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When A Child Goes Missing...

The UK media has been flooded with images and news reports of four-year old Madeline McCann, who disappeared from the Algarve, Portugal, more than three weeks ago. She was holidaying in Portugal along with her parents and twin younger siblings. On May 3, 2007, she disappeared from the family's holiday apartment at the Pria de Luz, even as her parents dined at a restaurant right opposite. They had checked in on her barely thirty minutes back.

She hasn't been seen ever since.

This is every parent's worst nightmare come to life; being a mum of a toddler myself, I cannot even begin to imagine what the poor McCanns must be going through every single second. Not a day goes by without them seeking some form of sustenance in the form of prayers and visits to sacred churches, to pray for the safe return of their daughter.

They have vowed to find their missing child at all costs. Public funds have been set up to aid in the search and celebrities like J K Rowling and Simon Cowell, amongst others, have contributed to this. The McCanns are hoping the toddler's distinct right eye, where the iris bleeds into the pupil, would prove to be a valuable tool in the search.

Here's hoping the child is returned safe and sound to her parents' soon.

Meanwhile, I came across this poignant blog, set up by friends of a desi in US who has gone missing. This is no helpless toddler; this is a man grown, who went hiking and hasn't been heard of since. But, he is still is parents' child and I am sure they are just as desperate for news of Kiran's whereabouts as the McCanns are of Madeline.

When people go missing, it somehow feels worse than death. At least with death, you get to say goodbye, you grieve for your loss and you try to pick the pieces. When a loved one goes missing, how does one bear it? There is no news of what has happened, a constant state of 'are they well? how/where/in what condition are they?' that goes through the family and friends' minds non-stop.

I once read this novel of Mary Higgins Clark, where a child is abducted and sold to a couple who cannot have children. The childless couple bring her as their own and she lacks nothing. She doesn't know she isn't biologically theirs till she is almost thirty and that too, by sheer accident. Meanwhile, her birth family goes through sheer hell - her mother's mission in life is tracing her lost daughter and she neglects her husband and older son; the parents get divorced and the brother grows up somehow, with the ghost of his missing sister constantly there. I remember reading it and thinking 'how ghastly'. The mum in me shuddered at the turmoil her family lives through.

I now hope and pray for the well being of these children, and the hundreds of missing loved ones the world over. I hope the parents' search is over soon and the children find their way back home, safe and sound.

Edited to add: I am really saddened to note that Kiran's lost his life in a freak accident while trekking in the Yosemite with friends. According to news reports, he slipped and fell into the whitewater. His body was found Tuesday, May 29, ten days after he went missing. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Madeline McCann is still missing.

Posted by DesiGirl 9:10 pm 3 comments Links to this post  

Wanted: Swayamwaram Applicants

I was chatting with a blogging mate of mine about the stuff that life's generally made of - Bill Bryson, DC writers with a penchant for ignoring rules, assorted idiots who cannot read / absorb the clear Comments policy, Bangalore weather v Chennai, relative merits of LinkedIn, Orkut, Tagged etc when the topic arrived, some how, at girls. Well, this isn't such a shocking concept considering I am a card carrying member of the species but in this instance, it is the lack of eligible bachelorettes that was causing said mate some problems.

Birthdays arriving thick and fast, with no suitable girl sending a gushing Val's day card has proved to be the bane of his mum's life and she has recently given up dropping subtle hints in favour of actively jabbing him with the fork during meal times, in an effort to make him get the skates on and get on with the job of getting her a daughter in law, like NOW.

In this enlightened day and age, us being blogoholics and all that, what better way to kick start this modern day head hunt than, well, blog about it? Rather like the matrimonial version of The Apprentice, we are now inviting applicants for the enviable role of a permanent partner of Mr K. Of course, there are a few stipulations: that the applicant must be a girl, is an obvious one. She must also belong to the enviable TamBram community of South India, in order to please the senior cast member.

Interested applicants leave a message in the comments and await our call eagerly.

Posted by DesiGirl 6:32 pm 9 comments Links to this post  

TAG: Indian Writing

We all know what an impossible soul dear ole Ams is. She never does anything by halves. So she's gone and listed an impressive array of tomes in her Indian authors/books. I have as much chance as the proverbial snowball's chance in hell of coming up with one half so impressive. So I decided to go my way and make it short n' sweet.

