Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Here We Are Again

So it's time for hallowed tradition to make its presence felt once more. I'm talking, of course, about my year-end list of moments, people and things that made an impact on my life. How it matters to the rest of the world is a question I choose not to ask.

1. Changing jobs and moving into the suburbs was probably the best thing I did this year. I'm so relaxed these days, compared to the nail chewing frenzy that was last year. And it's nice to have a bit more than spare change in the wallet.

2. My apartment! I love, love, love the single red wall in the living room, my cozy cane couch that's perfect for post dinner reading and the airy kitchen where I actually feel like cooking after spending last year in a dingy passageway that passed for a kitchen. I love going home these days!

3. A and I became a regular popcorn couple this year. We watched movies with amazing regularity, almost once a week. Sometimes we were spoiled for choice and at other times we watched movies so bad that we couldn't even laugh at them afterwards. However, it has enabled me to hand out my very own year-end movie awards. Hold your breath (or don't) as I present the inaugural edition of the Filmy Flavour Icecream Awards!

The Rum and Raisins Award goes to the movies that were so rich, so well done and so taut that I don't recall how much popcorn I ate while watching them - The Dark Knight, Kung Fu Panda, Wall E and Welcome to Sajjanpur.

The Synthetic Flavour Award goes to the movies that were unforgivably mundane inspite of promoting themselves as 'different' - Madhur Bhandarkar's preachy, cliched, overlong and screechy Fashion (which A characterized as the local train version of high fashion) and the supremely homophobic Dostana (I mean really, hotdogs?).

The Vanilla Award for a movie that was so wonderfully familiar to everyone who has ever lived in Delhi, coupled with flashes of humour and some good acting - Oye Lucky Lucky Oye.

The Empty Cup Award for a movie without a single redeeming feature, not even unintentional humour - Drona.

The Butterscotch Award for the one that really warmed my heart in the most surprising ways - Das Vidanya.

4. Having an apartment also meant that I bought more books than was wise, aided by the fact that a bookstore sits prettily near my favourite movie theatre. I mostly binged on Amitav Ghosh this year. I also really enjoyed Jhumpa Lahiri's latest. However, the find of the year is undoubtedly A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, which is going a long way in undermining my deep ignorance of things scientific.

5. I'm now an aunt to a very pretty little boy who's less than a month old. It's the strangest feeling in the world, having someone in the family who's younger to me by a whole generation. I'm going to have the experience repeated twice in the coming year.

6. I met A's family after quaking in my boots for more than a year. And the waiting was much more terrifying than the actual meeting which passed off rather pleasantly.

7. It was the year of the spectacular return of belly fat.

8. I caught myself breaking into a cold sweat once when I was out on the street and a car backfired. That was the moment when terrorism became real to me.

On a concluding note, I hope that 2009 has less excitement because I really don't think my stomach can stand it. I hope the year's generally less overwhelming than this year has been, and that people can take some time off being happy. And I'm hoping for a worldwide moratorium on firearms. No harm in hoping, right?

To all my friends, readers who have lasted another year and people whom I should call tonight but may be thwarted by forgetfulness, laziness or swamped telephone networks, have a wonderful year ahead. Love and best wishes, S.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'm A Little Irritated...

...with people who use the comment space as a free advertising medium. Being a part of the ad world, I know that legitimately buying media is expensive, and I sympathize with you. But if you decide that my comment space is a good opportunity to talk about some guy's new corporate blog or whatever nonsense you're intent on promoting, I WILL report you. Just because I don't resort to word verification doesn't mean I'll let you crap over my blog. And don't tell me I'm overreacting. I've only just begun reacting.

...with the unending and progressively more moronic 'fraandship' requests. For heavens' sake, give me one single reason why I'd like to know you. A reason apart from 'I'm the height of coolness' (I DON'T @#^%$%# CARE) or 'I'm a simple guy looking for the love of my life' (Hint: It's not me), or even 'REPLY IS MUST' (Taking Fascism to Orkut will not help your cause). Why do men think that women like jackasses? We don't, no matter what Shah Rukh Khan may say.

...with my clients who seem to have a lot of opinions. Here's a sample: -

1. 'Yuletide' is a bad word and the essence of Christmas is turkey.
2. It is not enough for turkey to look like turkey. It has to 'give the feel of turkey'.
3. 'Vibrant' is a magic word guaranteed to sell flats like hot cakes. The recession is no match for the awesome power of 'vibrant'.
4. Everybody can write copy better than the copywriter.
5. Insisting on correct grammar implies an excess of education.
6. 'Waldrof' Salad is named after the mythical land of Waldrof, and not the Waldorf Hotel in New York. The only acceptable way to correct such fantastical errors is Wikipedia.
7. If I want to sell flats located in China to Indians, all I need to do is tell the gullible Indian public that China is the new Very Very Eastern India.

Whew. Vented. Merry Christmas to everyone. Spammers will be vengefully prosecuted. Joy to the world etc.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Secure At My Desk, I Write

When I was around ten years old, I watched a report on the possibility of a comet colliding with earth and wiping out all life on the planet on Prannoy Roy's flagship show, 'The World This Week'. Being somewhat more indulgent of my imagination than most people, I was scared to death by the report. That night I insisted on sleeping next to my mom because, of course, that was the foolproof solution to every problem, even a daunting one like the end of the world. For weeks after watching that show, I would scan the night sky for any sign of a comet bombing the world into oblivion. With the passage of time, the terror of the comet also loosened its vice-like grip from my mind, and life went on.

Now, suddenly, I realize that a comet collision sounds like pumpkin pie compared to what people keep doing to each other in this seriously strange world. When bombs go off in a crowded pre-Diwali market in Delhi, when people going about their business are blown to bits in Ahmedadbad, again and again and again, when Jaipur and Guwahati show the geographical spread of the new and efficient method of controlling spiralling populations by simply getting rid of a large chunk of people and when Mumbai's movers and shakers find that their distinguished lives are as much at the mercy of an unknown bullet as are those of the ordinary families trying to catch a train to be home for Eid. A shake of the head, a few pithy comments and condolences, breaking news spattered with blood, strategic thinkers and lobbyists on the news, muttering at dirty politicians trying to extract mileage. Life goes on, and the ones who have been hurt shed a few tears in the process. India is a soft target, Indians have notoriously short memories, and we all wear pretty yellow Post-its on our heads labelling us 'Muslims' and 'Hindus' and 'Jews' and 'Westerners' so that the next gunmen can pick out which ones they want to target next time. These days even the other side wears labels like 'Islamic terror', 'Hindu terror' and terror of other denominations, because maybe they kill people differently from each other. Time isn't really the greatest healer, apathy is. We continue doing our mundane jobs while somewhere another young man is taught that ending our lives arbitrarily is the way to set everything right in his world, to end the cycle of poverty, misery, misunderstanding and ghettoisation that he deals with everyday.

Who are these people who play with us so? Why are they so easy to 'brainwash'? Why are there so many of them willing to kill? How desperate are the lives of those who pick up guns to settle scores with unknown, uncomprehending victims of their rage? When you make people believe that a shortcut exists which will take care of all their problems rightaway instead of telling them that it takes hard work and years of it, to build schools and generate jobs and start businesses, to pave roads and build houses and make women feel a degree of safety on the streets, to give children an unblighted childhood and to make life what it should be, you create a bloodthirsty race of terrorists who are themselves too scared of their own reality and seek quick fixes for everything. Well, wake up and look around. Things won't change because you jump on a boat with a bag full of bullets and dry fruits with frenzied visions of martyrdom in your eyes. Every life that you take is an intricacy of nerve and vein, bone and muscle, complex beyond your imagination, something you cannot even comprehend, let alone give back. And yet, it takes you not a moment to tear it apart. I fervently hope that you live, with the crushing weight of possibility held by each life that you snuffed out so casually. I hope the guilt never leaves you alone, not even for a moment.

I look at the pictures on the screen, showing the very spot where I met A for the first time. I feverishly read every news update, in between assuring the relatives and friends that I'm okay. I wonder if I've been spared this time so that there's fodder left for the next strike. I wonder if I can ever feel safe again, even if I could insist on sleeping next to my mother. I wonder if I'll ever get my voter ID and actually do my bit instead of wondering how people like this keep getting elected. In the meantime, there's always next time, and life goes on.

