Friday, December 31, 2010

Last post of the year - promise

I like to do my annual flashback post sometime in the first week of January, after the New Year excitement has settled down. Tantanoo's post of last night, however, got me wanting to do one right away, and I just saw this on someone's blog, and figured I'll do a quick retrospect using this.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Visited the Vatican. Took the GMAT. Went for the Jaipur Lit Fest. Cycled 18-odd kilometres uphill and downhill. Met someone I knew only through twitter.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Didn't make any.
If I have to make any it would to look out of the window every morning and check the weather before getting dressed.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No longer close, but a bachpan ki saheli had a baby boy a few days back.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What places did you visit?
Jaipur, Bangalore, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Kolkata, Mumbai - in that order. Nice no? :)

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
Good health. Maybe some romance? Peace of mind.

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
27 March. Got robbed in Rome. 'Nuff said.
Also, 18 July. Was in Chandigarh for a wedding, called dad on my way to the venue to hear mum was in surgery.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
My GMAT score?

9. What was your biggest failure?
Lost a project at work that I was really keen on. On a more personal note, probably some interpersonal issues I've been having with people, a lot of which was my fault, much as I'd like to believe otherwise.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Got diagnosed with mild asthma. Had viral a few times.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My laptop!
Also my purple handbag - only 5 Euros in a Florence flea market. :D

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
No idea.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and/or depressed?
Some people I've worked with.

14. Where did most of your money go?
The robbers? My laptop, paying dad back, and sundry other stuff.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Was really excited about going to Jaipur. Was also excited about a family trip to Calcutta that had been planned for July/August - it got cancelled.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
None in particular.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
Sadder. Haven't liked this year.

18. Thinner or fatter?
WAY fatter.

19. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Met friends. Been nicer to the family.

20. What do you wish you’d done less of?

21. How will you be spending Christmas?
Spent it at home, sleeping half the day, working through the rest. Had a friend come over for dinner.

22. Did you fall in love in 2010?
Almost, but not quite. :)

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
Castle. LOST's final season too :)

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

26. What was the best book you read?
The Zoya Factor - Anuja Chauhan.
Dork - Sidin Vadukut
And you may consider it a miracle that I read anything at all.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Does NY Masti count?

28. What did you want and get?

29. What did you want and not get?
A bit o' romance? I dunno, can't think of anything.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
Haven't actually seen too many this year. Probably How to train your dragon. Also Deathly Hallows 1.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Turned 25. Was terribly anxious about it, as evidenced in this post. Did nothing major - took the friends out for lunch the weekend before the birthday, took colleagues out for lunch on the day itself, dinner was with the parents.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Less interpersonal issues with people. NOT GETTING ROBBED IN ROME.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
I don't have one. The BFF will vouch for this.

34. What kept you sane?
Friends and family. An email from the brother, mid-April.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
None that I can think of. The dude from the Raymonds ad who I met at Midnight Mass?

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Argh. Most? Hard to pick. CWG, the Radiia tapes, the IPL and Tharoor scandal, the telecom scandal, and so many others. List is endless no?

37. Who did you miss?
The brother, mostly. He keeps going away.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
The aforementioned person who I'd only spoken to on twitter previously. Didn't meet too many other people who mattered, at any rate.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
Be nicer to people. STOP putting things off. People care, even if they don't say it.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Shoulda woulda coulda.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Suddenly, suddenly

It's funny how memories pop into your head at times. I was in the car this afternoon, on my way back from a meeting with a client, and thinking of one of the essays I still need to finish. While mentally composing the essay, I stumbled over the word "parallelly", something I often do. And then it struck me that MS Word never does recognise that word anyway, and I should probably use the phrase "in parallel".

Which is when I suddenly remembered the mother's copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. I can't remember a time she didn't have it. It was so much more than just a dictionary - it was like a memory album. Its pages contained dried flowers, little scribbled notes, and numerous photos. Photos of the brother and me, photos of the parents, photos of Dadu. Photos of my cousins as babies, reminding Mamma of the sheer joy she felt when she became a Pishi for the first time. That dictionary was to be handled with immense care, because picking it up meant picking up memories of more than a decade.

I haven't seen it in a long while, not since we moved house, actually. But it popped into my head this afternoon.

Places have memories too. Golden Dragon is by no means my favourite restaurant. It is, however, in the mall that is closest to our house, and the food is decent. By default, therefore, a number of memories have got associated with it.

September 2008 - The parents and I discovered they serve darsaan, the mother's favourite dessert, during Pujo. We also decided that since I was now working, I should treat them to dinner once a month. The father saw the bill, and decided henceforth McDonald's is good enough for such treats.
November 2008 - The mother's birthday, I was catching an evening flight out to Bombay, so I promised her I would join them for lunch.
December 2008 - The parents completed 25 years of togetherness, but we put off celebrations till the brother came home from college a week later. We went out for dinner, I got my hair curled for the first time! The father was supposed to officially gift the mother the earrings he had bought her, even though she'd been wearing them for a week already. He opened the box in the restaurant, and discovered he had got the worn, and empty, box. All captured on video.
March 2009 - My birthday fell on Holi. While the city enjoyed a holiday, I was travelling to Chennai on work. Managed to catch an earlier flight back, and joined the parents for dinner straight from the airport.
September 2009 - Pujo again, this time accompanied by a new colleague, who the parents sort of adopted for Pujo because she was Bengali and knew no one else in Gurgaon. Who knew a year later she would become such a dear friend?
2010 - The best friend was in town, and after a dozen mail exchanges, Gurgaon was finally decided as the venue for the get together between the gal pals. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get five of us together in one place at one time? Tip: Just decide the venue for dinner and inform them, don't ask them. It's what I'm doing for New Year's Eve too.

We don't go back so often now, but passing that mall tends to bring a smile to my face anyway.

