Saturday, December 31

Top 10 lessons of 2016

Three things you cannot recover in life the WORD after it´s said, the MOMENT after it´s missed and the TIME after it´s gone. 

Today is the last day of 2016. Its time to bid adieu gracefully to the year gone by. Every year comes with its own lessons, giving us all the learnings we require to tackle the oncoming year. 

Here are the top 10 lessons I have learnt in 2016

1. Life is to be savoured each and every single day.

2. People should never be taken for granted.

3. There is a solution to every problem and you hold the key to get to it.

4. Charity begins at home, beginning with being kind and good to yourself, then to family and friends and finally, to the outside world. 

5. Multiply your talents.

6. Love is ALL we have. Nurture and treasure it. 

7. God is real. You only have to believe and watch the magic unfurl. 

8. Nothing is more important than creating happiness for yourself and people around 

9. Be like the light and salt of the earth. Never be selfish, cruel, untrustworthy, manipulative and tasteless like the rest of the world. 

10. Be grateful, smile and know that tomorrow is another brand new day! For today, a brand new year!

A very Happy 2017 to you! 

Sunday, December 4

An advice I would give to my younger self

One of my earlier posts when I started this blog was titled 'Angles or Curves'. I was in my early twenties then and clearly pondering about this whole notion of beauty. 

An advice I would give my twenty year old self is 'Don’t sweat the small stuff including Beauty.' 

Nearly ten years, marriage and motherhood later, I have come to a wholly different perception of Beauty.

I remember during my earliest days as a freelance writer and my very first project was with this international fashion magazine. In one of my conversations with the client, he told me how he was tired of the standard 'cookie-cutter´ fashion models invading the international fashion ramp walks and print magazine ads. This client was ruing about the racism that exists within the parameters of beauty in the international fashion industry. He longed to see more diversity in the forefront of fashion - tall women, short women, white women, black women, brown women, yellow women, thin women, fat women, young women, mature women, old women,,etc. 

Come to think about it, it is indeed pretty ironic. While Fashion per se' is self-proclaimed and marketed as an infinitely creative and liberating process that, which is designed to break down all social norms and conventions, it was terrifying narrow in its perspective and binding when it came to definition of Beauty. Pre-puberty adolescent girls (the cream being the Caucasian, blonde and blue-eyed ones) who are under-nourished, stripped and intellectually dimmed to the point of looking blank-less and soulless like Zombies on the ramp walks, are continuously being promoted and marketed as the highest hallmarks of Beauty. 

Like the client, my perception of Beauty was radically changing over the years as well. I have realized the futility of trying to hold onto the notion of Beauty,  something that is transient, chameleon in property and simply fated to fade out and lose its luster slowly but surely over time.  

Don’t get me wrong, I still like to dress up and look good. And that in itself is a creative process of self expression. But I have realized that Beauty is honestly something you don’t have to fret or even feel insecure about. 

And this realization dawned upon me when after motherhood and post a few kilograms gained, I was still getting my fair share of attention, both male and female. In fact, I am being loved, admired and accepted whole-heartedly, a way lot more now than in my twenties, when I looked an ideal version of myself physically. So, what exactly changed!

In two words, My perspective! 

No longer is my identity or self worth attached to the external, peripheral things, such as a job title/career, bank balance/wealth, family lineage, a certain physical standard of Beauty etc. 

In my thirties, I have found a liberating sense of confidence and real pleasure of being in my own skin, being authentic and true to yourself. Accepting all my flaws…whatever they may be. And boy, I sure have loads of them. Some which are an ongoing 'work-in-progress'  and the others don’t matter to me anymore. And if those flaws of mine bother others, it honestly is their prerogative and none of my business. 

I love my short height.

I love my Mommy body with all the stretch marks, cellulite and thunder thighs.

I love my stubby nose.

I love my dusky skin and husky voice with a slight stutter.

I love my straight, silky hair. 

I love my eyes and lips. 

I love my hips that most certainly don’t lie. 

I love my big bubble butt and I certainly cannot lie anymore about it. 

I love my new found confidence.

I love my adventurous spirit.

I love my streak of curiosity to get to the bottom of things and get the whole cat out of the bag.

I love putting on makeup not to hide my flaws but to celebrate my all. 

I love my femininity.

I love the reader, interpreter and writer in me.

