Wednesday, 31 January 2007


I fear dust. It has the ability to make everything look old, faded. My friend tells me that it has the ability to make the computer bow down and break down. I did not know that. I fear that. My life is in my computer. My computer is my life. But clearly I don't know how to take care of my life. I let dust play havoc, especially in the back of the computer table. I saw last night there are clumps of dust. They have agglomerated to form this monstrous looking ball. It is fluffy but scary looking nevertheless. Not fluffy like a teddy-bear or mommy's fur coat. My mommy does not have a fur coat. She does not need one, we live in Mumbai, India. Its hot here, and dusty.

Dust is on everything. I cant see the faces of the numerous gods I worship everyday. They are all covered in dust and grime. Their faces have turned black. When they were new, they shone like silver, probably cause they are silver. Now they have all turned black. Their features are indistinguishable so I cant figure out who to pray for what. For my exam grades I need Saraswathi, the goddess of learning; or Vinayaka, the elephant-headed one. For sorting my love affairs I prefer Krishna, the whimsical, playful one with the flute. For overall protection from stray dogs and other calamities I approach Rama, he must be in-charge of such serious things. Occasionally I dream up connections and need to pray to someone in particular for something in particular but nowadays it is hard as I cant distinguish any features anymore. Dust and grime are too strong.

My friends ask me sometimes about my computer, and about my gods. If marooned on a desert island, which of them would you rather have with you, they ask. I think they are teasing, I am not sure. I don't know the answer to that. How to get the ac power my computer needs, on an isolated desert island? But then, if my gods were with me, I could pray to them to get me power for my computer. But I don't know the answer to that. Perhaps it's a joke. But there the sand would be powerful. In a way, it is the same as dust. It is eternal.

I once saw a picture of a house in America, on television. It was real clean. It had a wooden floor, one room in our house has a wooden floor. Mommy says it's a fake floor. But she scolded me when I tried to break it open to see what is underneath. Anyway the American house did not have dust. It was gleaming and sparkling. The television was kept at low volume, not like our house. The tap and kitchen sink were also shining. No one had written their name in the dust on the window-sills. The curtains did not have an edge of black grime. They left a whole opened cake on the table for several hours and it did not get destroyed by ants and flies and dust and grime. It was amazing. I told mommy. She was angry. She said I must not watch such things. She said such a house did not have gods so was a bad house. I agree. I did not see even an old calendar with Vinayaka on the clean walls there. It must be bad there.

I tried to tell our maid-servant that she has to do a better job cleaning. She laughed for 15 minutes. This is Kali-Yug she said. You cant save anything now. I told her that I was worried about the gods. She laughed and said they could take care of themselves, don't worry. I took her to the puja room door (she could not enter as it is only for us). I showed her the black idols. She told me to tell mommy she would scrub them with tamarind to make the shine come back. I was very happy. She is so nice! I told mommy. She got angry again and said I must not permit maid-servants to touch the gods. I asked her why, she said they are impure. But mommy I said, she is the only one that cleans the house, she is the only chance again dust, how can she be impure? I was scared when I said that, mommy's nostrils flared up in anger. I ran away to my computer.

My friends laughed at me again. They said I was sure to lose my computer soon. I quickly tried to make copies of my files on a CD but the CD burner door was jammed. I pried it open and found a dust ball. I looked for a cloth to clean it, but the dusting cloth used for the TV cannot be used as it is touched by maid-servant. My computer is in the puja room. Only few things are allowed there. I like it there because I am close to both my computer and my gods. But it is too dusty. The CD burner does not work any more. There is a crunching noise when I put the CD in. I don't know who the god for computers is. I have to find out and pray to him or her. Perhaps it is Vinayaka again, he has a mouse.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007


Account of a day in the life of a TamBram lady.

The sun was just appearing, an early morning mist hung in the air, the world was still asleep. She woke slowly from her bed, the springs creaking a bit. She rubbed her eyes, and moved out of the room softly. Though her eyes were partly closed, years of routine enabled her to reach the back-yard with no mishap. Finally cracking the eyes open she undid the innumerable bolts and locks and proceeded to the well. The main thing is to wake up before the rest of the household, and to look like you are immersed in work by the time they wake, she told herself. A secret every woman must be let into by their mother, she thought, smiling to herself at the idea of her mother harbouring such ideas.

Her trained hands quickly pulled up two pots of water from the well. Then, hesitation. It’s a cold winter morning. No one is looking. How important is it to wash oneself, clothes and all, in freezing cold well water? She decided on the basic ablution, a bit of water on each foot, some for the hand, a handful for the face. Then she washed the pots with the remainder of the water.

She moved inside the house and put on the switch, in five minutes the boiler would give her pleasantly warm water, and she could have a real bath. Brushing her teeth, she went inside to the little drying room by the kitchen. Grabbing a stick from behind the wooden door, she carefully removed the clothes hanging on the lines running across the room near the ceiling – clothes that she had washed yesterday after her bath, ‘pure’ clothes that she would don after her bath today. At no cost must she touch the clothes now, she told herself, a small seed of guilt about her shortened stint at the well gnawing at her.

