Friday, February 27, 2009

Footloose Friday - V

I shall simply leave you in the very capable hands of Bangalore's Bikerdude.

Older Footloose Fridays posts are available by clicking on the label below. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How do you bring up a child to have a heart?

It is one of those conundrums of parenthood.

Nourishing the body could not get any easier. Nutritional science and availability of healthful food have both improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, taking the guesswork out of figuring out what is good or bad for growing bodies. Yes, it requires effort and more than a little creativity to ensure that children lead healthy lives. But the process lends itself to a certain level of objectivity.

Nourishing the spirit is quite another matter. The Gordian Knot has only become tighter and more complicated. If anyone has the code to unraveling it, they are not telling.

Evidence of apathy is pervasive. Extreme and bone-chilling apathy. There was the story of the man lying on the street after being struck by a truck on a busy street. Many people witnessed the accident, but it took more than a few minutes before someone thought to call the police or go to him to help. There was a recent incident in DC when a man was struck by two other men in the middle of the afternoon. The man lay on the footpath for a good 20 minutes before a shopkeeper called the police. A newspaper reporter who viewed the security tapes from a nearby store and counted more than a 100 people walking right past the comatose man. Then there was the story of a woman who lay sprawled on the floor of a busy emergency room at a NY City hospital for an entire day. No one bothered to see if she was all right. By the time a hospital worker came and poked her with her shoe, the woman was dead.

The people who walked by and walked around and ignored the suffering were ordinary people going about their business. It's hard to imagine that every single one of them was cruel or wantonly decided to let people die when they could have helped. You don't want to think that people are capable of such indifference. You hope and pray that your child is neither the perpetrator nor the victim of this utter disregard for a fellow human being.

But what do you say to your children to mould them into caring, compassionate human beings? When do you say it? How do you say it? Will whatever you say have any impact? There is no easy, objective way to arrive at or measure any of this.

This doesn't stop one from trying, of course. The mind constantly churns, spinning new approaches to achieving the ideal. I have found myself bouncing between a few.

There is the 'showing by example' approach - if children see the parent showing compassion, empathy or generosity, the hope is that they will adopt those values and do the same. Then there is the 'talk till you are blue in the face' approach - the shortcomings are obvious: children tend to zone out; concepts like generosity, fairness, compassion and helpfulness are not easy to talk about in the abstract. There is also the 'teachable moment' approach combined with the Socratic method where one uses a recent real-life event (preferably in the child's life) or a story in a book to draw out lessons by asking the child what he or she might have done in that situation - it appears to be the most effective approach, one that holds the child's interest, but of course, one requiring a lot of patience and forbearance on the part of the parent. Finally there is the 'praise every compassionate, kind act and build it up' approach - positive reinforcement, in other words.

Sometimes, when I either don't have the patience or none of these techniques appears to be able to do the trick, I resort to shorthand. "C," I say, "you've got to be a gentleman. That's the only way to be in this life." I have the satisfaction of having tried to convey what is important. Occasionally it leads to further conversation about what it means in that context, other times it trails off into nothing.

There is no denying that we as a society make this issue of how we relate to our fellow human beings very complicated. We teach our children to strive to be the best. They are trained to defeat, to celebrate winning. We look at the poor sod who lost with pity. When they lose, they are told not to worry, that they did their best, even as they are coached to derive lessons from the loss and plot their way back to winning.

Yes, as adults, we rationalize. Teaching to win does not necessarily mean begetting a hard heart. We teach our kids to win but we also teach them to do it fairly, to be generous to the vanquished.

Somewhere in this cacophony of mixed messages and crossed signals you wish fervently that their instinct to do good by their fellow human being, however meager it may be, is not pulverized into nothingness.

Which is why when I received an e-mail from C's swimming coach with this message, "I find it encouraging that it IS possible to develop a very competitive will and a good heart at the same time. These things are not at all mutually exclusive," I eagerly scanned the rest of the e-mail.

It contained an incredible, heart-warming story. I could use a lot more adjectives to describe it for you, but would much rather have you read it for yourself. This is a story about baseball, but lack of knowledge of the game should pose no impediment. But before going any further, if you are anything like me - easily given to tears - I would urge you to have plenty of tissues at hand.

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

"When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.

In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again.

Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!' Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.

Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the way Shay!"

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third!"

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, "Shay, run home! Run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

"That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world."

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

So I say thank you for the journey

Five hundred posts.

Short, long, joyful, sad, juicy, boring, personal, political and everything in between. When all is said and done, that is something. I'm faklempt.

But not for long. Read on.

Blogpourri was born in Bangalore. It started out as an online repository for the few published pieces I had at that point. It took me a while to figure out how to put them up online. Meanwhile, I was visiting the hospital to care for a family member when I ran into a woman I had seen the day before. She was alone, taking care of her husband 24/7 all by herself. He had suffered a heart attack at 38. They were at least a hundred miles from their home because there were no facilities in their hometown that could handle his condition.

This was a Bangalore I did not recognize. Not because this was the first time anyone had found themselves in that woman's predicament, but because this was the first time I had lived in Bangalore as an adult, as a wife and mother, as someone running a household instead of just being a needy part of one. I saw my hometown with new eyes, as a member of a community with a stake in it but with the emotional distance of an itinerant.

I felt like I wanted to put everything down somewhere before I forgot, before the passage of time dulled the intensity of my experiences. Soon the blog morphed into a record of our Bangalore life - schools, hospitals, infrastructure, family events, activities, travel, parenting - into a pot pourri of topics and ideas. Blogging found a purpose.

I'm not really sure now how long I would have gone on writing on the blog if a few kindred spirits hadn't taken a chance on me. You left thoughtful comments, you questioned, you prodded as old friends do, you debated, you praised, you linked to my posts. Yes, writing for its own sake is good. But it is an infinitely more enjoyable experience if I think someone is actually reading it.

