Mohini

She was tall almost 5 feet 7 or 8 inches, fair, slim with a good figure. Her name was Mohini. She was the only prostitute of our town in the 70’s and early 80’s. In a small town like ours, she was the talk of the town, women stayed away from her and (many) men visited her surreptitiously.

She was fashionable, wore shades and dressed stylishly in western outfits.  She was referred to as ‘Entu’ or the number 8 – supposedly that’s how she walked. What I remember now is that she walked in a mincing style.

She caused an inexplicable excitement among us children, we were not to even talk about her and that made her an enigma! I still remember Girijakka, the lady who was our help, scolding us, if we even mentioned her in our talk.

Mohini used to live with her only son, about a kilometre away from our house, near a school. I remember my meeting her the first time… and it was a revelation. My childhood friend and I had gone to the school to play and we saw Mohini outside her house. I remember I had greeted her with a smile and what followed was an education of a different kind to 2 young girls from a lady who had seen the worst side of an entire town.

She told us that decent girls (like us) were not to be seen talking to her. She told us about the famous, well known men in our town, who were her customers (without mentioning any names). She laughingly told us, how they avoided her in public. Though we did not fully comprehend it then, it was our introduction to the duality of the world. She had sent us off, warning us not to even mention our interaction with her to our respective families, to avoid us getting into trouble.

I recently heard that she was vacated from her rented house in her old age. That she had no place to stay and used to sleep in a nearby school. Her family (sister) did not provide shelter and Mohini did not have the health nor the means to rent another house. She became mentally unstable and died a sad, lonely death. An end she did not deserve.

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Teddy my Best friend

It looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, chances are it is a duck, is an old Christian proverb. Teddy looked like a dog, walked like a dog, sounded like a dog but behaved like a human being…

Teddy was my pet, friend and family all rolled into one. My husband Udi, and he had a love hate relationship; they loved to hate each other. Teddy thought Uday was a bully and Uday thought Teddy was getting too much attention from me, it was pure Male jealousy!!

Teddy was a gift from Udi. One morning, in August 1990, Udi came home from Mangalore, with a puppy in a hand bag and a feeding bottle. It was the most beautiful puppy I’d ever seen, he was white as snow, a cuddly fur ball, a cute pink belly, a wet nose and soulful squint eyes, we named him Teddy. I was working and pregnant and didn’t want a Dog. We had a possessive and ferocious kitty who hated Dogs. We decided to find a home for the puppy, but the little puppy won our hearts in no time, no house in fact, was good enough for Teddy!! As a Javan proverb says – “Fate decides who comes into our lives and the heart determines who stays”.

Teddy, without doubt, was the devils incarnation, during one of his adventures, he fell into the toilet bottom first, he could not come out, he yelped loudly and my mother rushed to pull him out. While giving him a bath, if the water was either too hot or cold, he used to express his displeasure by howling. My neighbours had good reason to believe we were torturing him.

In fact, when he was teething, I stopped buying leather shoes; he’s chewed at least half a dozen of my shoes. One night I left my new leather sandals near him, the next morning, to be sure, only the sole was available, Teddy had chewed up the soft leather straps.

Our daily walks were always adventurous, one day he picked a cigarette stub in his mouth, my scolding and shouting fell on deaf ears, he just wouldn’t let go of it. He was drooling with the effort of holding it in his mouth. When we reached home, I complained to Udi about it and Udi like a Hero said, “see now, I’ll make him spit it out”, then he bent down and just tapped Teddy on his bums. With lightening speed, Teddy jumped and bit Udi’s nose, then what followed was a wild chase, Teddy running for his life and Udi chasing him. Teddy got a nice spanking that day, and Udi ended up with a Black nose, Udi washed the cut and placed Dettol directly over his nose. From then on Udi called him “Katte” – a Donkey and Teddy would immediately acknowledge it with a growl.

Another day, Teddy caught a Frog, the frog urinated in his mouth, and that was the last he ever went anywhere close to a Frog.

He was 4 months old when our first son, Mayur was born, we expected Teddy to be jealous and hurt the baby. It did not have to worry, Teddy took it upon himself to be Mayur’s protector. Mayur was his personal toy, if any visitor even lifted the baby and took him near the door, Teddy would start growling threateningly.

Teddy loved coffee, if I drank coffee in his presence, without giving him, he would keep staring and drooling till I felt guilty. After a while, he will pick his feeding bowl and bang it on the floor, demanding that I share it with him. Teaching my kids with Teddy close by was fun, I just had to shout to my son, “baby Sit up” and both my son and Teddy will sit up. We just had to bring out the Camera and Teddy was ready for the Photograph, posing away, with his bushy tail up in the air.  I can go on and on writing about his pranks!

