Photographic words. The everyday with the not-so-routinely stuff that makes life – LIFE


May 2015

Childhood in a glass of Mango Shake

The other day I was sitting on my terrace, drinking a cool golden glass of mango shake, and in a flash I remembered my childhood. My era. The old bygone, but never forgotten days. It seemed so far-off, almost like in another world. It was a different world. I wouldn’t call it magical, but it sure was special. Before the advent of big screen LED/LCD/Plasma TVs, before mobile phones, before the high-definition era, before the laptops, the iPads, iPods, before the escalators, the PSPs and PS3s, before camera in a mobile ( If I were to tell my old self that, she would never believe), before online marketing, multiplexes, malls, before oh-a-lot-of-things. You get the drift. The modes of mass-entertainment, like mass-weaponry, were fewer but that did not mean there was nothing for entertainment. Children anyways have their own ways of finding and defining entertainment. A rainbow in a soap-bubble, a vivid pattern on a butterfly, the sweet nectar in a flower, the beautiful colors and unique patterns in a marble- all of this amused us kids back then. One of my happiest memories belongs to not a game but a glass of cold yellow colored mango shake!
How distinctly I remembered asking my mom for a glass of family-loved mango shake. How she smiled, looked so young (she looks my age!). Somehow we always think of parents as old. Why? She was clearly my age in this vision. I can tell because I am an almost-copy of her; same hooded eyes, nose, cheek-bones, smile sans the wrinkles. So young and yet so old she seemed back then. The arrogance of youth, I suppose.

Back to the glass mango shake. Another gulp (its that thick!) and another vision. I’m calling it a vision because it feels like that. I can’t say if that happened in the past or is it a dream or a possible future. I am not clairvoyant or maybe I am. I remember hurriedly getting ready for school. I am going to be late. Oh, oh forget the ponytail. Just put a green hair-band to match the green school uniform skirt. Yes that’s okay. Run. Run. Run. No wait. Breakfast! I shout, “No time for breakfast mummmmmy.” Have a glass of mango shake, she says. There’s always time for mango shake. Its liquid, well quasi-liquid. Won’t take time. I drink. Big gulps. Pause. Take a deep breath. Go again. In two shots it’s gone. Cheers to the rush-hour drink. Tummy full. Happy face. Licked the mango-shake stained mouth and off I go. Vision goes as well.

I drink much slower now. I guess adulthood slows down lots of things, but I am not sure if that’s for the better. Another gulp – another flash. We have our cousins from both sides of the family at our old house. It’s summer vacations. In India, every family goes or sends their children to someone else’s house or someone else visits you during the summer vacation. It’s officially the travel season. In my vision it’s evening time and the seven of us are playing ‘gallery’ along-with few other neighbourhood kids in the common park. The sun gets ready to set and we set off for home too, looking tired, dirty, dusty, but wearing big smiles. We know what waits. Mummy had promised it, as daddy had bought 5 kgs mangoes the day before. The smell of mangoes had spread in the four corners of our house. There were 7 glasses set atop the dining table. It had a hint of rosy color on top. So pretty it looked! Mom had added ‘Rooh-afza’ (the cooling summer drink concentrate). How it elevated the taste! Me and my other female cousin sat admiring it while the boys finished theirs off. I never wondered back then why were there only 7 glasses and not 8, one for mom. I suppose, as most children, I was either a bit selfish or unobservant. But I see her smiling happy and content. No hints of any want for the drink. Are all mothers like that? They would rather give than take? I suppose so.

Another gulp. It’s getting warmer and my pace is getting slower. Why we never hugged our mom and thanked her? She would go to work and before going, would make breakfast and lunch for all of us. She would come back home and make these drinks and dinner for us all. Never occurred to us that she might have been tired herself? Back then there were hardly any restaurants and eating out was an annual-special-occasion-only deal. Unlike in this era, where couples usually dine out at least once every week, back then that was unheard of. But I never found any lady complaining of her mundane routine, of getting no help from anyone. There used to be lesser appliances, so it was mostly hand-work, which made it more time-consuming and tiring. I can’t picture myself doing all of that and still wearing a big smile and looking radiant like my mom always did. Maybe she is a superwoman and we never knew. I wish I had inherited her superpowers. But clearly, I haven’t.

