Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Understanding Mr Kapoor

“There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him”
Antonin Artaud

How does one define genius? An individual who doesn’t speak the language of the ordinary, someone whose vision defies stereotypes. Who decides the extraordinary? A bunch of book critics...art gallery owners…stuffy academicians! In a society that enshrines the ordinary, how does one understand a person whose vision is beyond the scope of the ordinary? It takes another man of exceptional capability, to appreciate and fathom a genius. A painter who unleashes his soul on the canvas, a scientist who challenges the conventional, the actor who refuses to compromise, musicians who strike an unknown note… Isaac Asimov, Sylvia Plath, Joyce, Kafka, Bach….the examples are far too many.

Stories of individuals who lived a misunderstood, tortured life, battling polarized opinions and dying in penury. Their work discovered and celebrated later – recognition earned posthumously. It took a Salieri to understand Mozart (and Salieri was Mozart’s most bitter rival). Did you know Einstein won the Nobel not for his path-breaking theory of relativity but for his little known photoelectric effect? Why? Because at that point of time it was beyond the comprehension of many – only two fellow scientists Silberstein and Eddington, understood its far-reaching potential. Ironic isn’t it?

I was going to witness the work of a maverick artiste – revered as God by many and labeled pretentious by a few. It is tough to define Anish Kapoor – an architect, a sculptor extraordinaire, an installation artiste. Hailed as one of the most influential sculptors of his generation, he is unfortunately mostly unknown in the country of his origin. I hadn’t heard of him, till he was invited to exhibit some his iconic work in the cities of Mumbai and Delhi.

It takes time to warm up to Mr Kapoor’s works – you don’t start oohing and aahing instantly. Just like the movie “Inception” where you took twenty minutes before you even started grasping Nolan’s world of dreams within dreams. Anish Kapoor dwarfs you with his vision, it’s so expansive. His architecture defies convention – a foot bridge that looks like a bubble, a subway built like a large bulbous organism suddenly breaking into a void, spirals of nothingness. His work transcends architecture, sculpture and art. A void bored into a mountain, sculpture that blends fabrics with steel, a gigantic foghorn sitting on a coastline. Each piece taunts you with its absurdity. He presents his interpretation of universe through his gigantic pieces. His shapes evoke images of the human body. Illusion is central to his work.

His fascination with the void is evident in most of his works, a hole of nothingness with you at its brink – terrifying yet fascinating. A polished stainless steel “S Curve” that almost seems alive! He loves playing with single, solid colours – vivid plashes of yellow, the deep purple that creates an illusion of depth , the vibrant crimson that so defines our culture. His art is typified by the absence of edges – it’s flamboyant, smooth, you have this unbearable urge to touch and feel the texture, caress its smooth lines.

Of what started as a Am I wasting my time here ended with me feeling blessed to have witnessed art this extraordinary. In Kapoor’s words…Earlier it was me trying to tell the world what I’m saying and now it’s other’s clamoring to tell me what my work is telling them!

I don’t think I’ve reached a stage where I can interpret Anish Kapoor. All I can say is, only in letting go do we find our true selves. You never know what hidden gem you’ll unearth. Good, bad or ugly, just embrace it with an open heart.
Our creative genius is the fountainhead of originality. It fires our compulsion to evolve. It inspires us to challenge norms. Creative genius is about flying to new heights on untested wings. It is about the danger of crashing.
~~ Gordon MacKenzie

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Big-O Crisis

Pic courtesy:Ifood.TV
The Big-O crisis has sent the Indian junta into a tizzy. The hottest topic of debate, our netas are raising hell over it (Wireless Radia can heave a sigh of relief). CNN-IBN reporters have shifted bag and baggage to mandis, not for their new-found love for subzi but to clandestinely film seedy hoarders spilling the beans. The Onion is now breaking news. It has made Sharad Pawarless.

The great Indian leveler, the most egalitarian of vegetables – the onion is sought after by Aam Admi to Ambani . Every palate craves for it, unless you have renounced the world. Our kitchens whisper softly into its pink glistening skin …you complete me. The poor peasants’ meal is incomplete without a bite of the pungent bulb. It adds chutzpah, that crunchy zing to our meal. Of course the wicked veggie it is, it is layered to bring out the tears, but do we mind?? Naah.

But these days the modest onion is bringing tears of the other kind – tears of frustration. The naughty little bulbs have been playing truant and prefer the cool comfort of dark-dank godowns. This has sent prices spiraling skywards and has raised a stink so strong that the government had to wake up and smell the onions (coffee is so passé). They have been tardy as usual, while the onion mafia is laughing all the way to the bank. Traders have been hoarding stockpiles of the smelly bulbs while the government is pottering around with ad hoc fixes. Thanks to an official missive, onions will cease to be globetrotting veggies and will be homebound till mid-January.

The onion deprivation has done a lot of good for our neighborly ties. For once we are looking forward to something from Pakistan – 40 truckloads of the humble bulbs all the way from Sindh to ease our Big-O predicament.

Inflation-hit onions have also been taking on the role of the great Indian unifier with aplomb. For once there is no north-south divide. If dosa makers down south have bid adieu to the bulb, then Mughlai chefs up north are using bread crumbs to thicken their gravies. And it has given way to some unique dishes like the Mutton no pyaaza.

Since our breaths are far from oniony, the sparkle is back into our conversations. We welcome this temporary reprieve from holding our breaths and not choking on our own words. Breath freshener companies are far from amused though about this new development and are now banking on garlic to come to their rescue. Another not-so-amused person is Graham Onion, the English cricketer. TV presenter Gaurav Kapur has been insisting the cricketer choose his reserve price per kilo for the IPL auctions.

But the elusive onions are rediscovering themselves in various avatars.

    Pic courtesy - Reuters
  • As the new ice breaker. Alone and getting bored at a party? Just say the magic words where are the onions at the buffet table and Whoa! you will have hordes clamoring to voice their opinions and don’t forget to pitch in with the choicest of gaalis for the government to keep the passions ignited.

  • As a sought after accessory. Many BJP workers are using them as a fashion statement and are now wearing them as garlands. Behen Mayawati has also been making surreptitious enquiries about 3-ton onion garlands (who wants currency notes anyway).

  • Sheila, the not so jawaan edition, has squarely laid the blame on the media for fuelling the onion price scare. But just when our kitchen austerity has nearly succeeded in bringing onion prices down to Earth, the ubiquitous tomato is demanding its share of limelight. The tomato is on its way to becoming the new onion.

So if you still haven’t decided on a Christmas present yet – ditch that box of chocolates. A kilo of onions snuggling on a bed of tomatoes, wrapped in red and gold, is priceless!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bloggers from Delhi meet-the unofficial version

I almost didn’t make it for the bloggers meet. Not that I wasn’t keen. Having read so many accounts of Indiblogger-meets, I had been waiting for the Delhi version for months. And every time I read an announcement about a new meet (even Dubai got one), I would sulk and wonder, why not Delhi?

Well it did happen, out of the blue, at such a short notice that I was far from amused. In winters we Delhites come out of our self-imposed hibernation and make the most of the weather. People eligible, ineligible get married, the city comes to life with its many exhibitions and concerts and we party like apocalypse is just round the corner. And moi goes on an overdrive inviting her long ignored friends. And it was on Saturday 18th Dec, the same day as the Indi-meet I had chosen to throw a dessert party for my close friends (yes, such a thing exists especially for people who think cooking is a mind numbing chore). I was supposed to make paatishaptas (a sweet crepe with a coconut-kheer filling). Of course the drama queen I am, I had been stressing about it for days. But my fears were not entirely unfounded, I have made this Bengali dessert precisely twice in my entire lifetime and ended up bragging about it on FB and that’s what got me in trouble. And now this meet, I so wanted to go to but couldn’t. How can I? I will be spending the entire day bumbling, fumbling in the kitchen, completely engrossed in my culinary misadventures.

I spent the entire week apologizing profusely….to my few blogger friends from Delhi for my inability to make it (two to be precise) …. I even sent a preemptive text to my friend apologizing for my imagined culinary disaster.

It was the last minute mail from Vineet Rajan from Indiblogger that changed my mind…. Hope to see you at the Delhi blogger meet! Mom will also be there. And his Mom is none other than “Zephyr”, one of my favourite bloggers. That was it, I took back my apology notes and there I was on my way to Religare Art Gallery, the venue for the meet.