Two years later, another town, another train. We moved back to the US and blogging seemed useless. The bulk of the visitors and comments on the blog related to our experiences in Bangalore - expats looking to move to Bangalore, NRIs looking to move back to India. I was unable to replenish the blog with posts relevant to what people were on the hunt for - new, up to the minute information about Bangalore. So for a while I shrank back, fully engaged in battling identity crisis. City lag lasted way, way longer than my worst jet lag to date.

Then the elections happened. Obama, Palin, Clinton, Clinton, McCain. Joe the Plumber, the debates, the stump speeches, Palin's wardrobegate. Tina Fey. Who could resist? I was a political junkie to begin with, but this election clearly put me over the top. And most of this drama was unfolding in my city to boot. I did not end up blogging a whole lot about the elections, but it sure did give me the impetus to get off my glutus.

Blogging seems way more fun the second time around. I have no idea why I felt hamstrung before, but I feel less constrained about the choice of topics.

Again, a heartfelt hat tip to all of you who came back to read (after being abandoned for what is an eternity in blogdom) and to all of you who have come here to read for the first time recently. Your visits do mean a lot, your comments even more so. It is particularly thrilling to find a comment on a long-forgotten post. I am delighted that Blogpourri is able to help you, in whatever small way it does, as you find your way back home or to places as yet unexplored. And I wish you did not need information about certain terrible events, but if you needed to feel like you are not alone, I'm glad you found a place to come to. It is a joy to exchange thoughts about books, movies, parenting and life events with you. Knowing me, knowing some of you (and hoping to know more of you), I will cherish this precious alliance for a long while.

So I say thank you for the journey. Hasta mañana.

P.S.: OK, by now, you must have guessed there's something going on in this post. Do certain phrases seem familiar? If they do, can you tell what they are and identify all of them?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

From the slums to Newsweek

I might have spent the rest of my life in the slums or in prison if not for books. By the time I was 6, my parents had taught me to read and write Bengali. Literature gave me a special refuge. With Jack London (in translation) I could be a brave adventurer, and with Jules Verne I could tour the world. I worked my way up to Balzac, Hemingway and Dostoevsky. I finally began teaching myself English with the help of borrowed children's books and a stolen Oxford dictionary. For pronunciation I listened to Voice of America broadcasts and the BBC World Service on a stolen transistor radio. I would get so frustrated I sometimes broke into sobs.

Sudip Mazumdar in Newsweek, recounting a life that began in the slums but by the dint of a measure of providence greater than any other agency, did not continue there for long. The article's tag line reads, "Don't let the movie mislead you: there are no fairy-tale endings for most of India's street kids. I was one of them myself." And promptly goes on give us another fairy-tale ending. I'm not complaining, though.

P.S.: The kids from Slumdog are on the screen right now, on the red carpet, in the minutes before the Oscar show is about to start. They have the autograph books we used to have in high school. (Remember them? Trying to get our classmates and teachers to write something in those rectangular, sometimes spiral note books as we prepared to leave a school and move on.) They just cornered Meryl Streep who's happily chatting and writing away in their book.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why I listen to La Complainte de la Butte

When I first obtained the Moulin Rouge CD I listened to this one song, La Complainte de la Butte, so much that I feared for the life of the CD.



While I caught and understood some phrases, the song as a whole remained foreign. But my heart raced ahead, deriving meanings my head could not. At times the song was a lullaby, sometimes a despairing dirge, at other times a lament for a love lost. I found myself drawn to the song when I as alone at home, moping round or when on a long ride with my son and he was close to falling asleep.

Sharanya's column, Songs in Another Language, instantly reminded me of my obsession with La Complainte and smoothed out the rough edges of my understanding.
Perhaps there is something to be said for innocent impressionism. When a song is heard as sound and not story, something special happens. Its semantic spaces broaden. Our understanding draws blanks, and our imaginations fill them in. The human voice becomes an instrument in its own right. The whisper of a throat racked with failure can turn seductive; the grieving crescendo of a mourning song may rouse instead.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Venus and Mars

Gawker, in his inimitable style, and Tharini, in her inimitable style, both pondering the question of individual climate control today.

My take - blame it on biology. Now I'm wondering about same-gender couples.

Footloose Friday - IV

Ellen and Gladys. A wonderful pair.



Originally found at The Daily Dish. More Ellen and Gladys videos on Ellen's website. Other Footloose Friday posts may be found by clicking on the label below.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Darwin and Lincoln

Two men. Born on the same day. In the same year. "Each, in his own way, fought vigorously against slavery."

With growing horror, he [Darwin] observed slavery in Brazil and the genocide of indigenous peoples in Argentina, and decried both in his Voyage of the Beagle: "It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty," he wrote in the 1845 edition of his popular travelogue.
...

By proving that all animal species descend from common ancestors, Darwin hoped to undercut the biological rationale for slavery without the need to draw distracting fire by addressing human origins directly, especially before he had amassed all the data he would need to prove decisively that humans also evolved.

A hitherto unexplored aspect of Darwin's work in Adrian Desmond and James Moore's book, Darwin's Sacred Cause. The review is fascinating. I can only imagine how good the book is.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Writing Prompt #4

Here's writing prompt #4!

Rules: Take 10 minutes to write. Please time yourself. When you have finished writing, please leave a link to your response in the comments box. Have fun!

Prompt: Write about an ordinary, everyday event in your family's life. It could be something that your mother or father did every day - ironing clothes, cutting vegetables, doing puja. Or something one of your siblings did - washing the moped or scooter, perhaps. May be even something that all of you did together regularly.

Enjoy!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Footloose Friday - III (Not)

Feeling neither footloose nor fancy free today.

Got up this morning to this story of a plane crashing into a home in New York. All passengers and crew on the plane and one occupant of the house died. Two other people in the house escaped with injuries. No matter how you rationalize to yourself the deaths on the plane, what do you say or think about the person in the house? If it was a burglary gone bad it would be something. A tornado, a hurricane, even a tree falling on the house. But it was none of that. Neither was it anything the person did. To not do anything that is remotely risky - step out of the house, cross the street - but still meet your death anyway is simply unfathomable.

