Monday, December 14, 2009

Since you left...

I could feel that glitter in your eyes…
When we changed continents to start afresh.
I know you are full of wonder…
At the new places we see…the new lives we live.

I know you watched me misty-eyed…
When I tied the knot and said my vows.
I know you blessed us heartily…
When we bowed before you that day.


I could sense your eyes widen with joy…
When Rai was born…and then Rio.
I can feel you stealing a smile…
When Rai recites a poem…and Rio breaks a toy.


I know your heart beamed with pride…
The first day I went to work.
Was it a different kind of pride?
When you saw me at my college awards?

I know you are amazed…
That didi is no longer skinny.
I know you are happy…
That your child is now a mommy.

I know you look after Ma…
As you said you would in your wedding vows.
She misses you for sure...
But you have made sure she is fine.

A lot has happened since you left…
Though it seems like just the other day.
But I know you have been watching over us all…
Then…before then…and always since then.

For Baba, who isn’t there in these happy photographs but has never really left our side.


Date:14.12.09 (8 years since you left)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

All's not-well when it ends not-well.

The drive to work every morning follows the usual pattern of: cursing weekdays, yawns, coffee in my thermos, mints after the coffee, lipstick after the mints and the radio all through. Since I am not much of a newspaper person these days (never was, actually), my only dose of world affairs is the morning radio. Most often it is about another shark bite or skin cancer, but occasionally there is word about wardrobe malfunctions or celebrity separations. I never really take the news to heart…and my heart doesn’t wake up that early anyway.

But it did, last week.

After the familiar voice narrated all the familiar things, it mentioned something that jerked me out of my morning fuzzes. Apparently, there were 60 dead bodies in the Royal Perth Hospital that hadn’t been claimed over the last 8 weeks. There was growing concern among the hospital authorities on the cost, time and effort that would be necessary for the burial of these bodies, if none of the families came forward to take responsibility of the last rites. Authorities also reported that each year the number of unclaimed dead bodies was on the rise. There was reason to believe that families often abandoned the bodies of their relatives/friends as the cost of a funeral was far beyond what an average Australian family could afford. The Global Financial Crisis and unemployment had found yet another manifestation.

Shocked, angry, confused and mostly sad, I couldn’t help but think that in spite of all the progress and development that our generation takes credit for, the human race was getting farther away from being “humane”. Researchers have found burial grounds of Neanderthal man dating to 60,000 BC with animal antlers on the body and flower fragments next to the corpse indicating some type of ritual and gifts of remembrance. And here we are in the 21st century, abandoning our loved ones because “they wouldn’t know, anyway”.

And suddenly those annoying advertisements that urged everyone to get a funeral cover made so much sense: Naturally you don’t want to burden your family and loved ones with outstanding bills and funeral expenses if you were to pass away. With Funeral Expenses Insurance you can help make life easier for your family and loved ones should the worst happen to you.

The worst has happened I think. Not so much the death…but the life that is so helpless or selfish.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Survival of the Fattest – Grand Opening


Dear Readers,
Today is a special day. I introduce to you, my very own blog-serial called Survival of the Fattest. Through it I will share with you, on a regular basis, the joys of being on the wrong side of the weighing scale. Enough has been written on how good it feels to be slim and trim. Time for a different perspective.
Love,
Scribbler


Today's fat fact -
Fat fact 1: A big tummy won't let you paint your own toe nails.
But it doesn't let you see your own toe nails either, when you are standing straight. One less thing to think about. Imagine all the great things you could do with the extra time. Save the planet, perhaps?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

December better hurry up!

I am so impressed with myself that you can safely avoid me for a while (I am basking in self-glory and my mind is filled with the two letter word that starts with M and ends with E).
Why?

Because I have done the unimaginable…the unthinkable…the unconceivable…the wondrous… the miraculous…the supremocious…the marvellonious…the astoundisauraus…the amazingopottanus…the incredibleccious….the astonishormous…(Yes, I have been interacting with my dinosaur-loving, human-attacking, 2.5 yr old nephew a lot these days).

I have made patishapta. You got it right. The “pithey” that heralds winter.

It’s another story that it is the beginning of summer in Australia…and it’s getting harder every day to eat anything at all, leave aside “pithey”.
Anyway, I wouldn’t let that take away any bit of my glory. I made patishapta…and it is a superb achievement from a kitchen-phobic like me.

I have been desperately waiting for December (that’s when my family comes to visit me…and I can take a long break), right from January this year. Now that it is almost here, I could wait no longer. I thought about all things that I associate with December…the woolens, the monkey cap, the school holidays, the socks and stockings, the bare trees, the cracked feet, the Nivea cold cream, the Christmas lights at Park Street and of course…pithey. Since it would be almost suicidal to wear a monkey cap during peak summer in Australia…or cover myself in cold cream, I reckoned that the only thing I could do to make December hurry up was to make “pithey”.

So I did.

The raw materials:

The process:

The outcome:


Now, December better hurry up.

P.S. If you are wondering that some chef has hacked my blog account and is posting cooking-related posts one after the other, let me assure you that my blog account hasn’t been compromised. I am just in a rare form. And no, I don’t have multiple personality disorder either. I still hate cooking.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Alarm-ed!

The other day, my mobile started beeping in an unfamiliar way. I hopped off the lounge to answer it. It wasn’t a call though; it was apparently an alarm I had set. Intrigued, I checked the details of the alarm and this is exactly what it said:

“Cut nails”

Amused, puzzled (as I could swear I never set an alarm on my mobile…leave alone such a weird one), a little scared, and slightly drunk (was after a couple of vodkas), I showed it to Amit.

With a robot-face, he said “What is so confusing in this? You just picked up the wrong mobile. This is my mobile and that is my reminder.”

What kind of person sets mobile alerts for “cutting nails”!!! What’s next?
A mobile reminder for “Kiss wife”?

Who am I married to? Should I be scared?

P.S. Apparently, he had set the reminder the day before his cricket practice because longish nails tend to hurt when he is fielding. I still haven’t recovered from the shock.

Condolences, assurances and words of hope are welcome.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The way to a man’s heart is through Amritsar…

Friday afternoon. Working from home. Yawn after yawn. Bored. A noisy insect buzzing in the living room and singing me a lullaby.

But I can’t afford to fall asleep. Have work to finish. And a hungry, tired husband to feed dinner.

Crawl to the freezer. A packet of frozen chillies, quarter packet of frozen corn, half a tub of cookie cream ice-cream, some frozen grated coconut, and half a packet of frozen Basa fillets. Great! Unless the husband eats some ice-cream with corn, chillies and grated coconut…there is nothing for the non-fisheaterian man.

Or is there?

Remember reading somewhere that even the fish-haters can’t say no to “Fish Amritsari”. Crawl back to the laptop. Go to the agony aunt called Google. Browse though a few recipes. And woo-hoo….I am back in business!

I have all the ingredients I need to make Fish Amritsari (how very strange!).

So I marinate the fish:


And fry them:



And this is what the happy husband looks like:


P.S. Considering how much I dislike cooking, I never thought I would ever have a kitchen post on my blog. But I underestimated the power of boredom.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Once upon a bus ride...

If you have ever taken a public transport on a week day, around afternoon or late morning, am sure you were struck by a lightening of some sort. Here is the story of my (en)lightening.

I had a doctor’s appointment today and had to head straight back to office after that. I was to take a bus to the bus port…from where I had to take another bus to my office (not the best use of my time…but can’t complain…it was ME who had been putting off driving lessons for so long).
By the way, those of you have been asking me how my driving is going:
• I have taken 8 classes as of today and I haven’t killed anyone…injured a car or two, including ours.
• I have decided that I will keep taking classes till I successfully pay off my instructor’s mortgage.
• I have also realised that when I finally get a licence, am not going to need it that much. Retirement homes usually have their own transport.

Anyway, coming back to my public transport story, I must say that the simple exercise of taking a bus filled me with the strangest thoughts. At that time of the day on a week day, the busses are filled with people who are either too old to work….or too young. I happened to sit beside an old lady wearing a hearing aid, clutching her walking stick and her shopping bags, casting furtive and even suspicious glances at me, as if I would snatch her bags or her hearing aid and run away. She looked scared, insecure, and uncomfortable to say the least. Does old age do that to every one?

Her life floated in front of my eyes…
Living alone in an old house, with a little dog perhaps, a little garden, a refrigerator full of easy to chew and easy to digest food, a variety of medicines on the bedside table, a reading glass on her coffee table, a glass jar in the window sill that holds her dentures at night. Grocery shopping is a weekly affair, mainly vegetables and soup, as the doctor had prescribed. The young boy at the pharmacy is friendly and helpful…delivers her weekly medicines for diabetes and blood pressure, and enjoys a nice cup of tea and two biscuits in return. The children don’t visit that often now. The elder son is a truck driver and drives to faraway lands…the younger son visits only when he needs to borrow a little money…who else will a son go to? The daughter visits once in three months and brings the grandchildren too. Jeez! How fast they are growing up. If their grandfather was around, he would have taken them for picnics and fishing…but it’s better that he left. The kidney failure was too much to bear.

