Saturday, 30 August 2008

Hair-Raising Tales from The Beyond

Well, the beyond is I-dont-know-where but the back of it, as in, the ass of it, is right here in Powai. More specifically located in my own humble home. At least it feels like it everytime we have to go 'out' - which is loosely defined as any place which is not home or office. I am sure it feels like it when our friends visit us from exotic sounding locations around this big mean city. I am almost ashamed to call them over, though I tell myself that good times will be had, good drink will be drunk, good food will be eaten, still, travelling to the back of the beyond for just that?

Talking of which, I am supposed to go 'out' tonight. In about an hour. Surely one has to be running around finding clothes and make-up and shoes and shaving legs and so on at this point of time? I figure it will take me about ten minutes to get ready so here I am banging away at the key-board. For a second there, in the afternoon, I was thinking, hmm. maybe I should make an effort? You know, find something half-way decent to wear. Get the new sandals out of their original packaging. Buy a lipstick (which is about how far I will go as far things I am willing to daub on my face go).

The monster was asleep. Uff. She looked a bit ragged today. I think her stomach is bothering her though one can never be sure with children and their stomach aches. The TV monster was watching something on TV, sure enough it was all about this new movie that released yesterday in all the channels (including ones that are purportedly dedicated to news). Mum was reading the crap that passes off as a newspaper in these climes. They both felt jubilant at this discovery. Apparently I now look like Farhan Akhtar.

Previously, I have been accused of looking like (a)Bobby Deol (b)Ishant Sharma (c)Gollywog (d)Old Guy in Tam movies who has sticking out hair, and so on. And today, this guy. I mean compared to the others, I suppose I should feel secretly kicked. This boy is not half-way bad looking. He seems to play some guitar or crap in this movie. Which would be a cool thing to do if only for the opportunity to tie up my locks within a blue bandana or something.

Anyway with hair like that what really is the bloody point. I had a real wonderful run this morning. We ran up this hill at the back of the campus. Super green and luscious. My friend kept telling me this is leopard territory so I felt all brave and adventurous. We even saw the cages in which they periodically capture leopards that come too close to us (and then release them back near the wilder parts later once everyone calms down about it). And I had to go in to work for a bit. But I figured the best thing to do is to wash my hair, you know, considering the sweat from the run and all. I am super worried of late of tying up my wet hair, it always gives me the weirdest head-ache, which grows in monstrous proportions as the day progresses. So I left my hair all loose and stuff. It responded by curling up more than ever. Not to mention the frizziness. At the grocery store, I was accosted by at least three women peddling hair products. For dry hair. For unruly hair. For frizziness. Okay okay I get it. I told them and promptly got gypped into buying some herbal hair pack for nearly two hundred bucks. Wonder who that will make me look like. Michael Jackson in the days of old perhaps?

I think its best to subdue the beast with about a bottle-full of some generic blue hair gel. Though I would be constantly reminded of Rachel's dad asking Ross if he swam over. Of course, I need not fear. My hair can absorb oil, gel, or anything of that nature within matter of minutes and still go back to looking its usual unruly self. I am sure that is the plan it has in mind for today.

So I say fig off to all thoughts of looking all lady-like and shiny tonight when I go out. Perhaps for the scare value I should go in my full gollywog glory without bothering to tie or gel it. At the very least it would match splendidly with the zit the size of Nicaragua I seem to have acquired on my forehead today. Wonder, does Farhan Akhtar have it too?

Monday, 25 August 2008


How many balls do you have in the air right now? My mum has always maintained that I over-stretch my limits. This weekend it sure felt like that. But then it was fun, plus I managed naps so maybe it is fine! Its definitely who I am, no doubt about it.

Friday evening was a big pleasant surprise when I returned home. Our house guest was back home and in good spirits, his father-in-law having found himself on the path to recovery. The kid was deep in play with my own monster, despite their very different personalities. Monster=pink girlie things (and books). Visiting kid= light saber; Jedi; Dark knight (in full costume). They met in a middle ground involving chucking every item of play out of the boxes; and chocolates. AND, the husband was back home early. I mean when there was still light. And I had not even eaten my dinner. In fact, he was back earlier than I was and was torturing the in-house Jedi while the monster looked on. How romantic am I that the first thought thing I said was 'Hey you are back, chal, lets go play basketball' And how romantic he is, that his eyes lit up at the thought. But we did not go, it was a bit rainy.

