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The Kite Flyers: Book Review

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The Kite Flyers

With a title that so resembles Khaled Hosseini’s renowned work (“The Kite Runner”), it is impossible to not draw up a comparison. This is especially so when the book in question deals with friendship and fate – themes not far removed from Hosseini’s masterpiece. However, to Sharad Paul’s credit, what he has managed to create is a refreshing read that holds its own throughout.

The Kite Flyers is the tale of three friends – Raman, Kumar and Lakshmi – who grow up together in erstwhile Tamil Nadu. This is a time when MGR is the state’s revolutionary leader and there exists a fierce, almost obsessive attachment to Tamil, the mother tongue, as opposed to Hindi, the alien language with its multitude of contradictions. The three children learn together in a little village-school, taught by ‘Gowri Teacher’, and spend delightful evenings flying kites and enjoying the delicious barfis that Lakshmi makes. In a bizarre turn of events, fate takes them down roads they had never prepared to tread. This is a world of misplaced notions, of eunuchs striving to live in an unfriendly world. This is also a world where messages written on a kite sometimes make long and enduring journeys and the Kaveri river flows with several secrets in her bosom. The tale converges at Cool Cut, a barber shop, but in more ways than one, the convergence is a whole new beginning.

Sharad Paul’s style is staccato; he doesn’t mince words. It is a style that is perfectly suited for the fast-paced novel, involving several changes of scene and protagonist from one page to the next. A relatively short book – almost a novella – it can be easily completed in one read. For a book of this nature, Sharad manages to keep up the momentum and the interest very well. The political backdrop adds several layers to the tale. It tells a story of its own – that of a state and its people. To top it all, the book is intricately laced with a Tamilian flavour, never defaulting on that front.

On the flip side, the story sometimes seems to have integrated too many sub-plots to fit into its length. A forced marriage, a religious rescue mission, violence against women, adolescence – there are several more. This is not to say that the book doesn’t deliver on these accounts but the focus is sometimes perfunctory.

In this age that churns out umpteen books unfailingly – and poorly, if I may so – dealing with college romances, The Kite Flyers comes as a welcome surprise. For its interesting writing style, brevity and sensitive handling of several delicate subjects, it deserves to be read.

Rating

*Written as a part of Indiblogger and Harper Collins’ Book Reviews initiative

Two Little Children

*UPDATE: The two twins have now been successfully separated! :)*

Conjoint Twins

It was an average morning in Tanzania. The little village of Kasumulu was slowly awakening from slumber. But for an expecting mother, the day was rife with possibilities. What could be more wondrous than bringing new life into the world? With eyes full of dreams, she went to the dispensary in the village for her delivery.

However, the dispensary directed her to the District Hospital, considering she had previously undergone a caesarean section. Little did she know the tumult that was to unfold. Painting her dreams in a cruel shade of black was life’s crooked prank. She gave birth to two little boys – conjoined at the buttocks. Her pygopagus twins were joined at the spine’s end and had a shared phallus and urinary passage. Frantically seeking help, the distraught mother journeyed for three days with her newborns to reach Mohimbili Hospital in the capital city of Dar es Salaam.

If there’s anything more frightening than seeing your child in pain, it is uncertainty about his life. Her dear boys were a one-in-2,00,000-deliveries phenomenon, among the 40 percent who are not stillborn in such cases. Then again, the two were among the minute 17 percent of conjoined twins joined at the buttocks. In a convoluted play of fate, the boys were only the fifth set of males among the total 30 pygopagus twins reported thus far in medical literature. Statistics were however but numbers to their mother…the one who had woven loving stories to narrate to her children now caught amidst petrifying digits of probability.

Apollo Hospitals

She sits in Apollo Hospitals Chennai today, waiting for the morning of December the 16th. When her boys – Ericana and Eludi – were four and a half months of age, they were shifted to Apollo Children’s Hospital which is closely associated with the Tanzanian government by the Save a Child’s Heart Initiative (SACHI). Doctors from across the specialties of neurosurgery, plastic surgery, paediatric surgery and paediatric urology will attempt the mammoth surgery to separate the twins and lend them a new lease of life. They will be assisted by paediatric surgeons and anaesthesiologists from London. One of the biggest challenges the doctors will face during the 14-16 hours long surgery is the separation of the phallus to ensure both boys have a functional penis.

