Monday, November 30, 2009


The past week everybody was busy about the first anniversary of the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai. While we remembered those hours which defy ordinary epithets, life went on - before, during, after.

This is about one such ordinary life. Almost every day, while going to college fairly early in the morning, I see a mother escorting her daughter, dressed in her blue-checked uniform, to the school bus. The daughter suffers from cerebral palsy and does not have much control over her limbs. Usually the mother half-pulls, half-carries her, but if they are running late, then the mother has to carry the daughter in her lap, cradling her lolling head on one shoulder, schoolbag slung on the other.

The mother is painfully thin and gaunt, the child is almost a teenager. It is quite a long walk from their chawl (slum) to the Highway, where the bus for that special school comes. I have never seen her lose her temper, even when she is half-running to catch the bus, even when the child is throwing a tantrum.

A daily walk of unsung courage that humbles me every time I witness it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The Copy-Kitten is having some sort of elaborate programme at school where she has to go all dressed up exactly like Donald Duck.

The teacher in charge of such superfluous entertainment called me and stuck a shiny photograph of Donald, with eyes closed and nose in the air (Donald’s, not the teacher’s), in my unwilling hands. “Make it at home,” she loftily said, “we don’t want cardboard cutouts,” (reading my mind), “You’d better make it with cotton-stuffing. IT MUST LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THE PHOTOGRAPH.” (Or else…)

Meekly I nodded, saving my indignation for later. I am poor even at darning and button-sewing, let alone such ambitious projects like home-sewing the iconic bad-tempered duck.

Donald’s bad temper was rubbing off on me. None of the shops which sold fancy-dress costumes on hire (I got the names off the Net) had anything near an exact replica. One shop (a “high-end” one) had a coming-apart-cardboard-mask you would really have to imagine hard to be DONALD, which they stuck on top of some ubiquitous Charlie Chaplin-type costume with a tailcoat. I wanted a nice stuck-up fluffy white ducktail, not a dirty black coat with a tail.

Wherever I searched, I got a duck (as in cricket, not cartoons).

Finally, when I attended a pre-programme meet organized by the teacher (which, I suspect was to catch hold of laggards like me and push us into getting the costumes done), I met a pair of parents who had brought along a Doremon who looked exactly like his namesake. A tailor, who mercifully happened to be quite close to my college, apparently specialized in such complicated costumes. You just had to give him the photo (and a rather obscene amount of money), and within two days he would give you a 3-D costume.

And so I rushed right out of the meeting into the shop of the tailor with the magic Walt Disney-esque scissors. And two days later, like a conjuror pulling rabbits out of a hat, he pulled out a Donald Duck costume in luxe velvet-with-sponge-stuffing, looking exactly like that da---ned photograph, with gloves, webbed-feet-footwear, mask, right down to the fluffy white ducktail!

Only snag is, the lookalike costume is tailormade…to fit some child three sizes larger than the Copy-Kitten.

So, as she waddles about like an overstuffed inebriated duck, I’ll have to bring out all the large child-safe pins in the house to keep Donald Duck on his feet. And keep my fingers crossed and hope that Donald a.k.a Copy-Kitten does not have a wardrobe malfunction on the stage.

And if anybody mentions how sweet cartoon characters are, especially Disney ones, especially a cantankerous yellow-beaked duck called Donald, I’ll shove an entire roasted Peking Duck down their throats…on second thoughts, down mine. Or maybe Duck with Orange Sauce…and chew all of it down really viciously. Quack! Quack! Quack!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009


We are back from a few weeks vacationing in Kolkata, where the more things change, the more they remain the same. Or seem to, at least.

Kolkata welcomed us with a host of new flyovers and a not-so-new 'aborodh' (obstruction) because of some political agitation when we all got stuck for three hours on these very flyovers and newly swanked-up roads. Red or green, whatever be the colour of West Bengal's political affliation, it seems that the roads are still stuck in the STOP-RED-LIGHT mode, whenever any leader worth his/her weight decides to sulk and scream.

During our stay we were caught in the midst of the GREAT AUTO DIVIDE - that is, the divide between the new-green-and-yellow autorickshaws that have switched to LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) and the old-black-and-yellow autorickshaws that have not. They are environment-unfriendly, and so, have been rudely ostracised by the Kolkata Police and pushed to fringe roads in areas like Haltu. But many people live there, too. Don't they need environment-friendly conveyance, or are they less important that the residents of posher places like Ballygunge and Jodhpur Park?

Any such argument unarguably made us hungry and during the vacation we had a lovely time feasting at many of our old Kolkata favourites like Peter Cat, Bedouin, Coffee House, and Kafulok at Tangra. Food to die for, at prices that do not take your breath away.

The more things change, the more they remain the same? Not such a bad thing, going by our drool-worthy food experiences at Kolkata.