The father and I still debate over who'll pay the bill every time we go out though.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Outrage, yet again

Some time back, my friend Puneet had blogged about how Indians aren't really seen as Asians in the eyes of the world. It was an interesting perspective, and she had shared this fabulous site which attempts to prove that we are, in fact, eligible to be called Asians.

What stayed with me, however, was this comment that she received on her post:
hehehe... I guess thats what you call an irony then. I'm Indian, but nobody ever considers me to be Indian, however hard I try to be because I'm from the North East where most of us look "oriental" (or should I say "Asian" acc to your post context).

I guess we can conclude that the ignorance you find over there in the West, is pretty much abundant here within India too :) Nice post.

It's true, innit? I was once asked by the security guard at a client site about my "Nepali" colleague - she's Sikkimese.

Why am I bringing this up today, after more than a year? Because once again, I find myself worked up over something, and I'm too passive-aggressive to do anything other than blog about it.

This tweet popped up on my timeline a couple of hours ago:
Tell me when you figure it out!!! RT @ How the heck do sardaars land up with hot chicks?
And I'm sorry, but I did not find this anything other than very, very poor taste. I unfollowed the originator of that tweet a long time back, so whether this was meant as a joke, or it was sour grapes, or what, I don't know, nor do I wish to know. What it came across, however, to me at least, is terribly racist - for lack of a better word.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Conversations with the extended family

I am currently in disgrace with the mother because I was a bit too vocal about my opinions at a family wedding last night. Who knew that if a ten-year-old cousin wants to take my phone and read all my messages, I'm not supposed to tell her that's an utterly rude thing to do?

The mother is always slightly tense when the clan converges. You know how in the Koffee with Karan episode Sonam Kapoor had to measure every word she was saying because her mother had made her promise not to come back with the hamper? That is how my mother feels when I am let loose in public - she is never quite sure what I will burst out saying.

My state of disgrace is worsened by the fact that these four asses in the car next to us chose to roll down their windows at a traffic signal and start passing comments at me. Apparently saying rather loudly that those asses deserve to be whipped is not lady-like and therefore not acceptable in front of the clan.

It was decided weeks ago that the mother and the aunts would wear saris - they were the mashi-shashuris tonight after all - but we cousins would all be in suits. Much relief was felt by yours truly, but when I met the aunt in the morning in the market, she again asked what I would be wearing. On being told suit:
Aunt: Wear a nice sari no? What if you meet some nice prospects there?
Me: Any nice prospects will be seeing me in suits only all his life. Might as well start out that way only no.

She was not amused. On reaching the venue however:
Uncle: I don't think we're finding you any nice prospects here.
Me (in my head): Hee. Good to know you're as much as a snob as me.
Me (out loud): I will try to live with the disappointment.

On the way back from the venue, my 11-year-old cousin decide to get us started on Antakshari. Unfortunately, her father and I chose to sing only old songs from the 70s and earlier, which meant she was utterly blank. When she finally got exasperated and commented on it, her 10-year-old brother piped up: It's okay na, Baba is anyway always old-fashioned.

What does that say about me, I wonder?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Playing Agony Aunt

I'm currently sitting at the Mumbai airport yet again, and while I should ideally use this time to work on some essays, the brain is simply not working in that direction. Since some kind of productivity would be nice, I'm going to instead try and reproduce a post that wrote itself in my head yesterday, and which sort of got reinforced in the past hour that was just spent with the best friend.

I don't think I've ever written about love and relationships on this blog, primarily because, well, there's never been anything to write about. And no, there still isn't, not really. But it's that time of year when you tend to start thinking about the last twelve months, and for various reasons, I've spent a lot of time playing Agony Aunt to friends about their relationships this year.

Two very dear friends found themselves in relationships this year; one ended soon after, one is still going strong, touch wood, although the friend concerned does keep asking me how the guy concerned can still like her despite knowing her so well. Another friend broke up with her boyfriend of two years, because he's not ready for commitment, and doesn't know when he will be.

At least three friends at last count have their parents looking very actively for a suitable match - much hilarity, outrage and heartbreak has ensued from this process; maybe someday when they're able to look back and laugh at all of it, I'll churn out another post on it. Yet another friend keeps getting in touch with his ex-girlfriend, finds more proof of the fact that she's as weird as I always told him she is, and then comes to me to vent it all out.

I have also discovered that the childhood ideal of thinking that the cutest love stories are the ones where childhood best friends fall in love is really not true. It is actually very awkward when one good friend from bachpan ke din starts having feelings which are not returned. I still think the sweetest love story I ever saw on celluloid is the one between the Bachchans in Sholay though.

But I digress.

In college, I was always the one who said marriage is not a priority, my career is. That still holds true, but the fact that I am now in my mid-twenties means my friends are a lot more vocal about trying to convince me to believe otherwise - because for them getting married and having kids always was and still is the ultimate dream. Some near spats have happened over this - I don't tell them to make their career a priority, who're they to tell me to change my dreams?

At the same time, maybe it's because of my continued singlehood (is that a word?) that a lot of my advice tends to be on the more pragmatic side. While I will rant a bit if you tell my friend "we're in a normal relationship, not a serious one" (what in the name of heaven does that even mean?!?), I will also understand where another guy is coming from when he says to my friend that he wants to finish his MBA, figure out his career, and then think about settling down - because that's where I am too. And if you tell me - like someone tried - that it's okay for him to think that way and not me, because I'm a woman, I may stab you.

I will also point out that for all their protests about me being too practical, for lack of a better word, I can pull out at least five chain mails between the gal pals where everyone has been giving advice, but when yours truly has written in, they've written back saying that is exactly what they wanted to say, and I always put it so well. True story, sachchi.

Sometimes though, being practical does take a flying leap out of the window. Like when you want to convince your friend to take a chance with the guy she's on the verge of falling in love with, no matter what the complications involved. Because you know that if they do manage to work things through, it'll be worth all of it. I once told a friend that I believe if a relationship is meant to work, it will. Not because of destiny or any of that stuff, but because I do think that if two people genuinely care about each other and want to be together, they can find a way to make it happen. I'm not saying it's easy - I've seen enough to know it rarely is. But it can happen no? I'd like to believe so at any rate.

