Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Return to innocence

At the end of a particularly rotten day, nothing helps more than a good cry. It helped that I chose a movie to do it over and my best friend to do it with. So it didn’t matter that we chose single screen over multiplex. It didn’t matter that we had to buy tickets from a sandwichwallah at a 200% premium (they were still cheaper than what I’d pay at a sterile multiplex). It didn’t matter that the décor was kitsch, the elevators missing, and that there were grotesque planetary delights for murals. It didn’t matter that we had to buy Bobby chips and Saiganga water. It didn’t matter that ‘upper stall’ was all we could manage and the alleged 'back row' seats turned out to be the fifth row from the front.

What mattered was that the tears were real, and they came gushing. What mattered was that the crowd was cheering a little boy trying to paint as much as they were the entry of a really famous Khan. What mattered was that the whistles, the claps, the standing ovation, the wet handkerchieves - was all spontaneous. What mattered was that nobody in the theatre was afraid to cry. Yes, the movie was Taare Zameen Par. And I went home happy-sad after a really good cry.


***
 This Saturday afternoon, I turned into a consummate voyeur— sipping my Rose, listening to English music on radio (yes it’s back on one station at least) and staring at the thriving ecosystem outside my window. There is Ismail the squirrel, Abdullah the crow, Ganpat the pigeon, Swamy, the parrot. It should be mentioned that the names are collective, ie all squirrels are called Ismail..and so on… There are also various ornithological marvels who I don’t know the names or taxonomies of. And before I get assaulted by communities for hurting their sentiments, let me say that the names were spontaneous and had no hidden agenda.

As I was in my voyeuristic mode, I saw one indeterminate bird, with orange breasts, green plumage and sleek black mouth doing unmentionables to attract the attention of the female of the species. (BNHS, please help..).I suddenly felt a spot of pity—because, despite their drop dead good looks, the male of the species still had to play a hard wooing game. Suddenly I viewed the women birds with new eyes — they seemed to be going for the real stuff — like finding out how resilient is their man, how long can he hold out, how deep is his affection, how superficial are his looks…Go bird, go!

Closer to humanity, I haven’t seen the wooing game in a long time. The two and a half times that I have played cupid were disasters. On the other hand, the men are complaining there are no women and the women complaining there are no men. May be they should all go bird watching. No pun intended.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

High living, stupid thinking

A few years ago, my poor friend Raju, who makes so claims about turning into a gentleman was denied entry into Rain (of the famous Kareena-Shahid smooch and the Bipasha Basu molestation shoo-sha). I am not even sure if Rain still exists, since I have stopped travelling that far north to socialize. But I still remember that it made Raju feel very despondent and full of disdain for the people who looked him up and down and said, “sorry sir, floaters not allowed.” So off we went to plebian land and bitched about the good life.

My point is, Raju couldn’t hurt a fly, let alone taking on someone at the posh club. What harm could a bald guy who weighs all of 60 kilos, cause in his floaters? I can understand if they were Doc Martens or Caterpillars, as they can pack a mean punch. Unfortunately, Mr. Cerebrally Challenged at the door wasn’t convinced.

Now, I have seen posh men in sharp suits or Versace t-shirts make an utter ass of themselves in high places. I have also seen threesomes emerge out of unisex loos in posh joints. None of these, I am sure, have ever been denied entry, floater or no floater. I believe a tabloid reporter at was denied entry at Bed lounge (yes!)in Bandra because she was in a saree, and then they made a huge song and dance about it…

Closer home, the beau is another person who is always getting into trouble, either for under-dressing (shorts instead of full-lengths ) or overdressing (wearing a hat). He is still working on addressing the Lowest Common Sensibility in dress code, but is taken by surprise every time.
At Poison, which was over flowing with pretty young things one night wearing pretty much nothing, they had an issue with the beau’s shorts which well, just fell short of being trousers. He tried easing them down to prove a point, but it didn’t go well.

At Kuki’s in Delhi (of the Kareena-Saif smooch fame), where, after an hour and a half of serious dancing, the man in charge asked him to take his hat off, as it was ‘against the rules.’ There was some serious word-exchange, but I still didn’t get the logic of it…

At the super-colonial and terribly geriartric Delhi gym, where he is a member by ancestry, his T-shirts and sneakers were frowned upon. So we had to go hunting for a shirt and pull out his patent leather shoes. Why? So we could go to the bar and get wasted, yet look extremely elegant…

Recently we were at All Bheja Fry (sorry, All Stir Fry), grabbing a quick wok before we made our way upstairs to Pollys for a birthday surprise. Now, we were dressed to the nines, so no problem on that front. But as he was sampling the first mouthful, we were summoned by the party brigade, and so, asked for a takeaway. The manager mumbled, “Sorry…it is against our policy… no parcel for buffet. You can take soup…that is a-la-carte…”

Okay, I know we are a third world country and all of us, at any given opportunity would parcel food from buffets for our extended family and friends. What I didn’t know was that restaurant policies were like Indian Penal Code, which by the way, seems very flexible to me, as it is forever changing.

And oh yes, all above places are welcome to ban me, as I have had enough of them anyway. And frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn, as Clark Gable would say.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Satellite woes

Husband-to-be stopped mid sentence while he was talking to me. As he was staring open mouthed at the television set, I noticed that his Dish TV had gone on the blink. “Why didn’t they phone me, or just send me an sms?” he whined. “They should give me advance notice before doing something so drastic.” He continued whining for the next half hour about how he has been so prompt about recharging, and how technically, he was all sorted till Jan 14, and how they must have made a mistake…..blah..blah..blah… There was a veil of annoyance, anger, depression and deprivation on his face all at once.
 I said, “But all you have to do is text or call them or buy a recharge card or whatever it is you do with these things.”
“You don’t understand. There is a Man U match tonight. What will I do now? They will never reactivate it in less than three days. My weekend is doomed.”
“What is wrong with not watching TV for a few days?”…I blurted..
Stunned silence.
I realised as soon as I said it that it was so not the right thing to say. It’s like someone telling me, “What’s wrong with not eating vegetables for a few days?”
Three days later, he is still whining.
Okay, so I am marrying a TV junkie. He loves his TV so much that he never has the heart to turn it off. He could leave it on even when he went out, as it saves the trouble of turning it off and on every time. If he had his way, he would have a television in every room, including the bathroom, lest he missed something when he went into his reluctant showers.
I remember, one of the first romantic things he ever said to me was… “Hey, you want to pick your favourite program so we can watch it together?”
My choices were Travel and Living and Animal Planet.
He never asked me that question again.
I still have to get back to him on whether I would like a TV in the kitchen, so I could watch TV while I am “stirring something,” or “reaching out for the spice rack” or “cleaning broccoli”.
Ahem. I see domestic tension already.
Which is why a psychologist once said that the television is like the third person in the relationship. But then they say, you never marry someone with the intention of changing them.

***
The father is the master and commander of Tata Sky (and he does go jhinga-la-la over it). However, it irks him that he still hasn’t been able to eliminate the yellow envelope thingee from the top of the screen. It’s like being punished despite doing your homework or wearing your uniform ironed. The mother is of little help in the scheme of things as she has just learnt how to use the mobile phone, and it will be a while before she graduates to interactive TV guides.

As for me, life goes on, channel or no channel. Give me a book, some music or a free wall to do my asanas any day.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Oh, for a handyman

Handymen should be handy. That, in my opinion should be their biggest qualification. Whether or not they are good at their job is debatable. I mean how much can go wrong with fixing a nail or mending a fuse?
Sadly, my good karma days seem to be over with Lord Vamne. He is the complete antithesis of the handyman. First of all, he is more elusive than Gautam Singhania, who one can only interview mid-air on a chopper, even though he is partying every night.

Lord Vamne loves the chase. He doesn’t take my calls, but once in a while, he does send an sms in chaste English, which sounds like a mechanized voice mail. You know, the kind that says, “I am sorry, I am unable to take your call, but I will call you back shortly.
Now, I am a guy’s girl. In the sense that I am incredibly good at getting things done, and although I would love to sound like a helpless damsel in distress who says, “Honey, how are we doing to do this? Can you do something? I really need that nail on the wall…?" I have tried that voice and it doesn’t look good on me.
So I do the stuff that I am good at. Track down local contacts. Talk to random people on the road. Suss out the watchman to see how enterprising he can get for a few extra bucks. The weirdest thing is, all roads led to Vamne, as if it were a conspiracy. So instead of ousting him, which was my original plan, I had to be “nice to him” as advised by one and all.

On an auspicious day, after many prayers and breaking coconuts, Lord Vamne finally descended, with his coterie of two assistants. Now, in my book, this is so not cool. The point of being a handyman is “do it yourself”, not strut around, ordering your assistants to do the job. The result? I have two crooked frames, one spice-rack that is reminiscent of the Leaning tower of Pisa, and a gas regulator that has been fiddled with and rejected.

How could this happen to me, the queen of handymen?
Flashback to Mukeshbhai, the local electrician cum plumber cum mason cum packer cum loader cum blackmarketeer at the local single screen theatre. He called me saab, and I got a kick out of that. Then there was Lakkibhai, who was a tad too dandy to be handyman, but all it took was one sniff at the object of repair, and he would say “Ho jayega. Koi vanda nahi…”. Or even Singh chacha who organized everything from cook cum maid to raddiwala to cornershop telephone number to takeway menus to carpenter.

My mother has an electrical shop aptly called Moonlight who does bodyshopping as a side business. Depending on the nature of the assignment—from fixing a lamp to the sink in the bathroom, to the curtain rod, he would send different men, all of whom were called Shabbir. My mother went terribly batty figuring which Shabbir she had spoken to the last time, and it caused much stress.

