Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Trash Those Damn Resolutions!

It is that time of the year again!
The air is abuzz with party plans and festivities..with laughter and giggles...with warm fuzzy love vibes as people reach out to one another....
And, much to my regret, it is buzzing with resolutions as well!!!
Apart from swapping notes on New Year plans, it appears that the favourite past-time of a vast majority of the urban population is to identify resolutions to ring in the New Year. Almost everyone seeks a goal for the year ahead with a passion that they might not even dedicate to the discovery of the Holy Grail.
It isn't that I have a bee in my bonnet about resolutions. I do not....Even though resolutions do go against my belief that one should ease up in life and enjoy the joyride for what it is worth. But over the past many days, I have watched people obsessing about resolutions. A gazillion ideas have been pounced upon with unholy glee and examined with abating excitement. Some are found wanting and discarded almost at once. Others are adopted with much enthusiasm and fan fare. Resolutions have indeed become the season's hottest fashion accessory!
People just can't seem to stop talking about them..

Who has the best resolutions? And how many?
Not the most relevant, mind you..Nor the most meaningful...Not even the most achievable, for that matter.
It just has to be the best on one's social circuit.
And right in the middle of this resolution crazed world, stands poor non-believing me who is just too energy deficient to even thinking of going with the flow.
I gave up on resolutions a long long time ago. Too much of effort you see. And it did hurt my posterior, not to mention my ego, when I fell off by the wayside on day 2 of the New Year.
So after giving resolutions a shot or two, I quit. Because I realised that I was rather happy being me. I did not want to talk or eat less or lose more weight. I did not aspire to be more diplomatic or less obsessive about details. If I were to control my temper or throw lesser tantrums or worse, stop talking to myself, I would be very uncomfortable in my own skin.

And where would I be without my day dreams & idealism???
I did not want to cut back on my vices - caffeine, cocoa & passive smoking- without which I would be very lost. And I most definitely did not want to connect with friends and family or make new friends under duress.
I realised that I like myself just the way I am. And that I would like to live life one day at a time, savouring its joys and growing from the sorrows that may come my way. Along the way, I may set goals for myself..But that would only be because the need for it comes from deep within and not because it is the flavour of the season.
And so, to the kind hearted souls who come my way determined to help me identify resolutions, just so that I belong, and to those still in search of their resolutions, I have only one thing to say - Trash Those Damn Resolutions!!!! .....Seize The Day!!!...Live In The Moment
!!!
Happy New Year Folks!






Pssst: For those of you out there who are still in search of resolutions, try
Benrik. Benrik's This Diary Which Will Change Your Life has some really interesting goals which are sure to make you the talk of your social circuit. And for those of you who, like me, disdain resolutions, do read Benrik anyway. It's fun..It's whacky..And it will make you smile.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Waiter From Spitsville!!!

" Do not use that tone with the waiter, chechy" hissed my cousin, rolling his black ringed eyes at me for extra effect. "Hasn't anyone ever told you that you should never mess with a waiter?"

" But the glass is filthy.." I protested indignantly. After all what could an ignorant young bachelor possibly know about the consequences of drinking from glasses stained with dirt and old soap. Holding the glass aloft, I continued to fume "Just look at it. How can anyone drink from it? Even if I am only going to drink wine from it and wine being alcohol would anyway kill the germs, I am still entitled to a sparkling clean glass"

" Hmmmph, and how would you like to have your butter chicken garnished with spittle?"
I stared at my cousin in sheer disbelief. Spittle in the butter chicken??? He had to be kidding me. That could only happened in a pathetic comedy. Not in real life.
But little cousin obviously meant business, for he held my gaze resolutely...And his wicked flashing eyes conjured for me, images of all possible forms of retribution we could suffer at the diabolic hands of our irate waiter....Just because I dared ask for a clean glass to drink my wine in....Well, with a wee bit of attitude and annoyance.
I would have shrugged aside his dire warnings as a joke, if I had not at that precise moment caught sight of the waiter's implacable face. He had just retrieved the offending glass from under my nose and was heading inside to fetch me a replacement. Every cell of his icy form seemed to scream for revenge. For a moment, I could envision the angry waiter spitting gallons of saliva into my butter chicken and every other dish we had ordered. Even worse was the thought of his colleagues and underlings joining in as a token of their solidarity!!!

" Err, do you think we should cancel the butter chicken and ask for kebabs instead?" I asked my cousin, a tad nervously.
" And what makes you think he can't baste the kebabs in spittle before serving it up to you?"

The obvious sarcasm brought me a step closer to a nervous breakdown. All the more so when it suddenly struck me that cousin, having worked in a restaurant during his educational stint abroad, spoke from a position of knowledge and therefore, power.

" Surely, he can't have that much of spittle in him? I mean, won't his mouth run dry after 2 or 3 kebabs?"
" Chechy, he does not have to dip the kebabs in a bowl of saliva you know...just a gentle lick along the sides would suffice......"
A series of violent shudders rocked my weak spine as my sadistic cousin shook with a paroxysm of uncontrollable laughter.The all too graphic description was obviously too much for my poor sensitive nerves. Clearly, drastic action was the order of the evening.

" I am going to order stuffed paranthas. With no curry or kebabs. Not even raita or pickle." I announced smugly " That will teach the spitting waiter and his cronies a lesson!!!"
Cousin merely smiled slyly.
" Why are you smiling? Now don't tell me that he can spit or lick the paranthas...I mean I can see that..and if I even see a smear of fluid on it, I shall give him hell.."

" Chechy, do you know how we used to pay back obnoxious customers? Well, mixing spit into their gravies was the preferred method of getting even. Or even dirt from the nose. But on occasions when we had time, we used to roll/drag the raw dough on the dirty floor and make it super filthy before popping it into the dum...At times, we would play football with the jelly like mass used for desserts before garnishing it with fruits and what not.."

