Thursday, January 31, 2008

Having a good day

It’s a great day today! Feels like thunder!

Practically glided through Mankhurd and had a pretty neat plate of medhu vada and sambhar for breakfast.

Then I met a friend online who is the father of a very sweet two-year old. (Or “27 months”as he pointed out.)

He told me that he loves spending time with her. Sometimes he puts her on his back and does push-ups. Some other times, she starts jumping on his tummy when she feels Papa needs to do crunches.

Saturday nights, though, father and 27-month old daughter go for movies by themselves.

It’s the last thought that makes me feel so warm.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Unpredictable child

I had to take a rick to work from Kalanagar this morning. It was already around 9:30 or so when I reached the autostand opposite the ONGC building. I was quite certain that none of the autorickshaws would be ready to take on Marol at that time. One of the rickshaw fellows, though, agreed. I hopped in with the joy I reserve for Christmas parties. Rickshaw? Marol? 9:30 a.m.? Monday? ‘Tis the season to be jolly! Yay!

Now, my usual experience of traveling in Bombay around this time is hardly ever pleasurable. One is lodged permanently in a strip of choked concrete and mortar with brittle pebbly air scraping your nasal duct. One reminiscences of having a fish bone lodged in the gullet for over an hour. If one is vegetarian, one suffers without appropriate analogy in mind.

But increasingly, the traffic situation in Bombay is not just horrific. It’s unpredictable. Today, the rickshaw zipped and turned and went up the highway and zoomed down the flyover happily. Cars were neatly moving in, umm...what’s the word for that now, oh yes…lanes. Chakala was open and not wheezing and gasping with buses and trucks. And to top it all, the meter of the rickshaw ticked to a regular, honest beat.

Finally, with a clean turn, I arrived at the gate of the office, paid the rickshaw fellow, whistled and stepped out. Today, I tilted my chin up to face a day when nothing would make me feel bad.

Sometimes this city is so difficult and tough to take – like a shrieking, howling, furious baby. But just when you steel yourself to pick it up and get on with your day, it nuzzles at your neck and falls asleep. And then, getting through traffic is like running a finger on a smooth, plump cheek.

Tired Nature’s Sweet Restorer – Thank you

Earlier, I have usually cribbed about my insomnia or the racking quality of sleep. So, I think it is only fair that I duly appreciate my sumptuous slumber when I am getting it. On this count, I must admit that vegetarianism has done me good. I sleep beautifully now. In fact, the moment I lie down and go through a few pages of some novel or the other, I am slowly sinking into a sweet, dreamless zone. I breathe better and even if I have eaten a lot of rice and oily food, I don’t feel any discomfort or undue heaviness.

The best part is that I wake up completely refreshed. There’s no heavy headedness or lethargy. I’m completely rested and ready to take on the world! In fact, now, when I say “Good morning!”, I truly mean it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Assortments

I don’t like the way people check you out at office parties. As if simply being out of office and sludging liquor gives one a license to freely ogle and comment on what one is wearing, what one is drinking, how one is dancing, etc.

It is dismal that vegetarian fare in buffets is reduced to a staple of 4-5 dishes of black dal, some korma-type agglomeration of orange and red vegetables, palak paneer, rice, and chewy naan. Just because a person doesn’t eat meat anymore doesn’t mean that she has lost all taste for food. I think more vegetarians must be drawn to high fat and sugary foods than non-vegetarians, because one desperately looks for compensation to tickle the palate.

One of my New Year resolutions is to lose around 8-10 kilos by the end of the year. It will be more difficult to do this now than before because the motivation is slightly tepid. Although, in my mind, I have a very clear image of how I want to be - sharp, lean, angular without any of those womanly ‘curves’, I don’t think I can summon up all that drive that will help me get into that shape. At least, not immediately.


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I don’t think I should buy any clothes at all this year. It’s easier said than done, because I buy a lot of clothes. Not that I particularly like them – I mean, of course, I do, but I usually never end up with what I really like. They are either too expensive, small, or incongruent with my lifestyle. The thing is I hate repeating clothes. Ever since I was young, I hated repeating clothes. Even when I was in school, I had five sets of uniforms for the week. Of course, I would repeat them over the month (much to my chagrin), but I would absolutely not repeat a uniform in the same week.

I know this sounds snobbish, but my dislike doesn’t stem from snobbery. I just think that once something is worn, it’s worn out. Time for something new. Of course, I can’t afford to do this now, what with the same pair of jeans being worn again and again and again. But, yes, someday when I can afford it, I will wear pretty likeable stuff one time and move it along.

Nowadays, I don’t even like reading the same book again, or watching a film I’ve seen before. I even want a fresh, squeaky new set of people to interact with. It’s strange. I intend to figure all this out when I go for my Vipassana course. One year of being vegetarian and shedding at least 4 kilos and I’ll go for the course.