Among the people on the plane was the widow of one of the people who died on 9/11. She was flying to Buffalo to commemorate her late husband's birthday.

One of the victims of the Buffalo commuter plane crash, Beverly Eckert, was a Sept. 11 widow who put her never-ending grief to good use to make the country safer.

[...]

A week before her death, Eckert met with Obama at the White House as part of a group of 9/11 families and relatives of those killed in the bombing of the USS Cole, discussing how the new administration would handle terror suspects.

Eckert was flying to Buffalo Thursday night to celebrate what would have been her husband Sean Rooney's 58th birthday.

Then the husband sent me a link to a story we'd tried to keep an eye on. We'd both been in tears as we watched David Goldman tell his story on NBC. This week, David, after four years of running from pillar to post, finally got to see and hold his son. I've linked to the story in the post below. One of the things his son, Sean, asked him when he saw his father was why he did not try to see him for the past four years. What a heartbreaking thing to hear for a father who'd been trying, every waking moment of his life, to get his son back. How do you explain adult problems, adult greed and adult foibles, to a child? How do you convince him you tried to see him, that he was not forgotten, and not shred his faith in humanity at the same time?

Still later, went to Broom's blog to find two posts - one made up of her twitter updates and another a short post - about finally telling her dad that she's gay. This would mean that she did not need to hide anymore, she could live her life the way she wants to out in the open. The posts are short, mostly in phrases, but they clearly convey her fears for her father, for what it means in terms of their relationship going forward. Their exchanges are heartwarming. Most exhilarating of all is her father's reaction.

As I was reading the posts I found myself in a strange situation. Here I was, not far removed from once being in her predicament (OK, not too far removed) - desperately wanting your life to go one way but afraid of what it might do to your parents - but also being able to see the picture from her parents' perspective. No matter how much you think ahead and plan your life and tell yourself this is how you're going to be as a mother, none of it matters when you actually become a mother.

You tell yourself you will not be overprotective, but when your child wants to walk over to a friend's house two blocks away (replace with any activity of your choice), while your head says he'll be fine, your heart panics. You see all the things that can go wrong in technicolor clarity. You want to protect him from every slight, every hurt, every mistake, even when you full well know it's not practical, not desirable even. You tell yourself you will let them make their choices, but when they are so clearly choosing the wrong thing, your heart screams to intervene. When your heart is walking outside of you, in places you cannot see, connected to you only by some invisible thread, all you want is for it to be safe.

And this is just when they're still so young. Can you imagine when they grow older and the choices become starker, when their activities really carry risk?

From my son's perspective, I can see very clearly the injustice of it all. I can remember that feeling all too well. The confidence you have in yourself, the feeling that nothing will go wrong, that you know how to deal with a situation, that you know exactly what you want forever. If only your parents could trust your instincts.

As a mother I know enough to know that I don't know much. That there are problems I haven't yet seen, knots I haven't yet had to unravel, mysteries of motherhood I haven't yet had to solve. I am looking for clues and figuring them out as I go along and on the way I am watching children struggle, parents anguish and some of them not be able to see eye to eye at all.

But when my partner and I decided to get married that changed. My parents wouldn't come. And, what was worse in my eyes, they wouldn't discuss it with me. They just told me they couldn't be there. When I sent photos of our ceremony in Massachusetts, they didn't respond. When, two year later, I called to tell them about Raya, my mom cried and my dad said they had to go. I don't call them anymore.
This is not a lone story. The parent-child relationship falls apart for so many reasons - lifestyle choices, career choices, college choices, choices of spouse, child rearing choices, financial choices.

Each time I read, see, hear a story about a parent not being able to live with, let alone welcome, their children's decisions, my heart sinks a little bit. Am I consigned to their fate? Will I not be able to understand my own children? Will my love for them not be able to overcome whatever it is they want to do, however bad it is?

How can it not? That's how we all start out. We have love, so much of it that it comes out in tears at the drop of a hat. Yes, we have frustration, anger, impatience. Sometimes we want to be left alone. Sometimes we long for those footloose and fancy free days, when the thorniest decision we had to make was which channel to watch on television. But we also know that we would not exchange what we have for a millionth of a second. We would not know what to do if we were not mothers. If we did not have children to love, take care of, nurture, make feel better, rejoice with, cry with.

So what goes wrong then? Where does that love disappear? Why do social mores and family pressures mean more to us than the love of and for our children?

The husband read Broom's twitter updates. First I had to explain to him what twitter was all about. Then he said, "Her father is so nice." I can already see that's what he identifies with more. His struggle with his parents is already too far away. Now he's a father. Watching David Goldman's plight was tough for him as was watching Slumdog. He wanted to get up and leave in the middle. And he has clear ideas about how he wants to be as a father. "We should just not hurt them," he says, referring to the kids. Unsaid was this - as long as they are happy, they should be able to do what they want. I should watch Juno, he says (HBO, here I come; he already watched it on a plane). He's still awed by how cool the parents were in that movie. He clearly aspires to that level of comfort as a parent with his children's choices.

The husband and I talk a lot about our children, about what we want for them, about whether what we are doing is right. We want to be mindful, not let things just happen to us or them. This, and Broom's final twitter update (as of now!) and in a weird way, David Goldman's halting success at finally reuniting with his son, give me heart. We may make missteps along the way, but perhaps love is enough to conquer all. Life is just too short to think anything else.

P.S.: A rambling post if ever there was one. Thank you for reading.

Update (Feb. 14th): I went back and read the post, and had to make some word choice changes, including in that one paragraph in which I had used 'situation' five times in the span of three sentences! Thanks.

I have no words. Just happy for one father.