I take a smaller gulp this time. The glass has water condensation all around it. My old memories get deposited around me too. We are in the new house. We had moved after few years from the last memory. In this memory I am working in the kitchen alongside my mom. She is cooking something. She looks older, wrinkled and with greyer hair. I am grown up, well almost. I wash the mangoes, peel them, make longitudinal cuts and then smaller perpendicular ones and finally cut them apart from the center seed. The golden cubes fall in the mixie jar. I add sugar and some milk. I close the jar and run the mixie. Stop, remove the lid, add rest of the milk, replace the lid and run again. Mango shake is made. I pour two ice cubes each in the glasses and then pour the golden liquid over it. The last glass gets mango cubes that were not successfully ‘mixed’. Alas! I can never make it as good as her. My brother likes it this ways though, with the mango bits, while I prefer a smoother consistency. My mom smiles and says how it is better than her, but I know she is just being kind. I want to tell her “It can never be as good as yours mom.”

The glass is half empty. I leave the glass on the garden table. Where to? To call my mother. It’s not late to say ‘Thank you mom’. It never is!
And then? Back to the half-full glass of mango shake. There are lot of childhood memories to go through.. maybe it will remind me of something else too. A long forgotten friend or some part of me that I left behind..



© Shivani K  | forewordMarch
© Shivani K | forewordMarch

Don’t Have a Child

Don’t have a child,
If you can’t sacrifice your time.
Don’t have a child,
If your job needs you full time.
Don’t have a child,
If you like your house neat and clean.
Don’t have a child,
if you would rather stay lean.
Don’t have a child,
If you are emotionally unavailable.
Don’t have a child,
If your life is unstable.
Don’t have a child,
If you would prefer a nomadic life.
Don’t have a child,
If you and your partner have a constant strife.
Don’t have a child,
If you make sacrifice and later hold your child guilty.
Don’t have a child,
If you can’t carry a responsibility.
Don’t have a child,
Just because people asked you to.
Don’t have a child,
Because it’s what we women “ought” to.
Don’t have a child,
Simply because your friends have one.
Don’t have a child,
Because you will need him/her in the long run.
Don’t have a child,
Because you are getting old.
Don’t have a child,
If you are unsure.
Don’t have a child,
Because you like to boss around.
Don’t have a child,
If you can’t wake-up at your child’s sound.
Don’t have a child,
If you can’t think of anyone before yourself.
Don’t have a child,
If you are not ready to change yourself.
Don’t have a child,
If you can’t leave your drink behind.
Don’t have a child,
If you can’t let go of things in mind.

Do you feel the list is long,
That there are no “Do’s” and too many “Don’ts”?
There is just one DO and that is-
To have a child you don’t need to be a dove.
Have a child if you are capable of love.
Won’t you do all this for you?
A child is you too.
Plain and simple, love is enough.
Plain and simple love, is enough.

Everything in the list vapourizes if you have the capacity to love another human being, who will love you back for no other reason than you were you.

‘The dead rat’, a story

A simple, honest, innocent story with a good old moral. Written in a poetic expression for new readers and for those who have heard or read the story earlier.

A poor young man walked about,
He had no place to go and was in serious doubt.
No education meant no job,
He could see his future and it looked like a big fat blob.
But he was clever and hard working,
So he thought to earn some money by using one of his schemes.

He sat one day, doing nothing.
From around a corner came a lady,
with a dead rat in one hand while the other hand carried a baby.
He told her that he could help her get rid of the rat
But in return he would only need a rupee fat.
The lady happily handed over the mouse-trap,
Gave him money and went back in a snap.

He roamed a while to find a house with a cat.
He found one and offered them the dead rat.
In exchange, he asked for rupees two.
They gave it happily, as their cat let out a mew.