Clothes securely placed on top of the wooden stick, she moved into the bathroom. The water was nice and warm, as expected. She had a relaxing bath, avoiding all the soaps in the little alcove and sticking to the turmeric powder and gramflour mixture. Donning the fresh clothes, she went in to the kitchen, a large but dark room in the interior of the house.

With quiet efficiency she boiled milk, made coffee decoction in the large stainless steel filter, and decided upon Rava Uppma for breakfast.

Then she remembered suddenly that she had omitted to pray! Turning the gas low on the milk, she quickly stepped in the Puja Room. She felt satisfaction at the largeness of the room, the innumerable portraits and statues of god that occupied half the room, the neat arrangement of flowers, incense and other assorted materials around. Left to them they would have relegated god to a corner of the kitchen, she thought. Thank god I put my foot down, and got this room made so nice, she smiled at the memory of the fights and the tantrums she had resorted to. Though her hands were folded, eyes closed, and her mouth reciting slokas learnt in her childhood decades ago, her mind was wandering, as usual, over the various aspects of the household, and in particular, the role she herself played in it.

Without realizing it consciously, she reached the end of the recital, did her four namaskaarams with perfect posture, and decided to make Vermicelli Uppma instead. Digging out vermicelli from a gleamingly large vessel from the back of the kitchen shelf, she started on the dish, the mustard seeds spattering and crackling, the aroma wafting out to the rest of the household through the single, small, window in the back of the kitchen.

Soon the rest of the house awoke, with the incessant demands of milk, coffee, sugar, breakfast, food for the children’s school lunch boxes and what not. Till the children (two girls, not hers, her husband’s brother’s) left raucously on their bicycles, she did not have moment to breathe.

And no sooner had she waved them good-bye with a slightly plastic smile, then her father-in-law demanded his lunch. How she managed to get everything ready single-handedly in so short a time, no one knew. But then she was famed for her efficiency, especially in the kitchen. She had to live up to that every day, and god was her witness that every single day, she managed to. And not just with the kitchen, with every aspect of the household and the family, she had demonstrated many times over her abilities and talents.

The morning wore on in the routine manner with servants and work in the Puja Room, and the rest of the cooking. Before she knew it, it was the slow time of the afternoon. Her father-in-law, uncaring of the afternoon sun (it was winter after all, pleasant in the afternoon, he would say, if asked), had had his tea and left on a long walk to his daughter’s house in another part of the city, his big black umbrella held behind his neck. The house was empty and quiet.

She went and lay down on her bed. Of course with a book in her hand – one of her favourite Tamizh magazines, called ‘Kalki’. She had had to work hard on her husband, again resorting to some temper tantrums to secure this year’s subscription to the magazine. He had put forth arguments such as the articles were not of high quality, no one else in the house could read it, whereas if an English magazine were subscribed to for the same price, then everyone could read, and in fact she could improve her English herself too. No doubt he was instigated to say these things by his brother, she could plainly see his hand in it. But she had put her foot down. Nothing doing, she had said. What she did not add was that she had to read the magazine quickly herself and then circulate it amongst all her relatives who could not buy it themselves, and her prestige, her place in the society was hinged in no small measure on her ability to supply magazines to all the women. They all looked up to her – look at her – so strong, can buy magazines, our husbands will not hear of it. And also, as soon as she got a whiff of the brother’s hand in this, she had to, had to change her husband’s mind. Anyway this was last year, and after that episode no one had dared to say anything more on the matter.

She thumbed through the pages desultorily – the magazine a few months old, she had already read it several times. She had to concentrate on not sleeping. Everyone knows that sleeping in the afternoons is not beneficial to one’s health. But the crisp air of the winter afternoon, the pleasant sun, they were intoxicating. She could vaguely hear a few birds on the guava tree outside the window, and far away, someone crying out their wares. Tamarind or vegetables or steel vessels, she could not tell.

She woke up with a jerk at a bicycle bell rung repeatedly. Dragging herself to her feet she went out to look. It was the postman. A plump old man on a large black cycle with a huge bell, ringing it as if the world was ending. Without hiding her irritating, she asked him to stop the ringing.

‘Were you sleeping Amma?’ the fellow asked.

It made her more irritated.

“Of course not, can a woman ever sleep? The whole household’s work is done by me, everyone manages to eat and then just come back for more eating, all the work is left to me, where is the time to sleep? “

‘Sorry Amma, I was ringing for so long.. Anyway maybe you were in the backyard. Here is a letter from Amrica. Amma, how about some bakshish for this poor old man?’

She absent-mindedly reprimanded him for this insolence, handed a few coins, and proceeded inside staring at the letter. It was from her brother, the one that was a doctor. She was very fond and proud of him, and was glad to carefully read through the small handwriting, speaking of his work and food and Americans. She did not read between the lines, did not see his unhappiness and inability to marry the orthodox Brahmin upbringing to the freedom in the West. She spent a few contemplative moments imagining him married to a very suitable young woman, with yellow mustard staining the skin near the ears and a long black plait studded with jasmine, and a befitting coyness.