Update: - Thank you for all the thought you put in your comments, it was a good exercise to read and debate all of your views with myself. However, this particular gem of a comment gets my vote as the final word. It made me crack up so loudly that I was the cynosure of all eyes at work for a while today. Please do read it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And She Hit A Ton

Much in the fashion of Rahul Dravid, who seemed to achieve the feat merely by still being around, as opposed to spectacular flamboyance with the bat. So after two years (ack! I forgot!) and a month, the blog finally has its hundredth post up. On this momentous occasion I'd like to thank:

- my office for the wonderful (and free, for me) broadband connection.
- my office for the work that bores me to tears and urges me to blog instead.
- my office for the frosted glass panel near my cubicle which doesn't allow others to read what I'm writing.

Of course, I also thank all those of you who read my rants disguised as cotton candy. I am especially thankful to the ones who actually comment, because let's face it, it's nice to be acknowledged. I don't understand why people get defensive on the subject of their blogs by insisting that they write only for themselves. Sure we write for ourselves, because we (or atleast I) sure as heck need this outlet for whatever kind of gratification that it affords us. But we also write for an audience, and not to acknowledge that very audience is like saying that we breathe because we like to exercise our nostrils. Sure we do.

I've decided not to ramble too much with this post, so let me just write about a few things that made me laugh recently.

Incident 1 - Coffee Shop, The Boy orders an espresso without realizing exactly what it is. So he decides on a mnemonic to remember it for the future.

Me - You ordered an espresso again? You did the same thing yesterday and then had to send it back. How come you forgot so quickly?
The Boy - From now on I'll remember.
Me - How?
TB - E for 'ektu' (a little), E for espresso.

Incident 2 - I met A after more than a year. She's in the country briefly for research, and we met for coffee on Sunday. I whined (as expected) about how stupid some clients are.

Me (really on a roll) - I mean, he's the CEO of a multi-crore construction company and he's dumb as a brick!

In another first, I leave the field open to you with a very generic, and therefore problematic, question. But I'd really like you to answer the question, so atleast give it a shot.

Do bloggers make good authors?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

They Tag Teamed Me!

Really, they did. Kitkat and Skaty really want me to answer this particular questionnaire, so in the tradition of friendship and other pally feelings, answer them I will. But first, the rules:

RULE #1 People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by themselves.

RULE #2 Tag 6 people to do this quiz and those who are tagged cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by and cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by. Continue this game by sending it to other people.

(Note the imperious 'Cannot refuse'?)

1. If your lover betrayed you what would your reaction be?
I'd cry quite a bit, and then stop crying and try to get over it. I would probably write a scathing post, but my vendetta wouldn't extend further. But I would take really, really long to get over it. I'm horribly slow at getting over bad things. And I'd wonder endlessly about the woman unlucky enough to be on the other side of the scenario.

2. If you could have one dream come true which one would it be?
Teaching history (preferably to undergraduates) and writing a book by night. But lately I've been assailed with a serious amount of doubt as to whether I'll ever be able to write something worth reading, and further if it'll be good enough to get published without getting me crucified.

3. Whose butt would you like to kick?
Rabid hate-spewing right wingers, Himesh Reshammiya and some of my clients.

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?
Save up about half of it to invest if and when the markets recover, buy a nice house for myself and one for my sisters, alongwith one in the hills for all three of us, immediately go back to studying and get my Ph.D so I can start a teaching career, and make some serious donations to organizations fighting global warming and providing any kind of aid (educational, legal, medical etc.) to women and girl children. Oh, and I'd buy the boyfriend his dream camera so he could spend his time developing the one talent he truly loves.

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?
I sort of did. With one of my best friends (they number about half a dozen).

6. Which is more blessed: loving someone or being loved by someone?
Loving someone helps you know parts of yourself that you'd never have known existed. It's a benediction to be capable of such intensity of emotion and self discovery. But being loved is a balm that renews the soul at every moment. Without having received love of some kind, it is difficult to give love. I conclude that the question is rhetorical. :)

7. How long would you wait for someone you love?
It would depend on why they would want me to wait. If the reason held weight in my opinion, I would wait. But the waiting would be subject to my strong streak of impatience, so I'd probably whine a lot.

8. If the person you like is secretly attached, what would you do?
I'd wonder why he's 'secretly' attached, and in the process I'd get over him.

9. If you could root for one social cause which one would it be?
Women's causes and the upliftment of the girl child. Also, I'd like to possibly modify the process of adoption and make it as free of hassles as possible.

10. What takes you down the fastest?
Reminiscing about past hurts and pains. I can never seem to stop myself.

11. Where do you see yourself in 10 years' time?
Hopefully studying and writing, still blogging about randomness and making it possible for my family to live their dreams too. And maybe organizing a blog meet of people I like to read, luring them to attend with the promise of good food.

12. What's your fear?
Being stuck in a hospital for a length of time. I hate those places.

13. What kind of person(s) do you think the person who tagged you is/are?
I love them both deeply. They are a part of my consciousness, of who I am, and will be a part of my unchangeable truths no matter where I go or what I do. So, yes, they're very nice.

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married and poor?
I'd be married and stretching the meagre finances because I think that the journey depends on who you're in the boat with.

15. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Look at the time and wonder if I can possibly sleep for ten more minutes (and the answer's always yes).

16. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously who would you pick?
I don't have the ability to make such a huge emotional investment twice simultaneously.

17. Would you give all in a relationship?
I'd wonder at the quality of the relationship. I'm not a big believer in 'giving all'. You need to hold on to yourself as well, because you're not a unidimensional lovebug. You're a lot of people, and a lot of people need you to be you. Does that make any sense?

18. What's eating you now?
Boredom and irritation at the workplace and the severe lack of time to read the lovely books lying at home.

19. Do you prefer being single or in a relationship?
That's like asking if you prefer to breathe with the nose or with both nostrils. You live each phase of your life to the best of your capacity, and do the best you can, whether single or in a relationship. How you are should not change alongwith your relationship status on Facebook.

20. Tag 6 people...
I hate this part. But,
Pinkerton (who will probably ask me for money to visit a cybercafe).
RK (who is a prolific non-poster).
Probe (who is very lazy).
Gits(who is proud aunt to two nougatty nieces now).
Doubletake, Doublethink (who hates tags).
New Age Scheherazade (who I suspect has renounced the world of blogging).

I expect you to sucker yourself at the earliest. Thankee.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Weird Chronicles - IV/ My Bestselling Dream Diary

It is said that dreams are manifestations of our subconscious aspirations, desires and experiences. If that is true, my subconscious is alarmingly flamboyant and completely certifiable. On Wednesday morning, I woke up breathless from a nightmare that I was being forced to marry Annu Kapoor against my wishes (no offense to said Annu Kapoor, of course). I managed to avert the catastrophe by getting into a taxi to run away from home, only to discover that my co-passenger was my 76 year old ex-landlady who was rushing to a concert to obtain Falguni Pathak's autograph. This was actually the most realistic part of the dream.

I'd thought that the dreams to come for the next few days would have a hard time living up to this gothic scare-fest. But then, my mind loves a challenge. So when I snoozed away on Wednesday night, I was blissfully unaware of the explosive blockbuster about to unfold within my head.

In the dream, I was living in Paris, except it looked just like Shillong. Ironically, my dream self was swaddled in lovely woollens while my corporeal self sweated in out in Mumbai's humid heat. I was at work one day when she called. She is a classmate from school whom I haven't seen or heard from in donkey's years. Neither were we ever exceptionally close in school. Let's call her Lizol, since it has some phonetic similarity to her real name.

Anyway, Lizol called me and begged me to meet her for a cup of coffee. She pleaded that she really needed my help with something personal, and if I refused she would have no one else left to go to. I was more than a little puzzled, but I agreed because coffee sounded harmless enough. We met in a quaint little bistro which was furnished with charming umbrellas and smelled like cake (yes, my nose dreams too). After a little chitchat, Lizol got to the heart of the matter.

L - "I wanted to see you because I'm facing a really serious problem."
Me - "Yes I kinda figured."
L (choking up a little) - "You see, I've been married for six years and I think that my husband has recently started seeing someone else."
Me - "....."
L - "I contacted you because I want you to follow him around for a couple of days and get me proof of his affair."
Me (choking a lot) - "But why me? And why d'you think he's having an affair?"
L - "Well, coming back late at night smelling of strange perfume and ALWAYS snapping at your wife are pretty telltale signs, no? And I want you to deal with it coz you'll be more careful than a professional detective. Personal touch and all."
Me (with grit and resolve) - "No."
L - "I'll pay you potloads of money."
Me - "Okay."

