Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ticking a Different Box

Got married.
Am already tired of smiling for the camera.
Keep myself occupied with trying to remember new names and faces (in the right combination preferrably).
Find myself admiring the mehndi on my hands whenever i have nothing to do (or when the fellow isnt within sight! :P)
Have to exercise great control over my exceedingly boisterous behaviour so as not to scandalise the new family (there is enough time for that later na).
Am missing my jeans and over sized tee shirts. Sigh.
Keep thinking this is all so surreal and i really cant be married. Im dont feel grown up and responsible.
Try to sneak in a few minutes during which to sit quietly with the fellow and try and feel married (various accessories etc not withstanding).
Also try to get some time with my laptop to get my fix of the internet.
Oh and i also get to tick the 'married' box on forms.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Great Divide

Now that the terrorists are dealt with, it's time for the usual routine of expert panels, protest marches, candle lighting, political faffing, monetary compensations, zero sensitivity, big words and little action.
Of course there is one important difference here. The anger, outrage, feeling of terror and utter disbelief and shock is simply due to the fact that even the rich are vulnerable. Had 2 smaller and little known hotels in a northern suburb of Mumbai been attacked, not one candle holding protester would be found on the streets.
Yes i agree that the hotels the terrorists chose were iconic in nature, and ensured international attention. But the aftermath is only emphasising the underlying discrimination and the great divide that exists in our city. All peace walks and protest marches lead to the Taj. Everyone talks about how innocent people were killed in the hotels when all they had come for was an evening out. Everyone is shocked at how easily 2 top hotels were attacked.
But what about CST? Isnt the erstwhile Victoria Terminus an equally important landmark (and a place that definitely sees more people passing by than the hotels)? What about those innocent citizens who were at CST? What about those who were simply looking to go back home after a long day at work or return to their village after a holiday in Bombay? What about those women and men who were caught in open fire with nowhere to run or hide? What about the man in the control tower, who, on seeing the gunmen, made announcements for people to get away to another platform, thereby saving their lives? Why is no one saluting his alertness and quick thinking? Why isnt he being interviewed for what happened? Why is no one talking about the people who were killed as part of what was probably a diversionary tactic?
So while i empathise and am equally outraged at what my city is going through, im also saddened by the inequality that the common man faces even in death.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Aaagghh. Someone please shoot the newsreaders and reporters. And politicians while you're at it.

As macabre as this sounds given the current scenario, we want leadership not puppets, facts not opinions. We want news reporting and not manipulation. We want someone who isnt looking only to garner brownie points for herself and her news channel but is sensitive to the plight of relatives and friends.
Why dont we have reporters who talk like normal people instead of sounding like they're on an Infomercial?! What is with the booming dramatic voice? What happened to being calm and composed on air instead of transfering panic and fear through the television screens?
Whatever happened to responsible journalism? Lalit Modi talking about the terror attacks? The only thing worse than that is him seemingly lounging about on a couch while expressing his opinions. Why is the media interested in what will happen to cricket in the country? People are effing dying here you morons!
And our politicians need to be locked up in one room and kept out of the way. A visibly pissed off Shobha De talking to Barkha Dutt rightly said that our law and order personnel need to protect the city and its people and not have to worry about the safety and protection of doddering old fools (ok this last bit is mine and not De's).
And all the supremely annoying Dutt could ask her was if it wasnt a good sign that the leader of the opposition and the PM were travelling together!! WTF! Like now would be a good time to demand seperate travelling arrangements. If they cant travel together, they're definitely not going to work together towards solving whatever is happening in this city (and lets not talk about the country).
Oh and, btw, they didnt travel together. Mr. Advani said he came, even though he had to be in Rajasthan tomorrow, to get a feel of the situation and see how the people and officials were handling the situation. Oh my. What an honour for the city. What would we have done without him?. And he came alone because it wasnt sure whether the PM would even be coming in to the city today. What no permission from Madam? Well, after his lame ass excuse for a speech on national television, we're better off with him not coming.
All over our news channels the same video loop has been playing. Clips from yesterday night and all through today are being repeated with increasing graphics and dramatic headlines. And the one thing that stands out for me is the horde of media persons surrounding the hotels while the police is constantly pushing them behind a cordone. It seems to me that they're in the way. Where is the sensitivity? Ambulances come in to collect the injured and dead and all we can do is watch the camera person angling to get a better shot of the bodies!
So while we're all hoping for someone (most probably the very calm and methodical army, navy and RAF) to stop the madness, someone needs to also control the media and their sickening ability to convert reality into reality television.

Until Now

Living in Mumbai has never been simple. Terrorist threats, riots, attacks on shops, taxis and offices, disrupted train servies, we live with all of this on a daily basis. Mumbaikars have learnt to take it all in their stride and move on with life. This indomitable spirit is what has made the city what it is. Bombs have not reduced the crowds in local trains, they have not stopped people from flocking to market places and they have definitely not made anyone stay cooped inside their houses.
Until now.
Until now Mumbai has never been faced with an act of terrorism that did not stop with one or several blasts.
Until now we have never had to face indiscriminate firing at railway stations, cafes and hotels.
Until now we thought only local trains and market places could be targeted. We were wrong.
Until now only the middle class was affected. The balance has changed and now the rich are hostage.
Until now we never heard of several top cops being shot dead a couple of hours into the attack.
Until now the terrorists never came foward in such large numbers together.
Until now terrorism in India never grabbed international attention of this magnitude.
Until now we never had a situation which lasted nearly 18 hours.
Until now Mumbai had never had the army step in.
Until now we have never felt the panic and fear we are now.
Unfortunately, until now no one took terrorism in this city seriously. It was just another of those things you get innured too. But now someone has to be accountable for the supreme lack of respect for human life and the blatant spread of terror. Someone has to have the answers.
Until now the common man accepted the apathy of the government towards their plight. But not anymore. Now we demand action.
Until now we demanded a solution.
Now we demand justice.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Addicted and Clueless

You never know how much you're going to miss something till it's gone. And i wish this was about something deep and meaningful (and maybe, just maybe it is). Unfortunately it happens to be about my broadband internet connection.

So i come home one evening and find my internet connection gone poof. At first i thought my computer was being cranky. But restarting it (twice) didnt help, neither did talking to it lovingly. So i took to unplugging the modem and the wi-fi transmitter and replugging them (more than twice). When that didnt work either, i gave the MTNL guys the benefit of doubt and figured the sever was down and would be up and running in time for my daily quota of facebook, gmail, wikipedia, google news, gtalk and all the tv shows downloading.

But my faith was misplaced. All night (while i wondered what to do with my laptop now that i couldnt get onto the world wide web) i kept checking to see if all the lights were blinking on my modem. I alternately stood looking at the box willing the lights to come on and checking my computer to see if the small blue dot appeared on the screen. I even organised the files and folders on my computer since there was nothing else i could do.

I stopped doing it after a day and a half.

3 days later i didnt even bother switching on my computer.

Today evening the lights all came on again and i rushed here to clatter this out.

Im back to walking with a bounce in my step and a smile on my face.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Avantika Inked. Again

My first tattoo hadn’t fully healed when I started planning another one. That was October 2007. After months of not getting the time and then the time not being right, I finally went and got inked again yesterday. And it was as exhilarating an experience as I remembered it.


My first piece was quite small and something I got done on a whim. Luckily for me it turned out nice and I still like looking at it. This new one I’ve been thinking about for quite some time, and have spent hours looking for designs and checking with the few people I know who have some aesthetic sense, and will not hesitate to tell me if I’m about to get a disaster permanently marked on my skin.
(Later Observation: Thats a seriously terrible picture of my foot. I need to practice foot angles now i think!)

My friends of course all think I’m crazy to volunteer for the pain. I think the pain is quite therapeutic. Of course it helps that they (on request) apply some numbing gel (which I think is more of a placebo than anything else). But the fact of the matter is that I quite enjoyed the noise and movement of the needle as it went about inserting ink into my skin. Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not denying the pain. Nor am I masochistic. All I’m saying is that the dull (and at times sharp) throbbing pain was quite tolerable. And once you’re through you really don’t think of the pain in all the post-tattoo excitement.

So after an hour’s wait, another hour under the needle (a new one, fresh from a sealed packet) and a quick squirt of dettol-water to wipe away the extra colour and blood, I was the proud owner of a brand new tattoo.

I knew where I wanted my third piece even before I left the studio.

