Monday, November 30, 2009

What's with the brag -fest?

I am often encountered by parents who ask me why my son is not in Kumon or Abacus or some such thing! I want to say "He is in school you know?" and sometimes do try to explain to them why! All parents want the best for their kids. And we know that the first few years of the child's life is when the brain grows the fastest. And this is why some parents think it is absolutely essential to make sure their kid is "2 grades ahead" like a friend said!
I must admit that the thought crossed my head too. My son was 3 and people all around me where teaching their kid new tricks while I was struggling to let my neighbor understand why I did not care if he did not color between the lines! Then it occured to me, that my son would probably be behind in the "rat race" as Sumana put it. Noon also talked about this in her blog post and brought back memories of this time. So I picked up the phone one day and called the Kumon center and almost went to look it up! Meanwhile I spoke to a few people and they told me Kumon was about repetitive learning.. now I have no clue if this is true or not or what they really teach at Kumon. But while I was researching all this, I got thinking. If my son's brain is developing so fast in these years then so is his personality right? Would I rather he be academically strong or be a more rounded individual? I never got around to the Kumon classes.
A friend asked me a year back when she was choosing a school for her kid what I would reccomend? I said "I would look for a place that has the most toys, that gives the kids the freedom to explore and have fun and that is very secure"! "But what about the curriculum" she asked! "Your kid is 3 for heaven's sake, let her learn to love school before worrying about academics and grades" I advised. Well I was probably the only one who told her that, later she said she actually gave it a lot of thought and followed my advice. My son started full time school only this year.. till last year he would go only 3 days a week.
This year he started Kindergarten and I was really finding the homeworks he lugged home rather strange and amusing, but learning to live with it! Till one day he brought back a paper home with a grade on it. It said A+. I smiled and put the paper away, soon this became a routine thing. They had graded tests in school and I was starting to get mildly annoyed. Still I assumed that they probably just gave all the kids an A+. Then one afternoon my son came home very upset and worried. He was worried that he had not drawn a zebra right and would not get an A+ in his paper. I was so incredulous.. what now they are grading zebras? After assuring him I did not care what his grades where as long as he was having fun I had a talk with the teacher. Turns out they never did grade the zebra. After a lot of thought I gave my feedback to the teacher and then the director that they should stop grading these children and guess what they agreed with me! Some kids had got B- and D's and had been so upset over that! Like I said "This is a pressure they can live without.. atleast not at 5!".
So back to the Kumon classes. Recently a friend asked me why I was not sending my son to Kumon and lectured me about how the brain develops at lightning pace these years! I asked her, "So tell me if that is true then by sending him to school and Kumon and focussing so much energy for academics you are letting only one part of that brain develop arent you?" Cheeky is a sports fan and goes to a sport camp once a week. We are waiting for the dawn of the new year to start him on Taekwondo (that earned me a snigger from some parents too.. you want to teach your son to fight?)! And in summer I want him to join a music class and swimming lessons. Maybe some tennis too if he can fit it in.. however, I take the cue from my son and these are all the activities he has chosen for himself! At this age I want him to have maximum exposure to all aspects of personality and physical development. There are somethings you can't leave till too late and personality is one such thing!
Meanwhile I must say that Cheeky does work on some workbooks at home. He is also encouraged to do puzzles and mazes, word search, and word puzzles. He has learnt to handle money and tell time, read fluently and do advanced math problems for his age. However he does all this because he enjoys it and has fun while doing it.. it is not another exercise to do, it is a fun activity to do! We miss our afternoon soujourns to the park (what with more long school hours) but we love to get out on weekends and give our legs a stretch!
This post is to all those parents out there who have to ask "So why is your son not in Kumon?" I am sure they have their reasons too.. and I am sure their kids have enough fun too.. atleast I hope they do! Mine is having a blast! What say?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

That shoe fetish!

I have written many posts about shoes.. so much you must be thinking it is an obsession with me! Well shoes has always been a pet peeve with me! I have always felt my legs were oddly shaped and that it is so hard to find the perfect shoes for me! Not to mention, I like the shoes to be just perfect too.. I hate broad shoes, I hate those that are too narrow, I hate stilettos but would like to leave behind the flat shoes (remember the height difference between the hubs and me). So the quest has been on for finding the perfect shoes!

When I was foot loose and fancy free (naah not literally, I mean when I was not married), I went home one weekend to spend the time with my parents. My room mate of those days had a shoe fetish and literally hoarded shoes. I on the other hand had landed with one pair of sandals on my foot that broke on the very first day! We had spent the next day hunting down the perfect pair of sandals in a new town! We had ended up finding some really cool places (This was in Jayanagar 4th block - Bangalore.. for those of you who have been there, you know why I did not at all regret hobbling around with one broken shoe)!

I went home one weekend with a re-awakening. I needed shoes! I dragged my dad to one shoe store after another in the hunt! I wanted to get 5 pairs of shoes. I don't really remember what else I got, but one of them would continue to remain with me for years. I wore that lovely pair of high heels to my wedding reception (so I could atleast match the Hubs height). Year later I had lost track of that favorite shoe! This year on my vacation my heel fetish hit me again and I was found shopping at shoe sales to find some shoes I could bring back with me! Nostalgia struck and I began the hunt for that favorite heels. After much searching my uncle told me it was probably hidden somewhere in my grandmom's home as he had heard my grand father complaining about all my shoes taking up so much space!

So one afternoon I made my uncle hunt the shoe down and bring it to me. To his credit he did warn me "I am sure you really weren't expecting this" he said as he handed me the bag of shoes. And there in the heap lay my precious pair with its sole peeling off! I wonder if my grandmom used it to hit something? Maybe it made a good hammer? The heel was broken in two!

My grandmom was capable I tell you. Remember the time long ago when Stone wash jeans came into fashion. My mom would mumble about these ridiculous looking jeans that looked like they were a million years old. But who listened? I got a pair and treasured them. About a month later they went missing and how! I went home to a beaming grandmom! I am not sure if this is possible now, but in those days (God do I feel old) you could give your old clothes to the plastic vendor and he would give you plastic goods in exchange for the clothes. So my beaming grandmom told me "Remember your old jeans that were so faded? I gave them to the guy and got a bucket (pail)" You've got to be kidding me I thought but just ran in to check and confirm my suspicion. I couldn't crush her bouyant mood, so I said "Wow that must be worth 20 bucks.. congratulations" while inside I cried!

Now back to the shoes! Remember how I wrote about the made to order shoes for kids that were available on this website? I wish I could get those! I need some made to order shoes this instant. The 10 or so pairs in my closet do not suffice! Meanwhile Cheeky wants yet another pair of shoes.. he claims his feet have grown again. I think it is just a ploy to get shoes that tie up. He has been caught chanting "Loop, Sloop (whatever that means) and pull" and he just now told me he is going to practice on my shoes. I better be off to extricate my fav sport shoes from the imp's hands!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Girls! Jewellery! Princesses! Sigh!

