December 10 at 3:37pm ·
The entire family just returned from a judo championship where the older son took part, today.
After a quick breakfast, mother and father split up their duties for the day. Father would drive to the judo championship venue with both boys (8 and 4), and mother would take the empty plastic bottles and glasses for recycling and pick up a package from the post; and then join the family.
The family split in opposite directions.
The mother finished her chores in a hurry, but she was already running late. Assuming that the parking lot at the venue would be completely full by now, she hesitated for a moment and then picked up her son's tricycle (trottinet), instead of deciding to walk or drive. Now, she had ridden a tricycle five years back, but then why not be spontaneous and just do it?
The tricycle rolled at high speed in the small street sloping downwards. Had there been a cartoonist standing on the road, then he would draw a red bulldozer in a white tricycle coming down the road, wearing a red fashionable cap, red jacket and a red leather bag dangling from her left arm - like a pendulum (due to the speed). People made way for her, as her tricycle crushed gravel and lunged forward at top speed.
The mother reached the sports venue safe and sound and realised that with all this adventure, she had saved only 10 minutes. Pooh, but it was good fun atleast. She entered the hall, which was packed with kids in white robes and parents sitting on benches. She breathed again, her son's turn had not yet come. Being the kind of time manager she is, she took out her drawing copy and started sketching the kids (a task she is expected to do as a member of the urban sketching community, try to sketch whenever and wherever you can). Then her son's turn came and she put aside her drawing copy, crossed her fingers and stopped breathing.
In the first round, contrary to both parent's expectation the son won! In the second round, something opposite happened.
You see, the mother had taken out her mobile to record a video and simultaneously their 4 year old (younger) son started screaming at the top of his voice and nagging his mother, that he wanted to mount on his mother's shoulder right then and there! The mother hushed him, but the screaming continued. Mother looked at father with pleading eyes, but father had turned 'Buddha', and was sitting complacently, recognising neither the freakish mother with a mobile, nor the shrieking child. The older brother lost his concentration and his opponent pinned him to the floor.
Mother and father got back together, sat side by side. This time both became 'Buddhas' and started discussing their older son's future.
Mother said, "He is not aggressive and seems like doesn't want to win". Father said, "He is too concerned for the opponent. This is a sport and he has to learn to fight". Mother remarked, "Did you see how he was not concentrated at all, he was chatting and playing with his belt all the time." Father said, "Well, he is now out of this competition anyway". Mother and fathers' discussion reached till his college education and future (as it often does).
As this discussion was going on, the older son had already entered the third round of fight, and again to his parent's surprise, won it with ease!
His 4 year old brother had forgotten about climbing his mother's shoulder and was now running in circles (and not screaming anymore).
After three rounds, the older son, went out with his friends to eat and kept chatting and having fun. The (tiger) mother, also followed him outside and said, "Son, it is okay you didn't win this time, but atleast try to learn from others, see how others are fighting, come in and sit with us, you are missing it all!"
The son rolled his eyes, with the expression, "Oh mother, not again!"
The son returned to the hall and kept having fun - smiling and chatting with his friends, as the judo tournament continued. Then the results were announced. The podium was set, and all categories were announced. Other kids started getting medals, we cheered. The younger son came to his parents and said, "Dada, won't get a medal?" Both parents decided to get back to 'Buddha-Mode', and nodded their heads in unison 'Na' and smiled complacently.
To the parent's surprise, in the 'below 30 kgs' group, the older son's name was announced. And to their greater surprise, the older son went and stood in the 'second' spot. Music started playing, 'We are the Champions', as a Judo teacher stepped forward and gave him a medal - Second Prize Adhrit Bose".
Entire family clapped vigorously and smiled, with surprise still lingering in their eyes.
The son, went to his mother and said, "Mother, here, hold my medal" and disappeared with his friends to have more fun again.
(Photocourtesy: The Royal Opera House, London, ROH)
December 8 at 11:45pm ·
Today, my husband and I went to watch the live telecast of Alexandre Dumas's story, 'The Nutcracker', performed by the Royal Opera House (ROH) Ballet, London - in Wohlen. It was telecasted across cinema halls worldwide tonight at 8pm.
When we reached the movie theatre, which is about 5 min. walking distance from our home, we were quite surprised to find a long queue almost till the door. The lady issuing tickets was quite stressed and almost started a fight with two ladies at the counter. We had reserved our seats, so I felt more relaxed. Most of the people standing in the queue were women or elderly. Some were even dressed up - as if they were indeed sitting in an opera house, and the only thing missing in their entire getup was perhaps a 'binocular'!
We both, were not only celebrating my husband's birthday, but also our 'night out', after almost a decade. All parents with small kids know how the initial first few years are - barred from movies, operas, theaters, good restaurants, or night outs. But, now that our kids have outgrown pampers and tantrums, we took the liberty to go out.
I was intrigued by the fact, that telecasting Operas/Ballets 'live' was not only a lovely change, but also a brilliant marketing idea! Afterall, how many of us manage to go to the Opera House in Zurich? So why not bring the Opera to your doorstep?
It could also be compared to watching a football match in a huge movie screen live, like a cinema. You just need to melt down few 'facts', and voila there you are - watching it live!
With popcorn and rivella, we waited in the hall comfortably seated, as the curtain rolled up, real time in the Royal Opera House, London, tonight.
Initially I thought, 'The Nutcracker' was about a squirrel - who tried to crack a nut below the Christmas tree.
But, the story was different!
A young lady, received as a Christmas present, a 'nut cracker' a wooden doll dressed up like a soldier, which if moved up and down would crack a nut.
The girl loved this present so much that she held it close to her heart all the time. And it is this genuine love of hers, which finally transformed this wooden doll into a prince who loved her back equally. Just like the frog prince story, where the princess kissed an ugly frog which transformed it into a handsome prince.