So the next day, I went on my mission, equipped with a thermos full of tea and a magazine. I followed the errant husband to work in my grey Santro (?!) and waited outside the whole day. In the evening, I followed him as he bought a bunch of roses and drove all across Paris-Shillong to the distant suburbs. He stopped outside a music school and a woman wearing a tutu and carrying a violin case got into the car. They drove on and on, before entering a large estate full of teeny tiny cottages and a small cafe. They then went into the cafe, as did I. I sat at the table next to them while they coochie-cooed their way to oblivion. The woman asked Lizol's husband as to how he came to know about the cottages. He told her that a friend of his had frequented the place for his own indiscretions and was, in fact, coming to meet them and give them the key to his cottage. He suddenly pointed to the door and said, "There he is!"

I turned around and, wonder of wonders, it was Ajay Devgan! Not Ajay Devgan as he looks now. Here was the Ajay Devgan of the longish hair and the seedy action movies. He came and joined the runaway couple and told them about how he had used the cottage zillions of times without the media being any wiser. Then L's husband asked him who he had come here with. He replied,"Sonali Bendre, of course."

Ignoring the fact that my eyes were almost falling out of their sockets by now, I followed L's husband and his paramour discreetly and took lots of pictures of them going inside the cottage. I was waiting outside the cottage when I saw another car come into the estate. The strange thing was that the car was being driven by a very giggly Lizol, accompanied by three guys from my erstwhile Class VIII Maths tuition class!

By this time, I was confused and irritated in no small measure. I took pictures of Lizol with her gang and left in a huff. I called her and asked her to meet me the next day. When we met, I accosted her at her own adultery and asked why she was then so indignant about her husband's affair. She replied, of course, that she wasn't having a secret affair for fun but to teach her husband a lesson. How that would happen if she kept her affair a secret is anyone's guess. I asked her how she found out about the cottages. She replied, "From my good friend, Sonali Bendre."

The highlight of the dream was my long lecture to Lizol about how Ajay Devgan and Sonali Bendre were ruining lives left, right and centre by their libertine handling of their cottage keys. I shall not reproduce the lecture here. Anyway, I concluded by demanding that she pay me my due and apologize for wasting my time. At this she laughed, a shrill, pealing laugh, and deposited a cottage key in my hand before leaving. I turned over the key in my hand and saw engraved upon it the name of the cottage.

Unfaithful.

Disclaimer: - This post does not attempt to slander Ajay Devgan, Sonali Bendre, Lizol or her husband(s). It just makes me wonder how many things are going on in my head that I have absolutely no inkling of.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Sky Is Blue

Yes, that about sums up my experience these last few days. I had my little sister Pinkerton and her friend A over to Mumbai for about ten days, and then I went back to Shillong for about five days for my cousin's wedding. Family matters were high on the priority list, but mostly I was just soaking up the pleasure of having familiar faces around me. One thought kept nagging me the entire time - am I on the wrong track? Sure, living on one's own and earning a living sounds like the right thing to do, but what do I have at the end of the day? When was the last time that I lived in a house that was truly home? It's humbling to see that inspite of all the years away and all the monumental changes that have taken place over the years, at home I'll still be given a cup of tea and breakfast before I'm done brushing my teeth and my clothes will wash themselves before I even realize it. The endurance of these bonds, of family, community and familiarity seems more powerful when you see it after ages of living on your own.

What is it about home and nomads? It is a certain kind of wistful magic that weaves itself into my being every time I go back. I want to stay back forever, even though I know it's impossible, or maybe because of this knowledge. I keep telling myself the usual things about how I'll never get a well-paying job or be able to buy a house, about how I'll soon be climbing the walls with boredom. But then the mean, contrary part of my brain starts telling me to think about how the weather is always glorious at home, how I'll get to eat all the exotic things that aren't available anywhere else, about how transport is ridiculously cheap and comfortable etc. Then I have to make the mistake of looking at the sky which is gloriously, unbelievably blue, at the clothes flapping on the clothesline, at the small roads winding down the hills and the houses with their homey tin roofs, and I'm lost. It seems a fitting punishment for me to be a homesick nomad, the punishment for my biggest weakness - dissatisfaction.

The worst thing about these trips is the sick feeling I get in my tummy when I'm about to leave. It makes me wonder whether I'll ever see these things again. Why must people be human? There's a reason why cows are generally less stressed out. My plan is to become more bovine with everyday, with eyes that are glazed with contentment and a brain fossilizing so quickly that it has no room for thought. That's my mantra from now on - happiness lies in the ability to be a cow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Retracing My Steps

I've been thinking a lot lately about my cousin M. With less than three years' difference between us, she and I had always been very close, from the time we were both toddlers. She was my first playmate, my first actual friend, and I loved spending time with her. Part of it was some sort of hero worship, because she was funny and pretty and everyone around us, young or old, really liked her. As a kid, these things put me quite in awe of her. The good thing was that she remained sweet, cheerful and completely unaffected by all the renown she was getting for being some sort of singing prodigy, exceedingly good at art and good at most things in life.

I remember her telling me that she was convinced that Vivekananda was her grandfather, because she thought his name was Vivek Kanungo, which matched with her surname. I, of course, was thoroughly convinced. She used to live across the street from my house, and everyday after school we spent our time playing and coming up with elaborate games. On weekends, her mum used to give her a bath in the courtyard while I used to stand at the gate with my arms stretched out wide so that no one could see her from the street. Such naivete seems almost precious now that I remember it.

After my family moved to a nearby quarter complex, our interactions became less frequent, except for those three odd years when we commuted to school and back together. We used to get the princely sum of two rupees for the bus fare to get back home. We always walked instead. It was a long walk, atleast a half hour long. We spent the money on roadside aloo chaat, the dirtier the better. One rupee was saved to buy sweet lozenges in case the chaat proved too spicy. We were quite the resourceful team.

On our walk back home, we discussed the impossibility of God, the perverseness of God in creating boys, the shapes hidden in clouds, the way our shoes squelched when we walked in the rain, how Shillong was doomed because of pollution, the fascinating polka dots made by mud on our white socks in the rain. What strikes me now is how these conversations were held with such seriousness, punctuated by the sound of our huge umbrellas tapping on the ground. We could have been a couple of miniature British adults on our way to the pub after a hard day's work.

The inevitability of growing up did put thousands of miles between us as I moved away and she stayed put. We met when I went home on vacation, and there was no need to reconnect. It was always there, what we had, the bond forged in childhood that had transcended time.

The last time I went home, I learned that she was engaged to be married. As I write this, less than a month remains for the wedding. I would have been happy for her had she not told me the precise reasons for the wedding, none of which had the slightest relation to love, or the longing to be with someone, or even companionship. She's a stronger person than I am for walking down this road, and this time I can't keep her company. I hope that eventually she is happy, and the ones who 'love' her do not manage to completely wreck her life. I feel a strange sort of disloyalty in thinking these things. I really wish that I could toe the official line and make merry at her wedding. But things are hardly ever as simple as that.

So, M, I don't think you should get married, but I know you will. I hope that you get everything you want, but I pray you get what you need more. And I wish I could honestly say that I'll always be there for you. Such things don't happen; we hardly even manage to keep in touch. But maybe when I go down the corridors of our memories together to a time when we were both truly happy, I hope to believe that this sort of unqualified joy will find its way back to you. And I believe that whatever else happens, we will always be the ones who can see roast chicken in the clouds, surrounded by mounds and mounds of vanilla icecream.

Luck and love, S.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Why I Laugh In My Sleep Sometimes

Yesterday I was dreaming about these actual conversations I had with seemingly normal, rational people. I remember each of these conversations really well, mostly because they were so dazzlingly stupid and they have the potential to entertain me even now, years (or months or days) later. And because very few things in life can make me laugh when I'm asleep.

Conversation One (with a cousin who is a software engineer, God save her soul. It happened when I was in second year of college).

Cousin: So you're studying history.
Me: Er..yes.
C: Why?
Me: Eh?
C: As in, what's the point?
Me: What's the point in software engineering?
C: It's relevant today. What I do makes a difference. How does it make a difference if you study about dead people?
Me: *mouth open, jaw slack*
C: I mean, what is the use of studying the past when you can't do anything about it?
Me: It may surprise you to realize that you've been studying history all your life.
C: No, no, I was very glad to get rid of it after Class X.
Me: All history isn't called 'History'.
C: Huh?
Me: Everything that you learned in your course; every sum, every code, every theorem, every formula - that is the history you studied. Without it, every generation would have to start at zero. We would need to rediscover gravity, heliocentrism, DNA, the fact that certain chemicals smell like rotten eggs, over and over and over again. You spent four years studying the history of software engineering. I'm studying the history of people. My learning is relevant because I can perceive this and you can't.
C: But how is studying a formula history?
Me: Because someone before you created that formula which is why you're using it today. And everytime you use it, you are using the past to understand your present.
C: Doesn't make sense. I still think history's useless.
Me: You'll be your children's history. I hope they don't feel the same way about you. I'm going to bed.

