Thursday, 30 December 2010

Happy nude rear!

Another year gone by... and this one seemed to be in an exceptional hurry. Still, it has left quite a few memories in its wake - some cherished, others necessary, even if painful. All in all it's been a good year, a full one that shined in all its glory.

And it is ending on a good note- a trip home!

So here I am wishing you all a groovy new year, filled with good cheer, love, laughter, strength, courage and awesome adventures!

Till late Jan 2011!

xx

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Babudom or my Permit A38 moment

Just when I think life has descended into the mundane, it decides to surprise me. Or maybe I have developed a more zen sense of humour and laugh at the mundane, who knows.

Anyway. This tale spans a weekend and a day; however, it will take a lot lesser to relate.

On a certain Friday I missed picking up a call from an unknown number. After repeated attempts to call back, I finally got through to a certain gent, who we will call P. Now P informed me after a lot of ah-and umming that I had reached the Indian High Commission (henceforth referred to as IHC). Now why would someone from the IHC call me, you wonder? I did too.

Hearing me out as I explained why I called, he deduced that someone from his department may have called me regarding a vacancy for which my CV might have been short-listed.

Now to give you a short background of how my CV reached the IHC. A couple of months back hubby saw an ad of theirs asking for applications from Communications professionals, with a Ph.d in marketing, branding and what not for some position the IHC were looking to fill. Now V’s idea is (bless him) that any thing with “communication” in it, is a role I should apply for. To keep domestic peace, I applied and the time when I was talking to individual “P” of the IHC, I thought I had actually made it to round 1!

“Bugger! Now I will have to down the humble pie in front of V,” I thought.

However, that was not to be on the dinner menu that night.

Back to individual P. “It is a part-time clerical role. If you are interested, please come along to the IHC with you passport and visa on Tuesday.”

Now before you dismiss this entry as a woeful tale of my unemployed status, perish the thought. There is more to this.

“But could you at least tell me what exactly is the job description and when how long is it for?” I enquired.

P was not aware of it and the colleague who called was away. He was hesitant to give me the name but I was encouraged to call again later in the day and check for details.

I tried and failed that day.

On Monday, however, I finally got through to the number (after five attempts, mind you) to finally have someone pick up the number, and guess who it was? Yes, it was Mr P again.

He still wasn’t sure who had called me, but asked me to come over on Tuesday if I was interested.

Now I was in a dilemma. I definitely needed (n still do) a job that was salaried (never mind that I didn’t know what this one was going to pay or even what it was!), so would it be worth legging it all the way to the IHC, just to find what it was all about.

Of late, I have become a champion of positive thinking. I knew that if this had come my way, it must be for a good reason. And so I decided to go.

The next day dawned gloomy and grey, temperatures flirting with the negatives and the tube workers of the hallowed Underground were on a strike. And it wasn’t a bolt out of the blue, these, then pending, conditions I was aware of even when I made the decision to grab my destiny with both hands.

As I sat in an overheated bus crawling through over-crowded roads, I mulled on the irony of my venture. Back in the day (sic) when I was a jhola wala, read reporter, I tried to haunt the corridors of bureaucrazy (that typo was not deliberate! Sub-conscious perhaps. However it stays, because I like it!) and failed miserably. I never quite knew how to handle their loopy talk and didn’t have sufficient skill, or patience, to “make them a source” or become one of their “reporter friends”. I steered clear of the crop as much as I could in personal life as well. In the last two years, the last time I had a tete-tete with the kind was when my passport needed renewing. And here I was seeking employment (of some sort) with them!

Two hours, a bus ride and long walk in the bitter cold later, I was at the IHC’s door. 15 minutes at the reception, a walk in the labyrinth of floors and rooms later, I was shown into the admin department, where I was greeted by the cacophony of voices that are quintessential to the babudom. To be fair, it felt nice to hear conversations in hindi. It felt like home.

The peon announced to no one in particular, there were 6 people and seven desks and chairs there, that I was there for the job.

One person asked for my passport and visa, which I provided. And then tried to ask what the job was. He ignored me handing my papers to his colleague. Who after ten minutes of scrutiny passed it over to another who had a couple of questions for me. After my interrogation was over, by which time I had spent half an hour in complete oblivion of my purpose there, I asked again, what the job was.

“Negi ji will take you to the department concerned and they will explain what it is.”

And so went I with Negi ji through yet another maze of corridors and there we were at the “concerned department”.

I was introduced to this young woman (who I think was malyali. I mention because I feel a kinship with the lot), who cleared a low-lying cabinet next to her, beckoned me to sit and went on to show me what the job was- scanning pictures and uploading them to their server. Before I could say anything, she encouraged me to try it and show her if I could do it.

She was too nice and I too polite to refuse, so I obliged. While I was in the middle of it the task, one matronly woman came to stand next to us and began asking the young woman questions.

“So you think she can do it? Yes? OK. So tell her to start from tomorrow.”

For all she cared, I was not even there.

Swallowing my pride and indignation, I told her that I couldn’t start as I was working somewhere already (I volunteer full time at a charity) and I needed a notice period.

“NO NO that wouldn’t do. If you want this job you need to start tomorrow. You shouldn’t have come if you were not available immediately!” she cried (literally).

Let's take a pause here. Now the old me would have screamed back at her and given her an earful. But the new me didn't. I am not sure if it was my Zen state of mind or fear of deportation (don't ask how) that I calmly told her this.

“You know MADAM, I was never even told why I am here.” OK so I allowed myself a sarcastic MADAM; I am only human!

I returned to dept no. 1 to collect my papers, was given another lecture on the immediacy of the job; I gave them a rueful smile. After being summarily dismissed from the hallowed halls of IHC, I realised a couple of things. One was that some attitudes just don’t change, even when far removed from Shastri Bhavan, second that I still don’t know who called me that day. :/

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Girl's night in

Now weekends are pretty sacred for V and me, as they are the only days where we can spend “quality” time together; he finishes pending work and I, well, work. To be fair, even if we don’t do anything especially special together, it’s nice to have each other around even if doing mundane stuff. But every once in a while, one of us takes time out to be with our friends doing things we did before tying the knot (which doesn’t include chatting up pretty girls, mind you; as for me, well I have no such predilections).

