Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blessed or Deprived?

A sparking stainless steel tea kettle now stands on my gas top. I find myself aimlessly walking into the kitchen numerous times during the day, just to take a peek at it. Kitchen was never the favourite part of the house for me. But seems like that’s going to long as the kettle looks shiny and new. It’s the highlight of the last weekend shopping, when I bought loads of feel-good stuff ranging from incense sticks to tea lights. The kettle, however, is not just a feel-good item. It’s a saviour for me, really. No more making a mess when I pour tea into cups from a saucepan. Tea in a saucepan!! I hear you exclaim. Yes, I had an electric kettle that boiled water for practically all my kitchen needs ...from instant noodles to tea-bag tea. But occasionally, on Saturday evenings, when there was no plans to step out of the house, I’d make that much-loved masala-malai tea... and the two of us would huddle under a blanket, lie together on a sofa and watch a movie. That’s when I used a saucepan to simmer my tea leaves and let the milk boil and froth for ages, to create that thick malai layer on top. And that’s when I poured the tea all over the bench top and spent hours cleaning it afterwards.

But the kettle is going to change all that. I can now have a taste of India, without all the mess of an Indian kitchen. And it whistles too, when the water reaches boil! What more can I want? OK, I do understand I am over-doing the excitement...but that’s because I did feel a child-like excitement at a new toy.

I dragged A from the study to show him how cutely it whistled...a low, meek, whistle that seemed to say “yes-the-water-is-boiling-but-there-is-nothing-to-panic”. He looked at it for a second and with the nonchalant face of a sleepy sea-lion, he said “Don’t tell me you have never used a whistling kettle before? My mother probably got one as her wedding gift and has been using it ever since.”

Now, I am not the kind of person who turns into a live wire at the slightest comparison with the mother-in-law. I get along pretty well with her, touchwood. But his statement made me wonder...

My mum never had a whistling kettle in her kitchen, so I hadn’t grown up seeing one. True, it was not the first time I had seen one...but it was the first time I owned one. And hence all the excitement. For A, it was like looking at a telephone. Something we had all seen, used, over-used... and taken for granted. As life goes on, we will grow older...acquire more things, see new places, be able to afford much more than what our parents could back in their times (partly because they were in India and partly because technology hadn’t advanced that much anyway). Does that mean we will forget what it is to be excited? The real, pure, innocent, unadulterated, child-like excitement! The kind of excitement that needs an exclamation mark at the end of it, just for emphasis!

Will our children ever say “Wow, I love my new pencil box!” Or will they just say “thank you” and head back to their rooms nonchalantly with their booty? Will they ever spend sleepless nights, waiting anxiously to go to school the next day to show off their new pencil box? Will they ever nag us to let them sleep in the garage on their shiny new bicycles? Or keep the new CD player beside their pillows? Or wipe their new school boots with the edge of their school uniforms on the way to school?

Is excitement a fast-fading, soon-to-become-extinct emotion? Is “taking-for-granted” the new epidemic that will change “living” as we knew it? Are we “blessed” to have everything we ever want? Or “deprived” because we can’t feel the purest of feelings anymore?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Of Cats and Real Estate...

Disclaimer: Cat lovers may find this piece un-cool.

I am not a cat-lover. That doesn’t mean I throw stones at cats that I spot on the road....or intend to hurt them in any way. It simply means, I don’t LOVE them. In fact, if they were on facebook, I don’t think I would have clicked the “Like” button either.

Those who know me well would say that I am terrified of cats. I wouldn’t contradict that. It’s no big deal, you know. I recently discovered that there are so many like me that they actually coined a name for it i.e. ailurophobia.

Ailurophobia specialists would understand (if they exist) that I am not sure why I am scared of cats and since when I developed this fear. I have ALWAYS been scared of them, let’s put it that way. So much so...that with my first salary, I actually hired people who covered the windows of our house in Kolkata with a net like material, to prevent the intruders to creepily walk into our ground-floor flat and give me a heart attack. Which was the main reason why I always wanted to stay in an apartment, preferably on the 15th floor (because cats wouldn’t really know how to use an elevator...and it’s possible that they take the stairs up to the 10th floor. But it would take a super cat to climb more than 10 floors).

