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.