Sunday, 17 February 2008

What do you say...

when your 'best friend' from school calls you up, out of the blue, eight years since you last spoke? well, first I told her that I was climbing into a plane and would call her the next day. And then when we chatted, I swallowed my reservations about telephone conversations and really enjoyed the moment. She kept complaining that I sounded older, but me, denial-queen that I am, insisted that we both sounded exactly the same as all those years ago (what was it now, twenty years? even more!) when we used to go round and round in our cycles (mine red, hers a stately maroon) with kilos of oil in our hair reciting hindi poems for the upcoming test in school.

Does your child know about me, have you told her, she asked me. I had a quick turn of guilt. Of course, I had told the monster about her, but the rest of the gang had been swept away to the sidelines. I had not mentioned how we used to laugh at EG for her tuneless singing, how I used to exchange sweaters with Amulya so that we could con someone while playing hide-and-seek, nor that crazy thing Durgamba got us into, you know, stealing cherries and getting chased by the gardener. Fear of spiders that Chandrika had that we never really believed in, sporting girl that she was, she followed us everytime we told her, we have a surprise for you under the stair-case. AAAAH SPIDERS. Nope, have not mentioned these things. Only about cycling and reaching out for gulmohar flowers and sticking that part of it on our nails and going GRRR MONSTER.

We should meet, please visit Mumbai soon, I said. Sure, pop by the next time you are in Gurgaon, she said. I have never been in Gurgaon, would love to! I piped. Han its a bit of a village, she said, dripping disapproval. I like my job though, she said, sounding oodles more confident than back when we would ask questions about the Civics exam to each other. Hey do you remember, I said. Yeah, do you remember, she said.

Of course we remembered everything. What are a few decades in between? Like the time we went on an NCC camp (remarkable how I managed to pull that one off, you know, my mom being mom, she should technically have ignored all pleas and put a blanket ban.). Anyway, it was a camp, and had the usual nasty camp food. Not to mention pits in the ground instead of a loo. We went to bed on night three (or four). The whole camp settled down. Then I HAD to get up and throw up. I would never have managed to reach the tap on the ground floor if not for her. She held my hand. Promised to not tell mom when she visited in the evening (she would have insisted I return home and meet the doctor and what not). And then I felt fine the next day, we fetched our cycles from home, riding victoriously in a big fat truck through the streets. We cycled all the way to Srirangapatna, and carried banners and took an oath WE WILL NOT INDULGE IN DOWRY.

Oh yes, what a glorious time, school. With my best friend by my side, none of the politics mattered. We could always always count on each other. The ten years passed like ten minutes. And the deep regret I felt when she joined another school in the eleventh, I don't think I have gotten over it yet. College and gradschool and marriage and life in general have put a lot of distance between us, but deep in there, I can still picture that girl with the humongous two plaits holding my hand and singing 'Father Abraham' in our first ever stage performance at five years of age...

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Of addictions...

Its time my loyal readers knew something about me. Yes! I am finally at a place where I can confess to this. And, as we all know, the first step to beating an addiction is admitting that it exists. Well, I should have known it would get like this. I mean, people who have a genetic propensity for it, close family members known to have fallen into the trap, and women, who due to higher fat content in their bodies are more susceptible to the addiction, should really be cautious, right from the first time around. I KNOW this, and still I let myself get like this..

Fine, here, let me say it out loud.

"Hi Folks. I am Kenny. I am addicted to Making Lists."

There, I feel so much better already. I twiddle my thumbs over the keyboard, although, tantalisingly, there is a yellow post-it and a piece of crayon nearby. I resist the temptation. This is great!

Well, the story goes like this. I have been making lists all my life. There is a notebook filled with lists of stuff I have packed for various trips. There are some loose pieces of paper with back-up lists and lists for trips that were not too meticulously planned. All of them are dated, and the destination names (even if multiple) mentioned. I have a diary filled with the list of all the times the monster-child (a)fed (b)pooped and (c)slept during its first ten months of existence (at which point my husband made so much fun of me that I weaned myself off of the diary). The same diary has, on the left hand side pages, lists of things that went wrong (or right) & questions to ask the doctor/mom/grandmom etc. Prior to this, a binder of lists of questions for the OB/GYN during my pregnancy. Lists of people I sent New Year greetings to seven years ago (after which I stopped sending cards). Lists of people I had to give a blouse piece to during my brother-in-law's wedding in 2002 (in my mind a monumental task, assigned to me by my mother-in-law). My calendar on the computer is filled with lists of things to do, even more than meeting times. These lists are detailed and cut across official and domestic and personal stuff without any prejudice. I ALWAYS make a list before I go to the grocery store. Which means I have lists coming out of the pores of the house (and my torn handbag) thanks to these weekly visits. These are detailed lists. In two columns. Food items on the left. Cleaning liquids, detergents, soap etc. on the right. And now this whole paragraph is becoming a list of lists, so I will move on.

See, my great-grandfather (maternal-maternal) is to blame. My grandmother tells me he used to visit her and, on his way back, would gather the troops to assist in his packing. He would make a list. It looked like this:
1. Shirt
2. Dhoti
3. Towel
4. Underwear
My grandmom and her brood would laugh derisively. FOUR things to pack, and you need a LIST? Ha Ha. They would say. He would ignore them and quickly add
5. Bag
and pack the stuff (1-4) in his Jholna (5).

