Saturday, December 21, 2013

'Tis The Season To Be Jolly?

What do we rejoice about in the passing of this year? What is there to celebrate?

That we killed Democracy in India on 11/12/13 (SC passing Section 377) making criminals out of citizens who use their brains to choose their love partners unbiased on gender issues? Or should we celebrate the fact that we no longer have the fundamental right to choose whom to love? (My 12 years of bragging in Democratic Politics classes to 15 year olds about how wonderful democracy is just got flushed down the polluted Ganga!)

Okay, how about we celebrate freedom- the freedom enjoyed by the Indian women- as an equal citizen. She can go where ever she pleases (especially alone in local trains, mills and malls ); wear whatever she wants (especially jeans and t-shirt); take up any profession(especially journalism and law under able guidance of sex starved male bosses). What’s a few rapes, molestations, sexual favours groping, eve-teasing to stop the 21st Century ‘Nari’ in her new avatar! I feel so safe and secure just by belonging to this great Indian female tribe that I feel the warmth of the blessed season entering my cold lungs and chocking me!

 Now here is one good solid reason we have to celebrate- our country boasts of some really antiquated laws, makes me swell up in pride at this piece of information. It allows 17 year olds who brutally rape and kill on the streets of the capital go scot free but puts parents behind bars for “murdering” their 14-year-old daughter for lack of evidence? Applaud the Great Indian Judiciary, it’s an institution I feel so bright and hopeful about.

Speaking of pride, how do you feel about how we Indians are treated abroad by the arrogant U.S. Government and by all firangis for that matter? (Who cares if they snoop and eves drop on their own citizens?). We are insulated, humiliated, stripped- searched, whether it’s our diplomat Devyani Khobargade , former president of India, cabinet ministers, celebrities, students all alike, treated like the Taliban or the Al  Qaida.

Closer home, I feel the holiday cheer tickling my body silly while surfing the T.V channels where I am entertained to either cross-dressed stand-up comedy shows (what’s with cross-dressing and Indian comedy? ); Or endless animated discussions hosted by arrogant  anchors (read: Arnab Goswami) on topics such as “Indian Culture” or the recent Vidhan Sabha elections. People can’t seem to be able to gather enough balls and form a government at Dilli but insisted of shouting hoarse about “India against corruption” and then forming an Aam Admi party and then sitting around twiddling their thumbs saying ‘Pehle AAP’, while the tax-payer pays for another election tamasha?

Do we cheer for the upcoming  2014 Elections then, where our future lies in the hands of the rising star of Gujarat who personifies hypocrisy, intolerance, authoritarianism and regressive politics who insists he will lead India to “development” (read: lop-sided development ); or for the  imbecile son of the political scion  who gets into fits with his opinions  and then lapses   into  hibernation, it’s a choice between  the devil and the deep blue sea which I am so (not) looking forward to in the new year.

Yes we do seem to have a lot to be cheerful about this season, not even mentioning the onion price rise (will bring tears of joy!), the arrests of God-men and their sons, ( Muzaffarnagar) riots, sugar-cane farmers suicides, mission to Mars and such common every day happenings ! Yeah I am angry. Angry at what I was greeted with each morning of 2013!

And the next person who asks me “What are your New Year plans? How are you celebrating this end of the year season?” is going to get a bash on his head. Fa La La La! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Club 60- Film Review

The Story: A doctor couple loses their only son to gun violence in the U.S and forfeits all reasons to carry on living, till they meet members of Club 60!  A beautifully woven tale of real life characters where “old” people find a reason to forget their personal grief and loss and enjoy every bit of their lives.

Club 60

My Review: Debutant director Sanjay Tripathy’s poignant story about how people’s expectations are often misplaced somewhere down the road and the house so carefully build with dreams and hopes come crashing down. The protagonist and his spouse, played by Farooque Sheikh and Sarika, were amazing in their performances .Their grief was so real, especially the balcony scene where Sarika tells her husband that she too has lost a son and her pain was equally intense. Her acting was so natural and the whole scene was on single take (new comers should learn from her how to emote naturally and not be over dramatic)! I couldn’t help drool over Sarika’s kurtis and sarees throughout the movie, they were so exquisite.

