Karuna – A ‘special’ mother’s story

love1

Karuna had been up for hours that night, much before her morning alarm began ringing. The impending engagement of the day and the untold agony it entailed had kept her awake.

Karuna had a good mind to call up the authorities and say she wasn’t coming. Well, that wouldn’t be ethical. After all, she had a reputation to live up to! The IT woman, who had made in spite of all the odds, an inspirational divorcee, who had built up her work single-handedly! No, the role had to be played out!

Sighing deeply, Karuna quickly got ready, left instructions to the nanny and left without saying hello or bye to Ansh, her son.

Karuna had been invited as the chief guest at a medal ceremony of a famous school. She was to give a stirring speech, present the awards to the winning children and congratulate the parents while making adequate appreciative noises. Only she knew, how she hated that task.

Karuna managed to get through her speech with her trademark million-watt smile plastered across, after a warm welcome from the teachers. As the shining students started lining up for their medals and as the announcer waxed eloquent about their achievements, a stab of jealousy and anger shot through Karuna.

She felt like throwing the heavy cups and shields on the breathlessly proud parents who were filming every single rapturous moment. If only she could scream aloud at the unfairness of it all! Hiding her tears, Karuna quickly rushed through the ceremony, almost ran from the venue and hid in a nondescript cafe, quickly ordered a strong coffee and let her mind wander to her painful past.

Why couldn’t her Ansh be like these brilliant children? Intelligent, athletic, super smart or beautiful? Why did she have to be the chosen one for such untold punishment? It was incomprehensible that the breathtakingly beautiful and super smart she and her top grader husband Aman could conceive and birth Ansh.

Ansh was what they called nowadays, a special child. Pretty euphemistic, Karuna spat angrily. Initially, all had been good. Both the partners were earning well, investing in cars, a pad in an upscale part of the town, gold, stocks, in that order. And once into their thirties both decided to have a child. Ansh was conceived after much turmoil and multiple visits to the doctors. As an infant, he was doing ok, more or less keeping with the expected milestones. When Ansh turned two, Karuna began to comprehend something was amiss, something was wrong and Ansh wasn’t like others.

A visit to the doctor confirmed her worst fears. In her anger, she had rejected everything, shut herself away from the prying. But she couldn’t keep away from the loving boy.

Aman took the news very hard. He began to work harder and stayed away from home most of the time as if that would somehow obliterate the harsh truth. Whenever Aman entertained his colleagues, he would insist that Ansh be kept out of sight or put to sleep with the nanny overseeing. Out of sight was out of mind.

The stress, the pretenses began eating into Karuna’s psyche and it was a matter of time that Aman and Karuna separated bitterly. Truth be told, Aman did contribute generously monetary wise, but was that enough?

Karuna quit her job, started a home venture while looking after Ansh. The venture grew so did her knowledge about a special child’s needs. She refused to remarry because she felt if the own father couldn’t wholeheartedly accept his son, why would a stranger do so?

So the periodic bouts anger continued at the unfairness of it all, while she tackled life stoically, earning name and fame across the society.

But the scalding tears were shed in loneliness.

Presently Karuna paid up, confirmed with the nanny that Ansh was ok, roamed around the city, unwilling to go home yet, unwilling to face the home truths yet.

But eventually, she had to. Nanny opened the door and Karuna mechanically walked towards Ansh’s room. Ansh was dabbling with colors making bright pictures while having dinner.

As he saw her his eyes lit up, and he waved to her, beckoning her. As a listless Karuna sat next time, he tapped at his drawing and drawled, “Momma” and then offered a spoonful of his dinner. As the tears threatened to overflow, Karuna managed to gulp the food. Ansh then lay down in her lap.

As she stroked his hair, Karuna was stricken with shame.

How unadulterated was this love, untainted by societal goals or rules? She had this and she was rich. That was enough. What happened to the Karuna in her? Was it just restricted to her moniker?

Ansh was her extension, a part of her being and she would do everything to make sure, he had the best.

Agreed, every day was a struggle and the path ahead utterly lonely, but today was done and today’s lesson had been taught.