The past few months have been full with preparations for the big day. Tissue expanders have been placed in the back, buttocks and thighs in order to let skin cover the defects that surgical separation will leave behind. Today, the little children are 9 months of age and weigh 16 kilograms. They are the nurses’ favourite and fondly called ‘Ammukutty’ and ‘Chellakutty’. In response, the darlings mumble ‘Thatha’* and ‘Athai’*. Lying in their beds, they are blissfully unaware of the situation confronting them. Their mother, though, senses every bit of it. Every single day.

The year is drawing to a close. Christmas trees nod cheerfully from store windows; children stare dreamily at glowing streamers of light. This festive season, let’s do our good deed of the day. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the little family and their big ordeal. If – and here’s hoping it will – the surgery is solemnized successfully, not only will it be a huge leap for Indian medicine, but will also bring a wave of optimism for others trapped in similar situations.

Here’s wishing Apollo Hospitals Chennai all the very best for December the 16th. This Christmas, may Santa bring good cheer and drop by an early surprise of a happy mother and a pair of healthy little boys.

 *Thatha – Grandfather, Athai – Aunt (in Tamil)

When Safety Gets Evasive

Safety

*picture from http://www.wshc.sg

I distinctly remember the time when I first moved out of home. The suitcases were jam-packed with homemade snacks, the handbags rife with religious symbolism. “The Gods will help ward all danger off, my dear.” drawled my dear Granny. She tucked in a bottle of pepper spray when she thought I wasn’t looking. The Gods too, I nodded mentally, need a weapon of action. My point being, leaving one’s safety to intangible assistance is hardly an option in these – as Lord Krishna points out in Mahabharat – corrupt, self destructing era of kalyug.

Pune conventionally has a ‘safer’ reputation than good old Delhi. All the more reason to take safety in your own hands and let the beautiful city remain thus. Here goes a bunch of safety tips that have always held me in good stead in lands away from the comfort of sweet home:

#1. An Eagle’s Eye is your best accessory

There was a time when stalkers were as loving as Amol Palekar in Choti Si Baat. These days, they more often turn out to be goons, idlers and psychopaths. Keep a lookout for these species and warn the local police station if remotely suspicious. Sporting the muscle-man of your kin or your pet Swiss Knife – just casually, once in a while – could also do the trick.

#2. Chuck that music on late nights out

The fanciest of gadgets are put to dust if they can’t bring you help when it is needed most. Moreover, the gadget isn’t to be blamed if your incessant music drains it of battery. Until you arrive home safe and sound, especially from a low-traffic, late-night ride, it’s best to let your phone rest. You may need it to contact people through a dialler or through a utility app such as Smart Suraksha which connects to five pre-chosen contacts at once and also sends them your location.

Otherwise, you may want to invest in one of those 24-day-battery-life (or is it 30?) monsters.

#3. Bear responsibility for the beer

Whoever defined independence as a chance to make ourselves better, did a neat job of utility moralizing. Indeed, the probability of being safe goes up manifold if you can hold your head high and walk straight. Pune’s vintage breweries and lounges may be too tempting to resist. But if you’re alone and will be late coming home, drink responsibly. The romance of uninhibited and inebriated grandeur is no good in a confrontation with a goon.

#4. Carry a self defence weapon

God alone can keep count of the number of articles that my purse, on an average day, contains. I am told by several that if only Robinson Crusoe had managed to get hold of it, the classic would have had a very different plot. But the bottom-line is that irrespective of all that jazz, there’s nothing to beat Pepper Spray or a Swiss Knife. Easy to use and work wonders, both of them.

#5. Develop a loud, high pitched scream

A shout-out never fails to attract attention, even when you think no one is looking. If suspicious, nervous or plain scared and at your wit’s end, scream. Don’t let an empty lane unnerve you; your shouting may bring forth a couple of ferocious, helpful dogs. Pune has a lot of these.

#6. Choose to trust… and to mistrust

We trust easily, despite voicing bells of warning to others. The prepaid auto-wallah at the airport or railway station still stands superior to the independent seeker you haggle with to save a buck. The housemaid your neighbour recommended to you may be worth her weight in gold but that is no reason to let her miss her police verification. Weigh your object of trust and weigh well.

#7. Consider a lesson in karate

A packed lifestyle may prevent us from devoting time to painting that masterpiece or composing that novel. But picture a dreary lane and a clump of hideous goons at its end and that lesson in karate seems immensely inviting. Give it a thought, perhaps during that new-year-resolution-week, when Pune brims with optimism and wintry sunlight.