Slowly her mind turned to rumination on her own spouse. Her lips curled up unconsciously in disdain. With characteristic clarity, she blamed him for her rather drab and boring life. He was, after all, a drab and boring man. He could never express himself clearly or firmly. He was tall but in a gangly way, not in the wholesome healthy way of her father. He was well-educated, and in a well-paid government job. But he did not exhibit any particular interest in moving up the ranks, and did not even apply for promotions in the aggressive manner which she prescribed. He was content in continuing with his routine life, job and family. She was convinced that the reason they were childless was because he did not want a child himself, so satisfied with the current scenario was he. Hmph, she finished this analysis in disgust, I deserve better than this. She went on to think of her other brothers, and the weak, giggly women who were their wives and decided with finality that all of her siblings too deserved better spouses, and that it was unfortunate that god had chosen in such a manner.

Proceeding slowly to the kitchen, she mixed up a cup of coffee – automatically making up the milk with a bit of water, so she could confidently argue later that she only drank black coffee through the day, saving all the milk for the rest of the family. A sudden pang of guilt at this subterfuge drove her to the adjacent Puja Room, where she spent a half hour in additional slokas to the gods, winding up with four proper namaskarams, and a couple of minutes of detailed requests to god about means of improving her daily life.

The door bell brought her out of the room, and when she opened the door, in burst the children, laughing and talking and generally creating a huge noise. She shouted at them to stop it and ran into the kitchen, and quickly whipped up some green gram sundal. They took one look at it and turned to run away, but her stern look and general combative demeanour with her hands on her hips stopped them and they somehow ate up the snack, although clearly hating it. Thankfully, before she could really lose her temper at them, they drank their glasses of milk and wandered away to the friend’s house to play, arguing about which game.

Next to arrive would be her husband. He would as usual bring a string of jasmine flowers for her hair. She loved the smell of jasmine and welcomed the opportunity to sport it in her hair, but had never admitted it to him. She looked down at her batter-stained sari and thought that perhaps she should clean up a bit. Then when she wore the jasmine he would say ‘You look just like Goddess Lakshmi’ and she could feel proud of herself for a short while at least. She latched her bedroom door and slowly pulled out a brown sari with a thick gold border. The nine yards of the sari did nothing to intimidate her, and she quickly wound herself up, taking care to arrange the rich pallu delicately around her waist. After a few quick tugs, she could ensure that her legs were not constrained and she could, if necessary, move fast. Combing out the white-peppered hair, she wound it into a bun and took a sideways look in the mirror. With a grimace at the smallness of the bun, she undid it quickly, and pulled out a long, thick cascade of fake black hair. Now the bun was thick and luxuriant, and the white of her hair barely visible. The little black net she wore on top, and secured with U-pins, made it even less evident. Daubing pink powder of her face and marking out a rather large red dot in her forehead, she eyed herself in the mirror with satisfaction. It was true, she did look like Goddess Lakshmi, she told herself. The red bindi caught her attention and she quickly cursed the new fashion, where people insisted on wearing it between their eyebrows as opposed to high up in the forehead. It looked ridiculous, she thought, look at how elegant mine looks, she wanted to tell them.

Her husband entered the house just then, ah, what perfect timing, she was saying in her mind when she noted the agitated look on his face. She quickened her step and brought out a steaming hot cup of coffee for him. He took it with shaking fingers and looked at her for a moment, but his pathetic look evoked not pity, but anger and frustration in his wife. He spoke haltingly, as he was wont to when excited. And when he finished, and she had still not uttered a word in response, he looked confused and tried to move away. ‘Wait’ she said. Then a small smile played on her lips. “This transfer to Chennai is a good thing. We will get way from here – all this,” she said spreading her arms out. “Our own cozy little house, I will grow jasmine there, we will be happy..” she continued, half to herself. Her busy mind planning what to take, how jealous her friends would be, and for a fleeting moment, she sincerely believed her life could only look up from here. It was just that afternoon, after reading her brother’s letter, that she had gone into the Puja room. “God works really fast,” she told herself, stepping into the kitchen to start the preparations for dinner, a spring in her step.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Friendship & Competition

In my younger days, in a race, I would compete with even my best(est) friend. One year when I was running and dad was invited to be a chief guest, I was doing the 100 m. I was a bit ahead of the crowd and I turned around and looked back as I crossed the finish line. He was appalled. He told me off in no uncertain terms, and said that when you are running, you better be running for yourself, or not at all. I thought he meant it as advice to improve my timing. Now I get it.

So I am on the road on Sunday, 21st, running my half marathon. I am in pain, deep, my calves cramping in a real uncomfortable way. I am not feeling cocky or arrogant. I am not even feeling confident. My silly watch is steaming over thanks to sweat and of course I am appallingly bad in figuring out directions and buildings and landmarks. So the kilometer markers are the only straw I can clutch at.