" You horrible monster" I shrieked with feeling for the poor unsuspecting customers who, though obnoxious, had had to ingest such unhygienic food. In the distance, my nemesis with the wine cup shot a startled glance at me and hurried forward to investigate.
As he set the fresh clean goblet in front of me and poured out the wine, I anxiously scanned his face for tell-tale signs of his crime...Over wet lips....A smear of spittle somewhere..A mouth brimming with saliva....Anything!!!

But my scanning was all in vain. Either it was the perfect crime or one which existed only within the realms of imagination!
My stare must have unnerved him, for he solicitously asked me if everything was all right.
"Err, nothing...everything is perfect..And thank you for changing the glass..." I gushed weakly, offering up a ghost of a smile as a peace offering "mmmm...will the food be long in coming? "
" I will check in the kitchen at once...In the mean time, do enjoy your wine" And with a broad smile, he was gone.

My spirits soared...He hadn't even been near the food!!!
I sipped the wine, thanking my lucky stars that the man, unlike my hot-headed cousin, had recovered and seemed quite un-inclined to drain his salivary glands over our dinner. Never again, I promised myself. As I made a mental note to myself to ensure that I had eaten well before a night out on the town so that I would never again be at the mercy of any waiter from spitsville, my cheeky cousin couldn't resist his final quip for the evening
"Chechy, you are damn lucky he seemed to be the quiet sorts...But you really should be careful, you know..I mean you will never know what you might end up with on your plate..And by the time you can even guess, it might be too late..So be careful"
Hmmmph, talk about a tempest in a wine goblet!!!








Chechy = Sister
Dum = Indian Oven

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Little Ray Of Hope Called Shaktivel

This morning, I met Shakthivel.
A chirpy young boy who should have been at home,readying himself for a day at college or some special class which the kids of today seem to attend in scores.
But instead, he was waiting patiently outside Chennai's Central Railway Station at the crack of dawn.He couldn't have been a day over 16...Well scrubbed and neatly turned out too...No morning breath about him...Nor the stench of stale hooch.
His appearance and an air of timid innocence distinguished him from the rest of the brash, uncouth porter brigade.

As I alighted from the cab with my strolley and my bursting-at-its-seams laptop bag, he approached me diffidently, offering to put me on my train. The child charmed me.
And I would have handed over my luggage without a second thought, if it hadn't been for my uptight conscience which angrily berated me for considering child labour.

As I debated the point with the voices in my head, the lad looked pleadingly at me.
" But you are just a child" I protested to him " You should be in school studying...Not spending your time here carrying loads"
" Madam, I have no father. My mother struggles to make ends meet by working in 3 houses. I have a sister and a brother, both younger to me. The little I earn helps. Studies is a luxury for me now. If everyone thought like you Madam, my siblings and I would starve at the end of each month"
His words touched my heart.
Gagging my protesting conscience, I asked him to name his price with no intentions what so ever of haggling.

But, a mere 40 rupees was all that he asked for.
" Only Rs. 40? Are you sure? "
" Yes Madam. I do not cheat. You have just one bag which you want me to roll instead of carrying on my head. And you want to carry your laptop bag. This is no work at all. How can I ask you for more?"

For once, I had no answer.
To ask him to raise his price just because he seemed a child would offend his dignity.
And so, I nodded mutely and we set off at a leisurely pace.
As we entered the station, I half-expected Shaktivel to sidestep the metal beepers as most porters do. But, much to my surprise, he carefully rolled my case to a baggage screening machine in a dark corner and instructed me to join the queue at the beeper.

It must have been the look of surprise on my face, because all through the remainder of our journey to the train, Shakthivel kept up a steady stream of chatter about the need for porters' participation in securing their respective railway stations.
"This is where we earn our living. We earn our bread and butter here. It is our duty also to take care of the station and protect it. It is not enough that police has put machines to scan bags and check people. We must also help them by ensuring that each and every load we carry is scanned. Even if the passenger is not interested"
And then with a crest-fallen face, he continued "But what to do Madam? Not all porters think like that. They want to pack as many loads as possible into their day and do not bother about scanning. They think it is a waste of time...But my friends and I are very particular about it" He concluded on a more resolute note.
Our interlude should have ended here, because we had, by then, reached the platform.
However, the train was late and as we stood on the platform waiting, Shaktivel gingerly picked my laptop bag and then turned to reproach me "Madam, this is heavy...you should have let me carry it..."
I could barely suppress my smile "Its OK. I carry it to work every day and am used to its weight...Will you have some coffee?"

A shy smile wreathed his brown face as he quickly shook his head.
" tea?"
Again, the awkward smile and bob of his head.
" Milk?.."
" No Madam, you have..."
" Well, I cannot have coffee if you refuse to keep me company, so what will you have?"


Silence....
The lad stared down at his feet in obvious confusion, probably wondering what to make of the eccentric lady.
" If you do not tell me what you want, then you will have to drink what I get you...So isn't it better that you tell me what you like? .."
" Madam...tea...Shall I go bring?"

" No, you watch my bags...I will go get it"
Minutes later, we stood beside each other, companionably sipping our cuppas. I ripped open a packet of cream biscuits and proffered it to him. For a few moments, he hesitated, unwilling to help himself before Madam had done so.
But hunger or perhaps the fear of offending the 'pythiakari'* Madam overcame his inhibitions.
As he self-consciously bit into one, I slipped one out for myself and thrust the packet back into his hand. The lad protested feebly but upon my insistence that he retain it, Shakthivel carefully tucked it away inside his pocket.
" For my brother and sister, Madam...They will enjoy it too" he offered by way of explanation.
For the second time this morning, the boy touched my heart.
His generosity overwhelmed me.
But before I could say anything, the train chugged in.

As Shakthivel went about stacking my bags safely, I rooted about in my cluttered purse for the promised 40 rupees. Despite my rooting, all I could find were notes of 100 & a few Mars bars.
As I looked up to explain that I was short of change, I realised that Shakthivel had vanished.
A quick glance around the compartment found him helping a frail old man hoist a rather large carton on to the rack above....And he returned back with a broad smile, without as much as having demanded a penny for his efforts.

I mutely handed over a 100 along with all the Mars bars in my bag.
" This is your boney**, isn't it?" I enquired to the round eyed boy who could only nod in amazement "Well, I don't have change and the chocolates are for your siblings..Now don't argue with me about the money.."

