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.


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.