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Our first vehicle was either an LML Vespa or a Bajaj scooter, followed by a Fiat Padmini or Maruti 800 car. We don’t throw a toothpaste tube away until we’ve squeezed every little bit out of it and distorted the shape of the tube. Ditto for cooking oil bottles, shampoo sachets, etc. When our first television set came home, we put a tilaka just above the screen, before we switched it on. No old t-shirts, napkins, sarees, et al are ever thrown away. A few become our go-to pieces of cloth for dusting; a few lie crumpled under the sink for the house help to use it for anything and everything; a pair of denims gets transformed into a pair of shorts; sarees turn into salwar-kameez or curtains or throws — did we mention the lost socks — left or right, whichever is left, we use it for rubbing our kitchen sinks clean. Our meals outside the home are extremely special (just the likes one at home are) — we avoid ordering a bottle of water, if compelled, we make sure we don’t leave a single drop behind, else we carry the bottle home. Lined up on our kitchen shelves are jars, bottles, etc. of Bournvita, Nescafe, Roohafza, and more — now, holding pasta, turmeric, and Rasna (yes, the latter is still available). Sometimes, just sometimes, when we return from a vacation. We bring with us the tiny bottles of lotion, shampoo, and body wash. Come on, they smell so good and also we paid for them — hint: room tariff. Oh, we love sales, discounts, and bargaining is in our DNA. We’re middle-class Indians. That’s different that over the years, we have begun to call ourselves upper middle-class.

editor’s note

I grew up in a middle-class Indian home. And I must confess (with pride) that all of the above was a part of my growing up and I hold it dear until date; making sure the philosophies, habits, etc. continue to define me. At the same time, I want to talk about the other side of the middle-class.

Rights: All rights reserved. The writing, artwork and photography contained herein may not be used or reproduced without the express written permission of The Indian Trumpet. The views expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of The Indian Trumpet. All efforts have been made while compiling the content of the magazine but we assume no responsibility for the effects arising there from. We take no responsibility of the availability of the products mentioned in the various sections of the magazine. Reprints as a whole or in part can be done only with written permission from The Indian Trumpet quoting “The Indian Trumpet magazine” for texts and pictorial material. Signed articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editor. No responsibility can be taken for the loss of unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or artwork. Contacts: Purva Grover, founder & editor theindiantrumpet.com All queries to be addressed to theindiantrumpet@gmail.com The Indian Trumpet Magazine is released four times a year. It is available to the readers absolutely free of cost on the portal theindiantrumpet.com.

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Pocket money is not a norm in these homes. We ask when we need something and are told why we can or can’t have it. Education loans for further studies are what we believe is the best way to earn a degree. We don’t feel insecure or let down if our parents host our birthday parties at homes, and not at a poolside in a resort — in fact, we look at it as a chance to show our friends how lovely a cook our mums are and how our dads are the best when it comes to hosting games. We save money to buy our first mobile or car, after we’ve bought something special for everyone, who matters to us, with our first salary. We value every handmade greeting card, just as we value every penny we earn or spend. We argue with our elders, but we respect their opinions. We value a trip to Nepal or Thailand or Dubai (they’re affordable destinations we’re told) as much as we enjoy the time we spend with our cousins at our grandparents’ home in the small city, which is a mere bus ride away. Oh, we love the arts and crafts projects courtesy of Best Out of Waste, it is in our DNA. I loved my home back then, one that my parents built with love and hard work. I took the lessons and love and build mine, a few years ago. Will I want to be anything else, other than middle-class? Never. This edition is a beautiful reminder of the lives of many of us. Until, we meet next, happy tooting.

Purva founder & editor editor@theindiantrumpet.com


s r o t i ’ d e t s gue special

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You ask — why did I think of Amit Tandon to be our guest editor for the middle-class special edition? Well, to state the obvious — he’s one of India’s most popular stand-up comedian and his acts that centre on ‘middle-class’ Indians are something we can’t have enough of! But, most importantly, when I approached him to come on board, other than his ‘Sure, Purva. Will be happy’ reply. He asked — ‘If we could go beyond the regular recycling stories of the shirt to a pochcha. Could we talk about how we are taught not to waste anything, parents’ stories of how their lives were tougher, how all resources are shared by family members, et al! ‘ ‘Yes, of course,’ I said. After all, I was looking for an editor, who could ensure that the edition was balanced and valued. Btw, he read up every piece, despite his busy travelling-performing schedule. He even wrote an edit note, which reflects his honesty and humility — two traits of middle-class Indians. Thanks, Amit for making my job easier. It was a pleasure to co-edit The Indian Trumpet with you.


Belonging to a “Middle-Class” society and being “Middle-Class” is like the old 70’s song “Thoda hai Thode ki Zarurat hai” - because we are not the ones, who don’t have anything; we have something, but we don’t have everything. We are the ones who are SANDWICHED. When I say SANDWICHED it means that we as a middle-class clan are scared of people who are a class-wise above us as well as below us. We are concerned about losing our job as well as losing our domestic help. Apparently, both of them have a host of options always available. At my home, my father had an employer and my mother had her employees and both handled their sides with equal care. The other obsession of our parents was our education. They want their children to study well enough to be the best employees in the world. They want failure-proof success for their kids, even if it is a compromised success. It is not our brains that keep us from getting rich, but our DNA. The middleclass is intelligent, skilled and educated enough to make loads of money. But, as soon as we make some money, we start spending time managing it than making more money. Our fathers are experts in ‘investments’ be it Fixed Deposits, Mutual Funds or our all time favourite – Real Estate, but when it comes to making money it is always about a stable job in an MNC that all our relatives have heard about. That’s why while America is a country of entrepreneurs, who created the most amazing companies like Google, Microsoft, Cisco etc., they later hired us to run these companies once they became reputed MNCs.

guest editor’s note

And come what may, this DNA doesn’t go away easily. If you think you are a millennial and different, try this – Next time you buy stuff from the mall, throw away all the packing as soon as you open it. If you don’t blink even once, your DNA has changed.

Rights: All rights reserved. The writing, artwork and photography contained herein may not be used or reproduced without the express written permission of The Indian Trumpet. The views expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of The Indian Trumpet. All efforts have been made while compiling the content of the magazine but we assume no responsibility for the effects arising there from. We take no responsibility of the availability of the products mentioned in the various sections of the magazine. Reprints as a whole or in part can be done only with written permission from The Indian Trumpet quoting “The Indian Trumpet magazine” for texts and pictorial material. Signed articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editor. No responsibility can be taken for the loss of unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or artwork. Contacts: Purva Grover, founder & editor theindiantrumpet.com All queries to be addressed to theindiantrumpet@gmail.com The Indian Trumpet Magazine is released four times a year. It is available to the readers absolutely free of cost on the portal theindiantrumpet.com.

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The advantage of being middle-class is that our dreams are tangible. We don’t have to get too creative in building our bucket lists as the aspirations are normally limited and anything above basic needs is a luxury. A car with a better pick up and a few extra features, an apartment with an extra room or a foreign holiday is all it takes for us to feel we have arrived. Here’s to the class that doesn’t really have too much class, but has manners; who don’t know their wine glasses from Champagne flutes. Honestly, we don’t even care about the right glasses and how to clink them as long as they are complimentary!

Amit Tandon guest editor stand up comedian/ host/ writer. 700 shows across 5 countries tandonamit.com facebook.com/AmitTheComic/


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“it’s in our DNA” .7


Trumpet Blowers, My friends and family know that I can’t eat a single meal without achaar! As a kid, mum would pack it in my lunch box. And now as an adult, I have a selection of achaar bottles on my dining table. Your edition was such a yummy treat. I couldn’t have enough of it. It was colourful and rich. I wish your team loads of luck for creating such editions, which brings us closer to the homeland. I will definitely be back for a second-third helping of The Indian Trumpet. Take care! Suneeta An NRI foodie Food, I have always believed is more than ingredients. As I flipped through your pickles edition, I was convinced that I had been right all along. I was reminded of the pickles that my grandmum used to make once upon a time and how she taught the same recipes to mum. It’s impossible to sum up the taste of the pickles prepared by them, I am certain it was/is not just the spices, but the warmth, love, happiness, and care that made/make the pickles so special. As a grown-up, I long for the emotions attached to cooking with love. I can only hope I can replicate the same for my children. Your edition will encourage many of us to pass on not just the handwritten recipes to future generations, but also the affection that makes relationships stronger, special.

18200+

likes on Facebook, facebook.com/TheIndianTrumpet

Ritu Dubai, UAE

trumpet followers

This is your space. We’d love to know what you have to say about the magazine. Drop us a line at: theindiantrumpet@gmail.com

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Middle-class Indians. The very word conjures up a childhood, which was defined by simple joys. Irrespective of the vehicle that a family owned, a Bajaj scooter or a Maruti 800 or a Contessa — every ride was a joy ride. Irrespective of how often and where we ate — be it an HCF at Nirula’s or panipuri on the street — each meal was special. We would buy new clothes only on occasions — Diwali or Onam or Durga Puja or Christmas. We grew up in happy times. As we grew up, the simple habits of saving (consuming everything to its best capacity) became a part of us, as did humble elements of happiness. Even now, we add water to a shampoo bottle to use every single drop or use an old tee-shirt as a poocha. Why? For, we value it all — resources and relationships. We grew up in a middle-class home, the best home possible. Agree?


Indian the

a bi-monthly e-magazine for NRIs

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A SPACE WHERE WE MAKE NOISE ABOUT ALL THINGS INDIAN

AN E-MAGAZINE THAT CAPTURES THE COLOUR, CULTURE AND CHAOS OF INDIA THAT NRIs CRAVE AND MISS, ONCE EVERY TWO MONTHS

JUST CLICK AND READ FOR FREE Blow the trumpet with us!! To advertise, mail us at

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JOYS OF MIDDLE-CLASS INDIAN DINING Table cloth, check. Mineral water bottle, definitely no! One-by-two soup, please. Complimentary papads, chutneys, and peanuts, of course.

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LIFE CYCLE OF A TEE-SHIRT IN AN INDIAN HOME It’s the poccha now, perhaps its last stage.

follow the noise

WHAT MADE A MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILY IN THE ‘80S HAPPY? The life of my childhood was very simple and very fulfilling.

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FOR THE TOOTHBRUSH HAS A LIFE & AN AFTERLIFE! In a middle-class home, it usually arrives in groups like in a pack of three, as it is kifayati. But, what happens to it when it gets old? So what It gets ready to narrate his ordeals of life to the newbies as it preps itself for an afterlife.

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KUCH JUGAAD KAR LENGE! For, before there were hacks, there was jugaad!

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HERE’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BARGAIN LIKE A PRO How, why & where of the quintessential middleclass Indian trait

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LIVES OF OUR PARENTS WERE TOUGHER They were a generation grappling with postIndependence issues.

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WHEN APPA TAUGHT ME HOW TO HANDLE MONEY Appa passed away eight years ago, but the habit he left behind lives on. Somewhere inside me, that twelve year-old still lives on, alert and conscious, the one who managed a steel dabba of money, all the while asking herself - What if Appa asks me where I spent the money?

