Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ask a question...

A few days ago, when I was in Pune, I got an e-mail asking me if I would like to get interviewed about my blog. Since no-one has ever asked me about blogging, writing, etc., I was mighty pleased and I agreed. I had to submit the interview online and the interview has been published here:

I have been wanting to write about writing for a while now, but haven't got around to doing it because of abysmal discipline. But someday, when the idea calls and the words evolve....

My responses in the interview are as I had typed them without proofreading, and they have been published - warts and all. Sweet justice for a careless writer.

On another note, here is something I overheard in the bus while traveling from Andheri to Bandra:

Woman to co-passenger: Mujhe Bandra Talaab ke pass utar na hain. (I need to get down near the Bandra pond.)

Co-passenger: Aapko talaab khidki se dikh jayega. (You will be able to see the pond from the window.)

Woman: Idhar khadde mein itna paani hain...pata nahin chalega taalab kaunsa hai. (Here, there are so many potholes that are filled with's difficult to make out which one is the pond.)

I helpfully told the lady that the pond was the very last stop.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

T.V. viewing with Mom

There is one thing about working from home that reminds me of college days –afternoon television. There is something very scrumptious about watching T.V. on a weekday afternoon. It’s just not the same on weekends. (The program schedule for Saturdays and Sundays seems to be odd. They keep showing reruns of programs that are aired on primetime – shows that you are most likely to catch; but won’t show the programs that air in the afternoons, when you are away at work.)

Anyway, Ma nowadays is deeply engrossed in several music shows – those that involve gharaanas, some phenomenal singer who does Kailash Kher fabulously, contestants from India and Pakistan (therefore the set has very gaudy flags of both countries), and Anu Malik scowls enormously at a cute Alisha Chinai.

So, she doesn’t like being interrupted when she is watching this. But considering I am supposed to be going through a tough personal crisis now and all, she is okay if I change the channel.

The first time I did that, we both watched ‘Mindfreak.’ And it must be said that Kriss Angel is quite dishy. I don’t know when he stopped being annoyingly ghoulish (from the previous season) to being so smart and sepulchral. The dark side has a seductive representative, I must say. So, Ma, who was quite taken in with Mr. Angel watched his various antics with some enthusiasm and rapture, until…he started doing a series of vanishing acts in public places. He would gather a crowd, ask a volunteer to shoot the episode with a handheld camera, and get another volunteer to participate in the act. Then he would get the second volunteer to vanish into thin air. The part that troubled my mother was that after Kriss did that, he would walk away jauntily to claps and whistles. “But where’s Christina?”, Ma would ask me about an unfortunate volunteer who had vanished. Now, I had no way of knowing that because I don’t know what happens to the vanished people. “But when is she coming back?”

Sigh. It’s sad when a daughter doesn’t have answers for her mother.

So, we caught up with the next show where Angel’s cat Tammy (all wierdos…sorry –'the normalcy challenged' are cat people) was levitating over chips and Ma again came up with "Where’s Christina?”

A few days passed this way and I started taking afternoon naps. My afternoon idiot boxing now shifted to another time.

A week later, I was watching a cute, twinkle-eyed blond dance and jiggle before settling into a chair and start talking to the audience. Ma took a look and exclaimed, “That’s not Oprah!”

Well, Oprah wasn’t the only one who has a talk show, I reminded her. She didn’t seem convinced.

“Is it that girl who always acts with Tom Hanks?”, she asked again. It was a very inadequate description of Meg Ryan to begin with, and I didn’t think the talk show host resembled her, but…

“It’s not Meg Ryan. It’s Ellen Degeneres.”

“Oh. What is her show about?”

“I don’t know…it’s the Ellen Degeneres show.”

OH! I want to watch!”

Now, I didn’t know what got Ma so keen into watching the show, but…

20 minutes into the show, Ellen had read a few letters, made a crank call, talked to a Desperate Housewife, and was doing the routine talk-show thing. Meanwhile, conversation between Ma and me went thus:

Ma: “She’s still here…”

Me: “So…”

Ma (getting irritated): “She will be here for the whole 1 hour?”

Me: “Yes..” (I didn’t understand. I mean, it’s not as if Oprah handed over her show to someone else after the first half-hour.)

Ma: “She stays on the WHOLE show…she doesn’t go anywhere?”

Me: “Why should she go anywhere? It’s her show?”

