Monday, September 26, 2005


I got to this quiz from Chai's post. I have always believed I am a red. And here is the result to prove me right!!

You are the color red. You are the most
controversial of all the colors. You are often
easily angered, but as easily as you got
excited, you come down. When angered, do you
have the tendency to be malicious? Afterwards,
do you end up begging for forgiveness? Maybe.
But you're incredibly generous, and, odd
enough, needy. You love to hate, and
sometimes, you hate to love. This color
describes you as generally edgy. When in a bad
situation, you're pessimistic, and when you're
in a good situation, you're extremely
optimistic. You're painfully tempermental, and
sometimes it hurts the ones you love. But with
an exciting and stimulating attitude, you enjoy
talking to people and being social. But aside
from your bold and outgoing attitude, you're
attention-needing and attention-getting. This
color is associated with lust and desire--and
you are both lust and desirous. You're a
protective person when it comes to the people
you love. You're incredibly sharp-witted and
powerful (not to mention intelligent!).

What color are you? (Amazingly detailed & accurate--with pics!)
brought to you by Quizilla

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Weekend Past...

Just an account of the weekend gone by...

AG and I started the weekend with a dinner at Tandoor on Friday. Tandoor is the Indian restaurant at Holiday Inn. It had been recommended by some colleague of AG's. We had booked a table thinking this would be necessary, it being a friday evening. But when we reached at 8:30, the place was two-thirds empty. The decor was an attempt at emulating the rajasthani style but the effect was unimpressive and the lighting was too bright which I though was a bad idea for a restaurant with not too good interiors. Now bright lighting is a very good thing if you have architectural details or ornate cornices or crystal chandeliers to show like the Tiffin room at Raffles, but if all you have are bad replicas of Rajasthani paintings, then I would say stick with soft, dim lights. Anyways we bravely went ahead and ordered food. I actually even ordered a cocktail (something that AG wisely refrained from). The cocktail was a poor concoction and it was brought to me in a simple ordinary glass, not even one of those fancy cocktail glasses. I knew then that this didn't augur well for the rest of the dinner. But nevertheless I looked forward to my tomato shorba. Ugh!.... that is the only thing I can say about that vile brew they brought in and called soup. And the paneer tikka we ordered with it was average. For main course we had asked for Handi chicken, roomali rotis, pudina paranthas and the ubiquitous dal makhani. The Handi Chicken had been described on their menu as chicken cooked in peshawari spices. I would advise them to change it to chicken drowned in peshawari spices... so strong was the taste of cardamom and cinnamon in the dish. The roti and parantha were disappointing, if anything could disappoint after what we had already been put through! The star of the evening was the humble dal makhani. It was among the best I have eaten. But what a pity the rest of the evening's experience was so off-putting. I don't think we will go back there.

Saturday, early morning saw us jostling among a few hundred other Singaporeans at the Suntec convention centre hunting for good travel deals at the NATAS fair. Thankfully we had gone there with a clear plan in mind. We would get in, buy a good deal for a 3 night stay in Cambodia and get out as fast as we can. The entire thing still took us 3 hours!! But at the end of it we had our bookings for a 3 night stay in Le Meridien at Siem Reap and return tickets on Silkair for the Diwali weekend in November. And we came out of the convention hall hungry enough to start gnawing away at our knuckles. Headed straight to Chutney Cafe in the basement food court at Suntec. IMO chutney cafe is the best place for authentic North indian fare at prices which doesn't require you to sell yourself first! And those people have now started buffet lunches on weekends. AG and I feasted on divinely soft garlic naans, tangy paneer makhani, dal, fish tikka masala, chicken curry and topped it all off with some delectable gulab jamuns. The weekend before AG and I had set out for Esplanade and ended up at Chutney cafe for evening tea. They serve some amazing samosas and to-die-for peas kachori... with fresh mint chutney and sweet tamarind chutney! The service is horrid but the food more than makes up.

Saturday evening... watched Salaam Namaste. Bedok Theatre does have some lousy management. And every time we go there they seem to have scaled new heights! This time they kept the whole crowd (and trust me there was quite a crowd!!) sweating and cursing in the staircase. But since Bedok is the only place showing Hindi movies, we are left with no choice but to grin and bear. The movie was VFM or paisa vasool as we would say in Bombay. Saif and Preity look great, though I do think it is time Preity had that facelift! And the movie has the usual feel of those in the Johar-Chopra genre. It also uses the taboo topic of live-in relationships... a first for a mainstream Indian movie. The music is average and the editing in the second half leaves much to be desired for. The movie starts well and the comedy from Javed Jaffrey hits all the right notes. Arshad Warsi is wasted in his regular comic side kick character. And Jugal Hansraj has been brought back from the dead to do a small nice-boy role, which is the only kind of role the poor guy can essay with some conviction. The idea itself is 'inspired' from the Hugh Grant starrer Nine Months and the last few scenes are a direct lift from the movie. But all said, the movie is worth a dekko.

Sunday, attended a desi blogger's meet at Mindcafe. Mindcafe is this lovely little hangout place tucked away on Prinsep Street and is based around this cool concept of board games. It provides a huge collection of board games to its patrons in addition to the usual cafe fare of fries and drinks. The meet itself was well-attended and was quite a bit of fun. It was a great opportunity to meet fellow bloggers and indulge in some general chit-chat. Here is a list of attendees:

Ended the weekend with Sehar. Now, I have always suspected that Arshad Warsi is a very good actor and can do far more than the funny side kick. Sehar has proved that these suspicions are well-founded. The movie has some excellent acting and slick, slick editing. The storyline is your usual good cop against bad thugs and corrupt system. But the acting, editing and dialogues have made this movie a delight to sit through. The dialogues are written in beautiful Hindustani and is like music to one's ears. A must watch!

Coming weekend, we have planned a trip to KL. Now wading through this week trying to reach the end of it. Hmph!

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Namesake: A review of the 1st 100 pages!

Am reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri or rather am reading it on my commute to and from work and then being haunted by the book for the rest of the day. And this book threatens to sweep me away in its flow. Many are the times when I have to stop reading, look up and blink to stem the tears that otherwise threaten to trickle down as I sit there in the bus reading the book. And many are the times when my throat is thick with emotion but a warm feeling of recognition runs through me... "Oh! I know how Ashima is feeling or I know how sad she must be or I know exactly how she must be craving for Indian food or just I know...". I have not progressed much through the book, still reading the initial portion where Gogol has started to realise that his name is rather unusual. But whatever I have read of the book has endeared it to me... its characters are people I see in me, in my friends who feel the same way... so far away from home and family, even in my mom who came to Bombay after her marriage and my dad who left his home in Kerala to come to Bombay when he was in his early twenties. Something needs to be said of the genius of the author who has managed to bring out the bereftness and the acute loneliness felt by the first generation Indian migrants who leave their country and their warm, extended families behind to make a life for themselves, in countries so different in every possible way from what they have always known as home. Jhumpa Lahiri is herself a 2nd generation migrant, born in London and brought up in Rhode Island. Inspite of this (or maybe because of this), she has managed to draw out every nuance of emotion that her parents might have felt.

The book starts with Ashima preparing an adaptation of that quintessential Indian snack... the bhel puri, using Rice Krispies (combining Rice Krispies and Planters peanuts and chopped red onion in a bowl. She adds salt, lemon juice, thin slices of green chili pepper, wishing there was mustard oil to pour into the mix.) Note the usage of the more pungent red onions so typical of India and not those colorless, insipid white onions which are common abroad. This is an example of how expertly Lahiri has managed to use simple actions to bring to life the small things we all do to keep alive the illusion of home away from home. One nods with understanding and empathy when the book narrates how Ashima repeatedly reads the couple of Bengali magazies she had brought along with her in her efforts to hold on to the littlest things that remind her of home. And then there is the fierce pride with which Ashima and Ashoke perseveringly cling to their culture... trying to christen their son with a 'bhalo naam' (name used for official purposes) and 'dak naam' (name used by family and friends) in accordance to the bengali tradition. There is also that lovely description of Gogol's anna prasan (rice ceremony... where a baby is fed solid food for the first time) which his parents try to celebrate in a manner as closely adherent to the traditions as possible (Ashima regrets that the plate on which the rice is heaped is melamine, not silver or brass or the very least stainless-steel).