I will end by saying this: playing Agony Aunt over Gtalk is SO much easier than in person or even on the phone. At least the other person can't see you rolling your eyes in exasperation that way. Or hear you take a deep breath to calm yourself down before reacting to their drama.

I think I'm done rambling for now. And since I was flying somewhere over Western India when this post got finished, and am now back home, I think I'll go sleep for a while.

PS: OH. In other, and sorta related, news, the parents complete 27 years of togetherness today. So yay!

PS2: Does a public shout out make up for the lack of gift? No? Dammit.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Two years on

Exactly two years ago, almost to the hour, I was downstairs in our basement, doing my usual combination of watching TV while tweeting/blogging/Facebooking. The parents were in their room, watching TV. Suddenly, the mother called; NDTV was saying shoot-outs were happening in South Bombay. No one knew exactly what was happening; it seemed like some gang war had broken out.

I called my friend who lived in Powai at the time to ask where he was; he was home, but told me to keep him updated since he didn't own a TV. The brother, in faraway Boston, tended to get worried when attacks happen here, especially since mum and I had almost got caught in the GK blast just two months prior, so I shot off this mail to him:
shootouts happening all over south bombay... not too sure at this point if it's a gang war or terror attack. cafe leopold, taj hotel, oberoi hotel, vt station. find out if your friends are ok.
I wasn't very big on punctuation back then.

By midnight, we knew it was a terrorist attack, but it hadn't yet struck home just how bad the situation was. I put up this utterly frivolous post which I have never yet forgiven myself for, shut down my computer, and settled down to watch TV. And for the next two hours, watched in increasing horror as Bombay burned.

26 November 2008. It's one of those dates when practically everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when the news came in.

2008 as a year was bad for India. There were attacks happening every few months, if not weeks. Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi - all these cities got hit one after the other that year. And this is what we heard about. Back then the Naxal situation wasn't even getting the media attention it has got over the past year or so; no one was even bothered about Kashmir.

But Bombay caught everyone's attention. The sheer audacity, the targets, the execution, and the way it went on for nearly 60 hours - quite literally, the world watched as Bombay burned.

Everyone knows someone who was affected - directly or indirectly. Even after it was over, emotions ran high for weeks, with India wanting action. Heads had to roll, and India didn't care whose heads rolled. Kasab got the fastest trial and verdict ever, and is now sitting in jail, awaiting the day his sentence is finally carried out.

But a post by Dilip D'Souza asks a very pertinent question: why this and not others? There's a lady he has quoted in his article which hit me.
“If we have a remembrance for one,” she said, “I want it for all. I want it for everyone who dies like this. Otherwise we wonder, what did our sons die for?”
Two days ago, on the roads of Delhi, I saw a piece of graffiti saying 'Justice for 26/11 victims. What about victims of 1984 riots?' As I tweeted when I saw that, it's never going to be enough in this country. There will always something else that'll come to mind and make you feel the despair.

1984, 1992, 1993, 2002. Events that make me cringe when I think of them. Events where justice hasn't happened even today.

I'm not trying to take away from the trauma of 2008. It was a terrible time - I personally know someone who was in Singapore at the time, and whose mother was in Hong Kong. And whose father spent the night hiding in a restaurant in Colaba. And he couldn't tell his mother this, because she was in hospital with her daughter, who gave birth to her first child that night. Can you imagine what this guy was going through? Knowing that he may just lose his father the same night he gets a nephew?

But see, that's the thing. This time, we were hit, so to speak. We knew people who were impacted. It wasn't faceless, nameless Indians dying in some corner of another city. It was people who have access to twitter, to blogs, to freaking candles.

Why don't we ask for the same kind of justice for other victims? Why don't we speak out for any other tragedy?

This is a very hypocritical post. Apart from sharing a whole bunch of links on twitter, what have I ever done, after all?

I don't even know the point of this post. It's more rambling catharsis than anything else.

It's just... the bleakness of it all is very frustrating at times. Isn't it?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The beginning of the end: A review

Amidst the plethora of tweets I've been sending your way about sponsoring my run against Child Sexual Abuse, let us not forget that there was another, equally important, event this weekend: the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I. And since my obsession for the series is fairly well-known by now to long-time readers of this blog, and since I have reviewed the last two movies on this blog, why not this one?

First things first, I had terrible expectations from this movie. No, really. I know I always say I go in for the HP movies with zero expectations, but this time I went in expecting it to be terrible. David Yates turned one of the best books in the series into the worst movie in the franchise, so I really didn't expect anything great with this one, even though I was marginally impressed with the one preceding that, also directed by him.

However, if I have to review the latest movie in one word, it is this: fabulous. No, really, after Prisoner of Azkaban, I really think this is one of the best in the entire franchise.


The movie starts off with the MoM addressing the media, and moves to the shots of the trio in their respective homes. Which brings up the first lump-in-the-throat moment of the movie - seeing Harry visit the cupboard-under-the-stairs, and Hermione leave her parents' home. The scene with the Death Eaters is suitably creepy, and the chase decent. The gathering at the Burrow could've been better, as could've some of the subsequent ones - no, I'm not going to do a scene-by-scene review, don't worry.

A few scenes do deserve a mention, however: Godric's Hollow was good. I had my face hidden in the father's shoulder in places, that's how scary they made it (and no, you don't get to call me a wimp). The father was chuckling and wishing we could've seen that scene in 3D; I swear, I would've walked out if that had been the case. The scene at Shell Cottage was heartbreaking; I was always very fond of Dobby, and the movie handled it so well. I also loved how they used animation for the Three Brother story - made it very cool.

