Wednesday, December 31, 2008
1) Pillar Rock(s). The first day we went it was quite unexceptional, because there was nothing but mist beyond the railings, monkeys who posed patiently for pictures with practically an arm slung across the brave shoulders of tourists, and the ubiquitous stripy ear muffs. We paid a woman 5 rupees to take a picture of us sitting next to her stuffed toy tiger. We didn’t want to stand next to the monkeys, yet found the experience lacking a certain something if we couldn’t have any animals in our photos. The next day we visited again in case the mist had cleared up and was rewarded by an awe inspiring view of rocks jutting up into the sky like pillars. It was magnificent, like the product of special effects in a Spielberg movie, and I almost expected to spot a pterodactyl or two near the misty summit of the rocks.
2) Bear Shola Falls. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Very few people. NO ear muffs. A tranquil walk amongst coniferous trees ended in a prodigious rock with a waterfall spilling down its length. Its solitude made it my favouritest place in Kodaikanal.
3) Green Valley View/Suicide Point. A colleague had told me before I left for Kodai that there were people employed to collect bodies that pile up at the bottom of this place. I have a sneaking feeling this is ENTIRELY why my husband agreed to take a day off from work for the Kodaikanal trip. Unfortunately by the time we located this place (it’s actually not called Suicide Point, hence the confusion) Jeet had fallen quite ill (hills never agree with us, ask my college buddies. I was so notorious for falling sick on trips to the hills that the professor meant to accompany us on one of our college trips to Sikkim showed great reluctance to take me.) and stayed in the car while the rest of us went to investigate.
I guess I was expecting something spooky; or at least a lonely, desolate place where people feel they can die in privacy. “I was on the top of the hill, and the sun was shining down on me. So I figured it was a nice day for a bit of a suicide.” What I didn’t expect was stairs lined with earmuff shops ending in a viewpoint protected with a high spiked fence. Frankly, if one has the energy to climb all those stairs, fight off the earmuff vendors and the teeming multitudes that constituted their clientele, and THEN be limber and tough enough to scale the nasty looking fence – I would enter my name in the Olympics instead of providing employment for the body gatherers of Suicide Point.
4) Pine Forest: We went to a stretch of the Pine Forest that looked quite touristy, and therefore, thick with retired Bengali people taking a stroll in their shawls. Again, my husband and I stayed put in one place, as our friends went for a walk in the pine forest. We watched a particularly foul tempered Pomeranian dog chase monkeys and a cow indiscriminately around the clearing where we waited. The monkeys shinned up the trees in a trice, and the poor cow looked wistfully after them, like she would’ve liked to but was too dignified to make a monkey of herself.
5) And last but certainly not the least…The Kodaikanal Lake. It’s a man-made star-shaped lake at the heart of the hill station. A view of the lake from higher up on the slope is quite something. The day we arrived in town all we could talk about was the boating. “When shall we go boating on the Kodai Lake? Shall we go now? Later on in the day? Tomorrow? The day after?” “I don’t KNOW. STOP asking me!!!” We finally went to the Kodai Lake on the second day around 5 in the afternoon and were told by the first boathouse that they’d closed shop a little while ago. So we resolved to walk to the next boathouse along the lake where we would be sure to get a boat. 5-odd kms, 2 hours, one corn on the cob, one cup of tea, and a few fists of masala muri later we had done a complete circuit of the lake and all three boathouses without any luck.
Once I’d got home and taken off my one-size-too-small-but-pretty Reeboks, I decided the walk had been great fun.
And that’s about all we did before we set out again for Bangalore early on Sunday morning. This time we (I use the term loosely) drove during the day, and like the wind -- towards home.
Aaaah. (Say it with me) There’s no place like HOME.
Monday, December 29, 2008
So we said yes, and away we went a week later at 1 in the morning in my friend’s car to drive for 9 hours and 450 kms to Kodaikanal. We had gone to our friend’s place to spend the night and start out early the next morning, but after we were finished with dinner starting off just then seemed like a jolly thing to do. So off we went at 1 in the pitch dark and it was quite jolly because the others drove. I didn’t sleep however, because I felt morally obliged to sit bolt upright scowling fiercely at the road ahead, thereby lightening the drivers’ (i.e my friend’s and my husbands’) burden significantly.
We got there at 10 the next morning. And it was beautiful. Beau-ti-ful! Ooty was a shabby little ugly duckling hill station compared to this one. (and let me tell you, when I went to Ooty I thought it was ugly even without seeing this place.)
And COLD. We kept wondering how cold it was, and discussed it repeatedly: “It must be atleast 10 degree centigrade…don’t you think?” “I have no idea. Stop asking me.”
My friend has a bit of an OCD about cooking and keeping house, so she instantly launched herself into making the guesthouse like home, (which as I very helpfully observed as I propped my feet up on the center table and flicked through my book ‘kind of defeated the purpose.’) Apart from all the cooking and cleaning and constructive sneering, we managed to take in the following sites:
1) Coalker’s walk. Don’t ask me what that means, my interpretation would be that if you’re high on coke, this is how the world would look to you. (Yes, yes not the right spelling – give me one that works better, smart asses.) It’s a pathway cut into the hill (the 21,300 meter high Palani hills) and provides you a wonderful view of the world swathed in mist. You can also walk there should you wish to rub shoulders with people who wear summer clothing accessorized with tiger-striped ear muffs in an attempt to look trendy or die of hypothermia, I’m not sure which. After a refreshing snack of cotton candy and barely concealed snickering at the ear muffs, we took ourselves off to the next tourist spot which was:
2) The Horticultural Gardens. It was a lot like other horticultural gardens I’ve visited, except that there was a very ugly couple being filmed with a video camera. Jeet said he thought they were getting married, and the others thought they were actors. I just thought they were ugly and the cameraman in dire need of money. My adventurous friend struck off up the slope following no apparent path and we followed obediently behind. I was grateful that Jeet waited for me as I hopped awkwardly over rivulets (looked like drainage water, nothing fancy) and yawning gaps in the hill while the other two walked briskly on ahead and disappeared round bends. Once I was sure I wouldn’t roll downhill and stop half dead near the feet of the couple being filmed, I decided it had been quite an enjoyable walk. Tip to tourists: Do not touch the cactuses in the greenhouse, even if a solemn 14 year old boy swears it won’t hurt.
(To be continued.)
Friday, December 19, 2008
I just finished reading the Booker-prize winning book the White Tiger, which my friend Chiquita was kind of enough to gift me as a birthday present. It was excellently written and quite riveting. (Can you sense the ‘but’ coming? Here it is.)
I was unfortunately reading Shantaram simultaneously. So the whole effect was one of overkill. When I read one of these books, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by how well…sub-human and ridiculous… Indians are made out to be. Have you noticed? I can’t deny most of the stuff that is put in these books, I would be lying if I tried. Yes we live in the Turd World, 90% of people use the great outdoors as a Great Outhouse. I refrain from explaining further because you only need to pick up one of these books to learn all about this phenomenon.
90% of us are, of course, desperately, miserably, “the pavement is my home” kind of poor-- that’s true. And when you’re describing the conditions they’re in I understand that one needs to linger lovingly over each scatological detail – ostensibly to portray the sickening existence they endure. But, why, oh why…do Indian authors in English (which Shatantaram is not, we’ll get back to that book in a moment) feel compelled to describe the bowels of even the upper class (evil, upper caste, murdering raping) characters of the story? They go to their gold-inlaid, made-with-the-blood-and-sweat-of-downtrodden-untouchables bathrooms. So why this detailed inventory of what they did there for the readers? I’ll tell you why. Because it is expected of an Indian book in English. It’s almost as if the publishers send the draft novels back to the authors with a note: “Dear Indian Writer in English, there isn’t enough faeces and sputum in the ninth chapter. Please rectify this mistake. Regards, the Editor.
Apparently shit sells.
Do these Indian authors (all of whom invariably come from upper caste/upper class, western educated families, with the luxury to take a year or two off from paying bills, so that they can write a book on circus-freak, black-and-white India and get a Pulitzer prize from the West for writing a 'no-holds barred, gritty expose on Indian society') talk about their bowel movements at those posh wine and cheese parties they meet each other at? Would they even talk to a person who does? No. But when it comes to writing a book, they have to discuss it over two revolting pages for each character, in all its Technicolor disgustingness. The West reads it with fascinated disgust and showers accolades and prizes on these people for ‘telling the truth about India in all its shittiness’.
Do western people not go to the bathroom? If you read their books one might even think that is the case. And that’s how it should be, because it’s a foregone conclusion that all human beings do and there’s no need to dwell on such details just for cheap thrills.
Now that I’ve used the word “shit’ 24 times, “bathroom” 19 and “sputum” once, I shall expect my Booker at the address provided on my home page, thank you very much.
