Saturday, 29 September 2007

Friday Night - Party!!

Kalimpong - lets list that one as a place I would love to visit someday. I should really maintain a list, alphabetised and categorised based on country, region, climatic conditions. Next time the husband says 'shall we go somewhere?' i should whip the list out and pick a place and hand it to him. He is bound to agree if I paint a good enough picture of the place. Quiet. That is enough of a description of a place for him to jump to it. So yeah, I hope for it.

The party was as follows - we were supposed to be just the two of us - meaning child and myself. Mid-afternoon the husband decided to postpone his trip to Jaipur (7 pm Fri Night Flight) to Saturday. He assured us he would be home for dinner. Oh yeah! with Friday night traffic, said I. Watch me, said he. So my plan was simple. Dinner. A couple of phone calls. Bed by 10 pm for an hour or two of undiluted reading. Since we would surely be just the two of us on Sat morning, no gym for me. Also, no pressure to do my studying etc. So had the luxury of sleeping late. Should be easy to finish off the book, I had already decided in the afternoon.

Surprisingly, he did show up, around 9:30. We hung around and talked and the child was super super excited cause I had not told her he is coming back, to maintain that surprise thing. It was jumping around wearing a pink tee looking for all the world like a bunny rabbit. Heart-warming and all. To think that a few short years ago, you would have found me behaving like that. Its a relief to be all grown up now, for sure. Less jumping.

So by the time I got things settled, sent him off to eat his dinner, forcibly got the child to sleep, kept one eye open in a dark room to resist the urge to fall asleep (I really HAD to finish that book), it was 11 pm. Too bad, I am surely not going to wake up till 7 so lets go for it Kenny, I said to myself.

The Inheritance of Loss

Kiran Desai - Last known at Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard. Indian, American (German?). Young girl. The Man Booker Prize 2006. Daughter of Anita Desai.

The second you win a prize, of course, there is a class of people that start making disparaging comments. Taking stuff away from the prize. If you compete in a gender-unseparated category and HORRORS! are a woman, fully expect this and more. She was all cute when she won. But even I was like 'hmm, should I read this one? will I be sorely disappointed with her, her mom, the Booker, and in general this whole diaspora thing? Will it be clever or just borderline smut with lots of American scenery?' Of course I HAD to read it, and postponed it up to now. Loaned it to all the family members who expressed an interest. Finally picked it up last week, and said, OK lets get this over with.

As a disclaimer, a book is never a book for me. Its an experience. I am in the pages, sort of. Sometimes I am the writer, sometimes, the girl, sometimes even the furniture that is sitting around. But I am there. Not as an objective observer but as a slightly crazy participant. Which means, that unless it is completely totally impossible for me to relate to anything absolutely at all in a book, I can afford, in my mind, to be not overly critical of it, cause you know, I was there. Flipping that coin, I can read it in a frenzy, find myself in every page, and then totally diss it because, you know, I was there and it sucked big time. In short, readers expecting an unbiased, clinical, objective review are in the wrong place.

The people I loaned it to returned it to me saying 'so-so. 'A' for effort though' and so on, but, I will say this. I liked it. When I shut the book a bit past midnight, I said, Hey this was real nice. Would be good to read it again even. I thought it would be a laborious thing, in the initial few pages. There was this teenage romance thing going on, if it headed in predictable directions of usual heart-break, I would have been troubled. There was all this stuff about rain. It was raining here too, the end of the monsoons, the time you really hate the rain cause your umbrella is broken, the raincoats smell weird and you really want to feel the sun. I was thinking, hey, enough of this rain already. The characters were small in number, not a solved equation. There was this judge dude who was prominent and really a tough one to like. The girl was fine, but I was worried would turn out cute-sy. The American immigrant was going through too much hardship for me to look at with enthusiasm. But she did a great job with all of it and all of them. In the end, there was still the rain. There was a farce of sorts with a dog. The characters retained their character totally. There was no particular surprises. There was a distinct touch of reality to the whole thing. But I closed it with a satisfaction, a simply written, honest book. She is a star in her own right.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Twenty Twenty

Twenty Random Observations

20. I finally watched a cricket match (the final). It has some intensity, like a basketball final, sort of (not exactly). I did not feel that ‘hes a buzzer beater, a twenty four second clock cheater’ sort of crazy adrenalin, although Jogender Sharma in the last over with sixes up the wazoo reminded one of a long time ago Chetan Sharma debacle.

19. Shah Rukh Khan, oh my god, is it me who is obsessed or the world. Anyway he was there at the match, as evident. But oh why the Michael Jackson look? I fail to comprehend this.

