Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's bound to catch up with me sometime

It's been over a year since I started working here. As I straightened up in my chair this afternoon, I took a look around me. This place used to be new and unfamiliar earlier. And now...now, it's full of people I've whacked pens from.

I'll just save the retrospection for some other time.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Yippee!

I’ll go to sleep on the second of April, all excited and thrilled for my birthday the next day. At night, the Universe will work at bringing me my well-deserved gift. And the next morning, I will wake up to perfect sunshine and perfect skies with this wrapped and parceled next to me! http://www.benetton.com/portal/web/guest/ss09/kids/toddler#gallery_top

Such joy!

Friday, March 27, 2009

So what?

In one of the recent editions of Tehelka, I read Tarun Tejpal’s editorial. He writes about how ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ has not depicted reality at all – that many of the poor in this country can never hope to get out of poverty by getting fantastic opportunities such as Jamaal. How the hope the movie peddles is fragile, how Danny Boyle has made an entertaining film and not a great film, etc. etc. (I am only paraphrasing here. The editorial is quite comprehensive and well-written, though.)

I don’t really understand what nerves Slumdog Millionaire has jangled. Earlier, I was annoyed. Now, I don’t understand. How can hope be realistic? Why must it be? Hope, by its very nature, must transcend the reality that you see. Otherwise, why or how is it hope? I am 100 kgs now. I hope to be 45 kgs in the next 3 months. I think I can get there. I am hopeful. Is it realistic? No, it’s not. But reality is what I’m sunk in. This is the reality I want to get out of. That’s why I hope.

And what contract of understanding did Danny Boyle sign with the people of India or Bombay that he must show the city or country in its ‘true and flattering light’? That he must cover wealth and opulence and not scarcity and lack? I mean, surely a person must be allowed to focus on whatever fascinates him or her. Or do we now start telling people that you must like this and not like that. And if you must talk about us, only speak of this and not about that.

Also, why isn’t anyone interviewing the author? Boyle based his movie on a book. The book, in fact, based its story on whatever one-dimensional reality the film is accused of projecting. Could it be that no-one has read the book? So if anyone’s mind needs to be picked, shouldn’t it be the writer’s?

Why exactly are we getting so touchy?

Perhaps the Western World is taken in with our poverty. But aren’t we taken in with their wealth? Or the plaintive homesickness of NRIs? Don’t we relish stories of ‘look! how the mighty have fallen’?

We may not have much understanding of individual choice, but I’m sure we have mastered the concept of collective prejudice.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A beautiful sentiment

Because summer comes to an open heart...

i thank you God
for this most amazing day;
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural
which is infinite
which is yes
-- e.e. cummings

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

As far as repartees go...

9:30 A.M.

Smooth traffic on the Vashi flyover. No-one’s stuck, no-one’s stressed…it’s all good. Then one hits Mankhurd. Inexplicably, there’s a snarl. But since no one else is honking, I wonder if I’m the only one who’s clueless about its origin. Turns out I am. Ahead, there is some sort of a naaka-bandhi happening, so the road has narrowed on account of police barricades. Suddenly, four lanes will need to converge into one lane.

I am supremely irritated. This is just annoying. As I pass, I turn down my window and tell the cop that this kind of shindig is just inconvenient. Four lanes of unsuspecting vehicles are expected to merge into one line…that too, heavy vehicles and all. It’s dangerous! They should do something to warn vehicles about what lies ahead. “Aapko sign lagana chahiye”, I suggest.

The cop grinds something in his palms when he says, “Haan madam, smuggler log ko phone kar ke bhi bata dena chahiye…aage checking hone waala hai.”

I mean…what the…sputter! sputter!

:-D

Monday, March 23, 2009

Simple

Yes, yes...the IPL should happen in India. It's India, after all. We'll just shift the elections to Sharjah or something.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Borrowing from poets

There’s a poem, ‘Still I rise’ by Maya Angelou. I first read it in college, around the same time I read ‘Roots’ by Alex Haley. I read it the second time, when I was in my second job. Thereafter, I saw an interview of hers on Oprah, where she recited it. Every time, I come across this poem, I feel a sense of…I don’t know, a sense of pride and happiness, hope and conquest…a sense of self, I suppose.

On the way today, I stopped for a moment to watch the Metro work. Felt proud and happy, hopeful and victorious.

I think this poem suits Mumbai so well. Maybe Mumbai, at some levels, is very similar to a woman – wounded but unbowed.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

- Maya Angelou

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Disgusting!!!

http://news.in.msn.com/national/article.aspx?cp-documentid=2100490

Cleverness

An earnest film. A wanton viewer. A silver screen. An uninterested patron. A beckoning. A dismissal. An ‘I love you.’ An ‘I love youtube!’.

