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Neil Gaiman

So, I had been wishing to read Neil’s work, for quite some time now. But, mostly, as it happens always, I used to procastinate the book-buying. So, eventually, I put a post on FB asking for some advices on which one of his works to start with. With some helpful friends, I found some titles. And then,….. I procastinated some more.

Finally, the day I re-remembered Neil Gaiman, I quickly went to Amazon, found the two titles suggested, and ordered them. That’s how I got my copy of ‘Stardust’ and ‘The Graveyard Book’.

Stardust was a slow-read, going by my standards of reading at break-neck speed, when I’m addicted to a mystery-fiction. But, then, that’s Neil Gaiman for you. He’s not your regular meal of chapati-daal, he’s the wine-tasting ceremony, that you should savour, lilt on your tongue and feel the aroma, before you take it in. And, that’s the only way you can enjoy this masterpiece of writing. πŸ™‚

While I was going through the book, Tarun said you’re perhaps not enjoying the book. You’re taking way too long to finish this one. And, indeed it was true to an extent. The book took its time to grow on me. I’m usually a story/plot person, so the first few chapters were more of ‘meet the characters, stories around them’. And, each one is a new world in its own. It takes time to get a grasp of it. To understand that they all entwine with time. It should have been obvious! Silly me! But, then again, that’s the beauty of the writing. You can never guess how the story will go.

By the time I was past half the book, I was so hooked, I was reading by my phone light in dark, just to ensure no one disturbs me while I read, and let me finish my book. And, when I did finish. Man! It was a life-changing event. Or, a life-taking-reverse-gear. When I finished, I just sat down on the floor, ….in the dark….and wondered. The story ends with stars, with dreams, of travels, of journeys taken together, all around the world.

I was back in my childhood. Childhood of dreams, of stars, of wishes…

I remembered all the times when I had stood in my top-floor balcony, looking out at the star…dancing…for hours. I would talk to it, tell it about my problems, about my day-to-day happenings. When the light went out at night (and there used to be no inverters back then), we would/could go out and sleep in the balcony. But, I used to avoid that. Coz, if I lied down in the balcony, I just wouldn’t be able to sleep. I couldn’t close my eyes from gazing at the stars above. The clear sky, the mild breeze, the different formations of the stars, the light coming from them, or the moon.. well, the moon didn’t exist much for me. It was always the stars. So, I’ll believe the light was from the stars. (Scientifically too, it is from a star only…the sun, right, getting reflected by the moon. So technically, I’m not very mistaken πŸ˜‰ )

If you ever feel like travelling back to your childhood, go and pick Stardust. Today.

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The weekend and the interview – Part 2

(continued from ‘The weekend and the interview’)

Now, we were happy and perplexed in equal measures. We had decided on Lotus Valley school for our child. Once he had got selected there (which was more of a formality there as the admission process only goes on for 2 minutes. Yes! No kidding!) we had filled his fees and were settled at that. We had stopped filling more forms. We were not attending any interview. DPSN was the bait. The exact bait that would get us moving our lazy asses off the chair. So, we went. And, we cleared. All thanks to the awesome performance by the kiddo.

Now, the dilemma began. The fees had to be deposited in two days, as is the usual case. We had hardly thought about DPSN because no one ever got admission to it without giving a hefty donation. That’s what we had always thought. And since I had decided that I would not start my child’s education with a donation, I never considered it. All the people we talked to, were shocked that we had cleared it. People said that only 25-30% of the candidates are selected, rest all the seats are sold. I talked to the teachers in the family. None had heard of Lotus Valley and everyone was raving about DPSN. My research of schools had given me some clear idea that I wanted concept based learning, rather than the traditional rote-learning. And, that I wanted a smaller batch size in the school. I didn’t want to put him in the class with a batch size of 45+. DPSN was not matching up to any one of the criteria, and yet here I was being pulled towards it. How can you turn away from an achievement? How do you give up that you worked quite hard to achieve?

