Thursday, November 22, 2012


Kasab's hanging has got me rather down in the dumps...I remember hating his snarling face as he shot down the unwary hapless passengers waiting at the CST station. I remember how close a shave it was for the spouse, whose office is bang opposite CST and who was in the office as their windows were shot at by the terrorists as they rampaged over Mumbai. I remember him wearing something in blue and black, something incongruously normal when everything they did was so out of the normal. I remember sitting in front of the television transfixed for hours and days, poring over every detail in the newspaper...hungry not for sensation but for something to erase the sense of churning and violation and anger and horror and, yes, sheer fear. I remember this unease fading gradually as days, months, years Kasab became a bewildered, misguided, even pathetic youth living on borrowed time. Did he deserve to die? I don't know....but then, it would have simply incomprehensible if he did could India have allowed him to live on after what he had done to India, to us, in that one crazy, scary night? But he is a scapegoat....the masterminds are laughing, scot-free and out-of-range. They will twist even this punishment...they will say it was martyrdom. Maybe it was....Instead of wishing Kasab dead, I wish that no more such Kasabs are born at all....

Actually I had wanted to post something different...a poem written years ago:

Colours of Crime

Red, of course, the victim's blood, the culprit's curse,
(It's always the red that leaves a trail).
Red for passion and danger and flash of the ambulance.

Green, for lust and envy, for the jealous snake
That crouches and watches, striking in passion.
Green for the knife-stabs, and the 'throttled to death'.

Yellow for gold, glinting, tempting, dazzling,
Money makes the world go round and round in the criminal's head.
Yellow for the pre-mediated poison, the bespoke bullet.

Blue for the loneliness which crimes can erase
The flashbulbs and the grainy pictures in the papers.
Blue for the attention-seeking lonelyheart machine-gunner.

Grey for the victims under the never-more-to-be-seen skies
The blood-drained corpse lying on stained steel postmortem tables.
Grey for the flaccid-rigid body-map the detective must decode.

Black for death, and the dark-room of suspense where the criminal lives
Always alert, groping, looking behind, pre-empting with the next murder.
Black for the nightmare imploding the murderer's mind.

And, then, if it is a book, white for the day of reckoning
The Judge's wig, the blindfolded marble, the courtroom walls.
White for the widow's peace as she closes the curtains.

Crime's an art, painted in sordid-lurid paperback shades;
Cross the threshold and pick up the brush.
What's your palette?

Friday, April 20, 2012


If you belong to the age group of 5-15 years, that is.

You will wake up late (no early morning schools for a month or more), eat a lazy breakfast, slump over the TV half-watching Cartoon Network (or some such). And then Mummy will take you to any or all of the following, in any sequence:

Shiamak Davar's dance classes
Swimming classes at the club
Kathak/Bharatnatyam classes
Art/Craft/Drama/Acting workshops for Little Stars and their starry-eyed parents
Football practice (in proper Nike/Reebok/Adidas/Puma boots, please)
Tennis classes
Karate classes

Piano/Keyboard/Guitar/Drums/Vuvuzela classes
Summer camps where you will be summarily regimented.

I might have missed out a few.


Pick up unripe/overripe mangoes fallen under a tree
Stroll barefoot on the grass
Spring-clean your own room
Help mummy to make papad, pickles, chutneys, cakes and stuff
Curl up on the sofa and read books, books, books.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012


It is just such a relief... finally wind up my two-year-old Minor Research Project on Blogging in India. Yes, the monkey's off my back, off my laptop, off my pen-drive and has gone ahead to be printed and is soon going on to be submitted to the University Grants Commission. Yes, the long tail of bureaucracy is still wagging - reports have to be written, bills audited, expenses calculated and accounts made and sent. BUT RIGHT NOW, I AM WAKING UP FREE AND WALKING ON AIR. In the past two years, I have (admittedly intermittently) delved deep into blogs, blogs and more blogs, critical writings about blogs and books on blogs (and blogs on books). Totally neglecting my own blogs for quite some time. As always with me, the pressure mounted as the deadline approached. And the last two weeks has been a flurry of worry, work, writing, war-zones,waking up all night, and more...After drowning in blogs, I've finally re-surfaced in the free and airy space of my own blog. THANKS TO ALL YOU WONDERFUL BLOGGERS OUT THERE, BECAUSE YOU RESPONDED TO THE QUESTIONNAIRE I SENT. The survey I conducted with your support and was primary research that was very important, not least because it added gravitas and academic weight to my project....