Friday night the boys (yes our house guest is a friend from college who was visiting Mumbai with four year old son in tow due to a family emergency) took up their drinking. I avoided it. Not out of Bharatiya Naari type fundas, but because I had a cold going on (still do), and had scheduled to go for an early run Sat morning. I was hanging out with them after my dinner while they drank and initially it was all good. I was feeling quite smug because the monster had, for the first time, read herself to sleep. Although she was sleeping perpendicular to preferred position, with her head on my part of the lumpy bed, and legs splayed over her adjoining crib. Still, smug I was. But then the boys started talking about banks and incentivising people (as if it is a word!) and markets and predicting the sub-prime and inflation and, at infrastructure bonds, it felt like about twenty pre-historic monsters were screaming in my head. I flounced off to bed even as they ignored my Good nights.

Saturday morning dawned reasonably dry so I got ready and went off up the hill to the abode of the dolphin. As expected, the woman was a tall skinny runner types. I have stopped believing women when they say they are fat and lardy and adipose filled and so on. Also, if I may so, she is so pretty! So anyway I am so glad she has moved here so close to my place and look forward to many more entertaining sets of running! And also thanks to blog for paths crossing.

I had a drive to Mulund on the cards, while the husband went to the gym later. But before that I complained bitterly about the loss of my calculator (three years ago now). The drive was horrid. Trucks tried to elbow me from the get go. The meeting with the doctor was as useful (or useless) as ever. I returned home famished. The monster had been responsibly fed by my mum. I chomped on some food myself. And then, tried to convince her that she should hang out with Appa. But if you agree to something once in a fit of weakness, there is no going back, with this girl. So finally I had to take her. To my class. Yeah. She brought a bag full of crayons. Seriously. She had one small colouring book. One new Winnie the Pooh that I tossed in knowing that she cannot reach the desks too easily and would prefer to read. And a HUGE pampers wet wipes dabba full of broken crayon bits. We had a good laugh over it. But, hey, no cribs, as she sat through my class happily with the Pooh propped in front of her. She was possibly the most enthusiastic member of the class, and contributed significantly to attendance percentage. So good. We returned home and I was exhausted so with dire warnings to all of them I went off to take a nap.

And another pleasant surprise when I woke up! A brand new calculator! And a Britney Spears style headphone-microphone combo, Skype, here I come now. Once in a while, one does feel like one married the right person. Not to mention picking the right parents since mum had boiled milk and put all the toys away and straightened the couch and figured out dinner plans. The monster having followed me in and fallen asleep with her head on my ear, the two of them had also managed to get their movie fix. Which is good too as I cannot stand the type of movies my husband and my mother tend to like.

My cold had worsened by night (the calculator notwithstanding) so we did some family pack of hot water bottles, I treated Vicks Vaporub like it was going out of fashion, and gargled and wore my hospital nurse scrubs over on top of my other clothes and with the thought that Sunday was to be a full day, went off to sleep early again. But not before I managed to finish the 3 mistakes of my life. No, I did not buy it. My sister did in a fit of madness. Its horrendiferocious. I mean the story is fine, its semi-entertaining, like a Salman Khan movie would be. But the English. Oh! Oh! Anyway it was with pleasant thoughts of meeting Mr Bhagat on a flight and whopping him one on the head that I went to bed, my head meanwhile the size (and weight) of Australia (or other similar-sized land mass).

Sunday morning and I dragged off to my kick boxing class. The instructor was real happy at my me for showing up (after my cribs on SMS the previous night about colds and what not). He made some cracks about my drinking habits, but found it in his heart to make the session not outrageously crazy. Just fifty reps instead of hundred, thanks to your cold, he said. Anyway it was fun and really, my head did not feel so bad then. What do you know!