Moving on, I want to point out some things I have noted so far in Shantaram. You can still forgive an Australian for talking about Indian do-dos (after all kangaroo crap is perhaps the only thing you can step in over there) but what I find outrageous (though terribly entertaining) is the exaggeration. Apparently he saw a man with his head on fire running into the sea to douse it while he was riding into Mumbai on a bus from the airport. I have been to Mumbai and traveled that stretch he’s mentioned a few times and never seen a man on fire. Neither have I been in a car accident the very next day and been dragged out of the taxi by my stereotypical cheerfully amoral and perennially ridiculous Indian guide, just in time to be saved from being lynched along with the taxi driver by an Indian mob.
All the Great Indian Novel stereotypes are tiresome. There are millions of people in this country of all shades and beliefs and humours. Are we all to be divided into cruel overlords and tortured low caste farmers? This is not to say that the sordid stuff they put in books about India doesn’t happen at all (they DO happen, unfortunately) what I object to are the generalizations. I read with disbelief as Adiga made sweeping generalizations about how people treat drivers in India. My parents have hired a succession of 3 drivers over the last 10 years (the drivers leave when they get better opportunities, my parents didn’t kill them, nor did they hunt down and kill their entire families down to the last third cousin when they turned in their car keys.) and not once has their been any rumors of my family members asking these gentlemen to wash their (the former’s I mean) feet in hot water. Nor in cold water, I hasten to add. They have never been asked to sweep the courtyard or play ball with the children either. Strange but true. And as for their being asked to pour whisky for their masters from a bottle that’s always kept in cars for the purpose AS they drove, let me tell you I’ve never heard of such a thing in my life. And it hasn’t been such a short time for me in India either.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Adiga spent a lot of time in the West because he refers to the character throwing away food in anger in two places in the book. Indians, especially someone as poor as the protagonist, NEVER throw away food. At the most, you might throw away some on your plate that you JUST could NOT eat…but throwing your share of the chicken curry against a wall of your mud and thatch hut in anger? That’s just fiction. If an Indian family has an argument over dinner they shovel their food into their mouths as fast as they can and stomp off only when dessert is done.
I wish someone would write a book or two about the wholly different trials and tribulations of the middle class, maybe a family that doesn’t torture the help, if we can be so daring. Maybe we can just put a note at the beginning of the book that it is understood that these people DO go to the bathroom, but entire chapters have not been devoted to it in interests of brevity. Maybe this family’s problems can be more universal, like yours and mine…problems at work, problems in love, problems with parents and kids, making friends losing friends people dying (but not necessarily because an upper caste overlord beat them to a pulp because the temperature of the foot bath was wrong, or because they tried to escape from being a sex slave)…you get the drift.
I will personally give such an Indian a prize. The story might not be exotic or Booker worthy, but it’ll be a subtle story about lives many of us literate middle class professionals live; and thereby identifiable. Anyone brave enough for the challenge out there?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I read this here: http://www.nypost.com/news/weirdbuttrue/weirdbuttrue.htm
Thought it was hilarious so pasting it here for your reading pleasure.
"A Chinese man discovered the dog he had raised since it was a puppy was actually a rare Arctic fox.
The guy figured his all-white pooch was a Pomeranian that happened to be difficult to tame.
He also thought it was weird that the critter couldn't bark, that its tail kept growing - and that it stank something fierce. "
A zoo broke the news.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Of course the next question is, “Do I believe in ghosts?” The answer is No. In fact I don’t scare easy either. But that doesn’t stop me from getting that pleasurable goosebumpy chill when I hear stories about things that go “Do you remember me? I’m back!” in the night.
I, in fact; had I been a believer, have had ample ‘evidence’ of the supernatural. Who hasn’t woken up from a perfectly undisturbed sleep in the middle of the night with one’s heart thumping, and eyes swiveling around looking for…God knows what. It isn’t a bad dream, it’s a sudden certainty of something horrifying in the room with you… you just can’t SEE it.
Then there was that time when I was 7 years old and I had a 104 degree temperature. It was broad daylight and I saw a man, dressed all in red, grasping the second story window grille from the outside and looking in on me as I lay alone in bed. I had been so sick that both my parents were at home looking after me, and my panic stricken screams made them rush in from the next room. Of course that can easily be explained as delirium, which it was -- or Spiderman. My point is, if I wanted to believe, I had an actual ghost sighting – right there.
Then much later, a very lovely couple who still are very good friends took me in when I was a singleton in Hyderabad. They had a soft spot for strays so I and the two stray dogs fit right into the establishment. Weird stuff used to happen in that house. (No I don’t mean my money disappearing; that was the maid.) They would some times go out to do couple things like attend parties and whatnot and gave me and the dogs the run of the house for the entire evening.
I’ve always enjoyed having a house to myself. When I was a kid in Calcutta, I would try on my mother’s lipstick and my sister’s earrings. During this Hyderabad phase when I got some time alone, I would watch all the TV I could manage without having to worry about intruding.
One such night, as I watched the same Friends rerun for the umpteenth time with my favorite dog, Tiger (a mongrel with Alsatian blood) curled up next to me, a strange thing happened. He sat up with a start and looked directly at a point several feet off the ground in the doorway connecting the bedroom (where we were) and the living room. I thought maybe my friends had come back much earlier than planned, and expected to hear the front gate open any minute. (Tiger had wonderful hearing, he could tell his masters were home from the time their car drove up 3 storeys below.) What must be obvious to those who’ve got the drift of my story by now, no such thing happened. Tiger growled low and deep in his throat and stared unblinkingly at the connecting door for a few more seconds. Then, growling all the while, his eyes moved from the door, following a trajectory that cut across the TV, past the dressing table mirror and towards the bed where I lay.
It was at that point that the charm of having the house to myself began to pall. I had watched enough TV and felt an overwhelming need for human company. So I called a friend up and kept up a hectic pace of conversation until my friends returned from their party.
Another story, of course no ghosts feature in this, I find fairly sinister. I moved out of these friends’ place (I leeched off them for 6 whole months and we still remain friends!) and into a shared accommodation with two other girls. I was an illegal sub tenant of one of the girls, and was to share her room. I was her ‘sister’ if the landlord ever asked. Well this girl was terrified at night. She would ask to leave lights on, she would start at the slightest noise, and by the end of it I was as much of a basket case as she was. Later I heard from my second flat mate that this girl was a widow and that her husband had been cruel. He beat her and never let her meet her family or friends. When he died of a heart attack, she was glad. At least that is, until night fell every day and she drove me up the wall with her “what was that? Did you HEAR that??”
I cleared out of that place in double quick time let me tell you.
What was the point of this post you ask? There isn’t that much. Except that I’m alone at home, and had just turned in for the night. As I lay in bed, my mind had just started to skate into nothingness, when all of a sudden I was jolted wide awake…
So I turned the lights on and sat down to write this post.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
So your mind wanders about weeping with self-pity, without even a pat on the back from its bed fellow spirit. Your mind has a much harder task to do for the years and years and years that you live. Because no matter WHAT happens, it has to hold things together, and apart from cursing that wuss spirit for letting it down every so often ( I’ve observed it happens once a month, I wonder why that is.) it has to still function (“put your right leg down first, then your left, heave yourself up, walk to the sink and brush your teeth, etc’) while your spirit lies curled up in a foetal position, the slacker that it is.
Let alone taking a break, your mind has to work overtime to make up for the absenteeism of spirit. “Smile, smile, SMILE at the founder of the company.” “No you cannot make a face and punch her in the nose when she asks you how you are!” “Comb your hair, you can’t look like that in public, even if you couldn’t care less today, you’ll regret it tomorrow!”, etc.
So while your spirit takes a bit of a time-out, some ‘me-time’ if you will, so that it can loathe you and your life at leisure; your mind and body jerks around in a numb uncoordinated way all day (or week as the case may be).
I’m having one of those days. I shall let you know if my spirit finds some sustenance to revive soon. (There actually are plenty but I already told you that when the spirit is down and out; it refuses to entertain such thoughts.)
Friday, November 28, 2008
Been watching the news all evening today as well. I don't want to be too controversial and have people baying for my blood, but some things occur to me as I watch these images.
1) Though I have followed all of this night and day, I have a sneaking feeling the media have been inappropriate in how relentlessly they've covered this story disregarding the safety of the people inside and the pleas of the police not to let slip information that might help the militants. I don't know if anyone else noticed this yesterday, but Barkha Dutt (someone I hugely respected) revealed in her piece to camera that the security forces were using a secret passage to smuggle hostages out of the Taj, and then proceeded to tell us exactly on which floor it was and connecting which two buildings. Would it be so hard for some informer to call one of the terrorists inside the Taj to say, hey I was watching the news... you better check out the 14th floor? Does she have blood on her hands in her thirst to get the exclusive before the 15 other channels covering the carnage 24/7? Even if what I just said wasn't an issue, I may have misunderstood--or she may have been given the info after the threat to those people had gone, but it still seemed unnecessary just to slake our curiosity.