Today was one such day when V decided to get together with the boys and do stuff boys do when together. I could have gone and met my friends but decided to stay in instead. Reason: I like being by myself sometime. I don’t know if it is a single child thing or a trait peculiar to me or just something some people like doing- but yeah, every now and then I like to spend time with myself and doing things I enjoy.

With the luxury of spending an evening by myself, I decided to treat myself to bit of good ol’ take away, followed by cleaning up my work station, a.k.a as the kitchen and do some hardcore baking, accompanied by photography and making a couple of blog entries.

Dinner was some scrumptious-looking ready-made lasangne I had been eyeing in the supermarket aisle for a while now. With the hubby gone, I decided to indulge myself. Would have loved a glass of wine along with it, but settled for some juice instead. Once dinner was over, it was time to clean up la cucina. If two years back I had foreseen the future where I saw myself deriving pleasure over scrubbing the kitchen slab and sprucing up the fridge’s interiors, I would have begun believing in those alien abduction stories. However, two years from then, and minus extra-terrestrial intervention, I did all that and felt good.

Next on the agenda was baking. Now, I had been craving something sweet and chocolaty since afternoon. So the toss up was between chocolate chip cookies and cake; I opted for brownies instead. But that was not all. A couple of bananas were fast approaching their due by date and were nowhere closer to being eaten in their true form, so I decided to bung them in a bread instead. So came the banana bread. I wasn’t too sure how it would turn out, but I gotta admit the result wasn’t bad, not bad at all. So if you want to make better use of the fruit, try out the recipe here.

If you are wondering why I am not letting the brownie recipe out, well that’s because I took the easy way out and used a pre-mix. The verdict: avoid premixes. Enough said.

Before I got married, I was one of those who thought that post nuptials, you and the spouse have to live in each others pockets. And to be honest, it was never a prospect that appealed to me. Then I thought maybe once I met the right person, I wouldn’t mind spending all my time with him. When V came along and we decided to take the plunge, I was worried about how long I would survive in the cosy twosome; I need not have had. Even though V is someone who loves to have people around all the time, he respects my need for space. We never HAVE to do things together all the time or BE together all the time we are back from office. But when we do spend conscious time together, it is filled with love, laughter, banter, and at times companionable silences. I guess I have nothing to complain about, at least 50% of the time! J

For now, I am content. Happy to be by myself, listening to the world around me go to sleep, waiting too for hubby to return and sample the cake; after which he would tell me how much he likes it and oh-how-he missed me!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Why not to mix reading and walking

I am a huge fan of public transport, and not just for the ease of commute. Till the blue lines and green lines or whatever-the-colour line buses in Delhi began bursting at their seams, I was a regular on them, preferring to sit by the window seat for various pertinent reasons. One of them was the need to experience the sights and sounds of Delhi. Yes believe it or not, Delhi makes for an interesting place to observe - as the bus takes you on bumpy roads through busy lanes, green avenues, collapsing flyovers, historic relics, kitchy shops under the surreal red hues blue/grey skies, while random voices talk in the background about an impending meeting or the dreaded exam or the love tangle, peppered by the bus conductor and driver's colourful exchange over ticket collection…. Sigh.... but as usual I digress.

When not indulging in sight-seeing, I caught up with my reading. However, the best place to diminish the reading backlog, I discovered, was the Delhi Metro, to which I made a move when I changed jobs and the work place existed in the back of beyond. The prolonged use of the blessed Metro rail, made the transition to the London Tube quite easy [and also the fact that when I first got on board the underground train, the announcer (on the Piccadilly line) sounded just like Neeti Ravindran. Don't laugh; when you first move away from all things familiar, these small instances help tide over the homesickness]. In fact, I found it was a better place to catch up on reading for there is no idle chatter to distract you and everyone is busy ignoring everyone else; quite unlike Delhi where most men are busy trying to find ways to familiarize themselves with your anatomy.

I have finished whole novels, while travelling; not in one go of course, no line is long enough. Husband's often commented on how I make for poor company when on the move, so now we travel separately. He thinks this obsession with reading is ridiculous but has to admit I am not as bad as some others who haunt the underground - the true “avid” reader. These souls are ones who are so enchanted by the book they are reading that they read even as they walk.

My first run in with one of them, literally, was on platform 3 at Angel station. With my ears plugged with music, I was on my merry way out when I collided headlong into one of these "avid" readers I mentioned. Not an encounter that left tweeties circling around my noggin, but one that was inconvenient enough. To be fair, the perpetrator was suitably apologetic; not enough to have been cured of her bad habit. For the moment we parted ways, she was back with her nose buried into the book. I shook my head and walked away, recognising a goner when I see one.

At the time I thought it was a one-off chance meeting with the species; I was wrong. I began spying these people every here and there. Noses buried deep into their tomes, they walk mindless of the world around them. Fond of reading, I tried to admire their dedication and came up with a naught. Well, not really; I actually felt quite irritated, and curious.

What exactly was it that they were perusing, also how did they ever mange not to find their way on to the tracks, given the concentration they were devoting to the written word. Or may be not all are lucky. I wonder how many of those “customer under the train” announcements signaled the martyrdom of some champion of reading.

I have read many an interesting book but none ever which would want me to risk life and limb for it or turn myself into a public nuisance. Honestly how much fun can it be reading as you walk, bumping into people every two seconds or being crushed under the wheels of a locomotive. How about you concentrate on getting on that train, read it as you travel or if you want, wait till you get home, get comfortable and then read... it works, I promise. I have tried it many times and I guarantee it'd be worth the wait (not of course if it is on Vampire love stories, they suck wherever they are read). If you think (as I do at times) that u can't wait till you get home, read as you travel, or first park yourself somewhere.