Wednesday was the day when I had to fill the fess. Tuesday, I went ahead and got the draft made in favor of DPSN. And, then I went to work. Talking to more people. My Manager has one of his kid going to DPSN and the other going to LVIS. His reason for choosing LVIS was because his daughter was not meeting the age requirement of DPSN and he wanted her to start school that year. But, he was the perfect guy who could give me a clear answer on which one is better. But, as it always is, it is never that simple. So, he gave me the pros and cons in both schools. The discipline, the academics, the culture, the brand name, the teachers, the methods employed for teaching, the children, the AC culture. Everything. Till the time I was talking to him and another colleague whose only-daughter was also studying in LVIS, I had decided it is going to be LVIS. But, my mind was wavering again by the time I reached home. My Mom was extremely interested in DPSN. She being a teacher, having always heard of DPSN, and the fact that Anay had cracked it himself, she really wanted me to go for it. She had no idea about LVIS and that was enough reason for not going for it. But, I couldn’t leave it at that, could I? So, at 9:30 PM, Tuesday, I and Tarun sat down, looking at each other. Blank Faces. Now What!? His friends telling him DPSN, my Mom telling us DPSN, the cousin telling us DPSN, the colleagues saying LVIS. All completely vouching for their individual choice.

So, we decided we need to write it down. And, we wrote the things we wanted in the school for Anay. Right from the important ones, to unimportant ones. We had listed down around 7-8 parameters. We gave a +/- to DPSN and LVIS whichever fared better than the other in the area. Let’s see which one wins? And guess what, both turn out to be equal! Phew!
Okay, Round 2. We decided to give extra points to those where the difference is too huge, and the priority is much higher. So, we gave a ++. Count again. Impossible, equal again!!
Round 3! Strike off what we can live without. Now what? DPSN wins!

Ummmm, are you sure?
Let’s strike some more. No cheating, okay!? Okay.
.
.

Which one wins?
DPS-N again.

Hmmmm, but we always wanted this, that. Anay will never be able to cope up. He’ll lose the interest of going to school if he’s sent to that dirty school. He’ll become so haughty just like the other kids we have seen from the school!

And, that’s how we opted for Lotus Valley and gave up DPS-N.
Hands Down!!

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The weekend and the interview

Dear Diary,

It was a nice weekend. Actually, an eventful weekend, I should say.

On Friday, the movie Khoobsurat released. I really liked the acting of this new actor, Fawad Khan and wanted to catch it first day. I knew that being an Anil Kapoor production, with Sonam Kapoor acting in it, he may be underplayed. The movie may also be a little over-tilting towards stupidity, just as Aisha was. I remembered how wasted Abhay Deol was in the movie, despite being a decent actor. The movie pretty much destroyed the image and respect he had garnered in all those years. Anyways, as for Khoobsurat, despite all the attempts of sabotage by Sonam Kapoor, she couldn’t steal Fawad’s glory. He fills life into each frame that he is. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie, for the pure reason that I totally ignored Sonam Kapoor, and completely focused on Fawad. It was a long time since we had gone for a movie with the family and MIL was pining for it, so this one worked great for that too. Overall, a time well spent.

On Saturday, Anay had his DPS-Noida interview. We were supposed to be there at 9.00 so we stared from home pretty early. It was a great experience. It was the first time the sonny took on the complete show on his little shoulders, and we were merely supporters. Not because it was his interview happening, but because he outdid ‘us’. Let me explain.
When we reached there, we didn’t have the photocopy for the address proof. We had just carried our original. This was quite unusual of us. We are never that careless, in regular practice. But because I had used up the time in watching a movie last night, so I had lost the time to get a photo copy done. It was also because we weren’t completely sure whether we wanted to appear for the interview at all. We were still contemplating on it, even on Saturday morning. Just the fact, that it was a Saturday and there was no office, it is a great school and should be at least given a chance, we had basically run out of excuses on why we cannot go. So, that is how, we did go.
Coming back to the photostat, we had thought that most schools keep a copier in the campus so we’ll get it from the school. At 9.00 AM, no other photocopier would be available. But, to our poor luck, the machine was closed and could not be used. To help the poor parents out, and save themselves the hassle, one of the teachers asked us to write a letter saying that we’ll submit it later, and she’ll sign it. A kind of attestation. So that is how we returned to the real process of interview.