Love did heal wounds. For today!

Tomorrow? Who knew!

A mum’s tale

Shantanu was sitting at his usual spot, at the head of the table and I was at my usual spot, near the wall, at the alcove, to his left.
He was all worked up, my Shantanu. I wanted to ruffle his hair and say life would be ok. But I decided against it. He was already late for work you see. He wanted to reach before his team came in. Soon the monstrous morning traffic would consume every available space on the roads and my Shantanu hated traffic. It gave him the headaches, he said.
Shantanu folded the papers and drummed his fingers impatiently on the table. He was hungry. I knew he would be served those bland oats and some fancy fruits whereas Shantanu loved my tangy vegetables and Rotis.
I sighed.
Just then Noyinka walked in from her morning Yoga classes, bellowed for breakfast to the person battling in the kitchen.
“Bhaiyya has to leave, Jhumki!”. Noyinka then plonked herself next to Shantanu and chatted non-stop about the world around, without waiting for him to reply. Poor boy! It has been a Noyinka centric world ever since he married her against my wishes and brought her home.
Oh, I haven’t introduced myself have I? I’m Amma, Shantanu’s mother. Noyinka and I have had a frosty relationship at the best. She tried and I tried too. But somehow it didn’t work out and eventually, we decided to ignore each other while Shantanu fretted and fumed. Fed up he, chose work over us. On hindsight, it turned out a good decision.
Anyways, coming back to the present, I watched Shantanu push that bland fare down his throat, kiss his wife on her forehead and rush out. He didn’t even look at my direction. I sighed again, silently followed him, settled in the passenger seat quickly before the driver revved up the engine. Shantanu hated car-conversations. He checked his mail while the driver cursed, cussed and honked and I sat quietly watching the daily drama. Shantanu got down at his office, told the driver to come back later in the evening after carting Noyinka around and walked inside briskly without saying a word or bidding me goodbye.
I exhaled deeply again. Well, I knew it would happen.
I came back all tired and settled near the alcove.
The blessed maid, knowing fully well that Noyinka wouldn’t be back for some time, was sprawled in front of the telly, thoroughly enjoying some regressive Saas-Bahu serials. How unrealistic and far removed from real-life these soaps are I tell you, two women fighting for control of the house or over a man! Just imagine!
With nothing much to do, I settled next to her, watching those numbing serials in a loop.
After some time Noyinka called Jhumki with a fresh set of dinner instructions. Cursing, Jhumki got up reluctantly, switched off the Telly, without even asking me and got to work.
I decided against letting Jhumki know how I felt, quietly settled by the alcove and waited for the evening to fall.
It was almost 9 pm by the time Noyinka and my Shantanu returned. I beamed the moment I saw him. He briefly looked at me and asked for dinner. Jhumki brought out some unpalatable fare. Shantanu looked exhausted, he sniffed at the food, barely nibbled at any. Noyinka didn’t seem to sense any of this. I sat next to son, wanting to soothe him. But then, suffering is personal, isn’t it? I sat by him without a word.
Dinner done, husband and wife retired to their room. I wanted to follow them there too but then there are some boundaries right?
So I settled in at the alcove for the night.
In my photo-frame, on the photo-stand, which is gathering dust by the second.
This stupid Jhumki doesn’t clean the alcove and my son whom I love so much, so much that, I still stick around, doesn’t change the faded garlands adorning my photo often.
What can I expect from Noyinka anyways? Her happy period began when she became the queen of this abode of mine when I popped off suddenly five years ago.
Maybe I will spook that lazy Jhumki tonight.
Just for fun and bide my time till my Shantanu wakes up!

Amma & Beta

IMG_2050I took the bite. And I took the plunge finally, after dawdling over the decision for months.  Thus I have come to the profound conclusion (of course subject to market risks) that Binge Watching might be good for the brain but is terrible for the body!

Now that we have dispensed with the conclusion at the very beginning, let us proceed further.

Though my son and most have been raving about ‘Sacred Games‘ I was skeptical about taking the plunge. Why you may ask. ‘She is a prude‘, you may conclude. Well, you will understand my predicament better, once you understand my watching patterns.