David Goldman's story - bringseanhome.org.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Weaning tip

Number of days on breast milk: 21 months, 12 days;


Number of formula feeds: around 5, maybe;


Number of bottle feeds of breast milk: around 10, maybe;


Frequency of feeds: every 3 to 4 hours or any time Mother sat down anywhere;


Baby's state: content with the status quo;


Mother's state: exhausted;


Doctor's advice: "all it takes is one vote";


Mother's response: "yeah, sure";


Weaning methods considered: neem oil (rejected for possible side effects on digestive system) and discipline (neither Mother's nor Baby's heart in it);


Mother has a brainwave: asafetida;


Days it takes to wean: 1.


Not saying it'll work for everyone, but it was the quickest and least painful (although engorgement bothered Mother for a while) in terms of getting Baby to move on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stump stomps the competition at Westminster

Talk about second chances.

Ch Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee (aka "Stump" - thank god for small mercies!), a beautiful spaniel with a shiny coat, almost died five years ago. He spent 19 days in the hospital fighting for his life. And now, at age 10, he's the oldest winner in the history of the competition.

Aside: "Old dog teaches new tricks" seems to be the most popular line in stories about this dog.

The Silk Road Project

Image source: The Silk Road Project

The Silk Road.

Traders on camels, or on horseback maybe. Grimy and exhausted from weeks of riding on winding, mountainous, godforsaken roads. Dusty, crowded market streets. A crescendo of voices bargaining in quaint tongues. The aroma of exotic spices. The splashes of color. The rustle of silk. The play of strange textures and tastes on your tongue. Delight at a rare find, one that is sure to excite customers back home. Mounds and mounds of bags laden with goods strapped to beasts of burden. Then on to another country, another town, another market, in pursuit of the next great discovery.

The images are from so long ago that even in a memory the video plays out in grainy images, the screen crackling as it moves from one image to the next.

The pictures are only as detailed as a middle school history text book -splayed open on a wooden desk in a bright, airy classroom with 50 other girls - will allow, but embellished with abandon by a wild imagination. All I know, then, of the Silk Road is the faint memory of an imagined textbook narration.

Not any more. The Silk Road Project gives my understanding of the Silk Road a whole new dimension.

The brainchild of acclaimed cellist Yo Yo Ma, the Project's mission statement is as simple as it is profound:

Inspired by the cultural traditions of the historical Silk Road, the Silk Road Project is a catalyst, promoting innovation and learning through the arts.

Our vision is to connect the world’s neighborhoods by bringing together artists and audiences around the globe.
In pursuit of this vision, Ma has assembled 60 musicians, composers and story tellers from 20 countries into the Silk Road Ensemble. "Each Ensemble member's career illustrates a unique response to what is one of the artistic challenges of our times: nourishing global connections while maintaining the integrity of art rooted in authentic tradition," says a brochure of the Project. Since the late 90s when the Project was first conceived, the Ensemble has performed on numerous occasions in Asia, Europe and North America, most recently at the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C.

The one idea - that an ancient trade route could serve as a metaphor for exploring connections in this modern-day globalized world; that, paradoxically, you preserve tradition by throwing yourself open to the winds of innovation - is working itself out in many different ways. Groups of musicians have come together at various times and at various locations for residences at museums and universities, workshops, interactive sessions with children, and for performances that showcase the interplay of the diverse traditions in one musical composition.

The Project's website is a treasure trove of colors, designs and ideas. It contains audio clippings, photographs and videos of the Ensemble's performances and workshops, interviews with the members, maps of the Silk Route, and beautiful images from those various countries. I could just look at those photographs for ever. Simultaneously it is also a tangible testament to how starkly different we are. Our dresses, our instruments, our music, our religions, our languages, our food, our landscape, our histories, our traditions.



Sandeep Das, Tabla player and Member, The Silk Road Ensemble
Source: The Silk Road Project


It is so easy to see why a project of this nature should not work. No more difficult than just turning on the news channels or reading the newspapers. Every day brings news of a new religious conflict, of disasters made worse by apathy, of terrorism, and of social and economic oppression along the Silk Route. But this is what makes an idea like the Silk Road Project all the more precious. That someone could turn a blind eye to the debilitating nature of these fundamental differences and see them instead as a cause for celebration and coming together is a cause for celebration in itself.

Ma inspires great respect. His demeanor, his enthusiasm for his music, his joy in taking music to children and his obvious skill are uplifting. It is no surprise that he was named a UN Ambassador for Peace. But will this idea ever percolate down to everyday life? Or is it, like many ideas of potentially far-reaching import, for ever condemned to float in that rarefied atmosphere unattainable to the majority?

Which is why it is heartening that Ma is targeting his message to children in the various countries. I cannot think of a more powerful message of humanity and peace than a walking, talking, rag-tag group of people standing in front of you and making music and enjoying it. And what better way to ensure that it resonates wider for longer than delivering it to the coming generation of thinkers and doers?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Links:

The Silk Road Project Website

Silk Road Radio

Silk Road Maps

Educational Resources

Recommended Books for Children

Silk Road Project Videos on YouTube

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hair Apparent

About six years ago, C would call out to me from his room every night around 2 am. I would get up, straggle into his room and try to put him back to sleep. He would cradle my face in his arms and eventually fall asleep.

One night although C called for me, the husband decided to give me a break and went in instead. C reached for the face again, felt the day-old stubble, promptly pulled his arms back and called for me again. Louder and close to tears this time.

We recounted this episode to a friend who let out a loud guffaw and said, "It's a good thing he didn't say 'Mom, you need a shave!'"

Memory brought on by this post.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Two posts

One that made me read it over and over and still left me not knowing what to say.
I wonder what his parents thought of when they named him Bhagwan. Generations of people who had accepted or given in or were forced into their fate of being the keepers of India's dirt, tangible and that of our minds. Was it hope for a better future, faith in a God who treats them no better than society does?
And the other that left me all teary-eyed.
I knew that the process of giving birth to a child can and is painful but what I did not know that it is as painful when a woman becomes a mother. That at the same time a child is being born, a mother is being born as well. No matter what happens after this, I will be known as the baby’s mother. No matter where she goes or what she does. I will be a mother.
Siri's due date is coming up - she's going to be induced tomorrow. Here's wishing you and K the very, very best, Siri, as you embark on this life-long journey.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Confessions of a Newly Returned Indian

If you are considering returning to India and would like the viewpoint of someone who has returned recently, consider following the adventures of neoIndian (via DesiPundit). Commentary on social issues plus thoughts on schooling and such. From the About section:

While your overworked spouse screams at you to take the garbage out, Neo is calmly munching on Samosas prepared by a suspiciously good-looking maid.