Sunday brunch was with a group of friends we have not met in a long while. Despite them being in Mumbai. The nucleation happened because of the visitor. I set him up on it, get us together now, you can do it, I beseeched, literally. We safely chose a five star type venue, you know, 'cause the kid is American and all. The guys were super happy to see each other and proved it by causing serious damage to Kingfisher stock at The Grand Maratha Sheraton. The kids got tattoos, portraits, played with balloons, and generally were completely out of our hair. Of course the two girls, matching in pink outfits, had this look on their face, as they suffered the boy brandishing a long yellow balloon and calling it a light saber. We all swore to meet more often and exchanged phone numbers (these are, for a change, friends of my husband, so I do not have their numbers). In the car ride back, the monster fell asleep in the back seat, and we talked about how fun it was. But also, too bad that people get married and then the equations just change. Of course one hopes sincerely that this did not happen with us (not that anyone would remember that far back). But really it was just awesome as far I am concerned, not to mention the fact that the kids totally bonded despite meeting for the first time.

Sunday evening was a long ride to Borivali to my uncle's house. They had cooked up a storm and made a big puja for Krishna for Janmasthami. It brought back memories of childhood to see my uncle in his silk dhoti. I used to LOVE the festival. Too bad things changed inside me so much in recent times. Actually, good for me, but perhaps not so good for monster or husband. Oh well, will figure it out soon. I ate a ton of rice and discovered that the rice habit in the night has gone away. Made me feel humongously full. But my grandmom had made murukkus and so on that my aunt offered to me and I gladly brought back. Yummy. Poor thing still having that much enthusiasm at 82!! And me so blaah about everything already at 34.

When we returned home and went to bed it was late but the weekend was so much fun and I have that calculator for using today that I even forgot to do my Vicks treatment. Or to bemoan the fact that husband had an early morning flight to Chennai. Today, if I manage to stop writing and so some work efficiently, I plan to go home and make an effort. Minimal one though. If you mix rice flour with water and dip a child's foot in and leave foot-prints in the house, it actually feels like little Krishna has visited you. At least to the child. You can also use the side of your hands and actually surprise the child! I don't know, maybe.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Of Boors and Bores

I was out buying veggies last night. I had a long day. Had a vague headache coming on. Mom has been sick with cold, cough and sneezes for a week now. I am sure I am picking it up. Monster had it last week so hoping she does not. I had walked all over the lab, up and down the stairs, a billion times. I came home and ate the rotis (house special beetroot rotis of course). Then decided to go out for the veggies. Monster was still chewing on her apple (she takes EONS to eat apples, I don't know, it is quite a ridiculous thing) so I went away by myself.

Having waited for the apple thing to get swallowed for some half hour, it was getting dark by the time I left. Of course the end of the year is approaching, the days are shorter too. The old man of the vegetable gaadi was particularly distracted. His mobile kept ringing. The light was poor possibly in addition to the irritating mobile ring, his eyes must have been bothering him. At least both of these were true for me. He yelled something into his mobile and hung up abruptly. I had taken my fridge bags this time so he could just fill the individual veggies in separate bags. He usually gets annoyed with me for asking him to just fill up my big bag with everything. I have told him so many times that I go back home and separate the beans from the carrots and so on. He does not seem to believe me! So, the resident problem solver now came up with this idea and finally I remembered to carry the ind. bags last night. But it was not convenient. The mouth of the bags is small.

One woman in yellow showed up asking for bananas. Old man told her the price. She started cribbing that it was too high. Of course I don't do hindi numbers quickly so I was not sure if it was high. Old man said the price of bananas has gone up. She muttered something. Then finally asked for six. He took out one of his plastic bags to put the bananas into. Those thin colourless ones. Grr. Six bananas. Nothing else in her hand. Can she not just carry them? Anyway, Old Man has to conduct his business. And, I can only lead by example. He had to fill my capsicums in my green net bag. He had to give back her change. I was getting impatient. I had gotten there first. But then she was buying six bananas and I was loading up my veggie bag. I tried a few dialogues in my head 'I got here first' 'Why don't you wait for my business to finish' could not translate properly to hindi and anyway it seemed like too much effort so I started collecting tomatoes in the failing light. She got her change, muttered about how slow this sixty-year old man was, took her plastic bag from hell and went her merry way.