So here is my list of Indian authors / books I have read or would love to read:

1. Ashok Banker's Seige of Mithila - Second book in his very impressive Ramayana series. Can't wait to lay my hands on it. It was Dee who relentlessly badgered me into reading the first one and like Ams, I wasn't really hooked onto it from the start. The twins calling one another 'Shot' and 'Luck' sounded more Hardy Boys-ish than anything. But once I passed those, it was pure heaven. A must-read.

2. Kalki's Ponniyin Selvan - I have read parts of it when it was serialised but for a long time now, have been meaning to read it in its entirety. Mean to get my mitts on my mum's copy when I visit the folks later in this year. Ooh!

3. Vikram Seth's An Equal Music - yeah yeah I own up to not having read this till now. I have borrowed it now from the library so should get cracking on it soon!

4. David Davidar's House of Blue Mangoes - heard / read good things about this one. When I heard he is the Mad Momma's uncle, I am determined to read it!!! (Call me shallow!)

5. Jawahara Saidulla's Burden of Foreknowledge - Sujatha Bagal of Blogpourri has said such lovely things about this book that I am compelled to put it on my 'must read' list. Added to it, the fact that she is a Desicritic makes her work unmissable!

6. Saavi's Washingtonil Thirumanam - absolutely hilarious! Made me long for the traditional Tambram weddings of yore. 'Shhhiver bath' is a phrase you would not forget!

Phew! Time to pass the baton to Apu, Dee, Suj, Premalatha, Dubukku and my fellow mummy bloggers MM, Tharini, Itchy and Boo.

Big thanks to the Mad Momma and Dubukku for responding to the tag. Their spectacular efforts have made me hang my head in shame to see such impressive lists of Indian authors / books.

Posted by DesiGirl 8:57 am 11 comments Links to this post  

Overheard on the train

Man: (on his phone) Hello? I should be there by 11:35 PM. Could you come and pick me up?


Man: Ok, after you finish watching the Weather then.


Man: I'll wait, no, no, I..


Man: (sigh) Tell you what, you watch the Weather and I'll walk home.


Posted by DesiGirl 2:43 pm 0 comments Links to this post  

Hand of God!


Took this pic last week at Blackpool. It was rather glum and all of a sudden, the clouds shifted and this clear shaft of light broke through. Amazing!
Posted by Picasa

Posted by DesiGirl 1:09 pm 5 comments Links to this post  

Confidence, Nekked and National TV: Gruesome Threesome

S and I were watching this programme on the telly Wednesday night, just a moving background to the monotonous DIY work we were doing at that moment. The programme was called 'How To Look Good Naked' and involved a nervy, newish mum, not really comfy with her body shape and as such, not very confident. How the gay presenter got over her fears and ultimately, made her enough confident within herself that she sashayed down the catwalk in her pink matching bra and pants.

Now, as an Indian watching the show, there were many, many points during this that I gasped and squirmed. At the end of the programme, I was left with this question: how is parading semi-naked in front of millions a fitting test of confidence? I am not saying it takes immense guts to do so but why the hell is that even a requisite to ooze confidence? This is where the show left me flummoxed. Seemed to me, it was a drastic way to prove that someone is the epitome of confidence.

I had always thought that I was a fairly confident soul, capable of speaking my mind and generally able to get me from one day to another without greatly injuring myself. But no way on earth would I ever do any of that the woman did on the show last night. For starters, she had to see herself in the mirror, clad only in her undergarments (do you see a recurring theme here?) - why the heck would I do that on national TV? Confidence or not, is unnecessary. WHY would I parade my bloated, saggy self to the whole of Great Britain to choke over their dinner?

Before you go on the 'Ohmigosh, she's a prude', let me stop you right there. I ain't no prude but I firmly draw the line at going through the following things - shivering like a leaf in my undies, having a bloke (gay or not) poke and prod me in various places to show me what I've got, baring my 'bedroom secrets' to the whole world and its wife and to top it all, have the bloke helpfully slot some boob uplightment device inside my bra. No, no, no, N-O!

