Saturday, February 25, 2012

I have to think before I speak

It is his final assessment time.  After coming back from school at 2 in the noon, he  said he was going down to join his friends who were playing football. I refused to send him since it was too hot to play. He immediately turned on the TV, I told him to switch off and do something else. He then went to play games on my mobile. I wanted to discourage him from this too and wanted him to study now so that he could play in the evening, but decided not to tell him directly.

I challenged him telling that “You should’nt touch any of the electronic gadgets, so no mobiles, no comp, no tv,no ipods , no wii” and also added “ no playing football or cricket( his friends were playing downstairs) , no sleeping. Other than these, do whatever you want”.

I was smartly thinking I have closed his access to all the gadgets he had no choice but to study his school books or even the library book was fine for me. But he started bullying his sister, telling that it was not in the list I told him. I Immediately added that to the list and challenged him again and went to do my work.

I over heard my son telling My MIL what I told him and he also told her “ Yosichindriken, enna panradhu theriyalai” ( I am thinking what to do now). I thought he had no choice but pick up his book now and read.

He has a knack with assembling or solving any complex puzzle like sudoku, electronic gadget, complex lego toy or any DIY kit. He is on a high ground when it comes to technical, analytical, logical skills and its application. His weakness is his concentration especially when it comes to school curriculum and that too Hindi writing.

I soon lost track of him and was immersed in my work. There was total silence for more than 2 hours from his side, meant he had gone to sleep. At around 5 in the evening, before moving up from my chair, I called out his name which alerted him from his sleep. I went to his room and told him “ So you lost the challenge, You slept all this while ”. He said “ No ma, I was is in deep meditation”.

Another day, another instance

My son had returned back from his play time and was relating an incident to me. He was relating in too many words and I told him in my language “ Sutthi valaichi solladey” ( equivalent of Don’t beat around the bush) and I told him to be precise and concise while he relates an incident.

I also demonstrated with an example that one should touch one’s nose directly and not go around and touch the nose. He said ‘ sari, ma’( ok, ma) and went about his work.

A few days later, I was asking him about ‘Solenoid’ from his science text. He gave the answer very crisply in a few lines. I told him “You should’nt be so brief, elaborate it more”.

His answer made me drop my jaws.

He said “Amma, you keep changing your words often, anniki, sutti valaichi solladeynnu sonna, inniku you want me to tell elaborately. Not fair ma, Don’t change your words that often. It confuses me”.

I realized, I have to be specific and think before I speak especially to my son.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

'Maid'en woes

One of the major woes,  most of us in cities face is that of maid attrition.  Most of us live in nuclear families where we  juggle many tasks.  Some of  us rely on supporting service providers like maids, dhobis, car cleaners, drivers, child caretakers etc.

Healthy or unhealthy practice, I don’t know, but many of us are so dependent on  them thinking that these people make our lives less stressful, but they at times turn us into nervous wrecks.

First and foremost problem,  it is hard to find   a maid, when the demand  for them is plenty like in an multistoreyed apartment.  Then screening their antecedents for cheating, stealing etc., After all these , they have to  look decent and  clean , work without throwing any fuss or taking leave often.

 Thankfully, I’ve a servant who is clean, reliable, punctual and works  with me for the past 3 years(touché wood). My only problem is when she goes to her native place. Finding a substitute for me is a big ordeal. Actually I’m dependent on her only for sweeping, mopping, cleaning wash rooms and school uniforms  ( my son goes to play football in white dress and comes back in brown dress). She does’nt complain or sulk when she washes his shoes or clothes.

Unfortunately not many of them are fortunate, especially many of my full time working friends have a tough time. They have hired the maids from agencies.  There was this instance with my friend who was a Punjabi and who hired a maid/baby sitter  from an agency. The maid was Bengali and she could not eat the rotis  made by my Punjabi friend, so before leaving to work she  specially cooked rice for her maid. When she had no time to cook rice, she gave rotis for her. She sulked and complained to the agency that she would’nt work in a house which served rotis for her. All these when she was’nt even sure at work that the baby sitter was taking proper care of her 2 year old, because her baby  once broke his nose when he fell from the cot while his baby sitter was on a phone call and she had to rush home from work.

Another friend who had brought a cook and a maid from a destitute home from her home town Cuttack was slapped by her cook with whom she already had a cold war. YES, YES, you read it right. the cook slapped her employer.

 The reason for the slap - My friend had asked her cook why she had’nt made the regular mashed potatoes for her 3 year old. The cook replied ‘No stock’.   My angry friend retorted back telling she should have atleast informed her and in return she got slapped and told her it is not her duty to keep stock of the pantry. My friend did  the next best thing. Put her on a flight back home. When I asked her why she wasted  money on flight, she said the trains were booked and  she wanted the cook to leave as early as possible, as seeing her face would only escalate her BP.  She  had employed her since she was a divorced woman and had been recommended by her parents. In return she was slapped.