On my way, I nearly perished of the mad-bad Delhi traffic. What are a zillion people doing on the road and that too on a Saturday!! I was afraid that I would end up ranting about the traffic mess during my formal intro at the gathering. It took me nearly two hours of what should have normally taken 40 minutes to reach Connaught Place. But when you are in Delhi, you forget what normal is.

I was late but so were many others and I entered the hall all smiley faced, my hair flying in all directions. At the entrance I was greeted warmly by Vineet but the ill mannered lout I am, all I could manage was “where’s Mom” (his not mine). She had yet to turn up.

It was at the meet I came face to face with the truth….we bloggers are a bunch of boring nerds. I almost fell asleep during the introductions (a notable few did sparkle though). And some of us are endearingly shy. Anoop Johnson, our MC for the day did try to liven up the proceedings with his crackling humour.

The Delhi meet also had a very important social cause associated with it - The blanket of relief “an initiative to distribute blankets to help Delhi’s homeless fight the biting cold”. We had a fun quiz too, conducted by mydala (Indibloggers’s social partner) where we were asked soul searching questions as – what does Cinnabon taste like(sweet, sour ,salty) what did the guy say when he threw his wristwatch out of the window …..And we went mad screaming out the answers, why! because the giveaways were free Cinnabon hampers.

Zephyr, Tikulli and moi-Pic courtesy Tikulli Dogra

And to make us feel 16 again, we were given chart papers to hang from our backs and asked to get as many comments from fellow bloggers. After the meet I have come up with a new wisecrack….I thought I was almost famous till I went to an Indiblogger-meet. No one, absolutely no-one, barring ten people (or was it nine) reads my blog. But the brave soul I am, I don’t let such trivialities deter me….. Hi I am Purba…Purba Ray….My blog is A-musing, yes with a hyphen in between…. I did have a few coming up to me saying… You are Purba aren’t you…Loved your article on…and I silently let out a whoop of delight. But I did get to meet Zephyr the author of CyberNag, her L&M and her very cute granddaughter. I was dying to give my favourite blogger a tight hug but showed remarkable restraint. It was a pleasure connecting with Tikulli, IHM, Abha, Richa, Pankaj Batra, Sangeeta, Ankita, Arushi, Prerna and reconnecting with old friends Prateek Varma, Himanshu Shekhar and Desh.

Unfortunately I had to leave mid-way, my patishaptaas were beckoning to me. But I left with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I did let out an anguished cry though, at the sight of Janpath and all that tantalizing rastaa shopping and sadly no time on hand.

But my story does have a sweet ending. I had a rocking mid night adda session with my friends – the patishaptaas to my utter horror turned out remarkably well and the husband chipped in with a big batch of the yummiest malpuas. And now the statutory warning…..Dear readers, to avoid incurring my wrath, steer clear of asking where’s my share of patishaptaas? I will not be making them again, at least not in this lifetime. But I am looking forward to another Indiblogger-meet, preferably on a Sunday (when the traffic is almost sane) and at a non centrally located place (to avoid the rush). Is anyone listening????

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Your Weekly Dose Of Spice

These days we need scientific research to tell us how to flirt, what makes us happy, the colour of lipstick to wear to attract a man’s attention. Incredulous findings that make you almost choke on your morning cup of coffee - a bunch of good-for-nothing nerds, who will waste half their uneventful life researching and come up with path breaking findings- Women who thoroughly dust their houses have a high chance of becoming pregnant… Chewing gum can give you wrinkles around the mouth… Men crave sex even in old age and the difference is most pronounced in the 75-85 age groups….Men are programmed to have a lustful, wandering eye and have affairs.…. Having a younger man for a husband lowers your life expectancy. I am convinced these researchers are of the male variety. But it makes for fun reading and you can look up from the paper and say “Guess what they have come with now!!”

Here’s a sample of the latest findings. Money can buy you happiness, but only if you earn more than your friends. Studies have revealed that yes the rich are happier, but what matters is earning more than others and not the actual amount earned. So for the sake of your happiness people, never ever ask your friends about the digits they earn!! Better safe than sorry.

Portrait Workshop

Remember Mona Lisa’s smile – that makes you wonder whether it’s a smile or a smirk or simply a case of a pout gone wrong. It now seems there’s something wrong with her eyes as well. In what mirrors the book and Hollywood movie ‘The Da Vinci Code’, art historians claim to have uncovered a real-life Da Vinci code, after they found tiny letters painted into the eyes of the Mona Lisa. The experts examined the Mona Lisa after finding a book in an antique shop that claimed there were tiny hidden symbols in the eyes. “The question now is what do they mean?” Any guesses? But from what I’ve seen at the Louvre, one tiny painting encased behind a glass façade and a horde of Japanese clicking with wild enthusiasm, I wish the code reads it’s me you morons, Da Vinci in drag, gotcha!!

And if we are talking of Da Vinci’s Code can the Holy Grail be far behind. A new survey of online flirting by a dating website Badoo.com, claim to have found the Holy Grail of flirting. Yes, the secret is finally out -the best internet chat-up line for men to use is “You have beautiful lips”. So after you are done with playing a/s/l, a/s/l you can get down to business fast It’s safe, it’s foolproof and it’s works 99.99% times.

But one thing that’s definitely not safe and way past its expiry date is the 2,400-year-old bowl of soup, excavated from the ruins in China. Sealed in a three-legged bronze cooking pot, this culinary find was dug up from a tomb near the ancient capital of Xian by Chinese archeologists. For over 2000 years nobody touched that soup! It must have been really bad.


At least some things are changing. The Leaning Tower of Pisa which has been leaning since 1178 A.D is now straightening up its act thanks to an eight year restoration project. Engineers have managed to correct the tower's famous lean by 46 centimetres, returning it to its 19th century position. What do you think they’ll call the Leaning Tower of Pisa now – Leaning but now straight?

ut before I sign off I have to share this precious nugget of information with you. Christina Aguilera who’s turning 30 this month, has proclaimed she is not worried about getting old. Sweetheart you should come to Incredible India where you are “officially” young, till you turn 35. You need to be 25 before you can even hold that mug of frothy beer - officially of course. At 40 Rahul Gandhi, heir apparent is the young leader of India. And at 76 Karunanidhi rocks with his many wives! (Men crave sex even in old age and the difference is Bmost pronounced in the 75-85 age groups)

Come to India, the country of eternal youth.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let’s Give Silence A Chance

How many times have you rambled about the weather, when you had nothing better to say? I hear it around me all the time. People who love the sound of their voice, who will drone on and on filling you up with every painful detail of their life (just like my last post), how ungrateful their servants are, what an adorable creature they are. Men who can’t talk beyond their office, women who think their child is a reincarnation of Einstein.

Those of you, who read my posts regularly, might have assumed that I love talking. I was a bubbly, talkative kid, a nightmare for most of my teachers. I still am a people’s person and a sparkling conversation makes my spirit soar. Unfortunately with age and experience, I have become picky. I am quick to pick on vibes and clam up the moment I sense negativity. I can light up like a 100 watt bulb and flicker uncertainly - I can sit in a crowded room and still feel alone.

Have you noticed people who talk too much are mostly poor listeners? A family acquaintance who can talk non-stop detailing his experience with the carpenter and the intricacies of his new door, a friend who uses you as a sounding board to vent her miseries, a colleague who loves giving minute to minute details of her latest shopping expedition. And the moment you open your mouth to say something about your inconsequential life, their eyes glaze over. And I can’t help but think of this classic line from Jab We Met...”Mein apni sabse favourite hoon”. But even if many of us have a lifelong affair with ourselves, we are terribly afraid of our own company. So afraid to sit alone in a cafe, uncomfortable at the thought of going out for a movie alone. What will people think? Will they feel sorry for me? At home alone, we are afraid at the prospect of having nothing to do. Emptiness scares us, loneliness intimidates us. Is it why we are terrified of old age?

It is during these times our avocations come to our rescue. Remember that rainy day, when you were forced to stay indoors. How you took shook off dust from your long forgotten stamp collection album and smiled wistfully as you leafed through the pages. Running your hands lovingly over the stamps, each with its own unique story. Pulling out that musty smelling book from the shelf and reliving your first flush of romance. That’s why it’s so important to have hobbies ; it is the best gift you can give yourself. Unfortunately we have too many distractions vying for our attention. The television, the internet, the DVD player, the phone you can’t live without. It’s as if we dread being alone with our thoughts.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Excuse me while I ramble

The last few weeks left me breathless, gasping for time. My soulmate – my cook went off for two months for her annual vacation leaving me with anxiety pangs and petulant desolation. Her replacement was a nightmare, someone who couldn’t differentiate cumin from aniseed and looked at the pressure cooker as if it were a UFO.