I was disappointed in places of course. In terms of performance, both Rufus Scrimgeour and Xenolius Lovegood were utter disappointments - I don't think either of them brought to the screen what I imagined their characters to be. Their scenes were among the flattest parts of the movie.

I also didn't like how they left out fairly key stuff - but I think that is by now a common refrain by all HP fans for all the movies. For instance, however, in the Godric's Hollow scene, at no point does it get covered why Bertha Bagshot has been replaced, which made the entire scene fairly pointless, don't you think? One of my biggest problems with the HBP movie was that Voldemort's back-story and what and where the horcruxes could be was completely left out - so here, when these people are looking for the horcruxes, you really are as clueless as they are.

Also, I could shoot David Yates for the minor appeasement of Harry/Hermiones shippers that he tried to bring in. Pointless, silly, stupidly executed - WHY? Oh and given that they didn't show how Patronuses can be used as messages in HBP, Kingsley's voice coming out of a ball of light made no sense, and the doe, while well done, didn't link to anything, y'know? Which makes me wonder about Snapes' story.

I thought they ended the movie at the right moment - it made perfect sense. I've been having a discussion with Suprateek on twitter about the second part - he feels they've left too much to be covered in it. I disagree: if you go by the book, there are really three-four things to be covered, out of which I'm fairly sure they will discard Dumbledore's entire back-story. Snape gets practically no screen presence in this movie, so I don't know what they'll do with him in the second one. Which really isn't leaving much then, is it?

My BIGGEST bugbear with the movie however, is this: HOW could Harry walk all over the place as himself? Yates clearly missed the memo about Harry being listed as Undesirable No. 1 by the Ministry, even though there is a brief scene of such posters being printed. And given that this book is about the Hallows, where in the name of heaven was Harry's cloak?

I loved the movie, but like I was telling the brother last night, in retrospect, I think I loved it in a relative sense. In an absolute sense, I'm not so sure. It's by far the most faithful to the book of all the movies, and is really well made. As a Harry Potter fan, the movie was a delight. As a Harry Potter nut, it could have been better - but then we've always known that about the movies.

Fair warning though, if you haven't read the books, you won't understand a thing of what's happening. Yates makes no effort to give a context to anything, and assumes you know what's happening. Moreover, given the liberties taken with the script, there are places you will have no idea about what's happening if you haven't read the books. A friend wants to go without ever having read any of the books, and wants me to go along to explain what is happening - I don't know if I have the patience for that.

FINAL WORDS (promise): In terms of performances, I thought almost everyone was brilliant, particularly the trio, who have really grown into their roles with this movie. Of course my favourites, the Weasley twins, were brilliant and funny as always, in the brief role that they had. The Death Eaters were all terrifyingly awesome. The only performances I did have a problem with, honestly, were Rufus Scrimegeour and Xenolius Lovegood, and to an extent, Bill Weasley. He just wasn't... cool enough.

For more excellent reviews of the movie, go here, here, and here.

Also go and sponsor my run. Go on, shoo now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A round-up of news

If you're following me on twitter and/or posterous, you'll know I've been bombarding people with requests to sponsor my run against Child Sexual Abuse, to raise funds for RAHI Foundation, an NGO I've been associated for the past six-odd years. Details here, link to donate here. Please, do donate.

In other news, I was in Bombay last week. It was supposed to be a quick 24-hour round trip, but I had to stay back for an extra night because the workshop I was conducting ran late. My first experience at Delhi's brand-new Terminal 3 wasn't very nice, and Indian Airlines convinced me never to fly with them again, with their long delays and fixation with Akshay Kumar movies as part of the in-flight entertainment. I was constantly tweeting from the airport both in Delhi and in Bombay; plan to compile them into one post when I get a bit of breathing time.

The other news from the Bombay trip is that I conducted a workshop, all by myself, for the first time. Was strangely non-nervous about the whole thing, and by that, I don't mean I was confident about it either. Just strangely... detached about the whole thing. Went off quite well though, although I could've probably been firmer with the participants and not allowed them to stretch the day so long.

But the detachment worries me.

So anyWAY, donate okay? And pass the word around too. If a couch potato like me can sign up for a 7-km walk, the least you can do is donate.

Yes, I'm trying to guilt-trip you into it. Is it working?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The essentials

I have a #genuinekoshchan, as they say on twitter, for the menfolk today. And to be absolutely fair, I also pose it to the women who will not identify with what I am going to ask.

How, in the name of all that is holy, do you people manage without handbags? To take off from what Shwetha wrote on her blog some time back, there are things that are essential and must be carried everywhere.

I'm known for my penchant for big handbags. I have, in my defense, tried buying smaller purses in the effort to look more formal or some such thing, but the things just don't fit in! There's my wallet (which in itself is fairly bulky), my keys, my little pouch which holds all the various loyalty cards I have (and as I've mentioned before, I have a lot), the case which holds both my glasses and my sunglasses, tissues and hand cleanser, and basic medicines which I always carry around. If it's the monsoon I carry a little umbrella with me, if it's winter a teeny-weeny bottle of moisturizer, and if I'm headed to work or for meetings, then I usually have a note pad and a pen. Sometimes there's a book. There's also the little Ganesha statue my mum gifted me which I carry. My phone and its earphones are usually in my hand anyway because I use it to listen to music - assuming I know where my earphones are, they are currently missing, does anyone want to gift me a pair?

I change my bags often, and each bag has a bunch of miscellaneous stuff anyway - old movie tickets, earrings I was wearing and took off because they hurt, the receipt from a restaurant or the NH-8 toll gate, the last eyeliner I lost. But the essentials listed above - those I move from bag to bag.

So tell me, how do you manage without all that? I mean, even if I'm going to a shaadi and am forced to discard my nice handbags, I usually have a tiny purse with the phone, some cash, and mayyyybe an eyeliner and/or lipstick to be on the safe side - because you know, we're girls and we need to use/carry these things blah blah blah. And if the car is there, I leave a handbag with everything else in the car!