Forgive me for being so boring / naive, if I was suffering from some serious body issues post baby (who am I kidding? that's a permanent state of mind where I am concerned!) I'd rather work on it by doing something - anything - else. Join the gym (which the woman did, after the bloke chose some hip track suits), sign up for some mummy-toddler club, get a personal shopper to help buy clothes that fit you, rope in your mates to give you some quality, non-mumsy time.... anything other than having to pose about in the buff. Drastic, methinks.

I went through some crippling bouts of depression, post-baby (and the MIL visit!) that wasn't helped by the fact that I didn't have any decent friend or family around me to prop me up. So I slowly confined myself to the four walls of our house, wearing some absolute eye-sores and generally feeling sorry for myself. Had I been home, surrounded by friends and family (which this woman no doubt was), I would have been dragged willy-nilly out into the Big Bad World and made to face it. I don't know why this woman's friends and family were standing around, wringing their hands, in a rather helpless fashion. What the hell was the hubby doing anyways? Why wasn't he wooing the daylights of his wife till she felt sexy again?

If you think ranting about a bit of an undie show is a bit much, even for me, the best was yet to come. The once shaky now yummy mummy posed in the buff ('the shots will be extremely tasteful') prior to walking down the ramp wearing nothing but her undergarments. And her mum and mate in the audience went 'ooh! she is soo confident!'

Good grief!

I felt like banging my head at this point. We talk about women's lib, suffragette and Girl Power and then say parading about half-naked on national telly epitomises confidence. Maybe I am a prude, after all. A prude tightly holding on to her clothes.

Posted by DesiGirl 3:39 pm 2 comments Links to this post  

Visiting Cambridge

When I was in college, I used to dream of studying at Magdelene College, Cambridge. Along with my mate, I used to pore over the British Council literature, IELTS forms and spin dreams of 'when we get to Magdelene...'. Of course none of them materialised but I was certainly left with a dream of atleast visiting the college to get a feel of it.

Luckily enough, Cambridge isn't too far from Brentwood and on one late summer morning, we set off quite early and found ourselves on the motorway without too many speed demons spoiling our pleasure. Thanks to the light traffic, we reached our destination well before 10.00 AM and after parking our car in the monstrously expensive parking lot, we set about exploring the town.

In my family, getting lost is a pre-requisite and it is how we explore new and exciting places. Letting ourselves loose in the pre-congestion charged London, we drove round and round this old city and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the various beautiful buildings. Cambridge was no exception - within minutes of exiting the car park, we were lost and walked around like a bunch of drunks in the middle of a desert before we ended, quite by chance, at the marketplace. The stalls were full of old books (which I made a beeline for), lovely fruits and vegetables from nearby farms as well as, incongrously, hot bhajis and samosas! After breakfasting on a hot samosa followed by fresh strawberries and cream, we set about trying to see what this old city was all about.

After reading the map correctly for once, we reached River Cam and the punting starting point well before the place got inundated by tourists. Choosing ourselves a lovely punt and a gorgeous French punter, we set off on a slow and relaxed note. The area surrounding this end of River Cam was really beautiful - lush, green, Weeping Willows lined the banks on either side followed by a profusion of gorse bushes on the park, on the opposite side. The bridge overhead was devoid of vehicular traffic and all in all, it was a pleasantly serene air that enveloped us.

King's College and Chapel

Slowly, we glided past the colleges. Called The Backs, as they back onto the river, St John's College, Queen's College, King's, Trinity, Trinity Hall and Clare, looked so beautiful with their sweeping lawns and sprawling grounds. Tales of Kings and Queens of yore, as well as of wars and scheming courtiers were narrated by Jacques, our punter. Looking across the expanse of King's college, I could almost hear the distant cannons of the First World War. The chapel of King's College, when it came into view, was gloriously regal - apparently, the stained glass window panes were preserved carefully during the Wars to protect them from becoming casualties and one is thankful of all that hard work, as the windows look amazing.

St John's frontage - where Harry says 'UP' to his broom!

The front of St John's was covered in flaming red ivy and seemed oddly familiar. When I queried him, Jacques told us that it was there, in the front lawns, that a scene from the first Harry Potter movie was shot - precisely, the scene where Harry first learns to fly on a broom. The building is called a Wedding Cake, apparently, as it looks somewhat like a lavishly tiered wedding cake. We also passed the Bridge of Sighs, modelled along the lines of the one in venice.