I love the daughter, mother, wife, sister, daughter in law and friend in me. 

I love the teacher in me. 

I love the natural conversationalist and 'people's person' in me.

I love the kind old soul in me. 

I love the ´champion of underdogs´ avatar of me. 

I love the ´ready to take on the world´ challenger in me. 

I love the cook in me. 

I love the artist in me.

I love the flirt in me.

I love the clown in me. 

I love the wanderlust in me

I love the 'dance like no one's watching me' me. 

I love the cry baby in me.

I love the girl and woman in me.

I love the devil in me. 

I love the angel in me. 

I love the liberation of letting go... of matching up and tying up with my self worth to worldly standards of the acceptable….including Beauty.

Beauty is thankfully, not about angles or curves anymore. 

Beauty is Affirmation.  


´Taking joy in living is a woman´s best cosmetic´- Rosalind Russell 

Thursday, December 1

Talent croons tangerine and bluesy

Well, what do you know?

All I know is that Life's absolutely unpredictable, perfect and amazing, just the way it is! And in between, all these 'highs' and 'lows' of life and the people you jam with through during this journey, Life just has a way of sneaking around and screaming 'SURPRISE' and keeping you on your toes.

That knowledge only got reinstated in my small, wise head once again, this month! But, what the heck, Life's still a Joyride.

And in another  news, this blog's nomination just got flower-picked for the very first 'Orange Flower Awards' by Womens Web. It celebrates the efforts of women of all colors, races, shapes and sizes who are making a stir or wave in the digital space, in their own unique way. Talk about sisterhood in solidarity!

By the way, I love that name – Orange Flower. So, desi and so naari and so pretty all in the same breath! Whiff! So, yes, if you like reading my blogs, please shower some love. All you have to do is click on the link below, go to the ´Vote Now´ section and if you don´t find me, enter my name in the Search box and vote for me in all three categories – Humour, Personal Blogging & Creative Writing. Voting closes on 10 Dec. So, Hurry!

You know, one thing that struck me after my return to India this year, was how immensely talented we, Indians are! I mean, really! Especially this month, I’ve gone from meeting and attending some humorously insightful training sessions by immensely wise and talented gentlemen, met some bright and enterprising young women, students who represent the changing modern face of India and simply raw, sheer talent all around. And I am seeing more and more people breaking out of the conventional mold and pattern, taking those risks, honing their talent alongside their professional and personal commitments, inspiring others and in general, making exciting changes happen in this country. I for one, cannot tell you how refreshing it is!

Be it reading the fellow contestant’s blogs nominated for the  ‘Orange Flower Awards’ or stumbling upon this quirky sounding band name ‘Kanchan Daniel and the Beards’. OMG! You have to listen to them if you haven’t yet. I’d love to hear them live someday…

For now, relax and enjoy their song' The Great Escape' which coincidentally resonates with my ultimate retirement plan which is to escape to some long forgotten faraway place, digging my feet into the sand, sipping on some coconut juice, basking in the sun's glory and listening to the ocean waves with absolutely no care in the world.

I love all their songs so far especially the breaking the stereotypical 'good girl' image in 'Ain't no angel',  a shout-out to everyone to be their real selves in 'Superficial' and 'Quirky Perky' (Oh yeah, baby!)

Three cheers to 'Kanchan Daniel and the Beards' and the talent simmering in this country!

Friday, November 25

Horn! OK Please!

"Aaja meri gaadi main baith ja
Aaja meri gaadi main baith ja
Long drive jaayenge full speed jayenge
Kahi rukhenge na hum gaana bajaana khaana peena
gaadi main hoga sanam...pom pom
Aaja meri gaadi main baith ja
Aaja meri gaadi main baith ja"

Remember this Baba Sehgal's fun song from the 90's? Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!

Well, if there is one of the many things that I missed during my stay in the USA for 6 years, it had to be the ´Grand Auto Drive. It is as much an intrinsic part of the Indian tradition, culture and ethos as much as the chutki bhar sindhoor, the bindi,the gehne, the sari- salwar-ghagra trio, the latkas, jhatkas and thumkas of Bollywood, the teen maar dance, the street side chaat bandis and ghanna juice stalls, haath se khana, sipping on nariyal pani and shaving off the malai after that...vagera vagera...You know!