A sharp metabolism helps meditation, I think. You acquire focus faster.

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I am a little confused – as to whether I am looking forward to the rains or not. *Smiles* I am, I think. I remember my very first walk up Pali Hill in early evening during the rains.

Bandra, dearest Bandra, come to me.

Although I am happy now to have you as my everlasting desire and not home. Still, baby…come to me.

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I am so phenomenally distracted. Why? What’s on my mind? Well, lots, yes…but they don’t need to be there. I wish there was some locker in which you could dump pieces of your mind and go to work. I really need to work with a lighter mind.

I think I am trying very hard to get peace of mind. It shouldn’t be so hard. Maybe I need to approach it in a different way.

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Today is my cousin’s engagement and I am wearing a pink cotton sari. With tulip-pink nails (I’m not wearing the nails, I got them ‘lacquered’), and delicate pearl ear-rings and a pearl necklace. I love pearls. Pink and pearls, in fact, is my very favorite combination. Along with white with silver, red with platinum, and black with nothing.

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I am just trying to clear up the dregs in my mind before I get down to work. But I am extending all this time like crazy. I procrastinate way too much. I really think I should work on mustering up sufficient drive to get something done – or simply, to get something – like a Skoda Fabia. It’s a really good looking car. Reminds me of a piece of jalapeno perfectly roasted in butter and coated with an even layer of crisps. Imagine driving around in something so tasty.

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I wonder if I’ve written about it before, but it bears repeating – what is it with the MTV roadies? What kind of shitty slop is that? And why is Nikhil Chinappa trying to act so harsh and unpleasant? He’s such a charming chap. Who IS that other egg-headed man anyway? The one with a repertoire of carps limited to ‘F**** wannabe!’, ‘F****** fake wannabe’, ‘F**** predictable fake’, ‘F***** Bani’. Who is Bani? Or is this what ‘Bunny’ sounds like in blasé drawl?

Sheesh! Roadies. And why Chandigarh ALL THE TIME?

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Hill Road is fabulastic when it comes to bargains! I mean, the selection of tees or pants you get there is remarkable. And you don’t even have to worry about size. Of course, one does come across certain horrendous pieces that look like a pile of FisherPrice toys melted and clumped to form huge florid symbols. But what the heck- some bad taste is acceptable in the face of such bargain!

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The first month is practically speeding past. And I’m not really very gung-ho-ish about the kind of pace I am packing in at work. I am such a slug. In any case, I think the problem is that I tend to be too ambitious and try to work on too many things at the same time.

What I should be doing is take one thing and let that occupy the central part in my mental shelf. I’ll move it around, just to see how it looks here and there, but there should be only one thing on the shelf. When I have finally figured out what to do with that one thing, I will move on to another. Eventually, I may have a crowded shelf, but at least I will know how they all got there.

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I have been feeling sort of stuck, so I thought I’d just scribble something down to engage my hand and head. I just doodled: ‘There are so many scrunchy excerpts!’ Wow!

Also, on another note, if we aren’t careful, we become what we don’t want to become.

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With regard to anything, I think the trick is to take it slow. Although bulldozing and destroying ‘constructs’ is great, it is best to let something settle down and then incinerate it completely with single-minded focus.

For example, let’s say you are trying to get over someone. We put so much importance on moving on that we immerse ourselves in a hundred little details. We kick up a storm because we’re moving. But one day, all this escapism is bound to catch up. So, I think it is best to let things stand for some time. I mean, one just has to go through troubled times. They can’t be avoided. But it can either be done simply and with grace, or it can be done in a choppy, harsh fashion. So, you grieve for a while, make sense of it all, and then when the pain has numbed (as in it feels dull and throbbing, and not like a thousand fiery pin-pricks), you apply your strength, root out the grief and throw it away for good.

Not giving oneself enough time is the same as not giving oneself enough credit. It can only lead to dissatisfaction.

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Yesterday, a colleague mentioned that it is so much better to not know one’s purpose in life. Life becomes boring once you do. I disagreed. I told her that life veritably becomes much more liberating when you know what you need to be doing. That rids you of second guesses, etc. “So, why is knowing what to do a bad thing?”, I asked her.

“Because then you have to do it.”

Yes. There is that.

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It’s lunch time and I am trying to maneuver a huge tray through a crowd in the cafeteria. My colleagues are sitting and one of them is discussing her brother-in-law. She calls him a ‘cocky dick’. Everyone hollers and two people snort out daal and almost make me lose my balance. I think I should eat alone.

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I don’t understand this whole business of…understanding. If everything is supposed to be interpreted subjectively, then what is misinterpretation? Then everybody is right. So, how can anyone be far off the mark? Surely, there must be one common peg to everything. You can use that peg to hang anything you want, but it needs to be on that one peg. You can’t hang something on another wall, because if you do, then maybe that is misinterpretation.