Sigh! I was looking at all the black friday ads and they have so much fun stuff for girls this year! However we will be spending another year looking for deals on car toys and adding to the never ending, unmanageable pile in the closet! Not to sound like an ungrateful mother (I do adore Cheeky and his retorts), I would have loved to have a girl! Considering that I got a pink cradle for my little one (Cheeky is never going to forgive me for that) should tell you something! We only found out the sex of the baby when he was born, till then I was sure it was a girl and the Hubs was definite it was a boy. So we avoided the pinks and the blues and got the yellows and the greens! However when it came to the cradle, there was only one option available on that day! PINK! And the hubs had chosen to leave me to it while he caught up on work {wink}, so I made the monumental decision and dragged a pink cradle home.. and jinxed fate I think!

Ever since I have been trying to fulfill my shopping desires by shopping for my niece! It is rather strange the amount of time I spend at a store looking at girly stuff! As I looked longingly at the Princess paranephelia in the black friday ad and told the Hubs, maybe we should buy some of those. He looked at me like I had lost my mind (but of course) and said "You aren't going to be seeing S (my niece) anytime soon and most of our friends do have boys"! Very true! Sigh!

This year I went to India on a vacation and was seen scouring the streets of Delhi for costume jewellery. My son came along to every store I stopped at and rolled his eyes while he chatted with his grand dad on why his mom seemed to have lost her mind (or some such thing!). He seemed to just barely tolerate my penchant for jewellery. I tried to model some for him.. after the first 2 were met with "Mommy you look very pretty", the next time I modelled he declared "Dont you have enough already, lets go and look at some toy fighter jets"! Sigh!

I did not stop of course! Later in Chennai I went shopping for my niece and got her some awesome girl jewellery! She absolutely loved them and wore them to a wedding we attended. In 5 minutes of dressing them, my son had grease on his sleeves while my niece sat there like a doll in all her finery! Now I have been admiring the Girl's Jewellery on this website. Their assortment of pearls and jelly bean necklaces, the cutest charms and bangles have me sighing yet again!

Meanwhile it has earned me yet another exasperated look from my son! But what does he know... maybe my niece will like more gifts! Or maybe I can wear some of those jelly beans myself! What say?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guns in Schools - God Bless America

I have not been that active on blogger these days... have been trying multiple stuff to see how much the writing world will tolerate me! Meanwhile Cheeky is having fun turning me around in circles! He is celebrating 40 yrs of Sesame Street today with a trip to Sesame street live program. I meanwhile have been twiddling my thumbs today.. and decided to come online and share with you an article I wrote for Momaroo this week. I would like to hear from you what you think!
I was shocked to see the headline that made its way to my inbox this morning " Gunman holds school principal hostage in NY". After a week of horror with the Fort Hood shootings followed the very next day by the shootings in Orlando, I was very upset to read this news. I have often wondered how I would feel when I have to pack my son off to public school next year. And the one thing I have not been able to get over is the possibility that someone might get there with a gun in hand.
Earlier this year I watched the news incredulously as they showed a story about a 6 yr old first grader who had brought a loaded gun to school. The little boy had taken the gun from his father's verhicle. The father was arrested and the kid was expelled from school. Later the kid's punshment was reduced to a suspension and he was accepted back in school after a week's suspension. Thankfully no one was hurt!
However, this is not the case in most scenarios. I was looking up the statistics and stumbled across the Brady Campaign. Here is a list of school shootings in the recent past. Be it 15 and 16 yr old teenagers who just shot out in the parking lot, random drive by shootings, or younger kids who simply wanted to show off a gun to a friend. The very fact that these episodes happen show us that guns are easily available and accessible to children.
And why not? 31 states have legal right to carry laws. Anyone in the United States over 18 and without a criminal record can own a gun! Why would I not be worried to send my 5 yr old to school next year? Why would I step out of my house without the dread clutching my heart? Why don't we get tighter gun laws?
Meanwhile, the gunman in NY was apprehended and found to be a 40 yr old former student of the school. No one was injured.
Please share your thoughts on gun control and how you think we can lead a safer life in this free country?
You can find the original on www.momaroo.com. I would also like to invite all you mommy bloggers and others out there to share your stories and experiences on momaroo. Just go to submit post tab abd submit your post and if we like it (yeah right.. see how I am showing off :P.. I am sure I will love it, I love all your wonderful writings!), you can be on the front page on Momaroo. And whats more you can link to your own website too! Isnt that great? See you soon

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A big hearty southern breakfast

I recall the movie My Cousin Vinny. Set in Alabama, Vinny is shocked when he sees the guy in the restaurant making breakfast with a huge laddle full of butter “Haven’t you heard of the ongoing cholesterol problem in the country” he asks. I got to experience this in reality this weekend!

I have always known that southerners are fabled to eat hearty meals. I have seen it in the movies read about it in the books but was yet to experience it! I am a light eater in the morning. Coming from a culture where the mid day meal is the heartiest packed with loads of carbs and centered around eating a lot of white rice, I have followed this all my life. I start my day with a glass of water and then rush through a small tiny bowl of cereal after an hour or maybe 1 banana and a coffee! I have never been able to eat more than that. Now my lunch is bound to have bowl after bowl of white rice with spicy concoctions and a side of vegetables. I am a vegetarian, so I have to fill up on this to survive, that is my excuse!

This Saturday however I had to make another trip on the quest for “that elusive flu vaccine ” (more on that later) and couldn’t fit a breakfast into my schedule. So after struggling with my 5 year old and that flu vaccine, we made a trip to a diner for we were famished! We were handed a 4 page bound menu for breakfast! I looked incredulously at the hubs who was struggling to understand the multitude of combo’s and sides that we could possibly have. I never knew there were so many options for breakfast trust me! The hubs likes to have a hot breakfast and it usually comprises of toast and maybe if we have the energy a couple of scrambled eggs! This is our idea of hot breakfast. On weekends I make the exception and make some rice pancakes a la Indian style and I think I have excelled myself. And here I was staring at at least a 2 dozen options for breakfast and was almost having a dizzying fit! My 5 yr old however was unfazed as he decided to have an egg and some fresh fruit!

I on the other hand ordered a combo and if I was a camel I wouldn’t have had to eat for the next 15 days. There were the grits resting in enough butter to coat all my stomach and intestine I assure you. Haven’t heard of grits? Its a porridge made of corn! Looking at the butter I raised an eyebrow at the hubs and asked if we better call emergency before we have that heart attack? This was followed by a plate of roasted potatoes that oozed oil, 3 scrambled eggs with mushrooms, spinach, cheese and grease, some buttered toast that literally melted in my mouth and a big bowl of fruits followed by a large glass of juice to help drown all that cholesterol! I refused the ham, or I would have had that resting on my plate too! And now I know what a big hearty southern breakfast is! I was left looking around in amazement at all the people who sat around me and ate that meal unfazed! I was seen peering into a lady’s plate to make sure she got all that butter too.. but I am sure they all ran home from the diner. Me, I sat in my car and went home to stretch in front of the television and try to ingest those 2000 calories of breakfast, while my rice cooker was cooking up a big bowl of rice for lunch! Sigh!