(Wonder if youtube is a play on the words ‘you too’. Pretty cool, I thought.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Making plans

In Mocha – Powai, I once had a bowl of apple soup. It was warm, hearty, and generously spiked with cinnamon. I think I will go there after work today, even if it is late…(at the very least, by midnight) and have that soup. Then I will call for a cool cab and go home.

There are ways in which a girl can feel like a princess, even without pearls and castles.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just want some rest

It has been a very, very rough week. I’d gone to Bhubaneshwar for a couple of days. For someone’s bereavement. It was odd. It was unreal. And the time I spent sitting inside a hut consoling the person’s widow or telling his kids that they mustn’t worry…I felt, I don’t know, arrogant. I felt that every surviving person in that room was arrogant. For assuming that life will go on, that death is inevitable, and that you couldn’t cry over what you couldn’t change. And yet, I think, that arrogance is necessary. It’s what picks you up from this gutter of despair and thrusts you into a horrible unknown. But you deal with it because, it’s inevitable, right? We all know that. We who haven’t died yet.

Work has been crazy. And travel has been crazy. And the toothache keeping me up at nights and hurting me when I breathe or swallow or live has been crazy. Just feels like a little bit of me gets eroded each moment. I wonder when that erosion will stop. Not that I want it to, really. I am curious to see what is there under it all. What will I be doing when I die? What will I be thinking?

My cook – the man who was with us for 30 years – passed away. Suddenly – in the train back to Bombay from Orissa. He was sipping tea one minute, the next minute he slumped over. His family saw that. He just…

What that man meant to my family – my entire family – i.e. – my parents, brother, grandparents, my aunts, uncles, cousins…what he meant to all of us is what we have been thinking over the past ten days. Life just feels so short and laughable. His wife said that if she’d had enough time, she could have done something. Showed him to a doctor, called someone…

It’s such a hard battle to fight – regret. How can you combat feelings of ‘If only’ time after time? In the last six months, two people I know very closely have died. And every time I think of them, I wonder why I didn’t guess that the moment we last saw each other – that was the last time I was seeing them.

My cook’s demise is very hard to get over. I wasn’t there when it happened. I was woken up from sleep when the news was communicated to me. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand. Yes, it’s not that I wasn’t able to accept what had happened, but I couldn’t understand it. What did it mean that he was dead?

It was much harder writing to my brother, who’s on ship at the moment. He sent me 3 emails over 2 days, asking exactly the same thing. How? What? Why? As if I know. As if they know – his family who were with him at the time. Of course, I try not to react anymore. I mean, it was death and it was disturbing, but one can seek solace in certain facts – he did not suffer much, he was with his family, he was a very, very good man who was generous enough to share his life with us. And now that my brother and I are grown-up and earning, we are actually in a position to help the family in ways that matter.

But all said and done, I am feeling quite inadequate. I’m not doing anything earth-shattering with my life. It’s not a very remarkable existence, and yet, I can’t understand it.

Pitiable, really.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The gods have their songs

It was close to midnight. It had been a rather good but long day at work. And it was a day before Holi – a mid-week holiday to do a few things at my own pace: sip tea, eat breakfast, read and savour a few pages of the 3-4 books I routinely dip into. I was mentally planning all this, when I decided to unwind. Thought I’d take a longer route home to savour the solitude of a road. I decided to drive through Powai, instead of Asalpha.

As I turned towards Powai lake, a beautiful piece of music started playing on the radio. An instrumental piece. Piano.

I slowed the car a bit to enjoy the drive. The roads, at that hour, were reasonably empty. The lake was placid and dark. And the buildings in Hiranandani stood like quiet towers – like palaces of a fairyland that’s gone to sleep. Suddenly, there were a few drops of rain on my windshield, a strong rustle of wind, and flashes of lightning. Intermittently, the lake on one side and the buildings on the other shone blue and silver. The roads and hill-tops gleamed. And even though I was on the longer route home, I wished I lived farther away that night.

The piano music had ended, and one of my favourite songs came on, ‘Strangers in the night.’ I thought how apt the song was – to describe a dialogue between unexpected rain and unsuspecting earth. Strangers in the night, exchanging glances, wondering in the night, what were the chances, we’d be sharing love before the night was through; Something in your eyes was so inviting, something in your smile was so exciting, something in my heart, Told me I must have you…

The rain gods must listen to Sinatra.

Friday, March 13, 2009

On my wishlist

Being leched at is never a good feeling; being leched at by office people is even worse; but worst of all, I think, is when you are being stared at in the office lift – and you can’t be sure if the person works in your office or not. I mean, usually, one could just shout or slap (although that is a bit extreme), but the prospect of running into the fellow in the canteen or in a project meeting does seem a bit daunting.