He left, shaking his head in disbelief.

As the train pulled out of the station, greed reared her angry head " You gave away all our Mars bars??? Are you stark raving crazy?? Now what do we eat when we need our serotonin fix???"

" She did well...We did not need the Mars bars..Just think how happy the kids will be...And besides, where is your Christmas spirit?..After all, it is a time for giving...." retorted my conscience

As the two chided each other, my thoughts went back to the humble porter boy who,despite his limitations and troubles, went about his daily life making the world a warmer, safer place. If only there were more like him...

For a brief moment, I felt a warm glow within as I recalled the smile of happiness which lit his face as he put away the biscuits and chocolates.
Yes, I had done well indeed...




*Pythiakari = Mad [ Tamil]
**Boney = The first remuneration of the day which is deemed to be auspicious. It is believed that a good boney will ensure that the day would be profitable and vice versa. The term is popularly used by small commercial establishments and locals who offer services like cabs, porterage, etc.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Offering

Yesterday, Santa left me a wonderful Christmas present in my stocking.
A diary from my youth, which I believed had succumbed to the ravages of time.
I spent most of the night reading the thoughts as I traversed the rocky path from adolescence to adulthood. At times, I smiled at the innocence of the child I was. And at other times, my wisdom awed me. But when I had turned the last page, there only remained a sense of amazement....Even after 15 years, there were very many beliefs which remained unchanged.
And in the true Christmas spirit of giving and sharing, I offer my world as a gift, a few glimpses of my journey:
November 1989
Someday I'll find someone who will love me to distraction, cherish me and pamper me. Someone who will share my burdens with me and help me laugh through my troubles. I know I will find this special person because if I exist with all my flaws, there must be a match made for me endowed with vast reserves of love to lavish on me. Someday I will find my second half

May 1990
I loved "My Left Foot" which is about Christy Brown - a victim of cerebral palsy who actually typed out a whole book with the toe of his left foot. Amazing!!!. Maybe someday I will too write a book. And the book will become famous. What I loved about Brown was his perseverance and the God Awful tantrums he threw. Well, I may not have the patience or the genius to write a book in this lifetime, but I can most definitely put into effect the latter
December 1990
The one thing people around me must understand is that there are facets of my personality they cannot touch or satiate. I need my space. And I need to be free.

February 1991
I wonder if my diaries will ever be found years later..Something like Anne Frank's Diary. Wow!! What a Thought!! I better watch my language & handwriting.
August 1991
A little love goes a long long way in raising the spirits of those less fortunate than ourselves...

March 1992
The best part of having a brain and a heart is that one is endowed with the ability to glean a few precious nuggets from life and store them away as lovely memories. Such cherished memories are so important for our survival - when the going is tough, just the thought of lovely moments from the past makes me feel that life is worth living.

January 1993
The most difficult thing on earth is to find people who can accept you for what you are - every fibre of your being and every shred of your soul for what it is.

June 1994
Ten percent of the time, even your best friend may hurt you by saying something utterly thoughtless
July 1994
I think the most difficult thing for human beings is unconditional love. There are always so many strings attached - parental, filial, sibling,lover. People want relationships as if it is some kind of a contract....As if it needs to fit a preset mould.

November 1995There is a world of difference between wanting to do something and having to do something. The latter is almost like being black mailed!!!

January 1996
Love is a double edged sword. At times, it wraps you in a warm, secure cocoon. And then there are times, when no matter how bad you feel, you have to take into consideration the feelings of the other person and sometimes, even swallow your pride.
December 1996
Isn't it amazing just how we never stop wanting? It is like when we get something we want very badly, we find something else to wish for earnestly.

August 1997
Sometimes I wonder if this emotion called love is a creation we force on ourselves. Are we more in love with love than with a person? I think sometimes love becomes a habit over time.
December 1997
Why is everyone so afraid of death? Is it because they are afraid of the unknown? And are unwilling to let go of what is known and defined for what is unknown? Or is it the fear of pain before one begins his journey into the unknown?

April 1998
People are fools seeking pots of gold at the ends of rainbows. And when they fail, they need to blame someone. God is such a convenient scapegoat. Once upon a time, I too believed in a God. Because it was convenient to ask Him the all important question - why?

August 1999
When you are at the nadir, the easiest solutions to your problems may not always be the best.

May 2000
Brooding never helps. All you want to do is sit in the dark..sheltered from the prying eyes of the world and lick your wounds. But then, one sunny morning, when you venture out into the world after your self imposed confinement, you are often at a loss as to what to do... Because Life has raced on ahead while you were away.

January 2001
Loneliness can be such a scary state to be in. It kills all feeling in you. Makes you wither away - not being able to feel the world around you or appreciate the lovely things that you stumble across in your day-to-day-life. You just get through your days without feeling, not caring if it is a Monday or a Saturday.

August 2002
How many of us put out 75% for a meagre 25%? or are such instances only exclusive to fools?

May 2003
Complete independence can be such a heavy burden to carry. Having to look out for yourself. Knowing that if you do not, then nobody else will.

December 2008
The Second Half Exists! Life Is Indeed Beautiful...
Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No Man's Land