18. I am up to my neck in a quiz, I am one of the organizers. It’s a technical quiz so I suppose not so exciting. But I made a crossword out of it. That was fun. I expect the written elimination round to have 18 questions.

17. Visarjan day today. The big one. Lake-side folk are all abuzz with excitement and loudspeakers. I snuck back home at 3 pm. Excuse: Creche closed early, school of course on chutti for the day.

16. I have got four calls today, two on land-line and two on mobile for random folk such as Adi Bhai. Whoa?

15. via friend from long ago, found myself Shelfari. Good one. More ways to hang out on the internet.

14. Although this is material for Shelfari and the likes, I admit this – Shashi Tharoor, well, I understand his pain, doing his job and trying to maintain that he is a writer and all. But seriously, for pseudo-intellectuals like me who grab his books cause he is, you know, all that, and sort of cute in some angles when the light is right, it is disappointing when he is irresponsible like that. Five Dollar Smile & Other Stories, I mean.

13. Read nice reviews of both Manorama Six Feet Under and Loins of Punjab. Watch this space to figure what I con the husband into (if).

12. Bhindi. If taste were really genetically inherited, I would not have been surprised. These days this is the vegetable for all seasons and reasons. Child is obsessed with it. I mean, I love it too. Whenever I returned home from hostel, mom would welcome me thus – green sari of the spinach variety at the railway station; bendekaayi fry at home for lunch. I still like it a lot, but wonder nevertheless. Some people do find it quite a mucousy thing.

11. Writing skills. No no, I don’t mean creative writing and Shashi (Tharoor and Deshpande). The child, is being made to write ‘Straight Line Letters’ in its school. I went ‘huh’ to the teacher. Basically E, F, H, I, L, T (hope I got all of them!). Bit appalled and all because I see no sign that they were taught to draw shapes and what not. Its on a slate with a ‘slate pencil’ so of course so damn messy that all the snot-nosed ones are excited.

10. Over at the choultry, one was reminded of a quintessential hang-out place named Quark. And here we have a similar place, and it sells, get this, MAGGI BONDA. WTF eh? It really is that, you know, maggi noodles, dipped in besan atta and deep fried into a big edible basketball.

9. Found a cockroach in one of the grocery bags. Disgusted and all. Small one. Had not snunk into any of the hermetically sealed packets (one hopes). But husband was enthusiastic and did the manly thing and threw it out. I am not afraid of cockroaches, have dealt with hundreds of them with equanimity, being the sort that has always woken up in the night to pay homage to porcelain goddess, but then I felt like a man has to feel like a man sometimes.

8. Am reading Inheritance of Loss, which mom always calls Loss of Inheritance (and has read and dissed, incidentally). Bought it ages ago, minute it emerged in paperback (stingy, what?) but just getting to it now. Trying to get past some teenage romance and monsoon rains in Kalimpong now.

7. Seven is my number it seems. I have tons of things going for me. Our flat number sums to it. My birthday falls on it. My child’s birth date sums to it. The husband’s birth month and our wedding month are that. And now I am one of seven people who will get some shady geeky award thing on the seventh (of December).

6. Red and The Everest Hotel by I Allan Sealy are two books so different from each other in the fact that I hated one and loved the other. How do I cope with such things I wonder.

5. P G Wodehouse. You need to have about five of them lying around the house for times of distress. One of short stories (not Golf). One of a general type such as Bodkin. One Jeeves, so you can always say, oh no this Jeeves, we hatessss him, so smug. One placed in Blandings Castle (a guaranteed winner). And one P Smith. This is an important way of maintaining mental hygiene.

4. Discerningly you will notice that some points have something to do with the number (seven), some don’t (six). This one does not. Watched a bit of Seinfeld last night (rare occurrence for me). It was the one with the Bagel and Race Track Dudes and Denim Vest. And, of course Festivus (don’t know spelling). Know it pretty much by heart so got disappointed a bit. Although I know great part of PGW by heart it does not disappoint, ever.

3. Took child to the laboratory today. Showed off bubbling reactors and pipes. It was unimpressed till we lucked upon the wooden mezzanine floor. That charmed it simply because of the noise generated during dancing. I liked such random things in dad’s lab too.

2. I wish I could have a vacation. Wait. I can have a vacation right now if my little heart desires. Forget it, pass. I like the high speed internet at work.

1. Finish

Monday, 17 September 2007

To all the girls who stay at home..

The past week has been a remarkable one. I got an idea of what it would be like to be a stay at home amma.

