Sunday, July 10, 2011

The 'Aur Batao' syndrome

The phone rings. It’s really not one of your speaking days, yet you sigh, cradling the phone in your palm, and exchange the mandatory greetings.

Barely a minute into the pleasantries, and you hear that most annoying of questions –‘Aur Batao' (loosely translated as ‘Tell Me More’)?

You reply with the listless, non-commital ‘Nothing much, things are pretty decent,’ statement that you have mugged-up for precisely such moments.

Hoping that the person on the other side of the line gets the hint, and gives you the opportunity to parrot that much-too-obvious-cheerful ‘Bye.’

She is made of stronger stuff though and it’s easier said than done to shake her off.

And so she starts venting. A not-so-brief vent / crib.

About the weather.
The latest scandal to have hit tinsel town.
The so-called smug friend who drops names lavishly.
Her year-end plans to go for an oh-so-romantic cruise.
Colleagues who make her hair stand up on end.
Upcoming movies that have made it to her definitely-must-watch list.

You try a couple of times to butt-in, but you obviously cannot manage a word in between.

And then the ironical expression resurfaces – ‘Aur Batao.’ Yeah Right!!

You hitch your eyebrows, and manage to mumble a lame ‘Nothing. All is well.’

To which, the joker, oblivious to your reticence, chants an ‘Oh, ok.’ And her most favourite expression comes flooding back. With a vengeance!

Aur Batao.’

Aaargh! Bite Me!

Telecom companies must sure love these two words that probably standalone marshal a sizeable revenue for them.

You wish the phone lines would snap, thus ending the meaningless conversation that is taking place (horror horror) in your very own life, and not from some monotonous family saga that some women swear by religiously.

Ha! Fat chance! If your luck were really that good, you would have hit the jackpot a couple of times by now, considering you had bought tickets to every Lotto since you were 15.

Your walk down memory lane is interrupted by yet another ‘Aur Batao.’ (In Tone #77 - there are different pitches and tones in which this question is uttered, you see - from a sighing fashion to a more upbeat one, from a squeaky falsetto to a deep-throated one).

Sheeeesh! Why the constant prodding?

Christ! If you did want to tell her in the first place, you wouldn't need the constant nudging for sure!

It’s easier to get a dog to part with his bone that it is to elicit a response from you, by using that obnoxious, Nosy Parker-ish, intrusive query, innit?

Don't people learn?

Aur Ab Aaap Batao?*
(Cheshire-cat grin)

*(Loosely translated into 'And now, you tell me more).

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Through the looking glass...

Came across a very interesting fact file. Apparently, sunglasses appeared on the scene first in China, and subsequently Italy, but not for what they are used today. Instead, they were used to shield the expressions of judges while they decided court cases, and questioned those in the witness stand.

Today, we are obviously spoilt for choice, and see sunglasses ranging from the wonderful to the weird. For God's sake, you even have those with integrated audio players. Whatever will we have next? Nevertheless, these definitely UP your glam quotient and accentuate your best features.

So we have the most famous style – called the Aviators – perhaps what notched up their spectacular success was their endorsement by a Hollywood celeb, who was earlier famous for a particular 'Maverick' role, but who now, is equally famous (notorious?) with a couch-hopping episode on a very visible chat show.

Next, we have the Jacki-O's or the Onassis glares, sometimes called Vintage / retro glasses), named after JFK's glam wife. These are a preferred lot with today's celebs, who are perpetually trying their best to hide from the pesky paparazzi. Today, they adorn the entire world and its neighbour, for which they have a very 'posh' woman to thank.

You also have tea-shades, referred to as John Lennons or Ozzy glasses (after Ozzy Osbourne), round lenses, held together by a thin rim. Not a style that suits all, these glares need to be worn keeping one's face-cut in mind, lest someone may mistake you for a frog with exopthalmic goitre and
a) either run away from you
b) wait for you to hear you croak and hop away.

Next in line are the Wayfarers considered only next to aviators in terms of classic enduring styls that never go out of vogue. They have been made famous by numerous actors and actresses. The trapezoid sits pertly on one's nose, thick arms preventing them from getting unstable and falling off. However, these frames again do not suit all, and if not quite right, can make the wearer look straight out of the pages of a masquerade ball.

The rimless glasses have rapidly ascended the style charts. Sometimes termed snow-goggles, they are larger than the average wayfarer, and perch smartly over the bridge of one's nose. Since they are rimless, they do not sit heavy.

And of course, who can forget the two blinking red hearts perched atop the bridge of a bratty Indian actor's nose last year - and which went straight to the top of the quirky ladder. Millions followed suit - and the red glares were also spotted on an American pop singer, famed for her outrageous dressing sense...

There are of course major benefits of donning sunglasses. They accentuate your best features. Read: eyes too smallwear a dark pair. Unibrow Jacki O's for you all the way. Nose too thin or fatchoose a flattering Vintage pair. Also, because they make eye contact impossible, glares are conducive in those shoe-shifting, lying moments.

And of course, after a particularly 'spirited' time, and your bloodshot eyes are a dead giveaway or if you have been shedding buckets for that no-gooder beau who left you high and dry, these peeper-hiders come to your rescue brilliantly.

Oh and did I mention, they also do the run-of-the-mill, obvious function of saving your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays? Yawnnn!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Let's blow out the candles: Happy Birthday!

To the A-lister, who made being of Irish descent fashionable, here’s wishing him many many more birthday candles to blow out. Cheers!

Happy Birthday, George Clooney!

Being him sure isn’t easy. Here’s why:

• He’s the first person to be nominated for Oscars for both Best Director (Good Night, and Good Luck), and Best Supporting Actor (Syriana) in the year 2006 (He won in the latter category). And we know that that gold-plated lady is pretty choosy, turning up her nose more times than Paris Hilton can change her beaus

• Named the Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine, not once, but twice. Again a first.. Is the world sitting up and taking note? The only other guys to be named twice besides Clooney – Brad Pitt (drool) and Johnny Depp (pant pant). Now why aren’t we surprised?

• This yummy, baritoned-twinkling eyed Batman, is the United Nations messenger of peace. May there be more super heroes like him! Of course, the Bat Mobile must make it easier for him to Vroooom there

• Talk about confidence. He has struck arguably one of Hollywood’s most-talked about bet. Both Michelle Pfeiffer and Nicole Kidman bet him $ 10,000 each that by the time he turned 40, he would have fathered at least one child. They were both wrong. Beaten, they sent their respective cheques to him, which were duly returned. Reason – he bet double or nothing, adding that he would still not have fathered a child even by age 50. Well, he turns 50 today, and I bet Michelle and Nicole have had to eat humble-pie again.

• Being the eternal bachelor, he’s turned on the charm to thousands of swooning women. There are also those who make a beeline to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Vegas, to be photographed with a beaming, ‘Marrying George Clooney’ in a tux, no less. Visitors can put on a wedding gown and stand right next to the beaming wax impression (and now you know the second reason for me to make a visit to LV)…Shhhhhh...

• He’s had my attention since the first time I saw him in Street Hawk. Talk about first impressions. Okie okie, am making this up – I looked this one up;-)

As this salt-and-pepper haired hottie turns 50 today, let’s just hope that he never goes “Out of Sight,” cos’ it would be “Intolerable Cruelty” if that totally unthinkable thing were to happen.

And, let’s see, perhaps “One Fine Day,” I do get to meet him…that’ll sure have me on cloud nine, “Up in the air.”

Ahhh! dreams...What would I do without them?

Good Night and Good Luck” to me.

Knock on wood...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Women Who Whistle

WWW – What is arguably the most common acronym for the World Wide Web, has another connotation for me.

I belong to that category of women – the ones that whistle. Hence the acronym – WWW – Women Who Whistle.

And it’s jolly good fun too.

I suppose the habit stuck to me while reading ‘Little Women’ – donkeys years back (might I add), when Jo (Josephine) is reprimanded for whistling, as it was boyish and unfeminine. Jo, the obstinate mule that she was, obviously stuck to her whistling routine, much to Meg’s annoyance.

There! I said it. I probably began whistling to annoy people.

Except that it turned out, many found it unusual / cool, and I often had requests for renditions of cat calls, loud whistles and the eternal favorite – whistling to popular Bollywood / Hollywood tracks. And since modesty is just not one of my virtues, let me add too that I am also pretty good at it still (Tilt of hat, victory bow.

Of course, there were the odd / exasperated looks I got from an entire class of aunts who tut-tutted and shook their heads in dismay, narrating stories of unladylike girls who whistled in gay abandonment. My refrain that some girls sang; my thing was whistling, didn’t really gather the endorsement I was hoping to garner. There were also constant references to that ancient poem which never failed to elicit a baleful look from me, going somewhat like this:

“A whistling maid and a crowing hen
are neither fit for God or men…”

Hearing the above was enough to make me pucker up and go into a five minute frenzy of whistling loudly, tunelessly (deliberate), accompanied by its equally cacophonic drumming of palms on any wooden surface. It sounded like a cageful of angry birds who were drumming for all their worth…Oh yeah, tit for tat was definitely in vogue back then…Pleas for putting an end to whistling fell on my intentionally deaf ears. The only thing that worked was being presented with a stick of gum or a candy bar, which seemed to do the trick – well at least for sometime…

I also bayed for anyone’s blood who proceeded to recite the following:

Grandma told a curious thing
Boys must whistle, and girls must sing.”