#8. Choose your wardrobe ‘safe’-ly

Colour, style, occasion notwithstanding, the times necessitate ‘safe’ clothing. The frills and fancies are sure to be cursed when entangled with barbed wires and street signage. When cognizant of being alone and late, rule out footwear and clothing in which you can’t flee. Pune has several lanes which resist repair and remain, well, unfriendly. And hurling high-heeled footwear to injure an assailant comes only with practice, trust me.

#9. Don’t be untraceable in wanderlust

Our streets don’t really lend themselves to solitary travellers, without a care in the world. Pune does offer a number of delightful destinations, for instance the lovely hills of Matheran. But no matter what your destination be, make the effort to let your immediate family/friends/neighbours/whoever-you-have-in-the-world know. If calamity were to strike, there will at least be someone who can come to your rescue.

#10. Understand the landscape keenly

Nothing like the local map at your fingertips – the road directions, the local businesses, the streets and their traffic conditions, police stations and hospitals. This comes with spending time in a city and brings untold confidence. When alien to such knowledge, tag along a native to act as a substitute.

Better safe than sorry, they say. Granny and I strive to be responsible for our own safety. And then, we leave the rest to God. 

What are your recommendations to be safe in these trying times? 

~

*I am sharing my Smart Suraksha Tips at BlogAdda.com in association with Smart Suraksha App.

Not Only The Things That Have Happened: Book Review

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Not Only The Things That Have Happened

“…it’s important to remember not only the things that have happened. She said it is important to remember what will happen.”

As the 352 pages of Mridula Koshy’s ‘Not Only The Things That Have Happened’ narrate a tale – and so compellingly at that – crypticness gives way to wonder, melancholy and loveliness. In a story that unfolds only in a matter of a few hours, life travels across time and geographies, across other lives and lives that could have been. A woman grows up from a little mother to the rightful mother of a lost boy. The lost boy, on his part, struggles to complete the tale of his broken childhood. And if for nothing else but the scope for introspection that the tale provides, this is a book that deserves to be read.

‘Not Only…’ starts off in Kerala, the resounding voice of the little narrator Nina bringing to the reader ocean mist, sunlight and shadow all at once. Her ill-fated Peramma dies, her last wishes unanswered. The woman who was both Annachechi (big sister) and mother to her little sister, the one who had lovely hair and black skin, the one who was sent off to a nunnery but brought apparent disgrace to the house…the one who was coerced into sending off her son to a German family but breathed her last praying to meet her lost boy.

The boy with the mismatched name, across the oceans in American Midwest, tries his best to make sense of the words he had randomly scribbled years back. They include ‘box’, ‘magician’ and ‘swing’. Though he supposedly has a world of his own – a little girl, a house, a wife – what he craves for is memory. In the process of giving up his mother, the one who spent her years concocting his facial lines, he cannot come to terms with his present.

Koshy’s strength lies in her words. Right from the way she coins the titles of her book (Remember ‘If It Is Sweet’?), the way the chapters are named to the shifts in narration that take place so subtly it’s almost clandestine. Her characters don’t need to announce conversations through quotes. Cities don’t need to be expressed through geographical descriptors. Without seemingly taking any effort, however, all the facets of her tale make their presence felt. The choice of words is perfect, the tone crisp yet full of yearning, the flow reminiscent of misty monsoon afternoons when you can never get over the fact that evening is but a couple of hours away.

Though the book is divided into two sections based on the two key protagonists, it never seems to take anything away from the book’s slice-of-life flavour. Nina’s innocence, Anna’s strength, her one-legged companion’s affection, the young priest and his insistence, the policemen and their lack of empathy…Koshy has achieved a new high in characterization and the brilliance is one that will invariably linger on in memory long after the tale has been told.

On the dim side, Koshy sometimes gets a tad too liberal with the pace. The emotions of her lead characters  – though always emphatically expressed – and the change of scene/subject create a muddle or two which make you wish for a clearing among the clouds. But this is rare. For the most part, the text demands attention and arouses feelings of distinct déjà vu in a manner that is inexplicable.

‘Not Only…’ is a treat. Befitting for those hours of solitude when life looms large with questions of existence, dependence and persistence. As Anna puts it herself – “If I could, I would go back to the beginning. But I can’t. I can only go the end.” And this tale, by all means, is one that deserves to be accompanied till the last page.