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It would be nice to have an art gallery with a bed. Lie down and look around at canvasses. Lovely thought.

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I came across something on the net about women clicking photographs of men who eve-tease them. These photos are put up on a website. I don’t feel too comfortable about this. It seems like taking the law into your own hands. It’s not like slapping someone, which would be self-defense.

How do you judge the credibility of the source? How does one know that a woman, in fact, is sending across the photo? It could be the alleged perpetrator’s jealous brother-in-law.

But extending this further, maybe one should also take photographs of the by-standers as well…the ones who stand around and do nothing. Or, for that matter, authority figures who need to be ‘requested’ to step in and who do nothing of their own accord.

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My distraction is getting chronic now. I can’t seem to tackle any task at one go. I need hundreds of breaks and stops to get back to something. I must do something about it…besides giving in, that is. I tried that and it has only spoiled me further.

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Every time I work in a project full-throttle, I am surprised at how frequently one has to go back to check one’s fundamentals. A good project, though, allows you to do that instead of making you feel guilty about it.

And it’s astonishing how much I get done when my phone is out of charge.

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I have just finished plugging in difficult portions of a lengthy document. That done, I went to the canteen for some snack. I had a plate of saabu daana khichdi with tasty, sweet curd, one dhabeli, and a cup of tea. I am so full and sated that I’m feeling drowsy. And today promises to be a long, long night. Looking forward to it though. Yay for client calls!

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A cousin recently got engaged and it was such fun. He got engaged to a Punjabi and their ceremony is called ‘Roka’. I like the name. It’s so sweet and innocent. ‘Stopped’, ‘Halted’, ‘Desisted’.

In any case, I love Punjabis - they have such an incomparable amount of ‘joie the vivre’. My prospective sis-in-law’s family was thunderously represented on the dance floor. Her 90 year old grandfather was swinging away to glory. When people told him to slow down because he’d recently hurt his back, he scowled and lifted his walking stick in the air to shoo the naysayers off.

That’s what I love – the total gusto with which these people dance. While my family shuffled around self-consciously, all the while keeping one eye on the buffet (we’re Oriyas – that should explain it), the other group just took to the floor and sang along and swiveled and jumped. It was such a joy to watch them! Even when the DJ played some Spanish numbers (I mean…'Spanish!’), they would just embrace the music even if they couldn’t sing along, even if they didn’t understand the song…I love that spirit! Have feet, will dance. For that reason alone, I think I should everyone marry a Punjabi. And from what I see around me, I think everyone is.

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Usually, when I’m late for office in the morning, I take the 533 bus from Vashi depot. This bus goes to Oshiwara and stops very close to office (which is not in Oshiwara, but en route). Now, the thing with Vashi buses is that they are severely crowded throughout the day. Not only this, but if you don’t find a seat when you get in, it’s likely that you won’t find one until you get out. Everyone seems to get off only at the last stop.

Today, the bus was more crowded than usual. I suppose everyone, like me, had overslept on a Friday morning thinking it to be Saturday. So I pressed my way in and the bus careened off. I am so horrible with balancing myself that I was most thankful to the crowd for wedging me in securely. I was carrying a big, unwieldy lunch-box that was hitting the people around me. Then, I had to dig into my purse for change and I practically fell on top of the man in front of me. He was dozing and woke up with comic alarm. On top of all that, I had moisturized before I left my house, so my hands were greasy. I couldn’t get a grip on the railings and again I did a mini-pirouette before stamping someone and hitting someone else with my tiffin-box.

Blarmy tiffin! That’s why offices have canteens – so employees don’t become nuisances when they travel in BEST.

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Had gone to Pune this weekend. It was a lovely trip – especially the ‘to’ and ‘fro’ parts. I went in one of those tin cases that are non-A/Cs and have twisted railings and teal-colored rubber seats. It was great fun. I had a window seat in a practically empty bus, and I saw enough sights to remember all the happy holidays in my life. Some road trips are like that, you know – you see trinkets of clouds and puddles or huts and grazing cows, and they probably remind you of some field you had spotted when you drove through your village in your childhood.

These non-AC buses make a trip feel so much more picnick-y than the A/C Volvos with Dhoom and Dus playing again and again and again.

This bus took a slightly longer, but a much prettier, woodsy route. I had two gulps of very refreshing sugarcane juice in Khopoli, and I nibbled through a box of chikkis while we lobbed over Lonavala. There was a stretch where I could see swatches of very different kinds of grass and hay. Some squares looked like luscious emerald felt. Some stacks of hay looked like silken flax. And there was an exquisite type of entwinement that lay across the farmlands. They were like huge weaves of a humungous bird. So fine and intricate were its meshes that you could see the fractured prettiness of the world through it. Under the regular Deccan sunshine, these stacks glowed luminescent like an angel’s eyes.