My poor (needle phobic) fellow says we shall discuss it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Dream of Hot Buttered Toast

I don’t know if it’s age (I’m young enough to admit to how old I am) or if it’s just stress (which I’m stressed enough to admit to), but I find myself increasingly thinking about food. There seems to be no pattern that I can make out in my day dreams, except that they’re all about food. And once a craving hits (yes, the dreams then go onto trick my brain into annoying me enough to go in search of the food) nothing satisfies it except the object of my fantasies.

Now if I was fantasizing about gourmet, fancy stuff, I could blame it on good taste and discerning taste buds. But no. My unconscious insists on bringing up memories and images (and smells) of hot buttered toast (that I can gratify immediately with a holler to the maid), steaming hot wanton soup at my favourite Chinese eatery (which, since the place has shut down, I continue to dream about), mum’s rajma chawal (isn’t it the best always), the bhel I get just down the road (oh ya that’s the real thing, not the sterilised, hygienic stuff mum makes at home), my aunt’s fried potato sabzi and baked vegetables (anything fried and anything layered with cheese has to taste good), dosa at my friend’s home (us north Indians just don’t know how to do a good dosa), nani’s besan ke laddoo (as clich├ęd as it sounds, my nani made killer laddoos till she went all healthy on us), Gooey chocolate torte with a friend at a place i can never get to on my own, caramel popcorn at….oh well you get the picture.

My sister is quite fed up with my cravings. She tells me to save it for when I’m pregnant. After all why should she be the one to have to listen to me talking (almost reverently) about hot vada pav and masala dosa (with a mangola) at the udipi next to my college? Let that poor unfortunate fellow of mine struggle to get me a choco-bar at 2 in the morning.

Ooh. Time to check the freezer.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

700

While visiting this blog, i read about full2faltu and his interesting tradition of inviting guest writers to post on his blog. In turn he donates money to charity and gets to the enviable 700 posts milestone on his blog.
I took a chance to step out of my own page (and readership of maybe three people) and am now linked at full2faltu's blog (which you must visit for some very interesting writing).
Cheers,

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Imbeciles All of Them

I fail to understand how people can be so apathetic and ignorant when it comes to recognizing, appreciating, respecting and valuing the history this country has to offer.

The heritage of our country, instead of being preserved and managed, is being neglected, and what is worse, abused. Museums are for the most part devoid of visitors and those that do attract tourists are suffering from public apathy. For most of the people who visit museums, it is just another 20 minute stop in their itinerary and once they realise that all the rooms are full of glass cases with old things, they look for the nearest exit.

I visited the Albert Hall (Central) Museum in Jaipur recently which is housed in a hundred and thirty two year old magnificent building. The museum has been refurbished recently and made more shiny and nice looking in an attempt to rid museums of the reputation for being dusty and morose places. And on the whole they have succeeded pretty well. Except that they did not take into consideration the utter lack of interest and value for heritage in our people. All around the museum there are signs asking people (in two languages) not to touch the glass cases. Do we read them? Maybe. Do we follow the instruction? You think?


The museum has a lot of different types of artefacts ranging from metal to textiles. In the sculpture section they have several rare pieces which will be difficult to find now. Unfortunately the curator has too much faith in people and more importantly parents. While I stood there, a family of 5 arrives and while the parents look around them confused, their 8 yr old daughter rubs her hand along the length of the sculpture are she walks past it. And mind you we’re talking of something that could be as old as 600 years. Several countries in the world aren’t that old.

On the lower level the building has open court yards (protected as much as they can from pigeons using it as an open air toilet) with marble fountains as old as the building. But do we care? No. We encourage our children to go play in the water while we take photographs. Morons.


I also happened to visit the Amber fort in Jaipur. Here I see people who decide to test the strength of 400 year old marble railings opening out on a 100 foot ledge. I did my good deed of the day and went and told this couple reposing on one such railing, very politely may I add, that although I understand they are tired and want to sit, a 400 year old railing isn’t the place to do it. They thought I was loony. Fools.

And then there is the whole forbidden fruit syndrome or more culturally appropriate Laxman rekha temptation. A lot of areas of the fort were cordoned off for restoration purposes, for conservation of the monument or for the safety of the tourist. But no. We see a rope and we have to cross it. So then we have people making their children cross the ropes and pose for pictures in the middle of a no walking area and buffoons leaning over ropes to run their hands over the original walls just because they are told not to. Luckily the guards are either being paid more or are really satisfied with their jobs because they burst into whistle and movement when this happened. More power to them.

And don’t even get me started on how we feel the need to express our love (or stupidity) on any surface that stands still enough. Imbeciles. Should be shot or something.


We’ll go to other countries and pay big money to see three feet of crumbling wall cordoned by thick ropes, we’ll wait hours in a line to see empty stone rooms with small square panels of cloth under plexiglas depicting what ‘might’ have been used as drapery, we’ll voluntarily go to museums and look at collections of old pots and pans, we’ll even ooh and ah at pictorial depictions of the history (measly 100 or 200 years of it) of whichever country we are in at the time, - all in the name of tourism.

What about all that our country has to offer? What about our own walls which are still standing proud and strong, the rooms that are still lined with gold and paint, the museums that tell you that which was, the history that reverberates across the land in every fort and palace there is?

Is it a case of having so much that you take it for granted? Or is it that we’re a race that just doesn’t know how to appreciate what we have? Whatever the reason, we end up looking like imbeciles and fools.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dog Tails

I'm spending all my time in Jaipur washing my hands - apparently they taste better than the expensive chewy toy we got for the dog. I wanted to write a post on the madness that is my dog, but there is so much one can say that i decided not to. Pictures are so much easier to put up.








Friday, October 31, 2008

Of Festivals and Family Lunches

Nothing defines India better than the big fat Indian family. And nothing brings that big fat Indian family together better than a festive occasion.

Yesterday was proof of that. On account of it being Bhaidooj (another brother-sister bonding festival albeit non-commercial and low key) I happened to be at my grandparents home in Jaipur. Something (actually it was the presence of her new grand-daughter-in-law) made my grandmom decide to invite the entire clan to lunch (that this clan includes close to a hundred people seemingly escaped her attention).

Things wouldn’t have been so bad if my granny didn’t believe in the pleasure gained through hard work, labour and sweat (and getting up early in the morning and cleaning the crockery and cutting the vegetables). So here we were, my new sister-in-law (being initiated in to the big family parties scene) and me, elbow deep in vegetables and mayo at 8 in the morning, with me warning her (someone had to do it) about not looking forward to a leisurely lunch after all the preparations.

The family began trickling in at 1 pm. Around 3 the house was bursting at its seams and the kitchen overflowing with plates and spoons (luckily we had the foresight of getting disposable glasses or else we would have been standing at the sink washing glasses all afternoon). Between a couple of aunts, my SIL and me, we were about 5 people running between kitchen and dining area trying to keep the flow of food going (while keeping it hot). Along with the lunch there was also the whole bhaidooj thing to be done, which we had arranged for at the opposite end of the house. And so while running around with food we also acted as messengers, shooing people (mainly the brothers who were busy stuffing themselves silly) towards the sisters who were waiting to receive the moolah (:D), and since there existed 3 generations of people the combinations and permutations of brother-sister pairings was mind bogglingly complex (the new bride stopped trying to pay attention to the relations after 20 mins).

Anyways, we got to eat around 4 pm. The last of the lunch eaters came in around 4.30 pm. Rounds of tea began at 5 pm. The house was emptied of its last guest at 5.30 pm. The kitchen was cleaned and made to look less like a disaster area by 7pm. The dog was released from her leash at 7.05 pm. The crockery is still being put back in its place (I did my share before blogging) and feet still hurt.



Monday, October 27, 2008

Diwali Dilemmas

In all my 25 yrs, this will only be the third time I am in Bombay this time of the year. And I hate it. It just doesn’t feel like Diwali if I don’t see my grandmother sorting out and soaking the diyas, help my aunts cook up (and taste generously) an assortment of snacks in the kitchen, go around the house and terrace placing diyas with my cousins, get yelled at by my uncle for lounging around instead of getting ready for the pooja, and then sit down to a big feast with the entire family. Oh and it definitely isn’t Diwali till I get to go up to the terrace the next day and count how many rockets landed there.