But alas, we bought a cottage style house. And bought it from a person who had a pet cat. And this person sold the house to us and started renting the house next door, because he is building a palace elsewhere and would rent till that palace is completed. So the cat owner is now our left-hand neighbour. And the house on the right-hand also has cats. And we have a cat magnet in our backyard...a fish pond!

Now, let me make things clear. I love my house. But I doubt if I would have bought it if I knew I was entering a catty neighbourhood. Now, how would you make a cat understand mortgages and real estate and ownership? The previous owner, who is now our neighbour, probably didn’t even try. So his cat still thinks that our house still belongs to him. I spot him on the kitchen window sill, wagging its grey tail and demanding a hug. Sometimes it sits on the fence, grinning at me. Watching my koi fish seems to be its favourite pastime. Oh, and did I tell you that it chases butterflies in my lawn? How picturesque, I hear you say. How tummy-rumblingly scary, I would say.

Sometimes I feel like photocopying the “Land Title” and “House Ownership” documents, highlighting our names on it, magnifying the Council’s rubber stamp...and keeping it on the fence for the cat to read. But I spent two days teaching the letter A to my 2 yr old niece. I would have to spend a lifetime with the cat to make it read the legalese. And if cats really have nine lives, I may have to spend nine lives with it (because this cat doesn’t look exceptionally bright to me).

As if this wasn’t scary enough, this cat seems to be quite the chocolate-faced heartthrob (it’s brown, in case you wanted to know). For I have often seen it loitering around aimlessly with the other cats of the neighbourhood (yes, there are many more). I concluded it was a male when I saw it chasing two other cats down a lonely alley (what’s eve-teasing called in the cat world?).

I think its owners have been pretty liberal with its upbringing and apparently told him that it was OK to get his dates home. And because he thinks our home is HIS home, one night I saw it hosting a pool party in my backyard, with what looked like, a million other cats. Needless to say, I did not sleep that night out of fear...and I mean the hand-shivering, teeth-clattering, nail-turning-blue kind of fear.

Today, however, would go up in my biography (everyone has their biographies written these days...and I haven’t totally given up on the idea of becoming famous), as a black-letter day. I saw the cat squatting on the lawn and staring at me sternly. From behind closed doors, I said “shoo-shoo” (just before I passed out). And instead of “shooing away”, it shat in my lawn and then also puked a slimy green substance. And at this point, I must have passed out.

Now, I am serious when I say that I feel exploited wronged, betrayed and horrified. I can’t walk into my own backyard without sending someone to inspect the premises before I step out. Can I sue cats? Or sue my neighbour for not keeping his cat under control? Can I be that person who brings about revolution in the legal scene and has new acts created because of them and named after them? Is there a chance that a Scribbler’s Act will be created some day, making it mandatory for cat owners to tie their cats up or restrict them in their house, unless they want to be fined heavily for breach of privacy, disruption of peace, destruction of mental sanity and loss of sleep? Tell me, you legal minds out there any merit in my case?

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Diwali Decor for 2010

Diwali is about light and love and laughter. And am so happy that we were blessed with all of it, this year.

Over the years, we will grow as a new people...create new bonds...paint new dreams...and most importantly, grow as individuals. But this Diwali will always be special... because it was the first one we celebrated at our own "home".

So it was all about my home this year.

I started with the window sill...

And then I thought that the blue vase might feel lonely. So I brought in the green vase (actually a beer bottle). And because I did not have flowers to showcase, I picked some weeds/grass flowers from my unkempt backyard (the joys of being a lazy gardener)...

I brought the new cushion covers out...the ones picked from the Bali handicrafts market.

What a riot of colours they are:

And then waited patiently for the sun to set, when I could light my candles.

Some floating candles on a glass bowl that reflects the light from all sides...

And how could I forget the outdoors?

My puja place and a happy Ganesha...

The yellow handcarved showpiece is a gift from a friend after his trip to Rajasthan.

And the corner that everyone loved...

My favorite light feature. Bali again :)

Oh! And did I tell you I made my first Rangoli this year?

This is not the Sydney Opera House, by the way. Was meant to be a lotus. Be nice...don't laugh.

Do you like my little plants?

And though he looks scary, he is a gentle me. All set to welcome you at the door.

The relaxing of the favorite housewarming gifts we got...

And since when was home decor complete without lights from Ikea?

This lantern can just create magic with its colours....

And finally...the Bali inspired corner that we absolutely love! Where drinks and sheesha will be in abundance....and the whiff of ghazals never quite die.