Monday, 31 December 2007

Practically a God, or, The God of Washing

I wake up every morning and religiously offer my prayer to the toothbrush motor god. Sure, he is a minor god, an almost dispensable god. But he can whirr at the press of a button, and my teeth feel squeaky clean after he is done with them. For that, I am thankful to him, and offer him prayers. My next step is in the kitchen. Its early morning, the sky still dark outside, the birds quietly stretching out their wings and stifling yawns. The aquaguard water-purifier god awaits her turn. Cool, sweet, clean, non-germy water into my bottle, and really, my cup runs over with joy, and reverence. The red button on the stove to automatically produce fire, without the mess of matches or lighters, next up.

Thus into the day I plunge, offering my thanks and prayers to the various major gods and minor deities that hold me up, give me succour, make me happy. The purr of the car coming alive when I tuck in the ignition key and turn it; the squeaky pulsing noise of the lift making its way up to fetch me to my almost heavenly abode; the gush of the warm soothing water out of the tap for my bath; these are the sounds that assure me that god is with me.

The most favourite of all is the boxy, sturdy, gurgling god I have in the back-yard. Tut I flip the switch. Ka-Chak I open the door. I tumble in an assortment of sweaty, nasty clothes. Kirrrrk I turn the dial. Done. Within seconds the water fills in with a whoosh. The detergent gets sucked in, and an hour later, its a miracle! The clothes are washed. What a practical god! I am absolutely thankful to this god, my survival in his absence is doubtful. Yes, you will question how come I exchanged my favourite god? Come on, if an idol in a temple breaks don’t we surreptitiously, in the cover of the night, replace it with an unbroken one? Don’t we? If my washing god broke is it not my duty to send him away and replace him with another?

Yes now I know you question my piety, my dedication to my gods, possibly even my religion which has a current followership of one. What kind of religion permits replacement of gods? Who goes around calling mortal things gods? Who allowed things created by (wo)man to become gods? But hold on right there. I do. When the companion to the washing god, the dryer goddess was created, I went into paroxysms of joy. So what if it was a trifle ugly? Pristinely white, with a strength that belied both its gender and weight, this goddess was really something else. You would probably find it difficult to understand.

The general populace will only come close to understanding my beliefs when they think of a computer. The male, desktop version, and the female, laptop version. With their various companions. Rama, Sita, with their Hanuman and Vali and Sugreeva. Could you survive without them? What if I took away the mouse for a few days? Huh? The printer? The CD-ROM? Cannot survive? Thought so. Not having god in your everyday life is living the life of a pagan, is being doomed to circle the earth in the eternal cycle of life and death and re-birth. The sleek new desktop in my study, my bright blue laptop in my lap, the laser printer whose price has been steadily falling, making him affordable to one and all, the mouse, the keyboard, the data-card, the DVD-RW, the billions of bytes of RAM, I bow to you.

Today I celebrate the invention of a new god. A god with several replaceable arms, legs, and sundry other parts. You give him your dirty dishes. Now please do not complain about maintaining purity and not bringing your half-eaten vessels near god. Imagine the situation where you give your impure half-eaten vessels, and god himself, applying all the necessary rules, purifies them for you. Oh Dishwasher God! Where were you all these years?

Monday, 17 December 2007

And somewhere in Mumbai...

My hands move slowly. Here they are now. Here it is now, what is it, oh yes, it’s a sheet. Here you are now. I am covering you with this sheet. Who are you I have forgotten. But the month I remember is December. It might get cold. Here is the sheet. Here are my hands, and here you are, lying down here. What is this here? Yes, it’s the pavement on the side of the road. Why are you lying down here? I ask you, tell me now, why are you lying down here. Why do my hands move so slowly? Are you asleep? Are you my son, are you my father, are you my brother? I really don’t remember. But the month is December, this I know and remember. We went to a bar, I remember, I don’t think I would have gone there with my son. Perhaps you are a friend. But what is this? White hair? Maybe you are an uncle. We talked. About what I cannot say. But we talked. And look, those cars that are passing us, people inside are talking too. They seem friendly. Here, I waved at them. They turned their faces away though. I don’t understand, why would they do that? Is it me? Is it you? Is it the two of us on this pavement by the side of the road and you lying here and me covering you with a sheet? Is that a shameful thing? Is it the drink? Did we drink too much, does it show on our faces? On our hands? Is it this, our home, with the sky as the roof. Should I be ashamed of it? Are you ashamed, is that why you are sleeping lying here on the pavement with your white hair and your legs out on the road. There, I moved them in. No one will drive by in a lorry and slice away your feet now. There. Are you comfortable? Who is that woman in the car? Why does she watch us with pity? Oh why does she pity us? Here, I looked away, I could not bear her eyes of pity. Will you share the sheet with me? Its December, the month. Its night. The sky is bright. I need to sleep. I need …

Monday, 10 December 2007

I get by with a little help...

So here I was, sliding down the sinusoidal curve thats life. Feeling like the high was behind me, approaching the bottom, the bottom. Refusing to acknowledge that the next cycle was imminent, unavoidable. Sliding down, down. Circumstances also conspired to make sure I carried this ridiculous, pessimistic idea forward. You know, the usual stuff, losing precious things (not in monetary terms, of course not, its all about memories and sentimentality to me), sicknesses, discernable lapses in my thoughts and in my mind, usual stuff. I have half a dozen half-written posts on this. The only reason they did not see the light of the day is because I was also extremely busy with work.

Anyway, last week, after a chaotic Saturday juggling work and home and packing, we set off on Sunday. I did this for myself. Went to my kick-boxing class on Sunday and punched & kicked the heck out of the bag, in the wee hours, back in time to get ready for the flight. We whooshed off to Chennai, where my black mood started fading. I entered my parents-in-law's home. Had a fleeting second of that feeling you get when you get home. A bitterness for the time that has passed since you last saw it. A sweetness for its comfortable familiarity. Only this is my in-laws place. But that feeling was just awesome. Its my ideal of a marriage. You know, where you truly marry the person, you get their feelings too. For their family, for their home.

That evening, an enthusiastic friend of ours collected a whole bunch of us and put us together in a room for a party. Wow. A real party. You know, not the office christmas party types, and not the informal friends getting together in our home types. All the folks were people we went to college with. All with families. Been pretty much ages since we saw them. Kids all over the room wrecking havoc. It totally rocked. I invented the Slow Race so the little giggly girls would stop running into furniture. The husband was in his Feats of Strength mode, lifting all the gigglers (ages 2-10) suspended on his forearm. It was in some kind of hep club place. I shocked the waiter dudes by eating Idlis with my Bloody Mary. Mood picked up some more. Ideal it was, I loved all of them.

Next in line, a wedding. What an awesome one! Had so much fun and chilled out. Only tension was when a complicated looking camera got shoved into my hand and photos or videos (god knows!) were asked for. I was sweating with my inability to focus on such things as operating cameras. Hope I clicked something though. I used it as an excuse to get close to the action, and actually listen to the priest dude. He had interesting things to say, as always when you listen. Met up with lots of friends there too. Desultory conversation in between meals happened. Ideal wedding.

Off on a day-trip to Hyderabad. Upgraded by kind jet airways soul at 6 am. Gosh those business class seats are thoroughly awesome. Slept like a log, except for the drool. Kind uncle of mine fetched us from the airport, fed us and dropped us and all. We were completely spacey, must have thought us such fools, but thats OK. In the afternoon, unable to stand the official reason for visit and so on, we escaped into the very crowded and very hot city to meet a friend. Yes, another one. The afternoon is a blur of stories and promises and laughter and amusement. Major pangs of regret when having to bid goodbye to him. But then, what a good time was had!

Back in Mumbai finally, a whole week of rediscovering why I love my life. Ship-shape now. I WILL get by with a little help from my friends.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Putting a baby-sitter

Did I hear anyone say motherhood was all pink and wonderful and a walk in the park? Hmm. They are clearly not leading my life. Motherhood is all about re-living your own childhood and developing extreme amounts of respect for your own mother, and the institution. Nevertheless, I survive. I enjoy MagicPot and Jigsaws and Bhindi and Paavadais, and even, the colour pink now. The monster is, well, a monster and a geek, but she is my monster and geek, and I am partially (at least) to blame, so we chug along. Of late, she sounds quite adult, and amma-monster days (meaning weekends when the husband has gallivanted off to Bangalore for work) are actually loads of fun (if tiring). We visit the Supermarket; we talk about spellings of everything we see around us; we buy random pieces of clothing from the roadside (and resolve to donate away equal number of our older clothes); we withdraw cash from the ATM (she loves to press that button on our way out); we go to the library.

Mid-day, if the sun is a little high, we get into an argument. You are annoying me. YOU are annoying me. You don't talk that way to me. YOU don't talk that way to me. Want a time out? Ugh, you smell (Of chocolate, apparently, should I feel guilty for the chocolates I devoured last night or should I wonder if mine child has lost it?)
We have a nice loud session of this. She cries. My temper flares. My temper calms. She cries some more. We throw each other off. Then we hug, and cuddle. I advice her. Her replies are at a tangent. She has finished with this conflict, and moved on. I am not done. I get the distinct feeling that she thinks I am her friend. Which is good. And bad.

Now when its the three of us during the weekend, the ups and the downs are much more pronounced. Its great when we eat our dinner together. Or rather, she eats by herself while we are still in the liquid part of our dinner. Its wonderful to take afternoon naps together. I always try very hard and stay awake till they are both asleep and snoring, slip out, and watch songs on MTV. Its awesome to go grocery shopping together. I don't have to drive either the car or the cart. She is a perfect doll sitting up there in the cart with appa pushing her. But when its mid-day and the sun is high! OH! She does something really silly. I lose it first, but gain it back soon. He loses it and loses it some more as she cries. One look at his face and she dissolves into tears (usually starts off sounding quite fake, if you ask me). I have to play middle-man. Which sucks. I want to either just cry loudly or just lose my temper loudly. Middle-man has to be calm. Reach a resolution. Identify the source of the conflict. Ugh.

So we had this guest over on Friday night. Nice guy, friend of ours from a long time ago. Yes, from college, and he and I went to graduate school together as well. He is interesting because generally he knows everything about the life of all the people that went to college with us. I mean, everything, not just a vague recollection of the continent they reside in. A yearly meeting can be used to get up-to-date on all the good gossip. And so it was, I racked my brains and came up with names of a lot of folks, and, as expected, he gave me all the dope on them (or at least the dope that he considered fit for my consumption). Of course I asked him about his own family and kids and we exchanged some parenting tips.

