Friday, January 30, 2009

Last heard on the "Oh, really now!" FM channel

Today, I heard an ad on the radio about some fantastic products with dubious utility value. And they exclaimed, in an enthusiastic, gasp-y voice, that they had branches in: “Dubai, Nepal, India, and Mumbai.”

Now, see, that’s why I can’t travel to Chennai next week. My passport’s expired. On the other hand, I could make a quick getaway to Andheri.

I love radio.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The world is too much with him

A friend of mine (who is not very articulate in times of shock) was travelling by auto the other day. The place she caught the auto from is quite notorious for rigged meters. So, she got in and kept a keen eye on the meter.

The rick started and for a few moments there was nothing. Then, in a matter of few seconds, the meter started ticking rapidly. 0, then 1, then 2.

Surprised, she shouted at the rickshaw guy, “Bhaiyya, dekho…Ek ke baad do aaya!”

Unfazed, the guy replied, “Woh to hamesha hi hota hai, madam.”

Sigh! The world weariness of the poor suffering soul.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The vibe thing

At lunch, a colleague mentioned that she was scared of visiting places like Masjid or Mahim after the riots. She doesn’t get good vibes from these places anymore.

My friend can avoid these places because she lives and works in other ‘safer’ zones. But I wonder about the people living in Masjid or Mahim. They don’t have a choice. If they have to continue to study, live and work in the city, they must integrate into the other areas – the ones with seemingly ‘better’ vibes. The reserve in their hearts notwithstanding.

Yes, some people here don’t have the luxury to feel uncomfortable about things.

Four friends walk on a promenade…

I met up a couple of friends at Bandstand the other day. We planned to go for a walk and have road side coffee and bhelpuri later on. One of them is from Delhi, another one had flown in from the U.S. (I forget which city – but it snows a lot over there and they make papaya quiches), and the third one was from Bandra. As we walked by the sea, all of us in our cotton tees and skirts, one of them smiled and remarked, “Hey! Check out our winter-wear!”

This started a discussion that could probably feature in a joke book some time. My pal from the U.S. remarked that it was snowing so heavily back home that they had to call a tow-truck to get their car out of the garage on to the road. The one from Delhi said that sometimes it gets so cold and foggy that you can’t even read time on your wrist-watch. My friend from Bandra, not to be outdone, said that Bombay gets so cold in winters that you can actually walk for three whole minutes without sweating.

We ditched the coffee and had kulfi instead.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Monday!

When time passes by, smearing day after day with sameness, one does not expect surprises. One does not anticipate excitement or sudden surges of adrenaline. But, unbeknownst to an untrained eye, swirling morasses of forces work. They consecrate, they disintegrate, they move, they shove, they change things. Then one sundry Morning, you brace yourself to breathe in fumes, clogged and choked in traffic, at the beginning of an unfinished flyover. Instead, you are lifted right up a smooth, smooth road and you look around in awe, shock, and good-grief!-is-it-true?! kind of thrall. The flyover near the airport is complete – both ways!

Some things beg for a salute and a standing ovation. And, of course, a really earnest, soul-felt ‘Thank you!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sorry I asked

The other day, I was at Oberoi mall with a friend. We had an hour to while away before our movie, so I thought we could window shop a little. My friend is a man. He is one of those guys that form the basis for all male stereotypes. He wouldn’t stop to ask for directions (even to the loo in the mall), he wouldn’t pay attention to anyone if he was preening in front of a reflective surface (even if they were telling him the way to the loo in the mall), and he did have a one-track mind (he was a hearty raconteur of some dubious stories of what had happened between him and some Scandinavian lady in Pune – in a loo in a mall, I might add. I wonder how they got there in the first place – it’s not like he’d ever know the way.)

Anyway, considering I was with the embodiment of masculine cliché, window shopping was a little difficult to explain.

“You want to buy something?”

“No”

“So?”

“So what?”

“If you don’t want to buy something, why do you want to get inside a shop?”

“Just to see…”

“See what?”

“Oh, I don’t know…see stuff.”

“What stuff? You want to buy something?”

“No”

“So?”

“So what?”, etc. etc.


It got tiring after a while. I asked him to stay at the Gloria Jeans coffee shop (which is awful, by the way) whilst I checked out pretty clothes and pretty slippers and smelled fabulous creams. Ah!

But he was paranoid about me being late for the film (as if that would ever happen – I like to be in the hall even when they are showing some sketchy adverts of Dimple Cine advertising). So he tagged along.

