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.