(Note: The picture courtesy of google images does not describe my hearty southern meal as the egg portion is a lot smaller as are the bread. The fruits are missing too.. ) Makes you want to try a big hearty southern meal doesn’t it? For all the cholesterol I assure you the meal tastes absolutely heavenly even if it left me with a pounding headache as my stomach tried to process all that fat for the rest of the day!
[This post has been cross posted on WorldNewsVine. Please go to my post and vote for me! Thanks for your wonderful support]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Outrageous Halloween?

Many of you have been reading my blog the past years.. and some of you have told me you liked it while others have thought I was way out of your realm talking about kids and parenting!;) I am now doing a lot of freelance writing.. writing some exciting and some other run of the mill articles! One very exciting thing I have been doing is writing some articles as a columnist on Worldnewsvine. The next couple of weeks, we are running a contest among the authors. I am going to be posting many articles hopefully.. unless my brain goes blank (that is something I am dreading honestly!). Anyway, today I wrote an article about Halloween and the outrageous costumes out there. Is halloween losing its true meaning? Are we encouraging our kids to dress more outrageously every year? Sometimes I do thank god I dont have a daughter when I see these costumes. Please read my article at http://worldnewsvine.net/blog/2009/10/outrageous-halloween/ and vote to say what you think about it. Please do leave comments to tell me what you think.

Have a great day! Cheers!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Getting glassy eyed about shoes!

Is it just me or is it true of all you mommies out there? It takes very little to send me oohing and aahing down the nostalgia lane! M of course snigger's on my crazy ways.. but then he is not a Mommy, so who is he to talk? Even imperfect mommy's like me take that trip down the memory lane once too often and fret about their kids growing up way too fast! I already have a kindergartner on my hands, can you believe that? I can't!

I bet you are wondering what caused this misty eyed look? We were visiting family in India and a little kid just over an year old toddled up the street and to our house. As I was yapping with his mommy (M's cousin) the kid refused to stay still! He kept hopping up and down the little step in front of our house! While little Mr. Cutie's penguin like trot was very reminiscent of Cheeky, it was the shoes that did me in and that made him keep hopping! They were light up shoes!

When he was a toddler, Cheeky would walk with his hand out on the side balancing his unsteady trot with his hands extending away from his body. Cheeky had taken his time walking.. he walked at about 14 months.. but then I have wondered it that was a ploy too. He had just upped and walked one day after making us wait for him to take those little steps! No holding furniture and trotting about mind you, just one fine day he got up and walked! Meanwhile as we waited, friends and family seemed to have a fascination for shoes! Even before he was born a friend of mine got him 4 pairs of shoes. Apparently she had gone shopping and had fallen for the tiny shoes.. so the unborn Cheeky got lucky. That had kind of set the precedent, everyone would get him shoes, from around the world too! He had shoes from UK, US, Nepal and so on. He had little squeaky ones, ones with floppy ears, ones with trucks and cars, canvas ones, cloth ones, woolen shoes and shiny mirrored shoes (like that of an Indian Prince). However the ones that he loved where the ones that lit up. I am sure each one of you got that for your kids.. The Laser light shoes - like this one. Little Mr. Cutie had one such on, and it even prompted a comment from the Big Cheeky Imp about how cute that looked.

I of course got misty eyed.. and made the mistake of asking the cool dude if he wanted one. I was immediately admonished "Amma, I need tie shoes not those baby ones" he said! In case you are wondering what tie shoes are.. they are the lace up ones! Cheeky has been asking me for one for such a long time now.. while I have been getting him all the rip tape ones!

I have always worried about shoes. It is so difficult to make sure that the shoes fit the little feet perfectly. That they are not going to trip and fall from shoes that are bigger or get blisters from smaller shoes! Talking of which, we all have unique feet and sometimes when we pick the shoe of a rack it just isn't perfect is it? I have always wondered why they no longer made custom shoes like olden days! I would love to have custom shoes just for me! And then I found this site online - Boys shoes. They have detailed instructions on how you can take a pic of the little feet on a grid and upload it, so they can make custom shoes just for your little one's feet. They also tell you how to make sure the shoes fit just right! Seems like an answer to my prayers, eh? Moreover they have a nice parenting community too that you can check out! Do check them out! They do deliver across UK and to some countries outside the UK too. Check out their store locator and see if you are lucky to be in one of those locations!
As for me.. I am going to go dream some more about shoes!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walking Cheeky!

I have been writing some posts for WorldNewsVine.com and last evening I made this post A day out with Cheeky. It is about the woes and trials of walking a toddler. Also about leashes!
Wonder what I am talking about do you?
Remember I wrote about taking Cheeky to the Day out with Thomas? Thomas the train and Bob the builder made an appearance at a town a good hour and a half away from where I live. And like every parent of a 5 yr old we are suckers for the sweet smile and incessant polite requests of "please can we go mommy?". And so we got sucked into doing this for our son as well. I am sure the little imp punched in air "Yes! Got them again!".
However we settled in for a week and a half of incessant bouncing in anticipation. For that entire week all conversations in our home revolved around Thomas. From counting down the days in anticipation to threats of cancellation if that meal was not eaten or the toy not picked up! So having milked that anticipation to the fullest, mom and son and of course the dad settled in for a hour and a half drive. While for us it was an hour and a half of incessant chatter and no amount of favorite songs would give that a pause, for Cheeky it was a worrying hour and a half! Especially when the traffic piled up and we started inching our way down the freeway! Even if it was for a couple of miles, it seemed like eternity to the little imp! Anyway that is not what my post was about. Remember we were talking about leashes?
Alright once at the arena we were dragged from one amusement to the other. Our little imp skipped and hopped, jumped and pranced through the exhibits and tattoos and percussion music, not to mention the gift store while we struggled to keep up! At the end of the day, we the exhausted parents dragged the reluctant imp home. While we headed to the car we saw parents holding a leash. M gave me the look and I took notice. The leash was not on a dog! It was on a kid! I have seen this before .. at zoos and parks where the parents put their kids on a short leash! I thought back to the dog walker I see every morning.. She is always being walked by her dogs! And here were some parents who hoped they had had pets instead?
With my mind reeling with possibilities I headed back home and stowed the memory to a corner in my brain. A few days later Cheeky and I were at a mall and a lady talked non stop on her phone while she held a leash! The kid on harness (no backpack mind you, it was a harness), was on all fours! I had to rub my eyes and look again.. was I hallucinating? But no it was a child.. about 3 yrs of age. He was of course looking for a ball or something under a bench.. but still that was uncanny! Again I started wondering if the child would need therapy when he grows up?
Then I remembered an old Indian grand mom telling me of how she had to keep her son tied to the bed post while she cooked for her big family. She went on to have 7 children all of whom are well balanced adults! So what was I to make of it?
As I wrote this article for World News Vine, I started googling to find out more about leashes. I found people like me expressing shock at what they called lazy parenting... and others giving the reason. Parents of autistic kids, kids with ADHD and hyperactive kids. And suddenly it started making sense! Still I would presume a stroller might be more effective? For all other moms out there who are fond of the telephone, put that phone down for a minute and hold his hand.. that really works you know? Look at the picture.. the leashes are out of stock! So tell me am I missing something here?
Ever heard of the Wife Carrying Contest. No I am not kidding you.. read about it at my post - http://worldnewsvine.com/blog/2009/10/wife-carrying-contest/

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Cheeky!