The driver braked suddenly, and my thoughts jumped back into the bus. The old lady was as uncomfortable as before. I wanted to hold her hand and say “It’s alright…I have seen your house, your dog, your children…even met the pharmacy boy. I know you. Relax, don’t be scared.” But that would scare her even more. So I pressed mute on my vocal cords.

Opposite to me was a young girl with her nails painted fluorescent pink. From the speed at which her fingers moved on the cell phone to type out a text message or perhaps play a game, I guessed she was in her teens (that would explain the nail colour as well). Her hair was a mess and I am sure she would have taken it as a compliment if I told her so. It was probably the reaction she expected and wanted from a fat, old-fashioned, on-the-wrong-side-of-her-twenties woman like me. It would be pretty uncool for her to have a hairstyle that I found cool. She chewed a gum with the aggression of an Australian fast-bowler. Her fluorescent pink iPod played some noise that was loud enough for me to hear, despite the earphones. Again, she would be happy to know that what was music for her, was noise for me.

What was life like for her?
She must have hated school, and hated homework even more. The only saving grace was that she hung out with the hippest girl gang in school…the group that every girl aspired to be in…the group that was mean and smart and ruthless and sexy and adventurous and not afraid of the teachers or the parents. The group that was chased by the coolest boys…the group that always knew what to do, say, wear, eat, chew, paint, colour, pierce, listen to, in order to keep the rest of the school gawking. Mom and Dad were too busy to notice the secret stash of vodka and cigarettes in her room. When the girl gang had one of the wild pajama parties at her place, she would make them the most intoxicating drink…the one that her ex-boyfriend who was a bartender at a night club for backpackers, had taught her. Presently, she is single…though Rob and Dennis both text her 45 times a day, so it’s almost like being with two boys at the same time. Studying wouldn’t do her any good she decided…she was to become a rock star some day and the old guitar in her room believed in her, if no one else did. Life was kinda fun…school camps were great, and the weekends were great too, when Mom and Dad were away. The little sister is a pain in the butt…knocking her room every minute and totally destroying her privacy. She doesn’t read much, though she really did enjoy the Twilight series a lot. Edward Cullen was just the right guy for her, she thought.

As if it was the intermission of an interesting movie, my mind floated back to the present. I was perplexed and even annoyed at myself…that I had done what I always championed against…that is, I had stereo typed people from their appearances. But this was not the time for self-criticism. I was struck by a lightening…one that was a strange mix of gratitude and haste. I realized that I may be living the best years of my life. I wouldn’t swap places with either of the two ladies I had observed in the bus. I ought to be grateful for the life I had NOW…for my present…which may be boring, and often lonely and unadventurous…maybe slightly typical even…and definitely a lot overweight. But this was indeed the best years of my life! I wouldn’t rewind to teenage (can’t bear the thought of acne and the confusion over my body “growing up” all over again)…and would definitely not look forward to a life with my dog and dentures.

That was it! That was such a great feeling…almost like a rebirth. I had suddenly arrived in life and couldn’t help smiling my broadest smile (I noticed the old lady held her bags even more tightly…the obese smiling-to-herself lunatic must be up to something, she must have thought).

Thanking both the ladies profusely for enlightening me such (in my mind of course), I got down at the bus port. Life couldn’t get better, I realized (touch wood) and I hurried up to make the most of it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Peyaj Koli


My first post in Bengali. Those of you thought that nothing could get worse than my English, time for a rain-check.

Inspired by the only vegetable that a carnivore like me doesn't mind eating...once in a while.

Peyaj koli ami tarei boli,
Khete jare lage na mondo.
Halka shobuj boron jar,
Ar peyaj peyaj gondho.

Shobji rajjey “tuchcho” jey,
Alu raja…ar proja shey.
Phoolkopir moto roop oshi shey noy,
Gooney begun-o koreche tar joy.

Peyaj tar pishtuto bhai,
Jodio tader khub meel nai.
Kheyeche shobai, tobu gaye ni keu tar goon,
Jodio radhte lage shudhu kalo jeera ar noon.

Peyaj koli ami tarei boli,
Amar fridge e ekaki shobuj jey.
Radhte shohoj, khete khasha,
Amar priyo shobji shey.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fat-so?

Many many kilos ago, there lived a little girl, in the little land of Bongs.
It was Me.

[Though, for those who have had the misfortune of seeing me lately, I understand that it’s difficult to think of me as ever being “little”. My heartfelt apologies for anybody who went back home and dieted/exercised on my behalf. I sincerely hope you have overcome the trauma.]

Anyway, going back many many years when I hadn't taken up the challenge of outdoing the weighing scale, I don’t really see a different “Me”. I mean, I am essentially the same person…just hiding behind layers of adipose…and smiling above the third chin I am blessed with (Oh! What generosity from the God of Adipose).

Though I “see” myself as the same, it’s interesting to note how people’s comments to/on me have changed with the years (kilos).
Sample this:
Earlier
People – Why are you decked up so much? Who are you trying to impress?
Me – Umm…haven’t made the list yet.
Now
People – You look so sweet and cuddly.
Me – Thanks, you said the same thing when you saw my neighbour’s overfed dog.
Earlier
People – You look taller. Are you wearing heels?
Me – Yes I am. It’s quite warm today, so I thought it would be cooler up here.
Now
People – Why are you hugging your saree pallu in every snap? Are you pregnant?
Me – No, just my tummy. Thanks for asking.

When I hear about my friends being on diets (friends who are half my weight) or my fit-and-frisky colleagues going for a run at lunch time, I wonder:
Is there more wrong with me than my weight?

Why don’t my hands fumble when I generously butter my toasts in the morning?
Why don’t I ever stop at the salad or fresh fruits section at the supermarket?
Why do I confidently ask for two sugars in my cappuccino, where all my friends go for a skinny flat white?
Why do I wait for Amit to pick me up when the shopping centre is just a km away from home? (I even complain if he doesn't manage to get the nearest parking)
Why don’t I ever read the calorie information of the food (junk )I buy ?
Why can’t I ever think of a salad as a proper meal? Or a tasty option?
Why don’t I feel ashamed to ask for a size XL when I am out shopping for Tees?
Why do I change the TV channel when they say “1 out of every 2 Australian is obese. Obesity increases your risk of many heart diseases ” ?
Why do I eat the fourth scoop of ice cream without a jitter?
Why does the mirror never make me think of suicide? Or at least a gym?
Why do I love telling my sister that my picture files are too “heavy” to be sent to her?
Why don't the pictures of my slim-and-sexy friends on orkut/facebook intimidate/inspire me?

Is this "I-know-exercise-is-not-for-me" excuse good enough?
Is this “I-don’t-care-how-I-look” attitude normal?
Is this “I-know-diets-don’t-help” perspective a kind of escapism?

There is more wrong with me than my weight.
[sigh]
I think I need therapy.

But for now, a brownie would do.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Me" - time



Socialising is the greatest form of masochism. You put time, effort and money into meeting new people or catching up with old acquaintances…and then let these very people steal your peace of mind, increase your stress level and leave you disgusted.

The one thing that I really want to be is:
“Self-motivated to be happy” (as one of my wisest friends, Sus di puts it)

As each day goes by, I realise how badly I need to master, or at least acquire this skill. At the moment, I am far from it…depending on “external factors” for my daily dose of happiness.

Friendless, in a far-away land that has offered very few like-minded people, I absolutely MUST learn to be happy alone.

Wish I could be happy in my own company (which is hard…because I am quite boring unless drunk)

Wish I did not need "people" to talk to(I could talk to the trees or insects in my garden and am sure they would reciprocate better)

Wish I had as much fun reading a book or watching a movie as I do when I am with friends (which would also help build that dream library I want so badly)

Wish I did not need to call a hundred people in India to feel good (which would save a lot of money too)

Wish I wouldn’t let random comments from random people affect my peace of mind (which would let me concentrate on other more important things like cloud-watching or cleaning the toilet)

If only I could start enjoying the “me” time, I would be so much closer to the person I want to be.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Aroma therapy

If I could have perfumes specially made for me, I would order these:

Pujo-pujo smell

Ma-ma smell

Bari-bari smell

Kolkata-kolkata smell

Hill station- hill station smell

Brishti-brishti smell

Lazy Sunday afternoon smell

Summer holiday smell

Shiraz Biriyani smell

Bikel-bela-tele-bhaja-and-cha smell

Holi’r abir smell

Bedwin mutton roll smell

Sea-side smell (not the stinking fish types…but the fresh cool breeze types)

P.S. I wouldn’t really “wear” these (I don’t have too many friends here, anyway…and I have to keep my job too). Would just smell them occasionally, according to my mood. I am particularly missing the first one now :(

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Home is where the familiar “smell” is.