In a lift, usually, there are people from different offices…and maybe it is weird, but one does think that your own colleagues will not misbehave with you. Of course, this notion does not always hold good, but if one could just be more certain, I think one could do something. Or else, everything else be damned – the next time, anyone stares, I think it’s a good idea to just shout at the guy. If he has any shame, he will learn his lesson. If he doesn’t, well…maybe lifts should come with trapdoors for specimens such as these.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

First Impressions – Dhoondte Reh Jaaoge

This film is really, really good! I loved it!

Sonu Sood is fabulous! His resemblance to Amitabh Bachchan made the theme of ‘Twilight Zone’ go off in my head. My God, who would’ve thought! The guy is really pleasing to watch. (I do think he’s going to be my soft, fuzzy crush for a bit now). Kunal Khemu is so easy… you have such a good time laughing at his antics that you need to stop to realize the guy is doing a great job. I like him, from 'Kalyug' days. I think he’s a good actor.

Paresh Rawal is…well, he just is…and that’s enough. Johny Lever – him I found funny after, I think, 10 years or so. And Soha Ali Khan – gosh! She is just so pretty! There should be a glass doll made like her and kept in a crystal museum! I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think the lady has this quiet grace and dignity that comes with faultless lineage. And she brings exactly that to her performances. There’s nothing loud about the way she speaks or dances. She’s just…so pretty!

The end Рan India-Pakistan debate sort of thing Рwas a bit clich̩d, but overall, the film is a great stress-buster.

I really hope this movie does well! I wasn’t expecting too much out of this film. And I definitely didn’t expect rooting for the cast, but I guess stranger things have happened. (Like Sonu Sood being Amitabh Bachan’s Dorian-Gray sort of avatar.)

And Soha – she is so p.r.e.t.t.y. Hmm, maybe she’s my soft fuzzy crush now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Heaven is a place with parking space

I left home late today. Thought I’d have open roads, since it’s Eid and most people would be either celebrating the festival or else, have an off. For most part, it was great. Good music in the car, an encouraging fuel gauge, smooth roads…until I reached Kailash Complex near Powai. I was stuck in traffic, wedged between a truck and a wheezing Sumo, with an obese tourist-type bus breathing down my car, trying to prevent sneaky overtakings by an auto, and also trying not to run down an imbecile pedestrian trying to cross the road. When one is in such an unenviable position, one tends to think. I thought about why it's better, easier, and safer driving in Delhi. And why driving in Bombay is so arduous. Here’s my theory.

It’s not because of the roads. Contrary to what people believe, I do not think that Mumbai roads are inadequate. In fact, the Kailash Complex route that winds up the hill is actually a pretty wide 4 lane road. The Asalpha road has widened considerably. The Marol-Saki Naka road actually has 6 lanes (3 on each side) despite the metro work going on in the middle.

But it’s not about the size of the roads anymore. From what I remember of Delhi, (wherever I have driven at least) – around the High Court and Supreme Court, India Gate, Khan Market, etc. – most of the vehicles are similar in nature. Most vehicles have four wheels. And if they are not Altos or Swifts, they are usually some other variant of a Maruti specimen. There are not as many auto-rickshaws, buses, trucks, or pedestrians. And because most vehicles are of similar nature, there is more…umm…vehicular empathy. They know how much margin to leave while overtaking, they will not honk or grunt laboriously when you are taking a turn around a round-about, and if you are on a slope, they will definitely not try to overtake. There is a sort of, I suppose, kinship.

In Bombay, at any given time, you are not sure which is the most representative vehicle on a particular stretch. Between Vashi and Mankhurd, it will be BEST buses, from Ghatkopar to Powai, it will be rickshaws, from Powai to SEEPZ it will be cars and two-wheelers, from SEEPZ to Marol, there will be buses again and pedestrians…Now, it’s not as if the road space is in adequate. In fact, on days when buses are not plying as much (strikes or Sundays) or when autos are on strike, more people bring out their cars. But cars manage – even if there are a lot of cars, they will manage well. Because everyone sort of drives to a similar rhythm. Conversely, if one is in an auto and if one is traveliing via Chandivali (a route where most autos ply between say 10:30 to 11:30), one will notice that the ride is smooth despite the road being full of autos. It’s not as if the road is wider or if there are fewer vehicles. It’s just that they’re just the same sort of vehicles. This makes it easier.

I think that wherever you have a variety of transport on a road at a point in time, driving will get progressively difficult. Irrespective of the width or nature of the road. In fact, my take is that narrower the road, the more homogenized the vehicular profile should be.