Over time they develop friendships with other Bengali families whom they meet often to eat "shrimp cutlets fried in saucepans" and in true Bengali way discuss arts and how can one forget... politics (argue riotously over the films of Ritwik Ghatak versus those of Satyajit Ray. The CPIM versus the Congress party. North Calcutta versus South. For hours they argue about the politics of America, a country in which none of them is eligible to vote.) For their kids sake they cheerfully also adopt more and more of the American ways of life and the American traditions... Thanksgiving, Christmas, hot dogs and hamburgers. "Still, they do what they can." They also take the children to watch Kathakali performances sitar recitals and also the Apu triology!! They ensure the kids learn Bengali and also of Subhas Chandra Bose. They drag them to Saraswati and Durga pujos. As you read on the feeling strengthens that Ashima and Ashok are people you know and in a way are people that you are.

There is this very touching moment when Ashima learns of her father's death of a heart attack. And eventually there are many more of these bad news. "As their lives in New England swell with fellow Bengali friends, the members of that other, former life, those who know Ashima and Ashoke not by their good names but as Monu and Mithu, slowly dwindle". The kids, not having bonded much with their relatives, never comprehend the depths of their parents sorrow at these deaths and are "embarrassed at the sight of their parents' tears". And Lahiri drives home the desolation in a sentence which I think is going to stick with me for the rest of my life. She says... "In some senses Ashoke and Ashima live the lives of the extremely aged, those for whom everyone they once knew and loved is lost, those who survive and are consoled by memory alone."

Read the book if you are an Indian living abroad... it will speak to you and several times you will mentally hug it as you would a dear friend who empathises with you, read it if your parents were 1st generation migrants from India... the book will bring alive for you an aspect of their lives which you often must have felt and which must yet not have been something you could identify with or understand completely, read it if you have children or dear ones abroad... you will for once understand that their lives in those rich countries abroad is still so poor... bereft of the richness that comes from living at home, near loved ones.

Since I am only at the first 100 pages, I know it is too early to review this book or even say too much about it... having yet to touch upon the primary plot of the book. But I wanted to write this post now so that I can focus on these first few pages which have touched me so immensely. Let's see... if the rest of the book manages to fulfil the promise shown by these intial few pages then you will hear more from me of this book and its characters.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Our WOMAD experience

Went to WOMAD last saturday. WOMAD is this wandering music fest which visits Singapore every year for 3 days. AG and I had been seeing the handouts and flyers all over town and had been telling ourselves that this year no matter what we will make it to the fest. (Last year we got lazy!!!).

So Saturday, we reached the Fort Canning Park grounds at around 7:00, and found the place all crawling with fellow music lovers. The place was set up with 4 stages (Top stage, Fort Stage, Fort Green Stage, The Gallery) for the performances and myriad tents selling food, souvenirs, drinks, jewellery and even Reiki and palm reading.

Aparna, Vivek, Divya and Kanags had reached punctually and were already enjoying Bill Cobham (USA) playing the drums at Top Stage. We wandered around checking out the place and searching for what else... food :) Finally we settled for some Indian fare dished out from one of those tents and collected our complimentary bottles of Coke light. Filled up... we poked around at the various stages. First we listened in a bit at the Bill Cobham performance. The man was good but got repetitive so we moved on to the Fort Green stage where Idan Raichel (Israel) was playing from his first ever solo album. This too was not really our cup of tea and we decided to join the rest of the gang at the Fort Stage to watch Les Yeux Noir (France). And boy!! was it a clever move!! The band plays some incredible music inspired by Central European gypsy and folk tunes... instantly lifting and soulful at the same time. We twirled, tapped our feet, clapped, snapped fingers, swayed, did the slow gypsy hip wriggle... all to the music of these magicians. And to top it there was some delectable eye candy too. (Am drooling even as I write this!!) The lead singer was a charmer with his roguish looks, great sense of humor, killer smile. And as if this wasn't enough the man could sing divine and play the violin like magic. The drummer too was quite a killer!! After the performance I had to roll my tongue back in and force my jaw shut!

Right next to Fort Stage was the Top stage and we moved there to listen to Akim El Sikameya (Algeria). He started well and had the audience on its feet swaying and clapping from the very start. But the music tapered off and we soon moved back to Fort stage to watch Ravibandhu Vidyapathy and Ensemble from Sri Lanka. The musicians were attired in traditional Sri Lankan outfits and the instruments they carried were cousins of some Indian instruments. There were 2 different kinds of drums, the morsing, ghatam, an instrument very like the bansuri but shorter, and a few other instruments unique to Sri Lanka. The performance started 15 minutes late and the crowd was getting restive. But once they started they had the audience enthralled. The music was earthy and fast, interspersed with soulful interludes from the bansuri. Then there was the jugalbandi or thanyavarthanam, as it is called in carnatic classical music, where the various instruments played competing with each other.

They were still wrapping up when we left to attend the much awaited Dhol Foundation Workshop. The gallery was jam packed with eager fans of this group which plays the traditional Bhangra music. Sheema Mukherjee was still performing on the sitar when we arrived. She was uninspiring and a majority of the crowd looked clearly bored. But she played on blissfully unaware of the restive crowd and rudely ignoring the pleas from the organisers to wrap up as her time was long over and the next performer was waiting. The Dhol Foundation team started late and since it was a workshop, insisted on discoursing on the dhol and bhangra music to the audience which was impatiently waiting for them to actually play something. The rest of our gang moved on after a while to the Fort Green Stage where Apache Indian was to perform soon. AG and I lagged behind. We got lucky and after enjoying the Bhangra music for sometime we ran down to Fort Green Stage to catch Apache Indian and his group.

This was the icing on the cake of this wonderful evening. Both AG and I are old fans of Apache Indian and the man is a great performer. He had us sweating it out, jumping, screaming, dancing to his songs. And he performed all the old favorites... Arranged Marriage, Chak The, Boom Shak A Lak....

When he finished, it was past midnight and we hurried down to the road to catch a cab before the rest of the mad crowd would join us in hunting down the cabs or would start calling in for them. We got lucky and were soon bundled in a cab, hurtling home, bathed in sweat and drunk on music... telling each other how our bodies will hurt the next day and hoping the maid comes in late so that we get some extra time to sleep off. Also next day I was to attend a workshop at the National Library on Spoken Word Poetry. But that is for another post! Enough said for now!

Friday, August 26, 2005

A restaurant review - Saffron

AG had a S$20 voucher for Saffron and we being the foodphiles we are, couldn't wait beyond the first available friday to drop in. Also since AG had already eaten there with his colleagues and liked the chicken tikka and paneer makhani, he was ardently selling the idea of a Friday dinner there. So off we went last Friday.

Saffron is this rather small restaurant on one of the roads approaching boat quay. Since it is not on Boat Quay proper, it doesn't see the stampede that the restaurants situated on that stretch do. And it is also located in one of those quaint Chinese shophouse buildings. I reached before AG did and the doorman/waiter asked me to come in. I was pleasantly surprised because, 'one'...there was a doorman and he WAS standing at the door and 'two'...he had the presence of mind to ask me to wait inside. And when I refused he actually pulled out one of the chairs at the tables set outside. (By then I was almost fainting in surprise at finding this rare display of good service). So there I sat people-watching and waiting.

AG arrived soon and we betook ourselves in. The place was furnished with the mandatory Indian looking paintings and silk cloth framed thingamjigs that everybody who calls themselves a chic Indian eatery seem to be doing these days. We ordered our drinks (chardonnay for me and peach lassi for AG) and starters (chicken tikka and aubergine kebab). A coupla minutes later one of the waiters got us these pale-yellowish drinks in miniature glasses... 'Welcome drink ma'am' ... Wonders never cease I tell you!

AG and I sipped on the mango yoghurt drink, chatted about our day and waited for our order to materialise. Our drinks came in first... Syrah for me and AG's lassi... "Syrah??... But I had asked for the Chardonnay". An apology and some head shaking later my wine glass was brought in. The chardonnay was rather good... crisp and light and out of a fresh bottle, not poured out of a half-used bottle stashed in the refrigerator for half the week. The peach lassi was... well different. After about 30 minutes of waiting and listening to the rumblings of our complaining bellies we were delighted to see the waiter coming towards us with the starters. 'Tandoori Chicken' and 'Aubergine Kebab' he muttered as he placed the dishes on the table. I looked at the 'Tandoori Chicken' and then at AG. AG meanwhile was fuming. "Who took our order", he roared... the waiter came and stood before us like a lamb brought to slaughter. "Sorry sir, blah-blah--blah... so you see it was not my fault". "I don't care whose fault it was, but can I get my Chicken tikka and FAST".

