It used to be Baby, ‘cos they saw I was young,
The one they looked after when her parents weren’t around.
Then, it was Didi – the elder sister,
A young adult woman without a ‘Mister’.
But 2 years of marriage and that was all gone,
Then I became Bhabhi, their sister-in-law!
Now things have changed and there’s grey in my hair.
More on my middle, and some signs of wear.
I’m Auntie and my age gets me more respect,
For I’m older and wiser – at least that’s what they expect.
The years will go by and things will change,
I might someday be Naani – that’ll be a different stage.
Indians very rarely use Mr or Ms to address each other. The elderly woman is addressed as Auntie. And shopkeepers, vendors and fellow commuters have titles for each stage of life. This poem is about the stages in the life of the Indian woman.
Many who speak English as a second language refer to a woman’s husband as her ‘Mister’ – as in “How is your Mister?”
‘Naani’ means grandmother – a title of respect reserved for an ‘Auntie’ who is a senior citizen.
Till death do us part, yes that saying is true.
It certainly holds good for me, and these shoes!
They were on their last legs many weeks ago,
And today I’ve given in, and shown them the door.
An ode to my lovely pink shoes. I haven’t been able to get the exact same fit in this colour and am feeling quite sad about it.
A message to all our visitors. It’s about the floor mat that slants diagonally across our doorway during the monsoon, kept that way so everyone has to walk over it to enter our living room.
Sometimes visitors see that it’s clean and try not to dirty it, trailing all dust and the wet from the rains into our home! The funniest is those who can’t bear to see it slant across the grid of our floor tiles and feel compelled to take the trouble to straighten it out!
This poem is for them 🙂
You can step on the mat that lies across my floor.
Wipe your feet as you enter the door.
Don’t try to save me the washing,
‘Cos all it does is increase my mopping. Continue reading
I can sing my own song while the music plays loud,
I can sing my own song, of this I am proud.
I can sign loud & clear though it might hurt your ears,
Cos I’m singing a song that’s not playing! Continue reading
Sometimes piano teachers have those days. And we need to decide whether to have a good laugh or scream at the walls after our students leave. I’ve decided to laugh at all the crazy things my piano students do.
So, here’s a to do list for my piano students :
We women of today are really quite reserved. I’ve come to this realisation after I heard Violetta express her love for Alfredo in one of my favourite scenes from La Traviata, Amami Alfredo.
The last time many of us spoke with such feeling to our families
. . . was probably the time we had had enough – and decided that clothes left on the floor would be ‘left’ there. We would not pick them up & put them in the wash like our mothers did, but would leave them be. Until our family came to their senses and put them in their proper place – in the washing machine or the dirty clothes basket!
And I wonder, do we need to listen to Violetta and learn?
How would our husband’s feel, if after all these years of being married, we wives declared our love for them with such passion. Would they be thrilled, or would they rush us off to the nearest doctor, thinking we had a severe stomach ache…..??
Some of my women friends are stuck. They’re amazing cooks & they were just so good at it, that other family members stopped taking turns with cooking. They loved cooking & took pains to cater to differing tastes, by cooking a wide variety of dishes at every meal.
It’s hitting them hard as they get older & their priorities change. They want time to spend with their extended family & often struggle to get time to meet up with their friends. Because running their home, looking after older family members & producing fabulous meals daily takes all the time they have.
They’re talking about it when we meet & realising that their being so good at cooking has made their family fussy. They now want to unlearn their amazing cooking skills & learn from women with cooking skills like mine!
If you are like me, and your cooking skills range from lousy on a bad day, to basic on a good one, don’t feel bad. Here’s 4 reasons why your family is lucky :
- No one will be terribly overweight, because they’re not likely to overeat.
- Everyone will learn the true meaning of the first line of Serenity Prayer “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Your family will eventually learn to eat the few things you can cook that are edible. After many years, they’ll have gone so used to your cooking, that they’ll have lowered their standards and will even insist that you’re the most amazing cook!
- A lot more gets done at home, because you have the time. Because you can cook what you find easy, because there will be no special requests – for snacks, deserts or just about anything else…if dal (pulses), sabji (veggies) & a couple of chicken dishes are all you can cook that’s edible, everyone will be thrilled to eat it everyday!
- You’re always smiling when you have guests over – because you can enjoy spending time with them. Everyone will be really thrilled if you don’t put yourself out to cook for them and will even try to hint broadly saying “Don’t worry to cook dear, let’s all go out for lunch, or order in. We know you’re busy and will just be tired if you have to do a lot of cooking!”
