Monday, December 10, 2007

A Brooding, Working and Traveling Homemaker

Before you say something let me tell you the above four make a lethal combination.
Also, let me tell you why I have been absent for such a long time, mostly because the humble homemaker in me who went to work but barely worked for almost 4 months got a new job. And the job involves both traveling and working (lots of both) leaving me no time to blog.
From a life where travel meant the 45 mins spent in traffic and work checking out interesting blogs, I sure have come a long way.
I hate working when I am off work and yet I find myself answering calls, sending frantic mails and messages to my team at all hours and as far as traveling is concerned well I board around 3 flights a week, take a few road trips and travel a bit in the city also. So where is the time for brooding you ask and pray why do I brood?
Well only a non brooder can ask a question as silly as that, for brooders don’t need a reason or free time to brood. A true blue brooder can brood about things as profound as Keynesian economics and its debilitating effects on monthly grocery purchases to inanities like how the toe nail growth affects the delicate balance of my sanity. Or vacillating between brooding about the inappropriate debauchery of the younger generation to how did life become so boring as to not include even an iota of debauchery in the daily, weekly or even monthly routine.
So what do I brood about? Well to summarize just about everything. On whether this was the right decision, or whether my traveling effects people I love adversely. And to my utter surprise I have also caught myself brooding about whether I am a good homemaker. First of all a big BOO HOO to all folks who think that only an individual whose primary responsibility is to take care of the home is a home maker. To my mind anybody who attempts to make his/her abode a little less of a pigsty and a tad bit more homely is a “homemaker”.
Having failed miserably at doing both as a hosteller, when I shifted into my new house I pledged to be a successful “home-maker”; making my new place a little more like “home”. And that began my tryst with doing up the house (which I love), cleaning, cooking (once in a while), setting up systems and processes, dealing with the helps and being generally in charge of things. All was well on the “home making” front till the new job happened and between getting overworked and traveling things started to slip a little. I was no longer efficiently in control of things. And that made me feel depressed, guilty and most of all broody. Mostly because I saw things slipping into the same old pattern of coming back to a dirty home, finding food the help just cooked with whatever was available and struggling for 5 mins before finding a clean place to plop on. And guilty because I felt that I was once again taking my roommate for granted. Now it does help that my roommate is also my husband and he takes his vows of “in sickness and health” etc etc very seriously, but I felt guilty nonetheless. Guilty that I am away a night a week, guilty that I don’t keep up to my side of the bargain by making tea every morning, guilty that we run out of daal at times, guilty because it felt like I was taking more than giving, well to put it simply guilty that I am not around 7 days a week. And before all of you jump off your office desk I don’t think that my feelings are archaic. Admittedly a bit juvenile, selfish and premature but archaic no. And I also know that what I really suffer is from is the “I want it All” syndrome. So when I had a job that was pretty much the worst I could have asked for but my personal life was a fairy tale I was still brooding and cribbing. And today when I have a job I like (it has given me more than I had hoped for), a personal life that after a bit of managing is well as good as perfect, I am still brooding. Not cribbing because I have decided not to. But brooding nonetheless. Brooding because I want it ALL. I want the perfect job and the perfect life. The problem is that I don’t really know what “perfect” means. Is it what my brain has been pre programmed to believe or is it what I think “perfect” is or better still is “perfect” the life I am living now? I think the answer is none of the above. The answer lies probably in what two wise men once told me (experience does count) the first one said “decisions are what you make of them and you have to make your decision work for you”. The other one said “judge yourself by the standards you set for yourself and not by what others do”. And finally though I hate what Vodafone has done to the pug I am going to “MAKE THE MOST OF NOW” because maybe that is what is “perfect”.

P.S: I am happy to inform you that things on the “home making” front have not slipped into the familiar mess but are as organized as I want them to be. What with my “superior” management skills (ahem ahem), dollops of help and support from the roommate and mostly because things are never as bad as they seem at first!!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The One Where we get Locked Out

Well yesterday was an eventful day for scatter brained, careless (I prefer carefree but the husband will hotly debate that), “running into disasters” me and my cautious, meticulous and “preventing potential disasters” husband.

So after a short day at work, we reached home well in time to see the setting sun, savored tea in the balcony, enjoying our new breakfast table and kids (not ours!!!) shrieking in the background (what’s with them anyway do they have a mute button). After considerable dithering and dothering, humming and hawing there was no “running” away from what needed to be done next. With a good 90 minutes left for dinner we had no option but to go running if for nothing else but just to keep up the illusion that we are a health conscious couple and we are not letting blissful matrimony ruin that for us.

Well reluctantly (though outwardly cheerful) we got into the gear, took our respective music contraptions, mine the Ipod and the husband’s his phone (normally we go running without any music contraptions) and went out. After about 2.5 kms of puffing and panting, suddenly the husband yanked off his headphones and asked (with a carefully cultivated mixture of panic and irritation creeping in his voice) if I had kept the keys to our apartment in the regular hideaway. “Errr no” said I, smiling sweetly, hoping that would make this crisis blow away. Well that was not to happen. Neither had he and there we were at 8:00 in the evening dressed in our tracks, smelly, sweat dripping down with no money (before any smart alec comments no plastic either to save the day). The only saving grace was my husband’s music contraption, his phone!!!!! Now the phone was a great source of security and relief for my husband even though he was completely aware that it would not miraculously fit into the keyhole and open the damned door for us. Having clearly established that we were in the middle of a full blown crisis the husband immediately started evaluating all the options we had and I just about controlled myself from gleefully declaring “isn’t this just like when THE Friends get locked out”. Thankfully I did not and therefore live to tell this tale.

“Why don’t we ask the security guard for the key” meekly I suggested, the husband guffawed loudly declaring there was no way the security guard would have a spare key. I did try protesting “After all Mr.Tregger had the spare key to the apartment “, again good sense prevailed and I muttered something about it being worth a try. Try we did and I hate it when the husband is right. The security guard did not have spare keys; however he did have a few interesting ideas to break in, ranging from breaking the lock of the door, smashing a few windows, rattling the door to the balcony so as to yank the latch open. All ideas as expected were rejected by the cautious husband.