Most people, by nature, start identifying with the vehicle once they are behind the wheel or on the seat (if they are on cycles/ cycle-rickshaws or bikes). They perceive any threat to the vehicle to be a threat to them personally. Most people are not aggressive drivers. Earlier, I used to think that Bombay drivers are the most aggressive in the world. Now if I observe objectively (without cursing the Bejeezus out of them), I think it’s not them, but the situation. When we see a lack of a resource (a road) taken over by someone that’s not one of us (i.e.- not on/ in the same type of vehicle as us), we feel threatened and push forward. But, when you see one of your kind, you are generally more benign. Most Swifts have given me way, most autos give way to other autos, most taxis will politely wait for another taxi to pass – when you start identifying people by the car they drive, you start forming groups. Communities arise, loyalties are forged, and thus, competition begins.

Also, I believe that it’s time that all people – and I mean – ALL PEOPLE – are taught how to walk on the streets and drive. Everyone must, at some point, get behind the wheel to realize how challenging it is for a car to maneuver, stop, or manage not hitting an imbecile. I think the world’s dumbest morons are in this city crossing roads. (And if they are dumb and selfish, they are on two-wheelers.) People always notice when a car hits someone. But everytime a car does not hit, every time a car swerves with precision to avoid hitting a jaywalker and not colliding with a divider on a narrow strip, we expect the guy or woman to carry on. No biggie, we shrug it off. No harm done.

Well, it was a very, very big deal. It was skilfull and difficult and the person managed to pull it off.

In fact, even though I don’t really feel much fondness for BEST buses after one of them hit my car, I must admit this – they are fantastic drivers. Only after I started driving I realized what it must take for a BEST to cut across traffic at SEEPZ. How adroit a driver must be to back up in a perfect line outside Ghatkopar bus depot, move carefully alongside Linking Road, or take a U-turn anywhere in Andheri. Sometimes in the rain. Sometimes on a slope. Most times on broken roads with people and autos scrambling around it like insects, not giving it enough clearance. I think it’s amazing that Bombay doesn’t a have a higher accident statistic.

Most people walking on the roads don’t get that. I wonder if there is some kind of a misplaced sense of justice – one where they feel that those with perceived privilege (of being inside a vehicle) must be taken to task.

Vashi is one of the finest places I have seen – with regard to footpaths. There are footpaths practically everywhere. And most of them are not dug up or are taken over by hawkers. (And I know this, because I have walked around extensively.) They are cleaner than other places – sans urinating junta or spitting characters. But still, people will amble along on the roads. On. the. roads. holding hands and chatting loudly. You honk. They don’t move. You honk again. They don’t move. You wish you could do what one rickshaw fellow in Pune used to do – bump them lightly from behind, shout ‘Kutriya!’ and whiz past. But for some reason you can’t do that. You wait and honk some more. Finally, they will deign…not to move, but to shrug. As if saying – ‘this is the amount of motion my lethargic, rapidly-decomposing body can afford’ – so, take it as a favour. I do that. Not releasing my clutch fully, afraid that I might hit the person who should be dead and donated for scientific experiments. All the while, clean footpaths line the road wistfully – their potential and utility unexplored.

Also, there are some people who sit in autos and insist that the rick take a U-turn on roads that are clogged with traffic. I mean, come on – you are in a rick…just get off and walk. What one auto trying to cut lanes does to manic congestion is unimaginable. Not to mention the unnecessary stress that the auto-fellow goes through. I have been one of those arrogant sorts who would insist that the rick drop me to whichever coordinates I had specified. Even if it meant for him to inconvenience other cars that actually had the right of way. Or generally be a nuisance, when it could all have been avoided if I could’ve just walked. Because it was too hot, or it was too inconvenient. Or I was in heels. Or I just didn’t feel like it. So many cars and people were inconvenienced because I chose to not think of the bigger picture.

One day, an auto-driver in Bombay refused. I told him that he better do it because I wasn’t asking him to do it for free. I was paying him, after all. And he turned back and said, “Paisa sab kuch nahin hota, madam.

Now, I understand why some autos will not go to a place in heavy traffic. Every time, there is one less auto on a particular route, I like to think that the traffic there is behaving itself. I don’t care if it is wishful thinking or not, but it makes me hopeful. That maybe next time I get out my car, I’ll have an easier drive.

Ironically, driving in Bombay has not just made me a better driver (if not better, then certainly a more intrepid one), but an infinitely better pedestrian and a more understanding passenger. I never imagined that driving, more than anything else in the world, would make me more empathetic. But it has. And this is why, even if one never drives a car in Bombay, one should definitely learn the skill.

Oh, by the way, I reached office late and magically – magically – found a sunny, happy parking spot right inside my office.

