Friday, October 29, 2010

Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli Hai

Yes as you turn 21 months I realize there is truth in the lyrics makes you cry one moment and the other second you are squealing with laughter, add to that a mother who deals with her own "the good-the bad- the ugly" and well the end result is a full on emotional roller coaster for you, sweet heart.

So what will stay with me this month:

One evening you were trying to prove some point with my glasses and managed to snap off one of the ear rests. You were pretty shocked at what you had done and just stared at me all stupefied. As ever in life two roads diverged in the wood for me, I know a rational mother would seek guidance from SuperNanny or Dr Spock. But I just asked myself what would Nirupa Roy do now? So I burst out burst out crying holding my glasses, and spent the evening flinging myself on to the pillow or wiping my eyes feeding you dinner. You spent the evening trying to quietly read to yourself and checking on me now and then. Done with giving you a guilt trip I tried to explain the whole deal behind my wearing glasses to you. Thus followed a whole hour of play acting with the spare set of glasses " I cant see you Arhaan" and "Now I can" (borrowing again from Nirupa Roy in the classic scene from Amar, Akbar, Anthony) I think you kind of get what glasses do for me, hence when I try to slip them off as I read you your bedtime story (all the better to nod off and encourage you to go to sleep too) you reprimand me with a stern finger and say "Mama, gachiss ONNN".

Speaking of trying to make you go to sleep at night. The pater is travelling and this coincides with the launch of KBC, putting you to bed duties are alas all mine. Considering I am snoring ten minutes into trying to make you sleep, I have yet to watch an episode in its entirety and only stir to the credits rolling on the screen, you on the other hand have been keeping up with all the episodes and will be soon mastering Trivial Pursuit-the Toddler Edition.

I have been mean to you on other occasions this month, all as I face my own personal demons. You have picked up the habit of waving to planes as we play kick-the ball, the other day you waved and sang "Bye bye plane, come again" and some inner devil made me snap "Lucky for you, you are not growing up in Waziristan and that was a drone above". Totally uncalled for. But it was a good reality check to stop visiting my resentments on you. So earlier today I called a truce and shook hands with you and asked of you Mujh Sey Dosti Karogey? Considering Katrina didnt star in that movie the reference was totally lost on you but you hugged me just the same and I guess we will start the new month afresh.

So what else? Yes, earlier this month your dad got you this from Jessore.

Son Of Dhanno

And so just when I start to question my life choices I realise I must have done something right if my partner makes REAL for our child something that was a childhood dream for me. Yup, sometimes its all about the stuff.

What Dreams May Come!

And a dear sister- of -the -heart found her happily every after this month so yeaaahhh for good things happening to good people. J and B, all my prayers for the journey ahead.

And what happens to me at the end of this story. Well I have kind of embarked on life as a home-based worker. And I tell you, whether its staying at home making papad and paper bags or rolling chapatis and beedis; life is tough. I dont know how they get their work done with kids jumping into the flour or running away with the scissors, but trying to type at your laptop as a kid clambers over the table demanding Thomas Tank Engine or Wakka Wakka NOW and worrying about being paid is no picnic either. And there is bitterness and the Dream of Making My Own Money and let it be something Im passionate about. So this is a call out to all who lurk and might have some ideas. Kindly email me any leads that you think are up my line. I guess anyone who has been reading me all this while knows about my love for popular culture and a filmy view towards politics and more in South Asia!! It will keep a little boy in pampers and the mother in good humour.

For now Im tagging along with The Man to Colombo, as Home Alone had too much dark humour for the kid and me. When I come back a change is gonna come. With the blog header for one. Too many people ruminating about their life and all the somethings in it. Let it be something which declares This is Aneela Z Babar and we have no other branches.

Monday, October 18, 2010

O Maa Meri Pat Rakhiyo Sada

In a constant effort to improve the toddler’s mental horizons (and lest it be said secularism is something I do as a hobby, you know faarigh waqt may I do some light reading, cooking and practice secularism); we embarked this weekend on the Dhaka Durga (Pandal) Darshan.

We took an invitation by the Kumudini Trust as not just a fortuitous incident. The invitation was to watch the celebrations at the family temple in Tangail which in the past fifty years or so has been opened to civilians like us as well. The temple has a history of 400 years, pretty much around the same time we left for Tangail from Dhaka. On a good day the drive should not take more than 90 minutes but considering the driver feels that every time he asks for directions someone out there makes little puppy dogs and babies cry, the building had aged dramatically from its pictures when we got there.

