Friday, 28 November 2008

I am no news channel

So do not expect news here. I rarely even read the newspaper or watch the news on TV. There. I said it. I have said it before too, I live in a Kenny Bubble World. I don't even have opinions on most matters any more except about myself. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps I took the internalising too far, but then there is no coming back now, does not seem like it. I am too far gone. I did watch some TV yesterday. Idly. Walking away to the kitchen or some place every half hour or so. Tears would well up in my eyes. The heart would go through some sort of wrenching motions. But nothing seemed real, nothing still seems real, and yet I am all shaken up inside.

Anyhow it is today here in Mumbai. The 28th of November 2008. Situation looks bleak and at the same time normal. The city is under siege. But when is it not? Four months of monsoons we expect at least two maybe three days of uncertainty, of beating hearts, of water everywhere, and mobile phone messages to friends You Ok Dude. Yeah I am Home. This Place is OK. Clear. Except that one time three years ago. When my only aim was to drive home and charge up to my year old daughter. I learnt how easy it is to climb twenty-four floors that day (and to drive on even if you are in a zen and the water is up to your windows). I was not even that fit that time. The husband returned a whole entire day later, our hearts thudding, food turning to ash in our mouths. I loved FM radio then because they played my message to him. Who was that that sent a radio message? Surely not this Kenny here today? Then you hear of some religious or regional group or the other breaking chairs or protesting in a mall. You message again. Bomb threats. Yeah I was far Away. There was a freak shooting incident in my neighborhood, which, apparently, houses a shooting range. My heart beat faster whenever I crossed that store in front of which this happened, for a few days. I would move the kid away from the side I imagined the shot came from. No not maternal instinct. I would do it with you as well, am just a nice girl. Deluded and random and unrealistic, but still. That is forgotten now. The trains thing happened. A colleague I met that day gave me information about some young people he knew that lost their lives. I thought about that boy (face unknown) in that mangled bogie and allowed my heart to beat faster for a few days whenever. That is forgotten now. It was my wedding anniversary (or thereabouts), I was desperately messaging and it was not going through. Somehow messages and calls from other people asking me if he was back home, were coming through. I kept a brave face in the absence of any knowledge. He Will be Fine. Has Not Called Yet. Dont Worry. Yes I Will Call Back. The husband finally came back home by 9:30 (I think it was). See, I have even forgotten the details. I was in Boston. I was at work and watched the planes crash into the towers online on some site a friend opened up. That took longer to recover from than this, which happens in my neighborhood every other day. I cried all the way home from the train station in Cambridge that day. I still cannot get myself to drive past the empty place where the twin towers were, where my husband worked for several years, where I have been so many times on the New York trains that I love. That was something of a first for me perhaps. The magnitude of it was greater perhaps. In India we value lives less perhaps. I never heard of Americans evacuating foreigners first or anything, we are stuck in Athithi Devo Bhava perhaps. Its too close to make any kind of sense, it is not possible to view it all with a dispassionate, objective lens perhaps. I am struck dumb. I have no words of solace. I have no remains of positivity to offer to you. I am not even sure things make sense any more.

Last week my friend at my exercise class was talking about life lines. I pointed mine out, it snakes down from my palm and joins a seemingly endless line at my wrist. Yeah well. Perhaps that drivel means something. I am here today.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

& So We Get To Thursday Terror

maybe it was technically wednesday.
the three of us are home and warm and safe. for now.
i am boiling with rage and crumbling with fear and breaking out in tears all together so i will stop with this.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Tuesday Torture

Monday madness is old hat now. The household awoke today to a new one. With the birds and those worms that early birds catch, I was up. In fact I was up before even the birds as the timing of our morning run has been advanced, and, it is winter (as it were) in Mumbai, so it is pretty dark at that time. I have been (again) bothered by a cold for the past several days. It came upon me on Friday. Stayed through an enjoyable Saturday. Hit me hard on an irritating Sunday forcing me to take an uncharacteristic morning nap much to everyone's disgust (and surprise). I did not think about it all day Monday (which was mad as can be and extremely busy as well).