Mridula Koshy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Fiction
INR 499/-
352 Pages

*Written for Indiblogger and Harper Collins Book Review initiative 

An Early Spring

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Kaleidoscope

Spring is nowhere in sight. Delhi is reeling under raging summer winds, with mangoes and watermelons trying their best to ease the heat. But the good God up above has brought in a whiff of spring early for me this season. Here’s how.

So Spring Tide, an Indian youth magazine, collaborated with Parlance Publishers to host a short story writing competition called ‘Kaleidoscope’. Being fresh to the industry themselves, they invited entries from aspiring writers of all age groups and geographies. And now it seems, yours truly has actually made it to the top 5 of the final 25 entries. Unbelievable? Yeah! :D

The final set will be published in a book that releases on the 26th of May, in a book launch event at Jaipur. Among the stories will feature the tale of old man Harilal whose house has lately started behaving in mysterious ways. To read about the workings of “The House”, you can even pre-order a copy from here. Yes, so P&P reserves the right to endorse its dear own D.

Needless to say, I am pleased as punch. Though this is merely a teeny-weeny peg up the ladder, it gives me the confidence that the day I dream of will one day be here. I would like to thank the sponsors of the event for facilitating such a platform and wish them luck in their future endeavours. On your part, dear readers of P&P, how about showing some love and sending us a few hugs and high-fives? :D

Woo-hoo!

The Sign-Board

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*Prize Winning Entry in Apollo Hospitals and Indiblogger’s “How Does Modern Healthcare touch Lives?” Contest*

He walked past the board every morning. It was on the way to work, standing in all its freshly-painted, large-visual glory. He would stare at it through the corner of his eye, as his car halted at the traffic light, and then proceed to indulge in a breakfast of vegetable patties in the cafeteria. The food-vendor ensured he made them with extra oil and potato, just as he liked them best.

It had been several years since he had joined his current company as a software engineer. He wasn’t keen on jumping onto the management bandwagon; the truck seemed way too full anyway. Coding still enthralled him and he beamed when he solved even seemingly mundane problems in innovative ways. Back at home, his parents would sigh. How do you manage to sit at your desk job every day and not grow plump? He would laugh about his amazing metabolism. The truth – his ever growing err, tyres, and slightly protruding belly – remained hidden under well fitted clothing.

“I think I will skip the gulab jamun, tempting though it looks.” His brother-in-law made a rather sorrowful face as he pushed the tray aside.

He had always been a funny man – too uptight with his dietary regulations. “Really, calling you to meals is pretty useless.” He sighed, picking up the rejected gulab jamun happily.

“Diabetes, no less. Add to that a serious cholesterol problem. I cannot afford to play around with these credentials.”

His wife nodded furiously, glaring at him. “It wouldn’t do you harm to adopt that kind of policy. Anyway,” she shook her head, “you don’t get any exercise.”

Really, when the two got together, he almost felt as if he was back in school.

Come to think of it, he used to live a ‘healthier’ life. Every evening after school, he would rush to the cricket ground. The green grass would get tremendous thrashing until one day they disallowed playing in the park. In college days, he had even joined a gym. But those muscles never shaped and his enthusiasm waned after a fortnight. But it was primarily after starting work that exercise was erased from his schedule.  Packed hours and insane deadlines, after all, don’t go well with fancy buzzwords such as work-life balance.

These days he had heard, there was a solution for every ailment. Even for the dreary cancers and tumours which had destroyed several households over the ages. Modern healthcare brought to people cure and care, and packaged with insurance and sensible savings, in a manner affordable for the masses. Amidst such advancement, the problems his sedentary life posed seemed too trivial to acknowledge.

*

The brother-in-law was ill. He lay prostrate in a hospital ward, a tiny potted-plant lying beside him on the mantlepiece.

“A sudden cardiac arrest,” his wife sobbed, “while he was peacefully watching television.”

“How is he now?” he asked hesitantly, unwilling to look her in the eye. If the brother-in-law with his school-boyish dietary regime and impossible restrictions could fall prey to trouble, he was a prey asking to be hunted. He saw his wife continue to sob and put a comforting arm around her shoulder. The nurses were busy, so were the hands of the large clock on the wall. Much of the world continued to swipe in and out of offices, cognizant of only the evening and the weekend to come. He, however, was on leave today.

The next morning, his car stopped by the board again. The road was abuzz with rush-hour traffic, cars honking away to glory. He took out his appointment diary and a pen from the bag.

“Billion Hearts Beating” he wrote. This morning, instead of using the quiet morning hour to delve into an oily breakfast, he would call for an Apollo Health Check Up.