Just wondering.... why do most of our storywriters' always make a girl fall in love with someone who is 'different' (like a frog?! or a nutcracker doll?!) Is this a secret which all storytellers try to convey to women in some way or the other? Accept a 'weirdo' and you shall beget a prince? ;-)
Jokes apart, while watching the ballerinas, and listening to Tchaikovsky, something profound was happening inside me.
The glittery dress, delicate steps in unison with music, the huge Christmas tree in the backdrop and the beautiful steps of each dancer was spreading out 'beauty' and 'happiness' right from my brain to my heart to every cell of my body, literally.... Before my kids were born, only my reflection knows this secret, how I too used to jump up and down from the sofa or chair like a ballerina, whenever I felt happy. Decades have passed, but my heart still remains 21, who would twirl and dance just out of pure joy...
As I kept watching the ballet, the poet - John Keats line, 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever' kept coming to my mind again and again.
How true it is!
Fine Art's ultimate aim is to create and indulge in this absolute beauty - be it through a beautiful painting, a soulful song, or a dance, where the dancer is immersed in a rhythm which only she can hear and a magic which is like an obsession. As part of the audience, when we sit and watch such beautiful ballets and performances, we too feel possessed. And if we let this 'beauty' come near us, it starts a wheel of transformation inside us. A grey day starts appearing misty, and a normal life becomes magical...
'Art' when passionately created and performed, can truly transform the performer and the onlooker. I felt this strongly today.
This particular ballet, had 67 women and men dancers. There were Arabic, Chinese, and Western dance forms - all blend together like a healthy smoothie. And the manager of this production was Peter Wright, who just celebrated his 90th birthday!
You could see the taut bodies of the ballerinas on stage and their shapely arms - a result of rigorous fitness regime and hours of practice. To perform this beautiful ballet on stage, how many bleeding feet's did they endure?
I shall visit ROH's opera's again, and would recommend you to do so as well, if you get the opportunity. Who would not want to see, feel and hear 'pure happiness'....
We spent a beautiful evening together, after a long long time.
My Swiss Diary
Heimat: Raebe Liechtli (Swiss Diwali for kids)
Just returned from the chilled streets of Wohlen, lit up by carved pumpkins and paper lanterns in various shapes and characters dancing from long wooden rods--in the hands of kids walking in a procession. Arul and his classmates were walking and singing "Raebe Lichtli tra la la..." as their class teacher, crisscrossed the rows of kids to ensure that no one was left behind in the dark street.
Sharp at 7pm the street lights went off (not a loadshedding but for special effect) and hundreds of childrens voice filled the street...no mike...plain voice singing in more or less the same chord and walking with lit up lanterns. After two rounds of procession they gathered inside the school ground and a choir organized by the local music school started.
It was a beautiful moment....dark night lit up only with lanterns and children singing (not shouting). After the songs, class teachers handed warm cups of tea and brown buns as big as a kids fist, with lots of sugar sprinkled on top, to each child. I watched the steam from the tea vanish in a mist and was startled when Arul came up to me and said, "Mamma, my friend's mother is standing behind you, give her a chance to stand near the fence as well". I moved back, and let her in. My Arul is becoming a gentleman. Then, I spotted the school Principal, a tall lady with a very kind face who also sat down on the floor next to the kids and started chatting with a 7 year old. After a while she took out her glasses from her bag and put them on, she wanted to see the child's face more clearly I guess. No air, no baggage, just like a plain human being (if you know what I mean). It is this down to earth quality in the Swiss which I admire the most.
I have grown up with Diwali (festival of lights) during this season (Nov.) back in India and my son is growing up with his own 'festival of lights'. While participating in this kind of events for my son, I am also understanding my husband's childhood better and how he has grown up.....
In the end, when the music teacher spoke something in Swiss German, I blurred my eyes filtering out the "things" which still tend to make me feel a bit lost n concentrated on the magical night instead. The same principle is applied when you want to paint a complex landscape...just squint your eyes and observe the big picture. My big picture tonight was that of a Heimat....celebrating Diwali of a different kind. And I felt happy and light.ph here.
My Namesake Moment: in a Schoolbag
Arul will start School (class 1) from August. Today, as planned by the kindergarten and schools, all KG children in Wohlen had a formal “introductory” first day visit to their new School.
This being Arul’s first day to school was a significant day.
I received a letter (in German) giving the time and other information. Under “Mitnehmen” it was written: “Znüni, Schulsack (falls schon vorhanden)”, which is tiffin and schoolbag. Since Srijit is travelling on work, I couldn’t take advantage of my biggest leisure, passing on all “German letters” to him. So today morning, I dressed Arul carefully in a clean white T-shirt with a nice collar and a new half pant, combed his hair, packed his tiffin and placed it inside his schoolbag (a rucksack from India, a gift from grandma) which he takes every day to Kindergarten and send him off.
After just 7 minutes, the door knob was going up and down and I could hear Arul outside saying “mamma kholo”(open the door)! He rushed in saying, he needs to take his ‘Schoolbag’. Assuming it meant the contents, like a pencil box, I had to almost turn his almirah upside down to find the “etui” (school’s pencil box with a ruler, pencil, etc. inside). As it is I thought it was necessary only in August on his first “real” school day so it was beyond google and physical search. So Arul and I grabbed a normal pencil box and and put together pencil rubber etc. and then I send him off again.
After three more minutes of intense searching, I found his “etui” behind a Lego box. In two minutes I was running in tow, with Jeet in pram without shoes, enjoying the fresh air and mamma’s speed. My “pramathon” experience last week on WYOP track giving me the Horse Power to sprint.
Arul’s KG is 7 mins. from home walking distance. His teacher was counting kids and Schulsacks as I entered with my high-speed pram chariot; and approached her with the letter in German. That’s when I realised that “Schulsack” is the big school bag and not just any rucksack! The Swiss kids were dressed in simple (wrinkled) clothes but had all required items.