I also had relatives over for a short stay. And when you have visiting relatives, you can’t get away with shortcuts. You are expected to cook proper meals and put on your best behaviour. I remember as a child, how I excited I would be every time we had our gaggle of relatives visiting us during the summer break. I would be in a fevered state of anticipation of the good times ahead and thought Maa was a big spoilsport with her concern for all that extra work. How drastically your perspective changes with age – now it’s me who frets about the extra effort and the infringement of my valued personal space.

This series of unprecedented events also coincided with me enrolling for yoga class, besides my regular workouts at the gym. My cleaning lady in her endeavour to further spice things up decided she needed a break too. It was harrowing – piles of unwashed utensils, spending most of my day in the kitchen cooking while my trainee cook looked on. And I wasn’t willing to compromise on anything. I had to attend my yoga classes, household chores couldn’t take a backseat either and I didn’t want to give up on my blogging. For me writing a post is not about switching on my computer, thrashing the keyboard and magically producing a post. I do get my bursts of spontaneity but most of the times my write-ups, especially the memoirs, are a labour of love. Sometimes I spend days working and reworking my articles.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Stranger than fiction

We are living in strange times.

Image courtesy: Toonpool.com
A group of villagers from Shahbarsa UP, tired of the inept ways of their village heads made a local beggar Narayan Nat, apply for the post of Village Pradhan. He was elected to the post last month. Although Nat is entitled to a Rs 1500 honorarium, he is no mood to quit his “family business” of begging. He now has people lined up, waiting politely for their turn, who not only drop coins in his palm, but also get their problems addressed. A village head, who begs to differ.

Definitely more honourable than stealing. Neera Yadav, former Chief Secretary UP is fast emerging the new age feminist. Why should only men be corrupt, what they can do I can do better. Close on the heels of Raja of scams, comes the Maharani of scams. The lady in question has caused a loss of 5000 crores to state exchequer, thanks to her large scale bungling in land allotment during her tenure as Chairperson of Noida. She has many other unique distinctions to her credit. During her 25 years of service, she was one of the most corrupt officers of the UP cadre. So much so, that the IAS association voted her as the corrupt bureaucrat No. 1. Last heard David Dhawan was trying to ink a deal with Neera Devi.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Unbong Bong

I think I look like a Bengali even though I don’t have the trademark lush, long hair and am not exactly doe eyed. I definitely don’t sound like one. And no, I never wear a red bordered sari and don’t get into paroxysms every time I hear Robindro Shongeet. Sometimes people are surprised when they come to know I am from the cultural hotpot of the East.

I am a “Probashee Bangalee” which translated means a Bengali who has never lived in Bengal. As a Bengali born and brought up in Punjabified- Delhi, where people think India begins and ends with North India, I am often confronted with stereotypes. People assume all of us were born clutching a fish and have it morning, noon and night. The Bhadrolok’s love for fish is legendary but unfortunately I am not one of them. Neither am I a big fan of rice. My unconventional preferences made my Mum fret incessantly. She would often prophesize doom for me – what will happen to you if you get married into a conventional Kolkata family! Well, I did get married to a true blue bong who loves his fish as much as he does his Strauss but don’t startling contrasts make the best unions?

Although I love Kolkata, a city that has a soft corner for its three eph’s - Phish, phootball and phriends, where it’s diligent citizens express their displeasure by going on strikes - I do feel like “an Englishman in New York”, during my visits there. Most of its populace has an opinion on everything, argues with passion and is a closet revolutionary. The bhodrolok loves breaking into Keats at the drop of a hat and every adda is interspersed with a soulful rendition of Nazrul geeti or Robindro shongeet. And you are the only silent one in the room sitting with a silly, ignorant grin.

Not that it’s any better in Delhi. Tell a new acquaintance that you are a Bengali and you can bet your chhola bhaturaa that the first reaction you’ll get is Roshogulla. Yes, we invented this sugary dumpling but we invented many more legendary mishtees too. So why not a ledikeni, shondesh or chamcham? Didn’t William Cowper say” Variety is the spice of life”. And if I hear anyone say “ Aami tomake bhalobaashi” again, you can bet your sorry ass that am going to stuff your face with a treacherously bony Hilsa. Yes, just saying it feels good and dear readers please consider this a manual on what not to say when you meet a Bengali.

On Karvachauth, when most of your colleagues are decked up like Christmas trees and avoid the mere mention of water and grub, you standout like a sore thumb in your unadorned avatar and almost feel guilty glugging water from your bottle. I had to patiently clarify to my students that, yes I am married, no my husband is not planning to dump me and yes I do wish a long life for him. Once at the bus stop when one of my students wanted to know why am not wearing bangles, I told him with a straight face “In our culture the men fast for their wives”. He actually believed me. I feel like an alien when my friends excitedly exchange “kuttu ka atta” recipes during Navratra. But then, I feel out of place during the rest of the year as well- when they discuss Big Boss antics, Khatron Ke Khiladi, Mere Baap ki shaadi (is there such a soap? If not, producers please take note).

So what does that make me? A confused Bengali! A neither here neither there species! Or a Bengali proud of her roots even if she is a stranger to most of it. For me it’s a process of constant learning and unlearning. The other night as the husband read out one of Tagore’s poetry to me, we just couldn’t stop marveling at the timelessness of his works. My mother often gushes about Sunil Gangopadhay’s work and doesn’t think too highly of my choice of Indian authors who write in English. But does that make all Bengalis literary geniuses, just like we assume that southern states are home to mathematical wizards? Not really. So the next time if I hear someone say, you must be good singer no, most of you are …. that I owe my writing skills to my Bengali gene pool ,I will insist on reading out the entire Gitanjali to you in a quivering, emotion choked voice. Just like a typical Bengali!

Dedicated to Radhakanta, whose "fishy" enquiries prompted this post.
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's A Gay World After All

Image courtesy : fugly.com
 All of you who thought Ibis was the name of a chain of hotels meant for the budget conscious traveller, here’s news for you. It’s an avian variety that was happy but now gay. The females of this species are not too thrilled about this development though.

Scientists believe that pollution in water is turning birds into homosexuals. Apparently white male Ibises have been giving a cold shoulder to the females of their species and prefer cosying up to each other instead. And since Papa Ibises now prefer other papas, baby chicks are not seeing the light of the day. It appears poisonous metal compounds entering the food chain is the culprit behind the altered sexuality of these birds. I would have preferred the male pigeons taking a shine to each other. Those of you staying in high rise apartments would be well aware of this feathered menace. In fact I had devoted an entire post to my pigeon litany. It is quite irksome to see and hear their constant furious coupling and then be privy to their irresponsible parenting. Baby pigeons keep tumbling down from their precariously perched nests on our AC compressors. And the rapidly multiplying population merrily poops all over our balconies. Papa pigeons it’s time you brought your alarmingly growing numbers under control.

I remember reading somewhere that the rising pollution level is also to blame for the changing sexual orientation of men. When I was in school gay meant happy and boys getting close to each other did not invite You are so gay comments. We merrily sang We are Springdalians happy and gay! And NOBODY sniggered. Well things have changed. Men now prefer pink, and all the eligible men are either married or gay. And now there’s even a fresh new preference on the block – the flexisexual. There are quite a few women who can’t seem to make up their mind and swing both ways. Visibly straight women do not mind singing I kissed a girl, just to try it, I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it. It felt so wrong, it felt so right. Ah the permutations and combinations of the modern world.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Educating Tee

Education is akin to religion for the great Indian middle class. Even as you are changing your baby’s nappy for the 25th time, fantasising about a good night’s sleep and dying to turn the clock back to your non-motherhood days, your family elders start making excited plans and knowledgeable predictions about your newborn’s future. Oh she loves tearing pages off the book....so you think she will be an educationist? Doesn’t she look cute jamming her fingers in electrical sockets....she will undoubtedly be an electrical engineer. Look at her, trying to dissect the cockroach with her fingers....yes she will be a doctor. Unfortunately my daughter was a big drama queen and loved looking at herself in the mirror....nobody dared suggest her vocation based on that.