I had a few aims with this effort-
(a) Lose that fat around the tummy
(b) Raise money for pet cause
(c) Finish in top 30 women
(d) Improve on last year's timing
(e) Be strong at the end
Now as I was running I saw (c)-(e) go out of the window already at 14 km. It was then that it hit me. It was some kind of ecstasy or high. It was some clarity of thought that was missing previously. I wanted to hug someone. I wanted to put my arm round that yellow tshirt walking and say, 'come on, lets run' I wanted to tell the lanky kid who was sprinting to slow down, and pace himself. I wanted desperately to know the names of the little children holding out biscuits for the runners. I wanted to know how old the man with white hair was, was almost glad when I saw his undone lace so I could legitimately dig a sentence out of my gut and tell him about the lace. I wanted to smile, and wave, and thank everyone.

Maybe it was thanks to Jayant, New jersey then, Mumbai now. He walked when I needed to walk. Sacrificed his race totally. He grabbed two bottles of water everytime. Told me to sip water. Told me I was doing very well. Hang in there, five more kms he said (No its six, said I). Thank you Jayant, I did hang in there. Maybe it was thanks to Venu, Bangalore. Dri-fit is a good idea he said. Had a fine discussion on schools, the education system, and gung-ho parents. Forgot about and got over my cramps. The certificate line would never have ended without you in it. Thank you Venu, I will let my daughter pick a school she likes.

Its not about competing and winning races, its about enjoying the race and making new friends, and being able to talk to those tiny tiny children collecting bottles from the runners, even after running for two and half hours. Well that is my aim for next year. Thank you Mumbai Marathon 2007!

Monday, 22 January 2007

Mumbai Marathon

The first time we heard of Mumbai Marathon was back in 2004. It was a balmy day in Jan/Feb that year. For me, it was the best idea - to start the tradition of running and marathons in Mumbai. I could hardly contain my excitement. Then I looked down at myself, wait, where are my feet? Oh yeah, there they are, under the belly. I was some 7 months pregnant. Although in the final analysis I had one child - that too not a particularly large one - coming out of the belly, even at 7 months I looked as if I was carrying, no, not a basketball, but a basketball team itself, inside there. So running was out, even if it was only 7 measly kilometers. I valiantly made my way to Azad Maidan in any case. Armed with biscuits and juice, a hat, and sunglasses. Cheered the husband on in his run, baby-sat a few kids who ate Idlis with their grandmom, generally thought of the things I would do once I had the baby and miraculously, overnight lost all the weight I had gained in the past months. It was a wonderful experience. Swore to be back at it again the next year.

In the past years I have graduated from fat, pregnant spectator to fat dream (7 km) runner to brave half-marathon (21 km) runner. This year was my second experience with the half (as we are calling it these days). The organisation was a little off this time compared to last year. We were in some Tirupati Temple like enclosure in the holding area when there was a sudden commotion. We realised that the people in the other enclosure were moving out and unless we stepped over the dividers we would remain hemmed in here. Some enterprising fat individuals went one step further and broke down the thin wooden things and we all jumped over. Followed the surge through to the start, but only managed to reach the start line some 8 minutes after the race was flagged off. No matter, I told myself, armed as I was with the special champion chips, which would record times of starting, stopping, peeing, and surely, finishing. So I would have to the second an accurate record of my race. Of course that was not to be, but I did not know that then.

I began strongly, though put off a bit due to all the callous individuals walking four abreast and blocking my running path. My crib was that all this tortuosity was increasing my total distance to be run, already the 21 km despite my earlier experience, is a long way away from being comfortable. Chatted and chattered feeling comfortable up to the half way mark, saw Anil Ambani, Milind Soman ahead at the turn.

All cool up to 14 kilometers. The three of us that train together, stuck together till about the half way mark, then I lost them. Was by now running with a guy from New Jersey who read my NGO affiliation on my TShirt and discovered the common thread. He was an experienced marathoner, and it was nice to heave someone to run with. But even that did not help when my legs started to fail me. I could not understand it at first, they are yet to have given up on me thus, in all my years of running. But then many of those years were when I was younger, smaller, and much more agile, and also I was only doing sprints back then, never anything longer than 5 kms.

Anyhow, the calves were cramping a bit. In the back of my mind there was a voice telling me that if I upped the pace a bit, at least for a little while, the acid would burn out and I would be fine. But then, more than an hour into the race, with at least an hour more to go, this hardly seemed like an option. So I did the unthinkable and walked a few paces. For me, mentally and physically, this is suicide. So pace, race, everything went out right there, and I struggled and struggled to reach the finish finally in 2 hours 25 mins. Did several sets of multiplication tables in my head, got to a point where I could only do the 1s and 2s, although I could go up to 2 times 20 (I usually do tables of 16 or 17 in my head, in such moments of duress). Only good thing was that in the last 1.5 km I could overcome everything, and could run fast, faster even than the average person around me at that time.

