Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Over to something shallow after all that musing over mosaic. Parties and making lists. The husband and I had one recently, and since we have less house and more people, we decided to do it in a staggered way, and round one is finally over.

Since I have lived in Bombay all my life, and the husband has been here five years, our lists are as different as our personalities, but we have some common ground that forms a suitable critical mass, so at least it’s a start. Then there are people you meet in ones or twos because they are good for your cerebrum, people you meet because they are kind and dependable, and people you meet because they know all your secrets. At things like weddings, you have no choice but to mix them all up, and the result was not too bad when we did it at ours.

But eventually, there are people you meet and there are people you party with. If your lists are overlapping all the time, you have issues. But more about that later.

When I was single, I was always struck by the insensitivity of some married couples who threw regular parties, but never bothered to balance the singleton dynamic by throwing in a few more interesting singletons of the opposite sex. There were exceptions, but I would rather not recall them. So I eventually ended up being a court jester for the gathering, until I began to insist that I take my own personal jester along, which ranged from best friend to boys I was dating, and even random acquaintances on occasion.

So now, when I make lists for parties, I make sure I balance the dynamic out. That there are equal number of singletons of either sex, or at the very least, a fair ratio.

Which is why when one of the singletons wanted to bring a date, I yielded, even though I normally don’t entertain randoms at my home. Since the operating word was ‘cute and sweet’, I was thinking of the larger good for womankind, considering there were at least four other single women in the house. And cute never hurt anyone.

But we all know the lack of philanthropy at parties. That no one who knows someone exciting will offer them on a platter to you. That it takes a phenomenally large heart to play Cupid, or open the game to competition. So, the date is actually about making oneself look good. It’s about making good pictures. It’s about making an entry. It’s about having an exit option if you want to go out partying after a conversation-driven home party. But more importantly, arm candy attracts arm candy. For example, the hotter your date, the more attention you get, the more the number of people who dig you, or want to be the date next time. It’s simple physics.

My point to all my gorgeous single friends is: you have arrived at that point where you are your best arm candy. So, way to go!

P.S. “Cute and sweet” never showed up because he was nursing a hangover, but the girls had fun anyway.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mosaic musings

You had me at mosaic. Perhaps that’s what I would say to my new apartment if I could talk to it. You also had me at imperfect walls, a hallway full of surprises, alcoves full of mystery, old-fashioned geysers, naked pipes and wires, book cases laden with tales, never mind the World Books that came as part of the inheritance.

You sang to me at brass taps, a letter-boxed door, old fashioned windows, a mango tree kissing the balcony, jhadoo wallahs, chhuri wallahs and bhaji wallahs singing their daily song and peddling their wares.

You shook me with sulky, brusque, un-uniformed watchmen who have no time for pleasantries, neighbours who walk up to you and say warmly, “I am your neighbour. Welcome to the building.” Who also diligently sort their wet garbage from their dry, lest they invoke the fury of the masked garbage boy, ala the Bandit Queen who will not touch the trash with a barge pole unless it’s sorted.

There is something about mosaic. Yes, it’s imperfect, irregular, and doesn’t always ‘go’ with manicured, sterile, mall-reeking furniture that is so today. But that is the least of my worries, as I am a corner shop girl, and will always be so. It almost feels like the return of innocence to my life, which had begun to be enveloped by the claustrophobia of sterile elevators, people as fake as their Facebook profiles, their excesses as vulgar as their inboxes, their hugs as manufactured as their smiles, their conversations as dumb as their Blackberrys, their lives as camoflaged as their LBDs.

And so begins the story of life in our new abode, where the husband, the child and the cats have each found their favourite spots and duly adopted them. I hope it lasts, at least till I soak in all its idiosyncrasies and weave myself into its tapestry. I hope that this one does not bite the redevelopment bug for a while, like most things we have loved and lost. What the flat has done for me, and for the husband is question our excesses, as we sort our garbage, which has become an interesting morning ritual, trite as it might sound.

