An Ode To My Grandson


rithi amma



You are a wonderful thing

Everyone’s darling


Fully developed is your talent

Which was lying within you latent


For writing, you definitely have a flair

But you do not show it to others that is not fair


You shape your feelings with such effortless ease

At which believe me, my surprise doesn’t cease


Racism, casteism, sexism, classism, fanaticism, are not a bar

In condemning which you do not harshest words spare


The ego, the heartlessness of the rich you abhor

Your compassion for the poor in your words you do pour


With rap music, you find immense rapport

Those mainly which give the Blacks support


At fourteen years of age, you say ” I have seen the world”

Not a tall claim, you take me my well-considered word





Dress And Respectiablity

My friend Jaya,  screws up her nose every time a young girl, skimpily dressed, comes into her view. And while watching movies, she liberally hurls abuses at the ” nange naach” by the shameless lot. She frets and fumes when she observes the ever-plunging necklines and the ever-rising hem-lines that have now come to be expected as normal.

Going by her unrestrained use of invectives against the “atrocious attires” worn by the girls of the current generation, which is about three times removed from hers, I strongly feel she measures the respectability of a girl literally by the “yard” stick of how many metres less than normal length of cloth is used to cover her modesty. She is no less critical of their parents and elders whom she squarely blames for not reining in their excesses in their sartorial choices.

Girija Rao Blog Dress Respectability

Both she and I are pure silvers, belonging to the same generation and have the same high educational qualifications. But my perception of all changes in the present day world and society is entirely different.

I was totally fed-up with her ever-recurring remarks at the end of her tirades like, “this is the limit”, “this is too much!”

Now the million dollar question is, how much is too much? where to draw the Lakshman Rekha, beyond which the revealing of the skin should be forbidden?

With a view to changing her mindset, I took her along with me down the memory lane, lined with different styles and fashions of dressing,, that varied from time to time and generation to generation.

In the 40’s Vijaya Laxmi Pandit, freedom fighter and sister of Jawaharlal Nehru was seen wearing sleeveless blouses on occasions, some orthodox elements did not take kindly to it. They could not bear the sight of bare shoulders. It was thought of as rather unbecoming of a person of her dignified stature. With the passage of time, however, it started becoming more common.

Girija Rao Blog Dress Respectability

And that was the time when the blouses were long, the midriff out of sight. The bra with the cups and straps had not arrived on the scene. A humble bodice covered the bosom inside the blouse.

But the blouse itself was for the most part hidden from view in cases where the pallu of the saree was meticulously draped around the entire torso. Wearing the saree this way was considered highly desirable. The woman who never failingly did this was considered an epitome of modesty and those who let the pallu slide down the back was found a bit lacking in the desired degree of decency.

It was imperative for girls, switch over rather gradually to wear the sarees or salwar kameez by the time they had entered their mid-teens. Frocks became a thing of the past which the girls had reluctantly to part company with forever.

In the south, no sooner did the girl show early signs of developing curves than they had to wear ‘Pavada‘-a piece of saree without pleats draped on the chest, a pre-saree phase that usually lasted two or three years depending on the growth of the girl, depending on the growth of the girl and the leniency shown by the elders.Girija Rao Blog Dress Respectability

In orthodox families, even skirts were forbidden. In my school days, a friend of mine frustrated at being disallowed to wear a skirt had to resort to a hunger strike to get her desire fulfilled!

In the 60’s the salwar kameez insidiously sneaked into the fashion scene with some girls emboldening themselves to be seen in this before the eyes of the die-hard traditional elders. Non-Punjabis wearing this was looked upon an alien.

Now it has become universal across the country and has replaced the saree the draping of which is admittedly cumbersome and time-consuming,  The dupatta that beautifully covered the curves has been mostly done away with which needless to point out is still frowned upon by a section.

Jaya often fretted seeing her grand-daughter ‘unabashedly’ donning the shortest possible shorts in front of the grandparents. I would laugh in return and sarcastically, ask her why she was unable to ‘reform’ her own grand-child before passing comments on other elders.

