Search

richasmukherjee.com

love, laughter, pain, joy, life and its lessons, one word at a time

Category

Parenting

When Vada Pav saved Valentine’s day

HeartSameeksha woke up with a smile on her face. While slaving away on her laptop the previous night, her only solace had been that she had a big bright spot to look forward to
The following day. The last few months had taken a toll on her. Between Sujit and her hectic travel, Anaaya’s school , the home madness, somewhere along the way, the phonecalls had reduced in frequency, the intimacy was at an all time low and it seemed as if they were familiar friends passing each other every day instead of the head over heels in love struck couple they had traded places with. Nothing was wrong as such, she often chided herself, but deep inside it didn’t feel right either. But today, everything would change. Valentines day would fix everything. She would take a half day, go to the salon, finish everything in time for her romantic date with Sujit and they would sip champagne into the night, just like old times and all would be right with the world again.

But what they say about the best laid plans often hitting dirt rang true for Sameeksha on the worst day possible.
‘What the hell is wrong with you!? How can you not run this by me before going to the client?’ A few hours into work and she had already lost her cool a few times. Nevously glancing at her watch didn’t make the day go any faster. Sujit called just before lunch to check on her and she ended up being testy with the person she was trying to desperately get through the day for.
‘I’m sorry Sujit’ she apologised. ‘Its just been a harrowing day. One crisis after another, I’m surrounded by fools who can’t fix anything. The maid keeps calling because theres no water at home, Anaaya’s
School teacher called because she got into a fight with some boy and.. and.. look at the time! I need to get to the parlour. We have a reservation at 8:30 pm.’
‘Darling, its okay if we don’t go for dinner. Really..its..’
‘What do you mean! It took me forever to get a table at the best restaurant in town. And I’ve told all our friends about it. We are going for dinner. I don’t care how!’ she almost shouted with frustration.
‘Ok Ok. Don’t get stressed. We will go’ Sujit tried to soothe her frazzled nerves. ‘See you soon love.’

Just when she was leaving office, 2 hours after her salon appointment, the car decided to break down. Leaving instructions with the security guard, she ran to get a taxi. With every passing second, looking at the hands ticking away, she felt like the day was slipping out of her hands. The final nail in the coffin was a traffic jam. At 7:30, she was still about half an hour away from the salon and realised then that her carefully laid plans would crumble to dust. Thankfully her mother was also at home to keep an eye on Anaaya but she knew going directly to the restaurant was not an option either.
She would never make it. She called Sujit with tears streaming down her face, broken and exhausted and told him she wouldn’t be able to make it.
‘Just go home Sujit. I’ll see you there.’
‘Baby, its alright.’
‘Just go home Sujit. I don’t want to talk.’ She hung up, wanting to sulk alone in her smelly cab.

About half an hour later, still stuck at the same spot due to a truck overturning on the bridge ahead, she looked straight ahead while taking a sip of water and almost spat it out in surprise. Through the
haze of cars and fumes, she saw Sujit walking towards her with a smile on his face. She couldn’t help but respond with a reluctant smile of her own. When he reached the cab, she bombarded him with questions.
‘Holy cow it took me forever to find you!’ Sujit panted, getting in beside her.’
‘But.. how on earth did you find me! Here, in the middle of traffic?’
‘I tracked your cab’ he shrugged. ‘You sent me the link yourself while getting in as always but I think you forgot’ he laughed.
Sameeksha whacked her head. ‘Ofcourse!’ But why are you here? I was coming home anyway.’
‘Why? Because I wanted to celebrate the evening with my Valentine.’
‘In this smelly cab, eating fumes?!’ She laughed.
‘No, eating Vada Pav.’ He said, pulling out two parcels from the bag he was carrying.’
Her face lit up. It had been one of her favourite foods at one point but she hadn’t had one in years. ‘And where is my beverage for the evening? Do you have a bottle of wine stashed in there as well?’
‘Nope’ he smiled impishly like a little boy. ‘Chaas! That’s all I could find on the way.’
They both laughed. ‘I don’t think that fancy restaurant will approve of our degustation menu tonight but who cares!?
She reached for his hand. ‘I’m sorry things have been so hectic the last few months. I thought I’d fix everything today. Its a beautiful place you know…’
‘You’re sorry?’ He asked incredulously. ‘For what? For being an amazing professional while being the best mother on earth? For juggling priorities and a million tasks on your list casually like you were chomping peanuts? For finding the time to massage Amma’s aching feet before turning in for the night. For always leaving extra potatoes for me in every dish , just as I like it, even when we can’t eat together?
For always finding time to tuck Anaaya in with a wonderful story that she can dream about? And for always remembering to throw away my underwear when the holes get too large and I embarrass myself infront of the maid?’
Sameeksha was laughing but she had tears rolling down her cheeks again. This time around, warm ones, washing away her anxieties, expectations and plans for the night that had thickened like a noose
around her neck. He wiped her tears gently and looked into her eyes. ‘ I know its a lot of pressure darling, but don’t do this to yourself. You’re doing enough, and more. Everything doesn’t have to be prefect.
All that matters is that we are together and we make time for each other, something I am going to work on myself. I’m going to cut down on my travel so I can do more on the home front and spend more time with you and Anaaya.’
Her heart lifted with joy. ‘I am going to do the same.’ She decided and said out loud. ‘But what about our fancy Valentines day?’ She pouted, looking around at the still stubborn traffic.
‘We saved ourselves a hefty bill at that restaurant, some salon money and money I would have spent on a large bouquet. This is the cheapest and best Valentines day ever!’
‘Stingy guy!’ she laughed.
As they sat around laughing, bitting into the delicious Vada Pav and providing free entertainment to the cab driver, she realised that even though big gestures and grand plans were great, sometimes the small moments are the big ones and the worst plans can bring on the brightest smiles.