Another is the insensitive interviewing of family members outside. When a woman said she had no doubt her husband would come out alive of the hotel, a visibly unbelieving Dutt gushed, "That's what you SHOULD think to keep your spirits up. What a braave woman you are!" (Facing back to camera) "This is a woman who hasn't seen her husband in 24 hours and hasn't heard from him in 12."
Atleast these journalists were doing their job, what sickens me to the GUT are the people who have gone to gawk and position themselves right behind the journalists, looking straight into the camera with a "Look Ma, I'm on TV!" expression. There were such a crowd of people that the police had to ask the camera people to switch off the lights, because after all crowd management should've been the LAST thing on their minds right now.
2) My second point is, these terrorists who're captured alive should be shown a brand of their own justice; but in our self righteousness, let's not forget that justice is still pending for the 1000s of people who were systematically murdered in Gujarat. Not only do we know who did it, we allow him to remain Chief Minister of that state, and that's a crying shame. So when we bay for these terrorists' blood (as we rightfully should), let's add Narendra Modi's name as well to the list, and let's ask to avenge our murdered countrymen in Orissa as well.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
These were people who were well-adjusted enough to go about their lives; instead of throwing 20 to 25 years away (i'm guessing that's the age group these terrorists fall under) on total lunacy, total misguided malevolence. What will this evil get them do they think? Are they enjoying it? Or are they going about it like we do our jobs, necessary but sometimes unpleasant? Have they been so brainwashed that they think these monstrosities will get them 'justice' in this life and heaven in the after life?
If God existed he would spit on such aberrations of nature. I'm suprised that hasn't occurred to the 'Deccan Mujahideen' as they shot down and bombed innocent people. People in hospitals for God's sake, can victims get more helpless?
Talking about it further would trivialize it so I'll stop here. The crisis isn't yet over. I hope our army and police get these men and make them pay. And my respects to the brave people who're trying to get things under control.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I had that floaty feeling I get when I feel something big has happened. This will be the beginning of the rest of my life I thought. I had always wanted dance classes but somehow it had never happened. (Read: I am a Lazy Bum.) Now here it was handed to me on a plate and I was going to make the most of it. What did I expect from it? To learn dance of course. Daydreams of being crowned “Worldwide Queen of Salsa (Senior's competition)” played through my head.
And then came the big day. My class was at 6-30. By 6 I was ready and fidgeting at my desk. By 6-20 I was upstairs and looking around for my classmates. I saw a long stream of men with skullcaps heading for a room and I thought I should ask, just to make sure. “Is this salsa class?” No, came the curt answer. It was Ramzaan and they were reading Namaaz.
By the time I located the class I was 15 minutes late and the last one to get there. A stern look from the instructor with the John Abraham hair made me feel sorry for myself. That first class, as we learnt the steps, my plans of dazzling people with my innate dancing talent looked bleak. Something I hadn’t accounted for was all the touching strange men you had to do. And very unattractive ones at that. I think that was the prevalent feeling among all the class (male and female alike); and the instructor (George) quickly explained that if a man’s hand slipped; not to slap him straight away; but to just pick his hand up and place it back firmly where it belonged, i.e just under your shoulder blade.
Midway through the class George stopped his count abruptly and asked, “what are you doing?" I shied like a nervous horse and turned to face the worst. Luckily he was looking the other way at another couple dancing. The man looked on the verge of a nervous breakdown. “Why are you holding her with tissue paper?” I noticed that the man in question had tissue paper stuck to the palms of his hands, and he was holding on to his partner like she was a hot dish straight off the stove. “Er…I didn’t want to get sweat on her…”
“No, no. it doesn’t matter! We all have to get used to the sweat.” He then went on to smilingly explain that he often got so sweaty that he had to quickly change out if his shirt into a new one. I think I heard a few ragged female cheers from the back of the class.
So that was the eventful first class. Of the 13 classes there is now only one that remains. I’ve missed 4 of the 13, two because I was on leave and two because I didn’t feel like hopping around like a bunny rabbit at the end of a long, hard day. (of course, I later realized that’s precisely what one should do at the end of a bad day. Rabbits – except for when they’re being hunted down and eaten - are rarely stressed.)
I feel sad that it’s all going to end so soon, and my life will settle back into the go-to-work-go-home-pay-the-bills routine without a dash of salsa to spice things up.
Let’s see. Maybe I’ll take up something new. Like bungee jumping.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
With my artistic leanings (read: no practical skills whatsoever) farming or business would’ve been barred to me as occupations. I’d probably have gravitated to the royal courts of the land and eked out a living there:
“Yes, your majesty!”
“What was that?”
“That was our new bugler sounding the war bugle, sire!”
“I thought my elephant pooted.”
“No indeed, lord, it was the bugler: he lacks lung power somewhat.”
“String him up by his thumbs when we come back from battle, we can’t have the enemy dying of laughter before we get to them, can we?”
“Very good, sire.”
“Please ask that back up dancer not to eat from my guests’ plates.”
“I will, sire” (Anarkali begins to back away)
“Atleast not while she’s dancing, it affects the aesthetics of your show…”
“I’m terribly sorry, Huzoor.”
“Anyway she should knock off the laddoos, look how chubby she is.”
“A Thousand pardons, my Lord.”
So, apart from the off chance of being born as a princess with loads of dowry to bring to a marriage (with my luck I would’ve been the sort of royalty who’s severely inbred with buck teeth and eventually gets burnt to a crisp when her 90 year old raja-husband cops it) I would’ve, male or female, been a sorry failure back in the day.
So next time I complain about how horrible our times are, you are welcome to remind me I wouldn’t have had a job to help keep body and soul together -- nor a blog to write about it in, in any other time but the present.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I mean the sort of fictitious answer one must think on one’s feet to give. For one thing I don’t enjoy being on my feet for long, I tire easily and my brain works much better lying down. You should hear some of the fantastic dreams my sleeping brain produces…I would tell you if I ever remembered one after I woke up. (Wow, that was a strange dream! Oooer…I wonder why it was strange?)
Today, one of my colleagues has been admitted into hospital with a very bad case of ‘the curse’ (this is a family blog, people! My nephew reads it!). Along came a male colleague and asked me where she was and I gave it some thought. She’s been admitted into hospital with a gynaecological problem, I declared. Would it have killed me to say something else? Probably.
I remember when I was 15 or 16 I had gone to my cousin’s place in Durgapur with my Dad about 3 hours away from Calcutta by train. My father had to come back in a few days but my holidays stretched before me and neither my cousin nor I saw any reason why I should go home that soon. “Don’t worry,” she told Baba, “I’ll find someone going to Calcutta and send her back with that person in a week or two.”
Of course, the moment he left I told my cousin in no uncertain terms that I’d go home alone, and didn’t need a babysitter. She wasn’t opposed to the idea but we both decided that nobody should know because Baba had made us promise I wouldn’t go home alone. ‘Tell them you went home with a Mr. Chatterjee”, she instructed me. I started to worry…what if they wanted details? What he’s like..what he said to me on the train? “Tell them, he was a very quiet gentleman (chaapa goccher bhdorolok) and didn’t say anything to you at all”.
The sheer simplicity of the lie made it a brilliant one. In anybody else’s mouth it would’ve slid out effortlessly and no one would’ve been the wiser. A few hours after I’d got home safely and just starting to hope no questions would be asked, my mother idly asked me what my escort on the train was like. Again, I gave it some thought. It has to come out just right, I thought, or people would suspect. My cousin and I would be in trouble. “He’s an…er…chaapa goccher bhodrolok?” I volunteered. My mother fixed me with a look and burst into gales of laughter.
There are plenty of other instances where I’ve been caught out instantly and in a most humiliating manner. Sometimes I’ve told the truth but was so worried that people will think I’m lying that I came over all shifty eyed and guilty. “Er…I’m 29.” “Um…(looking down at my shoes)…really…I am…”
It’s really a pain in the butt. Speaking of which, I look forward to telling my colleague I’ve shared her dysmenorrheal troubles with everyone on this floor when she finally recovers from it and gets here.
“I…erm…told them you had a c-c-cold…” “You told them didn’t you? “ “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I say so because (a) it's time somebody made Holmes leave poor Watson alone, and (b) In real life, just because a man is wearing a shirt with a missing button doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a wife.
There’s a whole host of possibilities behind the missing button, for example (a) His wife doesn’t like sewing buttons on shirts, (b) she’d run out of buttons, but this was his favorite shirt and he wore it anyway, (c) it had popped out in his headlong rush to Sherlock’s house, because frankly, if your father in law is putting snakes through the air vents at night to kill you; you would be in a tearing hurry as well. And all this talk of missing buttons and a lack of wives would seem bally extraneous and rubbing salt in the wound, old fruit.
A friend of mine told me a story about a girl he knew in college who’d called him up one day and said “I’m in love with my best friend, should I tell him how I feel?’ He realized she was talking about him and told her in no uncertain terms that it was best for her not to say anything to her ‘best friend’ because her ‘best friend’ probably didn’t love her back, and in fact, didn’t consider her his best friend. (Ouch, I say.)