So, if anyone out there is planning to pay a visit to India, you know what you have to do. "Be in India as Indians do".

And may I suggest the best place to start off on this Indian adventure! Yes, it all begins with the Indian tuk-tuk ride aka the auto rickshaw. Ham sab ke Hero Hiralal! (Haan..haan! Isi kushi mein thud lassi bhi ho jaaye..haye haye!)

The little pleasures in life - Of bumpy little Autorickshaw rides and some charchaa with ricksha wala! Wah wah!

Most of my experiences with these common legends have been fantastic. And that's why I love them so much. My experiences with them have ranged from enjoyable to funny to deep and thought provoking to outright disgusting and frustrating.

I have had some of the most prolific discourses with these common legends it over KCR's government regime or ruing over our long lost ´sau´or paanch sau´ ke notaan (in the Hyderabadi lingo) after the ´notaan ban´ to some of life´s lessons on happiness to having a fun quiz on my true roots. On some occasions, I have been blessed to have got some expert tips on how to cure my itchy throat by eating some bajre ki roti fire cooked on stone. Ahem! Some true raste chaap wisdom!

But caution please! While most of them are harmless really, some of them could be downright sleazy and annoyingly frustrating. Apart from the haggle of bargaining over the auto fare,  very recently I had to stop the Auto right in the middle of my destination and just get out as soon as possible. If I wasn't still reeling from the shock of an unbelievably crude conversation, I ought to have snapped a picture of the auto vehicle no on my phone and send it to the some mahila organisation for emotional atyachaar. Live Zee Horror Show right there! Bachao!

Otherwise, an Auto ride is a ´must do´experience in India. I wish I could carry along some chai along the way. It would add to the fun quotient. But of coure, we are in a frikkin´auto rickshaw and not an airplane. For now, let that be Modi´s pleasure ....Chai pe charcha and all! Tsk..tsk!

 Also, How I wish they still had the old style three wheeled cycle rickshaw. That would have been even better....longer ride plus discussion is one guaranteed memorable journey while slow crawling through the streets of the city and sinking my teeth into one piping hot roasted butta. True slow pace lifestyle like in the purana days. Bliss!

Before these Ola and Uber cabs take over the country and wipe out the Autorickshaws completely from the face of India, I would strongly urge you to enjoy this ´soon to be´ vintage experience despite the minor inconvenience.

Jai Ho! 

Monday, May 9

The Mother

Another Mother's Day has gone by. And each year keeps getting more special ...more exciting with my baby blossoming into an even more delightful darling that she already is.

These special earmarked days are huge in the United States. Whether it is a Mother's Day or a Father's Day, I'm sure fellow parents here will agree that one of the most amusing and sweetest part of this tradition is the handmade cards that our kids make. They are downright funny, mushy and so unexpected with a twist.

This year, my lil' one picked up a flowery greeting card and some fancy jewellery that she fancied for me. As usual, there were the handmade cards and gifts that she gave me as well. But, What touched me the most, apart from the usual gestures of love, hugs, kisses and gifts was her sensitivity. I think every mother and child shares an unseen umbilical cord that never ever gets cut off. A cord where the mother and child mutually can sense each other's feelings without words or even physical presence. After I woke up and got started with my daily routine work, she comes up to me and strictly orders, "Mummy, no house work today. Today is Mother's Day." And I tell her the house needs to be set nonetheless. And she goes, "I don't mind the lil mess. You are not supposed to work today." And I reply, "That's very sweet, darling but why don't you join me in today?". And she readily joins while mumbling and grumbling all along how no work is to be done on Mother's Day and that's the rule. Haha! 

Not just this day, but I count my blessings everyday. Both for the wonderfully loving, caring and inspiring Mom that I have and for my daughter who has ushered in so much love, laughter and innocence into our lives, in ways, that no words can possibly describe. Apart from counting my blessings and wishing others on 'Mother's Day' as was the custom, I couldn't help but be reminded of one gem of a lady. A lady who I had the privilege of meeting and knowing, a 'not so long' while ago! I will just call her 'The Mother'. Because that's what I will always remember and think of her as...

My first memories of her were of crossing paths with this beautiful, extremely fair,  middle aged lady, smiling at each other ...without really caring to go beyond that polite and customary American "Hi!". She was always modestly dressed in cool cotton, long sleeved shalwars in soft pastel colors. Her hair was always concealed neatly inside her chiffon dupatta. I presumed she was Muslim, simply by the way she dressed and that she lived pretty close to our block in the apartment. 