In the typical tamil way, he says to me, "Why don't you put a baby-sitter for your child? Then you can have some free time." AAh Put a baby-sitter, as in find a person who will substitute for you, so you can enjoy yourself. What an interesting thought! It has barely occurred to us! I recall an older lady last year during our trip to Udaipur. She looked me in the eye and said, "Your child is too active, why did you not bring her ayah on the trip? You will tire yourself out this way" She is a nice person so only expressed shock and surprise (and not disgust) when I told her there is no such person back in Mumbai. Its us. And, of course, the weekday creche, which is GREAT LET ME NOT HEAR ANYONE SAY ANYTHING AGAINST IT GODDAMMIT.

I sent off friend with (a)I am a very involved parent (b)We don't think baby-sitters can work (c)Bit mad no, we are?
I am sure he will work these bits into his spiel about us when he next meets other people. But its fine. He is not a malicious gossiper. He is one of those who genuinely wants to have as much connection with his friends as back when we all lived together on the same campus.

But seriously, I want to put a baby-sitter now. I dreamed of going to a movie, eating dinner calmly without worrying about why on earth the tomato soup is so damn hot every time, visiting restaurant bathrooms secure in the knowledge that no little hands are touching the walls when your back is turned, holding hands, taking a walk, talking about mutual friends in disparaging ways (just to let off steam guys I really do love you, don't worry), swearing a little bit, riding escalators in our usual fashion - me a step higher so I can put my hands on his shoulders without stretching, shopping in dusty second-hand book stalls by myself and not worrying about dust and cough and is it time for dinner, sitting in coffee shops and watching people without having to worry about her falling off the chair she is climbing from the back, an endless list of simple silly things I did without a thought that I should be storing up on them.

But seriously, its all good. We all make our choices. Of course we go to movies and dinner and coffee shops and any bookstore that happens to be there. She comes along. She enjoys it, never cribs. Its more work for us, of course, but its all good. At any rate I don't think I can find a baby-sitter that will let me guiltlessly go forward into the night. Grapes are sour. Hell yeah. Goddam you, Just back off, will you....

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Sports and the woman

Competitive sports and me - well, we haven't really met in a while now, except in my dreams. Back in school, college, and even grad school (somewhat), this was a big part of daily distraction. In fact, I blame my love for these damn sports tournaments for the fact that, now, I find it so difficult to lose weight, gain muscle tone, etc. Women my age glibly tell me that they lost a hundred kilos because of their morning walk. I feel all inspired by this, morning walk? Easy Peasy. But then I remember that my body is used to really vigorous exercise, a morning walk is as useful as the Re.1 packet of gems when one is hungry.

During my schooldays, I doubt there occurred even a single race (of the running kind) in the city that I did not participate in (at least from classes VI-XII). Not that I won much. My peers were quite a sporty lot. I just made up in enthusiasm what I lacked in muscle mass. Of course, in specially designed sports meets where participation was limited to geeks, I did well for myself, picking up tons of loot in terms of medals and trophies.

Likewise, in the geek-o-rama college where come december, a 100-strong team of klutzes would travel across the country to indulge in some sports - running, jumping, basketball, cricket. Mind that of these 100 some 20 would be girls, based on an enforced decision by the powers-that-be. The girls teams were always considered inferior. My challenging a guy to run the 100m with me always treated as a joke.

During the rest of the year the dear old alma mater let us sports-freaks engage in interamural stuff, usually pitting hostel A against hostel B. This strictly implied Boys hostel A and Boys hostel B, and the suggestion that we were also part of a hostel was met with derisive laughter. Nevertheless, using my loud-mouthed-ness and working to my advantage the pity they felt for my shortness, I learnt in college the pleasures of six-a-side soccer, three-a-side volleyball, and three-a-side basketball, which are really much more fun than the traditional forms of the games. For us girls, getting together a full squad for a formal soccer team being well near impossible, these informal versions were really a boon. We lost every single game we played though, and while derisive laughter continued, I received one compliment "You have well developed calf muscles" for my efforts. And yes, I made some really tight friendships with girls who dreamed my dream and went along with me on these foolish inter-hostel sports missions uncomplainingly.

The land of milk and honey and what not. I really thought my fight for equality was not required any more after all this was the developed world. It was MUCH worse! I had everything going against me - my height, my skin colour, my accent, my gender. But it is like breathing to me, I cannot stop myself. In hindsight, in my seven years there, I did some stuff that was fun - I was on a mixed soccer team three years running (we won some games), I played in the famous (well, for my school at least) Haigis Hoopla basketball tournament (we lost everything, I bled on the court due to a vicious foul and the American girls refused to continue the game because of, you know, tropical diseases and all), I stole the ball from African American playahs (so what if they were rejected from the teams, they thought they were OH so good), had really enjoyable (and super competitive) desi beach-volley and full court basketball games. Stuff of my pleasant-est thoughts. I even was a coach once - but thats another whole story.

Okay so cut to the present day. I am trying to embrace middle-age. My mangalsutra, my C-section scar, my varicose veins, my job these should weigh me down. Yes, I do that Mumbai Marathon thing, but its not that competitive. Its a long distance, its a fight with myself, its a serious mental game, it has hallucinatory moments. Its fun, don't get me wrong. But its not a 100m dash. Where you lean in and feel the tape, oh ecstasy! Its not the 200, where the curve just kills your knee and inner thigh. Its surely not even the 400, where you round one curve and then there is the other one looming ahead, not to mention the straight stretch that you must sprint over, with all you got, yummy! Of course, it could be those things, basically, its running. And yes, I do sprint at the very end of the 21 km, regardless of what has happened earlier. Now I have to make sure that I get those things from my day out on Jan 20. But for a few days there I had other visions.

In December is a sports tournament, right here, two steps from me. The usual one with running and jumping and basketball. I had dreams of taking part. After all, there is an 'oldies' team that is put together usually. I made some noises about this. Eyebrows were raised. You are a woman, I read in their man-eyes, then even their mouths said it. There is no woman's team, they said. We would need special permissions. No, I said. I want to take part in the men's tournament. I have legs, same as they have legs, I can run the same as they can run. I don't need medals, I have plenty of them. I want to just be there in the line-up I said. Oh no no you don't they said. But, for you, next year, for sure, we will have a woman's squad. You must participate, we think you will do well. I smiled my thanks, but it doesn't help, really. I don't want to be on the woman's squad. It will suck. We will get laughed at. I am sure I will win something, but I doubt it will mean much. All I want is, for once, people to say, okay there is a person who tried hard to run well. No laughter. No, Wow! for a woman...

So, earth to Kenny again. I am 33. I am a mother. I have a job. I get out to South Bombay every January and I run a race. It is hard, but I do it, I enjoy it. I even think I am reasonably good at it, not just for a woman. And in my heart I know that if there is ever such a day when I compete in a race as a person, with no bias for my gender, that day, merely by the act of participation, I would win. Even if I came in last, and the tape was rolled up and taken away by the time I wheezed over.

Monday, 19 November 2007

How to flush Rs.10.50 down the kitchen sink

The scene starts in the bedroom. Yours truly, Kenny, is "half asleep" which means those scenes of mountains and geometric series that indicate approach to zonked-out-land have started forming, and the words have started slurring. Enter the husband. Mr.Man lets call him today (I have retained my maiden name, Maine, do you see that?). Yours truly suddenly jerks out of geometric series and, enroute to multiplication tables, remembers the milk that is sitting next to the stove. She opens an eye. Oh what the heck. I opened one of my eyes and said to Mr.Man "Hey that thing that is white and liquid and sitting in a steel vessel next to the stove is milk, not curd being set for the morning, not curd being set for the morning. Please put it in the fridge, thank you" At that point the pine trees and equations in large font took over and I assume I drifted off.

The scene now moves to the kitchen, wee hours of the next morning. What do I find that is white and liquid and sitting demurely in a steel vessel next to the stove? Come on now, guess it. No, you silly gooses, its not milk anymore, its that special thick thing that happens to it. I do what any self-respecting member of the household would, and pour into the sink before the maid/cook come in and start scolding me for my carelessness. So thats how you do it. And yes, as of this month, the milk that comes in the suspiciously grimy packets costs Rs.21 per liter.

Now, this was quite an entertaining experience, I felt like I was Caligula or something, pouring half a liter of milk down the drain. But it set me thinking along such domestic lines, and I came up with:

(1) How to burn up Rs.500 on diwali night
Obvious answer! Hardly even requires Mr.Man's intervention, or miscommunication akin to 'Got the keys (?)' in the very forgettable thanksgiving episode of Friends. Crackers! Flower pots, wheels, sparklers, whatever your little heart desires. Buy them, set them on fire. Watch with glee as your money burns. This has the side benefit of polluting the place, increasing ambient temperatures (and tempers), and potentially causing burn injuries

(2) How to use up 16 KWH of electricity
Just one night out of several that you can potentially celebrate diwali, set up 100 bulbs of approximately 20W. Buy them in colours. Leave them on for the whole night, of 8 hours. This one also has a side benefit that come summer you can enjoy the load-shedding, secure in the knowledge that you have personally contributed to it.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Children's Day

Is it not parent's day today, the monster asks when I tell her that its Children's Day. I was too bored to explain Chacha Nehru (whom Appa hates), and birthdays, and roses, and crisp sherwanis and Lady M.Batten and so on, so I just left it there, saying, no, everyday is Parent's Day and some such. The school seemed to have arranged some magic show with a clown and so on. This I learnt late at night sort of obliquely in the middle of conversation about what else? crying and avoiding the-kids-who-pinch.

The play-school is undergoing renovations. The ladies are all super excited. Kitna Posh Lagayga! they are walking around exclaiming. I am forced to join in their joy, though I am thinking, god, these guys are working so slowly, its so damn dusty, some kid is going to bang its silly head on these tiles, and so on. Anyway, the supervisor requested that parents volunteer at the school since the teachers and the care-taker ladies were super loaded with moving to the temp location, and cleaning and clearing out and over-seeing the renovations.

