Monday, 30 July 2007

Office Office

No, not that series starring Pankaj Kapur (who, incidentally, distinguishes himself as Shaheed Kapur's father) on SAB TV. Just my beautiful bountiful office. With the high speed net connection, the tendency to mould on the walls, and, this booming in the distance which could be (a) temple bells from childhood re-sounding in head or (2) someone painstakingly breaking a concrete wall using mallets. What a relief to be back in these digs.

I had such a wonderful weekend. I mean, considering. The home is all spruced up, at least by my standards, thanks to the magic wand that mum wields. The cook & maid are glowing, under the special attention showered on them by her, and are cleaning fans and singing. The milk, the yogurt, the lunch, are all out of my hands, whup. On saturday I cleaned out a cupboard, threw things, put things inside other things, let the child watch several hours of Winnie the Pooh videos, and wrapped notebooks. The evening was friends, food, bit of beer, rain.

Sunday was a bit off as usual as I did not have a good night's sleep and my attempts at napping met with severe resistance. I was covered up by cushions and pillows, and small hands seemed to be banging on my head, and, while prudence dictated that I just get up and do some work, laziness won and I continued trying to nap and the child continued trying her best to drive spikes through my head. Oh! the joys of motherhood.

With vengeance, I stayed up till 1 am sunday night finishing up A Spot of Bother. So, in a sense, this post is about that, rather than about my beautiful office room or the state secrets I decode over here.

Generally, I love British books. Possibly because they say fag and really mean cigarette. They are comfortable saying snog (and don't always say snigger snigger next to it). There is a good profusion of homosexual, good looking men. Of course my all time balm, panacea, elixir and what not is P.G.Wodehouse. If I am depressed but not depressed enough to wallow in it, I pick up a Wodehouse for revision. I have read pretty much his entire spectrum, barring a couple of titles here and there that are not easily available. While I have definite preferences and would not readily read his Golf stuff again, he rates up there for me.

But then again the modern ones are much easier to read (meaning you don't need a dictionary, at least I don't need a dictionary, for all the slang things are reasonably familiar to me). Not that I carefully lap up anything that is written on the island, just that I like Bridget Jones immensely. Yeah, and this Mark Haddon dude. In this particular book, he is talking about an aging guy who thinks he has cancer, and is slowly going insane in his retirement. The pieces all come together nicely in a sort of romantic way, at the very end, but it is obvious that this is a 'feel good' book, right from the beginning so nothing to set much score by. These going insane stories always resonate well with me, and the other things in the book don't take much away from this basic theme, but just help out a great deal. There is a working mother of a young child, which is spot on as well. A vague exploration of relationships, stuff marriages are made of, relatives getting together, and how icky it is when older people get physical, lyrical pictures (in my head that is) of the English countryside round out the book pretty well. Try it, if you have not already, alongside the other one The Curious Incident of the Dog... , which is a book about a remarkable autistic child and relationships.

The whole aging dude going insane is also a theme common with The Everest Hotel (Allan Sealy) that I re-read recently. Yes, that is a habit of mine. Reading books again. Mostly its because I read so damn fast these days that I run of books and bookshelf space in no time at all, but also I do this because depending on my mood I get very different things out of the book at different times. Like this time around, I was in the old guys shoes lying around, going mad, trying to get even with random acts of vengeance, and generally giving in to the insanity, not resisting it. Quite liberating, though I do think I would chicken out when it comes to it.

In many ways the Spot of Bother thing is very similar to the Everest book. Of course, the former is cute-sy in the ultimate analysis, the latter is grisly in many parts.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007


It is not for the faint-hearted. I am at home, sort of, trying major acrobatics to manage the meetings and stuff at work. Child has a fever. The pediatrician 'recommends' that I keep her at home and away from school and creche for the rest of the week. Help her build up her immunity, prevent infecting all the rest of the kids. Of course, I consider him my guru in all matters related to child, but this is real tough. Up to this week, I could have managed quite well in such a situation, while this week was committed to hard core work and meetings and discussions, so with this, everything goes for a toss, with no hope of recovery.

My sister-in-law who saved me the past couple of days, has now managed to catch it, whatever it is, and is being rested for this innings. Me, I almost got it myself but by eating an immense amount of food at a lunch one day, and using major mental strength and what not, have warded it off. Of course, the husband and the blackberry, who both went to bat yesterday evening, have insane schedules and are not exhibiting very great form, so are kept on stand-by for today and tomorrow.