Due to my inertia in reading and comprehending German in general, I had not bothered to decipher the letter in details. Arul was a bit down with the running up and down and stress of swapping bags, and tiffin box, but his teacher cheered him up and as I left, I heard her saying rather loudly to few other kids, “This is not your task, this is your mother’s homework” (in German), there were few more kids without any “formal” schoolbag and contents, of non-German parentage.
Ya, Ya, I heard it!
My motivation to learning German has been “kam-chalau” till now, but today as Arul starts school and I will get invited to more and more parents-teachers meetings, and see German books in his school bag, I want to get involved and learn too this language “German”, who is almost like the girl who stays next door, but looks a bit too sophisticated and complicated and I have always procrastinated to get to know her and introduce myself.
Today, I had my own “Namesake” (Jhumpa Lahiri) moment.
LA LA LAND
Watched 'La La Land' musical movie now and I am writing this from the train on my way back home.
After a lovely babyshower party, I ran down the lane to catch a train from Oerlikon to Zurich and reached Corso Hall for the evening show. Bought my ticket and settled down in row 13, seat nr 3.
The lady on my right suddenly started flashing her mobile on my seat number - the hall was dark. I finally understood that I was sitting in her seat. So I shifted one seat left, and all 10-20 people sitting in that row, shifted one seat to the left, thanks to me ;-((or blame it on row nr 13;-)).
A blonde and a brunnette sat on both sides. Seeing that I was alone, both ladies gave me enough 'elbow space' and I settled down happily for La La Land.
The movie began.
First scene was a traffic jam in a highway and a song and a dance. Ryan and Emma met each other there for the first time. The coincidental meetings kept happening, and was a constant reminder that perhaps behind every chance meeting, there is a purpose?
Dont worry, I wont reveal the story - you have to see it :-).
First half moved a bit slowly, the lady next to me complained, "Oh, what a boring movie, I can see where it is going". And I felt, this movie has won so many Golden Globes, but....why isnt it picking up pace?"
Then, there was a scene: where both Ryan and Emma visit a planetorium and start dancing in the sky.
Something touched my feet that moment.
No, this was not a 3D movie, then how could something touch my feet ?
But the feeling didnt stop there.
I was being lifted from my seat in the movie hall and felt as if I was flying around slowly.
"No, no, this is not a science fiction movie, stop it, I meekly whispered!"
But I kept floating for rest of the movie and the signature song "city of stars...." kept humming in my ears.....pacifying me.
The narration picked up pace and intensity. In one scene Emma stood infront of Ryan and said sincerely, "Maybe I am not good enough?"
My heart stopped beating. Hasnt this question echoed in my life again and again? Insecurity in one's own talent - isnt this an unspoken trait in many of us?
I felt a tear trickle down my cheek.
A musician, a poet, a dramatist who is doing a 9 to 5 job, writing poetries in his mind, a sales engineer doodling on napkins, a singer humming behind the hum of a vacuum cleaner....don't we have friends and neighbours like that? Well, fellow artists and dreamers, dont stop dreaming, even a bourgeois life cannot snatch away that 'sensitivity' from you....this is what the movie was trying to say.
Brilliant performance by Emma and Ryan, a director who lets the story flow in its own pace, like, can you ask a floating cloud 'Move, step left and stay'. No.
This movie is like a blue sky with clouds of different shapes - linking you to different emotions, moving in their own pace.
The movie hall was full, with many aged couples, and I realised that my neighbour, the blonde lady was also deeply absorbed. The movie ended with a surprise, and just like all good stories it left a bitter taste in my mouth...
When I came out of the hall, I bumped into my colleague who had studied Film Direction in NY, but now works as an Accountant and his partner, who owns a chain of shoe shops in Zurich, but is a Pianist.
Was this a chance meeting? Perhaps an apt conclusion to the 9 to 5 worker and parallel dreamer within all of us, living in our own La La Lands.
BLACK FRIDAY and my evening in Zurich
Today was my once a month 'day out' day. After office (where I go once a month), I took the tram till Zurich Central and started walking towards Zentralbibliothek, which is a 10 mins walk from the tram stop.
The narrow side street had shops and hotels on both sides. Barber shops, old book shops, antique galleries, pubs... I crossed a restaurant and saw a lady lighting candles on set tables, behind the yellow transluscent windows. Everything looked so Christmasy! Then walked past a barber shop, and in the tube-lit room, spotted men and women grooming themselves for the festive season or eagerly waiting for there turn, while leafing through magazines. A man with an intricate skull and thorns tattooed arm, towered over a woman and concentrated on tailoring her blonde hair.
I kept walking.
It was Friday night and few men were already entering pubs, or smoking outside in an un-haste manner. That's when, I spotted a lady in her 60s who looked just like Sophia Loren bending over a cycle. Her black fur coat and stockings shimmered in the street light, I wondered did she wear that dress and ride a bicycle? Anything is possible in Zurich. I squinted harder. Aha! she was actually bending over the cycle and trying to insert coins in the parking machine. Now I could effortlessly picture her driving a cameo.
I kept walking.
Crossed Kino alba, Pestalozzi library; crossed the street and finally entered the library.
After keeping my bag and coat in the locker, I took the lift to -3 level and entered the labyrinth of books.
I already had a 'book list' with floor and book shelf numbers, but still (blame my pigeon gps skills), I always took twice the time to reach the right shelf and kept searching for Pole Star ;-).
With hundred-thousands of books and books dropping into right shelves from 'ceiling-pipes' and a 'captain's wheel' like gadget for maneuvering the shelves, it truly is a state-of-the-art library! And yet instead of kindles there are 5 floors full of books :-). I have even found translated Premchand and Sarat Chandra books here. Today I was hunting for 4 books: 2 Kafkas, Dostoyevsky and a Nietzsche; German and Russian classical writers. I had started 2016 with Kafka's biography and Hesse, so I also want to end the year in the same thread.