Girija Rao Blog Dress Respectability

My friend related how she did admonish the 16-year old, for being too bindaas. Stung to the quick, the young girl caustically replied, ‘Nani, please keep your regressive and this moral policing totally to yourself. I like it, so I wear it.” She continued, ” Do you expect us to go back to your era, where women draped in yards and yards of saree, slogged in their homes day in and day out disregarding their own comforts?”

This comment of hers, at once stroke, achieved what my constant preaching to my friend of the need to expect the reality with grace had failed to do.

My friend is only a stereotype of a section of our Indian society who can neither come to grips with the changing trends in fashion or in mindset.

The Skeleton

SkeletonInTheCupboard EnglishHumour GirijaRao37



A neighbor of ours had been found to be a fraud, a criminal in the making. One night two friends who had been defrauded by him stormed into his place when least expected. Ina terrible fit of temper the twosome started spitting fire at him, threatening to take legal action at the earliest.

The man sozzled to the gills, charged at them furiously, mouthing vulgar invectives deeply offended, one of them thundered “ I am sure you must have cheated other gullible persons like us and God alone knows how many more skeletons will tumble out of your cupboards.”

On hearing this the swindler wore an expression of one who is spitefully wronged, yet calmly endures the injustice, a darted into the adjoining room, brought a bunch of keys, handed it to them and threw a challenge saying, “ you are free to go and see for yourself if there are any skeletons.”

The theatricality of his act led to a spontaneous anti-climax to the high voltage drama when the duped duo, unable to control their laughter, at his stupidity burst into it openly, oblivious to his presence. The hilariousness of the situation was heightened when the crook too joined them uninhibitedly in their laughter, not knowing the reason behind this!

Ignorance of English coupled with his inebriated state of mind no doubt made him behave so foolishly. The comic interlude in the drama ended immediately afterward. The fight was resumed with the redoubled ferocity with the two friends making an angry exit swearing at him.

Ye Kahin Billi Ka To Nahi?

GirijaRao Spoiled Milk Cat GirijaRao37

During my younger days when I was actively involved in kitchen chores, one of the things that invariably lowered my spirits was the sight of a vessel full of freshly boiled milk left behind by a cat after lapping up a few sips before taking to its heels following early detection.

Thanks to my carelessness I had to endure this heartburn often as this situation had no cure till I came across three instances which showed how the spilled (here the cat tested milk) can be fruitfully made use of by people endowed with resourcefulness albeit of a dubious kind.

Once on a morning when all of us in the family were busy, three persons with whom we were faintly acquainted paid us a visit. Their purpose was to collect the donation. We could not slam the door on them as there were from our colony itself. They did not have a good reputation. And they knew about it. So they went on convincing us that they were not frauds and the cause for the charity they asked a donation for was genuine.

Even though we plainly refused to part with any money, they went on talking with no signs of budging from their seats. Now our domestic help a chirpy Nepali boy by name Lekhraj in his early teens could sense our displeasure on listening to our conversation by eavesdropping from the kitchen as was his wont, a habit common among others of his ilk.

Even as the highly irritating situation continued, suddenly Lekhraj appeared before us stylishly holding a tray laden with big mugfuls of white-complexioned tea. I was aghast at this. I was about to drive them away and look at his boy’s cheek! He was entertaining them on his own accord as if it was his own house! And the milk? Where did it come from when the stock we had was all spoilt?

After the “pests” left, Lekhraj was ready with the explanation what and why he did so. The cat was out of the bag! He said the spoiled milk was generously used in the tea served to them. With his tongue in cheek and a naughty twinkle in his eye, he asserted that those pests deserved this treatment for irritating us no end. I chided him severely for his “kartoot” that is misdeed, but I must confess I did experience a feeling of mirth deep inside me.

Another similar instance happened in a family known to us. They had a pucca “kam-chor” of a young boy for a domestic help. Time and again he was threatened with dismissal. Keeping his fingers crossed he was expecting to get the boot any time. But he was in for an incredibly pleasant surprise.

