Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No-one really asked me, but I answer just the same

Last movie seen in a theatre?

What book are you reading?
Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver, Closers by Michael Connelly

Favourite board game?
Scrabble, Monopoly

Favorite Magazine:
Vogue, Marie Claire, First City

Favorite Smells:
Simmering spicy gravy, sea spray, freshly baked bread, a baby’s skin, rain, lemon grass, nutmeg, excellently brewed chai, jasmines, roses and oranges, fresh stationery and ink, Eternity, freshly laundered clothes, mangoes, vanilla essence

Favorite Sound:
A baby’s gurgle, pattering of little feet, rumbling of a storm, thunder, rain in all its cadences, waterfall, crackling fire

Worst Feeling In The World:

What Is The First Thing You Think Of When You Wake?
Things are bound to get better today

Favorite Fast Food Places:
Le Café, Chembur; The Bagel Shop, Bandra; Mocha, everywhere; Bembos, Mulund

Future Child’s Name:

Finish This Statement. “If I Had A Lot Of Money I’d…”

Do You Drive Fast?
No. I’m really careful.

Do You Sleep With A Stuffed Animal?
No, but I am swathed in a superbly fluffy red and black quilt that I cool in the A/C for a half-hour before using..

Storms-Cool Or Scary?
Cool…it’s the fabulous throbbing that I feel in my veins sometimes…reminds me I’m alive.

Do You Eat The Stems On Broccoli?
I guess…they have stems?

If You Could Dye Your Hair Any Color, What Would Be Your Choice?
Magician blue

Name All The Different Cities/Towns You Have Lived In.
Mumbai, Delhi, Aqaba, and Pune

Favorite Sports To Watch:

One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You:
No-one sent it to me, but if someone did, I’d imagine him/ her to have sparkling wit and an open heart

What’s Under Your Bed?
The oxygen repository of a boogeyman

Would You Like To Be Born As Yourself Again?
Yes…but with good, good judgment

Morning Person Or Night Owl?
Both, I think

Over Easy Or Sunny Side Up?
Don’t eat eggs anymore…but nothing tastes better than having them raw with a pinch of salt, pepper, and chilli power mixed in mustard oil

Favorite Place To Relax
Anywhere by the sea

Favorite Pie:
Used to be mince, but now, I think I’ll go for banana-cream (Since I'm vegetarian and all)

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
Malai (in Naturals. It’s not the same as Vanilla…and nothing is quite the same as this!)

You pass this tag to –
The oxygenated boogeyman… :-D


Edited to add: Non-entity is the oxygenated boogeyman. Go on and list up, non!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

On a summer Saturday

It's 2:34 this afternoon and I'm not very sure if I'll be going out any time soon. I would love to, though. I like summers, I like heat, and I love to sweat. When I was learning kickboxing, my instructor had told me that people usually fall ill because they're not gettng rid of the toxic waste in the body. Caffeine and tannine induced headaches, especially, require one to drink a lot of water and go out and sweat it.

I don't think I have sweat enough in the last few months. If I get really anxious about my weight, I just do a few rounds of push-ups in my bedroom and think that's enough. Of course, I can't kid myself any longer. I've got to start running. My whole problem is this humungous sloth that envelops me like a wet, sloppy kiss in the mornings. I don't know why, but I just can't seem to get out of bed. In fact, the last week, it's been so busy at work that I've felt all sorts of knots moving up and down my back, while comfortably collecting around my neck. In these times, it makes sense to go for a brisk jog or a good, solid walk.

But no, I just wake up and look around and go to sleep. And if I can't go back to sleep again, I reach out and flip through an ancient copy of Harper's Bazaar. It's some sort of a weird ritual I have going on but I intend to change it soon. Maybe get another magazine.


Saturday evening

I've just seen 'Sirf'. It's, well, got potential. The film is like the first draft of a document. You see it's promise, but you also recognize that it's not in any kind of shape to sent out or published. Sirf, though, is the first draft that got sent out.

It's based on the premise that everyone in the world (the world being the hedonistic cesspool of Mumbai) is deferring their happiness to an 'If only' condition. One couple will get married and live happily ever after only after they can arrange for a house. Another will reconcile only if they make time for each other. Yet another can take care of their daughter and their marriage if the husband makes the effort to come home on time. So on and so forth. Each of these intersect the other's lives at some point in time.

