December 9, 2010

The Fight

It happened on the terrace this time, not the balcony like many times before. Loud and noisy...early in the morning. Another endless arguement. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...until it became physical.

Pushing, shoving, even head-butting. It seemed like it would never end. And there I was, the silent and lone observer, peeking from my balcony, cup of coffee in hand. Suddenly, there was a lot of movement, a sort of dance. Every step that one took, the other followed. Were they going to make up or was the fight intensifying?

And then, one took a step onto the ledge. The other stayed still for a second and then followed suit. One last look he gave her...and then took the plunge.

Oh to be a bird and just fly away when it all becomes too much to take!

November 4, 2010

Deepavali 2010 - the beginning

I've celebrated Deepavali in India, specifically in Madras, for most of my life. Waking up at the crack of dawn, oil bath, new clothes, sweets and the all the rest of it are still fresh in my mind. Funnily though, the one thing that I've never done is to go shopping for the crackers. Maybe because I've never been very keen on the different bombs or other noisy things. The task of buying even sparklers and flower pots was always outsourced to dad, uncle, brother, driver etc..

What a shock I got when I saw at a 'Discount Firecrackers Store' here in Bangalore that the cost of 1 box of 10 flower pots was Rupees 700! I realized that I may walk out with just that and a box of sparklers. Thinking that I need to return with more cash, I was on my way out but was stopped by the owner.

Yenna madam, what do you want?
Illai, I don't have enough money, I'll come back. (He prob thought that this was a precursor to a long drawn out haggling session)!
No, we give a 70% discount on the printed prices and I'll give you more discount if you buy a lot.

Ok, so now this kind of made sense...or did it?! That meant that for the printed price on 1 box, I would actually get 5! And this applied across the board, on whatever kind of firecracker one wanted to buy. 5 boxes of flower pots and chakras each, 10 boxes of sparklers and 5 boxes of 'shaatai' later, I was at the billing counter feeling mighty thrilled about my first ever 'pattaas' purchase! My joy was short-lived because the bill presented to me was for Rupees 1850. I was figuring out what I should return to the shelf when he said, 'it's ok madam, you please take this for 1500'.

Was his generosity because this is the season for giving and sharing, because I was probably the first 'boni' for the day or because he still made a killing on the sale because I suck at bargaining????

You decide!

Happy Deepavali!

October 26, 2010

Kolu - memories

Pattu pavadai, house-hopping with mum, singing songs everywhere, eagerly waiting for the juice/rose milk, and finally the 'vethalai paaku' bag, usually with something special in it for the kids. Doesn't seem like too long ago when I was doing this. But now, it's the daughter's of life and all that. A repeat experience except that there was a lot of explaining regarding the dolls. And the son...gunning for the wax fruits, never mind that he won't eat the real ones! And me...and mum. Fun times. Hope they last a long long time to come.

September 23, 2010

'Try'al Rooms

I hate shopping per se, especially for clothes, especially in India. Of all the annoying things about it, the most trying bit is the trial room experience.

Opening the door:
It takes a bit to figure out how to...push or pull? What if there's no handle? It's hilarious to see people try it one way, feel terribly embarrassed and do the opposite. Sometimes even that won't work...why? Because there's someone inside and the sign on the knob that says 'occupied' or 'vacant' (just like in the aeroplane loos) is jammed.

Hanging the clothes:
Why is it that most stores have just three hooks or less to put the hangers in? Yes, the rules say 'only three garments at a time' but come on, this is India. No one follows rules so they might as well remove the sign! Even if you do take only the prescribed three garments, where are you supposed to put the clothes that you are in? On the floor?? OK, they may be old but definitely not that bad! These are times when it pays to own a large makes a good floor mat substitute. (All you designer handbag owners, disregard this...I'm sure you will first run out naked than put your precious bags on the floor)

I know stores are trying to maximize display space but that doesn't mean that the trial rooms should be built so tiny. But all credit to them for fitting all four sides (including the back of the door) with mirrors to give the false impression of space...and to positively horrify the 'trier' if the outfit should look ghastly! If you think you look bad, look again and be certain of it!