It so happened that much milk in the kitchen had been irreparably harmed by a crafty cat. With a fallen face the housewife was in the act of throwing away the milk when her mischievous kids asked her not to do so as they had plans to make some “experiment” with it. When she was gone from the house, they prepared two glasses of Rooh Afza in milk and offered one to the “kam-chor” and the other to the washroom cleaner who too was no less lethargic.  Their joy knew no bounds to their receive.

They could not gauge the reason for this change of heart on the part of their masters. Poor fellows, even if they had known about the crookedness of their little monsters, I doubt if they would feel aversion to it for it was a luxury for them beyond their rosiest dreams (rosier than the color of the Rooh Afza).

In the third instance, what happened was a matter of conjecture about the purity of a glass of lassi. A dear friend of mine and her daughter-in-law had a love-hate relationship in equal measure. Her son and she had separated. Still to keep up appearances they called each other occasionally.

One day when she visited her son’s place she found her bahu unusually exuberant. A “kanjoos” to the core, she prepared lassi for her saas. Usually, she used to behave with studied indifference towards my friend. My friend hoped this gesture might sweeten the soured relationship to some extent.

As luck would have it while enjoying the last sip suddenly a dark shadow of doubt entered her mind “yeh kahin billi ka to nahi” was the disturbing thought that took the delight out of the satiating drink.

When my friend recounted this, it had me in splits.  She also joined me in my laughter. The explanation she gave for doubting her hospitalization as she was gifted with a sense of humor was that the felines of the species always had a field day in her house. They roamed freely without fear. She did not even let the tainted milk go waste. Without giving room for regret she would put the milk to good use to entertain unwelcome outsiders. She would also set curd with the milk which came in handy for lassi.

Even though she was a close friend of mine, I could not give even a bit of credence to this weird observation. I dismissed it as a concocted account given by the proverbial biased mother-in-law.

Now it is up to you, the reader to decide which of the three incidents takes the cake.

(Not the milk cake please, for who can vouch for the purity of the milk?)

In Defence Of Sons

During a ‘Daughters Day,’ I came across an opinion “A daughter is not a tension, she is equal to 10 sons”, the statement being too strong it set me thinking how far it is justified.

This opinion must have come from the depths of the heart of a parent whose son heartlessly abandoned his parents in the twilight years of their lives.

The reason is that daughters generally do have a soft spot in their hearts for those who brought them up giving them their own and never living their own lives to the full. This being the case they voluntarily offered to do the needful as their guardian angels.

The parents too are in my opinion accountable to some extent for the callous behavior of the sons who are more often than not pampered silly throughout from their childhood to even to adulthood. Apart from their natural affection for the sons there lurks the justifiable hope that they will be the staff they can hold on to in the instability of their old age.

This does not always work, unfortunately. This pampering results in the sons becoming full of themselves and completely self-absorbed that little room is left for them to have sensitive feelings towards others, especially the parents whom they take for granted.

Apart from their natural affection for the sons there lurks the justifiable hope that they will be the staff they can hold on to in the instability of their old age. This does not always work, unfortunately.

This pampering results in the sons becoming full of themselves and completely self-absorbed that little room is left for them to have sensitive feelings towards others, especially the parents whom they take for granted.

Without the least thought of giving them back their well deserved affectionate care and respect.

I am not blind to what is happening in our society. sons in many cases change beyond belief once they get married, sometimes in the initial years itself snapping their ties with their parents without any tricks of conscience leave alone qualms of it, all gradually drifting apart permanently. In both situations the pain caused is unfathomable.

While reckoning all this, one should not lose sight that there still exists sons who do show filial love and gratitude till the end.

Married sons in a joint family are challenged with a tight rope walking, balancing the interests of their wives and parents, belonging as they do to different generations and backgrounds do not make a homogeneous group.

That being the case, clashes occur at times. The sons in such situations find themselves in a vexing dilemma. But if they are prudent, they sort out the issues in time so as to prevent them from snowballing into bigger issues that may ultimately lead to separation. The efforts of such sons are really exemplary and laudable.

In this connection, I venture to assert that all daughters are not affection and warmth personified.

I have come across daughters who cleverly try to avoid attending to their parents in their hour of need when the responsibility of looking after them falls on their shoulders when certain unavoidable circumstances arise.