Teddy grew up to be absolutely handsome, he was a cross between a mongrel and a Pomeranian. He was about 2 feet high, with busy tail and floppy ears. He had light brown patches on his back and ears.

Teddy was more than a pet, we had the pleasure of his company and his unconditional love for 11 years. One day 13 years back, he went for a walk and never came back and we searched the neighbourhood for many days. I still regret that I did not try hard enough, that I did not place an advertisement.

I could not bear to take another pet and resisted taking a pet for nearly 8 years, till another cute puppy came into our lives. A ginger coloured Labrador, I will write about her in another post.

 

 

Let go, move on & grow!

“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.”
― Dr. Steve Maraboli,

I had a chat with an entrepreneur friend recently and learnt a profound truth; that the only way to move forward in life is to severe attachments which are harmful and move forward.

This gentleman runs a very specialized ERP solutions company but has not been able to make a sale for the last year and a half.

When he set up his business 5 years ago, the opportunity size of the Indian market of about 2,500 entities had looked big enough. Today he has exhausted this market already. The issue is unique, while the very large players opt for the more established MNC ERPs, the smaller players are not mature enough to either implement or afford his software. So that leaves our entrepreneur only the mid-sized companies, whom he has already sold to, while the AMC revenue has been trickling in, the prospects of selling any more licenses of the software within the country looks bleak. He has liquidated almost all his assets to pay the salaries of his dwindling staff. And he is in a stage where he is wondering ‘what next?’

On my way back from the meeting, I caught myself wondering how – most often we ‘hold on to something’, a job, a relationship, a floundering business just because we’re afraid to let go. The spontaneity and enthusiasm would have dried up. We would have stopped enjoying the very thing we fell in love with, believed in ardently and cherished.

It is a paradox! Holding on to the business is only sapping him of his energy and resources. Yet the power to ‘let go’ eludes him! Even to his tired senses, it is clear that there is no merit in holding on! Fear of society – and the inability to deal with the vacuum that will stare at him, once he winds up the business has kept him from taking the decision to throw in the towel. I wonder, how long can he hold on?

Is he grappling with a sense of responsibility to his existing customers or is it the worry of abandoning the employees who have stuck to him through thick & thin? Is the industry responsible for pushing the vendor against the wall, till he succumbs? If players like him decide to pull out, what are the options they (the industry) are left with? Can they manage without segment specific software?

These will be interesting questions to deal with, for which I do not have ready answers. I am sure each one of us at some point in our lives are left grappling with similar questions. My dear entrepreneur friend, you better find the answers and deal with them, before it is too late. All the best to you!

Pedestrian Woes

Every morning on my walk with my 2 friends, our choice is to either walk on the road and risking being hit by the speeding vehicles or walk on the non-existent foot-path with gaping holes and risk breaking a leg! Am I being melodramatic? I suggest you take a walk at 5.30 AM on a cold December morning on the Kaggadasapura main road and decide for yourself.

While this hasn’t deterred us from our walks, I wish, our roads and surrounding were more safe and pleasant to walk. Some of the issues a pedestrian can face on Bengaluru roads are typical and are detailed below:

Construction Debris: Construction material and debris blocking the footpath making it hazardous to walk on the footpath, is a common sight. Even after completion of construction, debris is left uncleared. A common sight in the morning is well dressed men or women surreptitiously throwing garbage on the roads.

Hawkers: In many areas hawkers occupy part or whole width of the pavement.  While news-paper distribution takes up one part of the road, flower & vegetable vendors who are an integral part of the locality and are well patronized, render parts of the road not usable.

Shops & Eateries: Shops encroaching on the pavement through awnings, display structures etc, obstructing passage of pedestrians.   The eateries and local wine shops cause a nuisance as customers gather and block the pavement, causing hindrance to passers-by. Worst are the carts selling food items, who dirty the area around their cart by washing the plates.

A typical issue most areas face will be that of milk vendors who pay scant respect to pedestrians and block the pavement with his crates every morning, the 2 wheelers who pick milk for distribution eat up part of the road forcing pedestrians to walk in the middle of the road!

Vehicles parked or getting repaired: Vehicles parked on the pavement are a major menace on streets with broad pavements, causing the breakages in the slabs covering the drains, posing further danger to pedestrians.

