Two Mothers



Mother’s Day: An ode to Parvathy and Kamala. My mother, my grandmother.

Two Mothers

Once upon a time
There lived two mothers
Gentle and petite like a flower
Robust and dense like an oak
Who never feared the winds
Nor any violent storms

Like mother earth
Their still beauty was
A soothing balm
For our minds disturbed
A lullaby song that
Let us rest undisturbed

Bathed in their golden light
Young lives prospered
Like pastures blooming
In the warmth of sunlight
Like birds chirping
On those fruity shady trees

The wonder women
Needed no costumes
Nor any drama
To slay those evil doers
Or rescue the perishing

The sea of life
was their playground
Tucking up their sarees
Bare fisted and clenched teeth
They indulged in a duel
With crashing waves

The two mothers
Now lie in peace
Deep in the brook
Making Merry
In the confluence
Of Tunga Bhadra & Kavery

© Anita Desai, 13.5.2018



In memory of Indian soldiers beheaded by a coward and inhuman Pakistani army, and a salute to those who rise above tragedies to help humanity.

नफरत और बर्बरता से परे
है ये भी एक जहान
प्रेम के फरिश्तों नें
इंसानियत के मरहम से
उजड़े ख्वाबों को सींचा है जहाँ!

(c) Anita Desai May 2017


They were learned
high born & pure.
The path they tread is holy
so was the decree.
Howbeit their abode
barren & devoid.

As a sacred soul mourned
the depraved mocked.
He embraced
They disgraced.
He loved, cared, cherished
they jabbed, jeered & spurned.
He labored, fostered, nourished
But its grains they shunned.
He nursed the enfeebled
Where your blossoms pricked.
It was more his

What you claim yours.

A finger was raised at thee

but three to thyself.

Behold its fair heart

against your murky white rind.

For it is he, the benignant sage

to be revered by all.

(c) Anita Desai September 2016

Gossip – The Devil’s Radio

In the recent times, ‘crimes against women’ is the most debated topic on media and internet. Women the world over are now more aware of their rights and choices than ever before. They are empowered and boldly stepping out of the closet. Of all the atrocities she lives through, rape is one horrific incident that leaves indelible scars on a woman’s soul, one that she rarely recovers from.

Today, let us flip the coin to discover an unexplored side in which women are the brutal offenders who leave their victim stripped off all privacy and dignity. That crime is – GOSSIP.

Gossip is against humanity, akin to rape or terrorism. This is an evil that brings out our animal instincts and destroys the soul of fellow beings. It nourishes neither the gossiper nor its subject. 

Both Men and Women are guilty of this crime. However, it is the feminine gender that unabashedly indulges in this hideous activity. If the Right-to-Information act could be used for this purpose, they would leap at the opportunity.

George Harrison of The Beatles fame rightly said, “Gossip is the Devil’s Radio.” And, women of all class and stature tune in to this channel drooling-at-the-mouth to seek an unexplained orgasmic pleasure.

At work or home, women brandish the devil’s horns and pitchfork in a quest to keep tabs on one and all. Clothes, Make-up, Relationships, Academics, Grades, Career, Food, Cooking, Health, House, Car, Family, Failures, Success, There is no dearth of topics that women gossip about, and, enjoy every bit of it.

If a student at school does well, it is because he/she apple-polished the teacher. If someone is promoted at work (primarily a woman), its because she stepped up the oomph chart. If someone does well financially, he might have made money under-the-table. 

Why do women want to GOSSIP around other people’s misery? What sadistic pleasure do they derive from someone’s misfortune?

The questions baffle me. 

There are times when I want to gouge out those twinkling eyes that scream, “I know what happened at your house last night” and slap those obnoxious smiles off their faces that seem to taunt “I know your little secret”.

I regret the harsh words used above but not apologetic. Since my childhood I have hated gossip in all its forms but there is no escaping this horrible social disease. 

When chatting in a group we tend to share some aspects of our lives and that’s fine, only as long as people don’t keep tabs thereafter and do not repeat in other groups. What goes on in their lives is their business, not mine. I have my own mountains to conquer and they are more than enough.