I could only imagine what they’d look like in moonlight.

I had almost finished my chikki by the time we crossed the stretch. Sometimes, even with Nature, we’re only left with crumbs and yet, we’re happy.

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When, in the not-so-distant past, we would applaud the Bombay spirit, and talk about the soft heart in the hard cage phenomenon, there was no mention of ‘outsiders’ then. When we spoke of robust large heartedness of the feet on the street, we never spoke of outsiders then.

But now, when there is attack and shame, we speak of outsiders. Why?

And if the message is that our local homegrown cops cannot deal with the ‘outsiders’, then maybe we need to bring in more capable officials from ‘outside’.

The ones who don’t think that only bomb blasts merit prevention and protection.

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I love reading NY Times, especially their theatre and movie reviews and their food and fashion sections. They are imbued with such intellect and, sometimes, wit. Sharp, sharp, sharp!

I was just reading a review on a couple of Shakespeare’s plays running in Broadway. The review is quite cleverly titled: ‘Howls and Wonder: Shakespeare on Love’ and it talks about ‘Much ado about Nothing’ and ‘Othello’ (this one has Ewan McG as Iago).

The writer talks about the portrayal of Beatrice and Benedick thus: ‘…..Beatrice and Benedick are tricked into believing they are the objects of each other’s confessed love. Both are literally baptized into the new faith.’

It’s true…Love is a new faith. What a wonderful way of putting it!

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Sometimes I wonder if there would be anything in this world if it weren’t for expectations. All thought, theories, institutions, consecrated action groups – what have you… arise out of a sense of disappointment or discord…out of a sense that things are not as they should be. What “should” they be like? Where would we be without this invisible benchmark? This strange, difficult yardstick?

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There are so many scraps of paper between my books and diaries with the openings of stories for the book that I want to write. It would be nice if these scraps were like litmus papers. They’d turn blue if you jotted down ideas that would actually lead to something big – like a published book; and they’d turn red if they were only going to remain tired itties of articulation.

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I had a really substantial tea-time snack now. A huge plate of ‘spring dosa’ which had shredded cabbage and thin, brown onions and lots of green spring onion stalks. That and a large mug of apple juice. My stomach and my soul feel so sated now. I have that happy drowsiness that one feels all day during vacations. Mucho nice!

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I caught a trivia show on radio this morning. Apparently, Bandra station is a 100 years old. Well, it certainly looks it.

Oh, that reminds me…I haven’t booked a train ticket at Bandra station since years now. I usually get a return ticket from Vashi or I travel without a ticket. Just kidding…I take the bus to Vashi from the depot nearby.

I love taking bus numbers 211 and 214 from opposite the station though. I used to live on Ambedkar Road before, and these buses were just the perfect way to reach there. Even today, I love the sweet folksy atmosphere of these buses. They are clean and manned by really courteous conductors and bus drivers. They drive around colorful, bright breakfast places like ‘Just Around the Corner’ and a bustling vegetable market. Then they ride up a narrow cobblestone path and you see such homey sights from the windows that they warm your heart and make you feel cheery. Finally, they stop just outside my building.

I love Bandra. There are seven heavens in one plane of existence and then there is my continent of childhood with the pin code: 400 050.

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I think my current workplace has loads of people who just need to grow up. It is choked with people who are too full of themselves and can’t see beyond their own noses. When I’m in the company of such people, I feel I’m in the midst of squalor. It’s a very surreal kind of feeling. I think that all communication means inviting people to or getting invited to step into a person’s internal crevice, an inside room. So, each one of us are these carriers of hollow spaces. People who are full of themselves seem to have these spaces strewn with rubbish. Garbage cans are full and you have to tiptoe around them carefully so as not to sully yourself. There is no place for you to sit and barely enough for you to move. It’s best to get out of there.

Then, there are cynical people whose inner spaces feel like coffins. There is so much darkness and dampness. Blinds are drawn tight and there’s no fresh air or sunshine.

On the other hand, some other people have such open hearts that they are a delight to be around. Their inner spaces are sunny and airy. There’s no clutter and everything in it feels roomy and comfortable. You don’t have to walk on egg-shells.

Their inner spaces feel like home.

I would like to depict this idea in a painting.

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I think I’m going to Seasons today – to buy a salwar kameez piece for my cousin. Although it will be a pain to get there, what with all this traffic, it will be nice to go shopping with my mom. I think it’s a great boon to have an interesting mother. I mean, even if I don’t agree with anything she says, at least our disagreements are entertaining. I’d like to have dinner with her though – just the two of us. I hope it works out. It will be great fun!

The problem with buying a salwar kameez piece, though, is that I can’t find a nice enough one for my budget – which is 1500 bucks. Maybe I can up it to two thousand rupees. I suppose I’ll just get a couple of kurtis, I think. A red one and a white one. Maybe if I throw in a green one, I’ll make it a Christmas trio ensemble.