On Saturday, husband was in Hyderabad. We went grocery shopping and she insisted on Good Day biscuits. We returned home and I gave her a Good Day biscuit, she refused it saying that is only for the day care, not for home.

On Sunday, husband slept late. We did some colouring. She used all the green coloured crayons on the capsicum (drawing) and I gave her a score of 4/10 for the effort.

On Monday, I took her to the pediatrician. She was very happy to see him. When we returned home she sneezed and a foot long piece of snot was deposited in my cupped hands. We went to my office to pick up my things and she broke my white board markers.

On Tuesday, we again spent the day at home, and she did and re-did the Pooh Jigsaw five times. I felt like Yossarian when he was watching Orr. But I am not insane (was Yossarian insane?). We went to a meeting of mine in the evening and she said she was hungry. I tried to feed her the Maggi noodles they gave me in the meeting, but she said it was too spicy.

On Wednesday, I gave up the pretense of work and we decorated a box, slapping on oodles of fevicol on papers, and stickers, and so on. She did and re-did the Pooh Jigsaw seven times. We tried to watch MTV but both of us felt disgusted at Shah Rukh Khan since he was naked. She threw up some spinach into my cupped hands, later that day.

On Thursday, I felt sick too. My nose was blocked and throat scratchy. It was day two of antibiotics for her so she was feeling better, I guess. I took the morning off and went to work, while husband watched her. I returned home at noon to find a tsunami-struck house.

On Thursday afternoon she woke up from her nap in five minutes and did and re-did the Pooh Jigsaw, and I could not take a nap which was sorely required for me because of my cold.

On Thursday night, I took her to the nebuliser because (a) she needed it (b) she loves it. When we returned, I was tired and wanted to sleep. She wanted to be awake and scratch me. Or do the Jigsaw.

On Friday morning, I woke up at 6 am, did my kitchen routine and went to sleep on the sofa. Bliss lasted till 7:30 am. Then she dragged me back to bed and piled all the pillows in the house, on me. I continued to sleep although something felt heavy. I woke up to find her doing the Jigsaw.

On Friday mid-morning, I desperately borrowed a few jigsaw puzzles from my neighbour, who thought we are both really strange. She did them (there are five of them) twice each.

On Friday afternoon, I dropped her off at the day care, where she had tearful reunions with kids and teachers alike, and immediately joined the snot-nosed monsters watching Tom and Jerry. Some of the other kids tried to chat me up but I escaped.

How do you all do it?

Monday, 10 September 2007

Of Books Devoured

This past weekend (starting Friday night) has been dedicated to reading. Nothing spectacularly clever, but really fast, and despite all the various distractions from the domestic end of things (gosh! How I envy all those unattached young people who don’t have to force themselves to iron the child’s clothes or to pay attention to dwindling kitchen supplies….)...

First, I launched into Mansfield Park. Jane Austen, at her usual tricks, I suppose. I read it in a sort of craze, have never read it before. I expected it would be Pride & Prejudice all over again. I used to think not much of that one till I went to college with a die-hard P&P fan who would stop every few weeks to extol a new virtue of the said book to me. I had scary images of Aishwarya Rai in that modernized movie version of that book to arrest me (not that I have seen the movie, thank god!). Nevertheless, when I picked up Mansfield Park (at a steal of a sale for Rs. 60; or I better say it like a book-lover ought, at three books for Rs. 180), I was real eager to get into that world of balls and ball-gowns and gentlemen with proper manners, and a fair bit of sarcasm as is wont to be. I was not particularly looking for a romantic thingammy, classifying Austen more under Classics, and less under Historical Romances.

Anyway there was a nice love-story in the middle of it all. I expected it to end not so much in the Bollywood mold, but let us say I would not have been disappointed if it were to happen. I was in one of those moods. Of course, the whole Some Chicks Rock, but truly the main enemies of our gender are The Chicks That Don’t Rock type things resonated pretty well with me. Things are not that much different despite the fact that we are not shopping for Muslin & Lace for our ball gowns or any such. It was quite a lot of fun to obsess truly and totally over a book, most of all.

Then, having gotten into that sort of thing, I went ahead and bought a Georgette Heyer. The argument, rationalisation, justification, is that it is a gift for my sister, who is sick and sort of confided to her home. She loves romance novels, and while I could never get myself to pay actual cash to buy the regular Mills & Boons, this I could somehow justify. Of course, I had to read it myself before sending it off to her, and really, how long could a Georgette Heyer take to read through?