I never quite understood the romanticism/obsession about a “house”, though it has been the bricks of some great literature. It could be a menacing backdrop, as in Pinter’s The Room or a symbol of “purpose in life” as in Naipaul’s A house for Mr Biswas. Whatever it was, I never quite connected with it, till I visited my “home” two years back…after ages.

Opening the rusty lock, I entered a house full of dusty memories. Having been deserted for quite a few years, the smell of “dust” was beginning to overpower the smell of “home” that I so longed for. Fighting the cobwebs that hung from the ceiling, I tried to concentrate. The sofa that was also a clever little spare bed for cousins who stayed back the night had been specially designed by Baba. I removed the batik-printed bed cover from it (covered by Ma, to protect it from dust), to see if the colour was still what I remembered it to be. It was…only slightly faded.

The pegs on the wall smiled a strange naked smile. The paintings and photographs of friends and family had been dismounted when Ma went away to stay with Didi. They are kept somewhere safe in the cupboards, I think…but the walls look bruised without them.

The book-shelves in my room had also been wrapped up in a floral printed bed cover that I remember on the beds where I sat to do homework. The books were still there…neither Didi nor I could carry them all to our new cities. I picked up the Byomkesh Bakshi : Collection that Mama had given me when I did well in college. The second page had that beautiful handwriting, almost like calligraphy:
Dear Tuli,
May you enjoy the “search” as much as you enjoy the “find”.
Blessings,
Mama


The pujo place, which was actually a shelf converted to a place of worship, was empty. Ma had carried the Gods that she could…and the rest were sent to Mamabari, for regular “jol, batasha and dhoop kathi”. What remained was an old brass dhoop-kathi stand, which didn’t seem to find a new home and lay there all alone. I tried hard again to remember the smell of the incense sticks that Ma used…a chandan one, I think. But the cobwebs distracted me again.

Desperate for some fresh air, I went to the balcony. There were a few pots still, but no plants. Ma had given away most of her potted plants to neighbours and family. She could have left at least the old cactus behind, which always reminded me to a toothless, hairless old man. Cacti don’t need water or care, so am sure it would have survived. But no. She left all her loved ones, with some other loved ones.

I plugged in the old tape recorder that Didi and me had bought with our saved money (years later, we came to know that Baba had to pool in 90%, as our savings could buy us a few cassettes, not a whole cassette player. But we always thought it was “our” hard-saved money…and when Baba asked us to lower the volume, we sometimes told him that we won’t because it was OURS and we could do what we wanted with it.). Luckily, there was a cassette in it “Cliff Richards: Young Ones.” Half expecting the player to crash at my touch, I pressed the Play button.

And to my surprise, the magic voice started singing, low but clear. Clearing away the cobwebs from my home and from my memories, the music brought that familiar “smell” back.

Inspired by a recent conversation with a friend who is also visiting her home after ages.

My home on GoogleMaps:
http://wikimapia.org/435296/Aelite-Housing-Soceity-3-Bidhan-Sishu-Sarani-Kol-700-054

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Therapy for a bad day...

It’s one of those days when suicide seems to be the best option…or murder.

And anybody who asks you to “take it easy” or “take a few deep breaths” reserves a place in your serial-killing victims list (an Excel sheet with no colours but grey).

So here’s an exercise for world peace. Am trying to think of all things I want, badly want:

A tree house where I can vanish…and simply disappear



A hammock in my backyard that overlooks the sea



A massage that just goes on and on …and on…and on



A sunny window sill where I can read, day dream and doze off



Is it too much to ask for?

Images - Gracias, Google
Acknowledgements - Gracias, Debanjana. I remember one of your posts on these lines.

The Mythical Land of "Maike"...

I have no doubt that most women today are more privileged than their counterparts from the black-and-white days. No getting married when you would rather go for school camps….no being thrown into the fire when a granddad of a husband takes off for the other world….no being mistaken for firewood by a dowry-greedy mother-in-law…no becoming mothers when you would rather be a kid yourself.

Having said that, I think the women today are deprived of a rather cool privilege. That of rushing off to the “maike” (parents’ place) when they got angry with the husband. It must have been so liberating! One had so many options to choose from:

Light anger – Don’t talk till forgiveness is asked for.

Medium anger – Have a war of words…cry a little…and threaten to go away to your “maike” till the opponent is moved to the golden words of “I am sorry.”

Heavy anger – Cry a lot…pack your clothes (don’t forget the novel you have been planning to read for a while) …walk out of the young man’s house…to walk into the old man’s house (who is always happy to see you, no matter what).

And then, life would be such a party! Eat and sleep and chat and read…and do what you want to do, while closely monitoring the number of times the husband calls in a day (of course you have given out strict instructions that the phone should not be passed to you, no matter what). And when you are sure that he has suffered/felt guilty enough…give him the chance to say “Sorry” or “Please come back home” or “I miss you”. Cry a tear or two to prove once again that “You were really hurt”, but say “yes” when he asks you if he should come to pick you up.

Then go back to a home where the pleasantest surprises are awaiting you. Dinner is cooked (for a change)…maybe a bunch of flowers somewhere to welcome you back home. What bliss!

There was something romantic about the whole episode, don’t you think? The parents are aware that it is only “one of those fights”, and don’t really force you to go back. The neighborhood friends pour in to ask “What exactly happened?” and you spice up the story, where obviously “he” is always at fault. And all this happens under the quiet, reassuring feeling that you will make up with him in a day or two and the two of you will live happily ever after… till the next fight.

Alas! “Maike” these days is as much a mythical place as “Kailash” or “Brindavan”.

We can fight and scream and cry and go into the “I-am-not-talking-till-you-say-sorry” mode. But we can’t rush off to the “maike”. Unless we are ready to apply for a visa, take annual leaves, buy last-moment expensive train/air tickets and travel a few thousand miles or nautical miles.

There is just no fun in marital fights anymore.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Driving FAQs

Why is “driving someone crazy” so easy while “driving a car” so difficult?

The grocer’s shop from the petrol station is 2.5 kms. Why does it feel like 0.5 kms when Amit is driving, and 250 kms when I am trying to drive? Is distance inversely proportional to driving expertise? Why didn’t they say so in our Physics books, then?

Why is it important to “indicate” even when you are practicing steering control in an empty parking bay at midnight? Why is it that nothing makes your husband angrier than when you fail to indicate (even if you have taken a good stable turn)?

Why do I act like I am colour blind at a traffic signal? I surely can tell between a red, green and yellow when I am anywhere in the car apart from the driver’s seat. Again, if colour blindness was related to your position inside the car, why didn’t they say so in the Biology books?

Why is it that I can turn “left” when I tell myself “turn left” but will always turn “right” when someone else asks me to take “left”?

Why is it that my "brain" wants to obey my driving instructor but my "hands and feet" will take instructions from nobody but me?

How many times will I have to tell myself that to indicate “left” I need to turn that thing “up”? Don’t know what it’s called…but am referring to an elongated, protruding, rounded-at-the-tip part that can move up and down and also sideways and even a gentle touch can make it move. (Now will you dirty minds stop giggling and tell me what it's called?)

Why did it take me so much time to understand that while reversing a car, the “back” of the car moves to the direction to which the steering is turned? For god’s sake, when you are “reversing”, you want the car to move “backwards” and what the “front” of your car does is none of your concern! Why couldn’t I get such a simple thing?

And most importantly…

Why don’t they have something in between the accelerator and the brakes? Am I the only one confusing the two and speeding up head-on towards incoming traffic?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Of Faux Pas and Morals - Part 2

If you haven't read part 1, here it is.

It came to me like an epiphany...
That the greatest morals...
Are born...
Out of the greatest Faux pas…

At this year’s performance appraisal, I really couldn’t think of anything that I wasn’t happy with. I liked my job, I had awesome flexibility, the pay wasn’t bad, I could work from home when I wanted to, my teammates were competent and friendly and my manager was understanding and appreciative. So I spend hours on the “What you would like to change in your role” field on the self-appraisal form. But it seemed to be quite boring to leave that field empty. So I just forced myself to put this in:

“Would like to be involved in other creative work like advertising and promotional material”

(As if I didn’t already have my plate full with technical writing!)

Anyway, my manager was delighted at the proposition and asked me to prepare this year’s advertisement for our annual conference, which is a BIG event. My brief was to promote the Training team and to get more clients to come to us for training. I was excited.

The world was getting stingy and most companies preferred to train their employees in-house rather than sending them to the expensive professional training departments. So, I decided to make use of a good statistic that I found somewhere. “In-house training costs X% more than outsourced training “(though we tend to believe just the opposite). The idea was to make companies aware that sending their employees to us for training will not only ensure better performance but would also turn out cheaper.

Toying with this idea, I thought of an analogy, which was something around these lines:

“You wouldn’t school your children at home.
Then why train your employees in-house?”

And this would be followed by the cool statistic that I had found.

I also thought of a picture of a bored kid being schooled at home by his mother, with a blackboard hung in the kitchen and the chair next to him being occupied by their pet dog.