A sturdy fellow with a drill sergeant voice and white beard was next. In his walking clothes and shoes. Six bananas again. Handed over hundred bucks. Old Man was filling my tomatoes in the orange net bag with shaky hands by then. 'Give me my change' yelled Sergeant. Old Man was floundering again. 'Don't have change' he said. 'I will give you a fifty' 'Give me back the hundred first' 'Now give me forty rupees' boomed Sergeant. He was about a foot taller than me (which is not a big achievement, I know). So he chose to stand RIGHT behind me and conduct his transactions right over my head. If only I had (my own) permission to plant a quick elbow in his easily accessed mid-riff. Oh! Oh! Sergeant though marched away with his four ten rupee notes and his six bananas in a clear plastic bag, while I still plotted such things.

Thankfully, number three was a mousy guy wanting papayas. I managed to get them first since he was vacillating saying that one is too big this one is too small etc. I picked the medium sized one that I liked.

Old Man randomly yelled 'One hundred fifty rupees' in my direction, meanwhile. No idea how that number was arrived at. But, being in no mood to get into such matters, and, with the rationalisation that, if he wants to cheat me and make ten rupees off me every three days, it is not really a big deal, I paid up and trudged home. Meanwhile the monster had filled both cheeks with apple pieces and was complaining of being bored at home in general, and of tooth ache in particular.

Monday, 18 August 2008


This was a piece of dialogue in a skit we put together a long time ago in college.

King: Where is princess Pooja?

Courtier: Languishing in the dungeon oh King.

That usage of languishing stayed in mind for a long time. You know when you memorise stuff before going on stage, it has the habit of languishing in the back of your mind for eons. Thankfully not all the dialogues. Some of them go away. Die a timely death. Though I am sure if the script was put in front of my eyes at least part of it would come back.

To cut a long story short (!), I did the absolutely un-think-able this past weekend. Friday dawned rainy and gloomy as ever. I woke up. Donned the white salwar kameez after bathing. Ingested tea. Loped off to flag hoisting and rusty renditions of Saare Jahaan Se Accha and Vande Mataram - songs I had memorised in childhood to go on stage in large groups with, and have not bothered to forget in the past twenty years. Of course we practice them sometimes when we are drinking till late in the night. So anyway on my way back home from there, delicately clutching my white salwar pant up lest it merge with the muck, the husband called. I talked to him and flung my phone down on the car seat. I reached home, parked, yanked the hand brake, picked up my bag, got out of the car, locked it, ran up to the lift, went home, and started ticking things off my Pune list. Charger. Check. Special tribal flute for nephew. Check. Bangles for niece. Check. Rakhis. Check. Clothes. Check.

We were in the car for some one hour and had reached Vashi or thereabouts. The monster had asked about ten times by then. Have we reached yet. Yes, what they told you in various American comic strips and family vacation movies is true. Children are at their annoying best in the closed confines of a car. I thought of sending some messages to pass the time. I peered in. The little mobile pouch fell out. Oh I said and applied some moisturiser on my fingers. I let it air for a bit and dug around some more in the bag. Found that in my last week's trip to and from Delhi, the Kingfisher guys had taken the bigger part of the boarding pass, while the IC guys had taken the smaller part of it. Strange creatures, I told my husband. The fingers were sort of ok by then. I dug in again. Then it struck me. I have forgotten my phone at home I said out loud, a slight quaver in my voice. Husband and mom made some tchma type sounds. To his credit, he asked me, should we go back for it. Crazy idea of course. We might as well have canceled the trip in that event! Imagine. Going back. Mumbai bloody traffic bloody.

I asked myself some questions. Am I the president of the united states? (no, thank god). Will the world cave in and disintegrate if I don't pick up a few phone calls? Can I live a day or two without the invasive presence of my phone? Finally, I said, forget it, unlock this damn blackberry. I will tell a few people that I am expecting calls from (and whose numbers I can find in my emails). And so we went forward. I generally hate blackberrys. They are probably the cause for half the marriage-break-ups you hear about these days. It takes me a lot of internal strength to resist the temptation to smash it against rocks or fling it out of the living room window and so on. But it can (somewhat) do email. That I was thankful for on Friday.