Eventually, I’ve turned out pretty fine…I can hear a multitude of aunts sighing with relief. I still whistle occasionally – I call them my happy tunes. I whistle ditties to children. I whistle in the shower (and drown out the sound of the pesky neighborhood kids who scream like banshees in the park while playing footie). I also whistle to my Labrador, who cocks his ear to one side and looks at me from the corner of his eye, a half-amused, droll expression plastered on his face. Whistling is severely underrated, I think. Perhaps it is the sheer knowledge that what one can whistle, the iPod can do a note-to-note perfect rendition…Maybe there ought to be a law making whistling compulsory at schools – like they do at La Gomera, a Spanish island where the government is trying to keep the national whistling language, el Silbo, alive...

A recent invite for an audition to the country’s premier whistling organization, was an honor...which unfortunately now has to be put aside for a later month, thanks to the cast on my leg. Drat! Just my luck!

But as is said, I’ll be back. Like the wind (pun intended)...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Getting into one's hair

For as long as I can remember, I have had a complex relationship with my hair.

I have my fair share of “dreadful” hair days even today, when nothing on earth can possibly drag me out of the house, programs of wine tasting / shopping notwithstanding.

Then I have the days when all I can think of is going the bald way, or getting them shorn like new army recruits. Between these days of insanity, I also have the my-hair-refuses-to-grow-no-matter-what-product-I-use-on-it days, the cribbing-about-my-lackluster-hair days, and the plain I-just-don’t-like-my-hair days, interspersed with the four times a year the-jerk-at-the-salon-cut-my-hair-too-short moan.

Way back in school, I was resigned to my curly, unmanageable mop of hair, held in place with what could only be a zillion hair clips, and which would, invariably fly pell-mell, when I would shake my ringlets. An incident in my secondary primary school is still etched in my otherwise muddled, amnesiac, absent-minded head, is of my classmates, who, for want of a pen stand, decided that the curls on my hair were the perfect place to keep their pens / pencils. Imagine my surprise (and the teacher’s displeasure) when a couple of pencils and / or pens (I fail to remember which), darted across my desk onto the cold, tiled floor, when I tossed my mane….distracting the entire class from a surprise test…let’s just say that I had more to worry about that day than just my poor score at the test…

College was the time which unleashed all my pent-up creativity with my hair. Styles came and went. Bangs, pony-tails, feather-cuts, pinned-back - you name it. Various hues also passed their fair share across my otherwise, natural chestnut-brown hair. (Long live hair mascaras – that was our favorite refrain). One evening, when my name was boomed on the PA System, announcing that I had a visitor, I came sprinting down the stairs, two at a time. As good luck would have it, I met a chum on the way, who intimated me about my father’s arrival – her one look at my brinjal-colored hair had me sprinting back upstairs to my room, dash to the shower, shampoo and towel in hand. 3.5 minutes later, I was transformed from hippie hell’s own aubergine-haired child to presentable teenager. Whew! That I had a serious case of the sneezes, oh well! That’s quite another story. Atishooooo!!!

And then one day in college, I decided – enough was enough. Curly was ugly. Period.

Chop chop chop, the stylist snipped “em off with barely-concealed glee. I hoped they would grow – glossy and poker-straight, and look straight from the pages of the fashion glosses we pored over for hours. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The hair grew back – oh yes. BUT CURLIER THAN EVER! Much to my utter disgust.

Next in line was the last solution left in the book - permanent straightening. What followed were the mandatory visits to nearby salons of repute. The decision had been made – curly was no longer what I wanted. It was poker-straight hair, all the way.

And no – even the teeny-weeny wave wouldn’t do.

The day dawned – appointments had been made well in order. The night before, I stared and stared at the mirror, asking myself if I would miss my curls, and all that tossing around of ringlets…but my mind was set. Punctual me arrived bang on time…

5 hours in the salon, and when I emerged, gone were the curls and waves. I had given the no-no to the stylist, who insisted that feathered bangs would look grrrrrreat on me. The glossy hair all over my head felt nothing less than great. However, I was still uncertain about how I looked.

With unsure steps, I descended the stairs. It being evening time, the small box-shaped market was teeming with people. While crossing a display window at a jeweller’s, I glimpsed a young woman, walking with unsure steps. Her hair looked great though.

She smiled back. A dimple sparkled. Her cheeks flushed, she tossed her tresses slightly.

And walked on, a spring in her step, renewed confidence written boldly over her face.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The other Sania Bhabhi

With the World Cup thrill reaching a crescendo, it is not uncommon to find motorists, eyes firmly set on the road, ears glued to the various radio channels that do a neat job of narrating the latest scores.

With the din that the crowds make, it is a marvel that the commentary is audible, which probably accounts for the hiked decibel levels of the car’s music system and furrowed lines on the motorist and his passengers’ foreheads.

Without warning, the cheering of the stadium crowds fades away, to give way to the exaggerated drawl and provocative sighs of a woman, who calls herself ‘Aapki Bhabhi Sania.’

The titular ‘Bhabhi,’ with a wristful of jingling bangles, proceeds to read out a letter that she’s penned, one of the many she’s written in the past few weeks, addressed to one of her numerous ‘devars’ (brothers-in-law).

Her style is inimitable (and not in a good way). She speaks in a breathless, sultry tone, her amorousness all too evident in the way she voices her text. While her innuendos are not explicit, they are enough to slice through the air, and elicit an awkward laugh / pause in the conversation that the passengers in the car might be having.

More titillating laughter ensues on the part of ‘Sania Bhabhi,’ who reads her corny, rife with sexual overtones letter. The letter is replete with allusions to the cricketers’ rippling muscles, masculine prowess, and ability to bring her to her knees (Uhmmm) – all with subtle promiscuity thrown in for good measure. Just when you shake your head in utter disbelief at the veiled, suggestive statements she just poured into your ears, she probably takes a cue, and signs off, but not before an ardent sigh escapes from her, almost as if she were heaving her bosom at the sad thought of leaving her ‘spellbound’ listeners.

One last throaty laugh, and it’s time for Sania Bhabhi to be off and a commercial to be aired, much to the palpable delight of the passengers who recently underwent severe discomfiture.

Leaving prudish puritans yelling their lungs out about the debauchery this world had come to, as compared to the libertarians who pooh-pooh and scoff at this blatantly overbearing censoring.

Which one are you? The puritan or the libertarian?

Drop me a line...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Showing one's true colours

With the festival of colors barely four days from now, the kids in my colony never had it better.

Especially since my ample posterior literally cries out to them, begging them to perfect their water-balloon target throwing skills upon it. And the obliging souls that they are, they obviously can’t say no to such a sincere request.

The lil devils, armed to the teeth with their stash of ‘missiles,’ take refuge in balconies, terraces; behind bushes, and cars, ready to swoop upon any unsuspecting victim who decides to make an entry in the declared-danger zone.

The unwary prey approaches, oblivious to the shock that is about to befall him.

With a war cry that is clearly enough to wake the dead, the young fiends come out in all their united glory. As if caught in a trance, the victim blinks – once, twice, and then, before comprehension dawns upon him, all hell breaks loose.

The water pichkaris (water guns) are pulled out, releasing a stinging current of colored water upon the poor soul. As the chap gasps, trying to regain his startled breath, a regular stream of water balloons descend upon him, pelting him as hard as probably a bunch of stones would. Wiping his face and looking at his clothes with a dismayed expression on, his look changes to one of sheer horror when he looks up at the balcony of giggling uns, and suddenly realizes that they are not done yet. No Sir!

Whooooosh! A bucketful of icy cold water greets his face and clothes, making him look like a cross between a mangly, wet puppy and a rotten custard apple that even the friendly fruit vendor leaves for the bees.

Our man is now livid. Shivering and spluttering, he brandishes an angry fist, piecing together some incomprehensible words which he can only spit from his furious mouth.

Deciding to take pity on the miserable watery mess, the adolescents look away, already on the lookout for their next victim. It comes in the form of the boy and girl, laughingly riding a mo’bike.

The ‘Splash’ and the subsequent howl signal that the deed has been accomplished.

A cyclist, a postman perhaps, meets the same fate, his cycle teetering dangerously close to the car that always remained in its same parking spot, day in and day out, thanks to an owner who believed more in driving away children who played ball near his house, than drive the darn vehicle.

Two giggling college girls fare no better – two huge balloons greeted them inside the autorickshaw they were travelling in.

A lone street dog, busily playing with a balled up piece of paper on the road, whimpers, looking around itself in alarm, and then, tail between its legs, ran to tell its just-been-hit-by-a-water-balloon story to its pals.

The smiling fruit seller is next. He however, poses, looks up, waves at the children, his pearlies flashing endearingly at them.

A twenty-year something, harried door-to-door salesman looks up, and ducks in time. Grinning, he smiles mockingly at the kids, and gets a big one right on his shoulder. Tut-tutting, he quickly makes his way to the next neighborhood, trying to convince some bored housewife to purchase the water purifier he was selling.

A scrap-dealer, cycling languorously in the sun, fares no better. He looks up, smiles sadly, and cycles on, his mind clearly occupied with thoughts of the evening meal with his nagging wife.