Or if you are merely doing it to ignore human existence while in crowded places, try plugging you ears with music or white noise, whatever you like, instead; works better. At least you would know where you are walking and may even live to read another day.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Dahl mein kuch kala

It amazes me how my perspective on life and things that go on in it has changed tremendously over the years. From something as mundane as deciding to finally apply kohl to my eyes to the notion of love, all were overhauled time and again as I grew up. Yes, this maybe something you went through too (not the issue of kajal and love per say) but a recent self revelation compelled me to pen the current entry and share it with you.

I have, for the longest time, been a sucker for happily ever afters. Like chocolate, I like my stories sweet; anything above 45% darkness leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, something I am not too fond of – the same rule applies to fiction. I grew up reading happy stories, and anything resembling a sad ending, sent me into depression for weeks. Which is not to say that I am a stranger to poignant ending; but the secret romantic in me somehow almost always managed to extrapolate tragic endings into happy tidings that took place after the story on paper drew to a close. You see I am one of those who believed that Scarlett got Rhett back, eventually.

Now I am a great fan of fantasy fiction. If a book talks of magic, I need to read it; doesn’t matter what age it is targeted at. This zeal led me to Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials comprising the titles The Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, back in 2007. The first book was a breeze and quite fun to read. However, the next two novels in the series were darker and dealt with some very adult themes, the starkest being that of the pain of choice and loss. I remember my adverse reaction to the books. “I could never let my kids read this stuff.” - is what I had thought. If these left me this depressed I shuddered to think how kids would perceive the emotions that the books elicited. If you are one who thought Rowling’s Prisoner of Azkaban was disturbing, I would not recommend Pullman’s work.

Recently as I sat trying to roll over writer’s block my friend offered a sound advice but an unusual choice of reading to unclog the unresponsive mind. Witches by Roald Dahl. While I have enjoyed watching Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory and Matilda tremendously, I had never really read any of the ex-RAF pilot’s works. And having watched the two aforementioned films, especially, the adaptation of Charlie and the chocolate factory, I wasn’t sure its dark undertones were something suitable for children to watch. As I read Witches, I was again struck by how it was in contrast to the happy childhood stories I had grown up reading. The parents are bumped off early in the story of Witches and unlike a fairy tale setting, here the bad guys (or in this case women) are flesh and blood entities who are difficult to detect and are eerily real. The dark undertones prompted me to ask myself if this was really what qualifies as appropriate children’s literature.

Then I thought why not. You see I have been working with children and teens living with HIV in the last few months. The resilience they have to face adversity head on is a feat that deserves respect. At an early age they have had to take on responsibility of their health, come face to face with stigma and at times their parents’ mortality. Their lives could well be something many of us might have only read about. But they are anything but martyrs. They are heroes; heroes who took on the challenge and lived to tell the tale. For them the pain is real but so is life and the happiness it can bring. Just what Dahl told us didn’t he?

I would be more than glad if more and more children could read the works of Dahl and authors like him who don’t shy away from talking about real topics, while making sure they offer the right kind of hope needed by all of us to get by life knowing that even though the going is tough, we can be tougher than our circumstances, if we give ourselves the chance. One of the most valuable lessons our kids could learn. Furthermore, nudged by adults in the right direction, youngsters can learn the importance of empathy, not be afraid to be different and to believe in themselves through these stories.

I for one am convinced that if I ever have kids, I would want them (at some point in their growing years) to read these stories for sure and learn some valuable lessons.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

In my shoes

In the last six months, every time I have spied women perched upon towering heels, I have seen scrunched up band-aids peeping out of the borders (scrunched up because despite the global epidemic that is shoe-bite, no company has come up with a band-aid which doesn’t bunch up once inside the heeled footwear). And the numbers of such foolhardy souls is not diminutive. I see one every day, be it the underground or the street level, trudging away bravely, paying no (outward) attention to her bleeding sole (exaggeration alert). So with them masking their agony so well, how do I know? You see I am recovering victim of the “kill all women with torturous footwear” attack and I know a fellow sufferer by plain sight.

To say I have a footwear fetish would constitute an inaccuracy. No, the footwear fiend in this marriage is the husband. So if you spy shoes spilling off the shoe-rack at our ‘ome sweet ‘ome, it is because:

a) Most of them are the hubby’s

b) One or two are borrowed (read on to know why)

c) The rest sit pretty to don (more) beautiful feet, not mine. No I am not babysitting them; I am stuck with them.

At any given time since I could decide on how my feet sould be shod, I have housed a minimum of three pairs of footwear of which I have only ever done justice to one. Not because I was picky I was forced to choose one; the other two would invariably leave my feet battered and bruised. No manner of “trying out” at the shop would EVER betray the painful future the shoes held in store for me.

Today our tiny little apartment houses two incorrigible pair (of humans) and 30 pairs of footwear, 10 are mine and I still can only wear one pair.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Excited at having bid bye bye to Bata and a gusty aloha to Clarks, UK, I went shoe shopping in my first week here. Armed with the conviction that my transit across oceans had finally broken the jinx of having to wear ill-fitting shoes (I was practising the elusive art of positive thinking at this point). That particular trip earned me two lovely looking pairs of heels.

Soon came the day that the first pair of newly bought sandals was to make a debut and that too at a party which promised a good time (this for me includes dancing). Once out of the apartment, a hundred steps later, I had a familiar sensation: shoe bite. I shrugged it off and trudged on bravely.

“They are new, need to be broken into,” I told myself.

Those leathery fiends had the same idea about me. By the beginning of the night I was hopping mad, literally. In the end, all I could do was sit and drown my sorrow in a weak vodka. So much for fun.

Needless to say, the killer heels were relegated to the back of the closet at the earliest. Thankfully, giving in to a sense of nostalgia I was sure I would experience once away from India, I had packed my trusty old open toes sandals, which I worked with for the next one month. Finally, I would walk again, albeit with bandages/band-aids on.