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WHEN NOTHING WAS CALLED ‘SECONDHAND’ AND THERE WAS NO SHAME IN SHARING During her annual trip to the in-law’s place, her aunt used to carry Ria’s outgrown dresses for her, who was a year younger than her daughter 62

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WHEN WE LIVED THE SIMPLE, BEAUTIFUL MIDDLE-CLASS LIFE When everything was rationed, yet we never felt we had less — holidays that included train journeys, days that revolved around listening to the radio, a two-wheeler that was the mode of transport, et al.

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WE PICKED YOU UP FROM THE PUBLIC DUSTBIN! How many have you said that to a younger sibling? We’re guilty.


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BECAUSE WE NEVER THROW AN OLD BOTTLE, JAR OR BOX Our eternal and timeless love affair with the pre-loved (used) dibbas! WE LOVE COLLECTING POLYTHENE BAGS! Look under our mattresses! NO ONE DOES IT BETTER THAN WE DO... Middle-class ingenious saving methods fashion fry

THE GREAT INDIAN FASHION JUGAAD “So what if it’s big, it will be good for at leaSt a year, aaram se!”

follow the noise

DO YOU HAVE WRAPPING PAPER LYING UNDER THE MATTRESS? Come on, we all know it helps in removing the wrinkles of the sheet and prepping it for another journey

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joys of middle-class Indian dining TABLE CLOTH, CHECK. MINERAL WATER BOTTLE, DEFINITELY NO! ONE-BY-TWO SOUP, PLEASE. COMPLIMENTARY PAPADS, CHUTNEYS, AND PEANUTS, OF COURSE. words NASRIN MODAK-SIDDIQI

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Once upon a time, there used to be a very sorry excuse of fine dining restaurants in India. A slightly uppity version of a regular eatery, these had ACs, sofas and their tables were dressed with tablecloth. Such a pretty sight. There was glassware too and people were expected to eat with knives and forks. They didn’t. Because eating out was all about the occasion. Of bringing the family together and eating as one. One as in one by two too – because sharing a bowl of soup or rotis and naan was the ultimate expression of love. And then bottled water wasn’t so common – we trusted the municipal corporation blindly for the stuff that ran through the taps. Or maybe, we just thought paying 50 rupees for a bottle was a hideous crime (It still is), but that meant we could save up for cold drinks at the end of the meal. Plain logic. And once the strictly three course meal order was placed (more on that later), one could safely order masala papad to while away time. Some restaurants offered complimentary peanuts in bowls that vanished even before the fifth person could lay their hands on it. Rude looks could rescue a few nuts from those who had helped themselves to a fistful. The thing is… anything free tastes yummier than anything paid - so what if this was just peanuts (Pun intended).

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Then came the one-by-two soups, a concept only Indians can decipher and is close to their hearts. Ask anyone who has travelled outside the country, how they wish they could explain this sharing deal to the others. Life would be so much simpler. Sigh. And


indian belly

Image: Sanket Garade

When the bill arrived, the eldest male member carefully inspected each items charged, sometimes even cross verifying with the menu rates if something felt pricey. Meanwhile, the ladies and the kids were busy eating the ‘meethi sauf’ and packing some in the tissue paper – like the world would end tomorrow. On the way back, it was always time for some meetha paan.

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and the second one was sans it. Similarly for rice, the first round had to be the jeera rice, followed by the ghee and jeera less – steam rice. Fresh lime soda for the elders and soft drink for the younger lot made the whole meal feel like a fest.

while you devoured those desi Chinese soups, the main course arrived. Strictly one piece of paneer or chicken per person – that’s all. Second helping? That could be on the next trip, not this one. Then came the sight of papad, chutney and achar that signalled that your main course is only a few minutes away. Meanwhile, stare at these, wondering what to do with it. The piping hot gravies in small containers arrived next. Mind you, that one pot could easily feed four adults or eight kids alike. The accompanied dal fry was to wash it down – rich and creamy, the gravy was always the star. Rotis and naans were meant to be shared too – first round was the butter laden variant

And then came the much, much, much awaited ‘icecream’ time. All this while, the kids were patiently tolerating the food just for that cup of tutti-frutti ice cream. Thankfully, this one was never shared. Such joys of life. When the bill arrived, the eldest male member carefully inspected each items charged, sometimes even cross verifying with the menu rates if something felt pricey. Meanwhile, the ladies and the kids were busy eating the ‘meethi sauf’ and packing some in the tissue paper – like the world would end tomorrow. On the way back, it was always time for some meetha paan. It’s amazing how such little food filled your tummy and the soul alike. Why don’t our frequent dining out visits and let’s go lunching at this super awesome café that opened recently do the same? No matter how great their food is and how international your palate has become, the joys of the ‘Indian fine dining’ can never be matched. Will someone bring back those days?

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Nasrin Modak-Siddiqi is a writer, foodie, traveller, and movie-buff. She has many stories, some real, others figments of her imagination. On sabbatical from full-time scribing, her current motivators are good trips, meals, books or movies. She writes fiction, clicks photographs and edits old ones to add drama. Find her at continuumera.blogspot.com.


s r o t i ’ d e t s gue special

trumpet lead

WHAT MADE A MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILY IN THE

‘80S HAPPY? words INDIRA ANAND

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The life of my childhood was very simple and very fulfilling. If I think back, I find so many memories of how a middle-class family stayed happy and content and enjoyed life to the fullest. You see, money in those days was simply not associated with happiness. A certain income was expected every month, and a certain lifestyle was built around that income. And yet, we were deliriously happy.

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TELEVISION was a

special treat reserved for the Sunday movie. A family or two in the entire building would have a TV in their home and on Sunday evening, those households would open their doors and hearts to the entire apartment complex to cram into the living room and watch the movie together. Was it the collective positivity of so many people in one room that generated that vibe of happiness? Who knows! But it remains to this day a special memory of a bunch of people laughing together, crying together, sighing together, enjoying every minute of the movie together. The other occasions the TV would come to life – to watch Chitrahaar on Wednesday and Chayageet on Friday. Or to watch the beautiful Tabassum interview celebrities in flawless Urdu and share epic scenes from movies in India’s first ever talk show Phool Khiley Hain Gulshan Gulshan.

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EATING OUTSIDE or

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ordering food was simply unheard of. Families survived on fresh food cooked every day, the lack of a refrigerator in most households making it impossible to cook more than necessary. Who knew fresh food would become such a rarity in the decades to come! Restaurant food was reserved for that rare trip to the movies, which included a treat at the Udipi restaurant next door.


SALARY DAY was TELEPHONE

The ring of a didn’t always mean the call was for the owner of the phone. Typically one in every ten or fifteen homes owned a phone and it was very common for the entire apartment complex to have knowledge of this telephone number. Thinking back, this was one of the reasons my father was probably vehement about not using the phone for more than a minute or two. He was quite conscious of the fact that the instrument served as an emergency service for so many other families and he was responsible for its availability.

super special. Almost every earning member of the family made it a point to commemorate the occasion with a Dairy Milk or batata vadas hot from the vendor, or anything else as simple as that but no less special. Children would wait for their parents to arrive with treats. An old song from the black and white times, “Din hai suhana aaj pehli tareek hai, khush hai zamanaa aaj pehli tareek hai� stands testament to the joy every first of the month brought. Not for the salary so much as the treats and the simple joys of celebrating salary day!

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NEW CLOTHES

were reserved only for occasions. There was no concept of buying clothes just because we felt like, or there was a sale on. Hand-me-downs were eagerly awaited. I would admire some of my sister’s clothes and eagerly await the day they tired of it enough to hand it down to me. It felt so grown-up to wear an elder sister’s clothes!

NEW YEAR’S EVE

trumpet lead

Every was a chance for all families to cook up their specialties for the entire building and then assemble on the terrace for an evening of games, song and dance and a giant pot luck dinner that would have been cooked by twenty or thirty different families.

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RECEIVING LETTERS

made our day! Relatives residing in our native village or in different cities would write about the latest news on their end. I still recall my mother sitting down to reply to all of them and share what was happening on our end of the world. Every letter always began with the word “Safe� on the top right corner of the letter, to let the reader know there was no bad news in the letter and it was just a general update.

GUESTS from far and wide just dropped

in. Lack of mobile phones and telephones simply did not allow for prior notice. They would just arrive like a pleasant surprise and suddenly the day would turn into a frenzy of activity as the household got busy preparing snacks and entertaining guests with games and chitchat. No one ever frowned at anyone for showing up unannounced and there was never a lack of hospitality.

Winter was the signal for

BADMINTON nets

and a rudimentary court drawn out of chalk powder to appear. We would play tournaments all of winter, enjoying the weather and the game. In fact, it was how my sister met her husband. Love bloomed on the badminton court for them and the rest is history!

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As I write this, each memory washes over me like a warm salve, serving to remind me how lucky I am to have at least experienced those glorious days. Today’s generation will never know the joy of watching television with ten other families, or savouring a small sliver of Dairy Milk with siblings and parents. But the fact that such a generation, such a time once existed gives me hope. Like old fashions come back as today’s hip trend, who knows‌ one day old lifestyles may become the norm. And the children of today just might get a glimpse into the simple life of the past that brought great joys.

Indira is settled in Dubai for the last 19 years along with her husband. She works in IT Operations. Her hobbies include cooking, reading, travelling the world, and other creative pursuits. A kidney transplant in 2010 changed a lot for Indira including her outlook to life and learning to live fully and in the moment. In her non-existent spare time, she dabbles in writing. She writes stories inspired by real life events for SiyaWoman. On her blog mykidneybeans. com, Indira writes fiction and about strong women who have made it through everything. She has also published an e-book on Amazon.

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LIFE CYCLE OF A TEE-SHIRT IN AN INDIAN HOME IT’S THE POCCHA NOW, PERHAPS ITS LAST STAGE words AANANDIKA SOOD

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I landed in a bag where a few other stain-laden items resided. I met a tee shirt that had belonged to her brother, a vest that had been father’s and one of mother’s kurta that was faded in portions.

Aanandika Sood aspires to be the rolling stone that gathers a lot of moss. After 8 years of writing copies and columns, editing and scripting stories and honing her PR skills, she is now playing the part of a freelance writer and a mommie. She lives in Kolkata, blogs at aanandika. blogspot.in and writes on anything that stimulates her mind and merits comment.