On Holi Day, the chaos reaches a crescendo. If you venture out, be ready to be attacked by a horde of people who all look alike in their colored-ness. Out of nowhere, a pair of hands make their way to your face, and before you know it, one of your cheeks has been brushed with the brightest pink gulal, while the other looks like the shade your Mum turned in your school days, when you returned from school yet again, in all your muddied glory.

For me right now, I only lok forward to the day after Holi, when people return to their more sober colors. Pun intended.

Holi (Kyun)Hain?!!!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Moan Machines

Haven’t you ever been at your wit’s end because that pesky colleague right across the corridor / sometimes-friend-sometimes-foe puts the “W” in Whining?

Constantly cribbing, their kind ensures that no one in their vicinity of a kilometer forgets that their life is the saddest, most bleak, utterly-devoid-of-rays-of-sunshine, yada yada. For them no day is perfect – it is either too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, you name it – they are bound to nitpick.

They are the ones who sit on their despair / pity pots, but unlike the rest of us, forget to flush, leaving their lives, as well as of those around them, full of, uhmmm, muck.

Bigotry is their middle name. The higher the hemlines go, the more their blood boils. The lower the neckline, the lower is their tolerance level, though they don’t mind the odd peek. Disguising their moral indignation with conspicuous, hard-to-miss halos around their swollen heads, they are the lone, valiant warriors out to battle it out with the depraved souls, who, according to them, have infested the world, almost like a severe invasion of the dreaded bubonic plague.

Heated arguments are their forte - they can outshine / outwit any seasoned lawyer waiting for his turn in the crowded courtroom. Heaven help those poor souls who decide to axe their own feet by daring to step into a dispute with them. Silly creatures – don’t they know that the best man wins, and undoubtedly, they are the best as best can be.

Freshly-boiled milk can, within minutes, turn sour – one look from them is all it takes. Ditto for an-in-the-pink-of-health-and-bloom plant, which can wither with one scornful look from these sorts. And to think that some people still imagine that they can win a quarrel with them. Oh well, that’s what is called optimism, I guess.

They are the reason for petty people like us scurrying for cover, and all because we prefer to retain that pleasant taste in our mouths than the obnoxious, bitter one that results post a discussion with them, a discussion that is, to most parts, dominated by them. What is a common man to do otherwise? And especially when their sighs and moans are audible from miles away, they really leave us with no choice.

Day after day, such people trudge along to wage their individual wars with the world, sneer plastered fixedly on face, index finger pointing accusingly at the wicked world, perfectly-arched contemptuous eyebrow in place, lips drawn out into a half-snarl – waiting to pounce upon their next prey.

Life sure is tough for them.

God bless these gallant sorts.

Monday, February 14, 2011

An overdose of red and pink - Valentine's Day!

It all started with a soft beep last night.

My cell had just received a message.

Nothing extraordinary about it – I receive a fair share of messages everyday.

Except that this one came from a person who I had not been in touch with for ages.

A saccharine-sweet, threatening-to-give-diabetes-to-me message unfolded right in front of my eyes, much to my surprise.

And then it dawned upon me - the clock had just chimed twelve…

And it was Valentine’s Day. The day Cupid works for all year round, but gets credit for only today...

I was just wondering the other day why this day whips up so many otherwise sane people in a frenzy. Sample the following:

For some people, preparations start right in earnest as long back as a fortnight or even a month before the actual day.

- Premier tickets to the pulling-at-your-heart-strings, achingly sweet movies - TICK
- Couple sessions to the his and hers spa - TICK
- Romantic horoscope books (zodiac-wise) - TICK
- Aromatherapy candles in every possible fragrance - TICK
- Pay budding guitarist friend to serenede object of affection with his / her fave song - Uhmm, yeah TICK

A field month for card and gift makers, flower-sellers, jewelry manufacturers, spa and resort owners, even gadget giants – who go grinning like Cheshire cats, all the way to the bank. Oh did I mention the (cheesy) matching ‘couple’ watches?

Shades of red (and pink) which I had never known existed, seem to be shouting off the rooftops in the form of abundant soft, furry toys that make me

a) Grimace
b) Break out in a cold sweat
c) Both the above

An up market coffee place has even come out with “innovative” Valentine shakes, complete with one straw (how exceedingly orally-hygienic. Ahem.) for the oh-so-much-in-love couples…

Promises to be quite a mentally-progressive sight.

The D-Day has come. Complete with all the fanfare you can imagine.

Couples, dressed all in their finery (read more shades of crimson), walk all lovey-dovey, hand-in-hand, casting deep looks of adoration at each other.

Oblivious to those around them, they proceed to their chosen venue – a restaurant, a hotel, a tapri, a park, McDonald’s (depending on how deep their pockets are).

Some of the men cast furtive looks around - hoping, wishing, praying that they are not spotted by anyone who will snitch on them to the boss. After all, all that bulldozing by the lady love had made them call up at work with the lame, 'I-don't-feel-well-enough-to-come-to-office ruse...As if a day's earning not reaching their pockets was not enough, they have to also make peace with endless rounds of the swanky mall, and (sob) paying for obnoxiously expensive items...

Ohhh, and can I forget, they are armed with bouquets – blushing flowers (again of the red-hued variety), carrying them like war-trophies. Some hands are also laden with chocolates (in heart shapes, no less), cushions (again of the heart-shaped variety), CDS of the mushiest-possible numbers - and other such 'heart-y' paraphernalia.

(The flowers have been purchased at triple their actual costs, making many flower-sellers break out into merry jigs).

Quite a few cliched 'proposals' do the rounds on this day...The 'L'-word is spluttered out, causing immense merriment for friends the next day, who leave no stone unturned in tormenting the poor souls who uttered the dreadful word...

With looks that speak a thousand words, the couples then start the customary gift-giving (procured from beaming merchants). Ooooohs and aaahs follow in quick succession. Furtive pecks, kisses, caresses, you name it - do the rounds.
And that’s what Valentine’s Day has come to…For quite a few folks…

Though the next morning many of these selfsame couples may go back to their quibbling selves, for one 'glorious" day, love is definitely in the air.

And how!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sailing through Sales

There is another four letter word that has people working up a sweat: S-A-L-E.

Palpably excited, short on patience people make their way pell-mell to the nearest mall – lured no doubt by the colourful advertisements that stare up at them from newspapers, glossies, web pages. Heck – even mobile phones are not spared, what with announcements of discounts appearing regularly on them.

Gaily decorated shops eagerly stretch their welcoming arms.

And considering the multitude who throng the shops, mighty alluring those arms are.

So with a song in your heart, you merrily hop into the store that has a huge ‘50% OFF’ in scarlet red emblazoned all over the entrance – the same entrance you’ve kept your eyes peeled on, all throughout those cold, winter days. Inside, your smile freezes when you find that only the shoddiest article is on half-price, everything else at only a measly 10-15% discount. Too bad you didn’t pay that yearly trip to the ophthalmologist – which explains why you missed the tiny asterisk right after the 50% sign. Sigh!

Gritting your teeth, you mutter an unmentionable term, making your way to the next store which also has ‘SALE’ screaming at you in bold lettering. A lil warily now, you step inside. A cheerily-dressed executive comes to attend upon you, piping in how the day was a lucky one for you, since they had a buy-one-get-one-free scheme running. You nod, mumble a polite thank you, try to look reasonably excited at her sales pitch, and then start looking around.

After a gruelling ten minutes, when you finally pounce upon the exact shade, size, and fabric of the shirt you had been meaning to purchase, and head towards the ‘free’ articles, you can barely keep from shock, that is.

The saddest scarves that even a three year old would wince if forced to wear, look up at you glumly. You tear your eyes away, and blink rapidly when you espy the belt that would make the neighbour’s terrier’s weathered collar look bright in comparison. There is more – a watch that would look best when smashed into smithereens, a crumbled-up, fading towel you would only give to your enemy to wipe his ermmm, or perhaps to that crater-faced girl at work you abhor; socks that had clearly seen better days before the dog got them in its mouth; satchels that would look good only on a derelict scarecrow in the sugarcane fields, plastic sunglasses that would make you look right out of a D grade Bollywood hip-thrusting movie; T-shirts that would look best when poured kerosene upon and thrown with a brandish into your annual bonfire part – you do get the drift, don’t you…

You tut-tut your way out (after gingerly picking up the scarf that looks the best of the worst).

State of mind – foul, to say the least!

Then you have those bargain schemes that announce spectacular savings. You look closely, and the deal does look the real thing. So, you skip you way to the sales counter, and with a smug at-last-I’m-lucky smile, place all the items you have diligently chosen over the better part of the last one hour. The barely-out-of-his-teens cashier carelessly tosses your articles into smart paper bags (plastics are banned now, you see), while you calmly listen to him punching some numbers. Before he can finish his question of ‘how would you like to pay? Cash or card,’ you whip-out that gold card that arrived last week, and which you were itching to use. Smiling, the guy tears a roll of paper which bears testimony to the heavy-duty shopping you had just actively participated in.

Except that a dull headache begins to make itself felt, and that disagreeable frown makes an appearance on your otherwise sunny face. The reason – the buggers had not deducted the promised discount. Apparently the items you’d picked gleefully weren’t from the 70% off slot – but the 10% discounted lot!