Why I liked the movie was it was non-judgemental and didn’t give sermons on morals on “Indian Values”, which irritates me a lot in most Bollywood films. It also had a very positive note throughout.

What spoils the movie’s smooth story-telling was its length and one song too many. I feel Raghubir Yadav was a misfit in his role as a Gujarati Mumbaikar as his accent would sometimes switch to a rustic U.P village bum.

But overall it was an emotional journey I undertook with the characters. Watch it for some fine acting, crisp storytelling and great direction. These are movie for which we love the celluloid.

A Still From The Movie

Don’t miss it!

Monday, December 9, 2013

An Affair To Remember

My sweet short romance with the island city of Mumbai started just after a year of living there. It began in secret (as most affairs do). It crept into my life slowly, took over my very existence and now heart racing I recall my rendezvous, in the tree lined Altamont Road; in gorgeous buildings of Ballard pier and Fort; in grand Neo-Gothic buildings of Victoria Terminus; Mumbai High Court and University; in the easily accessible vintage Fiat cabs  with drivers ranging from amicable, crude to boorish;  the breath-taking view from the flyover at Marine Drive at twilight; the crowded and energetic Kalbadevi and Bhulleshwar; the turning from Babulnath temple towards Walkeshwar (takes my breath away each time); the view  from Kamla Nehru Park; racing downhill  towards Kemps corner from Malabar Hill; the crashing waves at Priyadarshani Park; the silhouette of lovers at sunset in Girgaun Chowpatti slowly working  its magic into me.

Victoria Terminus

Some of the simple reasons why I fell in love: The Mumbaikar- Functional, hardworking, unpretentious and practical- here is where I learned to appreciate life. The high energy outside local stations, the hardships and the struggles of the working classes, their long commuting hours, their lack of space and privacy inspires you to live life to the fullest. People let you be what you want to be.

Sunset At Marine Drive

Then it is the extremities of this city- Five star housing apartments with chawls for company, vada pau selling next to fine dining restaurants, MNC CEOs travelling next to the neighbourhood plumber! The list is endless and i have never experienced this anywhere in India.The other reason why I love Mumbai is for its weather- when it rains, it’s the most amorous thing I have ever experienced, the waves in the Arabian Sea swell up in the high tide and crash into the shores (near Haji Ali) and transfix you with their mystery and majesty! You don’t need layers in winter and the summers are tolerable.

Haji Ali

Mumbai has to be experienced during festivals to get a feel of the exuberance that brings out the spirit of the city (culminating in the mad frenzy of Ganpati Visarjan witnessed from the Kennedy Bridge)!

Flora Fountain

I love Mumbai because I feel safe here, it is the only city in India where a woman can safely take a cab at midnight and take the BEST buses without being pinched or gawked at; Can walk at marine drive at 1am and my teenage daughter has the freedom to take public transport and reach her college without feeling intimidated! How many cities in India can boost of this?

Ballard Estate

In Mumbai I feel free, free to go where I please, do what I want, wear what I want, with nobody judging me on my social class, gender or where I come from.

Read the following in a book on Mumbai, “The city is like a mistress- mysterious and engulfing. You can never understand her, and perhaps that is why you may never want to leave her side”

But I did have to leave- With hope that someday, one day, we shall meet again. Au Revoir.

Priyadarshini Park
(Photo Credits: My trusty Samsung phone)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Inter-caste marriages and such other issues