Most of the guys I know roam around with just their wallet and their phone*. I used to stare open-mouthed at these girls in college who could come with one register and a tiny clutch purse which wasn't even big enough to carry their car keys and their phone. Well, they also wore heels to college, know full well that that was just a disastrous idea given the cobbled paths we had, but that's besides the point. My point is, don't you need all this stuff?

*This may be a good time to point out that the brother is not like that. He perpetually needs music and a book and so carries a jhola everywhere he goes. Very shmart the brother is.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Conversations from yesteryears

A random tweet that showed up in my timeline a few hours ago reminded me of one of those strange and morbid conversations that get ingrained in your memory, that took place between the father and me more than a decade ago.

We were walking on the side of the road, when a car swerved and passed by him a little too close for my comfort. Of course, I gasped dramatically, clutched him and pulled him a bit to the side, scolding him for being so careless. He shrugged and laughed, saying he was fine as long as an accident, should it happen, caused a quick and painless death rather than leaving him a vegetable.

Needless to say, I was not amused. But then he went on: if death has to come to someone, it'll come sooner or later. And his or her family and friends will have to deal with it. But if a person gets stuck in a coma, it makes everything so much more painful for his or her loved ones. He then looked at me and told me that if that decision has to be taken, I should take it.

At age 14, I was forced to admit he had a point. At 25, I still hope and pray almost every day, like I have ever since that conversation happened, that I never have to take that decision.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

There are snobs, and there are snobs

I can be a snob of the first order, but something I really don't get is following people on twitter for the singular purpose of retweeting them and mocking them.

Calling someone an orkutiya or a bulb, because their idea of expressing themselves is different from yours? Because their English isn't as articulate as yours? Heck, my English is quite decent, but I'm atrocious in both Bengali and Hindi, so what do I have to be so proud of?

Following celebrities on twitter, and then spending your time coming up witty one-liners to mock them? Really? I have the utmost respect for most of these people I follow on twitter - they're intelligent, well-read, and outrageously funny most of the time. But it infuriates me when they judge people they don't know or have never met simply on the basis of their ability (or lack of it) to articulate decently in a tweet.

A lot of people cribbed about Aisha, and not purely because of its terrible script or the utterly flat and annoying personality they gave to the eponymous character (which, to be fair, was exactly how it was in the book, so you can't really blame the makers of the movie). No, a lot of people actually cribbed about what snobs Aisha and her friend Pinky were. (Like, hello, have you ever been to urban India? South Delhi, or even South Bombay from what I hear?)

My point is, people criticized, or even mocked the utter snobbishness displayed by the characters in that movie. But you, who retweets a guy because his opinions aren't completely in tune with yours, or mocks the guy who tweeted his admiration for that celebrity who may not be so great in your eyes. How different are you?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

I like... (Part 3)

When I was in school and college, the morning of an exam invariably meant I would have this tight feeling in my arms, and a pain in my left shoulder. I called them my stress pains. For the past few months, I've been having them almost perpetually, and for no good reason either.

The last few months hasn't been the best of times, as my various blog posts may have indicated. There's just been too much I've been trying to juggle, and sort out, and y'know, get it all together. I think I've gone soft even - the slightest bit of niceness makes me all weepy these days. Tchah, I say.

As a result, once again, I find myself needing to do a post of this kind. Without further ado, therefore, let us have the drumroll, and a list of things I like:

Second-hand books, with decades-old dedications written in a squiggly handwriting, and the lovely musty smell of old books.

Finding money in the pockets of a jacket I'm wearing after a long time.

Sweaters with long, loose sleeves that cover half my hands.

The torn winter jacket that my father bought for himself when I was a baby - I borrowed it when I was 15 and haven't returned it yet!

The sound of the princess drinking water.

Compliments that come out of nowhere, which you know can't be anything but genuine.

An evening out with the gal pals - or even the guy pals actually. Both are interesting in very different ways!

People I've never spoken to in my life asking me why there hasn't been an update on my blog for two months.

The sudden crumbling of my writer's block, when the words coming gushing out.

Friends who worry about me more than I worry about myself.

The feeling of satisfaction when I manage to drill some sense into a friend's head.

The warm feeling when I wrap my hands around a cup of chai or soup.

Leaving the car windows down and feeling the breeze - especially if it's just after a spell of rain.

Saying "y'know which episode of Friends this reminds me of?", and having at least two people present bursting into giggles.

Realising someone who was just another acquaintance has become someone very important.

Looking out the window as a flight takes off or lands and trying to recognize landmarks in the city below.

Watching the Gurgaon skyline from the metro.

All such fun, no?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Midnight musings

Where do you draw the line?

Between critiquing and criticising?

Between being brave and courageous and fighting lost battles?

Between choosing to leave with your head held high and being an escapist?

Between being realistic and being cynical?

Between being committed and being enslaved?

Between choosing what is right and what right for now?

Between loyalty and practicality?

Where do you draw the line? How do you decide?


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A quick rant

The mother is one of the best teachers I've ever come across. Students she taught in Class III more than a decade ago still keep in touch with her, and talk about how she impacted their lives. She genuinely loves children, and for her, it wasn't so much about teaching, but about helping the kids she taught.

Despite all this, she was always very clear that she wouldn't put up with organizational politics. Whenever things got messy, she chose to leave a school rather than have to deal with the murkiness that politics can bring.

Right now, at this very moment, I really really wish I had the courage to do that. I am sick and tired of people not showing ownership for their work, of whining because they have to handle five things simultaneously, and going and pulling down colleagues to cover up their own mistakes. And I am really sick and tired of people allowing interpersonal issues to affect project delivery.

We're all multi-tasking, for God's sake, and we're all working to meet our clients' requirements. And we're all dealing with numerous phone calls, emails, and cranky clients while trying to actually meet our deliverables. If you can't handle that, get the hell out of consulting.