And I went to bed, angry as hell.

Conversation Two (with a random 'family friend', after I'd opted for Humanities after Class X).

FF: So, you're going to be the next engineer in the family, aye?
Me: What?! No! I'm studying Humanities.
FF: Humanities? Oh you mean Arts. But why? You did well in your exams. Why Arts? You won't get ANY jobs.
Me: Please don't worry about me. Plenty of 'Arts' afflicted people manage to make a living.
FF: All nonsense. In the past it happened, yes. But now there's no way it can happen. In fact, all schools and colleges are going to shut their Arts faculties in two or three months. And why is your dad allowing you to do this?
Me: Must be nice to have all the inside information about school management decisions. And my dad's 'allowing' me coz it didn't occur to me to ask his permission and it didn't occur to him that I needed it.
FF: Change your stream while you can. Computers are the way to go these days.
Me: Okay, thanks. Now can I get some potatoes please?

Again, I was angry as hell. But then I considered the circumstances and realized that I shouldn't be mad. After all, he was a fifty year old grocer, not known for temperance or wisdom. Being a newlywed at 50 must be hard on the brains. And he did manage to run his grocery business into the ground.

But what made me laugh in my dream was wondering how a conversation between him and my software engineer cousin about the reasons why crazy kids study Arts might go.

Excuse me while I nap. The hilarity awaits.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Walk In The Clouds

Quite literally.

When you are so grounded in your life that you forget what exists beyond it, the biggest thing in your life becomes scheduling baingan ka bharta for Saturday night dinner. It's not half as bad as it sounds. It implies that I'm cooking my own meals now, which makes me content. It also means that I can enjoy spending time at home, which is essential for my peace of mind. The problem with contentment, however, is that it makes you stop yearning for the other things beyond your spectrum. So you decide to do something contrary. Take a trip to a hill station in the rains. You know it'll pour the whole time. That it will be cold enough for you to say 'The cold is in my bones, IN MY BONES, MAN!'. But that doesn't deter you either. Your enthusiasm envelops not only you, but your roomie (Roomie), normally sane close friend (RK) and The Boy (A). You and your motley crew will now take a trip to a tiny hill station with no cars or any vehicles whatsoever, where you walk to get around. Or ride a horse. A hill station with no paved roads, only mud paths. Paths that become slush in the monsoons. Ah, finally, a challenge.

You wake up late, but not too late. Rush through the bathing and the getting dressed and leave the house, only to be surrounded by a gang of extremely effusive dogs, all ready to become Best Friends Forever at six in the morning. You finally catch an auto and switch to a taxi midway, reaching Dadar station without further incident. While the boys go to buy tickets, you stand and wonder why there are already a zillion people at the station. And then you realize that the train is at 7.03, which isn't too far away from 6.57. So you run, jump down the stairs, look around wildly for the first class compartment, all the while being obstructed by all the Israelites fleeing Egypt. The boys in the meantime are already in the correct compartment, yelling and waving you over. You and Roomie run, push, shove and exhale, and get into the first class. Except is the first class ladies only. You jump out again and put your feet onto the correct compartment just as the train begins moving. The resulting adrenaline rush makes you woozy for twenty minutes.

The train ambles along. It's cool and there's already a chill in the air. Increasingly random conversation between sleep deprived adults is punctuated by 'I need to pee' and 'I'm hungry'. Then the green fields and the hills come into view. Faraway hills with threadlike waterfalls making their way down. You stand at the door and sigh, the same sigh usually reserved for Shillong. And there's a hug; momentary and brief, but warm enough to leave you smiling for three minutes. And then you wonder why people stare when you smile.

The station is reached, and the walk to the cab is laced with crisp vada pav. Then as the cab makes its way up the serpentine road, you notice waterfalls on all sides of you, even splattering some of the raindrops on to your arm. The taxi stops at the car park and you enter the town where time stopped a hundred years ago. You begin walking, and it rains, rains, rains. Mud in your shoes, and you're one with the rain. There's no difference between you and the water anymore. On the way to the hotel, you buy the long plastic sheets and sombreros favoured by the locals. At the hotel, there's steaming tea and breakfast. And lots of rounds of Uno, where you lose because you just don't remember to say Uno at the right time. Then there's lunch and a protracted argument which ends in you sending the boys to the market to buy you shorts to wear when you go trekking. You haven't packed enough clothes, you see. In the evening, you're all wearing shorts, plastic sheets and sombreros. The companionship in being silly together is wonderful.

You walk through the little mud paths, up and down, this way and that. The lake comes into view, along with the monsoon clouds moving at a terrific speed all over it, and all around you, lashing and caressing. There's the spot on the edge of the cliff where you sat the last time you were here. Now it's the edge of a roaring waterfall that looks like the end of the world. It's easy to imagine that the world was primal once, before people, before friends and neighbours and dogs and goldfish and baingan ka bharta. Then you go back to the hotel, piggybacking for a minute or two. You're on holiday after all. There's some more Uno, presided over by an old monk (very old, vatted seven years ago). Then the electricity goes off and you go to sleep. You wake up after some time, and it's pitch dark. So dark that if you put your hand in front of your face you can't see it. And it hits you how much you miss that, because it's never really dark in the city, even with the lights off.

The next day they serve you the most fabulous lunch, as if to make you feel even worse for leaving. You have nothing to wear, so you have to make do with the giant pair of shorts belonging to The Boy, tightly belted up and making you look like a havaldar. Your friends are too tired to walk all the way back, so they make you ride a horse, even though the mere thought turns you to jelly. It turns out to be a better experience than you'd imagined, mostly because the horses are really docile and you're looking at the mist above the little brooks babbling away on both sides of the path. Then you reach reality again, and this time you're too cold to be emotional about it. You've just had the definitive weekend.

Favourite moment: - standing above the cliff, looking down at the end of the world.

The moment I won't be allowed to forget: - We're walking our way up to the hotel, and someone asks me for the time.

Me (looking at my watch with great concern): -"OH NO! My watch stopped at ten o'clock!"

RK: -"It is ten 'o clock, you idiot!"

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tunes In My Head

Yes I still post. And has it been over a month already? It's the new job's fault, really. Don't know what they would do without me :)

Anyway, something relatively strange happened to me on Friday night. I'd been unwell in the morning, with a head that felt like a tub of mercury. Added to that, I had a typically long day fussing over punctuation and text placement. So I figured that I was in for a good night's rest. But I didn't sleep as much as a wink that night. Tossing and turning is only exciting for the first two and a half minutes. I got bored of the extremely random conversations inside my head as well. I even tried reading a truly godawful book called Tall Dark & Handsome, which was so gruesomely bad that I could only persist for ten minutes. As a last resort, I switched on the radio, hoping that music would lull me into slumberland.

So there I was, lying in bed with my eyes wide open, while my ears were assaulted with a mindboggling variety of kitsch. With nothing else to do, I started listening to the kitsch. And found some of it actually resonating within me. Pithy wisdoms in everyday melodies. The songs we hear but don't listen to. So uncool because they are popular. But so infectious that they give us headaches when we battle to get them out of our heads. So evocative of forgotten and not-so-forgotten things and people.

We're all history sheeters. Reminisces lurk around every corner of our stylishly spiralled minds. And there's always some Bollywood song to encapsulate these memories.

Like sleeping on the back lawns in LSR in third year. The smell of grass and the warmth of the sun. Watching Ankita write in her journal, or Simran reproducing Impressionist art. SKT's foot up in the air while she dozed. Or Reeju with a bag that was perenially bursting at the seams. Hum na rahein kabhi yaaron ke bin.

Or Gitanjali, Shreya and me in the first few months of the Masters programme. The most awesome trio with the shortest life span, before Gitanjali and I became leftists and Shreya became a centrist (in terms of seat preference, not the political spectrum). Akele hain, toh kya gham hain?

The hostel experience. Staying up till the wee hours, talking about absolutely nothing. Giggling while tipsy, or not. Sitting on the floor of the hall at 3 am and insisting that Absolut vodka was made out of the finest potatoes in the world. Ranjit and Bindiya, perenially setting each other off. Akhila, Tanu, Pallavi, Reeju, the four directions of weirdness. And Pia, the one who cried because I told her that just because she spoke loudly, it didn't mean that she said what was in her heart. Katra katra jeene do.

The one time we ran into RPM, to dance for five minutes after the movie. Spontaneous and awkward at the same time. Ten minutes of unadulterated fun. Pappu naach nahi sakta.