With his money he went straight to the big old shop,
Bought kararechane, but only ate few for his plan shouldn’t flop.
He walked miles to the old jungle,
Waited underneath a tree for the travellers who bungled.
He sold chana to those who forgot to bring their meal,
He charged them 5 Rs per pouch and that was the deal.
He collected 25 Rs that day
and went back to the shop, to buy more chana, and then to pray.

From that day on, he would keep chana and water for travelers.
They would pay as much as asked, for most of them were foreigners.
He saved most and bought more, and finally saved enough to set up a cart.
He added more items and that was a good start.
It came to be known as Teelu’s mart,
and people came from far to try his famous ‘chaat’.

This went on and his business bloomed.
It was the same old Teelu, who everyone thought was doomed.
He opened more such “marts”;
He became very rich but his health started falling apart.
He asked his children to take-over his business of marts,
But they bickered among themselves and the business fell like a deck of cards.

They didn’t understand the reason and went to ask their “Pa”.
He made them realize it was only hard-work that would take them far.
He worked hard all his life.
They should too and bury the strife.
He said, “The solution was easy,
Work hard although it might make you queasy.
But in the long run you shall succeed,
This is your father’s advice, shake hands now and do good deed.”
His sons followed his advice.
“Teelu’s mart” resurfaced and they turned wise.

* karare-chane: an Indian snack made of spiced dry roasted chick-peas.
# chaat : an Indian snack made from a dry roasted bengal gram mixed of masala, onions and tomatoes.

Be You!

While growing up, usually in teenage years, we all have that one person we look up to. It can be a teacher, parents, elder brother or sister, a cousin, a movie star or anybody actually. We try to ape their style, the way they walk, the way they are with others, their swagger and gait, but sooner or later you grow out of it and develop what’s your own persona.

With some people, that doesn’t happen until much later or doesn’t happen at all. The constant conflict, of being who you really are against being this person you want to be, can be very confusing and exhausting.
Teenage years are especially trying, when one is dealing with lot of changes around oneself and to top it one has this additional pressure of metamorphosing into a unique self. It’s challenging and, to put it mildly, very confusing.
Be true to yourself. It’s quite simple really if you see it this way. You can only be 100% your own self, but can never really ‘become’ another person. Even if you do try and achieve being another, how long would that really last? Will it not be exhausting to get up every morning, wear a mask, be careful how you walk, control your facial expressions, remind yourself constantly of the accent you want to project, toss your hair or turn your head at a certain angle, smile to a certain degree, but never too much?

You can never be truly happy if you aren’t yourself. Sooner or later you will grow tired of being that person you wanted to be or idolized while growing up.

In the movie ‘X-Men:First Class’, whilst Raven Darkholme (Raven) is lifting weights, Eric Lehnsherr (Magneto) uses his power to lift the barbell high above her head and says, “If you’re using half your concentration to look normal, then you’re only half paying attention to whatever else you’re doing. Just pointing out something that could save your life.” The barbells suddenly drop and Raven shape shifts to her natural blue form to catch it.
Erik Lehnsherr then saidYou want society to accept you, but you can’t even accept yourself.”
This is truer for us humans than it is for mutants (if any). We need to accept ourselves the way we are, both the physical appearance and the person we are. Accept who you are and how you look. Do not try to change yourself to become another. Stop living in denial. Stop living in a shadow and definitely stop being an image of someone else. People will love you no less if you be yourself and frankly, few of those would be thankful if you stop trying to be someone else.

You will find out who you are. Maybe in your 30s if not in your 20s, but it will happen. Don’t get antagonized if you feel lost. Instead, try and find out who you are, and what you truly really like. Don’t watch action movies just because your friends say its cool. Don’t avoid romantic movies because people call it soapy. Please do not copy anyone’s hair style or steal someone’s ‘look’. Don’t go from shop to shop in frantic search of an article of clothing you saw on your admired one. Try and find your own look and style. Don’t drink and smoke because someone says that it’s cool. Be unabashed about who you are and what you like. Instead of following people who get tagged as pretty or cool, get inspired by someone real, who has achieved something real in life.
This takes a more serious turn when you choose a profession and select one simply because the one you admire went for it. In India, scores of children do engineering or medical, as if there is no other profession or career available, simply because people in their family or near neighbor did the same. For all you know that person might have selected a career path based on the person he/she himself/herself admires. Can you see how this can have a dominoes effect? How one after the other, young people would follow a path that they don’t truly like, have a job/career/life they will grow up to despise, resulting in getting frustrated for life!