While you are stuck in traffic, Neo has outsourced road-rage to his overpaid driver and is lounging in the back-seat of his car tweeting from his iPhone.

While you are busy trying to outsource everyone’s job except your own, Neo makes a shitload of money working for a software company in Bangalore where he manages a group of engineers who are smart, but not smarter than Neo. Not even close.

No harm in having a little fun while plotting your move back. No?

Freida Pinto - the Girl of the Moment

Freida Pinto, photographed by Micaela Rossato
Source: Vanity Fair

I hadn't seen Slumdog yet by the time the Golden Globes rolled around. So it was with mighty interest and curiosity that I watched the Slumdog table. The table erupted every time Slumdog won an award, the two young actors being the most boisterous of all, understandably. I learnt the names of the new actors, the screenwriter, watched with delight as the familiar faces from oh, so far away mingled with the more ubiquitous familiar faces, and saw a tall, lanky Indian actress look like she belonged on an international stage.

The same youthfulness and charm so evident at the awards ceremony transferred to the guest chairs on the Ellen DeGeneres show, her enthusiasm and apparent disbelief at her current station in life writ large in her body language. Pinto leaned forward eagerly to answer the host's questions, turning every so often to address an indulgent audience. She excitedly recounted her experiences at the awards show, describing her encounter with Angelina Jolie and Clint Eastwood (who, she said, she had been wanting to meet ever since she saw Million Dollar Baby).

Since then she's been on a whirlwind tour of the talk-show circuit and award shows (YouTube puts out more than 350 videos following a search). Nino's Mum traces Pinto's red carpet fashion graph via photographs and sums it up neatly in one sentence - This girl is comfortable in her skin.

Now comes the icing on the cake - Pinto is Vanity Fair's latest Vanities girl and the photograph you see above appears in its latest issue (March 2009). The magazine assesses Pinto's prospects thusly:
[T]he Vanities opener now features an up-and-coming actress in a 50s-style pinup shot. These shapely ingénues are on the cusp of fame or have just hit it big; they have names you need to know and faces you won’t have trouble remembering.
The only question now remaining is this: Will the girl of the moment be the woman for all seasons?

P.S.:
  • Check out the links in Nino's Mum's post and Daily Cherez for more Freida commentary.
  • Vanity Fair's Vanities Girls slideshow appears here.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

"Ma'am, women suck at math" = woman actually sucking at math

When people are threatened by a negative stereotype they think applies to them, they can be subtly biased to live out that stereotype.
So says an article in the Washington Post titled How a Self-Fulfilling Stereotype Can Drag Down Performance.
Dozens of field experiments have found that reminding African Americans and Latinos about their race before administering academic tests, or telling them that the tests are measures of innate intelligence, can hurt their performance compared with minorities who were not reminded about race and not told that the results reflect inherent ability.

[...]

The same phenomenon applies to women's performance in mathematics. Reminding women about their gender or telling them that men generally outperform women on math tests invariably depresses the women's scores. Similarly, telling test-takers that people of Asian descent score better than other students depresses the performance of white men.

The findings of these studies seem to have merely quantified what we intuitively feel - when we feel uncomfortable in a situation or feel diffident we tend to under perform. This particular set of studies happens to have focused on societal stereotypes as a cause for the discomfort or diffidence. This has implications not only for school settings and workplace settings, but for parents as well. Not exposing a child to negative stereotypes might be something we all do in the normal course anyway, but now we know this actually affects the bottom line.

But of course, not all stereotypes are equal. There are the negative kind, there are the harmless kind, and then there are the positive kind. What I want to know is this - does reinforcing positive stereotypes affect performance the other way? Do people actually perform better than they otherwise would have if they are reminded of the positive stereotype? It seems safe to assume so, but I wonder if the studies looked into it.

I also wonder what this means for new immigrants. If you are new to a society, it is probable that you are not exposed to the prevalent stereotypes. So for a while immigrants might escape the ill effects of negative stereotypes, until they figure out the lay of the land, but they might also miss out on any positive stereotypes.

P.S. Shankar Vendantam writes an interesting column in the Post called Department of Human Behavior in addition to other articles. Always something to tickle your brain, if you are interested.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Phelps Marijuana Fallout Continues

I had been wondering what action USA Swimming, the sport's governing body, would take against Phelps. They've now suspended him from competitive swimming for 3 months. Also, Kellogg, the cereal maker, who had signed on Phelps as a spokesperson, announced that it would not renew his contract that is set to expire this month. According to the Washington Post,

"Michael Phelps is the greatest star our sport has ever had and he is a role model and hero for hundreds of thousands of kids," USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus said in a phone interview. "Under our code of conduct, we felt we had an obligation to address this issue, to send a message to Michael and to our membership."

This means he could still qualify to swim at the Rome World Championships but that we will not see his smiling visage in the cereal aisle any more.

Related Post:

Phelps, Marijuana and a Suddenly Empty Pedestal

Masala Chai Online: Footloose Friday - II

Masala Chai says it's a visual arts blog featuring South Asian art and design.

What it is is a feast for the eyes.


Artist: Reem Khurshid
Source: Masala Chai Online

It features knowledgeable interviews with some of the South Asian artists showcased on the blog, but mostly I just like to take a peek, once in a while, into a world I know little about and drool over the incredible colors and shapes and designs.

Footloose Friday - I.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Three columns and a sense of order

I am no Martha Stewart.

I don't care if the sheets or the pillows are not just so. I don't mind if the magazines are strewn over tables or window seats. Not every little thing has its own place in my house. Some things are still house hunting, others like to hang out for a little longer before getting back home. As long as my sense of order is satisfied, I can withstand a little chaos.