Once the family has been fed to my satisfaction and Hmm-Husband vacillating between IPL and sleep while Darling-Dotty wonders looking at her mountainous pile of books, ‘what is the aim of all this grind?’, I finally settle with my plate of piping hot food for some serious streaming on my laptop, content with the knowledge that I have seen this day through.

When the very first scene is all blood and gore, naturally you can’t chew on it. Neither food nor the scene. But yesterday was different.  I was in a benevolent mood towards self, as I managed to finish penning a chapter. I was willing to traverse the whole nine yards. ‘Sacred Games‘ was my reward. Like a true blue binge watcher, gave up on beauty sleep and finished the entire series in less than 24 hours. ( Let me gloat Ya, a record for me 😀 )

All through Ashwathama…Sarama…Yayati, I plodded on, pushed myself,  ‘ab aayega twist, ab aageya twist.‘ Only to have the end credits roll. Concerned that I might have missed a vital point somewhere, I called my son to reconfirm the plot. Apart from the marriage of convenience between Bollywood, Mantralaya, Police, and Ganglands, with religious violence thrown as a seasoning, what else was in the offing? ( of course, this is a very simplistic and uni-directional summarisation of the two-threaded plot)

Wasn’t all this already dealt with in Satya or in Black-Friday?

My son answered, ‘Maybe so. I will Google about Satya. Some Manoj had an awesome role na?”

I counted till three and said, ‘Bhiku Mhatre! Manoj Bajpai!’  Sonny said, ‘Mom, my generation has loved the clarity, the sheer honesty with which this ganging up together has been shown in Sacred Games. It is very raw.’

I: ‘You mean this marriage of convenience between powers-to-be and unsavory fringe elements of the society?’

Sonny: ‘ Yup mom. You will take time to get this!’

At that moment it hit me of how paleolithic I was.

But I wasn’t giving it up so easily. ‘At least you wouldn’t categorize me as pusillanimous. Would you? I am open to watching a farrago of content’

I thought I had the last word.

Sonny: ‘Looks like someone is getting ‘Tharoorised

Uff! Me thinks, I won’t go bananas. I gotta ‘scale‘ it down and watch the boy’s head weight.

Who knows what will crash and when?

We are headstrong alright! Mommieee!

The History of Mathematics – Archana Talks

In her career as a writer, Archana has spun some terrific tales across genres. Whether it was her short stories, her Novel ‘Birds of Prey’ or the e-book ‘Tit for Tat’, they have all captivated her readers and brought in much-deserved accolades.

In ‘The History of Mathematics’, Archana touches upon known and hitherto unknown legends, mathematical concepts, mathematicians and serves up a delectable fare.

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 10.31.38 PM

There are 26 neatly arranged tales (nothing to do with the letters of the English Alphabet) with apt titles, captions, aided by drawings, equations, expressions and pithy quotes by the famous.

Archana Sarat speaks to us –

1. Congratulations Archana! Your book is just out and there’s a great buzz about the response to it. How do you feel?

Thank you, Anupama. Though I feel thankful that my efforts have been acknowledged and the book is loved by the readers, the entire process of writing and publishing is a surreal experience. The efforts of many people go into shaping the book: my editor, Percy Wadiwala, my publisher, Dipankar Mukherjee, my illustrator, Rayee Terdalkar and so many others. It is the Almighty’s blessing that I have all these supportive folks in my life. So, I cannot take credit for everything.

2. You have dabbled across genres. What made you take up writing on this particular subject and choosing it as a conduit for your creative expression?

I love to write very-short short stories, popularly called flash fiction. I had been toying with the idea of writing a collection of flash fiction stories on a single topic.  I have always loved mathematics and I enjoy reading books on the topic. When I chanced upon a book about the evolution of mathematics, the first few stories from ‘The History of Mathematics’ gushed into my head with hardly any effort.

3. How did you approach the writing of your novel? Was there anything particularly challenging when you took up writing on this subject?