Oh yeah its that day of the year again.. Cheeky turns 5 now.. more on the day and the fuss we are making to come.. but for now like a nice little mommy, I am going to wish my little darling (if Cheeky) son a very happy birthday!!
The wishes started pouring in last night.. as it turned 7th around the world.. Cheeky checked his email and responded to the emails promptly... here are some samples!

Dear V patti and R thatha,
Thank you for the email. I am not in preschool anymore. I am in kindergarden. I have a lot of friends. My school's name is Shining stars. Are you going anywhere out?In America my birthday is only tomorrow. Mommy got me cup cakes to pass out to my friends. I also goodie bags for them. I bought them Tootsie pops, stickers and pencils and a lot of candy.Daddy is in LA. We will celebrate my birthday on 10th with Daddy and his friends.
Love you,
Cheeky

Dear Naani
Thank you for your email. We are celebrating my birthday on Oct 10th because my Daddy is not in Charlotte. He is in LA. LA is in California.Tomorrow Daddy will still not be here, but it is my birthday in America. I am going to take cup cakes with rings on it to school. I will pass it out to my friends.For my Oct 10th party I am going to get a big big birthday cake with Lightning Mcqueen on it.
Love you,
Cheeky

Please note that the letter has been drafted by little Cheeky to the last full stop!! See how he opens it with "Thank you for the email". And his signature end "Love you, "... I am still reeling from the fact that my little baby has grown up so much that he can write such a mature letter.. well almost.. he keeps talking about Dad being in LA.. just to set the records straight.. Dad is having the guilt trip.. he had to go to LA for a conference! And has been feeling so bad.. Cheeky is ofcourse milking it.. he got to ride on Thomas (Day out with Thomas was in NC these past couple of weeks) last weekend. Next weekend, he gets to have a party, go shopping as well as take the day off on Monday to spend it with Daddy !! Might as well spoil him proper.. what say?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Getting hitched.. the Tam Bram way!

I will chronicle the final part of our adventures in my next post.. for now just a news flash! We are back to boring old routine!! Now to the rest of my post.

A couple of things before I start.. no I am not getting hitched.. that happened 7 years ago.. (no I am not even going to give you a historical recap.. pulease!) However, I am urging my sister "The fantasy girl" to repeat history and get hitched.. but then she lives in a fantasy world and dreams of the knight in shining armor on a tall white horse sweeping her off her feet and riding off into sunset.. (with dust getting into their eyes?) So here is how I am helping her figure out that ain't happening in a household like ours! With a blog post!
Secondly, a little dive into what qualifies as a "household like ours"... A Tamil Brahman (Tam-Bram) household like every other with its own set of idiosyncrasies! This is what transpires in a Tam Bram (Tamil Brahman) household as a girl comes of the "Marriageable" age... which starts at 21.. in the final year of college!

Coming from a Tam-Bram household that struggles between being traditional and modern... as you can imagine groom hunting is quite an involved task in our household! While under usual circumstances the family treats everyone under the age of 40 as kids (Kolundhaikku edhavadhu kuduthaya - Did you give anything to the baby?), they are quick to notice when you turn 21 and are waiting to pounce on you! And if you as much demur, it is decided that you are in love with someone!
At least if you are living with your parents you are saved from further speculation. A friend lives across seas and is yet to make the plunge.. he is speculated to be married to a "Velakari oo Karupiyo" - foreigner, and have "Kolandhai Kutti" - roughly translated means kids/young ones; whatever that means! The poor guy apparently is making ends meet in his part of the world and just enjoying being single... while his relatives plot to reign in the net and get him hitched!!
Anyway, more on the struggles of the Tam Bram confused household! Traditionally the horoscopes are matched , parents are met and the marriage is fixed.. whatever happened to the bride and groom you ask? Here is where the (so called) modern outlook come in. With educated city bred foreign aspiring/living boys and girls, that is so not enough! So now they want to talk to each other and air out their views.. while the parents ask every night and day "So do you like the boy/girl?"..
"Ahem I need more time"..
"What do you need more time for, he is well educated, kai naraya sambadhikaran (earns a hand full... that's it?) and comes from a good family background what more do you want?" or "she is beautiful, adaka odukama iruka ( I have no clue how to translate this.. but roughly means she is timid and shy?) and comes from a good family background what more do you want?"
"Maybe I should meet him/her?"
"Sure get engaged first"
Whoa??
Meanwhile somehow the girl has convinced her parents and the boy has put his foot down and they get to exchange emails and have that phone call.. amidst daily enquiry from parents "What did you talk? What do you think? How long did you talk today?". And then the girl and boy now want to meet! If you think that will buy some time, you are grossly mistaken!
Sure say the parents with all magnanimity ... and then the parents of the boy along with a couple of well meaning, loud talking relatives, their boisterous kids and a few other tag along's arrive along with the boy! The boy and his retinue are greeted, fed and filled and the "Pon pakara padalam" - (Girl meeting ordeal) is on the way! (In the background.. the girl and her parents have a tiff about what she should wear.
"I will show up in jeans" she says "thats what I wear everyday, lets not fool them into thinking I am someone I am not"
"Wear saree" say the parents and they both settle for a salwar kameez "with sleeves!!!"... anyway moving on...the retinue has now been fed and all inappropriate questions have been asked by either sides!
"How much do you earn" someone asks the boy
"So do you cook?" the girl is asked.. and they are both perspiring from an attack of the heart and the nerves! Finally someone suggests that the boy and girl go away and talk in private! So they are off to some cramped quarters to talk to each other for about 45 minutes. If as they come out there is a smile plastered on their faces, and they did not walk out in less than 5 minutes.. someone inevitably asks "appo eppo nichyadartham?".. "so when can we have the engagement".. Excuse me?
Some Tam Bram households have crossed this stage and now let the girl and boy meet without subjecting them to this mayhem.. however not for long. The very first meeting comes with a deadline.. "so when will you have an answer?"... ever tried responding to that with "When I am ready?" you are bound to hear a full length lecture on how the western world has spoilt these children!!
If you are Tam Bram and single, it is advisable to avoid all kinds of big gatherings especially weddings (for that seems to set the tone to the hope that every single being is paired off)! Or have relatives who can fend off inquiries! However the relatives don't, the well meaning close ones walk around with a copy of your horoscope that is readily produced on even the subtlest of inquiries, while others are ready to pounce on you and get you hitched right there! And God forbid that the boy/girl happen to be available in the same venue! You are in for some big time match making!
And if you do give your consent to marry some dude, your journey has just begun.. there is the engagement and the endless stream of relatives and friends with their free advice to endure! Everyone you meet.. Tam Bram or otherwise will prod/ tease/ mock/advice on the only topic that occurs to them now.. your wedding! It is almost as though the rest of the world ceases to exist now! Everyone will ask you ..if you are excited? If you talk to him/her every day/night? How many times in a day? If you visit each other every weekend? If you talk to the parents too? If you are learning cooking? If you are doing the wedding shopping? If you are going crazy? (no that last one is common knowledge right? So why ask?)
Well at least most brides have the good sense to hire a parlor to do hair and make up (unlike me) and don't have to endure dozens of relatives getting creative! And most parents have given up their struggle against their kids independence and just let them be! Not to mention in this day and age, there are a lot of cafes (and pubs) across the town that you can skunk off too. Besides, expectations have almost hit rock bottom... as long as you are not eloping with some guy off the street and have consented to marry the guy picked/ approved (even if he barely meets the approval guidelines) by your parents.. they let you get away with anything! Some parents are learning to live with even lower expectations, as long as they are invited to the wedding they will live with it! But my Tam-Bram household is yet to get there!
And once you are married the next question arrives.. "So any good news?" ... yeah right, I got hitched isn't that news enough? But no.. the next step is to now produce a bundle of joy.. and then the next.. and then they can start plotting your kids wedding!! And the journey goes on...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Multilingual or linguistically challenged?

