Friday, September 21, 2012

Colour Purple

Dear Netra

You are about to turn 5 and I have started to plan a party for your birthday. The first one probably in the actual meaning of the word. We will have a theme- purple- the colour you are obsessed with. Asked anytime about anything that you would like to have on any occasion, you dole out a list and then add “in puddple”. It doesn’t matter to you that Disney intended Cinderella to wear a pink gown, you want her on your cake in, yes, puddple. You even have the birthday song ready for the theme- Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday Netra Sood, Purple Flower. May God Bless you, purple flower Netra Sood.

I once asked you what you wanted to become when you grew up and your answer was a purple butterfly.

Both your father and I have asked you many times the reason behind this fondness for colour puddple and in your reply you have pointed out the simple fact of life, which I have just gripped. To answer our question, you always say- because I like it. There are no further explanations. This is supposed to end the matter. You get busy in other things.

No further debates. No degrading other colours. No praising this one to the heights of heaven. A simple thing, put simply- because i like it.

I am wondering now whether anything else is even required.

I hope that you are able to remember this little lesson and use it in your life as well. As you grow up there will be many things that you will get a chance at. You will learn new words with complex meanings- happy, sad, love, hate etc. But I hope that you are able to carry the ‘like’ with the same panache that you have now for the word. I hope you do many, many things that you like. I hope that you learn to recognise your ‘likes’ by tuning in to yourself. I hope you have many conversations with yourself and let those guide you towards your likes. I hope you learn to listen to your voice, your gut, your instinct. I can tell you for a fact that your likes will always bring you happiness.

Love Mummy (who hasn't deciphered either what colour she likes or what does she want to become when and if she grows up!)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Interview that Matters

I have known Prerna Uppal since my days at ANI. So that tells you that she has been there and done that as far as TV news is concerned. Add to that the fact that she has also worked with CNN-IBN as well. Not just that. She has worked in every sphere of print - be it writing for a newswire, a magazine or a newspaper earning bylines and winning friends wherever she has gone. Her stories have been featured in Chicken Soup series and having read them I must say, they do warm up your heart and make you feel light as only chicken soup can.

She wields a mighty pen and has during her stint with various media houses has done many stories on a wide range of topics. Now a days, she is busy combining her love for cooking, writing and exploring the world at her blog besides holding a full-time job (Phew!).

When an opportunity at ChilliBreeze arose to write in an aptly titled column- Interviews that matter- I did not have to think hard about whom to interview.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here is a dollop from Prerna's vast experiences over the years that she has been kind enough to share.
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A 'Pratham' effort

It was a fine evening when a green package arrived at my door step. I was super excited as I tore it open and found a treasure inside. The treasure- the books – were sent by the Bangalore based publishers Pratham Books who were encouraging people to conduct a story telling programme on the World Literacy Day. And with just that much I became a Pratham Books’ Champions.

The book reading was to be conducted on September 8 which fell on a Saturday. I had decided to conduct the story telling session at my house and had duly called up all the mommies around me, who I knew would be and should be excited by the prospect of a story session.

Though the day had dawned bright and gay, by the time evening arrived, the rain gods seemed a wee bit unhappy. That, however, did not dampen the enthusiasm that had built inside the Sood household with the husband helping with shifting the furniture to make ample room for jumpy kids and Netra donning her brand new lehenga to essay the role of Susheela, the protagonist of the book- Susheela’s Kolams.

Susheela’s Kolams a vibrantly illustrated small book had arrived as part of the treasure earlier. This book was being read across the country by many other Pratham Books’ Champions in numerous events being held the same day.

Susheela learnt to draw kolams from her mother and loved to draw them everywhere. So great was her love for kolams and so great her talent that she was even approached by the Air Force whom she told ‘how to dip, dive and turn their planes...’

On the appointed hour, our guests began to arrive, unfazed by the shower, thunder and lightning. A couple of them were accompanied by their mommies as well. A dear dear friend, Deepa, was generous enough to bring with her a friend's daughter who herself was not keeping well. We started our session at 5.30 PM. I read out the story to them. There were enthusiastic oohs and aahs as I used a puppet to play Susheela and other things like a kite at the appropriate moment. The session was interspersed with a lot of interactive questions answers like what material was Susheela using to make her kolams. What else could be used? If they had assisted their mommies ever in making kolams or something similar? This was fun and the kids came up with well-thought out answers. They could easily draw a parallel between Suseela’s kolams and rangolis that were made with gulal on various festive occasions and to mark celebrations. Our youngest participant 'Siya' was as enthusiastic as the didis.