My marriage to a handsome young boy from Bihar in the summer of '92 cannot be called an Inter-caste marriage in the true sense. It can however be called an Inter-cultural, inter-caste marriage. I being born in the Brahmaputra valley speaking Assamese, raised in a hybrid cultural assimilation and he to traditional rural North Indian culture at the banks of the Gandak (tributary of the Ganga).
My mother’s marriage to my father can’t be called an Inter-caste, inter-cultural marriage either. She being a Malayali Syrian-Christian from the southernmost state of India and my ‘Hindu’ father from the land of black magic and the famous Kamakhya Temple. Theirs was an Inter-caste, Inter-cultural, Inter-faith marriage in the real sense.
Explaining the intricacies of my lineage takes up many a social chit chats. Most people respond in startled surprise at my frankness. In a nation where almost 80% marriages are arranged by the parents and elders, my confessions seem too brash.
My relations with my in-law’s culture went through stages: childlike obsession bordering at infatuation for all things Bihari, to learning their cultural ethos, then frustration at the clash of social etiquettes and customs and finally adaptation to a convenient lifestyle and acceptance.
Now I understand, after celebrating 22 years of wedlock, it had been a long struggle from both our sides but love and patience triumphs in the end.

 I am no authority to comment on the advantages or disadvantages of such marriages vis-a-vis the parental arranged ones but being a parent of a daughter, I know that   when she chooses a boy to wed, I will ask for information on his family background, his education and his occupation but finally, give my blessings as she, being an adult by then, would have seen all of these herself and I trust her innate wisdom.

We live in the 21st century; our children freely interact with each other, why can’t they be trusted to find their own life partner?
I salute my parents and my In-laws for accepting this change a long time ago. God Bless them.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The House Behind My House

There is a bungalow behind my house. It may have been built around 100 years ago.

No one lives there anymore. I always imagine what its residents would have been like. The man of the house may have been an Imperial Civil Service officer (Popularly called the British Indian Civil Services).

He would have come all the way from his cold and wet island, schooled at Eton and Cambridge, poor chap. At first he may have lived alone but subsequently his wife and children may have joined him. She wouldn’t have liked this place too much. Always complained of the heat, the dust, and the mosquitoes!

Sometimes at night I hear the Memsahib call for the Ayah to take the “Baba” for a stroll. Sometimes jazz music floats out from the empty hall.
 There is a cemetery down the hill that I often pass on my way back home. I sometimes stop and read the names on the tombstones; maybe my neighbours live there now!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Finding A Small Reason To Be Happy

Circa 1980- Flashback: Watering my garden
Early winter morning 2013: Watering my garden

The water hose spray the dust away from the leaves and left them shimmering in the soft morning light. They glittered like emerald. Suddenly a couple of butterflies choose my garden to dance in and birds started a chirpy song somewhere in the shade of the tree overhead.
Why was I feeling so pleased with myself? Why did I suddenly feel I was back in my childhood home doing what I used to do so often, as if the years didn’t exist in between! The morning went by with a smile on my face and I was happy!

That’s the point of living: Finding a reason in our daily life to be happy. It may be a call or a text from a friend, a smile from another, a good book, a song over the radio, a dish you made for your family. But this small reason can give us  enough happiness for the rest of the day. 

 Have a good day!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When In Rome

Our first posting was in New Delhi in 1994 we lived there till 2003. Incidentally I have lived in this city and done my post-graduation before that, so I can claim to be familiar with its nuances and moods, but here I am talking of just the dressing of its female denizen. The women in the streets are smartly attired and well groomed. They wear the latest in Desi fashion whether it is the Patiala salwar, salwar kameez, churidar-kurta. These days jeans and kurti and western wear is popular too. It’s like committing hara-kiri to turn out in grumpy clothes and dishevelled hair. The ‘Bibijis’ mostly  wear tailored to fit. The thing about Delhi is the area speaks of the class of people you are going to bump into. Khan Market and G.K will be high in Fashion Quotient while Rajori Garden and Pritampura may be less. But everyone on every street turns out well. And  New Delhi parties come with a warning- attend only if you have fortune to shell out because the checking you will be subjected to is akin to immigrations at JFK! After all, Delhi is the fashion capital of India, Bhaiya!
(Delhi women are always well turned out)

Punjab is similar to Delhi in ladies fashion, but a notch higher on glitz! The ladies of Punjab love Kitty Parties and I, talking about Punjabi kitty party gear will be like me talking about Bombay Stock Exchange!! But this much I know that each party will have a theme (animal print, floral, a specific colour, western outback, animation!!!)  You need to shell out big bucks to wear a designer garb each time! Or you could take help from “” a website actually exists)! Moral of the story: Oye Chak De Phatte!!

