Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Till meet do us part

Reunions make me queasy. I am not one of those people who had a Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na campus life, I haven’t gifted anyone a kitten (though I still believe that gifting someone an animal is a very contentious issue) and I have never danced with Pappu and Co. at a friend’s birthday party.

I would say that 40% of my life on campus was miserable. For most of my professional degree years, chasing first, a Bachelors’ and then a Masters’ in Pharmacy, I was miserable, and wanting to be someplace else.

Why did I waste a seat? I am still asked.

Forget the seat, I almost wasted my life. What about that?

It has taken years, almost decades to wipe out those memories and make new ones. Why then, would I want to go for a college reunion?

Well, for one, the person who asked me is someone I like and found redeeming in the whole experience, although, even then, he was largely a nerd, and chased the clichéd going-to America-doing- a PhD-finding-a-suitable girl-and getting married-and-living-happily-ever-after-dream. But he had the balls to call a spade a spade, and make no bones about his dream. There were a couple of others too who alleviated my state of misery, but about the large majority, the less said, the better.

There are people in your life who turn you into who you are simply because you don’t want to be like them. Running into such people and their sterile auras is reminding yourself about the ‘you’ that was.

Most were just roll numbers—I know them more for their positions at their lab work stations than their personalities or how they made me feel. And the funny thing is, with my tam-bram memory, I remember each and every one of them. I thought I’ll take the husband along so at least we have each other, but he firmly stated that he had no intentions of meeting my ‘molecule’ friends.

The last time I went to such a reunion, which was eight years ago, I came out feeling like an oddball. I had completely digressed from the field, had nothing in common with any of them, was still single and dating, a concept none of them really understood.

This time, we will be more or less on par as far as marriage, spouse and baby goes, but I still feel like an oddball.

Okay, so I am not giving back to the world of drugs and molecules. I will never find that vaccine for cancer or synthesise that radically cheap drug for AIDS. But I will also not be the one who is responsible for repackaging a vanilla pill and selling it in the market for four times the cost. Or making you realise that ZPTO (or whatever it is in shampoos) is a big thing. I write, therefore I am.

Family reunions are another thing. You decide you must do them, because “after all, it’s family”. So you make an effort to get to the back of beyond to attend your cousin’s cousin’s wedding. You decide you will try and be nice to people who were not very nice to you, or your parents. But when you come face-to-face, it’s the same thing. They still look like roll-numbers.

Happy new year and all that!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy holidays!

Coalescence. I love the word. I love science for helping me express what language cannot do with the same degree of precision or emotion. How else would you explain the phenomenon of people suddenly wanting to be seen as groups and not individuals?

In its most simplistic definition, coalescence is the union of diverse things into one body or form or group; the growing together of parts. It is what happens when the festive season sets in.

Families feel grateful that they are still families.

Friends begin to remember they can’t take friendship for granted.

Couples begin to remember they are still married.

Colleagues, who you don’t know the names of, wish you randomly and put a smile on your face.

Children begin to realise that parents are the only people who will always love them unconditionally.

And so..

You email or e-card people who you have never thought about in the past year. You text numbers from your phonebook that have been never texted or called before. You even call. You begin to add (sometimes even multiply) instead of subtract.

It’s that time of the year when people coalesce.

They say that when you say something positive long and loud and repeated enough, it becomes a truism, and the good energy rubs off onto you. May be that’s why even couples in dysfunctional relationships send out messages and cards in the festive season that end with Mr, Mrs and Master/Miss.

It’s what can get a Vindoo, with repeated nominations, but a firm belief in Desh Ka Aadesh to eventually win Big Boss, a topic I shared with buddy Chetan at a Christmas party whose piece de resistance was a flambéed pudding that had travelled four generations. Where the infant petted a dog six times his size and I realised why I did the right thing by bringing a child into a home with animals.

Even for me, a more-or-less minimalist who is on a mission to declutter her life in more than one way, festivals are the only time I want to add rather than subtract.

When we were growing up, cousins were people you met because of the grandparent connection—you had to share them (the grandparents), whether you liked it or not. Now that the grandparents are no more, the cousins are more or less redundant. They show up randomly on Facebook, want to be added as your ‘relative’, they post comments on your albums, and make fleeting plans to ‘meet up.’

Time passes. And one day, you have a child. And festivals become indicators of a family that was. And cousins’ children become more important than the cousins ever were. You look through their albums, you ask if their children are crawling or teething, you find bits of them in their children — the bond is renewed.

So finally, with the infant in tow, I am now looking at the festive season in a whole new way of awe and innocence. His.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mind over map

Okay, we all know this. Men suck at directions. And if they do read maps, like Allan Pease would like to claim, it’s probably because it gives them a prop, something to clutch onto, look busy, so we don’t load them with more things to do. It’s never about getting us to a certain place in the most optimum way. Why, then, are we still reading the book Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps?. It just doesn’t make sense. We are the map, we are the directions, we are everything.

Last week was a first of sorts. The first time, in my three years of working for this newspaper that four women got together to chat about their men. It surprised me no end how our stories were similar. We had the same peeves:

Our men had too much stuff they weren’t willing to give away.

Our men were lousy at directions. Mine knew the way to things from Phoenix mills, or at best, Zenzi and another colleague’s, from Basilico.

Our men loved drivers, because it absolved them from the task of finding anything. Anywhere.

Our men had to get to somewhere familiar to head to somewhere unfamiliar. Never mind if it was a geographical absurdity. Like say, going to Croma to go to Del Italia.

Our men hadn’t read a map in years.

The husband has a deep inertia towards relocation, and I know by now that it has nothing to do with getting adjusted to a new place, the fact that he is Cancerian, or is it about moving from South Bombay (or wherever Lower Parel fits) to North Bombay. Yes, it is partly about finding a shop that can deliver beer, bread, and cigarettes, without batting an eyelid or pointing out that he was asking for too much. But it’s more about how he would have to find new nuclei to cling to.

He finally has. He can find his way to Croma and Landmark, and everything else stems from there. But every once in a while, I throw him a googly and take a road quiz. “Okay, we have to go to Four bungalows market and straight down from there.”

Blank face.

“Remember Indigo Cafe?”

Happy face.

Last weekend, we were invited to a dinner at Yari Road, a place that, for some reason intimidates the husband, almost giving him the feeling of being extradited. To top it all, I said I wanted to head on my own with the infant, since I didn’t want to wait indefinitely for him till he returned from work.

“I can draw you a map,” I said.

He winced.

There we go again, I thought. I waited. He swung by home with amazing precision of timing, simply because he was petrified of doing the trudge on his own.

But then, nothing has changed for me, really.Visions of my dad leaving us stranded at a railway station while he went to buy smokes and the train was ready for departure at another platform flash by. So do that of my brother driving us into the Canadian border, while showing me the Niagara falls, just as I landed in the United States, 10 years ago. During the ensuing one-hour interrogation by customs authorities as to how I could lose my way into another country, I stayed mum.

Allan Pease should be sued, I thought to myself.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sex, Lies and Videotape

It takes an incredibly stupid woman for a husband to have an affair outside of marriage. It takes an even more stupid woman for a husband to have nine of them. But it takes an ‘other woman’ of outstanding stupidity to think that such an affair is about love.

As Tiger Woods’ mistresses emerge from the woodworks (nine and counting), it makes me wonder, “What was the wife thinking?”

The only multi-tasking men can manage with some panache is watching television while eating their dinners. That too, because they don’t necessarily think the two tasks are inseparable. So for a woman not to know what her husband is up to when he is not with her, it takes an amazing lack of talent and intelligence, to say the least.

Woods’ recent car crash has inadvertently opened a can of mistresses, text messages, photos, video footage, voicemails, the works! How he managed his affairs, that too, with nine different women while being married, is a page many men are dying to rip off from his book — the way it’s been discussed, it’s keeping him more in the news than his golf ever did.

One married male friend turned a Facebook fan of Woods post his recent expose, and states in his status message, “All married men should be fans of Tiger Woods. The alleged mistress is super hot.”

“Come on Tiger!” said another status message.

A third one said, “Three down. How many more mistresses to go?”

It’s like the men are living vicariously through Woods and making mental notes about, “I should ask him how he did it..”

Apparently what kept the mistresses quiet was confessions of love, the media reports. Duh?

When Bollywood was abuzz with Hrithik Roshan’s alleged affair with Barbara Mori, it evoked similar reactions from men in my universe. “Hmm… she is hot…” (The statement was accompanied by a faraway look on their faces)

Yes, but you are not, moron.

We all know women who are at the giving or receiving end of such affairs. Someone I know had an affair with a married sugar daddy for eight years, and at the end of it was left with the realization that ‘he wasn’t really into marriage and kids’ and ‘we wanted different things’. Of course, you dodo!

Her professional life, on the other hand, was catapulted by the sugar-daddy connection, which is perhaps what will happen to the Woods line-up.

But there are enough gorgeous women out there entangled with talent-less, spineless, charisma-less men in so-called ‘love-less’ marriages, only hoping that they would leave their wives. Unfortunately there is no reward for ratting them out, like the waitress who was offered $ one million to stay mum. Or the wife who was offered $18 million to the wife to stay.

Methinks Woods’ wife would have the millions in her account, whatever happened with her marriage. So it’s not about ‘rolling in the dough,’ as some men would point out as her reason for staying in the marriage.

But it made me realise one thing. Marriage, even to tigers, is a big deal.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pretty Woman

The husband’s sister (I have decided that I find the in-law word a bit regressive) was in town last week. She is successful, attractive, mother of two and very ‘in control’ for the most part. When she stepped out of the airport, in the true spirit of the NRI who usually pays an arm for beauty treatments back home, she began fixing salon appointments to spruce up for her upcoming company retreat.

“You know how these young 20-something associates give you the ‘lookover’. They are forever checking you out and whispering — how you shouldn’t really be wearing something so tight or so short, how you have flesh where you shouldn’t have — you really can’t afford to take chances. You really got to keep up.”