The good people at the gate pointed out the dining hall when we finally got there. Food first, darshan later they cajoled us. How could one argue their immense logic. At the dining hall the toddler jumped head first, no invitations necessary, into the luchi and sabzi. Plucking the potatoes in pickle from the serving bowl, he popped them one after the other into his mouth. Of course at home any effort to give him anything other than the bland kichdi is met with cries of Too Hot. But like Goldilocks before him he found his bowl of Just Right that evening. Sadly there IS no truth in advertising? Dear Coke Ad, My Mom’s Food the best? Sorry, No meri Mummy dey parathey sab se vadiya in this household.

We had to cross a river in a boat for the temple. It was a two minute boat ride and I wondered why a simple footbridge could not suffice, until I saw the sentry at the boat-stand in action. He was more of a border guard for class, culture to keep what he saw as unsavoury elements away. Sorry only bhadralok need apply. We could only catch the end of the opera being performed courtesy our Late Latif entry but whatever we could catch that evening was “ the real deal” if you know what I mean. Unlike neighbouring pandal which played authentic pujo hymns like Soni Dey Nakhrey.

Two observations: Bhansali needs to be thrashed for Dola Re Dola-ing Durga Puja for us.

And 2) the name of the tailor who specialises in Ethnic Garb for the Discerning Tourist. Who is this who is responsible for the flood of “Flowery Drawstring Trouser matched with Mirrored Kurti where Side Slit ends at Armpit “ look for the Token White Person who like totally “digs it dude” such evenings.

And the campus for the Kumudini Trust is amazing, and their generosity of spirit and resources commendable. That evening we went to bed vowing of similar large heartedness, of course it is easier for us to have such grand intentions when all our worldly possessions are our laptops, books and mortgages.

Kindly pursue pictorial record considering a picture is worth a thousand or so words.

On the second day we trotted down to Old Dhaka. And took these pics.

Not that I am a big fan of Reading the Body to make pronouncements on someone’s cultural politics but well there are times I have to make an exception. Proof that there are still some out there who are secure enough in their faith to participate in the significant moments of their fellow citizens.

We ended our evening at the Jagannath Hall at Dhaka University .

and I tried to beat my personal best for Phuchka Eating. Sorry, we are desi only. No Tequila Shots. Only Gol Gappa Shots

The final day was the Money Talks and How pandal at the more prosperous suburb Banani.

And I realised that the Bengali depiction for the three goddesses is more generously endowed in the Beyonce region than any others. Or is it just me who thinks they are more wide hipped? Any anthropologists out there?

So all in all three very beautiful days for us, and cliched though it may sound a right royal feast of sights and sounds. Sunday evening, households in Dhaka retired to their hilsa preparation which is kind of a Dashami tradition here. But considering in recent days Fish Are Friends and Not Food for Us, we got high on carbs and our love for the city instead.

Hope all of you had an equally fun weekend. Drop me a line if you can, for I hear every time I get a comment on my blog an angel gets its wings.

Edited to Add: Right after I clicked publish, a blog dost told me about all the fun at Beyond Five Days. Head out there!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

By The Water Cooler

Yes, gasp no filmy title. But this is my entry for a contest being run by Parul Sharma (who writes the amazing blog Radio Parul and is author to two books Bringing Up Vasu and By the Water Cooler).BoldClick here for details.
And for all those out there who just want the regular " lyrics to popular song" title, let it be Mujh Sey Pehli Si Muhabbat Merey Mehboob Na Mang.

If you are into all things etymology, what a wonderful story behind the Urdu term daftar for the English office . It comes from the Arabic daftarun (account book), which in turn is derived from the Greek diphthera "skin, hide, piece of leather". (This, of course, is the reason why evil office managers in South Asia think its their dharma , their farz to have your hide every time the printer runs out of toner) .
I tried looking up for the English word roots for 'office' . I think it is something along the lines of Space of Solitary Confinement where humble serfs sprang upon and made popular the game Solitaire.