Of course, If any of them was in some kind of an emergency, I would be the first one to reach out. And I have, on several occasions. One of my neighbors’ husband was travelling and she fell sick. Alone at home and no one to fetch her medicines, I voluntarily ran her errands. A child was hit by a two-wheeler playing in the block, I rushed him to the doctor for first-aid as his parents weren’t home. I offered tea to the family of bereaved neighbors. And more.

Why can’t women just accept things on face value and be kind; if they know some personal details about someone’s life, why is it difficult to leave it alone and not blow the horn for all? Why do they just HAVE to be judgmental about everything and everyone?

I guess the answer would be, “it would take the fun out of life”. Believe me, I have heard that answer more than once in my lifetime. Because of this belief, I have been the social outcast of several groups.

I am aware I cannot control what people talk about or their social actions. Also, I cannot keep turning people away because of their habits. But, sometimes it is frustrating when you know all they do is gossip.

I have been reminded several times over, that there are all kinds of people in this world and we have to learn to deal with them or to get above those petty issues or tactfully cope with such situations.  Blah Blah Blah!

Don’t we always do that. Get above the issues I mean. But hey, I am human and have those moments when I want to shut all those depressing people out of my life. Since man is a social animal, I do not know how long I can be away. One thing I know, I am unable to adapt to this kind of a social set-up that can best be described as drudgery. 

Just in a mood to be catty, I did a little experiment last Sunday. I took a planned late evening walk with my husband when I knew the lawns would be alive with kids enjoying summer vacations with their families. It wasn’t just a casual walk, we walked holding hands lovingly, like a couple out on a romantic date under a starry moon-lit sky, laughing and chatting. As I looked around, several pairs of adult-eyes were on us; jaws dropped and rendered speechless.

I am now just waiting for the word to come around a full circle from where it began. Me.

India – A compassionate neighbor. An Indifferent parent

Indian government’s rescue operations in strife torn Yemen and Nepal earthquake have been lauded globally.

Prime Minister Modi’s historic world tours and aid/credit worth billions of dollars to all neighboring countries visited leave me wide eyed and somewhat in pain.

For centuries India has been active in humanitarian operations beyond its curvaceous borders. Despite the violent & hostile advances of all our neighboring countries from Pakistan to Sri Lanka, India has been the first to offer a supporting arm in their tragedies.

Due to its inherent generous nature, India has rightfully earned the title of a ‘compassionate neighbor’. However, the same cannot be said for its role as a guardian to its own citizens. Unfortunately, here our governments can best be described as an ‘indifferent parent’ blind to the needs of its offspring.

Nearly 70 years after India’s independence, the common man’s struggle to receive even the most basic amenities continues. I am no expert on any governance or development issues but have the common sense to understand the requirements of a nation’s public that should have been in place by now.

When mankind first set up a civilized society organized to run an efficient system of  governance, the purpose was that all will receive equal food security, education, jobs, healthcare, protection, justice and more. During the intervening centuries the core ethos of this system have been diluted beyond measure, particularly in the Indian sub-continent. Governance has become the means to acquire wealth & power. Political leaders, Bureaucrats and rich businessmen work hand-in-glove for personal gains, delays in development & growth notwithstanding.

It is time for the authorities to wake up and do the job for which they are appointed. Just off the top of my head, a few critical areas that need immediate attention are:

India needs immediate, effective and long term solutions for serious problems like droughts and floods that wreak havoc across the country each year. Water tables below the earth are drying up faster than we can imagine. It is reported that India will be water scarce by 2050. So what are we doing about it? Trucks delivering water drawn from lakes is not a permanent solution.

Young soldiers are dying, not just at the borders but also within our territory, killed by our own people, i.e. the maoists or bodo’s or ulfa’s and naxalites. And, what do they die for. Nothing. Whether it is Dantewada, Manipur or even Kashmir, why is it so difficult for the governments to find a definitive conclusion to the root cause of the fire. A safe and peaceful nation is our fundamental right. History is proof that if there is political will, viable solutions are not difficult to achieve.

Quality & affordable healthcare is another essential right of any citizen, but how many can afford it. Why are there no checks on pharmaceutical companies and hospitals overcharging patients. A stent that costs not more than $10 to manufacture is sold to a patient for Rs.25000 or more. Why?

Medicines for American pharmaceutical companies are manufactured in India. Where are the residual chemicals disposed off? On Indian soil of course, drained into the earth that in turn contaminates the water tables and soil. Why are we allowing this gross neglect that endangers the lives of future generations.

