Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Vacation Ritual


picture courtesy -  kulverablog.net

We all need a break from being busy. So, we take vacations. Where we get even busier and return exhausted. If I have travelled thousands of miles, braved airline food, wailing babies and co-passengers with smelly feet, I might as well squeeze in as many activities as I can till I am ready to drop dead. Your vacation is futile till you can’t tell Babli – your neighbour who bragged non-stop about her heavenly stay in a 5-star resort in Krabi – that you also did paragliding, swam with dolphins, fought off a shark and discovered a hidden island. That should see her turn green as fungus.

A vacation has four stages – when, where, I can’t believe I am here, and phew I’m so glad to be home.

When

Deciding when to take a break is governed by a lot of factors. If you have school and college going kids who are still not embarrassed to be seen with their parents, you plan your getaway to coincide with their holidays. But only after they have attended summer camps designed to turn them into moon-walking, karate-chopping Einsteins and coaching classes for entrance exams to courses they have no interest in.

But if you are foot-loose and fancy-free, you wait for the symptoms to show up. These include restlessness, driving your colleagues insane with ‘I could so do with a break’ whining and extreme envy as you browse through the 692 pics that your ‘just-returned-from-Leh’ friend has posted on Facebook.

Where

This is usually dictated by ‘10 places you must visit before you die of boredom’ listicles that you love reading while pretending to work at office. Alongside vacation pictures shared on FB or Instagram by friends you’ve never met. And a long hard look at your bank balance and all the outstanding bills you have piled on your table. Gone are those days when people could throw darts on the world atlas to decide their next holiday. The passionately patriotic Indian these days keenly follows prime ministerial itineraries to draw inspiration for new destinations.

And nations oblige. Mongolia, flummoxed by the influx of eager Indian tourists, is all set to start a chain of Jain vegetarian restaurants in their country. A Swiss escape to Mount Titlis with pics of Sonali Bendre and Aishwarya Rai in their restaurants is so out of date.

The preparation phase of a vacation is exciting. It takes considerable creativity to imagine everything that might go wrong while travelling (snowfall in summer, loosies on board, sudden craving for theplas in Heidelberg) before deciding what to stuff in your suitcases. Many women spend days cleaning and polishing windowpanes and scrubbing their bathrooms clean before she heads out, so that she can come back to a considerably less dirty house after her sojourn in distant lands.

The day of departure is the most hectic. Emptying the fridge, stuffing door-gaps with newspapers to keep the dust out of the house, making frantic calls to newspaper and milk delivery guys, triple checking if all the doors and windows are locked before rushing off to the airport or station. When you are roughly halfway to your destination, nodding your head to Honey Singh getting drunk again, you are suddenly seized with the nagging feeling that you might have forgotten to turn the gas cylinder off. You spend the remaining journey imagining a charred house that will greet you when you are back and a life thereafter spent in penury.

I can’t believe I am finally here

You congratulated yourself on booking the ‘romantique suite’ at the ‘heritage’ hotel after weeks of shortlisting through Expedia and Hotels.com and then burning midnight oil extracting the essence from conflicting reviews on TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet. And it turns out to be a match box in a rundown building with a sewer-side view (why the hell did you ask for a ‘window’ room??). Not the type to waste time on heartbreaks, a DSLR slung around your neck, you set out immediately clutching maps and lists of must do’s (usually in multiples of 10) that you downloaded,.

You risk being disowned by the ‘worldwide association of hyper tourist’ till you manage to record the most ‘out of the world experiences’ in a day and get herded around like cattle in tour buses. When you get time from watching the sunrise from the top of a volcano and sunset from behind the bushes infested with rattlesnakes, you pose and preen in front of monuments, fountains and the Armani store, hoping one of them turns out to be a kickass profile pic that fetches you hundreds of likes.

It’s not a vacation well-spent, till you exclaim ‘Oh god, I’ve put on so much weight’ every few hours. It’s not fun till you feel guilty of having too much fun. Within a few days of hectic vacationing and plying yourself with meals so exotic that you can’t even pronounce their names, you start craving ghar ka khaana and the comfort of your own bed.