You are on the verge of screaming bloody murder. You scowl and snap at the cashier. You cast baleful looks at all the store attendants. You are tempted to do full justice to the ‘abuses like a fisherman’ tag you were once given in college, but decide against it. You grumble. You look ready to throw a fit. Except that the cash memo is ready. Add to that the impatient queue tut-tutting behind you with annoyance, and you have no other option left but to pay up.

Promising yourself that you would think twice before stepping into one of these so-called ‘genuine’ sales, you fling the door open, head held high, nose turned up in disdain, and stomp out in sheer disgust, much to the surprise of the door man who has been employed for the sole purpose of opening doors for shoppers.

You stop dead in your tracks outside though. There is the magic word again on the shop opposite, luring you with a seductively painted, sequinned placard. While your brain and wallet both groan, your wilful feet decide to step in anyway.

And the rigmarole starts from scratch…yet again.

Some people never do learn, do they?

Who is to blame anyway?

Un)smart shoppers (are you nodding?) who step into stores, lured no doubt by fancy hoardings that shriek 'SALE?'

Or the store management that tempts all and sundry by misleading adverts?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Che it isn't so

What is one of the most enduring images that you associate with T-shirts?

Or even with posters for that matter?

Chances are that 4 out of 5 people would say Che Guevara, the Argentine guerrilla leader, who under Fidel Castro’s leadership, led revolutionaries to a Cuban invasion.

Synonymous with rebellion, adventure, and independence, Guevara strikes a chord with quite a few.

However, strangely enough, even though there are many who wear bright T-shirts with Che’s image emblazoned on them, they are oblivious to who he really was.

Or what he really stood for.

And no, we do not mean global commercialism of his pictures that peep at us from every corner.

Sample some real answers to what some people have to say about his identity:

- 'He was Nirvana’s lead singer.'
Kurt Cobain must be tossing in his grave)

- 'He was a Spanish revolutionary leader.'
(I'm guessing, Franco wouldn't have been amused one bit)

- 'He was the father of Punk.'
(Iggy Punk is probably stamping and screaming in blind rage on some stage)

- 'He is an ace biker who went round the world.'
(Agreed his Motorcycle Diaries was a New York bestseller, but who created this hocus-pocus about his world trip? And nope, he ain't alive no more)

But, this one absolutely takes the cake.

‘He was a saint who stood against militancy and Marxism.’


God bless these poor souls who are steeped in historical ignorance.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Memoriam: 'Daada' Gopal Panjwani (7 March 1941 - 12 January 2011)

If tears could build a stairway, and memories a lane,
We’d walk right up to heaven, and bring YOU home again.

My father-in-law, Gopal Panjwani’s true success in life was people. He understood the joy in lifting other people, bringing a smile to them, and leaving them changed in a positive way.

One week back - on January 12, 2011, he was lifted from this world.

This tribute is a selfish one - perhaps in my naivete, I feel that sharing my pain here will be healing for my family and me...

A man of incredible perseverance, unsurpassed integrity and courage, my father-in-law was born to a family of modest means in Larkana District (Sindh Province, Pakistan) on March 7, 1941. A self-made man, he excelled in academics – post-graduating magna cum laude in Economics from University of Delhi, and moving on to a distinguished Central Civil Services career in the Ministry of Transport, spanning more than 30 years.

However, his real passion lay in theatre, and he carved an impressive niche for himself in the Sindhi theatre world.

A writer, director, producer and actor of repute, his theater group, Mehran – saw unparalleled success, with over 20 productions to its credit. His feature film – ‘Ammi Ya Mummy’ (1986), is considered a legendary masterpiece in Sindhi circles, going on to win many honors, including the reputed National Dramatics Award. In a first, this was also the only Sindhi feature film to have ever been screened by the PVR cinemas. Some other notable, immensely popular Sindhi productions that he acted in, wrote, directed and produced are Zaal Kare Thi Taal, Mavali-Mulk Ja Wali, Sindhi Minister, Khapali DilTa Achi Mil, Jetho-Metho, Karorpati Naukar, Je Maan Chhokri Huja, Raat Jo Mem Dinh Mein Saheb, Muhinji Zaal Bemisaal, Sava Sava Kare Seengar, Dohi Ker!, Ulti Ganga, Hika Mein Ba, Zaala-Moorsu, Moh-Maaya, Ker Kahinjo, Chamcho Joi Jo, and Sundari. His name was also renowned for his Hindi plays – Dial M for Murder, Ek Akela, Joru Ka Gulam, Pati-Patni, Gar Mein Ladki Hota, Sazaa, Sundari, and Minister; and two Punjabi productions – Bebe Bani Vilaiti and Raati Mem Dine Saab.

He breathed conviction and life into the roles he portrayed – his enviable array of national and regional awards bearing strong testimony to this fact. He was felicitated with the prestigious Sindhu Ratan Award (1997) – the highest honor for Sindhis worldwide, the Ram Buxani Foundation Award (1996), the Sindhi Social & Cultural Society Award (2000), the Akhil Bharat Sindhi Boli and Sahitya Sabha Award, the Dada Moti Award, multiple Central Civil Services Awards, and most recently – the Jyoti Kala Mandir Award in 2010 for versatile Sindhi artiste for his memorable performances in more than 100 shows. Theatre took him to many corners of the country and even beyond, and his productions were well-loved by all.

To add to this, his magnanimity and larger than life persona touched the lives and hearts of whoever he interacted with. While he was a strong believer in diversity, he remained unswerving in his demeanor - be it talking to the humblest of them all, to chatting with the so-called high and mighty from political corridors. His mantra was simple and effective - 'Live and Let Live.' His sagacious words still ring in my ears. I guess I'll always hold them and him in my heart and look forward to seeing him when it is my time to call it quits...

An exceptional son, brother, husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather, Daada – as he was fondly called, was the life on every occasion, spreading cheer wherever he went. A narrator par excellence, his anecdotes and stories will be fondly remembered forever. His untimely demise has left an indelible void in our lives. Perhaps I now know the truth about saying your Hellos and Byes very carefully - you never know when it could be your last...A mentor in the true sense of the word, Daada was a legend and a visionary – he made the world a little better. His legacy will live on in the people whose lives he touched.

And it’s our loss that they don’t make them like him any more...

RIP, Daada. We miss you...

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Ushering in a spanking-new decade. Hop aboard 2011

My earliest recollection of midnight 2011 was a large crystal ball, psychedelic lights, a DJ spinning a spiel about the countdown, hundreds of people arm-in-arm waiting for the clock to strike 12 to swoop down on their partners in a bear hug / liplock, a troupe of Moulin Rouge dancers, a laser show and spectacular fireworks. Besides of course, a sea of freely-flowing spirits and yummy hors d'œuvre.

After a late late night (or did it turn morning, Uhmmm), returned home, crashed, and now - throbbing head, dazed-eyed, dry-mouthed – Here I am. And nope, I'm not Bryan Adams...(Though he is gonna be here in a month or so, crooning and belting out his raspy (but nevertheless popular) tunes...

The year ahead looks promising. The Royal Wedding is just 4 months away. An array of movies will ensure that our movies online reservation will be at its merriest best. It is the year of sequels – Spiderman, Harry Potter, Mission Impossible, The Hangover, Wanted, Sherlock Holmes, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Kung Fu Panda, X-Men, The Twilight Saga– will all try their luck on the silver screen.

Many will rejoice and be glued to their idiot boxes for the 10th ICC World Cup is almost on its heels.

And if all goes well, Sony Vaio’s 3D laptop, the iPhone 5, the iPad 2, the Blackberry Playbook, Sony's PlayStation Phone and Nintendo’s 3D camera will keep every gadget freak smiling from ear to ear. Can see the hubby going into a paroxysm of ecstasy...

2011 looks to be a bright year ahead...It's a brand new decade, and hope it brings all that we could hope for...professionally and personally...

On that note, I wish you all a warm, joyous, prosperous and peaceful New Year. God Bless!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goodbye 2010. Hello 2011

While 2010 was not the year when my mind exploded with clever ideas that would have the world’s VCs tripping over each other to reach to me - arms laden with blank cheques, solitaires, keys to swanky penthouses and automobiles; it was a year which changed my world. I did develop some mental agility (which balanced my physical inertia that came with a horrid leg fracture. Sigh).

With 2011 just a knock away, I guess it’s time to jot the obligatory musings about the year that went by. This of course meant fishing out last year’s reflections and a mental ticker that pronounced me as having been good or bad. I'm in one of my generous moods, so you decide...

Did quite a bit of traveling. In the following order:

Went for a Girl’s Trip. To Jaipur. Had a fantastic time too. The weather was also at its courteous best, ensuring that those annoying beads of perspiration didn’t drown those around us.

Visited what I consider the most beautiful place on this planet – Venice. Floated in a gondola in the middle of the Grand Canal. Stuffed our faces with gelatos in every flavor under the sun. Gorged on raviolis, risottos, gnocchis, tiramisu, pasta, spaghetti, lasagna, brioches, cannoli and of course pizzas. Loved their Bellini, Campari and Merlot. Kept eyes peeled for Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie (accompanied by Brad Pitt and their brood) who were shooting for ‘The Tourist” there.
Level of Excitement – at the highest notch
End Result – No luck. (Include fair amount of justifiable cussing)

Did the mandatory tick-in-the-box for moda paradiso (fashion paradise) - Milan, Murano & Burano Islands and Amsterdam too. But broke my leg at the last place mentioned (another resolution, perhaps? To not be an eager beaver and let my (over)excitement lead to mishaps like these...)