Another 15 minutes spend downing wine and picking at the sad aubergine kebab, which by the way was aubergine stuffed with potatoes and cashew nuts and roasted in a tandoor. The chicken tikka arrived at last and it was worth the wait. Tender, fresh chicken marinated just right and tandoor-ed just right as well. Not as spicy as we Indians like it but then a major part of their clientele looked Caucasian and hence the careful use of chillies and chilly powder.

For main course we had paneer makhani and naan. Paneer was soft and fresh and the gravy was tangy, slightly sweetish, very creamy... one of the best paneer makhanis I have had in Singapore!

Food was quite good barring the aubergine mistake and made up for the botched up service. And then the location is a major advantage. I love the old building the restaurant is situated in. A post dinner long walk along Singapore river or a quiet chat, sitting on the steps at boat quay is an ideal way to end the evening. I guess we will go down again and try some other stuff they serve.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cold soup for the soul

I like the way some words sound... when you say them aloud you know that the sound they make are very appropriate for the meaning they convey and that they convey that particular meaning better that any other word could. Like cantankerous... doesn't it sound so crotchety and cross. Oh... also cross... it sounds cross (if you know what I mean) :). And stutter... it is so onomatopoeiaic.
Then there are words which sound so beautiful when said aloud like...
music (say this in a whisper... 'myuzic')
wilderness (lisp at the 'ess')
mystical (stress on the 'ist' of 'myst'-ical)
elfin (I like this one since my J R R Tolkien days)

And then there are a set of words which when said together and in a particular order have a lovely effect.
For example I like:
sweet, slow, soothing (feeling de-stressed already!)
mystical, magical music
slow, sensuous circles
calming caress

Many a times I have ordered food at a restaurant serving exotic cuisine based on how the dish sounds (gazpacho, bee hoon... ). Most restaurants have a small description of the dish below its name and I am a sucker for these write ups. In fact I order stuff which I otherwise wouldn't sit at the same table with and eat it heartily... all because the description sounded absolutely divine.
Actually something similar got me thinking on the subject of this post. Yesterday I passed by this cafe which was serving cold chunky tomato soup with cucumber and coriander salad. Those words 'cold soup' set my mouth watering :) I could almost taste those two words on my tongue and let me tell you they tasted sublime... cold, sweet, peppery, tangy, soupy... hmmm... am hungry again and off to lunch. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

You and I

You and I
lying there...
askew, as-we-please,
beneath the pink and blue sheets.
A hundred hands,
mutithousand tongues.
The passion we just played
still shrilly running
in circles over us,
the eddies of sweat
swirling slower.
Any moment now...
we will return,
wrapped in protective layers
to our unbeautiful worlds.
We will take with us
our fists and angry eyes
and leave here waiting
our nakedness and smiles.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The new breed of Bombayites

On my last visit to Bombay, I took a walk through the station road which is among the busiest of places during a weekday evening when people are returning from work or shopping at the market. Ended up feeling like an alien... all lost and clueless... completely vulnerable and clawless against the normal junta which pushes, spits, gropes, swipes, mutters, curses its way out. But the feeling was only momentary. The 1st few minutes were the most difficult because I was still in a different frame of mind and was yet to wear my 'bindaas' mask. After the realisation struck... I stopped in the middle of the road and shrugged my shoulders, arranged my face in the forbidding and don't-u-dare-mess-with-me look and then walked on, this time even my gait had changed. Gone was the aimless, carefree sauntering I had been doing... I was now walking faster, grinding the earth beneath my feet, keeping my ears twitched to the slightest of things, my sixth sense sharpened and the eyes in the back of head, wide open. This time I was aware of who was walking upto me from behind and trying to grope me or who was walking from the front and trying to bump into me. I was now avoiding them with the ease of a maestro conducting a concert. I was also cutting my path through the masses of people and cows and dogs without any effort. While before I had been muttering polite excuse me's and going unheard, I was now being given way without having to say anything. It was as if, earlier the people on the streets had ignored me, knowing I am a stranger without the slightest notion of how to make my way through the crowd and now the same people were suddenly aware that I was one of them and hence not to be messed with.

Bombay streets can be particularly frustrating for a non-bombayite to walk on. They are full of people in a perpetual hurry even if they are only taking their habitual morning/evening walks. Nobody ever saunters or walks slowly. If you do dare exhibit such daredevilry... you also need to be prepared for the curses and angry mutters that will come in from all sides and at times even rude pushes to get you out of the way. Here people don't walk like that even in parks... everywhere, everytime, everybody is always in a hurry... to get somewhere, to accomplish something.... even if it is a peaceful morning walk. And if you are a Bombayite... you have been groomed by the city to be 'like this only'... you don't know what a slow, leisurely walk means, you don't know the meaning of the word 'slow', you don't have the time or the ability to understand it. You are always in a hurry... to catch the 9:05 fast, to get the bus to Seepz, to get to office before it is 9:00 to get the 6:35 fast back home, to get home in time to pick up the kids or to watch your favorite serial or even to just be home... you are always rushing towards every moment, hurriedly, headlong, ceaselessly.

And this attitude I took with me (as if I had a choice or knew any better) when I took up my 1st job in the Infosys development centre at Mangalore. Now Mangalore is a sleepy little town in the south of India. It is beautiful, green and unhurried. Life there goes on at a pace a lot slower than in Bombay. People sit around on their huge verandahs drinking their morning cuppa coffee or tea and reading the newspaper or gossiping with neighbours over the low wall separating their house from their neighbour's. After dinner or on weekends I would go for long walks with my friends. There too I would keep darkly muttering at people walking ahead. They were always too slow for me. I would even yell at times... 'If you want to walk so slowly, why can't you go to a park. You are blocking the way by ambling around like that.' My friends would slink far away from me and look around guiltily. They would later laugh at me and remind me that we were only taking a walk and not in a hurry. I would look indignantly and in disbelief that they seem to think that the whole incident was my fault.

Slowly the place's charm rubbed onto me. I found myself walking slower, behaving patiently when the person being served ahead of me at the chemist's had a 20 minute long small talk with the chemist discussing mutual cousins thrice removed or the weather we experienced last week! From yelling at them to hurry up, to simply fidgeting and stomping to then even listening in attentively, my transformation was complete on the day I confidently butted in and added my two paisa worth! I was horrified... had I been non-Bombay-ized!?! Sis laughs at me and tells me how I have been ruralized and now am a gaon ki ladki... no longer the urban smart cookie... no longer the in-your-face Bombayite. But I disagree... I think I have mastered the art of playing both roles with aplomb. I can now, when in Rome do as the Romans do, I no longer wear my Bombayite attitude on my sleeve or shake it like a fist under someone else's nose. Yet everytime I go back to Bombay, I don the bindaas-ness of Bombay and it becomes me, even comforts me like an old pair of clothes which have been worn so many times and for so long that they feel like second skin. I now pat myself on my back for having achieved this selective behavior. I can hum and saunter luxuriously, stop to chat with an acquaintance, sit at my window and watch people pass by and not feel guilty or uncomfortable. At the same time I can walk confidently in a rude busy mob of thousands, listening to my MP3 player, nodding at an acquaintance without stopping or slowing down and not feel lost or threatened or hampered in the crowd.

I wear my many hats with suaveness and confidence. I am a globalized, ruralized Bombayite... and there are many like me. We don't look lost or out of our element when taken out of Bombay and put in any other place. We borrow our attitude from that place and roll up our sleeves or let our hair down as the place dictates. We are at home anywhere and everywhere and yet count on Bombay as home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


routine moments
streaming in,
peeking at the windows,
crowding at the doors,
rushing in
then two,
then ten,
and hundreds,
Rushing in.
Nudging, elbowing, grabbing...
pushing, pushing, heaving.
Stony faces,
Closing in,
overwhelming me...
by the thousands,
by the millions.
Clawing, pawing,
kicking, picking.
Taking over
as I struggle
and as I give up.
Moving in...
closer still,
breathing my air,
wiping my thoughts,
eating my mind,
shredding my soul,
slashing out my eyes...
until finally,
I cower,
I accept,
I submit.
Then emerge...
now one of them
as if I always was
just another

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Amway Brigade

I got my millionth letter from Poetry.Com today in response to one measly poem I had posted there a few months back. A few weeks after posting the poem I got this mail from them, informing me that it has been selected as a semi-finalist in their monthly poetry contest and stands to win a 1000 USD!!! I was of course beside myself with joy. Fast on its heels came another mail requesting permission to publish my brilliant poem, which of course I readily gave with a few hundred kilos of blessings and thank-yous as well. Now my joy would have filled up the Atlantic Ocean! But there was a small hitch here… they wanted me to pay them 50 bucks to own one of these books with my priceless poem in it. Here my legendary miserliness saved the day. ‘Hmmm…’, said I… “I thought you made money if somebody published something your wrote… here not only am I not making a single paisa but also I will need to pay a whole lot to just buy one of these books, fishy… very fishy!”. Well… another mail… and this time raving about a soon to be held poetry convention where my work has been chosen to be presented before many poet laureates. Alongwith another figure… this time some 200 bucks!! Now I was beginning to smell the whole fish market in this story. It wouldn’t have taken Her Majesty’s 007 to solve this puzzle… they really didn’t give a damn about how good/bad my poem was. Poof… that was me deflating back to normal size. Someone then told me that she had posted ‘Mary had a little lamb’ and got the same gushing response to it. Oh well… and since then have received dozens of mails from the website regarding the convention including as many enticing details as possible. Oh… and the most hilarious of all being the instruction to bring an extra suitcase along to carry the heavy silver trophy/platter I will be awarded at the convention. Today I guess, those dolts finally gave up on me biting the bait and paying up to make it to their precious convention but then you got to give it to them… they are inspiringly, scarily persistent… as a final effort they have written that since regrettably I can’t make it to the convention, I can still pay to have my poem presented and also to have my gifts shipped to me. Ha dude… you are barking up the wrong tree this time!!