Reinforcements are being bussed in tomorrow, in the form of eternal saviour and upholder of all things hygienic (and hate-r of restaurant food and boil-er of aquaguard water). My mother. Till that happens, here I am, parallel processing like crazy; colouring with one hand and emailing with the other, on the phone with colleague and spoon in the other hand feeding soup to a reluctant mouth. And, about a hundred times a day, clearing up the small tiny pieces that constitute the Barbie (yuk) Kitchen Set. Right now, my heart all a-flutter, I am waiting for my cook who had agreed to be here for an hour or so since I *have* to go to the office now. Not for the faint-hearted I tell you.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Email Therapy

In a bit of a rage today. It is difficult to say why this mood strikes me. Usually happens in the mornings. It could be due to one of several things, or probably a combination of all them.

I woke up all set to clean the fish tank, where the water had been miraculously replaced by a very viscous and sort of opaque fluid. Should have done this a couple of days ago but what with all the things that make my everyday special, I did not have time. Of course it was a matter of too little too late cause one of the two surviving residents of tank had called it quits. Damned thing to find first thing after you brush your teeth. I have filled it this time with aquaguard water (of course further purified with that chlorine solution that came with the tank). Hoping for best. Not emotionally shaken or anything, is what I am telling myself, but this counts as main possibility of rage.

Even before leaving home, I had several incidents that helped in increasing frustration, my husband asking me ‘Is that for me?’ when I walked in with my bowl of cereal for some reason made me go completely mad. The child meanwhile managed to retain a mouthful of cornflakes for about half an hour (or so it seemed) with minimal to no chewing or swallowing. I saw red again, and put away the rest of it. Yelled a bit at her slowness is wearing her shoes and stepping out the door too. Raging by then.

‘Its rocking’ - despite Kareena Kapoor’s face appearing in front of my eyes when I hear the song, I like it. It put me in a better mood thankfully as I drove out and I managed to exchange a couple of smiles and explain to child why I was so irritated and so on. Music is good. Calms the nerves somewhat. Gave a ride to two hassled looking ladies although the place they were going to was some 100 meters away (they did not know that, you see). They were happy, there I am done with my somewhat good deed for the day.

But the day has unraveled up to lunch with nothing attractive happening. The requests for civil repairs I had made three months ago are as yet unattended to, my office wall is crumbling and I am sick of writing complaints, I cannot find anyone I want to talk to on the phone, and to top it all as I was taking her to her LKG school that monster kid of mine hit her head and it bled a little and I am feeling super nervous about it although it has stopped bleeding now and I have wiped it with dettol and what not.

What would be good now is a flood of personal and personalized emails from friends, preferably sharing some good news. It is always cool to get a whole spate of these, sort of makes you feel alive and loved and what not. After all, I barely remember phone calls any more, but an email – if I like it, I read it a few times, savour it. Oh well, if not that, how about a stiff drink. Yeh Ganpat, Chal Daaru Laa.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

losing my mind

It was as I always imagine it. The minute I stepped out from the building into the open area, it started to drizzle. 'Quick, run' I said to her, following it up with 'Don't run, its wet.' We were only covering some five meters to (what I then thought was) the safe confines of the car, but you would have thought from the urgency in my voice in yelling those conflicting directions that (a) she would melt if a rain-drop so much as touched her or (b) it was raining, not rain as in water, but hot molten lava. And of course the car-washing dudes had gone crazy with the water and phenyl and soap and whatever else it is they do in that early morning ritual of theirs so that the whole place smelled like a wet hospital with a leaky roof.

Anyways, she ignored both my instructions and waltzed over to the car not interrupting her questions about the sparrow and all the while the kingfisher key-chain light going on and off and making a low, growly sound from its throat. We got in without incident, I dug around for my jacket in my laptop bag filled to the brim with lunch and papers and purses, and in the key went into the ignition. Had to move her to the other side too because small hands had lowered the back window a notch and the fervent cleaning of car had made the seat fully soggy wet on one side.

We had hardly gotten out of the gate when it started pouring nicely and truly. This is good, because the past few days have been immensely hot and muggy and generally way too sweaty for my liking. This was also good because by now we were both safely inside jackets and car and all that scrabbling around with my butt sticking out of the back door was thereby justified. In my head that is.

