Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Growing-up With A-Musing

'This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus'.

Five years back when I left my job as a high school teacher, my friends thought I was mad. A part of me believed they were right. I had no idea what I’d do next, just an overwhelming desire to live life on my own terms. I’d be lying if I said it was I who took the decision. But when your work starts making you bitter and not better, it’s your nearest and dearest ones who intervene and force you to take a long hard look at yourself. In my case it was my husband.

At 40, I joined a dance class and learnt to pirouette, plié, jump and leap with girls younger than my daughter. I learnt driving yet again only to not drive, yet again. I reconnected with my school friends and finally got down to doing what I wanted to all my life – write. The first time I took time off work was when our daughter was born. I was naïve enough to believe that between my new found role as Mother Dairy and changing nappies I would find time to pen my thoughts. I did manage some juvenile poetry where I mostly end up wondering if I was wasting my life. I think this is one of the reasons why we are so apprehensive of being alone with our thoughts. Our mind, a repository of our fears, throws back at us some unpleasant questions that we avoid by keeping ourselves busy.

When I finally got solitude and plenty of ‘me time’, I was so ecstatic that instead of fighting my inner demons, I chose to write how it felt unshackled from the monotony of my nine to five life. At this point I had no idea what a blog was. When I finally compiled all my write-ups that I had written for other sites, I ended up creating a separate blog for each of my posts. Yes, that is how naïve I was. All I knew was, I had to write like I was talking to my impatient friends whose attention I had to grab by sounding as funny as possible. I wrote about the much dreaded ‘auntydom’, ‘a mirage called marital bliss’ and my life through the eyes of a much married woman trying make light of her experiences in a jungle called Delhi. To say that I was shocked that scores of men and women, including a group of friends in a college in Lucknow related and avidly discussed my writings, is putting it mildly. It required immense will-power not to do a happy jig when I started getting fan mails.

I didn’t start writing to prove a point, to earn accolades. I write because it makes me and hopefully others happy. It helps me connect with so many talented people who I would not have met otherwise.

Once I found a platform, I found myself veering towards talking about public apathy, our lack of civic sense, the appalling state of women’s safety. I started writing about anything that moved me. My blog is my voice that I can use as a Mom who doesn’t want to hold her daughter back with her fears. I am no longer a mute bystander. As a woman, as a concerned citizen, I get to question rules disguised as prejudices, engage in debates hoping for a solution, a steady voice for those who seek solace, hoping that someone somewhere will get influenced to seek a way out of the difficult lives they are forced to lead.

Five years of blogging, blogging for IBN Live, now for Huffington Post, best humour blog awards from BlogAdda and Indiblogger and a short story published in Mango Chutney later if there’s anybody I’ve managed to change the most, it is me. I’d like to believe blogging helped me grow as a person and a writer. My canvas of awareness became much wider. I started reading more, observing people more and noting their peculiar traits. Everything started to hold a possibility of writing something on – the pooping pigeons on my balcony, the women alternating between exchanging diet tips and haggling for an extra bunch of dhania-patta at the neighbourhood veggie kiosk, the girl in the Metro deftly applying makeup and jabbering non-stop on the phone. I have now become comfortable with solitude, happy to be in the company of my thoughts. And most importantly, content with myself.

It’s strange, as women how much attention we pay to others’ (read family) happiness as opposed to our own – be it a choice of a career, pursuing our interests, finally picking up that rucksack and going on a solo trip or picking up that paintbrush to paint. We always end up making us our last priority. And when you’ve lived so long for others, you end up blaming them for your abandoned dreams. I say be selfish, demand me-time. Because if you aren’t happy, there’s no way you can make others around you happy.

I feel blogging, as a medium, does not constrict us with character limits or expected formats. It gives us the freedom to make it our own. It’s a medium through which we express ourselves, be it as a launch-pad for an aspiring writer or a columnist, a space for a homemaker she can truly call her own as she pours her heart out and bonds with strangers, a canvas for a budding photographer, a talented cook, a fashion diva or a bored office executive who pens short stories to hold on to his sanity.