After a few months, we upgraded to an extra bedroom apartment within the same community. We shifted to an apartment that was right next to the kid's park. Going down the park was a daily and much anticipated event for my pre-schooler daughter then. During one of those regular park days, I met a young lady who had come down from Chicago for vacations to her aunt's place here in California. While our daughters quickly became friends, so did we, the Moms. She was from Pakistan and we would chat for long, the similarities and differences in our respective countries. One fine day, my new Mom friend bought her aunt (the one she was staying with) to the park. And Voila! This was the same beautiful middle aged lady I'd bump into frequently in my earlier apartment. She flashed back a knowing and acknowledging smile as well. 

"Aap ke baare mein Bahut kuch suna. Maine aapko bahut baar dekha." (I heard a lot about you. I have also seen you many times.), she said approvingly. This was the very first time we chatted. Slowly, along with her niece, The Mother also started joining us everyday at the park. The niece was already my new Mom friend and soon enough, The Mother and I became quick friends as well.  We yapped in Hindi whole-heartedly, feeling bonded together as the days went by. A lot of dishes were common in both our households, thanks to the Mughal/ Nawabi influence in Hyderabad. Be it the katti dal or Shammi kebabs or kheema, we found a lot of likeness in language, cuisine, cultural values, politics, esp the Indo-Pak tension and ofcourse, Bollywood. 

The neice eventually went back to Chicago along with her daughter after the vacations. But her aunt, The Mother continued coming to the park everyday to talk and catch up on the day. 

I remember being completely in awe when I visited her home for the first time. Not because it was grand. Far from it, it was modest but extremely neat and pleasing to the eye and soul just like her. All the qualities that she possessed simply shone through her home. There was so much warmth, serenity and love in that home. I quipped, "Aapke Ghar toh hospital se bhi saaf sutra hain" (Your home is cleaner than a hospital). She welcomed me into her home with utmost hospitality, and we feasted on her kheema, roti and masala chai. The kheema was eerily close to what we made at home. As we spoke, we both agreed and came to the conclusion that had it not been for the politicians and their lust for power, the people of India and Pakistan would have been living together in love, peace and harmony. Just like us! 

She was not just a home-maker as I initially presumed. She also worked as a full time baby sitter and had her own humble food catering business. She was baby sitting a couple of babies within the community, including some of our desi kinds. Wherever you move into, the desi community is small and exclusive. Everyone knows everyone. Soon enough, I heard some fantastic reviews about The Mother and how exceptional she was with babies. The patience, love, kindness, warmth and playfulness that she displayed was noteworthy. She loved these tender souls just as much, they looked forward for her arrival. She entertained them, bathed them, fed them, cleaned and changed their diapers, taught them something new everyday,  cuddled them and sang them sweetly to She was the Mother away from the Mother. And that is a tall shoe and space to fill in. But only she could naturally and effortlessly fill in that space. Albeit for a while but in all purity, sincerity and genuine love! 

Her motherhood instincts weren't restricted to just her job but also warmly extended to us as well. I remember coming home to find a packet hanging over the door knob, only to quickly discover inside that it was some fresh, delicious home-cooked meal. If one day it was rich and creamy sevaiyan with dry fruits, the other day it was a royal Pakistani style Yakhni chicken biryani. And another, a light and zesty Pasta salad filled with chick peas, crunchy vegetables and lots and lots of olives. It wasn't the meal that mattered as much as the love and thought behind the whole gesture. Of course, I reciprocated the gesture. But she always managed to catch me by surprise with her unwarranted gestures of love. 

She'd gently chide me and advise me when it came to matters of home, family and children. "Don't let your daughter play in that dirty mud"... "Beware of your daughter's company with those older kids. They are bad influence." ...."Don't ever check the phone while you are working". And many more such gentle cautionary words of advise came typically from her. Much like any protective mother would do. She quintessentially became the mother away from the mother for me as well. 

