Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things I Hated as a Child but Miss as a Grown Up

Oiled my hair after a decade. And what’s strange about it...I wasn’t even forced. I actually volunteered for it when Ma arrived last weekend. Funny how things you absolutely hated as a child, become acceptable....to the extent that you “miss them”, as a grown up. Here’s my list of top-10 things-I-hated-as-a-child-but-miss-as-a-grown-up:

  1. Patla macher jhol and bhaat (mild fish curry, Bengali style, with rice)
  2. Oiling my hair
  3. Having house-guests who took over my room (and sometimes my life)
  4. Loudspeakers playing “popular” Hindi/Bengali songs during pujo
  5. Having nosy neighbours who would drop in any time of the day and sometimes stay back for dinner
  6. Uchchey bhaja with kasundi (fried bitter gourd with a mustard sauce, popular in Bengal)
  7. Having to do any sort of art and craft (how I hated my SUPW classes!)
  8. Visiting relatives and spending whole evenings listening to them complain about some other relative or praising their own kid
  9. Rituals and traditions (not of the “fasting” variety...but of the “make-yummy-food-and-decorate-the-house-and-wear-traditional-clothes” variety)
  10. Being told what to do (so much easier than having to decide)

Image below stands proof of #9. My first Laxmi Puja at home.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Diwali Decor 2011

I was quite lazy with my diwali decor this year. Some lights and diyas were put up at the last minute...and a rangoli I am quite embarassed about (a friend commented on seeing it "looks like a group of travelling ants that have suddenly lost their way") :(
Anyhow, here are a few pics of a not-so-bright effort at the brightest festival of the year:
Our Sheesha corner all decked up:

Some candles...

And some diyas...

And finally...the rangoli that Homer Simpson could have made:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mahalaya 2011

As a kid, waking up early was always a torture, except on two occasions – an early morning trip to Howrah station, from where a train would take us away from school, homework, Complan and forced music lessons with a very boring tutor. Baba took us on holidays every year. Except the south of India, we travelled to most of the popular tourist destinations - Rajasthan, Shimla, Manali, Goa, Bombay, Mount Abu, Puri, Digha, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Agra, Delhi, to name a few.

I remember waking up to see dew drops on the window and crawling to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and then packing my toothbrush into the suitcase (the last item to be placed, along with the house slippers). The taxi ride to the station was always the best....brimming to my mouth with anticipation, excitement and of course the butter-toast that Ma had somehow forced into my mouth (warning me that the next meal would only be in the train...that too, close to midday).

The other time I did not mind waking up early was, of course, Mahalaya. It was not really “waking up” as such. Ma, Didi and I would lie on the bed as Baba tuned into the radio station. And as soon as he could get the magical voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra clear and loud, he would come and fight for a place in our bed. We let him in, eventually.

And then all four of us would lie on the bed... with our eyes shut and hearts brimming with anticipation. I would plan my pujo days in my head. Who I’d meet, what I’d wear every day (a pretty complex calculation, as I would have about 17 dresses...and all had to be worn during the five days), where I’d go and what I’d eat. I would inevitably shed a tear or two...probably reminded that this would vanish in a blink, and we’d all have to wait for a whole year for the next pujo. That’s how negative I’ve always been. Even before the fun begins, I cry because it’s going to end!

I would find myself dozing off sometimes...and then I’d wake up to ask Ma if I had missed a certain song. And when the radio program ended, Baba would get up straight away for his morning newspaper and tea, while Ma and we would cuddle together for some time.

It was pretty special. And I wanted to keep feeling that way about Mahalaya for the rest of my life. I’d love to continue the Mahalaya tradition with my kids (when and if they are born). But with a husband who doesn’t really “get it”, born and brought up away from Kolkata all his life...I don’t think it’s going to be easy.
But I tried. This year...just like last year.

I set the alarm clock at 5am and placed my laptop and the Mahalaya CD on my bedside table. As the alarm rang, I fumbled for the “Start” button on the computer...and then the “Play” button on the CD player. Very different to tuning into a radio station....but things change. And as soon as Birendra Krishna's voice filled our room, I received a kick. K.I.C.K! From the Man-Who-Does-Not-Get-Mahalaya. “Can you please not ruin my Saturday morning sleep?”, he barked. Angry and upset, I stormed out of the room with my laptop...and headed straight to the guest room, picking up a box of tissues on the way. I knew I would need them. And I did.
I cried on my pillow for a good part of the chant and songs...sometimes almost choking at the thought of “how my life has changed”. Missing ma, baba, all my friends...and the little room in our Kolkata home, I cried till the sun was so bright that I could not be in bed anymore. The box of tissues was empty by then, anyway.

At around midday, I called Ma to check if she has listened to Mahalaya too. And she told me that she would have...only if it was Mahalaya that day. “What!, I thought Mahalaya was 7 days before pujo. And by that calculation, it HAD TO BE today!” Ma said, “Just because you guys have pujo over the weekend, doesn’t mean we should celebrate Mahalaya on a weekend too.” She was right. Pujo in Perth was on a Saturday...and I had therefore got all my dates wrong.

All this yearning and nostalgia and crying...all for nothing! I couldn’t even get the day right! From a tragic queen who cries on her pillow at dawn, I suddenly became the C-grade comedy artist who always gets things wrong.

So I ran for a new box of tissues.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weekend Epidemic

Are we glorifying weekends more than they deserve? Of course weekends are magnificent...but do week days really need to be as bad as we make them sound? Why do we have to wait for a Friday night to plan a dinner? Why can’t we drop in at a friend’s place after work, on a Wednesday? Why can’t we have a movie and pop-corn night with our kids on a week night? Why not go for an ice-cream by the beach to sweeten our Mondays or brighten our Tuesdays? They don’t really close down beaches for the five days, you know. We’re letting ourselves be sucked into the weekend hype, and grossly underestimating the fun that week days can be.