It did not take long, and it did not disappoint. I got a great kick and morale boost out of it. I managed to pass a happy Sunday afternoon with it. I avoided sleeping, I could look upon the sleeping form of the husband and child with tolerance and love. Which is more than I can say about the whole Harry Potter thing (which was the sum and substance of my weekend two weeks ago). There, I just got irritated thinking it a poor caricature of Tolkien and other masters, and I really took especial offence to Ron’s way of speaking. Of course that did not encourage me to stop reading the damn tome through to the end! Nothing grated like that in Heyer, even the scene where there are two guys who are drunk out of their wits (which was really quite funny, come to think of it. Personal experience tells me it is quite remarkable for a person to be asleep from being too drunk for one second and up and about and making polite conversation the next, but then, maybe he had youth on his side).

With that stuff out of the way, I am now reading Bookless in Baghdad (Shashi Tharoor), alongside A Village by the Sea (Anita Desai) and Banker to the Poor (Mohammed Yunus). The last is what I have made most progress with, and while I don’t say much about the writing as is, the idea is quite catching, and makes me feel real excited about the possibility of people managing to cause widespread change in their life time. Inspiring, in short.

There was a big sale at the local Crossword, in the trips through the week child & I exercised caution and spent, well, not much, and that too only on things we were sure to read and enjoy immediately. Of course in our trip last night (our third there for the sake of the sale), we threw caution to the winds and ended up with way more than can possibly fit in the household unless I throw out some furniture, some clothes, and put up a bookshelf in the kitchen. I blame it all on the strange mood of my husband, who picked up books at random and threatened me with ‘you better read this’ which is as good a reason as any other to completely avoid it and let it gather dust, possibly in the kitchen.

Its not so much something against my husband’s recommendations of books, but the fact that the Crossword sale revolved a lot around Russian authors of the Classic variety, and although no one, especially my husband, believes me when I say it, I took an oath about six years ago that nothing would induce me to read that breed of authors (except for Nikolai Gogol; and even him, after that book and subsequent movie starring Tabu I might hereby avoid although I am supposed to look on it as Lahiri’s tribute to the great guy, whatever), let the whole world sing their praises to the skies. I suppose its sort of like saying I don’t like Shakespeare all that much, scandalous you may say, but true. I am more than willing to see desi adaptations of his comedies (and have had the most fun watching an open-air adaptation in Boulder, Colorado many years ago), but otherwise, genius though he may be and god knows what an overpowering influence & what not on our psyche, I avoid him. Cool dude and all, but still...

PS: While the world is out matching wines to dinners, my discovery is that an Ouzo, with tons of ice in it, is as good an accompaniment to light reading, as, say, coffee. And no, a beer will not do, too soon it clouds the brain with its influence and makes the fine print obscure.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Breathing Time

So, finally, after almost a month, I seem to have a few clear days this week. Including today. None of the usual mad scramble going from one meeting to another and generally loping off to Delhi for a day and Hyderabad for another. Of course, it did feel like I was so cool & important to be so busy and all but really, too damn tiring. I was getting particularly irritated that I could not get the time to exercise. I think that was the most important thing. Close on the heels comes the fact that I did not have enough time on the good ol' internet. That sucked majorly. Anyway, here we are today, reasonably free.

Here is what happened to me last night. We went home, usual 6:30 types. Thankfully there were enough vegetables in the fridge, the Crossword Store sale had been attended to, no phone calls needed to be made, bills of the month were paid off, and, I did not have oodles of office work to do. So, I could potentially have chilled out with a cup of coffee, reading the most sentient of papers, the Mumbai Mirror, and if the mood bubbled, worked on the Sudoku and Kakuro and Mindbender and Crossword. But, higher powers, fate, whatever, had other things in store.

The maid, my super loyal lady in waiting, had made away with all the newspapers in the house, including the stuff delivered just that morning. This when she had come late and I had literally pushed her out the door cause I had to leave early, she did not clean the bathrooms but found time to wrap up the newspapers and cart them off. Curse her. So, no Sudoku. Not a single one. No Kakuro either.

The neighbour friend of child was MIA. Don't know where she had gone, was not keen to find out. Would have involved getting out of the door, ringing doorbell and what not. Did not have it in me. Child was also tired & not so very keen on playing, at least she did not pester me about finding her friend. So we started off reading the new Magic Pot magazine (all the while thinking wistfully about Mumbai Mirror & Bombay Times). The usual colouring (she seems to hate colouring by the way, perhaps if I had more energy I would be worried about it), join the dots, find missing words and so on.