Sloping pavements in front of houses & gaping holes on the pavements: Large establishments, and houses which are built at higher elevation than the pavement, have sloping approaches from the street, interfering with the walkway. Some houses have blatantly made mini gardens in front of their houses, with barricades to protect their precious plants!

Urinating & defecating in public: A most distressing misuse of pavements is as open urinals, it is an embarrassment to the passersby especially women. A recent article in the Pioneer sums it up well.

If an able bodied person like me is struggling with the state of the pavement and our roads, imagine the plight of the elderly, children and the physically challenged pedestrians!

Hopefully the current government’s initiative to have a ‘Clean India’ will also take care of some of these maladies. Having said that the government can start the good work and educate its citizens, but unless the people help by contributing and wish to enjoy clean & safe roads and environment, the government alone can’t achieve it.

Networking

‘Please come down this weekend, I really need you here’ pleaded my son, ‘but I’m going out the moment you step into the house and return only after 4 or 5 hours’. I’d laughed when he said that, but understood what it meant the moment I stepped into our apartment in Mangalore.

The house looked uninhabited or rather abandoned! Both the kids, who occupy it, were with us in Bangalore for the last month. The house was in a mess and it was created just before they left for Bangalore. Empty coke and water bottles strewn all over, unwashed clothes dumped on the bed, books and empty boxes of Pizza on the floor, some dried oranges on the table and smelly socks in dirty shoes inside the kitchen… Took us, me & my maid, nearly 4 hours to clean the mess and get the house in order. By the end of it I had decided, I’ll let it pass this one time. The next time they do it, they’ll be thrown into the nearest paying guest accommodation.

After a bath and a hot lunch, as I settled down for a nap with Malcolm gladwell’s ‘Outliers’, I felt normalcy returning.

I was reading about a little town named Roseto in Pennsylvania which had an amazing social life which reduced the incident of heart decease. The town enjoyed hearty calorie rich meals and didn’t have heart disease until the age of sixty-five!

Stewart Wolfe a physician and a professor at the medical school at the University of Oklahoma started an investigation in the year 1961. The doctor had bought a farm in the Poconos as a summer retreat and during a chat with a local doctor learnt that heart disease was very less prevalent in Roseto.  This led the good doctor to start the study and the learning’s were significant. It showed the mysterious and magical power of social network.

While most of us realize the importance of strong relationships, few of us try to establish them.  Some of us have to work hard  it, while some have a natural affinity for it. It’s an art and a fun thing to do.

I have been networking for some time and have learnt that it takes time and effort to build strong relationships. Networking will not bring early gains. But in the long run, it will be the one activity that will have a lasting impact on our life.

Keeping in constant touch is the key to cultivating deeper relationships, so it helps when we call and have a conversation with our friends and relatives. Best is to find reasons to meet. The bonds are strengthened when we offer to help when necessary, without expecting anything in return.

A good book to read could be ‘Never Eat Alone’, by Keith Ferrazzi, he advocates using every meal as a touch point. Since one HAS to have lunch, that time can be used to deepen a relationship with a client, potential client, a vendor or a friend.

Villages are good examples of social networking and community support system. Especially in rural India, being a part of the society or community has always been considered important. Recently I had attended our village temple festival, after many years…and saw the whole village participating in the festival. But in a city we may never see our neighbour for a couple of days or weeks.

Widening our social circle gets us all sorts of benefits! I have friends who are trainers and coaches’, one is an IT consultant and another, who is a tattoo artist! A dear friend used to call me ‘Network Mangal’ 🙂

As I dozed off I decided that networking had added to my life in many ways and made it more fun.

God Bless you!

I had gone for a meeting to Costa Coffee, Koramangala on Tuesday 11th Dec, 2012, a day which had started quite normally. I had just made myself comfortable at the café when I received a call from my husband, Udi,  to say ‘Hello, I’ve fractured my knee cap and am on my way to the Manipal Hospital. I was stunned, not sure if I’d heard him right; I tried calling him a couple of times, but was unable to reach him.  Then I called my friend Mahesh – also Udi’s colleague, who made a few quick calls and had Udi call me back to confirm the news. Sensing my distress, Varun whom I was in a meeting with, offered to drive me to the hospital.

Mahesh had the presence of mind to call me to inform that Udi was being brought to the hospital in an Ambulance, as the injured leg had to be kept straight. Whatever little courage I had, evaporated when I saw Udi being eased out of the ‘108 Emergency Service’ Ambulance on to a trolley (stretcher) at the Casualty wing of Manipal hospital.