So there we were with only one option left “collect the set of spare keys from the husband’s office drawer”. Hmmph now you are thinking with the spare keys tucked away safely the story cannot be interesting any more. Hold your horses and read on……..

Well as luck (or the cautious husband) may have it the office drawer housing piles of useless correspondence( from Nirvana Diamond, Airtel and the likes) and the precious key was actually locked!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And yes the keys to that “drawer with the precious key” were locked inside the house. So there we were back to square one, stranded outside our home, smelly, tired and now hungry.

This is the part where my faith in security guards and my husband’s faith in his phone paid off. So he called his office security guard and asked him if he had spare keys to the drawer. With baited breath he waited for the answer, after a minute’s pause the husband heard jangling in the background as the security guard woefully declared that he would have to locate that one small key in the bunch of thousand other keys!!! My husband suggested breaking the drawer open, but that was met vehement disapproval at the other end. So in the end the husband instructed the security guard to try all the keys one by one while we went ahead looking for a locksmith.

Now in the city of Bengaluru where pubs/discos and even “shanti sagars” close at 11 we were to discover that no locksmith either is available at 8:30 in the night. After trying unsuccessfully for a while we called up the office security guard in complete desperation. This time with the steely resolve to use all our United Nationsque negotiation skills and if required Uncle Samsque threatening skills.

Luck finally did shine on us and the harrowed security guard informed an equally harrowed husband that the drawer had been “opened”. Halleluiah. Now all we had to do was catch an auto, reach the office, recover the keys and get back home.

But as they say in tinsel town the struggle had just begun. All those who have ever tried to hail an auto in Namma Bengaluru will painfully know that getting an auto at 8:30 in the night, with signs of a downpour and no money in your pocket to pay the fare (that may actually buy you that auto) is not child’s play. But we were not to be disillusioned, having held our fort the entire evening we braced ourselves for the next challenge. So we were in the middle of the road wildly waving our arms to hail any auto that cared to stop and make that round trip to MG road. Miracle of miracles, after 3 autos rudely turned down our request of hauling us from here to there and then back here again (one of them did not even bother to refuse, he just hrmmphed and moved on!!!) one of them actually did agree to ferry us on our expedition. I swear at that moment I felt exactly like the front runners of the Amazing Race Asia when they successfully negotiated with a taxi to ferry them around Kolkatta (yes I watch too much TV, but you are on the internet all the time so don’t judge me! Triumphantly we boarded the auto for what we prayed was the last leg of our adventure.

We reached the husband’s office, recovered the keys, quickly gobbled a few bourbon chocolate biscuits (in the process negating whatever little calories we had burned by running) and finally headed back to the auto. Our return journey started on a rather auspicious note, with the roaring of thunder, the cackling of lightening and big drops of rain falling on our noses. We huddled ourselves in the middle of the auto while the auto-driver unperturbed drove on.

Then around halfway through the auto wallah stopped and my heart missed a beat too. I could not believe that we were finally living our dream of starring in a Bollywood pot boiler complete with melodramatic twists and incredulous turns.

Our legitimate marriage did play a spoilsport, I mean how romantic can a hungry, tired and “waiting to take your life if blamed for the predicament” married couple be? They certainly cannot hold a candle to a much in love, “tortured by society” and “I will give my life for you” dating couple. I overlooked the small complication as I mentally scanned the brimming over repository of Bollywood romantic rain songs. As I settled for “kaate nahi katte ye din ye raaat…” from Mr. India, the auto-wallah got out of the auto with a seriously dirty towel and wiped the window of his auto. Nonchalantly he got back into the auto, started it and off we were. My dreams of starring in the Bollywood pot boiler were ruthlessly crushed under the tyres of the auto and the auto-wallah’s dangerous driving.

We reached home at ten, without any further “twists and turns”, paid the auto-wallah and settled in with a hot bowl of soup to watch our favorite program on TV. Happy to be home.

That was the end of our little adventure. Infact as I wrap this up I think all married people can empathize with me as I blissfully contemplate changing the title of this post to “The one where we get locked out and do not blame each other” J

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Last week I got a gift. My husband got me an “art set”. Colors for painting fabric, ceramic, glass and what not. A set of crayons, a set of cartoon pens, a drawing pad, some lovely drawing pencils wrapped in shiny gift wrap. And was I excited.
Now all those who know me please do not get shocked. For the un-initiated “fine arts” has never been my forte (putting it mildly). Colors rarely remained within their boundaries when I deigned to color a picture, no one could give a suitable name to the forms I drew and drawing straight lines even when there was a ruler around became a challenge. I was never the gifted child who copied the flower in all its glory from the blackboard during art class, I was never graded an A+ by the insipid art teacher who actively deducted marks for not copying the flower perfectly.

I once remember making a chart to be used as a class aid while the teacher taught us about the conquests of Akbar the Great. I really slogged and put in all the artistic energy I had to ensure that nothing was amiss in the drawing and the chart was a befitting tribute to Akbar the Great. “Today shall be my redemption”, is what I thought as I trudged happily to school, smiling as smugly as the mustached Akbar was on my chart. Well I CAME into the class, the teacher SAW the picture and laughter conquered all. After a few minutes of raucous laughter the teacher quieted the class and declared it was best that we proceed with the class without the “teaching aid”. To put it mildly my tryst with the fine arts ended there for the next few years at least.

As an engineering student I struggled considerably with Engineering Drawing and Machine Drawing. It was horrifying to say the least. With a contraption called the “drafter” I struggled to draw straight lines, angles, top views and side views. The only successful attempt at art of any sort was the birthday card I made for my boyfriend. The fact that he is my husband today is only because he showered lavish praise on that “sweet birthday” card I made with active help from my more artistically gifted friends.