In Bombay there is only the pooja and the feast and even those don’t seem fun with only four people. I miss standing in a queue according to age after the pooja and touching the elders’ feet (everyone wanted to do it because it was a good way of getting some extra cash) and I sure miss sharing a huge plate of food with 5 other cousins and trying to figure out who ate the most. I even miss waiting my turn to go have a bath (no easy feat with 20 other people and 2 bathrooms).

Every Diwali I remember cribbing about having to go visit a never ending list of relatives. Now that I don’t have to, I kind of miss it – especially the food (though at the end of 2 days I didn’t want to see another kaju katli). Diwali was always about the mathris and shakkar-paras and other assorted fried foods. I miss sneaking into the kitchen for an afternoon snack and having to choose between 5 types of fried chips.

I think I just miss the whole feeling of it being a festival. I miss the anticipation of travelling out of the city and the frenzy of packing for the trip. I miss discussing what clothes to wear and what gifts to take. I miss staying up late listening to my aunts gossip and then sleeping in late (all because I was on holiday). I miss my grandfather supervising the proceedings and insisting we all dance around the house in celebration (long story for another time). I just miss the simple things that make up Diwali.

Ps: I don’t miss the noise and the pollution though. I get enough of that in Bombay.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You Know It Isn't Your Day When...

…You wake up because your maid elbowed you (and feigned surprise when you went OW!) while sweeping the floor.

... You oil your hair and then realise you’ve run out of shampoo and you’re already late in leaving home for an appointment.

… The one day you decide to have breakfast everyone at home decides to skip it and you’re stuck with (yucky) milk.

… You make a long list of errands to run and a political goonda gets arrested the night before. And so as it always happens, all the places you have to go to get your work done are closed in anticipation of trouble. Cowards.

… You go and get your hands pampered at the manicurists and are all happy with your pretty looking nails and soft hands, and then stepping out of the parlour you fall. Hands first. Twice.

… You decide to have sev-puri at the roadside stand near your house and the person 3 seconds before you has ordered 10 plates to take away, 2 plates to eat there and doesn’t know how to give instructions, leaving you standing there for nearly 20 minutes.

… You get your sev-puri packed and refusing a carry bag, give the bhaiyya some additional gyan on saving the environment and not using plastic. This said you walk back home with the newspaper packet in your hand and it drips – tamarind chutney all over your pants. Light coloured cottons at that.

I spent the rest of the evening and night in my room.

Sigh. Person Luck (being politically correct just in case) has a weird sense of humour.

Prioritize What?

Why does it happen that there are days when I have no agenda at all, no plans to carry out, no errands to run and definitely no lists to write and rewrite. And then I have so much to do (all at the same time) and so many places to be, and even worse, a deadline within which to do it that my head threatens to burst with all the activity inside it. Management and organizational texts (as well as people who want to give their opinions on everything) will tell me that prioritization is the key to everything. They will say that you need to make lists and go about ticking them off according to what can’t wait for a minute to what can be deferred till the next day.

I have a much better solution. Make the list. Look at it and clutch your head in worry. Calculate the number of days till deadline. Look at the list again. Try and prioritize what you see. Fail miserably. Put the list on your pin-board. Forget about it. Get blogging.

For now I’m in denial. Panic I shall later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who Annoyed the Sun?

Warning: This post is basically one long crib fest

Bombay weather has never been one which you can sing praises about. We suffer from bad to horrible weather most times of the year except for a few random weeks in the fag end of December when it cools down enough to be pleasant. Other than that, we complain (and rightly so) about sticky, humid, sweaty summers and other non-monsoon months (when train compartments become furnaces and you feel like you’re being roasted) and we whine and crib about the rains and floods during monsoon season which can last for up to 4 months (when nothing dries and everything and everyone smell musty).

But the last week or so beats it all (at least for this year). Never has October been so utterly and totally unbearable. It’s impossible to step out in the day time unless you’re insulated by air conditioning and even then it isn’t really effective. Everyone seems to be melting in to a puddle of sweat. Everywhere you go people are fanning themselves in an attempt to find some relief but it’s futile since you end up fanning hot air. The local transport system has become close to torture given that everyone is sweating like pigs while being jostled together and packed like sardines in small spaces.

You can’t think of running any errands even at 10 in the morning (even if the shops were open) because the sun is beating down mercilessly upon all that it can reach. But even in extreme cases where you absolutely have to step out of your cool room, you realise it is worse than you imagined. Along with the hot enough to fry an egg on the road sun there is a total absence of any relief providing breeze. Not a leaf stirs and not a tree sways. It’s like the sun killed the wind with its super heat or something.

It’s absolutely impossible to wear makeup unless you want it running all over your face with your perspiration or you want to look like a made-up monkey what with the flushed and heated skin you sport all day long. And talk of having to cook in this heat? It sincerely makes you wish for cold fire or better yet a heat reduction knob for the sun.

So what I’m saying here is that Bombay may be no Rajasthan and we definitely don’t experience the extremes of weather here. But when I say it is hot it sure as hell is hot (like hell if one has to use the analogy…after all it does bring out the worst in people doesn't it?)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Weird Conversation...

…between my sister and me over a tanpura. She finally bought a cover for her tanpura today from one of the umpteen music stores she passes to and fro from work (thanks to the taxi strike today she was actually at their doorstep walking to work and dragging her tired ass back from it).

So she asks me to hold one end of the instrument and since I was, at the moment, relaxing in a horizontal state of relaxation, I stretched out a hand to receive it. Apparently not the smartest thing to do, since I was reprimanded quite strictly.

Sister: You can’t hold it in one hand like that!

Me: Why not? I can. Give it to me I’ll hold it.

Sister: No. I have to put the cover on it and you will have to support the entire weight of the tanpura. Like a baby.

Me: Huh?

Sister: It’s like changing a diaper on a baby.

Me: What?

Sister: When you’re changing a baby’s diaper you lift the entire bottom up na? It’s like that.

Me: (incredulous) You’re comparing your tanpura to a baby’s bottom?

Sister: Yes and frankly it’s more delicate. You can tilt and turn a baby and it won’t break. My tanpura will.

Hmmm.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Some Things are Priceless

I love the MasterCard commercials on television and each one is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. This gets me making a storyboard out of my life…

Autorikshaw to the station – Rs. 20
Train Ticket to Churchgate (return) – Rs. 16
Mid-day at the platform – Rs. 2
Getting an empty fast train at peak time – Priceless

Chemistry text book – Rs. 40
Photocopying notes – Rs. 80
Digene tablets – Rs. 10
Heavy rains cancelling chemistry exam – Priceless

The Diary of Anne Frank – Rs. 250
Bridget Jones’ Diary – Rs. 299
The Prison Diary – Rs. 350
Finding my teenage diary hidden someplace – Priceless

Vegetable Sandwich – Rs. 12
Toast Sandwich – Rs. 15
Masala Toast – Rs. 15
Getting unlimited potato with butter and masala – Priceless

Cab to the hospital – Rs. 35
Doctors fee – Rs. 500
Medicine cost – Rs. 1340
Being able to read your doctor’s handwriting – Priceless

Booking movie tickets online – Rs. 300
Travelling to the theatre – Rs. 40
Popcorn and Pepsi – Rs. 100
Being in time for the movie – Priceless
Writing a blog post - 20 minutes
Uploading it to the blog - 3.5 minutes
Formatting it - 2 minutes
People reading it - Priceless

Monday, October 6, 2008

Let's Start at the Very Beginning...

…A very good place to start. To read we being with… whatever has the largest print, least number of pages, a lot of pictures, and hopefully has had a movie made on it. Oh and whatever your friend has in her own personal library.

No, this is not my notion of reading but I do have a point to make with it.

A few weeks back a very close friend (who doesn’t even read magazines and avoids books like the plague) asked me to lend her a book because she wanted to start reading. After I’d gotten over the shock and managed to close my mouth, I continued looking at her waiting for someone to jump up and yell ‘bakra’!! When it became apparent that this wasn’t a joke, I asked her what type of book. That is when I got the big print, not too fat, simple story and something she would like bit. After mentally reviewing all the books in my possession and not being able to come to something that fit all her criteria I was about to give up and give her a lone Sweet Valley lying in one dusty corner in my house when another friend who was a silent spectator of the scene tentatively voiced an opinion. “Give her One Night @ the Call Centre na?” Hmm. Not a book I was a particular fan of but it seemed to spark some interest in my friend. I was surprised she’d even heard of it but it just took 30 seconds for me to know why. Though my friend may not know books, she knows her movies. And given that a beefed up Salman Khan is prancing on our tv screens in an apparent movie version of the book, it wasn’t surprising that my friend readily agreed to read the book.