So I went to a technical institute for boys run by a convent, asking if they had crash courses in “everything that can go wrong with a house and how to fix it”. I wanted to learn how to fix a car, the tap, the fuse and just about anything that needs fixing. The Brother in charge stared at me as if I were a lunatic. I tried explaining to him that “self help was the best help,” etc, hoping to strike a chord in churchspeak, but he was further amused, and laughed me off as a girl who knew too much.
So handymen it will be…

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My two best men

The brother and the beau have finally met. For me, this was more significant than meeting the parents, or getting along with his best friend. Because, in my world, the brother was always 'the man', although I don’t think he ever knew it. Never mind the fact that he is younger (but looks older) or the fact that he always thought I should edit my dialogues and compress everything I said into 30 seconds, as that was the maximum he could deal with, or the fact that we both liked talking so much, that sometimes, no one was listening. The point is, as a younger sibling, he was often subjected to my domineering ways (or so he says), for which he is exercising payback time.

The tough thing about men you love is that sometimes, they don’t necessarily love each other, rather apply the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ rule. In my case, all it took was ten seconds and the magic word at 2 am. Beer?

And there began the bonding.
Both think that beer is something you drink when you are thirsty.
Both believe that the fridge and the larder should be full of juices and cheese and chocolate and ice-cream and preserves and things that they will never eat, but what if the food in the supermarket runs out?
Both believe that a moody remote is good reason to buy a new DVD player, which is good enough reason to buy a new TV, a hometheatre system, a fridge, and a washing machine — it’s always better when you buy in bulk, is their justification. Also, you get a free coffeemaker, so that’s great, isn’t it?
Both believe that the body can be challenged to consume the most toxic form of food at 4 am.
Both go to sleep with the television on, but wake up the second you switch it off.
Both buy clothes they never intend wearing but squirm when you ask them to give them away.
Both can spend an entire day watching squirrels and cats, and eat a lamb while they are doing so.
Both spring into extreme masculinity mode even if you mention in passing that a guy is sweet on you.
Both are extremely anal about their gadgets and wires, and treat them as if they would a lover.
Both take longer to get ready and spend more time in front of the mirror than I do.
Both have a natural aversion to smaller men and believe they should all perish.
Both have no qualms sleeping over their food, but will raise hell if they spot a crumb on their gaming station.

It’s funny how the things that have always irritated me about my brother are the very things I have to deal with all over again with the beau. But I think its all my doing — I remember I said in my very first column, I have always dreamt of having a boyfriend who was like my brother. Endearing, adventurous, spirited and someone who makes me laugh. Guess I am paying the price for it.

My mommy strongest

Hanging out in the ICU is not a pleasant experience. Especially when it's your mother who's battling it out inside. But as hours grow into days, you begin to achieve a rhythm in the whole thing, and then, it's all about project management.

I noticed that people around me were dealing with pain in quite different ways. Some were magically stoic and contained, as though they had a secret formula that I didn't have. Some couldn't stop their nervous chatter. Others, like me, were pacing up and down, prioritizing the list of things to be done.
But the most trying part is not the hanging around all day, waiting to be summoned. Neither is it being told by the doctors that they are trying their best, but we should be prepared for a tragedy, in case it decides to "befall us." Or waiting with bated breath as the doctor pronounces his verdict after an entire day of ultra-sound, echocardiographs, colour dopplers and INR ratios for prothrombin time. Or arranging for 16 bottles of blood in less than four hours — friends, friends of friends, absolute strangers showed up in their Saturday best for my mother as soon I sent out the alert.

And even that is not the most trying part. The most trying part is handling the relatives and their questions
"What time was she admitted?"
"Why /how did this happen?"
"Who brought her to the hospital?"
"Why Lilavati?"
"Can she talk"?
"What about eating?"
"How come we got to know at X time?"
"Is your brother coming?"
"What airline is he flying?"
"Why is he not flying ABC airline?"
"How is it that XYZ knew about it before us?"

With friends, it is so much simpler. "Tell us what you need and we'll do it for you." And they did. Whether it was offering money, blood, a hug for my mother or me, or just their prayers. Two days later, people are still calling or texting, and wanting to donate blood.

But then, there is something democratic about pain. My mother—retired school teacher with no print space to her credit was separated by one bed from Parle scion, Prakash Chauhan whom the nation reads about every day. I don't think my pain is any different from his daughters' who hang around all day—pacing, agitating, breaking down and going on about their business just like me. Or Kajol's, as she comes to visit her dad at the same hospital every day. Or even Amitabh Bachchan's for his ailing mother Teji Bachchan. Incidentally, my mother is still hoping that she runs into her longest crush before she is discharged. "At least some good should come out of this," she says.

She's a brave girl, my mother, and this is her third escape from death. And right now, I feel like the mother of a rambunctious 63 year old daughter who is itching to run away from the hospital, the tubes and the incessant poking, to her haven with two cats who worship the ground she walks on. She is itching to get out of the hospital gown, which she thinks is not very befitting to her figure. And she is itching to start being the boss all over again, and not being told what to do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

And then there were boys

13th Nov 2007

I can’t wait to see Om Shanti Om. I am thrilled that finally, there’s a movie about the seventies, my favourite era — it was an era where men were men. Whether it was Shashi Kapoor’s flamboyance, or Vinod Khanna’s arrogance, or Amitabh Bachchan’s simmer, or Dharmendra’s bravado, or Feroz Khan’s panache, or even Shatrughan Sinha’s bellowing, or Sanjeev Kumar’s melancholic drama, there was one thing in common. They were all men’s men. They were men your dad celebrated, brother emulated, sister had a crush on and mum adored (I know mine had a deep fondness for Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Kumar — wonder what they had in common)

Even the villains had flair. Whether it was Prem Chopra in his sharp suits and designer mufflers, with that gleam in his eye, or the clean chested Ranjeet in his micro-briefs, who, for some reason was always lounging on a float in a swimming pool surrounded by a bevy of very svelte babes in bikinis, when he usually got a phone call that got him to say “What?” in annoyance.

For someone like me who grew up in a topography that just about made it to the Bombay map, movies and books were my window to the world. We didn’t have a TV till much after the Asian games. And Star &Style was a piece of work to be taken very, very seriously.

When I was operated for tonsilitis as a kid, I was asked to name whatever I wanted to make me feel better about the fact that I couldn’t talk for two days. I asked for a supply of Picture Post, a delightful movie digest with lots of stills and glossy portraits and bios of movie stars. Believe me, it felt better than the ice-cream.

And what do we have now? If I look around moviedom today, I find the masculinity so manicured, it is not even lech-worthy. There are no men, only boys ( some descendants of the aforementioned) desperately trying to be men, but no amount of jackets, guns or SUVs is helping. Neither are glossy stunts and stylized dance moves and the waxed chests and the woven hair. There are no villains either, as the good guys are also the bad guys. And no vamps, as actresses are ready to break into cabaret-like gyrations.

The 70s was also a time when movies had real sexuality — even if we only saw a symbolic fireplace and torrential rain in the tacky back drop, a dropping of blankets, flowers nodding in unison, thunder for sound effects — the point is, one could feel the sex on screen. When was the last time you saw great chemistry between a man and a woman on the Bollywood screen in the last five years? Think hard.

Yes, the men are metrosexual and yes, they have the moves, good hair and biceps, an occasional cleavage and six packs and all that. But even when they turn 45, they will still be boys. And that to me, is not a great thing.

Femme fatale

Every girl has three kinds of friends — the ones who like her when she is happy, the ones who like her when she is sad and the ones who like her no matter what. Depending on what stage of life or mind you are in, the population of each of the above categories varies. The last kind is what makes a friend for life, so if you have two or more in that one, consider yourself blessed. The first one is not too bad per se — except that its longevity is questionable and one tends to have too many miscellanous files open at some point, and too much access to too many people.

It is the second category that can really get into murky waters — most of us, at some point or another have had friends who thrive on our pain, and use it as an opportunity to remind us how sorted they are.
I have had them too… and didn’t even know for quite a long while. But wisdom has finally caught on, and now I can sniff pain junkies from a mile. They are the ones who look for scabs that they can poke and prod — till they get you to a point when you feel miserable about yourself, and then they offer you their shoulder.

It’s like they need your pain to validate their presence. Think about it, you know it’s a no-win — if you are happy, you wont be by the end of the conversation. And if you are sad, you will be worse.
Either way, the power equation is firmly established by them asking all the questions and wanting to be the ones with all the answers — while you, completely unaware of the powertics, strip yourself of all emotions. Remember, the rule of the game is to start asking the questions. It’s always easier than answering, so why can’t you be the one who has the better job?

With men, it is different. They never really allow that degree of access to anyone, and besides, they hate answering questions. If you do friendships like a man, you are less likely to get hurt. Most men have ‘best friends’ who don’t know their secrets — but it doesn’t matter — there is not much emotion invested, and hence no major disappointments. The flip side is, they usually extend themselves to utterly random ‘friends of friends,’ who might think it is legitimate to call upon them in times of need.

Coming back to where we began, there is hope. All we need is to do some serious flushing, like I have. The last time a pain parasite called me to ask me how I was doing and what’s new and if I was happy and all that random collection of data, my antennae were on alert. I told her it was all good — work, life and love couldn’t be better, and began my barrage of questions. She hasn’t called back. Am guessing the power equation has shifted.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sunny side up

I have what you call a cosmopolitan affliction. No, it’s nothing to do with Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite drink in the Sex and the City. It’s my legs that seem to be letting me down, and the on-her-feet dancing queen in me just wants to sit down all the time, as standing has become a bit of a torture.

A few weeks ago, I reported to my doctor about the weakness in my legs, and she looked perturbed. I was too young for osteoporosis, and moreover, there isn’t a drop of Parsi blood in my lineage (or so I think). So it couldn’t have been a legacy. It must be a B12 or D3 deficiency, declared my doc. “Get your blood tested and come back to me..”

I always get a bit depressed while going for a blood test, as I am somehow afraid that it will declare me diabetic, as that is a likely inheritance from my mother’s side of the family. So I decided to cheer myself up the previous night by meeting my buddy who always guarantees me a laugh.