Mother-guilt forced me to haul-ass over there at 4 pm sharp on Children's Day. Thinking in my head, the monster is bound to be asleep, I can be useful to them for a little while at least. Of course this pink creature with her hair all piled-up nest-like on the head emerged sleepy-eyed the minute I showed up inside, sidled up to me, and started mewling. Now, if I had anticipated this (which I should have), I would have mentally allocated 10 mins of mommy-daughter time. Perhaps that would have helped. As it happened, right at that time, the idiotic fellows doing the renovation broke this whole wall right next to a pile of books, making the books look like they were rescued from collapsed buildings. Alarms went off. Our books Our books. If anything tops mommy-guilt its book-love so I drifted off to help with this issue, leaving the pink-mewler in the able hands that deal with her EVERYDAY.

The supe-lady and me, we had this surreal conversation with the main guy (good-looking, thin chap) doing the work there. Please move these books here, we told him. Okay, he said. Hey You, he called out to an old-ish guy. The old-ish guy showed. Move these books here, he told him. Hmm said the guy and proceeded to carry some tiles from here to there and back again, on the outside. We went back to the main thin chap and said, Okay, get the idiot who kept his shoes on the cupboard (referred to generally as KAPAT) to move them. Hey you, he called out again. Nothing happened. My blood was reaching higher temperatures. Supe-lady is calmer. The shoe got moved. There are guys all around going on with their business as if the world is turning because of them, including one who was on the floor scraping cement off with his bare hands, I think he was supposedly cleaning.

Now, when I volunteered for this stint here at the play-school, I was imagining, hanging around with the kids, in a circle, enthralling them with my rendition of Karadi Rhymes, getting them to smile. Taking them to su-su, in a line. Resolving pinching-scratching-Katti quarrels. And talking intelligently to the cement-covered guys and moving and shaking stuff. Most of all, I did not want to touch anything in the old place, because my skin is hardly what it used to be and it was too damn dusty and cement-y in there.

So of course what I had to do was move about 500 books from the cement enclosed shelft on to the other KAPAT. Dig around in the other, old KAPAT, find poster colours, sheafs of papers with childish scrawls, chart paper, etc. and move them. It took us upwards of half and hour.

When I returned, I found that the largest girl (okay, one of the) in the play-school, looking for all the world like a very pink bunny with a birds nest on her head, had been crying all the while, going AMMA AMMA AMMA. It was a combination of Puke-Crying and regular stuff. No actual puking but you know.. I was really exasperated. The aunties gave me some tea, which was very welcome. I managed to calm it down finally and we hung around singing rhymes. There was a small fight involving pinching. All the kids made cameras from lego and clicked my picture. The boys were running around like maniacs screaming about fighter jets.

Thanks to the intervention of my friend, I calmed down, and we got home, somewhat on talking terms with her. The neighbours asked the usual How was School? question. I immediately said, OH she cried so much when I went to help out in her school. Why, did you do that, they asked her. Because I wanted to be with Amma and I love her very much. she said.


Saturday, 10 November 2007


In a sense, it has come and gone. Diwali I mean. I was busy celebrating my first white hair and sort of forgot partially about the festival of lights. And since we were supposed to celebrate it a day before the rest of the local populace, it was like a bit of a fairy-tale, really.

I blah blahed about Rangoli and Murukku and Coconut Burfi (and beer). Bought some dreamy mud diyas for Rs.2/- which I fell in love with on the street. Plotted various things in my head, diwali will be like this, and like that, and I will do this and that, and run 14k in preparation of the marathon, yada yada yada. With about 36 hours left before the work week, right now, I am in a haze. No, no, I am insanely sober, having watched Baghban on TV all afternoon. I cannot separate fact from fiction. I feel like I lit diyas sometime. I remember changing the monster's dress once because of the diyas in the lobby. I recall a rangoli. I can taste some sweets and murukkus and sundry other foods (all yummy). But I am not sure. It could be my over-active imagination, or I could have actually transformed myself into the now almost extinct Domestic Kenny and done a few things in honour of the festival.

Like take last night for example. The official Diwali night. Two of our friends came over with a back-pack full of food. We did what we were expected to (such as order beer). We were hanging out. The child was demonstrating its skills by writing their names on a slate. If you ever need help cracking an anagram, please to employ child. You know how you write the letters all in a sort of circle so you can visualise the combinations. Well, thats how she normally writes words. It is up to you figure out the word based on all the letters she has managed to put down. Sort of a fun game. Anyway so we are doing this slate business. We are shouting big time at each other. WHAT IS THAT? OH! THAT LOOKED LIKE AN APPLE? WHAT?? IT IS Q? OKAY YEAH. GUYS WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE AMBIENT TEMPERATURE NOW? WHAT IS THE EMBARGO TIME FOR THESE GODDAMN CRACKERS? GROWING UP, WHICH WAS YOUR FAVOURITE ONE? MINE WAS THE SNAKE...HISS...

We were dressed as shabbily as possible. I was wearing husband's discarded shorts and my favourite CRY RUN WALK Tshirt from last century. The child was wearing a half-dress created out of cloth remnants (original plan was for me to wear the kurti and her to wear the dress and we would finally look like mother and daughter). The friends were better than us (considering they travelled through a city which was decked up and dripping jewels) but would not easily be allowed on the ramp. Of course the husband was trying to display his biceps by wearing the oldest possible tshirt from his gym collection.

And monster child has dissed all the light decorations all around us as 'Too much jing' This has to be fiction. I mean, this is the girl who thinks in pink and gold generally, and never has enough bangles on her little hands.

Oh Diwali, I am thankful for the time off, the afternoon naps, and most of all, the ten spoons of neat Milkmaid I stole and ate enroute to making my coconut burfi. That last thing is indeed a fact, and I better figure out a long-ish run tomorrow morning to get around that...

Monday, 5 November 2007


So I think its fair to say that I have had a full life. I take a leaf from my favourite fictional character, the one-and-only Psmith, and begin at the beginning. Meaning my formative years.

I spent the first few years in bliss, trying to resist sleep (which came all too easily), so I could catch the exact moment when the bud ceased to be a bud, and became in fact the flower. Many a summer night were spent thus in the garden, watching jasmine bushes. I attained fame for abilities to sleep sitting, standing, etc. thanks to this pastime. Moving on to schooling years. School was fun, always, the curriculum was fairly trivial till I reached the eleventh standard (and that chapter on Angular Momentum and Ice-Skating). And I spent my time fruitfully, exploring the vast school compound, tracing patterns on paper to mimic the movements of favourite worms, collecting the cones one must use to feed ice-cream to elves with (from the Eucalyptus trees). On Saturdays I derived especial enjoyment in rolling in the red mud of my school wearing the white uniform (complete with white socks and shoes). The stated excuse was that we were playing kho-kho. Hours and hours of running around in the manner of a snake; weaving my way through the sitting forms of people of opposite teams, and the jubilation when time ran out and I was still running around. Upon reaching home, my neat-freak of a mom ran me straight into the backyard and into the bath, my proclamations of my spectacular performance at the game falling on deaf (though very clean) ears.

College was a time to grow up a tad, explore oneself, make different sort of friends, and of course eat crackjack biscuits sitting on a culvert near the hostel. My obsession with books took a back-seat in college and I weaned myself off pulp fiction quite successfully. I fell in love multiple times, first of all with the sylvan surroundings, then with everything else around me (stopping short of course of the hostel food), including Mount Road, Stella Maris College, Women's Christian College (where we used to roam around attending culturals, winning and then spending prize money). Of course I dug out future husband from the midst of sweaty brown basketball players at some point (with this I attend to the engagement tag from choxbox).

Graduate school in verdant New England in decrepit apartments made me discover passion for cooking; and a nostalgic love for Indian authors. The convenient public library was a great hang-out, despite shocks to system arising from people borrowing Wodehouse on Tape. Imaginatively named places such as The Pub (which was a pub)added a whole lot of colour to my life in graduate school, while the weekend outings to the famous basketball courts gave me my exercise (and a notoriousness as a down and dirty player who never worried about hurting herself while inflicting a foul on a person twice her size).

The short stint in Cambridge was wonderful because it gave me the time to get into teaching. My tall Mexican high school student's face when she got her 100% in Chemistry is a vivid memory though her name has escaped into the ether. That year and half was relaxing and fun, though a tad cold at times.

The five years here in amchi Mumbai are too complex to trivialise in a sentence or two. But suffice to say that I really do feel like I have had a full life, a matter not entirely attributable to the fact that I saw Salman Khan in person at the Marathon few years ago.

Now to the nub, or crux of the post (finally!). I celebrate today, with this post, the following facts. Luck has stood by my side always. My husband of 10+ years, and the monster we have spawned, are precisely what I need. I am thankful hugely to my relationship with my mom, which tis very special. I have wonderful friends and very meaningful relationships with them. And today (or rather in real fact, yesterday), rather unexpectedly, having long given up the search or may I say quest, for it - my first white hair. With this addition, I can go ahead and wax eloquent and philosophise and willy-nilly advice people on matters. I am now one of the wise!!

Friday, 2 November 2007

That is Love

I have generally been a short-tempered person. You will not know this to meet me casually, and generally the brunt of my temper is felt by my husband, my mom, and now occasionally the monster child. We of course do not need to go into cause and effect. I recognise it as my failure, on hind-sight at least.

So this morning, we had a classic tiff. In addition to yesterdays shittiness as a work-day, driver doing a no-show, maid already demanding her Diwali dues, cook making me a really ridiculously minute amount of food for lunch, and the monster child coming up with a stomach ache which may or may not be imagined. As a normal reaction to the events and occurrences of the morning, I should have lost my temper, retreated into silence, cold-shouldered the husband rather pointedly, picked up fight with child, pulled my hair out trying to sort out her crying bout without resorting to spanking, and generally retreated back several steps in my own estimation of myself as a mature, compassionate adult.

But, somehow, the usual 'pop' that goes on in my head just prior to completely losing it had another effect. So here is what happened. The 'pop' was first. I did the retreat to silence thing. But I was not at my usual incoherent in anger state. I could see that. I found myself thinking, he is just tired. What does it matter, really. It will all work out for the best. Its not a big deal. Stuff like that. The child's antics (such as running off some place while I was in my bath, and me, stomping around the floor with my hair in that ridiculous towel-ring-after-bath having to encounter neighbours while searching for it hysterically) did not manage to induce ire either. I calmly (but firmly) brought her back. We ate our cereal. We talked about this and that. I let her wear a simple paavadai to school. I was calm. Not breathing fire. I laughed at the maid; told cook to find me some more food for my lunch dabba (there was last night's leftovers so easily solved problem, that); drove myself, enjoying FM radio. All the while just thinking, I have forgiven him. I am not angry at him. Hope he is not angry at me either.