Over the next few days, my friend would randomly call me and gush about how much she was enjoying reading the book and how she couldn’t wait to finish it. On completing it, she moved on Five Point Someone and then the third offering by the same author. By this time, my friend’s husband and mother were both getting a tad bit worried about this abnormal behaviour while I was looking through my bookshelf about what to give her next.
Today morning this same friend calls me barely coherent. After being assured that nothing was wrong I asked her what the hell was happening. “Chetan Bhagat is on 94.1 fm.” Even though I didn’t rush to the radio I couldn’t help grinning (a lot).

From barely reading college notes to give her exams to reading three-fourths of a certain Ms. Jones’ diary, from gushing (inexcusably) about Splitsvilla to listening to radio interviews of novelists my friend has definitely come a long way. And so it doesn’t matter if the start is a book with big print, lots of pictures and few pages. It’s still a very good place to start.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From a Hand Shake to a Hug


With this post, I add to the already massive amounts of opinions on the internet about a certain meeting between a Head of State and, well, Sarah Palin.

The President of Pakistan has definitely made the world media sit up and take notice of him (and not in connection with bombings, murders, terrorism and India). His now (in)famous meeting with Sarah Palin not only caught the fancy of journalists and bloggers all around the globe, it also instigated local religious leaders to the extent that they have issued a ‘fatwa’ against their Head of State.

Apparently his remarks were unworthy of someone in his position (if you’re heading a country you can’t appreciate gorgeousness?) and non-permissible by Islam (huh?). Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that he happened to find a non-Islamic woman gorgeous. I repeat myself, huh?

So Zardari called Sarah Palin gorgeous. What else was he to do, compliment her intelligence? In saying he now understood why all of America was crazy about her he was probably paraphrasing from why all of America thought she was crazy. And in suggesting that if he was instructed to do so he might hug her, Zardari was probably just trying to pave a way for better US-Pak relations (along with providing the world with a juicy sound-byte guaranteed immediate attention).

So instead of issuing a fatwa against Zardari for his words he should probably be appreciated for his honesty and courage in taking the bull by it’s horn, or in this case, Palin by her hand!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fifth Anniversary of the First Job You Were Fired From Day

So apparently yesterday was Daughter’s day. After Mother’s day, Father’s day, Grandparent’s day, and now this, Daughter’s day, we now need a Son’s day (which in India will probably get the feminists all riled up and protest that everyday is son’s day). But that’s not the focus of my rant here. My point here is (and very loosely at that) that to make the happy family portrait complete what about a Dog/Cat/Rat/Parrot/Hamster day? I mean if you can will several million dollars to your dog/cat, you can definitely have a day in its honour and give Hallmark another reason to make money.

And if you can have a day for your dog or hamster, why not have more days to keep us occupied?

Neighbours day – a chance to say thank you to all those who listen to you sing in the bathroom, and who in turn have awesome food smells wafting up to your window.

Domestic help day – seriously required to keep the Shanta bais of the world happy and your dishes done (I’m sure mothers will willingly give up their day just to make sure the maid is not unhappy).

Doodhwala day – one of those unique features of India bringing fresh milk right up to your doorstep every morning.

Dhobi day – where else will you get someone to do your laundry for you, iron the clothes, and deliver them back to you?

The first time you cooked a non-burnt meal day – a red letter day if any!

Getting your first salary day – celebrating that really ridiculous salary you were paid in an attempt to make your current pay seem brilliant.

Buying that perfect pair of shoes day – it’s just so difficult to get that just right pair of shoes.

Attending class in college for the first time (one of the 3 classes you attended) day – these are the days you spent away from the canteen and need mention.

Pot-Hole free day – someday there will be a day when you can drive in Bombay without any potholes. Someday.

Not being cheated by the rickshaw driver day – seriously I wait for one day when I don’t want to curse the rickshaw driver for looting me.

Bachchan family free day – the day the news is free of any member of this family and their activities (ranging from going to the temple to apologising for their language). And while we’re at it, a Saif-Kareena free day will not hurt anyone.

Sticking to your diet for a whole day day – will power has to be appreciated no?

More news than ads in the newspaper day – one day a newspaper will once more be for news. I hope.

Jilted lover’s/ I hate my ex day – an anti-valentine’s day if you will. Has scope don’t you think?

Writer’s block day – it happens with everyone. So why not celebrate while twiddling our thumbs?

Getting a reader for my blog day - :)

And while i'm at it, happy day after daughter's day to all of you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Welcome to Good Cinema


Fun. Full of laughs. Socially relevant. Non-preachy. Brilliant performances. Simple story. Excellent narration. Realistic art direction. Intelligent assumptions. Tongue-in-cheek humour. Non-weepy. Poignant.

Welcome to Sajjanpur.

Proof that it doesn’t take massive budgets, over the top sets, fancy digital tricks, overrated actors and in your face advertising to make a good movie. In these times of dubious creativity and even more questionable acting prowess, Welcome to Sajjanpur is like that perfect meal – simple, a riot of flavours, colours and textures. Not too much, not too little, but just perfect.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Sense of Anticlimax

I like birthdays. And then i don't like birthdays.

I like the special feeling. The cake (s). The gifts. The attention. The cool excuse to do anything (eating the last piece of cake, hogging the tv, sleeping late, having a bath for an hour...it's my birthday na!)

I don't like that it all has to end after that day.
PS: it's my birthday for another 4 1/2 hours and i'm already sensing the anticlimax. Sigh.

Quarterly Review

Warning: Long Post
Seeing as I complete a quarter century of existence today, it seemed to be the right time for a review of all things accomplished (or not). And I know it isn’t the fashion to announce one’s real age in public, but an exception can be made for a jubilee year (and the fact that this will now be my age for several years to come). But I digress.

Looking back at the 25 years I’ve been walking the Earth makes me feel extremely accomplished. I mean I’ve learnt so much and done so many things already. Ok so it may pale in comparison to say Abhinav Bindra (who has about the same number of years on his plate) or Rafa Nadal (with lesser years) but that doesn’t take away the fact that in my mundane and routine life I too have managed to have my own small victories and moments of learning (read: downfalls).

So my 25 yrs can be divided at various points in the timeline. There is the school, college and beyond that. Or there is the pre-teenage, teenage and post-teenage. There could also be before speech and after speech. Whatever the categories, one common feature runs through all of them- peace and war! It’s surprising how growing up is often directly proportionate to the increase in the number of conflicts. I can’t figure out whether it is higher understanding or mere stubbornness.

25 yrs is a long time (too long married couples will tell you). It’s difficult to compile a list of things done and things learnt. I mean, how does one decide which learnings or activities are more important? I suppose it has to be age specific. So at age 3 going potty on my own would be worthy of celebration (more for my parents than for me actually) while at 15 yrs it was managing to remember rotten math theorems and at 21 yrs, getting a job. I’m sure being able to identify the colour blue/circle as a shape/the number 5 was as big an achievement for me as being able to identify India on the world map and probably as important as identifying right from wrong.

Of my 25 yrs the first five are a blur, the next ten maybe a shadow and the remaining ten disturbingly clear. The first five were probably the time of most concentrated learning where I went from being a lump that ate, slept and pooped to a miniature adult who threw tantrums not to go to school. The next ten were a drag spent between school and home listening to the teacher and my mother. I’m sure I learnt a lot in those years there by way of academics but the playground and girl’s bathroom had more to teach. It was there that I learnt that I’d rather be the only girl playing volleyball than stand in the shade cribbing about how tanned I will be playing in the sun or that I’d rather read a book than gossip about clothes.
The final ten years (so far) have been interesting to say the least. Again a lot time was spent in classroom and labs. Nights were spent finishing journals and assignments. Weekends were spent cursing all forms of education. Learning graph was steep, social graph was in the negative.

From making ‘My family’ drawings to making sleek PowerPoint presentations a lot has been achieved in these 25 years.
There was direct learning (not sleeping 3 days in a row does you no good and neither do 8 slices of pizza) and there was vicarious learning (if you have to have a boyfriend, make sure he knows how to do your assignments).
There were some things better learnt than others (how to doodle at the back of the classroom while seeming to pay attention to what the teacher was droning on about than learning multiplication tables). Some things were learnt more easily (the best way to bunk classes) and others with some difficulty (making a perfectly round roti). Some things were learnt in passing (younger sisters are not punching bags) and some were learnt out of necessity (younger sisters have to be bribed to keep their mouths shut). Some things were learnt and quickly forgotten (geometry and trigonometry) and some things were learnt and remembered (expanding 50 word answers to 200 words). Some things I taught myself (how to use Adobe Photoshop) and others were taught to me (how to wear makeup without looking like a royal fright).