(Looking smug and one-up here, since I am usually one of those that buy something from those sad looking salespersons coz I am too nice to turn them away). Ah a scary thought… what if this website had someone to do personal sales… something akin to Amway. And while we are at it… Amway salespeople are like ‘Gabbar Singh’. If you are familiar with Hindi movies, specifically Sholay, there is this famous scene where Gabbar boasts of his notoriety by telling his fellow dacoits, how in faraway villages mothers scare their kids by telling them… ‘Go to sleep child, else Gabbar will come and get you’. If I am behaving badly and you want me to sober up, all you have to do is threaten me…’ Behave yourself Anu, else an Amway salesperson will come get you’.

Most people I know have a dozens of Amway horror stories to tell and it is indeed sad, because most of these people have been relentlessly hunted and pursued by friends, colleagues, relatives and neighbours...until they have been cornered, nailed and converted over. I have personally seen friends turn into social pariahs in their pursuit to make that extra buck. The last time I was baited was in my last place of work. I was new to the place and eager to make friends... a colleague walked upto me, introduced himself and indulged in some small talk. He told me how his wife likes to meet new people and how I seemed so much her type and how we would hit it off so well. He asked me for my contact number, I gave him my phone number and promptly forgot about it. But that evening, while I was still at work, his wife called me up, and asked me if I were busy. "Well, hmmm, I am but if it is something urgent and won't take up too much time we can talk now', I said, puzzled and taken aback. Vrooom..... blah-blah-yak-yak... off she started on how she has this wonderful business proposition for me and how I would make millions. I had no idea what had just hit me. "Well I am new to Singapore and still settling in here... Can we talk some time later when I have found my feet in this place". "Oh", she says (in the tone of one who has just been tossed into a bucket of cold water but is still hopeful), "When can we talk then, shall I call you up tomorrow?”. "No, I meant a few months... maybe I could call you up in around 2-3 months". Before you could say Robinson Crusoe, this lady had hung up, but not before she had dealt her parting shot... "Please don't mention this discussion to my husband when he is in the office, he doesn't like to talk business in office." 'Neither do I lady'... but I was left saying this to myself. She had meanwhile hung up. Now fast forward to 2 months later, Sunday morning and I am still sleeping the sleep of the dead... A phone rings. I curse and pick it up. Who do you think could have called... yep!! That unputdownable lady from Amway. (Do they ever give up!!?) But by this time, I had developed a weapon to counter their thick skull and skin... 'Nope I AM NOT INTERESTED' said I... firmly and angrily. That was the end of that. (hopefully)

Anna of Sepia Mutiny has recently posted her experiences with the (in)famous Amway sales force under the title The only time I'm not "from India" . "What about you? Have you enjoyed the fervent courtship of an Amway-ite?", she asks. Read the whole post... it comes replete with some more brilliant ways to shake off the Amway salesperson.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Culture Beat

Just trying to get a quick list of upcoming events this August in S'pore, which I would like to attend:
1) Catch a show of Betrayal --> Presented by Singapore Repertory Theatre. Stars Shabana Azmi, Peter Friedman, Simon Jones. Playing from 18th August onwards.
2) Go to WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) --> 26th - 28th August
3) Attend the Singapore Writer's Festival --> 26th Aug - 4th Sep
4) Dr L Subramaniam's concert at Esplanade (bought tickets to this one already) --> 21st August
Let me know if I have missed any other event here, barring Jagjit Singh's concert at Esplanade on 11th Aug.

(Pssst: Also... Divya, Aparna and I are trying to put together a readmeet. If interested, let me know. Watch this space for more details on the meet.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Cosa Nostrum

Met up with a Aparna and Divya today over lunch and came back all smiles and beaming!

Coming from a girls only high school, strangely, I was not blessed with the knack of getting along with others of the same sex. Instead I ended up rubbing most the wrong way. But that changed when I had to share a house with 5 other girls!! (yes, I am not exaggerating... we stayed 6 to a house once!) And that taught me to appreciate the company of other women. Today I can deal with all types and yet maintain a fairly favorable relationship with the worst types as well... those who judge you based on how you talk, what you wear and how often you bat your eyelashes and those who profess an undying friendship to you but can't wait till you turn your back to stick that lovely knife in it.

And what is more, I crave for the company of other kindred women... women bound to me not by blood but by that rare and amazing tie of female friendship! It IS the best thing that can happen to one... to hook up with other like-minded women. You meet them over long lunches, short rushed coffee breaks, crazy shopping sprees or catch a movie together and you come back... with an extra spring in your step, a brighter twinkle in the eye and a wider smile. You have just spend the last few hours talking all at the same time, nodding vigorously while stuffing your mouth with pizza (or salad if you are on a diet, which most likely is the case) and at the same time managing to get your shopping done or watching the movie or whatever it is you set out to accomplish together. There is something therapeutic about it. You talk of cabbages and ships and earwax, you share whispered conversations which are so private you would blush if you were telling it elsewhere, you gossip loudly, bitch about the whole world and his wife, you laugh over inane jokes (and some very good ones which nobody else would get), you giggle (age is not a bar when it comes to this art), you rave over Orlando Bloom or Amitabh Bachchan or whoever is the latest, you review your latest book or movie, you finish each other's sentences, you catch up on each other's lives, glance at your watches a dozen times each time realising that you are late (so, so damn late) for whatever you were supposed to do next and even when you get up to leave you spend another hour just getting over with your goodbyes.

Many a times have I met up with or rung up a girlfriend because I was particulary down that day or too happy for words over something so silly only another girl would relate. I have heard countless tales and instances and quotes on how women are so catty and not to be trusted, how they can't keep a secret and how they betray their best pals... but not once have I encountered this in real life. I turn to them for strength and advice, I share my laughter with them and they happily share my tears with me. They are there at a single call, at the unholiest of hours to sit around and talk the bluest blues out of me and make me laugh, fill me with the assurance that the world still wraps itself around my little finger!

My set of girlfriends have stood by me through all times in my life, some I have grown up with, some I met later on at work or through common friends. The oldest among my circle is Thelsa, someone I have known since we were 10. We shared a bench in school, ate lunch together, had countless sleepovers, wore high heels for the 1st time together, learnt to wear makeup, had crushes on the same guys, bunked classes, learnt to dance, learnt tricks like yawning and looking around quickly to see which guy is yawning to spot the guys that were staring at us (creative huh?), told innumerable 'cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die' secrets to each other... She is such an integral part of my childhood and then my teenage years. When we pursued different career options (she went to medical school while I dabbled in engineering) for many days I was lost without the one permanent fixture in my whole experience of schooling. I remember how I sobbed and told my mom that now that we are not in the same school we will end up drifting apart. And though we didn't meet as regulary after that and now though we live on opposite ends of the globe, she still remains my best friend!

Friday, August 05, 2005


A s-l-o-w, lazy day
Z..ZZZing under my eyes
like an army of well-fed flies...

The raindrops hum away,
from the hazy grey sky -
a gentle drumbeat of lullaby.

Sleep my darling, sleep sweet...
whispers this lovely, lazy day
and obediently I nod away

Right in the view of my boss,
in the afternoon status update meet!!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Home Sweet...

Going home after being away for such long intervals is like taking a pilgrimage. And I felt it more acutely this time, since sis will soon be leaving for Florida, following which parents will move to Kerala... which means I have no idea when the 5 of us (Parents, sis, AG and I) will spend time together again or when I will visit Bombay next.