It is usual for parents, grandparents and everybody else still alive in the family tree to take the business of educating their latest addition in the family rather seriously, more so if you hail from the Eastern states. The grandma will insist on teaching Bangla limericks even as your baby drools. The grandma’s dad on ventilator will give you a grim lecture on the need to inculcate serious studying habits at an early age. The granddad will read out Kafka to his granddaughter, her baffled expression be damned. And you will let out an exasperated sigh and exclaim “Can I first potty train her please????”

I guess I was unusually casual and gave more priority to sundry things like trying to keep my baby from plunging herself in a bucket of water or dissuade her from sticking a pencil up her nose. One fine sunny afternoon, standing on our ground floor balcony, reality hit me with a loud thud. It was neighbour's barely two year old son confidently rattling off English alphabets and numbers, while his Mum proudly looked on. Try as I might, I couldn’t share her jubilation and before her bonny boy could move on to Greek, I mumbled an apology and ran inside. I have been a bad, bad mom. My Tee is a good six months older and all she does is play around with the jhadoo & karhai and yelp in joy every time she sees the maid mopping the floor. A bleak future awaits her and she will curse me as she scours utensils for a living.

Soon it was time for Tee to go to preparatory school and for me to join back work. I realized a little belatedly that our baby girl didn’t know a word of Hindi. The husband and I had made a conscious decision to speak to her only in Bangla, so that she gets her mother tongue right. No “come baby, run to Mama, sit...stand..” for us. But kids can adapt wonderfully. By the time Tee was four she was speaking fluent Bangla, Oriya (courtesy our maid) and functional Hindi. By the time she was six, she was speaking good English, but had forgotten her Oriya.

Most mothers take schooling more seriously than their kids. They may have had carefree childhoods and barely passed their exams, but they want to make sure their progeny turn into an Einstein or Bill Gates. They derive a vicarious sense of achievement from the trophies their children bag. I had a simple criterion – I wanted Tee to go to a school where studies are the last priority. I wanted her to go to the school I went to. From clay modelling, to rendering songs for the dead departed children of Hiroshima, to teaching pre-delinquent kids, to whistling at ward boys under the garb of hospital service, we did it all. And if we had time left, we studied. And strangely our academic results were great. I wanted her to have a childhood she’ll cherish and I wanted a carefree motherhood for myself

Tee did have a carefree childhood but our parenthood was far from stress free. In class II, her class teacher banned unhealthy preserves and peanut butter from their sandwich. All my mornings were fraught with anxiety, wondering which unsuspecting vegetable’s turn it was to get sandwiched that day. Her weekly hobby class with its long list of unusual requirements gave me endless nightmares. 25 ice cream sticks, three medium sized white pebbles, 25 pink feathers, and the dreaded list was unfailingly sent just the day before. As if it’s usual to have a flock of pink feathered birds who shed on demand. Or it’s normal for every household to have a collection of ice cream sticks, handpicked from garbage cans. The school’s fancy dress parties on its founder’s day had me on the boil. Fishing out accessories, running to the neighbourhood boutique to get fancy ensembles stitched. Since my sewing is more like a cobbler’s and my craft skills almost non-existent, it was the husband’s duty to create elaborate Red Indian head gears or make antlers for her butterfly avatar. Yes, dadhood is a lot of hard work too. We had our proud moments ..six year old Tee on stage playing the fretting Mom, complaining loudly about her son’s TV watching habit....shimmering on stage doing her Japanese dance and chattering incessantly between breaks, completely oblivious to the audience...

Tee sat for her first board exams this year and it coincided with my leaving my job after months of dithering. Most of my colleagues assumed it was for the sake of her studies. I didn’t want to disappoint them and happily nodded in agreement. I’ve had very little to do with Tee’s education. True, when she was younger I helped her out with her revision but as she grew older I just let her be. Did keep a watchful eye on her, nagged her once in a while but since she always managed good grades I happily maintained a safe distance. It was when I started spending time at home I realized how little she studied. During her preparatory leave, she watched television, read her many story books and when she got bored entertaining herself she would sit and study. I was alarmed and would often shed copious tears imagining her sorry results. Well I did shed copious tears and that too in full public view at the Langkawi airport, but they were tears of joy as my mother read me out her results. Tee managed to stun us all with straight A1s in all 4 majors. Sadly it has given her a license to shut me up forever. But it hasn’t stopped me from worrying and shedding more copious tears...what if she doesn’t get admission to any of the good college in Delhi....what if it is Dronacharya College in Bhondsi ....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Look Who’s Talking....

Image courtesy :cartoonday.com
It all began with an Apple that tempted Adam to sin. And now thanks to the self appointed guardian of Indian youth, we have a mint fresh perpetrator of the Original sin. Before Levis introduced this denim wonder to the world, it was just another fuss free pair of lowers preferred by cowboys for its rough and tough nature. It soon caught the fancy of millions across the globe. Jeans – the most versatile garment, practical yet stylish, comfortable and timeless – has been a fashion statement for generations. You can never go wrong with a pair of well fitted jeans and a white shirt.

Mr Subhash Ghai begs to differ – he thinks wearing jeans corrupts the youngsters and makes them do bad-bad things. Just like the quintessential bad man Gulshan Grover. Kids, it’s time you listened to the modern day Gandhi. If your forefathers followed the Mahatma’s clarion call and happily burnt British made clothes, it’s time you dumped your distressed, ripped, riveted, tattered, patchy, grimy, skinny pairs. Go build a mean bonfire and later you can imbibe lofty values by watching Mr Ghai’s movies. Karma, Ram Lakhan, Pardes to perfect the art of hamming. Good Boy, Bad Boy for how not to make a movie. And for a soul searching experience try catching the tuneful “choli ke peechhe kya hai”. In the early 90’s Mr Ghai had sent the nation into a state of introspection by asking this profound question. Of course he had Ms Dixit giving ample hints on the 70 mm screen. But the dumb nation we are, we failed to comprehend and watched it again and again for a deeper insight.

The prolific filmmaker gave this emotional speech on the evil nature of jeans at the International Film Festival in Goa. His state of mind is understandable though. All through his stay in Goa he did not spot a single fully clothed person. At Anjuna, it became worse. No wonder Arundhati called my Bharat a “bhooka nangaa Desh”. And later as he was watching F TV to calm his agitated state of mind he saw Eva Mendes writhing in the sand in her Calvin Kleins. Haujee! Now I know what causes global warming - all these hot, evil people with and without clothes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It happened one night

Image Courtesy :Squidoo.com
You have been her silent worshipper for months. And why not, she’s smart, almost beautiful, sassy. The office Casanovas and aging Lotharios have been circling her cubicle furiously, in the vain hope of catching her attention. Yet, she said yes to YOU – silent (mostly), strong, brooding, forehead crinkled in worry, surgically attached to your Blackberry. Almost like her Mills & Boon hero, if you concentrate on the strong silent part and ignore the slightly paunchy, thinning hair look. Of course it helped that you are somewhere at the top of the corporate ladder. Hard work always has its perks.

You have a dinner date tonight at the new Japanese joint that food critics have been raving about. You wistfully think of the divine butter chicken with garlic naan at your favourite Moti Mahal Deluxe. But what to do, she is on a raw diet. Ahh…sushi is but a small sacrifice for office goddess.

Monday, November 22, 2010

On A Foodie's Trail

The husband and I like any self respecting “bong” have a discerning palate and take the art of gastronomy rather seriously. Weekends are dedicated mostly to the onerous task of deciding where to eat what. We love trying out new eateries and have opinions galore on who serves the best crab in town, which restaurant has the best Teppanyaki , who does the best “Goshtaba” Eating out guides are meant for the un informed, after all who knows better than the Rays!!

Dare an unsuspecting maître d suggest salmon to the husband, we know exactly what the unsuspecting fellow has in store for him. The poor fellow is asked to furnish the credentials of the long dead fish. And before he can mumble an unconvincing reply he will be dismissed with a “I’ve had the best, don’t try to pass of the farmed variety as the real thing” We have a rare expertise in giving “honest” feedbacks at the end of a meal. So honest that we often have the manager scurrying up to us with a worried frown on his face. And yes, I have been woken up from my afternoon siesta only to explain patiently on the phone why we thought that the enchiladas were not up to the mark.

Travelling is another passion of ours (in fact I could write a whole blog on our varied passions). Trying out local cuisines more often than not takes top priority in our itinerary. After all we need fodder for feedbacks.