Weekend epidemic. That’s what it is. A peculiar disease that leaves victims paralysed for five days a week. Monday brings the worst symptoms....morning headaches, all-day nausea and massive yawns all through the journey back home. Symptoms get less severe as the week progresses....and by Friday, we are miraculously cured.

This can’t be the way to live. It’s almost masochistic! Why torture ourselves for five days....constantly yearning for the illusive end-of-the-week? Mondays will come and go. We’ll all need to wake up early to go to school/college/office till we are at least 65 yrs old (retirement age for most people without a lotto win). Once this statistic sits clear in our heads, it’s pretty simple...isn’t it? You either spend 65yrs complaining how hideous the Monday morning blues are getting by the day....or paint them a shade lighter, maybe even brighter.

We do what we can to save us from the epidemic. Pizza and movie night at home on Tuesdays...coffee with a dear friend on Wednesdays...shopping/window-shopping on Thursdays, which often ends in a dinner outside.

Do you have any such weekday ritual? I'd love some new ideas.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Running Out of Songs to Sing in the Shower

Now, I am not a vintage person. I like all things modern and chic. I may take an occasional fancy to a pretty Victorian-style lantern....but usually, I like my things contemporary.

When it comes to movies and melodies...I am not so sure, though. My favourite songs are older than I am. But lately, I find myself drifting. There is this lack of “connection”. The melody may continue to enchant me...but the lyrics are far beyond the vocabulary I have grown up with. I mean, what’s with this obsessive stress on “churi” and “kangna” and “payel” as being integral parts of a woman’s beauty? On my best days, I’d be lucky to even remember to wear my wedding band! And “ghunghat” and “lal dupatta” are way out of my league too. So this jewellery/attire-centric seduction doesn’t work for me at all. For that matter...neither does the so-called endearing name-calling...”sajna”, “piya”, “sajaan”, “dilbar”, “sanam”. The setting too...I mean, who goes to “bageechas” to hear the “koyels” sing an ode to the lovers eternal bond? And who has the time to chase “bhawras” that hover over “kalis”? I mean...it’s not my fault that I find these pictures alien, right? My first date was in a cafe on a noisy highway!

But then again, I don’t particularly like songs with words like “kaminey”, “lanfangey”, “badmash” “zandu balm”, “item” either. Do I use these words? Yes. Got nothing against slang, mind it! But still don't find them song-worthy. And am not tickled by aggression in love either. I mean, “touch me, touch me....or kiss me kiss me” sound to me like threats at gun point.

And the sudden burst of English words in a Hindi song...sentences...whole verses even! Pray why? It is almost bearable in some songs. But in most, seems like the lyricist has just taken his IELTS and is dying to show off his score. Very forced.

While I continue to enjoy my ghazal–kebab-vodka nights, I am worried that very soon I will run out of songs to listen to....or hum in the shower.

Tell me, do you feel like this too?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Faux Pas and Morals: Anindita

Ani, a friend, a room mate, a dog lover...and a fabulous writer, is my next guest for this series. Thanks so much Ani, for doing this.

I received an email from the Scribbler one morning in the not so distant past. She wanted to do a series of blog posts on Faux Pas and Morals, and she wanted to know if I'd be interested in writing a guest post. Oh goodie! I jumped at it. Because I love that blog, and that blog owner. I mean, what's not to love? She even sent me an example to use as a cue for my guest post!

So I agreed, and have remained in agreement for a long time before starting that guest post today. I hope I am not too late and that the Scribbler is still "thinking about tit".

Yes, I can feel her pain there. I lived through the typo-lifecycle myself a couple of days back when I signed off an email to an important client with my "Warn Regards". She hasn't written back yet, leaving me to wonder whether she took the warning seriously. Everyone else copied in that email - the PMs, and the sales people - have been looking at me shiftily ever since. One of them even smiled at me and said, "That was a nice email you wrote to Wendy".

Meh, sarcasm! You can't really appreciate it when your ears are all red and hot, and you're wondering whether others can see it.

From slip of the finger, to a slip of the tongue. I remember one particular incident where a friend, who had walked over to a colleague's cubicle, picked up a coffee mug from her table and commented: "My, what an ugly mug!". To which the colleague pointed to her neighbor and said, "It's a gift from S." My friend, trying to salvage the situation, then went on to say, "Oh S! Please don't mind. I am sure it looked this ugly only because it was upside down. Once we look at it from the proper angle, it won't look so bad." Dear foot, meet mouth.

And then there are the gems that are conceived out of our inability to remember a particular word... I had once overheard a conversation about an elderly mother-in-law who kept asking her mortified son-in-law in front of a room full of guests, why he wasn't wearing an underwear. It took some time for everyone to figure out that she could not recall the word "pullover". It happened. Really.

Which leads me to wonder how much people laughed when during a presentation where I was pitching our strategy to a client, I proudly said, "... and we have designed this activity in such a way that it will lead to a lot of apprehension in the learner's mind about what follows next." The client, with all seriousness, asked me: "Why would I give my business to you if you make my people apprehensive?" Then as I stood there all flustered, and beet red (so I've been told), he smiled and said... "Now, if you can make them anticipate it, then I can give your proposal a think." Cheeky. And utterly utterly mortifying.

We did get that business though. The nice gentleman had a sense of humor.

Moral of the story: No matter how careful you are, nothing is foolproof. Spell checks will sometimes throw up false positives, and your memory will occasionally fail you. You will, every now and then, speak without thinking, because God gave you "impulse" for a reason. It could be because he wanted us to learn from our mistakes. Or because said mistakes really make life that much more interesting and funny. So live it up, because that's the only way you can play it down.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Faux Pas and Morals: Sushmita

Sushmita, a dear friend and also a role model for me, is my first guest for the Faux Pas and Morals: Guest Series. Could almost visualise the faces of her faux pas "victims"! Read on....