He did. The laugh was on me. The carnivore in him began to get a cheap thrill out of my predicament. “You poor vegetarian. Drink beef soup. Attack those steaks. All the aches and pains will be gone…”
“But you do get vitamins from vegetarian food..” I mumbled, plaintively…
“Yes, if you drink a drum of daal every day,” he sniggered.
“But what about pulses and tofu and broccoli?” I was clinging to my vegetarianism like an ideology.
“The cows can eat the pulses. You should eat the cow,” he declared.

Thankfully, my doctor didn’t shudder at my report. No diabetes again, so I was happy. But there were other red marks. With much trepidation, I asked her, “You really think I should have beef soup?”

“No, what you need is sunshine…plenty of it…!!”

Turns out, I have a D3 situation, which can only be addressed by the sun god. Now, I love this part, as it allows me to go back to my science roots (a very crisp, Masters in Pharmacy degree is lying somewhere in my chest of drawers).
So the verdict is, I am ok on Calcium (ah, no osteoporesis!) and I am okay on B12 too (meat can take a walk). But what’s happening is, there is all this Calcium in my body, but it has no D3 to chelate with (scientific term for hanging out), so it’s all going to waste— the poor D3 needs sunshine for coupledom with my Calcium, and I am denying their love affair!
And since I work in an insulated office, where I don’t even see a window, let alone sunshine, and since my ride to office is about ten minutes (and insulated), I am not flirting enough with the sun god. So my body is crying in agony, “It’s payback time. Give us this day our daily sunshine

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cat out of the bag


“Tell me all about Wriggly,” ordered Pooja as she hugged me. “Where did you meet, how does he look, how long have you been together, tell me all….now!”

I was a little taken aback. I was meeting her after three years, so I assumed all questions would be about me. “Okay, I’ll show you his picture,” I resigned, and beamed her the display on my mobile…


Stunned silence…. “A cat…..!!!!”

“Yes, what did you think?”

“I thought Wriggly was your boyfriend…, “ she said, despondent.

“You think I would date a guy named Wriggly?” I was chuckling by now, about my cat being out of the bag.

‘So what? You have a name like Lalli…that’s silly enough…”

It all came together. Pooja had been following my Facebook status updates, where Wriggly featured as the latest love of my life. He incidentally is a rambunctious kitten, recently adopted by my best friend and has turned our collective lives upside down. Yes, I am guilty of status messages like “Lalita is wondering what to wear to her date with Wriggly tonite” or “Lalita is unable to stop thinking about Wriggly” or “Lalita is distraced by Wriggly” or “Lalita is wondering when she can squeeze Wriggly again…

Surely, she couldn’t be thinking I was writing about my beau! I mean, what kind of person would put their love lives on Facebook?

Turns out, it is not as implausible it seems to be. Because, weirder things happen on this superficially effervescent networking site. A friend’s boyfriend who has never made any conversation with me in real life, inundates my wall, my super wall, my funwall and god knows what else, with random messages all the time. Some randoms want me to take the ‘sex appeal quiz’ and the stalker quiz and ‘how alike we are’ quiz and the ‘likeness unrated’ (find your inner criminal) quiz. Others want me to answer their questions and share movie tastes or share their garden or hatch their eggs or something equally absurd. I have been guilty of succumbing to a few of these advances, before I realised how silly and distracting it all was.

I feel like saying, dudes and dudelets, I don’t know how you made it here, but I don’t really ‘know’ you, so I have no reason to know how like or unlike we are, or to evaluate which one of us has more sex appeal. I am very confident in that department, thank you!
Yes, but I am guilty of adopting a pet, playing scrabble and learning my chess moves, because I think, might as well use the services of people who can teach you some skills. And why not?

As for the rest who are oh-so-random or just oh-so-inactive, I just want to know, if I delete them quietly, will they receive a notification that they have been deleted? Because that might be a tad rude, even for a superficial medium like Facebook. Someone please let me know. I am clearing the clutter, and yes, that is my current status update.


.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The things we think and do not say

Consider this:
Man hits on woman. Man scores. Man is a player.
Man hits on woman. Man doesn’t score. Man is a loser.
Man hits on woman. Man doesn’t know if he scored. Woman is a bitch.
Woman hits on man. Woman scores. Woman is a man-eater.
Woman hits on man. Woman doesn’t score. Woman is desperate.
Woman hits on man. Woman doesn’t know if she scored. Man is a player.
Man gets wasted at a party. Man is wasted.
Woman gets wasted at a party. Woman is embarrassing.

I didn’t make these rules. Neither have I heard anyone articulate it. But it’s all out there, under the thin veil of sexual politics, where nothing is said and everything is understood.

I find it amusing that most of these rules are made by women, but the men aren’t complaining. May be, because as a race, they are more forgiving, have lower benchmarks for behaviour, and will largely give the benefit of doubt to the woman (whether or not they are interested in her). Because, in a man’s mind, a woman can do no wrong. So there are no rules for them. With their own kind, there are plenty. “Don’t get in my space. Don’t make eye contact more than necessary. Don’t interrupt me when I am talking to my woman. Don’t tell me what to do unless I ask you. And don’t deprive me of a good fight.”

Women on the other hand are governed by rules — whether it is for our own sex or the opposite. We are also constantly asking for rules to be defined whenever we are in a situation we haven’t been in before. And are forever articulating and modifying them depending on our state of mind and the company we keep. For men, it’s all very simple. “Mess with me and I’ll mess with you. Mess with my woman (wife, girlfriend, sister, friend) and I’ll mess with you. Apart from that, I don’t really care if you are a serial killer or a nudist.”

Which is why men let women get away with a lot more, while they are not forgiving of their own race. At a recent party, a woman mixed a drink too many and spent the rest of the evening pole dancing and lap dancing. Except that the poles and laps were real people. The men wanted to help her, but didn’t know how. The women, for the most part were embarrassed and stayed away.

Had it been a man, the menfolk would have discreetly huddled, bundled him into a cab, and disposed off his remains for the day. To them, a man is a collective. He stands for them. So any man who behaves badly is a collective responsibility, something that they will all get together to set right. And I love men for this.

Women on the other hand are ruthless. They believe that pretending it didn’t happen is the best punishment. I am sad to report that yours truly is sometimes guilty of the aforementioned.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bring on the moms

I have a feeling that at some level, men don’t really know what to do with their mothers post the age of eight. For a very long time, they are in denial about this, as they are with most things, till one fine day, they meet a woman who can “do mothers”. This is the point at which they are at first in shock and awe, and then eventually heave a jubiliant sigh of relief, as if exclaiming, “Take her…and do what you want with her. Amuse her, talk to her, listen (most important), call, write, bitch, gossip, whatever. But leave me out of it…please..”

It’s almost as though handing the mother over to the woman of their lives gives him the sense of freedom to do more important things. Like playing more pool. Drinking more beer. Watching more television. Hanging out with more miscellanous and utterly random people.

So now, I am now communicating with two mothers — his is definitely more tech savvy than mine, so in a sense is easier to do. As for mine — I have to either talk or listen. Fumbling with either of the two will immediately get her antennae up, as will a slight inflection in my voice, which will set her thinking, “I wonder what’s wrong and how I can fix it..” She believes in a strict two-way communication, so no getting away with an sms or an email. And there is no way you can avoid a confrontation. May be that’s why I have become quite good in that department.

The fact of the matter is, moms are clever, and men cannot match up to their astuteness. So it’s never possible to have an open-ended, “wassup” kind of conversation with your mother, and avoid the sticky areas. Ask me. I am a veteran with moms. At a recent birthday do of a friend’s baby, she couldn’t help observing how well I was “doing the mother-in-law”. I tried explaining to her that I am basically a friendly person, which she banished instantly as rubbish. “Lalli, don’t give me that… you don’t get along with seven out of ten people. Just admit, you are good at the stuff..”

May be I have become good at the stuff, having largely the mediator (and foster mother) for my twin siblings for the most part. They both have issues. My sister is of the opinion that my mother suffers from selective hearing (read: she hears only what I have to say). My brother is largely exasperated that she doesn’t get the concept of time lag between his speaking and the words being delivered to her (he lives in California). So, more often than not, they are talking at the same time, and no one is listening. At some point, out of the extreme need to be heard, he calls me and downloads for the next one hour. And then she calls me and downloads for half hour after that. Such is my life!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Scrabbling me softly

I have come to realise that there is no such thing as an innocent sport. Just as there is no such thing as a good loser. When you get down there, you have to play to win. And when you don’t, it’s a miserable feeling. So whether it’s scrabble or cricket, it’s pretty much the same thing.

Recently, I was beaten hollow at card-scrabble (a meaner variant of board scrabble) by the beau — we had just graduated from regular card games and aborted attempts at double player PS2. So, instead of killing and shooting strange looking figures on screen with his controllers, he was doing it to me with words this time. Sigh!

I actually thought that since the forum was words, I wouldn’t have to try too hard. But nothing could be further from the truth. I was doddering along like someone who had just learnt the alphabet, while the beau was making words in every direction and scoring doubles and triples with patterned élan. Not just that, he also went on deducting from my already poor score by playing something called the category card, which allows you to punish your opponent for using an S, or an E or something equally inane. Welcome to card scrabble!

It all felt a bit gloomy. At some point, I got so desperate, I even made up words and was suitably caught. Had I totally lost it? So much for thinking I had an equity in words..

Which is when I realised that the one thing scrabble is not about, is vocabulary. It’s about strategy. It’s all about optimizing your consonants, manipulating your vowels, and minding your Qs and Zs.
An extremely erudite poetess friend of mine and I had a chat about it and she said she had the same problem. While she waxed eloquent on the fecundity of spirit and the peripherality of belief, the husband beat her hollow with his judicious scoring.

Because, in any case, seven letters is all you have, as the beau reminded me. So it hardly matters if you can weave in serendipity into a phrase or know exactly what an onomatopoeia is. Or how intelligently can you use the word obliterate (my favourite word, incidentally) in a sentence.

The beau played by the book (as usual) and every time I contested something, he would show me the rules …so what appeared to me as slang words or prefixes or suffixes, were rendered completely legitimate according to the dictionary (much to my annoyance). So there I was, struggling with a vowel too many, wondering how to get rid of so many Is and plotting on the ‘right time’ to use my Z. And just when I did, he piggybacked on it, totaling up to a ridiculous score, laughing all the way to my defeat. The gall!