Quite happy with the concept, I called a meeting with the key stakeholders i.e. managers of the different departments, the Business Development team and my manager, of course.
When the clock struck 10am (actually there is no clock in my office really that “strikes” with that much drama…but there is something mysterious in saying so, instead of saying “At 10 am…” Don’t you think?)…

…the meeting room looked busy. The seats were taken, the projector switched on, the first slide of my presentation up.

And I decided I would share “how” I arrived at the idea before proceeding with the idea itself.
So I said “We all have memories of our school days. Good, bad, ugly…but memories nonetheless. We may have bunked school, hated exams, faked absent notes, copied homework from friends, waited eagerly for the lunch break, wrote silly rhymes on teachers we hated, bullied the “bulliable” kid and pretended to fall sick just before a test we hadn’t studied for. But we all remember school. And no one can deny that it is a BIG influence on who we are today.”

Saying this, I presented the main slide…with the picture of the bored kid, and the text accompanying it.

After a brief silence, my manager spoke (god bless him). He said “Good work, Deblina. But there are many parents who really don’t send their children to school.”

Annoyed that such a superb concept was so casually rejected, I said “But that’s quite stupid. Why on earth would parents want to deprive their child of an experience that every child deserves? I know that some of the greatest people have never been to school…but that’s different. We don’t do that anymore. Not going to school is not an option for any of us, petty mortals.”

“Actually, I was home-schooled myself. None of my siblings went to school. And you wouldn’t say we did badly for ourselves, would you?” my manager said.

I gaped.

Moral:

  • Never ask for more work when you already have sufficient.

  • Keep your opinions to yourself. Better still, don’t have opinions

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I have sinned

A recent visit to a little church in Fremantle sparked the religious cells of my body. And I realised I was a sinner. That too of the “deadly” variety.

Gluttony
"Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.
Your punishment in Hell will be: You'll be force-fed rats, toads, and snakes."
This one’s going to take me to Hell for sure. Biriyani from Shiraz, momos from Tibetian Delight, fried rice from Lords, mutton rolls from Bedwin, gulab jamun from Haldiram’s…gosh, I have sinned. I have gulped and swallowed and eaten till I almost puked. And I don’t intend to repent or change. So Hell, keep the juiciest rats and the fattest toads ready for me.

Lust
"Lust or lechery, is usually thought of as excessive thoughts or desires of a sexual nature. Giving in to lusts can lead to sexual or sociological compulsions and/or transgressions including (but not limited to) sexual addiction, fornication, adultery, bestiality, rape, perversion, and incest.
Your punishment in Hell will be: You'll be smothered in fire and brimstone. Not kisses."
On one of my farm vacations as a child, I once pulled a cow’s tits really hard. That was when an old man (caretaker of the farm I think) had taken us (cousins and me) to the shed to show us the big cows and how they were milked. So that was really bad of me and I hope that cow can forgive me for the torture. But since I did not really rape the cow or want to have sex with it, I think I will not have to walk within the flames. Not sure, though.

Greed
"Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.
Your punishment in Hell will be: You'll be boiled alive in oil."
I exaggerated in my self- appraisal form and wrote the longest list of “Employee’s Achievements in the Financial Year 2006-2007” in order to convince my Manager that I deserved a raise. How very materialistic of me! Can I have olive oil in Hell to boil in, please? I seem to have a cholesterol problem and olive oil is all I am allowed to use. Thank you.

Sloth
"Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.
Your punishment in Hell will be: You'll be thrown into snake pits."
If Gluttony takes me to Hell, Sloth’s going to keep me there. Well, I am prepared for the snake pits …I have had my share of cooks and cleaners and gardeners and dishwashers and washing-machines and frozen meals.

Wrath
"Wrath is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury.
Your punishment in Hell will be: You'll be dismembered alive."
I don’t break flower vases or expensive pieces of china when I am angry (what a waste). But I must confess that I almost bit a piece of flesh off Amit’s palm when I got angry once (can’t remember why). I also tore a handful of my sister’s hair when she refused to share a piece of cake (that too, after I had finished my share). Can I at least nominate which part of my body should be dismembered first in Hell? I’d like my stomach to go first, please. I always wanted to see myself without a tummy.

Envy
"Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.
Your punishment in Hell will be: You'll be put in freezing water."
I have sinned. I have envied Julia Robert’s smile, Ambani’s wealth, Bill Gates’ brains, J. Lo’s ass, Sushmita Sen’s height, Dawn French’s sense of humor, Cliff Richard’s voice, Bill Bryson’s writing style, Oprah’s influence on people and Angelina Jolie’s luck with husbands.
I don’t mind snake pits and being burnt in oil. But freezing water!!! O how cruel!! I usually go without a bath if I cannot have warm water in winter (and sometimes even in summer. I hate taking baths anyway!). Please. Pleeeeaaase. Can I get lukewarm water, if I don’t envy anyone from this moment on?

Pride
"Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God.
Your punishment in Hell will be: You'll be broken on the wheel."
Usually, in most matters, I have absolutely “no belief in my own abilities”. But somehow, I thought that I can eat as much as I want…and not exercise at all, and can still remain non-obese. Now that I AM obese, this belief is shattered. So perhaps my putting on weight has some benefits after all…they won’t find a wheel big enough to crush me in Hell [Evil grin :)].

They say that in confession lies redemption. I hope the keepers of Hell are reading this. But if they were advanced enough to read blogs, surely they would have come up with more techno tortures like “data-entry for a 1000 years” or “write formal emails to a zillion people” or “read technical manual (perhaps the ones I wrote) for eternity” or “test buggy software non-stop till you die and are born again in Hell” etc .

Dunno. Any clue?
Image: Google

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Honeymoon


No am not going on my nth honeymoon…in fact am not even going on a vacation before December. But lately I have had many friends (who are hoping , fearing or simply going to get married soon) ask me “So give me some honeymoon tips.” As if people have taken me on their honeymoon since I was born!!!

On googling “honeymoon”, you get 22,400,000 results. Just shows how much “collective” information there is out there. But no “one” person can be considered an authority, as a person can technically go on a honeymoon only a few times (depending on the number of failed marriages). Of course there are a zillion “honeymoon experts” in the form of travel agents and package dealers…who will do everything that is to be done (except perhaps sleep with your partner).

So here’s my two cents worth, if none of the 22,400,000 results have quite helped you:

Do not postpone your honeymoon for a “more suitable” time. Go for one immediately after the wedding, while the mehndi is still fresh and the mind is in its “spending best”. If you decide to do it later, trust me, it will either never happen….or even if it does, will never be the same. Money will be short, holidays not long enough, destinations never decided, moods never right, and the most horrible “we-have-been-married-3-months-what-do-we-need-a-honeymoon-for” feeling or the "let's-ask-Guddu-and-Mampi-to-join-us-it-will-be-more-fun" feeling. DON’T let that happen. Set off from the reception venue, if you must.

Choose a place that both of you haven’t visited earlier. If one of you has, it will be like watching a thriller with someone next to you narrating the next scene…or worse still someone being very helpful by telling you what’s going to happen at the end. You don’t want your partner to show off his/her geographical/navigational/cultural/lingual expertise when you are on a honeymoon. Go to a new place and see it for the first time…together.

A honeymoon is NOT a usual vacation. So don’t make plans and checklists and places-to-visit lists. Even if you are the adventurous explorer, trust me, you will get plenty of opportunities to visit places in your life. You don’t HAVE TO see all the places that are to be seen…or do all the things that are to be done. Relax by the beach/mountain/forest…or in the spa, drink exotic fluids the names of which you can’t pronounce after a drink, eat the most extravagant meals, and chat chat chat. Get to know each other rather than getting to know the place (I know most marriages happen after a lifetime of “seeing-each-other”. Nevertheless, don’t give up on trying to “know” each other as that’s an exercise you will have to do all your life. Better start it when the weddings rings are still sparkling).

Choose a remote place that doesn’t have internet or mobile connections. You don’t want to check your work mails…or get phone calls from over-enthusiastic friends and family asking you “how is it going?”

Make sure that the indoors are as good as the outdoors (you might not want to go out at all :)). So the hotel/chalet/resort or whatever other cool things they have these days, should be one that makes you say “wow”.

Meditate for 5 seconds everyday in the morning. It might be too much to tolerate your partner 24/7 for 5-7 days at a stretch, with no one else to talk to.

Carry more clothes/shoes/accessories than you need or can possibly wear during your stay. Remember, these days the whole idea of going on an exotic honeymoon is to be able to impress friends and friends’ friends on orkut and facebook!! So you must look as cool as you possibly can.

Last but the MOST important, carry a tripod. Otherwise you will end up with dozens of solo pictures…or distorted and bloated faces of the two of you trying to look at the camera that you are holding as far away as you possibly can (doesn’t really help unless you have long hands like the “petnis” we read about as children ). Worse still, having one or two pictures of the two of you together that a kind passerby had volunteered to click. Remember, kind people are mostly bad photographers…and you cannot ask them to keep clicking till you look your slimmest best. A tripod will help solve all your photographic dilemmas.

