Sunday, August 29, 2010

Birthing Pangs


It’s that time of the year again, when you start getting ready to go up the numbers ladder and blow more candles on your cake. Me, I stopped putting candles on my cake long time back. I now prefer just eating the cake and then spend the rest of the week worrying about the calories I piled on.

But it wasn’t always like that. As a kid I would wait 12 months for this special day. A day when I would feel like a princess and get pampered silly. My working Mom would take the day off for me and I would come home to a feast of my favourite dishes laid out in silver. The whole day would pass in a fervid state of excitement. Surrounded by friends, family and so much love – this was my day with me as the centre of universe. The icing on the cake would be late at night, after the party when all the guests had left. I would unwrap my gifts one by one, eyes shining, breathless with anticipation. I would feel like a character in a fairy tale, living my dream.

As I matured into a young girl, the gifts changed. Bye-bye boxes of crayons, board games, books and hello trinkets, flower vases (I used to hate them with a vengeance). Friends were taken out for a treat and evenings would be close-knit family affairs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Your Hospital Can Make You Sick

Way back in the early 90’s, Dr Ravi Batra, a noted economist made a startling prediction, touting India as the next superpower. Incredulous as we were, it sent a ripple of excitement and was a hot topic of discussion for months to come. Twenty years later we are still hoping. But wait, there is a spark of hope. So what if we are light years away from being a global giant, we have managed to produce a bug so super that it has the world running scared. Scientists in a UK based research laboratory have tracked down to Indian hospitals a drug-resistant bug that infects patients and causes multiple organ failures. The super-bug resistant to almost all known antibiotics, has been graciously named “New Delhi metallo”, NDM-I for short. NDM-I makes several serious infections antibiotic resistant, leaving you with no cure. Well, New Delhi is famous, so what if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

India is not amused with the Lancet report and has reacted along expected lines, calling the report a conspiracy and an attack on medical tourism. The government has even hinted that the report is biased, as a drug company was among its funders, while conveniently choosing to ignore the fact that the two of the authors are from Apollo which pioneered medical tourism in India.

And rubbing salt on to our wounds is an advisory from Britain’s national tourism agency, which labels Indians as impatient and unhuggable. The 2012 Olympics handbook further goes on to describe Indians as a race that regards British food with suspicion. That I will whole heartedly agree with, with the food so bland and over priced we have all the reasons to be suspicious. But seriously, after staying on for 200 years as uninvited guests in our country, these blokes still think we are impatient?

Researchers of the other variety have found, women spend an average of 2 ½ years of their adult life cooking. Men, it has been found spend 14 minutes more a day in the kitchen, but they don’t cook. And when they do, it is usually for themselves. Strangely even after all this slogging, women still find time to try on more than 21,000- items of clothing in their lifetime-but actually buy half of them. Obviously, you don’t marry each guy you date? Sadly if the woman is too busy earning rather than cooking and happens to earn more than her partner, heartbreak awaits her. If your boy friend or husband is earning less than you are, he is most likely to cheat on you. Cheating apparently is a man’s way of trying to restore his gender identity when he feels, it is under threat. Damn, we women never have it good. Don’t earn and perish in the kitchen or earn and perish of a broken heart.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bhaai

The first thing I asked when I saw him was, Maa, is bhai a boy or a girl? I was disappointed that he didn’t look like a doll I was expecting. He was thin, gangly and cried all the time.

Even though he was my long-awaited sibling, I just couldn’t get myself to love him. In one stroke, he had taken away all the attention from me. All of a sudden, my Maa and Baba were just not mine anymore. I was expected to share their love – God, I so resented it.

He was a bright, naughty baby, hopelessly attached to his working Mum. Every morning when she left for work, he would cry his heart out. It broke her heart to leave her baby behind. We had a procession of maids, hired to take care of him. Most of them were characters, though a few of them did love him.

When he was two, I made him drink an entire bottle of Amritdharaa. It used to be a tiny bottle, a drop of it in a glass of water was meant to cure nausea. He vomited non-stop. I stood quietly behind the door, a little guilty, a little scared, watching my befuddled Mum take care of him. Years later, when my sis-in-law (his wife) told me how she tried to smother her li’l sis with a pillow, I almost hugged her in relief.