And then things changed. Suddenly one lazy weekend while aimlessly flicking through channels I came across this interesting program called “Art Attack” on Disney. The non clinical approach towards art with the instructor actually acting as a guide while allowing his viewers to make mistakes, innovate and lend their interpretation to various projects that he worked on made it really exciting. It also helped that most of his projects were about sticking things together and slapping loads of paint untidily rather than drawing intricate patterns and designs on thick art paper. Actually what really helped is that his projects were for viewers aged 7-10 and therefore none of them intimidated me at all!!! (Ok some of them did not). A few weekends of watching “Art Attack” did the trick. I also discovered something called MAD on Pogo on the same lines. Finally the bug had bitten me. Finally the Art Attack had happened. I ATTACKED all art supplies and art projects with a vengeance and devoured them till the remnants of my attack could not be identified as art.

Some interesting attacks have been:

  • Painting a tall biscuit jar into a flower vase. Well here it is proudly housing the bright flowers.

  • Painting an unused saucer (unused because first we never bothered with it and then when we thought about restoring its rightful place under the cup during our morning chai routine, the cup broke.) Finally I think the saucer is living its destiny housing the creatures of the sea I have painted on it along with the smiling moon. Don’t ask an artist why? Just absorb the beauty of this piece of art!!! Don’t know what we will do with this, but suggestions anyone???

Other attacks shall follow soon; other unused objects in the kitchen, bathroom and elsewhere shall get transformed into works of art. But what amuses me about this new found hobby is not that I pride myself in creating these obviously juvenile projects but how much I enjoy these art attacks.

I never enjoyed art as a kid. I never painted cute pictures of “my family” that were proudly displayed on the fridge for all to see. I never colored during lazy Sunday afternoons without a care to the world. “Drawing and Painting” (actually add stitching, embroidering, nib painting, soft toy making and all the forms of art “hobby classes” taught) were never my cup of tea. I never liked doing any of it.

Suddenly things have changed. Even while some of my friends go about creating life, their own flesh and blood, their screeching little ones and some others go about attainting great corporate heights I have found happiness in these childish “art attacks”. Friends guffaw when I tell them about this, even my mother is surprised. And what amuses me is that I really enjoy this and often wonder why as a kid when I was supposed to be blissfully trying my hand at art I abhorred it so much. And now I may sound bonkers but the answer to this question brings me to something I passionately believe in and that is the incompleteness and inadequacy of the Indian education system. If this blog had enough readers a lot of them would have jumped out of their seats to defend the famed Indian School Education that produces great IITians, IIM Grads etc etc. I am not for a minute saying that Indian schools do not teach us to slog enough. But I am saying that they do not teach us to think enough, be creative enough and be individual enough. Every time I attend a training session which exhorts us to “think out of the box” the irony of it all never fails to amuse me. We spent all these years at great institutions of learning with only one agenda: “How to think within the strict confines of the box”, reading very specific text books, dealing with specific questions and answering back with even more specific replies. Very Strait Jacketed, no room for any lunatic doubts, no space for a different point of view and definitely no liberty to draw a house with crooked windows in a garden full of red grass under the green sky. And therefore I never drew and painted. I know you think this connection is abstruse but the fact is that it was very inconvenient for most teachers I encountered to let children draw what they wanted to rather than what had been carefully planned for them. I just found it very stifling to copy the “vase full of flowers” in all its perfection, coloring it in the colors prescribed by the text book.

Don’t even get me started on how competitive the Indian Schooling System is. The concept of “doing your best” does not resonate well with Indian teachers, students and parents alike. It always has to be THE best. An even more alien concept is “ENJOY what you do”. The truth is that I never enjoyed drawing and painting because I was never good at it and definitely not the best. The pictures I made were always “wrong”.

Fortunately time passed by and education (which has nothing to do with my degrees) liberated me enough to understand that it is not about drawing the “right” picture but only about a lazy Saturday afternoon in the balcony, sipping some tea and painting away without a care to the world.

“Viva Art Attack”

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Of Posts and Comments

I had another thought for another post but then the lone, single but immensely encouraging comment on my last post made me abandon the other thought for the other post with glee, and I embarked upon my desperate plea for more such encouraging comments/reviews.

In the “Orkut” world an individual’s worth is measured by the number of friends, fans, scraps, testimonials and matrimonial/franship requests s/he has. In the blogger’s world a blogger is only as good or bad as the number of visitors on her page, the regularity with which posts are published, the use of technology to publish pictures, videos etc, the number of tags that one has, the number of comments that each post attracts and links to other similar esteemed bloggers.

Well all of you (yes all of the ten people who read this blog) have already figured out I am not an esteemed blogger. The number of “unique visitors” to my blog if I stretch it too far will be 10, the few lonely comments (one of which I forced my husband to make) on some of my posts reflect that these ten are apparently not engaged enough with my thought provoking, lucid and funny narratives. Refer to my technical PIS to understand why they haven’t been any funny pictures or “reveal too much” videos on the blog. No one has tagged me yet and I have not yet mustered the courage to link bloggers I admire to my post.

In this context the comment Inja made on my last post, was more than welcome, for three hours even the grimmest news could not wipe the grin off my face and the skip in my step and song on my lips was apparent to all and sundry. The aftereffects of the comment has forced me to send out an appeal to all my lurking readers to come out in the open and declare their love, hatred or general apathy towards my blog in the form of “comments”.

Once I set my eyes on the goal, like every marketing professional worth her salt I explored the various “media vehicles” I have to effectively communicate my fervent appeal to comment. Here were the options:

  1. Call up the 10 readers with a request/threat to post a comment on the blog
  2. Email them with a helpful link to the “post a comment” section of my last post
  3. Spam everyone on my mailing list with my blog’s link and a fervent appeal to save the nation and a dying child by publishing a comment on my blog.
  4. Use Orkut to send scraps to all and sundry

Well like a lot of marketing professionals I abandoned all the well thought of options and decided to pursue the appeal through a post itself. The reasons (yes I am a reasonable person, I find reasons to justify most absurd things I do) are as follows:

  1. I don’t trust the “unique visitors” of my blog to post a comment if the appeal remains private.
  2. What if my desperation doesn’t come across completely in the one liner I mail?
  3. (Some more marketing jargon here) A post about it ensures that the medium itself becomes the message!!!!
  4. Finally it helps me add another post to my sparsely populated blog (as was mentioned by Pritha in one of her comments)
So, here I am folks having made my pitch waiting for “you know what”!!!!!