Vasudha Pande, with her luminous eyes and her easy smile. Drumming modern Indian history into my brain with the lightest of touches. Me marvelling at how suddenly economic history became so fascinating, while wondering if her glasses would actually fall of the tip of her nose someday. Ho sake to is mein zindagi bitade, pal jo yeh jaana waala hai.

My sisters and I. So exceptionally strange. Can't shut up, and can't talk either. Always wondering what the other is about. And where we're gonna land up eventually. Golmaal hai bhai sab golmaal hai.

Finally, Jaane tu, jaane tu ya jaane na. Jazz, and a smoky Chicago in the 1920s. Or in this lifetime, a boy and a girl, whiling the weekend away at Marine Drive. The boy likes peanuts, the girl prefers roasted chickpeas. He points out the crabs on the stones below, she takes enthusiastic, if somewhat pointless pictures with a woefully inadequate camera. He gives her a poem in a matchbox, she laughs because she doesn't quite know how to react. Or a day at the Hanging Gardens, where they laugh uproariously at having become the biggest cliche of them all - The Couple in the Park.

At 3 am, clarity is at its best, even in a cluttered dustbin of a head like mine. So much so that I remember every moment after three whole days. My life and Bollywood, intertwined in their uncoolness and their kitsch quotient. And the sudden epiphanies that make it worthwhile.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't Fight The Change

So I got tagged by Skaty to tell the world at large (or atleast my indulgent readership) about ten secrets that I had otherwise sworn to take to the grave. But since I am such an adept at seeing only what I want to see, I've converted the tag into a convenient way of telling you about the Big Changes on the anvil without the corollary melodrama. Gasp, long sentence. Why do I have a sneaky feeling that if I had a sidekick named Robin, right now he would have exclaimed, "Holy Punctuation Party, BattyGirl!"?

Anyway, getting to the point, Ten Things You Don't Know Yet:

1. I've quit my job. Today's my last day here and on Tuesday I'm joining an advertising agency as a (a-hem) Senior Copywriter. And right now I'm most excited about redecorating the interiors.

2. I'm spending a lot of money to move into a nice place of my own. I'm excited at the thought of having eggs for breakfast and dry fish for dinner. Yay, me!

3. I'm fanatical about kitchen etiquette. And I hate it when people try to help me when I cook. I'd rather they just talked to me from the sides. You're right, the subtext of this is that I'm a control freak.

4. I have three times more clothes than a normal person needs. And shoes. And I can't get enough. I'm extremely greedy.

5. I've named my newly acquired stuffed toy dog Chandoo McAdams. The boyfriend quips that this is what the British called Chandu Muqaddam.

6. I'm a nag. I keep at it consistently. And don;t let anyone tell you it doesn't work.

7. I'm a big believer in Girls' Night Out, but I've never really enjoyed Sex and the City. I just keep wanting to lock Sarah Jessica in her closet.

8. The biggest indicator of whether I like a person is whether I'm comfortable telling her/him that s/he is a donkey.

9. I've never seen porn. There, it's out in the open.

10. I judge people who carry melancholy about their past sufferings like a badge of honour. Especially when they look into space and sigh for effect.

Okay, so now you know. I inflict this tag on New Age Scheherazade and Villager/ RK (just to get a post out of them). Also, Doubletake, Doublethink, Annesha (ha ha, revenge), Kitkat, Dreamcatcher and Probe (coz I'm soooooooo curious and I'm wondering if your talent for jamming your foot into your mouth transcends real life and ventures into blogdom). Now I need to pack up my desk. Good day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Life For Rent

These days I'm fervently hoping to move out of my rather squalid living situation as a reluctant paying guest (paying in many diverse and cruel ways) to a rented flat where I will live alone and be happy. The move is tantalizingly close and so I figured I'd take you through a retrospective of the various horrors who have masqueraded as my landlords and landladies and have lent themselves to vilification and some slapstick on my blog. Retribution was long due.

There was the family of losers that I lived with in my first year in Delhi. The father was terminally unemployed and habitually shrill. The mother was gloomy as a matter of principle. The children were a couple of snobs (although I never really figured out what propelled them to indulge themselves so). One of my roomies was a habitual thief who figured that I wouldn't notice if she scamped on my toiletries. All of them, all the time. She also didn't believe in bathing too much, so I don't know what she did with the stolen toiletries. The family's idea of fine cuisine was large chunks of ginger in anything and everything. Their monthly pastime was fighting with any one of the girls living there and threatening to throw her out in the middle of the night. They were so pathetic, they made me grateful for myself everyday. I suppose one always manages to find a silver lining, no matter what. I had to look really hard for it.

Then came the young family who rented a floor in their house to my sister and me. They were nice enough, very helpful and equally weird. They had a two year old son who looked like an angel and swore like a truck driver. His linguistic blasphemies would begin every time someone failed to give him what he wanted. I woke up on many a morning to hear him call his father a whatnot, his mother a wouldyoubelieveit and his sister a don'tevengetmestarted. So yes, deeply individualistic people.

After that, I moved into a hostel in JNU. My first roomie (who lasted a year) can be described thus: acne, body odour, shady affairs. She was obsessed with the acne on her face and spent hours examining it with a sort of horrid fascination. She spent a small fortune on all kinds of ridiculous and always disappointing treatments. She also conducted a series of affairs with men she met online (one of whom was married) and always seemed to think it necessary to share the gory details with me. She left in the second year because she hadn't really reckoned with the Need To Study Sometimes. My next roomie was really nice and we had a wonderful year together, so I shall leave her out of this uncomplimentary post.

Then I moved to Bombay, where everything bad was exaggerated in true Bollywood fashion. The first tyrant looked like a really obese warden of a Kafkaesque mental asylum. She cooked curries out of only onions, mixed in water whenever extras were needed and charged money for every little transgression like leaving the bathroom lights on. I got out of there in a month, only to land up with Cronos herself.

She's seventy-five, avaricious like you wouldn't believe, and three times stronger than I am. She thinks that half a bed and a cupboard are all you need to live, and that one should cough up five grand a month without a murmur for these extravagances. She made me spray insecticide and kerosene all over my bed, so she has most certainly taken valuable years off my life span. And she has made me resent enforced vegetarianism with a vengeance. I can't wait to get out and I hope the bed bugs teach her a lesson about the need for professional pest control. I also hope she stops talking incessantly about the flaws in the other roomies when I'm studiously trying to ignore her. I hope the time comes soon when I can look back and laugh really (and even unnecessarily) hard at her.

The rant is over, for now. Pray I don't have occasion to repeat it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Just Because I Can

R: de de da de doo de de dum de de dum
Me: tell me about it :)
R: are you looking good, and feeling fine?
Me: i'm looking alright and feeling benign
R: is it feeling benign, and not feeling fine (in the song?)
Me: it is fine in the song, i believe
R: hmm... tres bien
Me: except most days i have malignant feelings towards atleast one person
R: i seem to be getting there -- yesterday i growled at colleague, and day before i shooed away a surd boy who came to the office
Me: did you growl at him on racial grounds? or coz he was there?
R: eh.. growled at colleague cos for the 5th day in a row i was opening the door for him - turned out he was just being lazy and not pulling his access card out of his bag. today pal used his access card to get into the office
Me: my god, that is probably the saddest non issue i've heard of in a long time
R: haha... i know whats happening to me?
Me: you need a couple of real problems
R: no but see the point is when you are given an access card, use the damn thing. there is no need for your colleagues to trot across to the door every day because ur too lazy to pull it out of your bag. its a different matter if you've lost it or were never given one, or on occassion left it at home. but intentionally not pulling it out everyday because you think kind ol r will let you in warrants a growl
Me: next time just smile and wave at him and ignore it
R: now there won't be a next time -- today he used his access card. yesterday i was like "what happened to your access card? did you loose it?" and he was like "no, its with me, in my bag."
Me: arre. you should wave and smile. terrific comedic potential
R: anyway surd guy -- the kind turning 13 and with sprouting facial hair -- was coming from some computer hardware company and wanted to meet admin incharge. who was truly not in the office. he refulsed to leave and i was like "jaa... abhi koi nahi hai"
Me: okay. and?
R: and then i turned my back on him and trotted off... i guess he left after that cos its the last i saw of him... muhahahaha... i'm so evil
Me: you're just anger let loose on the streets, aren't you?
R: i have less and less patience with small things like these....
Me: ah. bombay is getting to you.
********
This conversation just made me extremely nostalgic for the days of yore. You know, yore. When access cards were not even the last things on our minds.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It Only Happens To Me

There are a lot of situations that we characterize as 'filmi'. You know, when a mother tells her only son that she's made some culinary delicacy for him with her own two hands (as opposed to the rest of us who cook with our neighbours' ears), when two long lost brothers identify each other through the identical tattoos on each other's arms (who says parents don't like tattoos? They actively propagate them) or when young women are locked in their rooms and then married off to a leering goat from the nearest stable. These are situations that we believe we are safe from, simply because we are not in the movies. We carry on with our lives, cocooned in our comfortable ignorance, and we smirk every time some overenthusiatic perpetrator of celluloid melodrama claims to draw his inspiration from real life.