God! It was so liberating. So much better than my normal state of anger, self-pity, self-righteousness, thinking of all the things I do and how its not reciprocated, pushing memories of all the things he does for me away as not relevant, etc. I hate myself in that state. I love it when I am the big person who forgives, forgets, does not hold grudges, does the right thing no matter what, thinks about all the times others have been great. Today, for a change, I am happy with my own reaction and behaviour. And to top it all, we are on the same page. The husband (who is also prone to angry reactions though not to the same magnitude as me) seems to be in a fairly calm state, as his email explanation for behaviour tells me! Oh maybe I am just finally growing up.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Wild Life

So its Monday morning and I have had a real hectic weekend and should REALLY be preparing for tomorrow's commitments. But its too exciting.

This morning, I woke up a tad late, thanks to several wakings in the night for bathroom breaks. The brand new mattress pad (waterproof) demonstrated its waterproofness, but had to be sent off to the washing machine in the wee hours of the morning. I was in a bit of a bad mood because I was sure that if she had just listened to me and peed before going to sleep it would have been fine. This new funda of saying "NO" to all my suggestions is a bit annoying. I am dealing with it in my usual crazy way by uttering some philosophical mumbles and narrating stories about grumpy children.

Anyway had to show the house guest of last night the taxi stand so we descended from our flat at 8 am, monster and I (and the guest of course). I did my OM (Obsessive Mom) thing and made her wear a jacket although its October in Mumbai. She was of course happy to comply simply because the jacket is pink. So we dropped guest off, who had some conversations with cab driver, I was as clueless as ever about the extent to which the guy was ripping her off, but muttered some vague objections. On our way back, in a sudden surge of extreme love (despite the pink jacket), I picked up the monster and carried her part of the way. Then when I put her down we ran into the dogs, which was cool cause they had a black patch near their eye that made them look cute. Then we saw a squirrel near the stairs. It was scurrying around busily as usual. I remembered the story about Rama running his fingers on its back but neglected to narrate it to her. Then back into our concrete prison.

When we entered the creche premises, past the numerous pigeons and crows that are resident here, I realised that I was supposed to take her to her school first, not the creche. The creche aunties laughed at me for my absent-mindedness. Then I was off. The monster sprinted down the path to get to the car, I was still in a bit of an OM mode so I sprinted after her screaming, watch out watch out. In the process I dropped the school badge. We got into the car, panting, then went a few meters and I realised the badge thing. I told the driver to please take the car back. He went a few paces and stopped suddenly. I thought he must have spied some running children. But he said Saanp. I was all excited. My god, what speed this creature had. A huge one, seven feet I would say. It rushed off into the wild growth before the monster (who has never seen a snake in the wild) could see it, sorrily. But I saw it!

Another mother with child who was walking along totally freaked and asked me detailed statistics on bites and anti-venom availability and exact genus and venom level of the snake. I, like the idiot I am, told her that this was the fifth snake I had seen this month. She freaked so much at this that her kid (a large three year old boy) started howling. I had to contain my excitement and tell her inane stuff like ok if you dont step on them etc. they are quite harmless. She must have thought we are mad because we were jumping up and down, child trying to find where it went, and me, trying to judge its size (you HAVE to insist the snake it at least a foot longer than it actually is, you know that don't you?), while she seemed inclined to run in the opposite direction!

there is something about creatures in the wild, a beauty, a lissomeness, an innocence. Of course they can be aggressive, but it is kind of strange how scared we are of these poor creatures! I am not saying I am a cool wildlife loving person, not at all, am generally terrified of dogs, even tiny ones, have taken a long circuitous route once when I encountered a cat baring its teeth at me, and, at the sight of monkeys that are our companions here, I clutch bag to bosom tighter and move fast, out of their way. But I so wish I was comfortable with animals, I am sure it is much more fun than, say, dealing with cab drivers!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Music Class

You have the picture in your head - of south Indian girls in paavadais & jasmine entwined oily braids going off to music class, the bells from their anklets jingling. Well, we did not exactly dress like that, just ensured we wore our longer frocks despite the fact that this interfered with ability to cycle properly. For a long time sis used to take me 'doubles' on her big black bike, not because she liked to, but only because my parents made the rules and we just sort of followed them. I was tiny so not a particular load for her, but I did irritate her immensely. Used to wear hawai chappals and somehow or the other they used to fall off mid-way. Then I had to scream and make her stop and run back and fetch it. She hated that. I used to try and try, curl my toes in to hold the damn things, but I would see a nice squirrel and get distracted and that was that.

Anyway I must have gone for some four years to this music class. Our teacher was a family friend, an old lady with loads of children and grandchildren flitting in and out of the house. We sat in a small crowded room on a mat. Sometimes I fell asleep on the Tamboori when sis was singing, making her even more irritated (I was a constant source of embarrassment to her :-(). Sometimes we would go 'GAAAAAA' and a mosquito would fly in. Much coughing and sputtering would ensue, water would be fetched. This water business is always tricky. Generally you are supposed to not touch the sides of the tumbler, just let the fluid trickle in miraculously. As a child and a klutz this used to be a problem. With the mosquito thing, I always forgot the not sipping steel tumblers rule and got looks all around. Eyes would be made, the room would echo with reproach. Thankfully I was tiny enough that people always thought I was younger and found forgiveness in their hearts.

We found every excuse under the sun to skip class - too much homework, exams, cold, cough, guests. Our teacher had her share of excuses too. Somehow we still managed to fill a notebook with the songs we had supposedly learned. Sis spent several vacation days copying this from one notebook to another (she still does). Betting on this, I once covered (to her horror), all the remaining pages of the previous year's notebook with my attempts at drawing profiles of faces. I was fascinated by noses and eyelashes, so my profiles had a good sprinkling of those things. She was angry enough to complain to mom.

This was several years ago. Today I can sing passably when the mood strikes, and remember something like three songs from the lot. I tried to put in a lot of practice when the monster was just born, keeping the notebook (not the one with the profiles, the next year's one) next to my pillow, and singing singing singing while feeding bathing changing anxiously watching the baby, not to mention of course during those long hours of trying to get her to sleep. Sis does much better, has routinely taken new classes in singing, and keeps it up, although it is not Carnatic Classical music anymore, she has branched off to all sorts of other genres.

I have been reliving these times this week, having decided to inflict these classes on my own child now. We found a couple of teachers around, convinced them to attempt this as a pilot, for the next month. Hopefully it sticks, if not, well it may not matter much, really. She does have the ability to hold a tune and a pitch, as far as I can tell, so perhaps a bit of training will do her good. But then she has to have the right attitude, the time, the right kind of teacher, if it all falls in place, great. If not, hopefully, she will remember the pink mat, the pictures of gods, with some measure of fondness.

Out with the old, in with the new. I made this rule for the child just a few days ago, based on csm's suggestions. She gave away the dresses that were small for her when my mom bought her some new ones. Unfortunately, this now has another connotation in my life. With the arrival of this new music teacher into my life, I hear about the loss of the other one. The grand old lady passed on; sis tells me now. Of course she lives in my heart, she wears a majorly pink sari and flashes her diamonds at me, the turmeric shines from her earlobes and feet, and the mosquito has flown in again and choked me...

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Bedding Kenny

Sharing a bed with someone is something I suppose I looked forward to with a mix of excitement and apprehension, growing up. I had a nice twin bed in a room I shared with sis (who had her own identical one), complete with iron rods to hold the white mosquito net, and a handy window shelf where I could place my nightly collection of novels & textbooks & notebooks & puzzlebooks. I usually had my bed near a wall, and would slip my feet out of the m. net and run it up and down the wall. I loved being near a wall, it somehow was (in fact it still is), the ultimate in luxury at bed-time for me. Even in those days (and times) when I did the unthinkable and adjourned to parents room, I ensured I was on the wall-end.

Then it happened. You know, moving away to another country, city, marriage, motherhood, middle-age, and so on. So today you will find me wedged in a sliver of space between the crib (whose one side is removed and the bottom raised, so it is level with our bed), and the bed. The springs on the bed are ruined beyond repair. There is, recently, a faint smell of su-su (it is possible that this is imagined, we are quite rubber-sheeted) thanks to the onset of night-time diaper training. The sheets are usually all crumply. I seem to have several pairs of arms, legs, feet, all over me. I most certainly have thin long tiny fingers scratching my upper arms at various points in the night. My sheet (to wear a-top) is always missing; or balled away at the bottom of the bed. My pillows under the foot (I need to have this ever since that long ago time when the doc advised me to elevate my foot to help heal the ankle sprain; that was about twelve years ago, but still..) have been kicked out on to the floor. There is snoring. There are those long legs leaning out of the bed and threatening to trip me during my nightly visits to porcelain goddess-land. There is a tendency for the air-conditioning to be on for (a)too long or (b)too short a time. There is the annoying red flashing light on the blackberry. There is the harsh blackberry alarm (on the other hand, my own mobile has a refreshingly cool alarm sound).

All this I can take with equanimity. I am able now, after several years of practice, to step over sleeping forms with my eyes closed. I always have an extra sheet under my head-pillow for situations when the original one is missing in action. I have cruelty that gives me the permission to push away scratching fingers from my arms; I have the will-power to not look at the oh-so-cute sleeping face next to me while pushing away. I have the strength to bodily roll the 6ft2in sleeping snoring form to the other side (although it complains occasionally that its back aches thanks to my rolling). I can almost fit into the crib myself, in situations when the war zone that is our bed becomes too tough to handle. I am open-minded about my foot-pillow. But oh, if only, if only, I could have a wall. A cool white-washed wall to hug, run my feet on, trace imaginary butterflies and flowers on...

Monday, 22 October 2007


As a parent, I ask myself, what is it I want for my children? Do I want them to be doctors, engineers, scientists, the Prime Minister perhaps? Do I want them to be happy, contended, pot-bellied, world-citizens? Do I want for them all the riches they can possibly ever desire, a large house with five bedrooms, all with attached bathrooms, all decorously made up in leather, and red brocade curtains, and maroon shit-pots with their own personally matched wash-basins? What is it I want, I ask myself.