We used to have a large window in living room, overlooking the street below. The window was his favourite hangout zone and he would often send stuff from our house flying down. The passersby’s would look up in surprise, while I would go running down to retrieve our lost treasures.

He was and still is extremely sensitive. He loved to sketch and had a special fascination for my nose. We loved to make fun of each other and I always won hands down. My victory would not go down well with him and he would react with rage. Both of us would go running all around the house, toppling furniture, me letting out a scream that would put even a banshee to shame and we would end up in fistfights. His sister, six and a half years older to him would get beaten up. But I had my sweet ways of getting back at him. I think it was his 11th birthday, his best friend Mithu had gifted him a large box of mint chocolates. The boys were busy partying in the living room. I opened the box and popped into my mouth the most divine chocolate I had ever tasted. I would run to the drawing room, pep up the boys and run back to the bedroom and devour handfuls of those wickedly delicious things. By the end of the party I had finished the entire box. Needless to say, he was furious and attempted to kill me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

My Mum’s a Vampire

Presenting Trisha, she of the Twilight-crazed generation. Mostly horizontal, laziness is a way of life for her. She lives in her world of books and occasionally, like a phoenix, she rises to take pot shots at her mum.

It started one fine morning. A pod of garlic changed my life.

12:00 P.M
“Come here and chop the garlic for me!” my mom roared from the kitchen. Grumbling, I shouted back, “Why don’t YOU chop it?” No response, she’d been doing that a lot lately. I shuffled to the kitchen and began peeling the goddamn garlic. I threw the first pod at her... When I replayed this scene in my head in the dark times to follow, I kept wondering what I could have done differently. The pod landed with a soft plop on her hand, and then all hell broke loose. An unearthly howling ripped through the air. My smart-ass-teenager comment stuck in my throat, I backed into the wall.
“I’m melting!” mum screeched (Wicked Witch of the West style). I had no clue what to do to help and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to either. Then she turned into a wisp and vanished. “Oops” I thought. What was I supposed to tell dad? And wait, what was I supposed to have for lunch now?

12.30 P.M
Right, it’s been ages. When is mythical mum going to return? I seriously hope she doesn’t cancel my allowance, or the promise of a laptop. How was I supposed to know she was so allergic to garlic? Doesn’t she have it with dad and in our food all the time? Oh....she always has salad doesn’t she? I always thought it was inhuman to subject oneself to eating rabbit-food day-in and day-out. Come to think of it, she’s never been into garlic bread, garlic pickle, garlic breath...


2.00 P.M
I have got to reign in my overactive imagination. Just ‘cause she went all will o’wisp on me, doesn’t mean she’s some sort of mythical creature. Plenty of people have spontaneously combusted before (at least according to this gross documentary I saw). I think I’ll Google it.

2.30 P.M
Yup. People have turned into wisps. Just one problem, they weren’t people. I am so dead (undead?) I wish dad would come home already.


3.00 P.M
*Sigh* No mum, no dad, no lunch. Oh and the fact that according to VampireWeekly.com, my mum’s a vampire. Great, super! How am I supposed to tell dad this? He won’t believe me anyway. Stupid World Wide Web, preying on my insecurities. According to Dr. Raven Madd’s ‘well-researched’ article- Vampires: A Threat to Democracy and World Peace, the distinguishing characteristics of a vampire are-
1. Fangs- Way obvious, right? I never noticed till today.
2. Garlic aversion- I rest my case.
3. Sunlight allergy- Mum does slather herself in sunscreen all the time. And she wears her shades even when she goes to fetch veggies.
4. Strength- Check. Muscle mum and her gym obsession.
The list goes on with mum fulfilling every criterion.
God, I’m hungry.


4.00 P.M
Okay, I’m officially freaked. The phone’s not working and the door’s jammed. My mythical muscle-mum must have left her phone somewhere in her hurry to vapourise...


4.15 P.M
Found it! Should I call my grandma? I mean, I doubt I’ll get a favourable response if I accuse her child of being a devil’s spawn/ undead being.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who says Indians are corrupt?

Introducing Cacofonix - The writer could have been a violinist, but succumbed instead to the drab world of engineering. Staying away from fixated views and beliefs, he seeks the mellifluous in the world of the cacophonous. And gets peeved enough occasionally to pen his thoughts.