(Women of Ludhiana, Punjab)
Mumbai is a whole different ball game! Everyone wakes up, throws on some clothes (accessories optional) sits on the local and goes to work. The dress is crushed and very ordinary, picked off the rack; no thought goes into the hair or the face. The SOBO college kids (a small hand full of exceptions) may sport the latest Indi-fashion, but that’s that. I have been a Towner and I have no knowledge of the suburbs, sorry. In Mumbai you get to save on your beauty treatments and designer boutiques because  everyone is buying BIBA, Lifestyle or Pantaloons. In some pockets of this Metropolis you will even find “Nightie”clad women roaming the streets doing their daily chores! The Gujju ladies can however be easily spotted; they will be the most colourful and the most vibrant lot! Dressing well is a minuscule minority here. Motto is dress as you please! Sab Kuch Chalta Hai Yaar! 
(Women shopping at Colaba, Mumbai)

Nagpur: Wow! what do we see here on the streets, well we don’t! The girls are all covered up in scarves and dupattas and only their eyes are visible!!! The Taliban will love this place. I thought it was the heat but they are still all covered up and it’s November for Christ’s sake!! Don’t ask, I have done the research; some say pollution, some say it’s to avoid stares, some just shrug their covered shoulders and shake their covered necks!! Poor dears!!

So can we safely declare our national dress as THE SALWAR KAMEEZ!? It’s overtaken the sari (which I think looks gorgeous when well tied) and all other regional dresses. So all Indian ladies on the road in ill fitted ugly salwar suits, Now that’s like a scene from a zombie movie! And I too am one of them cause I believe in the phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans do". Sigh!

Sunday, November 24, 2013


The corpse,
Naked and forlorn
Sans desires
Sans longing,
Waiting for the final consummation.
Wishes laying wasted
Dreams abandoned
Like the fading twilight.
To the all-enveloping darkness.
Time like a shroud
meaningless now.
Seasons changing,
Lover's tears,
Words of endearment
Just futile and empty they fall.
Trapped in my wants and wishes
I bid farewell to the ghosts from my past.

On Being Unladylike

I have a confession to make. I’m going to ignore the fact that this is a lousy place to make a confession. I think I don’t have a single ladylike bone (if there is such a thing) in me. I realized this many many summers ago. My earliest memory (now isn’t memory a fickle thing) is of this very gawky teenager dropping her big sister’s nail polish bottle and staring at the ugly spill on the floor. Why i picked up the bottle in the first place beats me, because I never knew what it was for anyway. I used to wear my sister’s hand me downs or her “designed” dresses. Yeah we are old; we belong to the era before readymade clothes. I remember staring at women’s magazines and wondering how they managed to look so pretty, totally ignorant about such things as make-up, hair style, waxing and what have you till almost my late 20s. These days I see girls who are in their single digit age discussing ombre hair and nail art (who ever thought of such atrocious things?).
When I got married and set up house, my dear hubby(God bless him), set up the kitchen, brought all the knick-knacks  and even taught me to make tea, cook daal, rice and a basic meal. The rest I learnt (literally) from around the country where ever we went on postings and had friendly neighbours (they are a rare thing, let me tell you).
 Embroidery is like Latin and Greek to me, i can’t seem to be able to even thread a needle. When i was in school and we had needle and craft classes, all my final products for submission looked so good (with 100% contributions from mother and sister) that my teacher never believed they were mine inspite of my eye lash batting looks!!! These days bad eye sight is a good excuse, but imagine me as a new bride in my in-laws house, when my extremely talented sister-in-law starts filling a whole bed cover with intricate creepers and flowers! And when my mom-in-law tells me to knead the flour for chappatis (I fibbed a stomach pain and disappeared into the toilet till the coast was clear!)
When we invite guests over for dinner i stick to safe dishes like Paneer, Chicken, Dal, rice or order dinner from outside. Wait, isn’t a get together with friends suppose to be fun and not a platform to show off your cooking skills? Then i die of guilt when we go over to exotic Moroccan or Malaysian dinner spread  and the hostess proudly  announces  “I made all the food myself!” and I practice my fake awe look and polish off a  few more hors-d’oeuvre!
I am so useless with art skills (painting, sketching, photography, paper cutting, even drawing a straight line) that when my daughter gets projects from school, no marks for guessing where i run to. She now has all the skills to handle those scary projects all on her own.