I couldn’t imagine someone like her being threatened by a 20-something or even giving a fig about what they think. But she was, and she did.

I felt like telling her she should peep into the mind of the 20-something, may be then she would never want to trade places with one — size zero, great mane, hot boy friend notwithstanding. Because her mind would be a cesspool of burgeoning insecurities, such as, ‘Is he really into me?’, or ‘Is that a frown line?’ or ‘Should I eat dinner or skip it?’

I grew up thinking that my little sister was the one with the looks. Chiseled features, great cheekbones, dark, curly cascading hair, clear skin, gorgeous dimples and perhaps one of the few noses I have seen that can do justice to a nose-pin. But tell her she is looking good on any given day and she’ll go, “May be because I’ve just washed my hair,” or, “May be it’s the colour of my kurta,” or some such statement that reeks of modesty.

When I posted a “Your hair looks great!” on a friend’s Facebook album, she immediately replied, “It only looks good in pictures!”

A few weeks ago, I ran into a 30-something who was plotting to wangle a proposal from her 20-something boyfriend. Apparently she said to him, “The more you make me wait, the more plastic surgery you will have to pay for.” I figured her self-esteem totally depended on her manufactured looks. But how secure can a relationship that functioned on such a gradient be?

It made me wonder why women are so insecure about the way they look, however perfect they might seem to the eye of the beholder.

Over to me. It took me half my (expected) lifetime to come to terms with my looks. Till that happened, it was always about, “My hair is too thick/too curly, my arms are too thin, my nose is too wide or my skin has too many blemishes or my boobs are too small.”

Till one day, when I finally realised I was gorgeous (although nothing had really changed) and then there was no stopping me. Now I get by, completely unthreatened by the 20-somethings, totally celebrating the ‘me’ I found. And then it struck me. The day you think you are hot, you truly are.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Three colours: Red, Yellow, Green

Back in the days when I was sleepwalking through my career in an advertising agency, my visualiser friend drew a caricature of me post my Fido Dido haircut. I looked at it and shrieked! “Ouch.. my nose looks like a capsicum!” I cried. “Didn’t you know that?” said Paddu, my only buddy in that maze. That was it. My big fat capsicum nose—my great inheritance from my dad, apart from the tropical forest of a mane, was immortalized.

Since then, capsicum and me always had a special relationship. As I grew older, may be I grew into my nose, so life was more about the capsicum and less about the nose.

Well cooked, grilled or raw, peppers (as they are more stylishly known) work well any which way, unlike most salad-based vegetables— that’s what sets them apart. A friend of mine who incidentally hates cooking taught me this delectable red and yellow pepper infused dip that makes the most ordinary slice of bread transform into a thing of exotica. The fact that she could make it made me realise that it’s not easy to screw up a capsicum, unless you are deplorable. And if you go wrong with good old aloo simla, you may as well kill yourself— the natural chemistry between the two will always come in the way of your bad cooking.

Simla mirchi (in desi lingo) is also one that ups the sexiness quotient of almost any subzi, or tandoor platter (yes, the vegetarians have a humble paneer-capsicum equivalent). While its red and yellow brethren come quick to the rescue to jazz up a salad, tomato-based pasta or just a stir-fry.

I have never understood why the red and yellow ones come gift-wrapped and cost a bomb compared to the green ones (is it possible they have more flavonoids or anti-oxidants? Must check). Personally, they work the same, although the green ones are more piquant and the red and yellow ones make it look like you truly are bringing out your best veggies for your guest.

Whatever your colour, any time is a good time for peppers. Enjoy!




Pepper dip

An ode to the lazy and fabulous.. lasts a week and all you need is anything to mop it up—bread works well.


Ingredients:

One red pepper

One yellow pepper

4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

one teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

olive oil

balsamic vinegar (or soya sauce)

salt to taste



method:

On an open flame, grill the red and yellow peppers till the skin turns charcoal black and can be peeled off easily. Cool and set aside.

Peel the peppers, and slit them vertically, scooping out the seeds. Slice into thin strips.

Put the pepper strips into a glass or ceramic bowl, and add the roasted sesame and roasted chopped garlic. Douse liberally with olive oil, and then round off with a drop of balsamic vinegar (you can also use soya sauce) and mix well, adding salt to taste.

Use this as a dip for bread or layer it on a baguette or toast,  or lavash, adding olives, lettuce or whatever you fancy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Big deal

A dear friend has declared she is out in the market. She is attractive, successful, well-travelled, articulate, funny, reads poetry, has great taste, has a great cook, and is a great human being.
Now, why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good life like that, I wonder. She reasons that she doesn’t want to feel like she didn’t try. So she is on a dotcom hunt for a suitable man. She reasons she deserves a good shot at finding Mr Big, after having been with a few not-so-good insignificants. She recently met a Not-so-big in this scenario, but something’s telling her to hang on. There just might be a Mr Big lurking around somewhere, she thinks. As for the candidate in question, she was his Big, a scenario though flattering, isn’t exactly the optimum one.

We all want to be with men who will sweep us off our feet, know jazz and wine, fill a room, cook us a great meal occasionally, have out-of-the-box travel ideas, are capable of being angry and sad, kill us with their voice, and be just the right level of romantic (more about levels in another column). And of course be successful, suave and desirable. In short, we are looking for the great Indian oxymoron.

I don’t know anyone who has found their Big. Yes, they might have been in trying relationships with him, or they are yet to meet him, but most of the women I know have ended up with Not-so-big, and are still in a good place. This is not to say that my friend should settle for less, but may be just continue with the greatest love affair of her life — the one with herself. When that happens (and it often takes a while), the Bigs get drawn to you like magnets.

But if I take a quick roll call of the singletons in my life, the number of interesting women far outweighs the number of interesting men. And yes, men might feel that’s unfair, but take a piece of paper and list five interesting single men and women you know, and write to me. We’ll do the math.

My paradigm for an interesting woman is—if I were a man, would I date her? If the answer is yes, she goes into the list.

The basic difference between men and women, or at least the men and women I know, is that women make the most of waiting for Big. They get makeovers, they work on their look, they straighten or curl their hair (depending on what they have), they travel, they trek, they go on spiritual journeys or look for inner peace, they change careers, go wine tasting, they learn salsa and belly dance and capoeira.

Men whine. They whine that they have no interesting women to take spiritual journeys or salsa or capoeira with. They whine that there are no muses to dress up for. Basically what they want is to be rehabilitated, and they hope that they can be their slouchy selves and someone will just come and whisk them away.

In the meanwhile, they can continue their torrid affairs with their large-screen televisions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stubble trouble

I am allergic to press releases, or anything that shouts, “I am a press release”, which makes for 99.9 % of press releases. What also gets my capillaries bursting is calls from PR companies that start with, “I wanted to talk to you regarding my client XYZ ….who will be …..” Or this one: “We have sent you an invite for the launch of ___(random product or event) on ___ at ____which will be attended by ___ (list of random C-list celebrities). Will you be coming?”

Of course I won’t be coming. I have a life. I mean, give me a break. The least you can do is come up with a better opening line. But I guess lazy journalists will take anything that comes their way, which means PR companies will never go out of business — it’s a symbiotic relationship.

At the start of my career as an advertising copywriter, there was the era of the un-ad ad. There were a whole bunch of creative directors who constantly reminded us that the reader unfolds the paper to read news and features, not ads. Our competition therefore, was editorial content, not other ads. That was the honeymoon period for copywriters who dug body copy, like I did. Then the television boom happened and everything was about 30-second quickies. There was no room for print, and if at all, it was about, “We have to do a 100 cc ad. It has to include the client’s bio-data, his ex-wife’s photo, his dog’s name somewhere in the copy, his mission statement, his brother’s company’s logo and baseline and….”

I quit. I became a journalist.

Some days ago, I received this in my inbox. I would have blindly deleted it, just as I do every press release I routinely get, when the subject line made me stop for a second. It said ‘W.A.L.S: Women Against Lazy Stubble’, and I figured it could work as fodder for my column. (No prizes for guessing it was from a shaving products company). Now, forget the fact that I like my men with a bit of stubble and I am the one always asking the husband to go easy on the buzzing; it’s well, just more textural and if you may, alpha male. It briefly read:

For centuries women have spent hours grooming themselves to please men but that is changing. Women are now taking a strong stand against LAZY MEN AND THEIR LAZY STUBBLE. W.A.L.S is a movement that brings together all like-minded women who believe that it is about time men made a little effort to groom themselves and sport a cleaner and more confident look. Why should only the women make that effort? The founders of this movement are a group of young women who believe that EQUALITY should exist in all walks of life – including self-hygiene and grooming.

It went on..

“We would invite celebrities like Malaika Arora, Neha Dhupia and Mugdha Godse to be a part of an EXCLUSIVE story with your publication, where they can share their thoughts on topics such as….. and instances in their life where stubble proved to be trouble (with friends, husband, father, brother boyfriend, etc.)

I do hope there is an era of the un-press release press release. Meanwhile I can offer my services to PR companies looking to write them.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lady killer

In the days of yore, one of the pre-tests to tell an instinctive cook from a laboured one was to see how one handled okras (lady fingers in common parlance, bhindi in more endearing ones). If you were the kind of person who chopped them and then washed them, out you went, scoring zero on ten. If you, on the other hand, rinsed the bhindis, laid them out on newspaper sheets, and gently dried then, nudging collective contact with the paper, you scored 7 on 10. And if you, like the more fastidious but rare breed, dried them one at a time with a kitchen roll, you scored a perfect ten.

Whatever the case, the mucilage is the bane of the bhindi’s existence…or its redemption, depending on how you look at it. For instance, while volunteering at WSD, boiled bhindi was commonly added to dog food and mashed, for those canines suffering from constipation—it always worked, even closer home for my cats.