Friday night, I had several unconnected but seemingly real dreams where I was reunited with my phone. My mother predicted I would have about a hundred missed calls. She also insisted that I tell the security people that if something rings in my car a hundred times, its not a bomb. Just my forgotten phone languishing in the seat. Yes ma I said (but did nothing). Saturday night was dreamless and serene. The weekend itself was fantasticobulousificent. We played hours and hours of badminton and cycled all over the apartment complex. I checked email twice and facebook once. I forgot all about Mumbai and work and all the other junk in my life (and brain). Went for an unsuccessful round of shopping with my sister. Discovered that the hatred for shopping can be attributed to (a) a hatred for having people- strangers- touch me (b) dislike of bodily odours of people - strangers (c) the traffic and parking nightmares that are now commonplace (d) the music in malls (e) the sight of people eating in malls (f) malls. And yes, having become middle-aged and expended energy all day in playing and watching countless hours of Olympics.

The monster was made to cycle around in my nephew's old bike (as in bicycle). Sans training wheels. My brother in law declared that she was very 'close' to picking the skill up. Husband and I thought not. She is like the Bathooni Kachua in the story. Vavavava she keeps talking. One cannot balance on a cycle while your mouth is shooting off like that, commenting on everything that happens in the tri-state area.

Reunited with my phone last night. Have some messages to respond to. Will do that by and by. Meanwhile I am basking in the inspiration of the Jamaicans performance in the 100m; and trying not to think too much about the boxing bouts (in case I jinx it).

Monday, 11 August 2008

The Pink City

Yes, this is where I was over the weekend. It is a nice place. Going from Mumbai, any place where the buildings don't loom over you, where the roads are not pitted and pock-marked, feels good. It was good to get away. In fact, this is what I am slowly admitting to myself now. Mumbai is getting to me. It is a 'bit much.' So the break was welcome. Plus I left my monster home, and though, predictably, I thought about her a lot and wondered if my mom (who is not growing younger) was getting really tired with her, and generally missed her, I did enjoy myself too. The day seemed suddenly MUCH longer, since I was not bothered about her breakfast, lunch, nap, potty, etc. etc.

We were in one of those palace hotels. Somehow, it did not irritate me as it does usually. Meaning it was somewhat subtle and not over-the-top bling. It was really a palace and had its quaint things such as the guy walking around the court-yard beating a cloth with a stick to chase away pigeons. And the raucous cries of the pea-cocks that we spent creeping behind hoping to catch them dancing. It was with a twinge of sadness (wonder why? It is strange that I should feel this, says something about things deep inside for sure!) that I saw the dullness of the pea-hen in relation to the magnificence of the pea-cock. The lawns and general greenery were well-maintained and I saw quite a few birds hanging out happily. But of course I don't know their names or anything.

The highlight of my trip was a mad game of soccer. I would like to believe that I would have played even if the monster was around. But, of course, I am as usual deluding myself. As I was part of a retreat sponsored by my husband's company, who do this sort of thing often enough, I sort of knew everybody around. The ladies were all happily heading out gem shopping. I politely declined, with the thought that (a) I cannot possibly enter gem stores and (b) I have come here to hang out with the husband, not to sashay off with ladies and (c) I am dressed in shorts and so on. Anyway the men were at a loose end. The kids (who were there in numbers this time, somehow, the one time everyone brings their kids is the one time I go alone, serious phase lag) were all over the very nice lawns and grass, picking up seeds, chasing squirrels, and each other. Although the mothers had gone shopping, the fathers were in no way busy with the kids, you know, because of the maids hanging around in their little 18-year-old huddle around the kids.

It felt like we were back by some ten years. In grad school. We would up and get together games of various things. Soccer. Basketball. Volleyball (in the sand). Frisbee (which used to be called something else, I forget now, basically that circular thing you chuck). Field hockey. Badminton. Both the husband and I used to LOVE it. Of course the husband person is generally all over all the games. I do good basketball, having been trained for years. Thanks to the intramural soccer games, and general application of basketball defense techniques, and four years of playing with my heart in it, I do okay in soccer. Generally I know my place. I hang around, scour opportunities, and go in there with no fear and all my heart. If the people I play with don't know me, they are always shocked. I am small. I am an academic (geek, shall we say). Am generally over-shadowed by my large, athletic looking husband. They have not observed my giant calves. So when I tackle them or steal a ball or am still running while the rest have fallen down tired, they are genuinely surprised. Of course I hardly notice all this while we are playing. My eyes are on the ball.

