtful to their eyes, by the elders. And we , naturally obeyed. Today this is being abused by folks wearing undersized tees and showing bare midriffs.

13. Pencil Skirt : What an amazing name for a short saree petticoat !

14. Black Crepe/Georgette Saree : I don't know about the "black", but I have an old one that goes under the name of "Binny's Georgette", which was avidly aspired for 30 years ago, and bought on some special occasion. Currently faced with the danger of being recycled into a kurta.

15. Louboutin Shoes/High Heels : Suffice it to say, I don't move in high circles, Louboutin or otherwise. I am so very down to earth, sometimes I even sink.

16. Le Smoking Jacket/Suit By YSL : Please. I don't smoke. Even if I did, I wouldn't need a jacket for that; shirts on which ashes fall can always be washed in Surf Ultra/Ariel.... And no suits, YSL or Raymonds or whatever, .....

17. Trench-Coat : NO. NO. NO. We have enough trenches dug on the road outside. Wearing a coat to fall inside them is a totally bad idea. Besides sweating buckets in the trench, you wont be able to climb out , using the girders.

18. Crisp White Cotton Button-Down Blouse/Shirt : Contrary to what folks at 99 labels say, my mother and mother-in-law actually had a monopoly on that , and it almost became a fashion statement since you wore it on just about any Kanjevaram silk saree, with a great disdain for "matching" . While shirts are not my kind of style, crisp white cotton kurtas may be seen in my part of the cupboard......

19. Solid Wash Jeans : While I haven't worn some for quite a few years, I must emphasize that they were always solidly washed. It surprises me that people don't wash their jeans, and they finally develop slits and tears, which are then flashed as fashion by shameless girls and aging heroes who should know better.

20. Leather Jacket : Are you mad ? Decent, God-fearing, law abiding ladies driving 38 year old Fiat cars, don't need leather jackets.

21. Pair Of Black Pumps : In my time, these were installed in gardens , and water gushed out of them. Maybe some can wear it in the Mumbai monsoon, and enjoy the water that will gush out as they walk. I have nothing more to say about this totally unnecessary footwear..

22. Knee-Length Boots : I give up. You will never understand the need to scratch the feet, and remove footwear so many times a day, when you visit folks, temples , kitchens etc. If all you do is oscillate in discos, then I can understand the need to have a weighted base.

23. Silver Earrings/Baalis : These are pretty, and always so delicate. I like to see them on younger folks, who carry them so well. But I am from the old-is-gold generation.

24. Leather Gloves : See item no 20. And no, I don't garden. because there isn't one.

25. Sexy Black/Red Stilettos : I always thought stilettos were weapons. Umbrellas are so much better. Besides, I challenge anyone to notice and describe my footwear in a general crowd. My one-of-a-kind chappals stand tall.

26. Turquoise Stone Bangles : I do have an antique one, from my late mother, which also has some other shades.

27. Ipod : Personally , no. Though the children always have one of these stuck in their years, to avoid hearing when I call....:-)

28. Platform Shoes : No. God has given me such a wonderful natural platform, I don't need these shoes. Then there is always the nearest suburban train station, and I am hoping they soon have the new Metro station near us...

29. Sexy Swimsuit : Hanging on to sides of the pool, drinking stuff, making eyes at similarly behaving men, and being photographed at stretching angles necessitates this item. One swims, but in decent Speedos (conservative cut), and once in the water, no one knows what style you wear. And one must have consideration for what other folks see. Cant inflict shocking visuals .

30. Toe Ring : This isn't fashion, it is tradition. Next question.

31. Tattoo : No. My obsessions are in my head.

32. Black Tank-Top : It occurs to me that sometimes a shorter version may pass off as a saree blouse, but haven't tried that as yet.

33. Hot-Pants : Hot or cold, an emphatic NO.

34. Kajal : Of course . Since childhood, Though folks keep saying it doesn't suit light typical Chitpavan hazel eyes.....

35. Banarsee/Kanjivaram Saree : Now you are asking ! Finally , something I love. I have many.

36. Beach Sarong - I think you got my name spelling wrong. And forget the beach.

37. Oversized Sunglasses : No. An oversize person must economize with photo sensitive prescription glasses of normal style.

38. White Salwar Kameez : Again, now you are asking ....yes of course...

39. An Evening Gown : You mean a night one ?

40. Classic Leather Belt : Belts imply waists . I think they are , in my case, also a waste.

41. Lingerie By Victoria'S Secret : You mean so many years after the East India Company, they still haven't figured out her Secret ?

42. Summer-Hat : A few of these. Some saying Indusladies, some saying Cricket India, and one panama style cap. There used to be a wide brim straw hat, but someone stepped on it in the rush once.

43. Chanel/Hugo Boss/Dior/Ysl Perfume : I have some stuff from Bath and Body Works. I don't really go for those mentioned here....

44. Silk Stockings : Pointless.

45. Iphone : All you grammatically challenged folks, it's My Phone. And mine is a basic Nokia. And it is just fine.

46. Kundan Choker - I have an heirloom thing from my late mother. Could be classified as Kundan, I don't know. It doesn't matter, too.

47. Pearl Necklace : Yes of course. In various traditional styles.

48. Faux-Fur Outerwear : Are you serious ?

49. Halterneck Dress/Halter Top : Contrary to what you think, I have sufficient blouse material.

50. Body-Piercing : We stop at ears. Might go as low as nose. No further.

51. Silver /Junk Anklet/Bracelet/Armlet : I don't wear these, but the daughter maintains a collection which I admire from a distance.

52. Clinique Set : Yeh kya hai ? Isn't besan and ambe-haldi the thing ?

53. Churidaar Kameez : the cupboard is full ....

54. Platinum Band/Ring : Like I said, old is gold. Or should I say Gold is old ?

55. Bracelet Watch : I have a wonderful one, belonging to my late mother, which is like 60 years old. and Swiss. I keep it in a box and admire it since it doesn't go around the wrist anymore....:-(

(fatigued from explaining....)

.....I've just realized that I am probably likely to be classified as Poverty Stricken, by these 99label folks.

Its OK.

It is so much more fun being rich in ideas ...:-)