The morning nose-block phenomenon is well known to you all. It requires some serious motivation to climb into work-out clothes when your left nostril wants to have some drainex. But its November. Twenty fifth already. We are close now. Less than two months away (Mumbai Marathon on Jan 18th. Mark your brains). So I pulled myself up. We ran, I could manage it though I had to indulge in a bit of walking during the uphill.

The school has chosen to advance the timing to 8:30 am this week. (and lets the monkeys out of the cage at 10:30 am. How a parent is expected to have any species of life - work or otherwise - is questionable). Anyway this means we have to really stay at her to get her ready. Ignore her various comments on the states of various creatures such as Noddy and Pooh and sundry school friends and some Goblins. I did that. Breakfast, usually a big pain in the arse, was fine, she managed to finish her three spoons of Cornflakes. I skipped mine as the left nostril thing was making me feel disgusted.

The milk nearly boiled over as the cook and I were rushing around trying to get things sorted. I nearly dropped the coffee jar (I have been bequeathed a white Phillips coffee maker. I have put away my steel south indian filter for now). I put the old milk on to heat to curd-making temperature and forgot about it. I forgot to offer breakfast to the other adults (not that they are that keen on it, but some sense of domestic duty in my head. Thankfully, that sense does not insist on me cooking anything so I can ignore it pretty well). Managed to squeeze in baths and get past the whole "This dress is hooorrrible" "I DONT like these socks" and sundry other events and then realised several things in one go-

(1) The car cleaner had, in a sudden fit of conscientiousness, made away with husband's key bunch.
(2) Ditto Ditto with my car key so the driver was standing outside the car with a militant look in his eyes
(3) The milk boy was late once again
(4) I had quickly misplaced my key bunch as these thoughts went through the head
(5) When I found the key bunch I lost my water bottle in the crevices of the couch
(6) I had no money and no petrol in my car

Managed to sort through everything and arrived at the school and dropped monster off and came back to my office. The husband, who thankfully seemed to be in less of a hurry to push off than usual, went after the car cleaner dude to retrieve his bunch. Which he was to then give to the New Yorker dude at home. I undid the spare key from my bunch and smoothed the driver's spirits by swearing at the car cleaner person. I ran after the milk boy who was waltzing in slowly as we were leaving and asked him to go up immediately to my house and hand over my precious milk packets to the large person looming in my doorway. I quickly called home and asked the boys to wait for the milk person. I messaged the husband and told him about taking some money from his wallet.

Thankfully have spent a quiet day since then. I have really done what I enjoy the most. Solved problems. The afternoon looks better as I need to re-solve those problems and really use my calculator this time.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Use Them.. Lose Them..

We generally read and re-read books like there is no tomorrow in our house. By we I mean my mum, sis, daughter, and yours truly. Like Lord of the Rings. Or Wodehouse. Or Ruskin Bond (have recently given these up in light of the fact that they all feel the same. and Rusty is an anachronism. The Blue Umbrella rocks though). Bridget Jones. Growing up, our book collection was not particularly impressive. It was a bunch of hand-me-downs from here and there. Some Yoga books belonging to my uncle. A bunch of old science things that my dad thought should be read by all creatures. Some engineering books belonging to another uncle. A stack of Reader's Digest and National Geographics that were jealously guarded. Complete works of Lewis Carroll (gosh I have forgotten the spelling.. you know, the Alice in Wonderland guy also famous for those word puzzles - Get PIG in the STY in seven steps by changing one letter ONLY at each step). A vaguely Russian sounding book about a boy. Fairy Tales. A Wodehouse I had stolen from someone (forgive me please). In comparison, I have a very good collection now. We bought a nice antique book shelf (and then another one) from Jogeshwari from Iqbal Uncle (who calls me Bhabhi and found a tiny wooden chair for monster child last month). Speaking of the monster, she has a tiny version of my book shelf for her books. I arrange them for her but it still overflows. The fat ones are on the bottom shelf (an obvious household tip I was not told about my mater when I got married; but figured it out when I kept my kanjeevarams bag on a middle shelf in the guest cupboard and the blasted shelf caved in under the weight). The sundry Noddys, Fairy Tales, Pepper, Bubbles, Bruno, Pooh (single story), Panchatantra, Berenstein Bears, Dora, Diego etc. are strewn around the place. The compilations (such as Bubbles 6-in-1; Noddy 10-in-1) are of course fat, and therefore in the bottom. The middle shelf has all the picture books which should soon be on their way out to younger monsters.