Now, one of my very favourite stores in Oberoi Mall (or in all of Bombay, for that matter) is ‘Forever New’. It’s on the ground floor and has an exquisite collection of leggings! I don’t really wear them, but it’s lovely to just go there and see sheaths and sheaths of leggings in all sorts of pretty colours – cobalt blue, dove-grey, black, black with ribbed edges and lace, ivory, cream, beige, post-box red…They look so chic! And they have denims in really interesting cuts and fits and some gorgeous dresses and kerchief gowns!

The time I was there, though, they had added a new deity to their shrine - a pair of red and white-striped boots. Now, the combination is typically something you’d see on one of Noddy’s friends. But this one looked like it had trotted down its own little diamond-studded ramp, pirouetted in platinum spotlight, and then just glided down a smooth beam of ruthenium to crown that shelf.

Now, when I come across anything great in a store, I treat it like great news. This means that I need to share it with someone that very minute. If I’m not with someone at the time, I send messages or I call or I spontaneously make new friends to share the good news with. It’s too joyous a feeling to keep it to yourself!

But my friend at the time was giving me this extremely pained look one associates with bad bladder. The movie was about to begin and we had to go three flights up and of course, we couldn’t be late.

Whilst going up, though, I spotted a dress in the store I hadn’t noticed because I was gawking at the shoes. It was a lovely, knee-length off-shoulder dress in satin. It was aquamarine with small silver flowers sewn on the bodice. The way it demurely snug the mannequin was phenomenal! It was more than good-looking. It was a dress to which you would dedicate a hundred years of living without desserts. It was a dress you would write an epic poem for and savour your last moments on earth with. The dress was stunning beyond measure.

I couldn’t help it, so I turned to my friend and told him excitedly, “Isn’t that beautiful! That tight-fitting, off-shoulder dress? That one there – with the silver flowers on the bodice? Isn’t that gorgeous?”

My friend whipped around like a crazed cat and started hankering, “Where? Where? Where?”

I pointed to the store. There is nothing better than sharing a moment of beauty with another fellow human-being.

My friend, however, was very deflated. He snapped, “If a dress like that doesn’t have a woman in it, don’t bother pointing it out.”


Oh well. Pearls before ….

Friday, January 16, 2009

If that's what the stars say...

My horoscope for the day reads"...however, today should be a good day as you will not inflict pain on anyone."

Well, I suppose if they put it that way... :-D

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tippety tip

Strange - I didn’t catch myself noticing
yellow in a mess of grey

Strange - I didn’t find myself humming
all the things I was going to say

But, after such an eon, I did find myself
smiling for no reason today

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two of them now

I am the aunt of a little niece and nephew now. The niece is littler as she’s only two days old. The nephew, on the other hand, is a little old horse, considering he’s been around for 7 months now, traveled all over India, and has currently become very adept at changing TV channels using the remote. He takes that after his mother - my cousin. This couch potato behavior is hereditary I think. (Kaera and Suveer are offsprings of two of my cousins.)

My little niece’s name is Kaera. She’s named after an Irish goddess or fairy or something like that. It means ‘the dark one’ and she has been thus named because she has jet-black, poker straight hair and dark eyes. My nephew is named ‘Suveer’, which is quite far removed from Irish nomenclature.

I haven’t yet seen my niece’s photograph, but I have met Suveer once and he is quite a heartbreaker. He is so, so , SO cute! No wonder my cousin decided to stay at home after the baby. Why would you not want to revel in such cuteness every single second of your life? I told her to give him to me considering she or her husband are not very bright. (Oh for God’s sakes – she used keep calling cabs ‘Tasky! Tasky!’ until she was eight or nine. And then when she came to Bombay, she couldn’t even cross the road properly. I taught her.) She declined the offer very graciously and hit me on the head when I wasn’t looking.

Suveer is such a happy camper! He smiles a whole lot and doesn’t cry when he gets carried off by other people. However, he does tend to be partial to well-dressed, good looking ladies. My sister told me he made an exception in my case.

Oh god! When I held him, it was like holding this really sweet-smelling, animated marshmallow. He’s also quite jumpy and post his visit to his grandparent’s house, he has also learnt to spit at people. (My uncle, his grandfather, gets very weird kicks out of teaching kids things like this.)

Sigh! Babies are the bestest people in the whole world. Closely followed by aunts, of course.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Excellent dinner

Last night, my cook had made an incredibly simple, yet tasty stew. It was light and buttery, and the vegetables had been done to perfection. I just loved the onions – which were so tender that they were actually melting in the mouth. The carrots and cauliflower flowerets were still crisp but the stew had seeped into them good and proper, so they were actually juicy. But the biggest surprise were the string beans. They were farm-fresh and had been snapped by hand for the stew. This, my cook tells me, is what makes all the difference – to not use metal while slicing up certain kinds of vegetables. The beans had a hint of sweetness. Through the light, lemon-grass and clove flavoured gravy, I could actually taste the light crunchiness of the beans.