The story telling session was followed by a game of chits in which each child was asked to draw a chit and then perform the activity written therein. The chits had a name of a colour and a number written on them. This meant that you had to name the number of things with that particular colour. Others included telling a song or a rhyme on colours which had them all singing the poem on traffic lights.

Next came the most interesting part, where my champion Shikha treated us all for our hard work with delicious cake, savouries and a sumptuous chowmein.

By the end of the session Shikha aunty and Susheela had won many ardent fans.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The YWCA gang

The cast and characters of the following tale and true, alive and kicking ass somewhere.
The year was 2003. I had finished a Masters degree quite painfully and boarded a bus to Delhi.

Delhi has had an impact on my life which remains unparalleled in every sphere. I attribute it to the age factor. I was young, a dreamer, an idealist and contrary to when I came to Delhi, when I joined the YWCA, I was a happier soul, having shed the presents from the past to an extent.

When I came to Delhi I brought with myself a grumpy-ness and heaps of frustration, both of which my eldest massi and her family bore out with an impeccable smile. The things that I picked up while staying with them bore fruit later in life when I sat down to contemplate my life. As I sit down to write this, I am amazed at my naive-ness or should it be called foolishness, I known not.I did not come to Delhi with any dreams. I came because I wanted to get away from Chandigarh and because I was hurting due to a beautiful friendship gone awry. Strangely going back home never figured on my list and so as soon as the varsity released me, I boarded a bust to Delhi and was at my massi's door before she could say SKADOOSH.

I don't think I moved a muscle for good couple of months or may be they were three when I remained immobile, lost in my thoughts and wallowing in self-pity. It must have been my maasi's massive urgings and pleas that I set on the path of finding a job. A job I did find, in fact, I vaguely remember getting some 3-4 offer letters simultaneously in about a month's time. Much more about those adventures, you can read here and here as well

Well as it turned out, I took the job which had been offered to me impromptu and that too without a due call letter. After I had a job it did not seem fit to keep extending my relative's hospitality and I was introduced to the option of the YWCA.

Young Womens' Christian Association has a hostel on Bangla Sahib Road and a certain guardian angel who has played an important role in my earlier life was already staying there. So to cut a long story short, with all the paper work done and a sifarish from a Christian colleague at ANI, I got assigned to room number 317 at the YWCA.

I barely had a clue what a roller coaster ride the stay was going to be. I was already adopted in to the huge family that my guardian angel- Charu Di- had without any qualms. There I was a raw, awkward girl from a small town with a job that I thought I was lucky to have and looking forward to every day in the national capital.
Charu Di and Joycee Sembian were in room number 301 down the hall, bang opposite the loos. Then in a huge dormitory that homed about 8 other girls were- Jaya Kanchanbaras, Shagufta Jawed, Preety Arora. A room ahead on the same side of the hall was given life by a vivacious kid who now is a mommy of two beautiful dolls- Ruchi Kapoor.

On the second floor Pema Sherpa, our mate from the northeast resided and I think was later joined by Jaya's younger sister Priya.

Our days were spent at our respective workplaces but as the evening came around and we began to gather back at the hostel, life became interesting like never before. there was much catching up to do, gossiping, a visit to the market, supplies to be purchased, trips to the dhobi and all that hostel life is composed of.

Charu and Joycee worked at a call centre and were mostly on night shifts. This oddity gave birth to certain rituals which form the most cherished part of the days at YWCA.
These included ordering food from the CCD (or was it a Barista) at their workplace along iced teas. Today when I think of it I wonder how they must have managed to fulfill our demands along side pressures of work and strict timings of their cabs. I don't remember anything better than spending those nightly hours with lights dimmed, in their room, washing grilled sandwiches with (warm) iced tea, listening to music, lost in our own thoughts, world did not seem like a formidable place at that point. We were in no hurry to get anywhere. We lounged in that one room as if that was our lifeline, our moment of glory. Maybe the owners objected to the intrusion, may be they didn't but they never let anyone feel unwelcome. So much so they even adopted my room-mate Neha (of whom I was recently reminded by a pic that Joycee uploaded)with as much affection and good-will that was shown to me.

Our weekends were almost incomplete without a visit to Dilli Haat. Fruit Beer and momos from the Manipur stall, I could write an ode to but I remember it being a complete shopping stop for us. I remember buying bangles, bags, bed-spreads, etc from there with all of drowning a merchant with our questions and bargaining skills.

Weekends and memories would remain incomplete without the mention of a certain four-wheeler. I can feel the breeze in my hair as I cling to the door of a blue, Maruti 800, which carried the eight of us to various destinations all over the city. The car belonged to Jaya, who was also our chauffeur. The freshest memory of a trip in that car is a trip to the India Gate. It was either a 15th Aug or a 26th January. At night, after having finished our dinners we were taken by the wish to see the decorated monument and Jaya was summoned with the orders to get the ride ready.