Mathematical Bridge

One thing to be said re the punters/guides - no one told us to take what they say with a pinch of salt. Like a pair of lemons, we swallowed his spiel and found it was all tosh when we arrived home and Googled for it. For example, he told us this wonderful story of the Mathematical Bridge - how it was built without the use of any nails or other fasteners and according to the lore, how some college boys decide to take it apart after a night of drunken merriment, found to their dismay that they couldn't do so and had to resort to the use of nails and screws, much like the rest of us lesser mortals. All hogwash, says the authentic Cambridge guide.

Magdalene Street

We finished up at Magdalene College corner, where the original Cam Bridge was. (Bridge across the river Cam - hence Cambridge, says Jacques.) I spent more than a few minutes gazing at the building, thinking 'if only....'.

Once back on terra firma, we explored the rest of the town on foot. There are so many colleges around you, chock full of history, you literally don't know what to go for. For a small fee, one can experience the pleasure of wandering through the buildings and grounds of these colleges. As it was the closest I could ever come to actually be inside a Cambridge University college, I felt £5 was a small price to pay and happily parted with it so I could wander about King's College and its awesome chapel. According to the University rules, if one wishes to get married in this sumptuous Chapel, either the bride or the groom must have been a student of King's! What an exclusive place!

Trinity College

Across town, in Trinity, we were pointed in the direction of the rooms once inhabited by Sir Isaac Newton. Just outside the windows, on the front lawn, was a scrawny apple tree said to be the offspring of the apple tree that was instrumental to the whole theory of gravity. Whether it was fact or just another urban legend, I couldn't help feeling buzzed about standing there, next to the great grand child of the tree that helped formulate one of the fundamental theories of life.

Newton's apple tree with his old rooms in the background

The town is rather quaint and apart from the numerous University buildings, has vast expanses of beautifully laid out parks, swimming pools, a well-appointed theatre and a great many other things to interest the average tourist. Situated around 50 miles from London, Cambridge is so full of history that walking around the colleges, on the grounds where monarchs and great inventors once walked, one feels oddly humbled. If you are ever in this neck of the woods, do add Cambridge to your tour itenerary. It is definately a trip well worth in memories. One word of caution though - the parking fee is rather steep; so if you are driving to the place, you could do well to park it in one of the Park & Ride areas and taking the buses into town. Then you are free to spend as much time as you like ambling away, rather than worry about the parking fee awaiting your pleasure on your return!

Posted by DesiGirl 9:58 pm 1 comments Links to this post  

Strange, but true!

Have you gone days without actually spending a penny but the minute you draw some money out of your account, seen it disappear in five minutes?

Have you ever sat twiddling your thumbs in a traffic snarl, bumper to bumper with all the other road ragers on Monday morning, and fumed at the idiots speeding away in the opposite direction?

Have you ever listened to the weather forecast, paid heed and gone out in summer clothes, only to show up at work in your favourite drowned rat get up? Or how about the next time you show the weather girl a finger and gone out in proper cold weather attire, only to look like a mug as the sun shines brightly all day?

Have you stood in the queue for a long time, waiting patiently for your turn to catch your favourite musical, only to go in and sit behind a pillar? Or sat next to the bloke who's behind a pillar, who makes his annoyance known to the world and its wife?

Or is it just me?

Posted by DesiGirl 11:26 am 2 comments Links to this post  

God Is In The Details

We did not get off to a good start this morning. We were stuck behind the garbage truck, as they do their weekly collection round. Even as I was impatiently twiddling my thumbs behind the monster truck, I couldn't help noticing the flies - or lack of them, buzzing around the garbage like they should do. I am not saying the firang refuse smelled of sweet perfume, but they didn't make me want to gag my intestines out. There was no unsightly bits hanging about or littered around the half mile radius, sort of like a billboard announcement as to the activity that took place there recently.

And of course, as one does normally in such situations, I started thinking, When would we get to such a state in India, where a garbage truck did not get a huge crowd of flies and other buzzards circling it? It is a small thing and I know the ONYX is doing a brilliant job it is such a small thing, isn't it? Doing a job well. But small thing doesn't mean it is simply done.