But in my virtual home, Blogger's two-column format managed to evoke a vague sense of discomfort. At the beginning it was fine. My blog was bare except for the posts and a few links. But as the years rolled on, the posts piled up. Too many candidates for the widgets - profile, blog links, newspaper and magazine links, third-party functionalities, travel posts, selected posts, expat life posts, etc., etc., etc. - all stashed on one side of the screen. The tree was leaning too far to the left and threatening to throw my vrikshaasana off.

It was time for balance. The three-column format seemed to be the answer to my problems. I could split the widgets to both sides of the screen. But even on my best day, I'm the worst at figuring these things out. There could not have been a happier blogger than me when Blogger introduced those widgets and the page element features.

So I was beyond thrilled when Sandeepa offered to help. She sent me the template and an e-mail detailing the steps I should follow, very clearly showing me what sections of the template I should change. I tried to open her template attachment and save it. Yes, those of you who know are laughing right now. Go ahead, I deserve it. Sandeepa patiently responded to my SOS and detailed more steps. Feeling like a dufus and feeling grateful, I soldiered on, then promptly elicited an error message when I tried to include an ampersand in the title to one of my sections in the navigation bar. Thankfully I figured out the issue without having to start over again (which I'd done once already). A few more hiccups, none too devastating, as you can see, and I arrived at my new look - the widgets all neatly sorted out, some widgets now finding place as sections on top of the page in the navigation bar.

I am delighted with the result. It looks clean and neat. I still need to figure out better colors (it appears a tad dark right now) and better fonts, but for now I could not be more content.

Sandeepa, thank you!

Updated (Feb 21, 09): per S's request.

Bangalore: Theaterscience at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

Via e-mail from Jagriti:


Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
&
Theatrescience UK and JAGRITI
cordially invites you to the
H.N. Dwarakanath Endowment Programme
Two thought provoking dramatic pieces -
one aimed at young minds andthe other for adults

followed by discussions with the authors, directors, performers
and scientists from NCBS
on Sunday, 8th February 2009
at 5.00 p.m.
at Khincha Auditorium,
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,
Race Course Road,
Bangalore 560 001
************
with compliments from
JAGRITI
Ramagondanahalli, Varthur Road,
Whitefield
Bangalore 560 066 INDIA
T: +91 80 2847 5373,
M: +91 97406 57191

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Phelps, Marijuana and a Suddenly Empty Pedestal

My eight-year-old thinks Phelps is the coolest dude ever to walk the earth. With a devotion hitherto only accorded to cricket, soccer and football, he devoured the swim events at the Beijing Olympics this past summer. All his other activities were planned around the swim event schedules. The timing of the Olympics couldn't have been more apt - my son's team was on a roller coaster ride of victory and defeat on a weekly basis with the summer league competitions. We encouraged the enthusiasm, calling him down to watch HBO interviews with Phelps and a 60-Minutes segment with Anderson Cooper and Phelps.

This is not to say Phelps is a role model. Yes, when it comes to swimming technique or work ethic in the pool, he is hands-down a parent's dream example. When my son struggled with his finishes, all we had to do was invoke Phelps' or Jason Lezak's example or show him the videos on Youtube and he would get it in a flash. But beyond his exploits in the pool, Phelps did not figure into any of our daily conversations.

For me, the most interesting character in this story was Debbie Phelps, his mother, and to a lesser extent, his sisters, also swimmers of star quality. A single mother, Mrs. Phelps raised three kids while holding down a full-time job, found a good outlet for her son's formidable energies and guided him to a coach who could recognize his talents and nurture them. Phelps himself has acknowledged repeatedly that whatever his accomplishments are, they are to be attributed to his mother.

My son must have somehow gleaned this. Perhaps my admiration for her came through whenever he heard me talk about her (usually when she was on TV), because the first non-rhetorical question he asked when he learned about Phelps' tryst with drugs was, "What did his mother say?"

But first came the shock, shock I could see on his face. No, Phelps would never do that. How could he? I can't believe he did that. Drugs? Why would he take drugs? Which drug was this?

And if you're wondering about eight year-olds and what they know about drugs, believe me they know a lot. Each year they have a "Say no to drugs" campaign at school where all the students, even the first-graders, must sign a pledge not to use drugs. Last year was his first year in a public school in the US and I was horrified. I am a subscriber to the "ignorance is bliss" school of thought, but who am I kidding? Whether the school or the parents tell them or not, they know about these things and a lot more. It's better that they have a credible frame of reference rather than floating around in a vacuum of misinformation.

When he asked what drugs they were, I first pretended I did not hear it. He ranted some more and came back to that question. I hemmed and hawed. Do I tell him that it was just marijuana? That a whole section of this country thinks it's nuts to have laws against the use of marijuana? That there is a raging debate around the medical use of the drug and its legality? Do I tell him that it's just a 23-year-old having some fun with kids his own age?

In the end, I copped out, deciding to keep it simple. I said it was a drug I did not know about. But that it was against the law and that the cops were looking into the matter and that he might end up going to jail for it.

Now his face crumpled. He knew Phelps' training for the World Championships in Rome was set to begin any time. Then came the line I was completely unprepared to hear. Where did he even get it? So Godfatheresque. "He has brought real dishonor to his family!"

I turned my face away. I had to stifle the giggle that was threatening to bubble up. I quickly changed the topic and got him busy with prepping the table for dinner.

But he came back to it again, later in the night. It really bothered him. He was trying to reconcile the image of the super-successful swimmer with the guy who did something stupid, something he should have known never to do, that might lead to him not swimming. I just let him talk and we agreed that it was the stupidest thing to do, that his mother must be feeling bad. Where is his dad, he asked at one point. And I told him what little I knew.

There is a strain of opinion that opposes letting Phelps off scot-free. So what if he's the best swimmer in history, asks The Washington Post's Michael Wilbon. On the other hand, Let a kid be a kid, says Kathleen Parker.