Well if these are some special case with full time maids, part time are no different. Many of my friends who depend on them for most chores like chopping vegetables, dusting, atta kneading ,folding clothes etc., their life comes to a standstill when the maids go on unannounced holiday to watch chiranjeevi’s first day first show movie or for chit parties( like kitty parties).

Today , It is easy to attend an interview and get placed in a company, but their queries have to be answered  politely, patiently and with a permanent smile plastered on your face.

The questions they ask us before being placed is:

Why did the old 'bhai' leave?

Ghar me kitney log hain?( How many members in the family) How is this relevant to sweeping and mopping, I still don’t know, but my friend answered one and half, meaning she and her 12 year old daughter , while her husband is mostly on tour)

Bartan kitney girenge?( fair enough, more vessels means more work)

Kapdey sukhana ke liye washing machine or hum ko hi karna padega?
( meaning should we wring the clothes for drying or will you put in spinner)

Nalgaru unnara? ledu amma, naku  iddaru  vunda illu kavala( 4 Persons? No madam, I work only in houses where there are couples. There will be less work in retired couple’s house or newly married  couple’s  or working couples house.  Their validation for this, bacchon ki ghar mein bahut kaam hota hain.  ( what do we parents with children do? of course, shell out extra money)

After  passing the interview, when they are hired and  start working, comes the attrition problem, where the maids turn their priorities towards some new families which have shifted  into the complex and offer more to work and give in kind, free ride in cars to markets, outings, advance etc.,

It takes lot of tact to retain a maid.

All these reminds me of my Grandparents maid Amirtham  in Mylapore, Chennai. She worked for nearly 45 years. Due to old age, when she could’nt work any more she was given monthly pension by my grandparents. There is not a person in our extended family who does not know Amirtham and they enquire about her to this day even after 5 years of her passing over.

They don’t come like her any more/ they are very rare.

Ofcourse,  it is also important to treat them well.  Take my maid for instance, she was offered more money to work in  a house. She worked for just a week there and refused to work there any more.  When the lady questioned , why she was'nt reporting, the answer she got  was a simple  ‘Naccha ledu’( did’nt like). They can choose, not us.

Earning wise, I would’nt be surprised If one day they become tax payers, especially in my complex , my dhobi walla comes with ipods plugged in his ears and a trendier mobile phone. When questioned why he does’nt come and pick clothes regularly. “Bahut kaam hai, madam. Timeich nahin hain”.
They even advise us to wear synthetic clothes , since cotton clothes requires to be pressed.

My maid took two months leave because she was constructing a house in her native.

I can keep on adding to this list about the car driver who sends SMS at the last minute,stating he would’nt report to work that day or about the car cleaner who absents for 4 days and talks about labour laws or about the child’s caretaker who keeps talking to other maids in the park while the child she is supposed to take care of is rolling the feeding bottle in the sand pit and then popping it into his mouth and the list will go on. 
All the above woes are the reason why I stopped delegating work( except cleaning because of my spondylitis) , I would rather do my own work  and depend less on these people. Now I have to juggle between  house hold chores, cooking, shopping, parenting, freelancing,  fitness routine etc.,

No leisure. I've bargained it for some mental peace.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Scotland in our backyard - Coorg

I like travelling. Many of my travels are  unplanned trips. Of those, one was to Coorg in Karnataka.  I’ve visited this place many times and each time I’ve made beautiful lifetime memories and when Bhargavi blogged about Coorg's magic, the memories came cascading.

 One such visit and memory was during the winter of 97. It was the dussehra break of 3 days and we made a sudden trip to coorg. We decided to travel  only  to Mysore to visit my husband’s cousin sis and her family. After reaching Mysore, our other  cousins who had joined from Chennai and Trichy  decided, we  make a trip to Coorg(Kodagu in Kannada) in a hired car.

Yet another unplanned trip and so off we went to Coorg, six adults in all.  All through the journey we were charmed by the scenic locales of western ghats, enjoyed the drizzle of water streams on us and deep deep valley on the other, sometimes beautifully terraced coffee plantations and at times lovely rivulets with the twitter  of the unknown fauna.

 We also took breaks  to unpack our breakfast basket on a tree top house at Cauvery Nisargadhama, having (by two) tea at many places enroute to  Madikeri. (headquarters of Coorg district). Our car was negotiating the hairpin bends  in a mediocre pace and was travelling uphill to Bhagamandala (origin of River Cauvery)  and with another 18kms  to our destination, the car’s axle broke down.

The driver, my husband, his B-i-l and another cousin desperately searched for a mechanic shop nearby.  As the search party was on its work, I, our cousin sis and another cousin bro decided to follow the muddy track which went off the uphill to explore the coffee and orange plantations. After some 500 metres on the track, we found an iron gate whose pathway on either sides had pepper vines, coffee shrubs, orchards of guava, chikoo and oranges.  At the end of the path was a double storeyed cottage. We decided to quench our thirst  and  called out to the owner wondering if he/she would entertain 3 strangers. But we were in for a surprise, when the coorgi middle aged lady invited us inside her house.  Once inside we comfortably took the liberty of looking around the cottage. Our roaming eyes stopped at a timber stair leading upto a timber landing.  Seeing the direction and wonder in our eyes, she took us up the timber floor on her house and  told us the timber storey is built to insulate warmth and is cosy during misty winters. She also answered all the questions we posed about her culture, land and cuisine.  Her two sons were with the Indian army. The elder one was a Major serving at Kashmir, while the younger was at Wellington.  She too was an Army widow. She  stayed with a maid and was all alone in this house.