Nagpur summers are real blasters and often it gets to you, particularly if you have a normal streak of insanity in you. I had left my work place; it was around 1 pm. I looked around for an auto rickshaw and not seeing one in the vicinity, decided to walk till the RBI square. By the time I stopped one and settled myself, I was frustrated. Suddenly I realized that my shades were missing; I searched, my bag, tapped my head (I often pull it up when I can’t see through the dark glass). It was not there; just bought it some time back, I groaned. ‘Ruko ruko bhayia…(stop the auto ..pls),’ I screamed and the poor guy almost pulled the brake in the middle of the road. ‘When I got into the auto, was I wearing my dark glasses?’ I asked the man, who was staring at me. “Madam, ap tow abhi bhi chasma pehne huye ho (Madam you are still wearing your glasses),’ he said, with an expression that clearly indicated his suspicion about my sanity. I composed myself with a self-important air, ‘ok, chalo chalo, let’s go.’ He moved himself a little forward, hanging on to the edge of his seat, for the rest of the journey, probably fearing that I may bite.
I was buying some flowers at the florist, one day at Dharampeth square, a busy part of Nagpur. From the corner of my eye, I saw a white car parked at the corner and its occupant looking at me. I turned around, ‘aree that’s Alok,’ I murmured and waved my hand, across the road. Alok too waved his hand. I took the flowers and paid for them; then I crossed over. Alok had rolled down the car window. ‘Hey there, long time no see, what’s up with you?’ as the words pored out, as if there was no tomorrow, I realized that forget Alok, this person did not even resemble him. He was also smiling and nodding, a semi-puzzled expression on his face. I was too nervous to even apologize. I mumbled a quick, ‘see ya soon,’ and just stopped short of running.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Faux Pas and Morals: Guest Series

Scribbling Away To Glory has two new feathers (pages) in its cap. See the band below the title image of the blog.

One announces the launch of the new Faus Pas and Morals: Guest Series.

And the other one...My Own Hall of Shame (collection of my old faux pas posts).

So here’s hoping that there will be no dearth of foot-in-mouth stories.

If you have one to share...be my guest.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Turning Thirty

Thirty doesn’t feel like my age.

My neighbour’s age....maybe.
A good number for a fun party...definitely.
Number of shoes in my wardrobe...yes.
Vacation days back home...surely.
Minutes of exercise per day...the experts say so.
But my age...no, sir.

It seems like a serious age. Almost like you’re not supposed to feel excited about your birthdays anymore. Almost like you cannot wear the T-Shirt that says “There's too much blood in my alcohol system."

It’s the official age where you turn from “two-sugars-in-your-cappuccino” to “skinny-flat-white”. It’s when “holding your drink” should give you more pleasure than getting drunk (!!). It’ s when you cannot use the word “awesome” in any context...even if that is exactly what you want to say. It’s when you are expected to be fussy about your wine glasses...and not drink white in red or red in champagne flutes.

You’re supposed to set up the perfect dinner table for your guests...with table mats, shiny cutlery, coordinated drink glasses...the works (not grab your plates and sit on the floor watching TV). It’s when people start asking you how your investment properties are doing...or about the median price of a house in your suburb. Serious stuff, you see.

It’s when you no longer practise your cough and weak voice before calling in sick....but simply send a text saying “Not feeling too well...will take the day off.”

And of course there are things you cannot do anymore. “Cannot”...as in, physically/literally “cannot”. Like do “bottoms up” at a friend’s party...leave home without the anti-wrinkle sunscreen...fall asleep as soon as you hit the bed...run up the stairs without panting (or for those like me...even run to the toilet).

It’s when parents start taking you seriously and expect you to become parents soon. And of course, you’re expected to have “savings”, not just a “savings account”. Maybe even time to think of your child’s college fund...and not invest your entire pay in retail therapy (no matter that the child isn’t born yet).

It’s like you’re supposed to see the world differently...because the world believes that you must have grown tired fooling around.

So I was expecting great things when I woke up today. I lay awake for a few minutes...for some kind of epiphany. But the only call was one of nature. So I ran to the toilet (and panted).

After a close inspection of my morning face in the mirror, I decided I would walk differently from today. Hold my head higher...and my stomach tighter. The latter wasn’t easy, even in an empty stomach.

“Grace” is what I’d aim for (“maturity” could wait). But my phone rang with the birthday text messages from friends round the world. And my SMS ringtone...that of a cheeky boy whistling at a sexy girl on the street (what we call a “ci-ti”, back home) reminded me that even “grace” could wait.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Of Faux Pas and Morals - Part 4

In case you haven't read part 3, part 2 and part 1...

It came to me like an epiphany...

That the greatest morals...

Are born...

Out of the greatest Faux pas…

We’ve all come across typos. They make us laugh or cry, depending on which side of the typo-lifecycle we are. The typo-lifecycle starts with someone in a hurry (or someone with bad spelling and spell-checker deactivated) and ends with someone with good spelling/sharp eyes/lot of time to kill. Often the “start person” is the same as the “end person”, which is a curse (because ignorance of the typo could be bliss).

Now, dear reader, that you have patiently read my dissertation on the Origin and Lifecycle of Typos, let me tell you what happened yesterday....

Team sends me an email listing the pros and cons of purchasing an expensive software. As team lead, I am supposed to make the decision and send out a purchase order.

However, the benefits of the software did not seem to justify the cost. So, after writing my standard email saying “Nice work...good research etc”, I conclude with “no decision” i.e. buying some more time to “think”.