Ma: “So why is this stupid show called ‘The Ellen Degenerates Show?’ Tell me when that handsome boy’s show comes on. Maybe today, Christina will be back.”

Oprah was simpler to explain.

Friday, August 17, 2007

An aunt now

My cousin delivered a baby boy after 14 years of marriage. The child’s name is Karan and he is…well, round and pink. As far as round, pink, and little people go, it is difficult to say who they resemble. But speculation has already begun. My brother-in-law is fair and cupid-looking, while my cousin is dusky with excellent thick hair. But neither of them is half as adorable as the baby. The baby, I am proud to say, has taken after our family tradition of eating, sleeping, and making parents feel guilty for not feeding them while they were sleeping. And all this in ten days.

So, now I want a baby of my own, but a girl…because I don’t know what to do with boys. (And as recent experience goes, my ineptitude extends to boys of ALL ages, apparently.) So I would like a little baby girl. Sometimes, around 3 a.m. or so, I actually feel as if there is a baby next to me, sound asleep. If I lay still long enough, I feel soft breath on my shoulder and the cute wangle of plump, little arms. And then I want to wake up and take the baby to the window to watch the dawn. Of course, if my girl takes after me, then a mother who wakes her up at dawn would be first one to be killed off.

But this is something I would definitely do when I have a daughter.

We’d probably vacation in a cute cottage by the sea, and we’d go for walks on the beach and collect shells when the sky is still reminiscent of a sleeping peacock.

I wonder when that will happen. Somewhere deep in the cosmos, where dreams and wishes rest before they rise and fill up people’s lives, my little baby is sleeping. I feel happy and peaceful when I think about this.

Getting back to baby Karan. His uncle, who is a media guy in Bombay, called to give me the good news. And in true fashion of a director announcing a star’s deciding film, he said to me, “The baby…he’s arrived.”

My brother, I think, will be out shopping for custard mix for the child. I don’t know why he thinks that babies will like custard powder, just because he used to polish off 5 bowls of custard at a time.

So, that makes me the most normal relative. I now proudly accept the mantel of being the child’s favorite aunt. Tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Chak De India

My mother has been unwell of late. But today, she took me to watch ‘Chak De India’. Because Ma will always go to watch a Shah Rukh Khan film. Somewhere around the time DDLJ released, my mother implicitly adopted him. She goes for his films the same way she’d attend any of our prize distribution functions. With joy and anticipation. Of course, some movies are credited with more enthusiasm… as if her kid was actually participating or had won a prize (‘Swades’, ‘Dil To Paagal Hai’, ‘Main Hoon Na’); some others…well, she went along because, after all, it is the kids school day function and you had to turn up for the event – even if all he was doing was being inane (‘Don’, ‘Ashoka’, ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’), etc.

Most times, I don’t like Shah Rukh Khan. Or, I mean, he’s okay. I have liked him in films people haven’t seen or probably been indifferent to. Like, I really liked him in ‘Chalte Chalte’. More so, because he reminded me of myself – impetuous, tough to take, but really adorable (I’m not really modest, that way); and there was this other film called ‘Duplicate’. I loved that film! Especially, I liked the names of the characters he essays – Mannu (gunda) and Babloo (cook).

But Chak De is really good for so many reasons.

One, it is a movie with Shah Rukh, but at the same time, it is not Shah Rukh Khan’s film. Remarkable maturity on part of the director to have pulled this off, I think.

Two, it brought to light a couple of interesting things, without preaching. There are aspects of sports –discipline, technique, preparation, guts, sportsmanship, defeat, victory – that are independent of gender. And the only way to get taken seriously, to show that you matter, is by winning on the field.

Three, the movie depicted a rather beautiful way of mentoring. Shah Rukh is talking to a couple of players about infighting. These two girls want to outdo each other by scoring the maximum number of goals. So, on the field, neither passes the ball to the other, even if it compromises the team’s chances of winning. Shah Rukh simply reminds them why they’re there, and then leaves them to sort things out between themselves.

It takes a very generous teacher to let the students decide what’s best for them – even when it is so tempting to just tell them what needs to be done. Even when victory is so close. To have enough faith to trust some-one’s judgment in precarious times is always such a remarkable thing.

There were a few other things that were quite amusing.

