March 25, 2007

Women and dabbas

What’s it with women and dabbas? Any shape, any size, plastic or steel, glass or brass, single or box in box in box in box , plain or colour coordinated, ordinary or microwave-able…women (any shape and size) simply love boxes!

I remember woman vendors carrying stainless steel vessels in baskets on their heads being called by my grandmother and sometimes my mother. I could see desire in their eyes when they saw those steel boxes. I always wondered why they needed more steel vessels, when the kitchen was already so full of them. But there was always one box or vessel with a different shape, different size, that they wanted, and they always managed to find a use for it.

It was a barter system---steel vessels for old clothes. Out came the old sarees, shirts and pants, and then began the bargaining. My mother would give them a HUGE pile of clothes and the woman would offer a tiny vessel in return! My mother would casually ask for a large box; the woman would say, “no, no…I cannot give you that one; you must be joking”. The woman would then ask for sarees with zari (gold work) on them My mother would not give her any zari sarees, but maybe add one more old saree and shirt, and finally, after about two hours of haggling, the woman would walk away with the basket of steel vessels on her head, and in her arm, the pile of old clothes wrapped in one of the sarees.

As she walked away, she left behind two women overjoyed with the new dabba in the kitchen, perhaps triumphant too, that they finally got what they wanted!

Here’s another scene. Just watch a woman walking around in a supermarket or a mall. Watch her as she nears a shelf with boxes on it. She will slow down…oh yes, she will! She will pick up a box and hold it lovingly, turn it around, try to open it, look inside…if it is a box in box in box, she will open all the lids and put them all back, caress the box, sigh (thinking of the number of boxes she already has) and place it back with great reluctance.

She will similarly pick up the other kinds of boxes that are there, again touch them, sigh, and put them back. Sometimes she will walk away from the shelf with a stern resolve, pick up other things she had actually gone there for, but slowly return to the shelf with boxes, hesitantly pick up a box, put it in her basket. Sometimes she will put it back yet again, but pick it up, as she is suddenly convinced that she really and truly needs that box!

So what’s it with women and dabbas? Simple…as I said earlier, women just love boxes. And it is a harmless love affair, best left alone and not reasoned out, and most important, not questioned!

March 15, 2007

The Waiting Place

Dr Suess’s book ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’ is one of my favourite books.

As the jacket says, this book is ‘for out-starting upstarts of all ages...a wonderfully wise and blessedly brief graduation speech. In his inimitable, humourous verse and pictures, he addresses the Great Balancing Act (life itself, and the ups and downs it presents) while encouraging us to find the success that lies within us’.

Oh! The places... is about making choices, about going into the wide world, about great things happening to you, about flying high; it is also about great things NOT happening to you, and about being left in the lurch. It is about fear and confusion, about being in the slump and about the Waiting Place, where people are just waiting...

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.


Simple words, but oh, so true. How many times one lands up seriously in this dreaded Waiting Place, not finding the way out. But...Dr Suess says there is an end to this waiting. He talks about ‘unslumping’ oneself, about moving on, about going places, having fun! And will you succeed? Yes! You, will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) So ends the book, on a note of hope.

I seem to be in the Waiting Place, yet again. Now is the time to remember and be thankful for all the speed breakers I crossed earlier in life, and get myself to once again believe in the 98 and 3/4 percent guarantee!

March 08, 2007

Lambadis on Holi

We were driving back from Srisailam (Kurnool district, AP; famous for the Siva temple, Nallamalai forest, River Krishna) on Holi, and were stopped by groups of revellers asking for inam. While it was irritating to stop every now and then, we were also in for a treat: these lambadis (a nomadic tribe) stood right in front of the car and started dancing, and thus walked straight into my Kodak.

March 01, 2007

Of a slug and its silvery trail


Some things bring back memories. It could be a song, it could be a smell, it could be a place or an ambience...it could even be an insect!

A slug brings me many happy memories. Memories of a special time, a special place, a fun-loving group of friends, picnics, fooling around. Somewhat like in Shaan’s Tanha dil... whenever I see a slug, I visualise green lawns, my friends and me relaxing during lunch break, talking, joking, one naughty friend pulling another’s leg, giggling...and slugs in the grass!

What amused us were the silvery trails they left as they moved ever so slowly on the grass! Every time we saw a slug leaving a trail, we would stop and watch, as fascinated as we were the first time we saw it.

At that time, I never bothered to read about why they left this trail. I did, now. See below, the explanation. Lots of interesting details and all that...but all I want to say is that this little insect has left a silvery trail, not just in the grass, but also in my heart! And it always does, and always will remind me of that special place, a special time...and a special moment.

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According to Wikipedia, slugs produce two types of mucus (the silvery trail): one which is thin and watery, and another which is thick and sticky. The thin mucus is spread out from the centre of the foot to the edges. The thick mucus spreads out from front to back.

Mucus is very important to slugs as it helps them move around, and contains fibres which prevent the slug from sliding down vertical surfaces. Mucus also provides protection against predators and helps retain moisture. Some species use slime cords to lower themselves on to the ground, or suspend from them during copulation.

An apology to Africans

We have had a professional connect with Africa for a long time. While at ICRISAT during the eighties, we met and were friends with sever...