The solution is not difficult to comprehend. Just think about what YOU like. Be honest to yourself. It’s clichéd but true – Follow your heart!
It might be difficult to stand your ground and do something radically different from others around you, but greatness doesn’t come gift-wrapped in easy previously-laid and walked-upon paths. You make your own path and create something new.

Don’t follow others; rather be someone others would look up to.

Find yourself. Hone yourself. Own yourself.

The Day a Tree Walked

A story about the time when trees could walk and there were men with whom they could talk.

Chapter One  :  When they met

It was an old forest bordering an old village. Mud houses and open streams, grass that was still green. Kuccha roads on which kids played ‘gilli-danda’ and village that resonated with sounds of transistors playing in the background.

It was a usual sort of day,
hot and bright with a clear blue sky.
A tree called Neem was doing the usual too
You know, shedding old leaves and encouraging the new.
The trees paying their daily sum to their collector,
who was a light breeze,
through giving it their water.
Our good-natured gentle Neem asked his friend Keekar again, for 10th time that week, why were they still standing.

He wanted to move, like humans do.
Flutter around like birds and learn how squirrels chew.
Neem’s friend,
grew impatient.
He answered him with a grunt
and a thinly veiled contempt
that Neem had lost its mind .
Neem must stop, else he wouldn’t be too kind.

Keekar told Neem that if he asked again he will tell grandpa Bodha, who would boycott Neem. Grandpa Bodha was very old and very strict and looked like that too, with his gnarly fingers and beard so long that it touched the ground. He was so old that everyone spoke to him about anything they needed to know or complain about, for he knew everything! Neem feared being boycotted above everything else and for good reason too. Being boycotted was the most serious of all punishments, for you see in tree-world having no one to talk to meant spending hundreds of years of life completely alone with nowhere to go and nobody to share things with. It was the most dreadful punishment so, naturally, nobody ever got it and hence, most feared as nobody knew what might be the result of living in such isolation. Neem wasn’t planning on being the first one to experience that and so didn’t ask again out of fear. Our simple and kind Neem was a friendly social creature and wanted to be able to chat, more than his desire to walk.
Few seasons passed and there stood Neem still doing the usual. One fine day a little boy came and sat under the Neem tree. Our friendly Neem, unlike his friends, wasn’t the one to doubt, feel shy or get suspicious. So he said a friendly “Hello”. The boy didn’t respond and kept staring down at his browned legs, looking rather sad. Neem felt sorry for the boy and wanted to help so he tried again and asked “Who are you? Why are you sad?” Getting no response, Neem thought that the boy probably couldn’t hear him and tried again but louder this time. The boy didn’t answer. Neem, not the one to give up easily, then shook himself to shower leaves on the boy. The boy slowly held out his hand, then touched his hair to pick out the leaves that had fallen on them. He squinted twice and shook his head. Neem again showered him with leaves and this time the boy slowly looked up. With eyes big and wide and mouth to match, the boy blinked twice to see if some human was sitting atop the tree but found none. Neem asked again as loud as he could but the boy just looked at it with blank eyes.

Neem got sad and had given up just as a small foreign voice said ” I can hear you. My name is Abhay but everyone calls me Paglu” . Neem was overjoyed! It was the strangest sort of voice- sweet, gentle, soft but clearly audible. The boy began talking and Neem listened.

Paglu told Neem how he had always been different from others. He would often stop to hear what the other animals and trees were saying and converse with them. People now think he is crazy. His own family thinks he is making up stories or being naughty. Nobody believes him and nobody understands him. His friends were none and people had long stopped believing anything he told them. He grew lonely so set out for the woods outside his village. That’s where he saw the friendliest looking tree and came to sat under it.

