Cairo, I love you!

Cairo 1

What is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Egypt? It is not the Pyramids. It is not the Nile. It is the political instability. As I prepared to join my husband on my first business trip to Cairo, I had the same sentiments in my mind. I didn’t really care so much about visiting the Pyramids. I cared more about returning home safely. Friends and family requested me not to go. Once they realized that I am not going to change my mind, they showered me with safe travel checklists and advice – carry a spare phone, dress conservatively, don’t venture out alone, etc., etc. I took my time to plan for this trip. Of course, I wanted to be back home with my kids safe and sound. I landed in Egypt 5 days ago and honestly speaking, none of the planning really helped me prepare for what was actually in store for me.

The airport was absolutely clean. The staff very courteous, helpful and professional. As I stepped out after immigration, I could hear the request for Taxi services from all direction. “Wow, this is so much like India” was my instant reaction. But nah! I didn’t need a taxi today. My love was waiting for me just on the other side of the glass doors. The chauffeur for our car spoke English pretty well and he whisked us into the city.

This is when my heart literally sank. The city was BEAUTIFUL! Wide clean roads, rows of beautiful apartments dotting the entire landscape and clean blue sky. There was no sign of any pollution on the roads, in the air, and most importantly in the minds of the beautiful people of this country. While I admired the city, in the back of my mind, I kept searching for some marks which would indicate the bitter political upheaval that the country has just been through. Where are the broken buildings, shattered window panes, or the army for security? How can this city look so safe and mesmerizing so soon?

For the first two days, as we traveled to business meetings and plant sites, I kept searching for signs of trouble. There was nothing I could find. I came across extremely professional, loving people who have very close ties to their families. They love India and everything about Indian including our dresses, our food and our Bollywood. I met an eleven year old Egyptian girl who dreams of one day marrying Shahrukh Khan. I was smiling throughout.

I consider myself fortunate to have been able to see some of the most beautiful countries in the world. While each country possesses its own charming characteristics, there are very few countries/cities which just grow on you so easily. In my love list, Venice tops the charts. And surprisingly Cairo silently sneaked into the second place even before I knew it. The amazingly strong Pyramids and the beautiful Nile are just some of the things that make you fall in love with this city. More than that, it is the rich culture, the strong family ties, and the love with which they receive you. It is the balance between the history and the modernity witnessed in the Pyramids on the one hand and the swanky shopping malls and hotels on the other. It is the sense of peace and the focus on developing strong, reliant infrastructure. It is self regulated traffic, it is the hygiene, it is the love for life that you can sense around you.

Today is my last day at Egypt. Had it not been for my children waiting for me back home, I would have extended my trip to visit a few more places and soak in a little more of the culture. I have fallen in love yet again and I am absolutely not complaining about it.

P.S. Cairo is the dream holiday destination for anyone. I found it better than other Middle East holiday destination as it is not just another city with modern infrastructure.

See more:

Nile Maxim Dinner and Cruise

Pyramids of Giza

Stay at Al Rehab city (see apartments at Air BnB)

Cairo2

Yogs Expanding Vocabulary

HCL0023

Yog has always been a keen observer of life, using all his senses to explore and learn about the world around him.Till now, he has been silently observing and soaking in his immediate environment. We were initially worried about his delayed speech, but then gave up believing that he will figure something out on his own soon. Because he used to rarely speak, we got accustomed to taking decision on his behalf and carrying out conversations forgetting that he was even around.

That is, until recently. One fine day, Yog decided that he had learnt enough of the world him through observation. Now it was time to learn through expression. He started combining words to make sentences. Soon thereafter he was combining sentences to express opinions. And recently, his opinions have turned to decisions! We can all imagine what happens when a two year old has given his decision. He will stick by his decision to mix water in his rice no matter what. Or wear “Green Shoes” to school. He doesn’t really understand our confusion because both his shoes are actually green. Which particular shoe is he referring to after all? A split second delay in meeting His Highness decision results in a mini riot inside the house. Hence the entire household is on its toes trying to execute his decision as quickly as possible.

