Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eat, dream, love

I am deeply suspicious of women who don’t ‘do’ food. It’s not about whether you cook or not, but about how much food gets you going. What I mean is that if I don’t see a gleam in a woman’s eye when food is mentioned, I know she can never be my friend. I have tested this out, and can say with much confidence that each and every one of my friends is into food. Show me a woman who can eat and I’ll show you integrity. And if she can eat like a man, she will never let you down. (Men, take note)

Also, food makes me happy — thinking about it, cooking it, eating it, planning it, remembering it — there are so many emotions that ride on food, that one lifetime is just not enough. So women who don’t do food bypass all these, and turn out, well, pretty shallow in my opinion.

Whenever I find myself with a woman who I am not even mildly curious about or at a loss for what to say to her, I find that she is not into food. Try it yourself and you’ll see what I mean. Women whose vocabulary does not meander into food or food-like substances are seldom worth knowing. And women who pick at their food should never be trusted.

Naturally, off my list are women who go to fancy restaurants, but never really eat, or women who think having a sandwich counts for food, or women who always decline anything that is offered to them, either because they are not hungry (What is that? Where has eating for taste gone?) or because they don’t ‘feel like it’.

On the other hand, a woman who holds forth on the roasted brownness of her baby potatoes in thyme or the desired crunchiness of green chillies in a mustard gravy pickle, or the texture of a perfect tsi-tsi-ki, or the gooeyness of a brownie made in heaven (or at Rebecca Vaz’s Baking Tray) – is a woman worth knowing.

For those of you who have to live on a diet of coffee and cigarettes simply because that is the only way you can look like stick insects and walk the ramp, or pose for a swimsuit calendar or whatever you contract requires you to do, my apologies. I know that even reading this article would be a taboo, as it will make you think about food, and that is so not cool.

I recently found myself at a dinner party with a TV actress, who kept pondering aloud over every item on display — whether she should be eating it at all, as she had to display her navel in her next shoot, whether a cheese cake had fewer calories than a trifle pudding, and such insignificant details. I thought to myself, I am so glad I don’t have her job and wondered when would she stop worrying and start living?

So if you eat to live, you are not my kinda girl. Size zero notwithstanding.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Are you dating a shampoo or a conditioner?

The weirdest thought came to me when I was in the midst of my hair-grooming ritual for a Sunday brunch this week. At the bottom of it all, there are only two types of men in this world. There are the shampoos and there are the conditioners.

The shampoo man pokes your existential dilemmas and all the scabs you are dying to hide, digs out your rough bits, makes you cry, gets all the muck out of you, cleanses you of ‘issues’ and extraneous stuff, and eventually leaves you to be your free, uncluttered self. The conditioner man smoothes your rough edges, soothes, tames the frizz, nurtures and nourishes you, and stays on to help you... well, sort of, bounce and shine.

Every man wants to be a conditioner, but whether they like it or not, quite a few men have to do the dirty work of being the shampoo. Ideally, what is recommended by experts is a combination of shampoo and conditioner, the sequence in which they appear being of prime importance. Women usually graduate from shampoos to conditioners in men, but sometimes they could end up with a shampoo man, and never know what a conditioner man could have done for them.

The jury is still out on whether one man can be both. For the moment, at least trichologists or hair-care experts will tell you, “Shampoos are supposed to leave and conditioners are supposed to stay. How can they be together?”

By that logic, the shampoo-cum-conditioner concept, in men or hair-care products, is at best, an oxymoron.

Most women have been through more shampoos than conditioners in men and it takes quite a few rinses to know if either of them is doing a good job. But then they say, it’s never too late to discover a good hair product. In my experience, the twenties are about shampoos and the thirties are about conditioners. If you are well into your thirties and still haven’t graduated from shampoos, you need to take note and figure out why.

On the face of it, they could look the same, so there’s no telling the difference really. The difference is in texture, in how your hair (metaphorically, you) feels after they’ve left.

It’s easy to forget the shampoos once we reach our good hair days, and are basking in conditioners, but we must all remember that it’s they who made us what we are. So here’s a quick thank you to all the shampoos of my life.

Now, why didn’t I talk to L’oreal or Garnier before I wrote this? Beats me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Size matters

Men measure their virility by the size of their television screens. Okay, this is not ‘that kind of blog’ but you know what I mean. Given a choice, men would buy an extra-large of everything, from cars to refrigerators to tooth-pastes to mobile-phones (bigger has become better in that arena too). Shrinking the size of any of the above makes them feel... well, sort of emasculated.