Initially, I had just wanted to write stories that show us how math evolved. As my research intensified, I understood that mathematics, as we know it today, is the result of India’s invaluable contributions to this field. This was when I decided that at least half of the book must include India’s contribution to mathematics.

This decision became my biggest challenge. This was because there was hardly any information available about renowned Indian mathematicians like Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, Bhaskara I, etc. These men were extremely humble, and they wanted their work to speak for itself and did not believe in attaching their names to their contributions. Did you know that we have no historical data about Aryabhata who wrote Aryabhatiya when he was just twenty-three years of age? Except for that one piece of information, we know nothing else about him though he is our country’s leading astronomer, physicist, and mathematician. So, research became a nightmare while I worked on this book.

4. The scope of the subject chosen is vast. How did you decide, how much to tackle, when and where to leave?

I’ve hardly covered a drop in the ocean as far as the history of mathematics is concerned. In this book, I have covered the time period from early ages till the eleventh century CE. I haven’t spoken about the contributions of China, Egypt, and the Arabs. I’ve also not written about the Kerala mathematicians. I will cover all this in a sequel to this book.

5. Why should anyone read your book? Who is your target audience? Can you sum up the journey of your book in two sentences?

We are at a difficult time in history when half the population is disillusioned with our country and the other half is taking pride in all the wrong things. I think reading this book can help clear our perspectives and allow us to see what a great nation we are.

The target audience for this book would be anybody from 8 to 88 years of age. Both math enthusiasts and history enthusiasts would enjoy the book.

To sum up the journey of my book, I must say that it was a labour of love. Nothing else but the unfettered passion to the idea kept me slogging through a dozen books on this topic.

6. Why do you think some children fear maths? Any tips to them to overcome their fear? Does this book help in any way overcoming those worry pangs?

Not just children, all of us fear things that we cannot understand be it cooking, ghosts or rappelling. The only way to overcome this fear is to make efforts to understand and appreciate the thing that scares us. This is where teachers, parents, and books, like this one, can help. When children read that the knowledge of mathematics is inborn, it dispels their fear of the topic. Also, the book contains a few tips and tricks from the Egyptians that make certain mathematical calculations easy.

7. Some say we are dumbing down as we are becoming tech-dependent by the hour.  Would a peek into the history of mathematics make us more analytical?

Becoming tech-dependent may not be a bad thing. When books became popular for the first time in history, parents chided their children for reading. They wanted them to go out and play. Parents did not allow the kids to read while eating. Now, I’m sure all parents would be happy to allow their child to read rather than sit glued to the computer or mobile screen. So, these things keep changing with the times.

However, even in these times, I strongly feel that being analytical may be good in certain things like reading and studying. The mere act of scratching out numbers on a paper using a pencil feels therapeutic to me. This is the reason why I have included many stories that talk about clay tablets, maintaining accounts using tally sticks, counting using beads, etc.

8.  What next? What defines you? Do you have anything specific to share with your readers that you learnt while writing this book?

My hands are itching to write a thriller next. It is my most favourite genre. It has been a long time since Birds of Prey, my debut psychological crime thriller.

Two things I learnt while writing my recent book are tolerance and perseverance. All new ideas face opposition. People cannot tolerate change and they find it easier to remove the person suggesting the change rather than remove their old habits. This is where perseverance comes into play. Our yesteryear mathematicians stuck on steadfastly and stood for their views. If you don’t stand up for something, you will fall for anything!

9. What do you think is the future of reading/writing in India?

A research study shows that we are reading much more than ever before in history, though this is predominantly in the form of Facebook posts, WhatsApp messages, Quora answers and Scroll articles. The future of reading and writing is bright in India provided the content is engaging and is presented in a pleasing manner. Shoddy covers, pathetic editing and meandering stories will not work anymore.

10. Any advice for other writers and budding writers?

Read.

Read in the genre that you write.

Read in other genres too.

Read bestsellers.

Read prize-winners.

Read all others too.

For every 1000 words that you write, read 10,000.

Kahani Ek – Teen Endings

 

Kahani #1

“Neha, I’ve chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone deeply”

“Girl, Mine works in a Fortune500 company”

“Daddy, mine says I’m his good fortune, has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my Raj will take you for a cruise on the Thames, for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my Rahul will take me to Tirthan and serenade”

“Neha, think about your FB profile after marriage!”