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It was a year or two when I was gifted to Netra on Rakhi by her brother who had purchased me from a shop at a huge mall. Her mom did not let her begin wearing me till about a couple of months later, though the girl had immediately confessed her undying love for me in front of the whole wide world as soon as she had rummaged me out of a glittering paper in which her brother had wrapped me and presented to her with a couple of other things. I was initially given the prime position among the unused clothes that mother would keep in drawer number 4 of the brown mahogany chest in Netra’s room. It wouldn’t be a long wait till the time I reached the second drawer and know what love and adoration was. It was the time for the Pujas. Netra needed a new dress everyday for the next seven days and mother had paired all of us from number four and put in number two for easy access. Netra took me up one day and then there was no looking back. I was full of pride and that day I think my colours, pink, yellow and white shone with an extra hint of glamour. I was matched with a pair of pink shorts. To be honest, initially I found them to be a bit drab and lent them some of my sheen. By evening we had become friends. If you lie around snuggled with someone the whole day, its hard not to begin to like them, you see. Anyhow! The evening was full of joy and cheer as many kids came around to the house and then all of them stepped into the huge lawn of the apartment complex where we lived. Before Netra set out, mother clicked a picture of all the friends together. I think we were looking the best. Netra got a lot of compliments that day, from her friends, uncles and aunties. It was sheer joy to see the kid happy and I basked in that happiness as well. Next day I was sent for washing. Mother ironed me and put me back in drawer number 4. I began to be taken out more frequently when Netra was visiting friends or going to a mall with the family. I must have become full of myself as I realised that I was being favoured over many other past loves, because what happened next can’t be explained otherwise but as a punishment.

But that was not to be the end of my woes. While she was eating her food, another little girl who was running in circles near her stumbled and held on to her for support making her lose her balance. The plate of food in her hand came flying at me and I was soaked with some Manchurian, pasta and strings of noodles stuck to me. Everyone looked at me in horror. I had tears in my eyes. The soy sauce stung my eyes and I cried pink tears. An aunty took Netra to a washroom to get food off me. The dark blue jeans were not looking pretty or anything but you could hardly make out that such an accident had happened to them once they were wiped with a wet towel. Netra was in a state of shock. I think she was scared of mother finding us in this condition because as soon as we reached home she bolted to her room and changed into a dumpy old night suit. It even had holes in it! I lay there in a corner of the room till the cleaning lady discovered me the next day and handed me to mother. I thought she would have a solution for my miseries (Mothers generally do for everything, in case you had failed to notice) as she tried to scratch some of the dried sauce off me with her nails. With a nod of her head and sad eyes she soaked me in a soothing solution of detergent and stain remover. I did not feel well for days. I too was washed and sunned thrice in the hope that the huge stain at my centre would evaporate but to no avail. Alas! That did more harm then good as my threads became weak from all the exercise and I could feel I had lost my shape whenever Netra donned me. Now she would wear me inside the house. Gradually such occasions too became rare until one day I landed in a bag where there were a few other disfigures and stain-laden items resided. I met a tee shirt that had belonged to her brother, a vest that had been father’s and one of mother’s kurta that was faded in portions. Father’s vest had seen good times but now had become old and lost both its shape and colour. It helped me regain some balance after I was aghast at this treatment. This, it told me, was the last stage of our journey in this world. Soon I will be a rag that would be used to wipe this and polish that. I write this as I await my end. I am now ready to meet my maker.

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Netra was headed for a birthday party to a restaurant and mother asked her to take out something in a darker colour. She refused and an argument ensued between them about light colours, stains and I caught the term ‘spoiling her dress’ as well. Mother gave in after a while and Netra donned me with a pair of blue jeans. I was smirking at a dark blue top with something written on it, which she seemed to be approaching but then picked me.

The party was full of sounds and loud music. There were games first and then came cake cutting. It was then that my nightmare began. After the birthday girl had been fed some cake by her friends they all started to put the icing on each other. While Netra tried to dodge someone’s hand the cake in her hand fell on me. She took a paper napkin and tried to dislodge the icing as neatly as possible. Though my heart was in my mouth, I was pretty okay after been washed at the basin and scrubbed with a tissue paper.


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words ASHMITA BANSAL

for the toothbrush has a life & an afterlife! s r o t i ’ d e t s gue special

,

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IN A MIDDLE-CLASS HOME, IT USUALLY ARRIVES IN GROUPS LIKE IN A PACK OF THREE, AS IT IS KIFAYATI. BUT, WHAT HAPPENS TO IT WHEN IT GETS OLD? So what IT GETS READY TO NARRATE HIS ORDEALS OF LIFE TO THE NEWBIES AS IT PREPS ITSELF FOR AN AFTERLIFE.


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Every morning brings with it one particular task for all of us (well, most of us) that marks the start of the day and guarantees our mother’s permission to have breakfast, that is, the up-down, swish-swoosh, filling our mouth with froth ritual of brushing our teeth. And one of the key players in this ritual, which is seldom given its due importance due to presence of several alternatives (applying toothpaste on finger or reminiscing past with the good old neem twigs), is the object whose hair we put in our mouth, the toothbrush. This six inch long, oral hygiene instrument makes way as a toothbrush in a house, but ends up being just a brush as time goes by. In a middle-class home, it usually arrives in groups like in a pack of three, as it is kifayati. Then starts the war of colours, who will get the blue one and who will end up with the green. However, the excitement of a new toothbrush, as ordinary as it maybe, does exist as if it will make our pearly whites whiter or our breath will smell like spring. Moreover, if it comes with an advance tongue cleaner and criss-cross bristles, my-my!

You see, when we abandon a toothbrush when the bristles become too weak for us or we simply succumb to a new variety with stronger grip and bristles that reach every nook and corner of our mouth, the toothbrush determines to stay behind (or we are too lazy to throw it out). We are a hilarious bunch as we think we will be determined to clean everything around us with dedication so strong that can break mountains. We imagine ourselves sitting cross-legged or bent down, toothbrush at the go, layered with the cleaning agent, scrubbing that stubborn corner of the floor vigorously. As we all know it, that rarely happens. Unless we have committed a blunder, which usually translates into not completing a task assigned by our parents on time, we are assigned yet another task that involves sweat, dirt and despair (on the part of the kids of course!). We are given the tinniest of objects i.e. the toothbrush and given the largest or the hardest surface

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So what happens to the old one? A toothbrush, no matter how old and ready to narrate his ordeals of life to the newbies, seldom finds itself in the garbage bag ready for its afterlife. In fact, it is right there, staring at your face at some corner in the bathroom or kitchen or

next to all detergents and soups, ready to embark on an all-new journey, the dirt cleaner! That’s right, it stays there, day after day, accumulating dirt on its bristles so that one day us humans comes across objects with tiny crevices full of dust or grease marks too sensitive for a steel scrub.


YOU SEE, EVEN WHEN WE ABANDON A TOOTHBRUSH, IT STAYS DETERMINED TO STAY BEHIND to clean i.e. the floor or mother’s jewellery. So our childhood mostly goes in dealing with the toothbrush as it is and its alter-ego, the mighty cleaner. However, the question that still remains, why not get rid of it? Well the answer is very simple, “kaam aa jaega”. Seventy per cent of the things in a middle-class household whether it is ton of plastic bags, rubber bands, cardboard boxes, old textbooks, screws and nuts, a million plastic containers and so on continue to make a permanent presence only because of this one absolutely absurd theory ‘kaam aa jaega’.

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The ‘kaam’ that toothbrush performs when it is no longer concerned with the tooth is yet to be discovered because one or two toothbrushes as cleaning agents is comprehensible but 4 or 5 lying in all possible corners of the house, abandoned and forgotten is something that we will never understand. However, there might be something else in store when it comes to toothbrushes. We are all the frontrunners when it comes to best out of waste contest (or at least the waste). It makes one wonder what more purpose shall this plastic stick serve. Can it a science project on variety of toothbrushes, involving the history of toothbrushes, how they came into being and how they took the form of the electric toothbrush that reduces all effort we might have put in to move our hand in trying to clean our mouth properly? Or can we become artists and invent DIY projects that hero these underrated toothbrushes? Or can we finally put these to use as cleaning agents that are otherwise abandoned for infinity? The simple, humble, no fuss toothbrush always has a long way to go (because of our laziness and ‘kaam’). It is manufactured with world-class technique, precision and quality (or at least one may think), packaged in plastic and cardboard to be taken out conveniently by the user as the package is marked with markings which helps us create a cut along the outline. It is transported to retailers in trucks and tempos so that

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the clever and eccentric retailer can sing accolades of the new brand in town (and of the profits he’ll make as a consequence). Then it finally makes its way into our homes, three packets or three each because it saves 23 rupees. It goes through the life ordeal of cleaning out candy bits and samosa remains out the brushed only once but claimed to be brushed twice teeth. It lives through the monotonous routine day after day until Miss Impressive Tongue Cleaner arrives and the toothbrush is ‘brushed’ aside. With all its strength and determination it stays, waiting to be picked and remembered, of its soft bristles, vibrant colour and convenient grip, also knowing that day won’t arrive again. But the journey never ends and it never grows old. It acquires a position that is permanent and somehow important but is never acknowledged as it starts with froth and plaque and ends with dirt.


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kuch jugaad kar lenge! FOR, BEFORE THERE WERE HACKS, THERE WAS JUGAAD! words INDIRA ANAND

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IT’S A SALUTE TO FINDING SATISFACTION WITHIN YOUR MEANS. IT’S A TOAST TO THE SPIRIT OF A NATION THAT REFUSES TO SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS AND CHOOSES TO IMPROVISE INSTEAD. IT’S USING SOMETHING AS INSIGNIFICANT AS A SAFETY PIN AND ELEVATING IT TO NEW HEIGHTS.

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Long before social networking arrived on the scene, long before videos were made of what to do with plastic bottles or straws or paper clips or old tyres, long before the word “hack” was coined by the rest of the world, there was Jugaad.

It’s using every toothpaste tube to the absolute last squeeze. It’s diluting every shampoo bottle so not a drop goes wasted.

So what exactly is Jugaad?

It’s a student using a clothes iron to boil eggs for breakfast.

It’s a salute to finding satisfaction within your means.

It’s reusing every single container to an inch of its destruction.

It’s a toast to the spirit of a nation that refuses to settle for anything less and chooses to improvise instead.

It’s the corner shop set up solely to fix the straps of chappals and repair non-cooperating zips.

It’s a hat off to the sheer creativity of a multitude that has great thinkers all over the world stumped.

It’s the man walking down the street with something that looks like a stringed instrument and uses it to magically fluff up old mattresses.

It’s a matter of pride for any Indian to utter the phrase, “Arey not to worry, kuch Jugaad kar lenge.”

It’s using pockets of old pants to become toothbrush and spoon holders.

It’s a rebellious movement that laughs in the face of challenges. It’s the embodiment of ideas that defy logic and yet come to life just because one person decides to try something completely out of the box. It’s the culture of reusability, of sustainability, of being mindful of wastage.

It’s using a bike helmet as a shield against pungent onions. It’s creating a hole in a chair when your grandmother can’t squat on the Indian toilet anymore. It’s using something as insignificant as a safety pin and elevating it to new heights.

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IT’S REUSING MILK COVERS TO PACK LEFTOVERS. IT’S USING HOT SAND TO ROAST PEANUTS AND PUFF RICE – ONE OF THE BEST METHODS OF “FRYING” AND HEAT RETENTION. It’s reusing milk covers to pack leftovers. It’s using sambar powder when you run out of pav bhaji masala. It’s an entire nation of cricket fans, who’ve played cricket without ever buying a single stump. It’s carefully opening gifts without spoiling the wrapping paper to reuse it at a later time. It’s saving every scrap of paper in the house and selling it to the raddiwala. It’s collecting all old clothes in the house to give to the bhandi wali in exchange for new shiny steel vessels.