Phew! I think we brought this upon ourselves by silently praying that he starts speaking soon. What was the rush after all!?! We could have enjoyed the peace for a little while more.

Today, as I packed both kids to bed, Yog jumped around on the bed singing broken nursery rhymes. Then he stared onto the roof counting numbers “2, 3, 6, 8, 4”. He then rolled over to give his sister a kiss and said with all his love, “Akka, tupi”. His sister was surprised and said, “Tupi what Yog??” He patiently repeated himself, “Akka, tupid!” Not getting a response from Akka, he again said, “Akka, tupid!” It then struck Akka and she sat up quickly and said, “Mama, he called me stupid!!” With that she burst out laughing! I couldn’t believe my ears that Yog had actually learnt this world already. Yog was so thrilled to see Akkas reaction to his comment that he went into a rhythm, “Akka, tupid, Akka tupid!!”

Just because Yog did not speak much till now, we assumed he did not hear much either. As it turns out, he was listening more attentively than we can imagine. We can all now gear up to hear all of that back from him soon. I think I will have to put a disclaimer on the entrance of our home door, “Enter at your own risk. Yog on the loose!”

Luck vs. Passion

 

Ballerina

As I stepped out for my evening walk today, one of the neighbors, a small, petite woman having little kids of her own, casually greeted me. She noticed my walking shoes and my headphones and instantly said, “Wow! You are so lucky that you manage to go out for a regular evening walk!” On normal days, I wouldn’t have even stopped to acknowledge such comments. But today, for some reason, I stopped, smiled and said, “I make time for walking. It is my way of retaining my sanity!” With that I pushed on pressing the hard gray road beneath the soles of my shoes.

I don’t know why it was important for me to make a point to this lady today. Why couldn’t I just take a simple remark in my stride and move on? Why did I have to bother and explain to this lady that behind sane, successful, happy lives, luck has very little role to play. Success at anything, even as simple a thing as an evening walk, is all about passion and commitment.

As I crossed the busy traffic road and entered one of quieter by-lanes, my mind wandered back to the days when my daughter was about two years old. I used to wait till 11 PM for my husband to return back from work, so I could leave our daughter with him and step out for my walk. We were a nuclear family staying alone in Chicago. As my husband watched over our daughter, I used to walk in the backyard of our apartment complex, snow around my feet; snow around my head. No matter how cold, dark or lonely it was, I used to still walk. When my son was born, and I couldn’t leave him behind, I used to walk the busy streets of Hyderabad, tying him to my chest or straddling him in a stroller. Whatever the climate, however busy the work, however late in the hour, I have stepped out to walk. I have taken office calls while walking. I have finished groceries and hospital errands while walking. I have been laughed at, chided, scolded and molested, just because I choose not to sit at home at the end of a long day. If that lady knew all this, would she still consider me “lucky”?

Have you heard someone talking about “Mark Zuckerberg” and “Lucky” in the same sentence? Or how about “Narayan Murthy” and “Luck”? Maybe “Steve Jobs”, or  “Amitabh Bachan”? No, not really!

We don’t attribute the success of all these legendary personalities to “Luck”. We attribute their success to their passion, dedication and relentless hard work. We know plain luck wouldn’t have taken them this far. But when it comes to normal next door neighbors, we would rather call them lucky than give them due credit for their hard work. Maybe the term “Luck” or “Destiny” makes it easier for us to accept why they have more of something than us. “Oh! She was just born lucky! I wish I had half the luck that she has! Oh! If only my husband was half as loving and my children half as well behaved, I would be also able to step out for an evening walk!!”

Sigh! I wish I could ignore such friends and not let them get under my skin. I wish I could let them live in their make belief world where they could blame their luck for all the problems that they face. But sadly I can’t. I wish I could help them understand that they could do all this too. All they just have to do is stand up, put their shoes and walk.

“Car Free Thursdays” who are you trying fool?