What is this size fixation? I think it comes from a place of conquest (“Owning bigger things makes me more powerful”). Or competitiveness (“How can my car/television/whatever be smaller than his?”) Or a place of smugness (“Owning bigger things means I have to talk less”). Or even a place of self-compensation (“Since I am not big, let me at least own big things”).

I think the feeling is perhaps more exaggerated in cities like Bombay when space is at a premium, so men seldom have a cabin/desk as big as they want it to be, or a parking space that they can engage into without wreaking havoc with the ecosystem around. So what do they do? They have small flats, but large dogs, small bathrooms, but large showers, small parking spaces, but large cars.

The husband for one has been so obsessed with the size of the dream TV screen that it even shows up in his status message. If he could, he would even wear it on his unnecessarily extra-large T-shirt (he is a medium but would like to believe otherwise). So we have this negotiation every other day:

“50.”

“No, 32.”

“Okay, 42.”

“No, 32.”

“42.”

“No, 32, and this discussion is over.”

“42.”

“Okay, but when we have a 20 ftX20 ft room.”

Silence.

When he and I were dating, he had an extra-large fridge with nothing in it except beers, a television that took up a fourth of his room, a microwave with functions that are yet to be unravelled, a coffee maker for a battalion, no gas and several menus.

He now has an extra-large fridge reasonably justified for the five occupants of the house (us, the infant and two cats), and since modern kitchens more or less pre-slot the fridge, which means it can’t get any bigger, his attention has shifted elsewhere.

Recently, when a single friend of mine moved to Bombay and rented an apartment, he did three things. Bought an extra-large TV, an extra-large fridge and an extra-large couch. I guess this just absolved him of having to go anywhere, do anything, meet anyone.

I think the words ‘extra’, ‘mega’, ‘super’, ‘jumbo’, ‘giant’, ‘power-packed’ were invented for men. Take alcohol for example. I don’t even want to get started on the man who claims he can stand still after having downed 24 tequila shots or some such absurdity. I think TGIF really got their audience right when they introduced their ‘Ultimates’. They must have figured, the men are making morons of themselves by out-drinking one another anyway, so why not raise the bar?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why Chetan Bhagat affects my life

I worry for the infant. I have caught him staring at the TV screen, playing with (and eating) the remote on more occasions than I can count on his tiny toes. I have watched him watch his dad as he goes on about vanquishing the populace of strange lands with his PS3 controller(with headphones on of course; he claims he doesn’t want his son to ‘hear violence’).

And so, I worry. I worry that, if the infant continues at this rate, one day he will grow up and read Chetan Bhagat’s novels and think they are literature. Who knows, by the time he goes to school, a few of them might also make it to his syllabus (you never know).

So I am going to do what might seem pushy or ambitious. Get him to read before he even begins to sit up. Introduce him to the world of Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, CS Lewis, JD Salinger and all my childhood favourites, so that, at the very least, he is equipped to tell the difference between good writing and bad writing. So that the only reason he buys a book is not because it is priced at Rs 65 (or whatever is the current discounted price of Bhagat’s books ), but because it stimulates his mind, because it makes him want to look at things in a different way, because it is written in a way that makes him fall in love with writing (again, I am not skewing him, but you get my point).

Yes, I know I am fast-forwarding his babydom here, but if I don’t do it now, it might have dire consequences.

I don’t know Chetan Bhagat and have no intentions of knowing him. I haven’t read his books and have no intentions of reading them (although I did read a few pages of one of his books, pages so eminently forgettable that I don’t even remember the title of the book). Even the fracas over 3 Idiots doesn’t make me mildly curious about Five Point Someone.

What I do have a problem with is Bhagat comparing himself to Tolkien. I have a problem with the bigness of his head taking precedence over the bigness of his writing, and (in his own words) him saying, “They don’t know how big I am amongst my fans,”...

That, to me is a writer’s greatest undoing. I have a problem with a writer putting his mouth before his craft.

But there is still a lesson here. What I would like my infant to learn from Mr Braggart (sorry, couldn’t resist) is the art of positioning. The art of creating an audience before creating a product. The art of brand extension and regurgitation. The art of mixing, matching, recycling, and starting all over again. The art of creating readers in a generation where there were none.

Never mind if they are readers whose childhood completely bypassed reading. They are still readers, right? So who am I to judge?