While planning a trip to Bangkok nearly a decade back, we were quite enthused about sampling authentic Thai cuisine. On landing in Bangkok we set off on a trail to sample the famed Thai curries. We came across Sushi , bubbling cauldrons of soup in which you could dunk ingredients of your choice and even more sushi, but mysteriously Thai cuisine was missing from most of the menus. Of course there was the famed street food of Bangkok that we could have sampled for that authentic taste. But suspicious looking creatures floating in oil or propped on sticks was not exactly our idea of culinary heaven. We eventually did have a few memorable Thai meals. The curries were sweet, subtle and bursting with flavors. The ingredients including the vegetables were the freshest, a far cry from what gets passed off as Thai cuisine in the many restaurants dotting Delhi. And now we have a hearty contempt for the red/yellow/green curry variety and can turn up our nose in the air and proclaim “This is not authentic!!!” After all we can now claim to know our “Nam Pla” from “Nam Phrik”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall Of The Feminine

A few weeks back I had written a post about how the media has not kept pace with the changing role of women in society. Our movies relegate female characters to the sidelines as mere showpieces, simpering and sizzling, applauding the hero’s antics and ready to break into a song and dance at the drop of a hat. In the 21st century, women continue to be objectified.

Someone put a very pertinent question through the debate that ensued – how did we manage to evolve from a Devi worshipping society to a society where baby girls are murdered because they are guilty of being a she, if she is fortunate enough to live, she lives to face discrimination, threat of assault or even death for the sake of family honour. Ahh... this happens only in villages, we the city people are far more progressive. But it is in these cities, girls are dragged out of bars in the name of morality. Brides are burnt for more dowry. Cars slow down when they see a woman walking alone on the road. Many of them, with the entirely honourable intent of making her life more exciting, try giving her a friendly nudge, sing a song or two and make declarations of lust. A very senior teacher in my school stopped driving because she had a terrifying experience on the road. A bunch of young boys driving their Daddy’s car mistook this 50 something lady for Lara Croft and gave her a heart thumping chase. Not content with a few friendly dents they even tried to stop her car. Why?? Because it is fun harassing a woman.

Where or more importantly when did we go wrong? From times immemorial the woman has played the role of the nurturer. There was a time when cultures across the world worshipped the power of female and her ability to produce life. I am sure many of you have read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. In his book, Dan Brown put across the theory of how the predominantly male church demonised the sacred feminine and called it unclean. “The original sin” and Eve’s contribution to downfall of human race was created by man. Women, once the sacred giver of life, had now turned into the enemy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

While I Was Sleeping........

Trisha came up with this story while indulging in her most favoured activity. Have I told you her favourite flicks include ...Sleeping Beauty, Sleepy Hollow, While You Were sleeping, Sleepless in Seattle, Sleeping with the Enemy.........

Image courtesy :clipartof.com

Napoleon, Marx, Shakespeare and the endless procession of eminent individuals that every student curses; as days turn into nights and the syllabus stretched into infinity. Red eyes ringed with dark circles, I got up. “I’m going for a walk.” My voice croaked from disuse. No, seriously, I’d reached the limit of my attention span (i.e 45 minutes) and the idea of a walk seemed pretty appealing. There’s a forest area surrounding my residential complex and the trees swayed invitingly. As I walked, the temperature began to dip. Suddenly tired, I sat down and leaned against a tree trunk. Light filtered in from the canopy above. It was so comfortable. My limbs loosened and my eyes closed...

I wake with a start. What’s this wet, white powdery stuff? I shake it out of my hair. I notice little chunks of it sliding down my arms. Can this be...snow? In Delhi, at this time of the year? I run towards my house, people are moving sluggishly through the snow. I run out onto a road. Strange cars whizz by. One car stops, a window is rolled down- “Hey, are you lost? Do you need a ride?” I shake my head and move on. I cross the road carelessly and a car screeches to a halt. “I’m so sorry! Are you okay? Be careful...” Now that’s weird- polite Delhi-ites? Am I dreaming? My clothes look outdated somehow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spreading love, sweet love

My Dad held a position where people queued up to give him gifts on Diwali. My girlhood Diwali memories are tinged with anguish, of the family grappling with a constant stream of guests flitting in and out of the house, even at the oddest hours. The kitchen had to be in a constant state of preparedness, ready to dole out a snack or two and we were expected to greet everyone with a Namaste Uncle and a grin that stretched right up to my earlobes. I had almost perfected the art of dual expressions – combining my toothy smile with an odd menacing look. Sadly, it didn’t deter the guests from coming.

But my Dad more than made up for my bad manners. He would greet everyone with a loud, effusive Arrreyyyyyyyyyyy, like they were his long lost brothers from the Kumbh mela. Baba, who was it? Umm...I have no idea! But that’s my Dad, heart meltingly warm but memory challenged. Well, the daughter takes after him but instead of almost fainting with delight, I oscillate between “deer caught in headlight” and “the dead fish” look. My father-in-law is even worse. He once went to a relative’s “Shradh ceremony” and enquired earnestly from fellow mourners about Dashu Da’s well being. Dashu Da incidentally was the dear departed chappie in question. Trying to amend for the emotional distress he was causing, he put on a sombre expression and mumbled ...actually I meant Bishu Da, his brother. The guests were almost hyperventilating now and Bishu Da’s garlanded photo of six months didn’t look too amused either.

Coming back to Diwali and its associated custom of spreading love through casseroles, dinner sets and mithai. Have you ever wondered about the inversely proportional effect of the law of plenty – which makes you extremely allergic to things you see and get in plenty? That makes you want to throw up if you see another box of Milton thermos or a melamine dinner set? Your home sweet home becomes a haven for all the absconding boxes of kaju barfis and dry fruits and your Maa is constantly hatching plans to make you have them. You go to the movies with an extra large packet of dry fruits to munch on, the pulav has more kishmish than rice grains. I hated what the festive season did to my Maa. From her strict school teacher persona she would mutate into this scary mithai devi, constantly thinking up recipes to use up all that barfi. This after she had fed everything that walked in her periphery of vision with Diwali goodies, even our maids, sick of the sweet treats, would howl in protest. A few of them later went on to start a “say no to mithai” andolan, last heard they were trying to rope in Arundhati Roy for their cause.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let’s Talk About Love Baby

Image courtesy : Cartoonstock.com

Believe it or not, the way you flirt holds the key to the fate of your relationship. A new study has found that people who use playful and physical style of flirtations are likely to attract shorter, less serious relationships, whereas polite and sincere flirting could attract a long term partner. Hey Babe! I lost my number, can I have yours?   F&$^% off Dude …insert complementary dead fish look.

Madam I beg to state that I have lost my number. Can I have yours please? Why just my number, you can have my Mom, my Dad, my entire khandan’s number …insert complementary eyelash fluttering.

Great, you fell in love with a lost case and are living happily ever after. You have managed to tolerate each other for nearly a decade, till you come across this shitty piece of research. According to a study, married couples have exactly ten years and 11 months of wedded bliss before it starts going to hell. So why does it all go downhill after a decade? The reasons cited were ….lack of romantic gestures, scarcity of compliments from their spouse and six out of 10 respondents needed to be reminded why they married their partner in the first place. Ouch. To no one's surprise, sex was also to blame. Not even the lack of it -- but a total lack of enthusiasm about it. No figures were revealed as to how excited they were about the prospect of sex with someone other than their partner.

It has now been ten years of togetherness and you make the shocking discovery that your husband is enjoying a secret rendezvous with another woman. Chill…don't run after him with a knife, just grab a copy of Maryse Vaillant controversial new book Men, Love, Fidelity, instead. According to Vaillant, France's most prominent female psychologist, extra-marital affair is a sign that your marriage is a healthy one. Thank God, you are having an affair!! Mwaah. She further reckons that men who keep mistresses actually improve their marriage. "They simply need breathing space and infidelity is almost unavoidable". Once women accept that the "pact of fidelity is not natural but cultural" and that infidelity is essential to the "psychic functioning" of certain men it can be a "very liberating" for women. In her book, Vaillant insists that fidelity is not, by definition proof of love.

Shouldn’t be too tough, choosing that special gift for her on your tenth anniversary, eh? Did the Amazon site just crash from traffic overload?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

When Arun-dhoti Gives It To Those Ones….

