Look Who’s Talking....

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It all began with an Apple that tempted Adam to sin. And now thanks to the self appointed guardian of Indian youth, we have a mint fresh perpetrator of the Original sin. Before Levis introduced this denim wonder to the world, it was just another fuss free pair of lowers preferred by cowboys for its rough and tough nature. It soon caught the fancy of millions across the globe. Jeans – the most versatile garment, practical yet stylish, comfortable and timeless – has been a fashion statement for generations. You can never go wrong with a pair of well fitted jeans and a white shirt.

Mr Subhash Ghai begs to differ – he thinks wearing jeans corrupts the youngsters and makes them do bad-bad things. Just like the quintessential bad man Gulshan Grover. Kids, it’s time you listened to the modern day Gandhi. If your forefathers followed the Mahatma’s clarion call and happily burnt British made clothes, it’s time you dumped your distressed, ripped, riveted, tattered, patchy, grimy, skinny pairs. Go build a mean bonfire and later you can imbibe lofty values by watching Mr Ghai’s movies. Karma, Ram Lakhan, Pardes to perfect the art of hamming. Good Boy, Bad Boy for how not to make a movie. And for a soul searching experience try catching the tuneful “choli ke peechhe kya hai”. In the early 90’s Mr Ghai had sent the nation into a state of introspection by asking this profound question. Of course he had Ms Dixit giving ample hints on the 70 mm screen. But the dumb nation we are, we failed to comprehend and watched it again and again for a deeper insight.

The prolific filmmaker gave this emotional speech on the evil nature of jeans at the International Film Festival in Goa. His state of mind is understandable though. All through his stay in Goa he did not spot a single fully clothed person. At Anjuna, it became worse. No wonder Arundhati called my Bharat a “bhooka nangaa Desh”. And later as he was watching F TV to calm his agitated state of mind he saw Eva Mendes writhing in the sand in her Calvin Kleins. Haujee! Now I know what causes global warming - all these hot, evil people with and without clothes.

It happened one night

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You have been her silent worshipper for months. And why not, she’s smart, almost beautiful, sassy. The office Casanovas and aging Lotharios have been circling her cubicle furiously, in the vain hope of catching her attention. Yet, she said yes to YOU – silent (mostly), strong, brooding, forehead crinkled in worry, surgically attached to your Blackberry. Almost like her Mills & Boon hero, if you concentrate on the strong silent part and ignore the slightly paunchy, thinning hair look. Of course it helped that you are somewhere at the top of the corporate ladder. Hard work always has its perks.

You have a dinner date tonight at the new Japanese joint that food critics have been raving about. You wistfully think of the divine butter chicken with garlic naan at your favourite Moti Mahal Deluxe. But what to do, she is on a raw diet. Ahh…sushi is but a small sacrifice for office goddess.

On A Foodie's Trail

The husband and I like any self respecting “bong” have a discerning palate and take the art of gastronomy rather seriously. Weekends are dedicated mostly to the onerous task of deciding where to eat what. We love trying out new eateries and have opinions galore on who serves the best crab in town, which restaurant has the best Teppanyaki , who does the best “Goshtaba” Eating out guides are meant for the un informed, after all who knows better than the Rays!!

Dare an unsuspecting maître d suggest salmon to the husband, we know exactly what the unsuspecting fellow has in store for him. The poor fellow is asked to furnish the credentials of the long dead fish. And before he can mumble an unconvincing reply he will be dismissed with a “I’ve had the best, don’t try to pass of the farmed variety as the real thing” We have a rare expertise in giving “honest” feedbacks at the end of a meal. So honest that we often have the manager scurrying up to us with a worried frown on his face. And yes, I have been woken up from my afternoon siesta only to explain patiently on the phone why we thought that the enchiladas were not up to the mark.

Travelling is another passion of ours (in fact I could write a whole blog on our varied passions). Trying out local cuisines more often than not takes top priority in our itinerary. After all we need fodder for feedbacks.