It was huge amounts of fun. Some of the older kids joined us. The men who finally played were really all very enthusiastic. The overall skill level was not too bad. No one got hurt. A reasonable number of goals were scored. I bonded with them like I have never bonded before. I have always stayed a bit away from everyone. There is a distinct feeling of being from different worlds, generally. I know their names, I know their wives names (mostly), and can generally match up kids to parents. I like some of the kids a lot, and have talked and played with them at various events of this sort. We have been on flights together. We have spent fair amounts of time on the fringes of dance floors, in pubs, at gala dinners, and several other places in the past six years. God knows how much money has been poured into organising all these various things for us, over the years. But at least for me, the most fun was had on a lazy saturday morning in the Elephant Polo lawns kicking a ball around and looking wonderingly as guys I had pegged as middle-aged men constantly thinking of their work, demonstrated their skills in dribbling balls, passing, defending, and scoring goals.

We managed to do a bit of sight-seeing on Sunday, climbing up a generic Rajasthani fort. The boys caught up with us on our way back and pestered and badgered us into buying some random stuff such as post-cards and some paintings and so on. Stuff that will join the ranks of other things we have been hassled into over the years. They are so young, these boys. And how demeaning to have to beseech a random person to buy (for Rs. 20) a book of post-cards. No charge for seeing madam, is how he started on it. I said Boss find someone else I am not interested. He looked totally shattered. I am sure it was an act and all. But I looked. I said very good, go on now, go sell to someone else. Then he started the begging and beseeching. He threatened to give me a booklet free if I bought four of them. Insisted I was his first (potential) customer (at noon? Yeah, very likely!). Meanwhile the husband was plied with some paintings, stuff I usually sell to foreigner and NIRs (!), the guy was saying. We are really idiotic that way. As long as they occupy less room we buy it when we feel bad for them. The worst was a giant ugly papier mache vase my husband bought at a signal one rainy mumbai day for Rs.100. It collected cockroaches in about three minutes of entering the house. I was jubilant the day I convinced him to give it away to the maid. God knows what she does with that monstrosity!

When we returned to the monster at night, she was super excited. She must have really missed us. She even talked for almost half an hour on the phone with me earlier on Sunday morning. Bye amma she would say but not really hang up. You know what Ammamma said, she would say. Then launch into a long description of this that and the other. Segway into how her best friend (and best enemy) had pushed her onto a sharp stone. Thankfully she behaved herself, and did not terrorise my mom as I expected her to.

And now it is back to the grind, the rain, a friend's father in critical condition, a long ago friend visiting me tonight (and warning me on the phone that she is fat and I should not comment on it), the monster having its coughing session of the month, and, memories safely stowed away for future referral.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Come Rain or Shine

Sunday was an eventful day. A 12km race was on the cards. The time of start was 7:30 am. Of course, there would be some delay, it was expected. I was not happy with this. I prefer to run earlier. That also fits in better with my perception of my domestic and other duties. My husband got real pissed off at me Saturday night because I was not in a good mood about the race. The reason being that only three women participants had signed up. Somehow I felt responsible for this lack of response from my gender.

I was hoping it would not rain (at least not much) on race day. I woke up at 6 am. Tea, milk, coffee, and so on happened as usual. I oiled my hair and braided it for my Impedimenta look. My black outfit was all set out the previous night. I donned it. Affixed a hat on the head and a rain jacket around my waist. It added wind resistance someone commented. But I was happy I had that jacket with me, what if it had poured in the usual Mumbai way? I could not afford to get soggy wet on top of my sweat. Have a full load of work work this week, and my husband is out of town all week.

Off I went to the campus. The people had already congregated when I reached. We waited. It turned out that one of the women had dropped out. That left the two of us. I know the other lady, we had ridden together to the Mumbai half back in January. A very sweet person, also, I had played basketball with her daughter a few weeks ago. I was telling her about that, and how it was fun though I wished the kid would braid her hair (it is real long, and keep getting tangled in my hands when I was marking her). So we were chatting of everything except the race. I was not in the least bit nervous at any rate. Wish it were different! I think the pre-race jitters have a role to play in providing you some more drive.