I’m saying no to the requests I’ve had for cooking classes. The truth is, all I have to do is ‘try’ to cook well and that’s enough for things to go terrible wrong….so I don’t think I can teach it. It’s just a natural talent!
She was the one you could go to…
When you wanted to pick a fight with your neighbour without actually starting it yourself. A few well aimed barbs, whispered in her ear, and then, you just had to wait 10 minutes…it took just that long for your message to be delivered.
She always knew what was going on…
- She was the one who came to tell you that your car had been stolen, just after you’d waved goodbye to the thief. Because you were so busy sitting in your balcony, having a good laugh with your family, that you thought a relative was waving to you and driving your car away.
- She knew who visited whom, and what their business was. She had a job and she did it very enthusiastically, even though she was not paid a salary – “Keeping an eye on everyone around”.. mainly because, deep down inside, she cared.
And she kept us all safe. Because everyone knew there was always someone watching.
She was sometimes a nuisance, because she reported every minor transgression…Parents humoured her, and then had a good laugh when she left. They valued her, because she helped them keep track of what her kids were upto.
She's got lost somehow,
In the busy busy world of today,
and I miss her.
Who is she?
She’s a little bit of you and a little bit of me – she’s the way we all used to be. We used to be friends with our neighbours, get in each other’s faces, rub each other up the wrong way, but when it counted, we were there for each other.
Social media and television did not exist in the Mumbai of old and we needed to bond with the community we lived in.
I’ve used a lot of artistic license, here, to make a point. Mumbai’s changing a lot and we’re losing some safety, as we struggle to live without discord in a society where there are vast differences in standards of living and cultural attitudes.
Mumbai still is one of the friendliest cities in India, but that’s slowly changing.
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I could look at you in envy
I remember this doctor’s advice, years later and it still makes me laugh, to think that solutions are just so simple sometimes!
It was a couple of visits to the beach that did it….
I got some insect bites and my foot swelled up to 3 times it’s normal size each time. After that, it was a mosquito bite which gave me the same reaction, and my GP felt i needed to see a skin specialist.
The specialist gave a a good strong dose of allergy tablets, and i walked around for 2 weeks in a coffee-induced semi-wakefulness (no driving and walking very carefully, because i normally get drowzy with mild, anti-allergy tablets) But it worked, and i had to go back for my last visit, and this is what the doctor said :
“Since you have an insect bite allergy, you need to be careful :
- Wear long trousers or churidars – long sleeved tops – socks and closed shoes, when you go out to the beach, the park or anywhere with insects
- Cover all exposed skin with Odomos
There’s only one long term solution to an insect bite allergy – and that is – TO NOT GET BITTEN!”
My husband is in a state of shock – i did not know i could do this to him. It all started a couple of days ago, when i walked in and saw a picture on the computer screen.
A picture of this guy Luke. I saw it and immediately asked my husband if it was Luke Skywalker and he said it was. It’s funny, cos i just knew the name Luke Skywalker, but could not remember who he actually was. So, i thought for a moment and then it hit me. I said ‘It’s the Phantom isn’t it?’
My husband just looked at me blankly, so i elaborated ‘You know, the guy from the comic strip … The Ghost who walks?’
His blank look turned to shock and he just stared at me and i realised i’d got it wrong. After a moment of thought, it struck me that maybe Luke Skywalker is a character from ‘Star Wars’ and that he was the guy who turned into Darth Vader. I asked him if i’d got it right.
Shock turned into stunned disbelief!!
He’s had a couple of days to think and now realises he’s been married for over 15 years to a woman who does not know who Luke Skywalker is!!
I am grateful for your constant and steady companionship.
I have not always felt that way about your many many visits, but as time goes by I’m growing to value them.
When you visit regularly, I sometimes wish you away, but you know that I really do not mean it.
You bring me joy and sorrow, rude shocks and pleasant surprises. Continue reading
You no longer feel like you’re just out of college
You are 20 kgs heavier than when you were 20 but you feel very slim
You will never have time to do all that you have to or want to
You are wise and you have given up trying – there’s a long long ‘To-do’ list which will never go away
The Loreal representative at the local mall tries to get you to buy more natural looking hair dye – even though you don’t dye your hair
Even the Bhaji-walla who used to call you Baby, then Didi, then Bhabhi, now calls you Auntie
For the non-Indian:
The Bhaji-walla is the vegetable vendor
They call all children Baba(boys) or Baby(girls), all young women Didi (elder sister), the not so young women Bhabhi(sister-in-law) and Auntie is just one step away from Nani – which means grandmother – a title you get when you look like, or are a senior citizen.