So I write this:
Let’s think about tit.
A sense of foreboding gripped my lungs as soon as I hit Send. Was it?...Did I just? O damn!

Because it was sent to a team of writers, no one would have missed the typo (though this one time, I wished they were not as good at their work).

In my defence, I told myself “When you actually say those words, it sounds like that anyway”. But since then, I have hardly taken a break at work or even left my desk for a coffee. There was no way I could have faced anybody who had the “I know what you are thinking about, you perv” look on their face. But I can almost hear suppressed laughter doing its rounds in the office. Just hoping that the deadlines won’t let them dwell on the typo (or what it inadvertently asked them to “think about”) for too long.

Moral: Freud may NOT have had a point. But people will bring him to life everytime there is a slip (of the tongue or the keyboard). Silence is your safest bet.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Date Night

Extremely inspired by Date Night, A and I decided we should go out on dates as well. Though we have no kids to take a break from...and more often than not, we actually need a break from each other, the prospect of dressing up and going for dinners on week nights sounded good.

We thought we’d take turns each week to plan the date and it would be a surprise for the other person. Now, because I don’t drive, keeping the venue a surprise, is a challenge. But I did it in the past. I don’t tell him where we are going, but enter the address on our GPS and ask him to follow the directions. (We believe that our GPS has saved our marriage for so long. I don’t (OK, can’t) read maps...but insist on never being late anywhere. This was frustrating for A. We could fight in the car “till death do us part”, because reading a map, driving, and fighting was a perfect recipe for a roadside accident. So, a GPS was bought. Marriage and lives were saved.)

But, I drift.

I decided I needed fancy dinner dresses for these dates. To which A said “It’s only us two, why do you need to dress up so much?”. To which I said “Either we do this how it’s supposed to be done...or don’t do it at all.”

Case won. I went shopping.

The following weeks were spent researching the restaurants of the city. We both did that separately, of course. I had my list of fancy places that were busy even on week nights. I hate eating at places where it seems as if the chef cleaned his wok after a year, just to cook for us. I need people around me in the restaurant. Happy, well-dressed, well-behaved people who seem like having a lot of fun. A, on the other hand, didn’t care for “people” at all. As long as the food was good, he didn’t mind walking into a place where no man had ever treaded.

So it was going to be “interesting” to say the least.

Yesterday, was our first “date night”. It was my turn. I wore my new dress, of course. I also thought that a movie would be good, especially because Hangover 2 was releasing on the day. So I bought movie tickets and booked a Nepalese place close to work. I had read good reviews of their momos.

On the way back from work, we decided there was no point going back home and then driving all the way back. So I suggested we go shopping till our dinner reservation time.

We did. Except that A said he’d rather sit somewhere and play poker on his iPhone than walk with me to a million shops. So he chose a nice little corner in the shopping centre as I made a mental list of the things to buy.
The SALE signs allured and hypnotised me. Shoes, bags, knitted tops, candles, books...what could I possibly ignore? When I could not carry any more bags in my two hands, I decided to call A to tell him I was done. But my mobile battery was dead.
Nothing to worry, I thought. I knew where A was sitting. I started walking towards him.

The look on his face when he saw me seemed to suggest either of the following:

  • “Sign the divorce papers RIGHT NOW and never attempt to get in touch with me again.”

  • “If I kill you now, I won’t regret spending the rest of my life in jail”.

I thought he was mad at the amount of money I had spent (I had quite a few bags on me). But turned out that it was 8.55pm. Not only had we missed our dinner reservation...we would also miss our movie if we didn’t hurry.

So we hurried. Not a word spoken. Just praying that Hangover 2 would wipe out the memory of a date night gone terribly wrong.

And it did.

P.S. We laughed so much during the movie that it seemed a little silly to start a fight on our way back home. As for our “date nights”, I don’t think we are having one anytime soon (or ever at all).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Of Snug Wintry Dreams...

A pair of long hand-knitted woolen socks to keep me warm...

A snug patchwork quilt to wrap myself in...

A tall glass of steaming hot chocolate...

A lazy afternoon on my hammock with books...

Or a quiet evening by the fire, with friends...

Could life get any better?

Images: Courtesy Google

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Holiday in Penang: A Sneak Peek

Enough has been written about Malaysia. Penang in particular. The beauty, the history, the food, the culture...the usual. Considering that I have cobwebs to clean, sandwiches to make and toilet rolls to buy (not necessarily in that order), let’s keep this short...shall we?

OK, so I was in Penang about a month back. ‘Twas F-U-N. Parasailing in particular. How I defied gravity, don’t ask. There is a video to prove that I’m not bluffing. A video that has become my husband’s most treasured possession. Because nothing else gives him as much joy as a drink in one hand and the company of friends who will happily laugh with him as he watches his obese and clumsy wife run for the take-off.

Aside - Will be bluffing if I say that it’s not funny. Because it is. E-X-T-R-E-M-E-L-Y.

Anyhow, food eaten, drinks drunk, water sports attempted...we decided to go sight-seeing. That’s when Sheriff... Muhammad Sheriff...makes his grand entrance. Picked up from a tours company outside our hotel, Sheriff is your usual chatty, curious and energetic tourist guide/driver. To summarise him, I’d say: Bald, big belly, enthusiastic photographer who asked me to “pose” at the drop of a hat, and an immense eagerness to educate us about Penang, and learn as much about Australia as he could in the short time.

So this Sheriff took us around Penang. “There are two seasons in Penang”, he said. “The Arab season and the Relax season.” Apparently, Arabs are the cause of Penang’s thriving tourism...and they like to visit every year, at a certain time. Any other time is the “Relax” season...as there isn’t much business.