One of the things I like about bhindi (apart from the fact that it is one of two vegetables that the husband likes) is the fact that they remind me of real people—they are thin, fat, tall, short, fair, dark, happy, grumpy, and seem to have faces… and their hexagonal contours seem to have an attitude of their own. Remember how in the craft class, the closest resemblance to people in a vegetable skit was Mr. Ladyfinger?

They always talk to me. Depending on their shape or size, they seem to say, okay, I have gotten a little corpulent here, so make sure you camouflage me well. Or, I am so tender and green, so please do as little as you can to me.

Personally, I like them thin and wiry, as I like my men. Also, like I hate disfiguring a perfectly good lady finger, I also like to eat them as whole as I can. So the traditional bhindi subzi doesn’t quite work for me, although being the seasoned Tam bram that I am, Vendakkai Pachadi is something I wish I had inherited from the parents. All my mother handed me down was a quickie yoghurt variant of it, which works pretty well, although the tamarind version is to be inhaled to be believed.



Bhindi raita (courtesy the mother)



Ingredients

Bhindi: 200 gm

Ginger, a medium sized piece, julienned

Jeera powder

Hing

Rai

Green chillies; 2, juliennned





METHOD:

Wash and dry bhindis. Chop them really thin and set aside.

In a non-stick pan, heat a tablespoon of oil, add rai, allow to splutter, and then a pinch of hing, and then the ginger and chilly juliennes and mix well.

Add the bhindi to this, salt to taste, and fry well on a low flame will crisp. Cool. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk 250 gm of dahi to smoothen lumps, and add the fried bhindi mixture to it. Serve immediately as an accompaniment to rice or rotis.





Bhindi aloo with garlic (courtesy Manish, my sindhi foodie colleague)



2 large potatoes, sliced vertically

Bhindi : 200 gm, cut into 2inch pieces and then slit vertically

Garlic : 6-7 cloves

Green chillies: 2-3

Salt to taste



Method:

Peel the garlic cloves and slice the chillies and crush them with a bit of salt using a mortar pestle

Heat some oil in a pan and add the chilly garlic mixture, and then add the bhindis and aloo, salt to taste, mix well

Cook on a slow flame, stirring occasionally till well done.

Serve hot with chapatis or dal-chaval

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Verse case scenario

The husband said to me recently, in appreciation of my wifely and motherly excellence, “I feel like writing a poem about you. I would if I could, but since I can’t, I will stick to naming my weapons after you..”

Before you roll your eyes any further, let me explain. The husband is a gamer (for those of you who came in late) and no, nothing has changed post infant, except perhaps, the fact that he uses headphones while he goes on about massacring people and escaping with the loot, so that the infant is not permanently marked by violence at the tender age of (almost) five months.

The weapon he is referring to is ‘Lalli’s bane’, something that has the power to inflict instant fatigue leading to immobilization and eventual death (just like I do with my sharp tongue, he says) with just a few whacks in a combat with soldiers, orcs, minatores, evil henchmen, or generally anyone he wants to kill in the game, Elder Scrolls Oblivion.

The infant has also joined the ranks in his gaming world and currently, Rehaan is the name of the main character in Fallout 3 (his current PS3 craze), a boy who is trying to save the world in a post apocalyptic Washington DC, and searching for his father to solve a mystery. Earlier, I was Lee, the warrior princess in a first person fantasy shooter game. “See, I think of you even when you are not around,” he says, almost in his defence.

Coming back to poetry, there was a time when I used to judge men by how well they wrote. Or least how well they wrote letters and notes and poems to me. It was an unstated pre-qualification for any man in my life, and many not-so-nice-men were given the benefit of doubt just because they wrote poetry, or what seemed like it then. Like a friend of mine who judges men by whether they recognize that her bag is, indeed, a Louis Vuitton. But I realized pretty late that the cadaverous poets also came with other baggage that I didn’t necessarily want to deal with, and besides, in the email era, it didn’t seem to matter any more. If you want something interesting to say to someone, just find it on Google.

The husband doesn’t write poetry, or cook or talk about rainforests, eco-friendliness or recycling, or approves of my desire to settle in a village or enjoys getting wet in the rain, or likes rearranging furniture every now and then, or is a backpacker or has been chased by a cow while going to school. But then that would have made two of us. And what could be more boring than marrying your clone? So I am just happy to be the ‘bane’ of his existence.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quick gun vegan

I turned vegan about three weeks ago. Now, don’t give me that, “Oh, poor you, you seed-eating, fruit-infested, lettuce-chomping, whole food junkie you!” I might come back with, “I am having a pretty good time, you sausage-ridden rodents!”

But this is not about ‘to meat or not to meat.’ Point is, I was already a vegetarian, so giving up dairy products didn’t seem like a big deal. Plus, I like experimenting with my life, and a workshop on Peas Vs Pills that I attended with the infant did it for me. He of course had no idea that his culinary repertoire was being planned on his mega outing, but then, too bad! Such are the perks of motherhood. Till he has a mind of his own, I appointed myself as his thinker.

The husband was both amused and despondent when he found out. Since the two of us met, he has evolved from a classic omnivore to someone who now eats all that I eat, but needs his sausage and burger goodies on the side. But no day or meal for the husband is complete without oodles of dairy products – cheese, cheese spread, mayonnaise, butter, cheese slices and then some... (it is a miracle he weighs what he weighs, thank god for his metabolism)

Our fridge has been about ‘his shelf’ and ‘my shelf’ and a lot of our dates (I still prefer to call them that) comprised laying out a cheese platter, picking out a favourite DVD (post Tata Sky Plus, it is favourite ‘recorded’ movie or show) pouring each a glass of wine, and just savouring the goodies.

Now it turns out, that he will be chewing on the cheese while I will be chomping on my lettuce. But we haven’t had any problems so far, so I guess we were doing good. Till he asked me, “Is Rehaan going to be vegan too?” with much trepidation.

I could sense that he had nurtured visions of taking the son (that already sounds all-grown up, the poor thing has just learn how to flip over) to the nearest Mc Donald’s soon as he turned two and the two of them feasting on burgers with extra cheese, coke with extra coke and fries with extra fries. Now, he sees them paling away, and of course, that is causing him endless worry.

“Well, for now, yes,” I said.

“But shouldn’t we allow him to decide?,” he whined.

“Okay, you can tell him where a hot dog comes from and he can decide, yes,” was my reply.

Ah, we were going to have ‘parenting issues’, I figured. But I have at least bought time for now.

How am I feeling? Very calm, strangely. Must be the vegan thing. Even nincompoops haven’t been able to rattle me in the past month, so something must be working.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hitch or miss

I don’t understand engagements. I don’t know what the big deal is about Shilpa Shetty and Raj-whoever getting engaged. I mean, think about it. They have been going around forever, buying cricket teams, villas, posing for covers, throwing diamonds and whatnots at each other with amazing regularity. And now they announce they are getting engaged. “That’s it?,” I feel like asking. “Gimme more!,” I feel like screaming.

Friends tell me engagements are about making the relationship official. May be I have a different viewpoint, but to me, the minute you announce to friends and family that you are seeing someone, it becomes official. If you think you need to peacock yourself with finery just to announce this, well, that’s your problem. Funnier is when someone says that X is engaged to be married. I mean, what else can you be engaged for? Saturday night dates? Chauffeur services? Photo ops?

Still others tell me it’s an occasion to party. You can’t possibly throw a party just because someone is your girlfriend/boyfriend, so you get engaged. This is also one way to ensure that someone else pays for the spoils and you get lots of presents. Methinks this is a very practical reason.

I am always suspicious of people who get ‘engaged’. Makes me wonder if it’s their way of buying time, or keeping that window open. May be it’s like saying, yes, I want to commit, but I can only come half way. May be it is a more extricable situation. After all, calling off an engagement is far easier than calling off a marriage.

But then there are a whole bunch of them ladies who are deeply concerned about ‘the rock’. How else can they wriggle that out from their boyfriends, they wonder. I feel like telling them to learn something from Sushmita Sen and buy your own. Besides, there’s only so many fingers you have. Unless, of course, you are the ‘much ado about a rock’ kind of person, which I guess a majority are.

And then there are those who decide to spend the rest of their life with a childhood sweetheart, and since they obviously can’t marry at age 20, they get engaged. Till someone (usually parents) tells them that it has been ‘A very long engagement,’ and then they move on to level two.

A friend of mine had a north Indian equivalent of an engagement a couple of years ago, called ‘roka’. The word makes me squirm — its literal meaning is ‘to stop’. She explained it was to stop the boy from straying or running away. Why don’t we just ask the concerned parties to wear placards, or to be more subtle, a chain with a pendant that says ‘Taken’ or some such? Cheaper, isn’t it?

What I still don’t get is, people in their blooming thirties and forties who get engaged. I mean, what are you waiting for? The next botox session?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sweet nothings

Last week, the mother asked me when ‘my diwali’ was. I was nonplussed, but I realised quickly that she implied that since I was now married to a ‘north indian’, her Diwali and my Diwali were on different days. I found her question out of place since reams have been written about why I will not change my name, or adopt a karva chauth and why festivals are non-negotiable, and how ‘my Diwali’ will always be ‘my Diwali’. The infant, when he grows up, will probably have a bonus Diwali (‘his’ and ‘mine’), if he cares for it, and if he doesn’t, too bad!

*****

I still remember my childhood, when we were all woken up at 4 am, slathered with oil and then scrubbed clean with gook, made to wear new clothes, suitably haldified (you did that to everything new, to neutralize all evil), and then dispatched to different neighbourhood homes with a thali full of mithai and savouries. Now, of these, the north Indian homes were rudely awakened from their slumber on a day when it was clearly not Diwali, so they just looked at you in a funny way and mumbled, “But Diwali is tomorrow!” We were so embarrassed, that soon, we refused to go on mithai delivery duty to these homes. We felt like aliens who just celebrated Diwali on the wrong day. We were too young, and MNS was not around.