Talking of weight....

It is just such a relief... finally see Kareena Kapoor fattening up from Size Zero to her recent plump-arms-and-oh-is-that-a-paunch avataar, yet looking as haughty and glamorous as ever. Vidya Balan has done it, I know, but the more of our hopelessly slim stars join them, the better. Kareena's April pictures come as a breath of fresh air to all women struggling-to-retain-weight-loss-and-succumbing-to-Snickers-and-Twix-and-lemon-tart-and-icecream-temptations. You know who I am talking about. If Kareena can, we can...give in to weight gain.

What a relief!!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


A lot, actually.

Especially if first impressions have a way of they do with me.

I have this favourite skincare brand, Forest Essentials. They are made with natural ingredients, they are made in India. Open a jar or uncap a bottle and delicious smells of jasmine and rose, sandalwood and orange neroli waft out to seduce your senses. And their creams, gels, oils, pure waters and lotions are light as air and soft as flowers on your skin. And they come in this aesthetically minimalistic natural packaging. Clear bottles and jars with stark black caps, small, neat brown and green lettering, and the whole delicious elixir packed in a classily unobtrusive brown-paper colour packaging. I'm getting carried away. But they are really really good and lust-worthy.

Till they changed their packaging. Today, I stepped into a nearby Forest Essentials outlet, only to have my eyes assaulted by the brightest assortment of "Indian" colours outside a Sabyasaachi show - magenta, purple, and oodles of gold. 

It's true that the earlier packaging was so blend-into-the-background kind that although I have had my Forest Essentials stuff right arranged on my bathroom shelves, my inquisitive mom and mom-in-law never noticed them. Or disapprovingly frowned at their printed prices.

But that discretion in packaging was half the charm of Forest Essentials. Right down to the discreet and intricate Tree of Life logo in an antique gold colour. And now they look like a tacky gold-bedecked cousin of Shahnaz Hussein products.

CONFESSION: I have never been able to buy a Shahnaz Hussein product because I get completely put off by the heavily-red-henna-haired, heavy-duty-diamond-beringed, heavy-kohl-lined visage of Shahnaz herself. If this is the way one looks after using the products, then I'd rather use Biotique, which is also in the same price brackets but which are eye-pleasingly packaged in subdued green and sober white.

So, there I was - ready and eager to pick up a Forest Essentials aloe vera day gel and a Forest Essentials jasmine and patchouli night cream. But so disappointed was I with the too-bright too-new too-glossy packaging that I walked out, saving myself a couple of thousand bucks. I know that it is all the same INSIDE, but it just does not seem the same. The drool quotient has gone, for me at least.

Maybe later, when my eyes have got better adjusted to this gracious-lady-turned-circus-performer change.

Have you hated it when a favourite product suddenly underwent a change of appearance/packaging?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Respected Sir,

(or would you like to be addressed in the colonial-hangover manner as 'Sahib'?)

This is to bring to your notice a very typical scenario in any government office:

Distraught Employee (usually a working mom with some looming/happening domestic crisis): "Sir, please will you allow me to come in late/go away early/ take extra leave/work the same as everyone else but at a more convenient timing? I am really having a major problem at home...(explains problem), and I would be so glad if you could help me with this just for a week/month/off-season!"

Boss: (without so much as inquiring into the heart of the problem) "Sorry, madam, not possible. We cannot change the rules/change the system/change our thick skins."

Sounds familiar? Sounds just like those pesky female employees who come crying for your pity and begging for your favours every time their child gets sick/maid goes away/school has an open-house? Such a nuisance, aren't they? If they want to work in the government sector, they should follow the rules, no? After all. rules are sacrosanct and written on stone by the Vedic samrats/Mughal emperors/Britsh masters, no?