Everything seemed so much more important and of so much more consequence. Every meal we ate together, moments we spent talking away late into the night, time we spent teasing each other... everything seemed to be special... even those yelling matches and cold wars with sis and mom!

And past few days since I have gotten back... have been difficult. I keep thinking of home and of the people who make up home. (Sa Re Ga Ma commented the other day... "home is so beautiful a word!" and one couldn't agree more). Isn't it is such a lovely word!! Isn't it just the loveliest word ever! HOME!! Makes one feel happy and at peace. Makes one feel loved and wanted and cherished and safe.

Home was such a great place to grow up in... sis and I shared a room... a bunk bed, one wall lined with my books, the others covered with posters of whoever is the latest craze... John Lennon, Marc Robinson, Salman Khan (eeewww!! see how honest I am... am willing to admit I liked the creep!). I had even stuck a poster with rules applicable to 'all ye who enter' on the door. The room is all changed... now that sis is the sole occupant and her idea of a tastefully done room is classier and less juvenile than mine.
The dining table was the family den... we all met there... to share our stories over dinner. Mornings... mum and dad would sit at the table sipping their cuppa coffee and the birds sitting on the birdfeed at the window, chattering and chirping noisily. Dad would read the English newspaper and mom, the Malayalam one. Suprabhatam playing in the background. Sis and me would walk around sleepily trying our best to get late and bunk school. Ah! yes... how can I forget... the phones would be ringing incessantly and shrilly.
Then there was the kitchen... I would spend a lot of time there just following mum around, all the while yak-yakking... telling her how Thels' and I got into trouble at school or how Ms.Goody-two-shoes got a comedown in class or how Teacher-miss-know-it-all slipped up... intermittently interrupting myself to dip my hand into whatever mum happened to be cooking/cutting/frying at that moment and pop it into my mouth.

I was such a pain to bring up... forever getting into trouble, bullying all the other kids, beating them up, getting beaten up too and amidst all this continuously generating fresh ideas to create more trouble. Every other day some kid's mom would end up at our doorstep with an angry complaint on how I punched her darling son. I used to believe that if you dig somewhere, anywhere for long enough then you would hit upon buried treasure (thanks to 'Treasure Island'!). So I would bully all the kids to dig at a spot for days on end until one of them complained or I gave up on the place and found another one with more promise. My first plane ride was a disappointment... I had been believing all along that the clouds are made of solid material and fairy folks lived in castles built on the clouds... imagine my sorrow at realising that the clouds are but whiffs of cottony white stuff and there are no castles on them! :(

Anyways... I digress as usual.

I started this post because I was feeling terribly, dark bluishly, almost blackishly homesick... and I guess this is one thing I can never grow out of. I can never stop missing home and sis and mum and dad. All the hour long phone conversations in the world are not going to alleviate it.

But my memories of home are also my haven. There are memories of random incidents, even split second shots of mom and dad and sis which my brain had snapped up and put away to be brought up time and again... their smiles, their eyes, their animated gestures while driving home some point, angry frowns, so many... so many clips! Everytime I am distressed, I close my eyes and bring up my favorite memory of home... us sitting at the dinner table and chatting away, narrating the day's events to each other, arguing over something, pulling each other's leg, laughing away to glory. And soon I feel the blues melt away, my distress fades and a warm, happy feeling takes over... the realization that no matter how far I go and no matter how long I'm away, no matter what I do and whether I succeed or fail... there is a place where I can always go back to and know I will be welcomed, loved and taken care of... HOME!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Salaam Bombay!

Got back to work after my week in Bombay and people looked up at me as if I have just risen from the dead! Well... almost actually. The flight home was nothing short of a roller-coaster ride at Disneyland. I think I might have developed a severe case of phobia towards flying. The whole duration of the flight I kept praying and striking bargains with my God. After that ordeal, I am inclined to agree that I have indeed come back from the dead!

I had been looking forward to my 8 days of relaxation in Bombay and what I got was 8 days of tumult... first there was the news of the Hero Honda workers being lathi-charged leaving hundreds of workers injured, followed by THE RAINS, close on its heels came the fire at Bombay High and the landslides, the next day it was the rumor about the tsunami bringing the stampede in its wake, the next day it was the Air India airplane skid at the airport...

Coming from the safe and rather uneventful (praise the Lord for that!) city of Singapore where a person falling off his bicycle makes it to the national newspaper and the NKF scandal was the most exciting thing that has happened in more than half a year... this constant barrage of news was an obvious overdose.

The rains did wash out all my plans, though the upside was I spent a lot of time at home, rather than rushing around shopping, watching all the movies and trying out all the latest eateries in town! And well, what can one say about the rains... 94.4 cms of rain in a day (beats Cherrapunji's record of 83.6 cms)!! Everybody I knew had a story or two to narrate of how he or she was stuck in the rain, on the bandra kurla flyover or the saki naka road for 50 years with no food or water or how their house was floating on a thousand feet of water which had accummulated in the backyard. My last glimpse of Bombay from the airplane was an ocean of water and Noah's ark floating by.

Anyways compared to all the horrendous and heroic stories I have sat through, my own stuck-in-the-bombay-floods story is very bland. The rains started quite tamely, but were soon raging... though we all thought it was just another Mumbai rainy day. So in high spirits and with one-liners on how one must keep one's adventurous spirit alive and how it is sooo romantic and such fun to go out in the rain, sis and AG and I dragged mom and dad to accompany us to the nearby mall. Now this mall is just a 15 minutes drive from home, but it took us an hour and by the time we reached there, we had seen enough destruction to convince us this was no normal rainy day, something big was afoot and we need to head home pronto. Getting back home was something which needed the 5 of us to pray collectively and fervently, invoking all the gods we knew and listing out to them all the good deeds we had ever done. Almost 4-5 hours after we left, we got back home, walked to the lift in knee deep water, saw that the lift was drowning and left it there to climb the stairs and get home. No electricity (this is a rarity in our area in Bombay) and the phone's landline connection was dead! Spent the next 3-4 hours calling up everyone we knew to find out their whereabouts and playing Russian Rummy (this is my favorite card game after Bluff).

Mercifully it was cool enough to sleep without the fan or the A/c and the rains had wiped out all mosquitoes too alongwith thousands of cows, buffaloes, sheep and goat. The building grounds by then were 5 feet deep in water and only the tops of the cars were peeking out. Somewhere at 3:00 in the morning we got up to find our noses assailed by the smell of petrol... to our fright, we realised that the petrol tanks of the cars parked below had leaked!! The water by now had entered the houses of the people on the ground floor and all it would take was a single spark for one of the cars to blow up in true bollywood-ishtyle. As if that was not enough one of the cars started and for the next few hours we were treated to the rather silly roars of a car grumbling by itself, which it then topped with the bleating of its horn!!

The next morning the water drained away and life around our home slowly got back to normal... electricity and water supply were restored and phones sprung back to life. But the following 4 days, news kept pouring in about the rains and the massive destruction they had perpetrated. Amidst all that heartrending news and stories of misery and helplessness, there were scores of heartwarming tales of good samaritans who went out of their way (some risking their own lives) to help their fellow Bombayites. Time and again Bombay has displayed her resilience and her indomitable spirit and in every calamity her large-heartedness has shone through. Every time bad news strikes, Bombay has pulled through with an undying determination and an uncommon unity. All around and daily... people stop to help, do their bit. You see evidence of it when you travel by the crowded local trains... hands stretch out to pull you in as you run to catch the train and then someone else holds you fast as you hang on at the door for dear life. The same spirit pulls the city through dark times and difficult days. Truly... the city is a survivor and a fighter. Here roads are not paved in gold but in her bosom Bombay harbors a heart of gold! Salaam Bombay!!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Chalo Bombay!

Tomorrow I leave for Bombay for a whole week!! Yipppeeeeeee!!!

Past few nights in preparation of the trip, my mind has been churning out dreams of home. Every night I dream of home, mom, dad and sis. Every morning I wake up with the taste of homemade food on my tongue and the aroma of the sandalwood agarbatti. Throughout the day I keep getting reminders from a suddenly hyperactive corner in my brain about my impending trip. It is like small spurts of joyful balloons that keep getting released in my heart at regular intervals. I can't write eloquently enough on how much I miss home and my family in Bombay and the excitement of spending 8 days with them is, I guess, quite evident through the few lines I have written above.

