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!!