The smell of old-used books, the lost professor like occasional visitors, the sight of a maze built with books, was all that I needed. But for mothers, time is always running like a 'taxi meter'; so despite my gps and tom-tom delays, I took the lift and checked out fast with my books and left the library.
Outside, the city was just warming up to a glittery Black Friday night. And Zurich's light decoration is so pretty this year! The sky looked like a matrix - with threads of falling stars, and then there was the 'Singing Christmas Tree', with children singing carols. I searched for few stray coins in my jacket's pocket and bought heisse Marroni, umm....couldnt feel any better.
Today was 'Black Friday' so almost every shop was giving a 20-30% sale. Men surf the net, women love to surf shops. So that is what I did, only that my speed was similar to 'fast forwarding' a movie. Didnt buy 'much' as such :-). Then skimmed through some more shops like Mango, Zara n Catchet (again at fast forward speed). Dazed men waiting on steps, and women shopping in a frenzy. I hurried towards HB, I had a train to catch !
Entered a fast train waiting on platform 17. Infront of me, a young girl (looked like a foreigner) was ocupying two seats and had a shiny black suitcase in the passage and her nails had a pistache green nailpolish. Another 'huge' guy (literally huge) entered the train with his wife and were about to sit next to this girl. The girl immediately asked them to sit elsewhere since she was reserving that seat for a friend of hers. Now, the Wife of the 'huge' man sat down in that very seat, and argued, "You cant reserve a seat simply you know, don't you see I am pregnant?" The 'huge' man looked a bit embarassed but then sat down next to his wife and looked sideways, avoiding any eye-contact!
In my adjacent seat, a young, petite Korean girl was bouncing her baby boy (perhaps 6 months old) on her lap. She then started reading him a book and the infant was gurgling with joy... and I couldnt help looking at them frequently and smiling. What struck me most is the girl's composure and her peaceful face. Her face, reflected a loving husband and a stress free lifestyle and perhaps much more....the kind of bliss we perpetually wish to attain. And then it all changed.
After gurgling for a while the infant started whinning.
The mother methodically tried water, milk bottle, nuggi, and when nothing worked she stood up, slipped him into a sling and kept swaying him gently. The baby started crying and kept crying for the rest of our journey (25 min), but the mother stood there gently swaying him in the sling, and her face still reflected a cool composure. I observed her more closely, (ready to jump for any help, in case she needed it, don't I know these situations?). But no, I remained in my seat. The young mother was wearing fashionable yet sturdy blue winter shoes, a magenta jacket, designer black glasses, and the baby's pram looked very hi-tec. A bag hanging from its handle read - 'Hirslanden Hospital'.
The infant kept crying.
A young man barely disturbed by the 'cry' kept surfing his Natel, and the young girls (the girl whom I had mentioned in the beginning with a huge suitcase, and her friend were discussing, "You know once my neighbour's child cried for 30 min non-stop, it was really getting into my nerves!").
The pregnant woman's 'huge' husband made strange faces (as the infant kept crying), and tried to look behind and spot the child, then he kept inserting his fingers into his ears now and then in a strange fashion.
Then, a Swiss grandmother unable to stop herself, came and stood next to this young Korean mother. To my surprise the Korean (my assumption) spoke to the grandmother in perfect Swiss German! I understood that she must be a 'Second Gen' like Srijit.
The grandmother stood with her till the end.
Then our stop came and the Korean mother and I got down together in Lenzburg and caught the connecting train to Wohlen. I complimented her and told her that she was doing a great job (you see, typical to infants - they cry and also stop all of a sudden. Perhaps he had some gastric troubles or a hiccup was troubling him)? The Korean mother said that her son was tired and that perhaps was the reason. The mother had gone shopping to Zurich for 'Black Friday' and also to see Christmas decorations....
We parted ways, and I entered my home. She walked further down the lane, with a sleeping infant in her sling, and a pram full of bulging plastic packets.
I looked up at the black night sky and saw that quite magically it had transformed into a silvery twilight....a Silvery White (oops Black) Friday indeed!
Nice Weekend to all.Type your paragraph here.
Watching a Swiss Movie in the Theatre Alone
GIOVANNI SEGANTINI: A 7 year old boy, orphaned. Mother who died out of heartache when her older son died in a fire. Father a migrant who passed away in a foreign country, penniless, in search of work. With his half-sister young Giovanni arrived in Milan, and ended up in a childrens reformatory, there someone gave him a pencil and the illiterate boy learned how to draw. Later, another half brother picked him up from the juvenile home and brought him to his photo studio.
A grown up Giovanni, couldnt marry "Bice" his love and inspiration, due to his 'stateless' tag. He had no passport and refused Swiss citizenship, where he came to live. Giovanni and Bice kept shifting town to town to avoid condemnation by local people because of their unmarried state and 4 children. By and by he became famous for his 'en Plein air' landscape paintings and huge Alps canvases. He lived in the Engadin valley (Graubünden) and passed away at the age of 41. Posthmously he received Swiss citizenship.
Today, I sat in Wohlen cinema hall with a packet of salted popcorn. Alone in the 300 seated hall, watching this Swiss documentary, for 1.5 hours. No one came, but thankfully they still played the movie. Even if it was in German, Giovanni's eyes, his innocent colours and repeated subject of seeking his mother through his paintings touched me.
While coming home, I looked up at the rain washed grey and orange sky and knew how even an impoverished orphaned boy could get transformed ...by nature's beauty.Watching a Movie about an Artist who lived in Switzerland
Something Special !
Something Special !
Around 9 am, the sky lit up with a warm yellow farbe. After quite some deliberation, I finally made up my mind. Particularly after viewing a TED talk video sent in a whatsapp group, about how to avoid procrastination.
In that video, the speaker Tim Urban was explaining how we always tend to avoid the things (small and big) that we wanted to do in our life, things without deadlines - like joining a gym, or learning German or dance, which we tend to postpone forever....