****

It’s rangoli time. I love rangolis. They are more festive to me than anything else. They transpose me to an era of innocence, although, even then, it was like displaying your best footwear. Or bindis perhaps. As children, we did the whole geru thing, the simulation of a mud floor with this brown mud-like block, wetting it and evening it out, drawing the rangolis, sieving the colour-base mix and packing it in a muslin thingee, before you let it fill in the outline. Sometimes, we even made the rangolis freehand and didn’t use a grid. That was a sign that you had arrived. Hierarchies were clearly established in this collaborative exercise, and I stood somewhere in the middle. This time, it was just about the mother and me, and things were much simpler — she is good with the big picture, I am better with the details. She draws the outline, I fill in the colour. It’s a classification we have made peace with.

***

I was a bit ambivalent about what to do with festival text messages. Now, I do a blanket ignore, since I figured, if people have just copy-pasted a vanilla template, I needn’t bother about composing individual replies. (May be there are vanilla reply templates as well). I figured, it’s easier for people to send out blanket SMSs than to reply to them, so that’s what they do. Send. So they are absolved from replying. I do neither, and wonder if I am anti-social. May be I am. But you would be too, if you get a message that reads: “May millions of lamps illuminate your life with endless joy, prosperity, health, wealth and happiness forever.”

Or this one: “May this Diwali light up new dreams, fresh hopes, undiscovered avenues, different perspectives, everything bright and beautiful and fill your days with pleasant surprises and movements,”

Whatever!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The great hackeroo

Ellen Degeneres, said recently about her 1000th show, “It’s kinda overwhelming. We started in 2003, and that was a whole different world. For one, there was no Facebook. So if you had to poke someone, you had to do it the old-fashioned way.”

It got me wondering about my Facebook dependence and the ‘friends’ I had acquired through it. I do find it useful, at least right now, to chronicle my infant’s movements, post photos and status messages (literally). I realise documentation is important, as sometimes you can totally lose track of time and then wonder where the baby days have gone (I have no evidence of mine except three photos). And then one day, you realise he has an account too, and has sent you a friend request (it has happened to my friends).

Of course, to make me feel like a non-junkie, I routinely go through the exercise of deleting
 a) Those who I don’t really know (and funnily enough, there are several of those)
b) Those who have nothing to say to me, for then, I wonder if they are just being voyeuristic about my life
 c) Those who I have a strict work-relationship with, for I wonder what they are doing popping up in my leisure zone.

Otherwise, I am no cyber vulture, and I still send hand-written notes to people once in a while, so may be I am just in the wrong era (there are several other reasons why I feel thus, but we will go into that some other time). But what totally flabbergasted me was a recent text message I received from a random (who, incidentally had made it to my ‘friends’ list by some quirk of fate). The message read:

“A really mean and vicious hacker got into my Facebook account and deleted it. He (I don’t know why women always get the benefit of doubt) has deleted my personal email accounts also. So when you see my name is not on your friends list, you know why. I can’t make any new accounts until the Mumbai police cyber crime cell doesn’t arrest him. Please inform any common friends on my Facebook disappearence. I am feeling really, really sad and violated and I request you to avoid such a thing happening to your loved ones.”

A few days later, I got this one:

“While the hacker hasn’t been nabbed yet, I got my Facebook back!

It gets better. Another contact was allegedly ‘reported’ for having too many Facebook IDs, and her account was closed. She was shattered, to say the least, and went about several attempts to get her account (and her social life) back. She actually made desperate calls to California (yes!) to get it reactivated, and they finally complied. “Imagine, all my friends, my pets, my albums are there. What will I do?,” she cried.

Poke! Poke!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

About a boy

The husband and I went on a lunch and movie date this Sunday, infant duly in care of the mother and the newly acquired baby maid. It felt like courtship again, both of us all dressed up, chatting nineteen to the dozen as we drove into down. The out-of-turn October rain added the right touch of romance. But what made it really significant was that the movie chosen was Wake up Sid.

Two minutes into the film and we turned around to look at each other in shock. The movie was about us! He is my Sid, the silver spooned diplo-brat of 100 dollar-a-month (or some such obscene amount) pocket money, driving a BMW at age 18, partying for a living, downing shots like there’s no tomorrow, master of the after-party who once thought credit cards were actually assets one earned, and the kind of person who, if there ever was a fire, would save his games first.

Me, I spent my entire youth in labs I didn’t want to be, doing research I didn’t want to do, hanging out with people I didn’t really care for, and, in general, doing things that were not really me. To top it all, I was negotiating down payments and housing loans at age 25, worshipping my PPF account, learning the power of compound interest, understanding mutual funds and plotting to run away from home and live my own life, spend my own money, drive my own car, cook my own food and buy my own furniture.

And then, somewhere along, we met. And fell in love. And got married. And had a child. And are still as different as chalk and cheese. Or Sid and Aisha.

“Thank god I didn’t meet you when you were 24. You’d have been too immature for me,” I said.

“At 24, I was too immature for me,” he admitted.

I realised why I married him. It’s because the Aisha in me totally digs the Sid in him.

And more importantly, he helps me find the Sid in me, and celebrate it! What keeps the romance alive is that the Sid in him will never die — age, job, infant notwithstanding.

Post the movie, I saw him prancing down the aisle, breaking into dance as the credits rolled down. He was no longer the responsible daddy that he has become, but transposed into his Sid avatar, wanting to be a mall rat, go clubbing, buy more gadgets, the works. (His response to ‘unpleasant’ things like taxes, accountant fees, brokerages and other expenses is still to spend an equivalent amount of money on games and gadgets). I gently reminded him that we had a three month old and this was not the time to buy a 50 inch TV.

“Well, what can I say? My moron days are over, but my child days are not….,” was his reply.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bake, bhai, bake

My mother was a fastidious baker in the days of yore. Marble and sponge cake, coconut castles and macaroons, pineapple upside down, coconut cookies, coffee and walnut cake, nankhatais and what have you came our way every once in a while.

She took baking lessons on Saturday and would return home with her creations, which she repeated over the following weeks till she perfected it.

The actual cake making was somewhat of a NASA expedition. One of us was in charge of beating the eggs—this was the worst job, as she would strongly disapprove of any lingering pauses, or variable frequency of beating, claiming that the air bubbles that got in would hamper the rising of the cake. Once she was tipped off to beat the whites separately, and that’s when we went into hiding.

Another one would be summoned to sieve the flour, the baking powder, the cocoa, coffee, nutmeg or cinnamon powder (if any), or chop the candied peels, cherries or walnuts to the perfect sq mm. The lucky one got to grease-proof the cake tin (this was the most fun) or lick the remainder of the cake dough (if you haven’t done that, you haven’t lived)

And then the anticipation for the next 40 minutes. Will the cake rise? Or will it fall flat on its face? Will it be too hard? Or too soft to cut into slices? Will we be able to take it to school the next day? How long will it last? When will she bake again?

Anyway, after all that, I vowed never to bake in my life, and if I did, I would find a less ulcer-inducing way.

I did. Decades later. When I met Electra, my friend’s mom, who had just the nonchalance I needed for my baking plunge. “Cake is nothing men. Just butter, sugar, eggs and maida. Mix and shove it in the oven. Add whatever you want..”

She was right, even though I took the liberty of substituting the maida for whole wheat flour and butter for cream sometimes. Also, whenever I have to get rid of excess fruit, brownies, jam, marmalade, chocolate, nuts I just throw them into a cake, or layer them on. It always works.

I also have a little secret that I learnt from an ex-boyfriend. When you have run out of baking powder, don’t fret. Merely add a spoonful of milk to the baking mix and squeeze half a lemon into it just before you switch the oven on. The reaction within is enough to make any cake swell with pride.

Now I bake like a goddess, ala Nigella Lawson, effortlessly dunking things into the oven, unlike my mother who made it look really heavy duty. It’s come to a point when mom asks me, “How did you manage that?” I grin my famous grin. “Trade secret,” I say.


Banana and walnut loaf

1 cup butter (or cream)

1 cup sugar (brown or white)

1 cup flour (or maida)

2 eggs

2 overripe bananas, mashed into a pulp

½ spoon baking powder (sieved into the flour)

½ cup chopped walnuts



Method:

Mix butter and sugar. Add the eggs, mix well and then add the flour.

Now add the mashed banana puree and the chopped walnuts into the cake mix.

Bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes



(note: this cake will not rise too much, and is best had within two days)





Electra's Chocolate cake

250 gms butter

250 gms sugar (brown, preferably)

250 gm flour (whole wheat or maida)

4 eggs

cocoa powder- 1 tbsp

instant coffee powder – 1 tsp

Milk (to mix)



Method:

Mix butter with sugar. Add eggs, beating into the mixture, one by one. Add flour, blend well.

Stir the cocoa powder into milk, and add the instant coffee powder, and just enough milk to mix it well.

Pour this mixture into the cake mix. Mix well. Bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes.

(Tip: add a spoonful of curd or the juice of half a lemon to the cake dough just before baking. It makes the cake really fluffy)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Weekend woes

The husband is currently a shade of beetroot. After having had a perfectly good weekend ruined by recurrent invasions from aliens, he is trying to regain his composure by punching as hard as he can on his PS3 controller and stuffing his body with an equivalent amount of junk. By the time you read this, a new working week would have begun and life will not be beautiful again.

But what’s gotta be done, gotta be done. So I make no big deal of the events that unfold over the weekend: a bunch of nincompoops masquerading as building society biggies armed with a troupe of workmen take over the apartment for alleged pipe-work, the cat tries to run away with the plumber, politics burgeon between the new hired help for the infant and the old housemaid, our financial planners and accountant pay us a visit, and in the midst of all this, I try to clear the clutter, collecting things for a garage sale for animal welfare, the husband trying to hoard (as usual), and me trying to convince him not to (as usual).