Or should I get some nice, luxurious, scented stuff from Body Shop? Choices, choices…

For now, though, an evening with mother sounds great!

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There’s a man in my office who has very beautiful eyes. His lashes are thick, and brown, and they cover his brownish-grey eyes so gently. Looking at his eyes, you get the effect of looking at the moon through the branches of a fir tree. I think he must have spent many hours by a lake.

His screen has a picture of a little girl. I think it’s his daughter. She has the exact same eyes. So beautiful.

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I’m going to make some important changes at work now. I am definitely going to be on time every day. And I have to work in some time to read more about my professional ‘frontiers’ so to speak. Just so I know what’s going on. If one’s not careful, though, it’s easy to limit one’s awareness of professional development to finding out which company is recruiting.

On that note, I think my field is full of clueless people. Most people are in this field because it’s a rather cushy job and pays quite well. Compared to the jobs they were dissatisfied with on account of work or pay. But what I find irritating is that no-one takes the time to read up about the field or spend any free time learning more about it. How is one supposed to feel any engagement with a profession one knows nothing about?

I think that’s why theories are important. They give credence to a discipline. They validate the notion that this field was important enough to dedicate organized thought to.

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I’d gone to a tarot card reader the other day. He has a small shop that sells feng-shui type stuff, and he had a shelf displaying the cutest, littlest, portliest ganpatis. They looked so plump and rotund and chubby, with their tummies thrust out and smiling so beatifically.

Anyway, he told me that I eat too much and that’s why my creativity is blocked. Due to gluttony. I have tremendous potential that I must be mindful of, but it’s just swishing around in some celestial cup because I’m a great gobbler. I told him that I was a vegetarian now, and I have given up meat. “That doesn’t mean you are eating any less,” he said.

Oh well. If my stars, along with my waistline, are giving out that message, there must be something to it.

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Yesterday, I checked out the Crossword sale and found a couple of things I liked – a coffee table book on Desperate Housewives for 249 bucks, I think, and a really neat looking collection of fashion illustration. But I’ve decided not to buy anymore books now. I got a couple of DVDs though – ‘Capote’ and ‘Friends with Money’. I wonder when I’ll watch these flicks.

I was quite tempted to get the DVD for ‘Ratatouille’ though. Next time, perhaps.

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Now, FabIndia is getting frightfully expensive. Why should those faded, curtain-print kurtas cost 650 bucks? Sheesh! I think now cotton is taking the place of silk as a fabric for the rich and elegant. I approve, of course, because cotton is such a smart fabric.

And I also like the ‘cotton-silk fabric’.

I was thinking of getting a smart pair of paints made in this cotton-silk fabric – in some sort of a vibrant print – maybe yellow and pink with silver and turquoise threadwork,. And I’d team it with fitted black tee and chappals.

I quite like the vision in my head.

Where is Nalli’s in Bombay? I think I’ll never find good salwar-kameez pieces in Mumbai.

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Went to Seasons in Santa Cruz yesterday. They had some good stuff and some pretty avoidable stuff. So, it’s basically like any other store. I still didn’t find any salwaar-kameez material I liked, so I just bought something for myself. It’s quite pretty – a churidaar-kameez in ivory colored crinkled cotton with small, dull gold mango print. It looks quite classy – something I could wear to a music recital in town.

Anyway, the trip to Santa Cruz was interesting – I went in one of those squeaky clean, shiny new trains that have gleaming rails and all. Very good. People were, I think, better behaved there. I think we are impacted by our environment more than we give credit for.

In any case, I overheard an interesting conversation between two ladies. One of them was complaining about how crowded the trains are on Sundays. “More than weekdays, it would seem,” she observed.

Her friend explained that frequent travelers use the trains during weekdays. They are the regulars. So, they are adept at the kind of maneuvering and strategy required to get in, make place for oneself in the crowd, and get out as painlessly as possible. On the other hand, on weekends, especially Sundays, the crowd consists of housewives or women who don’t travel too often. So, they just apply brute force to get in and shove around a whole lot to make place, etc. This creates panic and commotion. So, it’s not as if there are more people; there are more clueless, disorganized people. Which is why the volume of travelers seems overwhelming.

Great insight, I think. It’s the same with driving - it takes lesser time if you know the route and the roads – every slump and every bump.

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I’ve had some really good eats lately.

Now, Bembos seems to be a really nice place to eat. I was there the other day (in Mulund) and I tried an Argentinian veggie burger. I really liked their patty. It was crumby and crispy and it had a really nice prickly, herb-like relish on it. Also, I love the fact that they have black coffee. I love black coffee with my burgers – more than Coke.

