Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What a Match !

Monday night the Indians won the first 20-20 World Cup ! I knew I wouldnt get either of the TVs at home to watch all the match so I made do with Indiatimes and the mad hoots from next door Nirula's in basant Lok till they reached half way after 20 overs at 157 runs. I had to swear, abuse and cause injury ( nearly ) to get out of the office parking. The whole country and their sister had come to Basant Lok to buy tickets and see the match on PVR large screen ! The TV crew from every conceivable channel were parked around the complex and it was a feat to get out on the road. At home my mother and my grandmother were waiting for me. My mom always plans these surprises on the absolutely wrong days and I just couldn't believe my luck since she would rather be buried than watch cricket ! I made some disoriented conversation and then started bargaining with Ruhi to let me watch the match and let go of the damn cartoons ! She relented when offered the sketch book and paints and a theme to paint ! My most original idea was to tell her to paint an Umbrella !! with rain drops falling over it and grass and flowers growing under it. And just to stretch her session I told her maybe she could consider some mountains in the background with a rising sun and a rainbow !!! LOL. It was a crazy match and I chewed away my finger nails and sat there shaking my leg with nervousness with Ruhi prompting me every few minutes to relax ! When Misbah Ul Haq started hitting the sixes on Harbhajan's bowling I almost started howling. Ruhi gave me a long disapproving look and said ' OK let me pray to God for you'. She folded her tiny hands then scowled hard with closed eyes and Misbah's Godamned wicket fell just then ! I lifted her in my arms and called her 'my magic' and danced on the bed while she looked absolutely delighted that her prayers had worked. After that each time she did her ceremony there was more good news and the match finished with a hit that was going to be a six but fell into the hands of Sreesnath for a catch ! What a match !

Monday, September 24, 2007

Daughter's Day !

Yesterday, September 23rd was Daughter's Day. I didn't know till this year that there was something called the Daughter's Day and for a week I would stare wryly at those cheesy Ads in the papers selling Jewelry, holidays, air-conditioners, all in the name of Daughter's Day. I would wonder if my 5 year old girl would understand what it meant. What did it mean actually ? For me every day is Daughter's Day. Ruhi is the centre of my existence. She is the dearest thing that I possess and my biggest weakness. And every damn day of my life I got to prove to her that she is special so what the heck ! I stayed quiet and I am glad the school kept quiet too, since I am convinced that there is no way I was going to buy yet another Barbie doll ! It would have been difficult to refuse the ransom if she knew !!!

Yesterday morning I had barely woken up when my dad called up. An early morning call from Dad almost always means bad news and my heart sank. I conjured up all the many possibilities - maybe mom had another accident, maybe my brother had a fit again, maybe.... My Dad said he had called to wish me a happy Daughter's day and God bless. I burst into tears and cried my heart out. My poor husband and bewildered kids stood in silence around me, wondering what the call was about. My father sounded so sweet in his defeated voice, wishing me a day I had forgotten about. My whole childhood came alive at that moment - how much he must have loved me and how much I have failed him. And how much I fail him even today.

In the afternoon when we went to watch the movie, they gave all the women a flower at the gate and said Happy Daughter's Day ! Ruhi raised one inquisitive eyebrow and asked "Is it Doctor's day ?' I clarified that it was Daughter's day and that since she was my daughter so it was also her day ! She looked most engrossed in thought. Back home in the evening she asked me how come I had not said earlier that it was Daughter's day. I was put to severe questioning and had to give every explanation in the book to tell her why I had forgotten to wish her and buy gifts for her on Daughter's day !!!

From the Loins of Punjab !

Saw a hilarous movie yesterday called the 'Loins of Punjab'. I have still to figure out the context of the title but one of the things that comically stand out is a pair of guys who by inference were Sikhs. Only by inference since they are intoduced with a misleading 'Gupta' surname ( which for the uninitiated means they are non sikhs). A unique interpretation of 'Punjabi' bhangra in rap, language punctuated by the *F* word, the turban and the kick ass in your face attitude - and there you have it - makes them who the world loves to laugh at - sardars !

Kind of brings me to my own crisis of identity. Most people who qualify to give me a pet name call me a 'sardar' which is a unisex way of calling anyone from the north of the country, with a challenged left brain ! I myself completely identify with the popular interpretation of what 'Sardar' means in the Indian contex and I love the Punjabi language after some painful years of adolescence of being acutely embarassed of what is my mother tongue. Yet in my heart I know that I am hardly a Sikh. And I also know that I have visted this topic before... but I love to ramble...

I was born into a middle class sikh family. I did not get any formal education in sikhism. My maternal grandmother probably ( since I dont exactly remember) taught me 2 paudis of Japji Sahab and the odd saakhis from the Sikh scriptures. What it meant to be a Sikh kid was to keep long unshorn hair, never to touch a packet of ciggerettes or tobbacco and to go to the gurudwara on gurupurabs. The gurudwara visits were engaging of course. The concept of seva ( community service like polishing shoes, cleaning the floors of the Gurudwara, cooking...) and my fine ear for good music made it a blissful experience.

But growing up as a sikh child in the Uttar Pradesh heartland was tough for me and my younger siblings. There were not many others around and I think I was the only sikh child in my class for years. The standard jokes about the eggs in the sardar's joodi, the 'barah baj gaye' jokes didnt make it any easy, nor did the lack of any relegious education or reinforcement of our special and unique identity.

Dad would occassionaly tell us about Guru Nanak who is the founder saint of Sikhisim and Guru Gobind Singh, the last of them all. There were these two huge Sobha Singh paintings of both these Gurus in our living room. Often mom would mumble the Ardas standing with folded hands in front of these. I would endlessly stare at Sobha Singh's Guru Nanak Dev ji. The picture would speak to me and benovelence and love would leap out. Guru Gobind Singh ji was always intimidating...all in my imaginary world of those tender years.

I picked up the 'Ardas' which is the main prayer before the start and the end of any prayer service and the 'Anand Sahib' ( the concluding hym ) while going to Gurudwaras but beyond that strange pride in being part of a unique community, there was much left wanting in me.

My mom was a regular at the local Gurudwara. She was always also very enthusiastic about the annual visit to the Harmandir Sahib popularly called the Golden Tepmple in Amritsar. But I think it was part of her social set up more than anything else. The gurudwara politics, the elections, seva for the langar were a very important part of the routine. I wish she had instead been educated in 'sikhi' and that she would have imparted that gift to her children. But that was not to be.

My father never really enjoyed going to the Gurudwara and I never saw him ever read the 'path' all my life. He stubbornly believed that being Sikh meant not cutting one's hair and to wear the turban or the 'Pag'. Though he belonged to a devoutly relegious family and atleast three of his elder sisters had taken the vow of Amrit at Harmandir sahib, wore the kirpan and were staunch practising sikhs but he was untouched by all that. He just liked being part of the community, indulge himself in the feeling of being marginalised by the government and the Hindus and believing that being Sikhs was a natural equivalent to being anti Hindu.

As I grew up, I drew my own interpretation of my 'sikhi'. It is also a convenient interpretation since it allows me to live a life that I like. My hypocricy troubles me more often than not. But my God is in a Gurudwara. Ironically my husband's God is in a Mosque. And for the moment my daughter's God lives in the sky and she is most worried he/she may be very uncomfortable with global warming.