With that, we reach our first destination, the Penang Butterfly Park. Interesting place. Held some caterpillars and touched a few butterflies. In the middle of the walk, Sheriff points to this pair of butterflies, which were hanging from a single leaf. “Madam, look! They are ‘hanging out’ together”. And with that he laughed his big-belly hollow laugh. We laughed too...more at his mirth than at his pun.

Our last destination was a bird park on the other side of the island (sparing you the details of what we did that whole day). To go there, we needed to take a giant ferry...the kinds that transport cars and even trucks. Our car (with us in it) drove into the ferry...and it confused the hell outta me. Suddenly I grew all philosophical and imagined how we would appear to God (or whoever lives in the clouds). What was our exact location, really? Earth>Continent>Country>City>Suburb>Ferry>Car ?
I had never been inside two vehicles at once.

Anyway, Sheriff continued with his “tourist guide” duties. Pointing to a bridge on the other side of the ocean, he said “You want accident, you take ferry. You want suicide, you go to bridge.” Now why he thought I’d want accident or suicide on my vacation, is beyond me.

Anyhow, bidding adieu to our friendly (and sometimes creepy) tour guide, we took a flight to Kuala Lumpur. From there, we were to take a flight to our next destination: Kolkata.

And just when I was preparing to nod off, my fellow passengers decided to put up an impromptu show. If your journey to India comprises more than one leg...and if your last leg happens to be from City A to Kolkata...doesn’t matter what City A is, you are bound to be entertained. Because the flight would be full of Parle-G-eating, nose-picking, 75-decibal-speaking, seatbelt-sign-disobeying, flight attendant-harassing, aisle-blocking, toilet-clogging, more-food-demanding Bongs. They filled in their “arrival cards” with the seriousness of a board exam. Discussing the options to tick off, copying answers and consulting whether it would be illegal not to declare a half-empty pickle bottle in their luggage.

And I thought the fun was yet to begin.

P.S. I know I promised to keep this short. But couldn’t figure out which Sheriffism to leave out. Apologies.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Confluence

You found love at that young age
And an engagement ring on the dresser
You realised what it is to be happy.
And it changed your life forever.

You found yourself touring the world
Hills, oceans or was it the plains?
One moment you were with the Pharaohs
But in a blink, you were in Spain.

You found yourself in his arms,
And in the embrace, you’ll hit a chord.
You found he understood you
Even when you didn’t say a word.

You found a baby in your belly
And you closed your eyes in prayer.
You found it was a little girl
Who brought all the joy in your share.

You found you were a family
Growing stronger in love each day
Together, the three of you,
Could keep life’s storms at bay.

You found he woke up at night,
And couldn’t sleep very well.
Was it stress? A secret love affair?
Something was wrong... was all you could tell.

You found yourself at the Chemos
The love of your life was in pain.
You found yourself wiping his tears.
And swallowing your own...in vain.

You found yourself at his death bed.
Dying to join him in death.
But holding onto his little girl,
You had to live...
Amidst the tears you shed.

Dedicated to my friend, whose name means “Confluence”. Praying that she finds all the strength she needs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Of Faux Pas and Morals - Part 3

In case you haven't read part 2 and part 1...

It came to me like an epiphany...

That the greatest morals...

Are born...

Out of the greatest Faux pas…

I was having a girlie problem. Let’s leave it at that. Now, to explain that to an all-male team...and a male manager, is not such a joy, as you would imagine. But you gotta do what you gotta do. Because coming to work every day was becoming a nightmare. I’d rather sit on my bed with my laptop on my lap and work from home. My company allowed that.

So, I guzzled my embarrassment with a piece of digestive biscuit and a glass of water. And wrote an email with the words “gynaecological problems causing acute and constant pain”. One can always guise the most awkward moments using serious clinical terms. I did too.

My manager (nice fellow, god bless him), read the email and came up to my desk to say “No worries, do what you have to.”

I gulped and sneezed....and then pulling myself together, I thought I better make a statement. So I said “I may not work from home at all. If I need to, I’ll figure out in the mornings.” And even this wasn’t enough to shake my manager’s poise. So he said “Yes, D. Whatever suits you” and walked away.

Now in the next few minutes, I visualised my reproductive organs being projected in the boardroom and my all-male team sombrely looking at a PowerPoint presentation that my Manager had made, titled “Let’s Make Our Womenfolk Comfortable at Work, Folks”. And he didn’t trust if his employees’ parents had explained the birds-and-the-bees story well enough. So he left no brick (organ) unturned.

Now, all of it was my imagination, of course. My team continued to write SQL code or talk in their usual database jargon that I still don’t understand. In short, they were far away from the birds-and-the-bees story.

But I shuddered, nonetheless. In an attempt to “clarify” my problem further (as if the poor man hadn’t had enough), I wrote another email. This time, I wrote:

Oh, just figured that I sounded very “strange” when I said “I’ll figure out in the mornings”. Just so that you know, I am not pregnant :). (there was no awkward smiley...so just used a normal smiley)

No warning bells sounded when I hit the Send button (and I was told Microsoft Outlook was so clever, huh!). But since I hit Send, I fidgeted on my chair... playing my email over and over in my head. If there was any “dignity” or “grace” ever associated with my name (I doubt, though)....I had poured acid over it. What an ass I had made of myself! Why on earth do I give silly unnecessary details to the most important people of my life? Why do I take a completely serious and logical situation and manage to make it hilarious to the point of being tragic? Where did “pregnancy” come from? True, in my last India trip, that’s the word I heard being used in as many emotions and contexts as could be:

As a “question”: An airline attendant, after carefully scrutinising me, asked A, “Is your wife pregnant?” And A, with a serious face, told him “No, she’s just had a big meal.” (Of course, A tried to make up to me later by saying that it was the “dress”, not me)

As an “exclamation”: Old aunts with nothing better to do or over-curious neighbours: “Married for four years and still not pregnant!”