As I listened to this story a puzzling conversation from a long time ago in my own life; nearly a decade; fell into place with a rusty but almighty CLANG. I have these occasionally; something which didn’t make sense at the time would lie coiled up in my subconscious; until a decade or two later some other event pokes it in the eye -- and it leaps up with a prodigious “Sweet Mother of God, that’s what that was!?!”
This anecdote of my friend’s reminded me of a VERY similar conversation I had with another friend of mine (let’s call him B) when I was in my second year of college. We were talking on the phone and I said to him, “You know what, a very close friend of mine seems to be acting a little different nowadays, I wonder if he has a crush on me. Do you think I should talk to him about it?” Usually a very nice guy, B replied with unusual venom “Every guy isn’t in love with you, you know. This friend of yours probably isn’t either.”
I was stung to the quick, because whatever my faults, thinking everyone is in love with me was not one of them. Quite the opposite. I puzzled over B’s vehemence for quite a long time after that, but forgot about it eventually, because he has always been, apart from that one sharp comment, unstintingly sweet to me.
And then with this recent story 10 years later, the truth dawned on me awfully. (Awfully!). Oh the shame of it all! To be thought of as so presumptuous! I really was talking about another friend (C), and not B.
And all the while, as C made sheep eyes at me and wrote me poetry, I kept thinking, “Ushasi, this guy doesn’t have a crush on you! Remember what B said!” Stupid, stupid me didn’t realize that B had only made such a retort because he’d thought it was my roundabout way of asking him if HE liked me. Grooooaan. To even think I could say such a thing to him, and his thinking that I thought such a thing, made my toes curl in embarrassment, even 10 years on.
Moral of the story is: If you see me with a cane made of an exotic wood found only in the deepest jungles of Papua New Guinea, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m an intrepid adventurer. It might mean I walked down and got it from the store around the corner.
Think of this before jumping to conclusions next time: Two and two sometimes does make four.
Friday, September 26, 2008
By itself the blog isn’t at all the sort that would get anyone thinking. It was a very self indulgent look into a young female college student’s life (though excellently written I must admit.) No, what struck me hard was the idea, that this was ME 6-7 years ago. Correction, this was someone I might’ve been. Same city, same university, same department, even – and I have a suspicion from one or two mentions, she lives in the same neighbourhood as well. She makes references to professors, syllabi, tests, that I was thoroughly acquainted with half a decade ago; and as I got more and more into it—the whole effect was surreal.
Our situations 6 years apart were identical. But, from the accounts of her personal life, she just seems to be doing more with the opportunities we both got. Performing in plays, a bit part in a Bengali movie, parties at Someplace else, hanging out with cool people, buying stilettos, loads of clothes…
I could’ve done all that, I thought. That’s what made me a little sad. Usually I make excuses to myself when I look at people leading very interesting lives...oh I didn’t live in that city, my parents weren’t in the performing arts, I’d say…it all went kaput with one random visit to a stranger’s blog.
Of course I’d like to say here, that she seems a mite taken with her cigarette smoking vodka drinking anti-authority self. I’ve never been guilty of self-satisfaction and have always been mature enough to see through most of the trappings of ‘coolness’; and have done all of the above without much ceremony. But I guess she’ll grow out of that with age.
And in the meantime, I’ll visit her blog now and then and live my early 20s over again, and enjoy vicariously the life I had but, to the most part, didn’t live.
Friday, September 19, 2008
I feel sucked dry nowadays, like there’s nothing that needs writing about. I rarely get to talk to people who actually care what’s going on with me; in the office I usually reduce myself to a silent listener of incredible banalities for every break, and rarely volunteer any conversation that might matter. So I guess it’s become a habit, even when I converse through my blog. (I apologize for that.)
So that’s that, I guess. Enough said. I hope to write something complicated and witty soon.
Till then: adios.
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay
There’s always one reason
To feel not good enough
And it’s hard at the end of the day
I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I’ll find some peace tonight
In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there
(Sarah McLachlan - Angel lyrics)
Monday, August 18, 2008
I really envy such people. Not because bad things keep happening to them, because bad things keep happening to me too. It’s just that…I never have the satisfaction later in telling people, “I told you I had a bad feeling, didn’t I?” I feel like an idiot, blundering into bad situations without telling someone in advance that I’m sure it’s a bad situation. It’s awful I tell you.
To remedy the situation, I tried to heighten my sixth sense. I would open my mind up and let it wander where it will. I would sleep extra long (more than my customary 9 hours) in the hope that premonitory dreams, less ready in my unconscious than in others, would finally reveal the future to me.
To no avail. Letting my mind wander only had the unhappy result of reminding me (alas) about the unfortunate things that have happened in my past. Sleeping extra long no doubt left me refreshed, but not much wiser about the future. I have the most pleasant dreams (alas) all about me sitting in a tree when I was 18 and skinny. The worst dreams I have is of frying meat, miles and miles of frying meat, after I’ve been particularly gluttonous at dinner. Could that be classified as a bad feeling? More like indigestion.
And then probably because I brooded on it too much, one day I had one. I had a terrible bad feeling, and I called one of my friends up all in a panic.
Me: “Are you OK?”
Him: “Of course, I’m OK! Why?”
Me: “Er…All righty then.”
It was a bit of a let down let me tell you.
And then to add insult to injury my sister and one of my cousins started having bad dreams about me, all at once. (So far only my husband had complained about nightmares related to me but he meant the waking variety.) My cousin made an ISD call all of a sudden on a weekday to ask me if I was OK. “Yes, I’m OK” I said. “I just had a dream about you sobbing and sobbing inconsolably so I thought I’d just ask.”
Well isn’t that just dandy. “No, I haven’t been crying for unusually long periods…I’m fine.”
“Aah, well, I’ll go back to sleep then.”
“You do that,” I said a trifle resentfully, and that was that until my sister called about a month later, all in a panic. “Are you OK?”
(SIGH) “Yes, I am.”
“I just had a dream about you…You were crying…and trying to drown yourself in a bucket of water.”
Dear God, why couldn’t I have dreams like that? Trying to cover the naked envy in my voice I reassured her that I didn’t even own a bucket (at the time -- I own several now; I’ve moved up in the world) let alone be limber enough to drown myself in one.
“I’ll just go back to sleep then.”
I gave up the idea of having prophetic insights or dreams myself, and waited with interest to see if my cousin or sister’s dreams would come true. Happily enough for all concerned, nothing happened. Not even the mildest urge to pop my head into passing buckets for a minute or two.
So my question is: obviously my family sucks at this, but what about the others? How do they do it? One could be that they have bad feelings all the time and only tell people when it comes true. The second option is, they really have a sixth sense, a second sight; a third eye.
It’s not entirely out of the question you know. Have you ever wondered HOW you can tell if someone’s looking at you even if you’re turned away and at a distance of 50 feet? These people probably have that skill but honed to a point where they can not only tell that someone’s looking at them right NOW, but that something bad will happen later on today.
Or they could just be yanking your chain so that you get all envious and devote a whole post to their talents.
I plan something clever along the lines of sneaking up behind one or two of them, braining them with a cricket bat and asking them later if they'd dreamt of it the previous night. Expect results in the net post...
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Nowadays any movie that strays a little bit away from the poor boy falls in love with rich girl and rich girl’s father goes chasing after poor boy with a gun storyline is doomed to be banned in some state or the other.
Take the case of a certain movie about a couple who lived a long, loooong time ago. They lived such a long time ago in fact, that I would’ve thought people wouldn’t watch the movie, let alone care what was said about them. Imagine my surprise then when people started throwing stones at cinema halls and eventually got the movie banned in the state this lady belonged to. The contention: not that the movie had depicted them in a bad light but that the two historical people had been shown as a couple, whereas I hear these people say she was the guy's daughter-in-law. Now if the lady concerned had thrown stones at buildings herself I would've understood, because let's face it, it's gross to be linked to your father in law. But it being banned in a whole state because of it? Incredible.
Some ultra sensitive members of another community, though very happy to have representatives breaking into a good natured bhangra in every Hindi movie ever made; had a problem with two movies made in the last 5 years because the movie makers DARED to depict one of them with ‘negative shades’. Apparently villains can only be from majority communities.
Speaking of majority communities, one would think they would be secure enough to keep quiet about such things; but no. Deepa Mehta was forced to abandon filming ‘Water’ because she showed widows being starved, abandoned and forced into prostitution in Benares. Not on the grounds that it was untruthful, because we are all proudly aware that it’s been so for centuries; but for the sheer gall of the woman for making a movie on it. ‘We want it banned because there are no poor boys chasing rich girls, and dads going berserk with rifles’ I believe is the gist of their written complaint in High Court records.
Deepa Mehta finally took her business elsewhere, and ‘Water’ won the Oscar in the Foreign Film Category for CANADA. (“Haha, India” – Deepa Mehta is quoted as having said later.)