In the middle shelf it is therefore that this particular picture book inherited from my niece and nephew lives. It is one of those American books with thick pages with big colourful pictures of kids and toys. It says I love my toys because I can.. Play Them, Bath them (sic), Shake Them, Choose Them, and Lose Them. For each ides there is a different healthy looking child and a different colourful toy. Like a Rattle is Shake Them. A Big Box with a child looking inside is Lose Them. We have read this book umpteen times in the days of yore.

But sometimes the kiddie book stuff stay in your head. With some interpretations. Which brings me, finally to the point of the post. With friends, I often think in my head (based loosely on picture book described above) that if you Use Them, You Lose Them.

As veteran parents of a high maintenance 4.5 year old though, the fact that we have a friend as the house guest has been such a boon. We are totally using him. When I go off for a run early morning on days the husband suddenly finds himself in Chennai. Monster, you are not alone at home. To go to the store to get milk (because the blasted delivery boy came late again and we had closed up the house and left) and the monster wants to pop into crossword. Here, you guys go look at books AND DONT BUY ANY I will go get the milk and come to you. To banish the eat-dinner-alone blues on days the husband works late. Gosh its so wonderful to have an adult to eat dinner with at the table. To banish the drink-beer-alone blues of a Friday night. Its undescribable the pleasure of sharing the brand new Carlsberg beer (nice bottle, not-so-nice beer, though) with an old friend.

Yeah well, really if its a good friend and you both love each other they won't feel they are being used. In which case you won't lose them. Hell yeah.

And, I succumbed and bought her a book anyway so that did not really work either. Unlike my mum who once threw away our moth-eaten Reader's Digest collection and I hve not yet forgiven her for it ten years later, I am less of a Domestic Goddess and more of an idiot who loves the sight, smell, sound, feel, and the permanance of books. And Old friends.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Jerk Alert!

I am on XP now. The fonts look weird. But the ubuntu experiment is hereby declared a failure. Construction has started again outside my office. Delicate electronic items are again coated with fine layers of mud and cement. I have trouble getting access to the windows network for registering my software. A monstrous digger is patting the ground - about 10 meters from my face - in loving taps with its extensible arm. In other words, all is right with the world. Things are as they should be.

Among my favourite people in the world are - V.S.Naipaul; Salman Rushdie; Albert Einstein; Ben Johnson; Diego Maradona; Boris Becker; Sunil Gavaskar; and a bunch of random engineers no one will know (unless they are reading their books or papers for work purposes). Generally though, I seem to have poor luck when I pick role models and favourites. Though immensely successful in their professional spheres, the people I am attracted towards have a tendency to be, to put it mildly, jerks. At least in popular perception. They do crazy stuff with their personal lives - relationships and so on. People love to mention this every time you try to gush about them.

In a sense, its like a person cannot be successful and brilliant and so on unless s/he is screwing something else up hugely. Must be stealing someone's work. Must be discarding and marrying women (or men) like there is no tomorrow. It must be drugs. Has probably made real bad enemies at the work place. Of course for people like Rushdie (I still remain a die-hard Rushdie fan, whatever he does or does not do) are sort of too famous and too rich and too whatever-else.

But even in our everyday lives, if we find someone doing well, we try to look behind and figure out that their personal life is in shambles. If they are suddenly being very rich (I vaguely think this means they are buying property?) we think it must be kickbacks or some other illegal stuff. Considering the dual role we play at my job, the minute a person does well in one of them, we assume that they must have severely compromised on the other. A quick succession of promotions (or whatever they are called) makes you check quickly on the spouse - must be neglected. Children of working parents are always under a magnifying glass, so we can turn around and say "Yes, with both of you being out so much, this was bound to happen" (meaning some particularly annoying tantrum).

On a logical level some of this makes sense. Where did all this extra money come from? There are only so many hours in a day, how can you do so well at work and manage to keep your family happy? How can a person suddenly finish the 100m in 9.83 s? How can one make more runs than anyone ever did unless one played the game for making records and not necessarily to win? How can a child possibly grow up well when the MOTHER has work-related things to worry about for a good part of the day?