Image courtesy.Shreyas Navare
Dear Diary….. I can’t tell you how mortified I am to be a part of this Bhooka-nanga Desh. And Desh is not the snotty boy I knew back in school, but my sadistic homeland, Hindoostan. I am filing for separation along with my Kashmiri brothers and sisters and my Gandhian buddies with guns, the sweet Maoist fellas. Anybody else who seeks azaadi from this Neo Nazi state, where minorities are routinely persecuted and the poor cheerfully exploited, please, please file for membership to Annie’s Ark. Oh, I haven’t told you about my ship have I? Gosh! I’m so excited about it….It will be shaped like a Kerala houseboat, handcrafted with walnut wood from the paradise of Kashmir and my Narmada Bachao Andolan mates have promised to paint cheerful motifs in bright colours to keep the blues away. It will be fun cruising together, a bunch of zealots protesting loudly against all the ills that ail this world. If I’m in a good mood, I might just teach you the skill of writing provocative essays (but only after I finish penning down mine). Its strange how I can never stop writing, the moment I manage to finish my 5555000 worded essay, I chance upon a report on Israel’s state brutality, the anguish of Afghanistan, a dam being built, yet another nuclear bomb ….my eyes brim over with tears and I start writing again. So much pain, so much suffering and poor little Annie, the lone crusader against this pitiless, ruthless world. I must articulate my anguish, I must scream hysterically from rooftops, I must rush to save the terrified trees, the flustered farmers, the misunderstood peace loving Maoists…..they need me, the voice of the voiceless, their Goddess of all things big and small. And, I know there is always hope. If I cannot make it to the presidency like Dilma Rousseff, I can still become the UN ambassador for the downtrodden.

But I’m still in Kashmir, sipping my Kahwa and dreaming of a Utopian world. In the evening I’ll go pelt stones and burn some effigies. Hmm...I almost feel Bengalish today (forget the deception my name conveys). My heart beats for the bhodralok city that breeds drawing room revolutionaries, who express emotional distress by going on strikes and breaking the glass façade of the USIS Library every time America indulges in brazen imperialist acts like bombing Iraq or opening up a McDonalds branch in Nandigram. But I have even been offered citizenship of the new Azad Kashmir and a complementary houseboat on Dal Lake. And my new found Jihadi friends have promised to teach me how to assemble a bomb in five minutes flat!! I am trembling with excitement and now my heart beats louder for Kashmir. Yet, I can’t stop reminiscing about my Maoist comrades. It’s been a while since I visited the Dandkaranya forests they haunt. Oh to sleep under the stars, on the bare ground, my private suite in a thousand star hotel and walking under the canopy of trees, my heart singing a symphony divine. When I was not sleeping, I tried putting my anguish across to my tribal comrades, against the brutal, rapacious state that wants to usurp their land. But alas, they couldn’t comprehend my Hindi and I couldn’t comprehend their English. It was awkward but I had to keep on trying, I asked “kaisa lag rahaa hai apko?” With a toothy grin they offered me an unusual red chutney. It tasted fiery, so very peculiar, almost folicy. It was then I spotted heaps of red ants being ground in the mortar for the chutney. I almost threw up, but I had to find a bush first. And that reminded me of the other imperialistic Bush and the nasty fellow’s evil designs on my Iraqi brothers. My heart let out a silent sob and my stomach an ominous rumble. I spent the entire night running from tree to tree.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Brunch

Presenting Avinash, my wannabe nephew (you wish!). A budding writer who likes to soar and the sky is not the limit for him. A dreamer who dreams a myriad dreams in technicolour.

It is an hour before noon.
The Restaurant sits contentedly at the edge of a dark green-blue lake. There is almost no wind today, making it hard to see any movement in the trees lined up thickly on the other side.

A narrow, wooden bridge pokes out from the side of the Restaurant leading to the lake and coming to an abrupt stop somewhere near the edge. The water in the lake is uncannily calm, almost motionless. There is only a hint of movement, given away by the sunlight sparkling mischievously at its surface now and then. It is like a pink baby dreaming with her soft eyelids closed, indulging in only so much of a shy smile every few minutes. And like her little fingers which curl and uncurl slowly, perhaps reaching out to touch some unfathomably beautiful thought high up somewhere.
Yellow-golden sunlight streams in generously through the French windows of the Restaurant, highlighting a rare speck of dust that might have escaped the stringent eye of the morning cleaner. It floats about hither and thither, enjoying being hopelessly lost in the big, big Restaurant.

I walk into the Restaurant, looking around with mild interest. It feels like I’ve been here before. I just can’t remember when, though. It must have been a lifetime ago.

The place is quiet, but not quite. There is a muffled clink of shining steel cutlery on warm silica plates. From the far end of the Restaurant, the soft notes of a Piano mix into the sweet air like a shameless intoxicant. I am invited in. I come in.

I am ushered to my place by a pleasant man in a white uniform and I choose a nice chair facing the window, overlooking the lake. I am just about to park myself when I change my mind. I shift over to the other side, now facing the Restaurant.
I am here for Brunch.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Confessions Of A Chocoholic

God bless the Aztecs who discovered Cacao. Surprisingly, they didn’t want to eat it. They knew how to grind up the beans, boil them to a froth with water and sweeten the drink with vanilla and honey. So why didn’t the Aztecs drink this yummy stuff? Because Cacao beans were too precious and for an Aztec drinking a cup of chocolate was a sheer waste of money. Of course rich people liked to show off by drinking chocolate, they could afford it after all! At least now we have documented proof that mankind has been showing off since 1300 A.D. And thank god that you can now buy a tall glass of foamy chocolate drink at Theobroma (which is chilled melted chocolate btw), scrape the chocolate off from the bottom with your tongue sticking out and nobody will accuse you of being rich, although they might think you forgot to grow up.

I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have sweet teeth, all 32 of them. I have to end my meals on a sweet note. I like my mishtees, mousse, tarts, tiramisu and marzipans but I what I can’t absolutely live without is chocolates. In fact I’ve had a lifelong affair with them and why not, they have been my best friends through thick and thin, through my highs and lows.

Picture this scenario....You’ve had a crappy day, you have tired everybody out with your cribathon, you are stressed and feeling low. All you have to do is open the refrigerator, take out that box of pralines. Your brows are knit in concentration trying to decide between Irish cream and blueberry, you pick up one up, it feels slightly moist, ready to melt any minute. You quickly pop into your mouth, close your eyes and let the familiar chocolatey aroma envelop you with its warmth. Each taste bud of yours comes to life wanting to soak in its silky smoothness, its bitter sweet taste. You smile a lazy smile, your day just got better.

I grew up on Cadbury’s and it tasted far better back then - now it’s waxy, tastes less chocolatey and looks as if it’s on a perpetual diet (it keeps shrinking every few months). During my kiddie days, my favourite used to be Double Decker. It was this thick bar with layers of crispy cereals and nougatine wrapped in chocolate. One bite into the caramel nougat layer and I would be transported to the world of enchanted woods, elves and magical castles, my mind conjuring up childish fantasies. A book with my favourite bar of chocolate used to be my idea of Utopia.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Tipsy-Topsy World


Of late, I have noticed a trend of gen X sporting a new appendage. They look spiffy in their sharp suits, ready to take on the world and then your eyes land on their protruding beer bellies. Of course the expanding midriff is a national phenomenon passed from generation to generation. But guys taking on this shape at this young an age is a recent phenomenon. And I blame the Pub culture. Go to any resto bar on an evening, and you will spot hordes of BPO types putting Bacchus to shame. And voila one fine morning they have more spilling out of that belt rather than tucked in.

But Americans kids are smart, they know how to keep their cake and eat it too. A lot of youngsters are now opting for a new kind of diet-drunkorexia. It involves starving to save calories for binge drinking. In order to maintain weight, many young men and women think it’s unnecessary to eat, especially if they are anticipating a boozing session later on. Aren’t kids supposed to be studying and doing other nerdy stuff in college? But for me there’s always a silver lining in that proverbial cloud. A path breaking, earth shaking business idea is already taking form in my mind – Your choice of booze now fortified with 21 essential Vitamins, Iron and Calcium. Brewed from organic multigrains, with floating fibres. Or perhaps a slim fast beer?

It appears that people who are really smart are inclined towards wine. Drinking wine is considered a reflection of your intelligence (insert meaningful smile and self gloating). A study suggests that more intelligent children grew up to drink more alcohol, more frequently and in greater amount than less intelligent children. And I can show a Mum lovingly pour out a glass of wine for her bright smiley kid.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Unreal Women In The Reel World

Image courtesy : www.caricature.com.sg

The last smash hit Dabbang had a 44 year old Salman serenading a 20 something potter girl in impeccably styled backless cholis. Three Idiots considered an epic by many had a 45 year old Amir playing the college genius cum wannabe gynae with a vacuum cleaner. Shahrukh at 45 has yet to outgrow his cutesy expressions. And at 52, a haggard looking Sanjay Dutt is still playing the male lead and fancies himself as a rock star. Good for them!