Another ultra-bizarre one recently is when Madhuri Dixit’s return vehicle hit an unprecedented controversy because of the lyrics of a particular song which referred to goldsmiths being more fortunate than shoemakers. The shoemaker caste objected to the lyrics being prejudicial, and the producers issued an apology.
I of course speak of the country I know, but a recent blog I visited (Thanks for the link Nisho) complained of ultra-sensitivity in other countries as well. Apparently, some employees of an organization in the UK or the US (I forget which…hehe aint that convenient?) demanded that their boss apologize for saying
“All the documents are going down a black hole” or something to that effect.
Best bit is…he did!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
From what I understand I am forbidden by law to do the following things in this city:
3) Play music louder than 6 decibels
4) Eat or drink after 11-30 at night
If you do 1 to 4 you get your sorry asses in jail. The fifth doesn’t need to be enforced.
(Oh no, you’re mistaken they say. Only in pubs and bars and restaurants. You can do all these things at home, as long as you keep it down and don’t tell anyone. )
If you don’t believe me read this article: http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20080061080
Is this really happening? What nightmare world have we come to inhabit? How come some complete lunatic (does my sorry ass get thrown in jail for calling him that? Do I get thrown in jail anyway for saying ‘sorry ass’ so many times?) gets to steal our culture away from us without anybody else in power stopping him?
What’s next…seriously? They already tried to ban women in most sectors from working in nightshifts. For our own safety of course. All of these bans are for our own safety. So that, after our nights of debauchery (music and dance is the devil’s work, the Commissioner is liberal in so far as we’re not being dragged to a stake and burnt) we don’t get robbed. Robbed by those criminals the police would have done better to focus on, rather than doing the rounds of pubs, bars and eateries checking if people aren’t God forbid…dancing.
So, in what new and novel ways will we be saved from ourselves? What’s next? I have no doubt there IS a next. A ban on women wearing pants and skirts? For our own safety? Because we all know rapists don’t attack if you’re wearing a sari? No woman walking about unattended by a man, so that all the criminals the police are too busy to catch don’t rape us? No looking up at the sky when you walk because you might fall into a manhole, the cover of which was stolen by a thief the police passed by in their hurry to get to the nightclubs to check if anyone was singing?
You can however by law:
1) Refuse to take a customer if you are an auto driver, and if you don’t feel like a refusal, cheat him/her, leave him in the middle of the road and abuse him/her in front of the cops. And get rewarded by the government by a hike in your starting charge. (you’ll be too upset and broke to get the wanton urge to sing or play the guitar!)
2) Spit (atleast it’s not as filthy as being a criminal musician)
3) Urinate on walls (It’s been in our culture for centuries)
4) Flash women while you’re at it ( the police blame dancing for it.)
5) Leave gaping holes in horrendously uneven pavements if you are a municipal official. (if someone falls in at night: Aah well, she wasn’t supposed to be out so late, and we suspect she had a weakness for singing and dancing. If someone trips over an uneven slab and breaks a foot; atleast he won’t be doing any illegal dancing, eh?)
If this bizarre and arbitrary talibanization of Bangalore goes on, there won’t be that many people left in this village masquerading as a cosmopolitan IT capital. Which, inspite of the slim pickings by way of bribes, might be exactly what the police want.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Anyway, to get back to what I was saying. Since I was on holiday and in a festive mood, I dressed up more than I do usually, and looked quite a sight standing in the dusty line alongside harried parents and their offspring with severe phlegm issues.
So, as I was saying…I was all dressed up with hoop earrings and what not, and my father suddenly observed to me in an undertone “Those women are looking at you more than the men are!” And he sounded surprised. Honestly, after 60 years on this earth it came as a surprise to him that women check out women FAR more than men do. (That is, unless you look like a double-humped camel.)
Earlier the quick up and down sweep ( hair..top…shoes..away.) from women used to unnerve me, and I would rush to the nearest mirror to check if I had phlegm issues of my own. Because the unpleasant thing about ‘the look’ is…it rarely looks appreciative. Though I totally disagree with those women who say “a woman is a woman’s worst enemy” (and proceed to live according to that maxim.), it IS true that when another woman throws you that look of intense scrutiny, her face seems to say “I came, I saw, and I found it distasteful.”
But now that I’ve been a woman for a longish time, I started taking it as a compliment. Women reserve the hair…top…shoes look-over for when they think you’re wearing something interesting. (I hope.) Sometimes they linger over the shoes with a contemplative…'hmmm, I wonder if they have that in black...' stare.
When you’re cringing underneath a dozen ‘looks’ in your best outfit at a swanky restaurant, always remember that these same women wouldn’t have bothered if you were in a tracksuit and doing your shopping with your hair standing up in all directions.
Remember that, and take heart. And throw back a sweeping glance of great dislike in their direction. After all, they dressed up just for you and the other women in the room. (And those poor saps with them don’t even realize it.)
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Type A: those who mask their spite with humour. They will make jokes at everyone’s expense but their own. But the moment someone turns their wit on them, they are very, very bad sports. Almost without exception. “ When I said that I was JOKING, OK? You, on the other hand, are just plain offensive.”
Type B: Those who always make fun of themselves, to get a laugh. Sad thing about these poor saps are that people think it’s fine to join in, and that’s when all hell breaks loose. “Even I”VE never said that about my mother!!” they’ll sob after the fight has dispersed.
Type C: The ones who don’t have a humorous bone in their body. “Hahahaha…you’ll die laughing when I tell you this…hahaha…I just saw, gasp…a man…giggle…fall down the stairs. He just lay at the bottom of the stairs…hehe..GROANING. They say he may have a….concussion. HAAAAAhahaha..”
I think the test to know which one you are is if you think back on the last joke you cracked today and ask yourself:
a) Was it something hurtful about someone else?
b) Did you laugh much more than the target of the joke?
c) Did the person stop talking to you right after?
d) Would you never make the same joke about yourself?
e) If someone else made the same joke about you, would you report him to the office HR for unprofessional behaviour?
f) If you make the world’s worst gaffe do you run to tell your friends about it?
g) Are you pleased when they laugh?
h) Do they call you a clutz and a loser?
i) Do you wish you hadn’t told them?
j) Did you find the Type C joke funny?
k) Were you one of the people in PVR on April 27th who laughed when the kid in Taare Zameen Par got bashed around for flunking his exams?
l) Did you just think as you read this post that it was frivolous and redundant, and that the author was at a loose end when she wrote this?
(a) to (e) -more than 4 ‘yes’s You are SO type A. I hope I don’t meet you at a party on a bad hair day.
(f) to (i) – more than 3 ‘Yes’s. Type B. You are asking for what is coming to you. Stop clowning around if you don’t want people to call you a clown.
J, k, and especially l - all three ‘Yes’s. Resoundingly Type C. I would recommend a book list that includes ‘Roots’, ‘Diary of Anne Frank’, and the ‘Kite Runner’ should you need a few giggles on a dull day.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
For example today, I was asked to rate my own work on 10 in a meeting with one of my bosses. Let’s see…I don’t want to seem conceited, my rational self thought quickly, so forget 9…don’t want to put myself down…so 6 is out of the question…7.5 seems like a nice well-adjusted number…that’s settled then…say 7.5.
“ I’m a 5.5!” my Me-ness declared brightly, to the shock of one and all, while my rational self kicked my Me-ness squarely in the shin.
There are days when it feels like everyone dislikes you. You just can’t shake off the feeling. That guy didn’t smile at you like he does on other days, your Me-ness declares shrilly. Those people stopped talking when you walked past, that girl was curt when you said hello! and you slowly sink into a gluey bog of self-pity, much as your rational self tries to pull you from it.
Rational self: Pull yourself together woman!
R.S: That guy’s busy, those people had finished talking, and that girl was as nice as she always is!
R.S: Oh, forget it, you fuckwit.
Me-ness: Glop glop glop. (Drowning in self pity)
Sometimes you just feel depressed for the heck of it.
Rational self: Why the long face?
Me-ness: Sod off, I feel like it. (Sulking)
R.S: But why? What’s wrong with your life? You have everything you could want! There are so many starving children in Somalia who…
Me-ness: (Roaring) And you know what the starving children of Somalia say to you???
R.S: (prissily) There’s no need for bad language I’m sure. (withdrawing huffily).
The same for anger too. You know what you say makes no sense at all, will make matters worse, and will be held against you for the rest of your life, but bloody Miss Me-ness will just have to say it.
R.S: You just had to say it, didn’t you?
Me-ness: Aah, I feel MUCH better now.
And so on. I’ve met perfectly rational people saying they couldn’t control themselves: Jealousy, gluttony, OCDs (R. S: For the 20th time…the door is locked I tell you!!
Me-ness: Just let me go back up and check one last time…I promise!), bitchiness, depression, excessive optimism, crocheting, etc.
For a lot of people, the influences of RS and Me-ness are equally balanced. RS is all but beaten to a pulp inside my head.
It’s unfortunate, but liberating. Who needs two voices bickering in your head all the time anyway?