While planning a trip to Bangkok nearly a decade back, we were quite enthused about sampling authentic Thai cuisine. On landing in Bangkok we set off on a trail to sample the famed Thai curries. We came across Sushi , bubbling cauldrons of soup in which you could dunk ingredients of your choice and even more sushi, but mysteriously Thai cuisine was missing from most of the menus. Of course there was the famed street food of Bangkok that we could have sampled for that authentic taste. But suspicious looking creatures floating in oil or propped on sticks was not exactly our idea of culinary heaven. We eventually did have a few memorable Thai meals. The curries were sweet, subtle and bursting with flavors. The ingredients including the vegetables were the freshest, a far cry from what gets passed off as Thai cuisine in the many restaurants dotting Delhi. And now we have a hearty contempt for the red/yellow/green curry variety and can turn up our nose in the air and proclaim “This is not authentic!!!” After all we can now claim to know our “Nam Pla” from “Nam Phrik”

Fall Of The Feminine

A few weeks back I had written a post about how the media has not kept pace with the changing role of women in society. Our movies relegate female characters to the sidelines as mere showpieces, simpering and sizzling, applauding the hero’s antics and ready to break into a song and dance at the drop of a hat. In the 21st century, women continue to be objectified.

Someone put a very pertinent question through the debate that ensued – how did we manage to evolve from a Devi worshipping society to a society where baby girls are murdered because they are guilty of being a she, if she is fortunate enough to live, she lives to face discrimination, threat of assault or even death for the sake of family honour. Ahh... this happens only in villages, we the city people are far more progressive. But it is in these cities, girls are dragged out of bars in the name of morality. Brides are burnt for more dowry. Cars slow down when they see a woman walking alone on the road. Many of them, with the entirely honourable intent of making her life more exciting, try giving her a friendly nudge, sing a song or two and make declarations of lust. A very senior teacher in my school stopped driving because she had a terrifying experience on the road. A bunch of young boys driving their Daddy’s car mistook this 50 something lady for Lara Croft and gave her a heart thumping chase. Not content with a few friendly dents they even tried to stop her car. Why?? Because it is fun harassing a woman.

Where or more importantly when did we go wrong? From times immemorial the woman has played the role of the nurturer. There was a time when cultures across the world worshipped the power of female and her ability to produce life. I am sure many of you have read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. In his book, Dan Brown put across the theory of how the predominantly male church demonised the sacred feminine and called it unclean. “The original sin” and Eve’s contribution to downfall of human race was created by man. Women, once the sacred giver of life, had now turned into the enemy.

While I Was Sleeping........

Trisha came up with this story while indulging in her most favoured activity. Have I told you her favourite flicks include ...Sleeping Beauty, Sleepy Hollow, While You Were sleeping, Sleepless in Seattle, Sleeping with the Enemy.........

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Napoleon, Marx, Shakespeare and the endless procession of eminent individuals that every student curses; as days turn into nights and the syllabus stretched into infinity. Red eyes ringed with dark circles, I got up. “I’m going for a walk.” My voice croaked from disuse. No, seriously, I’d reached the limit of my attention span (i.e 45 minutes) and the idea of a walk seemed pretty appealing. There’s a forest area surrounding my residential complex and the trees swayed invitingly. As I walked, the temperature began to dip. Suddenly tired, I sat down and leaned against a tree trunk. Light filtered in from the canopy above. It was so comfortable. My limbs loosened and my eyes closed...

I wake with a start. What’s this wet, white powdery stuff? I shake it out of my hair. I notice little chunks of it sliding down my arms. Can this be...snow? In Delhi, at this time of the year? I run towards my house, people are moving sluggishly through the snow. I run out onto a road. Strange cars whizz by. One car stops, a window is rolled down- “Hey, are you lost? Do you need a ride?” I shake my head and move on. I cross the road carelessly and a car screeches to a halt. “I’m so sorry! Are you okay? Be careful...” Now that’s weird- polite Delhi-ites? Am I dreaming? My clothes look outdated somehow.

Spreading love, sweet love

My Dad held a position where people queued up to give him gifts on Diwali. My girlhood Diwali memories are tinged with anguish, of the family grappling with a constant stream of guests flitting in and out of the house, even at the oddest hours. The kitchen had to be in a constant state of preparedness, ready to dole out a snack or two and we were expected to greet everyone with a Namaste Uncle and a grin that stretched right up to my earlobes. I had almost perfected the art of dual expressions – combining my toothy smile with an odd menacing look. Sadly, it didn’t deter the guests from coming.