A few years ago, I joined a scrabble club thinking I’ll have fun with fellow wordsmiths, but was cleaned out in five moves by fellow players who one couldn’t exactly classify as great conversationalists, but who had copious lists of two to seven letter words and knew them by heart. As an act of charity, I was given a list of two and three letter words on my third meet. And before they invited me for their tournament (I am sure they needed me just to get a headcount— I wasn’t going to be a star player anyway), I fled. And never turned back.

But now, I am going to get back like a woman on a mission, and when I do, you’ll read about it on this very page. Until then, QUIZ on to triple word glory.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

You are being Fcuked!

A few things I learnt at FCUK's network building bash that happened last week:

1) Sharp dressing means different things to different people. Even though it means 'fashionable and new' according to the dictionary.

2) The problem with being a trend follower is wardrobe space. Now even though I am a give-away-anything-you-haven't-worn-in-a-year kind of person, I still find my wardrobe spilling out for the most part. And I am not even a fashion victim. May be I just have a small wardrobe. Oh well.

3) Being sharply dressed means that everyone ends up looking the same. And why would women take so much trouble, just to end up looking like any other woman, beats me. This is probably the reason why I have resisted straightening my hair, my nose, my teeth, even my hands (my yoga instructor insists that I have crooked hands). The thing is, I love my imperfections. It makes me me. So even when I try to blend in, my hair and skin colour doesn't, and so, I have pretty much given up.


4) Appearing well put-together is too much work. In any case, most of the places-to-be-seen-at are so dark, you can barely locate your feet. So why bother?

5) Keeping up with trends means shopping for every night out, and doesn't make sense. Just when you are getting comfy with boot cuts, along comes skinny jeans..and just when you give away all your page-girl tops, they are back again. And just when you thought sequins were out, they are in again. So I survived leggings, bling mania, broad belts, skinny jeans, tunics, bubbles and..Oh, forget it!

6) When you are at a to-be-seen place, try getting an aerial view. It's really cool. A few friends and I spent a good part of the evening watching Nina Manuel getting made up for her TV show. Her dress ended even before it began—that must be sharp. And Sapna Bhavnani's bag was bigger than her outfit. Kelly Dorji wore a cool white shirt and an uncool scowl.

7) Electronic music is actually that. Electronic. Which means the sound doesn't come from anything. Just technology. Wow! Why didn't I think of that? And the new cool is not trance or techno—it's Intelligent Dance Music. Deep!

8) Being an artist is cool. From my voyeuristic upper deck, I watched Apnavi Thacker messing around with a canvas. She stuck a picture, she painted varnish over it, she sprayed the letters F C U K (the K was definitely in a language waiting to be invented) and SEX TOY and P O L I C E around it, then she messed it some more with some red spray paint. This time she wore something that looked like deep-sea-diving equipment. Two hours later, she was still at it, and it still looked the same. And the crowd was still watching her. That's cool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Honey, I shrunk the Ganpati

On Sunday, I got back from my mom’s house post the ganpati festivities, feeling like an elephant goddess myself, after all the modaks, the kheer, the appams and the til laddoos(the last one got added to the menu this year..)

Every year, a day before the event, my mum brings out the little silver Ganesha from her silverware box, where he spends the rest of the year with bowls, plates, cups, trinkets, coins and all things silver. The day he is brought out, a throne is made for him, where he is nestled on a bed of flowers, dhruva (type of grass he fancies) and other things floral or green. He gets further smothered with the akshata and the tulsi and things showered on him by the family and visitors.

The pundit arrives, does his fast-forward puja, grabs his bag of goodies and makes way for the next house, and we feast for the rest of the day. The next day, the ganesha is stripped of all the décor and goes back into the silverware box to hang out with lesser mortals.

It wasn’t always like this. Years ago, when we were a bunch of rambunctious kids, we had real idols very year—tall and grand, with the works. Mom, the impeccably diligent one, always did her bit, but dad was not exactly fastidious about aarti timings, and had issues with leading public processions (and the job was non-negotiable, as chief male member). That it ate into his TV time was another matter. The brother, next in line for the coveted role didn’t see the point of taking showers to earn the prasad, or do the puja—he didn’t think a shower made him any more holy. We girls would happily do it, but we were told it was not ‘our domain’

And when it came to the immersion, the men went missing. So ever so often, the ganpati would come home in a bag and leave in a bag.
Soon, mum had enough. No way was her idol going to be treated like this. She took matters in her own hands and announced that we were going silver!

Of course, now my family can join the eco-friendly ranks, as we are not contributing any plaster of paris to the environment… but somehow, Ganesh Chaturthi has become less festive… when he gained metal, the elephant god seemed to have lost some of his buoyancy and charisma. Sometimes, it is hard to even spot him, amidst all the flowers and garlands and tulsi leaves and dhruvas (special type of grass that the ganesha likes)

But everyone is happy. Me and the sister are happy, as all we have to do is eat (after prostrating of course). Brother is in foreign shores, so he just messages “What’s cooking?” and sighs in nostalgia. Dad is relieved that he is under no performance pressure— the pundit has been outsourced to do the needful. As for mom, she is the chief choreographer who has complete control and is in a good place. Even Lupooh Singh, the cat is ecstatic, as it ensures him unlimited access for a day and a half to dhruva and other things green and floral, that he loves devouring to a point there he gets a tummy ache.

As for the ganesha himself… he hasn’t complained yet.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The hot and cold of it

I spend a great part of my day in an office where my most preoccupying thought is how to stay warm. Now, don’t get ideas. There’s no such action here. All I am talking about is plotting on how not to be subjected to sub-human temperatures and not have to thaw my fingers every time I try to type.

Okay, I know some people consider it fashionable to dress for winter and wear layers and all of that, but I am not one of those — I am the type who hates wearing a salwar kameez because it has too much fabric and too many layers. So when I am forced to wear more fabric than necessary to keep myself warm, it irks me.

And to think that just over a year ago, I would have done anything to have an office AC that actually cools. Yes, I was then in a space called Man’s World, where one felt one had to go through a steady state of disrobing so as to not roast. Had the AC been fixed, and had there been a unisex loo in place, I would have probably never made it to this paper.

I have come to realise that when it comes to the work place, there are only two options. Either you shrivel or you stew. There is no such thing as an office with optimum temperature. Let’s not even go to food, recreation and other frills.

A few years prior, I was in a robot land called Tata Interactive, which was a space inhabited by Neanderthals with varying winter wardrobes..from the very gauche to the very galactic. And when it came to a contest for cooling needs, somehow, the “server” always won, even though most of our window displays always showed that the “server was down” or some such.

Somehow, I have always been lucky with houses, which is why going back home is always a more pleasant experience than going to work. Of course, staying in the car is the best of all.

If only HR personnel knew that the one way to make sure people stay in their jobs for ever and ever is by offering them the right food and the right temperature. Like animals, human beings also like to nest when the conditions are optimum. It doesn’t take too many workshops to figure that out. Till today, the office where I have had the longest innings has been the one with optimum cooling and happy canteen boys. That’s all it takes, future employers please pay attention.

My friend Anita, who lives in New York has an interesting theory — work is not a natural state to be — like eating or sleeping, or being in love, or getting married. We work because we have to, but we eat and sleep because we love to. Sometimes we work because it is the only way we can do the rest of the stuff. So in that sense, work contradicts our natural state of being. And working in the cold aggravates it even further. Ever wonder why those posh offices with snazzy ACs and vending machines that spew it all have such a high turnover of people? Well, it’s just too cold for comfort.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

One flu o’er my nest

One thing my parents never succeeded in teaching me was fear. Topmost in their wish list when we were kids would have been fear of teachers and doctors. Now the teacher bit, I had my way around— most of my teachers adored me. The doctors however were a different ball game…

Now I was a sickly child, so at least two visits a month with any parent who could drag me to the doc was mandatory. Back then, my parents usually measured the efficiency of a doctor by the assortment pf pills he prescribed. Whenever we moved house, we also moved doctors, and after a visit to the local doctor, my dad would come back with the verdict, “Bah! He doesn’t know anything…just two pills….” But they never missed their jaunts to the doc.

I could never see the point of going to a place which was infested by sad, sick looking people, and then being thrust an assortment of evil looking pills in white, blue, yellow and pink, not to mention that half or quarter pill in orange. So I did the unthinkable. I asked them why? I thought the clinical examination room was an extension of my classroom and it was time to ask questions. I wanted to know what each of those pills planned to do in my body. The doctors bristled, and huffed, and wished me out of their sight as soon as possible, and I noticed a parent turning nervous..

Things never changed—in fact they got worse— I majored in Pharmacy and now I actually had the benefit of knowledge. I knew exactly when a doctor was taking the easy way out, or making you a guinea pig for a drug he was trying to promote. And since I come from a family of pill poppers who consider the doctor as god, I had plenty of opportunity to ask why.

The beau joins the ranks in my family as another benign soul who never questions the doctor. When he has a flu, he diligently visits a neighbourhood quack, who douses him with the same high-end antibiotic (which costs ten times as much as the more common ones for respiratory infection). He has been doing this for the last four years, and not once has the beau asked him why. I don’t get this. It’s not that it makes him feel any better—in fact every visit gets him even more annoyed…but perhaps not enough to exercise his right to information, or opinion for that matter.

I wonder what it is about doctors what intimidates people—and I think I know what. It’s the clinical smells of the examination room, the combined aura of all those certificates on the wall, the stethoscope and the asking you to pull your tongue out to look at your throat, the intimidating and aseptic smells of disinfectant—the sterility of it all creates a fear bubble, and the doctor knows that. If you were to meet a doctor in a lift, or in the gym, or at the multiplex, would he have the same effect on you? I hope not…

I am finally in a place of holistic healing, and swear by my homeopath. Even though friends and acquaintances and just about anyone who can get a word in always asks, “Are you sure?” or , “Why don’t you see a real doctor?”