Frolicked on the Bondi beach in Sydney. Downed a few, surrounded by the golden sand. Surrendered to the divine IMAX experience with the latest Harry Potter.

Did switch jobs. Liking it too (Cheshire Cat grin)

Conquered a fear. Tick. Can get onto any escalator now. Unaccompanied. Kindly abstain from shaking your pretty lil heads in disbelief. Yes, I did have a phobia of escalators. Now conquered. You might as well do an air high-five for me…

Cooked a bit (in all truth, baked). 6 cakes to be precise. All turned out well, thank you (before you may ask). Now that’s getting somewhere, isn’t it? Who knows – I might just surprise hubby dearest with a full meal someday...Hope the shock’s not too big for him though...

Did stick to a budget. Managed reasonably well too.
(Loud Drumroll)

Wasn’t as grumpy as I thought I’d be . Especially since was bedridden for the better part of 1.5 months.

De-stressed a lot – with the help of (un)forgettable Kerala spas, play sessions with our Labrador, and bubble-popping games. Didn’t resort too much to a workout (and there are obviously no results thanks to that slackness)

So what makes it to my to-do list for 2011? Here’s for starters:

Be able to touch my toes. For this, working out at least five times a week is crucial
Drink more water (even without rum)
Work on my attention span. Right now, even a fly is probably better than me
Finish at least some of the books I started
Make people laugh. While I am no Court Jester, I can do stir up the amusement quotient and cause people to clutch their stomachs
Learn a language. Instead of staring at and stammering a hasty ‘Comment dites-vous cela en Français’ (how do you say this in French) to a toffee-nosed Mademoiselle
Learn how to strum. High time that I do before age catches up with me and my hands start to tremble
Shake up my leniency and make ‘far-too-easily-pleased’ spirit go away on vacation.
Visit at least two dream destinations. Knock on wood
Buy a bicycle. Use it too instead of just taking it out for dusting every month
• This is a joint resolution with the hubby - do a lot more socializing – go for more dinner parties and not pass up social invitations
Use the array of hair and skin products that I have diligently amassed over the last one year
Stop eating out of boredom
Keep my (strong) opinions to myself. Well, at least sometimes
Stop hitting the snooze button on weekends and wake up at the first go
Not check my emails every 5 minutes
Continue writing a weekly blog post
Stop sitting in the house on weekends in my old, faded tracks or skirt. Shower and be dressed respectably
Resist the urge to fascinate people with oooooold jokes. Learn a few new ones
Resist the urge to pick up the phone and have an imaginary conversation, while seated in an auto in a traffic intersection. Look right into the eyes of the panhandler / eunuch and refuse to handout money
Think of more interesting things to do outside the house during weekend evenings than stepping into one of the numerous coffee bars that have mushroomed across the city
And lastly, as a dear friend put it - I should consistently pen the manuscript of my first book. Someday I will. Someday I surely will, D. And thanks for your confidence in me...

Hope I fare well in the coming year. Happy New 2010, everyone…

By the way, do you have any Resolutions you'd like to share? I'd lurrrve to hear from you...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

No one can pop just one

I love bubble wrap.

So much so that if a friend were to unwrap some new, fragile item, my hands automatically outstretch greedily for the accompanying bubble wrap.

And darn those packages that arrive unaccompanied by it. Heights of cheapness!

If it happens to be those sunny days when I DO get my hands on one of ‘em, I am like a kitten with a yarn of wool.

Having a ball!

Playfully popping the bubbles, not too rapidly though, for fear that I might finish them all too soon.

I was introduced to this goofy, cathartic fun by my mother. Many thanks to her.

My brother and I spent many mindless hours collectively, popping rows upon rows of bubbles, each soft, pleasing ‘POP’ sound making us dissolve into giggles of barely-concealed glee, much to my Dad’s annoyance, who would arch his eyebrow into his trademark, disapproving glare, making us squeal and run away elsewhere…

Once, I even ran a toy jeep on a roll of bubble wrap. Ahhhh, the blissful sound is still fresh in my ears...

It was always the same scene at home – new packages were flung, and with wild, banshee yells, my brother and I would make a beeline for the coveted bubbles.

Lots of pulling and not very kind shoving would be at display.

Upon tearing the wretched sheet into two, and casting baleful looks at the one who got the bigger share, he and I would set about work.

Anybody who would see us would probably think we were two children busily unwrapping all our Christmas presents on a frosty Christmas morning.

After all the bubbles had been popped, I would commence with a round of re-checking, making sure that I hadn’t left even one. And look slyly to see if my brother was:

a) Left with any unpopped ones
b) Looking my way, and in case not, if it was feasible to grab his half-popped sheet and dash to the loo?

(In the event of the latter happening, a lot of door rapping would take place, with one of us two looking rather sorry with a black eye...No points for guessing who usually slunk around the house like a peeved, glum-faced puppy)!

After all these years, the novelty hasn’t worn off.

I hear I’m not the only one addicted to it – the Japanese seem to be particularly fond of it too, calling popping the bubble wrap ‘puchipuchi,’ games dedicated to it, puchipuchi keychains that simulate the popping sound, aromatic bubble wrap that releases fragrance upon getting popped, music dedicated to bubble wrap..the works…

And people call me dotty!

An online version wherein you can pop bubble wrap is also available. Check it out here.

There's more - there is an entire day dedicated to appreciating Bubble Wrap - January 28...Not too far away, isn’t it?

It’s also suddenly dawned upon me why my friends never call me over for packing or unpacking...


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Quintessential Drinkers. Hic!

In a country that stigmatises women drinkers, I sometimes commiserate with yours truly, who truly likes to be ‘spirited’- well at least sometimes.

Anyway, this blog post is not a rant against societal norms which frown upon women tipplers, but about how when they drink, both fine ‘samples’ of genders turn from silently sober to indecorously inebriated, causing a trail of frequently-displayed behaviour patterns, that either cause their friends to laugh and slap their hands to their head, groaning ‘Oh no, not again,' or look away in clear mortification, provided they are not too dead drunk / totally sloshed themselves in the first place.

Here, in no special order, are the common categories into which some drinkers fall, some in the royal-pain-in-the-rear varieties, some in the plainly obnoxious category:

1. The Of-course-I’m-not-drunk – One of the commonest categories, these people believe in words being louder than actions. What else can explain their loud proclamations of their sobriety, and their indignant denials of their inebriation (before they crash to the floor in an embarrassing heap)
2. The full-nighters – they take the word ‘night out’ literally, drinking faithfully till the wee hours of the morning. They do stop – but only for either two-minute breaks to answer nature’s call or, because of the smoking ban, for five-minute-huddled-smoke-breaks at designated places in and around the watering hole for puffers. God created alcohol – and these people sure know how to enjoy it, downing the bottles / tumblers eagerly. Hic hic. Amen. Stamina is their middle name, and no one knows it more than these chuggers and gluggers. They are the ones who keep the bartenders busy and up on their feet – all night…Somebody should perhaps just hand them a hose, attached to a beer factory. But knowing these sorts, they'd perhaps be delighted...
3. The variety-is-the-spice-of-life drinkers - The Budweisers and Fosters flow smoothly, before making way for the more regal Chivas Regals and Johhnie Walkers, closely followed by shots of tequila. Coming up next are the fat Old Monk bottles, as are the Bacardi vodka bottles, which make a shy appearance on the threatening-to-collapse table. All these are nicely rounded up with a last glass of gin and lime juice cordiale or another pitcher of beer – you DO get the gist, right?
4. The I-am-a-superhero kinds –A few drinks down, they fancy themselves to be avatars of their favourite Marvel comics superhero. Superman, you've got tough competition. It’s actually a marvel they don’t try their hand at flying…TGFSM 5. The I-know-my-wine sorts – Move over Tom Collins, Pilsners, and Steins. With a clink of flutes, stem glasses, and goblets, the wine-connoisseurs present themselves, swirling their favoured Merlots, Chiraz, Cabernet Sauvignons, Chablis, Chardonnays and pink wines, taking in the heady aroma, and the scene around them. The most sober category, they are every hostess’ dream-guests come true, though not necessarily the most frugal. But then quality comes for a price, innit? (customary wrinkling-up of nose)
6. The (irresponsible and irrepressible) I-will-drive-insisters – No matter how many bottles, pints, and pitchers have made happy entries in their by-now swollen tummies, these are the sorts who will disdainfully toss their heads and turn up their noses at any comment that they are sloshed. Time your watch by their regular ten-minute-speeches into the drinkathon, where they insist that they will be the ONLY ones who steer their prized pair of wheels. The road better be empty though. Or the people out there better watch out! Hic. One more for the road, you there! And make it large!
7. The I-am-better-than-Russell Peters – they consider themselves the country’s answer to a class comedian act; however instead of the audience laughing WITH them, they laugh AT them. Now that’s a fact clearly lost on these delusional souls. They alternate their generously borrowed stand-up acts with an equally ample dose of much-compiled shero-shairi (popular Hindi / Urdu short verse, spoken with dramatic effect). They are the sole reason why their audience can be seen reaching out for headache-relieving pills…
8. The-leading-the-headbanger-club – a specimen, this category, they are the ones most likely to hold imaginary mikes, doing karaoke renditions of popular numbers, jumping onto the podium, strumming invisible guitars, headbanging for all their worth (complaining that their head feels strangley woozy afterwards – surprise, you’d think). You’d think that’s all – but wait, hear this out – they also croon in voices upon hearing which a frog would consider itself a more suitable candidate for the dime-a-dozen-on-the-idiot-box talent shows.
9. The apologisers – Regularly spouting the ‘sorry’ word, these soppy sorts request for forgiveness at the drop of a hat. Even if you happen to dig your deathly stiletto heel onto their foot or poke a bony elbow into their unmentionables, instead of yelping in distress, they will look their most contrite, and utter an apology. I’ve never been able to fathom these ones. Pardon me. And the pun!
10. The you’ve-hurt-me-terribly sorts – These are the toughest to placate – they have taken it into their minds that they have been hurt (by you, no less). And will follow you around like the loyal puppy of a leading telecom provider, all the while muttering how deeply injured and upset they are by some inadvertent comment made by you (or hopefully, someone else a decade back). All pleas to be forgiven fall on deaf ears, and they continue their business, threading their ways miserably through the crowd, a permanently wounded expression writ large over their gloomy faces
11. The I-miss-my-ex sorts – it’s been four years that their significant other has decided to part ways (un)amicably, but that doesn’t mean that the miserable pig cannot be called over the phone and:
a) shouted at for ruining their lives (at 3 am)
b) begged to be taken back into their lives (at 3.30 am), followed by
c) the deep I miss-him/her-conversations to anyone who is even half-willing to listen (4am onwards and counting)…
12. The alcohol-makes-me-get-in-touch-with-my-real-self-and-makes-me-lose-my-inhibitions sorts – it’s another matter that within the next three hours, these ‘real’ selves, after connecting with their uninhibited sides, have to be rushed to the hospital to get their stomachs pumped, after they have puked themselves silly over themselves, over the table, your jeans, the adjacent table, the car etc, of course, with some parts of their clothing missing (generous souls that they are, they do not even remember who they donated them to).