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Atlas Frown Epidemic

Well the “Atlas Frown Epidemic” is everywhere. On the streets, in the office, the bus, the elevator and even the mall. There is no escaping the “atlas frown”, chances are that as you waste company time reading this post the joker in the next cubicle has the frown, look into the mirror you may have it yourself!!!

Well before you start staring in other people’s faces looking for tell tale signs of the frown let me explain what it means. In laymen’s language “Atlas Frown” is the frown I imagine the mythical Greek hero Atlas must have had as he went around carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

As I flit around in my usual carefree, frivolous manner smiling unnecessarily at strangers I am greeted by the “atlas frown”. Everyone seems to be a tearing hurry, laptop in tow (some keep it open for good measure); the phone precariously perched between the ear and the shoulder, a memo pad in one hand and a chewed pen in the other. With time I have learnt to decode this for what it actually means. In simple English this look means one and only one thing: “My job is more important than anyone else in office, in fact I am the only one who works, actually you could fire everyone else and I shall still be running everything as smoothly as ever”. Yes you got it: the Atlas Frowner carries the weight of the entire office on his delicate shoulders (there is a reason I have used his vs. her, men tend to have the frown more than women) Look around and you shall be able to point out at least 5 such AFs (Atlas Frowners) dangerously close to you. The tell tale signs of someone suffering from this epidemic are:

  1. Their speed of pacing up and down (especially in front of the boss’s cabin)is never less than 60miles per hour
  2. They are never, let me repeat, never caught smiling, laughing is unthinkable and completely unpardonable.
  3. They are always on the phone, hmming and hawing loudly with phrases like “this is not done”, “the timelines are really tight”, “we have to stretch ourselves” et al.
  4. In front of the laptop they are always typing at a frantic speed, the hammering of the keyboard heard at the other end of the building
  5. They only speak in shorthand; they really don’t have the time to complete sentences.
  6. They will loose their temper and rave and rant at least once a day (even if it is at the pre recorded IVR line).
  7. No one talks to them or looks at them unless it is absolutely necessary.
  8. Finally they are always frowning.

Well to be fair Atlas Frowners are also of various gradations. Like every dangerous epidemic worth its infection there are the terminal cases, frowners who actually believe that if they as much as de-crease the lines on their forehead and acknowledge the existence of their subordinate/colleague the company share price will come crashing down, the shutters will close and the rest of the office will loose their jobs any which way.. They are not faking it; their entire system over the years has been rewired to believe that they run the damn place. Their worst nightmare: the office functioning smoothly without their supervision, intervention and hyperventilation. For such terminal cases a wise man in Bollywood once said “inhe dawa ki nahin dua ki zaroorat hai”.

Next in the food chain are the “Aspiring Atlas Frowners”. Unlike the terminal AFs the aspiring AFs are acutely and painfully aware that their existence does not make a difference to anyone except their poker partners at work. They aspire be the terminal Atlas Frowner, the super-worker who is perpetually chasing deadlines, the busy bee whose outlook calendar does not have space to accommodate nature breaks. Like silly school boys they pray fervently to become the terminal Atlas Frowner even if it were for a day. And they practice wearing the “Atlas Frown” as even sillier boys practiced wearing their underpants on their pants. The Atlas frown is a proud accessory they sport all the time, an accessory that they hope helps them crawl up the official calendar. They don’t wear the frown naturally but their attempt is never to be seen without it. To them a wise philosopher says (ok me) “try and try again and you shall finally fail”

Then there are blokes like you and me, the “opportunistic atlas frowners”. Now we maybe at the bottom rung on the official ladder with no hope in hell to climb, but as far as the self actualization ladder is concerned we have reached pretty dizzy heights. “Opportunistic Atlas Frowners” are evolved enough to fully comprehend that no ones (including their own) existence, absence or presence matters to any corporate conglomerate and in the end it doesn’t really matter. However to provide for their physiological and safety needs they realize the role the Atlas Frown plays. And do they wear the frown well; no one can cast an aspersion on the authenticity of their frown as they blissfully surf the net, coochie coo with their girlfriends/boyfriends on the phone, walk in late, leave early, illegally download music and films, chat with strangers from lands afar, write testimonials on various social networking sites and fill up online surveys for which they are paid measly sums. The Atlas Frown shields them from all queries, concerns, downward pay revisions and even pink slips. They are the “Opportunistic Atlas Frowners” who have wisely decided to cash in on this widespread epidemic.

Well to conclude, all I have to say is that considering I been writing this post and you have been reading it doesn’t it pay to be an “Opportunistic Atlas Frowner”???

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Newspaper, Radioshow and the Everest

Yesterday a newspaper article depressed me. Living under the self perpetuated delusion that nothing published in a newspaper possessed the capability of shocking, saddening or amusing me anymore, my depression shocked me. What with growing adult cynicism I was presumptuously convinced that newspapers were like the genies and ghosts of yesteryears that had long lost their intrigue, mystery and power to terrorise. Well, yesterday was one of those days when pompous self beliefs and assumptions were cruelly put into perspective. “China will build a $20 million, 67-mile blacktop highway on Mt. Everest. Now that appalled me. I shook my head in complete disbelief as one super power for the ostentatious display of wealth, power and impending superstardom had officially joined the race on “Who’s the bigger Idiot”. As one superpower wages war in a ridiculous attempt to recover “weapons of mass destruction” the potential superpower decides to plant its own weapons of mass destruction close to at the highest point on earth. Even at the risk of sounding repetitive and pedantic, I would like to shout it out once more… building a road, transporting machinery, making the base camp more accessible to fuel guzzling and green house gas emitting vehicles, littering humans and tourist hoarding ugly resorts is a BAD IDEA. Don’t argue, you know it and so do I. And let’s not even get into the sovereignty of Tibet issue here. That is for another day. I guess you get the picture, well I was depressed. Thought about it once or twice as I waded through some completely meaningless “crises at work” and mentioned it to friends over a couple (ok more than a couple) of drinks.
I woke up in the morning today. It looked like a promising day, no boss around, over cast skies and hints of a downpour. After my tryst with newspapers yesterday I switched on the radio. To put things into perspective, radio as a medium always manages to amusingly shock me. What with giggling RJs, bad music, pathetic ads (clients and agencies alike do not know how to deal with the medium) and completely inane callers. Well the morning show was on and the “serious issue” they were discussing took my (dis)respect for the medium to a completely unexplored plane. Now, now do not get all cynical as you dismiss RJS and callers with equal disdain, they were discussing the road to Everest base camp. Surprise, surprise read on. Here is how the show went:

Stupid RJ: Hee Hee.. what a lovely morning it is hee hee and we have some great music(???) lined up for all of you hee heee haaa haaa…. Also today we are discussing with all of you a very serious issue (insane laughter follows).. China is building a resort at the everest base camp.. hee haa haa.. this is not the first time such a thing is happening.. many historical/landmark places have been converted to resorts… ha ha ha ha… the Bangalore Palace Grounds and the Fort Aguda Resort in Goa..ha ha ha ha (stupid geography and history lessons followed which I was too shocked to pay any attention to) so the question I am asking Bangalore today is .. hehaheha “do such “resorts (I am not exaggerating she said resort) make historical/landmark places more accessible to the common man or they spoil the serene beauty” more laughter and stupid music follows till K is on line
Stupid RJ: Well we have K online to answer our question for the day. Ha haa Heloooooooooooooo K how are you doing?
Stupider K: I am good …. Umm errr good.
Stupid RJ: #$@%^*****$$@@@^^^^ (stupid pleasantries) Well K what do you think of China building a resort on Everest??????
Stupider K: umm… I think it is err… a really bad idea (I hoped that she would bring some sense to this whole conversation exposing the stupid RJs stupidity.. but what do I know) because such resorts hmmm…are very expensive and are ummm…completely unaffordable to the middle class (ahh the famous middle class)
Stupid RJ: hmmmmmmmm hehahehaheha that is true.. these places are quite expensive.
(A pregnant pause latter)
Stupid RJ: But what if it becomes affordable to the middle class?? (What a solution bravo!!!)
Stupider K: ummm er… well also they cannot maintain “it” (I don’t k now what “it” was supposed to mean)
Stupid RJ: Well what if it was affordable and they could maintain “it”.. ha ha hee hahee (her moment of brilliance… such a simple solution)
Stupider K: I guess that would be fine…ummm errr
Stupid RJ: well thanks for ……….

I get off the car and am thankfully spared further ecological, social, political and “it” discussions.
Well what do I say, maybe global warming is good as it maintains “it” and is quite affordable for the middle class? What do I know?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Protective Incompetence Syndrome

“People who don't want to get dragged into some kind of work often develop a protective incompetence at it”. Today I came across this brilliant observation by a very smart person on the internet (which has these days become a faithful companion for reasons undisclosed). Much to my husband’s chagrin the sentence can very truthfully read as “When Nandita does not want to get dragged into some kind of work, she often develops a protective incompetence at it” as one of the solemn and not so flattering entries on my “life as an adult” report card. Everyone who knows me has been at some point been subjected to my “protective incompetence syndrome” (hereby referred to as PIS).And at some point wondered aloud as to how a smart person like myself (yes I am allowed to brag about myself in all the posts) can be beyond dumb while dealing with a few things. Before people (yes the all of ten people who read my blog can be referred to as people) jump to the conclusion that my “left-right recognition” disorder is feigned and is a protective device I use to prevent myself from walking/heading straight and reaching the right destination, let me assure all of you it is a real disorder and some day medical science shall evolve enough to prove my complete innocence and real incompetence.
Well getting back to the intriguing subject of “PIS” the first evidence I submit for the jury’s consumption is that I am technically handicapped engineer. IT BHU, one of the best engineering colleges in India, attempted to train me as an engineer, a ceramic engineer at that, in vain. However, living for four years with some people who believed that babbling about electrical circuits, java scripts and some motor qualified as conversation, I was acutely aware of the fact that I could never salivate at the thought of technology. However hard I tried I could never titrate, measure, calibrate or fix anything precisely. My poor lab mates after a year of struggling with my handicap, incorrect results and innumerable re dos finally took things in their hands (literally) and henceforth I was assigned the all important work of cleaning, recording, holding test tubes and cracking silly jokes to keep the spirits of the group high. It was truly a win-win situation. (Or that’s how I would like to reminisce about it). Three years were spent with the group successfully completing all experiments without my expertise, well within the allotted time, the rest of the time well spent at the cafeteria discussing the state of Indian/university/department/class politics, Norwegian literature and the latest champions of Age of Empires. I have worn my “technical incompetence” on my sleeve and till date have never tried to read the manual of any new appliance, always stare at the husband expectantly when people ask questions on how many songs can my new N 70 store (have not used its music features till now), what mega-pixel camera we have and expertly file my nails as the husband figures out why has the fridge suddenly gone kaput.
Just recently I went home and bought my parents a new DVD player, which my mother has only used till now to pause and watch my wedding DVD some 50 times, each time with a new guest to torture. Well getting back to the DVD player, I made a few feeble attempts to read the manual and get the player to play (well u guessed it) my wedding DVD, till my technical PIS completely took over me and I declared that we should call up the showroom salesman to come and give us the promised demo. For the umpteenth time I heard “engineer ho naa??” from my totally bewildered dad. My submissions on how we were entitled to the demo in this “customer is queen” era were dully ignored, Mr. Fixit Dad took over and a few buttons, rewiring and instructions later lo and behold hey presto the DVD player started belting out boring visuals and filmy music from my wedding DVD. Thus my tryst with technology continues as my technical PIS strengthens with each passing day.
My next submission to this audience is my non existing driving skills. Living in Bangalore with the extremely hostile public transport system often makes me wonder whether the time to shed my driving PIS has come but like all syndromes PIS is also not easy to let go off. My driving PIS however has a (legitimate) history. During my class 9 summer vacations my dad decided that my pursuit of nothingness has reached its zenith and there were a few skills that were to be passed on father to daughter, driving being the first one.
The lessons began with much fanfare early one morning on our beloved Fiat (those were its good old days, when all the four doors could be opened). Changing the gears, maneuvering the car while dealing with rickshaws, tempos, lunas and cars on the unruly roads of Lucknow was a daunting task but my tenacious soul was not to be deterred and I mastered the art of driving under the watchful eyes of my father. Till one day, fairly confident of my driving skills I maneuvered the steering wheel with the gusto and gumption of a seasoned driver as my dad sat next to me, basking in the contentment of having taught his daughter well. Till one wobbly cycle wallah decided to plonk himself right in front of me (or so I claim till date). As I started screeching at the top of my voice, not availing the benefits of having a horn (that functioned too in those days) and my dad shouted “brakes, brakes I pressed what I thought were the breaks with a vengeance, except it was the accelerator I was actually pressing. Fortunately I only rammed into an enclosed lawn in front of a house while the cycle wallah escaped unscathed.
Having recovered from the shock unhurt I saw a group of morning walkers, doodhwallahs and curious auntyjis congregating around mumbling on how much damage to “jaan – maal” could have happened due to the reckless driving of a heady teenager. My dad somehow managed to calm them in his true Lucknowi style and got construction workers to haul the poor Fiat out of a mangle of concrete, wire and bushes. I heaved a sigh of relief and my dad drove me back home. My brother claims the downfall of the Fiat began that very day (but that’s another story). Years have passed since, experiments on various cars have happened, the accelerator-brake confusion making its presence felt every time I think I am all set to hit the road. My husband has been desperately trying to teach me how to drive, but the driving PIS has survived all efforts.
Finally as I struggle with my usual inability of coming up with anything clever to end the post I am forced to write “These were some of my PISs what are yours???”