The fan:
It's hot in India...very hot. But is there a need for a very small but extremely high speed fan to be placed on the ceiling that's not that high at all? It's almost scary to raise your hands up to put on the outfit lest it get stuck...and cut off! And let's not forget hair flying into your eyes, mouth and everything else...especially for those with wavy hair that becomes unmanageable with humidity (ahem)

The companion:
The most irritating part of the trial room experience is the jobless friend who's job it is to bring different sizes of the same outfit to the 'trier' should the size not fit. And invariably, it won't. Back and forth they go bringing different colours, sizes, patterns and so on. It doesn't stop with just that either. Comments and critiques galore...yes, no, maybe, definitely not, awesome, blah, blah...until someone (usually me) glares at them first..and then, if the hint is still ignored, yells at them. There is a supervisor for the trial rooms but these are usually helpless people who just roll their eyes and sigh at all this drama. All they do is fold the discarded clothes really.

The queue:
Mums with kids in-tow (ahem), dads with cell phones ringing (ahem ahem), college kids with bored expressions, elderly couples trying to manage rowdy kids...everyone's in line but not everybody is actually waiting to try on stuff. No, they are holding spots for friends and family! The great Indian reservation system in full force! of the few things that I miss about the States...

September 14, 2010

Circle of Life

"You were so little when I saw you last! Look how much you've grown now! How time flies!" - heard this before? If you live in India and are surrounded by a roomful of family or 'family friends', you most certainly would have. I've always found it quite hard to react to such statements. Or, I should say I don't think my reaction would have been tolerated! Yes, its been long, yes I've grown (duh) and yes, time does fly! Stating the obvious and expecting an equally enthusiastic response...difficult, especially when its a frequent occurrence.

The other day, I heard that a little boy I knew from a long time ago just had a baby. And my first thought was, "What? He had a baby? My god, I remember him as a brat! HE had a baby??" And that's when it hit me! I had become them...the ones that I used to make fun of not too long ago!

This either means that I have aged, considerably, or that I have not made an effort to stay in touch with people and keep up with their life updates. In today's world where technology makes it oh-so-difficult to not be in touch by some means or the other, all signs point to the former of my two conclusions.

I vaguely recall some song...'age ain't nothing but a number' but I don't remember too it my age?

September 5, 2010

Happy Teachers Day!

Patience, persistence, perseverance, passion, knowledge, commitment - it takes all of this and more to make a good teacher. We’ve all had many teachers in our lives. Some have touched our hearts more than others but they all meant well. To all my teachers, too many to name but not too many to remember, Happy Teachers Day!

You taught me all you know to the best of your ability.
You encouraged me and believed in me when I doubted myself.
You cheered for me when I did something I wasn't the best at.
You were patient and understanding when I stared blankly back at you.
You made me believe that anything was possible.

I didn’t realize the importance of all of it then. But I do now. You’ve shaped a huge part of me. What I am is because of you. Thank you for everything, especially the wonderful memories.

July 13, 2010

For love of country, sport or self?

Sportspersons/athletes have many goals. Some (most) want to be number 1 in the world...the best at what they do best. Others want to represent their country at the Olympics, even feeling that this is the biggest honour possible. Still others want to become famous while making a lot of money from endorsements and the like.

So what happens when someone has all of these goals? They may want one thing, their country may want something else from them, their bodies, after all the beating, may be willing to give something totally different than the requirements and so on. What can an athlete do when the demand and availability are in total contradiction? Who gets priority? The person who is striving for individual glory to be the best in the world? Or the person that the country most needs at that point in time? Let's not forget about the body that doesn't want to give at all! Is the athlete not entitled to some time off from all these demands? Can such time off be planned so as to not upset any of the people making the demands?

I'm not at all a fan of Rafael Nadal but I did feel sorry for the guy when all and sundry gave him hell for going to the World Cup Finals rather than playing a crucial Davis Cup tie against France. After a gruelling clay and grass court season, all he wanted was some time-off. The time-off coinciding with the Davis Cup as well as the World Cup was just his luck. What if Nadal had chilled out at home instead of being in South Africa? Would that have been better in the minds of those that criticized him? Seems like a bit of sour grapes syndrome...'I can't go to the finals so why should you just because you're famous? Do your job like how I'm doing mine and watch the finals on TV'!