Uncharacteristically I have been writing some travel posts on this blog! As everyone who knows/ has been exposed to (yes I am the human equivalent of a virus.. and beware very contagious) would agree I find it very difficult to get serious! All my pictures have these big Cheshire cat grins which not only shows off my yellowing teeth (come on.. they are growing old with chocolates and candies.. and my culinary escapades have left their mark) but also my gum's! If I ever tried a serious expression in a picture I end up looking ridiculous and the picture is object of further hilarity. Like the time my sister-in-law (sil) told me not to grin at least in one picture.. I actually have a huge pout and look about to cry.. maybe now people would believe stories about the tortures of my sil.. As of now, no one believes a word of it and declare rightly so that it must be the other way around!

Back to the point, I have been writing travel posts on this blog (and the reason I keep repeating that statement is) in case you haven't noticed! However I did notice that my readership has gone down drastically.. and I am mourning the loss! Some well meaning critics of mine told me.. my travel posts aren't half as interesting as my regular programming (that is considering that people actually do want to read my blog in the first place and don't have to be prodded/ pushed/ bashed up/ tied down to read it)... While the comments stood silent testimony to the fact that I was getting {yawn} boring (and am still unable to snap out of it.. someone stop me from going on and on and on) I kept at it with the determination that I would put down into words my travel escapades for the sake of posterity (most likely it would be only me reading it.. but why admit to that?)

Back to regular Cheeky programming! Cheeky has been having a blast in India.. he declared to a friend of mine a week ago that he now knows 5 languages officially.. them being Tamil, Spanish, French, Russian and Hindi.. On being reminded the fact that he seemed to know English too for he was talking in that one he declared "Oh yes I can speak 2 accents of English - American and Indian so now I know 7 languages" thank goodness he did not add the different accents in America "Yankee, Californian, Southern.....Confused (like Mommy's!) ..."! Now does he really know all these languages? Oh yes he does!

He can speak a decent Tamil.. except sometimes it ends up sounding like unintelligible English..but most of the time he gets it right and Mommy bears a proud accomplished grin as a result!

Spanish.. if you utter the word Spanish to Cheeky he will talk in length (in English I must add) about how he can speak in Spanish and somewhere along the line you are bound to hear the word "Mayo". Then you know you have encountered the lengths of his knowledge in Spanish. At school they made the mistake of teaching Cheeky the months in Spanish.. and ever since we hear the months all consistently pronounced wrongly at least once a day with the declaration that "I can speak Spanish, you know May in Spanish is Mayo"

Lets now move on to French... I learnt french for a couple of years in school. Let alone the Frenchmen, if a person learning french .. be it Rosetta stone or Alliance francais hears me they would be prompted to either
a. Hang themselves
b. Push me off the edge of a cliff!
For the records, I would prefer the former!
Anyway, back to French; M was planning a trip to Cannes, France a few months back. Having gathered that many people around there don't speak English, I (and all of my linguistically challenged self) took it upon myself to teach M french! So I would translate everything into french for a while. It was a good thing that M ended up not going, for if he had gone, he and his french would have been packed off back to the land of the confused accents (America!!) on the next flight! However as a result of all my toils, Cheeky now claims he knows French.. Ask him to talk and he will reply "Merci" - Thank you!

As for Russian. Cheeky had a friend in school whose parents were natives of Russia. Even though the mom (don't know about the dad) hasn't lived in Russia for many years, I gather she speaks Russian at home. I am not sure if this prompted Cheeky, or just that Russia is a mysteriously charming place for him.. he asked his aunt to "Google up I love you in Russian" ever since he has been telling us every once in a while "Ya tabeya liyo bleu".. whether that's Russian or not.. that's his idea of Russian and as of now (till we prompt a Russian to push us off the cliff) mine too..!

Hindi... when Cheeky was a kid I would turn on some Hindi movies and Cheeky would go stomping mad "mommy make them stop that olaral" (gibberish) he would plead! Since then he has become a lot more accommodating even if his knowledge of Hindi has not improved in the least. And I prefer to keep it that way, we do need some mode of un-cheeky-telligible communication between us adults right? We have progressed from Tamil, to English, to Spelling words to now Hindi! And now I am at the risk of losing that too ... As you have gathered by now, Cheeky loves to talk and is always waiting for yet another person (stranger or otherwise) that he can talk to. So my cousin asked me what Cheeky did in Delhi and the other places we visited.. and I said "Oh he talked".. She looked at me surprised.. I must say that for a little person with such a meager vocabulary of Hindi (His Hindi vocabulary includes his favorite word Nahin - no and a few others Acha - ok, Haan- yes, Teek hein - ok), he managed to keep rambling pretty well.. oh and he also knows Mein and Tu (me and you). So his sentence would sound like this "Auto haan mein haan tu nahin photo teek hein?" And the result.. a picture of him sitting in the driver seat of the auto.. and the auto driver dude standing and looking cheerfully after having relinquished his throne!

Now to English and the accents.. this is something I am really having a tough time coping with. In an attempt to talk Indian English, the Cheeky Imp has been saying "Darive" and "Stareet", "Charuchu" - That's Church in case you are wondering and "tirubbbleu" - trouble! Although no one around him quite speaks in such a terrible accent (leave alone the fact that he mocks even(!!) my accent), Cheeky has taken it upon himself as he describes " to help people in India understand his English". If I correct him I am reprimanded "Amma if I talk in American accent no one will get it" Sigh! I just hope the terribbbleee-u accent-u is not herrre to stayyy!