In a strange way, I was thinking of these things recently because of the movie 'Fashion.' I am an avid reader of movie reviews. I have a very poor strike rate when it comes to actually watching a movie the review of which I have read. Maybe 1% (I assume that means that I watch 1 movie for every 100 reviews I read; is that what Strike Rate means? Not sure). I read the two reviews by Mayank Shekhar every week in the TOI. I read Brangan sometimes. I read the ones in Tehelka. So a total of about 100 reviews in a year. We watch a movie a year (I mean at the local Multiplex; am not counting movies seen on flights or on TV - which are anyway also very small in number). Anyway, I generally read these reviews because I like to. MS's reviews are awesome because I feel like he does - that all these things are a bunch of baloney and waste of time. So why does he review them? And why do I read him and attempt to watch some of them? Oh well.

I somehow seem to have read a whole bunch of people's comment on this movie, however. I have never managed to watch 'A Madhur Bhandarkar' entirely. I have seen bits and pieces of "Page 3" and have of course assiduously avoided 'Corporate' and cannot remember any other movies of his right now. But this I thought I would like to watch. To add to my general knowledge; in the same compartment of random stuff as The Devil Wears Prada and another book of that genre by someone who is called Ira or Ila if memory serves and who was in some Miss India type contest and wrote a book about it. But what I got out of all the reviews what this - that a message from this movie is that in order to be super successful in the world of 'Fashion' (whatever that might imply); one has to compromise on a lot of things, including one's morals (whatever that might imply).

It is sort of scary. I am bringing up a child. I want her to do good things with her life. I want her to do enjoyable things. I want her to do well; whatever she chooses. I want to tell her it is possible to really marry personal and professional and hobby lives and really do good stuff in all aspects. I want her to be able to make prudent choices. I want her to compromise on things but never on internal ones. I want her to feel that hard work always pays, someday. I want her to learn all her life. I want her to be nice, pleasant, well-mannered (ha! She is far from it now!) but also to stand up for herself and her rights.

People of course write nasty stuff out of a sense of jealousy at times. I cannot write such a book as the Bend in the River so let me trash the guy instead and go after his personal life and insist from my high horse that he is an abrasive old fellow and please don't read his books because he never says nice things about MY country. I am not trying to say I am above this. I am still vaguely suspicious of Usain Bolt for example; though as I often say, he is so cute, I really want to believe that he is that good without any nasty drugs coursing through his veins.

And meanwhile there is my parenting mantra of Role Modelling. So I better go work. If not for anything else, just to show the child, who is busy in school in her pink shoes, that I can (and not be a jerk about it either).

Now here is a mean looking spider is crawling around, it has explored all the crevices of my printer (which is not yet installed). Must have emerged from the dug up ground outside... Yes this is right.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Kabootar Ja Ja

Sometime ago when ludwig had these things to say about pigeons, I was of course mightily amused. But lets say I did not believe in his thesis, per se. I have semi-noticed that they look dumb, but hey, looks are not everything, no?

Anyway we returned triumphantly from the airport last week, the husband and I. I was still worrying about how Hancock ends. I had managed to catch all but the last half hour of the movie (on the flight; thanks to the lucky provenance of my laptop battery running out and preventing me from doing anything constructive). Considering how reviewers are careful about these things they call 'spoilers' I was really worried about this, how to figure this out now? (if you know, please write to me? Its killing me. I am trying hard to ignore it, but its there, gnawing, so to say). In case you were wondering. Yes, I liked it. I like the grubby look. Will Smith. OOOH.

My plan was to dump my suitcase, pee, change my t-shirt, and head off downstairs to the neighbourhood Subway, pick up lunch, and head over to Pune. I was chaotically collecting somethings I needed to take to the kids - stuff I bought in Bangkok airport and so on, when the man came up with one of his AXN movie dialogues. "I suspect something is in the house"

Ooh. I was tempted to say I don't really care, need to get a move on it, gotto get to Pune and back by dinner and so on. But years of being a supportive wife imply that one suppresses such urges, resists the temptation to laugh, and plunges into the practicality of discovering what on earth he means. Thankfully enough, he bravely ventured forth looking from room to room, sort of too cautiously for my liking, but at least, it allowed me to look around some more for stuff to take (like my textbook, my IPOD, a bottle of water).