You would think I would have learnt my lesson and picked up a few new pairs when I visited India. Nope. I am one of those idiots who believe that if tried enough number of times, the same mistake can yield a different result. Of course I had good reason to repeat the fallacy- but we won’t dwell on that. On many an occasion I have returned home from an outing with a friend walking miles in her shoes, literally.

Finally thanks to one of them darling beings I call friends, I was introduced to the W(ide) variety of shoes. So basically they are for wide toed misfits like me and fit like a dream. Unfortunately for me they are not widely available (yes yes that was funny, that’s why I said what I did). So we are back at the beginning and I am stuck with many a shoe and only one fits. But at least I am not bleeding.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Food for thought

I began work at this wonderful charity recently and have spent an interesting one month there. Work’s been good, thanks for asking. Met interesting people, wrote interesting stuff and also took time out to enjoy a few good lunches.

Sometimes I sneak an hour out with a friend who works close by but mostly it has been a solitary meal on a busy desk. Very cumbersome I tell you, what with my indulgent streak which doesn’t let me settle for a mundane sandwich and juice routine. However, crumbly baguettes and messy spinach fillings and pungent flavours (raw onion in a grilled vegetable and cous cous salad, very very tasty, I tell you!) may not exactly be office-conducive fare, but I manage to sneak them in anyway.

The other day as I sat savouring my French baguette with chorizo, cheese and salad leaves, I began thinking of a behavioural anomaly which I hadn’t noticed before. Now, most folks who know me, would concur that I am an easy going person (husband obviously doesn’t fall in the category. I wish you could see him shaking his newly shorn head emphatically) but when it comes to meal times, I am a foodzilla. A lunch or dinner not enjoyed is precious time and resources wasted; for me this includes lunchtime in office. Even there it has to be a pleasurable activity.

People have suggested I get other things like bank work or job applications done in that hour. “And miss my lunch! You got to be kidding me,” I exclaim in my head, while trying to keep a straight face.

I have met many, husband included, for whom lunch at work has just been about sustenance. Try as I might in the 6 years of working, I have not been able to reduce the act of lunching, even at office to a necessary chore. No tight deadlines or pressing appointments have been able to keep me from enjoying my afternoon meal. But growing up in a family whose motto is “We live to eat”, you can hardly blame me for loving my food the way I do. Of course, I take it to a whole new level. I have sooner forgone lunch hour than see myself grabbing a bite without paying proper obeisance (figuratively) to the chosen food.

For me every meal is a celebration of food. It starts with taking in the presentation of the fare, the wholesome fragrance of the dish, followed by the first bite and the subsequent explosion of flavours in my mouth that elicit (mostly) appreciative (and potentially embarrassing) whimpers of joy (of course at home it starts with cooking), the last of which has embarrassed and amused many a friend.

As I sat eating by myself, conscious of stray flakes from the aforementioned baguette, I felt naked, enjoying a private pleasure in an open plan office. Not that anyone minded. I suddenly yearned for the good old days of elaborate office lunches of yore. Back at the last job, I had a bunch of food enthusiasts to share the passion and lunch sessions, people guilty of enjoying the pleasure as I did. Weekends, the Saturdays we pretended to work on, were especially cherished for the long lunch breaks we took. It was not just about taking time off but the brilliant foodie flavours we explored during the time.

Back in the present time; you have no idea how, as the lunch hour approaches, I obsess on what I could eat. With choices ranging from Ghanian peanut chicken to steak burritos to lamb tagine with cous cous to salmon with new potato salad, to hot falafel rolls and hot lentil soup, to grilled haloumi sandwiches…. What was I saying again…

Sorry yeah, so I was saying that with all this variety at my doorstep, I can’t help being distracted and eager to treat my palate. As soon as the hour strikes one, or the stomach rumbles, I head out the office doors, straight to the cobbled stone lane lined by shops offering gastronomical delights. Even if I have to pack it up and have it at my desk all by myself. Once or twice, out of a feeling of self-consciousness, I have tried to gobble a hasty lunch but blessedly have been pulled out of that mire by a more powerful desire: to eat as food is to be eaten: peacefully, respectfully and unashamedly.

To sum it up in G B Shaw’s words, "There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

Amen!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Wick’d!

Ever since I moved to London, I knew I HAD to see a musical. And after I read Gregory Maguire’s work, I knew it had to be Wicked. Not that the two are terribly alike, but the book was intriguing enough for me to aspire to see the musical some day and that day was the day before yesterday.

A friend from long ago had come along to visit, and we decided it was time we did something Wicked; so we legged it to the Apollo in Victoria (separately). True to form, I was late in arriving half an hour early as we had earlier decided; but in time to rally up the end of the queue at the theatre.

The oohs and the aahs began as soon as we entered; the stage set up set the mood in place. As soon as the curtain went up a spell was cast and for the next 3 hours, it was sheer magic. The production, the music, the performance: phew, it’s been three days and I am still dreaming of it, singing and dancing it, waiting for the time I could see it again.

We were sixth row from the stage, a bit too much to the right I had thought. But I need not have bothered for the producers were kind enough to move the action right to the front of the stage, clear enough for all to view without some having to crane their necks. And the drama unfolded under the terrible gaze of the clock of the time dragon that became animated every time, well, the time changed!

The scene opened with the good witch Glinda resplendent in white sitting inside a bubble, announcing the death of the Wicked witch of the West, the villagers rejoiced till one asked the white-robed socceress if she and the wicked witch were friends, and so the reminiscing began.

Like I mentioned in the beginning the book and the play are not very alike but the theme is more or less the same. Of course the book is much darker and at times bleak. (I have a confession to make at this juncture. I never did finish reading it because I did not want it to end. Yes, I am weird like that); the musical on the other hand is pure entertainment, which is not to say it is all happy and sunny. It tells you what being misunderstood means; how people will believe what they want to believe and that being different is not easy; how popularity can hide wretchedness and leaves you wondering who truly is wicked.

