Friday, May 30, 2008

The Web.

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

On The Fickleness of Babies.

My sister had a baby 15 days ago (Congratulations, Rimky!). Since then we have been poring over the pictures she and her husband send to us. Because they live very, very far away it’s the only way we can take a look at him. With each installment of pictures a new argument breaks out within the family -- about whom the little thing takes after in the looks department. So far the conclusions we have come to are:

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

Ooty Story: "Say Cheeese!"

That was about the people at the hotel. But what about site-seeing, you ask? That pretty much sucked. It turned out to be prime ‘tourist’ season: spitting, pushing, lungi-tying hordes of tourists. We hired a car and queued up dutifully at the ticket counters of all the sites. The tea museum we took one look at and fled. Somehow, though quite an avid tea-drinker myself, I could not find it in me to pay admission and look at different kinds of tea leaves from between the shoving shoulders of my fellow tea-enthusiasts. My husband’s plight was even more pitiful, he didn’t even like tea.

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

Ooty Story: Part 2

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

A travelogue for a change.

We went to Ooty over the weekend. I am tempted to write a complete travel log but will restrain myself, since my main audience are readers who complain bitterly when I cross my 500th word. (Don’t look around you so innocently, you know who you are, Philistines.)

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.)