The Interview:
Anay was quickly taken into a room, where there were couple of round tables set up. He was seated into a chair with two teachers on the table already. He was asked to do some coloring, as he told me later. In this meanwhile, we were supposed to answer some subjective questions – 1. How would you settle your child if he has a sibling? 2. Would you take external counselling if your child is not able to cope up with his studies? So, off we went, with all the tension, trying to write the best answers. The teacher had already warned that you better hurry, when she handed us the sheet, so we completed and returned the sheet in flat 10 minutes. We later realized that there were parents who were still sitting on the sheet, even after 30 minutes. Hope the quick turnaround earned us some brownie points. πŸ˜›
Well, then we were invited to the next table, where Anay’s interview was already in process, with another teacher. She did couple of exercises with him, like memory game, find the object different from others, create the same pattern by picking the right colored-balls, put beads into a thread in the same pattern as shown. And, then the regular questions like ‘reciting a poem, what’s your mam’s name, what’s your mom’s name’ etc. This went on for a good 15 minutes and I was surprised as well as proud to see Anay doing really well.
Before you jump to the conclusion that this is a harrowing experience for the child, then let me mention that the teacher took quite an effort to make Anay extremely comfortable. She never pushed him to answer correctly or incorrectly, or quickly. She was very polite to him, and spoke very softly. She tried to talk to him in English but when she realized he’s not very comfortable with the language, she quickly switched to asking in Hindi. Frankly, I was quite impressed with the teacher there.
Then, we were made to wait for some time in a big hall, with other parents, while the principal met parents, in a group of 5. So, now, that’s where our interview was to begin. We knew that she would most probably be asking something like ‘tell us about yourselves’ but then I was not really prepared for it. Tarun had said that we should try and seat in the middle of the group so that we get some time to think our answer. I simply ignored that too. He had been rambling all day, practically. So, there we were, with not much of preparation, and not much of choice in our seating pattern. The Principal asked us to speak, and the pair before us spoke so much that my only thought was – ‘I’ll try and be short’. So, there I was, pretty much short-selling myself, by saying a line or two, and finishing it there. Tarun tried to do best as he could, after me.
I realized my mistake once I was finished. I realized this was the chance I had to actually sell myself. The school cannot give you extra points for things there are but you didn’t say. You had to highlight it, and you didn’t do it.
It was quite a disappointing experience. Disappointed by myself.
The results came on Sunday night. We only got to see it on Monday morning. And, guess what, he made through. Anay did get selected!!

to be continued….

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Two new additions to my list of 30

Dear Diary,

When I first created the list, I had never believed that it would make any difference to me or my life, or it’ll ever get fulfilled. But that feeling is history. Not just history, it makes me feel a lot happier about my life when I see that things I ‘just wished’ are actually getting completed in my life time. And, not in very long a time. We often lose that perspective.

I added two new things to my list, which was at 16 so far. Now, it grows to 18.

17. Travel to Kolkata during Durga Puja.

I so wish to visit the city at the time when the festival is being celebrated. I’ve always loved the festivities, the lights, the decorations, the bazaars, the pretty Indian things which hog the market at the time of Diwali. I want to see the city which is so popular for it. Last year, someone had shared this link of a Pandal put up in Kolkata.

http://blog.tanishq.co.in/festivals/tanishq-creates-history-in-kolkata/

It pretty much makes your jaw drop. I went to a great deal to retrieve this link. It was what strengthened my wish to ‘MUST-go’ from ‘wish-to-go’.