In sympathy: You poor thing! Don’t worry. It’s all in God’s hands. To which I wanted to say, "It’s not a matter of “hands” anyway ;)”

As an advice (unwanted): "Have you tried doing the Supported Headstand yoga posture?"

Of course, all of these people assumed that we’d been trying to conceive and failed. Myth. So my irritation at all these people expressed itself as nervous humour (or a miserable attempt at it) directed at my poor boss (of all people).

And just when I was about to write my resignation letter (a suicide note would have been more apt, perhaps), my mailbox flashes with a new message. And my boss writes:

No worries ... I’m a man so I made no such conclusions :)

Yippee! Bless that man. Somehow, this one line convinced me that I can continue to work here. Nevertheless, will the ghost of Bridget Jones please find somebody else? Thank, you.

Moral: There is a reason why people don’t openly talk about certain things. Still. Not because they are taboo or awkward. But because very few people have the poise to talk about it without growing donkey’s ears.

Monday, March 21, 2011

We are Six...but we are One

I thought I’d hug them when I see them again. If I ever saw them again...all together, that is.

A tight, bear hug....one that would last at least a minute. One that would take their breath away, (literally)...till they screamed “let go of me”.

I thought I would stare at their faces...to familiarise myself with the lines I hadn’t seen forming. Just like we counted pimples when we were in school.

I thought I’d tell them how much I missed them...even though I told them so, every single day, for the last four years.

I thought I’ll scold them for thinking that visiting me in Australia...all of them together... was too impractical a thought (considering family commitments, job responsibilities and tours, financial constraints). Maybe I would squash them with my hug till they promised to visit. Like we said “god promise” in school.

When I really did see them this time, after three long years...T-H-R-E-E, I acted like a lunatic. I screamed out gibberish in public, as if I was having an epileptic attack. I gave them wet kisses too...much to their discomfort. But I couldn’t see their faces till I wiped off my misty eyes. And they turned misty again.
The reason I have never written about them in my blog is that I never thought I could explain the relationship we shared. “Friendship” doesn’t quite describe it. It’s not powerful enough for us. For what we have, only we can feel...and only we know. What we mean to one another, no words can describe.

We have known one another for years...since the days when F wore thick roundish Horlicks-bottle glasses, J could eat only chilly-chicken and fried rice in restaurants, A was a sports captain who made us proud, S was so thin that we had to hold her in strong winds, P had a mushroom-cut hairstyle and said the most inappropriate things in critical situations. Of course, I was, and still am, the Hitler...disciplining, correcting and trying to make brutal reforms in them.

Together, we have seen failures and successes...marriages and broken hearts....sicknesses and tragedies. We have shared a smoke, spilled more tequila than we drank...and laughed till we cried. In fashionable concerts, we have snorted like pigs, much to the dislike of the elite company. In movie halls, we enjoyed just sitting with one another...more than we ever enjoyed a movie. Till some of us parted cities, we spent every Durga puja together. We went on our silly boy-watching expeditions, where nothing fruitful ever happened. We simply watched our “secret” crushes...and came back home to talk about it through the night. We went shopping for earrings in Gariahat (every dress needed a matching pair)...and dress materials in New Market. We shared everything...from tailors and tutors, college notes and clothes, crushes and stresses, money and even blood. We spent nights consoling or comforting or gossiping or confiding....and woke up puffy-eyed next morning. We have praised and criticised one another...and our intentions were never less than the best. Some of us have flown across cities to be with the rest...to celebrate or to mourn. We have made long distance calls across time zones to share a laugh...or a tear. We have woken one another up in early mornings before exams...and also put one another to bed in times when even sleep deserted company. Gracefully taking care of one another...and our loved ones (be it aged parents or ailing siblings), we have been more than family. Our bond cotton-balled us during crisis...but also triggered us to overcome our weaknesses. Our united voice has fought with the world when needed...because a finger pointed at one of us is like a finger pointed at all of us. We have couriered gifts of love across continents....ice-creams even, (coconut-flavours from Naturals travelling in iced boxes from Mumbai to Kolkata). Our photos hang in our living rooms...the memories of which can soothe a tired soul. Blood isn’t thicker than water. But our relationship is. We are six...but we are one.

No matter what life throws at us, we know we are blessed. For to have just one such friend is a joy...and we are S-I-X.
So here’s letting you know...all over again...
You are the health in my sickness...the joy in my sorrow...the reason in my madness.
Love you all.

Image: Courtesy Santanu

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Litmus Test of Creativity

The difference between the creative and the non-creative...
The motivated and the uninspired...
The dynamic and the languid...
Is essentially the same.

And that is, the creative/motivated/dynamic, never grow up.

Don’t close this window or remove me from your blogroll just yet. Hear it out.

Be it in Norway or Nepal...country or city...in palaces or slums, there is one question that every child comes across.
Could be a cheek-pulling uncle or a school teacher trying to be motivational...or simply one’s own mind looking for answers, that one question hits a child from all corners.
And the question is:
What will you be when you grow up?

In olden days the answer to the question ranged between:
Teacher>doctor>pilot> writer>actor (I wanted to be a bus conductor, but I don’t think that counts) .

These days (with internet, television, play station and heaven knows what else), no one, I repeat, NO ONE, can predict what the answers might be. I saw a little girl on TV wearing a cute little pink dress and matching pink ribbons who said “Mujhe bara hokey mard banna hai.” (meaning, I want to be a “man” when I grow up.) I kid you not. She really said that...and it scarred me for life.
Many of us find the answer to this question straight after college/university. In fact, the current education system is such that we can rule out most of the options by the time we leave school. When I left school, I was convinced that they had forgotten to include that one subject in the curriculum that I would find interesting. Again, I don’t think that counts.