Have emailed Sis a list of eats with an order (and dire threats in case she forgets), to print it and pin it on the fridge for mom to see. I want to eat:
1) Idli sambhar
2) Misal Pav
3) Parippu Payasam (A kheer made of jaggery and dal)
4) Suji Halwa
5) Sabudana Wada
6) Masala Dosa
7) Veggie Cutlet
8) Mango chutney (you have to eat my mom's version of it to believe it!!)
9) Pav Bhaji
10) Palak Paneer
11) Patharwada(this is a steamed dish made of Arabi leaves...something similar to the maharashtrian Aluwadi but spicier and not fried )
12) Avial... the list is endless and can't remember what else was in it!!

Anyways... also in preparation of the extra kg I will bring back around my waist, have already told my trainer at the gym to help me with extra workouts when I get back :))

Will try to blog from home but if I can't, remember... it is because I am too busy stuffing myself !!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The fate of the girl child...

Just read this on Midday... 'Watchman finds baby girl in bag'

A well-dressed woman, presumably from an affluent family, dumped a baby girl, hardly a few days old on the road... ON THE ROAD!! Not at the door of an orphanage, not at the steps of a temple, not at any place where the baby could have the slightest prayer of survival but on the road where its delicate pint sized body would get crushed between the giant wheels of a truck or a speeding car. What kind of human being would do this despicable thing. It is clearly a case of intent to murder. But nobody has caught a glimpse of her, good enough to be able to identify her and so... another criminal walks scot-free.

Did she dump the kid because it was a girl... not something unheard of in a country with one of the highest numbers of female infanticide/foeticide cases? Or did she abandon the child because it was born out of wedlock... another common excuse in India to dump babies.

Well whatever the reason be, one can't help but be deeply disturbed by this beastly and murderous act and that too when the victim concerned is a defenceless child, just a few days old!! Are we as a society not responsible for this act as well?

Another thing that immediately sprung to my mind on reading this horrifying article was the tragic irony, that in our society one finds people like Sumanth (read this post and the comments on this post) who fight hard to change the section 498A, which is used to bring to book the perpetrators of atrocities against daughter-in-laws, under the pretext that the section is being misused. He seems to have no idea that for every false case there are hundreds of true ones and for every true case there are tens which go unreported. And the man seems to be obsessed with changing the one section which provides some hope of protection to these battered women!! One doesn't see him pleading the case of the tortured, murdered, burnt, raped, battered women/girl child. Well his battles are for him to pick. Sure, go ahead and fight against the misuse of the law but don't brush aside the real horror which made it necessary for that law to be brought into existence! What really gets my goat here, is that he has the 'good sense' to trivialize all the violence against women by stating a few errant cases of misuse. Ironical??... THAT is an understatement!

For the love of the road.

These pics on Charu's Flickr album blew me away... I spent precious productive time gazing at them, drowning in a multitude of feelings. But then I have always loved roads... When I was in UK, I had once sent home a package of snaps I had taken... all of them with a tag written behind... commenting on who was in the snap, where it was taken, when it was taken or something interesting or funny. Among them there were numerous snaps which featured just roads... country roads, roads lined with heavily pregnant apple trees in Berkshire, cobbled pavements at Eton, Oxford street, the lighted up streets near Piccadilly, busy streets of Canary Wharf, Outside the Odeon at Leicester Square, On the street outside 22B Baker street, small tree lined paths by the Thames, the village road in Hurst, the willow lined riverside road at Henley-on-Thames...

I am not much of a photographer... if you pose for me with your best makeup and brightest smile, rest assured the snap will feature only a body at an odd angle with the head cut off at the neck or worse the fruitseller behind you and there would be just your scarf in the left corner betraying your existence :) Roads though are easy to photograph... they are too big to be accidentally excluded and they don't complain if I make them look bad, they don't even ask for a second go since the first time they 'blinked at the flash'.

Anyways I am digressing and to bring us back on track... I was saying how I love roads. Each of them speaks to me in a different way, awaken in me a different set of emotions.

A village mud path lined with endless green paddy fields and peppered with little thatched roof mud huts always reminds me of the real India... not the cities where people are crushed like sardines in little houses and smaller train compartments. Village roads or those set amidst green fields or orchards always transport me back to my childhood summer vacations spent in my native place in Kerala. And immediately I feel happier, lighter and so much younger. I want to go explore them wearing old clothes torn on fences and stained by jamuns and mangoes.
Winding roads going up mountains surrounded by endless views of faraway horizons and deep valleys with a river in the groove and a tiny village in the distance... these are my favorite types... they fill me with a sense of freedom and with giddy laughter and abandonment. They make me want to run down the green slopes soaked with dew or rain, barefoot with my arms outstretched and the wind through my hair... laughing and whooping all the way.
Roads along beaches, streams or rivers call me to come sit on the bare earth and let my feet be tickled by the gentle ripples of water as I watch the sunset, read a book or talk in whispers to a dear friend or loved one and if nobody is around, even to myself. And then watch in quiet awe as the night falls gently and the sky is bedecked with countless stars.
Cobbled paths, remnants of a medieval age lined with the stone houses of that era or roads set amidst historic grandeur, lined with reminders of a past gone by... these delight me... fill me with a sense of history and culture, draw out a deep respect and a longing yearning to walk down those paths, drinking in the sights and trying to imagine the life they have witnessed over all these years.
Long roads... with no end in sight, stretched out into the distance... these awaken in me a sense of adventure, they beckon me to drive along, stop at quaint shanties for hot tea and cold samosas, take frequent breaks at villages so small you would miss them if you blink... and talk to their inhabitants, buy fresh vegetables and fruits from them and take home lasting memories of their vivid smiles, eloquent eyes and simple lifestyles.
The city roads sparkling with streetlights, neon glow of the hoardings, lights twinkling at thousands of windows of all the surrounding skyscrapers, headlights from hundreds of cars whizzing by... all these drowning out the moon and the stars... roads filled with busy activity... these too, I love. I love cities, having been born and brought up in Bombay and having lived in cities for most of my life. I love the bustle of the cities, the sense of purpose, the instant sense of belonging I feel in the strangest of them. I like to stand at a junction of these busy roads and soak up the life they have to offer. I feel the pride swelling up in my heart... at the collective achievements of humanity, which make the cities possible. As I stand amidst all that, I know that anything is within reach and the loftiest of ambitions are achievable. These roads, more than any other, make me feel young, so alive and invincible.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Too nice to be true?

Ah... errr... have a confession to make... am hooked to "Fame Gurukul"... that Talent contest, which I had panned in my post here. But then, I still hate it. The whole reality show trend irritates and disgusts me. So what makes me keep coming back for more, at least where this particular show is concerned?

I love the enthusiasm and healthy competition the kids display in it. I love their camaraderie and their friendships. They are all competing on a very big and life-changing stage. The one who wins will be shown a shortcut to success and fame... and yes lots of moolah too! But yet, there are no dirty games afoot, no treading on each other to reach the top. On the contrary they sincerely cheer, motivate and help each other. The display of such clean competition and such sincere friendships is a welcome break from the dirty politics encouraged by other shows like "The Bachelor" or "The Survivor" or "The Apprentice". Maybe those shows teach a lesson too and maybe they portray the real world, and I am sure they have their own devoted defenders.

But really, after a dose of the real world everyday from 9 to 6, it is nice to curl up and watch these talented young people, good naturedly competing, heartily wishing each other their best and crying even when they go through to the next round because one of their friends was eliminated! It is heartwarming to see these youngsters' naivete and large-heartedness. I wonder whether it will stay untouched after their foray into the dog-eat-dog world of Bollywood... I pray it does. But meanwhile it is, as I said, earlier a lovely way to end my day.

Though at times I wonder whether these displays of friendships and clean competition untouched by pettiness and insidiousness is the real thing or just a pretty show packaged and presented as reality, cleverly designed to tug at our heartstrings!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

My latest addiction

Have you been wondering why I haven't been blogging as regularly as I usually do?
Herez why... Caferati.

Found this network through somebody's blog and joined up on Ryze to be able to post on the network's message board. Here is my profile on ryze. Check out my postings on Caferati. I post there almost everyday. It is a great place to go to for reviews on your prose/poetry and also to read the writings of fellow writers.

Cool Place and Cool People. Come and see for yourself!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


My first attempt at Haiku:

(For those who have no clue what Haiku is or want to know more, read this, this and this.)

Tight coils of sleep
winding around my brain
a grey rainy day.

L'il playful shadows
spinning 'round n 'round a tail
my puppy Brutie.

Fat sooty shadow
a shrieking whistle calling
the tea is ready!

