Let's Talk about Guys, Girls and Sex
Perceptions change with time. At the age of 22 I thought romance was about meeting Mr Right in a beautiful cafe in some exotic location. At least Mills & Boons seemed to suggest that was romance. I had not seriously thought about the matter much since I was convinced that I was too young for looking for Mr Right.
My ideas on romance changed drastically, when I was able to witness for over 3 years, my father-in-law taking care of his wife.
They had come to our home for my daughter's birth. When my daughter was 20 days old, my mother-in-law suffered from a severe stroke. She would not talk for the next three and a half years. For many months she could not eat. She needed nasal feeding tubes. She could not pee without a catheter and ultimately could not poop without a pipe too.
My father in law was a government medical doctor. He had worked in whichever remote village the government had sent him. Never had paid bribes to get postings in larger towns/cities. Hence my husband and his sibling had needed to live in boarding school. Many of the villages where my father-in-law worked had no schools, no electricity, no roads and no running water. Often he would be the sole doctor in the district!
He was 80 years old when his wife had her stroke. She would be his last patient. For 3 years he bathed her, massaged her, put cream on her twice a day, cleaned her poop, fed her, checked her blood sugar 5 times a day, cleared her catheter tubes, etc. Of course we also had nurses on duty for 24 hours a day for those 3 1/2 years. But he wanted to do everything himself if possible. She spent almost 2 months in hospitals. But the rest of the time she was at home. And I was privileged to see the romance between them every day.
Whenever he went out and saw new things, he would come home and tell her all about them. For a few months we thought she might be able to regain her speech, so we took her to a speech therapist twice a week. My father-in-law would then sit with her with her studies twice a day. Sometimes my mother-in-law herself would get up, get her flashcards out and poke her husband till he got up and helped her study.
He was alert to every toss and turn of hers all night- just like a mother of a newborn baby. But if my mother-in-law wanted him to sleep again then she would start B-B-B-B-R-R-R-ING at him. She was equally concerned about his heath. It was very cute to see.
He died a few months before she did. He had lost his will to live when the head of Neurology of the best hospital of Pune had gently let him know that there was no chance that my mother-i-law's life would improve. From that day on wards, his health started to deteoriate.
A few hours before he died, he had seemed confused. We took him to a hospital. They wanted to keep him under observation for a night. I brought his dinner to the hospital. The nurse at home called with my mother-in-law's latest blood sugar result. My father-in-law gave his last medical advice about the dosage of insulin to be administered to her. He was dead an hour later.
For now, that is what romance looks like to me. I wonder if my opinions will change later.
So you want to fight cancer. Maybe you suffered the loss of a loved one through cancer or perhaps you feel it is a noble cause and want to do so. As a child you used to think that you will become a doctor to save peoples’ lives.
But as you became older, you realised that you did not have the required aptitude to become a doctor. You did not like biology. You can’t stand the sight of blood. Or you found that your aptitude is somewhere else. Or perhaps you are already working in a different profession. Can you still help others fight cancer? Of course! Here are some careers through which you can help others fight cancer:
Holi, Halloween and Feeling Happy
I first met her as I went home to home giving facials. Holi facials. You see on Holi last year I blended up 3 pastes: beetroot and besan, haldi and besan and spinach and rice flour. And I went around our society, early in the morning, giving’ facials’ before anyone’s faces got spattered with factory-made chemical colours later in the day. As I went about from flat to flat I obviously got retaliatory multi-hued chemical spatters on my face. So by the time I went to her flat I did not resemble a ‘normal’ human anymore.
She opened the door and smiled. She lived alone; her son and grandchildren were in Belgium. It was the first week that she had moved into the flat. She seemed surprised to see a purple, green, and red splattered visitor, yet happy that she was able to participate in the festival. She did not come out and play with us in full force later in the day. Was she shy? Or did she feel odd to play Holi with strangers?