*written for “How does Modern Healthcare touch lives?” contest by Apollo Hospitals and Indiblogger

To read more about modern lifestyles and healthcare, go here.

 Apollo Hospitals

Birthdays in a Flash

The thinkers often talk about the one moment when life will flash by in front of your eyes. They warn you to live well so you don’t regret the flashback. I have no clue if this is an omen of some sort but I get that flash every once in a while. It usually comes at important junctures and in moments when you need to look calm and composed. In fact, it can sometimes be quite a spoilsport.

At the airport yesterday, I saw a mental audio-visual of my growing up days. And I grew up really fast, or so I hear. Nani tells me I was born with a huge bunch of curly black hair. They had to make trips up and down the staircase when I learnt to hold things. Err, to collect all the stuff that I would drop from the balcony. Does anyone have insight on why children do that? I was very protective about my stuff otherwise and would ensure everything was in place when the other kids – the neighbours’, for instance – left. Mom would help me cut out the lions and elephants I would draw for my school holiday homework. She would sit by patiently as I painted them red and brown and yellow. All of the Delhi summer afternoon, until the evening breeze beckoned us to the balcony. And then, when Papa would arrive, Grandpa would fix all of us a glass of aam panna.

Sometimes, it is so hard to believe you are growing up. Especially when you gorge on the aloo ka parantha and bask in the sun just as you used to when you were small. The sun is warm and serene, the afternoon resplendent with memories. At other times, it is impossible not to acknowledge how time has flown. How tall you have grown, how friends are getting married, how you need to travel back to Pune the next day. At such times, I hold on to Mom in a super-tight hug and tell her how much I love her. I order a plateful of hot pakoras from nani’s kitchen. I sit with nanaji and Papa and talk about how the youngest cat has been learning to climb. Then, I get a semblance of peace. The moon comes out in the night-sky as I stand hand-in-hand with R. I gaze at the twinkling stars and I find the skies of Pune merging with the ones back where the rest of my world is.

When tomorrow dawns, the sun will rise to tell me it has been a year. One whole year since I acknowledged I am getting older. Since P&P refuses to go without the customary celebration, I grant him as much. 

So here goes – it’s a ‘Happy Birthday to Me’ from P&P! 

Cake

*picture from fragranceflora.com

Of laughter, delight and Vidya

Vidya Centre - Motilal Nehru Camp, Munirka

Lessons at Vidya Centre – Motilal Nehru Camp, Munirka

“Maths is my favourite subject.”

I stared at the little boy with the million-dollar smile. He flashed his answer sheet as evidence. “See, didi. A 36 out of 40!”

“That’s 90%.” I nodded. “Excellent.” Now I know for a fact. These are the people nature is preparing for any climate change disasters that might be on their way. We need scientists and mathematicians. And the little kids at Vidya completely agree.

The children at Bal Vihar, Panchsheel Park (Delhi) are an animated lot. They jostle for space as we prepare the camera. No one is initially willing to share the limelight but, with time, come to us in groups of threes and fours. “Didi hamara bhi photo lo na.” (Didi, please click our picture too.) And their photo we click. Replete with V for Victory signs and photogenic laughter. So much for our assuming we are cool. The kids are a way ahead for they started so young!

At lunch time, there are two teachers on duty. They scoop khichadi into the kids’ tiffin boxes. A few of them don’t join the queue. “We get food from home.” they say. “Mamma makes paratha.” She does that before she leaves for the day’s work – cleaning, washing and scrubbing in nearby localities. Pappa is usually driving or working as a mason, servant or peon. Financially weak they well may be but they are definitely proud parents! Their kids learn English, Computers, Science, Theatre, Music, you name it. They rattle off dialogues for a skit on Annual Function Day – the picture of confidence. Their faces are radiant with laughter, enjoying the welcome photo-break that the Didis and Bhaiyas from Pune have brought for them.

Away in Munirka, a number of young women are engaged in sewing lessons. Several have mehandi all over their arms, courtesy Kadwa Chauth. “I am in B.A. Second Year.” says one of them, looking no older than a high school-er.  Ditto for the women in Vidya’s IIT Delhi center, who are trying their best to clear Class Tenth examinations. “So will you be appearing for the exam next year?” we ask. “If we learn well enough before that.” they smile. “And we will.” One look at their dedication – turning up for classes after a morning spent in manual labour – and I completely agree.