Yes, I am bloody sure I don’t want to dump myself with antibiotics, antihistamines, cough suppressants and pain killers for a flu which anyway deserves its 5-6 day cycle. After all, every germ has to get its due.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two men and a girl brigade

It has been a long time since I ran into a suitably obnoxious member of the opposite sex. May be it’s my “Don’t mess with me” aura. May be they think I am some sort of extra-terrestrial, or may be they just follow this column and don’t want to be messed with.

The scenario was this. Last Thursday, me and my girl gang from work showed up for pre-dinner drinks at a nearby restaurant to celebrate a team member’s birthday. Just as we were leaving, I noticed a car parked behind mine which blocked both me and the birthday girl ( parked back to back) from leaving the premises.

Said owner of car was a finance/stock exchange type, me thinks (predictably gauche striped shirt was a giveaway). Stripey was bonding with Mr. Sharp Suit (possibly a colleague) over bloody marys. And that should have been a sign for me. What kind of guy drinks bloody mary at 7.30 pm? Simply, someone who is not man enough, as he soon demonstrated.

“Can’t do it now,” he said grumpily, when we asked him to move his car. “Will come after ten minutes….”
Birthday girl was suitably harried and had to make it to another party, and asked him again. He was louder and grumpier. “Can’t you see I am busy? Do whatever you want….

The whole thing blew up hugely out of proportion and we soon went to war! It felt like a Chak de moment, although I would much rather it was the Mirch Masala finale. The details of the exchange are irrelevant, but suffice to say that we pulled all the stops (the pipsqueak of a restaurant manager wasn’t really taking note of the situation)

When we revealed we were a pack of journos, Sharp Suit rose to the occasion and tried to make amends for the damage created by Stripey, who soon retreated into a corner while Sharp suit tried to play good cop. It angered me that we had to display power in such a crude way to earn a modicum of good behaviour, but it appeared that it was the only language they understood.

The last time a guy tried to mess with me, he got hit by a stool. I was all of 14. It was in Teen Murti Bhavan in our great capital (clichéd as it might sound, I was not surprised).. What annoyed me the most was that my parents didn’t allow me to finish the fight and go to jail, as I would have loved to
And strangely, history repeated itself. This time again, I had to leave the scene of the crime, as my sister called at the most inopportune moment, telling me she was stranded without keys and waiting for me outside my building.

Only difference was, this time, I had another me to finish the fight. And she did.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

You had me at Chak de!

(This was written soon after Chak De!, a movie that made me look at Shah Rukh Khan in a whole new way)

Dear SRK,

You had me at Chak De!
Actually you did have me at Fauji, a long long, time ago, although the “I say chaps” guy lingered longer in my memory. And then you did have me at Circus, and then at Baazigar.

Somewhere along, you lost me….for a very long time. You were busy prancing around in your Tommy Hilfigers and DKNYs or singing unchained melodies to chiffon clad lasses in deserts or haystacks. And I was suitably distracted by the other Khans and life and general, and it didn’t really matter much.

And then, out of the blue, you had me at Swades again, when I was hit by a surge of patriotism, wanting to build dams and get electricity into people’s homes and write on inland letters and postcards all over again…

The thing is, I never really had a favourite Khan — I find superlatives very hard to negotiate — reason why I don’t have a best friend, the best book I’ve ever read, the best movie I have ever seen, the best thing I have ever eaten or any of that.

Chak De changed everything for me. It’s irrelevant that after years, a movie had me choked, or the fact that my I-hate-Hindi-movies beau was as taken in by its implicit honesty and passion as I was, or that it had no songs, and no pervading gloss. But it all added up to the larger outcome — I had found new respect for you — something that will help me forgive everything you ever did. And that, to me is big.

I find the world of sport and movies about fascinating — probably because it is an alien world to me — a world that I could never really be a part of. When I was a little girl, all the big, bad girls were always into sport, while I was the nerd who sat on the first bench, knew all the answers and did all her homework.

I so wanted to be like them, but my puny frame, weak lungs and tam-bram upbringing never really allowed me. The closest I came to was being a reserve player in the volley ball team at school, and I was so petrified that I would have to play that I fell ill on the said day, and everyone thought I was the traitor.

Finally, after all these years, sport and me have kind of reached middle ground, what with the bro and the beau’s collective passions. I can now survive a game of cricket or golf or football and sometimes even ask the right questions without being totally off the mark.

So when I watched 16 feisty girls of seemingly different shapes and sizes (some who reminded me of me) get together and survive the collective politics resulting from their disparate energies, I am awed.

I think of the man who got them to think of the whole instead of the self…and yes, I know its all about good screenplay and direction and all that. But at the end of the day, it’s what you see. And I saw someone who was large enough to be smaller than the team. And that did it for me. So, SRK, I salute thee!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Random access memory

My best buddy needs to have a placard across his chest which reads “unlimited access.” Recently, he told me that his ex girlfriend, who dropped him rather unceremoniously a few years ago messaged him at wee hours, saying a chirpy hiii. Now, the thing about chirpy hiis is you never know where they are going. The thing also about random texts at wee hours is that they reek of ‘I have a hold on you.’ And more often than not, they are not innocent—there is always a hidden agenda, which is revealed in due course. And so it was.

The next thing he knew was that she needed to meet with him — she was feeling a “little messed up, and depressed” and the guy she was seeing didn’t turn out to be the guy who wanted to see her.
“Why do you allow her to have a hold on you?,” I asked him. Now, I am fiercely protective about my friends, so anything that alters their peace affects me. So I thought my concern was in order.
He looked stumped. “Huh!!! She just showed up on my facebook, so I added her to my friends. What could I have done?”
“Errr…. Ignored her?” I tell him. (They do have that option, I know)
“How can I do that? What will she think?”
(Holy crap! This is a slippery slope, I think….)
Call me old fashioned…but my boundaries are very clear — there is a reason why the ex is called the ex. But for the benefit of some super benevolent souls with closure issues out there, they should change it to axe. As in the verb.

But unsuspecting species like my aforementioned friend have “reach me anytime you need me” written all over them. Small wonder why they get messed with all the time by random exes.
So the next few months were a series of revelations of tell-tale ‘I don’t think I have closure’ signs on his part.
“She wants me to update her resume. She knows I am good at the stuff.”
“She can’t find a pet-sitter. And I still love her dog.”
“She is moving to Bombay, and needs my help. She doesn’t know anyone here.”
“She wants me to pick her up from the airport.”
“She wants me to drop her to the airport.”

There is this thing about airports. They are truly depressing places. Which means you really need to be into someone you are picking up or dropping — the whole thing takes a lot out of you. Definitely not to be wasted on a blast from the past, me thinks.
I listened patiently, as I know it was expected of me. But I knew he was beyond repair, so I let him be.
But it left me wondering. Why do men allow so much random access into their lives? I guess part of the reason is, they don’t have inbuilt filters. For men, all is innocent until proven guilty — and that can be a good thing and a bad thing. Women on the other hand are sharper about accessibility issues. If that makes us the bitches — well, so be it. Someone has to do the dirty work.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Gift me not

There was a time when birthdays made me nervous. Not that I ever gave a damn about getting a year older, but it was the sheer trepidation at opening my gifts and being horrified by some of what I found inside. I have gone through years of being saddled with hideous earrings, books I would never read, music I would never listen to, clothes I would never wear, photo-frames, lamps, vases, purses, pen holders, makeup, knick-knacks, T-shirts, accessories and jewelry that was SO NOT ME.

Not that they all got it wrong. I do have a few friends who always asked me what I’d like or by instinct, got me exactly what I wanted. Thank god for them.

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if people just asked you? Or took you shopping? Or just gave you gift vouchers? May be the reason they don’t is because they feel a certain nakedness in revealing their budget. It’s like saying, “Okay, this year, you are worth Rs X to me…”

 Which is why they try and enforce their choice on you. But I don’t get it. Surely they know you enough to know that you are not going to ask them for a plasma TV or something equally ridiculous. Why don’t they give you the benefit of doubt? And what are multiple options for?

After an era of un-me gifts, I finally mustered the courage to ask people whether it was okay to exchange. So, a not-so-becoming-red-and-yellow sweatshirt was traded for a crisp white linen blouse that was more me. Or the bland Alchemist or Six thinking hats for a Tom Robbins or Bill Bryson that was missing from my collection. They didn’t seem to mind —they were glad it was off their back…

If I have so much trouble with birthdays, I shudder to think of the innumerable monstrosities people receive on their weddings. I know for sure that everyone gets stuck with at least 20-30 gifts they don’t know what to do with. It is quite likely they donate it to charity, or worse, gift it to someone else — someone insignificant enough not to be invited to the wedding. But no one ever talks about it. I wonder why. May be because as a culture, we are taught to be grateful for anything we receive.

But I find it amazing that people who are closest to you can also goof up. Like my mother who gave me the shivers with her surprises. I really love her, but don’t necessarily love what she chooses for me, from grooms to gifts. After much deliberation, I had a heart to heart and asked her to leave both departments to me. To my surprise, she was relieved. Now, she either hands me a cash envelope, or buys me exactly what I want (color, design, style, model non-negotiable). It’s been a few years into this arrangement and both of us are extremely happy.

Or when the beau who once called me from Goa claiming he had sighted a ‘nice purple skirt’— I gave him the green signal, thinking purple, obviously. I later realised that there was much more than purple happening on that skirt. There was pink and elastic and flowers and sequins and layers. But his enthusiasm was endearing, and I bravely smiled my happy smile. (Okay, now you know..)
But I am finally in a happy place. Each year, I have a wish list (of items in varying budgets) which I sound off (upon being asked) to my inner circle… This year, I got exactly the wine glasses, perfume, dresses, books, pendant, i-shuffle and the DVD collection I wanted for my birthday. I have perfected the art of made-to-order gifts!

And if anyone out there plans to start a gift registry, I will be the first to sign up.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Picture imperfect

There are two things I find very hard to get excited about—other people’s photographs and other people’s babies. Or worse, photographs of other people’s babies.

