Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Moving on

Ugghh. We are shifting house again. And as bohemian as I might be in my dressing sense, moving to another place still sucks. Even after I've been through it so many times. There was when I left Delhi- my classmates gave me a huge handmade farewell card with all their names in it (I couldn't bear throwing it away even after it was yellowing and all torn up, sob). Then I moved from Patna, where I promised to mail my best friend- a promise made by the laziest kid in the world.
And now this. Gosh, the things I'm gonna miss... coming back to lush green gardens after spending the whole day in the grime outside and travelling in trains, hearing the neighbour's kid go Moooommm when her brother teases her (so that it can be heard till 3 floors down), watching the lady living in the topmost floor walk her adorable dog in a banarasi saree and full make-up, joking about the kid MF Hussain of our colony (he hates wearing his slippers), meeting one of the baby sisters living on first floor and wondering if she's Golu or Molu...
It's amazing how suddenly I can't see anything bad about this place ;)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The 9 days madness

Its that time of the year again, when stalls sprout all over Mumbai selling bright decorated pairs of sticks, Falguni Pathak suddenly comes out of hibernation, true-blue Gujjus and other enthusiastic dancers throw practicality to the winds to come out all decked up in festive finery despite the scorching heat, and inevitably some of Mumbaiites go around with bandaged fingers as a proof of the fun they’d had the last night- yes, the festival of Navratri beckons.
It is also time for the South Indian ladies in the city to put up beautiful displays at their homes and outdo each other with the number of temporary steps they can build and fill with statues of gods, goddesses, and all mortal & immortal creatures- the way we celebrate Navratri.
Navratri is a Hindu festival denoting the nine days goddess Durga took to fight and slay the evil Mahishasur. But the highlight of the fest is obviously putting up the brilliant exhibits at our home and having visitors to come over and see them, which reminds me of this passage from Dark Room, a story from one of my fav authors, RK Narayan…

“In the month of September the streets rang with the cries of hawkers selling dolls- the earliest intimation of the coming Navratri festival. A day before the festival the casks full of dolls and toys were brought into the hall from an obscure storing-place in the house. Ranga untied the ropes and brought out the dolls in their yellowing newspaper wrappings. In a short while dust and sheets of old newspaper, startled cockroaches & silverfish, were all in a heap on one side of Ranga, and, on the other, all the unwrapped dolls.
Sumati and Kamala got down to the task of arranging all the dolls on the graduated step-like platforms their brother had created. In an hour a fantastic world was created: a world inhabited by all God’s creations that the human mind had counted; creatures in all gay colours & absurd proportions & grotesque companies. There were green parrots which stood taller than the elephants beside them; there were horses of yellow and white & green colours dwarfed beside painted brinjals; the fat, round-bellied merchant, wearing a coat in his bare body, squatted there, a picture of contentment, gazing at his cereals before him, unmindful of the company of a curly-tailed dog of porcelain on one side and a grimacing tiger on the other. Here and other out of the company of animals & vegetables & mortals emerged the gods- the great indigo-blue Rama, holding hos mighty bow in one hand, and with his spouse Sita by his side, their serenity unaffected by the company around them, consisting of a lacquered wooden spoon, a very tiny celluloid doll clothed in a pink sari, and a balancing acrobat in leaf-green breeches; there stood the great Krishna trampling to death the demon serpent Kalinga, undistracted by the leer of a teddy-bear which could beat a drum.”

Sunday, September 24, 2006

They tell great stories

Good movies don’t have a “best by:” date… and if you’ve seen Sony’s latest channel Pix, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
One of the movies which has me raving about this channel is Butterflies Are Free. Wanting to watch something in English after so long (thanks to the tv ban), I flicked on this channel… and was hooked instantly after this movie. It’s a story of a happy-go-lucky, independent spirited girl Jill who falls for her blind, but charming neighbor Don, and the practical problems their love faces in the form of Don’s mother, apart from Jill’s own commitment-phobia. The movie stars Goldie Hawn & Aileen Eckhart (to be honest, I’ve never heard of them) who do a fantabulous job. It has the feel of a play- throughout the movie, you hardly see any setting other than Don’s house… and the fact that I noticed this only after watching it the second time speaks a lot about the story. (The channel's tagline is- We tell stories)
Other movies which I watched (and automatically loved) on this channel are To Sir, With Love; Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; and I Dreamed Of Africa.
Old is always gold, especially if it’s on Pix.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I’ve just finished with the puja (ceremony) to celebrate Janmashtmi in our home. It rained heavily, as usual, and, as I had hoped. Every year, the rain gods follow tradition and it pours heavily on Janmashtmi. And dad turned down my pleas to not attend classes due to the rains, again as usual, and as I had expected. But hope never killed anyone, right?
After returning, I got down to the task of creating a miniature swing for baby god Krishna (it’s his birthday that we are celebrating). And did a job good enough to make mom go, “cho chweet!”

We have a practice of drawing little feet leading from the door to the swing, to show that baby Krishna has been here. Every year, mom makes those feet. This year, little sis insisted on having a go. So that, instead of Krishna, the feet looked like those of a strange footed creature which could change its foot size at will.

But she got mighty pleased at being able to do something which only mom did till now, and declared that Krishna was her favorite god. At least till the next festival comes along.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mixed ambitions

Every once in a while, I feel these “ambition blues”- confusion about what my ideal job would be. If one is lucky enough to decide what one is happiest with, then they don’t have to work for a single day of their lives. But what happens to the rest?