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It’s stitching up old t-shirts to become soft bathmats. It’s using hot sand to roast peanuts and puff rice – one of the best methods of “frying” and heat retention. It’s so much more than that though. Hack is a word. Jugaad is an emotion.

Indira is settled in Dubai for the last 19 years along with her husband. She works in IT Operations. Her hobbies include cooking, reading, travelling the world, and other creative pursuits. A kidney transplant in 2010 changed a lot for Indira including her outlook to life and learning to live fully and in the moment. In her non-existent spare time, she dabbles in writing. She writes stories inspired by real life events for SiyaWoman. On her blog mykidneybeans. com, Indira writes fiction and about strong women, who have made it through everything. She has also published an e-book on Amazon.

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s r o t i ’ d e t s e gu special

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HERE’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BARGAIN LIKE A PRO HOW, WHY & WHERE OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL MIDDLE-CLASS INDIAN TRAIT words BHAVNEET BHATTI

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YOU COULD CALL IT A SKILL THAT IS ACQUIRED, LEARNT, PRACTISED AND MASTERED OR YOU COULD CALL IT AN ART THAT IS INHERENTLY A PART OF YOU, IF YOU WERE RAISED IN THE INDIAN MIDDLE-CLASS FAMILY. CALL IT AN OCD, A SUPER SHOPPING SKILL, A SOCIAL EMBARRASSMENT AT TIMES OR SIMPLY A WAY OF LIFE – THE GREAT INDIAN SKILL OF BARGAINING IS A QUINTESSENTIAL TALENT TO BE ABLE TO TRULY REPRESENT THE INDIAN MIDDLE-CLASS. BARGAINING AT FLEA MARKETS IS SOMETHING MOST OF US HAVE DONE, HOWEVER THERE IS MORE TO BARGAINING THAN JUST SAVING A FEW BUCKS. FROM WHERE TO BARGAIN, HOW TO BARGAIN AND WHY TO BARGAIN, HERE IS ALL THAT YOU WOULD WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE GREAT INDIAN BARGAIN. FROM VEGETABLE VENDORS TO DUTY FREE AT AIRPORTS - WE BARGAIN EVERYWHERE!

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If you are a true Indian middle-class prodigy, you could bargain everywhere! From sabjiwala and autowala to the local grocery shops, departmental stores, malls and even the duty free at airports (been there, done that!). Bargaining with the vegetable vendor would come naturally even if you are clueless about the prices and is an easy learning ground for the beginners. Bargaining at the local stores is one level up because here you need to convince the shopkeeper about how MRP is not the final word and discount on MRP is your birth right. For the ones who like to take the game a few notches higher, bargaining at high end brand stores in the upmarket malls is definitely a challenge as it involves swallowing a lot of pride besides the risk of being disowned by your shopping mates. And finally ‘only for the bargain champs’ is the art of bargaining at the duty free shops. What makes the level hardest is the immense pressure of ‘look like Maya Sarabhai and be like Monisha’ or in simpler words the challenge of pulling of a bargain while posing all elite and affluent. But the bargain champs weave the magic of words and strike a bargain so smooth that the shopkeeper would rather feel the privilege of being the chosen one! And no, the opportunities don’t end here; the real bargain master would exhibit the talent even on the foreign lands. Converting every cost label into Indian currency, comparing how much it would cost back home and then bargaining with the shopkeeper in a language you can barely speak or understand are a few skills that the bargain squads are best at. So right from your street to the next exotic vacation shopping, you can really bargain everywhere possible. And for those stuck at home could explore the opportunity of striking a ‘deal’ on the online shopping portals.


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JUST A FEW BUCKS OR PACIFYING OUR EGO - WHY DO WE BARGAIN? The reasons could vary from one bargain genius to another. While some might only be after the tiny monetary gain, for those who know beyond, would understand how money is only at the surface. Saving a couple of bucks harms no one and for the homemakers in the middle-class Indian family, the habit of bargaining is also an output of the pressure that comes from dire need to make the ends meet with a fixed monthly budget. But for those who grow from middle-class households to affluence, yet cling to the habit of bargaining, the reasons are more than just a few bucks for sure. For this class of bargainers, it is more about satiating an inner urge to convince the shopkeeper to bring down his quote. From soothing the ego to the joy of getting something extra in the same price, all become reasons to bargain. Besides these two, another category of bargainers are the ones who bargain just for the sake of it. This class of bargainers have no rational reasons to bargain, it is neither the money nor the ego but probably a compulsive habit to reject the shopkeepers quotes. If you were to closely observe this breed of bargainers you would realise that how the object of their interest shifts to winning the bargain argument than really the quality of product being purchased. ‘Bought at a lower price’ becomes way more important than ‘what I bought’!

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RULES OF THE GAME - HOW DO WE BARGAIN? Every. Way. Possible. While there are no set formulae to crack the code but a few rules of the game could help. From the emotional appeal to the rational one, striking a bargain requires using all the tricks you can pull out from the bag. The emotional ones include everything from making instant relation to weaving imaginary stories about how that one bargain would change your life. The start could be ‘bhaiya please’ or the very famous ‘na appki na meri..’ (neither your quoted price nor mine..rather a middle price). Imaginary stories could be about how you saved all year for this one dream item that you need today and have run short of only a few bucks, the next one could be how it is your shopping debut and you need to prove your mettle with a super bargain and so on. The rational appeals are different. Rather neat and mostly on point. The first one usually is the offer to buy in bulk. For instance if one pair costs ‘x’ then buying a bulk has to be at a lesser price. Another logical approach to bargaining is getting more customers to the shop. You get this one item at a cheaper rate and you promise to get your gang to be at this one shop. While one out of the many emotional and rational appeals is sure to work if you are in a local market situation but the last trick of the trade is always ‘the fake walk-away’. This requires extreme confidence and the bargain champs exhibit in abundance. Inability to convince the shopkeeper for desired bargain is dealt with pretence of walking away and preferably to a neighbouring shop- the trick would have the shopkeeper giving into your demand. Whatever might be the approach, emotional or rational, testing the waters before you take a dip is the key to bargain. Whether the persuasion is worth it, whether the product in question is worth it and above all, the bargain you get; is that really worth all the trouble. All these should be on your check list while striking the bargain. Hope you have a great bargain!

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If you love to eat then you’d do anything to be in the classroom of Bhavneet Bhatti. For this assistant professor at the School of Communication Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh is likely to reward you for your good performance with a lovely meal. Meals and capturing memories surrounding each is what she loves the most, followed by researching (she is a PhD) & teaching. Also, these days she is back to romancing the words and fall in love with one of her oldest passions, writing.


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s r o t i ’ d e t s e gu special

R U O F O S E LIV E R E W S T N PARE

R E H G U TO

I

CE PENDEN . E D N I T TOO H POS LLEGES NG WIT A I H L C P P F S. A O R DEBATE SHARE TION G R N A E R W T I E O R N S E T THIS W ERE A G ERATION HAS I THEY W N E G O UT OUR L BHEERO SSUES. B ds VISHA wor

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One summer afternoon in 2008 when the sun shone and glittered in Andheri, I braved the sweltering heat and looped around to find my way towards Infinity Mall. It was sheer luck that I bumped into an elderly gentleman who gave me directions to the mall. Conversation veered towards the youth, education and how life has changed for Indians in the country. It was a gentle conversation on how things have panned out better for my generation. It was not the usual outburst, fired like gunshot, on how life was tougher back then or how today’s youth tend to take things lying down when our elders had no choice but to walk a tightrope. “You belong to the younger generation who have more opportunities, unlike our times where everything was tough,” he said. “You can always start off in a call centre to earn a cool salary.” The words of encouragement were designed to lift the spirits and it made me ponder over how the lives of our parents really were tougher. It was a rough time to be young. Unfortunately, we still live in world of inequality which holds true particularly

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for women living in villages, where falling in love or getting married to their prince charming is a crime. There was a time when gender discrimination in education was rampant in India, where children hailing from the scheduled castes were the underdogs and denied the right to sit in the same classroom as the Brahmins. They (the scheduled caste) would walk long distances to access this privilege called education. Such a high price to pay. Today, a bunch of friends are able to share a rickshaw to school or college, many can afford the luxury of bikes or scooters thanks to the largesse of their parents. Can you image our parents wheezing on the Indian roads on their bikes or wearing branded denim? As a child, I abhorred sitting at the dinner table where every single day I stared at a plate of rice, which seemed like a mountain and dropped grains on the floor. Dad berated me and said that he had it tough walking on bare feet to school, and the food that I took for granted was a rarity that he’d craved. I recall him saying that if my grandfather were alive, I would have been whipped to pick every grain that lay scattered on the floor.


Earlier generations were oblivious to the world of mobile phones, social media or WhatsApp, even a landline was a distant dream. Today, communication is fast, easy and reliable. Just think about one parent who crossed an ocean to work in a foreign land and was far removed from their home in India. The only way for parents to communicate with each other in those days was old-fashioned penmanship, ink on paper. They poured their hearts out to their better halves who waited months for every letter. It was a long wait for the postman to drop the letter at the doorstep. No wonder it was romantic, unlike instant love in the present day. In the age of demonetization or the dreaded GST, we whine about almost everything, from the traffic to the tiring queue in front of the ATM and the rising cost of living. The current generation is unlikely to pay attention to the tough times faced by their elders when an Independent India took birth in 1947. Dreams were sacrificed, they had no choice in a complex world where choice was restricted by caste or religion. Aspirations that we take for granted today would have meant treading on the blurred lines embedded in India’s cultural ethos. Limited exposure, social and cultural barriers such as caste or colour marked the lives of the 60s, 70s and 80s generation. Girls education was never a priority and girls were the legitimate scapegoats in comparison to the entitled male family member, who was never asked to sacrifice going to school. A girl had little say in decisions about her own life. Her fate was sealed the day she was born. How much has changed today, particularly in the villages? Despite everyone owning a handset, we are yet to see a shift in our attitudes. It would be fair to say that life has toughened our parents with the ability to weather every storm, despite the lack of resources or facilities. They never had it easy. With their measly salaries, it would have taken them ten years to earn what an MBA graduate is offered today

after placement. The current generation crack and buckle at the slightest pressure while our elders are more balanced emotionally and mentally. With no Internet decades ago, it was us children who swelled into action to knock on the door of the neighbour with the sugar or milk bowl to make the evening cup of tea. Now, a chat message on Facebook would do the trick, ordering food from outside or pinging the neighbour online. Deal done! But, who says that we don’t have our share of struggles? The competition to achieve from school to college and as a working professional, puts so much pressure on us. We have to prove ourselves every single day. True, we have WiFi at the touch of a button, but we face increasing depression, triggered by this insanely competitive world that rips us apart. It will sadden you to read about the suicides of students who fail their exams. One thing that irks me is the constant comparison by many elders on our respective lives and throwing the ‘R for Respect’ argument. I disagree with that phrase, but that does not mean a lack of respect. Age is no entitlement where elders decide for us when we should marry or whether to divorce if things go awry. The harsh life of the older generation is no reason to muzzle the personality or identity of the current crop. While our parents have sacrificed a lot and were denied the luxuries that we enjoy, one cannot dispute the fact that the young generation is hard working, dedicated and believes in pursuing dreams despite facing tough opposition. It’s no easy life or cake walk for us in an insecure global environment where jobs are not guaranteed and relationships are not made in heaven. We want our elders to guide us in juggling our life and relationships but it shouldn’t come with the emotional diktat ‘because I told you so’. Class, caste or hierarchal lines shouldn’t be imposed, nor should rigid structure.