With that note and the hope that my readership will improve with a Cheeky post.. signing off!
(images: http://www.building-blocks-nursery.co.uk, http://blogs.davenportlibrary.com, http://3.bp.blogspot.com, http://www.louielouie.net)

[EDITED TO ADD: I narrated the story of this post to M this afternoon as he resolutely refused to read my post and I incessantly kept pushing it down his ears.. Cheeky on hearing it declared.. "Amma its not 7 languages, its 6 languages and 2 accents". The exasperated look that accompanied this statement, said the rest! I promised him that I would add a "Edited to Add" section for which he replied "Why Amma, just press backspace and delete it!" Phew why do I never learn ?]

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Home bound!

After the debacle at Mathura.. we headed to the railway station to wait for the Taj Express which ended up being more than an hour late.. Tired, hungry, dirty and sweating we waited for the train while Cheeky tried to avoid the dogs and cows (oh yes there were cows too) wandering on the platform!

Finally back at Delhi, we proceeded to do what would undoubtedly remain the highlight of our trip... shopping. After raiding the markets of Karol Bhag and Sarojini Nagar you would except us to be satiated with our loot which required us to get a huge (hiking style) backpack.. however we wanted to go back and buy more of the rs. 50 skirts and Capris, the Rs 75 pants, 100 rupee shirts and 200 rupee jeans! Like a friend said, we would have to wait and see if the sleeve falls off that shirt.. however while it lasts we are sure to enjoy it!

As we sat on the plane to head back home to Chennai.. the past week ran in my mind and the images swarmed my head! After all the excitement it was difficult to shut my eye and relax.. Instead I flipped out a pen and my e-ticket and started to write with fervent ardor!

The Miracle called Taj!

In the labyrinths of a city so warm,
Finally some breeze rises hither;
The colors of brick and mortar left far behind,
The cool green of the trees rushes to welcome!

As we traverse the bushes, down the pebbled path,
The urchins look at us in wonder;
And we at them, for they own this gorgeous place!
Their eyes ask, who are these camera laden nomads,
Trespassing our blissful haven?

And lo behold the miracle in white...
The surroundings have now been forgotten!
There she stands gleaming a creamy hue now..
As the sun gently lights her while it prepares for bed!

My eyes refuse to blink for fear,
lest the vision where to (even momentarily) disappear!
We linger long and cant take our eyes away...
But the night begins to engulf the less trodden paths...

With a sorry heart and a heavy tread..
We slowly turn and leave her there!
For we leave a part of us behind!
But we can rest assured, that when we go back;
she will stand tall and beckon us in her splendor!

The view of Taj from Mehtab Bagh is one that will stay in my mind's eye forever.. it is a must see in Agra.. At dusk this view is so much better and gorgeous than even seeing Taj up close!

Beyond the ages


There they stand unshakable and tall,
Having seen men rise and fall!
Stories told and those untold,
They mutely watched them all unfold!

And after all these eons have passed,
I walk through the same old paths!
I press my ears on the tall red walls,
And peer down the depths of the dark corridors!

I urge them to tell me the forgotten tales,
Of valor, of conspiracy, yet the mystery prevails!
Was that a whisper from centuries beyond?
Was that a wisp of a figure long gone?

As I walk on through the enormous corridors,
The mystery and lore swirl and engulf!
The walls whisper to me their muted secrets,
And the paintings show me a window to the past!

I am torn and let the stories swirl..
I am torn, do I return to today's world?

If you guessed that I am going to bore you with a recap.. you were right!! These poems have been cross posted at Creative Outbursts

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hare Krishna!

After the trek through the desert and the walks through the labyrinths of Rajput and Mughal architecture.. not to mention all the sites we missed due to the incessant heat.. Bharatpur, Fatehpur sikri and Ajmer/Pushkar to name a few... we had planned all these in our itinerary but just couldn't step out of the hotel room during the mid day heat.. so ended up missing all these places.. Anyway after all these escapades we finally had one last stop before heading back to base Delhi.

However unfortunately we had only about 4 hrs in Mathura before we had to head to the railway station and wait for our train to Delhi. And although we thought that was ample time.. it wasnt.. especially because we tend to linger and take our time.. the worst characteristic if you are tourists who want to see loads of places. But I like to think of myself as a leisurely tourist. I have more fun if I am not rushed (just a nice way of saying I am lazy )...

At Mathura we found this guide to take us through Vrndavan. After having avoided the fast talking types like plague.. we uncharacteristically took this guy with us to see Vrndavan. He turned out to be a student of commerce who was doing this as a social service, and did not even want to be paid. We of course paid him with money as well as a glass of cool maakan lassi (buttered yoghurt drink) a speciality of Mathura. I havent had such yummy lassi anywhere ever!

I digress back to Vrndavan, I had imagined Vrndavan to be this huge garden where Krishna comes to play ras-leela (dance with the gopikas) every night. However all that is left of Vrndavan is a small patch of tulsi garden and I was told they hear sounds of the flute and anklets every night emanating from this little garden. The main deity of Vrndavan looks absolutely breathtaking.. however the preist tries to fleece you of money in the name of donation. There were huge groups of widows doing Krishna bajan and I wanted to donate something for the cause. But the preist at Vrndavan actually put me off with his commercial smart mouthed talk! As we left I gave Rs 200 to Cheeky and asked him to put it on the puja plate (apparently this goes to the preist and not the temple!)... so the preist guy gave Nantu a piece of yellow cloth adorned by the residing deity.. The 2000 and more bucks we donated to the cause did not prompt him to give us that.. it was the 200 that went to his kitty that gave him that nudge.

Needless to say I was very disillusioned as I left Vrndavan. One captivating thing about Vrndavan are the monkeys.. they steal your eye glasses and food.. just about anything they can get their hands on! I found them so cute and cheeky and they brought the smile back on my face! Next we went to Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura.. flanked by a mosque which rises just above the prison cell where Krishna is believed to have been born, it is a place of much controversy. The mosque is supposed to have been built by destroying the temple at Vrndavan.. Aurangazeb was supposed to have used the red stones from the Govind Deb temple to built this mosque. While the hindus say this, the muslims claim the mosque existed first! And like every other place in India the controversy continues and casts a shadow on these historic sites! The security as you can imagine is supposed to be tight.. but I am not so sure! The shops inside this temple piqued Cheeky's interest and he was found hoarding on all the inexpensive toys.. a flute here, a shehnai (trumpet) there, a set of drums and what not... he was very excited while we would live to rue this as we were then subjected to loud noises termed music.

To be honest after the trip.. Mathura was a bit of a let down.. I expected to be swayed and moved by the birth place of Krishna.. Krishna after all is our favorite God and I am a strong believer in God.. but the controversies and commercialization dimmed my spirit and I was ready to move on! The temple in my (my husband's) hometown relatively unknown holds me in more awe as it is unblemished by controversy and commercial gains.. and the only thing that stands out is the powerful presence of God. Unfortunately, Mathura the birth place of God dims in comparison! That is very sad indeed!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wah Taj!