For my daughter's birthday, I invited our desi group and requested The Mother to cater two trays of aloo chat salad for the occasion. When the matter of payment came up, she refused to take any money for her effort. When I insisted, she looked at me, her eyes slightly moistened, "Apno se koi paise lete hain todi? Aap toh meri apni beti jaisi hai". (Whoever takes money from their own? You are just like my own daughter.) I was touched and appreciated her all the much more, knowing fully well, the importance of money in their humble lives. Another time, she altered a huge load of my clothes without taking a dime again for her efforts. 

The Mother never had any children of her own. Life may have killed her dreams of being a mother, but it didn't squash her motherhood spirits one single bit. She was always bursting with so much unbridled love. In her role as a wife, she loved and served her husband beyond measure. Many a times, she was taken for granted but she had the true heart of a mother. It was a long, long time since she ever took a vacation. She never squandered her husband's hard earned money on anything but the very basic needs. She told me she didn't need much or desire much either. You could guess the size of her wardrobe by what she wore everyday. A couple of regularly worn but well-maintained cotton salwars in pastel shades of beige, pink, blue and lavender. Simplicity of her thoughts reflected so well in her modest yet tasteful choice of clothing.  She loved, respected and understood her husband whole heartedly, turning their extremely humble home into a rich home of heavenly paradise. So much serenity, calmness and beauty greeted you when you stepped into her place. And you are also sure to be treated with some amazingly delicious Pakistani food as well  in the bargain. 

She once emotionally opened up how she conceived a long time ago. But had a minor problem, which if it had been tended to on time, could potentially have saved her baby. She rued the long emergency wait times that she held responsible for the loss of her unborn baby.  At that instant moment, I wished I could help her somehow. There must be some way, I thought. If I had a magic wand, I'd grant a baby right that instant, in her godhi (lap). But I knew I couldn't help her in any single way except to lend a ear and listen to her cries. 

I believe in the transforming and miraculous power of prayers. I remember catching up with a young friend of mine, who quipped, "If I ever, ever have children which I don't think I ever will...". She couldn't conceive for a long time as well but she was young, bubbly and always high in spirits, enjoying life to the fullest nonetheless. I knew she'd make a fantastic Mom and I remember feeling deeply for her plight and praying hard for her. Soon enough, she gave us all the good news and had a handsome bonny boy. Life took a happy turn for them and God granted their heart's most treasured desire. 

The Mother was past the menopausal age. I asked her if they ever considered adoption as a solution. She said her husband was wary of the American laws when it came to adoption. Any mistake could be costly enough to land them in jail and he didn't want any such risks. 

Strange indeed are sometimes God's ways. I wondered those times...Why He chose not to grant some wonderful and good women out there, the baby they pined and longed for? When some of them are so clearly cut out for motherhood! When they would simply shine gloriously like the Sun in their role as a mother! When the world deserved so many more of such kinds. That they are the kinds that should be breeding, multiplying and populating this Earth with their sheer goodness. 

I found some consolation in The Mother's approach. She willfully and graciously accepted her situation and His will. Life or God's designed plans didn't render her broken-hearted, cynical or bitter but instead she triumphed over her situation coming out sweeter, gentler, tender and more giving than ever before. I had a newfound respect for her and found myself ironically, learning some of my lessons in motherhood from her. Because to me, she was still The Mother as she didn't behave any less, as a matter of fact, more than one. 

Motherhood is a blessing bestowed on some. It takes a lot from you but what is life and love without giving anyway! It is always a blessing, whether you experience this beauty they called 'Motherhood' once, twice or more. And in The Mother's case, it is a blessing bestowed even on those who can claim none as their own. 

It's the spirit of Motherhood that makes one a true mother. She enlightened me by being a living example of how a true mother is identified not by the fertility of their bodies but by the fertility of the soul. She might be barren in her body but she has the most fertile mind and soul. 

She most definitely changed the definition of a mother for me. To cherish and treasure more preciously what I already have been blessed with. To opening and laying bare my heart and to being vulnerable. To really feel and savor the pain that naturally comes with the hurt of loving deeply and unconditionally, while nursing back to healthy recovery, the sore wounds. To keep on loving and never ever stopping. To look beyond the traditionally accepted and rightly fully proclaimed mothers. To look beyond the physical dynamics of motherhood and delve deeper into the spiritual universal connotations that come with being a mother. To embrace, love and accept not just a few but the whole of humanity as your own child. Therein lies the answer, the definition and the spirit of motherhood. 