I had entered her home for the first time and it was Holi. She needed to feed me something sweet. Yet she was totally unprepared. She had nothing to give me. She went to the kitchen to get some sugar to put in my mouth. And she came out with a container of chewable multivitamin. She placed 2 multi vitamin tablets in my mouth. It is the only time I remember being fed multivitamins on occasion of a festival. We both started laughing. Somehow Holi felt like an Indian version of Halloween.
Trick or treat,
Smell my feet
Give me something good to eat.
Here she got a colourful facial and I got to eat something sweet.
I started to see her in her balcony every morning. She would watch me and my daughter play badminton at 6:30 am while waiting for the school bus. She would be sitting with a cup of tea in her balcony, watching us, smiling, lost in her own world. I made it a point to wave at her every morning.
Then last week I suddenly met her in the evening on the road. She was back from plucking flowers from a friend’s garden. The flowers were meant to be placed in front of the idols in her home. She broke into a smile as I approached her and said “Hello Aunty!”. I was dressed up: planning to go out for a jazz festival. She gave me a flower, a Swarna Champa out of her bag. I was touched to say the least. Here was a flower plucked for her gods. Yet she offered it to me instead. It smelt divine; beautiful perfume that matched my outfit. After a while, I kept the flower in my purse. It still is in there. Seeing it in my purse, every time I open it, somehow makes me feel happy. It reminds me of Holi.
Making friends and bringing a smile on people’s faces- Isn’t that what Holi is about? Happy Holi everyone!
One of my favourite one-line stories is "Just go for it and give it a try! You don’t have to be a professional to build a successful product. Amateurs started Google and Apple. Professionals built the Titanic." (Original source of story unknown to me)
Well, here is my amateur try at
1. Making a wood sculpture
2. Making a video in Hindi
We have been looking at leaves at HomeLabs.
First we cleared the soft tissue of a Peepul leaf by soaking it in water for 4 weeks. The soft tissue decomposes in those 4 weeks and easily comes off on brushing the leaf. What remains are the leaf veins. The lignin in the leaf veins does not decompose easily. These leaf veins transport food and water to the leaf and provides mechanical support to it.
The video of how we made these leaves is shown below. Above is a Peepul leaf skeleton at 20x magnification on a white background. And below is the same leaf on a black background. We used a USB microscope for this that we had bought for about $75.
Views from the Hotel Window
I am staying in a fancy business hotel with my family. My hubby and children are still sleeping under plush blankets covered in a white pinstriped duvet cover. The air conditioner settings has been turned to 20 degrees so that we can all snuggle under the bedcovers together.
A peek out of my window shows me another family. Two of them, seems like. Two children or a mother and child, are snuggled together under a dark blue sheet on a cart. The elderly grandmother is sleeping on the sidewalk. I think she is sleeping on a plastic sheet since the sheet has no wrinkles on it. She has nothing covering her other than her sari. Somehow I think she possesses no other clothes.
There are more people covered head to toe under a green and white printed cloth on another cart. There are a few - maybes 4/5 steel bowls near their feet. I think theses are their only material possessions other than the clothes they wear and cover themselves with.
Two street dogs have come by. They are repeatedly crossing under the carts with sleeping people. I hope the dogs do not pee on the wheels of the carts.
People on the streets are so innovative. I just saw a person put one cart over the other and hitch both of them onto a scooter. Then the scooter punched off with the two carts in tow
A man- more of a boy actually, with matted, shoulder length hair is walking around with a white plastic gunny sack over his shoulder. He is wearing a collared shirt and black full pants. I can not figure out the colour of his shirt. Was it originally white and is now dark patchy grey- or is it a dark grey shirt that has faded in in patches? He stoops and picks up something off the grounds every so often. When his hands become full he places the sack on the ground, opens it and puts the contents of his hands into the sack. Perhaps he is collecting plastic off the streets. Or is it glass?
The person who I thought was a grandmother has woken up. She is a child of maybe 10-12. What I thought was a sari, was actually her covering. She has just gone to the cart with green and white covers to snuggle with whoever is under that cloth.