The movie begins with a hockey match between India and Pakistan. The commentator says things like: “Aur ab Kabeer Khan ne Pakistani player se ball cheen liya.” I mean, we do refer to the players of the other team by name, right?

And also, the first match the Indian team wins in the international arena is against U.K. Not China or Italy or France, but England. We still have that subliminal ‘colonized no more’ point we seek to make.

Of course, now, Australia is a different league all together. Whether on film, or in life, that team is just something else. It doesn’t matter what sport they’re playing.

I had seen a cricket match, I think a World Cup, years ago when India played against Australia in the finals. Australia didn’t even need their whole team to win. They practically managed it with some 6 odd players actively playing, with the rest looking attentive but not doing much. It’s as if they get their best to perform their best all the time.

After a really, really long spell, I felt that no-one could’ve done the coach’s role better than Shah Rukh. (Except Sanjay Dutt – and that, perhaps, is a personal bias.) Also, those girls from Haryana and Punjab…man, they’re something else! I’d say watch it for them.

Oh! And FINALLY, it was really heartening to see India take its place in the world through sweat, work, and grit. And not, as is happening now, just through some stupid SMSing gimmick. (Like, if you want to see India win the hockey championship, type ‘SHIT’ and send it here. Nonsense! And what follows is a sanctimonious campaign that if you are a true Indian, you will vote. Otherwise, you are some bionic algae that came floating down the Indus.)

All in all, ‘Chak De’ is very good. I still don’t get the full import of the expression though. What does ‘Chak De’ mean? And is there a ‘Chak Le’?

Music Recall

Froth in a pot of fresh milk. Pop of a bubble. Spritz from a water spray. Tickle of a feather. A baby’s nose nuzzling at the neck. A puppy squirming on the lap to find its spot. Snuggle under a fat, cushiony blanket through a bluish, winter night. Patter of babies’ feet. The first whiff of a gentle monsoon through a huge balcony. Jingle of new coins in a well-worn pocket. Jangle of trinklets and madly wound lockets. Whistle of the pressure cooker triggering an evening appetite. Gurgle of a mountain stream. Trickle of a traveler’s dream. Crunching of a hundred stars. Blooming of a thousand flowers. Dancing shadows in a secret cellar. Carefree swirls of the Blue Umbrella.

Vishal Bharadwaj is terrific.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Book buys

After being lumped up the whole day in front of my computer, I thought I’d go out and get some swallow of fresh air. So I went for a book fair in Vashi, opposite Centre One. I wasn’t really expecting anything spectacular, because, truly the best deals I have seen so far are at the Strand book sales and Daryaganj. Very rarely has anything come close to being as remarkable as these – both in choice of literature available and the prices they are available at.

But surprisingly, I got a couple of books I wanted to dive in to as soon as I reached home. (But unfinished business beckons, and that’s the very worst kind of beckoning.)

The first one is ‘We’ll Laugh Again’ by Art Buchwald, who is astonishingly chuckleworthy. He is such a charming political humorist (or satirist, depending how you read him.) I’ll never forget the way he portrayed the Potomac in some of his columns – fulcrum of poetry, politics, and poofy presidential peccadilloes. (I think I am recollecting my impressions of 'Whose rose garden is it anyway?')

The second book, ‘Small Wonder,’ is a collection of essays by Barbara Kingsolver. I have been meaning to read her ‘Poisonwood Bible’ for a long time now, but the book has always been a little out of reach. Since I don’t think I can assimilate any kind of deep, conceptually challenging thoughts yet, a collection of essays would be just right for me to ease in to the world of reading.

So, that was an hour that was spent well. Now, all I need to do is find time to read these books and then, hopefully, write about them. I think that is what is going to drive me for a while – the motivation to share my impressions on what I read.

Probably, the next few weeks will see me put up smottles of these books on the blog.

Bagel Point

The other day, I met Jaygee at ‘Just Around the Corner’ and I was horribly late. Tardiness was due to my speed of driving (seldom shifting to fourth gear – and this being Mumbai, who notices that, right?) and the traffic at Sion (the new Andheri for heavy vehicles). I reached 70 minutes past the appointed time. She was waiting patiently, buried in a book.

Later, after I’d munched on an interesting egg, mushroom and olive sandwich, we had had enough of the intense, chatty, bright and colorful postered environment. So, I asked Jaygee where we could go. As usual, she suggested a new place. And as usual, it was an excellent little spot.