It was a production that would put any hindi masala movie to shame. There was drama, romance, naach-gaana galore. The music: breathtaking; the singing: PHENOMINAL. As for the performance, I can’t rave enough. Everyone, from the chorus to the lead performers, everyone was perfect. I usually pinpoint a favourite in any story but the performance of the two leading ladies was so tremendous that my love for one over took the other’s depending on who was on stage. And the times when they both shared the limelight.. what’s the word for it? Oh yeah: Magical!

Having heard people talk about live theatre performances and being friends with a couple of performers, I have always wondered if claims of euphoria a performance induces is a tad exaggerated, but one viewing down, I tell you, I am not surprised they are so passionate about their art; it is PRETTY addictive.

To borrow a fellow Wicked aficionado’s line, “ Post Wicked, my life has changed”. I think for me the turning point came when I heard and saw Defying gravity.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!
It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

My eyes nearly went pop when I saw the green lady in black levitate as the music reached a crescendo and she sang her way up defying gravity. You had to be there to experience the heady feeling. It was unbelievable, if you don’t believe in magic, that is. If you do then you will know what I mean when you see what I saw!

It inspired me so that I am now actually wondering if I should join the arts. Husband reminds me that probably not a wise choice; he says (and I agree with a heavy heart) I won’t even make it off-off-off broadway with me way off off off singing voice.

But I can live vicariously now can’t I!

“And no one can pull me down”

Monday, 13 September 2010

Hair today, where tomorrow

Life has a quirky sense of humour, and springs its surprises in odd ways. This one is about one of those days.

It’s chicken pox in the house and it ain’t a party. Though if hubby had his way he would make sure he spread the virus to all the kiddies we know so as to help them escape the agony of having it at 30. Since he can’t, he is making sure all our friends make good of his advise. So if you forgot to get the munchkin vaccinated, we offer immunization the old fashioned way at our house.

Those of you who have borne the ordeal of suffering this malaise post onset of puberty would empathise when I tell you that he has quite a few blisters on his head; for those who haven’t, let me tell you it is sheer torture, or so V tells me.

“Shave it off, I need to shave my hair off!” he wailed. Shaving would have been drastic and painful so we settled on a crew(ish) cut. So like a dutiful wife that I am, I set out to get him a trimmer as instructed.

Half-an-hour later, I reached ASDA, at one of the biggish outlets of the supermarket, the closest I can be to an establishment that dispenses hair trimmers (or so I say. Between you and me, I needed to get out of the house for a bit; which does not take away from my love and devotion to the husband since I ensured there was lunch aplenty and medicines sorted for him to have while I was gone. So don’t you dare judge me!).

Big supermarkets such as the one I was at, can be very daunting, with their endless aisles where you can lose your way and if you hate shopping, your mind. However, I love the latter and would have indulged. But I knew fully well if I were left to my own devices, the husband would have torn his hair out in frustration, an action induced by the painful blisters and the bill I would have produced.

So with blinkers on, I trudged to the customer service counter asking where I could find a hair trimmer,

I was very helpfully let to the aisle I desired. Confident that all I needed to do was pick the contraption up, I was, instead, faced with a sectionful of grooming devices. With prices ranging from £10 to £75, I was faced with the option to choose from trimmers ranging from 10 attachments to 20, 5-in-1 groomers to 17-in-1 grooming kits to pocket ones to gargantuan ones. We are talking hair trimmers here, mind you.

Coming from a family where men proudly wear their hair and revel in all its glory, the irony was not lost on me. I shook my head at the novelty of the situation and smiled. Never in my 29 years, before this day, I had thought I would be staring 10 different types hair trimmers, wondering which one to pick up for home-shearing purposes. This is not what “we” did.

Defeated by the sheer size of choices and the inability to decide if the 5-in-1 grooming kit was more suited to V's purpose or the 3-in-one multipurpose trimmer, I approached one of the store people. "Uh excuse me, are these suitable for shaving the head". Sheesh, no wonder he gave me a funny look! "Actually neither, those are for facial hair, this (picking up a different box altogether) is what you need."

Giving him a sheepish smile and a half-hearted attempt to cover up my ineptitude, I made my way to aisles where I knew my business.

Lugging it (and a few, ahem, essential purchaces) I legged it back home. Merrily handing the packet to him, I was all ready to take it easy when I was handed another surprise.

“Sweetie, please do this for me, I won’t be able to manage it on my own.”

If even ten years back you would have told me that one day I would be shaving man's head, I would have asked you to get your head examined. But like I said, life can be quirky.

From biwi to barber wasn’t a difficult transition but again the oddness of the situation struck. Wielding that thuddering contraption, I thought to myself that never in a million years would have I thought that I would be sitting here shearing my husband’s head. Felt odd.

Hair and I have a tenuous relationship. I was brought up to respect my hair. So obviously my shorn locks (it was barely a trim actually) in college created quite a furore in the household. It was my attempt at rebellion of sorts. Till date, I cringe when I see my hair being cropped. Felt the same about his today. But I confess that as I ran the razor/trimmer (pardon me, I am still new at the technique) over and around V’s bumpy head, I found the process quite fascinating.

The various comb (I think that’s what they are called) sizes and the precision they allow, the ease with which you could wield it, the room for experimentation it offered :D…. needless to say, I was pulled out of my philosophical mode quickly enough. But obviously not before leaving me with the desire to shear or sorry share my experience with you! But yeah, who would have thunk!

P.S: If you, like me, think the illustration is uber-cool, click here know more about the illustrator.

P.P.S: Hubby health update: On the road to recovery, should be A-OK very soon. Hubby says, please make sure your kids get it when young. XX

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

These are some of my favourite peeps!

Do you remember those emails better known as "forwards" that did the rounds in the past, educating you on traits of a Delhite, socialite, Keralite, a pure delight or an absolute shite. I thought of making up a list of mine. I decided to list markers to identify those friends who are for keeps. The data has been gathered through several personal and not-to-so personal experience over the last few years. Of course I will not go viral with these and put them up in my personal space instead. So here goes…

A good friend, according to me, is one who*:

… picks up a conversation from where you left it last, whether it yesterday or two years ago.