Lack of infrastructure, climate change, environmental degradation, corruption, law & order, malnutrition, and so many more critical issues that have to be addressed within India’s borders before we step out to help those ungrateful neighbors who would not think twice before bombing us.

While the Congress governance has failed us miserably for decades and dragged the nation to the doorsteps of its graveyard, Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party proved to be just a flash in the pan. With the advent of a rejuvenated BJP government, the public thought its woes would be eradicated with the swish of a magic wand.  Unfortunately it wasn’t to be so.

Our doctors, engineers, financial experts, scientists, social workers, even our soldiers have been much in demand across the world, however, the country of their origin is deprived of their skills and expert guidance for its own welfare. The government too looks the other way and does not realise that the waters of our sacred rivers are nourishing the foreign lands.

Today, India’s billionaires find enviable spot among the headcount of world’s richest people, each having a net worth in figures beyond my ability to count. Mittal Ambani Tata Birla Godrej Dalmia Kalyanram Daggubati Reddy(s) Gandhi Nehru Scindia Pilot Pawar Khan(s) Bachchan Kapoor Dhoni Kohli and many thousands more have earned enough wealth to last several lifetimes and generations.

Small scale charities and donation cheques bring temporary relief but not long term sustainable solutions.

Now that their coffers are full and bodies well nourished time has come that they work in tandem with the governing bodies for good and effective governance. Each year with the onset of monsoon, Mumbai and many other cities come to a halt due to floods. Why do the city’s elite watch this mayhem quietly from their towering palaces?

Those who can think of minting millions simply by sitting in his plush office should also devote quality time and manpower for providing sustainable solutions to the city that blessed them with world renowned riches. In fact, it should be mandatory for these billionaires to contribute physically and financially for the development of society.

Wake up Government of India! Look around you. The malnourished parched and hungry citizens of India are crying out for help too. The time to think is long gone. This is the time to engage all the available think tanks and financial resources for serious planning, implementation of welfare schemes and ensuring its sustainability.


The Professional Watershed.

Politics is the new career option with much attractions, but is not everybody’s cup of tea.


The recently concluded elections in New Delhi reminded me of an anecdote that took place on a domestic flight a few years back. Returning from a vacation, my hopping flight was on a forty minutes stop-over. A casual chat with the pilot revealed that he was an investment banker who switched professions to do what he loved since childhood. To fly. Interesting. One chose to be a commercial airline Pilot rather than a white-collared sophisticated banker with a salary in multiple figures and a safer, plush life. Not many of us can say or do that.

Parents decide the academics and career options of their offspring. Sometimes, people simply follow their parents’ career path in medicine engineering or other supposedly lesser professions.  More often than not, it is the lure of money and power that forces one to follow a certain profession rather than what the heart wants. Perhaps a case of mind ruling over the heart. This professional conundrum is not restricted to the middle-class working class people, even the educated experienced elite in-the-limelight have fallen prey to various pressures to follow a career not of their choice.

Politics is one such field that has suddenly become the chosen profession for one & all. It has a magnetic attraction of glossy & glamorous image of power, fame, money, Z class security, beaconed cars and what not. Bureaucrats, Government executives, MNC professionals, Bankers, Armed Forces personnel. Suddenly, all are viewing Politics as a viable career option either mid-way through their present careers or after retirement.

To be a politician one does not require any expensive or status oriented academic degree. Any person who is a natural orator combined with skills to command and lead effectively can be a politician. However, it is crucial to identify one’s niche. Each human being has a certain skill set. Some are natural multi-taskers but not all can boast of being one. Alas, greed is like the tempting devil, and hunger for power and more power only sucks us into a whirlpool, drowning us deeper and further.

Kiran Bedi is India’s first woman IPS officer with many feathers of administrative acumen adorning her large cap. While I am personally saddened by her loss in the elections, I am surprised she could not anticipate that her niche lay in efficient administration and not as a crafty political leader. Not one to wield a cunning clout to gather profits for selfish purposes, throughout her glorious highly-decorated career as a police-woman, she went about her work with honesty and dexterity.