Eid Mubarak, all!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Something like this

One day, you find a treasure – say it’s a pretty piece of violet, satin thread. You put it away in your thread box. There it lies with all your other threads and ribbons and stuff like that. Every time you look at it, you stop for a minute to think just how precious it is. But you probably never take it out of there. You know that it’s rare and coveted, and more importantly, it’s yours. You just keep it in the box, day after day, week after week, months, years, decades.

Practically a lifetime later, you look into the box and see that the thread has snapped. When you pull it out, along with it comes a huge tangle of your other yarn and ribbons and lace trimmings. Over time, the velvet thread just got weaved in, meshed with and got blended into so many, many other things. And although the thread itself had snapped, you couldn’t really disentangle it from the other stuff. Its color had rubbed off on other swabs of cotton and pieces of cloth. The stuff that, over time, had lost all their countenance and become violet…willingly.

Trying to get over someone’s death…it’s something like this. Everything’s violet.

Friday, March 06, 2009

QA

Q. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?

No. But interestingly, my name was thought of by both my parents at different times and they hadn’t shared this with each other. My mom wanted to keep my name ‘Mukta’ because it meant pearl. My father wanted to keep my name ‘Mukta’ because it meant freedom.

Q. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?

Yesterday, when I was listening to this instrumental piece called ‘Latika’s Theme’ from Slumdog millionaire. It’s just something else.

Q. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?

Nope

Q. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?

Used to be pepper or honey seasoned salami. Now, there’s no meat. There’s only ‘me’. He he! I don’t even know what that line meant.

Q. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?

Yes. Two daughters. One is studying sewing in Belgium and the other one washes planes in the Congo.

Q. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?

Yes.

Q. DO YOU USE SARCASM?

A little too much for my own good.

Q. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?

Yes.

Q. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?

I have…oh no, that was my cousin shoving me off the fourth floor. So, yes, I would bungee jump if I had my cousin around for ‘support’. (I use the term loosely.)

Q. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?

Moong, for pulses. And if it’s the other variety, any kind of rice crispies or bran with sultanas.

Q. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?

Nah!

Q. IF YOU WERE TO PICK YOU OWN FIRST NAME, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

April (and no last name…just…April)

Q. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?

Vanilla and cashew ice-cream at Bachelors, Marine Drive. What they did with vanilla…man, they took the duck and made it a swan!

Q. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?

Height.

Q. RED OR PINK?

Mmm…tough, actually. Used to be red, but veering towards pink nowadays.

Q. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?

I don’t know my strengths too well.

Q. WHOM DO YOU MISS THE MOST?

No-one, really. Whoever I want, I have right here. The ones who aren’t around…well, the distance does us good.

Q. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO COMPLETE THIS LIST?

Meh!

Q. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?

Olive green trousers and brown shoes.

Q. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?

Bin Tere Kya Jeena – I love that song! I don’t know which movie or album it’s from, but it’s by a Jawad Ali or something. Very smooth!

Q. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?

Sky blue

Q. FAVORITE SMELLS?

Sea, rain, baby, rice and ghee, eggs, jasmines.

Q. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?

My beloved raconteur of horrors from ICICI Prudential. (It might be too late by that time, madam…)

Q. HOW DO YOU KNOW THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU?

Oh, she didn’t send this to me, but poached it off Mumbai Diva’s blog.

Q. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?

Didn’t understand the question. :-))

Q. HAIR COLOR?

Blackety black. Never colored my hair yet. Waiting to be rich.

Q. EYE COLOR?

Wet mud.

Q. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?

No

Q. FAVORITE FOODS?

Dal rice, soya cutlets the way Ma makes them, palak dal the way Ma makes them, coconut pudding the way Ma makes it, lauki kofta the way Ma makes it…anything my mom makes. I swear, she could boil water and it would be gourmet.

Q. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?

Happy endings.

Q. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?

Juno

Q. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?

White

Q. SUMMER OR WINTER?

Summer – most definitely…but truthfully, it’s monsoon that I love best. If I feel like a warrior, I love the frenzied, strong, manic, moody, throw-in-the-gauntlet Mumbai rains. If I feel like a poet, I love the soft, pretty, wedding veil-type drizzle of Pune rains.

Q. HUGS OR KISSES?

Kisses – on my hand.

Q. DESCRIBE YOUR PENCIL CUP.

It’s a hideous leather contraption someone left behind because…I guess it was hideous and leather.

Q. FAVORITE ARTIST(s)?

Madonna (‘Like a prayer’ is a song designed to raise the soul from the dead.)

Q. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?

Just started Moonlight and Six Pence by Somerset Maugham.

Q. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?

My mouse?

Q. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT?

Don’t have T.V. but watched an episode of Friends on my laptop.

Q. FAVORITE SOUND(S).

Baby gurgling, lashing of the waves, flute in the hills, thunder, waterfall, the sound of the local train (if anything about this place makes me feel weak in the knees – very oddly, it is this sound.)