It was a cataclysmic morning in the Moggie Household.
After a lazy Sunday at home, the moggies were all tanked up on energy. And to add fuel to fire, we had all woken up this morning with frayed tempers and the proverbial Monday morning blues. The stage was set for fireworks and in no time, Dsk and I were engaged in a war of words. Outside in the back yard, Ging managed to clamber half-way up the mango tree and mewed furiously to be rescued.
Sadly, neither parent obliged and eventually, kitty learnt a much needed lesson in gravity.
The cat who came down the tree looked and rumbled like a little thunder cloud. Pretty much like her muttering mom who fixed herself a steaming hot cuppa and plonked herself in front of the laptop in search of a sympathetic shoulder.
As kitty and I sat glowering, Vin, an old friend from home, pinged me on MSN. She was obviously trying to unwind at the end of a hard day's work while I was huffing and puffing in indignation before mine had even begun. Either way, the stage was set for a heated Venusian heart-to-heart on martian foibles.
A good half hour of venting was all it took to open the flood gates and get our creative juices gushing forth at full force.
" You know Vin, we should found a little town or village or whatever for women only...No men allowed..."
" Yeah sure..count me in Rekz...I am all for it"
" Maybe there already is some place like that...I think I will google..."
"Just think of it...a life without men...we could call it Emancipation Town!!!"
Obviously, Vin's sense of adventure remained quite untouched by time.
For a moment, a picture of her cherubic face with pursed pink lips and her lovely brown eyes aglow with excitement floated in front of me. How I wished I could have turned on the web cam to see her dear face after all these years. But the realisation that I sat, unwashed & unkempt, in my scruffy Green John Beer night shirt deterred me.
" It would be more like Happy Town for me!!!"
" Whatever the name may be, it does not matter."
At my end, I couldn't help but smile at her irrepressible spirits.
" I am sure there will be quite a few takers!!!"
" Yeah, well maybe we can even offer vacation packages for women...."
" You bet!!!"
" And no entry for women from our spouse's families?"
" Oh absolutely!!!"
A moment of companionable silence followed as both of us sat on our respective sides of the ocean, happily mulling over the thought of a world without spouses or in-laws. I was rather enjoying the visions in front of me, when I was rudely interrupted by a flash of green.
A singing quartet of winged green bucks!!! And they proceeded to merrily sing & jig all around me!!!
"Babes, we could make a lot of money, you know?"
" Absolutely"
" We could be rich!!!"
" And famous!!!"
" We need to recruit more eves to the cause.."
" You should blog about this..."
" Oh yes, I can, can't I?.." I had already begun to feverishly compose platitudes about our Utopia.
" Of course you should...we girls need all the laughs we can get...Just so that we survive..."
*deep long sigh*

Saturday, December 20, 2008

About Rats & Cats... :) :)

Absence does make the heart grow fonder. I was back home after a long haul & kitty and I were spending quality time together.
We cuddled together on the sofa..Chased each other round the house...Played swipe and catch from under the bed...And eventually, I left Ging to her own devices as I turned my energies to my rather neglected blogs. Assuming that the moggies were otherwise engaged, our resident mouse ran in for a quick scrounge in the kitchen.
Sadly, he scampered straight into the demon kitty who could barely suppress her excitement and glee at the discovery of a live toy. As the startled creature ran for cover with Ging in hot pursuit, I discovered an ugly rodent of the cyber kind. Our very own parasitic cyber stalker, Ms. Cleveland, Ohio!
Careful investigation revealed that the rat had been out on daily forays into the Moggie territory over the past many days.

What could she possibly want? I mused to myself.
Probably searching for more material to disparage you, whispered the voices. Or perhaps, it was just an effort to draw our attention to some abusive gibberish which the delusional creature periodically tries to pass off as literary effort.
The beginnings of a smile curved the corners of my lips as I recalled the theatrics with which this verminous creature swore she would visit the moggies no more. It appeared that, like all hypocrites, the lady had indeed protested overmuch and was now sneaking into Moggie Land through little apertures when our eyes were trained else where!!!
But despite the amusement, I was also in a bit of a quandary
Do we let the pest know that we were on to her and that she had fooled none?

Obviously, she was desperate for some sign of acknowledgement, even if it came in the form of abuse. So should we put the vermin out of her misery by tossing a few written crumbs her way?
As I lazily pondered the matter, from the corner, came a little dissenting miaow
"Let it be mommy...Rats will always be rats...They are just not worthy of our attention..." As I raised a shapely eyebrow at my crouching tigress in the corner, her glowing grey eyes glinted once more " Well, except when we need toys to amuse ourselves with"






Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Right Royal Ride..

All through the past few months, I have watched the world around me fret and worry about the recession. And tighten their purse strings which, in my rather uninformed opinion, can only aggravate the situation. The recession is taking its toll on the morale and good humour of the vast majority. So it is with no great enthusiasm that I trudge out to work each morning.
My bad humour is mostly rooted in the fact that I am not a morning person. I tend to amble around in senseless circles till about 11 a.m by when the steaming mugs of near-black coffee would begin to disperse the fog in my mind.
This morning was no different. I stood groggily on the pavement outside my flat - caffeine deprived & clueless about the next logical course of action. I was weighed down on the one side by a giant laptop bag stuffed with paraphernalia, most of which I wasn't sure I needed but retained all the same. On the other side, dangled my plump snack bag which threatened to burst at its seams any moment. I was mentally redundant but continued to struggle valiantly to find my bearings in the sunny, noisy world around me.
The need of the hour was a ride to work, I decided. And no sooner had I identified the need, I spotted the solution in the distance, noisily chugging my way .
Sporting my best smile, I raised my hand to flag down the rickshaw. But my hand was arrested mid air by the sight of strange rays of light which seemed to emanate from within the rickshaw. As I squinted and blinked moronically, the glinting tuk-tuk glided to a stop right in front of me..Much like an alien carriage.
A beaming waif, sporting a faint growth of fuzz on his chin, beckoned invitingly at me as I continued to gape rudely at his vehicle.
A good whole moment of unabashed staring brought home the realisation that the glint which almost seared my eyeballs was no part of an alien space ship. Nor was it metal cargo being transported to an unknown destination.
It was, believe it or not, a giant Taj Mahal crafted in steel. And even worse, it had a picture of Aishwarya Rai-Bachan in mujra finery, plastered across its facade.
As I stared mutely at the apparition in front of me, the waif once again waved me in cheerfully.
You will only make a spectacle of yourself
warned the voices in my head
Imagine, riding into work seated on a red velvet mughal throne with the Taj Mahal almost on your lap? How much more ridiculous can you look?
For once, the voices made sense.
I could almost visualise the expressions of barely concealed glee on the faces of my colleagues if I was spotted in this contraption. But lady luck was obviously out for an extended coffee break, for there was no other transport in sight. Clearly it was my day for strange experiences of the historical kind and so gritting my teeth, I gingerly clambered in.
Up close and personal, the Taj Mahal was horrendous!!!
If it sported a star on its facade, the inside of the monument was no less stellar. Through the little windows, I could see a cheerful yellow sun with golden rays and white clouds!!! And the icing on the cake was its spired dome which bore the reflection of an illuminated Spiderman who hung off the ceiling of the rickshaw.
As I absorbed the scenario in front of me, I noticed that I had company!.
Flanking me on either side was a Hindu king who seemed more engrossed in wrestling with a giant toothless tiger than make conversation with me. But to make up for the sporting royal, there was the Bollywood hunk Sanjay Dutt looking a little hung-over from his dopey days.
As we regally made our way through the crowded roads, the waif -Rafeeq -flicked his wrist swiftly and suddenly, the entire rickshaw was flooded with high decibel but still inaudible strains of music encased in much static.I suspect it was Shehnai and suffered the cacophony with the vain hope that Rafeeq's periodic thumping on the sound box would prove effective. But eventually, my poor ear drums pleaded for reprieve and I had no choice but to insist that he turn off the music.
I reached work a good hour late....Not surprising when one considers the speed at which the rickshaw ambled forward. As I alighted at my destination, I could not resist asking Rafeeq if I could take pictures of his rather unique vehicle.
" Madam, you like? I fixed it only last week...I get Taj Mahal cheaper..Good time now to modify auto...Customer also enjoy...I have even sent picture to Udaya TV...Maybe they show on TV" Intoned the visibly puffed up Rafeeq as I clicked away on my handheld. But the best was yet to come "...Madam, you see my auto at night, with its inside lights on...It looks very nice.." And then, with a sudden note of hope in his voice "I pick you this evening from office? No extra charge? Then you take more photos? "
As I politely declined the gracious offer, suppressing the shudder that it evoked in me, I could not help but applaud the spirit of this humble auto driver who looked at the problem and saw only the opportunity it held out to him.
Perhaps there is a lesson in there for all of us who are still moaning and griping about the times we live in!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Being Type-Cast