Okay, I am not one of those baby haters. Neither am I the bra-burning feminist types (is that still a term?). It’s just that I never know what is the right thing to say when I see a baby. The last time I was in close contact with one, I said something like, ‘Don’t you think she has her father’s jaw line and her mother’s cheeks?” The beau gently nudged me to speak softer, hinting that the ‘baby’ might not be too pleased to hear it.

So now I just reserve my comments to “He/she is so adorable…” It always works.
The baby visit ceremony is a mostly a to-be-done thing, especially if the person concerned is a good friend, and more so if she has spent a good part of her pregnancy moaning about tight bras and breaking wind… People who have babies always want you to come and ‘see the baby’. I have never understood why. Are they expecting you to tell them, “I like what you made.” Would you ever tell them, “Well, you should have another go, this one hasn’t turned out as I imagined….”

Last year, my friend had one, and at the hospital, I was actually wondering why she still looked pregnant, even though the baby was technically out. I was severely admonished by another friend for thinking such insensitive thoughts. I seriously have to pick up some politically correct phrases.

And then is the whole ordeal of baby pictures. I used to live in a hostel, where by default, the women seemed to follow the same biological clock—one by one, they all got married, and most of them had babies soon after. And then began the onslaught of baby pictures— the baby’s first diaper, first tooth, the first thing it put in his mouth, the first time it sat, or stood or burped or farted, or spoke…..and later, first stage play, first karate class, first swimming medal, first work of art or some such.

I can hear my friends saying, “Wait till you have one…” Well, we’ll see.
A close second is wedding pictures. For starters I can never understand the throne thing and the queuing-up-to-wish-the-bride-and-groom-and-taking-a-picture-with-them. In my barometer of uncool, this figures the highest. Why do we have to go through it? I have had many a fun conversation with others in queue, and everyone has the same problem. So why don’t they all just go on strike and say, “We will not be demeaned like this…”

Wait, it doesn’t stop there. Because soon after, the bride or groom will send you a couple of really fat files containing “the wedding albums.” Now, what were they thinking? “Err..in case you missed looking like a complete moron on our wedding, you can see what others looked like….”
Gimme a break..

There are people who know exactly the right thing to say at births, deaths and weddings. I have come to realise that I am not one of them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Facebooked out!

It will perhaps go down in my book as the most short-lived, yet the most intense relationship I ever had. Facebook and I are almost over, and all it took was less than two weeks.

Let me begin at the beginning. To be fair, I had my doubts, when the beau sold it to me as 'a fun way to stay in touch with so many friends at the same time' when I was leaving for the States. He said, "Even if you are not thinking about them, you know that they are thinking about you..." Wait a minute...I asked myself... Is there anyone you want to be in touch with that you are not already in touch with? The answer was no. Do you really care about those you are not in touch with? The answer was no. Are you seriously 'looking' for new friends? The answer was still no.

I guess I am at that point in my life when I have reached just the optimum level of friends that I could handle. I Secondly, I was the type who never really succumbed to the collective seductions of ICQ, IM, Orkut and other such networking delights. So I wondered how different this could be.

Yet, I yielded. It's funny what just two days out of a daily 32-page newspaper rut and endless stretches of time and good weather can do to you. And before I knew it, I was Facebooked out of my mind.

I registered and filled in my details. I sent out invitations to friends, some randoms and some not-so-randoms, I added photos, I filled up activities, interests, books, music and other trivia that 'define me'. To add a dash of social consciousness, I also added causes that define me.
Then suddenly, my cousin threw an omelette at me. And then a dear friend threw a sheep. The beau's words came back to me.."They are thinking about you even when you are not thinking about them...." Hmmmm..this is how...
I decided that since I am not a lurker, I had to go all the way. I did, and made it my full-time occupation. I wrote on people's walls, sent them beers, cocktails, joined food fights, stroked and fed their pets, got bitten and turned into a zombie, got bitten and turned into a vampire, threw tomatoes, pancakes and ketchup at others, and had shrimp, and pickles thrown at me, And before I knew it, my cup had runneth over, and my friend list was burgeoning.

I have sent people pigs and teapots, Porsches and even Johhny Depp as presents.
I have shared my thoughts, moods, pictures.... I have peeped into other's thoughts, moods, pictures.
After ten days of poking, hugging, tickling, spanking, kickboxing, karatechopping, biting people, tagging them in photos, asking them to join my causes, and sending them free beers and cocktails, writing on their walls and even getting into food fights with them, I am utterly and completely bored,
I have been poked by strangers and bitten by people I barely know. I have unearthed cousins and bamboozled dear friends to get on it. I even managed to convince the brother, who has suddenly turned into a 'private person' after being one of the crusaders of icq at a certain point.
What was I thinking?

The good thing is that unlike a real relationship, it is so undemanding and open ended that you don't even have to break up..you can stay ambivalent all your life and no one will know any better because they are busy throwing sheep and sucker punching each other.
To those who have managed to resist the urge--may the force be with you. To those who are still addicted, well, may be there will soon be Facebookaholics Anonymous, and I will be there to help you zone out...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lost in translation

There is something about queues. It's like when you finally get to the end of it and reach your 'said destination' i.e the person at the counter at the end of the queue, you are expected to give a completely choreographed performance. And so when I waited inordinately long in line at the US Immigration last week, I realised that an act at the end of it was in order. Not that I hadn't done it before -- it's just that you never really get used to these things.

So as I waited, I shifted my not so ample frame from one foot to another, itching to open a bag of crisps, but wondering if that would be against immigration etiquette. An hour later, I was the 'next in line', waiting to be summoned. I could see from the corner of my eye that the Immigration officer, who was bordering on cute was having an exasperating time explaining what 'extra pressure' was to a bewildered Japanese tourist, who was having his index fingers thumb printed, not to much avail. I made a mental note of applying 'just the right amount of pressure'. And voila! It was my turn.

"And how are you today?", he asked in a voice that only Americans can. I was, by this point suitably distracted by a family that had nearly paraded their heirlooms in front of another officer. 'I don't know, I am too dazed..it was an awfully long flight," I blurted.
'Ah, I see (sound effects of pages of my passport being flipped here).
He then asked me what I did in Bombay and I said I was a journalist.
"What kind?", he probed. I was distracted again.
 "Magazine or newspaper?" he prodded further...
"Oh, yes, newspaper"
"So what do you write on?"
"Men, women..."
Curiouser and curiouser...
"People, places, celebrities, trends, lifestyles, attitudes.." I did some damage control...
"So you are a generalist, not a journalist.." His verdict was out, and my passport was stamped.

I seriously have to re-examine my job, I thought.

******

And then there is something about brothers. Even if you have been in queue for two years, there is still no performance expected at the end of it. By this I mean, on either side. So it's okay to unwrap your Xbox 360 and gloat over its goodies the exact same night that your sister has crossed seven seas (I am not sure, I wasn't counting) to meet you. It's okay to have piles of laundry so high, that you can't walk around the house without being run over. It's okay to have stuff in the fridge so old that illegal aliens have acquired permanent residency status. It's okay to have mails unopened, houseplants unattended and consequently withered, books and DVDs unreturned..

But, at the same time, it's okay for you to lie in the exact same posture in bed when he leaves the house and when he returns. It's okay for you to tell him you don't really want to meet any more family. It's okay for you to ask him to take you out for a drink at midnight, because you just 'feel' like it. It's okay for you not to talk when you don't want to.

Because no matter how much older you are, you will always be the 'little' sister that stayed a foot shorter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The undomestic goddess

“My maid gives me a complex,” said Anshuman, who seemed completely befuddled with his domestic diva in a very ‘settling down in Bombay’ kind of way. She apparently gave him the impression that she earned quite a packet through her assorted retainers in various households, added to which was one at a rather posh restaurant in Andheri. She also claimed prowess in the real estate market, having bought and sold a few flats, and made a killing.

All of which all added up to a total income that was far higher than that of Anshuman’s. Ironically, he was her said employer, yet having a hard time finding something more than a pigeon hole for the arm and the leg he was willing to pay.

She of course wielded further powertics by admonishing him on how slow an eater he was, how much time he wasted in the mornings, and how he really didn’t have a life, since he had to travel to work ‘all the way to Bombay’ from Andheri.

Her rather vocal opinion had its effect on him. Despondent, he immediately rang his local friend and discussed prospects of being a maid in Bombay, which suddenly seemed far more lucrative than his banking job.

As he was narrating his woes, I entered into flashback mode about a certain svelte siren who was in our domestic services a few years ago. Her name, apt to her appearance was Sundari. Everyday, she would sashay into the house, spend a good half hour over her tea and biscuits, purr at the cats, pout at suitable moments, help herself to the fruit on the table every once in a while, glide her way through the washing and cleaning, before she did what she most loved to do. Preen.

Yes, I would catch her every once in a while posing in front of the mirror, sometimes trying my shoes, perfume or favourite neckpiece on. And it irked me that things actually looked good on her. Soon, I began dressing up for her arrival, lest it got confusing as to ‘who bears the broom.’

There is more — Sundari had a retinue of admirers — watchmen, liftmen, drivers, cooks, courier men and other assortments who were in completely in awe of her and gave her their undivided attention whenever she passed by. I once noticed the maali handing her a bunch of flowers plucked from the building compound. Some would share their lunch with her, another would come bounding with an umbrella every time she got stranded in the rain without one. The day she didn’t show up, there would be at least two enquiries.

One day, she was caught red-handed stealing my Issey Miyake, and that’s when my mother finally gave her the sack. The entire neighbourhood was in mourning for the next three days.

Things haven’t changed much. Though the current maid is not a kleptomaniac, my mother complains that she is too posh for her. She is also more voluptuous than all of us put together, better attired, wears trendy footwear, looks gorgeous and is super-savvy with her latest cell-phone (my mother is too technologically challenged to even use my hand-me-down Nokia 1100). The cherry on the cake was when she gifted the manicured maid a saree for Dusshera — she turned it down saying she doesn’t wear cottons.
I am seriously thinking of switching professions.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

He shops, she shops

I hate shopping. Malls make me tired, restless and impatient. Choices leave me miffed. Trying on clothes and shoes is an ordeal. Retail overdose makes me claustrophobic (I am the shop-around-the-corner kinda girl). So when I volunteer to shop with someone, it is a really big deal.