The calves were totally cramped while I waited in the interminable line for my certificate. Drank a billion bottles of electral water from the medical tent, met a few more wonderful fellow runners in the line, and finally managed to convince a kind-hearted volunteer to lend me her phone for an SMS to contact my husband. He, being the man of action that he is, charged into the tent and found me, god bless him. I was just about to go to the counter for my certi then, so we just sort of smiled at each other, I told him about my cramp, and that I was OK now, and he went away.

My certificate is kind of green, says my name and bib no. Finish time is 2:33 and placing is 51 (among women). Both of these are wrong as they don't account for the fact that I reached the start 8 mins after the flagging off. This was really irritating after waiting in line for so very long. At least my other friends had GPS watches, and stopwatches, or at least meaningful watches unlike me who had just her usual Timex on. Makes one doubt ones ability to ignore technology. :-( I was also a bit disappointed with my time and the fact that I felt so much discomfort..

But wait! My 2:25 is nothing to be ashamed about. My actual placing is more like 45. The time and placing are both exactly, bang on, what I did last year, and 45 was my roll number in college, that wonderful place where my life really shaped out into the beautiful thing it is today. I have also raised more than Rs.70000 for Asha (, the NGO I volunteer at, from this run, and received immense support from everyone around me. Despite what was happening to my legs, I thoroughly enjoyed the action around me, saw Rahul Bose and Tara Sharma go off for the Dream Run, and when I got home, had the energy to play with my little one. My legs are a bit stiff but all fine now! I saw the best of Mumbai out there in their yellow and green and red tshirts yesterday! Young and old, thin and fat, everyones legs pounding away. This is really, absolutely the best event, there is no show, dance, play, movie, party, nothing, that can beat the celebration that this Marathon is.

And... in the Times of India, on page 12, my sis-in-law found me this picture today.

Now that short person in a white tshirt with a towel hanging down from her shorts, #8578, is your very own Kenny....

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

The New Delhi

I am sure I was sorely missed and what not. My excuse is that I was in a small-ish trip to Delhi, for some form of work-related thing. I was sorely depressed through the weekend at the prospect, assuming, as a pessimist is wont to, that all flights would be late and I would languish in various airports in a zombie-like state drinking expensive Nescafe and reading that book on temples in tamilnadu.

Surprise! Surprise! Both my flights were more or less on time. My morning one at 6 am (meant waking up at 4 am) was nice, took a nap, (though I found a hair in the Poha), saw a spectacular sun-rise, and landed in Delhi fully secure and warm in my thick winter coat and scarf.

Discussion on spitting in taxi – young fellow, that lilting hindi of the north, spat once. Pounced on him and discussed at length the issue. Tobacco and Paan-chewing are to blame he said. We stopped an old man to ask for directions. See, the old man, one foot in the grave, chewing tobacco. Of course he will spit, said my taxi driver friend. I launched into my tirade, it is our country, see the beautiful roads we have managed to make, look, see ahead of you, what a pleasure it must be drive your wonderful taxi here, and then, if we spit then it is tantamount to dirtying our own house built out of our hard-earned money, is it not? He agreed. Tried to dismiss it all by saying India can never be clean and free of spit and so on. I promptly disagreed and said, no, it is our India and it is up to us to think positively on this matter too. It is possible. There are trash cans everywhere. You can carry a bag to spit in if necessary. We can have spittoons put up if necessary. We can do it. Come on! He got all charged up, after all, he is a very optimistic guy I found. His voice rich and strong, full of hope and energy. I almost felt bad that we had reached my destination. As I got off and entered a building with security in full regalia I tossed this over – why don’t you tell five people today to not spit? I didn’t wait for his response but could hear his laugh follow me as I stepped in between the rifles and boots.

Did I mention that my flight back was also on time, and I reached home just in time for dinner? Well, it was not as simple as that. I was on a later flight but as my work finished earlier than expected, I found myself in the airport some three hours ahead of flight time. So the friendly Jet Airways lady wait-listed me on the earlier flight and asked me to hang around. Half an hour before the flight was to take off, the distracted Jet Airways lady read out names of people on the wait-list who could get on the flight. My! My! I have never seen a crowd of people so eager for their names to be called! I felt like I did when I was waiting to hear the names of people selected in those coveted jobs on campus long years ago. A mixture of excitement and anticipation, and voices in the head planning for the ‘what if my name is not called’ scenario.

So the trip was good in terms of comfort (despite waking at 4 am), I saw some nice birds and enjoyed smooth roads, saw a beautiful sunrise and a magnificent sunset, and yes, met some influential people talking to whom made work seem more meaningful, but I killed the environment. Two flights (kilograms of pollutants); three taxi rides and one auto ride all alone in cavernous interiors (milligrams of pollutants). And the worst is that I did not even THINK of checking out the pride of the country – the Delhi Metro.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

berry berry black

This one is for my husband. No matter, my other umm two readers can continue to read on. You won’t puke.