A cold blustering morning. The chill in the air threatened to permeate my head, lungs and sinus.
So I casually flung my black pashmina over my head & sought an opinion from the lady in the mirror. Casual Chic, she confirmed smugly as I stepped into my black heels and put on my over sized dark glasses.
I swept into work with my head held high...a little like Greta Garbo, I imagined.
But my aplomb was soon to be shattered into smithereens!
" Oooh, you look like a Parsi lady" squealed one.
" No, Parsis do not wear head scarves...You look like a conservative Muslim woman.." pronounced an erudite second.
As I haughtily opened my mouth to educate the lesser mortals on the differences between a hijab and a casually wound scarf, a third quipped up
" You really should wear a bindi....how else will people know you are a Hindu?"
* deep sigh*


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Of Figures And Shapes

" Babes, how goes life?"
" Well, I guess.... I have lost some weight on my shoulders & face....."
* Perking up my ears for words of encouragement & praise*
" Hah, so you basically look like a old fashioned round bottomed flask?.....wide on the base??"
I am speechless....My friend does have a rather embarassing way of describing things.
Fortunately, she isn't above taking shots at herself either...
" You should see me now!!!..I have lost weight on my arms and legs. The torso, belly and the butt are still intact...I look and feel like..."
Hope springs eternal in the human breast..."A little potato with stick arms & legs??...."
" Nope....A giant albino spider"
:) :)



Confession for the readers' benefit: We didn't really use the word torso...the word was a wee bit coarser!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Rosemary For December

December is my month for remembrances....
It is the month I lost two beloved pets and an aunt who touched my soul in a very special way...
I do not remember the exact dates I lost them. Not that it matters much. The pain of loss was felt long after the day had ended, and still makes my heart throb gently every winter.
It might surprise some that I speak of a dog, cat and a beloved aunt in the same breath. Strange as it may sound, I probably have done so because all three of them had a lot in common....They were fiercely independent, adorably eccentric, loving to a fault and unafraid to follow their hearts.

Jack, the demented, love-hungry Alsatian who was my closest companion through my college years, came to us as a very large 2 yr old courtesy our friend Venu. At first sight, he put the fear of God into us as he staggered about drunkenly in his room, snarling and glaring most malevolently at his cowering owners. We almost turned our backs on him and scuttled for our lives, not daring to bring home a dog which could so very easily go for our jugular if his milk wasn't served at the right temperature.
And we were so wrong. For, beneath the thick fur of the mean killer machine resided the heart of an overgrown puppy.And a puppy he remained to the end of his days..accepting our love as his just due and demanding it peevishly when it was not forthcoming.
When Jack got mad, it was my clothes which bore the brunt of his rage. If not my clothes, then my pillows or my books or my glasses...Anything that remotely smelt of me was fair game. He delighted in brazenly running away from home, just for the sheer pleasure of watching the whole family huff and puff after him in hot pursuit,all over the neighbourhood pleading with him to stop. It wasn't that he was destructive or thirsting for freedom. Jack just loved to be the center of attention and had no compunctions about how he got there.
But we did have a lot of fun.With our innumerable games of catch which had us running around the long mahogany dinner table until we flopped dizzily down into a giggling, yelping heap..Exam nights spent under the starry skies with Jack being schooled by me in the laws of demand, supply and diminishing marginal returns or the Indian Mutiny of 1857....
When I left Trivandrum, it was Jack I missed the most and often went back to see. A few months before he died, I was home re-cooperating from a virulent attack of jaundice. Jack was my friend, playmate and my nursemaid - all rolled into one and we spent a wonderful 2 months together before he left us.
For sometime, the void Jack left in our hearts seemed to engulf our lives. No more pets, my broken hearted mother and I vowed to each other. And while she has not had another pet, fate had other plans for me.
Little Kat stormed into my life, through my bedroom window, one cold dark night. She didn't ask if she could stay and it didn't occur to me to ask her to leave. For you see, we belonged...right from the very first miaow.
Her world comprised of the two of us and none other, be it feline or mortal....No boy friends, no mothers, no friends...In short, no one. If I had visitors, Kat was quick to establish pecking order, which had her and me lording over everyone else. On one occasion, no sooner had I finished a breakfast of eggs on toast, Kat decided to flex her muscle by sampling the rest of the eggs which incidentally, my mother had reserved for herself. My mother was not amused in the least. At another time, she marched off for a war of words with my landlord who dared ask us for increased rent while renewing our lease. Needless to say, my landlord was, since then, careful to not ask for money in Kat's hearing. The cat seemed to know no fear at all. Why, even the dogs next door did not dare approach me for a ear scratch in the presence of my little feline.
Not only was kitty possessive of my affections but she was extremely solicitous as well. If I was ill in bed or were to sleep in on a Sunday, I could be very sure of a worried Kat materialising on our bed with a freshly slaughtered and disemboweled rat for my sustenance.
And she was the most independent cat I have ever known. As much as she loved me, she needed her space and would vanish for hours together to bask herself in some sunny spot. She vanished one November morning for a very long spell. To this day, I haven't the faintest idea as to where she went or even if she was cat-napped, ludicrous as the idea may seem. She came back home a good 30 days later...all skin and bones...with bruised & broken foot pads...And the look of death in her eyes. I guess she came home only to say good bye.