The study, it seems, was invaded by a pigeon. A regular resident of our building of course, but generally to be found outside the home, making that guttural throat noise pigeons are famous for. It was hiding behind the curtains. Making those noises and flutterring its wings against the curtain and the window glass - the noise that alerted the raised-on-a-heady-dose-of-scary-English-movies fellow. Frankly, I would have just ignored it, let it wallow in its misery, and gone away. At least, since the plan was for me to get going and for him to return home and spend a few hours before his flight to Hyderabad, I did not really think that that would have been too cruel or anything. I trust that he is fully capable of handling a pigeon-breech by his own self. But I was reluctant to suggest it. Plus my computer is in the study. God knows I cannot live without it, or suffer the consequences of pigeon-poo on it, given my current cold war with the maid...

To ludwig's point, the window was open on the other side. The idiotic bird had walked on the ledge over to the closed part of the window. All it had to do was, what we call, in common parlance, to 'hook a U' Turn around, retrace its steps, go back to the open part of the window, and fly away to where-the-fuck-ever it wanted to go, and leave me alone, and let me get on my way already. But no. It hung out, making its silly noise, and try as we might, we could not get it to stop knocking on the glass with its beak. Finally, I fetched an iron rod from the back of the flat. And no, we did not whack it or anything. We used it to open the window latch, somehow (this is where the skill that the man is born with - and I am not - came in real handy). We opened out the window on the pigeon's side by accessing it from the other side (this is where the long hands the man has - and I do not - came in real handy). And finally the bird flew away. Meanwhile we had tried tapping this side and that. Speaking to it in all the languages we knew. Putting our hands out to through the open window and waving. Trying to enlist the help of a fellow pigeon that landed on the air-condioner during our mission. Oh hell, everything we could think of. To no avail.

Yeah, I do think they are really deviod of brains. Anyway it all worked out finally. I had the aloo-something or the other from Subway. My car had a flat tire near Vashi, which the driver fixed. My ride was fine, I did not read more than half a page of my textbook, but did not lose my long ruler or pencil either. And we have securely closed both sides of the window and are not, in the near future, engaging with pigeons in any meaningful way if we can help it. The beak is sharp, even if the brain is not. It has gouged holes in my nice antique computer table, though it seems to have spared my new LCD monitor....

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Kids - cant live with them; cant live without them

I know, I know, it is said of women.

The past ten days involved some crazy amounts of traveling. Even more craziness if you include the past seventeen days. Anyhow the grand plan of most recent vintage was to go to Bangkok and Cambodia. The monster girl was 'holidaying' in Pune with her cousins (as she likes to call it). The husband left on Monday night amidst much chaotic lack-of-planning. I did meetings up the wazoo and so on and left on Wednesday night, after having spent a lot of time cleaning up the mess he left in his wake (not to mention having to put one million books of the child away). As is normal in such situs, my pick-up carefully arranged by husband to bring little me to his hotel in Bangkok, did a no-show. I walked and walked all over the airport and was accosted by several police-type people till finally the husband called and asked me to take a cab. No big deal. I flashed my credit card and took a cab, admiring the pink taxis that have mushroomed all over.

That same evening was our flight to Cambodia in a huge group. I was really really tired out. The Bangkok flight is too short for my taste, I could not get to sleep much and was zonky from almost missing an entire night's rest. I cannot remember much of the first night in Cambodia except that for some reason we rode in a Tuk-Tuk which is a motor-cycle-rickshaw, all colourful with cloth and stuff, all powerful in its noxious fumes, through some vaguely rural looking places covered with swamps and listening to the sound of crickets. The dinner was good I vaguely recall eating Pumpkin with Sesame Seeds along with rice.