Saturday, February 27

Birthday Musings

One of the greatest influences and blessings in a child's life comes in the form of a father. And I am no exception. 

From the time, he held my hand to take my first steps to walking me down the aisle to my beloved and every moment in between, much memories have been made to last a lifetime.

So, let me go all out of my way to sing my father's praises. It's after all his birthday today and this is my love song, my birthday tune to him. I could go on and on about a bazillion reasons to love him. Here are a couple few ...

1. Firstly, he truly is the funniest even when he doesn't intentionally try to be so. And that makes him super duper adorable. Like when he talks to the localites in any place, it'll be a completely new dialect with stray strains from Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Lucknowi Hindi-Urdu and his own made up gibberish in between. Trust me, it is a sight to behold, to watch this wholly mystical conversation, live in action. 

2. Secondly, he truly is the funniest when he does it intentionally as well. He's at the top of his game with his wit. Quick wit is his ace card. His responses and wise cracks are so sharp and spontaneous . But what makes them truly legendary (and in some cases, embarrassing) is that there is absolutely no filter. It is as raw, real and honest as it can get. And believe me, when I say this, he could give any stand up comedian a run for their money with his wise-cracks.  Some of his jokes have a quintessential 'WTF was that' nuked with 'way ahead of it's time' quality to it. Much so much so, that at times, it takes years for his jokes to finally dawn sense upon people. It's just that good, farsighted and unbelievably premonitory. Like for real. I take a humble bow. He is the God of jokes in our family and that's why there is never ever a dull moment around him. He's also taught me to never take life or yourself too seriously...have a couple of laughs, both in the good and bad times, and tide along joyfully. 

3. You don't have to be funny to be intelligent. But you definitely have to be intelligent to be funny. I just wrote about Dad's humor, let me talk about his intellect. Dad is that fine balance of intelligence coupled with street smart wisdom. Much has to do with his  experiences that life taught him the hard way and also to do with his constant love for learning and reading something new each day. He is a mathematical whiz. Soccer and Chess are his first loves much to my Mom's disgust. Books and pens are his best friend. Politics, movies and music are his interests. He loves to read and write and yap. Generally, express himself with gay abandon, Some of my best advises in life have come from him at the most timely intervals in my life. One of my favorite advises (and there are many) from him is - 'You don't owe an explanation or prove anything to anybody except God'. I keep that in mind wherever I am and these words reminds me of my actions and their accountability to God Almighty. 

4. Coming to God, he is a man of immense faith. The interesting story is that Dad comes from a family of Catholic priests, nuns and doctors. And he was to go down the priest/brotherhood route until God had greater plans for him. Like me, you know! But given his strong theological background and unshakable Christian faith in word and deed, he's always been a tremendous source of Christian faith and inspiration. From what books to read, to having the Bible completely demystified for us, there is so much he has to offer and share on that topic. We have the expert in the house. His current recommendation for the Lent season is the book 'The Jesus I never knew' by Yancey Philips. And its lying in my inbox since yesterday and I've promised to chew on that till Easter. It is also this same faith that gives him this monk like philosophical outlook towards life. That everything will fall into place at the right time and for the right reasons and with the right persons. Despite his little fears and rationale outlook, he is an eternal optimist looking largely at the sunny side of life. His eternal advise is 'Keep Praying'.

5. He is an excellent judge of character. He can size up pretty much anybody and their intentions in the very first meeting. Little wonder, he chose Mum to be his wife. He is extremely shrewd and instantly sees people in all their nakedness while we take a couple of meetings or even probably years to figure out the person behind the mask and what they truly are about. I guess, some people are just blessed with stronger sixth sense and wisdom than the rest. But yes, from him, I've learnt not to judge a book by it's cover. And to be patient with people's faults coz' we all have our own personal skeletons to deal with. 