Friday, June 01, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things

As I desperately try and catch a glance of the “pitter-patter” raindrops through the corner office window (to which unfortunately I have no claim) and insanely try and sniff the intoxicating earthy smell of rain that has expectedly failed to make it past the glass windows… I start humming in my head. The mesmerizing rains, the freshly washed greens and the buzz in the office (of which fortunately or unfortunately I am not a part of) often have this effect on me. As I hum “these are a few of my favorite things”, the lack of any (in) consequential or (un)productive work has inspired me to pen down the list of my favorite things. So Ladies and Gentlemen here goes the list:

  • Waking up in the morning 15 mins before the alarm goes off to gleefully realize that there is still sometime left before I am pushed unwillingly into the “hum-drum” of everyday life.
  • Unexpected phone calls from friends far away. The heartfelt “just felt like talking to you” brings a toothpaste commercial worthy smile to my face every time.
  • Summer vacations, only the fond, lazy and absolutely scrumptious memories of which remain in my heart now. I sit at my desk and curse the corporate world and all its trappings for having snatched away from me on4e of mankind's best inventions. I would like to take this opportunity to warn students of all varieties that the corporate world is not called “cruel” and “heartless” for nothing.
  • All Enid Blyton classics. Like true love there is no sane reason why at my age (no, I am not telling you my age) I still louve all, I mean all, the works of Enid Blyton.
  • My husband’s stupid jokes. He is funny, he cracks me up and no, I cannot for reviving your lack luster life retell his jokes through this blog, you have to be there to get them. But what I love more than his jokes is the involuntary bout of giggling that grips me when by some bizarre twist of fate I recall his jokes in a serious business meeting and the futile explanations I try to give my bewildered colleagues on why the giggle.
  • Lending my artistic interpretation to songs and garbling up lyrics while I sing along at the top my voice to music being played irrespective of whether I am in the car, the loo, the living room, film theatres, restaurants etc etc. And yes, years of practice has made me view the dirty, pained and angry looks of friends and strangers with a pinch of pity, “tch tch poor plebeians”, after all no one understood Picasso while he was around either.
  • The spring in my step, the glow on my suitably reddened face and the sweat in my armpits after a good workout. Like all good things in life this is also a rarity. Inspite of having promised to myself and declared to the whole world my solemn (and may I add rather desperate) pledge of exercising at least 4 times a week, the reasons to not exercise are galore. With each passing day the reasons (ok excuses) get more colorful, imaginative and completely original, but that’s for another post.
  • Aloo ka Parathas (now you know why the desperation): I just love them. In the hallowed messes of IT BHU I learnt exactly how to savor allo ka parathas with loads of butter (sinful) on a leisurely Sunday morning. The hot, steaming and thick parathas with generous fillings of Aloo & spicy chilli with dollops of butter floating on them make my nerve endings tingle with delight even as I write this. This was the only thing served in the mess that was loved by one and all in our batch. The Sunday morning Allo ka Paratha (ok parathas) had become such a tradition that the very thought of not having them on the Sunday Menu for even a single Sunday spelt combined disaster for the mess in charge. Even as I finished a romantic, candlelight Saturday night dinner at a fancy (or what we thought was fancy at that time) restaurant I started hallucinating about the “parathas”. Years have gone by but the taste of those parathas remains firmly poised in my memory. (The number of words devoted to this point as opposed to the others is testimony enough).
  • The winters of north India: The cold biting winds that hit my face always succeed in de-cluttering my head. As I rather loudly chatter my teeth and rub my glove clad hands everything becomes clear my in head and heart. The delightful woolens at United Colors of Benetton always add that extra color and zing color to my winters. I miss all of it, children packed in woolens with dry faces and red noses heading towards school early in the morning, warm roadside fires, peanuts, pleasant late morning sunlight, fog, gajar ka halwa and hot sweet roadside masala chai. I long for the winters as I stand in humid Bombay asking me my mom in January “kitni thand pad rahi hai wahan”
  • Oranges: My love for oranges is legendary so much so that once amused by my unfaltering obsession with the fruit my mother declared that it would be best if I were married off to an orange orchard owner. My friends and colleagues know that I am extremely possessive about the fruit and when there are oranges involved my usual generous, amiable, friendly, well natured self (yes I am allowed to brag about myself in this post) jumps out of the window and a highly suspecting, possessive and competitive personality takes over as I zealously guard the oranges I have bought for only my and I repeat only my consumption. To celebrate my engagement (fortunately or unfortunately not to an orange orchard owner)My friends presented me with a box of oranges for obvious reasons. I gushed at their love and will never forget the thoughtful gesture.
  • The Sea: The vast expanse of blue green waters, the sound of the waves against the shore and the sight of the small fishing boat in the distance calms me down like nothing else. I think people who live by the sea are the luckiest; the fact that you can turn your back to the world and all its inanities, to gaze at something so beautiful and boundless is priceless. It immediately makes life’s immediate problems seem completely trivial, silly and more often than not extremely solvable.
  • The ghats of Banaras: I remember my first visit to the ghats courtesy some very kind seniors who took all of us on a boating trip during the monsoons. As we made our way through the teeming crowds wading through all the mud and slush we just could not fathom the adoration all had for the Ghats. But soon all of it made sense. I know it sounds corny but the ghats were spiritual, the evening aarti and the floating diyas with the gongs complete with hippie foreigners, devout pilgrims and scary looking sadhus adds mystic to the city that is Banaras. And as a wise woman once said “the river looks different at different times of the day and seasons”. Visiting the ghats was like going to a completely new place every time. There were times when a boatman sang an earthy raag or folksong from his boat halfway across the river while regulars took a holy dip in the cold and really dirty waters, children ran gleefully flying kits and playing cricket while we sat on the sidelines enjoying a delicious aloo papad and hot masala chai while gazing at the river dance around in the sunlight.