Coorgis , she said were traditionally planters( coffee)  or with the Army. They are known for their valour, rough sport, good hunt and fierce fight.This is one community which has the right to acquire guns without licence.  Amongst many Coorgi men who are Majors, Colonels, Lieutenants and subedars who serve us, the most prominent have been Our first field marshal  Gen.K.M Cariappa and  Gen.Thimmaiah.

You will find some British or rather Scottish influence here, because during colonial rule most planters were Scots. Infact, it was the homesick Brits who gave the sobriquet ‘The Scotland of India’ to Coorg because of its similarities.

Both Scotland and Coorg are cold, misty, hilly regions which have their local brews. In Coorg, it is coffee.

Coorgis like Scots were supposed to be divided into clans and the clans warred over lands in the early days.(now at peace)

The Coorgis have a distinctive  style of dressing which is similar to the Scots. The men wear a black knee length over coat called Kupya that reaches to elbow with a red sash and carry silver dagger. The scots also wear a similar dress and carry short daggers and the Coorgi ladies drape sarees differently.

Both of them love rough highland games and perhaps Coorg is one region in India  I can think of,  which despite its size and terrain has produced some of the best athletes and sporting person. It is called the cradle of Indian hockey and has gifted  many hockey players. This place hosts the largest hockey tournament in the world where many clans compete to claim the coorg family cup.  This tiny district has thrown some well known athletes and sportsperson like the Deviah sisters( Neeth, Reeth(Abraham), Preeth), Nachappa sisters(Pushpa, Ashwini), Rallyist couple Anita and Jagat Nanjappa, current stars  like badminton champion Ashwini Ponappa, squash champion Joshna chinnappa , Tennis champion Rohan Bopanna and more recently Cricketer Robin Uthappa. 

Even today many estates here have Scottish names and this estate was also one such. While we were going around the house, the maid servant gave us a refreshing lemonade to quench our thirst. We 3 strangers asked for only water and in return we got not just  Coorgi history but also lemonade.

We thanked the aunty who asked us to have lunch. On our way out, we hoarded lot of green peppers, chikoos and guavas, (coorg is also famous for Kodagina kittale, a tangerine orange but the trees were bare). Walking back we were also talking amongst ourselves how we city people would’nt  have entertained 3 strangers.
We reached the car only to find the search party had still not returned. Some minutes later we found they were searching  for the 3 of us.

They could’nt find any mechanics or garage since they were not working on Ayudha pooja day. So we had no choice  but take a bus from there to Bhagamandala.

Thanks to the break down, we were now richer with an experience and town hospitality.

More than the destination, it is the journey that I enjoy. Exploring new sights, meeting people, knowing the culture, the history, cuisine etc and sometimes it is also about discovering our self-worth.

Bhagamandala –  A beautiful and  an holy place, where River Kaveri originates.
This will be my next post.

                                   The terraced coffee plantations of Kodagu

                                the traditional attire of kodavas(coorgis)

Apart from being the largest coffee producer it is also the largest producer of honey in South Asia.

P.S:  Coorg is 260 kms from Bangalore and 180kms from Mysore. Best enjoyed by road.

Courtesy : Google images

Friday, February 3, 2012

Lost something? Pray to her and you will regain

My mom is a voracious reader of magazines and novels especially tamil magazines.  During one of her reading session, she came across an article on Araikasu amman .  'Araikasu' in tamil means 'half coin' and Amman is the female god or Devi. 

The article on the god mentioned that  if you had lost or misplaced something, you would regain it when you seek her help to find your article and once you find your lost article/thing, offer pieces of jaggery to her as thanksgiving .

Eversince then whenever anything is lost or misplaced, we pray to Araikasu amman and  it would be answered.  This way we found many important documents, certificates, jewels, etc., and Trust me,  never once  have we lost  faith in her especially most times it was at the crucial hour.

Both my children too who pray regularly have faith in her,  else how to explain the presence of jaggery in our pooja room almost every now and then. Only this time she  finds text books,  compass,  eraser and gel pen.  Just yesterday, my son misplaced his geography notes and made his dad, me and his sis as google search engine and finally when we thought he had left it at school,  we found his notes in his own almirah. But only after he prayed to this God and today he offered jaggery religiously before going to school.

                                                                        Image of the coin

If you too have faith in god, try this next time you misplace something.

 There is a temple dedicated to her at Pudukottai in Tamilnadu. She was worshipped by the King of Pudukottai and he had inscribed her picture in the 1/2 paise coins issued by him which is why she is called  Arai kaasu Amman. For more details on the temple read here.  She even has a facebook page.