Friday, May 30, 2008
Tonight I'm alone, my husband away. It's a Friday night, and my book is at an unexciting stage. So I gave myself permission to browse the net without any intentions, googling people's names, chatting with everyone on my list, sneaking around in other's orkut and facebook pages, trying to catch a glimpse of other people's lives. As I listened to my music, I aimlessly went to people's pages, and went on to their friends, etc only hoping at the back of my mind I won't be caught out.
It left me somehow unsatisfied. I looked for heart to hearts on Gtalk, wanting to delve into the very root cause of everything, but noone had the time. I peeked into other's albums, and even went to the extent of adding an old ghost (or should I say ghoul) from the past as a friend just so I could access her otherwise locked album. That's how bad the voyeurism got. But it didn't help--everyone was happy, smiling, with their babies cradled on their hips, or tell-tale captions telling me they studied in exotic or upmarket countries.
I don't know what I was hoping for...OK ...I knew exactly what I was looking around for. But I didn't find it.
It's 1-10 in the morning now, and I probably will go to sleep in a while and have nothing to show for the last 4 and a half hours of surfing except an empty stomach (I decided to forego dinner in my thirst for knowledge), and very low spirits.
For all the ties that the world wide web binds you with to other people, you're essentially so alone.
Monday, May 19, 2008
1) He looks like me, his aunt. (Suggestion put forward by me.)
2) He looks like my Dad, his grandfather.
3) Since I look like my Mum he looks like my Mum.
4) He looks like my Dad’s Sister.
5) He looks like his mother.
6) He looks like John Stamos of ER. (Which essentially means we all look like John Stamos of ER.)
We have very occasionally and grudgingly conceded that he looks like someone on his Dad’s side of the family, but it takes a great deal of self-sacrifice and soul-searching before it is said.
It’s strange why it’s such an ego-boost that one of the next generation looks like you, but it always is. It’s like Nature herself has paid you a compliment, as if to say, “I thought you weren’t half bad looking, and considered it a good idea to repeat the same kind of look again.”
But your shrill assertions that the new baby resembles you finally comes to nought when he goes and changes completely overnight and becomes the spitting image of an aunt by marriage on your husband's side. You feel slighted and aggrieved by the fickleness of the child and regret your haste in naming him the sole benefactor in your will.
Right now the baby isn’t cooperating and looks like his cousin on his Dad’s side. I disapprove of how frivolously he cast aside the chance to look like me, and have decided to give him a year’s time to redeem himself.
I shall keep you posted.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
We squared our shoulders and shoved our way to the ticket counter at the botanical gardens. I’m glad we did, because the gardens were lovely and very, very old. We took each other’s pictures in front of a lot of flowers and left.
We begged off going into the boat house of the famous lake at Ooty after a particularly muscular woman pushed past and planted herself before me in line. I made a few loud comments in Bengali to the effect that I thought she had cooties, and having thus revenged ourselves on her we fled for quieter tourist spots. We were told that the Rose garden would be as crowded so we headed for St. Stephen’s church instead. This at least was tranquil and picturesque. After taking permission from the people there, we looked around the old graves behind the church, though we restrained our vulgar, macabre instinct to take photographs. But it really was lovely. The epitaphs told so many stories…it made us quite thoughtful.
And then we went back to our hotel, satisfied that we had done our duty as tourists and had earned our right to a hearty slap-up meal of chicken stuffed with cheese and ham for dinner. The next day, though I made some mild comments suggesting we dive back into the sea of site-seeing humanity, my husband made it plenty clear that there was a bench with his name on it on the lawn and I was welcome to join him. So after a very, very good breakfast (suffice it to say there was a lot of cheese and meat involved) we hit the benches and only came off for a lunch of pasta with cheese sauce and bacon.
We decided we shouldn’t waste the entire day lolling about indoors, and went for a walk in the afternoon after it stopped drizzling. By the end of it we were half-dead for want of breath, and made a beeline for the kitchen to calm our nerves with a plate of French fries and two steaming mugs of hot chocolate.
We spent the entire next day on a bus, sleep deprived, and cheese deprived, but happy that our weekend had been well-spent.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I looked at her parents more closely after that and decided; as much as I disliked her mother who seemed very full of herself (an older version of her daughter with heavier bosom and hips); I disliked her father more, who, for all his NRI talk and expensive clothes, could well be a wife beater. I never found out what she had done, and whether her Dad did slap her mother.
The other guests were very interesting as well, and taken together would have been great fodder for an Agatha Christie novel:
15 strangers stranded in a hill-top cottage. They all have their secrets. But one has the most dangerous secret of all, he has killed before and will strike again.
The white-mustachioed, red-nosed patriarch, whose word was law. His mild-mannered son and quick-witted, fun-loving daughter in law. The sad-eyed single mother. Three enormously tall expatriates. The wife beater. His trophy wife. His annoyingly affected child. The witty writer who is destined to solve a 200 year-old mystery and her doting husband.
A story set against the backdrop of the wild hills where the wispy mist rises of an evening, and where the crackling fires within doors lend an impression of safety to the unsuspecting families. A simple game of dumb charades turns into a riveting and deadly drama of human passions.
Of course none of that happened. No shot rang out in the night, no one got smothered in their sleep, the five year old didn’t take a hatchet to the 10 year-old boy who spurned her. We all played dumb charades politely and tried not to let on that we hadn’t caught each other’s names during the round of introductions. One wondered whether the cheese and corn balls ordered during the game would be charged to one’s own room or the other family’s.
Before leaving, the hearty patriarch with a volatile temper shook my husband’s hand (he’s always more popular at these places, people find my brooding artistic temperament intimidating) and said, “We’ll meet again some day, some where.”
It sounded very profound, and reinforced my view that these random meetings change our lives, even if in the tiniest, most infinitesimal ways.
It remains to be seen how, but it’s always more interesting to think that way.
(Coming up: What we ate, and how awful tourists are.)
Monday, May 12, 2008
I slept through most of the overnight bus journey to Ooty until I woke up with a start at 4 in the morning. Everyone else was asleep and the bus had just reached the foot of the mountains. It was pitch dark but for the headlights of our bus and the one ahead of us and I stared fascinated outside my window as the headlights caught the trees glowering above us. The buses crawled up and up and round and round the mountains like two beetles up a prodigiously hairy giant. I gave myself the creeps imagining ghostly shapes in the wintry slopes looking down on us wondering who we were. It was beautiful, sinister, and very personal – I was lucky to be awake when I was—the trees menaced and the shadows flitted just for me (I assume the driver was awake but not as fanciful). I fell asleep as soon as light dawned two hours later and the rest of the bus started stirring.
We arrived 4 and half hours too early at the hotel. Our room was booked only from 12-o-clock, so we were very politely asked to hang around (and hold our bladders) until the current occupants of the room left to catch their bus. I asked everyone around if there was a common loo for people waiting, but it seemed everyone just sat around until their rooms were ready. Well, then. Luckily, both my husband and I have bladders of iron, so we sat on the benches in the lovely, dew-soaked garden and snoozed in the wintry sunshine. I watched as my husband nodded off on the bench, woke up, looked around with great interest, nodded off a moment later, looked up at me and said “This is heavenly!” and slid off the bench in one fluid motion onto the damp grass and went back to sleep.
The small hotel with nine rooms was remodeled from an old British cottage and the carefully manicured lawn fell away down the slope to the more populated parts downhill from where you could hear distant noises of people and cattle. It really was lovely: my head drooped on my chest, and I made a mental note to tell my husband presently that he would catch his death, soaking up dew as he was like a sponge at my feet.
We got our room much sooner than 12-o-clock, we were well ensconced in a cozy little room with a fireplace by 9.
We had some very interesting hotel mates. They were all families with children. There was one very dramatic little girl who looked like she had walked out of a TV advertisement, all curly-haired, doe-eyed and pretty in pink. She, we quickly caught on, nursed an unrequited passion for an older boy called Krishna who was also staying at the resort, and was admirably unabashed about it. While he played ball with the other children she would stand next to him and gaze longingly at him, while leaving the room she would say “bye Krishna” and ignore the others, and at night when her parents insisted they turn in for the night, she asked, “Will you come to my hotel (room) Krishna?” A very forthright girl -- we warmed to her enormously, despite her dainty mincing ways. Needless to say Krishna’s friends and sister especially gave him hell, calling out his 5-year old girlfriend’s name until he was purple in the face. He did his best to give her the brush off, though I feel he was secretly pleased for being singled out. Give it ten years, I thought, and if they ever meet again the roles will be most decidedly reversed.
The second day there, I found her wandering disconsolately in the dining room. She turned to me with an urgent toss of her head and said, “I’ve done something very bad.” I wondered if she’d finally done the object of her affections in and buried him under the azaleas, and asked her warily what the matter was. “If my father finds out he’ll slap my mother.” Whoa! I thought, is this domestic abuse the little girl is unwittingly talking about? “What did you do?” She muttered something about breaking her pony and wandered off, twirling one ringlet with her finger.