Even if they let them live in their families they are made to feel they are a nuisance, a burden, a pain in the neck they are forced to put up with. They too do not hesitate to leave their parents under the roof of an old age home.

Once the parents have outlived their utility when they would like them to be out of sight as they are already out of mind. They like to be rid of all responsibility so that the even tenor of their lives will remain undisturbed.

While eulogizing the daughters as angels incarnate let us not bitterly demonise sons en masse. To put this in other words placing daughters on a high pedestal let the sons be not pulled down drastically.

“A daughter is not a tension, she is equal to 10 sons”, I opine is a sweeping generalization, because there are exceptions in both cases.


My Daughter- A Woman Of Substance



Some said that it was clearly a case of “buri nazar” that brought about the disaster. Others were of the firm belief that only the Karma could account for it. But the unanimous opinion was that it was the sadistic play of irony, considering the way the voice that one and all loved to listen to was struck down cruelly one fateful day.


Here I am referring to the time when the great misfortune befell my daughter Pallavi, fondly called as “Pallo”, like a bolt from the blue 12 years ago, in the form of a rare neuro-muscular disease,  Myasthenia Gravis,  altering the smooth force of her live irretrievably.


Till then I had never seen eye to eye with the belief of nazar striking anyone hard all of a sudden. And the skeptic that I was, operation of Karma governing once life too had not found favour with me. But following this tragic turn of events I no longer scoff at them as they offer some kind of solace to my disturbed mind.


How can one otherwise account for when Pallavi’s career at its peak as the most popular RJ of Radio Mirchi whose Bumper to Bumper has recall value even after 12 years.


One of my friends recollected how exhilarating it was travelling back home in the car, after a hard day’s work in the office listening to her show Bumper to Bumper, which she conducted in a style of her own, a chatter which had stimulating content.


Among the countless fans she had, Kapil Dev who conveyed his accolades to her on the phone could be counted. All of them were deeply disappointed wondering if anybody else could measure upto her place. Why did the voice that ruled the air go off it permanently was what they wondered.


Her voice which clued Radio listeners to “Mirchi” was severely affected by Myasthenia Gravis whose “grave” that is very serious symptoms included slur of speech, severe breathlessness, acute weakness, inability to chew food and swallow water which would at times trickle down from the nose, drooping of eyes that disfigured the face completely. Click here to read her full story.


She was entrusted to the care of Apollo Hospital, where she is still under medical care even though she now much better. The drugs have been too many and too strong, the most dreaded one being the steroids, notoriously known as the “necessary evil”.


The alarming side-effects of the drugs are so many that I feel the remedy too is to an extent match the severity of the malady to certain extent. High blood pressure, hazardous dips in sugar levels, totally sleepless nights for weeks and months, ghastly frequent falls, a few of them being getting thrown meters away with a thud loud enough to be heard in the other room, were in the course of the treatment.


Three major surgeries followed by chemotherapies, two highly critical phases where complete surrender to the Almighty seeing the only way to recovery, the weak to fortnights stays in the ICU punctuated her woeful life. Being under ventilators had become a routine.




Her life before the illness was very eventful, having excelled in whatever she took interest in and pursued passionately, whether it be Bharatnatyam, Newsreader on Radio and Television, as a reader in Aap ki Adalat, writing and directly street plays, being named as “Miss. Geography”, being a topper in B.A. in Kamala Nehru College and the South Campus. She had won over all the students during her 5 year teaching stint at St. Mary’s School, before she took up voice-over as a career.


But amazingly, her achievements after her ordeal have been even more impressive. Her finishing a half marathon after the first major surgery was no mean a feat.


There are in this chronic illness phases that are known as “remissions” when the symptoms almost disappear almost totally. At such times she is at her active best. She ventures to other cities on office work and pleasure trips. Even though generally, her exerting too much is fraught with danger.


ICU Love Stories”, which she penned while convalescing in the ICU, observing the lives of the inmates she was surrounded by is a tale of its own. It shows the sensitive perception of an author she is gifted with. This ability of hers stirred many.