Then I glance at my husband. He has donned a suit for the occasion. He looks preoccupied with trying to figure out how to work the lock on the suitcase. I glance at the youngest one on my lap. Its nose has a tendency to run. I wipe it with the end of my pallu. It leaves behind a yellow trail, creating a new pattern on my sari.

I close my eyes for a second. Imagine myself in Kashmir, the flower-laden garden of my dreams, the place I transport myself to, mentally smoothening out all the edges to curves, distilling all the emotions so I am left with nothing but happy memories and anticipations. I hear a thud, and the eyes open out. The husband has gotten frustrated with the lock and dropped it down. The child has started mewling a little. I am back in the present.

It is time now, time to go in to the children's room, gather them together, and head over to the airport for the flight. What is it I want for my children? The question is refusing to go away. I walk in to their room, the little one on my hips. The room is chaos. Toys, mostly cars, are everywhere. I see a pizza box, crumbs around it. The boys have a strong aversion to hygiene. My mother would have been appalled to see a room look like this. I am more open-minded. And less energetic. I catch the eldest by his ear and yell, "I want you in your clothes and out of the door in five minutes." They show a tendency to complain. I yell like a wild animal, but inside, I am calm, the question still in my head, my palms protecting the little one's unstable neck.

They obey, for a change. They are out of their room and running to don their sandals in no time at all. In fact, I am the one who is late, my last minute chores of shutting off the gas, the water taps, the windows, the cupboards, take longer than I anticipate. The husband has that look on his face. The boys are sniggering, as I come out of the last room. I glance at all of them. I look down at their legs. The answer comes to me in a flash. What I want most of all for my platoon of children is - PANTS! Their ankles are showing, they look really pathetic. So what if they have omitted to bathe, their finger nails have not been cut in ages, their toes have gunk between them? If I can only buy them shiny new pants...Jeans perhaps?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Office Office 2

So I am at this office today. You know, the kind filled with clerks behind ledgers, and people in khakhi whose sole job is to take file from Table A to Table B, and, of course, to answer to 'Eh Raju'

What am I doing here? I am asking Mr.Office Clerk for a favour. Oh heavens! I stand in front of his desk. Smile. Address him as Sir. Introduce myself (this is important, I generally look enough like a student that everyone gets irritated at the sight and sound of me).

I need so and so sir. My husband so and so sir. I realise it is out of the ordinary sir.

I switch quickly between Hindi & English. You never know. Don't want to irritate him. Anyway I am making a reasonably reasonable request. He is adamant. Insists its impossible, he has to call so many people.

Shall I call them sir.

No that is not required he says. Then 'Eh Raju Phone Lagao' Raju proceeds to lagao the phone. He speaks to someone for like ten minutes in Malayalam. They are discussing a trip. They are talking of Udipi and temples and driving and hotels to eat at and road conditions. I think wistfully of our much-talked-about road trip; now that December is almost upon us, all we can talk about is our road trip. We have never taken one, of course. He has nice pictures underneath the glass on his table. Kurinji Flowers (purple & white). Elephants (Bandipur?) Waterfalls. Some stuff from possible foreign locations. I glance up at him. He really has these Soda Glasses. His eye is all distorted to look at. I wonder about his Visa photo. He is still going on about the trip with his friend. AAh he is finally hanging up. I breathe. Smile again.

Raju is summoned again. Although he insists he is Nitin, he is called Raju. He fetches the keys I wanted. Miraculously this has happened. What was an impossibility fifteen minutes ago, has happened here, now, during a phone call about Udipi. I am a little breathless. Of course, there is more.

Sir this is great, but see, we want this key at 5 pm sir, not now. My husband will be back then. Sir.

oh ho madam, why did you not say so, he says. So much trouble I took to get the keys. I launch into major apology mode, and whatever. He questions my husband's ability to reach at 5 pm. I am tempted to tell him that I have already questioned this one and got a bit of my ear bitten off by said husband. I just laugh a bit, you know, to ease up the tension.

You have been a great help sir. I am sure you can do the same at 5 pm. If he does not show up then we will never, ever, till death do us part, trouble you with this matter again, sir. I give you my solemn word, sir.

Now he is embarrassed. Its no problem Madam he says. Huh? I am wondering what suddenly happened. Anyway I thank him again, using the Sir in Club Sandwich Mode (Sir Thank Sir You Sir types). Scoot. Check on Raju's real name. Bestow smile on Nitin, known erstwhile as Raju. Scoot more.

How do I treat people who come with random requests? Do I judge them based on the hundreds before them that have asked me the same thing? Do I colour my interaction with them with irritations that have nothing to do with them, personally? It seems quite possible. I must check it out next time, examine myself, so to speak. For sure, I ignore emails from people who address me as 'Dear Sir' :-)

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Psmith in the City

Well, this is the last of them. I cannot find any more Psmith books.. :-( :-( It was with something approaching sadness that I thumbed through the very yellow pages in the book from the library. BUT HEY WAIT! There is PSmith, Journalist. WHOPPIE!! BTW the library is called 'L'Amour Library' How cool is that?

So the plot is simple, Psmith and Mike find themselves working in a bank because of various reasons. Psmith is still drawing his allowance from father so he hires Mike as his Secretary & Adviser, with the idea that Mike should listen to his expositions on Life and what not. Mike is glad of this because he gets to live in a flat which he could ill afford, although a little worried about the imposition and stuff.

This is the book in which the most hilarious episode in Clapham Common occurs. The first thing to ascertain, says Psmith, that such a place actually exists... You will meet here Psmith's abilities at brawls (and punches). Those that would like to hate the man will be happy to note the way he sneers at Mike's suggestion of riding in a tram. I tell you, this episode is a must-read. Also, Manchester United fans are ably rewarded with copious amounts of commentary here. The only cricket you will find is towards the end of the book, but it is good cricket. There is also a scene involving their boss at the bank, Mr. Bickersdyke, an aspiring politician, in Turkish Baths, & one more where the dude is giving a speech. Both are really hilarious, and extremely illustrative of Psmith-ness.

There is this mirror outside my office window that is glaring the sunlight into my eyes, making me see blue spots even as I type this. For a second there I was sure Psmith, monocle fixed in eye, was standing there, reflecting light. Reality brings to me no such luck, so I make off now, with the warning that Psmith is too addictive, so the weak-hearted may kindly refrain.

Thursday, 11 October 2007


this is a tag by way of choxbox. hope you enjoy. I dedicate the Last N to you choxbox.

K- Kids. I love them, I hate them. I spend enough time with them during a regular day to explore both sides, and hopefully deal maturely either way.
E- Emsworth, Lord of Blanding’s Castle. A favourite of sorts. Loses his glasses, much like the Kutchu of the CBSE text books fame, although they are on his head.
N- Name Place Animal Thing. Have lots of memories of infinite fun at this game, though I often got stuck at N and Animal (not bird).
N- National Anthem. We sing it often at home at the end of day’s play with neighbour girl.
Y-Yann Martel, memorable in Life of Pi as the creator of a tiger named (Sidney) Richard (thanks Laasya!) Parker.
B- Baby Einstein. Like the books, hate the videos. Annoying voice.
U- Umbrellas, what a pity my bright green one broke!
N- News. What I definitely don’t watch on TV. Newspapers. What I occasionally read.
K- Kenny, the original one. He is the tiny one in the orange jacket with hood in the TV series ‘Southpark.’ Famous for innocent looks, outrageous ideas, and filthy language.
P- Pink. Pink is the new black in our household. I am beginning to see its good side now, another lesson learnt from my monster child.
O- Oodles of fun, this exercise has been.
R- Room on the Roof. I wish I had one, though I would like one with high speed internet.
T- Triumphant Thirty Three. The thirties have been awesome so far, even better than the twenties. I had lots of fun in my twenties but the thirties are wonderful because I have searched my soul.
M- Mumbai Marathon Masala, coming up Jan ’08. Hoping to better my previous performances in the half, and, of course, enjoy Mumbai at its best.
A- Acknowledge Alliterations Above (please).
I- India (Chak De!). This is the mantra now. Unashamedly sung anytime, anywhere.
N- Nostalgia, an event in college & a fav indulgence of mine.
E- Ertl. Err, old guy, won the Chemistry Nobel today. I had predicted this back in 1996 in a meeting in Worcester, MA where he huffed through an invited lecture.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

More Psmith

A chance remark by ludwig led me to this one. Psmith in Blandings, what more does one need? Of course, I have read it several times before, but that hardly matters.

So here we see a romantic side of Psmith. The old devilry and the loquaciousness are still there, as is a certain tendency of nattiness in dress. But this time around, I went ahead and fell completely in love with this new Psmith. The cry goes around the battlements 'Psmith is smitten.' There is quite an evolution from the Psmith of college days (Mike and Psmith). For one, he seems to have gained some more height. For a person who is five feet tall on a warm day (i mean myself - ha ha), this is really amazing. How did it happen? The monocle is still around and used to as much, if not more, advantage, rendering species of opposite gender (again, meaning myself) weak-kneed and what not. He has been left fortune-less by circumstances related to his father's demise (earlier to the book), and jobless because, well, he quits the nasty fishy job his uncle foists on him. Of course. Imagine Psmith sorting fish. HMPH. What an unfeeling fellow that uncle must be. And yeah, that weak-kneed thing again because he bears it all with such good humour.

The main gist of the book appealed immensely. The plan is for all the forces of nature to conspire to help good old Comrade Jackson (yes! the same Mike of Mike and Psmith fame). Troops rally around like anything. Oh, how I wish, when parents bung mud at close friend's (and corresponding life partner's) happiness, I would do half of what Psmith does. Meaning, steal diamond necklaces as the only available means to bring happiness to friend and spouse of friend. Perverse parents opposed to the union of two people in love, nothing gets me more riled up than that. See this is why I read and get lost in books. My friends mean the world to me. Their happiness is of immense worth, I hurt real bad when they are hurt. But what do I do about it? Nothing. Psmith, on the other hand, what does he do? He throws himself into the lion's mouth, attacks the problem with vigour, takes matters into his own capable hands, and, at the end, during fade-away, he makes everyone happy all around. Of course, as payment, he falls in love and finds it reciprocated, but still..oh, and of course, Eve Halliday. She is also generally pretty awesome. She does the same for Mrs. Jackson, who is Phyllis, and best friend of Eve. If I mention Eve only at the very end you will accept it, after all, life is really all about Psmith.