Phew I’m so glad to be home

Vacations may be cruel reminders of how boring our regular life is. But when you finally walk in to your house nursing bunions, lower back pain from too much walking and a tan that makes you look like a roasted aubergine, you inhale its stale air and exclaim – it’s so good to be home!

That’s the cruel irony of our lives – we long to escape our mundane lives and when we finally do, we start missing our boring yet comforting routine.

Then you commit the biggest mistake of weighing yourself. After you’ve managed to scream the daylights out of the pigeons who’d been shitting blissfully for weeks on your balcony, you google ‘how to lose weight in 10 days’ and put yourself on a punishing diet. Within days of washing kilos of unwashed laundry, restoring the house back to its shining glory, eating 20 grams of carrots and 6 raisins for all your meals, going through zillions of unread spam and emails and putting extra hours at the office to finish all your pending work, your vacation euphoria becomes a distant memory.

You are completely drained. You flop on your chair and exclaim, ‘damn, I am so tired, I could certainly do with a vacation!’

Monday, July 20, 2015

Finally, The Writing is No Longer Clear on the Wall

As a young girl I yearned to wear glasses. Perhaps I thought it would lend gravitas to my ten year old frame. Unfortunately for me, I had no fairy godmother who could wave her magic wand and make my eyesight weak. So, I had no choice but to be self-reliant. First I had to convince myself and then my parents that the writing on the wall was far from clear till I didn’t get to wear spectacles. I’m not sure how genuine my headaches were. But every time I’d open a textbook, especially Math, I’d be seized with a debilitating headache. It took a considerable number of re-enactments, each with increasing intensity to convince my parents to take me to the doctor. The doctor only too happy to treat a phantom ailment sent me for X-Rays and check-ups with fancy names. I had the unique distinction of going for medical check-ups with a spring in my step, a song in my heart, only to return home crestfallen when the reports said everything was more than okay. I would curse my normal eyesight and console my nose-bridge that her specmate was gracing the wall of some store, waiting to unite with her and vindicate her lonely existence.

I can’t quite recollect what came first. My headaches that gave up on me after many failed attempts to convince the world that my eyesight was as weak as my math. Or me resigning myself to my 20x20 vision that would be the first one to read bus numbers while waiting at the stop. All I know is, when I landed my first job that required me to work long hours on the computer, I promptly got myself a stylish pair claiming to be anti-glare glasses. My younger brother didn’t waste much time in losing them while trying to impress girlkind at large with his newly borrowed intellectual look and I never found out if my anti-glares were as good as its claims.

But one thing was clear, I could now blame my genes for this innate need to impress others with intellect without uttering a single word while peering solemnly from behind the glasses.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Death by Fashion

Image courtesy - Google images


Recently a Melbourne based woman collapsed in her skinnies because it had cut off the blood supply to her calf muscles. What took me by surprise was the flurry of headlines decrying the fad of skinny jeans being bad for health. It’s pretty obvious these ignorant fools haven’t had the pleasure of wriggling themselves in jeans two sizes too small and experienced its health benefits. It’s only after you’ve spent 20 minutes huffing and puffing, trying to stuff your curves inside these drainpipes designed for women sans a butt and thighs, that you experience its cardio benefits. Not only do you burn calories, you also get to spend the rest of the day standing because you feel stiff as a stick. Since your jeans have also managed the commendable feat of bringing your stomach closer to your heart, you also end up eating almost nothing.

Breathlessness is but a small price for looking breathtaking.

Most of us would rather die than be seen in loose and comfortable clothing. Just the other day when I draped myself in a sack and tied my hair in a tight bun for an Iftaar foodwalk at Jama Masjid, I refused to get myself clicked. And when someone did manage some candid clicks, I promptly disowned myself.

We are willing to brave back problems, bunions, fall flat on our faces as we totter on impossibly high heels. We’ll gladly walk half step at a time in pencil skirts, give up breathing in corset dresses, all for the sake of looking fabulous. So, when a woman lies sprawled on the floor, unable to move her legs because her skinnies sucked the life out of them, she has rightfully earned herself the label of a martyr and definitely not ‘aww, poor thing’!