Strangely when it comes to age, Bollywood is not as forgiving when it comes to its leading ladies. The moment the heroine touches her 30’s she is considered over the hill and has to earn her living endorsing hair oils and mosquito mats. And actresses in their forties are mostly relegated to maternal martyrdom. Yes, we do have an Aishwarya who at 38 still manages to rule the box office with élan but she is an aberration. Look at Rekha! At 56 she looks gorgeous beyond words, but is mostly seen at award functions in her bridal Kanjeevarams, (somebody gift her a sari) air-kissing her ex colleagues. She is beautiful, talented, so why is it that we don’t see her in movies?

Because in the 21st century, where we talk of women seeking an identity of their own and making a mark in this world - the cine world, unfortunately is still stuck in the dark ages. And women are stuck with stereotypes. She is mostly scantily clad, hot and the object of desire for many a Pappu, Sonu and Rocky. No wonder the leading lady has such a short shelf life. Her midriff evokes more interest than her acting skills. Her weight loss becomes the subject of a national debate. She is not expected to cover up, even in freezing cold locales. So what if she is going blue in the face and almost dying of hypothermia, the audience must get its paisa vasool !

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Growing Up With Delhi

Even though I am a true blue Bong, I hardly had any relatives in Kolkata, till I got married. My Dad is from Lucknow, Maa from Kanpur and I was born and brought up in Delhi.

For someone who has spent a little over four decades in the city, I have seen Delhi metamorphose from a laid-back Punjabi by nature city to a bustling, chaotic Punjabi at heart metropolis. Oh, what a transformation it has been- whether for better or for worse, is matter for another long debate.

As a child, recreation would mean boating in boat club, followed by ice cream at India Gate and watching performances at the city’s many cultural spots. And we watched movies in large, single screen cinema halls. Chanakya was meant for English movie buffs. I remember the time, when my parents had gone to watch The Exorcist at Priya. Their ride back home, well past midnight, on that lonely stretch in Vasant Vihar, was way more scary than the movie. And now Vasant Vihar is a constant cacophony of blaring horns and frayed tempers.

Karol Bagh was THE place to shop and South Delhi had yet to acquire its glamorous avatar. I had my first taste of butter chicken, Delhi’s national bird at a restaurant in Daryaganj. I hated it – found it too sour for my taste. Delhi was all about Mughlai and Punjabi Khana and if you wanted to try something exotic, it was the posh 5 star hotels you headed to. Does anyone remember Akbar hotel, one of Delhi’s earliest five star establishments? it shut shop long time ago. All I can recollect is the colourful chains of bangles that would hang from its ceiling. I would watch in fascination at the light dancing off those colourful pieces with my head craned up, my fingers dug deep inside the sofa. Eating was not a priority then.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pujo Madness

I spent the last weekend getting stuck in a nasty traffic snarl, staring soulfully at cars, buses and fellow sufferers, only to land at a place teeming with almost 3/4th of Delhi’s bright, shiny population decked up in their festive gear. Packed with cars, the air resonating with a curious cacophony of excited chatter, impatient horns and beats of the dhaak… Overdressed, over enthused crowds, moving at a hectic pace, eager and hungry to soak in all that the evening had to offer... Just another typical Durga Pujo evening in bustling Chittaranjan Park, the much touted mini Kolkata of Delhi. 

But this what Durga Pujo does to you, it makes you defy logic and let go of your sanity. You drape yourself in your finest saris, walk endlessly in your impossibly high heels and strangely you don’t mind the discomfort, the jostling crowds, the heat and the dust. It is as if you have been seized with this invisible energy. You patiently stand in serpentine queues, get busy checking each other out surreptitiously, no jostling, no pushing, only to catch a glimpse of the superbly crafted pandals and Maa Durga’s protimaa. And then with sweat-streaked backs you make a beeline for the food stalls. Devour platefuls of oily biryani, take a far from delicate bite of that fish chop and happily slurp masala chuski! Ahh… divine.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kalmuddy Waters

Cacofonix  is down with a serious hangover from the games, hallucinating about the speech that Kalmadi never gave.

Namaste from Shoerace Kalmuddy! I love you all! With events now over, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to the Commonwealth Games credit-taking – no, I am sorry – thanksgiving ceremony. Among many distinguished guests this evening, we have Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Desaiji, His Highnesses Louise Phillip and Van Heusen from UK, and Princess Bloody Mary from Mexico.

Games have been Smashing Success, as you see from celebration of Australian athletes throwing washing machine and bathtub from 8th floor of games village. It is feat that Indian weightlifters will repeat in next game in Scotchland. I am thanking Smt Sonia Gandhiji in advance for making me head of that delegation because I like Scotch.

I thank Rahul Gandhiji for witnessing many sports events as common man in kurta, little beard and dimple. I am thanking him for not pulling me up for not sending him VIP tickets because ticket printer, imported from China, did not have manual in English or menu with Manchurian Chicken. It also did not have bill in English and we made mistake of paying more, confusing money and decimal point. I thank CAG in advance for understanding the reasons when they investigate.

My biggest thanks to people of Dilli. School and college was closed so students could practise for opening and closing ceremony dance, and could be volunteers for Shera with clean socks and armpits every day. Dilliwallas have s’ported sporting spirit by reducing traffic. No school bus. No U-special. No blue line. No car because no road remaining for non-CWG vehicles. No rickshaw because all rickshaw pullers gone back to Bihar and Bangladesh. Many people left city for holiday and are now happy, like respected Money Shankar Iyerji. He even told me I have a humorous middle. He is joker.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Come Scratch My Back

Warning : This is one hell of an itchy post

You are like the last sack of potatoes of the drought stricken season. Everyone desires you, everyone must have you. You are their last chance for survival.

You FB message box keeps blinking like a deranged strobe light. Your hitherto unknown, undiscovered blogger pals are landing in droves from The Planet of Nowhere. And they all seek communication with you. You have what they all wish for – your vote. Ek salaa vote mujhe zero se hero banaa dega. Ha! You think... Now you want me. All this time you ignored me like an insignificant cretin. Now it’s my turn to make you stew. Should I.....Should I not..... You file your nails. Dust imaginary cobwebs , try to memorize Munni Badnaam’s lyrics, before you hit the vote button. It’s just a measly vote, you think.

When I started blogging, it was because I love writing. True, I couldn’t differentiate a post from a blog when I started. But with the constant encouragement of my wonderful, vibrant blogger friends, I took baby steps in this unknown world. I joined Indiblogger, a fantastic platform for aspiring, famous, infamous bloggers. And I steadily got what every blogger survives on, an eclectic set of readers who believe in me and constantly goad me to write better. I also learnt my first valuable lesson – a chunk of the community survives on reciprocity. And why not? It’s a good way to increase your reader base. No one is here for charity.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cooling Off In Uttarakhand

The last time I was in Ranikhet, I was Phoolan Devi with her band of followers, plundering fruits from the not so amused caretaker’s garden. Not content with sour pomegranates and unripe guavas, we the bachha party devised a clever strategy (okay it was my brainwave) to pillage Amulspray -sweetened milk powder for adults but manna from heaven for us, from the kitchen. To hoodwink the parents, we would pretend to have a loud dancing session behind closed doors of course. The youngest was assigned the duty to sing loudly, while I would shovel spoonfuls of that sticky gooey stuff in waiting mouths. Oh, that was when Ranikhet was still part of Uttar Pradesh and not the newly formed Uttarakhand and I was barely 13.

I was revisiting Ranikhet after 29 years, with my husband and my 16 year old daughter. But this time, it was not going to be just Ranikhet but a road trip through Uttaranchal- an eight day tour that would take us through Ramgarh, Kausani and end at Ranikhet. We had almost cancelled our trip, with Uttaranchal being savaged by the heaviest rainfall in 40 years. Severe landslides had blocked off most of the roads and the floods in the plains had washed off chunks of the highway. But where there is will there’s a way, so what if we have to make constant detours and add couple of extra hours to our journey.