It comes naturally to me, as I am the queen of multi-tasking. To the husband, sitting in front of the television screen is also a task (which I reckon was all that he had planned for the glorious three-day weekend)

Anyway, the proceedings begin at 9 am on Saturday, me trying to wear a mask of stoic and the husband scowls, focusing on ‘keeping the airconditioning from running away’ from his room. Midway, I peek into the bathroom to check the proceedings and find a gaping hole in the ceiling, its nakedness replete with the iron skeleton and brick and all. “What if it rains tomorrow? The monsoon will come straight into the bathroom!,” I bark at the workmen (visions of me standing under a waterfall ala Zeenat Aman flash by)

“No madam, monsoon is over,” said one pipsqueak.

“What the.. (suddenly remember that the infant is in my arms)….What about rats, and other creatures?”

“Okay, we will put some maal then,” he mumbles.

The maal, as it turns out, is flung from ground level onto the ceiling, adding a splatter-painted look to the walls, but I can’t be bothered anymore. The husband, meanwhile is wondering aloud why I am prolonging the agony and not letting them go.

The gory is not over. Our financial planners are next. The husband winces when I tell him the meeting cannot be cancelled.

“Now they will come and take all our money away…What a torrid day!”

“They are not taking our money away. They are creating wealth,” says me of perennial wisdom. I have been speaking the right language ever since I read Rich Dad Poor Dad.

More bad news follows. The husband is told he has to part with another princely sum for auditing and accounts. The meeting is tomorrow. Creating wealth is something he cannot visualize by now.

He is distraught, wondering how his weekend got robbed right under his nose and how he can salvage whatever few hours are left. The infant, meanwhile has no clue of the goings on, and gurgles with laughter, shaking his fists with glee.

Touché!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Children of a lesser gourd

There are two ways to negotiate the karela (bitter gourd in more fashionable circles). One is to accept it at face value and take its bitterness in your stride. The other is to destroy every evidence of its personality, render it completely unrecognizable, and then pride at how you have camouflaged its bitterness.

Since I am a strong advocate of retaining as much of the aesthetic of a vegetable as is realistically possible (with an exception of baingan for bharta), I would brave the karela as it is, with no major alterations to its physical or chemical composition.

Perhaps the most extreme of torture would be to scrape it off its alligator scale-like appearance, rendering it almost bald, then drowning it in salt, squeezing it off all its bitterness, stuffing it with a million masalas, tying it up in threads and then slow-cooking it. Stuffed Karela in my world would qualify as exemplary cruelty to vegetables.

When we were kids, my mother (or father, when he got a chance) would slip karelas into the lunch menu every odd Sunday (rather apologetically) and then steel themselves to incur our wrath. The effect was rather immediate. Me and the siblings would sulk, go on a mini hunger strike, postpone eating for as long as we could, and then grudgingly eat the karela in its various avatars. But except the crispy ones (a variant is available at the nearest Hot Chips), nothing got our vote.

Things have changed a lot since then, at least for me. I have explored this lesser gourd, seen it in a new light, and made some happy memories out of it in the process(see below)

One thing the karela teaches you for sure is patience. It cannot endure drastic measures, like say, the potato. So whether you are making a simple crispy karela or blending it with other members of the vegetable family, it needs to be handled with care, de-bittered, but not too much, cooked slowly, tossed often. And despite being the spurned one for many palates, it still puts up a brave front. I love it for its resilience.


Karela with potatoes

This is the simplest way to eat karela and one of my favourite recipes. The potatoes help absorb the bitterness of karela, making it a great marriage. It was given to me by my Bengali colleague. “Do nothing to it, add nothing,” is her mantra.

Method:

Wash, dry and chop karelas into small pieces. Do the same with the potatoes.

Heat one tablespoon oil in a non-stick man. Add the karela-potato mix, add salt, a pinch of sugar, haldi and mirchi powder.

Cook slowly. Do not cover (water from condensation brings out the bitterness)

Serve with chapatis or rice and dal.

Note: You can also substitute the potatoes with aubergines.




Karela with onions

One thinly sliced medium sized onion

2-3 karelas, slit vertically and then thinly sliced. Soak this in water with a teaspoon of salt and then squeeze dry, draining off the water

Two vertically slit green chillies

Amchur powder

Jeera powder

Salt, sugar to taste



Method:

Heat one tablespoon oil in a skillet. Add mustard and when it splutters, add the slit green chillies and the sliced onions and slowly sauté.

When the onions are near-brown, add the karelas, amchur powder, salt and mix well.

Cook slowly, uncovered, till the karelas brown.







Karela in tamarind sauce (paarikai pachadi)

Chop fine. Discard larger seeds, but keep the tender ones. Soak in salted water , squeeze out excess water.

Heat oil, add mustard seeds. When it sputters, add hing and two slit green chillies.

To this add the chopped karela and sautee…

To the juice of a lemon sized ball of tamarind, add a spoonful of besan and mix well.

Add the tamarind-besan mixture to the sautéed karelas.

Add sambar powder, salt, a small piece of jaggery, and bring to boil.

Serve with rice or chapatis.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Continuum

“She has so lost her spark after coupledom.”

Thus speaketh a friend about someone we knew in common and largely admired for her pluck to put herself out, and make singledom look good. Apparently, this girl was not so cool anymore as she couldn’t stop talking about her new-found relationship.

My friend, on the other hand, has technically never been single since she turned 18 and was more or less a relationship goddess to me through my long stints as a singleton. She is now finally single, two decades and two marriages later, and is currently tapping me for advice on how to do the ‘table for one’ life. She also wants me to find a ‘suitable boy’ for her, a role I am so not used to playing.

It’s a bit odd, being on the other side with her—she is still dealing with the irony that I have stepped out of my continuum of singledom— having not only tied the knot, but also produced an infant. It is a transition that both of us are learning to handle, she trying to get used to being single, me trying to get used to not being so.

But what I found odd was her desire to now see single as cool, after years of her promoting coupledom to me, and years of me resisting, by saying I was happy for her, but I was happy in my state as well.

I guess she is unlearning wearing the coupledom hat. I on the other hand still have trouble wearing my married hat — read that as thinking like a married person does… for example—“Let me check and get back to you, I don’t know now, can I let you know by the weekend,” stuff like that. I am so used to making my own decisions that sometimes, I have to remind myself that I have to think for two (now three). But I am getting there, with a little help from the husband, so it’s all good.

It’s still funny how singledom is viewed as something in transition, something waiting to be altered, and coupledom as something that has attained balance and stability. It reminds me of my chemistry lessons a long time ago where we learnt about valence electrons and their bid for stability through covalent bonds. So singletons were like electrons, trying to get into stable orbitals, and perhaps that’s why they call it ‘settling.’ But chemistry, unlike life, was kinder to the single bond as it rendered it the most stable as opposed to double and triple bonds which were considered unstable (more to share=unstability in chemistry)

But then again, it is not about singledom versus coupledom. It is which electronic state allows you to form bonds you want to keep.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Advance booking

The husband is a ‘let’s reserve a table’ kind of person while I am a ‘let’s go out for lunch’ kind. I find it absurd walking into a restaurant, having reserved a table and then discovering that most of the tables around me are empty. Because, in my mind, I have done the extra work of making that phone call, listening to a syrupy voice at the other end, talking to it for a good three minutes, and then not being rewarded for it. Ideally my reward would be the visual of other people begging for a table, while I breeze in with supreme confidence, just dropping my name.

On the other hand, I find it equally absurd cold-calling an eatery, noticing that most tables are empty and then being asked, “Do you have a reservation?”

The husband of course takes reservation to another level. He reserves an appointment for his routine haircuts at the salon-around-the-corner called Miracle, where, I reckon, he is the sole customer. Or at least the only customer who gives a fifty-rupee tip. Given that Miracle salon has more staff than clients any given day, the husband’s franticness about having to make that appointment seems a bit misplaced. But it’s still been hard for me to convince him that he can just show up.

It’s evident that I am a creature of spontaneity, while the husband likes planning (never mind that half the plans are never meant to be executed). I like just showing up. If the restaurant/movie/salon doesn’t have room for me, I’ll find another restaurant/movie/salon that does, or just find something else to do. So unless it’s a Rehaan Engineer play (which, if you miss once, you never get to see again) or a good stand-up gig, I never book in advance for anything.

In my single-screen childhood, going for a movie was a high-adrenaline expedition. First of all, we never knew if we’d get tickets, then we never knew what was plan B if we didn’t. Could we afford them ‘in black’? Would it be another movie in another theatre? Would we go out for dinner? Ice-cream? Or would we just go home? But the option of booking tickets in advance for another day was never considered by my get-up-and-go family.

Booking is also a bit impersonal according to me.. where is the thumpety thump of the heart when you walk into a theatre not knowing whether you will actually get to see the film? Where is that feeling of “OMG! There are 17 people in front of me, so will I make it?”.

Unfortunately, multiplexes and their multiple choices have taken the adrenaline out of movie watching. Life, strangely, has become a series of plan Bs.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Game zone

I got hit on!

By a twenty-something. In broad daylight. Straight out of his daddy’s car. Not at a club or a brunch, but at the local nariyalpaniwala. And I didn’t see it coming!

Great, I can still score, I thought, and must say it felt good. Flattery always does, even if people tell you otherwise. Thing is, I have so been out of the game, that it took me a good 30 seconds to realise what was happening. I was caught off-guard, and it was the last thing on my mind—I was still recovering from my post-partum belly, having a bad hair day (nothing new) compounded by a wardrobe crisis, flaunting my greys (now that’s another column, but I believe that if I don’t do it now, I never will, and then one day I will be 60 and wrinkled, but have jet black hair and pretend I am 55, which is all a bit lopsided if you ask me)

Here’s a snatch of the conversation between PFY (pretty fresh youth) and me:

He: Nice shades!

Me: (irritated at being distracted from my nariyalpani): Thanks…

He: Where did you get them? They are really cool

Me: (perplexed as they are really vanilla shades, no big deal about them): They are Fast Track. You get them anywhere I suppose.