This weekend, I offered my services to the beau — he needed a clothes rack and some groceries (to finally inaugurate his new microwave, on which his only successful experiment was making Act II popcorn). Now the difference between the beau and me when it comes to shopping is the difference between multiplication and subtraction. So while I was looking at items ‘on the list’, he was enjoying the wanderlust…

He actually contemplated a 20s pack of toilet roll which had a special offer of ‘buy one get one free,’ at which point I had to intervene and tell him it was a bit excessive. “But it’s cool no? Think about it, we don’t have to worry about toilet rolls for a year!” Shudder…

At the billing counter, I noticed the trolley was pregnant with a hundred things I hadn’t picked and he had slipped them in while I wasn’t looking. There were varieties of cheese spread, a hundred cheese slices, cartons of juice(that I have never seen him drink), cookies, doughnuts and croissants (that never get eaten), pasta sauces, self-serving pasta bowls encased in wicker baskets (which he thought was really cool, I can’t fathom why) toothpastes, air fresheners galore. And the only item he really needed was not available, to his glee, and my chagrin.

The fact is, the beau loves being surrounded by things he doesn’t need. He has over 200 Play Station games of which he has opened nine (and he is threatening to buy more). He has a hundred t-shirts and he still wears the same one (or what appears to be the same) every time I meet him. He has an assortment of colognes he never uses, juices and sodas he doesn’t drink, snacks and savouries he doesn’t eat, but ‘just in case someone comes over.’ There are DVDs unopened, books unread, clothes unworn—some of which he doesn’t know the origin of.

I remember the rare occasions when my dad would take me shopping for ‘that Diwali dress” or something equally inane. He would stand at the door puffing his cigarette, and say, “One, two, three, go finish it off” and leave me to my devices. And if I ever liked two dresses instead of one, he would say, “Just take both, so we don’t have to come back again for your birthday!”

Ditto when I went mall shopping with my brother in the States. Costco was his mecca. It’s is the kind of place that monster families with twelve kids should shop at. Not single men who do their laundry when they run out of clothes to wear. So, if you need one set of batteries, you buy a pack of 20, because it’s a bargain. If you need muesli, you buy six of them. If you need detergent or fabric softener, shampoo, toothpaste, or even toothbrushes, you buy them for the whole neighbourhood. I could never understand why my brother had to drive ten miles to shop for things he didn’t need when he could get them at the super market next door. The reason? I am not sure. But may be there is a thrill in knowing you have struck a good bargain, even if it is for things you don’t really want.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tooth and nail

“Spank me,” said the note from suitably mysterious woman a few tables yonder, sitting pretty with her bunch of friends. The recipient was a friend of mine, who, by no stretch of imagination was an Adonis. I was amused. Why him then, we wondered. But more importantly, I was thinking, “What did he do to earn it?

Turns out not much, except he was in possession of that serial killer gizmo called Blue tooth. He was just sending out the right signals, pun unintended. And there was a whole community receiving it.
For the uninitiated, the blue tooth is a feature on your mobile phone that senses its gadget equivalent within a certain radius. And it seems to be the latest catalyst in the pick up circles, or so I am told. The modus operandi goes something like this: Girl with blue tooth enters club. Boy with blue tooth enters club. Girl gets alert on her blue tooth. She looks up, scans the place, and takes in the new entrants. By a process of elimination and eye contact, she finally zeroes in on blue toothed boy. To take it further, she sends him an sms. Or a note. And the deal is struck.
(Note: Boy can also send aforementioned signals to girl.)

I had just read about guerilla dating and the art of ambushing a suitable member of the opposite sex in a public place, and was suitably intrigued. May be the randomness of it all blows my mind. May be I am slower than I think—to give you an example, the beau and I had endless conversations spanning a couple of months about single malts, Men’s magazines, kitsch hindi movies, the great suburban divide and lasting childhood memories before we realised we spoke the same language, and started dating. If we were insta-blue tooth networked, I wonder if we’d have lasted this long.

Coming back to the girl who wanted to be spanked, it felt like that the laws of human behaviour had all changed while I wasn’t looking. It is no longer about cutesy stuff, romance or poetry. The rules of dating now resemble the law of the jungle. Survival of the fittest seems to be the only prevailing ethic. It is simply about sifting ‘potential serial killer types’ from ‘sperms you like to introduce to your egg’ types. It’s a place where rules are meant to be broken, and paradigms shifted. It is about complete disregard to the ‘this seat is taken’ policy, at least going by what one notices at clubs and other hangouts these days.

It reminded me of a certain menace I encountered a few months ago in a club. Now this hulk wanted to buy me a drink even though I made it quite clear not once, but twice that I was drinking water. When I finally confronted him about his pass, he said quite nonchalantly that he normally gave a woman the right of refusal three times before he decided it was a no. Quite magnanimous, I must say!

Recently my colleague noticed my phone and exclaimed, “You have blue tooth!” I felt like I was caught with ecstasy or something

I am clearly in a different zone, I thought. Or may be I am just old fashioned.

Friday, June 15, 2007

He says, she says

It’s an arduous task choreographing a relationship with a near 24X7 job, usually when your ‘day off’ is mostly a theory. I don’t know how I do it, most of my friends wonder how I manage, but miracles do happen, and this is one of those…

On the bright side, at least I know when my day ends (small joys of not being in advertising) unlike the beau who ends up burning the midnight oil more often than he cares to notice. Plus he is under the impression that anywhere north of Worli is visa restricted, and his idea of movie watching is INOX.
I always thought I was the adventurer, the eternal vagabond, the one who is game for anything, but all evidence seems to point otherwise, and I seem to emerge the ‘practical one,’ at least in this relationship.
Let me give you an example: On the rare day that our astrological charts coincide and the gods conspire to give the beau and me some exclusive time together, this is what happens..

He: “Honey, what would you like to do today…?
Me: (still shocked that I have a day off) Nothing, hopefully….
He: Okay, I have a plan. How about we go for breakfast at Banyan café? Then we can just hop across to that cheese shop near Amarsons and pick up some gorgeous cheese. May be we can even stop at Moshes and pick up some multi-grain bread to go with it… And while we are at it, we can stop by at Ruby Tuesdays for a quick drink… what use of our membership if we never end up going? And, guess what, I have some microwavable popcorn, so let’s go to Big Bazaar and pick up a microwave, so we can make popcorn while watching your favourite DVD. And then we can chill…and then may be Bunty and Babli can also join us for the movie, and we can play cards for a bit and then it will be just time to watch the Man U match….how is that?
Me: (speechless)
He: So how does that sound?
Me: (thinking) Sounds more like a nervous breakdown
Me: (saying)…Umm.. sounds like a fun plan…
Of course, none of the above is intended to happen, or happens in the sequence that it is supposed to. Also, geographically, the aforementioned items are not exactly compatible, so that makes it harder for them to coexist on one sheet of paper.

Fact is, the beau is a planner – he loves having a list of things he has not done, and thrives on reminders—they rule his life. So while his reminders pile up into an ever burgeoning list, I am just happy to take each day as it comes.

It’s not that I am a homebody. But given a choice, I think the beau would like to run a casino, and I, a bookshop. While he dwells in noise and clutter (he whines playing PS2 at anything less than volume level 32), I on the other hand revel in quietude and minimalism.

What keeps us together? For one, he makes me laugh. And he has a list of ten thousand things to do as long as he inhabits the planet. I just about know ten.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Loansome tonight

Every day I get an average of five calls and six text messages from random banks, financial institutions, quacks, offering me personal loans to buy anything I want – a new house, a new car, a new face, a new body.. whatever.

Does anyone ever say, “Yes, please, I’d like two—can you make it medium rare…?”

Usually, I announce my verdict in about 10 seconds. “Sorry, I don’t need the money. I am renouncing the world soon,” I say. They sound confused, and continue to blabber, and I hang up.

But recently, I succumbed to upgrading my most luxurious material possession—my car, and the saga of paperwork that followed reminded me of how much I really want to give it all up.

I would have happily emptied my bank balance, signed off my mutual funds and fixed deposits, paid cash down and driven home in my passion red Xing, if I had my way. But fiscal interferences in the form of my CA, some money-wise friends and some hustling car financers prevailed, and I went down the long road. EMIs seemed to be the only way to add a dash of glamour to my spotless credit record.
After scribbling a list of numbers on a piece of paper and staring at it in stoned silence, Mr. Car Finance says, “Three year loan is really good for you. My man will come tomorrow..”

He does. Wearing his trousers at his breast. Smelling like he hadn’t had a bath in four days. Don’t even get me started on his hair. He opens his mouth, and a thousand pods of garlic roll out. He thrusts the car finance agreement at me, apart from an assortment of forms— my day goes from bad to worse, and my irritation index soars above the sensex. Apart from my cat’s birth certificate and the brand of condom my mosquito uses, I have to pretty much list every gory detail, with ‘supportings.’

I sign at 200 odd places. And after the first five, it doesn’t look like me at all. Seriously, why does signing your own name make you feel like a forger sometimes?

He remarks (more garlic breath), “Aapka signature bahut basic hain na?”

I quickly cover the next few cheques with my other hand as I clumsily sign on, lest he copies my practised flourish, and runs away with my fortune.

Madam..one more thing,” he adds with the glint of a Nazi. “You also have to sign 36 cheques..”

I instantly switch to a one-year loan (I am too spent to sign 36 cheques). I also reach a point when I am so asphyxiated by his breath that I ask him to wait in the reception area. He says, “Sorry to irritate you, but one more signature…”

Why did I subject myself to such Naziness, I have no idea. May be it’s fashionable. May be it makes me look better on paper. May be it earns me the famous tax relief or depreciation, or whatever the money pundits say to get you to spend more money.