So, I packed up my Puma rucksack with few brushes, a small pocket Winsor and Castle watercolour, a bottle of water and two foldable stools, my sketchpad; and set off.
Every moment was precious.
For more than four years I had waited for this day.
Why? Because, today was not only my day off from office work, but also, Arul and Jeet stayed overnight with their Oma and Opa. This being the first time for Jeet to stay overnight without me. After spending years with non-stop tasks at home and 'quasi alarms' permanently set in my biological clock - 'check what are they up to?', 'start cooking, its lunch time!', 'clean the mess—goodness, how could they?' etc. etc.—a full day all for myself is like the ultimate treasure and pleasure, I can have these days.
I finished washing clothes (more to justify my household guilt - didn’t neglect home entirely), I picked up my bag, slipped into my green leather jacket, fished out my jeans cap and took the train to Bremgarten.
Bremgarten is famous for the river, old city and a wooden bridge. But today, I didn’t want to follow the beaten path. So, instead of sketching the glorious river and the wooden bridge, I selected a topic much more mundane. There are two ‘talking’ houses, with wall paintings and dried out branches covering its wall, with slogans and graffiti everywhere, as if they are talking to humans, screaming at them about their pain.
When I take the train to Dietikon, I cross these two buildings (looks frail and ruined down), and every time I think: 'One day, I will sit and paint these two houses'.
So today, after hearing the TED talk on procrastination; in an epiphanic moment, I already knew what would be my topic for urban sketching today!
I positioned my foldable chair opposite to the buildings, and started sketching. A man, parked his car nearby and smiled. I asked him, if it was okay to sit there and he said, ‘Kein Problem’ and slipped into a door which had a sign – Hypnose Centrum, Autohypnose Training. I was already hypnotised by the day and the precious time that I had, so I went back to my drawing again.
After a while, it started drizzling, so after finishing the painting, I started walking, in search of a kiosk or a cafeteria. I was also feeling cold. Finally, spotted a Turkish stall, and went in.
The friendly man in the counter, intrigued with my hanging colour palette and stool poking out from my back, wasn’t offended when I said, I didn’t have cash. He simply asked me to cross the street and go to the Cafeteria in front, which accepted cash as well as card. It was serendipity, that he said so.
The Cafeteria, was like a dream come true. I always tell Srijit, it would be so nice to have a cafeteria, where you can sit in a nice ambience, surrounded by art, artefacts, nice objects and enjoy a nibble. This place was exactly that. All around the colourful wooden coffee tables, there were decorative objects that you would love as a present or would love to decorate your home with. Also not at cut-throat price, pretty reasonable price tags. Seeing my interest, the shop-keeper girl asked me to go downstairs and tour the shop.
There were Indian sandal wood boxes, lamps, Venetian glass objects, car and plane models, paintings and what not. When I returned upstairs, my hot gemuse soup had already arrived. So I sat there slurping my soup and sketching simultaneously, taking advantage of the fact, that I was the only guest that morning in the cafeteria. It drizzled outside, and believe me, I enjoyed my solitude and free time to the fullest. While coming out, I asked the shop keeper if they had a website and she said, “Yes, our shop and website are called, ‘Something Special’”.
And that is exactly how I felt.
On my way back home, in the train stop, I started sketching again as waiting time was almost 20 minutes. A young girl with a book in her hands, smiled and sat down next to me. After a while, another man around 40 or so, also came and sat next to this girl and asked her in English, if this was the stop to go to Wohlen. The girl nodded her head and smiled. After few seconds of silence, he again enquired, “Is there a lot to see in Wohlen?” The girl smiled and nodded her head like an Indian—meaning ‘yes’ and ‘no’ simultaneously. This girl had something about her, which made everyone feel special, maybe the way she looked at you and then smiled? Or perhaps, her aura had a healthy spectrum? The man, commented again to the girl, “Are you studying Psychology?” The girl turned a page in the book and said, “No it is French actually”. Then she asked him, “..And you are coming from which country?” He said, “Brazil” and smiled back. I kept sketching and listening to them, quite amused.
This culture—of talking to fellow passengers and smiling, is not so common here, particularly around Zurich area. People try to avoid looking into each other’s eyes and try not to connect with fellow passengers. Maybe because, ‘Salt’ and ‘Swisscom’ provides connection everywhere. People barely look beyond their mobile screens. If you go a bit outside Zurich and big cities, I sometimes see strangers smiling or greeting each other and trying to do some small talk, occasionally. There is a human connection, which goes beyond wi-fi.
The train came, and I got down in Wohlen. As if to end the day, in a similar note, a stranger from nowhere, held the door open, so that I could enter my building without fumbling for the keys.Tonight, when Srijit and I go back to pick up both kids from their grandparents, my kids will find a mamma, who is smiling like a rainbow, north to south, as if there was ‘Something Special’ in her day today
When Arul goes for his flute classes, Jeet and I usually wait outside the Music School in a Spielplatz (park), till his class gets over, for approx. 35 min. Next to the Spielplatz is a Hens pen, bordered by a fence where Jeet loves to stand and talk to the hens: ‘Kukuru ku’ and touch them if they come closeby. Next to the hens pen is an old Car. It is fixed to the ground…a showpiece. It has a warm yellow ochre farbe and has red patches on its body like a quilt.
During Summer, flowers bloom around the car and the fence. Once Jeet had plucked a flower from there and an old lady sitting in a balcony opposite to the Spielplatz (it was not her garden), shouted at us asking us to leave immediately. She was also not happy with Jeet’s childish screams of joy when he spotted a hen or a dancing flower. I stayed quiet but didn’t leave the Spielplatz. And I asked Jeet not to touch the flowers.
Many a times while waiting in the same Spielplatz, I would sit motionless in pure bliss as the violin teacher would play a Chopin or an Irish folklore. Or when few stray chords of piano would float with the wind like fragrance and reach my ears…. But now that it is Winter, they practice music behind closed windows. So, today I decided to take along my sketchpad and colours and later sat there sketching the old car. Jeet continued his ‘Kukuru ku’ conversation with the hens and rolled in the pebbles till Arul’s class got over.