Neem heard him patiently and told him that he isn’t mad, nor crazy. He is just different. They don’t believe him because they themselves can’t do what he could. People are so busy living that they have lost touch with other living beings. They no longer stop to look at a butterfly, see a bird’s flight or gaze at stars.

Neem told the boy about his own troubles about how he has been wanting to know why trees don’t move but fears isolation. The boy told him that he knows the reason. Neem couldn’t believe it. A stranger from other species knows it !! Will he get his answer that day? That too without getting boycotted for it. What a wonderful day!

The boy told Neem that trees can’t walk because they never tried.  Unless you try how would you know that you can’t do something?

They both talked for hours and became thick friends from that day on.
That was the day Neem got the answer to the question of his life. But it gave birth to another one- If he tried, will he be able to walk?

You Answer to No One!

Recently I read an article on ‘Stay At Home Mothers’ written by a husband. Over a period of 3 years I have read many such articles and stories, where the writer has spoken for working moms or SAHMs. Some articles were well articulated, some compelling, some emotional, some potent but all thought provoking. I, personally admire both set of mothers, working or hands-on, as for me being a mother in itself is admirable, but I found myself wondering why is there such an incessant need to prove to the world what one chooses is correct, rather justified.
Why do we live in a society that makes us feel guilty for our decisions? It’s an informed decision after all, taken by you, who arguably is the best person to decide what’s good for you and your family; then why the pressure and guilt?

I have noticed that the pressure is more on educated women who have given up their established careers to raise their child or joined back their work after maternity leave. I wonder why. These women have proven their capability while studying, then again at their work space and the world trusts them when they take multitude of decisions at their work-place daily; yet people judge their ability to make a decision when it is about a thing most personal to these women. Can we not for once give them credit for making a sound decision based on factors known to these women and their partners?

People will never learn to accept that they are just that- people. They don’t live the life you do. Hence, they don’t get the right to judge you, let alone direct your life for you. It’s your choice, your decision. A choice means having the right to choose amongst options. As a mother, no one other than you and your partner, knows what’s best for your child. That gives you both the right to decide whether you :
1. Resume work and get paid help to manage house
2. Resume work and are helped by your family.
3. Resume work, you and your partner manage between yourselves.
4. Stay at home, spend your time with your child and manage the entire house by yourself (be a superhuman)
5. Stay at home to be around your baby. Get paid help for household chores.
6. Take a sabbatical and decide whether to join back work or not based on the need.
In neither of the 6 scenarios do I see a choice affecting anyone outside your family. If you choose any of the last three options, then your boss will crib and cry for sometime but will eventually find another person to do your job and you too will find what you like, once you are ready. But how will it affect the cynics who think they know better?

To those who feel it’s their ‘duty’ to tell these young mothers what’s best for them, I say “If you truly care then try and speak to them before deciding what’s best for them. You don’t need to understand their decision but at least respect it”.

To all such mothers who are bogged down by questions and indiscreet looks, I want to say “It’s alright if people judge you or you think you aren’t measuring up to their expectations. Frankly, you never will. As soon as you do one thing to their liking, other will spring up. It is an endless race if you make it your life’s mission to please everyone. Don’t bow down to societal pressure, don’t explain yourself to every other person out there frowning upon you and don’t be guilt ridden.”

Its your life and no one else will live it for you. If you want feedback then wait for your kids to grow up and tell you how bad you were :p

Till then, chill! Live your life! Enjoy your baby’s formative years. If you get spare time (you really are a superwoman in this case) then read a book, watch those movies you have always wanted to, pick up a hobby or go back to the ones you left.


What about men? What do they have to say. No no.. not about the video but about themselves. Do they have a voice too? And I m talking about regular stuff, mundane stuff.
We have grown up watching movies and people all around us putting men up on a pedestal. And it starts young too. How many times have you heard someone say, in reel or real, “Mera aadarsh beta.. bada hokar afsar banega” (my ideal son will become a big man one day), “mera pati parmeshwar” (my husband is god-like), “My brother will protect me”, “my boyfriend will pay for this”.. guys, do you really like to hear all this? Is it not tiring to be treated like a demi-God? Being a Thor without his hammer or Xerxes for that matter?  To grow up with a whole load of pressure?