"Real life? HAH!', we say. "What do YOU know about Real Life?"

"Boo!", he says.

"Ooh, are YOU in for a surprise or what!", says Life.

My big surprise happened about a week or two ago. The Elder Sister called in the morning while I was pretending to work. She sounded a little bemused, as if she'd just been hit on the posterior with an airgun. The mystery behind her tone of voice was soon solved. After exchanging the usual impoliteness, she very gleefully informed me that my mother's close friend had called her earlier on the fateful morning. This lady (we'll call her NM) first made some polite conversation with the sister before telling her that she was going to visit Delhi soon. The visit was necessitated by her son's ill health. The ill health was caused by his inability to cook properly or wash his clothes or clean his house. This in turn was the result of an upbringing which thought basic survival skills too demeaning for a man-child to learn. So now this son of hers was in some amount of discomfort and she was going to visit him and shoo away the boo-boos.

So what, you ask? Well, she then proceeded to inform my sister of a meeting she had with my mum two years ago, when my mum had just found out about her illness. Apparently, my mum had requested that NM and her husband take care of me and my siblings, should the illness prove fatal. This further entailed that I marry her son (because, of course, on my own I am incapable of decisions like this).

Go on, gasp. I did, and then I fumed. My sister then told me that from the conversation she deduced that the reason this came up was because her soon is now in need of someone to cook for him, clean his house and wash his clothes. Instead of hiring a maid, his mum figured that the more economical thing to do would be to get him a wife. And who better for the purpose than poor old me who would be eternally grateful to her for 'taking care of me'? GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

First thought: "MOMMMMM! How could you sell me so short? Why didn't you just arrange for me to be tied to a cow?"

Second thought: "Dear sister, why did you not hang up on her, or even better, why did you not laugh?"

Anyway, where my story diverges from the movies is that I am not tragically locked away in my room. I will also probably never have to see the guy in my life, let alone marry him. I can also blog about my tragic misadventure. Sure, we played together as kids. Sure, our parents were friends. But unfortunately, I never was a heroine. Thank God for small mercies.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Don't Know What Anyone Sees In Anyone Else...But You :)

I feel vaguely uncomfortable writing about sentiments of the mushy variety in a public domain. It feels so typical of a reality show contestant. But I'm going to write this post anyway, because it has become quite an integral part of my life, and my blog should be in the know. After all, this is where we began.

*****

Situation One - In A Bus

"Y'know what? We really should travel more. Go out for little weekend trips. I'm getting sick of the city."

"You're right. Maharashtra has all these beautiful holiday spots near Bombay. We should go to Janjira Fort at Murud."

"What's the place like?"

"It's a fort on a cliff with a sheer drop to the sea. You remember that song in Bombay where Arvind Swamy was wailing away? That song was shot at Janjira."

"Really? That place is GORGEOUS! I always thought it was somewhere down south."

"And on the way there, the road winds around the cliff so that the sea is visible from there."

"Oh, like in Italy?"

(smiling indulgently) "Yes, like in Italy."

"OOOOH, Y'KNOW WHAT? WE HAVE TO GO TO ITALY!!!"

"Let's get to Murud first."

*****

Situation Two - In A Vegetable Market

"How much for the tomatoes...hey, wait!"

"How much for the tomatoes?"

*Huff Puff* "Mr. Market Research, do you have to know how much the tomatoes cost in every single shop? It's getting late and if we finish this quickly, we'll have more time to sit and talk. Getting cheated out of a few rupees is not a problem, ok?"

"Ok."

(On the way out) "How much for the crabs?"

"SIGH."

*****

"You've stopped drinking lots of water everyday, haven't you?"

(Burning in righteous indignation) "What makes you say so?"

"Well, we no longer have to race through town finding a place for you to pee."

"Oh."

*****

On second thoughts, that was not too bad. Not even as cloying as I'd expected. It's ok to be just a girl sometimes, I suppose.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Secret Harem

This is the first of the four odd tags that I'm supposed to do because I'm so freakishly popular. I got tagged by Priyanka and I'm doing this one first because the tag originated with her. Anyhow, here goes nothing.

The rule is to tell the world about your Georgette Heyer Man (GHM), the literary character that you fell unabashedly in love with, and prayed fervently that he might be real somehow.

My first affair with a man of letters (goodness, am I witty or what?) was with a dunce. Yes, I said dunce. And I'm not trying to be contrary to squeeze a few laughs out of you. I was about four or five when I went to a book fair for the first time. My sister bought a huge collection of fairy tales by Hans Andersen. At four I wasn't prodigy enough to read the book, but oh, the pictures. Beautiful paintings filled with people who looked like they belonged in fairy tales. A few years later, when I'd learned to read, I discovered that the book was quite intriguing. I was most taken by the story of the dunce who used a dead crow, a handful of mud and a shoe to make the princess his duck, in a manner of speaking. The feat was even more impressive when you considered that he was competing against scholars of great intelligence and equal pomposity. I'd developed a thing for the streetsmart quickwit quite early in life.

My next serious dalliance was with that most perfect ladies' man ever created, namely Mr. Darcy of Miss Austen's pen. I think the reason I loved him so much was because he was the cliche that started it all. The striking good looks, the intelligence, the hauteur and of course, the healthy wallet were all active ingredients in this veritable elixir of suitability. But the reason I liked him was because in my head he was someone else. He was vulnerable and a little less starched and a wee bit more eloquent. Ah, my Darcy.

And then of course, there was Heathcliff. More than him, it was the way that he was loved that drew me to him. There was almost a feverish intensity to my tryst with Wuthering Heights. It was the only time that I ever took my affection for a character seriously. I was actually worried as to whether it indicated some sort of pathology. Really.

There was also Atticus Finch, the one I loved because of his utter compassion. I remember crying for his quiet dignity, smiling at the gentleness of his gestures and wondering at the sort of courage that we rarely get to see, or even less understand.

In between all of this, I became friends with Kitkat and Sim, both of whom had an incurable affection for Mills and Boon novellas. Before you cringe, let me tell you that M&Bs were our circus for the next three years. I've never read such ridiculously and shamelessly bad writing and I've never relished it half as much as I did then. We even came up with the idea of writing an M&B on our own, with a fiery Mediterranean hero whose profession it was to lust over a dreary but somehow not plain heroine, whilst getting conveniently misinterpreted at every turn. To suit his scorching personality, he was named Blaaaze and our novella was to be called (ahem) Aag Ka Gola. Muahahahahaha.

All along, I also nurtured a healthy affection for both Calvin and Hobbes at different points of time, along with a great regard for Fred and George Weasley and Aragorn of a thousand different names. Also, Freddie Threepwood, the one whose favourite word was 'Cor!'. My last big affair was with Kirin, of course. He was just so completely perfect that I never really had a choice. Generous doses of a dark, mysterious past, an arch sweetness and a hearty sense of humour. And which girl could ever resist a shamelessly good looking Dark Lord? Not I. My GHM award goes to Samit Basu, manipulator extraordonaire of every shade of girlie emotions.

So now I pass on the tag to Kitkat and Sim who introduced me to Georgetter Heyer and her array of wicked men, none of whom I fell in love with. But we did have our moments of mirth, and that's not too shabby. Enjoy, ladies.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ho Hum - V

"I was abandoned..."

It seemed to me, as I listened to Rakesh's litany, that he had been singled out as the Chosen One from the moment that he was born. He had been found abandoned in front of a small garment retail shop. The owner of the shop took him in and brought him up, but only just. There was always a remove between the family and Rakesh, which was not helped by the other children's resentment towards him. This resentment festered and brewed under the surface of seemingly normal and placid daily life, and bubbled over to the surface at the least provocation, and sometimes even without it.

"I suppose", he said, "I was lucky that no one ever hit me or beat me. But they were not happy. It made them dislike me, and I never really knew whether I could blame them for it. After all, my life itself was nothing more than the sum of their kindness. But amma, you know how children are. As a child, you are much more keenly aware of every little injustice that is meted out to you. I resented them, the fact that they ate at the dining table while I sat on the floor for my meals. They went to school, while I was given lessons only when one of the older children had time to spare to teach me. I helped with the housework and in the shop, but I never received any thanks for it. My resentment was coupled by a deep, shaming guilt over the fact that I felt this way, that in some way I was being treacherous and unfaithful to my benefactors, however flawed their kindness may have been. My life passed by, largely unacknowledged. The pain was there, but over time it turned into a dull ache that I barely noticed anymore".