Neha thought deeply.

After fifteen days NehaRaj updated her FB, Instagram with pictures of her honeymoon in Europe with hashtags like #soulmate #truelove

Love is also being practical!

*************************************************************************************

Kahani #2

“Neha, I have chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone else deeply”

“Neha, My choice works in a Fortune 500 company”

“Daddy, my choice says I’m his good fortune and has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my choice, Raj, will take you for a cruise on the Thames and for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my choice Rahul will take me to Nainital and serenade”

“Okay Neha, how do you like your FB profile to look?”

Neha thought deeply.

After a few days, Neha updated her FB profile, Instagram with pictures of her checking into a Grad-School with hashtags like #LoveCanWaitStudiesCan’t  #LifeGoals

Love is also about loving self! Deeply!!

*************************************************************************************

Kahani #3

“Neha, I have chosen a boy for you”

“But Daddy I love someone else deeply”

“Neha, My choice works in a Fortune 500 company”

“Daddy, my choice says I’m his good fortune and has 500 nice things to say about me”

“Neha, my choice, Raj, will take you for a cruise on the Thames and for dinner by the Eiffel Tower”

“Daddy, my choice Rahul will take me to Shimla and serenade”

“Okay Neha, how do you like your FB profile to look?”

Neha thought deeply.

After a few days, Neha Rahul updated her FB profile, Instagram with pictures of her checking into an Airbnb with hashtags like #LoveMakesTheWorldBetter #LifeGoals

Because Rahul completes Neha! Neha treasures Rahul

Because True Love is a difficult treasure to find and hold onto!

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 10.53.03 PM

when-padma-bani-paula

When Hemoglobin Bani Low

Around mid-March, this year, I started feeling breathless when I walked short distances or climbed a few stairs. I thought this must be due to the pollution in NCR. Afterall I did have weak lungs, thanks to the TB of glands that I suffered in 2013.

On April 5th, 2018, my novel #WhenPadmaBaniPaula debuted on Amazon.in

This was a dream come true for me. A newbie, with no formal training in writing, no literary connections whatsoever managed to churn out a solo novel in a short span of 4 years. I was delirious with joy and somehow my breathlessness and niggling pains didn’t seem to matter. Almost all the forums that I wrote for were very generous in their support for my debut novel.

As I got busy with the promotional activities, I developed a severe ache in my right hand and my back. I could barely lift my right arm. Most of the time I was on pain-killers. I grit my teeth and tried to march along and soon I barely managed to get any work done.

A dear friend Amar suggested physiotherapy. The doctor checked me up and suggested corrective measures. Shortly, I left for Hyderabad to meet with my parents.

First four days were spent catching up and eating. Soon I met with my mom’s doc for increasing aches. The moment he saw me, he ordered a slew of tests.

And then the biggie was dropped via the test results.

My Hemoglobin level was at 5.6 g/dl.

Hemoglobin levels (7 – 8 g/dL), according to new clinical guidelines from the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) is treated as critical often needing a transfusion. Here I was merrily scamping around with a 5.6. Luckily for me, I tested negative for Sugar, therefore, Diabetes, Thyroid. My Liver and kidneys hadn’t been affected so far, BP was fine though pulse remained pretty high.

The Doctor said I now needed a Hematologist working with a reputed hospital for the next steps. But this new doctor had no appointments till July end. We called in another standby doctor who suggested immediate drip with a series of injections spread over 10 days. The whole thing was spiraling out. Panic was setting in. To think I had come to Hyderabad to chill, meet pals and do a round of bookshops selling #WhenPadmaBaniPaula!

As we were mulling our options, we turned lucky. Almost immediately, we received a call from the hospital. A slot had opened up as a patient had canceled his appointment.

The Hematologist suggested an immediate drip with an injection to absorb the medicines that would be pumped in. The top layer of my digestive tract was gone and hence I could stomach only barely seasoned food.