It's not like Nadal planned one other than Paul, the octopus, knew that Spain was going to win anyway.

June 23, 2010

Help is help is help...HELP!!!!!!!

In the 5 years that I've had to manage domestic help in India, I've realised a few things:
  • They are stubborn
  • They pretend to know everything
  • They have selective hearing
  • They won't change their ways (and I mean using-actual-floor-cleaners-instead-of-RIN-on-the- floors kind of change)
  • They love the dishwash bar even though it takes nothing out of the dirty dishes
  • They talk too much even if I'm not interested in hearing them
  • They won't move a single piece of furniture to clean under it

But they want a raise ever so often. And new clothes. And money for cell phone recharge. And all the other nonsense that goes with being help in this day and age.


June 2, 2010

The Streak

As the car drove away, He sat back to think...about the last few years. So much achieved in so little time. Almost certainly never to be repeated. And the memories came in a flood just like the tears.


May 22, 2010

Tragedy, TV, thoughts

It seems impossible to stop watching the news channels when a tragedy occurs. Constant stream of updates, photos, interviews, live action on 'ground zero' to name a few things that are shown; it is played out like a soap opera except that everything in it is real. No one walks away after the director says 'cut'. The stories are told and retold with modifications, some true and many made-up. 'Unanswered questions', 'suspicious events' and other such catchy headlines are splayed all over to make people take even more notice.

This is the age of TV sensationalism. And yet, we can't stop watching. What is it about tragedy that draws us to the TV screens? As much as the anchors host with saddened expressions and softer voices, do they actually care about how the victims' loved ones feel? Yes, they are doing their job but shouldn't there be a limit to how much is said and shown?

Feelings before TV ratings. Something to learn...for us and them.

May 7, 2010

Namaskara Bangalore!

My writer's block is certainly not due to lack of thoughts, rather the opposite. Many questions and doubts about the settling in process have been answered. Finding good help, summer classes, grocery stores, local snack shops etc are all done. And in a much shorter timeframe than I imagined. Mainly because there are no language issues this time around. Most people speak a fair bit of English and an even fairer bit of Tamil. Although I'm a proud owner of this, I do feel that I'm not going to need it much.

Maybe Namaskara will suffice...

March 30, 2010

Hyderabad Blues

Change is the only constant in our lives these days. Everyone lives everywhere and makes it their home for that point of time. Adaptating to the city, streets, cultures, languages and everything else. You hate it and love it equally. But as you age, the good-byes get harder, maybe even a bit teary. Everything becomes a memory that you want to retain forever in your mind or at least in print. The list of 'this might be the last time we do this or see this' becomes longer.

Is this simply because we understand better with age? Maybe. We know that things don't stay the same. Some things are difficult to replicate no matter how hard you try. Something exciting and fun from a long time ago may not be anymore. Tolerance reduces. Friendships last but not without a great deal more effort. People, places, things change. We all change.

Four years have passed and quite quickly too. From an out-of-towner to a near-local. But no longer. My time here is finished. Languages and lessons learned. Friendships and memories made. Adaptation accomplished. But only to start over.

Home is where the heart is but what if you left a little of your heart in every place that you've called home?

March 22, 2010

Mental replay

Retrospect is awesome. Should have, could have, ifs and buts. You can always fix something but only in your mind. If only Ashwin had taken just 1 run and given strike to Albie. 2 runs from 2 balls. Ah! A completely different result.

At least in my mind.

Retrospect is a killer.

March 19, 2010

Leagues and Sports - Part Deux

I wrote this during the IPL's inaugural season. Two years into the madness, I still stand by a lot of what I said except maybe the last couple of lines...a little too dramatic even for me! Other than providing 100% entertainment, the IPL has brought cities and states together at least during the 3 hours of every game. Wearing team colours, singing team songs, cheering, booing, clapping and whistling! You see it all during these games. And for people removed from their home state or city, there's nothing more satisfying than loudmouthing their home team victories against their adopted home teams to everyone that will care to listen!