But what I mean is, we all move into jobs and careers...change jobs and careers...make drastic changes even (our plumber used to be a hair stylist). But somewhere down the line, we stop asking ourselves “What will I be when I grow up?” Either because we think we have grown up and are stuck with our lives/careers forever...or because we are too busy asking other questions (like, How does my neighbour make so much money? Who can I gossip about at lunchtime? When do I buy that shape-wear that promises to reduce two dress sizes without one having to even look at a treadmill? etc)
That is where the creative/motivated/dynamic differ from their opposites.

They never stop asking themselves “What will I be when I grow up?” I won’t insult your grey cells by asking you not to take that literally. Obviously they grow up physically (have bigger organs, lesser hair, etc, though some of the unfortunate ones continue to have acne)...and mentally (no longer eat mud or put their hands inside a puppy’s anus). What I mean is...they never give up on life and its possibilities.
The languid, like me, plod along in life...trying to keep their jobs , paying their mortgages off , squeezing in a few children and holidays, reading a few books at bedtime...even planting some trees on days they are feeling exceptionally energetic. But that question “What will I be when I grow up?” is wiped out from their memories.

The creative/motivated/dynamic however, continue to re-invent themselves, find new hobbies, create new talents, learn new things. They do all the mundane things, mind you (yes, the mortgage and kids and trees). But somehow, they can still take themselves to learn salsa, pottery, French cooking, photography or whatever it is they fancy. They build their garden bench...write a book...paint an interesting wall art...or even open a boutique by the sea shore. It’s only with their child-like confidence, youthful exuberance (or call it what you may) that they create new horizons every day.

In short, they never grow up...never give up...never, never.
So the litmus test, boys and girls, is in asking the question “What will you be when you grow up?” Try it on some adults you know. If the person frowns or scoffs, just give them another drink (they need it). But if their eyes brighten up...and they clear their throats to answer you with great excitement, just hug them and tell them how special they are.

So here’s a virtual hug to all my creative blogger friends...and here’s a pat on the back, in Aussie style: “Good on you, mate!”

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One Good Thing

The other day, I realised that there are more things that annoy me than make me happy. That’s not a good realisation, as you will guess.

  • Spot a skinny lady on the bus – Annoyed.
  • Pick up a handbag at a store... and then make eye contact with a price tag that equals my pay check – Annoyed.
  • Find a public toilet when I badly need one...but realise that there is no toilet roll once the job is done – Annoyed.
  • Come back home to find no left overs or ready-to-eat food in the freezer – Annoyed.

    (All of the above happened to me on a single day, in that sequence)

But this post is not meant to be about the negatives. It’s about that one good thing that is so easily accessible, so affordable, so within my control...and such a joy.

It can light up an evening... even after the most terrible day at work.
It can light up a day...just the anticipation of going home to it.
It can make a whole weekend worthwhile.
It is easy and fun.
It can shut up when I want it to.
It is unconditionally good to me...even if I haven’t dressed up for it, or cooked it a meal.
It picks up my call even at the wee hours of night.
It doesn’t judge me when I burst into tears or laugh like a hyena.
It keeps me company when everybody else seems to have “other plans”.

Movies, what would I do without you?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Republic Day 2011

Yes, I enjoy being served with a smile at the bank (on the rare occasions when I do need to step into a branch) and not being barked at with a frown...

Of course I love the fact that we live just ten minutes from the beach...the blue, pristine, white-sand beach of my dreams; not the hawker-infested, muddy, bottle-floating, industrial-waste-smelling waters...

There is no denying that I started enjoying long drives once I left the potholes/traffic/pollution behind and moved to Oz...

True, I can go to work without feeling bogged down by dirty politics, useless rivalries and the constant feeling of not being recognised or appreciated. Much relieved to know that I can walk out of office at 5pm when I have completed my work...and not wait for the boss to leave (even if there’s no work), before I can sneak out...

And I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the material comforts that living in this country provides. True, I have to wash my clothes, do the dishes, cook the food, mow the lawn, fertilise the garden, fix the broken table, assemble new furniture, clean the cobwebs, spray pesticides, shop for grocery and even paint walls myself. But I can buy that Kindle for myself and the home theatre for hubby without a blink, swim in the pool of my own house, drive a decent car and still go for overseas holidays...

But none of the above-stated experiences give me goose bumps. I still rely on something like this for that rare feeling of pride, love, nostalgia and yearning:

Happy Republic Day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Silly School Girls Club

I have known girls who drew the outline of a men’s brief on their answer sheets in response to a question that said “Give a brief outline of Shylock’s character in Merchant of Venice”. No, that’s not true. I don’t know any such girl. But wish I did, because am sure there are a few.

But I did know a Hindi-speaking girl who, in answer to a particular question in our Bengali exam, wrote this in her answer sheet:
Please refer to page 11, answer 2 of Obhagir Shorgo .

For a girl who chewed Pan Parag at that precious age, she did pretty well, I’d say. She had memorised word for word from a Questions and Answers book for that year, without hassling her delicate brain with the fate of Obhagi. Therefore, she had inadvertently done what many of us wanted to do i.e. directed our Bengali teacher to open the particular page in a book and look for the answer herself, if she was that desperate.

I also knew somebody who bribed me with a packet of chips in class 2, when she peed in her pants in class and wanted to keep it hush (I was the only privileged witness to the tributary).

But nothing beats another girl who took it a step forward. She pooped in her pants and obviously couldn’t keep it hush (even if she promised a lifetime’s supply of chips to the whole class). Our History teacher (a dainty, fragile, mouse-like lady) fainted at the stench. The school cleaner (one of the few male employees in an all-girls convent), came to the rescue with a broom . What was he thinking? To beat the last bit of shit out of her with a broom?