Since its inception in 1984, Vidya has spread out to some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Delhi, Haryana, Mumbai and Bangalore. They get support from some corporate houses, charitable institutions and trusts. To say nothing of the contribution that the volunteers play in its functioning. Since it is a completely not-for-profit organization, the monetary remuneration is insignificant. But Vidya pays very well. Pounds and pounds of laughter, delight and learning.

My association with Vidya India started as part of a project. Two days down and the happiness is infectious. It comes from the alphabet books which the children expertly read from. It comes from the smile on the woman’s face when she nails a Maths problem. It comes from the sunshine, the colours on the notice board and the melody of the prayer-song.

Finally, it comes best from nothing else but the joy that education and empowerment bring.

~

Vidya Logo

VIDYA needs to spread the word. Do your good deed of the day. Let people know. Like us on Facebook.

We are Greying, you see…

Stress

*picture from technobillies.net

I was discussing with R yesterday just what is making ‘Fifty Shades of Grey click. You know those black books with silver designs on them, which talk of a man who is apparently a sex God and a girlie who swoons at his sight? I even flipped through a couple of pages to see if I could discover The Formula. The thing is, vampires worked because they were ‘different’ – the Indian dracula was dated – and you didn’t see such good-looking men eyeing you say, at the grocery store. But why was this sado-masochist popular? “Intrigue, novelty, danger”, said a friend. Uh huh? Personally I think its due to the mainstreaming of X rated content that you couldn’t be found dead reading otherwise. It’s the liberty to walk around with erotica without people giving you the oh-a-fellow-porn-reader! look.

Anyway, the point is, I am here. With about fifty shades of stress and fifty-one reasons why I ignored darling P&P for more than a month. I wouldn’t bother writing about all of them though, for I know you wonderful people had several things that kept you off P&P. Is the sniffle audible?

Life has been crazy. CRAZY. The mornings have dawned with long and interminable lists and the nights have woven nightmares of unfinished to-dos. I have been the picture of frenzy and tried as I did, I couldn’t keep P&P up with the gazillions of things I wanted to share. Nor could I keep up with the things the blogosphere has been sharing. We are greying, you see…The day isn’t too far when that grey hair will appear and that wrinkle will make itself felt. Sigh!

Anyhow, I plan to devote a sizeable amount of time very soon to Catching Up. With your new recipes, books and movie reviews, critical events in people’s lives, delectable stories and prose and of course, pictures that contain a thousand words. I promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.

What else is happening? Oh, the electricity went off the other day, right in the middle of the night. It happened as soon as I had plugged the charger into my laptop. And right after I had boasted to a friend about how Pune’s power situation was way better than the capital’s. She called me up the next morning to boast about how the air conditioner had been nice and cool all night long. Friends, I tell you.

But Pune is doing well otherwise. We haven’t tired of rain yet this season. God knows I love my shoes. But he hasn’t exactly been kind in ensuring they dry soon enough to not smell. Air fresheners don’t come all that cheap either.

So, those aren’t quite fifty reasons I know, but P&P is sweet enough to still extend a welcoming hug. For anyone else who is here, we are officially back in action and there is a lot coming up.

Watch this space.

Something in the Air

Birthday

*picture from southernsavers.com

There are occasions when life puts on dazzling colours. Oranges, reds, blues. One look out the window now and I know just what made Van Gogh paint the sky with stars.

When the morning arrives, the sun will be golden. The birds fluttering their wings in exercise and the birdlings staring entranced at Mamma and Pappa and dreaming of their first flight. It is fascinating how life brings up new promises and new hopes at every juncture. You only need to look for them. Who would have thought, for instance, that my long-lost wood comb would be found in the abyss of an old bag I haven’t used since Noah brought his ark out? New hopes, you see. Now I have renewed vigour to look for other lost things which I refrain from listing.

So, the point being – what makes the day special?

Well, there is a young man under the blue Pune sky who goes about with a song on his lips. He rates me in importance right after good, spicy chicken and scribbles poetry on a dilapidated notebook despite being presented with a beautiful one this time last year. For this young man, the tricks to healing my mood swings are child-play. Intimidated he is not by the severity – psychological, if you please, of some of my tantrums. In short, he is quite the darling and when it is his special day, you know the heavens are up gorging on boondi ke laddoo.

Now that P&P has covered the special day for you young man, lets hear it for the one who owns this place. And, before we sign off, P&P extends warm wishes to you for a splendid year ahead.

Happy Birthday, R.

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