And my personal favourite

The-professing-eternal-love sorts – Glazed look in eyes, these are the ones most probable to hold you in a bear embrace or clutch your hands with their own sweaty, greasy palms, and upon giving you a soul-searching-stare from which you flinch, constantly affirm their undying love, and everlasting fidelity to you. Slobbering kiss - optional.
Slurring words - an obvious.

And when you reassure them that the thought of their infidelity did not even cross your mind, they will thump their hand to their heart, do the penetrating-soul gaze all over again, and swear – that they will never let you down.


Over and over again…

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Straight from the horse's mouth

If they feed me one more piece of jaggery, I swear I will gallop away...

In the opposite direction, no less.

These days are the official calendared days for Indian weddings, and if you think that is enough to make me - a white mare - break out into a welcome jig, you couldn’t be more wrong.

I am draped in what is termed ‘choicest finery’ – but which is more like a prickly, choking piece of another five kgs onto my smooth back.

(I can imagine what the poor bride must feel, weighed down with a 20-kilo plus lehenga and all that jewelry. And she has to smile shyly through it all!) Heavens!

Even though there is a cool breeze blowing, today it will not make my mane bristle, plaited as it is with a mouli (a red sacred thread).

Several people breathe down my neck, looking at the handsome groom who straddles me, prince-like. Him – I don’t mind, but the multitude of people who push to catch a glimpse (of him, not me) – now that is what causes my latent claustrophobia to resurface with a vengeance...

Almost if reading my mind, my keeper tightens the reins around me, making all thoughts of escape impossible.

The boy who sits with the groom tests all my patience put together though, what with his constant digging his heels into my delicate sides, and pulling my ears. It is a miracle I don’t snort, pull my hooves up into the air, and cause the little bugger to fall off.

And then starts the ritual of stuffing me silly with Bengal gram. Groannnn!!!

Now I like soaked-he-previous-night Bengal gram. I even find it tasty. But there is only one mouth that I have been blessed with, and the number of hands feeding me, to put it mildly, are more than quite a few. And then there the other problem of being able to eat only that much...

Plus I have never been a ready contender for who-can-eat-the-most competitions, preferring to enjoy the hay and oats that my keeper provides me. I look around languorously, taking my own sweet time, reminiscing of those moments when that flawlessly handsome stallion had looked at me from over yonder, and time for me had stood still..Sweeeeeet.

Needless to say, I sullenly partake the offering by the many eager pairs of hands, which have made it their business to make me choke and splutter.

Don't even get me started about the fireworks. Which cause my very hooves to tremble. Why they insist on frightening me half to death, is something which frankly, goes beyond me.

And then there are the drums that threaten to include my name in the list of the hearing-impaired. And which are enough to bring back those from six feet under (Shudder).

Resentfully I make my way through it all, sighing in relief when I reach the brightly-lit venue, where many garlands and vermilion-cum-incense trayed people await us. The forty-minute walk with the groom and child atop, and the crowd of accompanying dancing baraatis have done nothing to put me into a happy frame of mind.

However, when I snort impatiently and look up, I catch a glimpse of the shy, bedecked bride, blushingly looking at her husband-to-be as he alights from me.

And suddenly it is totally worth every miserable minute.

It is almost as if time has stood still for her too as she catches that first glimpse of her soul mate walking majestically towards her. To make her his. Forver...

Being a white mare at a wedding isn’t all that bad, after all.

I'm such a sucker for romance. Sighhhh!!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Is it your cup of Tea?

Though many people claim addiction to their favourite cuppa of luke-warm cappuccino (as a much-hyped coffee house serves it), I am partial to its piping hot, humbler variant - tea.

And no one makes it better than the numerous roadside tapris (stalls) that dot the highways.

The stalls found at every second nook and corner of the city come a close second.

The humble tapri / dhaba chai, priced at a pocket-friendly Rs 3 – 5, endears itself immensely to me.

Blame it on the crushed elaichis (cardamoms) that the smiling tea stall owner mixes generously into the simmering kettle, stirring the bubbling tea awhile.

A couple of tulsi pattas (basil) float lazily amongst the tea leaves that are doing a heady, circular dance leaves atop the brimming, threatening-to-spill-over-the-kettle tea.

Many stalls also flavour tea with adrak (ginger), dalchini (cinnamon sticks) and laung (cloves), which give the tea a slightly, spicy flavour – a plus, especially during Delhi winters. I’m guessing these tea corners are going to be quite the favoured haunt this year, given Delhi’s early brush with winters. Brrr

For those who do not like their tea empty-stomached, matthis (flaky, salted crackers) or local bakery made biskoots (biscuits) beckon invitingly from their glass jars, begging to be picked. Some tapris also keep boiled eggs and bread ready. Those who eye these eats sceptically, have two options – to either sip their tea without any accompanying snack, or hand over a tenner for a pack of glucose / orange cream biscuits, no fancy Bourbon, Oreo or Hide and Seek biscuits being available. ‘Basic’ is the key word and the stall owners follow this to the T...

Pictures of deities jostle for space with gaudy posters of Bollywood stars. A radio hidden somewhere in the background, belts out popular (read raunchy) tunes from the movies.

Packs of Marlboros are haphazardly lined up with Classic Regulars, Benson and Hedges, Gold Flakes, and the unassuming rolled-up bidis. They are often bundled into the eager hands of those tea lovers who like their tea with some nicotine kicks…

Two-three jars of imli laddoos (sweet-sour balls of tamarind) and candy, also sometimes flank each other.

Another kettle sits nearby, its handle struggling not to fall off.

For me, drinking roadside tea is divine. One cup and I look the equivalent of a contented cat, sitting cosily near the hearth. A second is sometimes needed, if the glass is one of those two-incher ones.

Mum, an avid tea-drinker herself, is not averse to sipping roadside fare.

However, seeing one of those ubiquitous, vest-wearing ‘chhottus’ going to the corner of the shack and dipping the grubby glasses into a bucket of questionable water, in the name of ‘washing’ them is enough to make her shudder in revulsion, and reach out for the perennially-stocked-by-her translucent disposable glasses.

Of course, if she espies a pack of Styrofoam glasses perched on a stool, her delight is obvious.

While a number of fashionable tea bars have mushroomed in the city (Cha Bar, Passion – My Cup of Tea, The Tea Lounge, Craft House, Triveni / Aap Ki PAsand / Premium etc), I remain a loyal fan of the modest tea stall.

Let the so-called tea connoisseurs and enthusiasts enjoy their lemon teas, mint, chamomile, or iced teas). Let them down these with some overpriced double-chip muffin, complete with chocolate sauce or the accompanying almond biscotti.

Nothing can touch my heart (and my picky tongue) the way that glass of kadak chai can.

As far as machine Nes-tea (the press-a-button-and-the-tea-falls-into-the-cup-below) is concerned, what can I say?

That it makes me wrinkle my nose in disdain...

Somebody tell me, is it a coincidence that it rhymes with ‘Nasty?’

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Knotty' gifts - Being at the receiving end

An article about (un)wanted wedding gifts in yesterday’s national daily brought back a flood of memories from my own ‘knotty’ affair in 2009.

It being mid-April, the weather was at its most-sweltering, hottest, sweatiest best. As if that were not enough, the morning after we took our vows, was dedicated to ripping the carefully-wrapped wedding presents. Some people had done an exceptionally great job of packing - their prezzies tightly-swaddled in mile-long garishly-colored wrapping sheets.