Why I’m glad I failed every new year resolution!

 

picWhat is recurrent, changes shapes, rarely comes to life and almost always leads to regrets? Yes, you know what I’m talking about.

New year resolutions have had an unnerving effect on me through life. And I can safely say that I’ve possibly lived up to 1 or 2 of the long list of promises. With that track record, I should ideally be ashamed of myself, but you know what? I brazenly confess that this year I am happy that I’ve failed so miserably. Because now I am wiser.
Human beings are fascinating creatures and have mastered the art of infusing doubt and fear into the most harmless and positive things.
Jan 1st: You decided to lead a healthy life, change your bad food habits, eat only fruits through most of the day.
Jan 2nd: Oh my gawd! That jalebi looks divine. I’ve eaten so many fruits. One can’t hurt.
Jan 3rd: I didn’t exercise today, and I ate 2 samosas. (Palpitations and sweating)
Jan 4th: I hate my life, I am so stressed, I’ll always be fat. This year is looking terrible already!
Look what you just did there? 4 precious days were wasted stressing and the end result was the year being labeled as a waste. Think of ways in which you can improve the success rate and not start your precious year with a nervous breakdown. And give your self more time and achievable goals. You aren’t running a race and don’t need to post your completion time! My personal mantra this year is to sloooooooow down.
I realise that by doing this I am contesting the popular trend of doing everything ‘fast’ and ‘quickly’ but what can I say, that’s the new me.
I will stop looking at my watch so often: Have you counted the number of times in a day you stare at your watch? Sometimes I feel I’ve done this even while getting intimate. That’s terrible right? Only because I’m so habituated (On second thoughts my husband would have appreciated another relevant example)We are always on the clock, timing ourselves, jumping ahead to figure out the next task.  It’s great to be organised but it’s a fact that if your mind is always on the go, it will lose steam at some point. This year, I will not try to conquer time, but walk along with it peacefully.
I will sit and do nothing sometimes: Ever tried this? I love sitting quietly and observing everything in my immediate environment. From birds to bees to odd human beings. It is relaxing and rejuvenating. Somewhat like a ‘kapalbhati’ for the stressed mind. But during my New Years break, sitting by the sea I had an epiphany. Why on earth don’t I make time to do nothing in my daily life? Why was this reserved for holidays? Doesn’t It feel great, to take a break, take a deep breath and have no to-do list in your hand? Try it! Being useless never felt this good!
I will take my time eating my food: I recently read about how a lady on a road trip in the hills, stopped the car by an apple orchard and ate an apple for 5 minutes. That for the first time in her life, because she was chewing slowly and carefully, taking her time, she truly enjoyed the apple and had never eaten anything tastier. Made me think about all our express food sessions at home or at work or on-the-go. My daughter has heard me saying ‘Eat Quickly!’ so often, that I really thank god those weren’t her first words or that she didn’t think it was her mother’s name! I wouldn’t blame her. Action point? Mindful eating, enjoying every bite and its been proven that in this way your body will even receive and absorb it better, leading to a healthier you.
I will take a long shower as often as I can: Do I really need to explain this? Everything I do in the bathroom is on fast forward because I usually have my daughter banging on the door and asking me to come out. That’s also the maid’s favourite time to approach me with all her queries and for all the people in the world to call me. But I will take the time to start my day right. Even if it means getting up a little bit earlier than everyone else. If your day starts calm, chances are you won’t end it off yelling at someone. And a long hot shower works miracles anyway doesn’t it?
I will stop and talk to people: A few years ago, at a club in Kolkata, as I went about chasing after my daughter armed with a spoonful of food, a lady randomly walked up to our table and proceeded to chat endlessly, while we made our disdainful faces with ‘how bored is she’ stupid big city attitude on our shoulders. Though I wished she had spoken just a little lesser than she did, it was such a refreshing chat. I find myself avoiding conversations, because it is too exacting. But chatting is good. Because it opens up your mind, lightens up the mood and feels great because after all we are social creatures. Today I started talking to my Uber cab guy and it turned out that he was a superb singer and from the city I was born in. I walked out with a beautiful song in my head and my heart felt lighter.
I will use my phone less: This is such a common plague that it needs no further explanation. Everything in moderation is great but one of the biggest problems I have
is that it distracts me from my writing, work, and I am aware that my daughter is watching me like a hawk all the time. It’s unnerving! Hard to do but give it a shot.
You’ll be amazed at how much time you can create by just switching off from time to time. (I have a sneaky suspicion that I am about to fail embarassingly at this resolution!)
This list might seem a bit simplistic but that’s what we need most in our lives according to me. Simplicity. No relay races, no frantic dashing, no chaotic plans. But an honest awareness and acceptance of things around us. Most importantly, to figure out an acceptable speed to live your own life by, even if you get left behind a little. See? I even wrote this post late, well into the new year and I’m doing just fine!