… who doesn’t hold you down in the name of friendship when she knows that letting you go is best for both of you

… who tries to be friends with your husband/wife

… knows exactly where to take you out to eat when down in the dumps is the highest you have been in the past few days

… helps keep the peace when everyone around you is going mad at your wedding

… tells you to suck it up if she/he thinks that all your cribbing is doing you no good

… who is sensible enough to distinguish that you are separate from the crap her boyfriend brings in to her life

… believes age is just a number

… pays a sincere compliment by lapping up half a litre of sambar you prepared

… reads your blog without you begging him to

… eats a burnt omelette you prepared, without a murmur

… keeps his/her sorrow aside to help you cope with yours

… lets you share her burden

… has the balls to apologise for being a jerk many moons ago

… has the grace to accept your apology for the time you let him down

… doesn’t rub her singledom in your face

… is neither jealous of you marital status nor pities it

… who eggs you on to follow your dream, whether tiny or ambitious

… who inspires you

… accepts you for who you are, quirks, oddities, neurosis, redeeming qualities alike

… never says “I told you so”

… doesn’t hide his true self from you

…saves your toothbrush that you left at her place by mistake, for you to use the next time you visit to escape a rainy day

It doesn’t matter if you don’t forward this to twenty people or don’t ring/mail me to tell me how much this means to you. All I care is that you were there when it was necessary and were away when necessary and will always be special to me.

* these are in random order

P.S: A good friend is also one who gives you lovely artwork to adorn your blog with!!! :D

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Housewives, beggars: same difference

It's not me, it's the Indian government which says this. Don't believe me? Check out the 2001 census report or this news report if you are more inclined to the pithy bits.

Ever since I read this, I have been itching to say my piece. And I did, only this time it was at
The NRI, an online magazine dedicated to the vast and diverse international community of Indians residing outside of India.

An excerpt from my guest post:

The government of India’s 2001 Census, according to this news report, considers housewives, or home-makers if you prefer, to be economically non-productive workers, and by this virtue categorises them with prostitutes, beggars and prisoners.

I will give you a moment to let that sink in.

The first time I read it, my hackles rose. I agreed with the Supreme Court’s observation that it was “callous” and “insensitive”. But when I calmed down I realized that the census report merely reflected what the general perception of non-professional women.

A majority, men and women, believes that those who choose to run a house hold have “wasted” their lives away which all about lounging around the house, watching telly and cooking the odd meal or two. The impression is that these women have unlimited free time with nothing to productive to do.

For more, please visit the-nri-here.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Much labelled me!

I recently was inspired to label my spice rack. As I stacked the jars, I got thinking about labels in general, how in life we get painted a certain hue ourselves. Short, dark, fat, thin, shy, south Indian, north Indian, uppity, good, bad, and so the list goes. I understand this makes slotting easy, case in point the spice rack exercise, but when applied to people it just makes for a mess, an anti-thesis of the labelling effort in the first place, which is to demystify and make comprehension easy. However, it is anything but easy; all I have seen it lead to is numerous assumptions and misunderstandings. You remember those old hindi movies about anglo-Indians where it was assumed all these people were jolly drunkards who had buxom wives and whose daughters wore skimpy clothes. Hated that; how could one not?

I have been fighting the battle against labelling myself, from very early on. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a single child, so two labels that I got stamped with early on were of being spoilt and pampered. Then came the issue of my cultural identity. Born to a Sikh father and a Malayali mother, living in the north Indian of all cities (read Delhi) with grandparents who came from across the border, no wonder the “cultural” aspect of me was such a mystery. Not to me of course. I remember once answering the question of “So what are you?” with my entire family history and ended with “So what do you think I am”.

Following close on heels of this thriller was the question of what religion I was. “Confused” is what a friend’s mother appraised me was my status as we chatted over lunch. Her assumption made on my statement that I followed the tenets of both Christianity and Sikhism. I wonder what would her analysis be if I were to tell her for me all religions are as sacred and I make the best of what I learn. But I resisted the temptation.

But my favourite pet peeve of all times is when people assume that I am an arrogant bitch who thinks she is better than all. This label too was stuck on me right in school. To be fair I never really bothered with it, because then I could pick and choose friends, not because I was a snob but because I was painfully shy. But my silence or picky ways were thought to be a sign of inherent snobbery. Till date there are folks who think I need to get off the high horse. Never has anyone bothered to scratch the surface and find out more. Ah well.

There are many more boxes I have been tried to be fit into and the struggle to not conform continues. My very obvious problem with all this categorisation is that these are made on assumptions, and usually for the worse. Propagated over a period of time, these assumptions became reality in the labeller’s mind, the reality of the labelled’s personality. Is it laziness or arrogance that they couldn’t be bothered to find out just a bit more about the person who was so quickly categorised under a head. And then recycle this perception when another bloke from a similar background comes along.

For example, I had a friend from Delhi who went to a prestigious med school down south in the country. For one year, she was made to go through hell and back, only because everyone assumed she was from Delhi and based on that virtue, she was one who needed to be brought down a notch. Not because she behaved like a snob but because they believed she would be one since after all she was from Delhi.

While I agree that there are traits that certain sections of the society have, there is a lot be said about individual personalities. It’s OK to have reference points when dealing with another culture or background but to assume that there’s nothing more to a person but these is a limiting thought process.

I have found that by resting one’s case on these notions robs one of many interesting insights, maybe of a culture or of a life lesson, of experiences or maybe even an opportunity to gain a friend or a well-wisher. Giving somebody the benefit of doubt never made someone a smaller person. In fact, it is the beginning of evolution, of our mind and our personality.

P.S. Today’s post is extra special because the illustration going with it is by a great friend and brilliant artist: RoopaBee. There’ll be many more illustrations by her on the blog. So watch this space!

Friday, 30 July 2010

My way or the highway

I love my husband. Did I ever tell you that? No?! Oh dear. So here I go saying it (again) I love my husband. He is one man who has utter and pure confidence in my abilities! There is nothing that I can do right (well that’s an exaggeration) Let’s rephrase that. He believes that ANYTHING that goes wrong, I am the reason behind it!