Many a times, that old lady’s heartless scream overshadows my memory, and I look up towards the empty balcony to check…partly defiant, partly sad. Now that it is Winter, she doesn’t sit in the balcony anymore.
I wonder how some people even if they live in the vicinity of music…still remain unaffected and how one season reigns their heart for way too long….even if you play ‘Four Seasons’ all the time near their ears! There is so much of beauty around….how can we all not get addicted to it?
Even if it is Winter….even if the sky is dark grey in this painting…this season is also beautiful.
And I am happy to welcome you Winter. The hens will still say ‘Kukuru ku’ and Chopin is still being played behind closed windows.
Reinventing my ‘sense of humour’
Just after Arul left for school at 7:45, the bell rang. It was his friend who ran away the moment I said that Arul had already left for school. After 5 min. the bell rang again. I switched on the speaker and was about to say something, when I heard, “Post”. Locking the door behind me, so that Jeet wouldn’t step out, I went downstairs to the postman.
The postman looked at me and said, “Name?” I said, “Bose”, he frowned and looked at me and said, “I have a packet for Müller but not for Bose”.
I looked perplexed and said with a serious face, “But you rang my bell and said Post!” He smiled and handed me a package (something that I had ordered from Amazon). Uhh….humour…..that too from a Swiss postman….during morning rush hour?.....I was stumped!
The postman reminded me of my ex-boss; a Swiss from the French part who would sometimes discuss something very seriously with me, and then would burst out laughing and say, “Brinda, don’t think so much, I was just joking!”. He was just like my own grandfather who always made jokes with straight faces.
Then in the afternoon, after a chains of mini mishaps—Arul dropping one handglove somewhere, Jeet wearing Arul’s shoes and Arul searching everywhere and finally leaving the house with Jeet in Arul’s shoes zipped up inside the buggy and Arul in his tri-cycle wearing one glove, we rushed for his flute class at 14:30.
Arul went for his half an hour class, and ‘moi’—aka soccer mom went for a walk with Jeet.
As we were walking, I noticed a long queue of cars near the Gemeinde Haus, like a mini-traffic jam. When I got a bit closer, I saw a rather unusual scene—a 95+ man was trying to cross the street. He was wearing a long sweater (no winter jacket), his body was bent down, his hands were stable but his feet were shaking miserably—as if vibrating with the wind. He was crossing the road with his walking sticks very very slowly. Immediately concerned, I asked if he needed any help. He didn’t hear me or perhaps didn’t even notice me. But another aged man standing on the other side of the street was watching him with a sense of pride. He frowned when he saw me making enquiries. I stepped aside and followed the 95+ man about 2 m behind him. After just few steps, near a bending which had a very narrow footpath, his legs started shaking miserably once again. A huge lorry was coming down towards him.
The lorry took a nice curve and went its way, the old man with his shaky legs continued his journey and entered a popular restaurant next to the footpath. I peeped in, the restaurant was full of many such grey haired compatriots. Huh! So he was actually going for a party—to have fun! My tensed face broke down to a smile once again.
Who said, the Swiss didn’t have a sense of humour. I think I forgot to smile for a long long time J!
This is from an old neighbourhood where we do not live anymore. This house and shop (in my painting - not uploaded here for privacy reasons) has a story.
Two young boys live here, 7 and 4 years old. They have chinese cut hair covering their forehead, wear beads around their necks and wrists and are unbelievably cute! The older boy (7) is often seen riding his bicycle in the main road (not in the safe side streets)...and is very independent for his age. Just few days back, he was sitting outside the house and selling old books and cassettes for 1 and 2 fr.
The green shop (a bakerei) belongs to his mother, she inherited it from her parents. She is Swiss and told me last time when I visited her shop that she had recently divorced. I remember last year, during a parents teachers meeting, she arrived a bit late and sat next to me. I had to shift few inches away from her, she had been drinking...the odour was unbearable. Her Croatian husband was sent back home by the police when he repeatedly hit his wife. Soon after the divorce, the elder son one day came to school with a broken toe, he was repeatedly tripping and hurting himself unknowingly.
His mother who has a bakerei is much stabler now. Ever time I cross that street, I see her wrapping or adjusting her fresh loaves or decorating the shelves. Fiercely independent, she also picked up her life, loaf by loaf.
Her older son, doesn't bang into doors anymore and like other children, looks happy and naughty all the time. Just sometimes, I catch that faraway look, that lost look, wandering in some Croatian shore perhaps....
A modern day life, with sad and happy moments. A story of loss and yet picking up life, of children who learned to accept 'life' from a young age.... Today there was a brilliant sunshine on that building...and we sat down to paint it in a quick colour sketch.
(Sketch was not uploaded for privacy reasons).
Today, I took both Arul and Jeet for a hair-cut in a newly opened shop close to our home. It is only recently that Arul has started getting haircuts outside Mamma's bathroom hair saloon. And more recently, (to be precise from yesterday), he started applying gel on his hair to be in league with his Italian friends! I wouldn't have known about this 'gel' business, had not the hair-dresser enquired, "Young man, why is your hair so hard here and there?" Arul confessed, "I tried to rub gel on my hair". Just yesterday Srijit had given him a gel tube which he received as a free gift from another newly opened saloon with a Syrian hairdresser. Since both hair-dressers are new, both are competing and have slashed their price tags to very reasonable prices (CHF 20 for men and 15 for kids).
Today, I took Arul n Jeet for a hair cut at the other shop (not with the Syrian hairdresser) but the one where a Yugoslavian lady cuts and runs the shop, and is also a mother of three young boys.
After Arul's hair cut, it was Jeet's turn to mount the chair. And this was going to be his very FIRST hair cut, outside mamma's bathroom salon.