6. He is that proverbial 'a friend in need is a friend indeed' man. He would do anything for his friends. It doesn't matter which economical class they hail from, he is always there like a knight in shining armor when the need arises. Little wonder, that he has a close-knit of true, genuine and fun-loving pals from all age groups, ethnicity, social class and faith. And their bond only grows stronger and thicker with time. Nowadays it is a treat to hear from Mum that Dad is travelling to so and so place to attend his friend's kids wedding. They have a pact amongst themselves that no matter where the location or circumstance in their life, they will always come in full attendance for each other and each other's kids and grandkids' weddings. Such a cute and endearing pact in today's times of fast love. So yes, they came in full attendance for my wedding and my Dad shows up at his friend's important milestones without fail as well. Post retirement, they have an active Watsapp group, email chains of forwards and jokes, regular phone calls and meets that keep the fun quotient and camaraderie alive while keeping them all emotionally healthy, happy and eternally 'young at heart'. I have learnt from him how important friends are in your life no matter what age and stage of your life you are at. More importantly, I've learnt from him how to treat them respectfully and kindly without any ulterior motive or vested interests. It's reassuring to know the fun never ever truly stops. Below is a very cool, vintage pic of me hanging out with some of Dad's friends in Cochin...Hahaha! 

7. He is eternally on an 'I am 65 going on 16' mode. At heart and in the mind. Highly energetic and social, incredibly curious and always learning something new each day even post retirement. And just as mischievous as a 16 year old. I have two handsome non-identical twin brothers. And the following incident happened a couple of years ago when my brothers were literally in the 'The Wonder Years'. One of them (I won't disclose which of them...haha) had a couple of girls in his group of college friends. And they'd keep calling home to speak to him. And in times when my brother wasn't home, my Dad would step in and do the honors. He'd play the part of my brother with such finesse and perfection, that the phone conversations would go endlessly for hours with a couple of sheepish grins and chuckles along the way. And what I hear from the elders, is that he was the Dennis, the menace of their times. Such was his naughtiness, that the elders would have to tie him literally to a tree to stop him from further trouble, Mischief and humor runs in his veins.

8. But not everything is sunny about him.  He has his moods and moments of instant irritations,quick temper and gloominess. Like any of us, And even then, he makes an adorable sight. In fact, his grumpy face is just as endearing and funny to watch as his usually sunny self. Sometimes, I purposely tick him off to watch him flare and then pout. Think Donald Duck! Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

9. The lungi dance was inspired by him. No kidding! Let the sun set, fill in his glass with a shot of whiskey or rum, play some music, and Voila! the lungi dance was born. In the Matheiken household, right here in our midst. We've been treated to many a 'lungi dance' night in the most colorful palette of lungis one can ever find in the market. And every show was a blockbuster hit, I tell you. Dad, You should rightfully copyright this dance. You totally own this. (PS: Talking about Dad's fashion style if you are ever curious to know, its lungi/mundu (as he calls it) and ganji at home and jeans, baby with a cool pair of Ray Ban sunnies outside home) 

10. He is a Master chef when he is dead drunk. I don't know where the magic comes from, but Dad makes the most unbelievably, finger-licking good, non-vegeterian dishes when hes drunk and playing with food in the kitchen. If anyone has seen this youtube video of Vahchef cooking toddy chicken, that's so my Dad. 

11. Good things come in small and combustible packages. Think of the Diwali Atom bomb cracker! While Dad might be short in stature, he more than makes up for that with his bold and fearless persona. Trust me, you wouldn't want to mess with him, because he very well knows how to put anyone in their rightful place. Sambhalke, beta! 

12. He is Fair and Lovely. I had absolutely no clue what woman empowerment meant or even that women faced any discrimination at all in the first place. Because that was the kind of atmosphere he created in the home. Mom and Dad were equals in every sense. They make a wonderful team to this date and its a treat to watch them as couple in action - cooking together, both making a living outside and coming up with mature decisions right from the start. Mum continued studying till her M.Phil despite having me and my twin brothers right after. While I was sent away to a boarding for 2 years while my brothers were taken care of by a nanny, Mum continued to study and work simultaneously while Dad and I were in Kerala. And no matter what, Dad stood by my Mum in whatever career aspirations she had for herself. He has and is always been proud of Mum and her personal accomplishments when it came to her career. As his daughter, I can vouch for a fact that there was absolutely no discrimination of any sorts between my brothers and me in any manner. In fact, I was and still am the apple of his eyes. Sorry, boys! You'll came into this world a bit too late for that. You'll can share and fight over Mum. Hahaha! I lived a childhood as carefree as my brothers, never ever having to step into the kitchen or do any chore owing to my gender. It was only once I stepped into the big, bad world outside, that reality struck and I could see a stark difference in the way my female peers were brought up. I am so grateful for having the parents I have, especially in a country, where things can definitely improve for the better in this particular aspect as well. 