Bus

I am sure some of you have heard about a bunch of people in Hyderabad who are trying to change the way the city thinks  and behaves. They first tried to get us on the roads early Sunday mornings and now they are trying us to make us give up our comfortable air conditioned cars on Thursdays. Who do these people think they are? Who gave them the right to try and intervene in our lives? Why is GHMC allowing them to create this nuisance on our streets?

We are the upper middle class, fueling the lights behind the cities booming economy. We work hard at our desks so that many more in the city can earn a livelihood whether as security guards, nannies to our children, or as sales persons in the fancy shopping malls. How can these so called Rahagiris try and mess with our life !??! We are proud citizens of our country and we will proudly get together in the club houses of our apartments on August 15th to celebrate 68 years of independence. We are free from the bondage of foreign rulers but we have meekly submitted to be the  bondage of small, fancy and expensive gadgets. In fact the smaller the gadget the bigger the power it holds on us. Who says we are anti-social !?! It is our generation which has invented the whole social media! We drive fancy cars to our fancy offices. We eat heathy food and then buy heathy weight loss packages at fancier clinics. Our whole life revolves around our image which we have been painstakingly created by choosing what we wear, where we live, how we travel and who we hang out with. Do you think we are going to give up all this to join your Car Free Thursday Campaign!?!

Don’t get me wrong! I am an environment conscious citizen! Just the other day, I took my son in my Mercedes car to plant a tree at my sons school. It is such a nice school.  It was built after clearing dense wild growth which was growing unabated in the middle of our city. The school has air conditioned classrooms and uses iPads for teaching science. Isn’t that cool !?!

Anyhow, as I was saying, I seriously think you guys should do something more fruitful with your time. You know, I donate regularly to NGOs. You can visit me and I will surely donate to a healthier cause. But Car Free Thursday?? Come on, you ought to be kidding!

On a more serious note:

Car Free Thursday – Please find another city to save! We at Hyderabad are too busy creating innovative green solutions for the rest of the world. We do not have time to clean our backyard right now.

 

Mystery of a Mothers Heart

Yogs drawing

Any middle class household, which has witnessed a new baby in their house recently, will relate to the extent of transformation a house undergoes to make room for the tiny soul. Diapers, wipes, towels, sheets, cradle, crib, feeding chair, stroller, bathing chair, bottles, etc. are strewn across the whole house. Every piece of furniture is scrutinized and measured on a strict scale of child safety. Based on security ratings, furniture which has otherwise belonged in the house for decades is often unceremoniously dumped to make room for the little crawling being. Each visit to the market, is often focused on what new items can be purchased to make the little one healthier or happier. I remember being on the lookout for just the right clothes, toys, books, vegetables, sippers, tooth brushes, creams, bottle brushes, …. whenever I got the freedom to step out. Someone recently mentioned that the baby goods market in India is the fastest growing market and I would of course believe them blindfolded.

It was just a few days back, that I went to a popular baby shop near my home. I used to frequent it ever so often when Yog was an infant but slowly, over time, my visits have tapered off. As I stepped into my once favorite shop, my motherly instincts made me again search for something that could be of use for dear Yog. I scanned clothes, toys, bottles, books, but didn’t find anything that Yog really needed. Deep inside, I was disappointed. I had planned, prepared, and saved for a long time, to ensure that Yogs first few years were beautiful. Even before I could completely soak in these years, they were gone. Yog was no longer an infant in need of diapers, wipes, and bottles. He didn’t need those baby toys or the feeding bibs. He could walk, run and eat on his own. He didn’t need the walker or the feeding chair. I remember days of research I had put in to buy the most comfortable car seat for him. Before I knew it, he has outgrown that too!!