By the way, that Rupert thing, to be found three times in Mike and Psmith, is generally ditched in this one. Never once is this name used here (aah I mean, alongside Psmith; of course the other Rupert (Baxter) is in full force here, throwing flower-pots and all). And, yes, in passing, check this book out, merely to revel in that line of all lines 'Across the pale parabola of joy..'

Next up - Psmith in the City. This happens just before the one I am talking about above (which, incidentally, is Leave it to Psmith). Psmith & Mike work in a bank in the city.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Theme Parties, Event Managers

Those are normal words you can use these days when you consider Kiddie Birthday Parties. Apparently. Its fine, I can live with it. Thankfully, on Sunday was a theme party, not involving an event manager. Being a-social and all, we rarely get to go to parties of this kind, but this time, it was unavoidable. Meaning the hosts live next door so we had to be invited, of course.

The theme was Pirates (shudder!). I suppose its fun for a kid. There were swords in golden and purple, with scabbards and everything. A treasure chest, gold & silver coin chocolates, a pinata with chocolates, little chocolates all over the house as treasure, a pirate ship cake with a pink wafer sail, yadayadayada.Oh yeah, these swell eye-patches too, for all the kids.

I, being of course, totally clueless about such matters, was not of much help to the host-mamma or host-elder-sis-in-charge-of-games. I hung around, looking less bored than I was, mopped up some apple juice some kid spilled, and tried very hard to convince a particularly annoyingly screechy kid to lower the volume a tad. And when the boys charged at me with their swords saying they would attack and kill me, I told them I would fight back with a hug. They would poke my (fat) tummy with the sword, & I would smother them with a hug. They were quite cute though, despite such weird behaviour from what looked suspiciously like an aunty, they talked to me again. I stuck to my theme of hugs for the entire evening. I was surely not going to indulge in sword-fights with kids, that would go against my everything.

My husband supported me very well by disappearing to the gym for most of the time of the party; returning all sweaty and scaring the kids in the hallway (there was a relay race for pirate treasure going on at that time; my daughter and I were sitting on a parapet wall & watching & wincing), and then speaking on the phone for a continuous hour. Then he asks me (as if I have sole rights on such things), would you do a pirate theme party for our child? So I say, no, of course not. How about a Princess, he says. No, of course not, and he knows it too. He shakes his head, and says, oh the poor child, will curse her parents so much. Well, let her.

What are pirates & princesses anyway? What do they even mean? Do the kids understand what the words even mean? The only princess I know is that one in Jean Sasson's books. Should I talk to my three year old about that, now? I did ask her what a Pirate was. She confidently told me that he is a person who looks for treasure. The treasure is gold, she said. What is all this, really? Why don't I have a theme birthday party on Human Rights or Global Warming?

I have lots of battles to fight with mine child in the future. Already today I was under fire because I dressed her in (what I thought was) these really cute little pair of green shorts & a black t-shirt; and Simmie (school friend age approx. four) was in a pink skirt with twinkly things on & a white t-shirt that had ties here and there. Much upset at her amma was my child. And this is a constant tussle these days. If I say skirt, she says pants, if I say pants, she says frocks... And I cannot get myself, with my own hands, to make her wear shiny twinkly fussy lacy things to school!!

Friday, 5 October 2007

Bridging the Gap

Two harried mothers in the car. Deep in discussion regarding purchase of second set of slates, for practicing writing at home. When suddenly,

Kid 1 (in Hindi):

How do you say What is your name in Tamizh?

Kid 2 (in Tamizh):

What is your name?

Kid 2 (in Hindi):

How do you say it in Malayalam?

Kid 1 (in Malayalam):

What is your name?

Harried mothers stop their inane discussion and laugh. They remember how harried father had asked, during the weekend, whether the two girls have any conversation, and how they had all been unaware of the possibilities.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

How about it?

Let us say, for starters, that this is hypothetical.

Harried mother glances at floor which is strewn with sketch pens with the caps off, pieces of crayon that look like they were bitten, papers fluttering around, misshapen pieces of playdough, hundred small pieces of imitation - miniature kitchen ware, and so on. Vein pops. Blood pressure rises. She takes deep breaths. Counts to ten. Then -

"How about picking up all these things from the floor?"

she says, fixing her eyes on the two girls. The older replies

"Who says how about... ? Who speaks like that?"

More veins pop. BP goes off scale.

"Oh Miss Know-it-all; are you trying to teach me English? Cause you know, your English is crap. You have no idea. You have no aptitude for it, and, clearly, no attitude to learn it. Everyone who has any idea about the language knows that that is a polite way of saying pick the damn things off the floor before I clobber you on the side of your head and knock your teeth off. But of course, you would not know polite if it was given to you on a platter with horse-chestnuts around it. Besides, remember how you say things like 'The Lamp BEES there'? Well that is the most ridiculous sentence I have heard because BEES are little tiny insects that go BUZZ and make honey; while, all the while, the Lamp IS sitting right there, Miss Smarty Pants. So get those greasy strands of your limp unhealthy hair off your eyes, and PICK THESE DAMN THINGS UP FROM THE FLOOR AND PUT THEM AWAY..."

Of course parts of it are in her harried head.

Monday, 1 October 2007


So when you, as a bloke on the street, hear me say, 'Rupert', what do you picture?

The dude with the big glasses. Geek. Secretary (and bane of existence) of poor old Lord Emsworth. Crony of Lady Constance in being the said bane of said Lord. Owner of fluorescent pajamas. Thrower of flower pots. Rider of motor-cycles across the English countryside. Efficient target of air-gun. In short, everything designed to make you despise him. Rupert Baxter.

It was around midnight on Saturday. My eyes were closing of their own accord. I was persisting nevertheless, with Mike and Psmith (read the Preface), in whose pages lies a mention of a Rupert. Its a horrible prank to play, Mr. Wodehouse (Sir). Our very own, exquisite, immaculate, verbose, Smith (I mean Psmith), with the first name Rupert? Is this true or a mere trick played by my senses at that late hour? Shudder....

Kids, Dolphins, Psmith & so on

That was my Sunday. In the morning, we hung out with our friendly neighbourhood reality check, discovered that children (aged 6) are: (a) capable of untold cruelty & (b) great as companions because they are learning to read and will do so patiently. I resisted the urge to involve the girls in 'activities' although I had a chocolate box, some sparkly things, fevicol, and tons of coloured craft paper, all raring to go. We told stories, read books, and ate a sandwich.

In between I was plowing into Mike & PSmith. After my discussions, I ran to the library in a frenzy and was embarassed when the guy grabbed away a book insisting its for sale, and please madam look in this rack to borrow. Then I embarassed myself more by transposing digits in my membership number. Anyhow, home now with said book safely borrowed (alongside, Clifford the Big Red Dog; Berenstein Bears, and Donald Duck - the first two make interesting reading).

Mike & Psmith
An early novel. They are still at school. They have just been moved out of respective respectable institutions to a small public school called Sedleigh. There is a fair bit of cricket - I discovered a one-day game could be played as a test, meaning with each team batting twice. Wow! Psmith just totally rocks. I was just thinking hey, he sounds more dandy-ish than usual when he neatly redeemed himself (I love sports you know) with cricket later in the book. I guess if you read this before the newer books you may not be as impressed. But in context, a fan of Psmith will lap this one up. There is a dog called Sammy who I recommend watching out for. There is a proclaimed 'keen' ness about the Sedleigh that leads to many hilarious situations. Psmith (who is still referring to all as 'Comrade so and so') is ... Oh enough of my raptures, I am sure enterprising people can find the e-book; I might myself just buy the book I have just borrowed (such things are allowed in my special library).

The IMAX dome is one of my favourite places to go to. Not that I am trying hard to make an educational experience for child or anything. Not so noble. Its just that the type of shows they have there are so damn inspiring. A bunch of people doing what they love, following their passion, climbing the Everest a week after they get married; swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean; prowling through Sub-Saharan Africa, the sort of things I imagine as my calling in life, as opposed to currently what it is. All at Rs. 99/- So we trooped down, it was amazing, the blue waters, the thirty odd species of dolphins, their speech (clicks, whistles, chirps), their feeding (in a definite pattern, taking turns), their dance (what grace for a creature so big). The movie did well in skimming soon over the Orlando type dolphin situations directly to the wild ones in Argentina and so on. Sting was singing the songs. Pierce Brosnan was narrating. Awesome!!

And in the afternoon, with her safely asleep, I caught about an hour of Partner. Govinda is too funny, despite being so damn fat.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Friday Night - Party!!

Kalimpong - lets list that one as a place I would love to visit someday. I should really maintain a list, alphabetised and categorised based on country, region, climatic conditions. Next time the husband says 'shall we go somewhere?' i should whip the list out and pick a place and hand it to him. He is bound to agree if I paint a good enough picture of the place. Quiet. That is enough of a description of a place for him to jump to it. So yeah, I hope for it.

The party was as follows - we were supposed to be just the two of us - meaning child and myself. Mid-afternoon the husband decided to postpone his trip to Jaipur (7 pm Fri Night Flight) to Saturday. He assured us he would be home for dinner. Oh yeah! with Friday night traffic, said I. Watch me, said he. So my plan was simple. Dinner. A couple of phone calls. Bed by 10 pm for an hour or two of undiluted reading. Since we would surely be just the two of us on Sat morning, no gym for me. Also, no pressure to do my studying etc. So had the luxury of sleeping late. Should be easy to finish off the book, I had already decided in the afternoon.

Surprisingly, he did show up, around 9:30. We hung around and talked and the child was super super excited cause I had not told her he is coming back, to maintain that surprise thing. It was jumping around wearing a pink tee looking for all the world like a bunny rabbit. Heart-warming and all. To think that a few short years ago, you would have found me behaving like that. Its a relief to be all grown up now, for sure. Less jumping.

So by the time I got things settled, sent him off to eat his dinner, forcibly got the child to sleep, kept one eye open in a dark room to resist the urge to fall asleep (I really HAD to finish that book), it was 11 pm. Too bad, I am surely not going to wake up till 7 so lets go for it Kenny, I said to myself.

The Inheritance of Loss

Kiran Desai - Last known at Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard. Indian, American (German?). Young girl. The Man Booker Prize 2006. Daughter of Anita Desai.

