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 with a dear friend on 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’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.