In stark contrast to the dramatic entries Jack and Kat made into my life, my aunt emerged from the shadows only when I stood on the threshold of adulthood.
My aunt Rugmini was one of the gutsiest people I have come across...And so unafraid to meet life head-on. As single mother and an immensely successful media executive, I assume life could not have always been easy for her. And I will never know.
I will never know if she ever cried when the going got tough or worried about survival or ever knew fear in any form. I think of her as a free spirit...A person who followed her heart and accepted the consequences without a murmur. For me, as was the case with most of the youngsters in the family, 'ammayi' was a delightful lady with a wicked sense of humour and ever ready to dispense advice on fashion, career and life in general. But above all, she never judged. I do not know a single cousin of mine whose life has not been touched one way or the other by this wonderful lady. If I were to think of a single woman who has had a profound influence on my professional life, it would have to be her.

We lost her last December....To Cancer. An instance of a lump in the breast ignored for too long. After 4 years of protracted battle with the killer disease, she was ready to leave us all - having tended to all her worldly affairs...having said her good byes...And having made peace with the true love of her life.
Jack, Kat and my Aunt must be the only three people, in my life so far, with whom I have no unfinished business...The only three associations in my life with which I am at peace. And I will carry them in my heart, right to my grave.
Maybe, this is why I will always associate Rosemary with December...After all, Rosemary's for Remembrance.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Terrorists? Naah,..This Is Chennai After All!!!

Never send a man in to do a woman's job, proclaim the male-bashers. Or better still, if you want a job done right the first time, send in a woman.....
Easier said than done, my friends.
What does one do when the woman who is supposed to do the job not only refuses to do so, but also confounds the daylights out of you by shadow fighting invisible demons around you?
This was what I had to contend with at the Chennai Railway station early this morning.
Considering the increased security at all stations and airports, I assumed that I could no longer indulge in the luxury of racing in at the last minute and chasing my train down the platform as I was want to do.
So for once, I was at the station early...
Truth be told, I was rather pleased with myself as I alighted from the cab with my countless bags.
And why ever not?
Here I was, being a responsible citizen and doing my bit to keep the motherland safe....The very thought put a spring in my step, even at that early hour!!
I cheerfully flagged down a semi drunk porter, who fortunately was too far gone to take umbrage. A few terse sentences later, we had arrived at his price and were on our way towards the friskers,beepers and the men in khaki.
My bonhomie went down a notch at the first entrance, which much to my surprise,seemed quite deserted. Even the guardians of the detector frames were missing in action. Every now and then, a stray citizen with a heightened sense of patriotism dutifully walked through the detector wearing a baffled expression that questioned the purpose of his act.
I would have liked to stop and stare and ponder on the mystery of the deserted entrance but the speed at which my inebriated porter was racing ahead precluded any such thought. So I raced after him through the bustling crowds as if my life depended on it. And in minutes, I had joined a score other passengers in a queue that slowly snaked towards the beepers. Beside me an indolent, pot-bellied cop yawned..Once...Twice....And then I forgot to focus, because my attention was arrested by the sight of my porter who adroitly sidestepped another slumbering man in khaki to run around the beepers and into the station.
I grimly looked around for a vigilant officer of law, half expecting one to spring out from behind the detector frame and pounce on the porter. But no one emerged. It appeared that the only eyelid being batted in surprise was mine. Apparently, miscreant porters dashing past security lines was quite the routine and no acts of terror anywhere else in the country was going to effect any change in the system!!!
As for my rogue, did he even stop to glance back at me?.... Oh no, he did not!...
He forged on ahead to goodness knows where, while I fumed in the queue and bid goodbye to my worldly belongings. Fortunately for me, he was not just drunk and without sense, but was also unschooled in numbers and alphabets. As I watched his retreating back, he stopped short in front of a display board and stood there swaying, with my bags on his head, peering uncertainly at the streaming information.
Heaving a sigh of relief and sending up a prayer of gratitude to the powers above, I turned my attention back to the business of being frisked and searched.
Indignant complaints about the miscreant porter died on my lips as I realised that people ahead of me in the queue were merrily dashing through the beepers and past a lady cop with a frisker who seemed more interested in practising her backhand than frisk people. This was indeed a state of affairs to be remedied...
Patriotism rose to my mouth as bitter gall as I watched her prancing around sweeping and stroking the air around her...and occasionally jabbing some invisible foe.
" Excuse me, but I am waiting for you to frisk me"
" Oh, that's OK madam...you can go on"
" Are you not going to frisk me???" My voice dripped with saccharine sweet venom which glided off her back with no seeming effect. Clearly, her invisible foe merited greater attention because with a long suffering expression she tried to wave me on
" Madam, please carry on..."
" How can you not scan me??? Or anyone else? Did you not hear about the attacks in Mumbai?? It started in the railway station...."
" Madam, I can see that you are not a terrorist..." She explained patiently, all the while eyeing a point beyond me with increasing malevolence. If I didn't know better, I would have assumed that she was trying to turn her xray vision on to my form to scan for concealed arms and ammunition.
" And you are allowing porters to walk around the detectors...Do you realise how easy it would be for anyone to put a bomb in the station or any train??..."
Behind me, I could hear a gentle rumbling. Aha, more patriotic citizens making their displeasure felt, I gleefully thought as I wheeled around to deliver a rabble rousing speech....But, much to my dismay, I was faced with a series of cross, disgruntled faces. Someone in the crowd said I should take my argument elsewhere. Another grumbled all too loudly about modern day girls who were all too anxious to seek trouble where it did not exist. People, it seemed, had trains to catch and lives to live which did not offer much scope for terrorist involvement.
As I swallowed down my anger and frustration, the lady Don Quixote in Khaki sought to reassure me
" Don't worry madam...which terrorist will come here? After all, this is Chennai..."