If people can give up their lives fighting for justice and freedom, why can’t we give up comfort, maybe a limb or two, carbs, sugary treats, peace of mind for the sake of looking hip and fashionable? People die all the time, don’t they? Rather die trying to look gorgeous.

Women, who dress in skin-tight jeans in the searing heat and wear the skimpiest of outfits in freezing temperature, while ordinary mortals choose to shiver in layers of woollies, are the ones who have truly achieved Nirvana. It is they who have understood the concept of Maya and have readily discarded bodily comforts for the greater good of mankind.

Only an evolved soul will go through unimaginable pain getting rid of hair, layers of fat, frown lines and all that they have deemed ugly only because their beauty makes others happy. Yet, we choose to call them fashion victims!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Yoga-to Be Flexible To Salute The Sun

Image Courtesy - Google


Ever since Narendra Modi took oath as PM, he’s been jet-setting, trying to convince the world that India and selfies is the best thing to have happened since sliced bread. In an attempt to promote India’s ancient cultural heritage, Modi persuaded United Nations to embrace Yoga, India's biggest contribution to mankind since zero. 21st June will now be observed as International Baba Ramdev Day thanks to his initiative.

While BJP and its sibling outfits are vigorously practising ‘hasahasana’ and rubbing their palms in glee, celebrating this as yet another assertion of Hindu superiority, minority religious groups have planted their feet firmly on the ground in Tadasana, opposing its compulsory imposition in schools.

Some Muslim Groups have expressed anxiety that saluting the sun (one of the asanas to be included in the mass drill) will turn them into beef-hating Hindus. Their fears were further fuelled by BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi, who declared that Muslims do yoga five times a day and that the Prophet had been a great yogi.

These Muslim Groups have now renamed themselves as Ray Ban and can be spotted wearing burqas to protect themselves from the un-Islamic rays of the sun.

This has sent ripples of fear in the US, one of the first countries to adopt Bikram and his hot variant of Yoga. They are now attributing their new-found love for vegetarianism to Yoga and its ghar wapasi after-effects. The beef lobby is urging New Yorkers to boycott Yoga guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s session to be held at Times Square. They are afraid that the asanas will trigger a craving for paneer and make the participants shun beef.

Jersey Cows association has welcomed International Yoga Day with much enthusiasm and are hoping that Mother’s Day will now be observed as a day to honour their valuable contribution to increasing American girths. India TV in its 65th breaking news of the day has reported that a Texan farmer refused to butcher his cow, insisting he could hear his dead Mom’s voice in her mooing.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Celebrities are as liable for endorsing anti-health products as healthy

Courtesy - Google images

Also published on Huffington Post, India

Even as Maggi’s credibility sank faster than the Titanic, complete with sound effects of outrage and anguish of millions of tastebuds hooked on to this gooey mishmash of maida and garam-masala, its ambassador in leotards, Madhuri found herself unceremoniously thrown in freezing waters.

While Maggi was crucified for having MSG and lead above permissible limits (many of us are still convinced it’s a rival-engineered conspiracy to dislodge it from its cult status), an FIR was also filed against Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta who appeared in the Maggi ads, for misleading their fans. Madhuri has been served a notice where she has to explain how Maggi is good for our health.

In India filmstars, unlike their Western counterparts, are not merely actors who get paid to do their job. The ones who attain superstardom are regarded as deities meant to be worshipped. They make our fantasies of fighting corruption, beating up crooked cops, wooing unattainable women, dancing and singing while looking like a glamorous diva, come true on the silver screen. They make us sing, dance and laugh and provide respite from the mundane. We revere them, blindly follow them and express our adulation by getting our local darzi to stitch the same Anarkali that Deepika wore at an awards night, hoping that some of her stardust will rub off on us.

The bigger the superstardom, the brighter the halo and the firmer our belief that they can do no wrong.