So that’s that. Happy honeymooning!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Horrid Horror

I am a wannabe. Someday I want to watch a horror movie all by myself…in an empty house, at night. At the moment, here is what the situation is like:

I need a room full of people (preferably the brave types). These people need to act normal i.e. eat pop corn, cough or sneeze regularly, leave their cell phones in Loud mode, talk to one another once in a while. In short, I need constant proof that they are alive and normal….and have not frozen into mummies or evaporated in the air (as I sometimes feel may happen, during a scary movie).

I need two men on either side of me (men, not women…as most ghosts are women in white, with their long hair on their face). These days Amit usually obliges by being on one side (god bless him). To fill up the other side, I look for other people’s husbands (not a good thing for my character certificate). I end up with the feeling of being watched, all through the movie…double-watched in fact (one by the spirit in the movie, and one by the wife of the husband who has kindly volunteered to sit by my side). That, I’m afraid, is not a particularly reassuring feeling.

I need these two men on my two sides, to not leave their seats for a single second. No, they are not allowed a bathroom break while the movie is on. So Amit usually empties his bladder before taking his seat, and advises the ‘other man’ to do the same. Needless to say, I do so too…and I don’t drink anything after that, lest my kidneys call.

I need all the lights and heater to be on (spirits, I hear, do not prefer light or heat).

I need a blanket to cover myself and my eyes when camera angles and music suggest that something horrid is about to happen. It springs from the ‘if-I-can’t-see-them-they can’t-see-me-either’ feeling. This however, does not work on exceptionally well-directed movies, where the most horrid scenes appear when least expected.

After the movie, I need an escort everywhere I go, including the bathroom. The distance between the escort and me is directly proportional to the passage of time after the movie (as more time elapses, the distance can increase) and inversely proportional to the degree of fear (the more scared I am, the closer I need the escort to be). At the moment it works somewhat like the following:

Day 1 (immediately after the movie) - Escort needs to be inside the bathroom, with his/her back turned to me. He or she is allowed to sing in order to distract themselves from the sounds that my digestive tract or an over-eager flow of pee can make.
Day 2 – Escort can stand outside the bathroom door, which will be left open. Again, singing is allowed.
Day 2 – Escort can stand outside the bathroom door, which can now be shut, but not locked (so that he/she can rush inside in case I get any sudden attack of fear).
Day 3 – Escort can stand outside the bathroom door, which can now be locked. However, he/she needs to keep singing so that I know that they haven’t left their posts.
Day 4 onwards – I am pretty much independent again. Escort should however be ready for providing service in an emergency (a nightmare or a scary scene on television).

Acknowledgements: Ma was my most loyal escort all the years I was at home. Amit has reluctantly taken up her position, after our marriage. God bless you both!

Inspired by a recent viewing of The Ring, at a friend’s place.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Drawing-Book Fantasy Land of Yesteryears…

A neat mountain range…
The bright yellow sun peeping from a valley…
A winding red-soil road leading nowhere…
Dark green meadows…
Clear blue sky without a trace of cloud or fear…
Some pink wild flowers that bloom all year round…
Three birds flying in formation…

Has anyone been there?
Will I ever be there?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Brick Lane


I had promised myself that if I managed to read any book that was over 500 pages, I would write about it. The lazy reader that I am, I can barely ever finish a book that fat.
Brick Lane by Monica Ali was 491 pages, close to my 500-page criterion. Not only did I finish it, I wanted more.

Trimming your husband’s nasal hair, or scraping the corn on his feet, may not be your idea of marital bliss. But for many women, it is! At least when they are not beaten, bathed in acid, or abused in return. For Nazneen, it was the only life she had known…the only life she tried to be grateful for.

The story in a sentence is:
Nazneen, a simple girl from a village in Bangladesh, settles down in the UK with her husband Chanu.
I am going to take up parts of that sentence to give you a perspective.

‘Simple girl from a village’ – Nazneen grew up with her mother’s teachings, one of which was ‘never to question fate because if God wanted them to ask questions, He would have made them men’. Her childhood in her village serves as a repository of stories…stories that she tells herself when she is alone…stories that she tells her two daughters when they want to peep into her world.

Bangladesh – The spirit of Bangladesh breathes through Nazneen’s small UK apartment…and her life. She gets a taste of her motherland, in the letters from her sister Hasina…in the gossips of her neighbours…in her sewing machine…in the food she cooks…in the Dhakai saree she wears…in the Brick Lane where many more Bangladeshi immigrants have build their new homes.

‘Settles down in the UK’ – UK, or UK as seen by Muslim immigrants, is where most part of the story unfolds. The cultural confusion faced by the second generation kids, the effect of 9/11 on the world and on the Muslim community of the world, the drug abuse and ‘gang’ formation in the dingy dark alleys, the hard work that mostly pays but often doesn’t…and yet the promise of a better life. In short, it was her life in UK that introduced Nazneen to that part of herself that she would have never known.

‘with her husband Chanu’ – In spite of the nasal hair, corned feet, yellowish nails, a humongous belly, a tongue that never stops talking and a mind that never stops weaving impossible dreams, you cannot help but like Chanu (played by Satish Kaushik in the movie…so now you can visualize him). In his eternal battle against the ‘ignorant types’ and the ‘peasant types’, Chanu wishes to carve an identity for himself. An identity that he thinks would make him more acceptable in the society that he is so desperate to be a part of. When all his ‘battles’ fail, he rejects the society that wasn’t generous enough to accommodate his dreams…and plans a flight back home.

The Brick Lane is about the life that they end up living in between their efforts to settle down…and their efforts to go back to their homeland.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I wonder...


Statistics show that one in every 481 forwarded chain mails, is actually good reading, and won’t threaten you if you break the chain (OK. I just made that up. But I believe that it could be true). Having grown old to mushy ‘Friendship means’ and ‘Jay Tirupathi’ mails, I have mastered the art of spotting these miscreants and clicking Shift+Del instantly. However, lately I was too bored, and happened to read one. And I think it was one in the 481.


A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.00 each. This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing....?

These questions led to some more (I think a scan of my brain at the moment would look like the image above).

Have we really forgotten to stop and wonder at the beauty that surrounds us?
I pass a river on my way to work everyday. When was the last time I stopped to look at the waves? Or the swans? Or the mossy green river bank that has some strangely pretty shrubs? Did anyone plant them there? Did a bird drop a seed? Where did the swans come from? Where do they go at sunset? Are these questions too irrelevant or insignificant? True, answers to none of these will help me earn my next pay check or help me with my deadline, or solve my issues with my teammate, or pave my way for a promotion, or a hike. But am I so busy trying to make a living that I have stopped living?

Have we been programmed to ‘like’ things only when we are expected to ‘like’ them? Has appreciating the beauty of art, music, literature, food or nature become a ‘social status’ thing? Do we ‘like’ in order to be accepted? Do we ‘like’ in order to be perceived as intellectuals? Have we stopped ‘liking’ for our own pleasure? Do we like to ‘like’ things only when we are paying a big price for it?

Q: Food at a plush restaurant that is the latest talk of the town?
A: Like
Q: A little ‘kasundi’ with the good old spinach cooked the Bengali way?
A: Kasundi? What’s that? I like oregano on my pasta, basil in my rice and thyme in my soup.

Q: An exotic cocktail that has a tongue twister of a name, at an award-winning pub?
A: Like
Q: Nimbu paani at home?
A: Who has the time for squeezing lemons? (I thought if you could make it to the pub, you could squeeze a lemon once in a while)

Q: A Bryan Adams concert?
A: Like
Q: Bryan Adams from an old cassette (that you had complied while at school, and written down the names of the songs yourself, in childish handwriting, on the cassette cover) at home?
A: Don’t you at least have a CD? Or a CD Player? Are you stingy? Are you the boring ‘stay-at-home’ kinds?

In fact, are we ashamed to admit that we ‘like’ certain things in a certain way because we are afraid that we will be judged? Is it so difficult to own up to our little ‘favourites’? Why do we then talk about ‘accepting others for who they are…and not what they can become’? I have come across that line a zillion times…in Self-Help books on the shelves of bookstores, in philosophical chain emails that are supposed to make me feel good in the morning. If we can’t accept ourselves for who we are and what we like, who are we kidding by talking about ‘accepting others’?

How much has society…or our upbringing contributed to this strangely depressing phenomenon? Does it sprout from our same obsession with taking the traditionally safe paths? If you are not a Doctor or an Engineer, or at least a Lawyer or a Chartered Accountant, you can invest in some good quality cyanide. If you haven’t listened to Bach or can’t quote from Tagore, you can tattoo ‘I am an idiot’ on your forehead.