Enough of all the talk about struggles with appearances, now back to the greenery of envy!! :) So after the pink city we were off to Agra. Agra hotels seem to have the worst reputation, we couldn't find a single one with good reviews.. after a lot of effort we found one but then I think it was because the hotel (Siris 18) was relatively new and unknown that the reviews weren't so bad! However all the air conditioning in the world seemed to be against us on this day! The car we took from Jaipur to Agra lost its a/c mid way.. and we had to roll down the windows and let the hot hot air in. The room we were given in the hotel had a faulty a/c and we had to change rooms! While that was conceded to with very less resistance, it was the case of the open bottle that had me furious!

The room had a fridge with an open alcohol-less bar. I took out a bottle of mineral water only to find the seal was already broken. However my son insisted on having water and I opened the second bottle and gave it to him! In true 4 yr old spirit he left the bottles near each other and we tackled the next issue of moving rooms. When I asked the obnoxious bell boy who helped us with the move to get the water he brought the wrong bottle. So I told him very nicely that I wanted my bottle and not this one. He argued that it was just the same and turned my nice demenaor into a hopping madness! Finally peace was restored when my bottle was brought back.. but I am not so sure anymore! If you need to stay in Agra, this hotel will work alright but dont eat there.. the food was very bad and salty. Dasaprakash is a good option for vegetarian meals and serves really tasty food amidst a pleasant ambience.

Anyway enough about the food and water.. and now on to Agra.. we could see the view of Taj from our hotel rooftop and even that was splendid. Agra is all about the Taj.. everything else only pales in comparison and I was left wanting to go back again and again to see Taj. I ended up not seeing Fatehpur Sikri due to this obsession with Taj.. but no regrets! We visited Taj early the next morning.. at 8 Am. This apparently is the time with the least crowds.. Taj opens at 7 am and early in the day there is no queue and you get to see Taj without the million heads blocking your view.. still there are a couple of hundreds but that you can live with!

We were at Agra on a full moon night and wanted to see Taj at night. But the guards at Taj advised us against it. Instead that evening we took a ride to Mehtab Bagh.. This is across the yamuna, behind Taj.. The garden was almost empty besides a few urchins who looked us like we had lost our mind! But the view of Taj was just splendid from here.. The light of the setting sun shining on this marvel in marble gave it a creamy hue! We enjoyed our solitude with this awe inspiring sight. I wonder why this place is not popular We hated to leave, but we had an auto guy waiting to take us shopping to the galis of Agra market where tourists seldom venture. Where you get lovely Kundan and other jewellery for a few hundred bucks (the same piece costs a few thousands in the cities) and you get lovely inexpensive earrings that look so pricey! We went crazy ofcourse, and the shop owner loved us! He asked us to go see Dhayal Wag on the next day, he and a few others told us it was a must see in Agra. Wrongly assuming to be a temple of Krishna we went to the Radhasaomi mandir at Dhayal Wag (It is actually a samadhi of Radhasaomi the founder of a cult/ religion by his name). Unfortunately we were very diasppointed.. and except for the fact that we found tender coconut (nariyal paani) just outside this place, we found nothing of interest there!

Another interesting sight in Agra was that of the Baby Taj. The site of Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb is said to have been in Noor Jahan's (Mother of Shah Jahan - who built Taj) family for years. The Baby Taj looked like it was an inspiration for Taj.. or like some write ups say it was a draft for Taj?! We also visited the Agra fort with its rich carvings and marvellous architecture, however we again ended up peering at Taj from the fort as Shah Jahan must have done when he was confined there by his son Aurangazeb! We can imagine why it is very difficult to take your eyes off that marvel. But we had to peel our eyes and selves away from Taj and Agra to head towards Mathura.. the birth place of Lord Krishna!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The perfect heels!

This blog is taking a break from regular programming to say this...

I have been catching up on fellow bloggers lately and I read so many of their honest, sweet posts filled with love and affection for their kids! And I wondered why I cant write like that.. And I decided I would do a post on all the wonderful things about Cheeky.. after all the only facet people know of him is the talkative, naughty little imp! Right? (Now if only I could remember them while he is jumping around me!) Anyway, as I was making up my mind, I read another blog and read a line about high heels there and my mind was unmade again! So now I will write to you an honest and sweet (oh well, I will attempt to make this as sweet as possible with mentions of chocolates and jelabis.. what say?) as possible!

As I was growing up, I was always among the tallest in my class. While Cheeky is so proud about being tall, and dreams of being taller than Daddy some day.. I was not so thirlled about being tall. I wanted to be petite and small built. I wanted to be cute and chubby too.. Instead I was reed thin and tall.. This would haunt me through my teen years, although I am not one that can be easily haunted! So while I bore my tall thin looks with a cheshire cat grin and a cheeky spirit, I continued to fret about it! (I hated looking down on people you see!)

Even when Meenakshi Sheshadri (I am not kidding you, I went to her house once with a friend who was in a dance program with her), commented on my model like height and posture (haha, I know that is way too funny.. to write an honest post about). Well to be honest, even though she commented about that she followed it up with a request for a massage! As you can imagine she was rebuffed and my friend got an earful for taking me to places with all these "I am the queen of the world" types! So anyway, I brushed that comment off with a flick off my shoulder.. however the chip remained!

So when my mom introduced me (via email, hadn't met him yet) to this guy all of 6'2", I thought he would be just a wee bit taller than me. For while I was 5'5" in reality, in my mind I was well over 6 ft. And then reality struck.. I was found running around days before my wedding hunting for the perfect heels.. I had worn flat shoes till then and had no clue how to walk in a stilleto.. so I needed heels that were not stilletos but big enough so I did not look funny standing next to this tall creature! The tall creature who still mocks me about our engagement photos. Let alone the fact that I was looking really weird with the funny hairdo done by relatives (punished for not booking a parlor.. my hair was an experimental piece for all relatives and ended up looking just awful!). Besides that I was standing there shoeless, while the tall dude stood next to me sneakers and all looking taller than ever!

At the wedding reception I finally managed to get some heels and still ended up looking short. And ever since my quest has been to find the perfect heels that will make me look at least a wee bit taller! My dream has finally been answered now and I feel so short all the time.. not to mention with all the love handles .. now I am (way too) chubby too (but we will leave that tale for another day, or we will just stove that story in the closet shall we?) but whoever said that the other side of the grass is green has to be crazy.. I want to feel tall again.. boohoo!! (Images: http://www.carthage.ed, http://webpages.scu.edu, https://www.btowstore.com)

(I will soon be back to complete my long winding, boring, pictersque travel posts)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Pink City!

After Jaisalmer.. the big city was bound to fade in glory.. the hotel guy asked us to "just get a prepaid taxi" when we asked for pick up at the railway station! The city has roads overflowing with traffic, and urchins. It was a very sorry sight, a couple of times we gave away our packed dinner and unopened soda bottles to these kids who seemed to turn up everywhere!