I see a lot of despair in the minds and hearts of righteous citizens of India about corruption. There is a groundswell of opinion that this is the cancer that will spread inexorably, leading to the demise of our identity on the global stage as a nation to reckon with. I have thought this through, aided occasionally by a little tipple on the side, to arrive at this eminently elegant solution – legalise it! Because it’s too darned difficult to get rid of it. And modern management teaches us to be collaborative, not punitive.

We are very efficient at legalising things, so this should be easy. We build an extra floor on our house, we extend a balcony on to the neighbourhood park, we grow our gardens on the footpath in front of our house though it is not our property – and then, we get it ‘regularised’! Once ‘legal’, the judiciary no longer has a reason to frown on such excursions. All in exchange for a few measly rupees or a favour. Which we will no longer call a ‘bribe’, but the more appropriate and dignified, ‘facilitation fee’ (F2).

In fact, we will remove bribery and corruption from our lexicon altogether. We will write to Oxford and Cambridge, and whoever else that keep publishing all these dictionaries, and tell them they have to remove these words from their next edition for the Indian market. If they object, we will pay them an F2. Or break their legs by appointing someone appropriately qualified, through an F2.

This will have the immediate and hugely salutary effect of catapulting us up the perceptions index that Transparency International keeps publishing, always unfairly putting us near the bottom, below Burkina Faso and below Turkey. Thankfully, Pakistan is way below us. Let me illustrate my idea with a sample question. “Did you have to pay a bribe to get your passport done, even though you are a bonafide citizen with all the correct paperwork, address proof and a voter ID card (never mind they got your gender wrong)?” 20 years ago, my answer would have been “Yes”. It was a reluctant “Yes” because, when I refused to pay up the first time, my file got an “adverse noting” that no amount of follow up and visits to the RPO could reverse. With my idea implemented, the answer now would be “No”, because I would not recognise the word “bribe”. Pre-empted from unfavourable responses, the survey will leave us vying for the top spot with New Zealand as a country where things get done without underhand payments.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Time To Make My Bharat Mahaan

It’s been 63 years of being on your own and you are still struggling. A nation in a constant state of crisis, you hurt, you heal, yet you don’t learn from your mistakes or perhaps you do not want to. We chant Mera Bharat Mahaan, but ironically most of us think you are a nation propelling towards disaster. We rant, we fume and occasionally laugh at the inept bunch of fools we elected to govern. But I am a die-hard optimist and thrive on hope that someday all will be well. As a thinking citizen who cares, here’s presenting my quirky “ seven point quick fix program” to make you Mahaan.

  1.  Legalize Corruption: We can’t shy away from the fact that we are a nation of middlemen and touts. Corruption is so deeply entrenched in our system that it is now a part of our DNA profile. From the chief ministers to office clerks, everyone has a price. And being caught on tape accepting a bribe doesn’t necessarily jeopardize your career, especially if you can find someone else to bribe. So why fight a futile battle? Why not embrace it and showcase our under the table skills for the rest of the world to emulate. I suggest we launch an “Incredibly corrupt India” program - take people from across the globe under our expert tutelage and help them hone this extra ordinary skill. And let’s not trivialize it by calling it a bribe, after all our babus and netas expend much of their valuable energy and time in wheeling-dealing. Facilitation fee sounds more business- like and adds an aura of respect. 
  2. Showcase our politicians as role models for our youngsters: Scrap all the no brainer reality shows and replace them with a live telecast of the Parliament proceedings. Rahul Mahajan, Rakhi Sawant and all the desperate bakras can go to hell. The Lok Sabha session has all the elements of a pot boiler – drama, melodrama, table banging, slipper flinging, impassioned speeches by Mamata Banerjee. We can have Arnab Goswami throw disapproving glances and rebuke the pranksters of our politicos; Barkha Dutt running around with her mike asking the slightly saner ones “Kaisa lag rahaa hai apko”? The spiralling TRP’s will have the producers rubbing their hands in glee. And what a fun way to motivate and educate our youth with the nitty- gritties of politics. All the world’s a stage and all men and women mere players. Shakespeare will be sighing in ecstasy.
  3.  One woman solution for Kashmir: Kashmir burning while a clueless Omar looks on? A meek looking Manamohan Singh making a pitiful speech on National television is not enough. I propose we send Mayawati to placate the angry and disillusioned Kashmiris. One look at her scowling visage and the protesters will flee for their dear lives. She can also take Jyoti Kumari, the Bihar legislator of the gamla flinging fame for added effect.
  4. Make stone pelting, effigy burning into competitive sports: An extremely effective way to utilize all the goons on hire who surface magically to protest against the escalation cost of tomatoes, rotting grains or demanding reservation for a newly discovered OBC. This will keep these trouble mongers off the streets and shift our cricket crazed nation’s attention to worthier sporting events. The cricketers in the meantime can pelt stones and burn buses to register their protest.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beauty comes at a price