What struck me is the grand stereotyping of Kay Kay Menon. He yet again plays the husband of a dissatisfied wife, Manisha Koirala. Several things about this film are awkward...but Kay Kay Menon in a hooded jacket (no, not with the hood on - the film's not that crappy) is just too much. Of course, he has worn that ugly thing only in one or two scenes where he's shown to be courting Manisha Koirala. (She's just too pretty, by the way.)


Well, it's Sunday afternoon now and I didn't go running this morning. Oh well, one lives in hope. But I have predominantly been eating sprouts and fruits this weekend, so I think I have my longevity factor covered.

Wish something really interesting would happen.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My nails

I’m looking at my nails now. They look like steam. White and brown, live and dead- like an opaque barrier between what is and what could be. At the end of my fingers are crusty crescents of a stale star.

In the ambit of possibility, where does beyond begin?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thought for a few days

One evening at Bembos, over Argentinean burgers and black coffee, a friend postulated on the sundry failure of relationships. She believes that people are too impatient and immature to actually invest time and energy into something. From professional initiatives to health resolutions to personal choices, they expect instant results. They can’t focus on a bigger vision, so they feel slighted by every little thing that doesn’t go their way. They opt out too quickly. It’s a fact of life that things change with time, but no-one’s willing to give the time.

“They are just so keen to move on”, she said. “It’s sad, really…nothing matters…people just move on.”

Now, given my experiences, I too have wondered about this – whether I opt out of things too quickly or whether I stay stuck in them longer than is healthy.

But the way I see it, the problem is definitely not moving on. If anything, I think that people do not move on. They stay stuck. And that is the problem.

Like, if you have not got attention and love as a child, you may expect it out of every relationship you have. And because that relationship is bearing the cross of unforeseen or unknown expectations, it breaks. There’s so much pressure but you don’t know where that pressure is coming from.

A person, I believe, lives according to a memory legacy map. If one has had a good experience regarding something, he or she will go ahead and repeat the task. If someone has had a bad go at something, he or she will constantly second-guess that option. The person will constantly be looking for evidence of a situation being ‘too good to be true.’

Also, to truly move on, one needs to forgive – every thing, every one. And for me, at least, that is the toughest thing. I may probably go from one experience to another, giving the impression that I am this phenomenally resilient person, but in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking of proving a point to those who slighted me. (Or those who I think did that.)

I spent 3 years winning moot courts to prove an elocution teacher wrong. One time, she’d told me I couldn’t elocute because I lisped. I stopped entering elocution competitions after that. But there was a resurgence of vendetta in law college, and it turned out that I wasn’t half-bad. So, six years later, there were prizes and there were moments of ‘Who’s speaking well now?’ and there was no elocution teacher to respond to the vindication. She had moved on, I hadn’t.

Moving on involves making peace. It entails disassociation from whatever happened. It requires taking responsibility without accepting blame. It means being truly truly being able to give another experience a fair chance.

It requires so much more than simply getting out of one thing and getting into another.

Our problem is that we move on too quickly? I don’t think so. Our problem is that we don’t move on soon enough.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Something small

Read this in a book now:

Bird alone, flying high
Flying througha clouded sky
Sending mournful, soulful sounds
Soaring over troubled grounds

- Words from a song by Abbey Lincoln

Monday, April 07, 2008

First Impressions - The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

A while ago, I wanted to read something airy and light. A friend of mine loaned me Hester Browne’s ‘The Little Lady Agency’ – a book written in tradition of most chic-lit capers and Hollywood rom-coms.

I enjoyed it immensely, though. Possibly because I pored over it during my favorite times of the day– on the bed on lazy weekends, with strong tea over breakfast, with a bag of chips during some free time in office, in the autorickshaw on a pleasant morning, in a long bus ride. But even without such temporal, culinary and lifestyle accoutrements, the book was a nice, breezy read.

The book is about this girl, Melissa, who can’t seem to get a break in life. She comes from a moneyed but embarrassing family. Her father is a local MP with an armoire full of scandals. In fact, Melissa has spent most of her school years dodging her way through her father’s colorful escapades. He’s the sort of parent who feeds off his children’s inadequacies and prides himself on being judgmental and critical. Her mother is a pleasant, mild trophy-wife who has a nicotine addiction. Her sisters come equipped with unique defense mechanisms of their own – one has the pleasantness of a cactus and the other one has the grounding of a soap bubble.