I was ready to be disappointed.. the hotel was next to a Mc D.. so at least Cheeky finally would have a good meal.. (whats it with these kids and happy meals?) Finding a ride seemed to be herculean! We had to haggle with a bunch of taxi operators till we found a guy who would take us around for what seemed like a reasonable rate.. come the car we found the reason .. it was a non a/c mini van! Ouch! However we let ourselves be convinced that everything was so close together in Jaipur that the car hardly mattered! But trust me it does.. the heat was absolutely awful!

So with this rocky start, we headed off to old Jaipur.. the pink city! And now I know why Rajasthan is known to have the richest architecture in Asia if not the world. For there within the walls of the old city, Jaipur retains its ancient charm! The markets are so quaint and colorful.. the palaces are so rich in heritage and well preserved. It is hard to believe that Hawa Mahal is just a facade! Jantar Mantar with its fourteen huge geometric devices is awe inspiring. So much that despite the heat beating down on us, we stood around and found it hard to leave. Ofcourse, part of the reason was that Cheeky kept climbing up the steps of each device and calling it his royal throne!

At Birla mandir, this mom and son took pictures dressed in Rajastani clothes. The guy refused to give me soft copies, and also refused to let me take a picture. I managed to take one of Cheeky though after putting up a fight and gathering a group of onlookers! Following that we made some very bad deals in the stores just outside Birla Mandir and headed off! After the sweltering heat we decided to cool off with some shopping and that was good fun ofcourse!

The next day had us heading for the Amber fort, and although Rough guide says that Amber is not as beautiful as the City Palace or Albert Hall (with its victorian-rajput architecture, which is lovely but fails to compare to Amber), I thought Amber was the best piece of architecture I saw on this trip, perhaps next only to Taj. The gayily colored elephants carrying the hoardes of tourists and the drummers in colorful costumes only add to the charm of the place. For the rest, I will let the pictures speak for themselves!

The verdict.. even if it has been hit by mordernisation and is densely populated! The traffic and the poverty might strive to put you off, however the pink city is a charm in itself, and although the pollution adds to the sweltering heat, I would suggest you put up with it and explore this city, for it does not disappoint!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Golden City...

The golden sands, the sandstone lined walls and homes, the glistening sun bouncing off the lake, the glowing fort walls as the night sets in... Jaisalmer does live up to its name "The Golden City"! The rustic charm of Jaisalmer left us wanting more of it! Considering it is in the middle of the desert, there is a lovely breeze greeting you through the day that almost dissipates the heat (almost but not quite). The evenings and early mornings are actually very cool and our sojourns at these times (we reserved the mid afternoon for languishing in our air conditioned rooms) were absolutely wonderful. The people are so warm and hospitable.. as you can probably gather, I fell in love with this quaint little place!

We stayed at this charming hotel called "Shahi Palace" that has a great view of the fort from its very inviting roof garden! Owned by 5 siblings/cousins, it feels so much like home! Their warm hospitality and yummy home cooked meals, helped us to fall in love with Jaislamer.. and when we had to leave, it was with the resolve that we would come back and stay longer! They were really sweet, on the first night as we hung around on the roof top, one of the brothers kept us company, relegating tales and imitating accents from around the world. Another, cooked up some desert mushrooms (he had picked just that day) and gave it to us for a taste. It was almost like the way your mom/ grandmom tells you.. taste this,this is so yum! If you do go to Jaisalmer, this is a good place to stay!

While the fort and the numerous havelis with their intricate craftsmanship holds a unique charm that only those ancient relics can hold! And the glistening lake where we pedaled a boat was simply a wonderful find in the desert, the highlight of our visit was the desert safari! But before we go down that lane, I must stop to talk about the lake. We were very excited about the prospect of getting on the lake.. and with child like delight naively looked forward to exercising our legs! However as we endeavored to get some pictures of birds flocked on the banks we hit something and could not move!

We were a good 20 feet from the banks, and so we were really bewildered! Trying not to panic we called out to a guy rowing a oat nearby with a dozen passengers! He quickly reached us and took off his footwear, rolled up his sleeves and I had visions of him diving under the boat and laboriously extricating us from whatever tangle we had got ourselves in! Instead the guy got off the boat into ankle deep water and pushed our boat off from where we had struck land! As you can imagine, all of us, including the passengers of the other boat had a good laugh!!

The next day saw us pottering about in the wee hours of the morning as we prepared for a early start to the deep deserts! We drove off to witness the sunrise among the sand dunes.. but we fell short by a few minutes.. so had to watch the sunrise well before our rides arrived.. still it was an awesome sight!! And then we saw them at a distance.. our majestic rides... as we straddled the camels and rode off into the dawn a thrill went down my spine! We had a breakfast of toast and tea in the wilderness... sitting on a colorful mat.. on the glistening dunes, camels chewing off the desert plants on one side! It was absolutely exhilarating! And at this time of the day it was nice and cool! We were joined by a group of European tourists who had spent the night under the stars in the middle of the desert! Wish I could have done that!! Except I would have not had a wink of sleep... the images of dung beetles (they feast on the camel dung.. hence the name) a la matrix style kept interrupting the pleasant images of solitude on the Desert!

After a trek on the sand dunes.. did you know that Jaisalmer was once a sea? They have fossil stones of sea creatures! And here is what we found in the middle of the arid desert .. yes shells! Anyway after a trek on the dunes, we hopped on our rides to head back to the village! The nice camel caretaker, invited us to see his home and village. We bid goodbye to our fellow tourists and headed back (oh yes this was a special privilege he said.. because we were the only Indians he had seen in months... that was surprising!). Although our camel "Tola" insisted on brushing against every shrub and thorn bush along the way.. not to mention backs of other camels, this was an experience we will carry with us for the rest of our lives! Cheeky was sad to leave his friend "Tola" behind.. and promised to come back soon with Daddy!

We left Tola in good company though. The gaily dressed village folks in their cool sandstone homes, celebrate everyday with music and dance! They take good care of the camels. The village children skip school and hang around the village. A few of them followed us around and even took some pictures with us! As we left we handed out our stash of Candy and Cookies.. they only wanted more!! Growing up in a land surrounded for miles by arid desert must be hard! I was told the kids don't even get to see candy and cookies for months! The land had not seen rain in 3 years and even food was hard to come by! So luxuries were unheard of! Their only snack is husk from the grains.. We wished we had known.. we could have taken more goodies for the cheerful, smiling little friends we made!

After taking a stroll in the fort, seeing the palaces and the city views.. not to mention shopping for souvenirs it was time to leave! And we hoped we had planned to stay longer! I am sure the pictures speak for themselves and my ramblings in this post are superfluous! Jaisalmer with its rustic appeal is a must see.. As we left I promised myself, I will be back to stay for a week or two and experience the rustic charm yet again! But for now we were off to the Pink City!