With the black cloth covering his entire body, and the seat pumped up half a meter leveling his face with the mirror, and long black tresses reaching till his brows, he did look like a cute tomcat with a naughty supressed smile :-)
Even the hairdresser paused once a while and smiled.
Jeet would always turn his head and look at me, I would hold his head tight like a clamp, right or left so that the hair-dresser could cut without fearing that Jeet would turn his head all of a sudden or jump out of the seat. Actually, to my surprise he behaved quite like an adult. The joy in his eyes and the 'I am a grown up boy just like dada - look' was quite indulgent....
Once in a while, I too craned my neck and caught a glimpse of 'moi' in the big shiny mirror.
God! With my thin hair tightly clasped with two clips and long hair tightly wrapped in a careless tennis ball shaped bun, I resembled every bit 'Plain Jane'!
When was the last time that I had gone to a parlour??No seriously?
I had to rummage my memory's each and every drawer to remember that it was 3.5 years back when I had last visited a parlour, and had my hair cut short till my chin. It was quite drastic.
But after that, and several previous attempts at 'step cut', 'blunt cut', 'scissor cut' and the likes, I had vainly realised that actually none of the hair cuts would make my cheeks flatter, or my face prettier. So I let my hair grow in freestyle and stopped looking at the mirror (except when I went out for a party or office). And since last year, I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and give myself a 'chinese cut' exactly how my mother used to cut my hair when I was a 7 year old girl.
My mother was good at all things to do with hands - haircut, dress making, knitting, stitching and drawing. As a teenager my mother tried to teach me 'Stitching' - she gave me a table cloth and a design which I had to stitch with 'chain stitch' pattern. After tediously stitching one side (flowers and leaves), the other side I simply painted with a sketch pen and deposited it on my mother's lap as my last attempt. My logic was 'Why not buy a table cloth from the shop'?
Then came 'Knitting' training. I planned to knit a sweater, but it became a rugged muffler with several holes in between (places where I had missed a 'ghor' while knitting) - another failed attempt, after which we both got convinced that perhaps the 'brush' fitted in my fingers best! My mother continued knitting and stitching caps, sweaters, table cloths for Arul and Jeet, Srijit and me...which are treasures forever.
Coming back to my 'hair cutting' skills, since Arul and Jeet were born, I have been grooming their hair every month and was becoming quite a 'pro' in this profession. I had the zzzzz cutter, special set of combs and scissors and Ikea's little white stool inside the bathroom where I made my clients (Arul and Jeet) sit patiently as I gave them a 'bati chant' or a 'Profi cut'.
But today, Jeet really stayed quiet and didn't move much during the haircut (always my worry) with the Yugoslavian lady. He clutched a car in his tiny hands and smiled back at me 'via' the mirror, just like his 8 year old dada.
Both boys are growing up and soon it will be time for another 'hair cut'!
The Marathon Runner
With Zurich Marathon posts all over FB, I got motivated. Also the fact that summer is coming and I can’t hide my accessories behind a padded jacket anymore—gave me the impetus to start jogging. Today was my first day. An hour ago, I got into my jogging pants, kept intact since last two years untouched, unmoved, and left the house with two screaming kids hyper on weekends, to their father. I said I needed half an hour of Nirvana. My neighbour looked at my new costume while coming in and kind of wowed me with his eyes; I beamed and then started jogging. It was cold, looked rainy, but it wasn’t that bad. And then I looked down at the ground.
Brown, moist, cylindrical objects (earthworms) were bordering the footpath. My toes wriggled inside my sneakers and I moved to the middle of the road, hoping cars will see a flash of fluorescent pants on a Sunday morning. But the earthworms had also decided to do the same. It was like a mesh of moving earthworms and me trying to hip hop like Angelina Jolie, trying to avoid the laser beams to reach the jewel. I must divulge a secret here—I am petrified of earthworms. I shrieked and ran in a zig-zag pattern constant looking at the ground and touching it as if it was burning with fire. My entire focus was on NOT stepping into one of them. I took a tangent and instead of covering the full circle around my building and neighbours, I ran back into my home. Srijit was surprised, I had achieved Nirvanna so swiftly. I crosschecked the ridges inside my sneakers (so that none of them were sticking in), did a bit of indoor jogging and slipped into my couch with the laptop again.
Since a very long time I have wanted to devote some time to fitness, but with two kids @ 12 hrs a day, I get no time! Well this was today.
Yesterday was the following:
It is after 9 pm in the night, and I was wandering room to room with the same thought in mind. Earlier during dinner, I tried to eat less and do a bit of dieting; but my body and mind both were revolting, my mind kept chanting only one thing, ‘I am hungry’ and ‘I want something tasty’, second part of the chanting being louder. I ate a Swiss dinner with Spätzli and spinach, but I was feeling empty now. When Srijit is hungry he picks up a healthy snack, like a piece of cheese or joghurt, but I can’t eat cold things in a cold climate. And I have an aversion towards milk (pinched my nose and drank when I was pregnant with Jeet and Arul). Every now and then I need something fried and spicy to open up my creative buds. So, I took out two pieces of frozen samosas, something that I had bought from the Tamilian shop last week and placed them in the oven. With both kids sleeping and husband worrying over world politics, I earnestly settled down in the couch with two hot and spicy samosas. Who said I was dieting?
Got up early, had a cup of tea, and tip-toed out of the house with a rucksack at 6:30, so that kids and husband (he had a day off) would not wake up. Even though the train station is almost next door, I arrived there 10 mins. before my train’s arrival time—eternally conditioned with ‘back up time’ in case of problems, a mental state I am still carrying from India. In Switzerland, trains and bills always arrive on time.