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Vishal Bheeroo has worked as a journalist for English publications in Mauritius and is currently a freelance journalist. He loves to write & blog about all things related to India. He loves Indian cinema and dreams of making a short film, someday. He is currently working on a rom-com novel and a script for a short film. He is a huge Amitabh Bachchan fan. He loves poetry, travelling and reading. He is currently based out of India but has plans to return home, someday soon.


when nothing was called ‘second-hand’ and there was no shame in sharing

DURING HER ANNUAL TRIP TO THE IN-LAW’S PLACE, HER AUNT USED TO CARRY RIA’S OUTGROWN DRESSES FOR HER, WHO WAS A YEAR YOUNGER THAN HER DAUGHTER words SUCHIRA NANDI PURKAYASTHA SUCHIRA NANDI PURKAYASTHA With the sweet aroma of night jasmine wafting in evening air that has started to turn chilly, Durga Puja announced its joyous arrival. Time for Meghali’s parents to spruce up their house before her cousin trudges in with her uncle and aunt. However, for her, it was time to count the hours before father returns home from office. After all, her friend Lisa had bragged about having been gifted with three pretty frocks already. “Wow, your hair has grown quite long,” squeaked Ria while rushing to greet her cousin. Meghali’s uncle and aunt had just entered their house.

desi lit

“You must all be so tired after that long train journey,” granny came down from the terrace. She was carrying the glass jar containing the children’s favourite pickle. Uncle and aunt touched granny’s feet to seek her blessings, while Ria softly planted a kiss on the cheeks. “Come to my room. I will show you all the Puja edition books that I had bought yesterday,” Meghali dragged Ria into her room. Asterix, Chacha Choudhury, Suktara, Enid Blyton, ... – all lay on the bed, with the colourful covers reflecting the mellow sunrays that were streaming in through the half-open wooden window. “This is for you.” Meghali handed her cousin a gift wrapped in glistening blue papers. As Ria carefully unwrapped the pack, the world of Agatha Christie and Michael Crichton waited to be explored. Outside her room, Meghali’s mother bought out the dresses that she had safely tucked away inside the Godrej almirah

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Image credit:Satish Krishnamurthy/flic.kr/p/bHbut8

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MEGHALI BROUGHT OUT A LIGHT BLANKET THAT HER MOTHER HAD STITCHED BY LAYERING THE DISCARDED COTTON SARIS. THE SNUG BLANKET SMELT OF HER MOTHER’S LOVE.

the earlier night. Her aunt was emptying the heavy suitcase of new clothes bought for grandma and others in the family. “I will dazzle like a royal princess in this gathered navy blue frock dress. Thank you, aunty,” gushed an elated Meghali. “She’s growing up really fast,” quipped her mother. What she left unsaid was that the bag full of Ria’s dresses will help Meghali’s parents to save some money from their budget. During her annual trip to the in-law’s place, her aunt used to carry Ria’s outgrown dresses for her, who was a year younger than her daughter. A few were fit for her weekly drawing classes, a few for the swimming pool, while a few others for playing with friends in the neighbourhood. But all carried the warmth of her adorable cousin. It was after all becoming increasingly hard on Meghali’s father to run the household on a single income. Was it not the other day when her father had refused a Barbie set. Meghali’s friend had shown her newly acquired doll when she had gone visiting after the exam. She had returned home and asked her father for the same during his next office trip. Her small town shops do not store such exquisite dolls.

desi lit

“Could you locate the English Grammer book by PK Dey and the algebra book by KP Bose that you used to suggest to your students before joining this state government job?” Uncle was scouring the bookshelf. He had wanted the two books from his younger

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brother to help Ria build a strong foundation. The bookshelf has been recently dusted and covered with a well worn but nicely washed dupatta. The hard-bound books were giving out a musty smell but hid many priceless treasures. Meghali’s father used to reach out to his beloved books when Meghali or Ria needed a few necklaces strung with pearls of wisdom. His eyes gleamed as he travelled back in time to his teaching profession days when he used to scour the lanes and bylanes of College Street in the City of Joy for picking up gems hidden in a stack of rustling yellowing pages. Dark clouds had been hovering on the horizon since evening today. The electricity voltage, which seemed to be in sync with the thunderstorm raging outside, snapped as dinner was being served. Hailstones that carpeted the portico flashed in the lightning. Enthusiastic voices rose a few notches inside the dining

room to drown the rains pounding the tiled roof above their heads. “Let us all enjoy a candle-lit dinner tonight,” winked uncle. “Gobble down your food fast, sister. The setting is just right for ghost stories from grandma,” Ria nudged Meghali below the table. “Old sayings never prove wrong. Goddess Durga along with her four children is arriving on a boat this time.” Grandma was opening her ‘potli’ of mythological tales. Meghali brought out a light blanket that her mother had stitched by layering the discarded cotton saris. The snug blanket smelt of her mother’s love. As she made the bed that she shared with grandma, she pulled in an extra cushion from the sofa to tuck under her head. She has many stories to share with Ria over the next few days now.

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Having fallen in love with travelling right from her very childhood, Suchira Nandi Purkayastha has jumped on a truck, stepped on a rickety bamboo raft, flown amidst the clouds in her journey of self discovery. Thanks to her father’s transferable job, she has enjoyed the environs of five schools and three colleges. This communications professional believes in soaking in the myriad hues of diverse cultures.


s r o t i ’ d e t s gue special

when we lived the beautiful,

simple middle-class life WHEN EVERYTHING WAS RATIONED, YET WE NEVER FELT WE HAD LESS — HOLIDAYS THAT INCLUDED TRAIN JOURNEYS, DAYS THAT REVOLVED AROUND LISTENING TO THE RADIO, A TWO-WHEELER THAT WAS THE MODE OF TRANSPORT, ET AL.

diary of an indian

words PAYAL GUPTA

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A relaxed afternoon, my friends and I decided a get together in the later hours of the morning, after we had dropped our kids to school. What a casual get together it was, sipping a cup of coffee and remembering those old days, how we had grown together, how we have all settled and are living a life with all the modern amenities available at the snap of our fingers, which is now not considered as fancy as it used to be years ago. Life used to be so simple, when everything was used to its limit and any wastage was considered a sin and could cause a thunderstorm at home.

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Living life within one’s means and needs was the essence of that era. It did have its own pressures, but the pressure of performing without failures, which is unheard of these days. Moving to all the trendy choices from the traditional choices is known as elite these days. They were times when middle-class people were best known for their ability to excel at the time of scarcity.

Belonging to a middle-class family, I can very well relate to it and so remember a few things that were a common place for any Indian middle-class family. Entertainment during the summer holidays meant visiting a relative or near and dear ones, without any notice and the train trips that were a part of these holidays were eagerly awaited by the kids. The excitement of choosing a book to read during the train journey brings fantastic memories. I can still feel those memories, a few chit-chats with the family and the much awaited meal time, a plethora of food varieties in stock, which was all that was needed to enjoy and be happy. The ritual of cutting and preparing salad not to forget, most of the veggies grown in the home garden, yes the homegrown vegetables played an important part also acknowledging that we used the green area in the house as much as we could, to save money. The daily routine of having meals together was maintained


diary of an indian

THE BUS STOP DROP ON A VEHICLE THAT WAS TYPICALLY ASSOCIATED TO THE MIDDLE-CLASS – A SCOOTER, THE RIDE THAT I UNTIL DATE MISS & LONG FOR

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irrespective of the place we all were. A television set that was kept at a place where all could watch together, a fight over the remote control making the winner a decision maker of the day to select the channel of the day, I still remember bribing my brother to let me watch my choice of the TV channel if he wins over the remote fight, there were days when the quarrel over the remote control went on for so long that we were asked to open our books and study than watching TV. How grumpy that could have made us one could well imagine, the discussions around an episode were not meaningful next day at school. The bus stop drop on a vehicle that was typically associated to the middle-class – a scooter, the ride that I still long for. Those scooter rides were so pleasant, is now what I think, but in those days I used to pray and hope that my crush wouldn’t see me in this state, I would prefer a walk than to be riding a scooter but who knows how many times was I actually spotted that ways — a big LOL. A daily routine, I would say, listening to the radio but before that adjusting to the frequencies was the tedious


task. It took about 10 minutes to tune your favourite frequency and by the time you were successful in setting up to the frequency you only hear the last line of your favourite song and then waiting till hours for that song to be played again. Radio was a very strong binding medium, apparently it saved us from buying those expensive cassettes for the tape recorders. What sometimes makes me think, how precious objects were placed and kept in the house. TV, fridge, radio all nicely covered with a fancy cloth and dust on them was cleaned every day. A few things that were a part of each middle-class house hold included: a play area called veranda/porch where not only the kids of the house play but also the kids of the block play that made the evenings so delightful and enjoyable, a kitchen that contained all the reusable boxes but the food tastes the same and the taste of which still

lingers in the mouth when talked about it, a wardrobe in which the section belonged to a particular member of the family identifies how limited the desires were and how much simpler life was, where buying of any modern amenity was an occasion and a matter of excitement, where everyone would happily share things with each other and a habit of using everything to its optimum capacity was what was identified a middle-class. Though the definition of the middle-class has definitely changed, the ability to afford technology and modern amenities has definitely eased, the transforming world may have changed a lot of things for the middle-class but not the middle-class. We are still proud to be raising our kids with same values as were inculcated in us.

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After almost a decade of working with some of the top corporate companies in their Human Resources department, Payal Seth is settled in Australia and is currently multi-tasking as a freelance writer, hands on mother and an entrepreneur. To sum up, her days are jam-packed and she is always looking for a new challenge to accomplish. Her love for exploring something new and meeting new people, never take a back seat. Always happy with what she has and a fun person to be with.