At the first hint of rain the traffic had gone crazy of course. I cleverly took my safe back route, avoiding the known bottle necks with only one scary incident involving a honking and speeding Tata Sumo. I was convinced, for that one second, that he was trying to pulverise me, but careful thinking later told me that he just wanted to make that right turn (while I was going straight), at 50 kph, because the bomb would explode if he reduced his speed. Plus there were girls in the car he wanted to impress and a small Zen in his path was just so un-hip. Anyway after that I was in good shape, did a few deft moves to get to the left lane immediately after turning right onto the main road, and that was that, the commute almost done.

I was just going to turn in left at the office gate when I saw this, a pristinely white Tata Indica. Plowing along. Just in front of me. Yellow plates. New car. A heroic motorcycle, red in colour. Brown slush as far as the eye could see (on the main road, where else?). Heroic motorcycle overtakes me (its fine, I don't mind, this is no race, I am no racer), cuts in knife-like between Indica and my car. Rider leans left in his seat, preparatory to veering bike left, deposits two liters of slush on left rear fender of white Indica, and roars away into the great brown unknown. Wild.

A good reason to leave home on rainy days.

PS: Hallmark events in my life yesterday - forgot to pick up child at the school; then set an unofficial record for the 100 m sprint to get there. losing my mind alright.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The Dance

Do you think they know? She wondered as she lay down, her head throbbing, all the various conversations swirling inside. Know what, she smiled as she asked herself. Know that, underneath this smiling face, I hide so much pain? She almost laughed out loud as she realized how melodramatic that sounded. No, not pain, but happiness, so much happiness, do they know? She got herself in a twist now, what really, was the difference between pain and happiness? Two sides of a coin, both resting in the same hand.

Veering away from the abstract, slowly, her brain started unraveling the various incidents of the day. One by one, she dwelt on and caressed each of them, pondering long on the good parts and skimming quickly over situations she had embarrassed herself in.

It was a wedding. Thankfully not one in which she was ascribed any sort of responsibility. She just had to attend the event, walk around, meet people, chat, eat. Unbidden the thought occurred to her that she was ‘expected’ to look good doing all this. The eyes, even as they asked her what she was doing, how old was the child, and so on, were roving critically over her body. Her clothes were being examined minutely, her jewelry, make-up, everything was scrutinized. But she had not planned her look at all beyond finding a blouse that both matched a sari and fitted her. Oh well, this is my true self, take it or leave it, she thought to herself.

She recalled the old lady’s comment ‘Why are you not wearing the toe-ring? All married women have to wear it, it touches a nerve in the toe that ….’ The rest of the lament was drowned out by the naadaswaram guys. Toe-ring. She had her arguments all set up for that one. Who wears a toe-ring to the gym, who can be bothered to remove and put it back again everyday? Why shackle oneself with all these uncomfortable metal parts just because one is married? Are married men wearing a toe-ring? And so on. But she never had a chance to say any of these things, as she realized that the disapproval was strong, and her defense, well, irrelevant.

For many years now she had worked hard, concentrating on not falling into the same trap as many of her acquaintances. The trap of being unable to derive enjoyment from life, any aspect of it. The trap of finding fault with everything, everyone, and always wanting something more and something else than what was offered. A trap that was very difficult to get out of. Of course her genes, her upbringing, these were driving her in as well. But thankfully, she had overcome them. I have been successful in this, she told herself. I manage to enjoy things, I manage to not have hidden agendas, I manage to be directed by myself and not others, I do this casually now, without any great effort. I am happy, she told herself, glancing briefly at her watch. Gosh! It was late, midnight already, and an early flight to catch the next morning. But she could not sleep, her mind too intent on the full day she had had.

She had bonded with so many people, old and young, at this wedding. The children were of course fun to be with as ever. She had quickly transitioned between Kannada and Tamizh and English, when she found herself in the midst of three children, each comfortable in one of those languages. The language barrier notwithstanding, the three had the same idea. Switching on and off, endlessly, the colourful lights on a miniature dancing fountain they found at the entrance to the wedding hall. After an hour of this activity, she had found herself imagining a situation of electrocution. She started pleading with the children, in turn, to stop the game. She suggested several alternatives. And when they just ignored her, she followed the crude wiring to the main switch and pulled it off. Was she happy she had saved them for sure electrocution? Was she angry at herself for spoiling their fun? Was she embarrassed at her extreme reaction to a normal situation? She was not sure any more, but at that time, it seemed the right thing to do. Oh everything was so confusing, two sides to every damn thing.