The second you win a prize, of course, there is a class of people that start making disparaging comments. Taking stuff away from the prize. If you compete in a gender-unseparated category and HORRORS! are a woman, fully expect this and more. She was all cute when she won. But even I was like 'hmm, should I read this one? will I be sorely disappointed with her, her mom, the Booker, and in general this whole diaspora thing? Will it be clever or just borderline smut with lots of American scenery?' Of course I HAD to read it, and postponed it up to now. Loaned it to all the family members who expressed an interest. Finally picked it up last week, and said, OK lets get this over with.

As a disclaimer, a book is never a book for me. Its an experience. I am in the pages, sort of. Sometimes I am the writer, sometimes, the girl, sometimes even the furniture that is sitting around. But I am there. Not as an objective observer but as a slightly crazy participant. Which means, that unless it is completely totally impossible for me to relate to anything absolutely at all in a book, I can afford, in my mind, to be not overly critical of it, cause you know, I was there. Flipping that coin, I can read it in a frenzy, find myself in every page, and then totally diss it because, you know, I was there and it sucked big time. In short, readers expecting an unbiased, clinical, objective review are in the wrong place.

The people I loaned it to returned it to me saying 'so-so. 'A' for effort though' and so on, but, I will say this. I liked it. When I shut the book a bit past midnight, I said, Hey this was real nice. Would be good to read it again even. I thought it would be a laborious thing, in the initial few pages. There was this teenage romance thing going on, if it headed in predictable directions of usual heart-break, I would have been troubled. There was all this stuff about rain. It was raining here too, the end of the monsoons, the time you really hate the rain cause your umbrella is broken, the raincoats smell weird and you really want to feel the sun. I was thinking, hey, enough of this rain already. The characters were small in number, not a solved equation. There was this judge dude who was prominent and really a tough one to like. The girl was fine, but I was worried would turn out cute-sy. The American immigrant was going through too much hardship for me to look at with enthusiasm. But she did a great job with all of it and all of them. In the end, there was still the rain. There was a farce of sorts with a dog. The characters retained their character totally. There was no particular surprises. There was a distinct touch of reality to the whole thing. But I closed it with a satisfaction, a simply written, honest book. She is a star in her own right.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Twenty Twenty

Twenty Random Observations

20. I finally watched a cricket match (the final). It has some intensity, like a basketball final, sort of (not exactly). I did not feel that ‘hes a buzzer beater, a twenty four second clock cheater’ sort of crazy adrenalin, although Jogender Sharma in the last over with sixes up the wazoo reminded one of a long time ago Chetan Sharma debacle.

19. Shah Rukh Khan, oh my god, is it me who is obsessed or the world. Anyway he was there at the match, as evident. But oh why the Michael Jackson look? I fail to comprehend this.

18. I am up to my neck in a quiz, I am one of the organizers. It’s a technical quiz so I suppose not so exciting. But I made a crossword out of it. That was fun. I expect the written elimination round to have 18 questions.

17. Visarjan day today. The big one. Lake-side folk are all abuzz with excitement and loudspeakers. I snuck back home at 3 pm. Excuse: Creche closed early, school of course on chutti for the day.

16. I have got four calls today, two on land-line and two on mobile for random folk such as Adi Bhai. Whoa?

15. via friend from long ago, found myself Shelfari. Good one. More ways to hang out on the internet.

14. Although this is material for Shelfari and the likes, I admit this – Shashi Tharoor, well, I understand his pain, doing his job and trying to maintain that he is a writer and all. But seriously, for pseudo-intellectuals like me who grab his books cause he is, you know, all that, and sort of cute in some angles when the light is right, it is disappointing when he is irresponsible like that. Five Dollar Smile & Other Stories, I mean.

13. Read nice reviews of both Manorama Six Feet Under and Loins of Punjab. Watch this space to figure what I con the husband into (if).

12. Bhindi. If taste were really genetically inherited, I would not have been surprised. These days this is the vegetable for all seasons and reasons. Child is obsessed with it. I mean, I love it too. Whenever I returned home from hostel, mom would welcome me thus – green sari of the spinach variety at the railway station; bendekaayi fry at home for lunch. I still like it a lot, but wonder nevertheless. Some people do find it quite a mucousy thing.

11. Writing skills. No no, I don’t mean creative writing and Shashi (Tharoor and Deshpande). The child, is being made to write ‘Straight Line Letters’ in its school. I went ‘huh’ to the teacher. Basically E, F, H, I, L, T (hope I got all of them!). Bit appalled and all because I see no sign that they were taught to draw shapes and what not. Its on a slate with a ‘slate pencil’ so of course so damn messy that all the snot-nosed ones are excited.

10. Over at the choultry, one was reminded of a quintessential hang-out place named Quark. And here we have a similar place, and it sells, get this, MAGGI BONDA. WTF eh? It really is that, you know, maggi noodles, dipped in besan atta and deep fried into a big edible basketball.

9. Found a cockroach in one of the grocery bags. Disgusted and all. Small one. Had not snunk into any of the hermetically sealed packets (one hopes). But husband was enthusiastic and did the manly thing and threw it out. I am not afraid of cockroaches, have dealt with hundreds of them with equanimity, being the sort that has always woken up in the night to pay homage to porcelain goddess, but then I felt like a man has to feel like a man sometimes.

8. Am reading Inheritance of Loss, which mom always calls Loss of Inheritance (and has read and dissed, incidentally). Bought it ages ago, minute it emerged in paperback (stingy, what?) but just getting to it now. Trying to get past some teenage romance and monsoon rains in Kalimpong now.

7. Seven is my number it seems. I have tons of things going for me. Our flat number sums to it. My birthday falls on it. My child’s birth date sums to it. The husband’s birth month and our wedding month are that. And now I am one of seven people who will get some shady geeky award thing on the seventh (of December).

6. Red and The Everest Hotel by I Allan Sealy are two books so different from each other in the fact that I hated one and loved the other. How do I cope with such things I wonder.

5. P G Wodehouse. You need to have about five of them lying around the house for times of distress. One of short stories (not Golf). One of a general type such as Bodkin. One Jeeves, so you can always say, oh no this Jeeves, we hatessss him, so smug. One placed in Blandings Castle (a guaranteed winner). And one P Smith. This is an important way of maintaining mental hygiene.

4. Discerningly you will notice that some points have something to do with the number (seven), some don’t (six). This one does not. Watched a bit of Seinfeld last night (rare occurrence for me). It was the one with the Bagel and Race Track Dudes and Denim Vest. And, of course Festivus (don’t know spelling). Know it pretty much by heart so got disappointed a bit. Although I know great part of PGW by heart it does not disappoint, ever.

3. Took child to the laboratory today. Showed off bubbling reactors and pipes. It was unimpressed till we lucked upon the wooden mezzanine floor. That charmed it simply because of the noise generated during dancing. I liked such random things in dad’s lab too.

2. I wish I could have a vacation. Wait. I can have a vacation right now if my little heart desires. Forget it, pass. I like the high speed internet at work.

1. Finish

Monday, 17 September 2007

To all the girls who stay at home..

The past week has been a remarkable one. I got an idea of what it would be like to be a stay at home amma.

On Saturday, husband was in Hyderabad. We went grocery shopping and she insisted on Good Day biscuits. We returned home and I gave her a Good Day biscuit, she refused it saying that is only for the day care, not for home.

On Sunday, husband slept late. We did some colouring. She used all the green coloured crayons on the capsicum (drawing) and I gave her a score of 4/10 for the effort.

On Monday, I took her to the pediatrician. She was very happy to see him. When we returned home she sneezed and a foot long piece of snot was deposited in my cupped hands. We went to my office to pick up my things and she broke my white board markers.

On Tuesday, we again spent the day at home, and she did and re-did the Pooh Jigsaw five times. I felt like Yossarian when he was watching Orr. But I am not insane (was Yossarian insane?). We went to a meeting of mine in the evening and she said she was hungry. I tried to feed her the Maggi noodles they gave me in the meeting, but she said it was too spicy.

On Wednesday, I gave up the pretense of work and we decorated a box, slapping on oodles of fevicol on papers, and stickers, and so on. She did and re-did the Pooh Jigsaw seven times. We tried to watch MTV but both of us felt disgusted at Shah Rukh Khan since he was naked. She threw up some spinach into my cupped hands, later that day.

On Thursday, I felt sick too. My nose was blocked and throat scratchy. It was day two of antibiotics for her so she was feeling better, I guess. I took the morning off and went to work, while husband watched her. I returned home at noon to find a tsunami-struck house.

On Thursday afternoon she woke up from her nap in five minutes and did and re-did the Pooh Jigsaw, and I could not take a nap which was sorely required for me because of my cold.

On Thursday night, I took her to the nebuliser because (a) she needed it (b) she loves it. When we returned, I was tired and wanted to sleep. She wanted to be awake and scratch me. Or do the Jigsaw.

On Friday morning, I woke up at 6 am, did my kitchen routine and went to sleep on the sofa. Bliss lasted till 7:30 am. Then she dragged me back to bed and piled all the pillows in the house, on me. I continued to sleep although something felt heavy. I woke up to find her doing the Jigsaw.

On Friday mid-morning, I desperately borrowed a few jigsaw puzzles from my neighbour, who thought we are both really strange. She did them (there are five of them) twice each.

On Friday afternoon, I dropped her off at the day care, where she had tearful reunions with kids and teachers alike, and immediately joined the snot-nosed monsters watching Tom and Jerry. Some of the other kids tried to chat me up but I escaped.

How do you all do it?

Monday, 10 September 2007

Of Books Devoured

This past weekend (starting Friday night) has been dedicated to reading. Nothing spectacularly clever, but really fast, and despite all the various distractions from the domestic end of things (gosh! How I envy all those unattached young people who don’t have to force themselves to iron the child’s clothes or to pay attention to dwindling kitchen supplies….)...

First, I launched into Mansfield Park. Jane Austen, at her usual tricks, I suppose. I read it in a sort of craze, have never read it before. I expected it would be Pride & Prejudice all over again. I used to think not much of that one till I went to college with a die-hard P&P fan who would stop every few weeks to extol a new virtue of the said book to me. I had scary images of Aishwarya Rai in that modernized movie version of that book to arrest me (not that I have seen the movie, thank god!). Nevertheless, when I picked up Mansfield Park (at a steal of a sale for Rs. 60; or I better say it like a book-lover ought, at three books for Rs. 180), I was real eager to get into that world of balls and ball-gowns and gentlemen with proper manners, and a fair bit of sarcasm as is wont to be. I was not particularly looking for a romantic thingammy, classifying Austen more under Classics, and less under Historical Romances.