There are two barefoot children wearing clean clothes playing with a once red cycle with training wheels. They have tied a rope to the handle of the cycle. One of them sits on the cycle. And the other pulls him and the cycle for a few feet. Then they try to make a U turn. While making the turn, the cycle often overturns and drops its rider. They get up. Sit on the cycle again and try again.
Most of the inhabitants of the cart are up now. There is a man with 4 children aged 5-12 perhaps. Some more are still under the covers.
I need to go. My kids are feeling hungry. We need to go for our lavish breakfast buffet at the riverside restaurant.
Will any one give them a 21 gun salute? I mean I know that soldiers are sacrificing their lives to protect me from other humans. Mean, greedy, unreasonable humans. And I respect and appreciate them, and what they are doing for civilians like me.
But there are a whole different group of people who are also protecting me. Protecting me from the cold wind, hot sun, rain and the terrible elements of weather and strange animals. Yes, I am talking about construction labourers, plumbers, tile workers, painters etc. They also help protect me from all sorts of bad elements.
In India the construction labourers sacrifice their lives so that people like me can have affordable housing. Maybe not all die immediately (like fall off the bamboo scaffolding) . But with all the dust, fumes and sparks that come out of cement powders, drills and welding machines… and these people are not given adequate protection. Yes, I would assume that they will have shorter life spans than the average civilian.
And more than that- they are sacrificing their children’s future. This is not something that the average military person has to do. But construction laborers move from one construction site to the next every few months. So if their children live with them, then the children have to move with them. And hence their children are guaranteed not to get any school education.
Doorstep school in Pune is a NGO that is trying to do something about this problem. They set up temporary sheds at construction sites or send buses to safely shelter the kids while the parents are busy working. And they attempt to give them some education. Perhaps it is not a full-fledged school, but is a much better place to leave the kids than a construction site.
With their pay scales they are guaranteed not to be able to afford to live in the type of homes they build. No, their homes are to be made of corrugated sheets, or in unfinished buildings, full of dust from cement bags, nails strewing the ground. ... You would know what I mean if you have ever visited a building construction site. Their young toddlers, imitating their parents by trying to hammer with a stone, or carrying things on their heads.
The apparent reason for their low pay scales is so that people like me, can afford comfortable housing. I wonder what type of housing I would be living in, if these labourers demanded salaries as high as software engineers- similar to what happens in USA? Of course, there is some problem in this logic. For people in countries like USA do live in homes. And somehow they are affordable in spite of the high salaries of construction labourers.
Yes these people protect me, and my friends and perhaps even you.
Yet who gives them a 21 gun salute?
What will the book be like?
It has been a few weeks since I was hired by Cheeni as his biographer. I have been learning a lot about flying machines and story writing. You see, the first book of the series will describe Cheeni’s adventures while trying to fly.
As we were having breakfast together, (he was nibbling on a chocolate biscuit while I was sipping at my masala tea) Cheeni suddenly asked “What are the formats that are available for presenting my biography?”
“We have several options. Here are some that I have been contemplating: chapter book, graphic novel, game book, and digital story.”
“I know what a graphic novel is. It is the type of books that read like comic books, just like the previous biography you wrote about Jagadish Chandra Bose. Right?”
“Yes. That would be correct. Jagadish and the Talking Plant that was published by Tulika Books is a graphic novel. ”
“But what is a game book?”
“A game book is a book that has several options for the reader to follow. The ending of the book is determined by the option that the reader chooses. They are also called ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books.
“Well which format should we be using?” asked Cheeni.
“I guess some of that will depend on which publishing house decides to publish your book. “
“Should we self-publish the books?”
“Well I have published only one book before. While writing ’Jagadish and the Talking Plant’ I must say the efforts of the editor Niveditha Subramaniam and the illustrator Anushree Bhat changed the book substantially. The book is a much better book than the original manuscript due to their efforts. They really transformed my words into a graphic novel.“
“So you think we should go with a traditional publisher for this book?” asked Cheeni
“Absolutely. We are going to be writing lots of books together. So we must have the format right. And I need to learn to be a better writer. I think going with a traditional publishing house will definitely propel the books to be better books.”