What if I have read enough ‘Chacha Chowdhury’ to win gold at the ‘Annual Pran Quiz’ organised by the boys of the local club during Ganesh Chaturthi? Am I not chic enough for you? What if I have never held a golf stick…but could beat you any day at kabaddi? Won’t you smile at me at the shopping centre any more?
What if I have never heard of Dostoyevsky but can name all the Govinda movies that were released or got shelved halfway through (because of the producer’s connections with some underworld don)? Am I a social shame? Most importantly, am I a shame to myself?

I wonder…

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Firsts

We all remember our firsts…some embarrass us now…some make us smile…or cry.

Here are some of mine:

  1. First day in school/preschool – I don’t remember this. But Ma tells me I wore a red dress with matching red hair clips. At the end of the day, I had so much fun painting, building shapes and playing in sand that I lost one of my hair clips (I had two). When I realized it was gone, I threw such a tantrum that the teachers who thought I was ‘such an angel’ all day…changed their minds and thought I was possessed.
  2. First wristwatch (my love for them shall never die) – Was a blue one with Mickey Mouse. It was just a toy, and did not tick. But I loved it nevertheless.
  3. First pocket money – I think I bought ice cream and ‘jhal chips’ in school. When the money was gone (I think it was 10 rupees), I felt my first pang of jealousy because the elder sibling/neighbour's kid got more.
  4. First poster bought for my room – A ‘Funny Quotes’ type…which started with ‘Farting is liberating.’ My parents signed me off as having bad taste.
  5. First swearing – At my dentist who pulled out a particularly strong tooth that defied alignment. I think I said ‘Faal’ …a combination of the F word and the B word (in Bengali), because his damn hands were still in my mouth!
  6. First time I came home after midnight – No, not because I was partying hard (never such luck). But because my friend had an emotional breakdown after a very bad haircut…and I had to stay by her side till she slept!!! (talk about ‘issues’ in life)
  7. First salary – Six neat 100 rupee notes, placed in an envelope. That was my fee as an English tutor of a 10 yr old brat, who I met once a week.
  8. First crush (blush) – Believe it or not…it was in class 5. And it was our ‘jamadar’s’ (sweeper’s) son. He came with his daddy everyday to collect garbage…and he also collected my shy smiles and a piece of my stupid school-girl heart (blush again). Ma still doesn’t know why I was always so keen to take the garbage bin out for the sweeper, when I showed no interest in any other housework.
  9. First cigarette – With school friends…at one of the pajama parties (sleepovers) at my best friend’s place (very typical).
  10. First date (proper) – Don’t ask me about it. It led to my marriage!!! Damn, I don’t believe that was my first…and ‘probably’ my last.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The day I felt HUGE!



There are bigger things in life…health, job, house, salary, bills, duties, global warming, global financial crisis… (can’t think of anything bigger at the moment!). But your birthday seems to be that day in the calendar when nothing is bigger than YOU. I mean…literally! Crossing the road, I felt like a Hulk…or a Dinosaur straight out of the sets of Jurassic Park (my nephew’s favorite movie at the moment, and hence the simile.) It seemed to me as if I ruled the world…I was HUGE (now, don’t spoil my moment by reminding me that I anyway am…all days of the year!).

As I climbed up the stairs to my office, wearing my new top, new earrings and new shoes (of courses I wore other pieces of attire that are necessary to cover oneself...just that they don't deserve a mention here, as they were old), I beamed. It seemed that I was on stage, and all eyes were on me (though I don’t remember seeing anybody on the stairs). That’s what birthdays do (or should do) to you. You smile all day…at others and by yourself. You feel alive, awake and energetic (even at midnight when on other days you are like a sleepy worm curled up on bed under the blanket).

This feeling, would be a material for a dark comedy or Mr. Bean-like tragedy, if others don’t encourage it. I mean, if I was to smile by myself all day, without anybody to tell me that it was OK to do so because it was my birthday….that would be quite tragic. That’s when all you special people walk into the stage (OK, not the stage, as it was all mine that day….let’s say you’ll walked in as my very special crew, without whom I would look quite like a fool on stage).

So here goes…a big THANK U to all those who visited, called, e-mailed, posted cards (how I loved them!) messaged, scrapped, sent me lovely songs (thanks R!), sent me musical e-cards (that even made my colleagues smile when I played them again and again at work), wrote on facebook. I had made it a point to change my settings on Orkut, so that my birthday did not come up as an alert (am not sure if that worked). That was to test how many of you REALLY remembered my birthday, and not relied on automated alerts! I was so happy at how many of you passed with flying colours in this test.

There were so many calls that my mobile ran out of battery (either there are too many people who love me…or my mobile needs replacement). I spoke in Bengali over the phone all day…even at work…and my lovely colleagues did not mind. In fact, I think they picked up a few Bengali words themselves. One said ‘hyan hyan’ (meaning ‘yes yes’), each time I said ‘hyan hyan’ over the phone.

For my friends overseas…thanks for remembering and calling (I know it’s a real effort to work out the time differences, especially those of you in the U.S.). I miss all of you…and remember how we spent our birthdays together when we were not so far away.
For those in Perth, thanks for all the cards, and cakes (planned and the surprise one), and gifts and most of all…for your company!
For those in Sydney...what can I say! Rai (3.5 yrs) wore lipstick to kiss on my birthday card and leave her 'mark'. Rio (2.5 yrs), scribbled on my card to leave some very bold pen strokes :) Ma and Didi sent me the most touching bookmarks (am hoping the books are on the way!) and Parthada chose such a beautiful card for me (these are apart from the other gifts they gave me...which I will not mention here, as I need a whole new post for all the gifts I got.)

A special thanks to Amit. For making me feel special on my red-letter day…and all days of the year.

I woke up today with a horrible Birthday hangover (no, not the alcohol). It is the hangover that you have after every special day/days/event/events/vacation…I have Durga Puja hangover, Christmas hangover, New Year hangover, Wedding Anniversary hangover, Vacation hangover, even Sick Leave hangover…you get the drift. In short, it is the feeling of going back to routine, having left behind something very special. I blinked at the cards and the left over cakes (I had 4 this year!! Yippee!)…and wished that all my future birthdays turn out to be as special as this one…and all those I love, have equally special birthdays!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Favourite Childhood Memories - Part 1

This is a very long post. Not recommended for people with a low amount of patience or a high amount of 'better things to do'.

Am not sure what 'age' is doing to you. To me, it is doing all that it is ‘supposed’ to do. The very predictable strand of grey hair ‘peek-a-booing’ occasionally…the skin on the neck, hands and feet are not as wrinkle-free as it used to be…the heart confesses its age when I climb the stairs…the limbs pray for a bench/seat/pedicure when I am out there shopping for hours…the ears can’t stand loud pub music anymore…the body hates hangovers and gives warning signs when I have drank too much already….the memory gives me ‘you-have-exhausted-your-allocated-memory space-please-delete-old-ones-to-make-space-for-more’ alerts.

In short, I am getting old. I don’t mind the gray hair or wrinkles, but I can’t stand the thought of letting go of my most prized possessions…my memories. So I thought I will have a memory backup on my very own blog (just like I have backups for my photos and home videos in external hard drives, CDs and online galleries). They are presently crowded up in my recycle bin, waiting to be deleted forever. This is my last chance to retrieve them.

I have already documented some of my favorite memories on Rai&Rio’s blog, here. Following are the detailed descriptions:

In the past, I was immensely ashamed of having pooped in my pants in class 1. I returned home terribly smelly with my pants full of poop. Am amazed that Ma didn’t flush me with my pants. Now I see it as a funny memory. That’s another thing age is doing...biting away pieces from my ‘Shame Bar’ every day.

As for performing the jingle ‘Washing Powder Nirma’ on stage…in front of a hundred people who were expecting me to recite ‘Baburam Shapure’ (as that was what I had been taught, told to recite, and the announcer had announced that I was going to recite)…I am so proud of myself! I felt like singing ‘Washing Powder Nirma’, and so I did. Wish I still had that confidence, spontaneity and innocence. Worth mentioning, that it stood out among the ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ , ‘Hattima Tim Tim’, ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and I was an instant hit, basking in my celebrity status for months after that performance.

I also remember hanging by the gate waiting for Baba to return from the fish market. I was such a cat then, that people said I could almost eat raw fish (though I don’t remember if I ever did). The first thing that Parul di did, when Baba returned, was to fry me the biggest piece. And I would sit in one corner of the kitchen, happily munching the bones and licking my fingers. I wonder why I am not so fond of fish anymore. I know ‘curiosity’ kills the cat. Does ‘too much fish’ also kill the cat? Does anyone know?

My fascination with diaries and stationary has come a long way. I played with bits of paper, diaries from past years that still had empty pages in them, pens of all shapes and sizes. I pretended that I was a senior bank executive (as I looked up to Mama, who indeed held such a role, and also had many diaries). I had a red plastic phone that I used to call up all my ‘customers’ and I frantically scribbled on my diary as I spoke to them on the phone (as I had seen people doing in banks). When I got bored, I became a bus conductor and tore pages from my diary to make bus tickets that I sold to the ‘passengers’. Baba never quite overcame the heartache caused by the thought that other children were doctors and teachers in their childhood games, while I was a bus conductor (he seemed to have totally forgotten that I was a very senior bank executive too!).