Q. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?

Neither

Q. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?

Los Angeles

Q. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?

I can put a positive spin on anything. Anything.

Q. WHERE WERE U BORN?

Bhubaneshwar, Orissa

Q. FAVORITE PIECE OF JEWELRY?

Don’t like it much…but I would like to have a silver nose-ring and/ or a python type anklet made of platinum and diamonds.

Q. HOW DID YOU MEET YOUR SPOUSE/SIGNIFICANT OTHER?

Delhi. Winter. (And that’s why I don’t like winters. You can’t see things clearly. He he!)

Q. FAVORITE SONG?

Bombay Meri Jaan. I love, love, LOVE the lyrics. The best bit is that it’s not a complimentary song in any way, but the singer is actually enjoying himself. There’s such joy in the voice. It’s the voice of one of those who got assimilated into the urban bloodstream and didn’t even realize it.

Most people get hung up on the description of Bombay, but I love the woman’s repartee to the guy. He goes on about: Kahin building, kahin traamein, kahin motor, kahin mill, milta yahaan sab kuch, yahaan milta nahin dil, etc. etc.” In the end, she says, “Bura duniya, who hai kehta, aisa bhola to na ban, jo hai karta, who hai bharta, hai yeh yahaan ka yeh chalan.’ I wholeheartedly agree with that bit.

Q. Favorite Musical?

Jesus Christ Superstar

Juno – First Impressions

I watched Juno last night and I was somehow troubled by it. A 16 year old girl (Juno) gets pregnant and she is almost blasé about it. In fact, she looks as disturbed or confused about the experience as if she had misplaced an important math project. Her parents, although resourceful and supportive, seem to reconcile to the notion pretty easily. Juno decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption – there are two kinds of adoption, we learn: open and closed. Open adoption is a system where the adopting family sends photos and updates of the baby to the birth mother. A closed adoption is where the mother hands over the baby to the adopting family that is the child and that’s the end of the matter. “Quick and dirty”, as Juno puts it.

And much of Juno’s journey into pregnancy is nuanced with similar “let’s get it over with” sentiment. For a teenager who seemingly got pregnant the first time she did it, she is so composed. But perhaps there is some reassurance there – that giving birth to baby is a natural thing and no big deal – even if the progenitor springs from someone who is no more than a child herself.

I suppose I couldn’t relate to Juno’s mental make-up. I mean, if it were me pregnant (at this age, leave alone as a teenager), I don’t think I could have dealt with a married man’s advances or a wimpy boyfriend’s thoughtlessness with a hurt look. I guess Juno was a strong, strong girl.

Also, throughout the movie, I expected big things to occur – big twists, dramatic melt-downs, sweeping embraces, great, poetic admissions of love, etc. etc. But all moments of significance lay in some well-crafted, splintered scenes – when Juno discusses her abortion over her hamburger phone, when she decides to keep the baby the moment she realizes that it has started growing nails, when Jennifer Garner – the mother adopting the child – puts her hand on Juno’s tummy expecting the baby to kick but it doesn’t. She sadly says, “This baby does not kick for me.” Juno tells her to talk to the child, and when she does, the baby kicks. When Juno tells her boyfriend that she loves him because, unlike everyone in school, he looks at her face instead of her protruding stomach. When she floods his letterbox with tic-tacs. When they both lie curled on the hospital bed after Juno has delivered her son – and decide not to see the baby before he goes to his new mother. (She has split from her husband, by then.) And my favourite was that bit when Juno sees the difficulty Jennifer is going through with her husband (he doesn’t want the child mid-way in the movie). She knows that Jennifer’s marriage will not last and she (Garner) is already battling doubts about her prospects of motherhood. Juno leaves her a note: “If you’re in, I’m in.” In the end, they both were.

My vote for the best actor in the film is easily Jennifer Garner. I think her role was quite a difficult one to portray – at once needy, vulnerable, and hard as nails. Man, after that god-awful Electra, to see her do this – I mean…serves me right for writing someone off for their choice of movies (or husband, for that matter.)

And the other character in the film that I absolutely, completely got besotted with was the first song of the movie. It’s gorgeous! Like sunshine! “If you were a river in the mountains tall, the rumble of your water would be my call…All I want is you, will you stay with me, hold me in your arms and swing me like the sea...If you were a wink, I’d be a nod, if you were a seed, I’d be a sod… If you were a floor, I wanna be a rug, if you were a kiss, I know I’d be a hug…If you were the castle, I’d be your moat, and if you were the ocean, I’d learn to float.”

It’s a nice enough film, and I can’t quite figure out why I didn’t like it too much. But I suppose I couldn’t quite understand the casual-ness of the whole deal. Maybe I was expecting it to be slightly serious.