I humbly beg to state that I think you are looking at the whole thing from the wrong end of the telescope. I mean, I know that you sit for long stretches of time on that swivel-chair (with the suspiciously greasy-looking towel hanging over the back - all the better to absorb the generous doses of flattery you swallow with impunity everyday), doing nothing much but signing files and passing them down to your minions. But it is really quite laughable to see how that swivel chair seems to have swivelled your brains. In your mind, I am sure you feel you are a RULER, as in not just lording over your dusty, file-bound, hidebound, hardly-moving universe of mediocrity, but also as in THE KEEPER OF RULES, the guardian of discipline and the guard-dog of punctuality. And in this HOLY DUTY, you have the assistance of the trusted BIOMETRIC MACHINE or the swipe card, and other such stuff.


If one employee is reasonably hard-working, sincere and honest, then why can't the rules be re-interpreted to benefit one deserving person with a genuine problem?

Because if one person is granted some special leave/benefit, others will come and ask for the same, no? Because everybody has be equal in the eyes of the rule-book (except you, but we will not mention that), no?


Why should the employees be a generalized bunch of faceless robots, expected to swipe in (or thumb-impressed-in or sign-in) at a fixed time and swipe out at a fixed time six days a week without fail? Why can't you treat them as individuals with ups and downs in their lives away from their office? Why won't you recognise that some employees may deserve special treatment in special cases?

But of course, honesty and hard work are of no value to you - indeed, they may be unrecognisable: mired as you are in boot-licking flattery and fossilizing inefficiency. That's what you have done unto others, and that's what is being done unto you.

In my humble opinion, you deserve our pity as much as we do. It must be mind-numbingly, brain-addlingly, soul-fryingly dull to sink into this quagmire of mediocrity year after year, although you do it in a creaky swivel-chair and light-flashing car.

That EXTREME INERTIA explains the EXTREME DISCONNECT between you and your employees, between you and real life; and also the EXTREME DISPLEASURE you feel when people request leniency. Because CHANGING SOMETHING means THINKING AND DOING NEW THINGS. And thought and action are alien to you.

For you 'TIME' WILL ALWAYS BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN 'TEAM'. The team can go to hell, but the time (of entry and exit) must always be maintained.

So what if the employees come in and leave at the 'proper' times but do no work in between? So what if the staff at the Banking teller counters sip tea and gossip while snaking queues wait impatiently? So what if all the L.I.C employees go for an hour-long lunch simultaneously closing down all the counters when the customers might have other important things to do elsewhere? So what if Government clerks take diarrhea-like long loo-breaks and tea breaks every hour while files pile up and gather dust on their desks? So what if College teachers twiddle their thumbs in hollow staff-rooms even when 'teaching days' are over and the class rooms are vacant till the next session? HOW DOES WORK MATTER TO YOU? Work, productivity, flexibility, accountability are foreign concepts, found in the illegitimate and immoral private sector, the big, bad 'corporate world'. There, people are judged on merit. There, system-shaking concepts like flexitime and work-from-home have taken root. There, efficiency and out-of-the-box creativity is usually valued more than sycophancy and seniority. There, Human Resources Management is more about ENCOURAGING PRODUCTIVITY than about ENFORCING RULES. There, happy employees are the norm, not hapless employees. How utterly scandalous, no?


IN THIS ANACHRONISTIC, UNACCOUNTABLE, ILLOGICAL AND SOULLESS WORLD OF THE GOVERNMENT SECTOR, it is actually sad that you feel that you have employees working UNDER you, rather than colleagues working WITH you. Which is why you get so swollen-headed, and behave in a lord-of-the-manner fashion, unwilling to dole out 'favours' to those who do not do the requisite amount of boot-licking. After all. being a BIGGGG BOSS in an moribund, stultifying, claustrophobic and very small and insignificant office can give you the illusion of TOTAL CONTROL and SUPREME POWER.

So, you will perhaps ask, why do we join THIS DEADENING FOSSILIZED SECTOR at all? And if we are frustrated, why don't we quit?