18. Become a bike-rider
I didn’t say ‘I want to ride a bike’. Because that would be a one-time affair. And, I’ve already done that. But, I want to become a bike rider. A bike is so male-ish. So much a man’s territory. Of course, lots and lots of girls are doing it now but that just makes it alpha-female to me. It’s a pure-envy wish but I would love to prove, to myself, that I’m everything a man can be.

I was once travelling as a pillion on a bike with a friend. He bent low so the strong wind could come directly to my face. I always loved wind coming and hitting right on the face. The simple pleasures of life, like taking your head out the window when it rains, driving with the car/bus-windows open with the wind gushing to your face. I loved all that. Somewhere those got lost. I tell myself, it’s the Delhi heat to blame. But, I hope to differ. I miss the moment, when I look back at the past life. It was the symbol of freedom and love and pleasure and bliss, all combined. I wish to re-live. Re-emphasize the connection with Mother Nature.

Ameen!

-Hope

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The Jaipur Trip

Dear Diary,

I went to Jaipur a few weeks ago. Anyone of you living in NCR region, would have visited Jaipur once, even if it’s for the sake of a weekend getaway. It’s one of the contenders.

Well, I have visited Jaipur couple of times before but this time was special because I visited it as a company offsite. The special attractions?
– We stayed in a Taj Heritage property, which makes the whole thing ‘rich’.
– Since Tarun was gone to US, it was a trip I made alone with Anay.

– This was my first company offsite truly as an employee. Because the husband was not there. I had attended previous offsites as well but I was mostly considered the spouse in this family outing that an employee.

If I had to define the offsite in one word, it would be defined in only one – ‘Freedom’.

Tarun has almost always given me a lot of freedom. It terms of what I wear, what I can do, dance, talk to people, pretty much whatever you do, as a usual good-girl-life. This is how I thought. But after attending this, I realized what ‘freedom’ was. How it used to be, before I was married. How a person does change in the vicinity of another. No matter how much your spouse is understanding and open, no one can give you that ‘space’ that an actual distance can.

In this trip, I enjoyed with Anay. I handled him alone. From going from home to the railway station, handling the luggage and the child. Of course, colleagues helped me a lot all through, but still. Then, managing his 3-meals!! His brush, bath, dress-up, meal, then play, then story, then again play, till he’s exhausted to just sleep. It was all great. On multiple occasions I was surprised that how smooth it was all going. Despite that Tarun was not there, I wasn’t facing much difficulty. I know, a lot of it parameters contribute to the experience. The fact that we were in a hotel, makes Anay very happy. Then, he gets to eat a lot of variety which he enjoys much more than the usual ghar-ka-khana. Then, I had no worries of any work to handle. No one ‘monitoring’ my actions with Anay. I can’t explain what a reliever it was. He didn’t play much with other kids, though many did come to him. But, it didn’t irk me. I was enjoying with him. I really enjoyed this two-some time with my son.

And, I was not missing much of action from the company offsite either.

From the company’s perspective, the trip allowed me to interact with others that I never did in previous offsites. There were people always in my room, preparing for their dance events. Though I was not participating in it because of my knee, I was still organizing it, for my team. And that was equal fun. That way, I didn’t feel left out. Dance really makes me free. It makes me ‘smile’. Really smile. And if I couldn’t be a part of it, I would have really felt broken. Even without dancing, I had to be a part of it somehow. And I did. πŸ™‚
I dressed up in the hottest of the dresses I had. One I got right before going for the offsite. My MIL chose it with me. πŸ™‚ She had no issues with my dress choices. She was rather giving me opinions on the dress combinations, when I was packing my bags. I think I should pat my back on how far she and I have come, in that department. It feels nice. Really nice.
And how I looked, how it went, I knew from the glances. Thanks very much, folks. πŸ˜› πŸ˜‰ It was really satisfying, trust me!