The number of participants was real small. I guess I am used to Mumbai Marathon numbers of late. Which runs into tens of thousands. Here, there were what, fifty people in all? I really thought the young ones would show up in serious numbers, of course, youngsters play video games these days, they don't get out and run in the rain like mad people.

Or maybe they are intimidated by the distance. I would have probably balked at 12 km when younger for sure, thinking of it as 12000 m, me, who was used to 100, 200, and, 800 m races, at the maximum. Of course my priorities (and my physical abilities) have changed over time. Opportunity has driven me to longer distances. As I have mentioned here earlier, even in this wonderful place that I exist in, in the middle of Mumbai, the chance to participate in any form of athletic tournament is virtually nil for me. It was nil back in December, and shall remain so. So, the one off, longer distance races it shall be. They shall not intimidate me, at least not anything less than 25 km. But I can imagine that it sounds daunting. I must just be thankful that I was not the only woman participant! That the other one was my friend.

The race started around 7:50 am. I struggled a bit around 8-9 km. Took short walks. But completed in reasonable shape. The monster & husband were waiting at the finish for me. The official timing read around 60 mins though I felt I did it in 70. Not very sure. There were a fair number of people trickling in after me, which probably put me at around 25 in ranking. Give or take a few. Could have probably reduced my time by around 5 mins, but I did not find that inner thing. Or, I sort of had a bit of a break around the 8-9 km mark. It was fun while it lasted, the distance was sweet enough, compared to the Mumbai half, which will require, of course, much better training (which I usually start around October, once the rains stop).

The race featured a blind runner, who was extremely impressive. Also a few young children who rocked the place. The men's winner was a 55 year old man, remarkably fit. My friends all did pretty well. Every participant made it back to the finish without mishap (as far as I know). I think it is fair to say that the race by itself was very successful.

Although I was not totally keen to, everyone insisted we wait around a bit. The monster was getting hungry, I thought we should head home, but anyway hung around. I run for myself, maybe a bit for these two creatures who show up usually at the finish line and feel damn proud of me whatever I do or don't do. Although that is not very good in itself, I feel pretty satisfied with my timing, even if I know I could have done better. I feel it is enough, given everything else. Which is good because after that long-ish wait with a frisky child, they very nearly forgot to give/announce my prize. But then I have friends who still think I am all that even if they finish ten minutes ahead of me but don't get anything for their efforts (because they are male). They made the organisers hurriedly fill in a certificate and shove Rs. 300 into an envelope, and, it was handed over to me, as an afterthought, sure, but still, for being the winner of the women's 12 km.

Friday, 1 August 2008

And While I was Walking...

So I was walking along to the gym today in the manner of the White Hare. Or was it the March Hare. One was mad, the other was in a hurry. You know, in Alice. Hope you will not retort 'Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?' Anyway I was not pulling out my pocket watch really but was walking fast as I was a bit late for my class. I had strapped on my shoulder my black back-pack (which has proclaimed "HANA" to the world for the past decade, something to do with Hotels and Automobiles). It contained my dumb-bells, forgotten water bottles, towel, shoes, socks, gym card, and some money as today is pay-day. Near the corner, four men were approaching me. Me, as in the road I was on. Now don't worry. This is not a story about a defenseless girl and four lascivious men or any such. Go on now.

So these guys are the gym-minder dudes. Meaning they hang around at the front desk of the gym and look important as you hand them your card. They classify them into sixteen cubby holes. I assume its based on your last name, and for some inexplicable reason, ten of the letters of the alphabet don't count. So, perhaps, if your last name is Quinn (which was the name of a dog in one book I read recently - A Boy of Good Breeding; and the name of the delectable Alec Baldwin in the other - Movie Book of The Cat in The Hat) your card will be returned to you.