If you are familiar with Chennai during the summer months, then the water tanker lorries would be a familiar sight as well. For those who aren't, these are blue, rectanglular sided lorries, with METRO WATER emblazoned on all sides. There is no mistaking the contents as the water would be sloshing off the top of the lorry and generally bathe the scooter following it. At times of acute water shortage, when the precious commodity would be rationed, it was disturbing to see huge rivulets of water running down the streets, marking the path of the lorries. I remember a Class IX physics lesson about centre of gravity and my teacher took the example of the water tanks and how unsound their structure is, as they have a highly unstable centre of gravity. So why wasn't a power that be making sure that we had friendlier water carriers, that did not waste it?

What about our roads? Why is it that anarchy reigns supreme on them? Why haven't we got something simple like a codebook for drivers?

Other general matters of etiquette like queuing, holding the door open for the person coming behind you rather than slamming it on their noses, personal space, personal hygeine, respecting others' freedom are all abstract concepts.

We are all busy patting ourselves on our backs about the big things - technological advancement, getting more and more MNCs to invest in our country, increasing GDP etc but IMHO, we are losing sight of the small things, things that will elevate us from also rans to a true-blue advancing country. After all, God is in the details and until we realise that, all-round development will be a foreign concept.

Posted by DesiGirl 8:15 pm 1 comments Links to this post  

To Aid The AIDS Victims

There's a WHO report floated about the place that states that India has the highest number of AIDS sufferers in the world. One in seven Indians are HIV-positive, reads another scary report. But the one thing everyone is harping on now, is the smackeroo Richard Gere planted on Shilpa Shetty's cheeks. The media went to town with it; so did some idiots who decided to make a bonfire out of some effigies in honour of the occasion; la Shetty managed to get more than a few sound bytes in Indian and British media while quite a few bloggers made their feelings known on their blogs for all the world to see. That pesky little thing called AIDS awareness, the actual reason why Gere was in India had, by now, slipped out of most people's minds completely.

But there was something happening quietly in the background, that has made me sit up and take notice. Hopefully, this will make people realise what a bunch of silly fools we are and get down to the matters at hand instead.

I am talking about the launch of the Condom Bar, in Chandigarh. What a brilliant idea! Here, at last, is some positive action. Instead of taking the usual route of sweeping things under the carpet and pretending nothing is amiss, here are some people who are actively looking to counteract the rising levels of HIV in the country. And I, for one, salute them and their spirit.

The Condom Bar is a novel initiative to increase AIDS awareness in the country. It is a proper bar, serving drinks and what nots but instead of stopping there, it also does its bit in helping promote the use of condom to its patrons. Firmly believing in going the extra mile, it also has place mats offering some well-meaning advice blurbs like "Enjoy safely" and "Don't just get on. Get it on! Protect yourself, protect others". Instead of the useless chunk of mint you'd find in the saucers along with loose change, at the Condom Bar, you would find a few colourful condoms instead.

What is most commendable about this venture is that this is wholly government backed. Chandigarh Industrial & Tourism Corporation (Citco) is the driving force behind this enterprise and in order to keep the place affordable and accessible to the aam junta, the bar is doing to be run as a "non-profit operation with low-priced drinks and wholesome vegetarian food at cost prices." I am well impressed! The idea that the local government is tackling this awful issue of steadily increasing HIV victims in an informed and progressive way is refreshing and real welcome.

According to news reports, the club was opened by Pooja Thakur, a young mother and president of a voluntary counselling group for people living with HIV and AIDS. When the whole world is going hammer and tongs at amassing wealth, it is rather humbling to hear the club owner say, "Our earnings will be the awareness and the message we will help spread".

I am all for new and novel ways of finding solutions to problems. A few weeks back I saw a programme on the telly where the host Davina McCall was walking about the streets of Amsterdam's Red Light district and talking to teachers there about sex education. Why? Because teen pregnancy is on the rise in Britain and everyone wants to figure out a way to curb that.

Likewise, HIV and AIDS are on a steady incline and the more we see innovative initiatives such as the Condom bar and the better chance we have at combating such issues. I hope they succeed and we are able to see Condom Clubs across the country, promoting safe sex and AIDS awareness.

Posted by DesiGirl 6:21 pm 1 comments Links to this post