I'm a workaholic, yes, and I have no social life. So I will probably continue to give everything I have to this organization. But when people behave like that, you really wish you could just drop everything and go.

And for once, I wouldn't give a damn if my colleagues read this post and got to know exactly what I think of them: that they're juvenile, petty, and immature people, who don't know the meaning of the word loyalty.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

More conversations

I have a very entertaining family, I do.

The mother, on reading the post I put up about her attempts to reason with the princess: Why do you eavesdrop private conversations between two sensitive souls?

The brother is back home, and expected to be here for the next couple of months. He is also unwell, which means he is being more mollycoddled than usual. The mother asked him the other day what he wants for breakfast. This is the conversation that ensued:
Brother: Can you make that white thing?
Mother: What white thing? Upma?
Brother: No, no, that white thing.
Mother: Eggs? Idlis?
Brother: Arre that white thing which has leaves and peanuts in it.
Mother: Upma?
Brother: Yeaaaaaaah.......

The recent Bharat Bandh meant there were posters of all Opposition leaders all over the roads. Being clueless as ever, I struggled to recognise some of them.
Moi: That one's Nitin Gadkari, right? The second one from the left?
Father (not looking up): Does he look like a toad?
Moi: Umm, yeah?
Father: Then that's Gadkari.

BUT. It's not just my family which is entertaining. My job involves some amount of interviewing these kids who keep applying to us. Today, a girl from Bombay sent in her resume. Looked good on paper, so I gave her a call.
Moi: So before we take this forward, I wanted to check, are you comfortable relocating to Gurgaon?
Her: Well, I'm not against relocation per se, as long as the profile is good you know?
Moi: Sure, fair enough.
Her: Also you will have to arrange for my stay and food you know. I mean, food ok, I can manage. But we keep hearing how Gurgaon isn't very safe, so...
Moi: (deep breath) Well, you know, we could always give you suggestions on where to take up accommodation, but you will have to kind of arrange for it yourself. But...
Her: But you people will help? Because Gurgaon's not very safe for an alone girl you know
Moi: I suppose...?
The conversation then went on for a bit, with me saying that we'll call her again on next week when my colleagues are in office also. As we were concluding the call:
Her: But tell me, do you think Gurgaon is safe for an alone girl [NB: I swear, that is the phrase she used.] to move to?
Moi: Well, I've lived here for 15 years because my family lives here. But we have a few girls working with us who live on their own here, and they haven't had any problems.
Her: Really? But isn't Gurgaon in, like, Haryana proper?
Moi: Umm, yes?
Her: Hmm. Are you going to call me tomorrow evening again?
Moi: Er, no. Next week maybe?
Her: Ok that's fine. I'm busy tomorrow you see.

I really, really wish I was making this up.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

An overdose of saccharine?

Till today, I can never tell what he thinks. He's one of those passive, non-expressive men - stoic, strong and silent. He's also the most intelligent man I know, as well as the most upright. He loves children. And animals. He thinks an experience is worth it only if you learn something from it. He has a weird sense of humour which no one gets, and uses long fancy words - correctly. I love him to pieces. He's my father.

Baba's never told me in words that he disapproves of anything I'm doing. He'll drop subtle hints. Are you sure you want to do that? Will that career option really give you the satisfaction you're looking for? Maybe you should meet some people from some other field and see if they can guide you. Do you really plan to go out of the house wearing that? But if I ask him upfront, "Do you think I'm making the right decision?", I wait till the end of time, and I won't get an answer. And when I go ahead and take decisions that he doesn't approve of, he'll still support me in them.

He never buys anything for himself, just because he feels like it. He can be very stubborn. I just watched him put tape on his old, frayed wallet, because he likes it better than the brand-new one lying in his cupboard. Both his laptop and his phone are about as useful as a floppy disk, but he won't replace them because he's "looking at options". And I mean that very literally - he's going to get the specs of ALL possible options, compare them, and will hopefully come to a decision sometime in the next decade.

I've only ever seen him break down twice - once, when Dadu passed away; the second time, when Thamma passed away. Ask him what he wants for his birthday, and he'll say he'll have to think about it. Gift him the complete DVD set of the LOTR movies, and he'll look at you puzzled, wondering why you spent money on something so unnecessary. But the first chance he gets, he'll pull them out and settle down to watch.

Till a couple of years back, he was an out and out workaholic. As kids we only ever saw him on Sundays, and the family holidays he would make a point of planning and taking us on. It was Mamma who was always there for us, Mamma I related all my day's happenings to, Mamma who I considered my best friend. Recently, that's changed. Three years ago, Baba quit his job with the company he'd been with for 28 years, and decided to do his own thing. Not only has this made him a lot more relaxed and chilled about his work, it also means I've got to spend a lot more time with him since then - especially since he pretty much appointed me as an unpaid secretary in the initial months (I'm an expert at doing travel bookings, don'tcha know?). And since I also stated working around the same time, and started needing/wanting to talk about work-related stuff, he and I have grown a lot closer than we ever were when I was growing up. Which I cannot be thankful enough for.

In terms of personality, I'm like the mother - volatile, hyper, quick-tempered, and not the most reasonable person around. The brother's like Baba - calm, logical, passive, but impossible on the few occasions they lose their cool. Despite this, or maybe because of it really, the brother is Mama's boy through and through, while I'm so much more a Daddy's girl. It's him I now go to when I need to whine about anything, when I need advice about something, or even if it's just to talk about the day's mundane details.

Mother's Day and Father's Day are a huge deal in our home - because I make them that way. The brother goes along with it (mainly because the alternative is listening to me nag), the mother just likes the gifts and the meal out - no cooking for one day. And the father, well, who can tell what he thinks really?

Last year, the brother was in town on his summer vacation. We made this huge plan of going out for lunch on Father's Day. As we entered the mall, we saw a huge banner advertising a Father's Day special fest - for two weeks later. I'd mixed up the dates, so two Sundays later, we again got up early, made him a nice breakfast, and took him out for dinner. He got TWO Father's Days. And yeah, I think he quite enjoyed the extra attention.