So though 25 yrs may not seem a wise age to someone who is 50 (or even more) look how far I’ve come from being something that’s all Id to someone who has a clearly defined superego and ego.

Here’s to 25yrs yrs of family, friends and teachers, experiences and emotions, ideas and beliefs, skills and attitudes, likes and dislikes, successes and failures.

Here’s to 25 yrs of life. Cheers.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Of Magic Shows and Balloons

For the first time in some ten years I had to attend a 5 yr olds birthday party (not because I was never invited but because I didn’t know any tiny tots). My worry began with buying the gift. What do you buy for a 5 yr old boy who spends his playtime taking his shirt off and singing (and dancing to) dard-e-disco for the benefit of his friends? Anyway, after a lot of walking back and forth in the toy section of a big shop, I picked up a sensible gift which his mother will appreciate and he will ignore in favour of a noise creating apparatus (gifted to him by someone who wants to trouble his family).

So I got to the birthday venue (which I recognised because of the balloons and illegally loud music playing). The party was already on its way when I get there and the children were all entranced by a sight I saw last when I hadn’t reached a double digit age – a magician pulling handkerchiefs out of a black bag! Nothing had changed in some 15 odd years. The same tricks, the same apparatus (not the same magician though…I think…). So we had the birthday boy blowing on random pieces of paper and cloth which then turned into flowers or confetti, an empty bag from which appears a (very battered looking) mouse, a bag on fire and then a white dove (albeit slightly singed) emerged. And the biggest hit of the evening – the birthday boy was given a glass of water to drink. And then the magician begins to drain water back into the glass from his ears, his nose, his fingers and much to the delight (and giggling) of the children, from the front of his pants!

I couldn’t help smiling at the reaction of the children to these tricks. Never has a group of some 30 children behaved so well and been so quiet. It was almost endearing. I say almost because of the apparently deaf guy handling the music and more importantly the volume control.

The magician takes his final bow and it’s time to play games. I’d forgotten how easy it was to entertain children at a birthday party. All you need to do is divide them into girls and boys, make every game is a versus one and allow each team a couple of boos towards the other. You’re set. Even something as simple as racing got them jumping up and down. So there were the usual party games involving dancing, jumping and divulging adults around of things like bangles, one rupee-coins, shoes and even watches all in the name of the game!

During all this, the only thing that kept coming to my mind (the little I could hear myself think above the ridiculously jarring music) was how much you have to love children to do this as a career. I mean 30 adrenaline pumped children under the age of 10 is no joke.


Once the games were done, the highlight of the evening was presented – the cake. One huge Power Ranger shaped cake. After the usual you’re born in the zoo bit was sung, the noise level abated a little (and someone apparently shot the music volume control guy) as everyone was too busy stuffing their faces (and I say this in the politest way possible) with food and of course the cake!

Mid-way through this peace the children decided they’d been decent long enough and so, with a vengeance, attacked all the balloons in the hall. It was a pleasure watching the innovativeness and the unity amongst children when it comes to destructiveness! I added my two bits to the fun by pulling down the balloons that were too high for them to reach even after climbing on 2 chairs.

So between the magic show and the balloons I had some fun at least. Of course at the end of the party I couldn’t help but fondly remember birthday parties I had and attended as a child – simple and boring by today’s standards, but something everyone my generation will relate to - coloured streamers and mummy-blown balloons on the walls, passing the parcel and musical chairs, paper plates with one samosa, chutney sandwich, wafer and chocolate cake. And one Styrofoam glass of bright orange, sugar spiked Rasna. Ah.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bug Free and Healthy

I’ve made it almost a year without any illness (barring a serious cold maybe). And considering the fact that I have the lamest immune system ever, not to talk of being almost allergic to myself, this is an achievement! Managing to keep the bugs, and their brethren, from attacking my system is something I’m very proud of.

And this feeling of pride in my white blood cells is only increased by my sister coming down with a bad stomach flu. Don’t get me wrong here. I totally empathise with her and feel (strongly) for her whenever she starts running towards the bathroom with both hands pushing people and things out of her way. But even so, I can’t help grinning smugly and congratulating my digestive system at doing such a great job of throwing out all infections and choosing to let only nutrients through the epithelial lining (yay for high school biology).

So right now I’m looking at my sister gulping down stewed apples with a painful look on her face. I can imagine why. She knows it’s not going to stay in for more than an hour. But it makes my aloo paratha taste so much better!

Ok so I may sound like a sadist and a bad person. But I’m really not. I’m just celebrating health. And the parathas happened to be totally awesome.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Extremes

Excited. Grinning. Happy.
Giggling. Laughing. Cheery.
Jumping. Amused. Lively.

Morbid. Annoyed. Grumpy.
Mad. Pissed. Cranky.
Depressed. Listless. Grouchy.

These are the extremes in me
There are days when i wonder
which emotion will i be.

And now looking at
the sad poems i write
Its no wonder there
isn't a reader in sight!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shudder

Just saw Baba Sehgal on TV while channel surfing.

Brought back memories of childhood when 'Thanda Thanda Pani' was the hippest song on air.
I seriously had a weird childhood, not to speak of traumatised.
Yay for growing up!
PS: Of course songs part of my adulthood are not inspiring either. Evidence: 'Very happy in my heart, Dil dance maare' .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Money or Masochism?

Can you put a price on self esteem?

Apparently you can. Ask any of the producers of any of these reality shows on any of these ever-increasing TV channels.

Or ask the participants on these shows.

Who would want to stand on national television and willingly be told that you dance worse than the domestic help that comes to that judges house (of course this is a very classist comment – who said domestic help can’t dance? Is dancing a skill that comes only with money?). Or be part of ,what can only be termed a juvenile sense of sport, a competetion that has girls vs boys (i mean, we did that in school at age 9 when all boys were so sick, and the girls were all ewwww). Why would you willingly want to be on a show on TV that is going to make you whine and complain and bitch and fight (all in the script dahlings)?!

There has to be a streak of masochism is all these people who agree to appear on these reality shows, especially if the format includes, from the beginning, the judges stripping you of all pride and dignity and revelling in it.

Or the fact that there are only so many saas-bahu* shows on television and there has to be a way to showcase all the talent there is in the field of drama and tears…oh and bad costumes and makeup!

That or you’re given a bundle of money (and it better be a hu-uge bundle) to strip yourself of all dignity, self-esteem, intelligence and perhaps common sense.

Nah...it has to be the masochism.

* - Saas-bahu shows are the staple diet of Indian television, mainly revolving around stories of women hell bent on ruining either the other women in their life, the men in their life, someone else’s children, steal someone else’s husband, try and seduce their own husbands, kill some one, try and hide the fact that they killed someone, bribe people to kill for them, have extra-marital affairs, cry, weep, howl, faint, fast, pray, dance, so on and so forth, all the while wearing at least three quarters of the gold in India coupled with some of the most garish outfits money can buy.

A Tear

From the depths of my computer, something i wrote during one of those times when nothing seems to go right.

A single tear,
An ocean full of emotions,
A single tear,
A gamut of sensations.

A silent tear,
A wordless plea,
A silent tear,
For no one to see.

A pained tear,
Over hours I have cried,
A pained tear,
Over dreams that have died.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Which City This Time?

After the Delhi bombings the one thing that comes to surface is that more than the bombs killing people, it is the apathy of these very people that is doing it. Any country that has seen serial bombings in several of its major cities (including the capital) and knows who is accountable for them would be up in arms, taking stringent steps to bring to a stop this heinous method of mass terrorism. Instead, our politicians openly support this group that claims responsibility for planting these bombs.

Within minutes of the bombings, the media was flashing how the Prime Minister “bombings ki ninda kar rahe the”. Along side this was an increasing toll of deaths and people injured and images from the site of the terror – people maimed, in shock, covered in blood, roads drenched in blood, footwear strewn all over sometimes with a foot still attached, scenes of people being rushed to hospitals, lying on the gurneys not understanding what was happening. Then there was the media asking the usual round of questions – “how are you feeling? What did you see? What did you do?” In bold red letters the name of the group taking onus of the bombings was being flashed all over.