As for me, the idea that celebrities should be role models just took another hit, an idea I was leery about already. Why should sports stars and film stars and politicians be role models? I say this not only from the perspective of where our children should source their models from, but also from the perspective of the celebrities. Why should they be forced to put on a persona and behave well in public just because they are famous? There was a big brouhaha about Tiger Woods and Charles Barkley are few years ago. So what if Tiger Woods said the F word when his golf ball sailed clear of the grass and landed in the Pacific Ocean? So what if Charles Barkley behaves badly off court? Why do we celebrate them when they accomplish nearly inhuman things but bring them down the minute they show us they are human? Why are they in charge of teaching our children what is right and what is wrong? Sure we could emulate so-and-so's work ethic or so-and-so's volunteer work, but their lives as a whole are not for our children to copy.

In fact, these episodes, however distasteful they may be, are great life lessons about actions and their consequences. Celebrities' lives are exemplary when they're actually human.

That being said, I do hope there's some good news about Phelps soon.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Phelps marijuana saga

Goes from bad to worse.

The cops are investigating, no telling yet whether they will pursue the matter or not. Phelps is at the veritable fork in the road. Only he's way past the point where he has any control over which road he gets to take.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Updated Feb 4, 2009:

Phelps, Marijuana and a Suddenly Empty Pedestal

My eight-year-old thinks Phelps is the coolest dude ever to walk the earth. With a devotion hitherto only accorded to cricket, soccer and football, he devoured the swim events at the Beijing Olympics this past summer. All his other activities were planned around the swim event schedules. The timing of the Olympics couldn't have been more apt - my son's team was on a roller coaster ride of victory and defeat on a weekly basis with the summer league competitions. We encouraged the enthusiasm, calling him down to watch HBO interviews with Phelps and a 60-Minutes segment with Anderson Cooper and Phelps.

This is not to say Phelps is a role model. Yes, when it comes to swimming technique or work ethic in the pool, he is hands-down a parent's dream example. When my son struggled with his finishes, all we had to do was invoke Phelps' or Jason Lezak's example or show him the videos on Youtube and he would get it in a flash. But beyond his exploits in the pool, Phelps did not figure into any of our daily conversations.

For me, the most interesting character in this story was Debbie Phelps, his mother, and to a lesser extent, his sisters, also swimmers of star quality. A single mother, Mrs. Phelps raised three kids while holding down a full-time job, found a good outlet for her son's formidable energies and guided him to a coach who could recognize his talents and nurture them. Phelps himself has acknowledged repeatedly that whatever his accomplishments are, they are to be attributed to his mother.

My son must have somehow gleaned this. Perhaps my admiration for her came through whenever he heard me talk about her (usually when she was on TV), because the first non-rhetorical question he asked when he learned about Phelps' tryst with drugs was, "What did his mother say?"

Read more.

A peephole into the past

I went looking for my copy of Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, which I'd bought nearly 15 years ago. I knew it was in pretty bad shape - I'd lent it to a colleague who'd returned it with a broken spine. I thumbed through the books on the shelves and came upon a book with a torn hinge and seized it, grateful I'd found it.

A second later I stepped back, disappointed. It was not Like Water for Chocolate after all. It was Enid Blyton's In the Fifth at Malory Towers, hardbound, the paper browned and going brittle. I must have bought it off the street in Bangalore.

The book instantly transported me. Summer holidays. My parents' house. My aunt* would ply me with Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and whatever other books struck her fancy at the local library. I would disappear into my room, prop up my pillows, pull my covers up to my chin and be thoroughly useless for anything else the next few hours.

One day, around mid-afternoon, I heard a strange wailing noise followed by sobs coming from my mother's room. I threw off the covers and rushed to the doorway of her room, not really knowing what to expect. I'd never heard my mother sobbing loudly before.

From the doorway I saw her. My mother was half-collapsed on her pillows, clutching her stomach with one hand. Tears streamed down her face which she half-heartedly tried to wipe away when she was not clutching her stomach. The other hand held a Malory Towers book.

She was laughing.

When I'd finished yelling at her for making me worried and got her to calm down she told me what was so funny. Something about some powder that became invisible when you rubbed it on to a stool but showed up a bright pink when someone sat on the stool and warmed it.

I summoned up all of my tweenage disdain for humor of that sort, smiled my superior smile and walked off.

Secretly, though, my heart swelled. She, whose wisdom even I was not so stupid as to not recognize even in the middle of my worst rebellious phase, thought that the things in my world were funny. That they were worth enjoying.

I held the book in my hand and slowly turned the pages, not wanting to damage it any more. The first page had a girl's name written in capital letters, and the seal of a library made with an ink pad. Another girl's name written in a neat cursive with a red ball point pen adorned the second page. In the same handwriting, a little note in the middle of the page written with a pencil:

When I am right no one remembers. When I am wrong no one forgets.
Teenage. Angst.

~~~~~

P.S.: Chox recently wrote about some great book finds in Bangalore.

* Yes, the sakkare achchu aunt.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Recipe: Sakkaré Achchu (Sugar Figurines)

By popular demand, here it is, from our family to yours!

Sakkaré Achchu

Ingredients:
1kg sugar (the white colored, large-grained variety);
Water as necessary;
1 cup milk; and
4 tsp sour curds.

Equipment:
Wooden sugar figurine moulds;
Rubber bands;
A large saucepan;
A fine muslin cloth for straining;
A round-bottomed steel vessel;
A round-bottomed ladle; and
A set of tongs.

Method:
1. Before you start out, soak the moulds in water for 15 minutes. Remove them from the water and dry them completely. They should be moist but not wet.

2. In a large saucepan, pour the sugar and then pour enough water to cover the sugar. Then pour some of the milk.

3. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar melts completely.

4. Strain the syrup into another saucepan through the muslin cloth. The cloth will have trapped some of the impurities from the sugar.

5. Repeat this process until you use up all the milk and all you're left with is a white paste.

6. Now add the 4 tsp of the sour curd and boil once more. You will see the remaining impurities of the sugar collect to one side at the top of the syrup.

7. Filter the syrup once more and you should be left with a transparent liquid.

8. Put the mould pieces together, bind them tightly with rubber bands and have them ready next to you on the counter top.

9. Take one cup of this syrup in a round-bottomed vessel. On the lowest setting of your stove, heat the syrup, stirring constantly from the bottom with a round-bottomed ladle. When the syrup starts bubbling, hold the vessel with a pair of tongs and rub the syrup with some pressure at the bottom of the vessel. When you hear a crackling sound and the syrup is just starting to turn opaque, then it's ready to be transferred to the moulds.

10. Pour the syrup into the ready moulds. Tap gently on the counter top to let the syrup trickle down into all the corners of the mould. See if you need to top off with some more syrup.

11. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Peel open the moulds carefully. Once you take the sugar figurines out, put the moulds back in cold water for 2 to 3 minutes at a time. Dry them out and use as before. They should not be warm when you pour the syrup into them. The figures will not set in warm moulds.

12. Repeat the process with 1 cup of syrup at a time.

13. Enjoy!

Note: If there are any changes to any of the above, I will post it up here.

May the syrup be a brilliant white, and sweet with that tiniest hint of tang; may the figurines hold together beautifully (or not, if there are hopeful young children hovering around the kitchen for fat crumbs; sorry, must side with the kids); may they brighten many a festival and family gathering.

My earlier post on Sakkaré Achchus appears in its entirety below, along with the photographs, so it's all in one place. If you try out this recipe please do let me know how they turned out.

And just one more thing. When I told my aunt that there was an interest in the recipe and I wanted to put it up on the blog, she willingly and happily agreed and reeled off the instructions. In that spirit, I would like to make a request - please do not copy these instructions or photographs elsewhere, whether for commercial purposes or otherwise without permission or attribution. Thank you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sakkaré Achchu (in Kannada for "sugar moulds") is the mainstay of many a South Karnataka festival. Celebrations of Sankaranthi and Dussera, and family rituals such as weddings and housewarmings are incomplete without the sugar figurines.

Beautiful to look at, the figurines are used to embellish puja displays, are part of the gifts to the guests and are, most importantly, simply delicious to eat.

The ingredients are few and the process is painstaking, but pretty straightforward. The first step is to purify the sugar so that there are no impurities and the figurines turn out white instead of a dull shadow of white. The sugar syrup is boiled with curd and stirred constantly to separate impurities from the sugar. After two or three iterations of this, the resulting sugar syrup is simmered on a slow flame in a round-bottomed steel vessel until the syrup develops a thick consistency.



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Simmering sugar syrup


The moulds need to be soaked in water and must be damp so that the figurines loosen up easily when they are ready to be removed. Moulds are two wooden slabs with various shapes carved into them, each half a mirror reflection of the other.



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A banana-bunch shaped mould




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A bird-shaped mould


Just before the sugar syrup reaches the right consistency, moulds are readied by tightly tying together the matching pairs with rubber bands.



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Various moulds ready for the syrup




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Syrup being poured into the moulds


In a couple of minutes, the moulds are ready to be opened.



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Half-open moulds


And this is when you hope and pray that the figurine is weak in some spot and breaks apart so you get to eat the broken one hot off the mould. If you're desperate enough, you try to jinx it by rubbing your index finger the floor, counter-top or your grandma's hand. Trust me (and my gut), it works.



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Fresh and still warm figurines. Yummmm




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Homemade sugar figurines (with my grandma's and now my aunt's recipe) are the best. The purification process imparts a slightly tangy flavor and balances out the sweetness of the sugar and the constant stirring of the syrup turns out soft figurines that literally melt in your mouth.

No matter how delicious the end result is, the best part of the whole process is the family getting together to make them. Usually one member of the family takes on the onus of making the figurines for the entire family. My grandmother made it for all her daughters and shipped them off to wherever they lived in the years they were not with her to make them. Now, my aunt, my mother's younger sister is the family sugar goddess. She uses the same moulds that my grandmother did (some of them are losing the sharp outlines and so we have figurines that look like elephant shapes, only sort of).

Yesterday, as we made the figurines for a family function this weekend, much of the talk revolved round my grandmother and how she used to make them and how we used to pester her for the broken pieces (ever the frugal lady, she used to put the broken pieces back in the simmering syrup when we kids weren't looking). I'd asked my aunt to come over to my house to make them so my son could see how they are made. Every Sankaranthi I remember the sakkaré achchus and am glad that my son has some idea of what they are all about.

Has this ever happened to you?

That, when you are feeding your child, you take a few bites out of the bowl in the hope that it empties sooner?

In the back of your mind you know that you may have mixed too much in the first place and so you help the process along. Alternatively, if the bowl empties too soon you will go and mix some more if your child wants more. But still. It's a weird set of thoughts.

If this has never happened to any of you moms or dads, you'd better not tell me.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Steelers vs. Cardinals: The fireworks don't wait for half-time

They come about one minute ahead of schedule.

The Superbowl is being watched with a tad more intensity than usual at home this year. Reprieve from a whole week's worth of homework is on the line if the Steelers win. C's teacher is a big fan. So guess who we're rooting for. All that intense watching and praying seems to have paid off.

Cardinals are within inches of a touchdown. Harrison for the Steelers intercepts Warner's pass and starts running to the other end. He, whose sole purpose on the field is to hit the living daylights out of the opposing team - and is built for that job - runs the full length of the field and scores a touchdown, and promptly collapses under the sheer weight of that effort. Turns out he was a bit winded but all right. It is always a delightful sight to watch defenders do the offence's work. Especially joyful when he does the ballet in full combat gear to escape the desperate clutches of an offence that suddenly finds itself defending. Somewhat like the tailender scoring a century on the last day of a cricket match to force a draw just as the other side thought it had victory all sewn up.

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