My grandmother, for all her derision of her father, and my mother, for all her derision of me and my lists, are both guilty of this list-addiction. Of course, they are much smarter than me so they make theirs in the head. Dash it! How on earth do you remember anything unless you write it down, I have often harassed them. They smile indulgently at me. Grandmother truly has it all clear and lucid in her head. She is very together that way. Mum, not so much. She does have lists, they are there in her head, but she dynamically changes them. So till the last minute she will be proposing changes to herself. She rejects some of these proposals (thank heavens!) and accepts some of them. But as a consequence of these mental calculations, its easy to fluster her during the list-execution stage.

In the initial years of our life together, my husband used to make immense fun of my list-making. Over the years though, he seems to derive comfort from them. When I aggressively tell him, YOU go buy groceries now. YOU go get the clothes from the laundry now. On the way back, post this, and withdraw cash, and stop by in the pharmacy to pick up the cough syrup. He will quickly say

"Don't tell me, make me a list"
Today, as I head out on my shopping trip, I will resist the temptation to make a list. I don't need a list. I know what I need. Dash it! If I impulse shop, so be it. If I forget to buy something important, say, socks, so be it. Whenever the temptation to make a list strikes me next, I will tell myself

1. I DON'T need a list
2. I KNOW what I need
3. I AM in touch with reality, and a mere trip to a store cannot make me lose that.
4. NO! I DON'T need lipstick, its not on the

Friday, 8 February 2008

Thank Someone Its Friday

Someone, cause, you know, I am nice like that. I like to use key words, please thank you and love you, stuff of that nature.

Its butt-freezing cold in Mumbai now, as everyone the world over has figured out. Its really insane. I am getting confused. I step out of the office and the cold blast of air hits me and I am transported back to Cambridge, or Amherst, or even Rochester. I am left wondering if all of the past six-odd years were an illusion, and am really back in those awful(ly) cold climes. I am wearing socks. I am contemplating my super-warm coat. I have given up on the colourful kurtas and salwar kameezes and gone monochrome with blue shirts. I am resisting the temptation to use cuff links (copied from the husband, I generally have French-cuffed formal shirts) cause they would clash with the sneakers I am wearing (with socks). My nose has been blocked since Jan 23rd. My ears since Jan 27th. I might have lice in my hair.

That apart the week has been somewhat fun, though too busy to sit and dream about what I will say when (its never 'if') I run into Hrithik Roshan. Or Tim Duncan. Or Jayesh the civil contractor we have hired, for that matter. I had one good class and one funny one. I attended one short meeting in all. I went to a fancy dress competition where three kids cried, two spoke in English, one was a fiery nationalist, one was a tortoise in brown, about seven were doctors, and my very own progeny was a pink fairy. And the baker walked away with it all. I got international roaming on my mobile phone. Now to concentrate on not losing the hand-set again. I received a check back from Citibank thanks to saying 2009 instead of 2008. So much for being in denial about this new year, I seem to have given it a double promotion! I still feel sort of like I am on a pendulum. Flashes of desperation and frustration, interspersed with lightning bolts of inner knowledge and Shakti-the-goddess type strength. Could be because I watched 'Beta' on Sunday. What an awesome movie!

Plans afoot for the upcoming days-
1. Shopping. By myself without my two lackeys for company. I picture it like this. They are both asleep in the afternoon. I have had a satisfying lunch and drunk a gallon of coffee. I board an auto. I go mall-ward. I have a list. Shirts. Pants. Brown and Black. Ties (heh heh no). Colourful shirts. A belt. I hang in there. No laziness. I buy them. Enough of wearing the same crap for ten years. I feel triumphant, and return home for a cup of hot ginger tea.
2. Partying. My friend is coming in the evening. I have shopped and returned by then. She is in a listening mood. I am in a bitching mood. We go out. She eats (she likes to). I drink. I talk. I try not to listen to her. We come home late.
3. Cleaning. The house is a mess. The maid's mother got burnt. She is threatening to not come back till I pay up Rs.5000 cause you know, its all my fault anyway. The cook wants to buy earrings. She will not wear anything but gold. She might threaten to go on leave unless I give her enough money. Anyway I am holding my own so far, but it means cleaning my own s*&* myself. So thats Sunday.
4. Pizza. Last Sunday's pizza was ruined by the superciliousness of Barkha Dutt. This sunday I plan to accompany it with some tried and tested thing, such as Ruskin Bond.

That should beat the blues into submission. Of course if 1-4 are all tossed out then I can pin my frustration on something real. You know, the inability to get some me time in this life time.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Life on a pendulum

SMS on new mobile: "Kenny Take Care Of Health. Love Mum"
She loves me.

I DONT want milk. Milk VAAAAK.
She loves me not.

Wake up Kenny, I boiled the milk already.
He loves me.

Hey I am going to be late, stuck in a meeting.
He loves me not.

Amma lets have some fun, come, colour with me.
She loves me.

Hey Ken wan to meet up Saturday? we could do Vodka Chilli Shots.
He loves me.

Hey Sorry, have to cancel, wife is busy working, and I have a deadline, and ..
He loves me not.

Amma, I am a good girl, see, I am happily getting ready to leave.
She loves me.

Waaaah. Don't go (to the bathroom). Waaah. Don't. Waaah.
She loves me not.

I really miss you, sitting so far away.
He loves me.

Kadakadakada (typing noise when I call in the middle of the work-day & am saying something about something on the phone)
He loves me not.

Don't Buy New Amitav Ghosh Book. Bought It For You. Love Mum.
She loves me.

I am your mother and I think you are the classic Jack of all trades....
She loves me not.