These guys also get to choose what music plays in the gym. And boy! they have the weirdest taste. I am just glad their Himesh phase is now behind us, and, apart from a tendency to play the horrendous tunes from Tashan, they are a bit more tolerable now. Sometimes, they emerge from behind their desk and start lifting some weights. They fold up their jeans at the cuffs for the purpose. They stride over and check their weight in the weighing machine. They put away their helmets in a little locker in the back. They grunt, they support each other ('spot' I think its called). They admire biceps (at least I hope thats what they are doing). But mostly, they hang around and look surly. They discourage any form of socialising by maintaining a mean looking frown. They are especially intolerant of us aunties saying anything to them. The young nubile girls of course don't bother with them, adding more creases to their frowns. The only people they semi-get along with are young boys with stars in their eyes who go up to them and ask them for fundas about weights.

To cut a long story short, we know each other's faces really well, having stared at each other for the past six years, but nothing more than that. When I saw them on the street in the morning, it was real strange. As if I did not really expect them to be living walking breathing souls who drink tea in road-side stalls in the mornings. As if their existence outside the walls of the gym was something that I believed in, vaguely, but was awaiting a formal proof, in the absence of which, I couldn't be certain that it was true.

What to do then, in this situation? Do I holler a loud HI to them and wave? Do I ignore them the same as I do inside the gym? Do I walk over to their side of the road and give them a nice whack on their shins? What to do? What? And meanwhile, possibly wresting with similar questions, they kept looking at me, and not looking away or over me, like they do in their lair.

In my growing up years (not that I grew up in the true sense of the word. I don't ever recall an item of clothing that became short for me, like it does for normal people), I varied in my reaction to road-side boys staring at me. Initially, convinced that they were staring objectionably at my comely sister (elder to me), I would instantly go into battle mode. Ready to kick their ass. Hurl abuses at them (as in, try very hard to remember some abuses to hurl. Knew no swear words other than 'bloody'). Then, a few years later, when I was in the adolescence confidence dip stage where you feel your nose is too long your stomach is too big your feet are shaped too funny and, oh my god, are they looking at my chest now, I would look down. I know, regressive and all. Sometimes I would steal a glance back at them, I suppose. I seem to have led a sheltered existence because I don't really recall feeling threatened in any way as I was walking from here to there. Except for one or two instances in Chennai when I was in college.

I would like to believe that in recent years I am a much more confident person. I know my place in the universe's scheme. I have typically little cause for guilt. I am rarely ambling in any case. I am going some place. I know where I am going (in a literal sense at least), and know my way there. So I like to imagine that my steps are rarely faltering, always firm with my feet flat on the ground. I have a system. Ladies in my building that I know through elevator rides, I smile at. People with kids who (a) are of similar age as monster (b) are older but fond of the monster get some smiles and generic cribs about school and children's food habits. My various maid, car cleaner, milk delivery boy, milk money collector, and so on get a smile, a wave, and some words of generic greeting (usually to their extreme embarrassment, like my milk money collector person in a very reserved man of few words who thinks I am crazy when I recognise him outside some place). Colleagues I see while I fast-walk to other buildings get a smile and one or two questions about taxes or whatever is the hot topic of the week. And so on.

But what about the gym dudes? Where to slot them? I definitely was not going to look down. Come on. Thats what they should have done. But they did not. I was not going to give them a broad smile. Puh-lease. They act so rude and cranky I will save my expendable smiles for people with better demeanours. A tight close-lipped smile perhaps? You know, like you give to people you vaguely know. Maybe a frown? To show them how ugly that looks? A taste of their own medicine? Hey, are they laughing at me perhaps? You know 'cause I am walking so fast with this big old bag on my shoulders, a sort of rolling motion. Oh well, even if they were laughing, it did not change the fact that I was running a bit late for the class, so I just gave them a short smile, looked each of them squarely in the eye, one by one, and rolled away. They may have smiled back, I am not sure, since I took off like that. But tomorrow (no, not tomorrow, next week) when I go to the gym, I will see how they behave, better means they liked my attitude in the street, worse means they were offended that I gave them vague acquaintance status despite having seen them so often over the past six years.

As for me, apart from this statement of facts written here, I see no reason to do anything, you know, like change my behaviour towards them. I will still waltz in and refuse to hand over my card because the sixteen cubby holes thing bothers me. I will still go on with my routine. I will still hate the music from Tashan. So there.