Socks missing: my fault. He forgot to turn the hob off when he was cooking rice: my fault, because I should have reminded him. My computer’s screen broke (because he fell one it): my fault, I should have shut the flap; Rains failed in Rajastahan, I was to balme, no rubber was tapped in Kerala… you get it, right. So supreme is his confidence in my abilities to wreak havoc that his mental faculties get too clouded to accept the obvious.

But this one is my favourite. Not too long ago we moved into a new apartment. It came with all fittings and appliances. Along with it also came an unfathomable washing machine. After many a trial and error and three laundry disasters later we finally figured it out. It was during one of those washing emergencies we clashed. I thought I had fixed the bloody contraption and we had with us a clean load; while he pointed out that it wasn’t so. Evidence: his (torn) jeans which still had muddy stains on them. With incriminating evidence in front of me, I acquiesced that it did seem to be the case and came to the conclusion that the machine was still acting up.

Now anyone would thing matters ended there, but NO. Patidev suggested that I had forgotten to put the piece of clothing in the machine. I calmly replied that such wasn’t the case. I got a smirk for a reply. Now any man who’s observed women long enough would know that a SMIRK goes a long way in fanning very negative passions in the most calm of matronly souls. And I am but one!

With many a suppressed emotions, I reiterated that the confounded pair had indeed seen the inside of the washing machine and due to mechanical malfunction of the latter came out unwashed. Again, anyone in their right minds, would let it go. But not my warrior prince from the jungles of central Travancore.

Cutting a long story short and blazing row ensued. As again, I was held blameworthy, while the blasted washing machine escaped unscathed!

Most times when there is peace, there is perfect understanding. Till of course comes the next fight. In those times, tails he wins, heads I lose (literally as well!). Imagine being stuck in this conundrum when you have grown up in a house where you were accused of assuming you were always right! Gosh that takes for a lot of adjusting.

The hubby for all this darling ways, like I proved, is convinced that I am mostly wrong, on some rare occasions, when I am not wrong we are both right. Every time I get stuck in this conundrum I think of The Box. Before you think that some metaphysical lecture that is coming your way, relax. It is a movie that I am talking of. The film held much promise and delivered as far as I was concerned but others disagreed ("others" being the husband), which is surprising and I will tell you why. If you took off the science-fiction and psychological garb off it, the plot was fairly simple. Women cause trouble!

Given his predisposition of presenting me with the blame, this should have been his favourite movie! Which it isn’t and oh yes, I was blamed for choosing it :/

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A very very happy Unbirthday!

If I ever have kids, I will have to put a reminder (with a loud alarm) of their birthdays on my mobile. ‘casue I don’t think they will be very happy if mommy baked them a birthday cake two weeks too late!

You might have noticed that the blog wears a new look and that was what I had intended for marking the one year anniversary of blog writing, which incidentally was a fortnight back, while in my head it was supposed to be today!

Then again, better late than never, I say! But as it is not really a birthday, birthday: Here's to a happy unbirthday to ME!

I can’t believe it’s been a year that I started Livin’ la vida sofa. This blog, may I tell you, is one of those very rare endeavours that I have persevered with! It was one frustrating Monday when I sat cribbing to a friend about my predicament of empty days. He asked me to give blogging a shot. “No harm in trying,” I thought and that was one of the most productive thoughts that I dared to act upon.

From being a time pass, it went on to become a stress buster. It proved to be an excellent life-coping device (imagine the thousands it made me save on counselling!) to a way of connecting with some lovely and interesting people, who were kind enough to lend me their support and attention. They made me feel very good about myself, which came in quite handy on the days I was low and believe me there were some very very low moments. To you I extend heartfelt gratitude.

Hmmm… this has started to sound like an Oscar award speech. But WTH, it IS my blog and I can pretty much do what I feel like, right?

So here goes! I would like to thank my husband who featured prominently in quite a few entries and brought about quite a few laughs. Thank you LS for egging me on to write and SGK for being a source of inspiration; readers who keep coming back to mrsquote, those who leave kind notes behind and also the ones who come and leave silently. I hope you enjoyed your time here and hope you continue to return.

I hope to regale you with more as we go along. But right now it is back to the kitchen and to dinner that is waiting to be cooked, to the dishes that need to be washed and to the husband who continues to snore! Life is good!

XX

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

'One'derkind

I am the only child of my parents.

Based on this fact, do you think I am

a) a lonely person

b) spoilt

c) selfish

d) all of the above

e) none of the above

If you chose a, b or c, shame on you.

If you are someone who thought there is too little data to go by to form an opinion then there is hope yet..

In all my 29 years I have been subjected to sentiments like, “Oh it must have been lonely” or “”lucky you” or “how boring”; subjected to an assumption that I must have been a brat; to the very recent “V’s got a lottery” and the one I have grown to hate, which is “you won’t understand this (inter-sibling quarrel, love, equation, what have you) as you have no brothers or sisters”.

The only one that they got right was that I was indeed lucky and no it was never boring. I had my friends and cousins to fill my time and the times I was by myself, I could be a pilot, an actress, a super heroine, a doctor, what ever caught my fancy, an exercise that helped in many a quarter, professional and personal! Oh and I still have my imaginary friend who lends an ear to all my rants and aspirations. And no move has been made to commit me.

As far as I remember, for the longest time I was the only single child among my friends and classmates. For me it was something that set me apart, something I was mighty pleased about; for some parents I could well have been a social evil in the making. This single child prejudice went as far as ensuring that I did not get admission in a “prestigious” catholic school in Delhi. The then principal assumed as most other grown ups did, since I was the only child, I was spoilt rotten by my parents (couple that up with being from Delhi and a kid of working parents, no wonder the odds were stacked against me).