It took us ten long hours to reach Ramgarh, a picturesque hamlet near Mukteshwar. The parents have their cottage there and had reached a day earlier. This was supposed to a great family re-union on hilly terrains. It is great to reach a home and the comforting warmth of parental affection after a long gruelling drive. Curled up on the sofa sipping freshly brewed tea and listening to the pleasant banter, mostly centered on what we will be having for dinner, has a great unwinding effect. Standing on the balcony, one can hear the gurgling of a brook meandering through the forest below. The hilly slopes are a riot of colours with Chrysanthemums growing abundantly. In summers the trees are laden with apples, nakh and plums. I know because I’m forced to eat the sour, fresh off the trees specimens at our Delhi home. My heart soared with pride as we watched the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games in far off Ramgarh, although I did feel a bit let down by the Rahman induced cacophony. The man needs to rejuvenate in the solitude of hills.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Bumbling Mum Diary –III

We Bengalis take the art and science of nomenclature rather seriously – as if our life depends on it. Years of singing Robindro Shongeet, reciting Robi Thakur’s poetry and reading anything from Chekov to Chattopadhyay is effectively put to use, to name our progeny.

And taking it a step further, we have not one but two names for our offspring. A bhaalo naam and a daak naam. Bhaalo naam, the formal name to be used outside our friend and family circle will always have literary connotations – Porineeta, Madhumita, Charulata, Shashwati, Mridha – names intended to send an unsuspecting tongue into paroxysms. And the daak naam – the pet name will be as silly as silly can get – Ghochoo, Potol, Buri, Luchi, Natoo – just to prove to the rest of the world, when it comes to humour, no one can beat us.

When my baby girl was born, it was a historic moment for the Rays (the in laws) and the Bhattacharyas (the outlaws...the parents). And why not? She was the first born of their first-borns and also the first to arrive from the next gen. To put it simply, she was their first and for a very long time their only grandchild. Our younger siblings were just not interested in the business of procreation.

Now couple it with our literary leanings and the legendary Bong eccentricity and you have the makings of a disaster. A name can’t be just a name, it has to be like a whiff of fresh air, has to convey a thousand emotions, it has to be meaningful. Damnation awaits those who were naive enough to name their kid a frivolous Tanya, Pony, Goldie.... I remember a family friend who had a strange fascination for all things Russian and had named his son Pushkin. Pushkin was sent to Moscow for his degree in medicine but became a gangster instead (so much for fulfilling his dad’s Russian aspirations). A gent with French leanings named his daughter Monami. My Maa wanted a mouthful of a name for our German Spitz (we always accused her of favouring him over us) and wanted to call him....guess what? Buta Singh. It took a major tantrum from us to make her change her mind.

And so began the quest to name Baby Ray. Books were fished out, memories strained and long lists were made. Me, I had a very simple criterion for name selection. Growing up in Delhi I have seen many a Bangla name getting distorted beyond recognition. Shutopaa becomes a harsh Sutaapa, Shoibal becomes Cybal almost sounding like an erstwhile computer chip, Kollol becomes Kallol....Basically I wanted to protect my child from a lifetime of distress of having to explain the finer nuances of her name. I wanted a simple name which would easily roll of a toddler’s tongue and not intimidate a non-Bong sensibility.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Marital Bliss - Happily Ever After????

I'm off to the hills to escape the CWG heat. Leaving you with one of my earliest posts. Will be back, hopefully with more anecdotes. Ciao

We start early when it comes to acquiring aversions. As children we are mostly averse to milk, studies, pesky relatives who love tweaking our cheeks. I had all of these and a special one – an aversion to newlyweds.

My first brush with this strange species was as a six year old on a summer trip to Mount Abu. A giggly, coochie-cooing group infesting the back rows of our sightseeing bus. Unfortunately they took a shine to me and I was mostly perched on their laps, privy to the most inane conversations ever heard and embarrassing public displays of affection. Every time we halted they would scurry off to the nearest cliff and pose kamasutra style with me as the hapless spectator. Needless to say I was traumatized.

From Gangtok to Ooty, Kanyakumari to Kalimpong , there was no escaping them. You could hear them before you could spot them. Hysterically happy, over made up girls tottering on high heels clinging for dear life to their macho mates. But what puzzled me the most was how just a few years down the line the same couples would turn into stoical uncles and aunties with a bunch of wailing kids in tow. Domesticity kills and how! Quite like the before and after ads that slimming centres love splashing in newspapers.

Time stops for no one and soon it was time for me to bear the ignominy of being “newly married”. After a whirlwind courtship where I managed to run up telephone bills that had my parents in the throes of panic attacks, I was ready to play house with the man of my dreams.

On our honeymoon, I was cautious, very cautious. I didn’t giggle and maintained a safe distance from my puzzled husband. I looked somber, almost angry at the world. I was so sans the usual jingbang one associates with a newlywed that we had curious people make surreptitious enquires about our marital status or rather the lack of it. We didn’t bother to clear the air.

Hey! We had fun too. Smoked my first cigarette, had my first bottle of wine, tried my hand at cooking and failed miserably. A tantalizing teaser to our rosy future.

Men and women have diametrically different expectations from this holy union called marriage. We, the fairer sex have silly romantic notions and the men expect us to be a wife, and not just an ordinary wife. Now these are guys who grew up watching ads which show the lady of the house cooking up a six course meal with a beatific smile plastered on her face. Is overjoyed when her kid comes back home in soiled clothes. And cleaning utensils is her lifelong passion. She scours and scrubs from morn to noon and she still manages to look like a million bucks. The occasional back pain is taken care of by MOOV massaged lovingly by the husband.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Men In My Life

My life would be incomplete without them. Every time things go wrong, I reach out for them. They are not one, but many. My needs are not one, but far too many. Just one man is not enough.

Oh, they are a pain. They make me go on a wild goose chase, they make me wait, they make me stew and fret. Just one call is not enough. Heartless, insolent, smooth liars – yet I can’t survive without them. What they do, the husband can do better, but he is so busy and always short on time. I don’t want to stress him any further. Sometimes I wish I could do it myself. My life would be so much simpler.

I have a daily morning guy. At the crack of dawn, the first person I think of is him. Does he know how impatiently I wait for him? Peering anxiously over the balcony, the sight of his parked scooter sends me into a frenzy. My heart leaps with joy when I hear the sound of his shuffling footsteps and I rush to open the door just when I hear the gentle thwack on the foot mat.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Suit-able Expedition

With the festive season approaching, I decided I wanted a traditional outfit for myself. Not that I don’t have enough of them, my closet is crammed with my largely unworn saris. In Gurgaon, if you wear saris for a casual occasion, people look at you as if you’ve landed from Mars.

Now we women have this unique talent of creating islands of needs even if we are swimming in a sea of plenty. You can’t possibly expect me to wear one of the many outfits I purchased this season, do you? (Insert horrified expression). And on festivals I wouldn’t be caught dead in a western outfit. I want a formal churidar suit for myself and come to think of it, I don’t even have a single one.

So one pleasant evening, we headed to one of the popular malls of Gurgaon. The husband wanted a new pair of spectacles and I would be surveying the many boutiques for “the perfect one”. The mall on a weekday is a pleasant place to be in. It’s surprisingly uncrowded , you don’t run the risk of your toes getting trampled upon and landing an elbow or two in your stomach. The husband busied himself with the onerous task of selecting the perfect pair (yes, both of us are a match made in heaven) and I trundled off for my survey.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Old Boys Have All the Fun

Chulbul Putin
A new study in Britain has revealed that the typical nifty 50 is more sociable, happy and active than most 25- year-olds. They enjoy more nights out, travel further afield and catch up with friends more frequently. Their partying would put even a 25 year old to shame. 50 it seems is the new 25!

Take the case of Vladmir Putin, the 58 year old Russian P.M who is all set to replace his rusty old model with a sleek, acrobatic one. And no, I don’t mean his car. Putin apparently has split from his wife and is preparing to tie the knot with the 24 year old gymnast, Alina Kabeva. Alina’s father when contacted expressed ignorance about the ‘good news’, but added if she marries such a man it will be great, he’s quite similar to me. What’s so great about marrying a man who reminds you of your dad!
The septuagenarians, it seems are having even more fun. It has been reported that Morgan Freeman, the 72 year old Oscar winning actor, is all set to marry his longtime sweetheart E’Dena Hines. The 27 year old incidentally, also happens to be his step-granddaughter. Freeman has been maintaining a 10-year relationship with his step-granddaughter, which means she would have been barely 17 when they first ‘got together’. “Becoming Mrs. Morgan Freeman has been E’Dena’s goal,” revealed a family source. Some girls, it seems are intent on making a transition from sugar daddies to grand daddies. And granddaddies are only too happy to oblige.