Bagel Point is a little off the Zigzag road, where you roll down towards Carter Road. It is so shack-y, bit-sized, and cute. The scooped wicker sofas, interestingly tiled walls, and a large rocking chair reminded me of those cubbyholes Enid Blyton wrote about. The best part was that this place was in Bandra, and yet, not teeming with people. That was really noteworthy and in a very pleasant way.

So, we ordered a couple of bagels with cream cheese. I believe Jaygee had a poppy-baked one with herbed cream cheese, while mine was a cinnamon and raisin bagel with natural cream cheese. I really liked mine (cinnamon and raisin is my favorite combination in sweet, baked stuff), although the cream cheese didn’t go very well with it. And then we washed it down with cappuccino and a very fragrant mint tea.

The joint is cheery, but ‘hush’; as in, it’s not Archie-comic type vibrant, but it is a really fun place. Great place to get a book and read, and maybe stroll down to Carter Road to break the monotony.

I’m looking forward to trying my cinnamon bagel without the cream cheese now. Jaygee, let’s go there again.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Dial '100'....for what?

Around 10 minutes back, a guy dressed in police uniform came up to my door and knocked.

When I opened the door, he thrust a register in my face and asked me to sign. The register had two columns – one for the name, and one for the amount. So, obviously, there was some ruse to garner donation for 15th August.

I asked him for ID. In response, he showed me a cheesy Polaroid photograph of him hoisting a flag and some kids in the background,

Bacchon ke liye (for the children)’, he said.

So, here was a guy impersonating the police and asking for money. Clearly an offence.

I politely told him that I won’t give the money. He said, ‘Okay’ and went away.

But considering how critically such an incident jeopardizes safety, I called up ‘100’.

The phone rang for 10 minutes and no one picked up.

I called up a second time.

This time, someone picked up the phone and I told him what had happened.

He then had the cheek to tell me that I should call up Vashi police station instead and tell them.

Why?, I asked.

Because the call had apparently gone to the ‘Belapur’ police station.

Then I sounded him off pretty good. Maybe I was a little unclear about the facts, but I thought that citizens are prompted to dial 100 because it is a centralized call receiving system. Based on details of the complaint, the person taking the complaint then informs the required authorities to take action; instead of doling out phone numbers of the ‘correct’ police station.

So, he tells me that ‘Fine, I will call up the Vashi police station.’ Huge favor!

I want to complain to a higher authority now. If someone has an idea how to go about it, please let me know.

Calling ‘100’ is what we are all taught to do when we are in danger or we encounter anything illegal. It is most distressful when you have to be at the receiving end of blasé, ignorant attitude.

In any case, if anyone in Vashi is reading this, please be careful if a cop comes knocking at your door and asks you to sign a register.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One fine day

Mum has been down with a virulent viral attack since a week now. Her room is dark most of the time. Sometimes, when she fancies a bit of sun, we draw the heavy, ivory drapes so that a little peach-tinted sunshine can float in and nestle around the rims of mirrors or in the deep folds of the quilt. Everything on the bed seems to have soaked up her fever. The pillows and sheets feel toasty; the bedspread could probably comfort someone coming in from a cold and clammy place. While the room itself is usually cheery, now it feels strained. My breaths are sharp and shallow because I am waddling through my own stuff and trying to meet deadlines at work. Mum’s breathing is labored but gentle.

One day, for no rhyme or reason, a really beautiful morning visited us at home. It came skipping across a few rolling hills, gathering sweet, strange wetness of grass in the dawn. There was a perfect guzzle of moisture in the air and a huge porridge bowl of light that was centered in the sky.

I usually spend a few minutes in the morning with Ma before I get down to the library to start work. She was sleeping, but something about the way her fingers twitched, made it seem that she wanted a bit more today. More than the usual backrub, kiss on the cheek, and gentle tiptoe out of the room.

So I simply got up and drew the curtains. There was such a song in the room that very second. A cool ticklish wind on my brow, a fresh, minty scent from somewhere. It seemed as if the essence of the very best seasons, usually bottled as perfume or wine, just floated in and made itself at home. The room looked as if I were watching it through a stretched buttercup petal. The young wind rustled a few papers, pranced around my mother, and brushed away any residue of a restless and uncomfortable night.

That second, it seemed as if the room took a long, deep breath.

I guess everything waits to exhale sometime.