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????????????????