My acting skills got critically acclaimed when I performed the role of Cinderella (my first time on a stage). I was so small then, that I couldn’t speak. So someone who could, spoke from the background…narrating the plight of Cinderella. I was just supposed to make some minor hand movements and smile and cry on cue. When the curtains went up, and the flash lights fell on my face…and I saw those faces in the audience (Baba with his camera in front…and Ma beaming proudly amongst her friends)…I started crying. Since that was really my ‘crying’ scene, the audience was amazed at what a natural I was! Somebody patted Ma on the back and said ‘She’ll make you proud. So small, yet none of the adult actors can cry like her.’ Only minutes later they realized that I was actually crying…because I was scared. The voice at the back had moved to happier days…and I was still crying. As the last and the only resort, the curtains dropped before time, and I was dragged out of the stage by the director. With a pained face and wounded pride, Ma took me in her arms. I wasn’t such a natural after all.

When I took my first baby steps, Ma got me a red pair of ‘paek paek’ shoes. No, that’s not the name of the shoe. I refer to them as ‘paek paek’ as that was the sound they made if someone walked in them. Wearing a red dress and the shiny new shoes, I went to the playground with Ma. I think Ma wanted to ‘show-off’ to her friends that I had started walking. Again, I failed her (and proved that ‘showing-off’ never pays). As the first step was taken, the ‘paek’ was heard…a heartbeat was missed… a screech was emitted…and a jump was taken to Ma’s arms. I was so terrified of the sound that I refused to walk for a long time after that. So, while my other friends walked and ran, I crawled and squatted.

These are some of my favorite memories. Some I vaguely remember. Some I remember quite well because I have heard people talking about it a million times (especially the ‘poop’ one, as it was a family joke). My obsession with preserving memories has manifested itself in a variety of ways…photo albums, scrap books and keep sake boxes. Read this to know more.

Like my ‘I like’ list, this post made me very happy. So I urge the ‘regulars’ (you know if you are one) to write about their Favourite Childhood Memories. Even if you are one of those rare people whose memory has been blessed with lots of space (like Google …’Over 7338.647885 megabytes (and counting) of free storage so you'll never need to delete another message.’), you will never regret writing this one.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I like

On realizing that I am horribly pessimistic and depressed for most part of my waking hours, I decided to list the little things in life that make me happy but don’t cost as much. They are priceless.
  1. I like sitting on a window sill and reading a book, while the afternoon sun shines down on its pages.
  2. I like dipping a biscuit in tea (especially the ‘toast’ biscuits that the roadside tea stalls sold for 20 paisa) and biting off its soggy head.
  3. I like licking off Masala Maggi gravy from the plate.
  4. I like sitting on the bathroom pot and day dreaming about the cruise to Great Barrier Reef.
  5. I like colorful new pillow cases and crisp bed spreads that are free of dust mites.
  6. I like listening to Amit singing a happy song (totally off the tune, sometimes) in his shower.
  7. I like opening a juicy ‘paan’ and nibbling at the colorful sweet stuffing inside.
  8. I like the sound of the door bell and cheerful guests pouring in for the evening.
  9. I like watching people opening gift wraps and squeaking in surprise and delight.
  10. I like the waves taking away the sand beneath my feet and giving me some white foam in return.
  11. I like the smell of incense sticks that Ma lights every day after her bath.
  12. I like a sudden call from a friend who is so far away...yet so close.
  13. I like to hear Rio speaking gibberish over the phone…or Rai telling me of her birthday wish list.
  14. I like steaming ginger tea when my throat feels funny and my nose feels runny.
  15. I like waking up to the smell of fried bacon and scrambled eggs on Sundays.
  16. I like going through the family album with my sister and laughing about good old days.
  17. I like going for drives to 24-hour coffee shops in the middle of the night.
  18. I like my trips to the DVD parlors and coming back ‘loaded’.
  19. I like going through my box of ‘keep sakes’ and let the past sweep me off.
  20. I like the sound of my computer shutting down at the end of a day’s work.


This was such a gratifying exercise that I request my blog friends to do the same. Debanjana, KG, Spiderman, Shoma (and any other reader who would like to join in)…could you all come up with a similar list in your own blogs? Bigger or smaller…doesn’t matter.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Manual

One of my habits that I am immensely proud of is that I store purchase receipts till the print vaporizes from the paper and save user manuals till the product is dead and ready for its grave.

Receipts come in handy when we want to exchange something (which is one in every two purchases). As for user manuals, Amit thinks I don’t have the heart to throw them away because I am a Technical Writer, and I occasionally copy their style and format. I have tried to explain to him that all Technical Writers do not write user manuals, and I for one, have nothing to copy from them.

I actually save them so that I can check facts and procedures from time to time. For example, when I accidentally switch off the microwave main power, I lose the clock settings on it. So I go back to my carefully saved manual and set the time again. Though it seems like it would be an easier option to ask Amit to do it…trust me, it’s not. On an exceptionally rare day, he may oblige me after my 171st ‘Can you pleeeeeeeeeeaaasss set the clock on the microwave?’ But I don’t take chances.

It’s a pity that marriages don’t come with receipts or manuals. And I must admit that I would definitely have referenced them if they existed. I often think that life would have been so much simpler if there was a manual with these troubleshooting procedures:
  • ‘How to switch off your partner’s snoring’


  • ‘What to do when your partner fumes’


  • ‘How to make your partner love others channels apart from Sports’


  • ‘5 ways to make your partner perform better in household chores’


  • ‘3 emergency steps to cool off an angry partner’


  • ‘How to avoid overheating in a conversation relating to in-laws or savings’


  • ‘How to recover a lost connection’


  • ’10 easy ways to keep your partner happy and ticking’


  • ‘5 ways to make your partner stop smoking and discarding the ash on a favorite piece of china’


  • ‘How to make your partner share the remote control’


  • ‘What to do when your partner does not talk for hours’


  • ‘How to program some regular tasks (like taking the bin out and cleaning the garage) into your partner’s memory’


  • ‘How to make your partner choose sensible gifts’


  • ‘When to call for professional help’
Considering that there is a huge market for such a manual, I am quite keen to take up this project. However, I am aware that my resume is not very promising for the job (2.5 years of marriage, 1 husband, no boyfriends (past or present), no affairs or flings, few childhood crushes that led to nothing but a few diary entries). But I am confident that I can create a very talented resource pool if my friends are willing to join me in this venture and contribute to this mammoth task.

So here is my job ad for the venture...click to enlarge.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shortcuts

In the rush and frenzy of daily life, we have embraced all the time-saving, hassle-free, low-maintenance options that are available in the marketplace.

We have substituted a traditional three-course breakfast consisting of puri, bhaji and laddu OR idli, dosa, sambhar (and the different kinds of chuntneys that go with them) with muesli bars…or worse still, supplementary capsules that promise that you will live healthily ever after even if you don’t eat a single morsel of food all through the day.

We no longer need to remember phone numbers and dial them. We just need to find a name from the mobile phonebook and press the Call button. Worse still, we send texts with vowels missing and consonants replaced to make words shorter.

We don’t go outdoors for a game of tennis anymore. We have Wii!

We have long forgotten the use of a pen and paper.

We never exercise that part of the brain that could handle numbers. We got the calculator instead.

We ‘type’ emails…never ‘write’ letters. I so loved KG’s post on this.

We cut our hair short. Saves time, shampoo, conditioner and money spent on hair accessories.

We have given up trying to sleep or shit, if we face difficulty in either. We take a sleeping pill or a laxative, respectively.

We don't travel that much. We have National Geographic.

We call friends over for a pizza party. Never for a four-course meal party (at least I don’t).

We ignore calls if the mobile flashes ‘Mummy calling..’. We have Mother’s Day instead, to make up for it.

We don't read novels anymore. We read and write blogs...crisp, short, and a stress-relieving exercise at lunch time (as is this one).

We have tutors to help our toddlers finish their day-care homework (maybe coloring a duck yellow). We return home too late to see the toddler or the duck awake.

We have mixers and grinders, and toasters, and sandwich makers, and rice cookers, and egg beaters, and cake whippers, and vegetable steamers, and coffee makers. But we still don’t have time to cook, eat or entertain.

We have wrinkle-free shirts that don’t need ironing.

We ‘catch up’ over coffee, because we lose touch with people who matter.

We use a deo when we don’t have time for a bath…and a chewing gum when we forget to brush (it amazes me that people have stuck to the time-consuming, effort-needing act of chewing a gum…it should have been wiped out from the planet long time back, considering how we don’t like doing other long-drawn things).

These shortcuts are a life savior. What I can’t figure out is….where are they taking us?