Baba and I are both nightbirds. When I was 17, preparing for my Class XII Boards, and applying to colleges in the US, I'd come down to drink a glass of water or get a snack to munch while studying (or pretending to) late at night. I'd peep in on the father, and invariably find him in front of his laptop, having dozed off while working. I'd shake him awake, and make him go to bed. I once asked him what he would do when I went away to college - who would come take off his glasses for him?

Eight years later, I'm still living at home (and probably continue to, till the end of time). I still stay up late, and I still go to peep in on him most night, and find that he's dozed off while reading a book. I still take off his glasses, and switch off the light for him.

A lot of people are going to react to this post by asking why the big fuss about Father's Day; the same argument comes around on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day - why do we need one day in the year to express our love for loved ones, and it's all a bunch of commercialized propaganda anyway. Maybe so, but the fact remains that in getting caught up in the mundaneness of our everyday lives, we tend to forget to tell the people we love that we, well, love them. So three hours from now, I will get up (hopefully), and nag my mother into helping me make omelettes the way Baba likes them. And I will give him the book I ordered from Flipkart because he wanted it. And I will wait for the brother to come back from his silly internship, and then the four of us will go out for dinner. All this to celebrate Father's Day.

Because my Baba may not be someone you ever heard of, but he's the best kind of father any girl could ever ask for. And I really do want to remind him that I love him to pieces.

NB: I also tried introducing the celebration of Daughter's Day into the family - unfortunately, this did not succeed. Much sadness comes.

UPDATE: I decided to submit this post to the Tribute to Dad contest being run by the BlogAdda guys. As part of that contest, I chose a mug from to gift Baba with this text on it:

Monday, June 14, 2010

School days

My rides to office have become very reminiscent of my school days. In school, it was a well-known fact that I never reached the bus stop on time. My poor kid brother would have to tell the bus driver every morning "meri Didi aa rahi hai", as I would come running round the corner (unless the father had agreed to drop me) and board the bus with everyone glaring at me.

My colleague and I share a cab to work these days, since neither of us drives. The cab we've hired drops us to work and goes to pick up kids from a summer camp, and since the driver can't be late for them, we have to leave much earlier than what we're used to as well.

I suspect he's soon going to lose his temper with me. My house is the first stop, and three out of five mornings, I exit from the house, he sees me and starts the engine, and then stops it again because I've had a facepalm moment and gone back in to get something I've forgotten.

Every morning, while I wait to pick up my colleague outside her apartment building, I see this group of security guards looking thoroughly bored while they're briefed for the day by their supervisor. Briefing over, a whole lot of backslapping and waving to each other happens, and then they disperse to take up their positions for the day in the various apartment buildings along that road.

Very, very reminiscent of school days.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Evening conversations

In continuation to this.

The kitchen is the only room in the house the princess is not allowed to enter. Well, OK technically she's not allowed to climb on beds or walk on carpets either, but there's only so much you can discipline her.

Anyway, so last evening, she was as usual sitting just outside the kitchen, looking longingly inside, making a woeful expression as if she'd never been fed in her life (as opposed to one hour back). The mother, who disapproves of the way the brother and I say "kiiiiitcheeeen" very grimly to make her move away, decided to use logic with Kyra:
"Why you do kitchen kitchen? I spend all my time in the kitchen. Trust me, it's not all that exciting once you're in here."
Previous attempts at using logic with the princess:
"We don't watch you when you eat; why do you stare at us when we eat?"
Yeah, she doesn't get logic.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

An apology

Dear Bengalis of the world,

Today, I want to apologise to each and every one of you. Sincerely.

I have always cribbed that in Calcutta, when you ask someone how they are, they not only promptly relate every single ailment they have had in the past year, but also those suffered by their spouse, children, and grandchildren, if any. Being the naak-uchu probashi I am, I tend to make fun of the fact that only in Calcutta will people actually tell you how they are when asked.

I was wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. Bengalis are nothing compared to the people I interact with on a daily basis.

For the past week, I have been surrounded by obangalis (is that the right word for non-Bengalis? anyone?) who have been talking about nothing but their health. Every single ailment they currently have (and for some reason, all of them have a heck of a lot of symptoms) is discussed and analysed in great detail, possible causes and consequences have been debated with great animation (with most of these debates ending on the conviction that every single one of them is in the last stages of a terminal disease), and doctor visits have been analysed with as much intensity as a group of giggling high school girls would discuss a first date. To cut a long story short, I have been spending a lot of time reminding myself why it is wrong to murder a fellow human being.

Forgive me, dear Calcuttans. I am now suitably chastened. And now totally ready to deal with you when I visit in July.

Monday, May 31, 2010


NB: I am contemplating beginning every post of mine with an apology for my absence, from here on. It seems to be the sure shot way of getting lots of new readers and followers (apart from drawing comic strips, of course, which I am a total #fail at anyway). Not that I would know even if I did get lots of readers, because you crowd never comment. Yes, I'm talking to you, the person who visits regularly, according to Statcounter. Hmph I say.

Moving on.

It is by now a fairly well-documented fact that I despise shopping. When I die and go to hell, it will look exactly like either
Ambience Mall or Select City Walk. Seriously.

My idea of shopping is going to a shop, finding exactly what I needed, paying for it, and exiting. And
as cribbed about before, what I need is never what is available in the shops.

Which reminds me, what is up with Fab India and their sizes? Three kurtas, supposedly of the same size, one of which fits me just fine, one is too tight, and the third flaps around me like it's a maternity dress. Someone I know who is
double my size had to buy a Small size recently. Even she was startled. Seriously.

Right. So, shopping. Hate it. Always have, always will.
Unfortunately, if there is something I am a sucker for, it is freebies. And there, my friends, is where the folks at Select City Walk have trapped me rather neatly.