He: You come here every day?

Me: No. Why?

He: Just asking. I live in X building. How about you?

Yay! I am still in the game — marriage, infant, notwithstanding. And don’t you believe women who say it doesn’t matter once you are ‘settled’ and have kids and all that. Of course it matters. Else why do books on how to get a man, make him stay, make him think the world of you, etc etc fly off the shelves? Why are parlours never out of business, recession or no recession? Why are women always getting their face, nails and hair done? The pheromones never stop working, do they?

It sounds really lame and clichéd, but your self-confidence is hugely related to your scoring potential, whatever life stage you are at. So the more you are out in the open, the better it is for you. If you are not out there, you will never know.

Most women spend months and years, not to mention a huge amount of money trying get back their body image (and it’s not about how many pounds you gained or lost) post baby, and in the meanwhile impose a reclusive lifestyle on themselves. I know it’s a bit bizarre that I was reading The Game soon after my delivery, but it wasn’t intentional, just a book I hadn’t read before and a friend visiting duly got. But something from the book still rings true: You are the prize. And it’s not whether you look like a million bucks, it’s about whether you think you do.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Just in case

The husband is a worry wart. He is the one who will always have an umbrella (two, in fact, just in case one has to be lent to the delinquent at work). He would be the one to buy the last four packets of meat lasagna from the super market (“What if one night I feel like it and there’s none in the freezer?”).

He would be the one to announce an epidemic if he spotted a red ant or cockroach on the counter. Windows are shut, fastened and rechecked (just in case germs come rushing in or it pours and floods the house) every time we leave the flat. He might even have stopped taking the lift to protect himself from swine flu, just that we live on the fifteenth floor and the last time he exercised was probably when he learnt to walk.

A stubbed toe or a scratched palm will be gazed at despondently for hours like surgery was imminent. A mere sniffle would have him packing to a certain quack who prescribed Ceftum indiscriminately, and he spent the next five to six days feeling sorry for himself, imagining drug molecules fighting battles with the toxins in the body and being largely overwhelmed.

I, on the other hand, am the queen of cool. I love open windows, hate air-conditioning, doctors and processed food (not necessarily in that order) don’t pop pills, carry umbrellas, or obsess about what to wear or eat. I am a ‘now’ person, never have multiple copies of anything, stock up for dry days or make contingency plans. I just improvise, and it’s worked so far.

Meanwhile, he buys five of the same white linen shirts, just in case the laundry man lost one or two, or Cotton world stopped making them (and they did!). He has, in storage, ten bulbs, a dozen batteries, four toothpaste packs, and at least a dozen soaps and shower gels. Everything is backed up … milk, coffee, juices, peanut butter, mustard, mayonnaise, cheese, bread, chocolate, whatever.

He fondly calls it Verma stores (random surname, no offence to the bearer of the name). I proposed we re-christen it to Agarwal Mart, since it has assumed gargantuan proportions: Agarwal groceries, Agarwal cold storage, Agarwal medical, Agarwal hardware and Agarwal confectionery

He calls it ‘advance work’. His definition is – work that is done before it needs to be done, so that when the time comes, it doesn’t seem like work.

Yes, but what about work that has to be done now, I ask. “Have you filed your returns, asked for the mutual fund statements, got your passport documents ready, downloaded the infant’s videos……?” He has left the room.

We are now curious to see how the infant turns out. Will he be the chronic worrier with a dash of OCD, or will be the king of cool?

Time will tell.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The ex effect

Last week, post walking into shockingly non-bouncy new place called Bounce in Bandra for some PBQT (post baby quality time) with the husband, I noticed him squirming as he edged me towards the bar. “Guess what? My ex-girlfriend is here. Should I be ignoring her?”

Now this was a first—the extremely suave and articulate husband transforming into this clumsy rookie that is. But I could sense he was uncomfortable, so I said, “Pretending she doesn’t exist would be giving it too much importance. If I were you, I would throw a breezy ‘Hi’ in her direction and continue doing what I was doing.” (Spoken in the tone and manner of someone who has become a pro at the breezy-with-the-ex thing)

Which is what he did, and then all was well. Except it opened the window to some post-morteming by me. “She needs a haircut, and some tact,” I said. I wasn’t just being my bitchy self—she really could do with a haircut—and her constant nudging of friends, pointing in my direction made me think of the second ingredient. So there!

Coming to think of it, he did the same when we ran into one of my exes sometime last year. “You actually dated THAT?” was his response.

One of the conversations we did have pre-marriage was about not inviting any of our exes to the wedding, since it was about celebrating the future and did not have to involve revisiting the past. But a conversation we didn’t have is what would we do if we ran into one of them.

Which brought me to: why are we embarrassed by our exes? And I figured: we are actually embarrassed by what we were when we were with them. Stupid, needy, clingy, confused or a combination thereof. And when we move on, we pretend we were never any of those things and that’s why an encounter such as the above leaves us flummoxed. What makes it worse is that there is no such thing as closure. It is something one only reads in books.

So we fit our exes into different boxes—some have access to our Facebook (some on limited profile, others whose walls we still write on), some we still call and wish on birthdays, some we socially hang out with (but only in large groups), some who text us and we never text back, some whose numbers we remember by heart but haven’t saved, some whose new girlfriends we are dying to check out, some we call for professional (but never personal) advice, and some we just ctrl+alt+delete from our lives and feel good about it.

What we all really want at the bottom of our heart is a Deewar moment with an ex, however petty that might sound. “Mere paas _________ (fill object of value here, like new boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, child) hai! Tumhare paas kya hai?”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Woman, interrupted

“I expected you to be fatter,” he said, accosting me at a house party. The chronic smug singleton was visibly shocked at my reappearance in the circuit in what was almost my old form, pre-pregnancy. Funny thing is, he looked disappointed, as though I had proven him wrong, or beaten him at the ‘I bet she will never get back in shape’ game.

I told him I had good genes, but it was clear that I had the will to get my life (and body) back post pregnancy. However, it got me wondering. Shouldn’t he be happy for me if he is a real friend? Shouldn’t there have been delight and not disappointment in his eyes upon sighting me?

What he is actually thinking is, “Hmmm… it’s not all that bad then to get married and have babies. She can still score..”

What he is not saying is, “I love how you can have a baby and not lose yourself.”

What I am thinking is, “Did you actually expect me to be a fat cow, you loser!”

What I am not saying is, “Why is motherhood=loss of sex appeal=out of the game?”

The fact is, I just wanted to ‘get on with it’ and fill my life with other things that also deserved my attention besides the infant. That simple. No glorious motherhood theories there.

People live their lives by extrapolation. What they see around them, they apply to themselves and visualise. If it doesn’t work, they reject it. It’s a great way of not changing the course of one’s life. The thing about the chronic smug singleton is that he/she always finds excuses to feel happy about not being in your shoes.

If you don’t show up at social dos post a change of status to mother, you are a sad sack who has no life, who cannot multi-task, who probably has a low body image, who is probably so emotionally overwrought that she could actually be bad company.

If you do, you are a careless mother.

If you get back into shape, you obviously care more about yourself than a new mother usually does.

If you don’t, you are just another new mom who has lost herself in her baby.

Which brought me to…Am I also guilty of ‘Been there, done that’? Perhaps I am. Like once-upon-a-time, I would look at married couples who barely spoke to each other, let alone laugh, and think, “That’s how relationships decay,” and then feel happy about being single.

Clichés are a double-edged sword. Damned if you fit, and damned if you don’t. This is how it happens.

Scenario one: Girl gets married. Girl has no time for friends. Girl disappears.

They say: “We knew it…”

Scenario two: Girl gets married. Girl still hangs out with old friends, with or without husband.

They say: “Something must be wrong. Why is she hanging out with us? Doesn’t she have a life?”

Either way, you lose. At least they think you do.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pause and effect

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married man in possession of a smart wife must be in want of a pause button.

While ‘pausing’ the wife seems empowering, especially if she’s the kind who speaks her mind (and has too much of it), menfolk haven’t got that lucky yet. It’s right now limited to pausing live TV. The point is, the suckers think it’s a big deal and will do for now.

So ever since we’ve been privy to Aamir Khan and Gul Panag’s tele-banter on prime time, courtesy the onslaught of Tata Sky commercials, the husband has been cherishing dreams of Tata Sky Plus and sure enough, this birthday, he demanded his pound of flesh. I was too zonked out in post partum euphoria to realise what I had walked in to, but once the team arrived with the apparatus, and their tariff plans, it was too late. The damage was done. Another remote had been added to his array. We now had the power to pause live TV, and Sky was the limit (and unlike Khan and Panag, I am delivering this line absolutely free of cost)

Of course, realizing that it would be vulgar to make it seem all about him, the husband was smart enough to centre the proceedings around me. He said, and I kid you not, that since I was now preoccupied with baby duty, I might want to pause programming if I have to attend to the infant, and then go back to where I had left it, just by touch of a button. Also, I might want to record my favourite programmes (which on last count were three) in case I was too busy, tired or sleepy to sit through them, and then watch at leisure. And imagine what fun it would be to have an entire series of Nigella Lawson! Smartly done, mister!

“But why record when you can watch live?” was my point..

"Because it allows you to!” is his.

So while pausing or recording Chew, ITAS, and Hotel Babylon (my new find on BBC Entertainment) are joys that have been added to my kitty, the husband has several. Most of them of course are under the guise of “I thought you might enjoy it.”

It’s been barely three weeks, but our 160 GB hard disk is already full with programmes and movies we might never see. Just like the clothes and shoes he hoards, but never wears, or the freezer he stocks, but never raids, or the games he buys, but never plays.

Meanwhile, the football season returns with the 9th August Community Shield match and the Premier and Champions Leagues thereafter, and with them, a huge potential to record or pause and return. And of course, fast-forward the blessed ads that made us buy this contraption in the first place!