What is it that I am meant to be?
A shepherd on a mountain, who runs so free,
A full-time rockstar who sings off-key,
A software engineer- all techno savvy,
A writer whose stories are never meant to be,
An accountant whose life is “balanced” to the T,
A voice-over artist for Donald and Mickey,
An athlete who jumps at the count of three,
A lawyer who won’t even sneeze without a fee,
A dance choreographer having two right feet,
Or a blogger who publishes her poems for free.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Yaaayy.. Part 2

As I said, the story I posted before this doesn't cut much ice with me, even though I wrote it. Here's another, quite light-hearted, and something which I like...

“Rambo, jump! Jump Rambo! What’s the matter with you, can’t you hear me? I said, jump!”
Of course I could hear him. Who won’t, if a mustachioed lunatic in garish clothes and a stupid cape shouted the same thing at the top of his lungs for about thousand and one times? But the point was, I was pretty much tired of him and his antics, and sat down in protest. Then he brandished his whip. And up I jumped through the circle of fire, and did everything he asked me to do without a murmur. I was really scared of that wretched whip, and he knew it too. After the tent had emptied and everyone had gone, I turned to go into my cage and have my meal- I am a disciplined tiger, you see. But the loon, it seemed, hadn’t had enough. He called me back, and muttered, “You are acting mad, Rambo, you certainly are. And I just know what you need…” and took out the whip.

Next morning, I woke up to the sounds of the circus owner and a bearded man discussing something near my cage. “…seems to have died of a major heart attack, Poor master! Who knew that a man who could face a tiger everyday would have such a weak heart?” Gesturing towards me, he Beard asked, “Anyway, what is to be done about him?” “Oh, I guess we will have to give him to the local zoo. After all…” Hey, just a minute. What was that? What’s a zoo? Why should I go someplace else? I am not going anywhere! I will… The only effect of my outburst was that the men, startled to hear a tiger roar so near them, eyed me cautiously, and moved further away to continue their discussion.

Two days later, here I am, again in a cage. Only, it is much, much bigger, and even has plenty of trees. My food is brought by an ill- tempered man who is always scowling. Bt I don’t mind, as long as I do get it. I have two other tigers for company and nothing to do all day- just stare at people who stare back at me. Occasionally, I let out a roar or two, if I want to see them make big-big eyes and chatter among themselves excitedly, like a bunch of monkeys. Of course, there is no dearth of them here, either.
But I am still surprised- who knew that just a pounce on that loon’s chest would do him in?

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I finally succeeded in one of my life-long ambitions- acquiring an i-Pod. And no, it wasn’t through begging my dad, or winning some sort of lucky draw, as I always thought it would be. It was actually the following story, called The Other Half…

After reaching home, I checked the answering machine for any messages. An automated voice said, “You have two new messages.” It had been a hectic day. I sighed and heard them.
The first one, which was from my mom, was long. Pretty long. She was upset that I hadn’t been in touch with her for almost two weeks (!) and threatened me with dire consequences, if I didn’t call her soon. It brought a smile to my face, which promptly vanished when I heard the second.
“Hello, Amrita? Amrita, its me, Shalini. I don’t want to die Amrita, I really don’t want to die… but the brakes of my car have failed…they are not working…God knows how much time I can manage here…But listen to me carefully, Amrita, you have to do what I say, please…I think someone has done this deliberately to me, but who?... and you have to help me find out…I found an earring on my dashboard- its not mine, and I think it belongs to the person who is doing this to me…please rush immediately…I am on the road from my home to the farmhouse. Help me if I am alive…if not…you’ll find the earring in my front pocket… punish the person who did this, Amrita…please, please do this for me…for our friendship…”
For a few seconds, my mind went numb. I just stood there and stared at the machine. Then, abruptly, I swung into action, took the keys, and left.
There were not many people at the accident site yet. The car looked like it had been hit by tornado. And Shalini was almost…unrecognizable. I reached into one of her pockets, found nothing. Then I checked the other pocket, extracted the earring and kept it safely in my bag. Next, I called the police and left the place.
I reached home and dropped into a chair. The half-sobbing, half-shivering voice of Shalini kept echoing in my mind, and I could almost see her turning the steering wheel, desperately trying to stay alive, shocked that someone could try to kill her in cold blood. Then, wiping the sweat off my brow, I took out a tiny jewelry box, and placed the pearl earring next to an identical one- its other half.

Frankly, I hate such spine-chilling stories, and would go for a Wodehouse, or an RK Narayan for reading. But what the heck, writing it won me an iPod, and I’d rather not talk too much about it.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Hell hath no fury like a Bai scorned

Anybody who has ever felt the need to employ a house help will support me in this piece of wisdom.
You may think you’ve seen it all- a dhobi who never remembers to return the clothes (and when he does, it invariably turns out to be the neighbor’s children’s uniforms), a watchman who’s never on the watch (what is he supposed to do, it is you who keeps checking at odd hours), a newspaper boy who delivers your favorite English daily to someone else (leaving you to grapple with the marathi news in Maharashtra Times) etc. etc. but your list is always incomplete without a mention of the Bai.

There is no telling what may befall you if you ever make the gravest mistake of displeasing your bai, and unfortunately, there are uncountable ways to do so. You cannot bargain with her on her wages, you can’t ask her to follow a particular timing, you may not object if she takes too many daandi leaves (after all, it isn’t her fault if someone or the other keeps getting married in her unusually vast family), and most importantly, you must never, ever, criticize the way she does her job (you may as well do it yourself if you know it so well!). what happens if you break anyone of these golden rules? May God help you in your eternal quest for another bai…