"Things started changing for the better once I started working fulltime at the shop. I found a strange solace in the rasp of the yards of fabric slipping under my fingers, a veritable thrill every time I was able to make a sale and a sense of giving back to the family that seemed to assuage my guilt and resentment. I also grew a lot closer to Baba. He was the one who had taken me in, and he had been good to me in his own quiet fashion. I suppose he had never really thought that I would have needed anything more than food or shelter. He had spent his whole life trying to give a good education and lifestyle to his children, with the inevitable result that they were all doing very well for themselves, speaking impeccable English and trying unsuccessfully to hide the fact that they were slightly ashamed of their not-so-polished father. He and I were joined by our love for the little shop with its peeling paint and dingy atmosphere. To him it was a lifetime's hard work and effort, to me it was a refuge as well as the arena where I proved myself everyday."

As I listened to him speak, I couldn't help but contrast his life with mine. I had spent my entire life bemoaning the dullness of my life while he had spent his life wanting the normalcy that I held in contempt. I was a little ashamed at the pettiness of my perspective. He kept talking about how adulthood had seemed to compensate for the voids felt in childhood, and slowly life started to shape up into something respectable and meaningful.

"After twelve years of working in the shop, I was more or less left in charge as Baba's growing years finally made him more agreeable to the prospect of retirement. He still came to the shop everyday, but now all he did was drink a cup of tea and watch contentedly as the business conducted itself. His regard for me had grown over the years, and he wanted to give me something that I had missed all these years: a family of my own. He had spoken to some of his relatives who had arranged for me to get married to a girl of their acquaintance. He had also built a small annexe where I would live after marriage. I was delirious with happiness. All my life I had struggled to fit in somewhere, to feel like I belonged with someone, and now it would finally happen for me. The wedding date was coming closer, and Baba took me with him to meet Neela, the girl that I would marry. I was already half in love with her although I'd never met or seen her. I imagined her as the one who would be my anchor, the one who I would live for and with, the one I could love, finally. I had trouble sleeping because of the excitement and anticipation. The day arrived, lovely and warm, and we reached her house around noon."

"We met under the watchful eyes of her parents. She came and sat next to me with her face cast downwards. I could not read her expression; it seemed to be a little troubled. She went inside after a while and I asked to go to the bathroom to wash my hands. As I walked in, I passed her room; the door was slightly ajar. I leaned in at the door to listen to her voice. All was quiet for about ten seconds. I was about to leave when suddenly I heard her say, "He short, he's ugly and the smell of his hair oil makes me gag. You can't make me. I'll kill myself if you try". I walked back to the living room, sat through the rest of the meeting and left without uttering a single word. I went home and told Baba that I didn't want to marry her, that I didn't like her demeanour. He was disappointed and behaved rather cold towards me. But I didn't really mind; my mind was consumed by the thought that someone actually preferred death to being with me. Three terrible days passed in this way. I decided that killing myself was the reasonable thing to do".

"Reasonable?"

"Reasonable", he laughed. "Reasonable because it would finally stop her words from echoing inside my head. Therefore, reasonable. I took the train to go to the beach; drowning is the only thing that is free of cost. But when I saw you almost fall off the train because of your carelessness, something inside me snapped. Amma, I'm sorry, but all the myriad little sorrows and pains that had simmered inside me for the last twenty seven years finally came out with that slap. And now we're here, and in trouble too, but I no longer want to kill myself".

"That's worth a jail term, I think", I smiled.

We sat in silence for a couple of hours. I managed to convince the lady who came in to question us that we were just victims of unfortunate sentence construction and inherent drama queen characteristics. She let us go after the mandatory stern warning, and everyone else had a good laugh at our expense. Rakesh went back to his beloved shop and I came home and dozed off for a marathon thirteen hours.

It's been a month since that day. My life is still as dull as it was before. I'm still at my old job. But I did break up with the guy who liked my shoes. I don't know if I'll ever see Rakesh again, but he did change my life irrevocably. How, you ask, since all else seems the same?

1. I'm happy.

2. I've realized that I should stick to dealing with what I can handle, and I can handle humdrum, normal and placid exceedingly well. In fact, I think that's what I'll name my children.

3. Excitement has an unpleasant corollary - a rumbling tummy. And clean toilets are hard to find. So I've decided to leave the excitement for the rest of the world.

And I think I won't tell you my name after all. I've grown to like Jane Doe.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ho Hum - IV

What next?

Beleaguered. Bewildered. And a little thirsty. That was my state as I watched the little man sob his lungs out while clutching my arm in such a manner as to make me deeply aware of the blood attempting to circulate in my body. I'd given up asking him to stop crying; apparently it only opened up more gates of grief. I'd also given up all hopes of getting to work on time, but by this time that was an insignificant detail.

I decided to get the man off the train and then figure out what to do with him. This decision was also prompted by the forty odd pairs of eyes that were still glaring balefully at me. I began with a tentative opening move.

'What's your name?'

'Sob. Sob. It's Rakesh, amma...sob, glug, sob, weep.'

'Alright, Rakesh, I'm going to help you. First get off the train with me and then we'll talk.'

At this his body was convulsed with sobs. I was beyond caring by now, so I hauled him to his feet (no mean task, I tell you. That little fellow was no lightweight). I also had to help him off the train, since he seemed to think that independent locomotion was too much to ask of him.

As I half walked, half dragged him off the platform, we were stopped by a railway official who wanted to check our tickets. I showed him my ticket and looked hopefully at Rakesh, who looked hopefully at me.

'Rakesh, show the man your ticket.'

'I don't have one.'

*Stomach sinking to as yet undiscovered depths of the nether world*

'WHAT? Why on earth do you not have a ticket?'

'I didn't think it was necessary.'

'And why is it not necessary to buy a ticket before getting on a train?'

'Because I was going to the beach to kill myself. Buying a ticket seemed a little stupid.'

'Oh.'

I mean, what else could I say? But the official did have a lot to say. Having heard 'No ticket' and 'Kill myself', he cleverly deduced that we were a either a bunch of suicidal varmints out to kill ourselves or sinister bombers out to kill others. In either case, the prudent thing to do was to dump us in a jail cell. Okay, I'm dressing it up. Technically we never really saw the inside of a jail cell, but we were taken to a very smelly police station. By this point I was no longer surprised that this was happening to me. I was just grateful that Rakesh had stopped crying and was deeply occupied with combing his hair and cleaning his nails. He explained that ever since he'd decided to kill himself three days ago, these things had just not seemed worth the effort. On my part, I called in at work to tell them that I was unavoidably detained, after which I called my mother to tell her that I would see her as soon as I got out of jail. She didn't seem too amused.

At this point of time, Rakesh decided to go loquacious on me, mostly because I'd been shooting him murderous looks and muttering darkly to myself in a corner. At first he blanched and blushed a becoming shade of purple, after which he slowly made his way to where I was sitting, and started his tale of woe.

'Amma, don't be so angry. I know it was my fault, but I really didn't mean for things to turn out this way.'

'Don't call me amma.'

'Arre, amma, bura mat maniye.'

*Baleful glare # 27*

'Acha koi baat nahi. Once I tell you the desperate tragedy of my life, you will stop feeling angry. My sorrows started as soon as I was born. I was abandoned..'

'I don't want to know.'

Rakesh looked at me petulantly. I glared right back, determined not to give in. It was at this point that he deployed his most effective weapon. His lips quivered and his eyes started brimming over with tears.

'Oh alright. Fine. I'm all ears. Talk away.'

That was enough for the quiver to be replaced by the toothiest grin I'd ever seen, and he began to tell me his woes with such relish that I couldn't help getting sucked into it, much like hapless housewives get sucked into daytime soaps.

'So, as I was saying, I was abandoned...'

**********

P.S.: - to the readers who still visit this page (That's right. Both of you). Many thanks, and today is technically a Monday.

And I'm in deep awe of Cyrus Broacha. No one else can enthrall an audience of over 300 people (and bawling kids) for over three hours by spewing unadulterated nonsense. I have a new idol.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Excuses, excuses

Yes, that's right. this post is about everything that has been going on with me in the last three weeks. These are the excuses that I'm seeking to hide behind as valid reasons for being a shirker and not writing Ho Hum Part Four. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to act pricey. I will write, and soon. It's just that soon is not today. Sigh.

Anyway, some things that happened to me...