Being able to express yourself and to talk about your failed battles, angst and little triumphs is truly liberating. And if you can inspire others, it’s truly elevating.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Behind a Monkey Cap is a Shivering Bengali

                                             Also published on Huffington Post, India. 
Google Images

A Bengali’s love for phish, phootball, adda and gluttony can only be rivalled by his fear of ‘thanda lege jaabe’ (catching a cold). Researchers in Malda University have come out with findings that suggest that six out of ten Bengalis keep themselves warm by chanting ‘kee sheeth kee sheeth’ (how cold!). The more the number of times they repeat it, the warmer they feel. This is exactly why the Monkey Cap, a Bengali’s armour against winter, covers the entire face and the scalp but keeps the mouth and eyes free from any encumbrances. Of what use are your eyes and mouth if they cannot derive the sensory pleasure of simultaneously seeing fellow sufferers shiver while conveying your own agony!

Bengalis, especially in Kolkata, have a special relationship with winter. The moment the temperature drops down to 25 C, doting moms mummify the apples of their eyes under layers of sweaters and bandor toopis, lest they catch a cold. Which is why Bengali siblings can never get lost at the Kumbh Mela because they are the only ones dressed like eskimos in thermals, sweaters and head gear.

The ‘beta sweater pehno’ mom in the Polo ad was most definitely a Bengali, even if somewhat nasal.

Maybe this explains a Bong’s fascination for the monkey cap that travels with him anywhere he goes, even if it’s a vacation on the seaside! The cap reminds the bhadrolok of his mom! Every time he yearns for his Maa’s warmth, he slips his head inside its womb. Not just the bandor toopi, but also Boroline and Gelusil that symbolise tender motherly love squeezed in a tube or a bottle protecting Bengalis from all ills and germs.

But does a Bong’s morbid fear of the catching the cold hamper him from having phun? No siree! Your childhood isn’t Bengali enough if you don’t have memories of being huddled up in a bus eating cold boiled eggs, with bread butter and a banana, singing Robindro Shongeet only to have mangsho bhaath (mutton curry with rice) at some far off picnic spot. But not before a few rounds of badminton, cricket and some more Robindro Shongeet while the cauldron of freshly made mutton curry bubbles away merrily. By the time the lunch finishes, it’s time for evening tea with some light snacks like shingara (samosa) and a couple of mishtees.

It’s only when everyone complains of acidity is the picnic declared a resounding success. With Gelusil handed around in silent comradeship.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Urmila’s Resolve: a review of Sita’s Sister

This book was reviewed by Trisha Ray.

The Ramayana is one of the oldest and oft reinterpreted stories in the world. Author Kavita Kane shifts the focus to Sita’s sister, King Janak’s firstborn Urmila. Urmila is feisty, fights for what she wants and fiercely protective of her elder sister. She is a complete contrast to the demure Sita. Sita’s Sister is a glimpse into her struggles to keep her family together circumstances split them apart and their loyalties are tested.

Urmila (or Mila as the sexy serious Lakshman calls her) has long been deemed the forgotten heroine of the Ramayana. She stayed behind as the man she loved left to protect his brother in exile. In some versions, the Goddess Nidra grants her wish and put her into a deep slumber in Lakshman’s stead. I, however, prefer Kane’s interpretation. Rather than simply falling asleep for 14 years (which honestly sound like the best thing in the world), Urmila helps Shatrugana with affairs of the state and prevents Ayodhya from falling into anarchy.

One of the biggest issues I have had with Ramayana is the uni-dimensional portrayal of the women- they are either pure and virtuous or evil and scheming. Sita’s Sister doesn’t abide by these character tropes. Instead the reader gets a nuanced and complex reading, especially of the often ignored women. We see Kaikeyi, Sumitra, Urmila and Mandavi in a new light. These are all women trying to be good, dutiful wives but they are betrayed repeatedly by those they love. Kane also doesn’t fail to emphasise that they were all accomplished individuals in their own right, learned and brave.