I ate the stew with steaming, hot rice. Then I died and stayed up on cloud nine until this morning.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Accident, bad dreams, etc.

I was waiting at a signal when a BEST bus swerved sharply and hit my car. Badly. Due to some unpleasant and frustrating circumstances, I couldn't note down the number of the bus. One frustrating circumstance is that I cannot press '0' on my mobile. What are the odds? I can't press the one digit that will allow me to make an emergency call to the police when I need it.

Anyway, after I'd gotten my nerves to stop jangling, I reached office and called some mechanic who took a look and told me that I absolutely needed to send the car to the workshop. Which, of course, would cost. The next harrowing situation was going to the service centre and figuring out the insurance procedure. Alone. Now, I know this is irrational, but I was actually perturbed about tackling all this insurance business by myself. I regretfully thought of all the other women who do some type of token driving and have their husbands/ fathers/ brothers go along with them to do the tough talking. I was actually horrified when my parents calmly told me to deal with this myself. (It's irrational, I know. But it was just easier being resentful instead of rational at the time.)


I feel so bad about Bandra. She is such a beautiful car. She deserves so much better. In fact, with me as her owner, it's actually a case of pearls before swines. (She being the pearl, that is.)

Anyway, I went to the service centre where I was confronted with the glorious cluelessness of myself. Now it turns out that my insurance would probably cover part of the damage (but I'd have to pay some 5% of bumper replacement and 20% of something else that involves the headlight and some 10% of something else that has a 25% service charge on it.) And when my head stopped spinning, the guy coolly tells me that I'd have to pay first and then claim it from the insurance company. I sputtered and told him that since I didn't have the money to begin with, that's what I had taken the blooming insurance for. So that they would take care of it for me. He shook his head sadly and gave me this knowing look that had 'a fool and her money are soon parted' written all over it.

And to top it all, it will take some 10 days. Sigh! I hate BEST buses. I mean, public transport doesn't mean you swerve like an alcoholic on crowded roads! But I mustn't curse. I guess I might need to use the bus for a while now.

That accident was quite scary, though, now that I think about it. That night, I had this very weird dream - that I am holding a little girl and crying bitterly at the same spot that the bus hit me. That little girl, I think, is my daughter and she is dead. But I'm just crying and hugging her. Even in my dream, I am sort of aware that this is not the first time I'm seeing this image in my head. I might have dreamed of it before, but I can't remember when.

It wasn't a great beginning to a weekend.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dreaming on


I close my eyes and I can see
Mountain skies calling out to me
Clouds that dance
Like angel wings
Brooks that warble
and flowers that sing

I see mountain slopes with gigantic trees
And sparkling sun and chattering breeze
This perfect day with perfect air
One does not know – it comes from where

And beyond the highest peak
and exalted sky
a bird sweeps and dives
and soars so high

Ripples in a blue-green pond
Farms here, there, and then beyond
the heart sees it all and starts hoping
for this world with eyes unopened

Sugar and spice and all that’s not-so-nice

I never had a sweet tooth. In fact, the only desserts I liked until a few years ago were Tiramisu, rum-soaked plum cakes, caramel custard and chilled lychees marinated in vodka. But since I quit drinking, I quit these desserts too. Of late, however, I realize I’m developing a bit of a sweet tooth for Indian sweets. Now, I’m not sure about this, but I think Indian sweets are more fatty and unhealthy than other kinds of desserts – what with all the deep frying and syrups and stuff. In fact, even against my better judgment, I have started liking chocolate. (I don’t like chocolate too much. Or cheese for that matter. I find them both too obnoxious – like bullies in the food group. They just get in and take over every other flavour in the assortment. Which is why, I can never understand why people claim they want to go for ‘fruit-based desserts’ and order chocolate and fruit fondues instead.)

But my lineage involves several dessert-inhaling diabetics, and I think it’s catching up with me now. My mum and her sisters are all diabetics. They also have a natural flourish for drama.

A couple of years ago, my aunts had come visiting. In the mornings, my cook would make sooji pooris, a spicy dal and potato sabzi, freshly prepared sweet boondis and large, brown rasgullas. (The Oriya variety of rasgullas are a little different from the regular ones. They are massive – you can smuggle a squeeze-tube lipgloss in it.) My aunts and mother, however, had earlier had their breakfast of porridge, fruits, and toast. After that they had chatted and laughed and genially complained about husbands and children. (It’s a competition of sorts, to see who has the most worthless family. They have all won at some time or the other.) But the moment, the other breakfast was brought to the table, all of them suddenly started feeling ‘weak’.