At a brunch this Sunday, I ran into an old friend who whined (yet again) that he was still single and when was I going to do something about it. He added that integrity and humour hadn’t got him anywhere and wondered if he needed to reinvent himself, get a makeover, inside out. Which made me wonder: why are men and women so uncomfortable with their mosaic-ness? Why the need to constantly redevelop, like most buildings around us? Why are they constantly trying to smoothen out their edges, bleach their mosaic into marble, conceal their wiring, seal their balconies, join the monochromatic brigade?

Thankfully, I still have mosaic friends. And my son loves its texture, and has asked me to double his floor-time. Because, to him, every tile is a story waiting to be told.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Home Version 2.0

If you truly want to raise the bar of a relationship, move. I don’t mean move on, or move ahead or even move in. But move, as in move some place together. And start all over again.

Moving house is a great way to measure your thresholds for each other, to test each other’s adversity barometer (it is stressful to fit your life in boxes and then painstakingly set it up all over again), to figure out how much of him and how much of you do you really want in a space that is ‘us’. It’s also a great way to reinvent space. And since part of that space has you in the continuum, it means reinventing you.

You finally think you are all sorted with one husband, one child, two cats and plenty of zest. But every time you move, you are accosted by carpenters who tell what you should do and how you should live. Or that you have too much stuff, too little wall. Or sofawalas who have issues with your sense of aesthetic and the right-side-up. Or a Persian cat who wanders into your life, knowing fully well that you are not into breeds, and attempts a full-on seduction, and succeeds, and you are frantically texting your husband to check if you can adopt another (cat).

A new flat is like a new relationship. There is a level of familiarity, and yes, there is love, but there is also intrigue. Nooks and crevices you haven’t explored. Surfaces you haven’t touched. Parts you haven’t felt or smelt.

And so..

Suddenly, you could be kissing the evening sun instead of the sharp morning one. Or gazing at a mango tree instead of a concrete jungle. Or taking the stairs instead of a posh elevator that talks to you.

There are other benefits of moving:

• Sort files, clothes, books, photos that you always meant to, but never did.

• Finally get rid of letters, photos of exes.

• It’s also a great way to shed excess baggage. I don’t only mean it in the you-can-now-clear-the-clutter and donate your excesses, but you now finally don’t have to deal with people, noises, creatures who came as a package deal with your ex-apartment

• Redefine your space. Claim a corner that’s all yours, a shelf, a cupboard, a balcony, a view.

The Cancerian husband is averse to change while the Gemini in me celebrates it. Before our impending move, he spent days gazing at familiar piles of wires, controllers, the works coated in dust grime sighing that it will not be the same anymore.

So I made a deal with him. Made the new flat an excuse to buy us something I know meant a lot to him. So that it becomes a metaphor for happy change, rather than a melancholy one as is wont to be for someone like him who ordinarily starts flapping if I so much as move his seating arrangement by an inch.

So there. He gets his 42 inch LCD, and I get to do up a house all over again. It’s a win-win.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cook cook hota hai

I have a cook. She’s incredibly bad. She meets the brief though, as the only thing I asked her before hiring was, “Do you know how to cook?”

Now we all know that knowing ‘how to cook’ doth not a cook make. But she puts something edible-looking on the table and absolves me of the dirty work (peeling, chopping, stirring, frying, mixing, grinding...yawn).

The husband has his moments, but they seldom surface in the kitchen, apart from ordering more Bisleri or kitchen towels or knives or wine openers or pepper mills... you get the drift.As far as ‘what do we do for dinner?’ goes, he has just one solution. Cheese burst pizzas from Domino's. And though I frequently delegate a bit of chopping here and there to him, it takes so much supervising that I’d rather do it on my own.

The ‘cook’ has no issues with auto-piloting daal, roti, sabzi, salad/soup on a daily basis and has a pleasant demeanour (and we all know how much that is worth) so it works for me. At least that’s what I thought.