The job looked daunting, but a pair of shiny steel scissors made it a tad easier. Wiping beads of perspiration from our brows, newly-knotty hubby and me descended upon the task at hand, slashing the bow-tied packages.

While some gifts did get the ‘Ooooh, that’s just what we need,’ or ‘I love it’ responses, there were also those that had us scratching our heads in bewilderment.

Which brings me to that pertinent question – why do people insist on gifting these hugely unimaginative gifts?

 The set of air-diffusers, the set of two mugs or the faux leather bag that they very evidently got with a subscription to a magazine. Thrift? Or plain cheap?
 The assortment of lemonade glasses, pitchers, cups and saucers, mugs, tumblers, goblets and crystal bowls. Maybe a cupboard to stack these could be a handy gift too...
 Bath robes and matching carpet slippers for the bride and groom are fine. Why do they have to be accompanied by two more pairs in much smaller sizes – in anticipation of the kids? Duh!
 Cushion covers / table mats / bedsheets / tea cosys / sofa covers / curtains. Did you not read the invite properly? It’s a wedding, for Chrissake! Not a housewarming party. And what really is the need for those 5 vases in one case, in various sizes? Are you telling them that their future home is so drab, all its rooms need flowers to brighten them? Be sure that they would have struck your name off their party list PERMANENTLY...
 Huge picture frames. With bright gold borders. Oh, and did I mention – with the wrong initials
 Clothes in rainbow hues. Or in sizes that you cannot squeeze your frame into, no matter how hard you suck in your breath. Or in sizes that the bride or groom can only fit into if they were 8-months preggers. Reversible belts – Wow!!! Just what they need! And pray what are the ties for – for the newly-weds to hang themselves? Point noted
 Coffee table books. Sheathed in heavier than cast-iron boxes. The kinds that would make you go ‘Owwww’ if they were to fall upon your foot
 Spa vouchers. At seedy spas. Or at spas you would grade 0.25 on a rate of 1 to 10 in terms of their hygiene factor
 Philosophy books. Really???
 Ceramic animals. ‘Nuf said!
 This one is for that ingenious species – called the Re-gifters. Old, (un)used gifts are wrapped in gaudy sheets, and Voila! You have yellowed-frayed-at-the-edges towels, that have unquestionably seen better days. And which were kept surrounded by mothballs in that family trunk for years, waiting to see the light of day. They did emerge from their hibernation - after 6 loooong years. Ahem!
 Prezzies with price tags deliberately left on. No matter how much you want to impress, their givers invariably get an entry into the Most-trashy-gifters category...
 Blenders, irons and iron boards, tea kettles, hot flasks, toasters, immersion rods (Gasp), juicers
 Cook books. Loads of them. Some in regional languages that the groom and the bride may not be familiar with
 A stationery hamper. No doubt flicked over a period of time from office (eyes rolling)

With the wedding season on in full gusto around us, I hear many of my about-to-get-hitched pals, making plans of making elaborate gift registries, to avoid the frustration of getting multiple bedsheets. There are also those who are toying with the idea of putting in a wishing well at the venue, for added measure, hoping that the ‘green’ initiative takes off well...

To see whether their efforts bear fruit, I’d have to wait for a good month and a half to transpire (which is the time for those friends to get ‘knotty’).

Or perhaps, we’ll be sitting together on some warm January Sunday afternoon, drinking out of those same painted lemonade glasses, and guffawing about the seventeen exactly-similar mini-irons that were probably bought around the same time at this year’s Trade Fair...

Keep watching this space for more on this…

Friday, November 26, 2010

To sue or not to sue - now THAT is the question

The Stella Awards, synonymous with outrageous lawsuits, are guaranteed to make you raise your eyebrows, smirk at the plainly ludicrous and frivolous lawsuits slapped by many, and shake your head in disbelief when you learn that those opportunistic weirdos got greenbacks, loads of ‘them, for those same absurd claims.

In 1992, a septuagenarian lady - Stella Liebeck (and you thought that women that age are relatively harmless), sued McDonald’s when the hot coffee she had bought from a drive-in, fell on her lap, scalding her.

Her claim—McDonald’s sold “dangerous” coffee that could lead to burns (as in her case).

Her next step...? She sued!

The damages that she won - to the tune of $6,40,000 (but many claim that it was much more than that) had everyone sitting up, blinking their eyes rapidly and making a mental note to strike her off their party lists. F-O-R-E-V-E-R! Is that me bet!

Since the Mcdonald’s Coffee claim, there have been many cases that defy sanity and gumption. To make it worse, many of these have actually gone on to collect mini-fortunes, cash-in on their fiteen seconds of fame on the idiot box, and go laughing all the way to the bank. Whoa!

The Stella Awards does a neat job of handpicking the most bizarre cases, every year. Sample some of these:

— A woman sued a home store when a bird flying outside the store attacked her (her line of reasoning – the home store shouldn’t be allowing birds to fly around it.). What did she expect – the home store to hire men with air guns…?

— A chap sued two magicians – they were being ‘difficult,’ he said. The motive – they didn’t share with him their trade secrets of how they performed their magic tricks. I say the two poor magicians should have taught him, albeit a little differently – would have been fun to see him pull out a hungry, roaring lion out of his black hat, instead of the customary long-eared rabbit, at a Sunday practice for children. Let’s just say the parents wouldn’t have been very amused, and gone ahead to slap some charges of their own...

— A woman involved in a car wreck sued the automobile maker for not issuing instructions that every passenger was required to wear a seatbelt.

— A guy hit by lightning outside an amusement park, sued the amusement park for failing to issue a notice to people advising them to stay in during thunderstorms.

— An enterprising guy changed his name to “Jack Ass,” and claimed that the MTV and American namesakes films and shows were plagiarized from him, and severely hurt his image. So he proved that his self-christening was just about right and made a Jack Ass of himself and went right ahead in suing MTV.

- A smoke-puffing woman, with a family history of coronary artery disease and high blood pressure, weighing over 150 pounds, with a penchant for high-cholesterol, swimming-in-fat fried food, sued her doctors for $1 million for not forcing her to change her habits! Along the same lines, a guy dued KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s for becoming obese and diabetic, and not advising him that he shouldn’t be frequenting them multiple times every week. WTH!

There certainly isn’t a dearth of dotty people in the world, I guess.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our 'Children's Day'

We walk down the street happily,
This day is after all ours,
When we spot a little girl crying,
Suffering hunger, for no fault of hers.

We stand there, shocked,
As the smile soon goes off our face.
Our friends are rejoicing, celebrating,
And there is gloom all over this place.

We know not how to react,
To be happy anyway, or to feel sad.
Many of us wear costly attires,
But some kids are barely clad.

Our hearts sink deeper,
When those poor children we see,
Who spend their days slogging,
When they should be jumping with glee.

We wipe a tear and then decide,
These kids too, deserve some joys.
We pull out some clothes and toys,
And give them to those girls and boys.

When they smile, and their faces glow,
Our day is made, yes, we know.

Dunno who wrote the above, but does strike a deep chord in me, reminding me that I am lucky, as probably you are. But there are millions of kids out there, for whom it is a different story altogether.

Every day, we see the sobering statistics on what it’s like to be a vulnerable, underprivileged child in today’s society. We shake our heads sympathetically, deplore their conditions, make a mental note to drop some coins into the outstretched palms of the next child we see on the roads, and the very next minute, forget all about them.

Let's do something for these kids, each in our own small way. You could volunteer at an NGO, attend some workshops for CRY, or even start with teaching your maid's daughter / kid the English alphabet.

Let's get together and engage in a hand-up, not merely a hand-out...

Go spread the love, and make someone smile.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Some Neverlands

Haven’t we all been through that agonizing day, when we would give an arm and a leg to escape to an imaginary land, a getaway from that hard as nails boss / that whining co-worker / so-called friends who fail to ‘understand us,” / a pay packet that tries to equate peanuts with the Crown jewels / the relative from hell who makes the evil stepmother from Snow White look like an angel / (add your own pet-peeve here)?

Wouldn’t it be just wonderful to run away from it all, and seek refuge in some charming place, far far away from the madding crowd (pardon the plagiarizing, Mr. Hardy)? An assortment of names of imaginary lands comes to my mind, where you could run off, and begin the happily-ever-after-fairytale that has eluded you forever?

So while the following are the top imaginary places that come to my mind, whether or not you’d some day, like to retreat to the, is entirely your choice..

1. Riverdale: who can possibly not want to live in Riverdale, the much-loved residence of unforgettable characters like freckle-face Archie, high and mighty Reggie, snobbish Veronica, classic girl-next-door Betty, constantly-fantasizing about food Jughead, with his equally-gluttonous mutt – Top Dog, hopelessly-in-love-with-Jughead-who-doesn’t-even-know-her-existence Big Ethel, beefcake-with-no-brains Moose, his pint-sized girlfriend – Midge (often the object of Archie and Reggie’s joint affection), the battling-his-bulge Mr. Weatherbee, human computer Dilton, and a host of other characters – all equally contributing to making Riverdale High the coolest, hippest place to be in. Add to it, beaches, shopping malls, the iconic ice-cream parlor owner by plump Pop Tates, and you get an idyllic retreat. Perfect place for the young at heart. The others can just go and eat crow…

2. Lilliput and Blefuscu: First appearing in the eighteenth century novel, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Lilliput and Blefuscu are two fictional islands separated from each other by a channel, and whose inhabitants were notable for their dwarf-like stature and their evident bitterness with each other because of differences of opinion over how to “correctly” eat a boiled-egg. Talk about being bad eggs!!