Dear Mr. Corpo Warrior-

I humbly dedicate to you this page of my writings and ramblings, and yes, to cut a long story short, my musings. Without you I would not write. Without your support, encouragement, and ‘I am telling you Kenny, just write’ I would not. So may I (humbly again) – ask that you schedule time on your calendar – the one that rivals POTUS’ in busy-ness – to have a glance at this, the page dedicated to you.

Just so it motivates you better, I now double dedicate the following review of ‘Who Moved My Blackberry?’ to you. What do you know? Perhaps reading my review will save you the trouble of reading the book itself!

*Review of Who Moved My Blackberry?*

(Note: All links that I had added are removed, to enable reading of this review easily on blackberrys)

The book is about the sordid love affair of Keri Tartt and Martin Lukes. Keri, without a single line of dialogue on-line, nevertheless manages to carry this book on her slender shoulders, because she is everything everyone wants to be. Meaning, she is from New Zealand, does not overtly support the All-Blacks, is a trained physiotherapist, and has embarked on a career as an assistant in a big global firm based on London, in order to further her aim of making babies. (Note: The baby issue is not highlighted in book, but it is obvious that the groping near the fire exit is meant for this higher purpose. After all, Keri is 29 years old).

Martin Lukes is a wonderful Director or Manager or some such in the big global firm based in London, who loves his mum too much, and is enamoured by the lushness of the golf course in Bangalore, India. Enamoured enough to learn to say Namaste, and to gift his assistant, no, not Keri, the other, fat, one, with a Sari.

Martin is married to Jenny who goes from being a PR something to very nearly the CEO of the big global company. Jenny is no good. Even when she is called Jens. She is one of those women – ugh- who want careers, run households with efficiency, retain their maiden names, are socially conscious and hire Au-Pairs called Svetlana for their twenty year old sons.

As the curtain falls on the stage set by this remarkable book, a remarkable twist of fate occurs. The black magic used by Pandora, Martin’s executive bronze coach, is finally effective, and Keri’s baby is transferred to Jenny’s womb. Although Jenny is – ugh – that kind of woman, and 46 years old. Keri, sorely disappointed by this turn of events, returns to New Zealand in a last ditch attempt to cultivate love for the All-Blacks.

In between, there are many insights into the working of the big global firm based in London, which are not important, except that they reiterate the tendency of such firms to make new words - the one in this case being "creovationTM". There are also many instances when Martin manages to get drunk enough to get seduced by Keri, little aware of her intention of stealing his sperm to have babies. Not to forget the extremely tense situation in which Martin’s delinquent twenty-year old steals his blackberry and writes some flowery emails pretending to be Martin. This is crucial because it gives the book its name.

Oh yeah, the book is written in the fascinating new language developed for Blackberrys. Thankfully, unlike SMS language, this allows spelling ‘see’ as ‘see’ and not ‘c’; ‘you’ as ‘you’ and not ‘u’. This I think is also a crucial thing - it sells blackberrys like nothing else can, at least to me. Four letter words, twisted out of shape and made longer because Martin and Lucy are British, are rampantly used. I would give examples here, but they are not allowed on my blog.

*End of Review of Who Moved My Blackberry?*

I sincerely hope that you have benefited from this. I request (humbly) that you leave me a comment – never mind if you don’t have an account here – use mine.

Yours Eternally etc.


Wednesday, 10 January 2007


I have been enormously cheesed off at all the spitting that happens on the streets.

10 am
Today I was parking car when the driver of parked car in next spot spat, not once or twice, but three times. Right in front of his own feet too. Then was walking merrily back to his car. Must have been about twenty-five. Thin. Looked neat.
I could not stop myself. Went up and said, how come you spit and then walk around right there. Dont you feel its dirty. He felt shy, looked down at his feet, gave a small embarassed smile. Nothing else. But at least no anger, somewhat seemed to agree with me. I did not linger and give a long lecture or ask for any assurances.

2 pm
I was walking around. Its a campus here. Green and clean. A very large guy spit. Was amazed at the size of the blob that came out of his mouth. He was about 30. Very tall. Unkempt hair. I was scared. Let it go. I hope thats the last time I am passive on this one. But do need a strategy.

Next day - 9:30 am
I am driving. Nice residential locality. Clean again. 30-ish man in round moon glasses. A quick small spit. I make a face at him. He looks at me insolently (I think). He is not big, not scary, just a regular guy with a regular job wearing glasses and a nice pant, shirt, shoes, but, when it comes to it - spitting on the road. Why?
But if I ask him to not spit on the road, and he HAS to spit (could happen you know, even if you are not chewing paan), where will he go?
Do need a strategy. For today I stay inside my office entirely.

Day 3 of KBPMs spitting chronicle. - 10 am
Small, well aimed spit from driver of Sumo that trucks call center employees at all times of day and night. Had to lean well out of his seat. Must have been tall because the foot on the accelerator was not removed even though this leaning was happening.