Why can’t we cut them some slack and understand that they are normal people, who can have an off day (week or month for that matter)? It is much kinder to treat them as normal average Joe really.

This is for all the guys out there.

It’s okay if you want to study literature and don’t aspire to be an engineer. It’s okay.
It’s okay if you don’t shave everyday. It’s your body, let your look stay. It’s okay.
It’s okay if your hair are too short, too long or you choose to go bald. Your crop , your call. It’s okay.
It’s okay if you think body art and piercing you have, looks cool. Your domain, your rule. It’s okay.
It’s okay if you want to watch sports, not shows. Your time, your eyes. Don’t let others impose. It’s okay.
It’s okay if you don’t want to go shopping, till you don’t drag her club hopping. Its okay.
It’s okay if the lady drives once in a while and you rest your eyes awhile. Its okay.
It’s okay if your wife and mom don’t get along. Don’t need to pick sides, you aren’t a tennis ball.It’s okay.
It’s okay if your wardrobe is a mess. Your clothes, your space. Up to you, if you wish to address. It’s okay.
It’s okay when you cry at movies. You are a man, not a machine. It’s okay.
It’s okay if at times your girlfriend pays the restaurant bills. You are both equals. It’s okay.
It’s okay when you come back home after a 16 hour long shift and just want to unwind. Everyone gets tired, everyone needs some time. It’s okay.

You are a person above and before anything and that means you are allowed to have your own flaws and views. You need not subscribe to the world’s views that issues warrants that defines “duties of a man”, nor do you have to “man-up” for everything and everyone around you . Just be human. That’s good enough!

You are Beautiful!

Do you think you are beautiful?
Do you feel comfortable in your skin?

Do you feel that those hair care commercials, beauty brands etc talk to you in particular, when they tell you how you can be a better (read prettier) version of yourself?

Look in the mirror today and tell yourself what you really think and feel of your body. What do you see? A pretty woman or someone who needs improvement?

Being beautiful is feeling beautiful. The world will always tell you that you are two sizes too big or a size too small, that your hair are nice but too sparse, that your skin is unblemished but the color is not at par, that you might be fair but you have an ugly scar. You will probably be compared to others, put down, and told how to look like someone else. Why though? Why would anyone want to be like someone else, when they can be their own unique self? Whatever size and shape your body is, curly or straight your hair are, dusky or fair skin is, none of these physical attributes decide who you are and what you are capable of. So stop those right in their tracks, who tell you that you are a sidekick and not a princess.

Do yourself a favour and when you go back home today, go back to that mirror and tell yourself –
“I’m beautiful. I’m a star. I’m a princess. I’m perfection and I don’t seek acceptance. ”

You may not be a Cinderella, but you can be a Jasmine!

Don’t tie your self-esteem to your beauty regime.

Wear what you truly like.

Don’t be dismayed if it’s not meant for your “body type”.

Flash that red smile and wear those high heels.

Don’t wait for a special occasion and tell yourself how it feels.

Do what you want to, whether it’s putting makeup or going out with bed-hair, not what the faceless world wants you to. World will repeat what you genuinely feel about yourself. Pump up your confidence and announce to the world that you are you and wouldn’t care to be another. You are born beautiful. Believe in yourself and you will see that the world sees it too!


Homeostasis – a relatively stable state of equilibrium.
I always thought that for a human being it would be a state of tranquility, maybe even thoughtlessness; of inner peace. But it’s so sad to see that people, when left to themselves, tend to crawl towards a state of perpetual mixed fear.
Fear of the unknown and fear of the known,
Fear of past and fear of the future
Fear of success and fear of failure
Fear of being a public figure and fear of being a nobody,
Fear of parenthood and fear of not being one,
Fear of being in a crowd and fear of being alone,
Fear of being someone’s unconditional love and fear of not being loved.
Why do we drown ourselves in this man-made ideas? Why can’t be dip the world in happy thoughts and make that our stable state?
Flush these fears from your life.

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