Queen of hearts

Ma

An ethereal beauty beyond words
Why must you conform to worldly standards of which we have become slaves
Vanity can come from a place of pride 
Beyond a face, beyond skin, beyond the usual trappings
Let the hair fall away, your brilliance is enough
Let the skin peel away, what lies beneath is even better
Let amorphous shapes that your body takes become continents of discovery and wonder
Let not your beauty be eclipsed 
For when you are bare, you are beautiful beyond compare…
These are words I wrote for my mother when she was propped up in her hospital bed with a wan smile on her face. A smile that never left her. Through the rigour of years, through the hardships of sustaining a large family, through vicissitudes of life and economics, there was always a smile to spare. Writing for this piece made me reminisce about the true beauty of my own mother. Its easy to write about your mother most would think. But this decision is not based on mere anthropology. It is because she is most definitely one of the most inspirational, resilient, positive and beautiful people that I’ve had the good fortune to encounter so closely in my life.
For a person who had such affluent beginnings, she never grudged being married into a humble family. A kathak performer, a sangeet visharad, a science and maths gold medalist was assigned to the kitchen and brickbats from her new family but she never complained. When my sisters and I were much older, we learnt of what all she had endured with silence. Again, none of this information was volunteered by her. She never played the victim card. Not once. Through tragedies, ill health and suffering. Her entire life was dedicated to her family, not just the army of four children and the beloved husband but anyone who ever came to her door. Whether it was long lost relatives, beggars, house help, donation seekers, it didn’t matter. No one left with empty hands or  hearts. I often wonder how she managed to be a mother, the coolest granny, a wife, a best friend and confidant when she was navigating through various roles of an electrician, plumber, handyman, world class chef and finance wizard, identities that her keen and scientific mind had sought out to keep her interests alive.
But for someone with such immense zest for life, life had other plans. Unbeknownst to us, there were silent killers eating away at her insides. While her angelic face continued to glow with love and compassion, her diseased body was rotting on the inside. Despite our best efforts, the hospital became her second home for many years. But through it all, the smile stayed, a shaking hand always ready to stick a thumb up in the air, to fool us into thinking she wasn’t suffering. I’ve never in my life seen anyone with a bald head, shrivelled skin and fractured limbs look so radiant and peaceful. For it came from a place of immense strength and real beauty, from deep within. For she refused to give in and smiled till the time she closed her eyes forever. When I held her hand for the last time, I still remember my sister had painted her nails in the ICU. An odd, bright red, to cheer her up. Frankly speaking she didn’t need the varnish. For in that shrivelled body lay the strongest and most beautiful woman, the saviour of a thousand lives, a soul that gave more than it ever took, a beauty beyond compare.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.

Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.

Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF 

Giving back. One word at a time..

IMG_3582

 

I have always struggled in one respect for as long as I can remember. How can I help someone else in need? We were raised on a steady diet of compassion and giving back. Even as a child I remember my mother dipping into her hiding places (often the strangest ones from grain canisters to under the mattress to a big wad in a worn silver box in her cupboard.) All saved for a rainy day but when there are four children milling around the house, rainy days are often around the corner. Even amidst the steady depletion of these treasures and day to day expenses, there was always enough food for whoever came to the house, delivery boys, maids, needy neighbors, visits from my fathers colleagues with their gigantic families in towe, kids coming to collect their errant balls. My father always had enough kind words for whoever he bumped into and it continues to this day. From sweepers on the streets, to shopkeepers, to attendants at clinics, to liftmen and security guards who everyone passes by as they blend into the world, invisible. He is a great listener as well and he always told me that at times the greatest service you can render to humanity is just to be a good listener. We are surrounded by people, daily, who are going through so much, who feel lost, who are miserable. They have no one to turn to. The joy you will give to someone by just lending a few minutes of your time will be visible on their faces. That should be the reward. Compassion was also ingrained within us in the way we were taught to treat each other within the family. Of-course four girls will always find a reason to be uncouth, fight, pull hair and beat each other up, but we saw with the passage of time that all that we had seen while growing up, without ever being preached into it, was naturally imbibed and became an integral part of us.

Of-course I have always tried to be kind whenever an opportunity presents itself but in this busy, insular world, even these opportunities have to be dug out I feel sometimes. Isn’t it then easy to just keep donating online, or give money to beggars or find some such way to appease your need to be kind and good. Each to his own. I don’t judge as this is a very personal action but I certainly was not happy as I was unable to make a visible difference in anyone’s lives, to add value to someone’s existence even in a small way. It rankled inside. Till one day I decided to take my father’s advice and listen. I was on a call with a temporary maid in our society who had finished her tenure with me and was seeking another job. I was trying to guide her towards a prospective employer in the other building and she was so uneducated that she wasn’t able to remember a name, a building number, any of the details. So she asked her son to call me later to note them down. A small incident but it got me thinking about the scores of women I had met within this compound itself who were struggling to either sign their names, fill a form, open a bank account, struggling with a bill as they couldn’t do basic math and were lacking basic language proficiency. It just struck me then and there that i could help them and it made my heart dance! Finally I had found a need gap that I could try and fill.

I had to start with a name. Even if for no one else but myself. To excite and instill a sense of ownership, I came up with a name. My ‘Bai-lingual’ classes! (I stuck with it despite a lot of jokes from my husband) Now I am no teacher. And what was on offer was very basic math and language proficiency. But I had to learn how to teach! So I started reading about teaching aids, pulled out my daughters stock of slates and alphabets and books as she looked at me strangely and started preparing myself. Then came the price of benevolence, time! Where was I to find time for this noble activity between work, home, a young daughter and my writing schedule? I decided to take an hour out each week to begin with and then let that slot evolve as per their requirements and their work. the biggest hurdle though was the recruitment. My proposal was met with suspicious looks (where they possibly thought I was mad or a drug dealer) and ‘How much will you charge?’, ‘ I am too old for this’, ‘I have things to do at home’, ‘My family will laugh at me,’ , ‘I don’t have time.’ All of this made me realize that it was a bigger stigma for them to opt for education at this stage of their lives rather than being coined illiterate. It was a sort of battle for their rights vs their mental and societal attitudes.

I can’t say it’s been easy. I’ve managed to finally recruit two helpers. 4 more have been on-boarded. And I am hoping this army will grow as I learn with them. It’s strange but I feel like a jilted lover when someone promises and doesn’t show up! But what thrilled me the most the other evening was when I passed by my daughter playing downstairs, while walking to my kickboxing class. She was busy recruiting two maids who had come down to the playground with their respective wards, telling them eagerly to come home. ‘My momma is very nice. She doesn’t get angry. She will teach you with my class things!’ As tears pricked my eyes, I smiled wide! At 4 years of age, compassion and caring for others was making a home in her little heart. This is the additional reward. To let my child see the importance and happiness of giving back. In however small a way. For there is no greater joy.