And while I trapezed through my childhood blithely unaware of how my single status was breaking traditional norms, my folks too parried nosey comments and unsolicited advice. One instance which stays firmly etched in my memory is how one well meaning(sic) elderly gentleman at some family function spent 15 min trying to explain to my father how it was necessary to have more than one kid and threw in the male child necessity for good measure. Dad being dad stuck to his guns and smiled beatifically at this person and ignored him for the rest of the day. Oh and did I mention I was standing right next to them, all of ten. And so proud of dad. From then onwards, I have always wondered about this single child conundrum.

I grew up perfectly happy, with the usual growth pangs as any multi-siblinged kid. I was as well settled or maladjusted as those with brothers and sisters.

But never never did the status quo of being the only progeny bothered me. It still doesn’t but yes does get my goat when people naturally assume that I am emotionally stunted when it comes to sibling relations. I want to know what more do you learn emotionally or otherwise from this association that you can’t learn from the bond you share with your parents, or friends or cousins or grandparents. My family taught me to be generous, to be loving, to share, to be emotionally strong, to be kind, to be responsible, to be courageous, to be considerate and to be proud of who I am. And I fail to understand what blanks would a sibling have filled.

I have heard of people going in for a second child, to discipline the first one. But hang on a second, isn’t that what the parent is supposed to do? Yes being a only child comes with responsibilities, but doesn’t that hold true for all progeny, what ever the number of siblings be?

I am not saying couples should stick to a one kid policy, but in case for some reason they have to, voluntarily or otherwise, they should not feel that they are depriving their child of anything. It would all depend on what kind of parents they choose to be.

There, I have said my piece.

Friday, 2 July 2010

What women want... go figure

Disclaimer: This entry is poking fun at one and all, author included.

“Ah the strength of women comes from the fact that psychology can't explain us. Men can be analysed, women... merely adored.” Mrs. Cheveley in An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

Twist it which way I want, I still find myself agreeing with this statement. For once I can see men agreeing with me, at least in some part. You know what I am talking about. The usual male lament : I can’t understand women. Guess who symapthises with you. I do.

Yes, I confess, I concur with you. We are not easy to understand. Of course it is doubly difficult for men because you are all (almost all) ill-equipped to handle such intelligence. But nonetheless, I feel for you.

So if you are a man who always wanted know why your wife throws a fit every time you leave your trousers on the floor or who was threatened with bloody murder when he conveniently forgot to take the trash out or was sent scrambling for cover when he thoughtfully gifted her that beautiful piece of jewellery instead of that promised candle-lit dinner, or in other words if you are a man involved with a woman, or woman married to a man, read on. It won’t give you any answers, maybe a chuckle or two and hopefully something to think about.

So where was I? Oh yes, I was saying I don’t blame men for their lack of comprehension of their better halves (There is a reason for this nomenclature by the way). Because the fact is that they can’t. They will have to basically exchange their testosterone for the molotov cocktail that is oestrogen and progesterone to gain an insight. (Before the feminists start baying for my blood for calling women creatures of hormones; let me clarify, I meant to say that a man will have to be a woman to understand another woman. That’s all, calm down.)

And those funny instructional manuals doing the rounds of cyberspace: I hate to admit it, some of them do contain a grain of truth. Even then, they lead you to some how-tos, but never the whys. And men being men, never try to look beyond the obvious and being tunnel-visioned can only focus on the face value, quite forgetting there is a place value attached to their woman’s reason for behaving as she does at times.

Now being a woman I understand; having doled it out in appreciable quantities over the years and also by helping fellow divinities cope with frustrating acts of men. If a girl friend tells me that her husband/boyfriend doesn’t pick up after himself or leaves a damp towel heaped on the sofa (not once or twice but ALWAYS), she will see me nod in sympathy. Because in those innocuous statements lies a frustration that transcends laundry issues.

A man may wonder, what’s the big deal? If it were you, you would keep it where it belongs. And here in lies the irony. Have you EVER been faced with a situation where you had a damp towel staring you in the face, and if you were (the likelihood of which is slimmer than the world going kaput in 2012) chances are you would absent-mindedly sit on it, while your posterior would do what the airer could have done better.

But then men just can’t get it (not don’t, CAN’T). To be fair to them, if you look at it from a “practical” perspective” (a phrase the one I am married to loves using), one just needs to hang the bloody towel to solve the problem. But what they don’t get is that in refusing to pay heed to our request (it usually is, no matter what you men say!) they send out a message that means they don’t love us.

Now I know, those of the male species are shaking their heads and saying “they are all the same” and the women are nodding in agreement. Whether you like it or not, that's how women do think. We do tend to get emotional about things like dishes not washed or clothes not put in their right places. It is perhaps even on places way above the roving eye in the list of things that send us over the edge.

And you can go ahead and tell us not to be “so emotional” and “be practical” or “not take things personally”. The fact is that the most practical of us all, will be very emotional at times and not be practical at instances because “that’s how we are programmed.” (The last bit is within quotation marks because I have been fed that goop by many a man on many an occasion.). If we pay heed to your programming needs, maybe you need to make space for us as well.

About three to four years back I was encouraged by a friend to read Men are from Mars and women are from venus to gain a better understanding of the man-woman relationship. “What poppycock” I remember thinking and refused to bother with it. Global phenomenon notwithstanding, I was of the opinion that such literature was a waste of time, an excuse used by those who were just too selfish to put in hard work in relationships and used the excuse to justify their laziness.

Four years later with a marriage to boot, I wonder if I should pick it up and at least take a look at what the author had to say. For while I haven’t read it, I wonder if it concurs with my understanding of the co-existence of the sexes. For you see in the last one year or so I have realised that if any married couple, no matter how happy with each other were at loggerheads, it wasn’t just because they had differing personalities, it was because he was a MAN and she a WOMAN.

But for those like me who loathe to read these so called self help books and the like, you can skip the 300-odd page tome and listen to Billy Joel for 3-4 minutes instead. For when he tells you that “she can ask for the truth and never believe it or she never gives in or gives out… she just changes her mind,” he is somewhere close to the vicinity of facts about women.

Going back to where I started… Men can be analysed, women merely adored.