I think it’s over, but I am wrong. A few days later, as I am lounging at home in my microshorts with face pack on, the bell rings. Mr.Verification is at my door. He asks me if I live there. I say, what do you think, this is my ghost? He has this look of “you can’t even keep your face on, how can we give you a loan?” He then asks me for more trivia, this time about my religion and the area in square feet of my microscopic house, and why my dad and I don’t share a last name, even though I am still single. I am dying to scream, but my face pack resists. He leaves after I threaten to sue him for harassment.

Phew! I hear I have finally been approved, but dude, where is my car?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May I help you?

Don’t take the title seriously. I have no intention of listening to your troubles, as I feel I have a tadpole in my brain trying to grow into a frog. Okay, it wasn’t meant to be that graphic, but I have, for the first time been a recipient of that thing called a ‘classic headache,’ as my boss enlightened me in his infinite wisdom.

My reading of the situation is slow death by information overdose. It’s not just this magnum opus day after day. It is a collective of magnum opuses from friends, family, and some randoms that I have to process at an alarming rate.

Let me make it simple. When the mother wants to talk to the brother, she talks to me. When the father wants to talk to the mother, he talks to me. When the brother wants to talk to the mother, he talks to me. When the sister wants to vent on space and other peeves, she talks to me.

Then there are half a dozen friends who have to update me on their love-life (existent or non-existent), career woes and other existential dilemmas. When a townie wants to hang out in Bandra, he calls me to check, “What are the new cool places?”
Then there are people who call me to find out where jute coasters are available or where does one get Auroville pottery in Bombay.

And you know what? After all that, it is a major effort to pick up the phone and talk to anyone. Sometimes, ‘not talking’ is the best conversation you can have, I told a friend when she complained that I was not in touch. But then I got a lecture on the merits of Vipassana and how I was finally ready for it.

Now I am plotting on how to make it known to people that I have switched off, but I don’t seem to have success there, as they ramble on anyway. I am constantly amazed at how people around me, sometimes total strangers, take me into confidence and tell me their stories with deleted scenes and extra features. Recently on a ride to town with a new acquaintance, I was narrated the graphic details of his love life and also that of his ex-girl friend. And all I asked him was, “Have you found a new apartment?”

My friends were a little hurt at my posting a sequence of “phone fatigue,” “who invented talking,” and “contents under pressure” on my gmail. One of them (the daily download) instantly posted a message saying, “Is sms and chatting okay?”

The funny thing is, the last time I looked in the mirror, I didn’t look particularly benevolent. Neither did do I have a samaritan aura. That is the sister’s department, not mine. She is the healer. But it was she who told me, “You are actually a good listener. It’s true you look distracted, but you also hear what is not told.”

Good listener? I have the attention span of a five year old.

And to top it all, there are the acquaintances who emerge out of hibernation one fine day to call and ask you, "Wassup?"

The next time someone does that, I am going to say, “My blood pressure”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Typecast

“Ah! So you are the type who writes about men,” said the guy with a glimmer in his eye, seated next to me at dinner a few weeks ago.

The problem with saying yes to a close friend’s impromptu bash is not knowing who will show up. And no one has really mastered the art of table seating, so like Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.

I ran a quick mental check of my last few columns in which, amongst other things, I wrote about my extended family, my cats, some crows, my mother, my father, my beau, my maid, my watchman and some... How did this get classified as “writing about men”?

May be that’s not what he meant, I thought. May be the subtext was “are you a feminist?”

Feminist I am not. I love it when men open doors, pay bills and act protective. I also have no inclination to burn my bra.

May be the tag is a hangover of my last job as being the practically lone female voice in a Men’s magazine. But even then, I got quizzical looks from people who asked me questions like, “Hmm..so you must be meeting a lot of hot guys?”
“Err..excuse me, didn’t you know that ours is an intellectual men’s magazine,” I would say.

They would roll their eyes in disbelief.

But this is not the first time I have got typecast, and like it or not, all of us wear tags all the time, some that we are not even aware of.

Then there is the “salad type” tag I get at work, simply because I make a big ceremony of chomping my salad. What they don’t see is that I chomp it before I eat my gargantuan meal. Because I never know when I am destined to eat the latter.

“So you are the arty type,” said people about my theatre stint, something I did so I could watch more and more plays, and escape the mania and frequent drudgery of my advertising job.

“The activist type,” said some, when I raised a hue and cry about a tree that was being chopped in broad daylight in full public view in front of my hostel.

Of my need to rescue strays and bring them home, many said, “she is the PETA type.”

Of my subliminal urge to conserve natural resources, and plug leaking taps, and “switching off fans when not required,” even when leaving even a local train, they said “So you are the environmental type..”

To most of my friends whose idea of exercising is the flicking of a remote or the opening and closing of lift doors, I am the ‘fitness freak' type.

To my yoga instructor, who is never quite happy with the grip of my knee cap or the extension between my hip and my ankle, I am “the media type—all noise, no power…”

To the spiritually inclined poetess friend who seems to be close to nirvana, I am the girl who can ‘do the real world’

To the super-stoic, best friend, I am so the Sex and the City type.

If you ask me, I am just the type who speaks her mind and makes no bones about it. Oops, that would make me a "don’t mess with me" type.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Glory, gory..

Until a few months ago, Manchester was just a drab, cold airport I was stuck at, having missed my return flight from Paris to London. Today, Manchester United (Man U, for the afflicted) is a looming presence in my life—usually something that competes for my time with my object of affection—and wins!

I guess it is one of those functional disorders of dating an alpha male (and enough has been written, some by me, about the lack of them in this universe).

Although, by his own classification, the beau is a simple guy with minimal obsessions —Kingfisher beer, XL t-shirts, mutton do pyaza, Final Fantasy II and Manchester United (not necessarily in that order), it isn’t really as simple as that.

I sense the first alarming signs when “watching a Man U match” is deftly planted as one of those ‘fun things’ you can do when you are together.

Ok, I can deal with 90 minutes of testosterone overdrive, I tell myself. I have no idea what I am walking into.

Next, weird things happen. I leave restaurants with my bladder full (on my own accord) just so that the significant other can catch a few more minutes of the game. I apologise for not carrying football listings in my paper. I scream, “Die Chelsea, die! ” or worse, “Glory, glory, Manchester United” at the TV with the passion of a soccer (sorry, football) fan. I find myself looking at sports pages to find out when the next match is, wondering when one could really have quality time with the beau. Turns out, they are always playing, even if they lose. I don’t get it. (He does try to explain the complicated logic of the whole thing—what was that again?)

I soon resign myself to the fact that Man U will always have to be factored into our lives, and any rendezvous (or lack thereof) would depend on whether or not Man U was playing that night.

I find myself in a strange place. I try to get us to watch Fever Pitch (superb adaptation of Nick Hornby’s classic) in the hope that Drew Barrymore would speak my mind to Jimmy Fallon, and the message would get across. But the americanisation of football (book) to baseball(movie) doesn’t quite work in my favour. And then the power goes off, and that’s a sign, I think..

So then, I go on this spree of knowing my enemy. A few days ago, I solitarily watch the whole game of AC Milan Vs Man U (he misses it, and is peeved at being suspended 30000 feet up above during the ‘biggest game of the season’). With much trepidation, I text him the score. I write, “We lost”.
We? I used the royal ‘we’ for Manchester United? Me, who has never subscribed to the collective pronoun? I need to see a shrink.

Anyway, I am ensconced in the glory (!) that since the “biggest match of the season” is over, life will be back to normal. Little do I know that every match is the “biggest match of the season.”

May be I’ll turn into one of those people who writes letters to agony aunts saying, “I lost my man to another man… make that eleven men..”

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

My family and other paparazzi

Surprise, surprise! At a recent wedding reception of my cousin, the discussion point was not my singledom or my ‘settling down’. It was my column!

Practically everyone worth his grey moustache or bald pate or diabetic eye or bypassed heart had something to say. And it was all very interesting, as none of them, except one, may be had anything to do with the print/publishing/journalism industry.
They were all readers! That magical, mystical species.

Aunty No. 1 said she knew who idli-face was.
Uncle No 1 accosted me in front of my dad, and said in his I-know-what-you've-been-upto voice, "Did you know she stole your cigarettes?”
Dad and I had the last laugh.
Aunty No 2 told me she never knew I was so traumatised by my hair. She also said she was happy I made women look good.
Uncle No 2 said he was proud that I gave maximum footage to my mother and not my father. I stared at him.. what paper was he reading exactly?
Uncle No 3 moaned that his vendor gave him HT minus Café (Marketing, are you listening?), so he still hasn’t read anything, but gets regular ‘updates’.
Uncle No 4 said DNA gave him a better deal.
Uncle No 5 said he likes the way I spice my articles up, and that he was very proud of me. Spice? Now wait a minute. Now what was that about? Didn’t he know that in the case of our family, truth is stranger than fiction.
Uncle No 6 wanted my visiting card.
Uncle No 7 dropped names of big daddies in HT and asked me if I knew them. I mumbled something about ‘I will, when I have the time’.
Prim and propah Aunty No 3told me her kids also tried smoking and quit. She was amused that an independent woman like me still gets vishukanni from my mother.
Uncle No 8 wondered if Café was going the Bombay Times way, because he saw Pooja Bedi in a bikini on the cover(!). He gave me a mini lecture on how HT should maintain its niche by not doing so.
Uncle No 9 felt that I had finally arrived, as I was working with none other than Khalid Mohamed, and reminded me how he had got me inducted into his film reviews. (Go KM, go!)
Uncle No10 felt that I should be writing my travelogues in the paper, we should be doing more sports features and less gossip.
Uncle No 11, a paper expert wanted to know more about our press and our gsm.
Uncle No 12 dropped some more names.

What baffled me was there was nothing from the ‘young ones.’ Obviously, no one is reading (knock, knock, marketing!). I began to wonder if ours was a geriatric paper.

But what intrigued me the most was that no one asked me who was the significant other I refer to.
May be I had drawn my boundaries of ‘space’ a little too tight. May be there's too much of the 'don't mess with me' hangover I seem to have left behind.
Ho hum!