“Does the man have no duty toward his wife and mother? You may be the best of princes, the perfect sons, the ideal brothers, probably the ideal king too, but never the good husband!”

The structuring of the story is a bit uneven, where the two month courtship covers half the book but the 14 year exile is covered in a few chapters, but I can’t really blame the author for that since complete accounts of Urmila’s life would’ve been hard to come by. I am also not overly fond of the lengthy descriptions of Urmila’s curvaceous body and Lakshman’s dark brooding looks (and the slightly clichéd descriptions of love-making) but again, Sita’s Sister isn’t meant to be a romance.

Monday, January 5, 2015

How To Identify A Terrorist

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers

We live in troubled times where dustbins have bombs and not rubbish. CCTV’s are mere props that turn a blind eye to all that’s suspicious. Intelligence agencies have little intelligence, the Police clueless and religion is an excuse to spray bullets on unsuspecting innocents. Leaders issue robotic condemnations. Public outrage comes with an expiry date and awaits renewal when terror raises its bloodied head, yet again.

But do we let fear stalk our minds and deprive ourselves the pleasure of getting pushed and shoved in busy markets and public spaces just because there might be a time bomb ticking away in one of the garbage dumps? Of course not!

Trust RSS to come to our rescue and come out with a helpful advisory on ‘How to recognise a terrorist’, so that you can nab one before you end up as a garlanded photo on your wall.

According to RSS, terrorists wear warm clothes even in hot weather.

Since winter is a state of mind especially in Mumbai which is mostly imaginary according to Delhiites, who decides how hot is really hot? Do we declare Mumbaikar belles slipping into boots with jackets and Bengalis shivering in monkey caps when the mercury plunges to a low of 28 C, as a threat to the country’s security because it’s not winter till it’s a freezing 0.4 C? Going by the same analogy, shouldn’t Delhi girls, pretending not to die of hypothermia in their itsy bitsies in order to keep their hottie label intact, be deported to Pakistan for specialized training?

For some strange reason, airport security in Brisbane (my last country of residence) was convinced of my bombshell-ness. Despite my season appropriate wardrobe, I was unfailingly stopped for ‘random security checks’ and frisked for explosives.

Terrorists approach people with casual talk and there are certain changes in their behaviour – if they are standing, they will start running.

This is bound to have serious consequences for all men who will have to ditch small talk as the sure fire way of approaching a woman. Imagine men having to talk about the purpose of life, Stephen Hawking’s theories on the Universe and the cosmos just to make sure they are not mistaken for a terrorist!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What The Fog!

Just when the Great Wall of Fog descended on Delhi, making entire buildings disappear along with flights schedules, Cacofonix makes an appearance on A-Musing after 2 years of hibernation. It seems the fog has finally cleared up his mind.
Image courtesy - IBNlive.com

“Oh, the fog was so heavy I couldn’t see my own ______ “. Words that could fill in the blank are toes, nose and other protruding body parts in between. Thus will the true Delhi-ite go about describing the weather event that descends on the city every year, usually the very morning he or she has a flight to catch. You can’t see anything, driving is dangerous, it’s bloody cold, there’s no sun and all the vitamin D that your pigments were going to synthesize has gone for a toss. You are late to work, your child is late to school, your dad is late to get up and take the dog out, your dog is late to get up and wake up your dad.

I mean, come on, let’s not crib endlessly about something that’s actually a good thing. The fog can be invoked to explain coming late to work, never mind the night before was spent partying hard and gulping down liquids of various hues and ethanol levels leading to a hangover of epic proportions. The fog is also your friend to let your dad know that the massive gash on the side of the car is all its doing. While, in fact, you got it when you couldn’t take your eyes off the PYT swishing by as you were reversing into a slot next to the trash truck.