A whip cracks sharply
Smoke rising from treetops -
struck by lightning!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Super Size India

Yesterday for lunch, SK drove us to the West Coast Mc Donald's outlet and I ate a Mc Chicken after ages. AG and I, both, hate the Mc Donald's food. We think it tastes like hay and the mountains of calories in everything they offer is a major deterrent. So as AG says... "As far as I can see, eating at Mc Donald's only has a downside."

Over the past few years, America seems to have been in the throes of an obesity epidemic which according to experts is worsening. But the good news is that the people are awakening to the fact and slowly there is a movement taking root which is urging people to eat and live healthy.

My Singaporean colleagues though, seem to have no qualms about eating a thousand empty calories at a sitting. Blessed with genes, I could kill for, they don't put on easily and can plough through a basket of goodies from the local bakery without wasting a single thought to the 'C' word (calories).

At lunch, all of them seemed to be regulars at Mc Donald's. Many of them breakfast at Mc Dee's regularly. YW even takes his 2 year old daughter to Mc Donald's for lunch every Saturday! And according to him, she loves it there! Well that's what Happy Meals are for. But seriously... how good is it for her? And are you not hooking her onto a terribly unhealthy habit at so young an age. I am not being neurotic here. An occasional meal of chicken rice or fried noodles or the Quarter Pounder is hardly what constitutes the definition of unhealthy. But making a habit of it... now that is taking it too far. And yet you see dozens of Singaporean school children spending hours in the local Mc Dee's or Burger King outlets... catching up on their schoolwork, chatting, giggling, sms-ing and all the while chomping down on heaps of food and gallons of coke!

SK wanted to know whether we have many outlets of Mc Dee's back home in India. "There are quite a few these days, but not as many as in Singapore" I informed him. Set me thinking... his question... Indians really don't seem to be going to the Mc Dee's as much as the rest of the world does. We still prefer our economical Lunch homes and Sukh Sagars over the phoren fast food outlets. And then above all this, is the ghar ka khana, which all of us still swear by; unlike a huge percentage of the world which has conveniently forgotten how to cook! The cool quotient, though, is definitely missing when it comes to the indigenous food outlets, and more and more people seem to be converting over. The day is not very far away, when our kids will be weaned on Coke and a Mc Dee's burger will be their first bite of solid food. Do we need a Super Size Me or a lawsuit storm to wake us up.

Also, isn't it time we learnt that the ghee and dalda and sugar we consume in such heapfuls are not helping either. This high fat food might have been okay, even ideal, for our hard working ancestors but for a generation which spends most of the day sitting around, this kind of food is hardly healthy... far from it actually! Indians, typically have higher body fat, according to the experts, making us especially vulnerable to obesity and its related health problems like diabetes and heart disease. And with the economy boom powered fast food industry growing like a juggernaut, coupled with the increasingly sedentary lifestyles we tend to lead... India is at a great risk of being hit by a major obesity epidemic... the starting signs of which are already visible. Nationwide, 31 percent of urban Indians are either obese or overweight. The mean age of 45 for Indian heart attack victims is 10 years younger than for Americans. More than half the females and a third of the male population from the affluent class is currently overweight. And naturally, we seem to be passing this onto our kids as well. A new study indicated that one out of 15 school going kids in the high income group is obese.

Where weight is only a sign of affluence and the big bellied still command respect in some areas... it is not surprising that India is blissfully unaware of the danger alarms going off throughout her. There are among us, many indulgent parents who, when pointed out that their child is overweight, smile proudly and answer... " Arre Nahin Jee... He is not fat, he is just a healthy baby... Lagna chahiye na ki khaate peete ghar ka hai? ". Touché.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

'Til death do us part

Would you come if I call...

Would you walk with me
into the distance,
where no one calls...

Where faraway horizons
meet endless grasslands
and no footstep falls...

On an old country road
trampled grass underfoot
and no end in sight...

No life to distract us
except green and cold wind
great swathes of light...

Would you walk a road
you wouldn't tread alone
if I call would you go...

Where time stands still
and silence goes by
on a hushed tiptoe...

As sky, earth and road
For our only witnesses
would you then take me...

Would you bind me to you
with fathomless love
and thus would you free me...

Would you touch me, my soul
my breath, my sight
every sigh I heave...

Then would you stay with me
till death's minions call
put us in a box and leave.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Cry Baby...

A childhood of banned television, deprived of soaps and serials, has been, I now realise, a blessing a disguise. Thanks Dad. I am not addicted to any serials on the idiot box. I never in the least mind missing episodes of any soap operas or reality shows or any of those serialized comedies etc that are regular fare for the couch potato generation.

But of late AG and I watched a couple of the Fame Gurukul sessions. And since we had already watched the 1st two, we sat ourselves down and put ourselves through another one yesterday... that thankfully cured us!

Yesterday's session saw the 12 candidates being introduced to the environs of the Gurukul they are to attend in the forthcoming weeks. And throughout, the obvious focus of the show's producers was to make those kids cry on national television. This show of tears, ask Oprah she will confirm, is the surest method to win over viewers and increase the number of eyeballs a show garners.

Ila Arun, yes she of the 'Choli ke Peeche' fame and she of the foot long bindis, is the Headmistress of the Gurukul. So there was the loud, untalented, bloated with self-importance Ms.Arun trying out her rather unpolished and irritating acting and drama skills on television. She spends most of her time on this show mouthing inanities and melodramatic dialogues of the kind... 'How can you ask me to choose among my own students, can you ask a mother to choose among her own kids... nahin na... then why are you asking me?' (Well, at least it made me roll on the floor with uncontrolled laughter...). Yesterday she spent the rest of her time on TV... trying to make those kids cry and the more they wailed or sobbed... the more smug she looked.

There were those talented young girls and boys with stars in their eyes and hopes of making it big, of becoming another Sonu Nigam or Sunidhi Chauhan and they were being grilled mercilessly by this 'ma-jaisi-guru' (Ggggod!!). There was this girl who had lost her father 5 years back and Ms.Arun wouldn't rest until she had the girl filmed as the tearful fatherless lamb. She kept persistently reminding her of her late father and then repulsively poking her with questions about how she 'feels' until the poor girl burst into tears (Oh the Horror!!) . The camera too lingered long on only those who wept before it. So I guess, by the end of the filming all those who were brave enough to not cry would have gotten the cue... if you don't cry, you don't get any limelight... and since this is as much a popularity show as it is a talent contest... baby you better get sobbing hard and putting some huge tears up for show!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Why I write...

There are days when I write like one possessed, words, ideas come to me like leaping flames and I write like a raging fever. I slash, rewrite, read, re-read and all this time... words keep forming out of nowhere... it is as if it is not me who is writing but some fiery red-eyed, sleep-deprived Medusa and I pant and struggle to keep up. But I feel like a goddess on Mount Parnassus. I feel invincible and drunk in the wine of forever-ness and literary highdom.

And then there are those days when I cannot write... I sit for hours with a blank piece of paper, occasionally starting something which sounds good to me as I embark and then I realise it is only the corpse of an idea... swollen with my forced writing... it does not live like the other ideas did, does not breathe, dance in abandon, smile, entice, grieve... nothing. I give in to dramatics feeling these rituals might appease the Muses at whose altar I worship... I rub my eyes, beat my fists, pinch my forehead, pull my hair and yet nothing. I am engulfed in a wave of melancholy. I feel worthless. I feel all alone and screaming at the bottom of a huge pit. I wonder, why I suffer, nay, even gladly submit to such doomed sorrow.

Maybe because the joy of writing something which I know contains a spark in it makes me feel like the Almighty. Maybe because all that sorrow is nothing when compared with the joy, however short-lived and transitory it is. But also because I have fought this urge and lost and learnt that there is no escape. Also because, now, I don't want to escape it... I love the high that writing affords me. And I love the feeling of belonging that it grants me... into the hallowed company of fellow writers. The self-doubt and pre-writing agony, I know is common though each suffers alone and some more so than others... but out of that agony, at times (however rare those times are), one is able to produce a story, an essay, a poem, just a few lines, something, on reading which, in your heart you know, you have created something which breathes and lives. So what if such occasions are preceded by numerous others which are depressingly infertile.

And hence I write, in hope, everytime, that this time I will come up with yet another of those rare pieces which I can read and not tear apart in disgust, treasure even.

Why do you write?

Friday, July 01, 2005

I am like this wonly!

Unusual behavior tends to produce estrangement in others which tends to further the unusual behavior and thus the estrangement in self-stoking cycles until some sort of climax is reached.
-- Robert Pirsig in 'Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance'.