Numb with shock, I could only allow myself to be carried forward by the surging crowd...towards the perplexed rogue porter who was still peering at the streaming information.
I think I shall be a wee bit more careful the next time I am tempted to moan and gripe about Chennai. After all, one can never say when one's words will come back to bite her on her posterior!!!
Talk about cosmic retribution...
* deep long sigh*

Sunday, November 30, 2008

How Dare They???

Sonia Gandhi who now declares "We can no longer sit back....."
This after almost 5 years of governance!!!

Sure you can't sit back, lady...Not with elections round the corner.

L.K Advani & Raj Nath Singh who refused to participate in the Government's all party meet because they wanted to go campaigning...
Non participation makes the blame game so much easier, does it not?

The CM of Maharashtra who visited the Taj with his entertainer son and a film director in tow...
Gifting Idea for the Deshmukh family: A copy of Julius Caesar with the "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion" quote flagged for easy reference???

R.R. Patil, the Dy. CM of Maharashtra, who claims that such incidents can happen in a big city
What if it had been the state Government which was held hostage in its seat of power?

Abhishek Singhvi who told the survivors of the ordeal, & an entire nation, that if R.R Patil remotely meant what he said, to trivialise the acts of terror in anyway, he would be the first to condemn him.
Seriously Mr. Singhvi, who bloody cares what he meant?

Interestingly, in the NDTV show 'We The People' aired earlier this evening, Barkha Dutt mentioned that the channel had attempted and failed to rope in several politicians to participate in a discussion with the survivors of the ordeal and a few leading citizens of the city. Apparently, Abhishek Singhvi was the only one who accepted the gauntlet.
So why didn't Ms. Dutt name the politicians and expose them for the yellow bellied skunks they are?

Post Update
And just when we thought the politicos couldn't sink any lower, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the "lipstick & powder" gaffe and V S Achuthanandan of " ....Even a dog would not have visited that house" fame, stepped up to restore the public's faith in the Slime Quotient of our politicians.

When will we see light at the end of the tunnel???

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mommy Fetch!

Yet another rainy day in Chennai city.
I had spent the greater part of my day flipping through NDTV & CNN-IBN and devising new methods of torture for the terrorists in Mumbai.
Across the table, Ging napped on my favourite chair.
A wet little mouse screwed his courage to the sticking point and ventured inside timidly, seeking shelter from the pelting rain....straight into the path of two startled moggies.

I glanced at Ging in excitement, half expecting her to pounce on the mouse and mince it to mush.
But instead, a pair of of luminous grey eyes glowed back, flashing an urgent message at me

"Mouse, mommy....GO FETCH..."

@#$@*^&$!!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Salut Mumbai!!!

The terror and carnage is back....Once again, India bleeds. This time, we have been hit where it really hurts!

Mumbai is a city besieged...And the nightmare continues even as I type.
Like millions across the country, I can only suppress my horror and pray for some reprieve...Mumbai needs our prayers like never before.

Brave men have laid down their lives....Civilians, Commandos, Policemen, Tourists......Innocent people are still being killed. May God keep their souls and grant their loved ones the strength to cope with the loss. The media, as expected, is turning this into a circus. The only saving grace is that the blame game is not on...Thank goodness for small mercies!
The name of the outfit responsible matters no more....The Lashkar, SIMI or Mujahiddins of any nomenclature....What is in a name, after all? Terrorists, by any name, are still terrorists.
The only thing that matters is that the situation be dealt with with an iron hand... By the concerned agencies, the Government and by each and every denizen of this country.


When I spoke to friends and colleagues in Mumbai this morning, I was amazed to hear that life still goes on. People are out at work, on the roads, thumbing their noses at those who would tear asunder the fabric of our nation...
Bravo Mumbai, Bravo!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Lost Anniversary & A Goodbye Left Unsaid

It has been one year since we moved in. Artfully hidden somewhere in the next two weeks, is the day Ging walked into our lives and mewed us into submission. Sadly, none of us can remember the actual date, because a case of mistaken identity left us oblivious to her entry into the moggie household.

End November 2007, Dsk, Orange and I moved into our present house. For those not in the know, Orange was our indolent tabby who had come into our lives just 6 months before. He was the exact replica of Ging..Only fatter, less demanding and capable of infinite love. Although he lacked the independence of most other cats I knew, he was my special cuddle bunny who allowed me to smother him with affection, never letting go of any opportunity to snuggle into my arms.

Shifting a cat to a new home can be a daunting prospect as most cat moms know. Even so, I wasn't worried. Moving Orange, I assumed, would not be a serious problem. After all, he was such a low maintenance kitty. As long as I was in sight and on hand for some tender loving, I believed that Orange wouldn't protest overmuch. And he didn't...Not when I put him into the unfamiliar carrier for the first time in his life....Nor when he and I rode the broken, bumpy roads to our new home. It was only confinement that he took exception to.

A month after we moved in, Orange broke a little window on the landing and set out to discover the new world around him. For two weeks, I fretted and worried. And when a thinner and noisier cat reappeared on the doorstep, I was far too happy and relieved to suspect that life had switched cats on us. By the time I realised that the kitty which seemed drunk on freedom was in fact a whole different feline, Ging was in charge.