In fact, if you could carry some fog with you, life could be so easy. Caco’s fog, ordered online, is just the thing for you.

You are interviewing for a job. You have this nervous twitch in your eyes that bugs you. It’s a dead give-away when you try to pull a fast one like, “yeah, Suhel Seth knows me”. Not that such a reference helps, but there is a lilt to his name that is fetching. So, what do you do? Just have a little fog sprayed from your used bottle of L-Áir du Temps, and lo, the twitch is safe behind a curtain of translucence.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Eclairs Diaries

Once upon a time when I had no fear of calories and embraced them with open arms, Eclairs used to be one of my favourites. Not the hard to crack version by Cadbury but the elegant French dessert. This oblong pastry with a coating of chocolate looks pretty innocent till you bite into it and your mouth is filled with sweetened thick cream...orgasmic!

When I got the invite to attend a special event that would explore new perspectives on éclairs with celebrated pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini at Le Meridien, I decided to let my taste buds do the thinking.

As part of the hotel's culinary program, Eclairs Diaries, Chef Iuzinni has been creating eclairs inspired by locations all around the world. From the maple and bacon to Texan honey pecan to the Dulce de leche eclair,Iuzinni fuses local flavours into his unique creations.

It's not everyday you have a good looking, tattooed, motorcycle-riding chef give you a masterclass on how to create the perfect Eclair with blueberry compote and thickened honey cream that filled the pastry shell from end to end. We also got to sample Chef Iuzinni's Indian inspired creations created in partnership with Le Meridien. I especially loved the Ginger Jaggery version - the sharpness of the ginger beautifully complimenting the sweet earthiness of jaggery. Another favourite of mine was the Hazelnut Tamarind Eclair, even though I couldn't taste the tartness of the tamarind, I loved its smooth chocolatey taste infused with the smokiness of hazelnut.

Le Meridien Delhi will now feature Clotted Cream Kalakand, Coconut Jaggery Cardamom and Rose Cardamom to unlock the flavours of Delhi and Kochi respectively.

If this has gotten your tastebuds tickling, you know where to head!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Nightie too naughty, you must be kidding!

This post was also published on Huffington Post India 

Source - Google Images

In what is seen as yet another blow to women’s liberation movement in India, residents of Gothivili of Navi Mumbai imposed a Rs 500 fine on women wandering around in nighties. It’s better to be born a cow in India that can move around in the nude without a care in the world and yet get so much respect that even their shit is considered holy.

Only those who have experienced the untethered pleasure of wearing a nightie on a hot summery day can understand why it’s the preferred garment of so many women who don’t give a damn about what others think of their sartorial choices. Essentially a sack with armholes, it’s the female counterpart of the lungi that’s also a sack but is wrapped around the waist to let the climate in. The lungi does a splendid job of keeping men in heat cool as a cucumber. They say the secret of Gandhi’s Ahimsa movement lay in his dhoti. It’s another matter that the same dhoti turns Khaap taus into imbeciles who never tire of issuing diktats against crafty women for instigating gullible men to rape them.

The nightie as the name suggests was originally meant to be worn at night. But such are its magical abilities to rejuvenate the body after a hectic day - multitasking as the family’s alarm clock, motivational speech giver, conscience keeper and the database of her man’s past mistakes -that women refuse to get out of it. All it requires is a couple of washes to turn as soft and absorbent as a well-used dusting cloth. It’s a forgiving garment that doesn’t hold you back but let’s you spill out in all your paunchy glory.

It’s the closest a Sanskari woman can get to a dress. Since buying a nightie is a usually a choice between “grandma don’t give a shit” and “the porn star (available in blood orange, traffic light yellow and all shades of “ewww”)”, most women end up choosing the former so as to not offend others with the suggestion of a body underneath the garment. It is a known fact that men get agitated at the mere hint of boobs and butt and the grandma nightie does a perfect cover job of it. Coupled with a dupatta or a towel slung over the shoulders, nobody can even make out that you’re a woman.


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