And of course there was that girl who slit her wrists to write a bloody letter to her class teacher...her latest “crush”. The letter never got posted or handed over to the person intended...but we all took turns to inspect her wrists and pinch her wounds too...to see if she was faking it. What a happy hetero-sexual lady she now is! Wonder what makes so many school girls fancy their female teachers. Or do school authorities intentionally recruit masculine female teachers (with beards) to stop little girls from fancying real boys?

The school authority too had their share of silliness, especially trying to outwit the smart girls. Note to self: At that age, the crown of “smart girl” went to anyone with a boyfriend. But I digress. I believe that our convent had assigned a dying nun (one who had as much fun and sex in her life as does a domestic mop) to set our “School Uniform” rules:

  • The socks must start from where the dress ends
  • The shoes must be bought from the nearest “disability” store
  • Ugly, red, thick household curtains most be worn as ribbons on two equally oiled plaits
In short, no effort was spared to make us look as attractive as household rats. Therefore, any girl, who managed to acquire a boyfriend in spite of the household-rat look, was nothing short of “smart”. One such girl was spotted with a boy outside school premises, by one of the dying-nun brigade. On being interrogated, she said that it was her “brother”. The following week, we were to have a school fete, where families of students were welcome. Our noticeboard read “No brothers allowed, except infants”. The smart girls turned up with their boyfriends in the fete. On being interrogated again, they said that the boys were their boyfriends and assured the nuns that they had left all their brothers at home. Of course the girls spent their next weekend writing “I will learn to behave myself”, in immaculate handwriting, 500 times on ruled paper...but what the heck.

Silliness in school was so much fun. Don’t you think?

P.S. Obhagir Shorgo is a story about a young girl whose name pretty much defined her life. Obhagi = bad destiny.

Image - Courtesy Google

Friday, January 7, 2011

Packing Boxes and Boarding Flights

Call me old fashioned....boring...or unambitious. But I like stability. No, I love stability.

I wish I was part of an older generation...when people seldom changed jobs, cities, partners, cars, houses or friends. Our generation, on the other hand, seems to enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with visa stamps on passports, flight tickets, removalists, mail redirection, house hunting and friend finding. In short, we love hassle. In fact, we love it so much that we happily give up everything that was truly ours (friends and family) to run after an elusive “something”. Some call it opportunity...others, quality of life.

I have changed jobs (innumerable times), cities (twice, with a strong possibility of a third time, which we talked ourselves out of), countries (once) and suburbs in the new cities (four times, twice in the same year). There is a general lack of loyalty to a place or phase of life. And this constant moving around has left me root-less, to say the least....and yearning for that feeling of belonging.

My dad retired from the company he joined straight after university. And I, his worthy daughter (NOT), changed four jobs in one year. F-O-U-R.  Yes, I have made more money. Yes, my learning curve also looks healthy. No regrets there. But the reason for changing from my third job to the fourth, is not that obvious to me. Let’s say, it happened...and I did not resist.

Only the other day I was telling a friend how my in-laws (who are in their late sixties, early seventies) are still in touch with friends who they have known since their college days. The same set of friends who came to my husband’s rice ceremony, came to our wedding...and will come to our kid’s rice ceremony (if we have any). And remember, they did not have Facebook to be in touch. No “poking a friend” or “sending a smiley” or relying on birthday alerts to wish your friends. It was all plain love...and a lot of sincere effort to keep the relationships going.

That’s the kind of shared history I miss. We make new friends every year. And by the end of the year, most relocate to other cities or countries, fading into the “virtual” world. I doubt if any of my current friends will be attending my kids’ marriage (note I don’t have any yet), who can teasingly pinch their cheeks and say “Getting married, dude? Remember how you peed in our bed once and covered it with auntie’s scarf?”

I have often heard my dad-in-law say “Your mom (in law) got this ABBA record as a gift for me, with her first salary. The sound quality is still superb.” That’s another thing I miss. I don’t really have any thing that goes back years. The books and CDs that I really thought were “mine” are "back home" still, in the room that used to be mine. The luggage allowance wasn’t enough to let us carry all our “emotional assets”. We carried the "essentials". Wish I can sit on a day bed someday, with wrinkled cheeks and toothless gums, and exclaim “Got this day bed on our sixth anniversary. Bloody good quality the mattress is.”

Remember “Central Perk” from the TV Series, “Friends”? It’s not a real place. It is based on Cholmondeley's, a coffee shop and lounge in Usen Castle at Brandeis University, the alma mater of the show's creators. But it was a coffee house that the “regulars” visited often throughout the series. In fact, they didn’t really have to call one another saying “meet me at the usual place”. They kind of stopped there after work, almost as a ritual. Wish I had something like that. Somewhere to stop...everyday...every-single-day, amidst the whirlwind of daily chores and responsibilities. Some place where my favorite people would turn up, every evening, by default. That regularity... that routine...is what I’d love. But alas! We have to send 571 emails to plan a dinner...and 689 mails to plan a picnic. And we go out of our way to make sure that we try a different place every time. What’s this obsession with “trying out new things?” Why not just find a place you like, and stick to it?

Until a few years back, there used to be a crack in the balcony of our home in Kolkata. Every time I asked my mom why she didn’t get it fixed, she’d say “Oh that! It’s when you hit the wall with your tricycle.” Now, how a toddler on a tricycle can cause such a crack on a brick wall is beyond me.  But what stands out is that fact that we lived in the same house for 30 years. By the time our kid (again, the one that’s not born yet) goes to high school, we may have changed more houses than his age.

 So, while we're packing boxes and boarding flights, are we really getting anywhere? Or are we only running as fast as we can in our own hamster wheels?