Whenever I manage to go out without kids, I prefer to have some silence and my ‘own space’. Inside the train I am slightly displeased when I have to share my seat with another man. I glance at him with half interest, he is 60+ Swiss, with grey hair and prominent skin folds running down from both sides of his nose till his chin—making his face look exceptionally long. He removes his jacket, sits diagonally and stretches his long legs and then after some forethought takes out a big calculator from his slim black bag and starts punching at some numbers. After a while he stares at it and mutters in Swiss German, something like “well that is how it is” and frowns. Perhaps he is wondering if he could take an early retirement, or afford a vacation in Barbados during Easter with his new girlfriend. I look away.
In the next stop, another man comes in—younger, quite handsome and takes a seat opposite to me. He wraps his fingers around his gold wedding ring, looks at me and then closes his eyes. I presume it has nothing to do with my uninteresting face, but his overall tiredness. I close my eyes too, since it is still dark outside and no one else is interesting enough to describe.
I reach office. Have a meeting with an Editor. She arrives a bit late and is coughing. I am immediately alarmed what if she passes on the ’grippe’ virus to me and then like domino I pass it on to my kids? It would result into two weeks of moaning, no school, doctor, and extra work for me. I am mentally trying to raise my ‘physiological firewall’, to avoid all sorts of viruses. She informs me that it is not a ‘grippe’, just a common cough and cold. I still remain on guard and maintain a distance, until ofcourse when I have to get up from my seat and look at her laptop’s monitor where she is describing a journal’s open access policy. After a while, we start discussing about our sons and their school reports. Her 8 year old son is in class 2 and my 6 year old is in class 1. She tells me, how her elder daughter who is 11 years old is naturally motivated to study and get good marks, needs no prompting to study and is by default a good girl. In contrast, she tells me how she was shocked to see her son’s report card last week and how she tried to explain to him that getting 10 upon 10 in a Maths test is similar to scoring a goal in football. She tells me, that she is already concerned for her boy, who is simply not interested in school matters and what the teacher says. He feels no ‘need’ to impress his parents or teacher. Although she is herself an engineer and her father a Physics Professor, she is worried if her son will be interested enough to finish school. We sit together discuss our agenda and our sons and then part ways.
I leave office a bit early as I have to go to Zurich Zentralbibliothek. The night before, I had already noted down the books I wanted to take and their physical DOI numbers (book shelves). I love the feeling of walking inside a house made of walls of books, stacked like bricks in steel shelves. It is an extraordinary feeling. I hop between second and third floor and manage to collect all nine books on my list. This time I plan to read Max Frisch (1911-1991), Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) and Kafka (1883-1924). The first and last author’s books being my first time. Max Frisch is a famous Swiss dramatist and novelist, whereas Kafka is one of the stalwarts of German literature and Hesse is a German who lived in Switzerland and won a Nobel Prize. The books which I take are all English translations. I leave the library with a heavier rucksack. For me going to the Library is like going shopping, where you get to buy as many lovely dresses as you want but you pay nothing.
On my way back, while walking in the cold Zurich streets with ‘70% Sale’ temptations everywhere, I am naturally allured and end up scanning all floors of Manor and buying a surprise gift for valentine’s day and a black velvet dress (thinking perhaps there will a formal dinner sometime in future). I realise, my cupboard is stacked with many such future dresses, ‘when I will be thinner’, ‘when I will go to the opera’, ‘when I will walk on red carpet’. I repent after the purchase, perhaps buying a bedsheet or a towel would be more useful.
My stomach grumbles and realise that I had no lunch. So I step into MacDonald’s to buy a burger. In the counter, a Punjabi man noticeably happy to spot another brown skin, starts a conversation, “Kya lagta hai, kal election mein koun jitega?” I reply back with a faint smile trying not to encourage further conversations, “no idea”. He replies back still not giving up, “bari muschkil se apne Hindi boli”. I smile and am happy to walk away with my burger wrapped in a tissue paper. Outside I start munching at it and walk behind a couple—a tall lady wearing a short velvet skirt, transparent black strümphose and expensive high heels, shivering. Her partner a grey haired man is walking with a confidence and stride, only people with Mercedes can walk with. I pass by another younger couple and look at them from the corner of my eyes, when I hear the young man repeating audibly for the third time, ‘I will tell them when I have to’. A young girl walking hand in hand with him keeps talking in a dull monotone.
I hurry towards the station, its already 8 pm and my guilt clock is ticking. I look at my wrist watch, a birthday gift from my husband and wonder why he gave it to me.
I cross a Sprüngli shop and think of bribing family with some, but, I don’t want to miss my train so I hurry and feel a bit lost. The station’s underground has changed since my visit. I manage to get into a train leaving for Dietikon last minute.
I open my rucksack and start reading Frisch’s book “An Answer from the Silence”. The first few pages make me smile. It is about a 30 year old man, who since childhood thought that he would either become an inventor, or an artist, or someone very famous and despised anyone who got married and entered ordinary life with a wife and children. Then when he turned 30 he realised that he is indeed an ordinary man, already engaged to a nice Swiss woman. Ten days before his marriage he has a crisis and leaves his home without telling anyone. After an arduous journey he reaches a hill top inn. There he meets and falls in love with a young Danish girl. His outcry against the emptiness of ordinary everyday life is countered by ‘an answer from the silence’ when he meets death face to face, and returns from a dangerous cliff with a frostbitten arm and leg, which may have to get amputated. He no longer feels the burden of having something ‘extraordinary’ in his life to justify his being alive. The Danish girl, turns out to be a married woman, who is pure from her heart and simply cannot stay around her sick husband all the time, visiting Switzerland with her sister. In the end, they (the protagonist, his fiancée and the Danish girl) all sip a cup of tea in the cold winter night and slip into their ordinary lives.
I finished the book in the train from Dietikon to Wohlen and looked outside. There was a snow storm, it was -3 degrees. Inside the train, a young girl entered and sat causally stretching her legs. I looked back twice as she was wearing a red-Indian costume with a feather band on her head, for Fastnacht. I zipped my jacket and prepared to leave the train as it arrived Wohlen. I felt the soft snow crush beneath my winter boots, as I hurried back home to enter my ordinary life.