Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Urban Tadka

It’s a restaurant we go to, sometimes. Nice enough place, good, solid Punjabi food (hmm how would I know what that means?) without any stale masala. The tomato soup comes tadka-ed with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Cool, if you go in for that kind of thing. Décor is all rural Punjab (or I imagine), big stall of those ornate slip-on slippers; colourful pin-wheels; glass bangles; garlic bunches and so on.

But here to talk about ancestral village in Karnataka, not Punjab. Colour me bad, have never been to such a place. In fact, never been to any village. Urban as they come, that’s me. It would be all fine if my idea of the good life was to flit around in planes, and do my shopping in Dubai or London, but sad to say that is not me. Shopping is a strenuous exercise involving traveling twenty minutes to a mall with a list. Planes are a matter of convenience and an outcome of the fact that I have never, till date, found confirmed tickets for any train to anywhere I want to go. Where do all the train tickets go?

That brings us to my father. Damn fond of the old ancestral village he was. Always talking of it, singing of it, and painting rosy pictures of it. Dad was really all talk ‘cause guess what? He never made the slightest effort to take us there. Oh yes, I asked, several times. We were some two hours away back then. His excuse – what a dreamer – was that now everything is changed and there is nothing of what he sings about in the place, so no point going there now. Hello! At least when it exists as a place on the map, should I not see it, perhaps you can point out what was different and so song-worthy, and I can extrapolate in my mind. Well, he did not hear me say such things. Perhaps I never told him – was a bit in awe of him and all, not scared, loved him to pieces but found it tough to bare the ol’ heart. So bottom line, dad moved on to the better place, and I am still left with a question mark as regards the village.

Forgot to mention earlier that in addition to singing of it, dad also named us after the place. So now I carry the last name, which is also the name of the village which I have never visited. Bit of a burden for sure. Recently (god bless the internet!) someone shot me an email saying, “hey are you from there? I am.” I was kind of all over that situation, and happy to make a connection and all. Discovered that this guy’s folks still live there, and of course a couple of emails later that we are related to each other. So now I have promised myself that I will visit next time I am in the area (as in the two hour commuting by road distance – thanks to all the airlines and fat buses running around the place, being in the same country counts as being in the area now).

Few questions – will I sing of the place too, after the maiden visit? Or will I give up all the generations of dreams and finally change my name to the married one – something I have put off for years now? Remains to be seen.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Wedding Season

It is the big season for weddings in our neck of the woods. Every night I see troupes progressing slowly behind a loud and raucous band. I presume that there is a big wedding hall somewhere near my place, and that they are headed there. Last night we saw some real spectacular fire-works on display. The groom’s party was all over that situation. Never mind the fact that they created crazy traffic conditions.

Today I went to a much more sober Tamil wedding – which happened in the wee hours of the morning. I was in a bad mood at having to wake up so early and all but really they are better than late night soirees on hind-sight. So this one being a Tam wedding in the middle of Mumbai, was real interesting. I for one enjoyed it immensely. There was none of the hysteria that seems to be the dominant guest in our Chennai events. None of the priest yelling at the brides mom to hurry up, or the groom’s mom forgetting where exactly the one kilo of sugar has been placed. The overall atmosphere was relaxed.

My feeling is that when this stuff happens displaced geographically as it is, there is a tendency to stick to the basics, focus on the main events and not sweat the small stuff. The priest was making an effort to explain things as the event progressed (that is a recent and excellent trend, even in the South), and although as usual not many were paying attention, at least the bride and groom seemed to get on the same page. Even the smoke and the naadaswaram were not all-pervading.

I could not spend a long time, had to head out sort of half hour after the main mangalsutra-tying event; but the 2 hours that I spent there (arguably the most important), were nice and did not leave me wrung out. Aah maybe its just the weather. December is an awesome time for weddings in India – cool so that your fat sari does not get pulped up; chilled out since everyone is anyway thinking of Christmas/New Year vacation; and just overall a wonderful note to end the year on.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Running - Gizmo Free

What is the most exhilarating feeling in the world? I am sure you are thinking bungee-jumping, snorkeling, or something exotic like that. Sorry people, I am just an ordinary woman with no opportunities for para-sailing or snowboarding anymore. I am talking about your simple, everyday, next-door, running. Yes, it is an absolutely fascinating, invigorating thing to do. For those of you turning away and sniggering already and labeling me mad, here is my advice – try it! Try it early in the morning, it’s the only time that makes sense. So early that the sun is just about to rise, so that for a few minutes into your run, you have darkness. Then slowly you can see things more clearly as the sun comes into its own. Depending on where you are, if you can catch a sight of the orange rising sun, awesome! Any and all water bodies are also great, you can stare at the vastness of the sea or lake or whatever, and feel your life stretching out in front you, shimmering and full of fun. So much for the visuals. Unless you are really really trapped in concrete, the sounds you hear when you run so early in the morning, aaah… Birds of all kinds, yes, if you have a headache or a hang-over it sounds like a racket and a half, but if you are running and feeling your pores open out, the chirping of the birds gives you an energy boost for sure! What on earth do they do so early in the morning, yes, get ready to go off to search for food for the day, that’s true. But for a bird, what does that mean? Brushing teeth? Bathing? Coffee? Breakfast? Getting the kids shipped off to school or crèches? I don’t know, but I am sure you will wonder too if you can just hear them. You may also hear the occasional bell from the milk or paper-boys cycle, or the sound of the devout praying (they also choose the early morning times, if it would not be considered heresy you could say that running is my prayer!), and sundry other things.

What do you need to enjoy this feeling? Not much. A comfortable T-shirt, shorts and a good pair of running shoes. Some company is good, but as long as you are not some place real remote that you have worry about things or people attacking you, going alone is really the best thing to do, just you and your thoughts. Just try and forget that it is exercise and will help you lose weight and flab, that its good for your heart. Think of it as the best part of the day, the time which is most enjoyable, the part that energizes you and gets you going for the rest of the 20-odd hours, I am sure you will be a convert in no time.

PS: No mobiles or IPODs please!