I am wondering - do women spit? I mean I am sure they do, I have seen the tobacco/paan chewing, TB patient kinds generate lot of spit-material, but you know, spit for the sake of spitting. Do women do it?
I am also trying to generate spit-material and see if I can hang on till I go to the bathroom or I have to spit on my office floor. God knows it deserves it. So far, have hung on till bathroom sink.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Hair Cuts For All

This Sunday we did the ultimate in family bonding – went to a unisex saloon to get hair-cuts for all. My previous experiences with getting my hair cut have all been variously traumatic and kind of like jumping off a cliff. Would this be different? Could this be different?

Some history first. My hair is thick, black, and ultimately frizzy and curly. It was my grandfather’s suggestion that the only way to give it a semblance of order was to have its own weight pull it down. Previously it had tendencies to radiate out normal to the scalp in crazy ringlets. After growing it in length it started to somewhat behave itself. Especially after I got addicted to any and all forms of hair gels, and insisted on having it tied up in a low pony tail 24/7. Till date, no hair-dresser, male or female, has agreed to straighten my hair. Their argument has been that natural is in (it has been ‘in’ for like a long time then, through all kind of things like Afros, ironed hair, brown highlights and what not), though the truth is that no one has been up to the challenge of taming this mane of mine.

Previously, I have visited places where – (1) The very-pregnant Julian (2) The surly high school intern (3) The woman with garlic breath who also had curly hair and therefore hated me – have been allotted for my hair cuts. Julian could not see too well over the bump but did the best she could. Gave her a $2 tip. The high school intern experience made me grow out my hair for a looong time – like six months – before daring to go back for a cut. Being older, more street smart, and living in India made dealing with number (3) easy. I stopped going to that place altogether.

In between I have enjoyed months of relative comfort. In Harvard Square, I was happy with the completely bald man who cut my hair for $25, this despite the fact that he would not let me go short, insisting he could not get himself to chop such nice tresses (!) off. I had long layers then, and somehow managed to enjoy it. Too bad that the fellow has been recently charged with all nature of things – see this . I tell you, he was the only one who made the effort to like my hair (sob sob). And my hair liked him back too (sob sob). Recently, I have been broadly OK with the young girls who have been cutting my hair, although they got rid of the layers and did only straight cuts, insisting that its best suited for my hair. I always suspected that this just made their life easy but never said anything. Charged me Rs. 250-350 depending on their mood. My hair has been in bad shape though I could blame this on things like stress, tropical weather, and not taking care of it. Anyway, I liked the fact that on their aprons the name was written in a mirror image, so that when they cut our hair, we could read correctly in the mirror. Awesome!

Then, it turned out this Sunday that all three of us needed hair cuts. I thought, hey, we could all go together and make this a family event! Like others eat lunch out as family bonding time, we get our hair cut in the same place! FUN-tastic. My husband was all over this place he goes to, and I was tempted, looked all hep and all that. Red aprons, just like Kingfisher Airways, my favourite. Of course we could not go to my place where it said ‘Men Not Allowed’ in big black letters on the door.

So we waltzed in, and said HAIR CUTS. The husband was quickly whisked off to one chair and snip snip it started. I said, kid first, then me. A girl with hair the same colour as her skin scowled, put me in the hands of a shy looking guy and loped off. I had a sinking feeling. But concentrated on getting the kid the usual boy-cut. Holding her head. Asking her like a hundred times not to squirm in her seat. Making sure the small bits don’t get into her ear. Finally, she was done, and it was my turn!

Thankfully the scowling girl did not come back (I did NOT like her funny blonde hair), and the guy said I will cut your hair. I said OK, thinking, hey could be like my Harvard square fellow before he got charged with all sorts of things. I gave myself up to the pleasure of efficient male hands snipping away. Noticed that he spent a lot more time and actually measured and estimated and what not, unlike the other place where the girls just sort of wet my hair and chopped a block off. NICE, I am thinking. Then soon, too soon, he is done, and gives me spiel about head massage and dry hair and so on. I am smart now, I recognize attempts to make me spend more and take a rain check. Ta-Da I am all done! Feeling aerodynamic like crazy, just in time for the (half) marathon!

Smile on lips I thank shy guy and find the gang and we go off to pay. Rs. 665 they tell me. I am thinking, hmm sounds a bit high compared to what husband claims to pay. I ask for the split. Here is what it is:

Kid – Rs. 75

Husband - Rs. 90

Me – Rs. 500

WHAT? Can this be true? Is this happening to me?

Thursday, 4 January 2007


So I am casually driving in to work this morning, already tons late thanks to that daughter of mine still being in vacation mode, and waking up really really late. I am at a circle, coming in from one of the four feeder roads, and intending to go to the perpendicular one by going around the circle and making the right turn at the appropriate point. Remember I said four roads feed into the circle. Nearly symmetrically aesthetically arranged. So in order to make the said right turn, or in fact, to do whatever it is you want to at the circle, you have to veer left. So here I am, veering a little left as I do every day and DISHUM I hit a guy on a bike. I mean just lightly touch his boot or some such being as he is in my blind spot, not that I was particularly looking left for such transgressions. I hope I have amply justified that that veering left is pretty much a given for souls at the circle. I pull up short, gave my usual, “yeh kya hai boss” question with my arm and move on slowly. Turning right and proceeding on, this time carefully checking that spot on the left using the ever-handy left side mirror.

