How do we …. ?

I read ‘The Life of Pi’ a few years ago and recommended the book to everyone I knew. So, one can imagine how I felt when I asked the husband to accompany me to watch the movie. Excited is the word. We drank tea, bought the nachos and the coke. All set for a good cry in other words. Before I proceed, I want to disclose that I am not the ideal audience for a tear-jerker rookie director. That is: if a director is testing to see whether he has appealed to the cry- factor enough, he would do really badly to use me as a test.I cried for Finding Nemo. That fish, Marlin, cried less at being reunited with his son Nemo, than I did.

So, when I say I was prepared for the movie, I mean the tea, nachos, coke and a small tissue packet with me for just this occasion. I was ready. What I did not know was that I am complete wuss! While I never imagined myself striding into a battlefield and bravely fighting the troops single-handedly, I did not think I would run from the theatre gasping for air in less than an hour. I lasted 45 minutes in the theatre.

Deep thinking afterward made me realise that it was the feeling of helplessness that crushed me. In the story, the protagonist is stuck on a boat with a vicious tiger for company. Not knowing when the tiger would pounce, not knowing whether sleep would overcome him, not being at peace for even a moment. The constant fear throbbing in the movie was too much for me. I had read the book, and yet the visual medium affected me very badly.

I thought of how people live in these circumstances. I thought of battered women whose life is about fear. Then, I read something that made my blood boil. That made me shout in outrage.

How is one supposed to change the fabric of society if women who have the capacity to influence and empower other women advocate this? This is coming from RSS women’s wing and I quote (I am cringing even while pasting this):

The reporter quotes twenty-something Sharda from Jabalpur:

I turn to Sharda from Jabalpur. In her late twenties, Sharda has been a whole timer for five years. She tells me that apart from the shakhas, the Samiti also counsels women in their respective areas. There is a manual that is followed. When I ask her, “What advice would you give to a victim of wife beating?” she answers, “Don’t parents admonish their children for misbehaviour? Just as a child must adjust to his/her parents, so must a wife act keeping in mind her husband’s moods and must avoid irritating him. Only this can keep the family together.” Similarly, divorce is also a non option for women. She says, “Our task is to keep the family together, not break it. We tell the women to adjust. Sometimes, we try counsel the husband too.”

How does one stop this?

How do we empower girls to feel that this nonsense is unacceptable?
How do we educate the boys that equality leads to happiness?

How do we … ?

Talk into a skull?

I’d heard a few months ago that the nephew was going to take part in the "Young Entrepreneur’s Contest". Among other things, this meant his team of 4 could learn the basics of sourcing, inventory, estimation, accounting etc. As part of the contest, they were meant to set up a stall in Dubai and man the booth. I was agog with excitement and much to his embarrassment insisted on seeing photos of him dressed up in a suit and standing in his booth.

He refused point-blank and allowed a photograph of himself to be taken at home and sent to quieten his aunt. I goggled and sent him an SMS that he probably hid from his cool teenage friends about how grown-up he looks and all that. Another aunt of his tramped up to his booth to encourage the young entrepreneur. This aunt took ‘Aunt-pride’ to a new level. She lived locally and gathered all her friends and extended family and arrived early in order to make them buy stuff from her nephew’s stall. She kept pulling him out from the crowd and gushed about how proud she was of her little boy and how tall and dashing her young entrepeneur looked. He said the upshot of the whole thing was that, the busload of people who accompanied this aunt bought a lot of things they did not need and ‘helped business along’.

When asked about the whole experience, he looked visibly grateful that the young entrepreneur’s contest was over and behind them. I was excited to learn that they’d made decent profits, and learnt that it is ‘quite hard to bargain with Chinese traders’. He went on to say "We pretty much landed up buying more than we wanted from these people chitthi. They reverse bargained us!".

The conversation was going well till my sister came and shoved something hideous at my face. I recoiled in horror, yelped "GAAAA!"  and toppled out of my chair. Hardly the thing that folks fling in your face when one is admiring the young entrepreneur, what?

I told her so, and she said that the thing she had showed me was what she was forced to ‘buy’ from their son’s stall, since they wanted to reduce inventory and the Chinese trader who sold them that refused to take it back. I totally identified with the Chinese trader (although, why he procured it in the first place beats me)

This is what it is. Just in case the message is too subtle, it is a skull phone, and when the phone rings, the eye sockets glow red or blue or something.


Why on this earth, one would buy a phone that resembles a skull beats me. Oh! The horror of picking up the receiver when it rings.