It is about children’s challenges after all – Juno’s and her baby’s.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Still Vegetarian but

this is what I am thinking about...

A thick, juicy mutton burger. One of those really fat slabs of tender mutton patty, deep-fried to a perfect, golden crisp – coated with a crumbly, tasty, slightly spicy batter.

Filets of fish fried in a batter of besan, chilli powder, and just a little bit of curd.

Juicy, barbecued prawns – glistening with liberal clumps of masala.

The slightly charred, smoky soft, delicately flavoured whole pomfrets.

A large baked dish of creamed rice with strips of bacon and pepperoni and cubes of beef and mutton.

Fried sausages slathered with sour cream and poached eggs.

A long, herbed and perfectly marinated raan – with meat that is so tender that you can scoop it up with a spoon.

A platter of soft, white reshmi kababs.

Spicy, pungent mutton curry with potatoes that have soaked in every trace of flavour of the gravy.

Mutton biryani, with lots and lots of nalli pieces.

An open Spanish omelette with layers of potatoes, mince, bacon, shrimp, smoked salami.

Kheeme, simply boiled and seasoned with dried red chillies, a little bit of crushed garlic.

Gobi paratha with fried egg on top.

Puris stuffed with pureed matar and spicy egg bhurji with lots of onions, chillies and haldi.

A big bowl of paaya.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Made my heart glad (and burp!)

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/04/dining/04vege.html?_r=1&ref=dining

and also this: http://thisiswhyyourefat.com/

Bad dreams, bad sleep

Nowadays, I am feeling exhausted all the time. I can’t sleep at night – I keep getting all these horrible dreams, keep waking up in a sweat, and now my tooth has started hurting really badly. Some unwanted change is afoot, I think. In the mornings, I feel feverish and my lips are dry and eyes feel scratchy. I haven’t been able to muster up the energy to go jogging or even drive to work. I just order a cool cab (I love the Meru cab service, by the way) and get to office. It’s good but it’s so expensive. I wonder how long I will be able to sustain this.

One thing that can actually throw life completely asunder is lack of sleep. I wish I could calm down. I wonder what I’m so tensed about. In fact, sometimes, all I am doing in the middle of the night is switching on and turning off my laptop. Then I yawn and my eyes shut and all these dreams begin. I see horrible tortured faces distorted in silent screams. And they have bony, outstretched arms, and I can sense someone throwing me on a railway track, and then some other pairs of hands pulling me from the track. It’s like whoever these creatures are don’t want me to die. They just want me to remain in the category of the living dead. I have never had these sorts of dreams earlier, when I used to eat meat. This vegetarianism just doesn’t suit me. But now, out of sheer impertinence, I will not go back to eating meat.

I wonder who they are. Maybe it’s the ICICI Home loan department. He he he! The other day a woman called me up to tell me that I qualified for a home loan. Would I want a loan?, she asked me. I said no. She insisted that maybe I could use a loan. I decided to come clean and tell her that I didn’t want loan, but I did want money. She said it’s the same thing. I said no, it’s not. Loans you gotta pay back. Money, you just spend. Do I qualify for that?, I asked her…Nobody qualifies for that, she replied glumly. And hung up. And now she and her colleagues are torturing me in my sub-conscious.

The cheek!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mondays – happy days when people were born

I had a really beautiful Monday. The latter half, especially, just opened up like a box of treats.

It started off with an interesting twist, though. A client call got scheduled two hours earlier. This meant that I could leave office on time. I’ve been feeling a little under the weather lately, so this was a window I was looking for. Just wanted to get home and curl into bed and sleep, after chatting with a friend. But the forty minute bus ride to the station seemed to fortify me considerably. Once I reached Vashi, I thought I’d pop into Inorbit mall to check out what’s new.

There’s a flat 50% sale happening at Esprit – a sale that will gladden the most cynical heart. One can actually pick up a flat-front pair of denims for under 2,500 bucks. Which is, well, strong enough indication that someone up there is listening. And lest that not be proof enough, one can step into this shop, ‘Lush’. They have such superb smelling clumps of handmade soap, all selling for a 30% discount until the third of this month. Not only is someone listening, but is making interesting conversation too. My favorite there was one made with coconut, vanilla, and hisbiscus. It was such a pretty shade of pink – the way rose petals look like when they are soaked in milk.

I stepped into the L’Oreal salon to do my eyebrows and was attended to by this extremely gentle girl. She was so skilful and neat. Earlier, I had got one who went at my eyebrows like a manic gardener in charge of uprooting weeds. Sheesh!

Finally, I went into Crossword where I bought some books and some DVDs. Crossword’s having a sale on some Academy Award Films and they have quite a few good titles. There were some Cary Grant and Rock Hudson movies that are not very easy to come by.