But my Dad more than made up for my bad manners. He would greet everyone with a loud, effusive Arrreyyyyyyyyyyy, like they were his long lost brothers from the Kumbh mela. Baba, who was it? Umm...I have no idea! But that’s my Dad, heart meltingly warm but memory challenged. Well, the daughter takes after him but instead of almost fainting with delight, I oscillate between “deer caught in headlight” and “the dead fish” look. My father-in-law is even worse. He once went to a relative’s “Shradh ceremony” and enquired earnestly from fellow mourners about Dashu Da’s well being. Dashu Da incidentally was the dear departed chappie in question. Trying to amend for the emotional distress he was causing, he put on a sombre expression and mumbled ...actually I meant Bishu Da, his brother. The guests were almost hyperventilating now and Bishu Da’s garlanded photo of six months didn’t look too amused either.

Coming back to Diwali and its associated custom of spreading love through casseroles, dinner sets and mithai. Have you ever wondered about the inversely proportional effect of the law of plenty – which makes you extremely allergic to things you see and get in plenty? That makes you want to throw up if you see another box of Milton thermos or a melamine dinner set? Your home sweet home becomes a haven for all the absconding boxes of kaju barfis and dry fruits and your Maa is constantly hatching plans to make you have them. You go to the movies with an extra large packet of dry fruits to munch on, the pulav has more kishmish than rice grains. I hated what the festive season did to my Maa. From her strict school teacher persona she would mutate into this scary mithai devi, constantly thinking up recipes to use up all that barfi. This after she had fed everything that walked in her periphery of vision with Diwali goodies, even our maids, sick of the sweet treats, would howl in protest. A few of them later went on to start a “say no to mithai” andolan, last heard they were trying to rope in Arundhati Roy for their cause.

Let’s Talk About Love Baby

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Believe it or not, the way you flirt holds the key to the fate of your relationship. A new study has found that people who use playful and physical style of flirtations are likely to attract shorter, less serious relationships, whereas polite and sincere flirting could attract a long term partner. Hey Babe! I lost my number, can I have yours?   F&$^% off Dude …insert complementary dead fish look.

Madam I beg to state that I have lost my number. Can I have yours please? Why just my number, you can have my Mom, my Dad, my entire khandan’s number …insert complementary eyelash fluttering.

Great, you fell in love with a lost case and are living happily ever after. You have managed to tolerate each other for nearly a decade, till you come across this shitty piece of research. According to a study, married couples have exactly ten years and 11 months of wedded bliss before it starts going to hell. So why does it all go downhill after a decade? The reasons cited were ….lack of romantic gestures, scarcity of compliments from their spouse and six out of 10 respondents needed to be reminded why they married their partner in the first place. Ouch. To no one's surprise, sex was also to blame. Not even the lack of it -- but a total lack of enthusiasm about it. No figures were revealed as to how excited they were about the prospect of sex with someone other than their partner.

It has now been ten years of togetherness and you make the shocking discovery that your husband is enjoying a secret rendezvous with another woman. Chill…don't run after him with a knife, just grab a copy of Maryse Vaillant controversial new book Men, Love, Fidelity, instead. According to Vaillant, France's most prominent female psychologist, extra-marital affair is a sign that your marriage is a healthy one. Thank God, you are having an affair!! Mwaah. She further reckons that men who keep mistresses actually improve their marriage. "They simply need breathing space and infidelity is almost unavoidable". Once women accept that the "pact of fidelity is not natural but cultural" and that infidelity is essential to the "psychic functioning" of certain men it can be a "very liberating" for women. In her book, Vaillant insists that fidelity is not, by definition proof of love.

Shouldn’t be too tough, choosing that special gift for her on your tenth anniversary, eh? Did the Amazon site just crash from traffic overload?

When Arun-dhoti Gives It To Those Ones….