Monday, May 18, 2009

One thing still works...

When paracetamols fail...
And smoky cappuccino does not bring the cheer…
When the day seems too long…
And the night does not bring much sleep…
When life feels like puke, and friends don’t call…
There is one thing that still works…
Sunny Deol in Damini…

When he says ‘Yeh dhai kilo ka haath jab uthta hai na…aadmi uthta nahin…uth jata hai’
OR
‘Chaddha, is case mein tujhe bijli ka aisa jhatka lagega, ke tu jhatakna bhool jayega’ (and makes the head movement to imitate Chadhdha)
OR
Wipes the blood on his hands on a villain’s shirt (while Sunny is still slightly disoriented with alcohol)
OR
Says ‘Kanoon ki dalali se izzat ki nilami pe utar aya hai, Chaddha? Is peshey ko bhadwagiri kehtey hai.’
OR
Simply aims a puff of cigarette smoke on Chaddha’s face…
The world seems to be in good hands again…
And there is that sudden filmy sense of security…that travels straight from the TV screen to a feverish mind.

(I have never been a crazy fan of Sunny Deol…or masala flicks…or action…or thundering dialogues…or heroes with terrific stunts...or machine guns and melodramatic courtroom scenes. But watched Damini again today, after years...while sofa-ridden with mild fever. And must admit, I am thrilled…all over again.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Being a Mother...

It’s true I’ve never changed diapers
But I have wiped the tears off my child’s face…

It’s true that I’ve never fed her with my own hands
But I have shopped for her supplies and cooked an occasional meal…

It’s true that I’ve never had to sing a lullaby
But I stayed awake by her side all night when she couldn’t sleep…

It’s true that I’ve never helped her with her homework
But I have done the additions, subtractions and accounting that she found difficult to manage…

It’s true I’ve never punished her for not following instructions
But I have scolded her often for not eating her meal…

It’s true I’ve never made a doll’s house for her
But I have kept the house tidy when she couldn't care less…

It’s true that I’ve been selfish and not spent enough time with her…
But she has never complained, cried or thrown a tantrum…

It’s true I’ve never played with her or taught her rhymes
But I played her favorite songs when she was low…

It’s true that she never really said that she needed me
But I knew she did…and I needed her more…

It’s true that I’ve not been able to teach her anything
But I have learned everything from being with her…

It’s true that I’ve never been pregnant
But I became a mother when I bore the news of Baba’s death to Ma

(For my mother…who let me be her child…and her mother.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Sphinx of a Time!

What happens when four fat frustrated females (wow that's like an alliterative hat-trick plus one) get together at lunch?

They belly dance.

Yes that’s what my colleagues and I did…to give our bellies (and ourselves) a change.
We’ve had our share of running, jogging, walking, cycling, ‘bringing-a-plate’, or simply eating in silence and boredom. We have had enough (I mean literally...what else explains our size and weight?). So we decided to do it the Egyptian way.

If you have given your belly a serious thought…there is no reason why you should smirk, laugh, scorn, or get shocked at belly dancing. It's real good exercise.

True, we were at least a Libyan Desert away from being sexy, seductive enchantresses…conjuring up romantic images of the Nile, the Sahara, the Sphinx, the Valley of Kings, oriental hookahs decked with precious stones, grand velvet-wrapped halls with riches, and intoxication being poured from a jeweled long-necked pot.

We were hippos…turned into kangaroos…by a magic wand.

When our trainer (our common friend actually… who is a database manager by profession and a belly dancer by passion) agreed to join us one day at lunch and show us some belly dancing moves, we jumped like a baby kangaroo excited by the sight of young green shoots.

And when she did turn up, and opened her bag full of dazzling costumes and headgears, crowns, swords, veils, masks, and other such exotic props….we jumped like an adult kangaroo excited by the sight of an eligible mate at mating season.

Shocked at the enthusiasm of her new students, she said ‘There is no jumping in belly dancing. Do you all get that?’
‘Yes, maam’, we chorused like school girls.
And what followed was a lunch hour never better spent.

Suppressing our giggles and breathing in to pull our bellies inwards… we must have been a Pharaoh’s nightmare. But we couldn’t care less.

We walked down the conference room as gracefully as if we were on a ramp…or a bride on her wedding aisle (it’s a different story that we pushed one another, sat down on the way, made hooting calls to those who continued walking seriously)…
We took a step, paused, crossed our leg to the other side, and took a side step (it’s a different story that we stamped one another, fell down, rolled with laughter, and laughed till we cried)…
We balanced heavy ornamental swords on our heads and walked again (it’s a different story that the swords fell off in 2 micro seconds)…
We did ‘snake-arms’ to melodious Egyptian tune (it’s a different story that our wobbly arms looked like overfed snakes from a comic strip)…
We made circles and drew the number 8 in the air with our hips (it’s a different story that ours must have been ‘8’ in an unknown language)…
We let our chiffon veils fly in the air, as we raised our eyebrows suggestively (it’s a different story that beneath those veils we wore sports shoes and sweatshirts)…

As one of our work laptops played traditional Egyptian tunes that could make the soul leap and yearn… the four fat frustrated females had a Sphinx of a time.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Damn blog!

Trying to describe a blog to my 'not-so-tech-savvy’ mother-in-law (Mil) was a real challenge. I started with the usual ‘A blog is a web log…an online diary of sorts…’

Mil: So what are other people doing in your diary? Or you in other people’s?
Me: Well, it’s not like a personal diary you know. Just a place where I write, and let others come and read what I have written. Got it?
Mil: Got it.
Mil: But why would a person have so many diaries? Isn’t one enough?

That’s when it struck me that an analogy from her familiar world could help.

Me: Forget what I told you about a diary.
Mil: Oh! So it’s not a diary after all?
Me: Uff! Forget it for the time being…am trying a different analogy.
Mil: Analogy?
Me: Forget analogy…I am just giving you a different example. OK?
Mil: OK.
Me: It’s like buying houses.
Mil: Ah!
Me: Just like a person can have houses, land, property in the real world…a person can have blogs in the virtual world…I mean, the world of web…I mean the world of computers (knowing that she would understand ‘computers’…but not ‘virtual’ and ‘web’ etc)
Mil: Oh! So they must be expensive? How much money did you waste on yours?
Me: Mine was free. There are some that are charged.
Mil: Why was yours free? Is it in a slum in the world of computers?
(Me frowning)
Me: No it’s not really a slum. It’s just free because mine is owned by Google. And Google makes money in other ways…and not by actually charging for the blog.
Mil: How?
Me: From advertising revenue. Companies place their ads on the Google search engine, and Google takes money from these companies for their ads.
Mil: Oh!
Me: And just like houses, one can make money from one’s blog too.
Mil: How?
Me: Just like you give your house out on rent, you can give your blog out for advertising. Google and a few other companies can analyze what your page is about so they can serve ads on that topic. This increases the chances of your readers clicking the ad which increases the chances that you’ll earn something from them.
Mil: Oh! So, it’s like you have let them use your boundary wall for posters.
Me: Exactly! (relieved that she is finally getting something)
Mil: Doesn’t that destroy the beauty of your house? I mean blog?
Me: Yes, to a certain extent it does. But people don’t mind it, I guess.
Mil: So how much do you make in a month?
Me: Nothing, because I haven’t selected that option for advertising on my blog.
Mil: Said ‘no’ to potential money? God knows what you kids are up to these days! Anyway, so these people who come to your blog are like visitors to your house.
Me: Right. And they see how I have decorated it, what I have kept in it. And then they comment on it.
Mil: You mean bitch behind your back?
Me: Maybe some do. Others bitch (or sometimes praise) on my face. That’s when they leave comments on my blog.

Mil: I see. But do you really like too many people visiting your blog? Isn’t there too much cooking and dish-washing involved?
Me: In a way, yes. I need to maintain it well…and be a good host.
Mil: And do others treat you well, when you visit theirs?
Me: Oh yes! Everyone wants their blog to be the best…and most-visited. So everyone treats everyone well.
Mil: So you must be visiting those who give you the best cookies and cake?
Me: Yeah right. I have a few favorite blogs that I visit again and again.
Mil: I see.

Me: Anyway, so just like people have different houses for different purposes (beach house for weekends, a house in the city for easy commutation, an investment property to make money)….people can have different blogs for different kinds of writing (personal, political, business, hobby-based, dream-based, etc). And each has its own address, which in the computer world is called an URL.
Mil: I get it.
Me: Really? You do?

Mil: Of course. People who can’t afford houses in the real world, console themselves by having these blogs in the computer world.
Me: That’s not what it is…
Mil: Of course that’s what it is. If you two had listened to me and not gone for those expensive vacations and eaten outside every second day, you could have owned a house in the real world…and not played with these stupid blogs that have no value, and that require so much work.
Me: We can afford a house…just that…

(She is not interested any more…and I hear her telling my father-in-law)

Mil: Soon they will have a baby in the computer world too….Ah! How I hate computers!