Across all new channels the same images and the same sounds played in a loop. Reporters were constantly making the link with the current bombings and the cities bombed earlier. They kept reminding us of the cities on the hit-list of this group (which has been kind enough to tell the government this or just too cock-sure of no action being taken regardless of what they do).

And yet, within a few hours of watching the blood bath, making a few phone calls to friends and relatives in Delhi and making sure no new news was coming forth, channels are changed, bombs are forgotten and lives continue like they did.

Bombs changes lives for only those who lose something to them – a foot, a hand, an eye, a parent, child, house. For the others, it’s another topic to discuss around the dinner table. It’s only another topic on which to shake their heads and tsk tsk about. The news of another bombing doesn’t strike fear and terror into the hearts of anyone including the people’s representatives. It doesn’t make anyone stand up and take firm action against this random killing.
All it does is make us ask “which city this time?”

Monday, September 8, 2008

Right Now…

I want my stress levels to go into the negative.

I want to run away and hide.

I want to go on a vacation.

I want to go into denial.

I want to sleep for the next couple of months (at least).

I want to be left alone to my sulks and my mood swings.

I want an endless supply of Gold Medal Ribbon ice cream.

I want my heart to calm down and not pump up a tornado inside me.

I want a peep into the future.

Right Now…

I’m guessing anyone reading this knows I’m in the middle of a personal crisis.

Well. Look at it this way. At least right now I’m not contemplating sleeping pills, rat poison or the height of my ceiling fan. Silver lining?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

WALL-E Movie


3 reasons to go watch this movie:

a) Pixar has a great track record with animated movies (Toy Story to Ratatouille)
b) It has several whoa and aaawe moments all through.
c) It’s environment friendly.

And if the above three don’t do it for you then do it for an hour and forty five minutes of smiles and laughs. The brilliance of this movie lies not only in its spectacular animation, but also in the truly amazing personification of its main characters.

All through the movie it’s difficult to think of WALL-E as, well, a trash compactor. From his mechanically making trash cubes (and using them as building blocks) to his dancing to old Hollywood musicals, it’s difficult not to smile and forget he is an acronym.

Watching the movie you realise how much emotion some simple sounds can project. The first half of the movie is without any dialogue – unless you count 2 machines whizzing and burring away. Our writers could definitely learn something and give us a break from those flowery long-winded speeches that are the core of any sentimental scene they write!

From the aaawe so sweet the movie turns direction into the future where humans are obese and lazy and machine addicts – wait, was it the future? Needless to say, WALL-E tumbles and fights his way through this futuristic place and saves everyone from themselves!

The movie, with all its happy moments, portrays a grim picture of what we could be doing to Earth. The landscape alternates between dried up waters and barren land. We get a glimpse of how the space around our planet will look if we continue littering it with satellites and the like. So we may not take the increasing toxicity on our planet very seriously, but we should try, unless we want WALL-E to become a reality and our children end up having trash blocks instead of LEGO.

Awakening The Faith?

Owing to my mum not being in town and my sister being a bigger fan of the US open than elephant gods, I found myself being rudely awoken at 6 am on a day I would have slept in late (as usual). After cursing phone alarms and early mornings I dragged myself out of bed and got ready to accompany my dad to the biggest Ganpati idol in the city – Lalbaugcha Raja.

A 75 yr old tradition, the Raja has gotten bigger and more popular over the years. Every year is more flamboyant than the previous. And every year the number of people visiting is also much larger than the previous. This year they averaged the number of devotees to a couple of lakhs a day, with the wait in the queue being an average of 12 hours, unless you come at 5 in the morning and then you have to wait in line for about 3 hours. Makes you happy thinking about it doesn’t it!?

So there we were walking to the entrance of the pandal and instead of looking up in devotion and ‘bhakti, I was busy watching where I was going – I didn’t want to step into any spittle or poop now did I? Not without my footwear on at least.
So after passing by people moving in all directions, vendors lining the access route selling everything from coconuts and flowers to devotional DVD’s, we made it to what seemed like the entrance, only it was totally hidden by this huge crowd of people waiting to get in to join the queue.

Now my dad knows the right people and so we were to cut all the waiting and make straight for what is known as the VIP darshan – something I totally abhor. I mean, I’m not even into all this mandir and darshan and praying thing and here I was jumping line on this huge crowd of people waiting to get entrance and they really wanted to be there. I hated walking past all those people who had been in line for hours and hours. I walked past as fast as I could trying not to think of all the negative vibes being directed our way.

I didn’t really want to be there and here I was right next to the largest idol in the city and one that is almost a cult figure now. Looking up at it, I did not feel even one spark of devotion or faith in me. Of course it was a little difficult, even if there was a spark in me, for it to come to surface with random men and pandits yelling aage chalo aage chalo into my ear! I looked away from the massive idol and there was this crowd of people about ten feet away behind a barrier – the closest the devoted follower can get to the Raja.

I’m not a believer in idol worship. I question organised religion. I dare to not follow tradition for the sake of it. And I definitely would not voluntarily stand for 12 hours in line to look at an idol from behind a 5 foot barrier at a distance of 10 feet.

But even if I did neither of the above, and was overflowing with devotion, I wonder how long this faith would last in this age of VIP darshans and 3 seconds standing time in front of the Raja after a 12 hour wait.
Surely there are better ways than crowds, noise, special lines, pushes and yells to at least sustain is not awaken the faith?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Reasons Why I Don't Like Growing Up

a) I have to have an answer to “what are you doing these days?” and apparently ‘nothing’ is not good enough. Hmph.

b) I can’t throw a tantrum in a restaurant when my food is late (I mean I can but as a grown up its just filthy manners) and I’m ravenously hungry!

c) I can’t get a Happy Meal in McD (because I want the Kungfu Panda toy) without the cap wearing dude getting judgemental and giving me weird looks.

d) In the ladies room at theatres, I have to give up my place to a little girl squirming and hopping behind me! (Ok maybe I don’t have to, but I’m a decent person, and I didn’t want my new shoes getting wet!)

e) People in stores address me as ma’am. And I don’t think it’s out of politeness. Grumble mumble.

f) I can’t address shopkeepers and the like as uncle anymore…they’re probably my age! (This is really sad coz the uncle bit really helped in bargaining).

g) I have to be really neat in having an ice-cream cone (not that I want to be messy, but I envy children their fun and abandon).

h) I don’t get to have big birthday parties with balloons and lots of cake and wafers and loads of presents and even a clown playing party games.

i) The whole village and its uncle is wondering why I’m not married yet.

j) My friends get married/get jobs and leave the country to move to another time zone!

k) I don’t get to meet my friends as much as I would want to because all of them are also growing up!

l) My life becomes so mundane and routine that I can come up with this list without too much trouble.

Good Old Days

PS: Feel free to add to this list. I know i have loads more.

Are We Really?


So it’s that time of the year once more where amidst fan fare and blaring filmy music we welcome the Elephant God to our homes and I think hearts.

I say I think, because I’m not sure that’s what we are doing anymore. Of all the roads I was on in the last two days (mainly suburbs of Bandra, Santacruz, Juhu and Lokhandwala), about 90% are being readied for the 10-day Ganpati festival, which mainly means erecting a huge bamboo structure bang in the middle of all roads, worsening the already bad traffic!

So already, I’m cursing the next 10 days or so and am mentally deciding which roads to avoid (which leaves me with maybe one odd road in the 10 kilometer area, none of them leading to anywhere I want to go).

And this is even before 10 never ending days of bhajans on film tunes (who dreams them up is beyond me, the worse being Mera Gannu ghar aaya o ramji! Sigh). Having to listen to these songs from dawn till dawn and beyond, from every direction around my house tries my patience even more than Bollywood trying to make movies on behavioural and psychological disorders!

And when it comes to holidays, school children wait for this time of the year with barely suppressed anticipation – after all, a couple of holidays in less than 2 weeks is always cause for celebration. The city comes to a standstill on the first, third, fifth, seventh and tenth days of this festival. The roads are packed and the people not in a hurry to go anywhere (at least not the ones causing the blockage). Everyone in this city has learnt (mostly from experience) that it’s better to stack up on some DVD’s and popcorn and spend the day indoors on these days rather than get stuck in your car behind a dancing crowd of people and have nothing better to do than listen to annoying RJ’s on the radio!