And last night, after a really really l-o-o-o-n-g time, I had a thali. It was so unbelievably satisfying.

This was at a place called ‘Navratna’ in Vashi. We used to eat there a long time ago when our house in Vashi was being constructed. But since we’ve moved there, we’ve hardly eaten there again.

I love the wholesomeness of thalis. All the little katoris with different tastes and textures. I particularly liked the thick methi daal and really soft, melt-in-the-mouth tandoori rotis. There was also an interesting dish with karela cooked in milk and grated coconut. And the kheer wasn’t too sweet or thick. It was made with vermicelli and saabu daana – both good ingredients for interesting body.

I am feeling so full now, 24 hours later.

I think it’s time to stop.

Thali is a good sign-off to a post titled Assortments.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Repeat Orders

I sit at my favorite table
In a purple coffee shop
Wearing smart corduroys
And a flimsy orange top.

I usually just take the largest cup
Of the hottest, strongest brew,
But it’s one of those days when I decide
To check out the menu.

Next to a dried blob of ketchup
Is a dish that sounds wry
It’s called ‘A slice of Life’
And it’s a piece of creamy fruit pie

I order it immediately
It sounds so cheery bright
It promises of taste and sin
And sounds just about right

I get my pie on a yellow plate
It’s a heaving slice in the center
A long metal spoon to scoop up with
It’s a positive Dementer

The pie has blueberries and apples
Folded cozily in creamy layers
And also hunks of warm custard bread
As some of its major players

It’s soft and spongy and buttery-sweet
And thickened to perfection
The fruit pieces blend in like
Image and reflection

I pick up the last morsel
And savour it with a sigh
I promise to remember this forever…
But I forget it by and by

Many seasons later
I am at a club for drinks,
I am now quite the party animal
Or so everyone around me thinks

I look for ruby concoctions
They are my secret fancy
I like to hear my ice cubes clink
To the feet of people dancing

But today there is something strange
The menu has a new wine
It’s called ‘A slice of Life’
So surreal, I sense, so apt, and so completely mine

I order it and it comes
In an icy, sweaty glass
It has a thick, treacly residue
The color of sun-burnt grass

The slice of life that I had thought
To indicate a gesture divine
Was nothing more than a tubby squish
A squeeze of wet, sour lime

The music fades around me
And I remember a misty dream
A day in time in life in world
A pie with fruits and cream

They say there is rapture
In a sublimity that is unblinking
But the things one understands so well
When you are simply eating and drinking

A slice of life – a slice of life
How it changes so with time
Sometimes it is a cherished pie
Sometimes it is expensive wine

A slice of life – a slice of life
How it pushes perspective to the border
But however unexpected it may turn out
You only get it when you order.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Some more writing

Well, this is the second time today that I'm at the computer tip-tapping away. Again, for a second time, about nothing in particular.

Let's see..is there anything earth-shattering that has happened in the last twelve hours or so? Well, nothing. I wonder why the phrase is 'earth-shattering'? If the earth shatters, you are not really in a position to type something out at a computer. If on the other hand, we call it 'sea-rolling' or 'cloud splitting', it's a rather handy way to describe the momentousness of an event and it is perfectly reasonable to suppose that one could have blogged when the sea was rolling or the cloud was splitting. But if you tell someone that I blogged about this or that while the earth shattered, they would probably ask you, "What?! Blogger wasn't down?"

I would like to have Chinese in a nice place. One of my favorite places for Chinese food is the Golden Orchid in Bandra. I love the food there, especially a brown pot rice thingie they make, with bamboo shoots, seasoned okra, and juicy oyster mushrooms. I love mushrooms.

I was really unwell today. My stomach was aching so badly and my intestinal lining seemed to be really tender. I grabbed the first book I could lay my hands on - which is not very difficult because I have close to 500 books in my room alone. Someday I should catalog my books, I think. In any case, I've started reading 'Shame' by Salman Rushdie. I've sort of drifted on and off to sleep whilst reading the book so I have only finished 16 pages so far. But from what I've read, it's guttural and rivetting.

I would like to go to the Mango sale tomorrow if I can. Why does a store overprice its garments so much and then put it on sale and stuff. I like Mango clothes, though. Very chic. But not sure if I will be able to afford something from Mango, even though clothes may be on sale. But I think I will go to FabIndia and try and get something chic for my cousin who's getting engaged day after. I have been so lost that I've not even congratulated him yet. He's a nice kid. I'm sure they'll be happy.

My mother makes a really tasty pudding with tapioca, coconut milk, and jaggery. It's a Malaysian dessert of some sort, I think. I ate a little bit today. I don't know why, but I seem to be eating more sweets this month. I must be careful. Don't want to lnd up with diabetes now.

Okay, I think I have done enough of this compulsive typie chit-chat. Feeling lazy now. Back to Sir Rushdie.