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WE PICKED YOU UP FROM THE

PUBLIC DUSTBIN! HOW MANY HAVE YOU SAID THAT TO A YOUNGER SIBLING? WE’RE GUILTY. words THE DIFFERENTLY WIRED

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My elder sibling is such an extra-terrestrial, incorruptible saint! She doesn’t take risks, doesn’t talk out of line and has never for once disappointed my parents. Or at least that’s how she ‘markets’ herself and excels at it just as much as she does at other chores — keeping the room spick and span, ironing the uniform the night before school would reopen once the vacation was over or making it to the examination hall well in time. Mini (yeah, they really named her that despite being the big sib!) has never in her life been late because of ‘normal’ things happening to her— like wanting to sleep longer or dancing around doing nothing only to realise it had been two hours since she was up and yet hadn’t brushed or imagining that Salman Khan, her secret buddy-cum-roommate didn’t want her to leave! (I was 9 when I imagined that, big deal!) She’s the ideal kid who wakes up in time when guests are visiting home, helps mom with cooking and earns the blessings of relatives for being so warm. You can leave the home to her and not worry about how you’ll find it when you return from a busy day at work. Like I said, she is a saint. But she’s also the conniving saint — who earns parents’ trust and then scares the wits out of you by making you work in their absence; who gangs up with fellow elder siblings and shoves an empty box of Lipton Green Tea at you, aiming straight for your nose; who tells you that the family leads an impoverished life ever since you were born — she is a clever elder sibling!

diary of an indian

As for me, I am an evolved 23-year old kid who still makes big sib cringe when I tickle her or punch her hard or else hit her while she works in the kitchen and vanish soon after! I have found an accomplice in her husband — it’s payback time, I tell her! In my defence, I have crushing evidence against her in a journal I wrote when I was 13. She has orchestrated the gravest humiliation of my life — mom lashed out at me for not setting up the dinner table! I think my elder sibling has a little chip inside her body or maybe an alarm in her head that goes off each time one talks logic with her. When I was 10,

I asked her if I could pour a glass of water on her homework, out of innocence. She said, “Go ahead.” And so I did, only to be thrashed first by her and then by mom. I sat all evening, wondering what my fault was. Poor me, I still don’t have the answer. My mom isn’t the kind to stifle her kids’ freedom or burden them with expectations. I’m grateful — she and dad have always embraced their kids’ uniqueness. But this is not to say the sail has been smooth for me. My mom could never for once get me to agree on the food she cooked for me or the way I did my homework. I have been an academically brilliant kid all my life but I could never sit with her and complete my assignments without having at least one argument. As for my sister, she would always finish it all in time and like a good girl! No one remembers that she has actually sinned at the age of 4 — mom sewed a beautiful lotus flower for her fancy dress competition; she literally spent all night putting it together, only to see little Mini freeze on stage! But she was forgiven. Guess what I wore for my fancy dress — a green ‘parrot’ outfit first (they call me Mithu) and a cat with a shady moustache later (whiskers, I meant whiskers, purr!) My sister has spent a lifetime chasing school buses, missing most of them, simply because I was always too busy daydreaming and didn’t consider ‘normal’ things like getting ready in time worthy enough to bother about. She has been ‘incorruptible’ and me, I have been ‘incorrigible’ for I’m still running late all the time! We have never liked the same food or clothes and certainly not settled for the same crushes (Fawad Khan and James Lafferty, being the exceptions.) But here’s what we have done alike — we’ve been there for each other, no matter what! This one time, we were crossing a bunch of guys in a garden and she accidentally slipped. The guys started to mock her and made some nasty comments. I went and yelled at them right away! As for her, she makes sure I never go to sleep hungry when we’re in the same city. How can she? For she’s the woman who makes me miss maa ka khaana a little less!

The Differently Wired is a pen name that’s driven Garima Syal to write decent pieces. Otherwise, Garima, a writer in the making, is selectively conversant. She is creative but highly critical of her own work. She likes to be cheerful and goofy but only with those close to her. Everyone knows her as a hardworking, articulate, intelligent, topper girl who knows what she wants in life and will get it, no matter what. Yeah, she’s all that, but at times she can be just as lost as the next person, who peeps into her written world. She believes that if you can give somebody hope, you’ve given them everything.

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MY ELDER SIBLING IS SUCH AN EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, INCORRUPTIBLE SAINT! SHE DOESN’T TAKE RISKS, DOESN’T TALK OUT OF LINE AND HAS NEVER FOR ONCE DISAPPOINTED MY PARENTS. OR AT LEAST THAT’S HOW SHE ‘MARKETS’ HERSELF!

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do you have wrapping paper lying under the mattress?

COME ON, WE ALL KNOW IT HELPS IN REMOVING THE WRINKLES OF THE SHEET AND PREPPING IT FOR ANOTHER JOURNEY

diary of an indian

words AANANDIKA SOOD

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You know what is great about being from a middle-class family - the fact that you learn to reuse resources, thereby becoming a silent yet hugely contributing eco warrior. I belong to a middle-class family and that too a family in which everyone excelled at innovation. So while my father used old books to make a lovely centrepiece, my mother brought her ingenuity to things like plastic milk packets, gifts we got on birthdays, and the wrapping paper in which they came. Did you just raise your eyebrows and think uhhh.. Soooo middle-class (a la Maya Sarabhai)! I bet most of you have wrapping paper right under the mattress. Come on guys all of us have been doing this forever: Straightening it under the mattress and sending it further on a new journey. And there is no shame in owning the fact that this is in fact good for our environment. Well we did more than that! My mother and now I use the silver side of the paper to line the walls of the small temple in the house. Because every sheet will have a silver back, however snazzy the front maybe, we have kept to this practice over the years, changing every time it shows any sign of wear, tear or soot depositions. I have also used the front side (think electric blue at the moment) in my kitchen to cover the piece of wall against my gas to: a.

Decorate and bring the kitchen alive with some bright colours

b.

Save the tiles on the wall from the spluttering, splattering tadka

Another true mark of belonging to the middle-class families would be the use of gifts that you had received on your birthdays at appropriate places. If you got two similar sounding games say word building games, then one would go into the kitty and one would be given to the kids. This too is a huge, but undermined space saving tactic. It is the need of the hour as most of us now live in cramped houses with kid’s cupboards bursting with board games, stuffed toys and books alike. So if like me you too belong to the middle-class, know this unsung we might remain, but the earth is a better place because of our unending ways of reusing the glittery gift wrapping paper.

Aanandika Sood aspires to be the rolling stone that gathers a lot of moss. After 8 years of writing copies and columns, editing and scripting stories and honing her PR skills, she is now playing the part of a freelance writer and a mommie. She lives in Kolkata, blogs at aanandika. blogspot.in and writes on anything that stimulates her mind and merits comment.

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because we never throw an old bottle,

JAR OR BOX! OUR ETERNAL AND TIMELESS LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE PRE-LOVED (USED) DIBBAS! words VISHAL BHEERO The Indian middle-class home is eponymous with high utility objects such as the famous old bottles, jars, and boxes that became our ostentatious answer to the rich laden luxury. For every family gliding in the ‘90s and to a certain extent the 2000s, the smallest and most prized possession veering from ‘vintage coins’ to jewellery found space in them as they were never chucked out. These jars and bottles may be emptied but its life span was not limited to the last drop of the humble spices, grains and condiments and they learned to adjust and snuggled cosily among the plates and glasses on the kitchen shelf. The biggest discovery was when we accidently uncovered for the first time the white and ochre jars inside our grandma’s kitchen that glittered and shone. The jars and bottles arranged in an orderly fashion and displayed in a kind of queue, assorted in sizes and shapes, similar to the queen’s collection of different jewels like the lights forming the Queen’s necklace at Marine Drive. It would be a sacrilege to be middle class and not spotting jars and boxes in the house. Every Indian child living the middle-class dream would hark back to the glorious era where we jealously clutched our hearts to the classic Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder jar or the Maltova bottle that became our piggy box to save every single coin or dime. The Cadbury chocolate tin which is a not-soold addition to our collection came handy to keep Maa ki jewellery. From jam and vintage cookie jars to pickle bottles and chocolate boxes, they all became our treasure trove of ultimate happiness. The marbles would find its way inside the steel Cadbury box while theindiantrumpet.com

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coins would grow old inside the Johnson and Johnson bottle. The latter occupied a place of pride where old coins huddled together inside that has now become a vintage tale. It’s a jar that many of us would remember growing up with and was filled to the brim with our 5, 10 and 20 paisa coins, thus, becoming our piggy bank. It feels like a relic from the past that haunted us as we grew up at a time where we would empty the jar and spread the money on the bed to count every single coin. It was an era where Economics were taught not in the B-schools but in our humble homes. Or, Mother’s recipe that inculcating in us the art of saving money came much ahead of the great wave of Modinomics, where we sat inside the comfort of our rooms dropping a coin in the jars and boxes. Jars, bottles, and boxes symbolised the Indian jugaad. A life straddled in simplicity where the hardship of every middle-class Indian was compensated with unadulterated joy on receiving the trinket boxes or priceless steel chocolate dabba that the aunty from ‘Amreeka’ brought as a gift. The moment we received these goodies we would leap with joy while our parents were triumphing in silence for the steel boxes would be reused and recycled as a storage haven.

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No wonder, the collectibles brings a floodgate of memories where many of us who grew up in a joint family structure, discovered the wonder of the jar whose label was shorn off and tucked inside the small almirah where Dadi-Maa would keep her money safe. The naughty child in us would sneak away with a fistful of coins and snuggle them in the pocket with joy and scamper towards the small shops to grab the mouthwatering candies and toffees. The cherry on the cake was the prized totem that we would earn after helping to clean the room, obeying to parents and doing our homework in a timely fashion that would earn us a single candy or chocolate stored in these jars. It was an object of symbolism for us as the bottles and jars were our tickets to heavenly bliss. The jars and pickle bottles were one such place where chit of papers, spectacle bills and valuable chits were tucked and ensured to be safe, averting the risk of not being lost in some far flung corner of the house. It opened a pot of gold when we discovered the mystery of the crumpled paper which hid the secret of grandma’s recipe of Besan ka laddoo or our first date or a birthday gift. It became our secret fortress to hide scribbled notes, love letters and coins, accompanying us through the joy of life sieving through the recipes


and of course, pastries and sweets. So much for the sunshine glory of jars and bottles that sashayed into our lives to become a lifelong friend that waltzed its way into our memory box! Today, everything may have disappeared but wading past the tea shop we call, ‘tapdi’ in India or the small Kirana stores, the jars storing cookies brings a whiff of nostalgia. Jars and bottles are reminiscent of the priceless golden era where everything was embedded in simplicity and it became an intricate part of every household. It was the days where everything was preserved with care, valued and made with love that cemented every bond, unlike today’s time where every item is replaceable or chucked in the bin. Emotion was the essence of life that was tightly kept alive in these jars and bottles locked and held close to our hearts. The genie may have slipped from these jars and bottles but not from our memories.