3. Narnia: Four siblings. A seemingly innocous looking wardrobe. A magical land where it is always winter. Animals that talk. A wicked usurper White Witch reigning over the kingdom. A wronged lion-king, Aslan. And lo and behold! You have your very own fantasy world. One where obviously good prevails over evil in the end. Now if only things were this simple in our mundane lives…

4. Oz: Possibly one of the most well-known and read-about imaginary lands. Divided into four color-coordinated countries, Oz houses fairies, witches, wizards, gnomes, flatheads, living dolls – called cuttenclips etc. Sure would be an interesting place to be in…

5. Utopia: Best friend, an ex-reporter, and perpetual philosophy-spouting wonder woman, first talked about this Greek fictional island, a few days after it was discussed in my majors class – many many years back (yeah, I AM that old). Boasting of a perfect social, legal, and political system, Utopia, is now, more often used to refer to an ideal place, obviously an impossibility. As to why best friend had brought up the issue, let’s just keep it for another day…

6. Wonderland: Favorite cousin is eternally like the quintessential Alice, lost in her very own wonderland, a private-dreamlike state of mind, wherein she forgets simple chores, giggling like a school-girl when she is reminded of them. A habit, I am unfortunately, picking up from her, I guess. Not my proudest achievements, let me add...

7. Malgudi: Immortalized by the Indian author R.K. Narayan, Malgudi forms the setting for the adventures of Swami, a mischievous ten-year old, along with his friends, Rajam and Mani, all of whom are joined in their ambition of forming a cricket team, to break away from the monotony of their evangelical, stressing-on-Christianity-and-literature school.

And obviously the list cannot be complete without...

8. Hogwarts: An adolescent wizard. Two best friends. A malevolent wizard. An academy for young wizards and witches. All of them have captured the undivided attention of children and adults alike. And making the blonde writer go chuckling all the way to the bank. Not that we are complaining...After all, isn’t it therapeutic to read about magical realms, far away from the harsh reality that pervades our lives on a daily basis?

So, which one would you kill to escape to?

My vote is divided between Riverdale and Hogwarts...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

And your point is...?

Sample this:

Person 1 - ‘Ohh, I’m glad to hear he was able to come and sort out the issue at your place. Good friends are hard to come by. Does he stay someplace nearby?’

Person 2 – ‘Yeah, he stays right on my backside.’

Person 1 (Chuckling) (All this while, thinking of the abovementioned friend, who probably had a certificate course in glue-management under his smart belt...What else could explain how he was always around him, much like a Siamese twin, joined at the much touted rear)– ‘Ermm, Uhmmm, well, nevermind.’

The chuckling would invariably offend the first friend, who would, in all certainty – either glare or stare blankly, completely oblivious to the fact how his behind had become the butt of a joke. Pun intended!

He is not alone – he’s joined by many others, who unwittingly pass an innocuous remark, often causing the listener(s) to dissolve into unrestrained mirth. Such are the ways of this world – wherein merrily-spirited people will chuckle, guffaw, jab fingers unkindly, wipe streams of tears while clutching their bellies – all the while at the expense of a poor chap who has innocently committed a verbal gaffe...

Take for instance, quite some time back, a sedate lady caused me endless hilarity when she stated solemnly how her aunt was paralyzed, a criminal from the waist down. The poor soul most probably meant crippled, and was aghast when I stuffed a tissue into my mouth to stifle my laughter.

I’m guessing she won’t be speaking with me ever again.

A week back, I was speaking with a group who had only unkind things to say about our country. A gentleman in his late thirties even commented how we would have been better off had the British continued their rule.

I retorted that such confirmed Anglophiles should leave the country and seek citizenship in England, munch on cookies and sing Long Live the Queen.

He turned an apoplectic purple – if looks could kill, I would have dropped dead instantaneously.

He started a vitriolic attack against me, emphatically stating that he was not an Anglophile, how could I have had called him such a lowly thing (?), and all horrid Anglophiles along the likes of a tainted King of Pop should be chained, caned and given the Electric chair.

In a minute, my face contorted into a broad Cheshire cat grin – the guy was talking of the other Phile – Paedophile. That explained his caustic rage at me.

Shaking my head, and suppressing a smile, I promised myself that I would speak the simplest words with him in the future.

“He is the very pineapple of success.”(Deliberate pause by speaker to receive a round of applause).

However, he was mildly surprised that his oft-spoken line did not meet with loud clapping; what was even more unsettling was that some people in the audience were smirking.

Gosh-in a split second, he realized that he had used a malapropism for “pinnacle.”
That explained the snide remarks and sly nudges...

I was mildly alarmed, when a well-meaning friend’s wife admired the delicate pendulum (pendant) around my neck.

Yet another acquaintance, after several minutes of my careful explaining of a particular procedure to her, announced dramatically, her hands high up in the air, "It is beyond my apprehension (comprehension)!"

A co-worker on a Project was left rather red-faced when he pointed out that he preferred doing both phases of the project simultaneously, as he wanted to paralyze the project.

Imagine my face when I was seeking reassurance from a chap, asking him if he would get the job done – and he, a picture of confidence, asked me not to worry, adding that the job would be done – after all, he was very remorseful (resourceful)...

My trust in him was slightly shaken, to say the least!

A person who I know slightly, once told me that upon his death, he wanted me to write his tributary in the newspaper.

He was most hurt to see me smiling.

I had to do my utmost to reassure him that I would be shattered if he were to die, but I would definitely write a glowing obituary for him.

I once met this earringed-spiked-haired-student, who announced to me that he was most keen on studying in the US of A.

Upon my casual asking, if he would be seeking a scholarship / funding, he was quick to reply that he came from a very effluent (affluent)family…

Needless to say, I almost passed out…

There are funnier examples, for instance, once, while talking about surnames and nee names, this 20-something girl chirped that her mother’s mating(maiden) name was Choudhary.

I bet the mother would not have been very pleased with her daughter’s candor…

Another time, a bloke had me scratching my head, when he declared that his density lay in becoming a singer. It took me all of a minute to realize that he meant destiny, and that I was not that dense.

A spinster, in her late thirties, once told me that she felt like a social piranha (pariah), because of her unmarried status.

She thought I was tremendously rude, when instead of tut-tutting sympathetically, I shot her a look of pure glee.

The look that she gave me was however, pure venom...

At the gym, the other day, a lady was conversing with another in the locker room, how she preferred working out than swimming for dietary reasons – because when she swam, she'd invariably return vanished(?) (famished), and could almost eat a horse…

The last one definitely takes the cake...

Imagine that you are deeply immersed in your work, and this apologetic-faced person comes up to you, and starts off breathlessly, “Pardon me for protruding (intruding)...”

I guessing you will relapse (collapse) in a fit of laughter…

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ladies Only - A peek into the DMRC's women-only coach

A 20-minute trip in Delhi Metro’s Ladies Coach yesterday proved to be quite an enjoyable ride indeed. The occasion being Karwa Chauth, I even saw a couple of women blowing at their hands to dry the intricate henna some pavement artisan had no doubt painstakingly applied. The women looked happy - sharing anecdotes, sitting comfortably with one another, their oversized bags lying languidly on the coach floor.

All this looked a far cry from the scene twenty odd days ago – when they had to rub shoulders with the city’s mensfolk – and in the process, contend with constant staring, obnoxious lip-smacking sounds, eve-teasing, lascivious things murmured into ears, pinching of rears, and the occasional but very deliberate groping or ‘accidental’ brushing of an arm against their sensitive parts.

While the women enjoyed the controlled cooling in their allotted coach, the men from the adjoining coach cast looks at them – some woebegone, other envious, while some others cast looks of pure venom and red-faced fury. All the while jostling for space, the feeling akin to being a trussed-up sardine in a can with many others of its ilk.

An unsuspecting man strolled into the coach, only to be shooed away by the many women – who went up in collective peals of laughter when the alarmed man beat a hasty retreat, disappearing in a huff.

An elderly gentleman was however, immediately made to sit, bringing a smile to his weary eyes. As was a wide-eyed 8 year-old boy, who shyly stood behind his mother, his right hand trustingly in hers.

A couple of boisterous college-goers boarded the Metro, stepping in smartly into the all-ladies coach. Despite repeated protests from the womenfolk, they flippantly replied that they would be alighting at the next station. The next station didn’t prove to be that lucky for them though – as a pot-bellied, stern policeman marched them off to the side to perhaps collect the Rupees 200 penalty for riding in the women’s coach. I’m guessing they wouldn’t be repeating the same in a hurry.

Women of various ages, dressed in sarees, dapper business suits, comfortable kurtas and salwars, some in their tighter cousins – churidars, while yet some in jeans and skirts – made eye-contact with their fellow companions. Smiles were exchanged when one caught sight of an exquisite neck piece there, or a particularly pretty bangle.

Not a word was exchanged – and yet it was all too palpable – the collective feeling of contentment at their own private space.

With perhaps the additional joy of being among other lavender-talc-ed folks...