I just let the nephew know what I thought of his skull phone when he told me that they had procured 4 pieces of it and 3 of them had been sold. I can’t imagine anybody willingly spending money on that kind of thing, but again, what do I know? I would have predicted 0 as the number for skull phones.

"Chitthi! Relax – we all have one in here you know?" he said sagely and pointed to his head.

Wise words from a profitable entrepreneur indeed, but I still made him put the phone away from sight.

Chitthi: Aunt

The Knee Scooter

I have always been a loving aunt and have prided myself in the fact that I love being around children. This time, the nephews and nieces seemed extra nice around me. At first, I deluded myself into believing that they were sympathetic towards me and my broken leg. But it turns out that while they love their aunt like an aunt, they loved my knee scooter better than any toy they’ve seen.


I often muse on our purpose on this Earth. I wonder how we will know whether what we make of our lives is meaningful or not. The knee scooter has provided me with deep philosophical answers.

You see? This simple aid has been a boon of sorts. I broke my foot a few months ago and am still hobbling around on a boot(cast). I was advised the use of crutches to not put any weight at all on the foot. My resolve to bear the injury stoically crumbled faster than some dried up cookies on my counter-top. Three days into using the crutches, I found myself weeping at the hopelessness of it all. My arms hurt from the crutches and I could not run behind my toddler baby to get simple things done. That is when one of the children in my neighborhood came and told me about this knee scooter. A contraption that can be used to move around without putting any weight on the foot. The husband got me access to one quickly enough and I must say, I whooped with joy!

The knee scooter was amazing and helped me perform most of my duties as normally as possible. In fact, I even undertook a trip to India and Dubai using it. Many people thought me nuts. In fact, my own family thought I’d become a salted walnut. I realized that it is not easy to travel halfway across the globe with a toddler in tow when one’s foot is broken. Most people would have cancelled without a second thought. Well…I am not most people, and went anyway (with some ‘subtle’ encouragement from the husband and daughter of course).

knee 1

I tried to find the inventor of the knee scooter, but it is not easy to find. Nevertheless, the person (or team) who invented it, or even helped conceptualize it in one way or the other, has led a purposeful life. The beauty of it is that they may not even know it. It is not a very popular contraption. The medical team at the hospital I got treated in did not tell me about it. They gave me crutches. If doctors tell their patients about knee scooters, patients could try to obtain one on their own even if insurance doesn’t cover the cost for it.

While I was scooting my way in Dubai one day, a Doctor came up to me and introduced himself as an Emergency Physician. He’d noticed my boot and asked me what I was using to move along. When I told him all about the knee scooter, I was surprised to hear that he had not seen one like it. He vowed to make enquiries to make knee scooters available for patients in the Middle East. To me, that one conversation was well worth the trip.

That and the large number of people who saw me forge ahead with a knee scooter. I hope they will remember seeing something that alleviated a person’s distress with a broken foot. If my trip abroad can help even a few people with foot injuries, I think the trip was a success. An unconventional one maybe, but a successful one.

Santa Followed Us!

Here is wishing all of you a wonderful new year! For those of you who noticed the quiet blog, I have been offline on a trip to India and the Middle East for the past few weeks. The daughter was sick with worry about whether Santa would know where to find her, since she was to be away during Christmas. She left letters and cookies under the tree in our home in the US (‘Just in case’ she says!) But she need not have worried. We knew a manager who worked at one of Santa’s factories and arranged for Santa to drop his presents off for the children halfway across the globe in our hallway in Chennai.

You know? If I were Santa, I’d be quite flustered with all the last minute changes that he had to deal with last year.

1) The lists changed in the last minute. For a whole month, there was something on there, and then the day we were leaving for India, a new list appeared with a bunch of cookies. I had to physically ban the milk, since we were scheduled to be away for over 3 weeks. ("Huh? I Changed my mind" – the daughter shrugs her shoulders when quizzed about the change in list contents!) IF I were Santa, I would have stuck around and shrugged my shoulder too, but he didn’t. He was very accommodative of requests procuring items from the local markets at short notice.

2) The location changed. There was a large Christmas tree with an updated list and a post script saying, "Santa: We will be in Chennai for Christmas for this year." I mean. What?

A number of questions arose in my mind. First of all India is ahead of us in timing. So, technically, by the time he read the note and zipped past time-zones, he would already have been late, but he wasn’t!


The daughter and her cousins spent all afternoon on 24th cutting up pieces of paper and coloring them to be Christmas tree and decorating them with stickers and bindis. Santa behaved admirably and left the gifts for them under make-shift paper trees that made for endless days of fun.

Happy New Year!


(Image from Google Search)

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