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Vishal Bheeroo has worked as a journalist for English publications in Mauritius and is currently a freelance journalist. He loves to write & blog about all things related to India. He loves Indian cinema and dreams of making a short film, someday. He is currently working on a rom-com novel and a script for a short film. He is a huge Amitabh Bachchan fan. He loves poetry, travelling and reading. He is currently based out of India but has plans to return home, someday soon.


s r o t i ’ d e t s gue special

trumpet lead

when appa taught me how to handle money APPA PASSED AWAY EIGHT YEARS AGO, BUT THE HABIT HE LEFT BEHIND LIVES ON. SOMEWHERE INSIDE ME, THAT TWELVE YEAR-OLD STILL LIVES ON, ALERT AND CONSCIOUS, THE ONE WHO MANAGED A STEEL DABBA OF MONEY, ALL THE WHILE ASKING HERSELF - WHAT IF APPA ASKS ME WHERE I SPENT THE MONEY? words INDIRA ANAND

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When Amma developed arthritis, and had to go on an annual basis for treatment to an Ayurvedic hospital in South India, it fell to me to help my Appa with the household chores. I was all of twelve I think, but I never thought to question this arrangement. Questioning Appa was generally not a good idea, besides if you did question him, you would find to your utter frustration and embarrassment that somehow, he would always be right! I would watch Appa hand Amma a fixed sum of money every month, which found its way into a stainless-steel dabba (don’t ask me why), to be used for the entire month’s expenses. When Amma went for her treatment, the responsibility of managing this money fell on my shoulders. Appa expected me not only to manage the money, but also to produce a detailed account of where it had been spent.

trumpet lead

If he wanted me to think really hard before I took a decision to spend the money on something, then his strategy completely worked. The sheer terror of having to produce a valid reason for the money spent kept me from leaping with joy at being given so much money to handle. A small notebook and pen found their way into the steel dabba and I began to understand at that young age the challenges of making a rupee stretch right to the end of the month. From the milkman to the maid, to travelling and groceries, to medications for my Paatis (grandmothers) and Appa, to cleaning supplies and all those myriad little things that make up the total expense of a household – those few months that Amma went for her treatment became a window of opportunity for me to learn, to absorb, to understand, all in preparation for my own

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future. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but today I truly value the trust Appa placed in me by handing over the responsibility of a household to a twelve-year old. At the time though, it was all hit and miss. I had no idea if I was paying more than I should for vegetables and fruits, or buying the right brand of oil or phenyl. To his credit, Appa let me make all the mistakes I possibly could make, not uttering a single word in reproach or judgement. I don’t know if he planned it, or if it unwittingly happened, but true education was achieved right there, in those few months when I went to school, divided cooking responsibilities between me and Appa, took care of my Paatis (while they took care of me right back), managed the workings of a household while managing the money involved. Life skills were imparted in those days – multitasking, managing expectations, budgeting, bargaining, negotiating – to name a few. Apart from these annual opportunities to hone my skills, Appa would give me a fixed allowance every month to use for travelling and other expenses. This started after school, when I joined college and had to travel beyond the use of my two feet! By then, the little accounting book had become a part of my psyche and I would faithfully keep account of how exactly I had spent my allowance for the month. That fear of Appa towering over me and questioning exactly what I had done with the money, that vision was enough to keep me borderline obsessed about this habit. Funnily enough, I don’t recall a single occasion Appa actually asked me to produce accounts. While I was obsessed about ensuring the accounts were all “green”


phrase that combined his love for mathematics and his philosophy of life, “Income – Expense should never be a negative value”. Such a simple philosophy, but such a challenging one to follow and adhere to. I am grateful to add that marrying my husband didn’t require me to change this philosophy or approach to money or spending. We followed and continue to follow a very simple rule – if we can afford it, let’s buy it. If not, let’s do without. There were times in

and being in readiness to produce the expense list anytime he asked, he never did ask. In a stroke of brilliance, he had managed to convert a question in my mind (What if Appa asks me where I spent the money?) into a habit of a lifetime.

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Appa’s philosophy of money management was very simple though. He was often heard using his favourite


trumpet lead

our marriage, as is the case with most couples, when we truly struggled to manage the balance between income and expense. And like most couples, it only served to strengthen us from within and solidify the bond of marriage through working as a team and finding a way through all the challenges. All the while having our parents’ philosophies as a guiding light. Life has become more complicated over the last few decades. Expenses are skyrocketing. Most families have both parents working in order to meet the demands of a household and to meet the basic needs of children. Financial woes have become the norm

than the exception. One thing hasn’t changed though. In my purse, there is still place for a little booklet and a pen. And though I don’t use the signature stainless steel dabba, I still faithfully note down every expense small or big and keep my books tallied like a certified accountant. Appa passed away eight years ago, but the habit he left behind lives on. Somewhere inside me, that twelve year-old still lives on, alert and conscious, the one who managed a steel dabba of money, all the while asking herself - What if Appa asks me where I spent the money?

Indira is settled in Dubai for the last 19 years along with her husband. She works in IT Operations. Her hobbies include cooking, reading, travelling the world, and other creative pursuits. A kidney transplant in 2010 changed a lot for Indira including her outlook to life and learning to live fully and in the moment. In her non-existent spare time, she dabbles in writing. She writes stories inspired by real life events for SiyaWoman. On her blog mykidneybeans. com, Indira writes fiction and about strong women who have made it through everything. She has also published an e-book on Amazon.

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the great indian fashion jugaad “SO WHAT IF IT’S BIG, IT WILL BE GOOD FOR AT LEAST A YEAR, AARAM SE!”

fashion fry

words NASRIN MODAK SIDDIQI

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Last week at the mall, submerged under a pile of children’s clothes at a kid’s store, I saw a pink skirt, which would perfectly fit my 2-year-old princess. I had the exact same one (well, almost) that my uncle had got for me from a trip abroad. The only difference - I was six then and the dress wouldn’t fit me till I was at least eight that was, if I ate for three. The one in my hand had an adjusting elastic on the waist (an awesome innovation) – the one in my memory, my granny had to alter so that it stayed on my body. The poor piece of cloth underwent a major surgery, but then it also meant, I could stretch wearing it till I outgrew it two years later. What a thoughtful gift!

But then that wasn’t the time of seasonal fashion anyway. A year was good – aaram se! And now we live in an era where kids have fashion weeks too. Sigh! Fashion fry Last I checked, my two kids have a total of 20 pair of socks, each to go with a specific set of outfit. While growing up, my brother and I had six, which we sometimes shared and most of my individual stock was passed down stuff. Except, maybe my red socks, which I think I earned by the virtue of going to a separate girls school. And by the time it was my chance to wear the hand-me-downs, the elastic usually went bad. “So what? Chalta hai. At least there are no holes in it. Besides, who looks at socks anyway,” said the voice of some elder in the family. In hindsight, elastic gone bad

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First question: Why didn’t we have sales while growing up? At least parents wouldn’t have tortured their pretty little ones with ‘mindful’ shopping sprees where spending on clothes was strictly looked on as an investment. The ROI (return on investment) had to be viable – how long can the kids wear it? Can the clothes be passed onto the other sibling (if not) then a younger cousin? If it’s a two piece, could we mix and

match it with many different outfits. Yes? Deal. Only then a purchase was made. I still cringe at the thought of the salesman saying, “So what if it’s big, it will be good for at least a year, aaram se.”


fashion fry

THE ROI (RETURN ON INVESTMENT) HAD TO BE VIABLE – HOW LONG CAN THE KIDS WEAR IT? CAN THE CLOTHES BE PASSED ONTO THE OTHER SIBLING?

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wasn’t such a terrible thing anyway. Most socks hanging to dry in the neighbourhood were like that. “Who sees what’s inside anyway. True that” Sole story Remember how the shoe company Bata made ugly, but sturdy shoes which went with anything you wore – of course, the options you had were just black and white; so it was a no brainer. And accessories? What’s that? The only kids watch available then was a calculator one with a plastic strap - which was gifted to you only if you passed with flying colours and had reached your teens. Even then, you were allowed to wear it strictly on rare occasions (make that twice or thrice in a lifetime). There were no such thing as eyewear, and caps were never about fashion; they were worn in the summers to protect you from the tropical sun. It didn’t make you look cool. In fact, for adult men, wearing one meant you have a receding hairline. Speaking of hair, I remember


how the more well-oiled your hair was (read champu), the geeker you looked and being a geek was an ‘in’ thing for a really long time in every parent’s fashion book. Sadly, it’s still the case for some. Reminds me of the word ‘sober’ dressing. Shorts weren’t short, minis strictly had to end at the knee, midis fell at the ankle, spaghetti tops were for family trips abroad (the pics of which remained hidden in family albums anyway) and salwar kameez made you look so ‘sundar’ that immediate ‘nazar lag jayegi’. While low-waist jeans had infiltrated the fashion scene in the west, it never ever got a thumbs up from any desi mom or dad. The left eyebrow immediately went up and that meant an impending disaster. Festive shopping The only respite from this severe torture was shopping during the festivals. It was an annual ritual we looked forward to. Seems like the only time parents were really, really happy but then, coming from a middleclass family, it also meant, they had saved up every penny they could for it. True splurge time. Le lo jo khareedna hai types! And that then was all about

lots of bling and traditional attires that could light up the scene without any bulbs. That and shaadi-in-thefamily shopping. Same feeling. Matching choodis and bindis, jhumkas and jootis. Ah the joys of the frenzy. Everything else seemed mediocre against this madness. And once this shopping was done and the festival over, it was like going back to a dry spell. A long, long one. And now… In the world of online fashion where everything from a bob pin to a traditional sari is available at the click of a button and the sale banner refusing to go down in stores, I wonder if we now truly appreciate those little joys of shopping. What do we save up for now? What does bags and bags of clothes, accessories, shoes and bags without a shaadi or festival in sight mean now. Well, it means you have exercised your spending power, fed your ego and won’t be using half the stuff you’ve brought anyway. But then, every era has its charm – I just wonder what we will remember this one for!

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Nasrin Modak-Siddiqi is a writer, foodie, traveller, and movie-buff. She has many stories, some real, others figments of her imagination. On sabbatical from full-time scribing, her current motivators are good trips, meals, books or movies. She writes fiction, clicks photographs and edits old ones to add drama. Find her at continuumera.blogspot.com.


we love collecting

polythene

bags!

diary of an indian

LOOK UNDER OUR MATTRESSES! IT IS THE MOST VALUABLE POSSESSION IN A MIDDLE-CLASS HOUSEHOLD! NO PRIZES FOR GUESSING!

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words THE DIFFERENTLY WIRED


If you’ve visited a middle-class household, it may not have caught your attention, for we don’t put it out on display that explicitly. We are extremely guarded about it as it is very valuable to us, sometimes even more than gold! We will hide it under shelves, conceal it below mattresses or stack it neatly in a huge pile with more of its kind. I know you haven’t been able to guess what I’m referring to if you aren’t middle-class yourself. But just in case you are, you may be smiling your way to reach the answer, for you are, by now, quite certain and therefore determined to be proven right—I’m talking about polythene bags! They are such a must-have in our households that I won’t be surprised if they find place in the ancestral will very soon! I can actually imagine women muttering under their breaths about how Bittu’s wife took them all away from Saasu Ma just as successfully as she took Bittu! Or else the young ones in the family boasting daddy’s success at amassing more, only to become wealthier! It wouldn’t be a surprise if the government starts to acknowledge its worth and begins to include it in the evaluation of one’s wealth as part of the Census! If you have been the wiser ones in the family (like me) and understood the power of plastic, then it is good to start young. Set out to create your own legacy. By the time you’re ready to inherit your ‘ancestral property’, you’ll have a share of your own — a significant one at that! Here’s how you can start smart: STEP 1 Identify your suppliers: One from the departmental store, three from the vegetable vendor and another two from that Aggarwal sweet shop you went to last Sunday to buy the best Chhole Bhature, you should by now, start to single out all your suppliers so you know just where you can build your property from. Remember, each one of them matters. STEP 2 Guard your treasure: We haven’t become a generation of people who have had to deal with thieves stealing your big bag of all polythenes, but we’re catching up — why else does Pammi Bua ask you for one small poly bag just when she’s packing after vacations are over? She’s the threat and your property is threatened!