My life has changed just a wee bit. Earlier, he spent sleepless nights viewing movies across channels. Now he watches one and records the other.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tit-à-tête

If pregnancy makes you shed your inhibitions (I actually posed in a bikini top for a mommy and baby magazine in week 37), motherhood destroys the last vestiges of it. May be it has to do with the fact that the whole of womankind now has a claim over your body and how to rectify (or optimise) it and therefore, nudity (part or whole) is never an issue for starters. Neither is talking about stuff as it is.

But the one thing motherhood doesn’t really prepare you for is a strange phenomenon called lactation politics. It’s as though every woman and her cow (pun intended) has an opinion (or some advice) on your lacto-barometer. Which is why questions like “Are you producing enough?” or “Is he exclusively breast?” or “No top feed?” or “Have you started pumping?” pepper every conversation, no matter whether the said party is one or six degrees of separation.

The problem with nursing is that whatever you do, you are upto scrutiny. ‘Have access, will ask/tell’ seems to be the norm. So your place in the mum hierarchy is decided by whether the baby latched on instantly, whether you have to supplement with formula, or are rich enough in the milk of human kindness (aarrrgh!) not to, and further, how long do you intend to nurse, when will you wean, are you having enough oats/methi/juices/milk/Bournvita/badam/whatever, have you turned to the bottle yet, etc etc.

It takes gumption to get this intrusive, I thought, but turns out, I was wrong. There is no such thing as subtlety in titspeak. Yes, I remember I said no Mumwit, and one reader has actually complained that I am not wicked any more, and that makes me a little concerned. But this, I couldn’t resist.

Asking a woman if she’s doing well on the milk-front is like asking a man if his sperm count is okay, or whether he is getting an adequate erection. Would anyone do that? So why is it legitimate to subject the woman to such intense scrutiny?

On the other hand, may be it’s an opportunity for hitherto marginalized women to re-establish themselves in the power ladder through their lacto-quotient. “I could feed the whole of Bombay”… or “I have enough reserves for six months” or “I am leaking all the time” makes them look good vis-à-vis seemingly over-achiever mothers who have otherwise been ahead of the game.

While me, still basking in my 34C glory, am just happy to have enough for my little one.

And if anyone ever asks me about a rainy day, my answer would be, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. Anything more than what my infant needs is really a waste.”

Therein ends my tit-ology.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Boyzone

“At least he doesn’t have to wax, unless he turns out to be one of those metrosexual cleavage-flaunting weirdos,” I thought and sighed, amid cries of “Congratulations, it’s a healthy baby boy!” at Breach Candy hospital, where I was attended to by an all-boy doctor squad. Since I was rooting all along for a girl, in this column and otherwise, I was a tad disappointed. The husband however made me see the brighter side. “Now you have two men to bash in your column instead of one,” he said. Ah well, we’ll see. Anyway, the bloke has inherited my curly mop and my cleft chin, so that’s reassuring, I thought.

J however made me feel better about the new Y chromosome in my life. “Look at it this way. The good looking guys get the girls, the nerds get the good jobs. He sure has the looks, and he will have the intelligence, at least genetically, unless he screws it up by not reading, or some such. So he will get the girls and the jobs. That’s a win-win. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the hymen.”

Shudder. I never thought of a girl so metaphorically, but he had a point. “Believe me, if she is pretty, the day she steps out in those short skirts, you’ll start having them palpitations, and make dagger eyes at all within vision,” he further explained. He also believes that for a girl, not getting a prom date (God forbid) leaves a deeper scar than a boy not making it to the school football team. Trust J to always come up with a gender theory for everything.

His theory, and it suits me fine, is that since it’s a boy, the job of making him a man is not mine—all I have to do is see him through infancy, and then it’s up to the father. So whether it’s football or cricket practice, archery, or whatever is cool then, it’s not my responsibility, so that’s kind of cool.

Although I’d rather his elegant fingers pick up guitar strings or a paint brush, rather than a Play Station controller, it’s a risk I have to live with. “At least there’s 50% of me, so it can’t be all that bad,” is my only consolation to myself. But each day, as we (father, son, and I ) do family time, I am constantly wondering whether the ambient sounds of Elder Scrolls Oblivion (the husband’s latest PS3 addiction) is going to subliminally corrupt the mind of the infant.

The simple fact is, every boy wants to be exactly like his father or exactly unlike him. Both ways, the dad is a great role model. We’ll see. At least that’s what they call having your boy and having you too.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Yours, hormonally

Yes, I’m back, and no, motherhood hasn’t mellowed me, much to the disappointment of some and sundry. It’s as though they expected me to acquire this ‘touch me not’ aura that new moms seem to cultivate, avoid expletives and questionable language (one of my friends who can only speak sentences that begin and end with the f… word told me he stopped using it for a year after becoming a parent), and turn all soft and somber, chuckling only at baby-related things. Sorry, but that isn’t happening, although I find my little boy Rehaan quite amusing, as he alternates between his Manoj Kumar pose and his Rahman pose.


Which is why this column is not turning into ‘Mumwit’ any time soon and I am not going to be writing about the different hues of poop or the nine ways of tying a nappy, or burping a baby or interviewing a maid, neither am in going down the clichéd yummy mummy road.

Two weeks post my turning mom, people in my universe are surprised when they find me taking calls, reading while nursing, shopping, cooking, answering emails, logging onto facebook, uploading pictures, changing status messages, lustily rooting for Roddick with my baby in tow, while the whole world (including the husband) went ga ga over Federer. I reason it out in my head by thinking, “As long as I am performing my mommy duties, there’s no harm entertaining myself on the side, is there? After all, I have a life!”

Their reactions range from shock to disbelief. “What? You are up and about?,” said one who came to the hospital.

“I can’t believe you answered the phone,” said another. So dude, why exactly did you call me.

“What’s a good time to visit?,” is another common enquiry. Well, I am still figuring that one out, but if you can come and hang in there, or entertain me while I perform my motherly duties, you are more than welcome, any time of day or night.

“Motherhood has not mellowed you one bit,” remarked a third, on my acidic response to a comment on facebook. No, and why should it?

Blame it on the hormones. Fortunately for me, the feel-good ones took over. So oxytocin and prolactin and more estrogen won over corticotrophin and the other bad guys, and as my uterus shrinks back to normal, here I am, feeling bouncy, with no visible signs of post partum blues exactly two weeks after birthing. (My poor mom! Her last chance to sober me down has also gone down the drain.)

My point is, I would have the benefit of doubt even if I was feeling any other way. Like my best buddy J says, “Hormones are a girl’s best friend.” What makes hormones such a great thing is that they tend to legitimize every conceivable state of mind—a privilege that men don’t have—and this unfortunately, is a conversation I cannot have with my little boy for a long, long time.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Daddy’s girl

"How are you? Everything okay? Under control?”

It was a first from my dad… okay, it’s a first for me to be pregnant and ready to pop and all of that, and I notice the dynamic around me slowly change with every passing month, but still… this degree of articulated concern from the father is something I haven’t been used to. And I have been through enough to deserve it.

For the longest time, I was always ‘one of the boys’ as far as my dad was concerned. We went to the same salon for a haircut when I was little, watched matinees together, played rummy, I was his errand girl for ciggies till my mother put a blanket ban on it, he inducted me into watching test cricket… exploring obscure places on the map, and quizzing. What we also shared was a passion for cooking, in which we collaborated quite often, to produce delicacies ‘off the rack’

Of course he also took me shopping, but it was always, “One, two three… pick up something soon, while I have a smoke at the door. Five minutes?”

Later, as I dated suitable and unsuitable boys, he had just a peripheral interest in what they were all about, and rarely went beyond a handshake or a grunt in his communication. To him, they were mere distractions, something that his "limited attention span Gemini daugher" would soon lose interest in, and until I announced I was marrying the man, he was never of any consequence.

It’s true that he never thought I needed to be ‘escorted’ for an early morning class that I had to take a 5.30 am train for (and the railway station was a good twenty minute walk from the house), or even fetch me post a late night excursion. As my mother whined about how times were bad and one had to take special care of daughters, my dad puffed away, “She is a tough one,” he would say. “I wouldn’t worry about her..”

I guess I was, and amply demonstrated it at age fourteen on a trip to Delhi, when a country bumpkin tried to paw me in one of the Teen Murti Bhavan museums… I picked up a stool to hit him with before dad arrived and tried to calm me down. He realized then that I was a woman.

Now, as I waddle into my last stage of pregnancy, dad can’t help but notice how vulnerable I am, physically at least… and I can sense that there is a lot he wants to say and ask, but all he manages, on the phone or in person is, “How are you?”

I guess it’s a big deal for him being a grand dad and all of that. More importantly, he realizes that finally, we will be even. We will soon both be parents, and that’s a bit surreal to deal with.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Some mothers do 've them

"Lap it all up now. Very soon, it will no longer be about you,” said one veteran mom who dropped by last week to check on how I was doing.

She is not the only one. Every woman has something to say about the imminent ‘storm.’

“Try and get all the sleep you can now…you ain’t getting any for months now..”

“ Don’t worry, all the pain will be worth it, when you hold your bundle of joy…”

“Watch TV, lie on your side…”

“Listen to music, read, talk to your baby…”

“Whatever you do, don’t use disposable diapers.. take it from me…”

“That’s the end of your life…only susu-potty now…”

Believe me, these are not regressive, low self-esteem, purposeless women—most of them have been high achievers, super-bright and super-creative, held or still hold good jobs, are attractive, articulate and make good money, but somehow transform into mommy divas the minute they know you are expecting.

Unlike marriage or career, motherhood instills a cockiness in all women, as though they have got a booster shot of hormonal confidence. Everyone, right from the lady in the lift to the maid to random woman you met at the Café to the sales assistant at the mall has this “We know.. we have been there” look and some advice to offer.

I wondered how such martyr mothers get created. Is it that some women use motherhood to create a new power equation that is so fuzzy that the world lets them have the benefit of doubt, because it’s pointless challenging it anyway?