So these were a few of my favorite things… what are yours????????????????

Monday, April 23, 2007

The First of Many Lasts

As I take my last early morning flight to Bombay this Monday morning I abandoned another post in favor of listing what I would definitely not miss about these early morning torture drills and what I would miss (surprise , surprise read on).

First stating the obvious: Things I shall not miss

1. Getting up at the unearthly hour of 5:00 AM. Believe me it is as bad as it sounds. It took Monday morning blues to a completely new level.
2. The "running against time"; secretly hoping that I would miss my flight but egging on the Asia Travel driver to hone his skills for whenever the F1 track finally opens at Hyderabad.
3. The nauseating, sickening air plane smell that hits me as soon as I enter the aircraft. It makes me puke. I so dread it that many a times I have woken up in the middle of the night in a sweat wanting to puke coz I can smell "it". It is on me. And in those dark (at times drunken nights) I can completely empathize with Lady Macbeth as I say "All the fresh hot/cold towels shall not wipe away the smell of JP miles"
4. The sweet fake smiles plastered on the awesomely pretty/handsome faces of the cabin crew. I cannot believe anyone can be cheerful at that hour.
5. Being buckled up, waiting for the aircraft to taxi listening to the cabin crew declare for the nth time "We are 26th in line to fly" while somehow resisting the temptation to unshackle myself and run to the loo and pee.
6. Aircraft food. It is stale. Period.
7. The irritating "instrumental music" played during take off and landing. No one is humming it. Take a hint, everyone hates it. Actually Jet did take a hint and now plays the genre my brother calls "Adult Alternative" with words.
8. Traveling on any seat except emergency exit, 10 Aisle and Business class. I cannot contain my long legs in that tiny space. Please forgive my misgivings about myself and read on.
9. Being woken up from my head to toe blanket covered slumber with a "umm err excuse me.. excuse me please please will you have any breakfast" .I am covered in this blanket to obliterate any signs of my being in the aircraft, (the umm and err thus explained as they cannot decide from the form beneath the blanket whether it is a Sir or a Madam they are addressing), I don’t want the crew to ruin my illusion. Also had they ever been privy to points 1, 4 and 6 of this post they would have never risked waking me up with their fake smiles offering me aircraft food.
10. Filling up "feedback forms". I am every market researcher’s nightmare. Depending on my relative state of despair or hope either everything is very good or poor. Couple that with my really bad handwriting, I wonder why my name has not been flashed on people who should never fill the form ever. I wonder why I end up filling the form with an amazing frequency.
11. Circling Bombay skies hearing some strange drawl from the cockpit announce "due to unavoidable circumstances we are 31st in line to land, we apologise for the delay".
12. Bad landings and the consequent knot in my stomach. Fortunately inspite of numerous false alarms I have never thrown up on my co passengers and landed on their list of things they shall not miss on flights.

Stating what’s beneath the surface: Things I shall miss

1. The sweet smiles on the awesomely pretty/handsome faces of the cabin crew. At times they were the only reason why I did not bawl like a baby at my predicament.
2. Reading Bombay Times, DNA, MidDay etc etc from front to back learning all the "important" going ons
3. To be fair I did pick up a few skills. I can imitate without a flaw the following. " Muasam kharab hone ke karan aap se anurodh hain ki apni kursi pe laut jaye aur apni kusi ki peti baandh le" I love the emphasis on "apni kusi"the underlying thought being "please don’t take undue advantage of the bad weather and land in someone else’s lap/chair"
4. The early morning free cookie jar. I am shallow I love anything that is free, these were cookies!!!!
5. The priority tag on my check in bag, I told you I am shallow I get the kicks out of small materialistic joys.
6. On those few occasions when I did not manage to fall asleep I did enjoy trudging through sudoko (the new national craze) and am glad have picked up a new hobby.
7. On these recent occasions using my upgrade voucher to travel in "relative" style and comfort.
Told ya am shallow.

This was my list. But you know what I shall really miss: landing in my favorite city, getting sucked into the job I like on most occasions, meeting colleagues I shall miss, catching up with friends I shall cherish and walking into that building that is almost home.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Of Smells and Sounds

I was sitting in a training session today (don’t snigger, yes another training session so what!!), well everything was the same. A vaguely familiar conference room in a vaguely familiar hotel, the same fashionable mumblings on how much “work” could have been packed into this day, the same apprehensive smiling cynics and the same unbounded joy that engulfs all while they attack food. All the same except for one sniggling difference, the training session actually set me thinking, thinking not only about the way I work (which it was intended to), actually on second thoughts it didn’t set me thinking, it set me reminiscing.