When Madhuri, the dhak-dhak of millions, trapezes all over her kitchen while she serves new Maggi Oats to her hungry family, insisting it’s healthy, we promptly add it to our shopping basket. Corporate giants pay crores to celebrities because they add brand equity to their products. When Cabdury’s credibility saw a downward spiral when live worms were discovered in their milk chocolate, they promptly hired Amitabh Bachchan to restore their lost glory (Cadbury’s, not theworms’) and it worked!

Is it right to hold Madhuri responsible after it was discovered that Maggi is not only unhealthy but also a health risk?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Oh Golgappa, its Shit!

Also published on Huffington Post, India 

Indian culture has always prided itself on its openness about bodily functions. We are firm believers of doing it all in the open while closing our minds to uncomfortable truths that pose a threat to our delusions of grandiosity.We spit, shit, pee, dump garbage in the open because we believe in keeping our houses clean and surroundings dirty.

We are a proud nation of closed minds and open defecation.

All you need to do is crane your neck out of the window of your train to see rows of behinds showcasing our potty culture. Now before you lunge at my throat for being insensitive to an India for whom even a toilet is a luxury, let me tell you that the scores of newly built toilets that followed Modi’s clarion call of Swachh Bharat have very few takers.

Why be confined to airless, waterless structures masquerading as toilets, when you can fertilize vast fields with your refuse!

Of late, India has been witnessing a potty revolution. Why else would scores of people throng to theatres to watch a thespian actor talk non-stop about his blocked bowel movements for over two hours and make the film a blockbuster? With our new found gut feeling, we can denounce politics and piles in the same breath.

It has now emerged that even our much loved chaatwalas are at the forefront of this revolution. Recently, a series of studies conducted on samples of Delhi’s street food has revealed that the secret ingredient that makes it so legendary lies not in the combination of spices but deep within us. It’s the presence of faeces that makes it extra yummy and makes us swoon with ecstasy, later with food poisoning.

No 
wonder ganda-nallahwala chat corner’s gol-gappa tastes so yummy! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Selfie Made PM

Also published on Huffington Post, India

India’s greatness lies in its great leaders. As history will testify, leaders are not born great. They are either born with great last names or achieve greatness through the eternal cycle of scams and clean-chits and the many yojanas named after them. Our leaders of yore did not have the luxury of appropriating public money for private gains, they had to mostly rely on good deeds, years of struggle, and policies that shaped our today for everlasting greatness. But when you’re long gone and become a statue at a busy traffic intersection, silently collecting bird poop of all hues, you need that extra something that sets you apart from the also-rans. Nehru appropriated the high necked sleeveless jacket, the rose and made that his own. Gandhi immortalized the dhoti, charkha and left behind great quotes for world leaders and Hollywood stars to borrow. Netaji’s monocles are as much a part of his legacy as his mysterious disappearance that gave rise to generations of Kakus and Jethus who insisted they had spotted him on Elgin road just last week. 

Just like political parties have symbols, our elected also need a style statement to claim their space in fickle public memory. Since corruption charges, insensitive comments and lunging at each other’s’ throats while the assembly is still in progress is de-rigueur for our netas, they are constantly looking for a USP that will set them apart from the cattle class. Not everyone is blessed with lush Amazonian growth sprouting out of their ears like Laloo, so they have to resort to capes, mufflers, rath rides and pee on plants to claim their rightful place in the electorate’s heart.

Which is why I don’t understand why some of you find Modi’s penchant for taking selfies at every given opportunity so funny. Don’t we all do the same – fish out our phones, pose and preen, the moment we sense company?

It requires a great leader like NaMo to adopt our selfie addiction as his own and use it to his advantage. How many nations can claim to have a PM who not only forges ties with world leaders but also their doting Mom and adoring bhakts by clicking selfies with them?

And when you are leading a nation with the world’s youngest population, you can no longer rely on tight churidars and bandh-galas to worm your way into their hearts. Especially after you have promised them acche din and then let your colleagues go on a banning spree depriving them of their little joys!

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