With an aged relative of hers, the discussion had been about waste of food at the event. She had argued vehemently against this, and, although the uncle could not hear her well, he had nodded sagely and repeated his set of arguments, which also, if you interpreted it, amounted to the same thing. The conversation started well but got tricky once she realized that her speaking was far less effective than her facial expressions, and that any sign of impatience on her face as the man droned on would cause immense hurt. She was almost thankful when she was called away for a quick bout of singing, although it was uncertain that she had any skills in that direction.

She had also run into a large number of cousins, racked her brain to remember the names of all their children so she could inquire after them, been largely successful in convincing them that she really cared. Which to a large extent she did, but not so much that she would lose sleep over it. They in turn had asked after her family and job and daily schedule, and the weather, and also acted as if it mattered to them. She had quickly discovered that various parts of her family harboured various unrelated and funny apprehensions about the big city. One was afraid of the rain. The other of terrorist attacks. The third was concerned that the schools were all co-educational. A fourth, of panthers! And so on. She could hardly tell them that living there you did not particularly have time to dwell on such matters. You found a job, it put you in a city, you hunted for a home, and then the day-to-day things just overwhelmed you so much that you did not question your choices. They would not accept that. Perhaps they were right, perhaps everything was about geography, or, location. Now where had she heard this one before?

As the day wore on, although she told herself that she was having a great time, and that meeting all these people was a damn good reason to attend a wedding, she felt immensely tired. Having a conversation with just one more person, trying to connect with them on their terms, paying attention to what they were saying, jocularly warding off unsolicited suggestions about how to lead her life, even listening to those that insisted on praising her and narrating incidents from her childhood which had led them to conclude, then and there, that she was special, all of it was getting to be too much. I am not used to this, living all the way away and not talking to adults much, this is an overdose, she told herself.

It was night, everything was done, she had helped with the cleaning up, loudly singing hindi movie songs all the while much to the amusement of the remaining, over-tired, people. She had returned back to her hotel room, alone in an auto, escaping into one before anyone could see, and now the crisp and cool white sheets on her bed were really inviting. Another young couple married off, hope they know what they have to do! I wish I could have told them, wish I knew what I could have told them, about married life. It is an intricate dance, the easy steps for the everyday, the twisty-difficult ones for special events. You can enjoy each and every part of it, but just as easily hate it too. I wish I could have... she was thinking as she finally fell asleep, just as the clock struck two, for joy.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Jolly Number 10

Lets see. Car license plate, sums up to ten. Ten, fingers; Ten, toes; Ten; the number to count to when temper flares; Ten, the time I go to bed at night; Ten, sum of numbers in my first passport; Ten, sum of numbers in my roll n at college; Ten, scoops of cerelac for a wholesome breakfast; Ten, dabs of anti-perspirant; Ten, Ten, Ten, its all about this number today, which incidentally is the 10th of the month.

Ok so now sum up the numbers in 10, get 1. A new beginning.

The Tenth Wedding Anniversary though is tomorrow, the Eleventh of the month.

Help! Deluge!

I notice from the blinking icon on the top left hand side of my mobile that the message box is full. If I don’t have a system to deal with books and papers and mail at home or office, for my computer, USB drive, email folder, mobile, digital camera, etc., the situation is much worse. The mobile always contains the maximum number of messages that it can possibly store, and if any one tries to send me a message I have to perforce delete another one. The digital camera has been filled with photos and sort of left to die an untimely death underneath a pile of credit card bills. When I fill up a hard-drive I usually switch to another computer, and try to motivate the minions that I pass on old comp to by telling them it’s a real good one with lots of RAM so if they clean it up a little it will purr like a kitten and solve complicated equations automatically, while they sleep.

Likewise with the three pen drives I have owned in so many years. One brave individual finally did the unthinkable and re-formatted my most recent pen drive. I was just on my way to the store to buy a new one, because the old one was sort of bursting at the seams with loads of unrelated and mostly incomprehensible files, and three laptops (two windows; one linux) had sulked at it. So the clever chap downloaded the junk into a folder on my computer, labeled it ‘Pen Drive Stuff’ and proceeded to nuke everything. It was really liberating, sort of like giving birth.