Ho Hum

'Halla Bol' is so tepid. The movie, I think, is so disproportionately theatrical in places that it's funny. And while people may go to town about Devgan (who looks too wizened to be the arrogant filmstar he plays in the first-half) and Pankaj Kapur, I personally think Vidya Balan is fab-u-lous.

Okay, she's not there in most of the film, and in most of the time that she is there, she's crying - out of happiness when her boyfriend is recognized by an admiring crowd for the first time, when she delivers a baby, when she catches her husband cheating on her, when her family is threatened by a mob, etc. etc. But man...she's got range. She has that quiet grace and dignity that is so rare to see, and therefore, such a treat.

What I found most interesting about the film is the precept that you must speak up, no matter what...because you never know who might be listening.

Anyway, on to more interesting things....I had a great lunch yesterday. A bowl of very spicy daal and sprouts cooked together and a packet of Lays - the Classic Salted flavour. I would dip a chip in the daal and eat it up. It was so tasty! I love Lays - especially Classic Salted, Spanish Tomato, and Sweet Caribbean (is that how it's spelt?) Chilli.

It's Saturday morning, 11:30, and I am trying to recap fragments of a Friday that seems so long ago. Wow! I am constantly amazed at my dreariness. But I also wonder why we tend to capture Life as a series of incidents. Let me see if I can build a parallel universe for myself.

Okay, now I am just typing compulsively because I see no point of stopping. What else can I write about? I am Oriya, and by virtue of belonging to this community, I am expected to resemble an Oriya sweet - spherical and no sharp edges. In fact, a few months ago, when I was around 6 kgs heavier than what I am now, my mother poked me rudely and said, "You have become so bony." She was feeling my ankle. Sigh!

Anyway, it's my aim to lose 8 kgs this year and I will absolutely do it. I just have to be careful about what I eat. The thing is that I have cut out meat from my diet. Now, I am trying to not eat eggs, and someday I want to cut out dairy products. In fact, I believe there's nothing beneficial to be had from milk. But I am a creature of habit and becoming a vegan will take time.
Since I am excluding more and more food groups from my diet, I think I am mentally trying to compensate by eating whatever is available. This way, I think I am consuming more sugary and oily foods. So, the fat content in my diet is high. I should just focus on boiled and steamed foods for a while and get more exercise than I do at present and I should be fine.

A colleague, the other day, mentioned that I am too self-absorbed. I was so surprised. Not because it is untrue, but because I didn't think anyone else would notice. What can I say? I truly find myself fascinating. I could talk with myself for hours. I mean, if it weren't for my volatile temparament, I would have loved to move in with myself and plan holidays together. I'm self absorbed, sure, but can you blame me? I'm such a treat to be around. He he!

But would love to meet Salman Rushdie. And also go for the Filmfare awards.

I am now thinking of all those really adorable, golu babies in Agra who were being carried around the Taj Mahal in fleece jackets. They looked like grains of colored, puffed rice. So cute! Most of them smiled and gurgled at me too, and I would hold them while their Mummies and Dadddies would go and get clicked against a marble, latticed window. I love babies. More than I love myself. And THAT is saying something.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What they read, what it meant, and how it’s all the same

I was eating a plate of hot, spicy aloo tikki outside the Paschimi gate of the Taj. The adjoining lane is lined with stalls selling ugly monstrosities that capitalize on one of the most beautiful monuments in the world. So, a stall may have plasticky-looking Taj Mahals that get lit up with orange and green lights on the flick of a button. For a few bucks more, the lights will also dance to the tune of ‘O O jaane jaana, dhoondhe tujhe deewana..

There are humongous rugs on which the marble mausoleum is woven against a garish maroon and yellow background. And of course, there are varieties of coasters with chipped transparent flicks (which are supposed to be ‘mother of pearls’, no less).

Anyway, as I slurped my last spoonful of sweet and pungent chutney and asked for a plate of fresh matthi and chai, I overheard something interesting. A young lad of around 12 years and a much older man, weathered by age and climate and wearing a faded dhoti and brown mojris, were talking about where to get lunch.

Older man to lad: “Mujhe bhook toh lagi hai beta, par main koi maansahaari jagah mein nahin khaoonga.

Young lad, keen to make sure the old man eats something, reads the signboards of the eateries there. Strangely, there are more English signboards than Hindi ones. The boy, probably struggling with the language, actually moves his index finger along the text of the signboards to read.

Finally, he stops at the signboard of a place called ‘Sheh-Jahaan Mumtaaj Lunch Home – Pure Veg’.

Lad: Hum yahaan khaa sakte hain.

Old man: Maansahaari to nahin hai?

Lad: Nahin. Yahaan pe likha hua hai – 'poore' veg.