She is the most organized and disciplined girl of the lot, and an unsuspecting martyr in most family situations.

Melissa works in a real estate firm and lives with an exemplary flatmate Nelson. He is employed in some sort of indeterminable tax/ accounting business and is also engaged in a variety of social causes. He bakes the best brownies and proffers a strong, comforting shoulder when Melissa cries over her heartbreaks. Now, her heartbreaks are numerous and deep, given her crippling bad taste in men. In recent times, she has been let down by her lover.

One day, the real estate firm is taken over by an American agency and her services are terminated. What makes the deal more awful than normal is that she owes her father some money – it’s the money she had borrowed for her no-good boyfriend. Her father who seems to have minimal scruples liberally uses this loan as a manipulating tactic to get her to do thankless jobs, such as organizing her sister’s wedding single-handedly.

At a club one evening, Melissa runs into an old school friend and is taken in with her charming and posh transformation. The friend puts Melissa in touch with their erstwhile Home Ec. teacher who runs some sort of an agency that provides ‘discreet companionship’ to ‘busy business men.’ Although it starts off meekly, Melissa finds herself in a spot when a man insists on having sex with her.

Although Melissa hastily abandons the job, she is rather taken in with the money. It’s a fabulous way of getting rich quickly. If only one didn’t have to throw the money baby with the sex bathwater.

One thing leads to another and she starts her ‘Little Lady Agency’ – an agency that will provide organizational and social support to men who need it. Sex is out of the question. What does fall into the ambit are the sort of dilemmas gauche, single men may find themselves in – geeks who don’t have a date for a business dinner, men who cannot fire their housemaids, guys who are really bad with selecting gifts for their women relatives and friends, men who want to throw a party but don’t know the difference between a beer mug and a wine glass, etc.

The catch here is that Melissa operates the agency under another identity – Honey Hesterneckett. Hoeny is a sassy, sexy, voluptuous woman with golden hair and high heels. ( Melissa has dark hair and considers her curves to be ‘rolls of fat’.)

In the course of her job, she meets an American, Jonathan, who is the boss of the American company that has taken. In time, she falls in love with the guy and stands up to her obnoxious father.

Admittedly, much of the book is predictable. However, I suppose the British setting makes it really fun to read with interesting British phrases – ‘tempting’, ‘jollities’, ‘knickers’, etc. And while it is not exactly a treatise on seduction, the novel does have some fascinating pointers – like if you want to sound good on the phone, you ought to think of something really relaxing and interesting. In one portion, Melissa thinks of creamy white chocolate being poured in bone white china before attending a call. And a spritz of perfume in the stilettos goes a long way in making you feel ready to party.

Many parts of the book read like a travelogue or an article in a lifestyle magazine. (Watching fireworks, or going to the London Eye, strolling through the Tate gallery, having mulled wine in a pub, etc. etc.)

Some bits of the story like Melissa confronting her father in a lingerie shop are a tad theatrical, but her fuzzy relationship with her flatmate is sweet. Her romance with Jonathan is trite, but her methodical strategy of giving challenged men a workover is funny. The part I liked best was when the lines between Melissa and Honey started blurring, and Honey started taking over even when the blond wig was off.

There are times when one enjoys such books…even though they come reviewed by Cosmopolitan as ‘a tasty read for the beach.’

Soon it will be time

Soon it will be far away
Buried in a blanket of noise -
Spring fetes on beaches
And bike rides with the boys

Soon it will be close enough
A scented breath away -
Ships on the horizon
And wild storms underway

Time passes on like essence
Of watery translated runes
And the residue of eternal truths
Shines with the brittle epigraphs of ‘soons’

Friday, April 04, 2008

My birthday

It was my birthday yesterday and Time just, sort of, inhaled that day out of my life. It began suddenly and ended abruptly, with a million things happening at work, missing so many calls, attending so many more, and finally finishing up and reaching home at midnight.

What was really nice was getting a call from my cousin’s fiancĂ©. Last year, there were a few people in my life. By this year, they have exited and made place for new ones. I really like this dynamism of the circle of life.