“What about the DIY activities that are mentioned in the book? Do you still want to make videos about them?”
“Yes. Don’t you think if we make videos available on the internet will make the books better?”
“Well yes. Readers will definitely find it easier to make the flying machine models. But…”
“Well. We mouse are camera shy. We absolutely hate being in front of a camera.”
“Hmm. So you don’t want mice to be acting in the videos.”
“What if we use rats to act in the videos?”
“Of course not! How could we use a rat! They are our arch enemies! They eat up all our food...”
“OK! OK! I get it. You will not allow a rat to act in the videos”
“Hmm. That might be difficult in that case.” I sipped my masala chai and thought about it.
“What if we get children to make the models of flight?”
“Well that is a good idea! Human children definitely like acting in videos. That is why there are so many videos with children in them and so few videos with mice acting in them.”
“Hmm… Maybe that will work out properly.”
And that is a summary of what we have been thinking about the book. I guess the format of the book will be finalised once Cheeni finds a publisher.
And yes the sketch at the beginning of this piece is my attempt at drawing Cheeni. He at last allowed me to try to sketch him. After all, he has to get used to being sketched if he does not allow us to use photographs of him in in the book. Yes. It will be a book full of lots of pictures. That much we know already.
The Thirst Crow Experiment
On the first day of Science Club we tried out a myth-busting activity based on the video above. The materials required - water, a transparent container and stones are available everywhere. And most of my students knew and believed the story of the thirsty crow.
Aim: Is the story of the thirsty crow true? In a container that is quarter-filled with water, will the water rise to the top when we fill the container with stones?
Kids appreciated that their hypothesis does not have to be correct. Nor does it need to be corrected in their notebooks. It helped that most of the class suggested a hypothesis that did not turn out to be correct.
They also came up with different variations (using smaller marbles instead of stones, using different volumes of water) that we tried out as separate experiments.
Our discussions veered into the topics of Archimedes’ principle, buoyancy, volume of stones, volume of space between the stones (or marbles). Everyone seemed to have an opinion.
I think this is a great introductory activity to get middle school students to appreciate the purpose behind many science activities – to doubt, question and test our prior ‘knowledge’.
How to make home-made soap
We have been making soaps at home. All you need is a bar of Pears soap, a mould and microwavable container with a microwave.
We wanted to make exfoliating soaps- that is, soaps that are rough and will scrub our skin. So we added various scrubs to our soap like salt, used coffee grinds, oatmeal, lemongrass leaves, orange zest, and green tea leaves. Each soap bar had one or two of these.
It’s an easy project to do at home. Adult supervision is required for this project. Molten soap is VERY HOT.
1. Chop the Pears soap into small pieces. One cannot use all types of soaps as most types do not melt easily.
2. Get your mould ready with your preferred additives. For moulds we used paper cups and Silicone cup cake moulds. But one could also use chocolate moulds, used tetra packs (the small Appy, Frooti packs). We placed our salt, tea leaves etc in the mould.
3. Heat the soap in a microwavable container for 10-50 seconds. We kept checking the soap after every 10 seconds to see if it had melted. If you microwave the soap too long then it will melt, boil and overflow.
4. Pour the melted soap into the molds and mix. We wanted different colored soaps so we added some food coloring at this point. This step has to be done very quickly as the soap becomes lumpy as it starts to cool down.
5. Wait for the soap to cool down and solidify. This can take quite some time. I left mine for 3-4 hours.
6. Tear the mould (for paper cups) or just take the soap out of the silicone moulds.
7. Your soap is ready for use!
My daughter wanted to decorate her soap with white soap curls. So she used a peeler to peel some curls from a white bar of soap. She added the curls to the top of the soap as it was solidifying.
It's a really easy project. The soap with coffee grinds has a great aroma to start the morning. And it feels nice to be using soaps with such exotic names as :
Orange Zest and Green Tea Soap
Sea Salt and Lemon Grass Soap
Oatmeal with Coffee Soap
Swati Shome and her random thoughts.