Not everything is always lost in translation.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Interesting Site

I have been toying with scholastic ambitions for a while now. And I came across this web site in one of the dailies. It is such a mine of gems on a whole range of subjects – http://www.lecturefox.com/.

I noticed that there was a course on Philosophy or Metaphysics of Death or something that tied a morbid phenomenon to a lofty pedagogy.

Just the thing for a cavernous intellect.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Disconnect

I spent a couple of hours with friends this Saturday evening. It was nice. But for some strange reason, I felt disconnected. It felt as if I were watching ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ dubbed in Swahili. It seemed familiar enough, but not the same anymore. Some portions of the evening seemed to be unhappening. As in happening in real-time, but to someone else.

Many moons ago, it was my birthday, and I had insisted that my friends write me a letter. I don’t know why I had insisted on a letter, but I had the feeling that all this would change. This circle would disperse. Like some molecule would split and the atoms would run helter-skelter.

I get that feeling now. But now, I know that this dispersion will be final. I don’t mean that in a tragic, foreboding way. Change, I have come to realize, is always good. It’s good because it is necessary. When you adapt to a necessity, you use reason, logic, and a part of your heart that insists that you get on with it. No matter how sharp the transformation, there is an inevitable settling down, and that is rational and soothing.

Since a couple of years, I have been pretty accurate about certain things. Usually, whenever I’ve got a feeling that time is running out, I’ve been in the shadows of big change – it happened in Bombay before my father’s sudden illness, before my birthday when I asked my friends to write me something, in Delhi before my departure to Bombay…and I get that feeling now. Although, I am much calmer this time round. I know that this is verily the last time I will meet the group this way. Something, some inner compass, has shifted for good. My sails are testing the winds in some other direction already.

In a matter of weeks, something will change. A link will be lost, there could be an addition, a dynamic will shift forever. But whilst earlier, I had tried to clutch at straws, this time I just let the wind blow over. Time’s not running out; it’s marching on at the pace it always has. Something ticking inside me just got accelerated. Now, it’s settling down. You live long enough and you know that more things change, the more they remain the same.

We all said our goodbyes and I waited to catch my bus to Vashi. An hour and a half of quiet journey into the night. As the bus crossed the big reservoir of liquid light under the Vashi bridge, I realized that I was going home, and home is so far away.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Eggspectations in Agra

I have just returned from a fabulous holiday in Agra. It was cold and the drive from Delhi to Agra was delicious – streams of sunlit roads, tickling stretches of mustard fields, huge kettles of boiling milk at Mathura, mounds of pale sand where women worked on swathes of ‘phiroza’ and orange-colored cloth, delicate rims of pink and purple in the sky making you feel as in you were trapped in the pupil of a celestial eye with a fading iris all around it.

Ruddy camels padding along brick-laid lanes, chaarpais laid out in the sun with raspy radio in the background, hot tea in glasses, full meals - husky rotis smeared with butter, and bowls of spicy yellow daal, dark chhole in thick, brown gravy, chillies slit and rubbed with salt and lemon juice, and tasty jeera papads.

And finger-licking side dishes made with eggs.

It was about 2 or 3 degrees when A and I first strolled along the dusty, crowded Fatehbaad Road. (Interestingly called ‘Fatyabaad’ by some locals.) Considering I had given up meat, it was difficult to stay warm just eating vegetables and the like. So I practically consumed every egg in sight. And the way these eggs were prepared was absolutely fabulous.

My favorite was the omlette in which they’d break two eggs and add masala and onions to the beaten yolk. They’d let the egg cook a little and while the yolk was still runny, they’d add a couple of bread slices in the centre and fold the egg. This way, the slices got coated with the egg and the omlette acquired a fluffy sponginess because of the bread. This omlette, now a large and filling dish, was cut in cubes and served piping hot with green chutney, chaat masala, and a lump of butter on top of it.

Another version was the humble boiled egg. I fancy it more because of the preparation method than its taste – although the latter is mouthwatering.

Here, the cook takes a hard-boiled egg and shells it. It’s really pretty – the way his sharp thumb nail flakes off the skin in mosaic tile format. After this, he takes a string and deftly splices the egg into two. I think the string is used so that none of the hardened yoke crumbles out. Then both parts of the egg are sizzled on a hot pan until the yolk is browned a little bit. The halves are then sprinkled with chaat masala, one other kind of powder, chopped onions, and some dhania and served.

The tastes are so piquant that you definitely need something warm and sweet to round off the meal. So we head to the adjoining rekri where a man sells hot, creamy milk in little clay pots and another one fries imartis. I get one fresh imarti in a leaf bowl and two ladles of milk on it. I gingerly dip the imarti in the milk and nibble my way to gastronomic heaven. The huge cloud of lovely smells and tastes that cocoons me in the winter evening is awesome.

I think I’ll have a great new year.

Happy 2008 to y’all. May you enjoy it on a full, full belly!