Mom: Oh! My head is spinning!
Sister 1: Really? Mine too! Must be the weakness.
Sister 2: Yes, we must be weak. It’s been ages since we last had something to eat.
Mom: I think our sugar levels must be dipping.
Sister 1: We should eat something.

I hand over a few bananas. My mother slaps my hand and lunges for the rasgullas. So I tell her that she or my aunts are not weak. They are only greedy and they were fine until they saw the rest of the food. Three horrified faces turn to me and stare. Next thing I know, they’ve carried the good breakfast up to my mom’s bedroom and closed the door.

I was later informed that my mother had won the ‘who has the most ungrateful child’ competition…hands down.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Introducing J, ladies and gentlemen

McLeod’s Ganj, Main Chowk

Cy and H are in the hotel room, snuggling under a rug in front of the telly. J and I are walking around the market place, taking in sights and smells of a fading day. The sky fogs up with the varnish of winter and slowly, the stars come out. At first, there’s a smattering of them, then a few thousand more, and finally, constellations lay crushed and strewn across this deep, dark canvas. If you took the heel of a stiletto, dipped it in molten silver and beat it all over a lush, black pashmina shawl – that would be the sky we walked under that night.

A friendly man with ruddy cheeks walks towards me and hands me a pamphlet. He smiles, tells me, “Aap apne friends ko bhi layiyega”, and walks on. My friend is admiring some fur-trimmed booties somewhere.

I walk up to J and show her the pamphlet.

I: There’s a party here, at Mc.LLo. We’ll go?

J: Of course not! We’ll have a nice cosy time amongst ourselves.

I: But I want to go! There will lots of people, and lots of noise, and lots of fun!

J: There will be people you don’t know, noise you don’t like…and besides, didn’t we come here to introspect?

I: Yeah well…I don’t have too many thoughts, as it turns out.

J: But don’t you want to be with us? (This wasn’t as heartfelt as it sounds. She was trying on a cap at the time and this was a fuzzy attempt to assuage.)

I: I am always with you people! Let’s go out and make new friends?

J: Are you crazy? It’ll be full of drunk, uncouth men who’ll just want to paw us and grope us!

I: No, it won’t be like that! Everyone’s here to have fun! They’ll have fun, we’ll have fun!...and oh! look! See, there’s a DJ! See, DJ Raakh! I want to see DJ Raakh!

J: Huh! Never mind DJ Raakh! Listen to me… we’ll take a walk, we’ll sit under the stars, we’ll have fun! Trust me!


In the mean time, I spotted this group of glorious young boys and girls, all swathed in cashmere and expensive brown boots. They walk up to McLLo. One of them has a pamphlet in his hands.

I make a final plea, “But J, all the happening people will be there!”

J, in a solemn sotto voice, “So? Ditch them! Mukta, we have already…happened.”

*******************************************************

Open-sky café, off Temple Road

J and I are in a very charming little paratha place close to our hotel. The joint has a glass roof that is currently covered with brown canvas. There are three wooden tables and plastic chairs inside, along with a little counter where parathas and omlettes get cooked. On one side is a little electrical apparatus that where pots of tea get made.

It’s night already and J and I are out to get dinner for H and Cy.

There’s no electricity, and little lanterns are kept on tables to take care of the light. The whole place is swathed in this candle-calmness that one associates with peace and piety. From where we sit, we can see an entire valley lit up. It looks like a bower of little bursts of colored light.

We are eating our parathas and are waiting for a couple more to be parcelled.

Winter beauty and winter musings bring along with them this incredible, sweeping melancholy.

I look out and think about the last time I had visited this place with A. Now I don’t know what he’s doing, whether he has visited this place since. I think of that now.

I tell J that probably the most lingering sadness of failed love is knowing that you will never be missed anymore. I ask her if one can ever…and I mean ever… get over the primal want of being someone’s memory. Someone’s old age reminiscence. Someone’s midnight memory, or a stray remembrance that holds your heart and twists it on a Sunday afternoon in a park. I ask her if I will ever find anyone who will miss me the way true love misses. And how can one expect one’s heart to settle for anything less than this?

In this warm hallowed pristine glow of three lamps, in this little space above the valleys with the sound of simmering water, I asked J this.

And J, all the while looking down into her plate, said: burp.

*******************************************************


My friend is very, very wise.