Security, my dear sir, security. The assurance of a steady (although very slowly increasing) income, the assurance of of a 'permanent' job, the assurance of a post retirement pension. And assurance has a way of cancelling out aggression. So, though we crib and rant, rest assured we won't throw our resignation letters at your face, or plunge that knife into your back (dearly as we like to do it). At the best, we will take out ineffective morchas and shout slogans. Or just decide to give up doing any constructive work whatsoever. Except following the rules, of course.

                                                                                                  Yours humbly (lying at your feet)
                                                                                          A disgruntled-but-not-disobedient employee

Monday, December 19, 2011


If it's a joint serving fish dishes at middle-class-pocket-friendly rates, what are the chances that there will be a lot of Bengalis in the clientele?

Yesterday, we went to Pratap Lunch Home for, not lunch, but Sunday evening dinner. Now, Pratap, near the Fountain, is an old favourite of the spouse and his press-wallah friends, as they serve really delicious seafood and booze. Also, unlike the more-famous Mahesh Lunch Home, the crab claws and lobster claws not really pinch the pocket. Even I have come here, travelling by train all the way from the suburbs lured by their Crab Mongolian and Seafood Fried Rice and Squid Butter Garlic. The only grouse was that they made you sweat for your food, as they eschewed air-conditioning even as you chewed on the tasty secrets of the sea and kitchen.
Now, in the new AC-avataar, that grouse is gone. So we went en family, kids and maid included. And we were surrounded by AC-chill, the wafting-inviting aromas from the kitchen, and by Bengali noises and Bengali voices!

Our waiter was a Bengali. The table behind us had a few Bengalis in their cosmopolitan mix. And the table next to us had three young Bongs chatting away in Bengali, on whom we shamelessly and smilingly eavesdropped. Till the Lil Kitten gave the game away by stridently demanding for something in loud, unmistakable BENGALI!

In the ensuing inter-table conversation, we found out that two of the Bright Young Bongs at the next table were Presidency College Physics Department alumni currently working at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, and the other young man was also certifiably brilliant, having passed out of the incredibly tough-to-get-in Indian Statistical Institute. And we bonded a bit over fried Machh-Bhaja (Fish Fry) and frightful Mumbai and, of course, "Do you know X/Y/Z who passed out in so-and-so-year?", although we were separated by more than a decade.

The spouse loves his alma mater, and, by extension, is willing and ready to love all the alumni of this hoary and honourable instutution.And so we went home, replete with good food, and the good news that Presidency is still churning out bright brains that can make a mark (and eat a fish) anywhere in the world.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Back in Mumbai...the annual Kolkata visit on Diwali holidays was the usual blur of eat, meet, laze, daze, know the drill.

If last year's indulgence was Sarbhajas (a sweet where the 'sar' or cream atop the milk is deep-fried and soaked in sugar syrup...gruesome gluttony, eh?), this year it was the humbler, but no less horrific, Gujiya (the Bengali version is a ring-shaped sweet made of dried milk and sugar) and Danadar (which is unredeemingly made of only and only sugar drenched in even more sugar syrup).

Now I am back after eating enough of the above to last me till next year. In fact, am back in stride as well, with school and work and home and all such other busy-making stuff that life is made up of.

But time-outs are there, and they pull at the heart-strings, and also pull the facial muscles into a smile...sometimes.

There was this bottle of Dalimer Hajmi ( anardana churan...a sweet-sour digestive) that I had bought and ate in Kolkata, and had then stuffed a lot of other things in as well, from cookies to jeera golis to Narkel Naaru (coconut and jaggery laddus) made by my Mom (who was coincidentally in Kolkata during this time as well). I had taken out this bottle after unpacking to wash and reuse it as a spice jar. Before washing it, I was putting my finger inside and licking the remnants.

And my taste-buds got a surprise when after a lot of hajmi/churan/salty-sourness I suddenly bit into a small chunk of sweet jaggery-infused-coconut. A tiny bit of Ma-made naaru, travelling all the way from Kolkata. To make me all teary-eyed and wry-smiling in Mumbai.

Calories and memories...funny how closely they weave together.