Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Three is not a crowd

Farah Khan has had triplets. My mother wants to get in touch with her to congratulate her on her babies. And that's not really because she's a fan of Bollywood style dancing or because she turned all nostalgic with OSO. The reason is because mom is one of triplets - and coincidentally my grandmom's combo - two girls and a boy - more than six decades ago, was the same as Farah's. When I told my mother - the big news of the day last week - that Ms Khan had triplets, she immediately wanted her email address or some contact detail to send best wishes.
And was Farah shocked or just surprised, my mother then wanted to know. Nothing of that sort, I said, because she already knew that she was expecting triplets...just a bit disappointed since she had hoped for two boys and a girl. That put mom in a very reflective mood. "When my mother delivered us, there was no way to find out that there were triplets on the way. In fact, when her two doctors, a well-known gynaecologist couple in Kolkata in those days - realised that there was more than one baby on the way - they joked among themselves and said the more the merrier," said mom. Of course, we'd heard that one before - it was part of the family-lore surrounding the triplets - my mom, mashimoni and choto mama.
In fact, there are many more anecdotes surrounding the birth of triplets in the family. My grandmother - didimum - apparently almost passed out when she realised that she had given birth to three babies instead of one - she already had two sons before that - mejo mama & boro mama. In those days, children were born at home and didimum's delivery was at her parents house in Kolkata's Palm Place. Just across the road was the residence of her sister who was married into the Chattopadhyay family. My mejo mama - a five year old at that time - was given the task of running across from his grandparents' house to his aunt's to let her know that his new brother or sister had arrived. So the first time he went and said, "I have a sister, but another one is on the way." But next time when the doctors told him to run across with the news that he'd had another sister but yet another was on the way, he refused to budge. "I'll wait till they all arrive," he said!
Then there was the problem of telling one baby girl from another since they looked like peas in a pod. The doctors wanted to tie a thread round my mother's wrist when they realised that she had a birthmark right there that would help in identification. Of course, my mother and mashi resemble each other so much that even today, people tend to mistake them for each other. Often mom meets people in a bus or at the market, who start talking to her like they've known her for a long time. And when they realise that she can't figure out who they are, they're almost dumbfounded. On such occasions, she comes back home and calls up my mashi to tell her "you've lost a good friend, who'll never talk to you again". Likewise, mashi too, has similar experiences, with mom's friends.
Sometimes I've wondered whether having a twin or triplets causes any loss of identity or not. But when I think of the kind of support that Ma's triplets have given her and continue to give her, the feeling is always of three being better than one. The three of them try to spend their birthday together whenever possible. And sometimes just the three of them have done something together on that special day. After my grandparents had gotten over their initial shock of having been blessed with triplets, they had made the most of bringing up the three together in the best possible way. The bonus was having two elder siblings - that made their childhood even more fun. My mother and hers sister participated in all the rough and tough activities that are usually associated with young boys. Their brothers ensured that they didn't ever turn sissy. From climbing trees to flying kites and even making their own fire-crackers to burst at Diwali - the triplets did it all. And obviously, they were all in it together. Of course, choto mama refused to wear a shirt with flowers printed on it that matched the dresses that his sisters wore. But they usually had common friends - many of whom are in touch even today. Talking about friends, my friends from school days - Rinku, Tinku and Minku - are triplets too. They're all girls but Rinku is very different from the others. So while, Tinku and Minku look alike - like mom & mashi - Rinku looks completely different. And often I've heard my mom praising their mom for her courage and patience!
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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Try Hyderabad, when it gets too cold in Delhi

It's pretty cold across India and that seems to be one of the main topics of conversation when talking to friends and relatives in various cities across the country. And Delhi is rather cold too with wind-chill, low temperatures, fog and rain. So a trip last weekend to Hyderabad turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Not only was it not cold - it wasn't uncomfortably warm either. In fact, there was a pleasant breeze all-day on the first day and the second day was cloudy bright. Evenings were a bit chilly - but very comfortable by Delhi standards.
But besides the weather, the trip had other highlights too. I was at Indian School of Business (ISB) - which has recently become India's first B-school which has got a global ranking. The Financial Times ranked ISB at 20th on a global scale. The seminar was on Asian business families and had very high profile speakers. From members of top Indian business families, to Kellogg professor John Ward, the seminar was very high on top content. The ISB campus is as good as many of the top B-school campus around the world.
Hyderabad had earned the title of Cyberabad under the former chief minister Chadrababu Naidu. It has, in fact, given competition to India's Silicon Valley - Bangalore in many ways. Hyderabad is also an educational hub and provides skilled human resources for the IT and IT-enabled services industry. With a large number of its residents going overseas, Hyderabad attracts a large part of the foreign remittances from NRIs and it is one of the Indian cities with high spending power among its consumers. A reason perhaps for the growing number of malls around town.
But there for no time to go mall hopping for me. However, I did go to Golconda Fort in the evening for a SOund & Light show. WIth Amitabh Bachchan as the 'voice', the show turned out to be awesome. The history of Golconda has tragic undertones and the sprawling fort is largely in ruins today. But the sound and light show amidst the darkness all around, brings it alive to the audience. And then there's the enjoyble experience of shopping for pearls. The beautiful strings of pearls - in colours ranging from grey to purple, pink and of course pearly white - are available in shops around the Charminar or at the more upmarket Punjagutta Road. There are big names such as Mangatrai Jewellers and Mamanram Srikishan. Besides pearsl, coral jewellery too is a specialty of Hyderabad. And finally, what's Hyderabad without its Biryani or the paans?
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