I still remember the horrible night after the drip. My system took time to this new medication. I had a fever, acute gas attack and my back had given away. I spent the whole night standing and howling loudly.  But in a couple of days, I was on a path to recovery.

All because of my family. My wonderful parents and my loving husband with the support of my Darling_Dotty (and Sonny’s calls). I couldn’t have recovered this fast otherwise. I owe it to them entirely.

Before I left Hyd, I met the Doc again with the tests redone.  My Hemoglobin level now was at 7.9 g/dl. I have to undergo tests every month for the next 4 and I am on medication for at least 3 months.

Now you might wonder dear reader why do I bore you with my medical troubles.

The good doctor said I had been functioning at 30% of my capacity. That boggled the living daylights of me. I could do more if I turned fitter.

Most of us Indian women have a terrible Hemo reading. It has become an accepted norm sadly. Our needs come last. Our health is tended to once the family has been looked after. A Healthy Us is paramount for the smooth running of our family and their greater achievements. Because we are the focal point of our tiny kingdom.

Take your tests today before it becomes dangerous. Invest in yourself. You owe it to self!

And today I climbed 6 flights of stairs and I was barely breathless. Very Happy!!

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 10.53.03 PM

 

 

 

 

Kadam Chhota, Change Bada!

Let me at the very outset confess that I wasn’t going to participate in this.

What could I add that hasn’t been said already? But the recent events in my own small sphere have been instrumental in my penning this post.

Scintillating_Sonny has been interning in a new city. A packed semester left him very little time to finalize a place to stay in his chosen city. Scintillating_Sonny was to stay with his seniors from college for a couple days and then move into his own quarters.

As parents of grown-ups, we are simply expected to stay back and watch the scary proceedings while flaunting a benign understanding smile, with tsunamis exploding in our stomachs. Plus transferring the money as and when required. The itch to set things right is so overpowering that your knuckles turn white because you are holding onto the chairs to control yourself and avoid saying ‘I told you! But you just don’t listen to me!“.

Thanks to GyaaniGoogle, we knew all about his trysts with destiny. I think my hotline with God worked because Scintillating_Sonny soon found a place to stay, where all the checkboxes were ticked. (Well Lord Supreme had to respond. I was buzzing him non-stop, 24/7)

During his stay with his seniors, Sonny made the breakfast every day. As luck would have it when he was vacating the seniors’ house, there were no flatmates present. My boy cleaned the entire kitchen, washed the dishes, restocked the fridge, cleaned up the bathroom too. Like a typical mom, I wailed away singing, “Badi nazo se pali Hamara Banna“. It was Hmm_Husband who brought back some needed clarity. “We should be proud of the way we have raised him. Self-sufficient and highly responsible. Take pride in that and stop moping! He is a survivor!

Bhale hi mere Kadam Chhota ho, yeh Change Bada hi hai!

Because Sonny is completely house-trained. Countless times he has rustled up food for the family while I was busy with my own work. Washed the dishes when the maid didn’t turn up.  Hmm_Husband has been the pusher here, saying everyone needs to contribute to the efficient running of a home.

Right now, in her summer holidays, Darling-Dotty is being trained to look after the morning routine of the kitchen.

As a family, we may not be bringing in the revolution. But we are making a small change in our own sphere, where there is no gender associated with chores and all four of us are equal entities making a beautiful whole.

In the FB group (SeniorSchoolMoms) that I admin, Moms query freely and frankly about the educational options ahead for their children and seek assistance for their teenagers’ troubles like cyberbullying, peer pressure, relationship issues.

 I am happy that I have been able to create a supportive and an idea-sharing platform where Moms could be free of harsh judgments.

My ‘Happy Hours’ are 5-7pm when I tutor teenagers of the condo. No topic is taboo enough. We discuss everything.

I often say that Rational Thinking should be the only religion because increased Misogyny is the vile by-product when misplaced machismo gets heralded as exemplary.

When we raise sorted, rational, fair children, unburdened by the narrow schisms of society, we would have contributed to nation building.

The change begins with me.

Let us keep walking.

Every change begins with a small step, whether it’s a change within your family or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe nowFor every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.