Now, being unladylike comes with a lot of disadvantages, especially since i am a mother of a very ladylike girl- she even has a blog called “All That Estrogen”! But i have an advantage- my better half (now that’s the reason why we call them that) is highly skilled in cooking. He loves to cook! The more exotic, the taster the dish he turns out. He loves buying the weekly vegetables, fruits and non-veg. He loves to plan the menu and has green fingers in our garden. My daughter and he sit and plan the furniture and other stuff when we move into a new house, choose the curtains and the paint for the walls. Thank heaven my daughter is quite ladylike and yes she bakes cup-cakes and does her own French manicure!
(Brownies my daughter baked yesterday!)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Morning Walk

Its difficult at first, but then you get used to it and then it becomes so much a part of your daily ritual that you can't seem to start your day without it.
My day begins with a steaming hot cup of Assam tea, yeah i have been adviced on the goodness of warm water with lime juice and honey, but what's life if we can't enjoy our own beverages!
I quickly tie my walking shoes, thanking the mastermind inventor of it (my heels actually thank him/her). At this point i am in a great hurry to be out and my sluggish husband always tests my morning patience by dilly-dallying in searching of things like keys, socks, cellphone....AAAAAGGGGG!!!
And then i am off. The fresh air hits my lungs and my limbs are raring to go.
When that lazy lump of a hubby abandons me sometimes, i take my Ipod and plunge into a musical world. Sometimes the nonsensical lyrics of Honey Singh make me smile in memory of days in Ludhiana, Punjab; Nikki Minaj and Jessie J pep me up with my loveliest memories of the U.K, bollywood songs bring longing for  mumbai and the oh so romantic marine drive.
And before this piece of writing becomes a trip down memory lane, back to mornings.
My companions come in all shapes and sizes! There are those who struggle, pant and puff; Those who race and overtake others like they are the Obamas of the walking track; Some people put their music on speakers so when they cross you you know what their taste in music is like- Bhajans mostly or old bollywood hits. Now speaking of which, i feel the kind of music one listens to is like a window to the kind of person you are.
Okay back to morning walks- one interesting thing i often observe is the way people glance at each other when they cross each other's paths. Some seem to look you up and down and say "Tsk!Tsk! so overweight!!" While some kind of admire you silently or maybe like my Hubby says who has the time like you to think so much?!
Have you noticed how people do the stretching and the exercising? Some look so hilarious, i actually saw a man holding a tree and swinging around it! and a women doing some kind of breathing exercise that seems like she was gasping for breath!some people clap as they walk,is it to cheer themselves or some kind of yogic stance?
Here i must again bring back mumbai to tell you all about my fantistic Marine drive morning walks- the thing about Mumbai is nobody looks at anybody!!! Its as if you don't exist! People walk alone, or as couples or as the typical SOBO Gujju buissinessmen group- more i think to discuss their deals, mixing buissness with exercise! And the open sea, aah, the crashing waves- but all that some other time. Back to sweet Nagpur morning walks. See the best thing in Nagpur is the forest at Seminary Hills and thats where i take my morning walks. If i need a reason why i am inspired to tumble out of bed every morning it must be this.
And as it often happens in the middle of my walking, i am seized by an urgent need to sit down or bunk the walk midway and cheat myself off the track and take a detour or a shortcut- i can't. See that's the beauty of the "forest walk" in Nagpur, they have a narrow jogging track and you are forced to complete the whole round at least once (almost like life itself, no shortcuts and no going back)!
So at the end you reach back home tired but with euphoric feelings and muscle soreness, but the endorphins released in the body making you feel exhilarated and ready to face you day!
See you in the morning!