The most standard excuse, and the truest one, is that I have been insanely busy with work. It has come to a point when there are very few hours in a day when I'm not thinking of work. I'm morphing into one of Them so fast, it's scary. My boss even yelled at me for working like a donkey.

The second thing (first in order of importance) is that I went to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival and met Samit Basu, author, amateur film-maker and latest groupie magnet. My version of groupiedom was wide-eyed adoration, laughing at Everything and saying 'Ehehehehehe...yes' on being asked if my name is S. There was a soul braver than mine who more or less propositioned the guy (y'know, the entire "I'll be there if you are" spiel. Shudder). And one very strange guy asked the father of Gameworld why he thought that writing can be frustrating when the strange guy never faced any frustration as a writer. I discovered that I still cringe in embarrassment when other people do stupid things. I was fluttering for three days after the momentous occasion, so there was no mindspace for anything else. And I have a sneaky feeling that the Silver Dagger is Mr. B's desired alter ego. What do you think?

The third thing is that suddenly my social life (which currently revolves around one person only) has become very full and exciting. And blogging has been hit. But I promise to manage time better.

Oh and some other personal stuff happened which messed up my head a bit. But that's more or less resolved.

Part IV by Monday, promise.

And next time I'll come up with better excuses.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ho Hum - III

...a long, long day.

Various people in the audience then proceeded to assume their most sanctimonious horrified-productive-morally-upstanding-member-of -the-community faces, with the collective intention of making me incontinent. I did a lot of things in those few moments, like quailing and playing cymbals with my knees. But then I realised that paralysis is never really a solution to anything, and that everybody in the compartment was actually expecting me to do something about the man who was threatening to sweep us all to the sea in the tidal wave of his very loud sorrow. Some wise person had once told me (okay, okay, I heard it on TV) that when everything starts happening to you all at once, all you need to do is to take a deep breath, and Time itself will slow down for you and let you deal with it bit by bit. At this point my memory decided to turn sardonic and remind me of how deprived I had felt when I'd first heard this, figuring it was a solution to a problem that I'd probably have to be reborn to face. Ah, the innocent ignorance of the non-happening.

Anyway, I figured that maybe now would be a good time to breathe and let the rest of the world slow down as I figured out how to wipe the mud off my face. Unfortunately, breathing, as it is, is not really always as simple as it is made out to be. Sure, we breathe. All the time. Maybe you'd snicker less if you tried breathing deeply and then, midway through the inhalation, you discovered that your throat had clogged up with the biological byproduct of fear. Now obviously, your brain would be screaming 'ABORT! ABORT!' but your nose would have gone mysteriously deaf. Eh. Noses are routinely deaf, I just remembered. To sum it up, your deep breath would end up as another near death experience of the slow-choke-to-death variety. To add insult to injury, your wheezing grimace would be misconstrued by the breathless audience as a cheeky grin, and disapproval would freeze over into disgust.

Enough. I'd had enough of feeling like a criminal. I mean, HE STARTED IT! But overwrought as I was, I was still wise enough to know that now was not a time to stress on a technicality. So, with a certain amount of difficulty, I brought myself to stop wheezing and sat down next to Cry-Me-A-River to assuage his grief. His eyes were screwed tightly shut, so I had to tap him on his shoulder a couple of times before he let up and looked at me. I blinked, mostly because upto this moment I had omitted to realise that I would actually have to say something.

"Don't cry please!", said my rapid brain.

"Guhh....nghhh", said I.

*Splutter, splutter* went Cry-Me-A-River.

Thankfully, I'd recovered enough of my faculties by this time to actually string a sentence together, no kidding.

"Rona mat, don't cry. It's not so bad, aisa kya ho gaya ki aap itna ro rahe hai?"

"AMMAAAA!!!! Kya batoon aapko!", said he, before dissolving into tears and clutching my hand in a death grip.

Great, I thought. Of all the people in the world that I could have slapped, my hand had chosen to land on the cheek of the living, breathing Spirit of Nautanki.

What next?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ho Hum - II

...a month ago.

I won't delve into the details of how the day started, because I think that 'It was a bright, sunny day' has been used so many times that now people assume that it was a bright , sunny day unless you specify that it was not, in fact, a bright sunny day. Anyway, you get the point. In the shower, I wasted nearly ten minutes contemplating alternative and more exciting career choices, like becoming a hired killer, before the water got too cold for comfort. I had chocolate covered cornflakes for breakfast that day. I don't know why this is worth mentioning, or even why I remember it. I also remember my mother telling me to wear a scarf along with my white shirt and blue jeans, because I was looking so washed out in white. I know why I remember that, though.

So I left home equipped with a multi-hued scarf, infusing some colour into me. The daily life and death struggle on the streets of Bombay commenced, and I reached the railway station after risking serious injury four times, as usual. As I got on to the platform, the train started moving and I had to clamber onto a general compartment which was closest to me. It was then that I did something unusual, in that I almost fell off. Except I didn't. Somebody grabbed hold of my scarf and pulled me back onto the train. So after a very surreal fifteen second near death experience, I found a pair of fiercely wrathful black eyes looking at me. I've never been the recipient of such vehement emotion, so I was a little bemused for a minute. Then I calmed down sufficiently to notice that the eyes belonged to a face that was topped by a mop of passionately oiled hair. If you're wondering how passion is related to the application of hair oil, it has to do with the word 'drip'. Never mind. Anyway, the hair and the eyes went with a face that was small, round, brown and contorted with rage. I think he was even gnashing his teeth. I was just about to smile in amusement when THWAACK! It took me two whole seconds to realise that the little gnome like man had actually slapped me.

I have never really been angry, but at that moment all other rational thought was completely wiped out from my brain. My ears were buzzing. I wanted to claw his eyes out and subject him to unspeakable violence, but I settled for slapping him back with all my strength, fully geared up for a fight to the finish. But what I was not prepared for was to have that face crumple up and to have a grown man burst into tears and flop down to the floor of the compartment. Everyone else in the compartment started looking at me with accusatory eyes, while the unknown man kept crying, no, wailing at the top of his vocal range. My ears were pounding with the uncomfortable sound of embarrassment, and my face resembled an overly bashful beetroot. I sighed as the realization sank in that it was going to be a long, long day..

*********

So much for Part Two. Apart from writing bad fiction, I also turned twenty four on Saturday. There was a lot of love, some beautiful presents (I'm a greedy pig, I adore gifts) and a lot of whining aboout how I was too broke to celebrate. There was also a lot of grief in my heart about how I am now utterly over the hill, to which the supersensitive 22 year old boyfriend had this pearl of wisdom to impart.

"Don't feel so bad. From now on, you must consider every passing second to be one step closer towards menopause."

Cheers! (The cheers are because I'm hoping that Skaty was spared similar pearls of wisdom. I could make a career out of optimism, couldn't I?)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ho Hum - I

This is Part One of a five part story I'm writing on request by Skaty, as a birthday gift. So it's all HER fault.

Ordinary. That's not always a very nice way to be. It is comforting and secure most of the time, but always? What if, at every moment of your life, you were the one people used as the definitive example of 'Normal'? What if you never transcended everyday life for a bit of shimmer and sparkle? Well, that was me. Jane Doe. That isn't my name, but it should've been. I had the soul of a drama queen trapped inside the body of the most inconspicuous person on the planet. My biggest grouse was that nothing, but nothing, ever happened to me.

I was the third child to my parents who had drunk so deeply of the joys of parenthood with my two elder siblings that my birth simply underwhelmed them. It wasn't as if my siblings were spectacularly talented, but I was the background which made their less than extraordinary achievements stand out. People say things like 'I was an average student', but it would be more apt for me to say that my averageness was so ingrained in me that it was the special something that I brought to everything I was or I did. I studied ordinarily, played humdrum tennis, sang unexcitingly, developed my game of golf from mindnumbing to dull and cooked the proverbial 'daal baraabar' variety of food. I finished college, like a lot of people do. Then I got a job after doing nothing for a while, which a lot of other people do as well. I met a boy whose idea of a passionate declaration of love was 'You have nice eyes and I like your shoes'. I figured that the way I felt about him was the Jane Doe version of love, so I went along with it and let him be The One who completed my mundane self.

It wasn't as though I didn't indulge the drama queen in me. I did the entire sitting-at-the-window-and-sighing-at-the-rain routine, but the trouble was that no one noticed. I clutched at my heart, batted my eyelashes and developed some other mannerisms, but they repelled me so much that I went back to being placid. I even tried wearing loud colours, but they made my digestion go haywire and I had to go back to wearing brown. I tried writing poetry but then people started to borrow my poems for help on nights of insomnia, so I stopped that as well. I just couldn't seem to catch a break.

Well, till about a month ago...