Before all you philosophical types get excited, this post is not about my catharsis, its not about me going into a frenzy as I start hating my predictably un-intellectual and supremely uninspiring life full of self imposed audio and visual onslaughts (it will take much more than one training session to do that). It’s really about a train of thought that was triggered by something the trainer said. He asked us if we could go back into time… He asked if a smell, a sound, a color or a touch could trigger a memory and take us back to another place, another time. The answer is yes you dunce but that’s also not the point.
The point, in case you are getting bored and are about to close the page is the number of smells, sights and sounds that suddenly tingled my nerve endings at his question.

How do I begin, maybe at the rumbling of the huge desert cooler outside the living room? The whirring motor and the rumbling cooler promised a cool, lazy afternoon reading an Agatha Christie (btw filling the cooler was an art because you had to be careful the motor stayed dry!!). The refreshing smell of Khus coming from the cooler is the best air freshener I have ever known. I can’t help but smile at the memory of my brother and me standing precariously close to the cooler fan, being blinded by the gush of dusty air, singing the latest song (that had caught our fancy and had been butchered beyond recognition) into the whirring fan. Believe it or not we got delirious with joy on hearing the roar of the fan transform the song into some extra terrestrial war anthem. I have argued with my brother on countless occasions that the three A.Cs now at our home can barely manage to cool as well as the huge rusting desert cooler. Maybe it’s global warming, or maybe it’s just the noise, or the lack of it.
Or how the smell of paint always reminds me of the one white washing (or was it distempering) we had either before or after the rains. All I know is that the smell of paint washed walls mixed with the khushboo (there is no word in my limited English vocabulary for khushboo; perfume is artificial, smell stands for smelly and aroma is pretentious) of the rains made an intoxicating concoction. We are decent people so the house has been painted many a times after that but that’s the only white washing I remember. Maybe because after that I plastered my room with posters of Dev Anand (yes I was/ok am a fan of black and white Dev Anand.. but so what you like Sachin!!), Tom Cruise and Pete Sampras (see I’ve always been “eclectic”) or maybe because that’s when I heard the soul stirring “Tum Pukaar Lo” or probably because that’s when I knew I could sing to save my life.
Or how the chirping of the birds early in the morning… before you go aww cho chweet, well the chirping irritated me no end. In the early hours of the morning when my sub conscious, conscious and unconscious being merged into one groggy, grumpy existence, the incessant chirping (louder and chirpier when they had caught a worm) was the end of the sweet slumber and the beginning of another torturous day of school, tuition, teenage politics and not so friendly sibling rivalry. Well to be fair to the birds, the day in the end always turned out to be much better than that but their chirping invariably made me think of the worst. Maybe it’s because I hate being woken up with a start. Ok I am lazy I hate being woken up.
Or maybe about how the roar of thunder and cackle of lightening reminds me of the word game (dude shall explain what that means). The thunder storm was always followed by a power cut, in those days we had no inverter and the power cut meant the four of us sitting in the candle light trying to stare at each other. In the absence of any distractions the fear of my brother and me breaking out into World War III necessitated that my mum find a way to keep us busy. Ingenious woman that she is, she invented the “word game” (probably someone else invented it.. but as far as I am concerned mommy did). Well to put it simply it’s a word antakshri; so I was supposed to begin a word with the last alphabet of the word my brother used. I know it wasn’t as entertaining as “inventive insults” antakshri or “how hard does my pillow hit you”, and certainly couldn’t hold a candle to “I shall irritate you to death”. But our “un”healthy competitive spirit soon got the better of us and we were completely enthralled in scheming/plotting and trying to beat the other at his/her own game. So much so that we didn’t notice the heat, the buzzing and biting of mosquitoes, our sweat or the ticking clocks… don’t know what was more fun, the joy of learning new words, or the chance of using words like “ostentatious” or maybe it was just the chance of getting even with my brother, at that intellectually!!! But thanks mum.

Or how the smell of barbecue or byre as my dad (and the South Africans) cutely calls it, reminds me of the chilly winter evenings, the hot kebabs and the even hotter political discussions. Over a few drinks and my mum’s delicious kebabs the passionate leftists and the practical yet illogical rightists fought for their ilk and ideologies right into the wee hours of the morning. I sat in the sidelines interrupting once in a while (washing my dad’s drinks even more once in a while) with my fledgling leftist inclinations apparent to all. But mostly I just sat their admiring my father’s rationale and his political sensibilities. And this I say in no jest, my father in those evenings and most others opened my mind to the real world, the world beyond teenage candy floss, he made me think and wonder about the Mumbai riots, the mandir-masjid issue, the Palestinian crisis, the Afganistan bombings and mostly what I wanted to be when I grew up (I know it is an obtruse connection but it is true). Thanks to him I have what they call a “world view”.
Also did I mention that guests at times before they could partake off the “divine” kebabs had to sit through old LP records of Begum Akhtar and loads of people whose name I can’t remember?? It is true, my dad still has a (functioning) LP record player and the best things in life don’t come for free.

Well those (any many more-too lazy to write now) are the sounds and smells that remind of my childhood/adolescence and for the want of a better way to end this blog… what are yours???

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Break

Forgive my inability to rhyme as well as some people I know, this post is just an attempt to revive this inactive blog while I pen down some more random thoughts….

I wish I could take a break
not for a day, not just for the heck.
But a break to take a reality check.
Am I meant for this dust and grime
these excel sheets and strategy
on how to sell some more tea?
The question is not that I want more
but that it has to be more of everything.
More of fancy visiting cards and holidays on foreign shore
of Jp miles, of mall jaunts and inane intellectualizing.
I want more of art and music and pursuits literary
More of volunteering and philanthropy.
More of shopping and the idiot box,
more of yoga and romantic walks..
Wait dear reader I saved the best for last
I want more of the future and more of the past.
more of freedom and more of bondage
more of butter and more of bread
And finally more of the heart and more of the head