In the good old days, when I used to reach home after office, blocks, cars, and crayons would welcome me on the living room floor. Now the house is clean. There are very small signs left in the whole house which indicate that this house proudly hosts children. All along these past two years, we have worked hard to make Yog learn the ways of toddler hood. From potty training to eating with a spoon, we have patiently guided him each step of the way. We have celebrated his first pee inside the potty seat and congratulated each other as he finished his first meal on his own. Every day, we have worked hard to make him be more responsible. And now that he is, I cannot help but feel sad that he has already moved on. I feel hollow knowing that he doesn’t need me anymore.

Pavan was teasing me the other day on being too emotional about our children. He sometimes thinks that I am not able to take rational decisions related to their upbringing because I think from the heart in place of my mind. Sadly, I agree with him. But no matter how much I try, I cannot stop being emotional about our children. I tend to be happy about their new milestones. But at the same time, I am sad that they have already moved on. I reprimand everyone in the family for spoiling them, but at the end of the day, I take them to late night ice creams myself. I understand they need to fall in order to learn how to stand, but I cannot see them fall and get hurt when I know I could have protected them from the fall. This is the sad truth about a mothers heart. I strongly feel, when it comes to a mothers anatomy, the brain just does not have any control on this other vital organ.

You can call it my justification for all my illogical deeds but this is the way it is! Sometimes I wish fathers could hold a mothers heart, even for a day, so that they could understand the complexity of emotions that it goes through. I am pretty sure all fathers reading this post, will laugh at me. But I am also pretty sure, all mothers reading this post, will relate to this.

We were once a daughter, a sister and a wife

But now we are a mother for the rest of our lives

Agar Tum Hote (If you were here)

Dreams 2

Did you know, there are many tricks to overcome depression without using any medicinal anti-depressants? Ice cream, chocolates, exercise, and my all-time favorite – Shopping, do the trick for me. Depending on how depressed I am feeling, I choose one or all of the above anti-depressants. This Sunday was some reason (not worth discussing), I was feeling exceptionally low. The magnitude of depression was high enough to justify a serious dose of retail therapy. Plus with the Sale season on, I would have gotten into a more severe depression if I did not make the most of the ongoing discounts. I bathed the kids, fed them their breakfast, assigned some study tasks for Toyna, packed my shopping bag and closed the door of the house behind me. I was ready for a well-earned break.

I stopped at multiple outlets, tried beautiful stuff, picked some, rejected some, and most importantly pampered myself to core. No one paid any attention to me, hopping in and out of stores and trial rooms. There were a thousand more like me on this beautiful Sunday morning. By the time I was done with two stores, depression was the last thing on my mind. I was excited to get back home and show the kids what I had picked for them. My last stop on the way back was a shoe store. I had promised myself a new pair of shoes when I had started my shopping spree. I had better honor my promise to myself.

I tried a number of shoes and ended up shortlisting two shoes. As the store assistant packed the shoes, I tried some more just to see how they looked on my feet. Isn’t that what women are supposed to do? Even though we know we don’t need more stuff, there is no harm in trying it out. You never know… As it turned out, I liked one more pair, so I ordered the assistant to get the right size for me. He smiled at me and said, “Madam, you want One More, in addition to the two you already have??” His tone kind of indicating, “How can anyone buy more than two shoes in one go?” I was in such a good mood that I happily smiled at him and said, “If my husband was here with me, he would have bought five shoes for me. I am just trying out a third one right now.”

The store assistant gave me one of those smiles which says, “I understand!” With that he left to fetch me another pair of shoes. I picked another shining silver sandal in my hand to admire it more closely. My thoughts drifted to my dear husband. How I wish he was here to pamper me and help me pick the best shoe for my tiny feet! In order to pick the perfect shoe, he would have fussed over the color, the texture, the quality but never the price. He treats me like a Princess, so it is important that I treat myself like one too. I would hate for him to know that I, of all the people, ignored his standards of love and respect for his Princess.

I read this somewhere a few days back, “ I am not looking for a Prince Charming! I am looking for someone who will treat me like a Princess!”

My dear husband, not only treats me like a Princess, but has given me enough confidence in myself that even when he is not around, I tend to treat myself like one too. I guess fairy tales do come true in some ways!!