I saw Orange just once after.
He popped in to say hello and much to Ging's horror, stayed on for one last cuddle in my arms...Before strolling away jauntily, into another pair of warm, loving arms. Or so I hope.

It was a farewell of sorts...I see that now...
And he left in his stead, a little feline monster with an aversion to intimacy except when faced with the possibility of loss.

I would like to think that Orange knew the world was filled with hearts to love him and made way for a temperamental little diva called Ging, whom only a true lover of animals could accept into their hearts....Perhaps he sensed that she and I were, in a sense, kindred souls who needed and belonged with each other....
Because as I sit on my weather beaten couch with Ging gently snoring beside me, her paw just about touching my thigh, I realise that the excruciating pain of losing Orange has waned....And the wistful longing which used to grip me in the past has now given way to fond memories that warm my soul.

I suppose the time has come for me to say, with all my heart, God Speed Onj...Welcome Home Ging....And yes, Happy Anniversary House!!!.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Great Indian Train Chase...

Have you ever run after a departing train and managed to board it just in the nick of time? As Kajol did, years ago, in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge...And as Kareena failed to do, more recently, in Jab We Met?

Well, I did this morning....And, it was nothing like in the movies!!!

For starters, there were no handsome heroes, either on the train or off it, to make the run worthwhile. At 5:45 a.m, potential candidates were still tucked in their warm cozy beds, oblivious to my plight on platform no. 7 of Bangalore's central railway station. All I had by way of company was an unkempt porter in clothes that reeked of sweat and with a breath so stale, that I am sure, every little microbe in the vicinity must have quietly curled up and died.

He looked, smelt and sounded like a typical Bollywood villain's flunky.
But, with my train due to depart in precisely 10 minutes from a platform right across the station and no other porter in sight, my options were limited. Come hell fire or high tide, I had to board that train home. And so, the villainous porter and I ran as if the hell hounds were breathing fire at our heels.

I wish I could claim to have run as gracefully as the Bollywood heroines. But sadly, I was bogged down by several layers of lard, a rather large hand bag as well as a laptop bag about to burst at the seams. And, I am afraid that I must have resembled a podgy little potato rather than a sinuous beauty....A squat little spud on heels who huffed and puffed and jerked and jolted all the way up and down the stairs and across the bridge until the train was in sight. To add insult to injury, the villainous porter who bore my cases on his head not only outran me with ease, but also paused at intervals to cheer me on!!!

We managed to make it into the train with a minute to spare.
While the porter stashed my bags away, I sank with relief into my seat gasping like the proverbial fish out of water....Given the sweat bath my body was experiencing, I probably smelt like one too.
Baggage stowed away safely, the villain turned hero beamed in triumph at me. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, a voice warned me against making hasty judgements about people. As I wheezed out my gratitude to this most unlikely of knights, I was accosted by a grubby outstretched palm which I promptly lined with three crisp 50 rupee notes.
" Madam, ini 150 kodi....." [ Madam, give me 150 more]
The noxious fumes from his mouth quite overwhelmed me. Too exhausted to argue, I extracted a crisp 100 and as I rooted for more amongst the jumble in my bag, the train jerked and gently began to move. The villain porter grabbed the 100 in my hand and had dashed down the passage, out of the door and onto the platform....Before I could even say Shakthi Kapoor.
*Hmmmph*
Once a villain, always a villain!!!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Belonging

At times, what you want desperately is something you cannot have.....
.
And yet, in a mysterious cosmic way, it is yours.

:) :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Ambition For Self Destruction

There is a battle raging in my body!!!.. And I didn't even know...
I had always assumed that I was challenged as far as issuing directions went. If I said right, the left hand would automatically pop up. And when the left was called upon to lead the way, the right was all too ready to upstage it. At first, I assumed I was being absent minded. But when months of diligent effort failed to rectify the mysterious cross responsiveness of my hands, I wrote it off as a trifling foible and one which would only enhance my cuteness quotient.
No small wonder that even remote acquaintances refuse to allot the role of navigator to me. However, the poor unsuspecting auto and cab drivers of South India who are not in the know, inevitably fall victim to my garbled instructions and often waste precious minutes retracing paths.

This morning, after I had confounded my umpteenth cab driver, self doubt struck.
I decided that I simply had to know if the mystery of my recalcitrant hands was rooted in some unheard of, unpronounceable disorder of the nerves. And an hour later, I had my answer. What seemed as a coordination disorder was merely a battle for supremacy between the two hands.
Yes indeed....believe you me, people!!!
Apparently, hands have Alphas too....

While most people's hands take turns at being the boss, it appeared that both of mine were clamouring for power and were unwilling to consider a compromise!!!

My new found knowledge explained why I was able to use both my hands dexterously. It explained the secret behind my swift typing skills...As well as my propensity for typos. And sadly, it also explained my clumsiness.
If there was a piece of china to be dropped and smashed into smithereens, liquids to be splashed, food to be spilled or a pile of cans to be tumbled at the supermarket, I was sure to rise to the occasion. How could I hope to be graceful and fluid in my movements if my hands were competing with each other instead of working as a team?? And if that wasn't bad enough, I realised that the many cuts, nicks and burns my fingers sustained over the years and of which scars remained, could only be attributed to the blood thirsty machinations of my own two hands.
Talk about cutting off one's own digits to spite oneself!!!
Clearly, both had not been listening when the rest of me was enraptured by Lady Macbeth's efforts to cleanse her hands!!!
So, how does one effect truce between such barbaric body parts? It wasn't as if I could pick one for neutering and resolve the situation!!! But a solution I had to find..Before my hands mutilated each other and I resembled a victim of a serious psychotic disorder!!!
As I pondered my options, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps my tendency to trip and fall at periodic intervals, for no obvious reason, could perhaps be yet another secret war raging in my body...between my feet!!!
*long deep sigh*
Warring hands.....Squabbling feet....Some people have all the luck, don't they???