Heckling and trash talking - the two things reserved for sports fanatics, the two things I missed the most since moving back to India! It's back baby, I'm back!!

WHISTLE PODU for the Chennai Super Kings!

March 11, 2010

The Entrepreneur

Not everyone has the ability to make a dream come true. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication and guts. Congratulations and good luck to Petawrap!

January 25, 2010

Paper Weight

There isn't a whole lot of recycling going on in India. But the one thing I knew was that old newspapers were not thrown in the bin. They were given to the "pazhaiya paper kaaran". No idea beyond that. My newspaper cabinet was threatening to burst so I found one such paper kaaran and decided to pay him a visit with a boot full of old papers.

Upon enquiry I was told that the rate per kg for newspapers and magazines/books was Rupees 6 and Rupees 4 respectively. And he had these old rusty metal scales with 2 5kg weights and 1 1kg weight around him. Very excitedly, I watched as he heaved the magazines onto the scales first...two 5 kg weights on one side and a 1kg above the mags....9 kgs times 4...Rupees 36. Then he put the papers on one side and the 2 5 kg weights on the other side but they didn't balance out. Instead of pulling some papers out and re-weighing them he just looked around, picked up a fairly large stone and put it next to the 10 kgs. Clearly he could see that I was puzzled. Nonchalantly he said "Yeh to Paanch kilo hai"!

Bye bye digitization, we're back in the stone age! Yeah, pun intended.

January 21, 2010

The case of the missing Crocs

Once upon a time, about two years ago actually, a pair of Crocs made its way into a home. The wearer wore it all the time even though Fuschia didn't match many outfits. But, fashionably unconscious as she was, she didn't care. She loved it that much. The crocs went everywhere with her...on the train, in a plane, by car and by foot. Through rain storms, muck, sand and cement. Always left in the same spot by the doorstep, the Crocs went missing one day. The house was turned upside down in an effort to find it. The usual suspects, both around and under 3 feet in height were thoroughly questioned but to no avail. She had most unpleasant thoughts about what might have happened to them especially about who might have taken them.

After a restless night, she decided to put the word out in the building about the missing Crocs. The first person to be told itself knew of its whereabouts! It was located by the main gate, the entrance to the building! Did she mistake the main gate to be her doorstep? How else did it end up there? Ah! The paper boy!! He came to collect the bill but left with the Crocs instead. And the next day walked up barefoot leaving the Crocs by the gate. Amateur.

Now the very clean Fuschia (it has been scrubbed silly) is back where it belongs. Inside the house and not by the doorstep. It takes too long to get a shoe to age gracefully. She will sleep in peace tonight.

****All characters and objects in this story are fictional. Resemblance to any individual or object dead or alive is purely coincidental.****

January 19, 2010


It's the same in all languages. "Change irukaa?" in Tamil, "Change undha or change hai?" in Telugu and Hindi or just "Change?" universally. What is it with stores and not wanting to part with change ever?? Is there a shortage of smaller denomination bills or coins? If my bill were Rs. 174 and I handed out a Rs. 1000 note I can understand the question...maybe. But not for a Rs. 500 note. Come on! And sometimes, even if you hand out a Rs. 200 note, you'll be asked next if you have Rs. 4... so that they can give you an even tenner instead of Rs. 6 in coins!

Coin obsession at its best. Irritating.

January 14, 2010

The attack of the super fast palms

8/8. Swish. Nothing but net. 8 in a row. That was my count last night. A personal best. Never have I hit that many consecutively. No, not on the basketball court but in my bathroom! My hands were the basketball and the mosquitoes were the net. No electric racquet needed, mind you. It certainly helped that the mosquitoes were the size of bees thanks to a fat-rich bloody diet (mine, undoubtedly)! I would have made 10/10 but the last 2 escaped from within my and out. Lucky pests. But I should note that it was not an easy accomplishment. Mosquitoes are a lot smarter than they look and their smarts increase if their diet consists of smart blood too (ahem)!

So the next time you make fun of someone for doing nothing but swatting flies, just remember that its as difficult a job as anything else!