STEP 3 Each one matters: If you haven’t understood the art of becoming wealthy, your polythene collection will help you master it! All you have to do is to remember that every colour and all sizes matter. You have to be magnanimous enough to acknowledge that you would need each one of it at different points of time — one detestable piece for disposing off little Billu’s soiled diaper, another one for packing your shoes while you make grand travel plans to Shimla or Manali or Mussorie (I don’t think they can allow polythene in Switzerland or else the cows would be stifled for survival. Why bother, it is swadeshi travel for us!) Don’t miss the black ones for ‘special’ purposes. STEP 4 Treat the special ones with care: Remember that old school maxim you were taught: As you sow, so shall you reap. That counts here too. If you happen to accidentally visit a high-end lifestyle brand yourself, you must at all costs preserve the oh-sothis-is-environment-friendly-microns’-made poly bag. Or else bless Canada wali Bua ji for sending you expensive gifts wrapped in them. The point is that no matter where they come from, once you lay your hands on them, they have to be treated as though they were sacred. Or else, no part of your ‘property’ will be ‘exclusive’ and ‘from abroad’! Once you have adhered to all of these, you will have, I’m certain, made it to the Forbes’ list of the richest humans (keeping it gender neutral with that word!) Don’t believe me? Look up the list right now, my name shines in ‘gold’ there. PS: Apologies! I couldn’t take my mind off gold, I’m middle-class. And Punjabi.

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The Differently Wired is a pen name that’s driven Garima Syal to write decent pieces. Otherwise, Garima, a writer in the making, is selectively conversant. She is creative but highly critical of her own work. She likes to be cheerful and goofy but only with those close to her. Everyone knows her as a hardworking, articulate, intelligent, topper girl who knows what she wants in life and will get it, no matter what. Yeah, she’s all that, but at times she can be just as lost as the next person, who peeps into her written world. She believes that if you can give somebody hope, you’ve given them everything.


diary of an indian

s r o t i ’ d e t s gue special No one does it better than we do

middle-class ingenious saving methods words DELNA PRAKASHAN images SAHIL M BEG

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I’ll be honest. I had a writer’s block with scripting a story based on Indians and our waste-saving type of behaviour. After all, I’m a middle-class Indian and I just couldn’t find the parody of us trying to squeeze a little more out of everything. Let me repeat: Everything. And so, I mulled over the topic while twirling pencils around my fingers, tried finding an ‘inspirational’ playlist on YouTube and even considered eating a few badams hoping it might trigger a brain wave. Until one such day when I was flicking channels, and I stumbled upon Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary ‘Before the Flood.’ Watching along with me was my mom as she began folding the clothes from the laundry. The documentary talked about climate change, conservation of energy and such topics related to the greater good of planet Earth. Once the trailer got over, I let out a loud rant that almost convinced the other person I was passionate about the topic of conservation, “what have we people come down to? There’s no end to the extent we waste energy and resources all around!!” And just then, while completely ignoring my rant my mom nonchalantly says, “Oh, by the way, finish that Dabur toothpaste in your bathroom before you buy one. I rolled up the end and tied it with a paper clip. I saw that bathroom hack last night on YouTube – so

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Indians have been noted to be the best, craftiest & most creative at coming up with the best use of available resources cool na?” And just then, the brain wave I was seeking came to me. Conservation and Indians? Who knows it best than our Indian moms! The story of saving and minimising wastage isn’t a new one for middle-class Indian homes. For decades and decades now, Indians have been noted to be the best, the craftiest, the most creative at coming up with the best use of available resources. So much so, random Google searches tell me that globally Indians are the most secure about their financial future and have the highest instance for saving and investment. Which begs the question: why and how? A little history lesson is much needed: From being one of the richest civilisations, invasion after invasions resulted in a poor economy and standards of living. High population numbers didn’t help. Neither did the number one occupation, which was farming and agriculture help either. You needed big families to till the land, earn income for the household and survive diseases. Yes, not a pretty sight at all. Circumstances resulted in mindsets like survival of the fittest and how can I squeeze the maximum before investing into a new resource? Fast forward to the 21st century, old habits die hard, especially for middle-class homes. After all, mummy and papa worked very hard so that you can enjoy today (heard that line before?) We may live in the Americas, eat McD’s, speak with an

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It’s forbidden to throw take-out boxes in an Indian household. It’s like the holy vessel for our khana. accent and even buy our groceries online. But, walk into our kitchens and bathrooms – Alas! You’ll witness diluted shampoo bottles, soap bars stuck together, used coffee bottles now storing spices and here’s my favourite one – your old tee on the kitchen floor now used as the go-to poncha.

diary of an indian

Amazing, isn’t it? I mean who would’ve thought the world of creativity lies in a middle-class home? Sometimes I wonder what Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO, from the world’s leading creative and design company would make of it. Instead of recruiting people from Stanford and Harvard, Tim should just huddle a couple of middle-class Indians. They’ll tell him exactly how and what to use to create something new and resourceful which just a few hacks. As an ode to our ingenious saving methods, I took a tour around my house and observed it as I’ve never done before. I considered every corner, every shelf, every tabletop. Whether it was apparent to me or not, I knew we deployed some world-class wastesaving techniques some that were inherited, some insisted by neighbour aunty and some even Facebook inspired.

Feel free to borrow these ideas as they are tried and tested but most importantly, they’ll save you lots of money. Let’s go for a tour as my day begins:  I wake up wearing my 8th-grade tee that now rises to my belly button. Not only is it my favourite tee but all old tees must be worn as nightwear. My nightwear wardrobe consists of old shirts and shorts cut from trousers that once was. It’s perfectly normal and acceptable home fashion.

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 I walk into my bathroom and reach out for the toothpaste and brush. The toothpaste is tightly rolled up from the bottom with a clip to secure it, so that you don’t miss that last bit of paste towards the end.  I then wash my face with an expensive drugstore face wash brand that’s been diluted because I wanted to make sure I use every bit in there.  My shampoo is slightly more watery than usual, and my conditioner bottle is cut in half so I can scoop out every bit. I’ve been guilty before of throwing out bottles knowing there might be some more in there enough for 2-3 more washes. Not anymore.  I wear my favourite jeans that has been patched up with cloth pieces because mom says it needs to rip ‘in a certain place’ and only then can it be chucked away. I’m still waiting for that ‘certain place’ to wear out.  I grab my bottle of water which is a glass bottle that my family smuggled out of an expensive restaurant after our meal. We all agreed the bottle was so expensive which earns its right to be used as our house water bottles.  I walk into the kitchen and notice mom’s put green moong for sprouting in a kerchief. It’s my dad’s old handkerchief that now serves as a spouting medium.  As I leave for work, I grab my tiffin that is a sandwich in last night’s Chinese takeaway box. It’s forbidden to throw take-out boxes in an Indian household. It’s like the holy vessel for our khana.


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Sahil M Beg is a budding photograph. A student of Bachelors of Journalism and Mass communication at the Trinity Institute of Professional Studies, New Delhi, he has been keenly participating in photography competitions and submitting his works to various publications. His shots can be seen here: flickr.com/photos/photosofsahil

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All my peanut butter bottles have lent itself to creating a uniform look for our spice storage. I like it better than elaichi in a Boost bottle, cinnamon in an Ovaltine bottle and cloves in the small Bru coffee bottle.  At work, I noticed my favourite ring had gotten a little loose. Maybe it’s time to give it away. As I get home, I let mom know of my decision. “SELL IT?!”, was the expression. A little later I was handed over my ring that now is made tighter by wrapping a thick thread around the bottom.  After dinner, I step into the kitchen to wash my plate. I noticed our disappearing Vim bar is now on top of the new block of Vim. Yay! 

Also notice a small money plant branch placed in a Coke plastic bottle on the kitchen counter. The vase industry is clearly losing out on its Indian market share.

 Oops! I dropped some water on the floor. I look around and see my morning 8th-grade tee now as a poncha on the floor. “Maaaaa, why is my shirt on the floor?!”, I exclaim. “Arre beta, it’s so worn out so I thought I’ll use it as a poncha. You can wear your 10th-grade shirt which you don’t wear at all”. My expression: priceless.  Sigh. Let’s grab a cup of tea before bed. I open my spice cupboard which I am so proud of. All my peanut butter bottles have lent itself to creating a uniform look for our spice storage. I like it better than elaichi in a Boost bottle, cinnamon in an Ovaltine bottle and cloves in the

small Bru coffee bottle.  I walk to my bedroom with my cup of green tea ready to unwind by watching Anupama Chopra’s Film Companion on YouTube. As I turn the lights on, I stare at my curtains. Something is not right. It certainly wasn’t the same curtain that hung this morning. “Maaaa, what happened to my curtains?” And in comes my mom, grinning from ear to ear. “I knew you’d like it. I took my old sari and made them into curtains. It’s turned out so well na?” It was the most convoluted design for a curtain as the palu, the border and the body design of the sari all struggled to come together for the curtain. I rest my case. The feeling of triumph from our saving-techniques is indescribable which keeps us motivated to discover newer and better methods. A report I once read in The Hindu said: “Globally, Indians are among the most positive about their financial future and have the highest instance of saving and investment… the survey also revealed that [while] most Indians recognise the need to plan for retirement and have started to save specifically for it…” I couldn’t help thinking that we middle-class Indians have certainly thought of our retirement plan and hence, save with a sense of urgency - even if it means saving our toothpaste, old plastic bottles or in my case, my mom’s sari too.

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I love creating stories out of the sweet nothings of life. I am a writer, explorer and an idealist. I have an insatiable appetite to learn about food and people cultures. Born in Dubai, but I love masala dosas over shawarmas. Vadas over felafel. You get the idea. It’s the simple things in life that make me happy. The top two to-do’s on my bucket list are to visit Antarctica and to publish my book someday. When I’m not eating and travelling you can catch me story-telling at themunchingtraveler.com or Instragramming @themunchingtraveler. I also regularly contribute to the Condé Nast Traveler India, showcasing the best of the Middle East.


Middle-Class Indian Special, Fall Edition, August 2017  

Our first vehicle was either an LML Vespa or a Bajaj scooter, followed by a Fiat Padmini. We don’t throw a toothpaste tube away until we’ve...

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