My first job while still in Year 12 kind of spoiled me for work later--it was recommending a list of (Pakistani) Punjabi movies for an Education without Literacy project. I did not speak a word of Punjabi when I began, but at the end of the two months I could recognize my Rahi from a Mahi-vey .I think it is also the reason why I continue to have a " healthy" body image rather than the Stick Insects who were watching Palthrow the same year. However that cant be my story for today as my TV room, an office space does not make.

Well this fun filmy job and visits to sarkari (government) offices and banks over the coming years were enough to put the fear of the Lord (and offices) in any young person. Could one only wear nylon salwar kameez and woolen cardigans to work? Was a nose pin and tu tu main main with the office clerk part of the job description? How many jumpers did I have to knit and oranges peel as part of the year end target? Could Butt saheb from the next cubicle really kill someone softly with his song Gulon May Rang Bharey? My most surreal encounter was asking one such specimen to 'process a certificate' as he irately fended me off with a 'We lost a match yesterday , all of us are still in depression and you want to indulge in this nonsense'.
A morose voice behind him then chimed "Kasmi Allah Pak ki not a sip of tea I can swallow".
" Oh and I , our candidate took up the challenge " I have not eaten anything since yesterday evening's samosa"

After a brief stint at a "Mr Right-(for) Now" kind of office, I did end up working for the kind of people one can reminisce about quite fondly. I realise I have spent over a decade looking back at that stage in my life compared to the twenty months I spent there! Has there ever been a pension plan for being somewhere in spirit ? This was a place which was truly part of the whole Guru-Shisksha experience and which provided a forum for me to unlearn all the horrible right-wingness that was part of my twenty-somethingness. I was lucky to find a mentor who is now part of the Significant Soul Sisters group I have going on for me and colleagues who have kept me alive in their oral histories (and I am very flattered to find out have compiled a list of what they say were all the witty lines I threw at them).

I have written elsewhere in this blog about telling Arhaan

"tales of working in Islamabad and escaping to the roof top to enjoy the winter sun and the cups of chai and stolen smokes for some. We would look down (both literally and figuratively) at the suited booted lipstick jungle of the corporate world next door. Im sure they made fun of us becharis who wore sneakers and behen ji clothes to work."

The office at one time was housed in one of the 1960s kothis Islamabad was famous for-- a sprawling bungalow that might once have hosted a family that would only read the newspaper Dawn at the breakfast table and couldnt live without their bed tea (or as some might remember it , the chota hazri). They went for evening walks and The Club for them was not something to bludgeon infidels attending New Year parties with. Like cities elsewhere in our part of the world these bungalows are now cash cows to house either the expats or the city's experts (on all that ails Pakistan). We did move out to a ' proper' office and I happily moved on to a grad program. But we all miss those days working in close quarters (and the servant quarters). We wondered what it would be like to revisit some day, for I think the owner's family moved back. I know I would have to move their shoes and suitcases as my cubicle was in someone's dressing room. There were also some poor souls who for all their strategic placing of photographs and posters on the tiled walls knew that their computer was where previously stood the bathroom sink. How would it be for them to knock on the door one day as exiles returning do at times . " This was my entire world once , you will say as you step in" we teased them. ""Here is where I deliberated on climate change and here on the changing demography".
" Woh sab tau theek hai" will squeak a voice at you, " but can you wait till I flush first?"

I moved on to work in other offices and other cities but like all smitten by the Great First Loves it was a case of Mujh Sey Pehli Si Muhabbat Merey Mehboob Na Mang.

And one winter morning I stood on a street in Melbourne as a sea of office workers poured out from the station. Waves of black streaming past me ashen faces in concentration. A grid of black and white newspapers readying to be unfurled by suits at caf├ęs and I asked myself 21 centuries of humanity and this is the best we can do? I didnt exactly throw away the office keys but I seriously questioned what I was doing with my life. And so I sit at my laptop every day from then on and try to find (and give) some answers.

Yes, I miss it some time. Like when I watch Ugly Betty and the excellent lines Marc and Amanda throw at each other. I miss having someone to exchange cutting chai lines with, I miss my Marc and having someone to bitch with (and why I am so thrilled that my blog introduced me to Parul). But Im hoping one day I can teach some of my Sarcasm with a Smiley Face to Arhaan. After all it is as KJo says All about Lovin Your Family. But sometimes and I repeat Sometimes you can be very lucky (as I was Once upon a Time in Islamabad) and it can be all about Loving Your Office as well.