When the folk at the office increased email box capacity to 1000 MB, I breathed a sigh of relief; I had had enough of carefully looking through junk and deleting, archiving, transferring to other locations and folders, and all that stuff, everyday. But, now, six months out, I am kicking myself because I have more than 2000 messages in the main Inbox, more than 700 of them are unread, I have at least 200 messages in the Trash (easy to get rid of this, one short ‘Purge’ I do this every few days), sundry archives, folders whose names don’t ring a bell, in short, about 500 MB of complete and utter crap. I don’t dare get rid of the entire thing of course, because of the off chance that there is something useful in there. Now I hear the faint voice of one of my colleagues cribbing that I never read his emails. I mean, come on! I have not deleted his emails now, have I? Its just that I am much more entertained reading emails such as the Lord Balaji Chain Letter (forward it to five friends in the next five minutes and earn a confirmed, AC sleeper class ticket to either heaven or the US of A, depending on your personal preference); the one from Ahmed Fasaani regarding the imminent transfer of a trillion USD into my account, as assistance to the Saudi Royal Familys deposed uncle-in-law; offers for Viagra and Cialis; PhD and MBA degrees for a whopping $2000 a pop; raves and rants about the red-tape at work-place by disgruntled, but permanent, employees; and, for some reason, emails from a certain ‘Bob’ who seems to know me real well, starts with ‘GREETINGS!!’ and gives me tips on thawing turkeys and so on. I am ruthless with these, meaning, I read them carefully and gingerly transfer them into my Trash folder. But this exercise leaves me with little time to read the emails that I don’t immediately click on, the official calls for meetings and such like, which have to be read and acted upon. Thankfully now people sort of know better and the phone rings a lot with people asking me to schedule this and that meeting into my calendar, and then this is followed up by regular updates and reminders by various folks posted in the corridors for this purpose.

Since I am not alone in this digital world to be faced with the ‘email problem’; and, in my defense, I at least have folders set up in there, not to mention a special SPAM filter and a tool by which emails from various people are highlighted in various colours – gray for my husband; red for myself (no no, its not what you think, these are reminders about things that I normally forget, attached files that I want to access from the net while traveling, such like); yellow for my father-in-law; and so on, I am confident that someone somewhere has a system that does not involve the words ‘Nuking’ or ‘Replication’; require a reliable, high-speed network; or calling my mom.

Monday, 9 July 2007

The world in colour

Generally, I am known as a person who loves the dull grays and browns, but black is my favourite (colour) when it comes to cars (had to settle for a silver though), clothes (have at least four black pants at any given point of time), sundry electronic items (have a blue laptop, however), and background for charts, presentations & so on that I make at work or with the kid. The maximum I am willing to deviate in case of pants is to gray (rarely) and brown (occasionally). Silver is acceptable in electronic items, as they are usually cheaper than the black version. But no, before you ask, I have not seen the movie BLACK, and don’t think much of Michael Jackson’s album Black or White, don’t own a blackberry, and am no black-belt in Karate. Still, I insist, black is everything – slimming (most importantly); casual and formal; so on.

Of course I do wear bright-coloured shirts (usually different shades of maroon), and even go so far as to have flowers on some of the kurtis, but they are usually given to me by my mom, sis or mother-in-law and have little or nothing to do with my own preference. You place a black and any-other-coloured-thing in front of me, and I am likely to pick black. In the absence of black, I will pick gray. In the absence of gray, and also of dull brown, I will accept other things. That is the procedure.

It happened a few months ago. Although I never stopped to clarify, this was when the Mumbai autowallahs collectively decided to go in for a vehicle make-over, probably to make the city a brighter place, but most likely, in order to lift up my spirits. In the aftermath of all the crap that has happened to this city in the past few years, it is particularly appropriate that the bright spots are painted by the ubiquitous (at least in our suburbs) autorickshaws.

Inspired by the autorickshaws - the purple one (with ‘Rohit’ written in the back; my nephew being Rohit, & the purple being kind of Bertie-Wooster-Socks bright, this one is a favourite); the green, the orange, the red, the blue-and-white gingham print reminding me of Dorothy’s dress, but most especially the hot pink, I have started seeing colours! So this year-

* I will wear my pink salwar kameez with aplomb
* Buy a not-black umbrella
* Release all the coloured hair bands from the back of the closet
* Wear nail-polish (well, maybe not)
* Let myself FLY

When most depressed, look out of window at our colourful autos, they are bound to bring a smile to your lips.