And there is the whole eco-system at risk because of all the paint and POP dumped into the sea! With the steady rise in number and size of Ganpati idols every year (seriously what is with the whole thing being about size?) it’s no surprise that we’re choking the sea and all that lives in it! I honestly don’t think messing up nature is the best way to show gratitude to the Omnipotent.

The Ganesh festival has come to personify blocked roads, insane traffic, forced holidays and annoying music. A sharp left turn from what Lokmanya Tilak meant it to be when he initiated it. So what with all the noise, water and traffic pollution, I really wonder whether we are really welcoming anyone, let alone a much loved God.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bollywood At The Olympics

Gymnastics at the Olympics is always fun to watch. Its just brilliant watching these young girls do gravity and anatomy defying moves with hoops (that i cant even move around my waist) and batons (that i dont even attempt to understand) and ribbons (which i only use to make gifts pretty looking). And the fact that these jumps and twirls and leaps and landings are all done with a smile is even more fascinating.
But there is something more brilliant than watching a gymnast strut her stuff. Its watching a group of them do it in absolute sync and perfection right down to the millisecond - the group artistic gymnastics. It was sheer awesomeness what those teams did on the floor. They moved in perfect sync, without missing a beat and without losing sight and grip of hoops and batons that went flying and bouncing all over the place. These girls seemed to move as if by magic (at least to my easily awed mind it felt like that).
They danced on everything from traditional chinese compositions to the theme song from The Gladiator. The audience oohed and aahed in beat with the music. The Russians were flawless and the Chinese a close second. But my favorite team came in sixth. I loved them not for their performance but because they took Bollywood to the Olympics.
Believe it or not, the group from Israel performed their routine on a jazzed and remixed version of Dhoom Tana from Om Shanti Om. When the music started it seemed familiar. And then with my jaw dropping every second (with amazement) and a huge grin spreading across my face (out of sheer glee) i sat back and enjoyed 5 young Israeli girls prancing to Dhoom Tana in their final performance at the Beijing Olympics 2008.
Im still amazed and tickled! :D

Friday, August 22, 2008

Midnight Cravings


Some foods just taste better post mid-night.

Chocolate Cake/fudge
Chips
Ice cream
Cheese spread and bread
Popcorn
Jelly
Home made Rajma/Chhole
Alu paratha
Etc.

Basically, any food that is not considered to be healthy eating (with maybe one exception on the above list) in the day time tastes twice as good at night. Ice cream is yummier and the hunger pangs are settled perfectly with a nice cheese sandwich. And there’s just something about licking chocolate fudge off your fingers while snuggled up with a book in bed at 1 am.

Of course, there is also something about my maid’s expression at the assortment of plates and bowls next to my bed the next morning (not to talk of my sister who blames me for her addiction to night time scavenger hunts into the refrigerator)!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bad Movie Made Worse

Is there anything worse than watching a bad movie?

Yes.

Listening to a bad movie being narrated to you over the phone!

I had the misfortune of being on the phone with a friend taking a bus journey, the driver of which decided to regale the (trapped)passangers with 'Yeh Dil Aashiqana'. I mean, it being 11pm at night not withstanding, this is not the kind of movie you show a group of people in order to make time fly. This is a movie you show when you want to rid your bus of the passengers (by making them throw themselves out of the bus) and get a chance to keep all the luggage.

So, here i was talking to my friend when suddenly he starts choking and spluttering. After about 3 minutes of cursing the driver and speakers attached over seats, he begins sharing his sensory experience. So i know how Yeh Dil Ashiqana begins (with a really weird song), i know that the hero is on a blue bike (that becomes red after a while) and the heroine in a snazzy car. The hero is good looking and cannot act to save his life. The herione dresses in small to tiny clothes (no surprises there). I know that the girl trips and lands lips first onto the hero's face, leaving a perfect lipstick transfer, which she then continues to wipe off with her scarf (i hope it wasnt her skirt, that scarf). I even heard a couple of dialogues which i'm assuming were being mouthed by the alleged bad guy (thanks to the threats about money and izzat).

At this point in the narration, i decided to take things in hand and started singing some bad songs myself (mainly Yeh Dil Ashiqana), much to the trauma of my friend (that explains why i'm not on the phone anymore and typing this out!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

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Update: Vijender Kumar sails into the semi-finals (Boxing, 75 kg category).

This victory ensures India of a third medal, bringing the total number of medals won in the 2008 Olympic games to 3, something that hasn't happened before.

On a more cynical note, this also ensures DD sports continued viewership.

Ps: Has anyone noticed how DD sports has jazzed up their Olympics coverage after Bindra won his medal, and even more after our boxers made it to the QF's?

Wrestled In A Bronze


Wrestler Sushil Kumar becomes the second individual medal in the Indian contingent in the Olympic Games 2008. He has wrestled his way to a bronze medal, 56 yrs after Jadhav won a bronze in the same sport.

I must say that it feels good to see an Indian player on the podium. And what it makes it even more special is that this is a player who is truly dedicated to his sport. His is not a face we see endorsing sportswear or detergents. His is not a name we see linked with filmi bimbos. His is not even a name that sports editors in our country might have been familiar with.

But after today, his will be the name associated with an Olympic medal.

I think this should serve as an example to the other more sought ofter sportspersons in our country. Adulation and contracts are not the only thing that define a sportsman. In fact they are the last things that should do so. What should stand with you is finding satisfaction in winning and bringing glory to a flag and not a bank account.


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In other news,

A couple of minutes back Jitendar Kumar lost his QF round at the Olympics 2008 in Flyweight Boxing. This, on the heels of Akhil Kumar’s loss is not good news for India’s medal tally. And this definitely increases the pressure and expectations from Vijendar Kumar who has his QF match in a few hours time.
But on my part, even if Vijendar doesn’t make it to the semi finals, our boxers need to be applauded. After all, for the first time in several years, India still has some involvement in the games even though it’s the 12th day.

So I really hope that whatever the outcome of the next match may be, our media and the people appreciate the efforts put in by these sportsmen who have fought their way to be where they are. I hope that they get the support and encouragement that is now crucial if they are to be mentally and physically fit for London 2012. And I hope that they themselves value their efforts and continue to fight for the glory.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Retired Hurt

It makes you wonder doesn't it how serious our players are about fitness and training.
Monday 11th Aug: One gold medal and one injury.

Gold, Adulation and Then What?

(Warning: Long Post)

Abhinav Bindra has made Indian sports history by being the first individual to win a gold medal at the Olympic games.

News channels went giddy with excitement and every channel had the same 60 secs of video on loop, showing a calm and smiling Abhinav on the podium receiving his medal.

Everyone spent the morning in front of the television or online, wanting to be part of this historic event.

Anyone who can be interviewed about this is being. So we have MS Gill, our sports minister congratulating himself on national television for Abhinav’s medal. This is being touted as a shining moment in our history and one that is full of pride and honour.

Bindra is the latest champion on the block. He is the new headline. Adulation and praise is being showered from all directions in the form of words, money and even life-time free rail travel!

It is definite that Abhinav Bindra will come home to a hero’s welcome.
But the question now is, will he be maintained as the hero he is being made today?

How many of us knew about him and his prowess with the rifle before today? Ok, so probably was mentioned as winning the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2001 and gotten mention with his Commonwealth games gold medal in 2002. But I’m sure that in the visual clue round of a quiz show, there wouldn’t have been many to identify him correctly.

Today money is being showered onto Bindra for his achievement. Everyone is giving more than the other to this young shooter. Suddenly he is their blue-eyed boy. But where were these people (with their cheques) when Abhinav’s family was spending their own money on building him a shooting range in their house? Where were the sponsors when Abhinav attended competitions across the world?

In all of this, it is Bindra’s parents who are to be congratulated and appreciated for their efforts and support. In a country which recognises only cricket and cricketers, to have supported their son’s talent and ambition and to have funded it is rare. And for the most part, those who do aspire to shine in the field of sports, away from cricket, do not have the means to do so. Where are the supporters then? Where is the funding? Where are the facilities?

The Breaking News is that this is India’s first gold medal in 28 years and the first individual medal. Has anyone thought to wonder why? Why is that in this country with a population of more than a billion we have failed to train even one person to win at the international arena?

It is this apathy that disgusts. I don’t know if the men’s hockey team didn’t qualify because they weren’t good enough or because they were trying to make a statement. A wake up call to those who only see the money and glamour of cricket and fail to realise that in the field of sports, cricket is only one game played by a handful of countries (and the god-forsaken T-20 by even less) while other sports like tennis, badminton, weight lifting, shooting, hockey, swimming etc are more international and probably deserve more encouragement and support.