13. He is my very first 'partner-in-crime'. My father introduced me to all the vices in my life. He encouraged me to take that first sip of wine, gin, and rum and vodka etc. And when I did, he smiled in mischievous delight. I was never the kind of girl who was allured by dolls and soft toys. I loved reading books and he pampered me with the best of them. He bought me my very first itsy bitsy teeny weeny red and white striped bikini at the age of 3. 

He bought me my own 2 wheeler vehicle much to my Mum's fears. And, I had the best days of my life, feeling so independent and free, whizzing around the streets of Hyderabad on my very own Scooty. I literally felt like Super Woman maneuvering through those chaotic roads and especially zipping adeptly in and out through those ugly-looking, filthy, endlessly long RTC buses. His heart swelled with pride when he saw me dancing to Zeenat Aman's iconic 'Dum Maro Dum' song on stage, huffing and puffing on an imaginary cigar. Zeenat Aman has always been Dad's hot favorite by the way. He was the brain behind all those prize-winning elocution and essay-writing competitions I pretty much won easily. All thanks to him and Mom, of course. And I could just go on and on about tales like these....

14. He is a 'self-made' individual. While his own Father or my paternal grandfather died when Dad was a 6 month baby, his Mum passed away pretty early on as well. So, Dad's early life circumstances were neither the most ideal nor the easiest by any standards. But he rose and triumphed above it all and it didn't come in the way of him being the excellent and patient parent that he is. As children, we would never have guessed unless told so....that Dad was never blessed being raised in a traditional family or having a normal childhood, both of which we take for granted. Because he, so efficiently ensured we had one in every possible way.

15. And what can I say about the bond fathers and daughters share! As far and long as I can remember, those days of pining and yearning to see my dad during my days in the boarding school is still afresh in my memory. He came much like a colorful rainbow at the end of a spell of rain. Once or twice a month, he would make it a point to drop all his work and travel all the way to meet me. I would wait endlessly for weeks for his arrival. And every time, the attendant would come in to announce his arrival, my heart would skip many a beat while I ran down the stairs to meet him. And Yes! I felt truly special. He truly did make me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. Even when we were much older and Dad had a transferable job while we stayed put in one place with Mum and close to the maternal family,I would wait endlessly for Dad to visit and stay with us. Those pangs of love and separation were and are just as real. I also take great pride in declaring that I am one of the very few who can make my Dad cry like a baby. Whenever I traveled alone in the train to my hostel, my Dad would break down into tears at the station whenever the train started to move. The night before my wedding, he held my hand and just broke down into tears uncontrollably. I knew it was tough for him to let go of his little girl while I also knew he was happy as well. Even the last time I visited India in 2012, the day before we left, he just broke down. Love makes anyone, even the mentally tough ones, extremely vulnerable. Rightly said, the father is a daughter's first true love.

16. A father is the alpha point when it comes to learning about love. It is through him, the daughter envisions her lifetime soul-mate and the son learns all the fine nuances of spearheading and managing family relationships and its roles and responsibilities. Like any daughter I guess, when I'd see Mum and Dad blissfully happy and contended in each other's company, I'd make a silent wish for a husband just like my Dad. As a side-note, It is sort of sad and disappointing that in today's age and time, traditional marriage is not considered important or relevant anymore. If only, this generation would know the joys that marriage entails with its sacrifices.....

Well, well, well! I've spilled a couple of beans too many. But trust me, there are many more layers to peel. And I'll leave the rest a mystery and for you to discover yourself when you meet the Man in person. Perhaps for another time....more tales to spin!

Dada, Here's wishing you a very, very Happy Birthday and May you continue to inspire us with your positivity, passion, creativity and zest for life. On behalf of Mom, Pratap and Pramod, thank you for making our lives so wonderful and our childhood most memorable. Cheers to your good health and happiness always!

(PS: My birthday gift arrives when we meet in a couple of months from now. Extra hugs and kisses if you make the right guess. And watch this space for more...there is another point and whacky retro pic to add. Since I'm currently seven seas away from home, I don't have access to that pic. But, it will be added once I lay my hands on it..Hee,Haw,Haw,Haw) 

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As real n true as one can be...A pot-pourri of my day-to-day affairs..Of both my real-life troopers n bloopers alike....My very own tales.