You see, they've come up with this loyalty rewards program kind of thing. You go to the mall, pay for anything (and I mean
anything - books, clothes, movie tickets, even a bottle of water at Barista), you get points. Which add up to free vouchers. Which I can't resist.

So the other weekend, the family went there, supposedly to sit in Barista while the brother met someone somewhere in Saket. The mother being the mother, which is to the complete opposite of me, decided to go window shopping. Next thing I know, the father was summoned because she had found
just the kind of curtains we'd been looking for. Then I'm called there too because this was Shoppers Stop and I have their cobranded card (well, yes, I may hate shopping, but I sign up for every single rewards points scheme there is - it all adds up to freebies you see) and so we could get a discount because of that. And then they tell us that if we take the bill down we get free vouchers. Worth 10% of our billed amount. Which was a lot.

So the father and I went down. Where we learnt that even our Barista bill could be counted. So I got free vouchers. For quite a decent amount. Woohoo!

Only, then came the catch. These vouchers could only be used in Select City Walk. Oh well, we figured, we'll come sometime and pick up stuff. And then somehow, exactly a week later, I found myself in the same mall again. To watch the
most boring movie in the world, because the father got free tickets from his bank (freebies! woohoo!). So the mother decided we should club this with a shopping expedition and use up the vouchers.

Only, when we finished, we discovered that whatever we spent over and above the voucher amounts made us eligible for more points. As did the KFC meal we bought. And the movie tickets
we never paid for.

Do you see my problem here?

I'm stuck. I'm trapped in this vicious circle which is going to send me back to that mall every second week. Because I can't resist freebies.

Shoot me. Now.

No wait, then I'll get sent to hell.


Friday, April 09, 2010

Travel notes - the story, finally

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume at least some of you noticed my absence from the online world last week (and if you didn't, please indulge my delusions and keep it to yourself). Right so, to satisfy your curiosity, I've been living up to my name. Travelling, darlings, to Italy of all places.

I may have, fleetingly, mentioned my
previous trips to Europe in earlier posts. This being my third trip to the continent in four years, one thing seems to be certain: the place hates me. Seriously.

So here's the story: Having arrived in Rome (three hours later than planned incidentally, because we managed to miss our connecting flight from Paris), we headed to our hotel to check in. The hotel was in a typical European apartment building, which meant that we had to lug our luggage up a few stairs before we could take the lift up to the 5th floor where our rooms were. Since a lot of people in my group had big suitcases, I kept my suitcase and backpack at the side of the corridor, and started helping others with their luggage. A group of three people, two men and a woman, had followed us from the reception, and started helping us with the luggage as well. We thanked them and said we would manage; they persisted for a while, but then left. I went up to my room only after everyone else had done so, where I realised that although my suitcase had come up, my backpack was missing. After checking everyone else's rooms, as well as the lift and the corridor, I rushed across the street to the reception to check if it had been left there. Not finding it there either, I asked about the three people who had started helping us, and discovered that they were neither hotel staff nor guests.

Last year, when I was robbed for the second time in Spain, when my wallet with all my money went (save the one note that I had stuffed into my jacket pocket because I was too lazy to pull out my wallet and put it in), it was my last evening in Barcelona, and I was due to fly home the next morning. This time, however, I was robbed my first day in Rome, barely an hour after I had encashed traveller's cheques at the airport. Moreover, my entire bag went, which meant that apart from all my money, things like my camera, the music player my brother was gifted for his Class X Board results, the 15-year-old Uno cards which have have travelled with me on every holiday I've gone on the past decade and a half, my copy of
Dilip D'Souza's Roadrunner which I picked up as a birthday gift to myself last month - all went.

I wanted to return home that day itself, but the group I was travelling with refused to let me, especially since most bookings had already been made. They couldn't have been nicer about the whole thing - partially because I suspect they felt somewhat responsible as well, since I was helping them with their luggage when the blessed thing got picked up. But despite their support, and their willingness to lend me cash for anything I wanted, spending a week in a foreign country, having to ask someone for money every time you want to buy even a bottle of water - it isn't something I would wish on even my worst enemy.

Having said that, apart from this major tragedy, the trip was quite lovely. Seeing Rome was an experience I don't think I'd do justice to even if I tried to put it in words, and Pisa and Florence were as lovely as they when I visited them four years ago with the family.

Since coming back, I've been trying to take baby steps towards replacing whatever I can. Apart the constant stream of sniffles that took place all through the four hours I spent in the Rome police station the first day, the only time I've really broken down over the whole incident was when I got home and saw that my mum had bought me a new pack of Uno cards - I may be 25, but these things still
matter, y'know?

Anyway, so the week since my return hasn't been exactly great either. I need to pay people back for whatever I borrowed from them on the trip, and I need to replace my dad's camera and pay him the money I lost - and he doesn't get that his constant line of "we'll see about that later" only adds to my stress levels; I
hate owing anyone money, even if it's him. Fair amount of pressure at work, plus my phone's not working too well, which means I need to get that sorted out too.

The other ongoing battle I've been having this week has been with the insurance guys. We had taken a travel insurance policy before going, and I've been speaking to them since getting back too, but apparently the claim I would've been eligible for was to have been put in from Italy itself, within 24 hours of the bag being lost. How I'm supposed to have done so, is beyond me considering my first 24 hours were nearly all spent in the police station, and given that all my documents (except my passport!), including the insurance policy document, was in the damn bag. Plus I've seen the documents they require for the claim to be processed, and how they expect any traveller to get these together within 24 hours when they have no money in the first place is really a mystery to me.

So that's what I've been up to. I've seen some of the photos from the trip, taken by the group, and I look
ill in almost all of them. If you follow me on twitter, you'll have seen some extremely frustrated and whiny tweets coming onto your timeline. It's just... all of it together y'know? And there are times when all I want to do is pick up a vase, and throw it against the wall. I suspect it may make me feel a whole lot better.