And how well I relate to this! I hate it when people get judgmental about me, when they dislike me just because of the way I speak or the way I dress or the way I live. I love to shock such people. I enjoy their disapproval and rub in the fact that I don't give a sh*t and well... they can do nothing about it! Why should I behave in a certain manner, which is quite unlike me, just to win somebody's approval?!? Accept me as I am, I don't come in no gift packagings!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

My Bed of Roses

I give you the roses from my bed
and the laughter from my eyes.
To u i give my happiness
sweet pain and longing sighs

And you... i forgive
you, who, I can't forget.
I give you this too and that
To you, all I have, I give.

Go now....

As you leave... I love...
irrevocably, unchangeably

And when an errant thorn pricks
as it most certainly will,
someday maybe, if not now
may you remember my roses
and your first love.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Wish I was... 'a-teen' again

Ah! and then you come
traipsing la la 'long
on your two high notes
and yes, an uppity bow.

Eighteen and then some
that was oh so long,
have burned my boats
in my efforts to grow.

Trapped in my walls,
but then I don't care.
Though you'd have fought,
but I lied to you so.

These days nothing calls
or tears at my hair,
though you'd have not
been lying so low.

Well, but you're gone
and now i so miss
those days when you sought
star gold n' moonglow.

Eight years I've known
that something's amiss...
how I wish i'd not
wished for you to go!

Oh eighteen and then some
that was so... so long.
Have I burned my boats
in my efforts to grow?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Law is blind and incredibly dumb!

Have been despairing over how women marry the men who raped them. And can't understand why the law does not punish the rapists no matter what? Come on, the crime of having raped a women doesn't nullify if you then marry her. The rape should not be allowed to go unpunished and having to marry your rapist is hardly what anyone in their sane mind could call justice.

This is such a dangerously casual attitude that the courts are increasingly displaying and that too towards a crime as heinous as rape. It seems like an encouragement to rape a woman... after all what could be the worst that could happen... you might have to marry her!!! Do the courts expect the couple to then live happily ever after? Don't they realise what hell they are pushing the poor victim into... having to live as the wife of her rapist... can't imagine a greater indignation. What kind of law punishes the victim?

Anyways after endless news clips of rape victims marrying the rapists this news item is a welcome change. Imrana seems to be one gutsy lady. I wish her luck and persistence. The stand she has taken demands a lot of courage from her and also a lot of determination. But sadly most other women in India seem to be devoid of the circumstances which allow such a courageous decision. Our wise society would prononce them insane if they didn't joyously jump at the chance to marry their rapist and save their and their family's 'honor'.

But wait there is hope, though only if you are a foreigner raped on Indian soil... here is why! Am quite happy about the speed in which the legal system pronounced justice but Hey... don't you think Indian women deserve the same? Now look at this article... 10 years is how long the girl has waited simply for her case to come to court and you know what... yep... she is still waiting!! Meanwhile she and her family are being punished and threatened every day for the past 10 years.

And these village panchayats don't seem to be such a good idea after all, with their moronic rulings... some of them going way beyond beastly. Take a look at this and this and this and this. There are endless cases of the panchayats ordering woman to be humiliated/raped/paraded naked and all such bizarre rulings which ridicule any law process India has.

When are we going to stop being the origin of such unbelievable news items?!?

While we are at it... did you know that according to section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, "sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, not being under 15 years of age, is not rape."... and methought that legal marriageable age in India was 18 for the girl. So much for the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, which prescribes the minimum age of 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys for contracting marriage. And Indian law makes no provisions to protect a woman from marital rape, in fact, Indian rape legislation (Penal Code 375) specifically exempts marital rape. So much for Indian legal system as well then! Now you can rape a woman, then marry her to escape the law and after marriage you can rape her everyday... and this time the rape is legally acceptable!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

And a hero dies in you...

When I was a kid my favorite heroes were Amitabh Bachchan and Kapil Dev. And when I say heroes I don't mean the 'bollywoodized' version of the word but in a pure sense of the word hero (as in idol). And if I ask any of my cousins this, they would name a new set of names albeit coming from the same sections of society maybe... films and sports.

But our heroes are drug abusers, bribe takers, match fixers, mafia supporters in their real life and it is their reel life avatars which we seem to be taking to. And what if the line between the two avatars gets thinner and finally is effaced? Will we still look up to our heroes? Isn't there a real danger that the youngsters will imbibe the values of these recipients of their misplaced hero worship?

Are we a generation which lacks heroes and which has no true idea of heroism, then? Agreed, in our modern day context we can't identify with the heroes of yore maybe. But they could still teach us a lot more than our present day idols. We could still learn from our Subhash Chandra Boses, Bhagat Singhs and Shivajis. Instead, our pedestals seem to be occupied by chain smoking Sharukh Khans, drug abusing Fardeen Khans and gun toting Sanjay Dutts. We seem to think it is cool to mouth 'bhai' lingo. Well no harm there but I hope we also remember the real life don is not the Ajay Devgan of Company or the Aamir Khan of Rangeela, but a ruthless, heartless monster who makes his money and derives his respect from killing people, exploiting them, extorting, kidnapping and threatening.

Indeed we seem to be a generation which are devoid of true heroes. On one hand, the world seems to be spewing out poisoned versions instead and the youth seem to be enamoured by extremisms and senseless violence while on the other hand the true heroes are being ignored or worse still misunderstood and judged as having selfish motives. At times I feel maybe I have lost the ability to admire the goodness in people... I am too cycnical, too suspicious of their motives. Even my heroes are routinely put up in the courtroom and tried by my cynicism... guilty unless proven innocent!

Meanwhile what happened to true heroism? What happened to idealism? What happened to selfless, noble causes not colored by race, creed and religion? Are they being looked down upon and laughed at as impractical and unprofitable? But were they ever otherwise? Wasn't it always one individual against the system, who fought alone but never gave up simply because he believed and had the integrity to stick by it. And yet haven't mountains been moved and the impossible achieved... not once but time and again!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Amazing Antarctica

Current Read: Antarctica on a Plate by Alexa Thompson

Overview: The author was a successful web designer at an investment bank in Sydney with a snazzy office and snazzier clothes. But then the princess got fed up of all the luxury surrounding her and gave it all up to be a cook in a camp at the Antarctic. This book describes the adventures she had there.

What I think of the book: Alexa has a great story to tell. It is spell-binding and compelling. But her narration style could be better though it is honest and easy flowing.

Current thought: Huge sigh! Wish I could be in her shoes. Antarctica sounds straight out of a fairy tale, an entirely different planet altogether. The landscape is mesmerising and evokes awe-inspiring emotions. The 24 hour summer sunlight, endless ice fields, yawning crevasses, forbidding snow mountain ranges... the blinding, endless white canvas... just reading it and imagining how it would look, is enough to hurt one's eyes and fill one's heart with the yearning to explore this intriguing, unpeopled, virgin land where each day survival is a miracle and time is immeasurable.

SIGH! Wish I could go to Antarctica, but the cost of Antarctic tourism makes it out of reach, unless one is spouting dollar bills. I don't think I can accomplish what Alexa did... I can't cook to save my life. But hey, maybe they need someone as a lowly, unpaid cleaner and helper. Hmmm... now there's an idea!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Obituary to Jimmy

Jimmy Roach... persistent nuisance and visitor from hell is no more. He was killed in a fierce battle between him and AG on Jun 09, 2005.

What started as a perfectly normal evening for me and for Jimmy too, I guess, ended up as the last evening in his short but fear-inspiring life. Jimmy Roach was a brave bug to the very end. He had lived his entire life in my kitchen and in the very same kitchen he met his sad end.

That evening I happened to come early from the gym, hoping to cook a big dinner. As I walked into the kitchen to get me some water, I saw him, not at his usual haunt in the cabinet but on the door. In his glossy black-brown suit, he looked creepier than ever. And there he sat mocking me, hoping to scare me witless... I obliged, yelled, tucked my tail between my legs and fled!

In my room I waited, thirsty and hungry and cursing. And then AG came home... my knight errant and brave warrior. Have never seen a more unwilling saviour though! But I have exceptional cajoling skills and off I send Sir Knight on his mission. Jimmy, was still around, unlike his usual cunning self... maybe lost in the thoughts of his beloved.

Pots clanged, broom struck the door, dust rose, Pans crashed against each other and then there was a lull. As the dust settled, one could see Jimmy sprawled on the floor. With a last wriggle, he died... poor soul!

Since the wake would most likely be attended by unsavory characters(read ants), the idea was dropped and Jimmy was given a fitting funeral with the dustpan.

Jimmy is survived by no one (hopefully).

Jimmy Roach