(To be continued. I decided to do the travelogue instead, it's my blog.)
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I sent pictures of the conference I mentioned in my last post to a lot of people. Of course I vetted them and sent out the ones where my hair looked fairly OK, and my double chin was hidden behind the potted palms as much as possible, but beyond that it wasn't like I felt the need to photoshop my flaws out of existence, because these pictures were merely to show photographic evidence to people "See! I really did have a good time at so-and-so place." As far as my expectations that people would send me medals by post for my beauty, and renewed wedding proposals ...I didn't have that many.
But see, that's something most people don't get. I put up one of these pics as my google chat picture and one fine evening a friend pings me to say, "hi...if you don't mind my saying this..you look fat in the picture." Just like that.
I just didn't get it. For one thing, Yes, I DO mind...and I told her that atleast I don't look as fat as she does in HER pictures. Something my superior manners restrained me from telling her earlier. Second, she KNOWS I talk endlessly about my weight, so it couldn't be that, as a friend, she thought she was pointing out something I hadn't noticed, so that I could thank her tearfully later on when I was all svelte and beautiful again.
Third. I didn't put up the pictures in a fond moment of belief, as I mentioned earlier, that Bollywood scouts would catch sight of them, and ask me to be Aamir Khan's new leading lady. I think, at the risk of sounding intolerably swollen headed, I have a VERY good idea about how I look and torture myself endlessly about it. I send out latest pictures, again, to show people that THIS is where I went with THAT group of people and so on. Something even my parents don't get frankly, so this friend of mine can be forgiven to a certain extent, except that she didn't MAKE me, and raise me, and so have entitlement to make rude comments about me.
I remember having a lark with friends (incidentally one is the fat-caller) in Goa, and taking pictures in very bizarre outfits and sending them to everyone saying "Check this out, we had a BLAST!" My folks remained ominously quiet about the photos until I thought I would hear the worst and called to ask if they hadn't seen them. My mother sounded instantly uncomfortable. "Yes dear, I did." "Well?" "Well dear, none of you look very...er...nice in the pictures." What about the blue, blue sea in the background, what about the funny headgear, what about the huge, big grins on our faces??" "Yes, yes, dear, I saw that."
See what I mean? Of course if anyone does compliment me on my recent pictures (yes, my darlings, that happens rarely but still does) I won't pretend to say I'm not inordinately pleased by it.
But on the whole, I feel the people who really get it is the bunch who write back saying: "Whoa! It looks like the trip was a gas! What is that person doing with that watermelon in the background??"
If not for those questions, all I really needed to do was keep circulating my college and wedding pictures ( saying stuff like 'this is me at the office party I attended last week!! Why am I dressed like a bride you ask? And why is my mother-in law in the picture, you ask?') at regular intervals and enjoy the compliments pour in, until I dropped down dead at 92.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
I’ve seen a few other people like me, and there’s some comfort in that I’m sure. Otherwise, as you faithful readers know, I’m not a person who likes to draw attention by doing anything unusual in the work place and have been known to try to look as much like installation art as possible in meetings so I’m not asked to speak. But lead me to a dance floor and I give a damn who looks at me and what they think. And this attitude has always paid off (apart from one party where I drank too much and was pretty much a three-hour-long wardrobe malfunction) I have always come away from these parties feeling like I was on a high.
Give me music I don’t hate and clear a little area of the floor so I don’t trip and fall too often, and you can sit back and wait for Ms Jekyll to take over. It’s just not me anymore.
As it is I find myself on the dance floor quite embarrassingly early. I know the modus operandi is to hang back and act like you don’t care for dancing…but that just wastes time in my opinion. I walk in and hit the floor and don’t come off until they switch off the lights, explain that they’d stopped the music 15 minutes ago, and that they had families to go back home to, could I please leave?
As I walk on to the dance floor and a song I like comes on, I can feel all my hesitation falling away, and my body comes up with all these wild dance steps I didn’t even know I had in my repertoire. It’s quite an out-of-body experience. Whether I’m great at it I don’t know, I’m not half bad, that’s all I know and that’s all I need. I don’t do it for other people any way. This is my me time, when I get to feel happy in my skin, and lose all the nonsense that goes through my head every waking moment of every day since the day I was born. The music plays, the beats take hold of me, and if I have a half-way decent partner (read: who doesn’t complain that the music is bad, his feet hurt, and threatens to stop dancing after every second song) I am the happiest (the out of my mind, sing aloud, jump-in-the-air kinda happy) woman in the room. And I don’t even need booze. I just let loose, whirl, and twist and turn, and in general go haywire.
And then after those three hours of near-religious furor, I drift back to bed and think happily back about those few hours of oblivion.
Because of my foot injury this time of course, I limped stiffly about the hotel all of the next day, but I had an awfully big grin on my face to set it off. I still haven’t stopped smiling, and have started planning my next fix. Let’ see…
Saturday, March 22, 2008
In a most perverse way like much of the rest of my life, my talents such as they are, lie in the area of the performance arts. Before my ‘me-ness’ took control of this body, I was not a bad singer at all. Then somewhere in the process of growing up, I decided I would rather die than be on stage, and that was that. I forced myself on stage a few times after this malaise gripped me, hoping to conquer the fear and knowing that one good performance would do wonders for my confidence. These turned out to be occasions of such bitter failure and nightmarish shame that the fate of my singing on stage was sealed. Nowadays, if anyone were to ask me I just say I can’t sing. There’s no shame in that.
I thought, as did many others, that since I wasn’t bad with the written word, I would logically fare well in debate and recitation as well. But then again, though I conquered my fear of performing in public to the extent that I could be pushed onto the stage, gagging and willing myself not to throw up –when my turn came to speak, I would start shakily and then entirely forget what it was I was meant to say. The resounding silence of the auditorium would echo back at me, and I would open and close my mouth like a pop-eyed fish flopping about at the bottom of a boat.
Acting! By the time people had started suggesting acting to me, I had wised up to my condition, and lived my passion for it vicariously by helping out backstage as bouncer, makeup person, and general busybody.
But now that I’ve weeded out most things that inspire such terror (except trying on clothes in front of those ghastly lit mirrors in stores) I haven’t felt stage fright in a long, LONG while. (I’m a coward, but bravery is overrated anyway.)
Until yesterday that is. I went to the hospital for an abdomen scan. Apparently one needs to feel like one needs to go wee-wee, before they’ll do the scan thing on you (you need to feel the urge to go, but not go, of course.). People would keep coming at me and asking if my bladder was full, and despite the fact that I’d drunk an entire litre of water earlier on I could only shake my head miserably and whisper “not yet”. A little while later I tried to brazen it out and pretend that I needed to go. But the technician caught me out convincingly when he began the scan and sent me out with a flea in my ear, to sit and wait ‘For toilet to come to me’ in the waiting room.
An hour later and people were giving me the disappointed looks that teachers gave me in school when I walked off the stage after saying “Ladies and Gentlemen, the topic of debate for today is…is…excuse me I need to barf”. My husband, usually the most patient of souls, started looking quite distressed after one and a half hours of waiting for me “to get the urgency” as one of the staff described it. I felt like I was letting him down, the hospital technicians down, and most of all myself down. It was standing on stage all over again, I just couldn’t do it. ("feel the urgency", not do it).
I eventually got the scan done successfully, but that stage fright of mine made the simplest thing the hardest thing to do.
Monday, March 10, 2008
My faith in human nature has almost completely been restored. People have gone out of their way to open doors, offered to help me in and out of places, and asked me incessantly how it’s happened and where the fracture was. Complete strangers have stopped me and asked “ So…what happened? Not well-ah?” ( “Ya, my foot has caught a fever, so I’ve wrapped it up warmly in brickhard plaster.”)
I have been told the fracture and torn ligament stories of everyone on this floor (let me tell you it’s one helluva large floor…try walking across it on crutches and one leg), been advised to take calcium tablets, and consult a homoeopath -- usually by people I’ve never seen before and not seen since. The drivers of my morning and evening cabs have been accommodative enough to drive as close to lifts as possible. One driver even took it upon himself to haul me unceremoniously out of the car by the arm despite my loud protestations (as he dragged me out) that I could manage myself.
Of course there is always the boor. (What would my blog be without boors? Insipid.) This one guy probably thinks I bring a crutch to work as a fashion statement, and lets doors swing back in my face if I’m following him in anywhere. Of course I give him the stink eye whenever I hop by his desk, so he’s not getting away with it.
I went to the shopping mall Forum (just me and my crutch) last week, and the advantages were numerous. Not only did I get to sit down unchalleneged on the “For Handicapped and Senior Citizen’s Bench Only” next to the entrance, strangers actually held lifts for me, and offered to stand in the billing counter for me while I sat down.
A visit to a jam-packed Hard Rock Café told the same story. We were shown directly to a table with my husband commenting in sotto voce throughout that it was my crutch that worked the trick and that we should never go anywhere without it for the rest of our lives.
