Wednesday, July 29, 2009


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.