Anyway there was a nice love-story in the middle of it all. I expected it to end not so much in the Bollywood mold, but let us say I would not have been disappointed if it were to happen. I was in one of those moods. Of course, the whole Some Chicks Rock, but truly the main enemies of our gender are The Chicks That Don’t Rock type things resonated pretty well with me. Things are not that much different despite the fact that we are not shopping for Muslin & Lace for our ball gowns or any such. It was quite a lot of fun to obsess truly and totally over a book, most of all.

Then, having gotten into that sort of thing, I went ahead and bought a Georgette Heyer. The argument, rationalisation, justification, is that it is a gift for my sister, who is sick and sort of confided to her home. She loves romance novels, and while I could never get myself to pay actual cash to buy the regular Mills & Boons, this I could somehow justify. Of course, I had to read it myself before sending it off to her, and really, how long could a Georgette Heyer take to read through?

It did not take long, and it did not disappoint. I got a great kick and morale boost out of it. I managed to pass a happy Sunday afternoon with it. I avoided sleeping, I could look upon the sleeping form of the husband and child with tolerance and love. Which is more than I can say about the whole Harry Potter thing (which was the sum and substance of my weekend two weeks ago). There, I just got irritated thinking it a poor caricature of Tolkien and other masters, and I really took especial offence to Ron’s way of speaking. Of course that did not encourage me to stop reading the damn tome through to the end! Nothing grated like that in Heyer, even the scene where there are two guys who are drunk out of their wits (which was really quite funny, come to think of it. Personal experience tells me it is quite remarkable for a person to be asleep from being too drunk for one second and up and about and making polite conversation the next, but then, maybe he had youth on his side).

With that stuff out of the way, I am now reading Bookless in Baghdad (Shashi Tharoor), alongside A Village by the Sea (Anita Desai) and Banker to the Poor (Mohammed Yunus). The last is what I have made most progress with, and while I don’t say much about the writing as is, the idea is quite catching, and makes me feel real excited about the possibility of people managing to cause widespread change in their life time. Inspiring, in short.

There was a big sale at the local Crossword, in the trips through the week child & I exercised caution and spent, well, not much, and that too only on things we were sure to read and enjoy immediately. Of course in our trip last night (our third there for the sake of the sale), we threw caution to the winds and ended up with way more than can possibly fit in the household unless I throw out some furniture, some clothes, and put up a bookshelf in the kitchen. I blame it all on the strange mood of my husband, who picked up books at random and threatened me with ‘you better read this’ which is as good a reason as any other to completely avoid it and let it gather dust, possibly in the kitchen.

Its not so much something against my husband’s recommendations of books, but the fact that the Crossword sale revolved a lot around Russian authors of the Classic variety, and although no one, especially my husband, believes me when I say it, I took an oath about six years ago that nothing would induce me to read that breed of authors (except for Nikolai Gogol; and even him, after that book and subsequent movie starring Tabu I might hereby avoid although I am supposed to look on it as Lahiri’s tribute to the great guy, whatever), let the whole world sing their praises to the skies. I suppose its sort of like saying I don’t like Shakespeare all that much, scandalous you may say, but true. I am more than willing to see desi adaptations of his comedies (and have had the most fun watching an open-air adaptation in Boulder, Colorado many years ago), but otherwise, genius though he may be and god knows what an overpowering influence & what not on our psyche, I avoid him. Cool dude and all, but still...

PS: While the world is out matching wines to dinners, my discovery is that an Ouzo, with tons of ice in it, is as good an accompaniment to light reading, as, say, coffee. And no, a beer will not do, too soon it clouds the brain with its influence and makes the fine print obscure.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Breathing Time

So, finally, after almost a month, I seem to have a few clear days this week. Including today. None of the usual mad scramble going from one meeting to another and generally loping off to Delhi for a day and Hyderabad for another. Of course, it did feel like I was so cool & important to be so busy and all but really, too damn tiring. I was getting particularly irritated that I could not get the time to exercise. I think that was the most important thing. Close on the heels comes the fact that I did not have enough time on the good ol' internet. That sucked majorly. Anyway, here we are today, reasonably free.

Here is what happened to me last night. We went home, usual 6:30 types. Thankfully there were enough vegetables in the fridge, the Crossword Store sale had been attended to, no phone calls needed to be made, bills of the month were paid off, and, I did not have oodles of office work to do. So, I could potentially have chilled out with a cup of coffee, reading the most sentient of papers, the Mumbai Mirror, and if the mood bubbled, worked on the Sudoku and Kakuro and Mindbender and Crossword. But, higher powers, fate, whatever, had other things in store.

The maid, my super loyal lady in waiting, had made away with all the newspapers in the house, including the stuff delivered just that morning. This when she had come late and I had literally pushed her out the door cause I had to leave early, she did not clean the bathrooms but found time to wrap up the newspapers and cart them off. Curse her. So, no Sudoku. Not a single one. No Kakuro either.

The neighbour friend of child was MIA. Don't know where she had gone, was not keen to find out. Would have involved getting out of the door, ringing doorbell and what not. Did not have it in me. Child was also tired & not so very keen on playing, at least she did not pester me about finding her friend. So we started off reading the new Magic Pot magazine (all the while thinking wistfully about Mumbai Mirror & Bombay Times). The usual colouring (she seems to hate colouring by the way, perhaps if I had more energy I would be worried about it), join the dots, find missing words and so on.

Half an hour of this and I was tired. The animal stories were getting on my nerves. So I said to the child, why don't we make our own story? yeah, I know, I am very original that way. I am probably the very first mother in the whole entire civilised world who thought of such a thing. :-)

Promptly, very promptly, too promptly, the monster child comes up with one about Noddy & Pooh and going exploring, and honey. For some reason the colour Yellow features a lot. I got super enthu. Dragged out my special yellow coloured paper and drew Noddy and the others (as in, violated copyright and copied shamelessly from Disney & Blyton). Requested that she colour them. She mussed it up immediately. So I drew it again and we hung out and batted ideas off each other about how to do it, and finally came up with a four page book with a story called 'Noddy goes exploring' Not a single drawing is original, and possibly (I don't know for sure), the whole premise and story-line are borrowed heavily from previous ones, but hey! We made our own story book! So what if I am thirty-three years old, and not that great at drawing, I still love crayons.

I tell you its quite a treat. I am thinking next step find a publisher, a professional illustrator, and stuff like that. But wait, who was that kid at Harvard that got totally messed up after a huge advance for her first book. Oh yeah! Maybe THAT is the lesson my girl has to be taught from this episode, that only the REALLY original ideas are worth publishing. Borrowing characters from popular (or even unpopular, for that matter) published works is trouble with a capital T.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Watched a Movie!

Chak De!

You never thought you would hear me talk about this, did you? The fact of the matter is that my husband loves going to the movies, and for a brief honeymoon period we used to watch a movie every weekend, even if I fell asleep through half of it. He loves those action & drama things that Hollywood churns out so routinely. Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford, and what not. Perhaps that shows you that for the past five years or so I am a little out of touch, considering how old these guys that I am talking about are! He would always manage to talk me out of chick-flicks, and since I rarely had enough enthusiasm to go without him, the only real chick-flick I managed to see in the past billion years is Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion (I strongly recommend this one, it rocks). Anyway I would go to all these movies with him but I would insist that they were all exactly the same, like there is a whole series of them based on American Presidents, starring Gene Hackman & so on, which are identical. It infuriates him to hear me say this, the man who has watched A Few Good Men about a million times and can quote word for word all the dialogues, and still, when it plays on the Idiot Box on a Sunday, will abandon everything else and glue his eyes to it.

Well, that’s him, don’t tell him I said all that about him here, OK buddy. In a coup of sorts I convinced him to watch Chak De! I reminded him incessantly that the only sort of movies that we watched in our hey-days that we both enjoyed were Sports Movies. The Mighty Ducks, The Air Up There, anything to do with any Basketball Player ever made, that stuff. Also we go so very rarely to watch movies these days (last one being Sivaji), that he was almost excited to go along. Despite SRK & Bollywood’s general tendency to break into song & dance (which is another place we completely bifurcate at; he switches away from songs, I flip channels to find them), and generally cry randomly. You know, nothing clever about them, no coherent mention of the IRA or Bad Russians. No particular statements that catch you, no ‘You want the truth, you can’t handle the truth’ type stuff. Plus he is still reeling from Kal Ho Na Ho where SRK did his ‘Mera DIL to kamzor hai’ dialogue & cried and generally irritated everyone mightily even when he died. So, you may say, coup it was. Plus we had to take the child along.

I would say, in all, that it was good fun. I did not feel miserable and irritated when I emerged out. I was feeling all enthusiastic about going for a game of something, soccer, basketball, squash, whatever. The girls were great, I think you are supposed to say that, it’s the politically correct thing to say. But really, not all of them, but the Punjabi girl was real cute, and while the short one was irritating (despite or because of the fact that she reminded me of myself), she had some good dialogues. Some of the ladies looked a little too made up to be real sports people, but then maybe I could give them the benefit of doubt based on the fact that my connection to reality is poor. And SRK, well, several things about him: (a) He looked real nice, that ginger-ish beard thing was good, also very fit (b) He did not cry, or dance, or laugh maniacally (c) He runs well, not in the usual manner of Bollywood. I am willing to forgive his poor basketball dribbling skills exhibited in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai now (d) Did not sing in the middle of the stadium or appalling things of that nature.

So, yeah, good movie. I was feeling so good at the end of it and almost as if SRK was a friend I would go drinking with on a Saturday night that later in the evening when I had some very very rarely achieved alone time, I decided to watch Veer Zaara. Which was really a bad move on my part, it took forever to finish thanks to advertisements every three seconds, he cried and recited random poetry and made his hands shake and acted all vague and old and rubbishy most of the time, and though I kept telling myself that I believe in true love, felt like crap at the end of it. So despite Chak De, I will restrict myself to song videos & if I ever meet Shah Rukh Khan on the streets (ha ha!), tell him honestly that I like his beard.

PS: Must avoid Om Shanti Om, viewed from any angle, this one will be painful.