It escapes me how we must have fit in that car, but we did and we did make it to the

monument to see families sprawling on the nearby gardens. The lit-up monument was a breathtaking sight in itself. There were a couple of nefarious accompaniments and sitting in the car, dangling from the windows we celebrated the day of national importance and the wonderful feeling of being alive, free and young.

Besides being an absolute delight on the dance floor, Jaya was also worldly wise. She gave me her precious jewellry when I was supposed to go for a photo session for a matrimonial-ad to ensure that I gave the right impression. Joycee accompanied me to the photographer's. She told me how to pose, ensured that I did not get clicked wearing my spectacles, was threaded(!!!) and that I looked more than presentable.

Joycee and Shagufta went along to see the husband-to-be and dragged me back at the some three times when I ran off. They bore with me as me and S as we got lost in conversation.

Preety Arora, fondly referred to as Preeto came from a different mould altogether. She pampered me and indulged me. I fondly remember our trips to Regal Cinema to catch the latest flicks soon after having our breakfast on some Sundays. Chameli is a distant memory but the thrill of that dubious theatre and an evening show at that is still alive. She was my introduction to 'classy'.

Pema- our fiery Darjeeling beauty and I were fond of each other but then some misunderstanding cropped up and we parted on a not-so-happy note. When I lost a baby and she came along with Jaya and Priya to Chandigarh to see me, it was as if we had not lost a day.

There are many more memories- of golgappas at Odeon, of mangoshakes and breadpakoras at the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, of lunches, of discos and disco hopping and dance sessions (in one such memory I can clearly see Jaya dancing to Dilli ki sardi, having come straight from work and surrendering to the rhythm. It was a Christmas celebration at the hostel.), of Boost vending machine, of morning walks, of award ceremonies on TV in the dorm, of creams and lotions, of borrowing handbags and clothes, of unending sessions of soul healing conversations, wonderful gifts, food and music.

As the year 2004 drew to a close, the group had started to disperse. I was probably the last one to leave hostel. That time in my mind has sepia tones.

We all continued on our journeys and as we go on to fulfill our destinies,we are bound together with innumerable memories of love and affection, of lending a shoulder, of a helping hand, of being there. These are feelings and memories which stay as you cross a threshold into another, like a warm shawl, thrown carelessly over your shoulders. A reminder that however busy you might get, when you begin to feel cold, there will be that warmth to cover you up and remind you of your own glow.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Melbourne Dream

It's your time to visit Melbourne NOW
But let me tell you about the holiday I dreamt of and how

Deserve a holiday, yes I do.
Melbourne I am getting a call
Why else would I be dreaming of
Little penguins tapping their happy feet, after all?

If it ain't for the
Great Ocean Road that beckons
Why would I dream of clear water,
Nature's wonder the Twelve Apostles
And some heritage
All at once?

I am the one for some quiet time
But hey! I would not mind
Being on my feet, to taste, toast and soak the Fed square
May I also offer a tribute to the moving pictures in sight?

Oh! hark now
I hear the exhibition space calling to me
Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi here I come.

Get me a ticket, put me on the tram
Or a shuttle if you please
The city lanes call and I must obey
I have to see the architectural wonders on my way

Next fly me in a
big bright colourful balloon
as over the Murray, awaits another dream
Fly me high and higher still
so that I may learn to live enchanted and thrilled

The Sports Museum I have had but what is this that I now hear
A crowd asking for a six and then some more?
Sandhu,Ponting, Maxwell and Clarke
Wade and Pattison, I need to see
To pack along a bag of tricks

Before I head back home
On the wings of that dream
Send Bana to tell me a joke
Better still would be Kelly to strum
A melody and the memory
of all that is chic
in this metropolis
where every moment must be seized
And where its my time to visit NOW!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

To be organised, that is the answer

Did a post on the Importance of being organised for the website some time back. This post was inspired by the success of a certain person I have known for years. This person firmly believes that patterns replicate in the different spheres of life. He firmly believes that his organisational skills have played an important role in upping his career as a manager besides A class training at an A class management school.

I found an interesting infographic, part of the post, resourced from the website
Hope you enjoy!

What had I been doing

I wrote a few articles for a website a few months back. Unfortunately that project had to be stalled but I hope it picks up pace. In the meantime I got busy with The New Indian Express column on food and am thoroughly enjoying it. In between there have been prizes from twitter, a few books, which have been highly entertaining.

Getting back to the writing for the website, I really liked what I was doing there. Some of the articles had been created curating stuff from the Internet. So here is one sampling of such work which is a personal favourite of sorts. Hope you enjoy!