Sure enough in a little while on my right there is lot of honking going on and I look to see said bike fellow coming after me shouting some things. I roll down the window and say “Hey man gotto watch where you are going” But he is all like “BLAH BLAH AAH OOO” of course neither of us can hear anything but the eyes speak for us. By now he is in front of me and dangerously turning back to have this intelligent conversation.

I recall my place in the world. I roll up the window and increase the volume on one of those interminable FM songs. Run a few dialogues in my head ‘Look, I don’t want to fight’ in a calm, mature, elderly person voice. ‘I honestly don’t think you can blame me entirely for that situation.’ ‘Are you hurt, do you need help’ ‘You have to not drive so close to cars - I literally moved 4 inches and managed to hit you, that’s too close’ ‘See the problem with you guys is that you think you are invincible’ I pull myself up for that last one, needlessly over-generalising to cover all young males on motorcycles is not on I tell myself. And come up with ‘Sorry boss’

In the meantime, the kid strapped securely in her seat in the back is like What happened, what happened. So I explain as best as I can, using few of the dialogues in my head from above. And also in the meantime, the bike fellow I discover is still in front of me. He is slowing down, oh cool, time to use the dialogues I think. Should we pull over I wonder. But wait what is this he is doing? He is going zig-zag in front of me. He is avoiding moving to the left lane when he can. He WANTS to be in front me, going slow enough to slow me down, and zigging and zagging. Then I get it, he is PAYING me back for that bump I gave him. Excellent stuff! All the dialogues and the calm, mature, elderly person voice go out of the window, and I just thank god I am not that young anymore really. I don’t need to react to this! He is physically unaffected enough to play games! This continues all the way up to the main road, and even beyond, to the next traffic light, where I mercifully turn left while he goes on straight – or at least as straight as the zigging and zagging will allow.

Of all the dialogues said, unsaid, heard, unheard, the best is attributed to kid ‘How can he shout at you, you are my amma, na?’ A dose of reality, a fall off the mommy pedestal, a tiny bit of guilt and a boot print on the side of my car – this is my collection for the day.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

New Year Resolutions in the Winter Wonderland

For once, I seem to have had all in all a wonderful fortnight in December 2006. No tension, no worries, just simple bonding with family and enjoying, finally, after four years, just being in India. Although a very different India than the one I grew up in! Which is OK, I don’t complain, at least the bathrooms in Mumbai airport are MUCH nicer than back then. The car- and plane-rides were not fraught with irritation as they usually are, actually managed to play some anthakshari and chat about life during the journeys, imagine that. I think it was because of the weather. Winter in the tropics, as welcome as the spring in New York!

I discovered romance novels. Courtesy my sister who devours them. We tracked down two of such things in her house and I borrowed them. Finished them in a day each, and liked them! Although they have the tendency to be over three hundred pages long and try to weave in a story-line and what not, at the end of the day they have very simple premises, and very predictable, feel-good endings. So girl meets man, lot of tension and seeming hatred. Man is man of the world and has hard exterior with a marshmallow heart. Girl is feisty, young and of course beautiful. At the end they are together and there is a baby and there is love all around and the sun shines brightly on a brilliant new life. After all my years of pseudo-intellectualism here I am publicly stating that I will not knock romance novels any more. At least I will let them contribute to my internal inconsistencies and controversies by reading them alongside Amitav Ghosh

Had a couple of wonderful sessions at the Bharat Kalachar in Chennai – where we attended Carnatic vocal concerts. The seats are simple plastic chairs tied together. The more you pay, the closer you sit. But at Rs. 100 a pop the seats we had were pretty good. The acoustics wonderful for a place that is all open on the sides. It was just awesome to sit down and get lost in the music, it had been a long time since I had managed such a thing. I fully expected the kid to be totally bored and a big pain but to her credit she was broadly fine with the exercise and only seemed to get a big fidgety after two full hours. But glad to report that we hung on, listened till the last note was sung and only then made our way out of the auditorium! Led to my second resolve – to attend in near entirety Chennai Music Season 2007.

Finally back in Amchi Mumbai. The city was going ballistic for New Year’s Eve parties and what not. Bright lights and happy faces all around. Mega parties announced at every corner. Thankfully did not need to get into any of that, spent a relatively quiet night at home and chatted about life. New Years Day being a holiday was a great surprise and spent the day vegetating in front of the Idiot Box (I usually don’t do such things!) and watching pieces of several movies half-heartedly. God! It is horrendous to see the dances, having not seen TV for long stretches of time in so many years I had not realized how obscene the whole thing is. Resolve three – continue to not watch television.

It is great to be back home, although there are clothes peeping out of every corner of the house. The nip in the air is welcome, as is the warm sun. Would have loved more lazy vacationing, but everything has a time and place, and now the time has come to do some work and earn those paychecks. And yes, next stop Mumbai Marathon 2007 on the 21st of January. More on that later!