Udi had gone for lunch to a restaurant near his office with a couple of his colleagues. There due to a mat/carpet which partially covered a flight of stairs, he had fallen down and fractured his patella. As per Udi, the ambulance staff that took care of him on way to the hospital were excellent. They first kept his knee straight (with a posterior lower leg splint) and shifted him to the ambulance; they checked his BP at regular intervals during the drive to the hospital, monitored his Oxygen level and gave him oxygen. I must appreciate their conscientiousness as they updated the doctors at the Casualty before they departed. I feel very bad now that I did not thank them for the excellent care… Murthy a colleague of Udi’s had accompanied him.

A couple of Udi’s colleagues rushed to the hospital and Mahesh and Varun were with me till Udi was shifted to the ward. I had to leave Dummi, my pet Labrador in the care of my neighbor, Reshmi (who also had a pet), till my Mother-in-law arrived from Mangalore the next morning. I had Rajesh (my colleague) coming over to hand over my belongings which I’d left in the office, though he lived in the opposite direction,

I have had the misfortune of taking care of my near and dear ones in the hospital many times. And this was another such duty that I had to perform. The 4 day’s stay at the hospital was un-eventful (fortunately) except for his Sugar going up (which the doctor explained to us was common, post-surgery).

We had a few very large hearted nurses who took good care of Udi and some very helpful ward boys, who gave him a sponge bath, shifted him to the various checkups in a trolley.

Come Saturday, 15th Dec, 2012 and we (!!) were getting discharged. We now had 3 friends offering to drop us home! We came home with Mahesh and were greeted by Belinda a dear friend who’d come all the way from Jakkur to cheer Udi up.

This post is an acknowledgement: Udi & I are blessed with these genuine friends, who took time off from their office work and personal life to come and help us, spend time with us. I have not mentioned some others who either helped or offered to help us, by name, but we know them and will never forget their gesture.

Thank God for these friends and well-wishers, may God bless them and keep them happy.

 

Diwali – The festival of lights

The thundering monsoon’s incessant rains give way to shorter days and longer nights of Kartik, the golden season of October and November, The time when the Merigolds and Chrysanthemums erupt,  it is  the time of  ‘The festival of Lights – Divali’,  time for new clothes, crackers and loads of sweets.

My earliest memories of Diwali are that of our big bathroom, being cleaned with a vengeance by Girija our maid, the 2 large copper ‘Handas’, being washed till they gleamed and shone. My job was to decorate the doors of the bathroom and to make the Garlands of Merigold. These garlands and Karita creeper were then tied around the handa in the bathroom. The pulley (of the well) will be oiled and decorated with flowers.  These Merigold will be home grown! It was again something planned weeks ahead, care will be taken to make sure the best flowers were available for Diwali.

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‘Filling Water’ or ‘Neeru tumbisuva Habba’ is done on the evening of Trayodashi. We filled the Copper Pots after offering Pooja to ‘Ganga’- in this case the well. Then fire will be lit in the night, to heat the water, so that hot water was ready early in the morning – for the ‘oil-bath’.

In our part of the country, the bath took place at the very wink of dawn, we friends – neighbouring kids, competed with each other to be the first to have the bath. The first one to burst crackers, is assumed to be the first one to have had a oil bath!! Of course you never knew if some one cheated by first bursting a cracker…and then proceeded to go for the oil massage and bath!! Silly little games, but the excitement was palpable. Before 7 AM we were at the temple wearing the brand new clothes and preening like a little princes and princesses…

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Among friends we also had a competition as to who made the most beautiful ‘Goodu Deepa’ or ‘Kandil’ a hanging paper lantern.

This was a project which will start a couple of days before Diwali.

In the evening, we lit clay lamps lined up along verandas, on windowsills, near the well, in front of the Tulsi, in the cows shed, and in the garden. My mother and I used to light the lamps together, sharing poignant moments of togetherness. Diwali holidays were gloriously festive. Then in the evenings the family got together to set off crackers, sparklers and rockets and pots.

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Streets strung with bright lights and paper lanterns, decorated shops calling passers by to take the ‘Prasad’ or offerings and sweets of the ‘Angadi Pooja’, the customary ‘Lakshmi Puja’ to begin the new financial year.

Another highlight was the ‘Go Puja’ or worship of cattle on Balipadyami. We invariably had cattle at home, the cows and calves will be given a bath in the morning and the cow shed will be cleaned and decorated with marigold flower garlands. Then we apply oil on their head and feed them beaten (flattened) rice, bananas, jaggery and coconut mixture!

These are small pleasures which are not easy to explain, they should be experienced