Two months into power and the AAM Admi Party is embroiled in a bitter internal struggle. It only reflects that Arvind Kejriwal was a successful bureaucrat with the Indian Revenue Services, however, his leadership skills are doubtful. Free water & Wi-fi or cheap electricity; is that all the Chief Minister of India’s capital city will guarantee its citizens? What about restoration of critical water resource river Yamuna or the deadly air pollution, not to mention security of women, law & order.

Mahatma Gandhi led India’s freedom movement but it was Nehru who dominated nearly two decades of post-independent India. Gandhi was a revolutionary and led mass movements, but I doubt if he had the makings of an astute politician, whereas Nehru’s good looks and charm won over the gullible Indians with his eloquent speeches.

Rajiv Gandhi was a successful pilot with the Indian Airlines. A modern Italian wife and two good looking children completed his happy family picture. The untimely death of his brother and mother forced his entry into politics, on a sympathy wave and to retain his hold on the Congress, and power. However, his faulty political decisions cut short the Congress’s rule and eventually led to his brutal assassination.

Sanjay Gandhi was known as a spoilt brat lacking in political diplomacy who met a tragic end. His soft spoken much younger wife, Menaka, was left to carry on his legacy but failed miserably. Not because she wasn’t qualified but because her acuity was as an environmentalist and an animal rights activist. She too lacked the presence, thought, speech and body language required of a political leader. My thoughts on her were confirmed as I watched her take oath as a cabinet minister in the Modi government in 2014, hesitating and shy on the podium.

Sonia Gandhi has been trying valiantly for over ten years, to project and plant her son Rahul Gandhi as the prospective Indian king. All in vain. It amazes me that the veteran congressmen have shamelessly bowed down to her demands and project him as their capable leader. Even her daughter Priyanka is unable to hold her ground. Unfortunately, the Prince and Princess have not inherited the legendary political vision. My guess is, sooner or later, Sonia will herself jump into the fray to revive the party to its former glory, her foreign origins notwithstanding.

Manmohan Singh’s policies and strategies as finance minister led India to successful economic heights, but he gave in to his urges and chose to occupy a seat not suitable to his humble stature.

Uddhav Thackeray, the leader of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is a photography enthusiast and does not have manipulative skills required of a politician to ruthlessly retain its seat at the center. His photo books on nature trails of scenic Maharashtra are among the best sellers. Pursuing his creative field would have taken him far. Alas.

Renowned Indian film actor, Amitabh Bachchan, was initiated into politics by his good friend Rajiv Gandhi to cash in on his cinematic popularity among the masses. Bachchan failed miserably in his maiden political innings, swore off politics and humbly accepted that he is not cut out for the role of a politician. A wise decision. His huge presence in the world of cinema and television overshadows all old and contemporary legends. Clearly, his niche is on celluloid and he should stay there.

Several other film and television actors over the years too have migrated towards politics trying to gain a foothold of power. Very few have been successful in climbing high on the ladder of success.

At some stage they all were either forced, coerced or gave in to temptations to join the political work force they were ill equipped for, and therefore, failed. Though, this temporary political setback does not take away their accomplishments in their respective non-political fields, the point in case here is that all past and present aspirants to the top post have failed in their political ambitions simply because in their greed for power and to fulfil the aspirations of their political families, the candidates and their kin have overlooked their skill set which eventually led to their nadir.

A true politician can succeed with simple common sense and a good connect with people. However, one with any lack of it thereof will not be able to go far. The twenty first century politics is not a game of hierarchy not is it a conquest. The need of the hour is also that a politician working in modern India needs a vision for sustainable development, elimination of poverty, restoration of critical natural resources like water that are essential for all living beings to survive.


Pak suffers heavy casualties as govt gives troops free hand

The Indian government finally realizes that Pakistan cannot be controlled with peaceful dialogues. Giving our soldiers a free hand to go all out, and give a befitting reply to those across the border would strengthen their confidence while instilling fear among the attackers. For years, our soldiers were ordered not to cross the border, and not to fire first. While, they crossed the line, fired, killed, and beheaded. All at will.
The Indian soldier can now hold up his head and say, “I am proud to be fighting for my nation”. They can narrate their heroic tales with pride, “Our relentless firing forced the enemy soldiers to retreat”. And, they can honestly say, “I did not cower behind some mountain boulder when the enemy was firing at civilians”.