After such great finds, I thought I’d stop over at Costa for some coffee. That’s when my ex-roomie, AK, called. And yelled at me for forgetting her birthday. I told her it wasn’t her birthday because I remembered it as 8th March, and not 2nd March. To which she pointed out that she should be a better authority at remembering when her birthday is, considering I wasn’t around when she graced the earth. My counter-argument to that silly logic was that Facebook reminds me of people’s birthdays and since it hadn’t reminded me of hers, it couldn’t be her birthday. “So you’ll wish me when Facebook tells you to?”, she asked. “Of course”, I replied. “You’re so stupid”, she said. Well, since she was getting so crabby, I did wish her happy birthday and I asked her about her birthday plans. Then I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, and she ominously replied, “You come to Delhi, then we’ll see.” Enough reason to be cautious in the capital, I think.

But AK and the fear factor are quite inseparable. In fact, I remember our initial interactions quite vividly. I had just moved into the house in Powai. My other roomie had gone for a walk and AK was in her room, listening to music. I said hello and not wanting to intrude in her space, went to the kitchen to get my dinner. I was eating alone in the balcony when AK came and joined me.

I thought it was nice of her to keep me company while I ate. Until she looked at my plate of food (some innocent looking rice, dal, and beans) and laughed. I asked her what she found funny. She sighed and mentioned she was thinking of her days in Chandigarh. “You know, in our labs, we used to dissect rats. And you know something, if you press their sides, their insides pop out.” She sighed with affection again. I looked at dinner and put it aside discreetly. I didn’t know what about lentils and beans had reminded her of a rodent’s innards. I also didn’t know what I had done to warrant that kind of information, but there it was.

Over time, there was no discussion that was devoid of rats. How they were cute and white and peeped out of lab coats. There was no discussion that was devoid of popping membranes or organs. On several occasions I was informed of how my lungs could get strung out, or how my brain could expand beyond my cranium, or how my liver could decide to express itself in a more liberated fashion. In my teenage years, I have gone through phases when I have loathed my body. In my adult years, I have come to be extremely scared of it.

One night, some friends, AK, and I were having coffee. We got around to talking about our colleges. Mostly we spoke about our teachers, college fests, hangouts, friends, alumni, etc. etc. AK, again, sighed with affection. “You know, in PU (Punjab University to the uninitiated), during elections – these groups would come in jeeps and stuff and get into fights with talwaars and all.” Yet again, there was that look of warm nostalgia shining on her face. I wondered if the girl was capable of having fond memories of any peaceful incidents. One that did not involve bloodshed – of a rat, a human, or any other mammal.

Today’s her birthday and AK, if you read this – I wish you a lifetime of happiness, wisdom, courage, and opportunities to ruin people’s appetites. Go on and take the world! (Or shock it, if that’s what you’d prefer.) Also, if we do meet in Delhi someday, let’s choose a place that’s bright and crowded, shall we?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Not proud of myself

This was a random group of people I had known at some point in life. I happened to run into them at a mall. Three of them sat with me on one of those benches that dot long marble aisles in Inorbit. One of them went into a shop to ask about the price of a shirt.

Now, this girl who went into the shop used to be quite heavy a few months ago. She had, since, joined some Kaya weight-loss program and had become all trim and svelte. In fact, even more commendable was that she had kept the weight off all these months.

Now, one person in the remaining group (all girls, all plump) remarked how ditzy she had become. How she was so into her looks, and how she couldn’t carry on an intelligent conversation, etc. etc. Another one piped up to state how much she wanted to land a man, and how she just kept starving herself.

This made me quite angry. I looked pointedly at their love-handles and remarked that if all the smartness in the world couldn't stop one from stuffing her face, then really what use is it?

The moment I said it, I knew I had crossed a line. It was very uncouth of me to have said that. Of course, at that time I was very miffed and I just wanted to shut them up. But, it didn’t feel good having the last word after all.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A little courtesy, people...

Last week, due to certain reasons I had to call the emergency number '100'. First time round, no-one picked up the phone. Second time, there was some kind of an automated message that rattled off something in Marathi. I couldn't understand it. After that, I tried the '103' number that is supposed to be a helpline dedicated to women. It didn't work. After this call, my phone went dead and I handled the situation satisfactorily on own.

This Friday, I mentioned this to some of my colleagues. A couple of them laughed it off and joked around as to why I was calling up emergency numbers. For a brief moment, I remembered the dark alley in which I had tried making the calls. It was a very different world from this bright pantry where these colleagues were laughing. I told them I had a problem. They didn't ask me what it was. They, confidently, rattled off suggestions about whose numbers I should take, etc.

But I found the whole thing pathetically callous.