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July 19, 2004 14:35 IST
As a child, rituals can be very exciting. Nag Panchami, for example, was day of huge excitement.
As an eight year old, there were two things I knew for sure -- this was the day we made it a point to pray to Lord Shiva and this was the day we fed milk to the snakes. And that's how you knew how brave you were.
The snakes would turn up everywhere -- at traffic signals, street corners, bus stops, railway stations, in the market and even at your door. They would coil in round wicker baskets, slung around their owner's greasy necks or slither around on dirty pieces of coloured cloths that doubled as temporary display grounds.
The scariest part was when the snake -- mostly a cobra -- would suddenly, without warning, be thrust under my nose and I would run and hide behind Mummy while she gave the snake man a coin to go away.
You also gave the snake owner money to ensure the snake drank some milk. If it did, it was supposed to mean that both the snake, and Lord Shiva, whose matted hair it adorned, was pleased.
It was only many years later that I realised the poor snake was much more frightened of me that I was of it. That snakes are not, according to their natural diet, supposed to drink milk -- that, in fact, they had probably been starved for days to make sure they did so. That cobras were prodded and hurt so that they would raise their hood. And that, in many terrible cases, their mouths had been sewn up so they wouldn't hurt or scare anyone.
I don't think Lord Shiva will be pleased.
Gayatri S, Mumbai
During recess in school, my friends and I made it a point to eat lunch together. Our reason was not altruistic -- we enjoyed the variety it added to our menu.
One day, I made for the bathroom before joining my friends for lunch. After returning, I joined the gang. But when I opened my lunch box, all it had -- much to my shock! -- was a half-eaten jam sandwich.
Thoroughly embarrassed, I lied to my friends that it was the leftover from my breakfast.
I could not understand why they began howling with laughter. Until one of them managed to stop laughing enough to explain how they had played a prank on me. They had finished my lunch and replaced it with the sandwich!
I have never been more embarrassed in my life.
Sunil Dhummi, Mumbai
We were in the US for a spell and, since both of us were working, we needed the services of a crèche. Every crèche we visited insisted our 17-month-old daughter had to be potty-trained.
So Rhia's training began but, even after much effort, she was still having 'accidents.' As a deterrent, we began leaving her alone in the bathroom each time she made a 'mistake'.
Until, five days later, she took me by the hand and pointed out the spot where she had urinated. Then, quietly, she walked into the bathroom and shut the door. It was a heart-wrenching moment. It was also the last time we punished her like this.
Meenu Gupta, Bhawan Vidayalaya, Chandigarh
Pay to park
It was my first visit to the US after my marriage. We were out on a drive to enjoy the beautiful show Nature puts up every Fall. The leaves don beautiful colours before they swirl off the trees.
I found a parking spot that had a sign, Parking Fees $5. I looked around for an attendant but could not spot anyone, so I decided to pay the fee later. When we returned, though, there was still no one there. I was puzzled until I spotted a jar in which people were dropping the parking charge.
That's when I realised that, in the US, you pay to park and not for having your vehicle guarded.
Aseem Sharma, USA