I had doubts if anyone would try to take an advantage, any misdemeanors of any sort, seeing that my husband is not there, and I was travelling alone. Though there are all decent ones in my office, but the Evil never comes in a black-suit and fangs, anyways. So, I was cautious at the back of my mind, always. And I am glad that I had all the happy memories from the trip.

Personally, the trip was so gratifying. Taking this time away from the spouse, which is basically the-protection-cover, is so relieving. It brings you close to yourself. Your real-self. It tells you what you’re hiding. In that cover at the top. Because you’re so many roles now. This time tells you what you would have been if you were none of this. It tells you what all you can manage, and you never thought you could. It tells you of how you would have done, when actually you used to think you would be so much better at it.
It is like bringing a mirror and looking closely. Looking at your soul.

And, mine is so beautiful. ‘Hello there, beautiful.’

Every woman has so much potential, so much rigour, so much power, trapped inside her, that if you remove all these prejudices, these society-set responsibilities and actions, and expectations, she can achieve much much more.

I’m feeling alive after a long time.

Smiles,
Hope

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Updates and ramblings

Dear Diary,

There are too many posts waiting to be written, wandering in my head, banging it again and again to be allowed exit to the web. But, hey wait! I have been too tied up. Work, Health, Anay’s admissions, Tarun not here, it couldn’t have got more messy. So, let me start on the mess before it gets dirtier.

Update 1: Work
I hope I don’t jinx it by saying that it is going awesome. I am loving every minute of it, and it’s keeping me super-busy. I can’t admit it to Tarun but thankfully I can admit it here – I miss my time away from work and work-place.

Update 2: Health
The knee thingy has been confirmed as a must-have-arthroscopy. But, the good thing is it’s a minor surgery which is better to have been diagnosed early rather than late, as it means it’ll not be able to do any further damage to my knee. Also, I’ll have to do some exercises as a must-do, which will get it into my thick head that ‘exercise karni hi hoti hai. Koi chaara nahi hai’. I am so damn lazy! Seriously, I surprise myself too.

Update 3: Anay’s admissions
I have two of them lined up from tomorrow onwards. One of them is at the top of my list. The second one is on the top of everyone’s list. Tarun is trying to revise the answers which he’ll give in the interview. Hahahaha! Me? I am a natural.

Again, lazying it away than preparing. :-/ But, I have written the same answers so many time while writing the admission forms that I’m tired of thinking about them again. I have no clue whether they are right or wrong. I didn’t get any feedback, for God’s sake!
I know that my son has all the right ingredients and he’s not the over-the-top-naughty so he should be good for any school picking him. I hope he’s picked by the ones I like.
And, I sincerely hope none of the teacher ridicules him. Ever. This is perhaps one of my biggest fears because this is one thing that really kills a child’s confidence – a teacher telling him that he’s not good enough for the task, and he should not try it ever. I have heard of so many people not going to stage ever because some teacher laughed him away. I swear to God that one teacher does that to Anay and she’ll have the worst nightmare of her life. She’ll quit teaching once I’m done with him/her.
Phew! Whatever! Be Positive.

You know, this is such a beautiful and special moment for a parent. It is no doubt difficult a time, deciding on the school and with all the running around, but it is the first time we actually sit down and take a ‘decision’ for the child. A decision that will have a crucial impact on his life. I know it is not the most important thing in the child’s life but it is definitely a very important one. When I look back at my school life, it really made me what I am today. Not because of the education, but because of everything else that came with it. The attention, the exposure, the stage that I ended up loving, the dancing, the talking, making friends, competition and defeat. So much of our life happens there that it becomes the first stepping stone. And, now, I am deciding which school becomes the stepping stone for Anay. And, that is a very important moment in my life, as a mother. I have done all the research, the talking, the learning and I’ve picked this school consciously. I hope it picks him too but I know if God doesn’t give me that, it would be for the best, for me and for my child.

Be with me!

Thanks,
Hope