We did the usual Angkor Wat thing on the next day, smiling hugely at the thought of that French dude who was explaining the stuff to us - and saying Hhama defeated the demon king Hhavana in the Hindu epic Hhamayana. I was lying in wait for him to say Lakshmana but he cleverly side-stepped that by saying Hhama's bHhother. There were scenes (apparently) on the temple walls from the Ocean Churning thing and from the Kurukshetra war and so on. We walked around and after a point had to run away from our Cambodian guide who was getting a catch in his throat from talking about what these temples meant to him and to the world at large. Okay already. Easy now. "What do you tell your child about the myths and epics and gods?" asked this desi-American dude, in passing, sort of. I jumped in and explained how the stories are narrated by her grandmoms and I don't control what they say. Of course we have some books on the subject too, small cute ones. The husband is fond of reading to her from Rajaji's books (!) and also from Anita Nair's new silver thing. I enter detailed discussions on such matters with her and try to force a rational approach. I tell her that I think they are stories, and that gods live in our imaginations, while other people believe they are histories and that gods lived a long time ago. She pats me on the hand and says "Krishna used to live here long ago. In Vrindavan. I believe so"
The guy was reeling at the end of my explanation (I sometimes think I come on too strong; not to mention talk for too long) and said something about Halloween and Santa Claus, which I did not catch.

We also took this long boat ride on a local lake. This is an interesting sight (apparently) because there are these villages of people living on the lake, in their boats. Which also serve as their homes. I sort of knew from a general look around the place that these boats are not necessarily those things belonging to rich Greeks that one might expect around the Greek Isles and so on. But I was not prepared for the absolute abject poverty I saw. Children running around naked and drinking and bathing from the lake water... Beautiful, rugged children with their skin browned to a crisp. I saw a five year old maneuvre a little boat around with an oar that was twice his size. The only 'cool' 'hip' thing was a huge boat that held a basketball court. Nice fibre-glass boards. Right there on the nasty water. Looking all wide and spacious unlike the house-boats crammed with every conceivable unwashed thing you need for a family of ten.

The next day we visited a local orphanage run by a French group. We went in a bus to their place. The children ran out to meet us. Two girls clung to me. I learned their names. They
learned mine. They showed me their classroom. We sat together in one of the benches. We held hands and sang rhymes. I asked them to count backwards from 100. They thought that was just crazy but were real excited to do so. They giggled when I said this is my husband in front with the four little boys literally hanging on his arms. They asked about our children. We saw their sleeping place. They showed me where the boys sleep and where the girls do. I took off my chappals to go into their room and was sorely tempted to pick up a broom and start sweeping. Cannot really help dusty floors in our type of climes, I know, but still. Then the person who took us told us that the kids have been learning dancing and would like to show us. We sat down. I was prepared to fix my steady smile and clap at the appropriate times. I was prepared to see Cambodian versions of the messy group dances I have been audience to umpteen times in recent history. But they were REALLY good. At first a bunch of little girls. Graceful. What beautiful hands. Then I thought, the boys are playful, they COULD NOT have paid attention and learned and practised. But they were just spectacular. And the best part of it was, these are traditional dances; not your Dhoom Machaale types (by the way I did see a really funny rendition of this song on the TV sometime when I just switched it on!). They did a coconut dance involving an intricate set of routines where pairs of them strike each others coconut shell things; they did a bamboo dance involving jumping in and out of the bamboo things; a monkey dance involving a lot of monkey like moves; and so many other things. They went on for well over an hour. And missed not even a single beat through the entire thing. In all maybe 30+ kids danced, and all of them were perfect! I was really floored at the end of it. We were sad to leave. They were sad to see us go.

And before I knew it I was flying from there to there to there and was sitting in a car to go to Pune, and reunited once more with my little monster. Who was extremely brave, and if reports are to be believed, an angel. Except that she turns deaf when she is reading something. And wild horses are required to be put into commission. She even ate egg yellows! Not to mention a veg burger! And a strawberry milk shake! And played with all the Abhisheks and so on and hung out with the cats and promised to stop with the chocolates already, and yes, she would return there very soon but this time with Amma for the entire time.

We are back in the saddle now. Based on mutual agreement we are celebrating No Chocolate Days till Saturday (crossing fingers and hoping to hold to it). Of course the No TV Week is in full swing too, in light of the pile of clothes on the TV room bed. Next stop is Family Dinner, which is damn hard to achieve due to various reasons.