It is sad that it required a gold medal to get the recognition and support of our government. I don’t know whether they choose to ignore, or are just too stupid to recognize that gold medals are not waiting to drop into the hats of the untrained. When will they appreciate the fact that training and support and facilities are more important for our players than having more than a couple of dozen government officials accompanying them to the Olympics just so that they can come back saying that we tried our best but next year we will win.

So today Abhinav Bindra is India’a poster boy. I just hope that he doesn’t get rolled up and relegated to the back of the cupboard to gather dust.

Today, a gold and adulation. Then what?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Swan Song

Everyone has that one shining moment in their careers that defines them. For the scientist it is that elusive, path-breaking discovery, for the student it is acing a competitive exam, for the writer it is finally being a bestseller, and for the actor is that performance that makes him and his character synonymous. For Christopher Reeves it was Superman, for Sir Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter, and the Godfather can only be Al Pacino.

And now, Heath Ledger will be, forever more, The Joker. In a performance that sends a shiver down the audience’s spine and makes them gasp and shudder, Heath Ledger has his defining moment. He brings the Joker to life in a way that has never been done before, playing the psychotic, schizophrenic, maniacal killer to perfection. From the rapid eye movements to the quick flick of the tongue to the sinister voice, everything makes the Joker larger than life and very real.

The Dark Knight maybe a Batman movie, but it really belongs to Ledger and the Joker. He makes the movie worth its while. He gives it the punch and the evil. He gives the performance of a life time, unfortunately an abruptly shortened one. It’s almost like he is mocking the audience from the screen and reminding us of the brilliant actor he was.

With The Joker, Heath Ledger has ensured he isn’t forgotten. A final, brilliant performance – his Swan Song if you will.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Still Laughing

They started off as the girls next to me on the last bench of our college classroom (choosing to sit right at the back shows common interest and clear priorities don’t you think). We progressed to being lab partners and bonded over chemicals and microscopes, and journals and late submissions.

These were the girls I travelled to and from college with and when you’re a group of 16yr olds in the local train with at least 30 mins at hand, you tend to talk a lot (and very fast), and laugh a lot, and generally get to know weird stuff about each other (like how you run and how you look panting and gasping for breath and how well you balance yourself and whether you can draw a botany diagram in a moving train!).

Over the years we grew from being uncertain and unstable to confident and sure. Some of us had common interests in matters of career, and others had different. It didn’t stop us from being friends. We just sat in the last row of two classrooms instead of one, and we had more people to gossip about at Sunday lunches that went on for hours and hours and hours! J

We helped each other cope with college and the punishing course work. We explained and understood concepts that, frankly, we still don’t know what to do with. We spent hours sprawled in the common room making full use of being seniors. We spent even more hours hanging about the photocopy shop opposite the college building (what would we do without them…every student’s best friend).

We bunked classes to go to Fashion Street and picked up cheap clothes which we were very proud of. We sneaked out of class and went for movies that would allow us to be back for afternoon practicals. We sat on the steps of theatres and laughed till we cried when our 18 yr old friend was not given tickets to an A rated movie. We’ve even gone for a movie in sarees (after travelling in the train in sarees, a movie was cakewalk).

We made travelling to college fun and something to look forward to. From wordlessly making fun of the aunty next to us wearing the most bizarre clothes (our eyes can really got some exercise then) to cracking up recalling some stupid joke that wasn’t really all that funny, to spending lots of time rummaging through gaudy rings and earrings being sold in the train, we giggled and laughed our way every morning and afternoon.

We struggled through textile practicals (it was torturous enough to get special mention here). It used to be difficult not to explode into unladylike laughter watching the painful and agonized looks of my friends at the next table. We sat through 3 hours every week praying the teacher didn’t come to our table and pretended we knew what we were doing and drew a lot of lines and cut a lot of cloth. We looked at each other and the watch a lot (maybe if we’d look at the teacher and our work as much we would have understood more…hmmm….).

From the cooking lab (where we whined and complained about the washing up we had to do and having to eat our own cooking) to the local train (where we actually played dumb charades and enacted ‘Dhoti Lota aur Chowpatty’) there are memories everywhere. From the corner table at McDonalds to the top floor at Khasiyat there is laughter everywhere.

We have seen each other through college, relationships and marriage. We have been there when we were rolling off the couch onto the floor laughing. We’ve held hands when crying. We have pointed out mistakes and errors when there were any.

We have remained friends across continents, across jobs and husbands and new lives.

Even now, I truly laugh without a worry and care when I read mails sent by my friends. They make me feel like a teenager again. I can forget the worries and burdens that I’m carrying for a few minutes everyday when I’m with my friends.

They say change is the only constant. I’m just glad the laughter is still unchanged.

We have been friends for 9 yrs now and are still laughing.

Here’s to all you mad girls. Love you.


Hot Pakodas On A Rainy Day


When it rains, it pours. And when it pours, everyone is thankful for and prays for different things. The farmer prays and hopes for a better crop this year round, the restaurant owner prays and hopes the rains don’t affect his clientele, the student prays it rains hard enough to have an unscheduled holiday, the head of the BMC prays the city doesn’t flood, commuters pray that it stops raining for a few minutes till they get where they have to. The lover hopes that the roads are clear and he can go meet the woman he loves. And me, I pray for a plate of hot, fresh pakodas!

I love rains. From inside my house, standing at the window, with the cool breeze whipping my hair around, I absolutely love the rains. I love them even more when I’m all warm and dry and its pouring cats and dogs outside. But for me, the best way to enjoy rains (and doesn’t matter if you’re wet or dry), is with a plateful of hot pakodas, fresh from the oil. Nothing beats the smell of frying pakodas mingled with the sound of the rain coming down hard. With the first rains, you can find that mouth watering aroma wafting up from every kitchen window in the area and can picture happy families crowding around the yummy treats and fighting for the biggest pakoda in the pile!

My Very Own Peach Tree


Kung-Fu Panda leaves in the audience a renewed love for a certain black and white, bamboo loving endangered species, an increased fascination with a gravity defying, nerve paralysing, quick silver martial art, a craving for Chinese food and a desire to have your very own peach tree – at least figuratively (though a real one wouldbe just so much fun!).

But we do have that figurative tree to go to. I go there to be with the million and twenty five thoughts in my head. I go there to think; sometimes to stop thinking (it can be such a trial!), I go there to cry (a good bawl is just so helpful sometimes); to talk to myself (no one needs one more reason to call me cuckoo). I go there to breathe. I go there when I want to concentrate; when I need a break. I go there when I'm happy (to jump around in peace); when I'm restless. I go there when I just want to be!

My peach tree: one corner of my building terrace that looks onto empty grounds and lovely Gulmohar trees (yes I live in Bombay and trees do exist as do empty spaces); sometimes it is that tiny space between my bed and study table where I can scrunch up and sit. When I was in college, it used to be my window where I would sit with my feet resting on the box-grill for hours on end (or at least till my posterior got numb). Many times my tree is my shower. And I know that for a lot of people the peach tree is their porcelain throne. Well, each to his own I say.

So in a way, everyone has their own peach tree. It may not be as pretty looking as Oogway's tree, nor would it be laden with succulent fruit, or blooming with flowers that shed their petals at opportune moments. In fact, barring those who have access to lone trees in the middle of nowhere (like those in Forrest Gump ) none of us really even have trees. But we do have our windows, and showers and terraces that we can stake claim to as our very own......

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Political Tamasha


Just when you thought politics couldn't get any dirtier or embarassing (or even entertaining for that matter), the people's representatives reach new lows.

A political circus that had its grand finale today has been up-staged by a well strategised stunt that has shaken everyone. The media vultures, political pundits and local populace are all rushing to give their opinion about a definite first in India's colourful political history.

From throwing chairs, benches, microphones, tables and footwear, to hurling abuses and choice names in the Lok Sabha, we thought we'd seen everything that was to be seen in the midst of a gathering of our country's policy and law makers. We even found excuses for their uncouth and boorish behaviour!

But when they start waving bundles of money amounting to an alleged 1 crore, one has to stop and wonder - wonder at how much more they actually have, wonder at where they got the money from, wonder at how brilliantly the politicians of our country are utilising technology and nationwide live converage to their benefit.