But one friend Vasu who will remain my inspiration said something to me that stuck. “You will realize that there will always be another way … that you could have done many things differently. That someone else always knows more than you do. But when it comes to babies, expect the unexpected… just do what instinctively comes to you.”

It’s surreal, but I feel something is going to irreversibly change about me by the time I write this column again, which could well be next week, or a few weeks from now. I just hope it’s for the better.

Of course I will do exactly what seems right to me, even though I feel more laden with an information overdose than the 13 extra kilos on me. Yes, I am fully aware of the divide between natural birthing and epidural infused labour, of the politics of C-secs versus vaginal deliveries, of actual labour versus induced labour, of nursing versus formula, of super-lactating cows versus existential milk machines.

I do not know where I will fit into all this motherhood hierarchy and frankly, I don’t care. All I know is that I will be one cool mom. And hopefully, I will have enough chick and wit in me to last a while, mommydom notwithstanding.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Parent trap

The mother is over to ease me into childbirth, as I waddle through my last days of pregnancy. We haven’t shared a habitat in a while and have different approaches to things—life, people, food—although when it comes to hospital visits, my mother has much more bravado than I do. She has, after all, squeezed twins out, had valve replacements and dealt with ICUs like it’s second nature to her.

We are both currently in parenting modes in different ways, as she cares for me and I do the same for the little one kicking away inside of me. And then of course there are my two resident feline offspring, who have also sensed that something’s up, so they are ever so gentle and clingy with me, and we also have conversations about the same. The husband, who still doesn’t speak Cat finds it fascinating to hear an ongoing dialogue that me and Nadia (my first born) or Bravo (my three legged James Bond of a cat) have at 6 am every day. Nadia seems concerned that our relationship will change, and I assure her that it won’t, and before she knows it, my child and her will be buddies. Bravo doesn’t have any such apprehensions, and is in a “more, the merrier” kind of zone.


I have always wondered whether I’d make a good mother—even though I have had (and continue to have) a pretty good innings with four legged babies— the fact that one day, my two-legged offspring could tell me (as I do to my mom) that what I’m doing doesn’t make sense, and here is a better way, rattles me.

I also have a high benchmark to live up to, as mine is nothing short of a super mom. She has balanced work, parenting, social life and family ties immaculately, and is a top scorer in each of these spheres. She loved her job till the very end (after having worked close to forty years) and won many accolades in her long career, and is still fondly remembered as a teacher. As a mother, I think she did a pretty good job of us, me and my twin siblings, though she still laments, “If only I had more time. If I could only have stayed at home..”

The problem with being a parent is that one never ceases to be one— it’s a process that begins, but never ends, like it hasn’t for my mother— I had better come to terms with that. And it’s not about cleaning poop or washing butts or feeding or any of the chores. It’s about always putting someone else’s interest before yours. Marriage doesn’t necessarily teach you that; hopefully, becoming a parent does.

Am I ready for it? I don’t know, but will soon find out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mamas and papas

The husband casually mentioned the p-word a few weeks ago, on one of our weekend drives to some place for lunch. We haven’t had too many existential discussions thus far, so I thought all was going well.

Back when I was a child, there was no parenting. You were born, someone ended up looking after you (in my case it was grandma, great grandma, assorted uncles, aunts, a few good neighbours) and one day you went to school, and before you knew, you were out of it. Now, it’s about “What’s your parenting approach going to be like? Hands on or hands off? By the book or improve? Traditional or modern?

“So when are we going to discuss parenting?,” he piped with much glee. I shuddered at the thought. I never thought he would bring it up, and I seriously believed it was going to be a case of whatever mommy says, goes. And why not? Even the supreme court justices seem to propagate that one must always listen to ‘the wife’.

I wasn’t nervous without reason. The husband’s idea of parenting includes, among other things, a second Play Station controller that I have always been an unlikely candidate for, a trip to Mc Donald’s (or was it KFC?) when the child is six, and a sustained anti-lauki, anti-karela and anti-padval campaign.

Suddenly, I had visions of the kid ordering a triple cheese burger with extra fries and coke on its first outing (the husband’s idea of a healthy meal) and me bursting a capillary at the table. Or the child learning to use a Play station controller before he/she learns to read or write. Worse, the child rejecting vegetables at the table and demanding hot dogs.

The whole vegetarian thing, which so far has been rather cool with the husband might soon become a bone of contention in our relationship. Okay, when you marry a man, you marry his habits, not his family. But when you have a child with a man, some of those habits are likely to be passed on. My point is, who decides what to pass on?

Here is my “god please don’t let this pass on” list

1. Imagining ants, cockroaches where there are none and making desperate attempts to gas them, believing they will multiply into millions in minutes, invade your body and destroy you.

2. Not being able to look at footwear that hasn’t been perfectly aligned, and aligning them at every given opportunity

3. Hoarding clothes and things one hasn’t had any use for in years.

4. Announcing that one is starved, making one’s plate with much flourish and admiring and sighing at it, but eventually eating four hours later.

5. Wanting a backup of twenty bulbs, ten packets of chips and peanuts, ten toothpastes and toothbrushes, innumerable shaving gels and aftershaves, “just in case”

This is what I wouldn’t mind being passed on:

1. Being good at cleaning up after a meal

2. Taking the garbage out

3. Efficiency at sink duty

4. Never raising your voice when with a lady.

Which brings me to why do men get married? Answer: It’s their only chance to look good. And fatherhood just rounds it off so well. Oh well!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mera naam Meru

Somewhere between the time I was officially banned from driving (read six months ago) by the husband and other loved ones, thanks to being visibly pregnant, and when I actually imposed it upon myself (read a month ago), I got inducted into the Meru clan.

First a few admissions. I hate being driven. I can barely tolerate the husband, I am extremely critical of friends’ drivers, I’ve had a rough time with drivers that I hired in the past (the last one burst many a blood vessel for me; please do not hire him if he ever comes to you). Also, I am not one for hiring cabs, as I hate being on hold, or having to explain common-sense directions to nincompoops. I am a get-up-and-go-kinda girl. I hate waiting or being waited upon.

Since my own paper had written reams about the Meru some time last year, I figured, no testimony quite like home, and took the plunge. What I didn’t bargain for is that a good eight months have passed since that article. And in these months, a lot of s&*%@t seems to have hit the ceiling. Their backend has completely collapsed, and the front end is nothing much to shout about, as most of the cabs have faulty air conditioners or are battered by bad driving. I want to know how some of the drivers qualify to even be there on the road.

But since I live in no-cab zone and sitting in an autorickshaw can only mean one thing, considering how pregnant I am, I resigned myself to Merugiri a few weeks ago. Little did I realise that I had just ensured myself an unlimited supply of Braxton Hicks (false contractions for the uninitiated or non-pregnant). Starting with calling in for the Meru every night for the next morning, being caller number 40 most times, holding on endlessly (they don’t believe in frequent flier programs) only to be told, “ Sorry, all slots are full, why don’t you try again tomorrow morning?” Repeat.

Forget thinking happy thoughts. Forget coming to office unruffled. Forget beginning the day with happy men. When you are in Meruland, none of the above is happening

So if he is not complaining about the ‘trophik’ on SV road, or whining about you not wanting to take the ‘highbay’, he is chatting to his village brethren either on the phone, or across the street, whenever another Meru passes by or braking recklessly, even as you point how pregnant you are.

The three good men that redeemed it for me, and I wish to thank them in print—were drivers Mohammed Jamal Shaikh, Ramesh Shirsat and Alwin Pinto. The rest, and their syrupy BPO service, which is all words and no play can take a walk. Seriously, if I had a free pizza for every time a Meru was late, I’d be a pizza baroness by now.

There, I have said it. Now someone please sue me. Or make me believe that the system works.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Power of three


Okay, if I am getting too much into the baby zone, let me know and I will quietly withdraw. In any case, if you see me disappear from this page rather abruptly, I would have checked into Breach Candy hospital for the whole birthing business, just so you know. I will, of course, try to make it not so abrupt, and say my good byes nicely and all that, but babies these days seem to have minds of their own even before they come into this world. I am just keeping you, dear reader, in the loop. When you are in the nine month-zone, you never know.

There I go being batty and losing focus again (true to what they say in those books). What I actually meant to talk about was my baby shower. To cut it short, there were 20 people who showed up, the cats had a wild time with the pink and blue balloons, though initially, they were entranced by the visual, as though it was a space ship. Once they figured that all it took was one touch of a claw to render it to shreds, they were happy all over again, as also with the multiple footwear that had parked itself at our entrance, each of which displayed nesting possibilities.

So purr so good!

But, as it turned out, the auspicious day was also marked by three other events fighting for attention. Two IPL matches, the Spanish Grand Prix and Man U Vs Man City at the Barclays Premier League.

The husband hadn’t uttered any sounds of such parallel action when I first announced the date. But after he guesstimated the restlessness of the guests, most of whom arrived on time, he created a parallel entertainment zone. The fact that my shindig began at 6 pm suited the couch potatoes fine.

So there were two clear groups—one that stuck to the brief (came to the baby shower, hung out with mommy and baby, and did baby shower things, like talk to mommy, ask suitable and unsuitable questions, act interested in what you have to say, nibble at the eats, and such like)

And then there were the ones that hung in the recreation zone. So there was much screaming –the Man U husband lost all sense of decorum since best man and Man U supporter was there for company. At some point, there was an ousting of the men when the women decided that watching Kolkata Knight Riders destroy themselves (for the 12th time) was a cooler option, counter plotting by the husband, who thought our sangeet DVD with all its embarrassing moments would be a neutral entertainment option..) and finally, rampant betting against KKR—of which, it turns out, I am the beneficiary, as the spoils have been directed towards contribution for the baby cot—which, by the way is frigging expensive, as are most baby things and having a baby.

So baby or no baby, when sport wants to steal the thunder, it always can..