Now I am a good cook (okay, modesty doesn’t look good on me) and one might wonder why I would deploy the services of someone (and less than mediocre at that) for something that I do incredibly well. It’s simple. Cooking consumes a huge amount of creative energy, and when you are trying to write and raise an infant, it just gets in the way. Too much distraction. Too much passion. Too addictive.

So I decided for a while to lower my benchmarks and just eat what she put on the table. It worked for a few weeks, and then I found my way back to the place where I feel like a goddess.

I started with trying to salvage a section of what she made. Now the problem with food is, you can’t delete, you can only add. So, although ‘less is more’ is my culinary philosophy, I end up doing the exact opposite for the sake of palate sanity. Like adding lemon to balance fieriness, or jaggery to offset tartiness.

It struck me that salvaging someone’s cooking as opposed to cooking from scratch is the difference between marriage and motherhood. When you marry a man, there are all these ingredients that have been there before you. Mothers. Fathers. Sisters. Brothers. Good girlfriends. Weird girlfriends. Good friends. Weird friends. Randoms. More randoms. And they have done stuff to the man you married. Like stirred when he had to be left alone. Or left to char when required to stir. Or fried when he had to be sautéed. Or boiled when he had to be steamed. The result? A recipe that still needs to be worked upon.

With motherhood, it’s easy. You do what comes instinctively to you, you add the ingredients you think work, you mash some, steam some, sing some, hum some, and more often than not, the result is exactly what you want it to be.

I still have a good 18-20 years before another woman has issues with my work in progress.Bon Appetit!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fever pitch

When it comes to being sick, I feel as though I am a cat while the husband is a dog (apart from a hundred other instances when I feel the same way). When I am sick, I retreat. I am best left alone, need no TLC or cuddling or whining or hot soup to be served in bed. Like a cat. But then, cats always like to be left alone, unless they are my current twosome who think they are dogs and give you routine pedicures and hair spas. But more about the aberrations later.

Okay, I am a terribly independent person, who usually lives in a universe that demands an abnormal amount of social niceties, all of which I happily abandon when I am sick and just be the anti-social me and do as I please.

Like a) Not talk to anyone. b) Curl up with a book and not talk to anyone. c) Keep eating and drinking and not talk to anyone. d)Not answer the phone and not make a single phone call and thus, not talk to anyone.

Not that I like being sick or that I fall sick often. I don’t. But when I do, it’s a very private affair.But whatever I do to camouflage, the mother, chirpy and intuitive cutlet No. 1 usually finds out from the inflection of my voice. “Are you sick..?”

Groan! Now she will ask for the gory details.

The husband is not so intuitive. Unless you are swathed in bandages or your face is obviously disfigured or your leg is in a plaster and you are hobbling to the loo, he would assume (naturally) that everything is okay.

On the other hand, he is the type that announces “I am sick” at least 47 times a day the day he as much as has a sore throat or a fever. (Now the M. Pharm in me is appalled at how ignorant people generally are about fever in that it’s the response to a disease and not the disease in itself. Thanks to the poor sods, doctors can have exotic vacations every year)

HE: I am sick.

ME: So eat, sleep, do nothing.

HE: My throat hurts.

ME: So drink lots of fluids, eat, sleep.

HE: Does beer count?

ME: No.

HE: But I have a Man U match and I do want to have a beer to celebrate.

ME: So have a beer.

HE: But I have fever.

ME: So don’t have a beer.

HE: I also have cramps and I feel like I am going to give birth to Danny De Vito.

(Now, speaking lightly about childbirth to someone who has recently given birth is not in supreme taste, but when people are sick, they do strange things.)

ME: So do whatever you want.

HE: I am sick. Please speak nicely to me.

Of all the vows we take when we get married, the one which refers to being there for each other “in sickness or in health” is probably the trickiest (whatever language you took it in). Among all things that tell people apart, what you are when you are sick is a deal breaker. So if you haven’t had your vows yet, it’s time to rewrite them.

P.S. Turns out, getting wrecked on Holi was what did it for the husband, and not the antibiotics and the trying to be a good boy (and failing miserably).