I have a little nephew now, who loves having his face splashed with water. I have a new would be sis-in-law who keeps notes of people’s birthdays. I have new little neighbour who chugs watermelon juice every morning while his mum hums a nursery rhyme. I have some really nice colleagues who got me flowers and organized a lovely cake. I don’t particularly like chocolate, but the color of this cake was such a rich, mesmerizing brown. I immediately thought of a beautiful horse with a glossy sheen galloping on a beach.

My birthday, this year, wasn’t a rich, multi-layered, creamy, decadent pastry. It was a rather homely slice of warm and sweet raisin bread.

Quite a nice surprise!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A funny, beautiful truth

This was a colleague's tag line today:

"Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are."
- Brecht

Made me think and smile (in that order)


Struggle is such a futile feeling. When one meets people who are ‘struggling’, one gets a sense of wheedling, beseeching neediness. A feeling of lack. A sense of a big gaping black hole that will always be there, no matter how much or what one fills into it. A struggle is an indication of misalignment. It’s the result of grating incongruity.

And at the basis of all struggle is a lack of clarity. And lack of clarity means lack of control.

I was thinking about all this when I drove my mum and cousin to Mount Mary and back. We started from Vashi around 4 p.m. We sailed over a formidable bridge, with a bright sun glinting over the sea. There was family chatter in the background and some good music on radio.

We reached Chembur, and it was easy driving through that area as well. There were a few instances of rickshaws angling to cut lanes and some big Scorpios nipping against my car, but over all, it was okay.

There was a glorious stretch on the Bandra flyover where the sky spread like a panel of pink cellophane paper.

S.V. Road was simple enough, for most of the way.

But then we hit Hill Road. And….

No lanes, plenty of cars, haphazard swarms of people, stalls oozing out on to the roads, boulders serving as dividers. Angry, impatient honking, endless wait on the bend to Bandstand...and beyond the fracas, a stunning sunset molted away to reveal a nubile, fledgling night.

Inside my car, tempers were short and people were getting impatient. I clumsily tried to angle my car this way and that, just to avoid getting blocked by another rickshaw or pedestrian or biker. At the time, I thought that people without cars have no business being on the roads. If they can’t afford to be in a vehicle, let them be at home. I spewed curses at pedestrians – those frustrating imbeciles who cross the road just as it seems a little free and hold out their hands in a bid to stop a car. Such stupidity must not exist. These people should be run over.

On the way back, the traffic had gotten worse. I was tired and my neck was tight with tension. Sion circle was choked and the Chunnabhatti flyover was a spread of metallic Bingo mad-angles. Mankhurd was a mess and the Vashi bridge was vile. All the while, a silent cloud of suffocation was enveloping my head and there came a point when, I think, I was not even breathing anymore.

This is too much. Driving shouldn’t be this hard. And given the way traffic is, it is most important to enjoy the process because it’s not as if you are reaching anywhere quickly. For the most part of the journey, the experience of being behind the wheel is going to remain distinct and individual. So, sharing the misery is not really an option, and if you have to swallow and wallow in any kind of turpitude, it may as well be the pleasant type. (This of course goes against the very grain of ‘turpitude’, but still.)

That’s when I figured I was approaching all this the wrong way. I am not a skilful driver. I don’t change gears quickly enough, I always brake too close to a car, and I almost always forget to see a traffic signal. (In my side of town, they are hardly ever working, so…) If I just managed a steady pace, I wouldn’t be troubled by the manic swerving auto rickshaws or pedestrian thrusts. A lot of my discomfiture stems from my inability. It’s a pretty universal cause for defensiveness and conflict. When you cannot handle something smoothly, you are going to be wrestling against one kind of conflict or the other. And that’s bound to make you testy.

So, close to home, I decided to be pleasant and not get agitated. I would just focus on what I was doing, and ensure that I don’t force my way through the task. So, I decided to change gears smoothly instead of grunting and pushing it around. I decided to gently slow down instead of grinding to a halt, and I basically decided to let things go. In a crowded road in busy traffic, I decided to think of calm, breezy islands. It’s a pleasant feeling – to have such a stark contradiction in your imagination; to have an impossibly peaceful destination in the midst of such crazy blitzkrieg. There’s no decision as momentous as taking things nice and slow.

I was much better by the time I got into the driveway. And what’s more, I parallel parked in the first glide.

Bliss. It’s better to master than to struggle.