But now the time draws near to wean myself off my trusty crutch. Back to being pushed aside, stepped on, yelled at. Back to having people not asking me where it hurt and not having a receptive audience as I tell the story of how it happened with a brave “I’ll be OK, don’t worry” smile on my face.
Siiiigh…Goodbye my trusty crutch, it was real special, but we knew it couldn’t last…
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
1) When one says “I was busy” the invariable retort is – “ As if I’m not.” Noone said YOU’re not busy…I was merely saying that I WAS.
2) One often makes accusations and then adds a “and you know it” to add weight to the accusation. Often it is the first time that the accused has heard that he’s a sonovabitch, so he can very well claim not to know it.
3) “Don’t tell me what to feel!” Is another comment that puzzles me. If the reaction is far beyond what the stimulus warrants and you point that out, this is often the comment that comes whizzing back at you, even though it makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever. If I choose to laugh heartily through Schindler’s List and people turn around and give me outraged glances, does it make sense if I say “Hey, Don’t tell me what to FEEL, OK???”. Probably not. (On an aside I laughed uproariously through most of the tragic parts of ‘Life is Beautiful’. Not because I’m a chump; but because I had aimed to comfort a friend who was crying inconsolably next to me, and groped her quite comprehensively instead.)
4) If you point out certain flaws in near and dear ones, you will roundly be accused of being a complainer and a whiner, who can never appreciate one’s good side and will always harp on the bad things. In the ensuing heated argument, the original accusation is entirely forgotten, in which case this is quite a good tactic and shouldn’t be here. (But the point I was getting to before I recognized this as the brilliant ploy that it is -- I wasn’t saying that you are entirely bad, I’m just saying your habit of being selectively deaf is something I would now wish to exclusively talk about, at length, and in high-pitched tones. Again, of course you’ve done a lot of good things, but we’re not talking about that JUST now. )
5) This is somewhat similar to the last one, only from the other person’s perspective. When someone has really got into the groove and is in the middle of calling you every name in the book, you start saying things in self-defence like “Don’t you remember I lent you money two years ago, and I picked up your crazy aunt from the station because everyone else refused”, etc. and generally remind him/her that you’re not all bad and have done some rather nice things for him in the past. Pat will come the completely shameless dodge -- “Oh so you have to throw my poor aunty in my face now. There’s no point in doing a friend a good turn if you bring it up later… and now that we’re on the topic I’m glad she bit you.”
6) “When I die you’ll feel bad you said that.” With a sad droop of the shoulders, like you’re dying as you speak.
And so on, you get the drift. I dare all my readers to delve into their memories and deny they have either used these arguments or had them used on them These comments distract people from the issue; making the arguments confusing, long-winded, and not as intellectually stimulating as they otherwise could have been.
But then again, anger is a brief madness, and generally not a recognized forum for the exercise of intelligence or time-management.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
But over here, it almost seems like I’ve formed a mental block because of all the people telling me what scum I am for not knowing the language.
Three months into my stay here, I went to a doctor near my house and as I walked into the room, he asked me something in Kannada. I said “excuse me?” and “I beg your pardon” two or three times before I realized that he was speaking to me in Kannada so I explained to him that I’m Bengali and don’t know the language. To which he demanded to know how long I’d been here, why I had come to Bangalore, and why my husband had come. By then it was already 10-15 minutes into my sitting with the doctor and he had yet to ask what ailed me. (Not too much to expect from a doctor methinks -- I presume even people from Bangalore don’t make appointments with doctors to discuss the erosion of local culture.) He concluded the little interview with “you should learn Kannada if you want to stay here. It’s not nice to talk to people in another language if you want their help.” Or something to that effect. I was a hair’s breadth from walking out, but felt too ill and had waited too long so I stayed put and took it quietly. I felt a great urge to ask him if I should give him the consultation charge in rupees or Kannada money, but again, I was too sick to care about anything much.
On some level, I quite agree with some of what this guy was saying, though expecting someone to speak fluent Kannada after living here for 3 months is ridiculous, it IS true that there’s no excuse for not knowing it three YEARS down the line. In the last three years I’ve been lectured by autodrivers and a few others that I should learn if I want to stay here. I feel too sometimes, that since we’ve all but settled here and might eventually bring up little thingies here as well, it would be nice if we could communicate with people better and understand the lyrics of the songs apart from the part where it goes:
“Oh daarrrrlling, please-a come-u/I lou you maximum-u!”(I’m not kidding.)
People here feel very aggrieved about talking in Hindi and dismiss the national language argument as a lot of twaddle. I only wish to make them understand that Hindi is not my mother tongue either, and in fact is a language I don’t speak very well, and only use it to make myself understood. So it’s not like I’m any less uncomfortable than the delivery boy who I say “Ekdom bhul-bhal jinish laata hai” to. Now if I had spoken to them in Bengali, arrogantly assuming they’d understand…THAT would be obnoxious and deserving of a full lecture.
Anyhow, I hope the xenophobes here will forgive me for making one last observation from MY point of view. I lived most of my life in Calcutta and wasn’t too put out when I had to converse with people in Hindi and English when they didn’t know Bengali.(In fact I have a relative back in Cal who insists on conversing in the most outlandish Hindi if she realizes a shop-assistant or such like is non-Bengali. So it happens that often the man will talk to her in faintly accented Bengali and she'll battle on in the most excruciating Hindi). It didn’t occur to me (because that’s how it is in Cal) to feel hostile towards them because of it, or imply that they should learn Bengali (and make it snappy) if they wanted to be treated decently there. If the non-Bengalis spoke Bengali it pleased us enormously, but that’s as far as it went.
But anyway, in Rome do as the Romans. This is not Calcutta. I shall now switch on Sun TV and try to emulate the hefty heroine doing complicated gyrations in the rain. Then maybe I can reach out to my Bangalore brethren with the universal language of dance! (dramatic stamp of the foot and snap of the fingers.)
Friday, February 15, 2008
Let’s start with the Cons:
Very few people can really wrap their minds around the concept of a fracture. It really isn’t a big deal; but it is true that a broken foot pretty much incapacitates you for some time because striding about the world with a broken foot, though heroic and indicative of a great threshold of pain and selfless disregard of one’s own health, might not be the best thing for the healing process. So it gets to you when some people say stuff like this to you – “you haven’t BROKEN anything…it’s just a fracture! I nosed around in Wikipedia and this is what it says: ‘Any type of bone break is a fracture. The word break is not used in a formal orthopaedic terminology’. How about I fracture your foot, and then we can sit down and talk about it knowledgably shall we?
Some other acquaintances (most often than not of the professional persuasion) expect you to gaily scamper out of the hospital after the plaster is done and catch a bus to work.
People will give you strange advice like: “Snap out of it! It’s just mental strength that you need.” Right. And how about I then go on Oprah and say, “ I decided I hadn’t broken my foot painfully and walked around the world immediately afterwards to raise money for the Osteoporosis Foundation!” (Accompanied by hurrahs and tearful applause from the audience.)
Then there’s the cast that you have to wear for a whole month. For one thing you had asked for a cream cast so it didn’t clash with your clothes and they give you a neon yellow one when you weren’t looking. Then they say you can’t wet it and have to put a plastic bag over it when you bathe. So to add insult to injury your husband gets you a bright green ‘Pantaloons’ plastic bag which you tie over your bad leg with a rope and hop to the bathroom everyday.
And the itching! Sweet Mother of God you feel like ripping your cast off and raking the skin underneath with your nails. (Two more weeks to go before that’s possible.)
And then there are the obsessive compulsive doorbell ringers. If they ring once you can ignore it…but the moment they ring twice you start to think it must be really important. So you hop to the door to open it only to find whoever it is has given up and gone away on their two good feet. Then when it happens the third time in the same day you start shouting as you grab your crutches and get up: “Aaata hoooooo” “Mut Jaiyyee, main abhi aa raha hooooo” all the while working your crutches like you’re in the special Olympics. After three very exciting minutes for everyone concerned, you open the door to find a very frightened man who had come to ask you to give your baby polio drops. “Can you see a baby anywhere?”, you dangerously enquire, and he backs off and leaves before you can hop within range and club him to death with your crutches.
The Pros, of course, are numerous:
You feel like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. Except that if you DID have binoculars, (which you don’t) you could only have watched a bevy of fat old women hanging their washing out to dry.
Just like there are people who are disdainful of your weakness in the face of a broken bone or two there are others who are wonderfully sympathetic. Your husband spoils you to death, calls and emails come in from well-wishers who patiently listen to your grievances.
A broken foot satisfies both your sense of drama and your chronic hypochondria.
You are not required to do any work around the house and have people doing your bidding when they’re around.
You get some time off from work (despite the daily calls from office: “You’re not coming in today either??”) and read up a storm. You read some books that needed time and patience, which you would never have got around to in the fret and fume of everyday life.
You have the whole day to sit in a chair and think about life, and apart from the people I told you about in the cons, no one will blame you.
And of course, you have one more thing to crib about in your blog…