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SIBF and us

It was a dream come true...that sounds very clich├ęd. Let me start a bit differently.
At the 37th edition of Sharjah book fair or SIBF 2018 at the expo centre, I discovered something _ the talks by authors and other influencers on the sidelines of the fair and the sale of books - thanks to a flyer Mira brought from school listing important programmes. SIBF must have also got more media savvy because there were advertisements everyday in the newspapers, and I guess FM radios too, on what each day's events were. The weekdays had programmes for school kids in the forenoon hours. Mira attended one, where Indian actress Soha Ali khan (more famous as the sister of Saif Ali  khan and daughter of MAK Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore) spoke to school kids and did some boomerang exercises. She must have been impressive as an influencer because some kids bought copies of her book, The perils of being moderately famous, so that they could get her to sign it. Our kid, the cinema buff, must have bee…

The Bangla cleaner

Rehna left the UAE last week. Forever. She returned to her 8-year-old daughter and farmer husband fending for themselves in a village that is a 3-hour bus ride from Dhaka. She will now lead the cloistered life of a Bangla Muslim as opposed to her life here, running from house to house by the hour vaccuming homes and scrubbing bathtubs and what not.
Judging from the timing of her departure, one can assume that she made use of the amnesty programme for visa defaulters that allowed them a safe passage home with embassies and expat associations aiding them in settling bills or buying a flight ticket. Though she claimed she worked on a visa she bought off a local (which comes at a hefty price for poor women like Rehna), she was probably working illegally like many other Bangla - and some Sri Lankan - women scurrying  around the residential areas of Sharjah in their black robes, rexin bags and cheap sandals often looking at you in the hope of another part-time employment. Many Arab housewiv…

Matters of faith

A friend in Delhi pinged early morning, wanting to hear my comments on a Facebook post by a Keralite woman who was against the new Supreme Court verdict on women's entry into the Sabarimala temple.
The woman in question argued her case well and said Keralite women found it a means to detox, both for the pilgrim men and the women who stayed at home. And how dare the court change status quo when the women didnt want to go?
When the ruling came, I thought so too - why tamper with an age-old practice? If Lord Ayyappa, a celibate God, doesn't want menstruating women pilgrims around, why try to change that? Women also have the choice of not making the pilgrimage even if the court has said they can, and I think most Kerala Hindu women might choose to do so for a while. But then there are  a couple of non- Malayalee women who have declared  that they'll be going and the State and police better make it safe for them. So it's going to be tricky for the State govt under the Commun…

Another teen at home

Close on the heels of Ash who turned 13 nearly two years ago, Mira has now joined the bandwagon. She is now officially a teenager with all the emotional , biological and social battles the title brings. She is no more the little girl who largely followed my instructions but has a mind of her own now. If I suggest a dress, she tells me, 'Amma, you dont know the present trend'. I tell her she might admit in 5 years that I was right. Just as she was 4 years back, refusing to wear jeans and going around here in tights. She gives me a sheepish smile. But as far as tastes are concerned she is way ahead. She picks the most chic and attractive dress while I pick drab ones. She draws pictures she sees on the Internet and brightens them up with the most vivid colours. She thoughtfully makes cards for each of us on our special days - that includes Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day etc. Unlike Ash who is least bothered about his surroundings - save for the football gr…

Stars and fans

Looking up and cutting pictures of footballers from magazines and newspapers on son's instructions, mother remembered old times when she had developed an interest in cricket and football. It had all been by fluke _ not from her sport crazy brother and uncle who had to depend on radio commentaries before TV entered our living rooms. Instead it had been through hostel mates who gathered around a small TV in a hall after college and evening tea. For cricket, I had to take lessons from a friend who drew pictures of stumps and pitch and taught me like a teacher in school. Football was easier to grasp though not all the rules. But who cared about that when all that mattered were the handsome Gods on the field and the rumbling from the stands?
Now I try to make sense of defender and centre forward and so on, while son claims he's a very good goal keeper and dreams of a career in football!! Like a typical middle class parent, I tell that's for poor Latin American kids who play on…

Changing schools

This academic year, beginning in April for CBSE curriculum schools, has brought about some changes in my kids educational graph.
Ash got into DPS Sharjah this year, considered one of the best Indian curriculum schools in the UAE. In fact most of UAE's CBSE grade X toppers this year were from the school. The school has a healthy mix of academic and extracurricular activities, a good team of teachers, library, sports etc. The peer group also makes a difference though of late he's getting bored as he finds them all very studious. For someone who likes football, video games and YouTube and dreams of a career in one of them, Ash is feeling a little out of place. But as one who makes friends easily and is a cool guy, he remains happy wherever he is.
DPS has seven divisions each for girls and boys with a strength of over 30 per class. Being in Sharjah, the girls and boys wings are separate from Grade 6. And classes are exclusive for those who take take Hindi or French as second langu…

From Kerala to Kashmir

As a home maker in the UAE, my interactions with the outside world are nominal in a city where people live in their own cocoons. My most numerous interactions have been with chatty taxi drivers that I occasionally chance upon.
Seldom do I get into long conversations with the driver after crisply giving directions as I did yesterday on my way to Mira's new school to collect uniforms. My usual method is to glance at the meter screen for the opening fare and the name of the driver, which is usually a string of four names in the case of Pakistanis. This one too had such a name and ending with a Khan - ah, Imran Khan's people, he must be proud of the new prime minister, I thought. So in reply to his friendly salvos at us,  I asked him where in Pakistan he came from. He replied he was from Srinagar, Kashmir. Delighted to find an Indian citizen driving me to my destination, I expressed the hope I'll be able to travel to Kashmir some day as a tourist. Would it be safe, I asked. H…