Image courtesy.Shreyas Navare
Dear Diary….. I can’t tell you how mortified I am to be a part of this Bhooka-nanga Desh. And Desh is not the snotty boy I knew back in school, but my sadistic homeland, Hindoostan. I am filing for separation along with my Kashmiri brothers and sisters and my Gandhian buddies with guns, the sweet Maoist fellas. Anybody else who seeks azaadi from this Neo Nazi state, where minorities are routinely persecuted and the poor cheerfully exploited, please, please file for membership to Annie’s Ark. Oh, I haven’t told you about my ship have I? Gosh! I’m so excited about it….It will be shaped like a Kerala houseboat, handcrafted with walnut wood from the paradise of Kashmir and my Narmada Bachao Andolan mates have promised to paint cheerful motifs in bright colours to keep the blues away. It will be fun cruising together, a bunch of zealots protesting loudly against all the ills that ail this world. If I’m in a good mood, I might just teach you the skill of writing provocative essays (but only after I finish penning down mine). Its strange how I can never stop writing, the moment I manage to finish my 5555000 worded essay, I chance upon a report on Israel’s state brutality, the anguish of Afghanistan, a dam being built, yet another nuclear bomb ….my eyes brim over with tears and I start writing again. So much pain, so much suffering and poor little Annie, the lone crusader against this pitiless, ruthless world. I must articulate my anguish, I must scream hysterically from rooftops, I must rush to save the terrified trees, the flustered farmers, the misunderstood peace loving Maoists…..they need me, the voice of the voiceless, their Goddess of all things big and small. And, I know there is always hope. If I cannot make it to the presidency like Dilma Rousseff, I can still become the UN ambassador for the downtrodden.

But I’m still in Kashmir, sipping my Kahwa and dreaming of a Utopian world. In the evening I’ll go pelt stones and burn some effigies. Hmm...I almost feel Bengalish today (forget the deception my name conveys). My heart beats for the bhodralok city that breeds drawing room revolutionaries, who express emotional distress by going on strikes and breaking the glass façade of the USIS Library every time America indulges in brazen imperialist acts like bombing Iraq or opening up a McDonalds branch in Nandigram. But I have even been offered citizenship of the new Azad Kashmir and a complementary houseboat on Dal Lake. And my new found Jihadi friends have promised to teach me how to assemble a bomb in five minutes flat!! I am trembling with excitement and now my heart beats louder for Kashmir. Yet, I can’t stop reminiscing about my Maoist comrades. It’s been a while since I visited the Dandkaranya forests they haunt. Oh to sleep under the stars, on the bare ground, my private suite in a thousand star hotel and walking under the canopy of trees, my heart singing a symphony divine. When I was not sleeping, I tried putting my anguish across to my tribal comrades, against the brutal, rapacious state that wants to usurp their land. But alas, they couldn’t comprehend my Hindi and I couldn’t comprehend their English. It was awkward but I had to keep on trying, I asked “kaisa lag rahaa hai apko?” With a toothy grin they offered me an unusual red chutney. It tasted fiery, so very peculiar, almost folicy. It was then I spotted heaps of red ants being ground in the mortar for the chutney. I almost threw up, but I had to find a bush first. And that reminded me of the other imperialistic Bush and the nasty fellow’s evil designs on my Iraqi brothers. My heart let out a silent sob and my stomach an ominous rumble. I spent the entire night running from tree to tree.

The Brunch

Presenting Avinash, my wannabe nephew (you wish!). A budding writer who likes to soar and the sky is not the limit for him. A dreamer who dreams a myriad dreams in technicolour.

It is an hour before noon.
The Restaurant sits contentedly at the edge of a dark green-blue lake. There is almost no wind today, making it hard to see any movement in the trees lined up thickly on the other side.

A narrow, wooden bridge pokes out from the side of the Restaurant leading to the lake and coming to an abrupt stop somewhere near the edge. The water in the lake is uncannily calm, almost motionless. There is only a hint of movement, given away by the sunlight sparkling mischievously at its surface now and then. It is like a pink baby dreaming with her soft eyelids closed, indulging in only so much of a shy smile every few minutes. And like her little fingers which curl and uncurl slowly, perhaps reaching out to touch some unfathomably beautiful thought high up somewhere.
Yellow-golden sunlight streams in generously through the French windows of the Restaurant, highlighting a rare speck of dust that might have escaped the stringent eye of the morning cleaner. It floats about hither and thither, enjoying being hopelessly lost in the big, big Restaurant.

I walk into the Restaurant, looking around with mild interest. It feels like I’ve been here before. I just can’t remember when, though. It must have been a lifetime ago.

The place is quiet, but not quite. There is a muffled clink of shining steel cutlery on warm silica plates. From the far end of the Restaurant, the soft notes of a Piano mix into the sweet air like a shameless intoxicant. I am invited in. I come in.

I am ushered to my place by a pleasant man in a white uniform and I choose a nice chair facing the window, overlooking the lake. I am just about to park myself when I change my mind. I shift over to the other side, now facing the Restaurant.
I am here for Brunch.