The world seems to think beautiful women have it easy - they are dead wrong. True, you get pursued all the time and it gets tough turning down so many eager proposals but if you are looking for a serious career, you can forget about it. It seems good looks can dim your prospects at landing a job, especially if it is considered macho. If you are pretty, you need not apply for positions like manager R&D, mechanical engineer, director finance/security, hardware salesperson, prison guard or even a truck driver. Madamjee we prefer buying our nuts and bolts from ugly women. But look at the bright side, career crazed women can trash their gym gear, let go of their punishing salon rituals and bid adieu to their expensive makeup. Moral of the story: Why bother, if looking good is considered a crime. 

It becomes worse if you are hot. Great, you managed to grab that coveted position despite your killer stats; you now make a belated discovery that most of your male colleagues prefer having intense discussions with your twins. Nobody in your organisation wants to take you seriously with the how can she be sexy and sharp logic. Look what happened to the curvy Debrahlee Lorenzana. The poor girl was fired from Citibank because her bosses and male colleagues found her too steamy for comfort. When the fed up femme fatale asked why her female colleagues who were similarly attired did not meet the same fate, her bosses shot back saying their general unattractiveness rendered irrelevant their sartorial choices, unlike the plaintiff. So it’s ok to strut your obese self in a pencil skirt but criminal if you are picture perfect! Moral of the story: it’s safer to turn off your boss rather than turning him on.

Of course if you are drop dead gorgeous, you can model a career on posing and preening. You can also shed crocodile tears on the silver screen and go laughing all the way to the bank. Unfortunately beauty comes with an expiry date and there comes a day when someone younger, prettier and more talented walks away with your job. So what do you do now?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What’s In A Name?

For the longest I didn’t like my name, I thought it was a big headache. Very few would get it right the first time and it became my responsibility to educate the world. It was too unique for my comfort.

I was born “Purva”, against much opposition. No, nobody had a problem with my being born but everybody had a problem with that name. Didoon(my maternal grandmother) preferred Shayanti, the dusk-born. Her wilful, first-born (my mum) imperiously thumbed it down with a “nobody will get it right and she will end up being Shanti”. Thamma (paternal grandmother) didn’t even bother to ask and went ahead and got “Chandana” carved on a pendant meant for me. So, Purva flaunted a Chandana around her neck for years while patiently explaining the nuances of her name.

In school I probably had the shortest name with the longest surname - Bhattacharya. A surname that transcended all barriers and margins in the attendance register, coupled with a short but tricky name. A new class, a new teacher and I would brace myself for the pregnant pause, the inevitable fumbling....Apoorva?......Purrrrr?.....Apoorbo? I would sigh dramatically and correct my teacher. Once our anglicized Geography teacher tried a heavily accented Pushpa with me, I almost hissed back at him. By Xth, I gave up and changed my name to Purba, it sounded much simpler. My friends playfully shortened it to Baa and spent the rest of the session searching high and low for a suitable Bapu for their Baa. I snootily turned down all suggestions.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Time To Make Your Blood Boil

You had been asked to organize the biggest event your country will ever host. Your nation’s pride was at stake; after all you were the third developing country to host the Commonwealth games. Your country won the bid amidst much high drama way back in 2003 and you had almost seven years to prepare for Delhi2010. You twiddled your thumbs and acted busy. You made elaborate arrangements for your post retirement funds and your bank balance went northwards. With barely two months to go, you suddenly realize your ass is on fire with the media gunning for your life. All of sudden, reports of collapsing ceilings, broken floors and loose railings in the so called ready stadiums are surfacing. What bull crap is the media propagating!!! Don’t these morons know that all these sports venues are architectural and engineering marvels, built to collapse at the mere mention of rains?

Now you have gone ahead and produced another marvel - commonsense defying contracts.

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