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, only on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe now. For every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.

Release me..


I could always tell when you were unwell, even when I was in another city.

I always knew when your heart was broken, you didn’t say much but I heard the tiny cracking sound it made.

I felt your nervousness, every time you were preparing for an exam, whether inside the classroom or outside.

Every time you stumbled, every time you picked yourself up, I danced with delight.

Will you forsake me now, only because you can’t see me?

Can you not feel my misery every time you push that plate of food away?

Don’t you feel my tears mixing with yours as you cry into the night?

Haven’t you heard my silent scream every time you say you cannot go on?

Can’t you hear me struggling to breathe when you shut the world out?

What pains me more than my empty lap is seeing you fight life everyday.

I am gone, but why do want to join me now, is there no other way?

Live my dreams, live my life, live my happiness and sorrows.

If you can’t find happiness inside, learn to steal, learn to borrow.

They say I can’t feel much but I die a thousand deaths seeing you suffer.

Release me my little one, tomorrow is a new day, and then there will be another..

A grand love


She ran to you and nuzzled her nose in between your knees, shutting the world out.

You caressed the fluffy tuft of hair on her head. She looked up and gave you that smile.

The smile that’s reserved only for you.

You smiled back and shut out the world that existed beyond the both of you.

I wanted to lock this moment in my head and throw the keys away.

So far away, into the depths of the ocean,

Where no one could touch this memory, nothing could change this moment.

Not age, not distance, not the cruel talons of time.

I’ve looked deep into those small twinkling starry eyes many times.

When they open, they search for you till they can find that old familiar figure extending an unwavering hand that is always searching for hers.

When they become heavy with sleep, they push and fight to just drink in one last smile , one last picture of you.

When they dream, it’s always a sunny day where a head full of silver and a tiny black one, Bob up and down along the beach, holding hands and exchanging fantastical tales and silly jokes with equal fervour.

The dreams have travelled a lifetime now, from my eyes to hers.

But the common and the constant is you.

I will never know your secret games, your endless conversations, your special communication even when no words are spoken.

But there is one corner of my heart which will forever be lit up with the memories that I have locked away.

Of an old man and a little girl and their little world.

Vanish


What will happen on a day when you want to be nothing?

Not a frustrated employer with repetitive instructions.

Not the earnest employee trying to save the world from nuclear catastrophe by shooting off that one last email.

Be gone the anxious wife constantly casting the web of a healthy diet onto a reluctant soul.

Be gone the constant mother with that constant spoon full of food, running that daily marathon.

Be gone always the little daughter, terrified of what might take them away.

I don’t want to be a friend , foe or relative today.

I don’t want to make phone calls, I don’t want to be devout and pray.

I’ve shed my skin, and with it all my responsibilities for the day.

I want my world to be restitched with a blanket, stormy rain, a piping hot mug of coffee and an old tattered book.

I’ll cover myself from head to toe, and imagine myself perched by a murmuring brook.

I was whole, but I know little pieces of me that my ‘everyday’ took.

I am nothing today but I’ve found my old self, even if for a moment, nuzzled in a cozy nook.

Little lessons

image

It felt like a day that should be forgotten, quickly.
Nothing made sense.
I looked at a wall, and upon this vast canvas I painted and projected all my contemplation.
Then suddenly you crawled into my lap. I hugged you and breathed in your tiny soft curls.
I will never forget that smell.
It was a heady mixture of baby powder, happiness, innocence, trust, joy and peace.
It carried me away on a cloud.
I was weightless, drifting, with your tiny trusting fingers wrapped around mine.
You gurgled and burped. This amused you so much that you toppled over laughing.
When was the last time I had embarrassed and entertained myself this way?
Back on the ground you crawled over everything that came your way, never losing that smile.
I wish I had thought of your resolve and tenacity when I needed it recently.
When you wrapped your tiny finger around mine, I knew I had to trust in my instincts as well.
For all the fancy schools and colleges and miles upon miles of books,
Some of life’s simplest lessons can be carried in the tiniest hands, you just need to know where to look.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