Contributing her bit to Radio Mirchi and the society as Group Head CSR, these achievements have really done me proud. But what I find really amazing about her has been the calmness in her stoic outlook on life, making the best of a bad bargain and making the most of what remains of her not so normal life.


Never did she lament her fate, self-pity has been conspicuous by its absence in her thought, speech or actions. She would always show a smiling face to me well aware as she was of what a life of agony, I as a mother was going through.

Anyone else in her pathetic situation would have wallowed in self-pity. Once she overheard me, pouring out to a friend of mine, “Why has God singled out my innocent daughter only to inflict on her such a dreaded disease which only a handful out of a lakh are affected with?” At this she became furious with me and admonished me for such negativism.


No fear of the unknown, living each day as it comes, going with the flow, forgiving and moving on, counting ones blessings, gratitude for all one has, are the guiding principles of her life.


Thanks to her will-power coupled with good medical care she is facing life boldly and cheerfully. Her never-say-die spirit in the face of a near fatal disease that she displays is simply remarkable. As the CSR head of Radio Mirchi her commendable innovative work have won her a number of awards.  Going to office occasionally and doing office work from home, she spends her leisure creatively, drawing, painting, changing the décor of the house, entertaining guests and more importantly blogging and writing stories.


What is the stuff she is made of? A steely will and a positivism of a very high order. Her personality is summed up in the words “a woman of substance” award she received this year on Women’s International Day.





Dowry deaths are a phenomena that occur with regularity in our country in families that are poor or effluent, educated or uneducated.

As long as there is greed that is fed by the “self imposed helplessness” of the girls parents one can see no signs of this monstrous custom called dowry becoming less frequent.

Come to think of it, one wonders how can parents, brothers and sisters of the dowry victim can be absolved of shirking their bounden duty of saving the girl’s life when they know she has been suffering for long who then either commit suicide or is tortured to death in a diabolical household.

Especially in cases where the innocent girl tearfully entreats her father for years to give her emotional support and practical help and he fails to offer it apprehensive of societal pressure the members of her maternal family stand morally accused.

Giving the daughter high education is no doubt praiseworthy. But the responsibility of the parents does not end as when they say proudly “we have married her off, now we can breathe easy free from any worry about her future”. This ideally should not be the case. They should make sure that she is in the right place where there is no dowry harassment, domestic violence and round the clock slavery.

The most disturbing case of Neha Rastogi, a fully accomplished woman of today is a stark example of how a daughter due to the so called “Indian conditioning” waited years before taking the decision to divorce her sociopath husband.

At the first sign of dowry harassment reported by the daughter, the father should immediately take steps to nip it in the bud. And if the situation goes of control, without giving a damn to the society, proceedings for divorce should be undertaken.

Sangeeta Verma, a highly qualified school teacher, with a M. Sc. B.Ed from Ghaziabad, who was thrown acid on by her averashious husband, sustained 90% burns, blamed her own father to whom she was apparently complaining for15 years. Had he responded to her pleas, this tragedy could have been averted.

There are ofcourse instances where the suffering girl herself keeps her parents in the dark about her misery as she sensitively feels that their peace should not be disturbed in their old age.

But the parents should from the beginning be vigilant enough trying to find out how things have been working out in her relation with her husband and her in-laws in a joint family.

Shedding buckets full of tears and banging their heads against the wall with sorrow and guilt after the tragic event, in no where lessens the magnitude of their act of omission in a matter of life and death.

How ghastly the torturing for dowry can be, years ago in Bombay, I witnessed as a young girl, in a flat facing ours. A hulk of a man standing in the balcony threw his young pregnant wife to the floor and started kicking and stamping on her body while his mother stood still by him watching the torture with suppressed glee. The toddler, their child, was watching this act with a very frightened look.  This was all in full view of the neighbours who did nothing to save the situation.

A few days later the accursed girl bid goodbye to this world. The cause of her death being stated by the family as ” getting burnt while cooking on the stove”.

Not very long afterwards, the man got another wife to the shock of everyone.

I was a young girl then. I am touching 80 years now. Sadly, not much seems to have changed.