Half an hour of this and I was tired. The animal stories were getting on my nerves. So I said to the child, why don't we make our own story? yeah, I know, I am very original that way. I am probably the very first mother in the whole entire civilised world who thought of such a thing. :-)

Promptly, very promptly, too promptly, the monster child comes up with one about Noddy & Pooh and going exploring, and honey. For some reason the colour Yellow features a lot. I got super enthu. Dragged out my special yellow coloured paper and drew Noddy and the others (as in, violated copyright and copied shamelessly from Disney & Blyton). Requested that she colour them. She mussed it up immediately. So I drew it again and we hung out and batted ideas off each other about how to do it, and finally came up with a four page book with a story called 'Noddy goes exploring' Not a single drawing is original, and possibly (I don't know for sure), the whole premise and story-line are borrowed heavily from previous ones, but hey! We made our own story book! So what if I am thirty-three years old, and not that great at drawing, I still love crayons.

I tell you its quite a treat. I am thinking next step find a publisher, a professional illustrator, and stuff like that. But wait, who was that kid at Harvard that got totally messed up after a huge advance for her first book. Oh yeah! Maybe THAT is the lesson my girl has to be taught from this episode, that only the REALLY original ideas are worth publishing. Borrowing characters from popular (or even unpopular, for that matter) published works is trouble with a capital T.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Watched a Movie!

Chak De!

You never thought you would hear me talk about this, did you? The fact of the matter is that my husband loves going to the movies, and for a brief honeymoon period we used to watch a movie every weekend, even if I fell asleep through half of it. He loves those action & drama things that Hollywood churns out so routinely. Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford, and what not. Perhaps that shows you that for the past five years or so I am a little out of touch, considering how old these guys that I am talking about are! He would always manage to talk me out of chick-flicks, and since I rarely had enough enthusiasm to go without him, the only real chick-flick I managed to see in the past billion years is Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion (I strongly recommend this one, it rocks). Anyway I would go to all these movies with him but I would insist that they were all exactly the same, like there is a whole series of them based on American Presidents, starring Gene Hackman & so on, which are identical. It infuriates him to hear me say this, the man who has watched A Few Good Men about a million times and can quote word for word all the dialogues, and still, when it plays on the Idiot Box on a Sunday, will abandon everything else and glue his eyes to it.

Well, that’s him, don’t tell him I said all that about him here, OK buddy. In a coup of sorts I convinced him to watch Chak De! I reminded him incessantly that the only sort of movies that we watched in our hey-days that we both enjoyed were Sports Movies. The Mighty Ducks, The Air Up There, anything to do with any Basketball Player ever made, that stuff. Also we go so very rarely to watch movies these days (last one being Sivaji), that he was almost excited to go along. Despite SRK & Bollywood’s general tendency to break into song & dance (which is another place we completely bifurcate at; he switches away from songs, I flip channels to find them), and generally cry randomly. You know, nothing clever about them, no coherent mention of the IRA or Bad Russians. No particular statements that catch you, no ‘You want the truth, you can’t handle the truth’ type stuff. Plus he is still reeling from Kal Ho Na Ho where SRK did his ‘Mera DIL to kamzor hai’ dialogue & cried and generally irritated everyone mightily even when he died. So, you may say, coup it was. Plus we had to take the child along.

I would say, in all, that it was good fun. I did not feel miserable and irritated when I emerged out. I was feeling all enthusiastic about going for a game of something, soccer, basketball, squash, whatever. The girls were great, I think you are supposed to say that, it’s the politically correct thing to say. But really, not all of them, but the Punjabi girl was real cute, and while the short one was irritating (despite or because of the fact that she reminded me of myself), she had some good dialogues. Some of the ladies looked a little too made up to be real sports people, but then maybe I could give them the benefit of doubt based on the fact that my connection to reality is poor. And SRK, well, several things about him: (a) He looked real nice, that ginger-ish beard thing was good, also very fit (b) He did not cry, or dance, or laugh maniacally (c) He runs well, not in the usual manner of Bollywood. I am willing to forgive his poor basketball dribbling skills exhibited in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai now (d) Did not sing in the middle of the stadium or appalling things of that nature.

So, yeah, good movie. I was feeling so good at the end of it and almost as if SRK was a friend I would go drinking with on a Saturday night that later in the evening when I had some very very rarely achieved alone time, I decided to watch Veer Zaara. Which was really a bad move on my part, it took forever to finish thanks to advertisements every three seconds, he cried and recited random poetry and made his hands shake and acted all vague and old and rubbishy most of the time, and though I kept telling myself that I believe in true love, felt like crap at the end of it. So despite Chak De, I will restrict myself to song videos & if I ever meet Shah Rukh Khan on the streets (ha ha!), tell him honestly that I like his beard.

PS: Must avoid Om Shanti Om, viewed from any angle, this one will be painful.