Sunday, July 27, 2008


A few weeks ago, I blogged about hating the rains. This was followed by an inexplicable, and insufferable, hot and dry spell.

Feeling like a chastised Cassandra, I vowed not to blog about rain again till it, er, rained again, a lot, that is. I began to have visions of sweaty summers acutely panting for water, and, of course, I blamed myself for the drought-ful catastrophe. (When I was young I would always blame myself if I watched a match on TV and the team I supported lost – as they inevitably seemed to do. I guess this was a similar impulse.) I kept feeling horribly gulity, imagining accusing fingers pointing at me, raining insults, ra(i)nting and raving, "How dare you demean the rain-gods with your scurrilous posts? Begone, you scum of the (dry) earth, we banish you and your parchments to the parched rainless desert. That will be your just deserts."

Well, now it’s raining again, and I’m too thankful to crib, at least for the moment.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Just a while ago, I was watching a re-run of a Tom and Jerry cartoon where, in a rare instance of camaraderie, Tom and Jerry together take care of a crawling baby while the parents are away and the oblivious baby-sitter is chatting on the phone (can anybody tell me why all fictional babysitters are like this, be it here, or in Calvin and Hobbes, or elsewhere?).

I just love the fluidity of motion in the Tom and Jerry shorts, and the baby shown in this particular cartoon is one heck of a smooth mover. It just crawls everywhere – over baby-cots, under carpets, through chutes, into mailboxes, around table-legs, and even underneath a sink full of dirty water. And all this in angelic silence (or devilish determination, depending on your point of view) with a beatific smile pasted on its face.

Reminded me of the times when my li’l cat (the elder one) and the copy-kitten (her younger sister) were in their creepy-crawly stages. Every surface was crawl-able, and every object was put-in-the-mouth-able! They were absolutely unstoppable when awake, till they thankfully fell asleep at the end of another exciting (for them) and exhausting (for me) day. Sure gave me a lot of heart-in-the-mouth moments and grey hairs.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


The other day I went to the bank where our salaries are deposited. It's a goverment-owned bank, unlike my usual preferred private/multi-national banks, with their swank counters and posh staff and people-like-us customers.
This bank was dilapidated (but bravely polished and computerised), and so were its customers. In the half-hour I spent there to collect my cheque-book, I helped two women who had come to the bank to withdraw money but who could not read or write. And this in Mumbai - perhaps the largest city in India!
The front-office staff shooed away an elderly lady who was puzzling over the entries in her pass-book. I helped her to make sense of the debits and credits and reassured her that she had a credit balance of Rs 25,000. Her repeated seeking of reassurance (Aap saahi bol rahe ho na? - Are you sure you're right?) was so pathetic and revealing of her insecurity in an alien world.
The other lady came to me, with a baby tucked in one arm, requesting me to fill up a withdrawal form for Rs 2,200 (she wanted to keep Rs 300 for emergencies). Unthinkingly, I asked her to sign after I'd filled up the form. Embarrassed, she said she was angutha chhaap (illiterate who would have to put her thumb impression instead of her signature).
Yeah, India is Shining all right! Shining with the unshed tears of mortification these women face everytime they step into a place which exposes their illiteracy. But who or what to blame? Their gender? Their poverty? Their religion? Do you have any answers?

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Recently, I’ve taken up copy-writing, after a very long hiatus. I’ve always liked writing ads and stuff, and now that I’ve got the chance to freelance for a design company, I’m all eager and excited. Only catch is that I’ve cut down on my sleeping and blogging time, because I always tell the designers and the client that, “I’ll work on it tonight (as in post-midnight) and send it to you by moon-set.” They usually agree, because then they can wake up to fresh-coffee and fresh-copy in the morning.

But then, sometimes there are can-you-do-this-at-this-very-nanosecond deadlines. And you can cry foul but you can’t say no.

Picture this. It’s almost eight in the evening. I’m frying fish in mustard oil prior to making fish curry (the ‘proper Bengali way’). Inevitably, the hot oil splatters my arm (maybe I’m an ‘improper’ Bengali). Phone rings. Rush to pick it up, and balance it on a hunched shoulder while talking and cooking (My right hand has the ladle – my left hand has the lid of the wok/kadhai – I fry fish in the attack-cum-defence mode – slide a fish in oil with the ladle and immediately cover with lid).

Client wants new taglines for partywear lingerie, pronto. Huh? My mind’s blank, then groping. Rush to comp, open mail inbox, search client folder, and go through visual material sent by designer. Come up with matching lines as the fish come out of the wok, slightly more fried than my brains. Heat oil for curry and mail new lines to client. Woooh!

Not quite. Designer calls, more options requested by client. Bloody hell. These taglines are for the lingerie packages…who’s gonna read them anyway? (The next time you buy a bra or a brief, please please read every bit of text printed on the package, just to make some poor overworked copywriter feel good.)

As the mustard paste, chillies and tomatoes sizzle and fuse in the wok, my brain-cells are fizzing with lingering lines: “Turn heads behind your back” (for a backless bra), “Push-up the glamour quotient” (for, you guessed it, a push-up bra). If this is what makes the client happy, then dish it to him.

I call up the designer and dictate the lines (a dozen or so, actually) as I ease the fish into the boiling gravy. The comp would have taken longer. That done, I lower the knob of the gas-oven, and my brain, to sim.

Even as I’m pouring the fish-curry into the serving bowl, designer calls up to say that the required lines have been “frozen” (i.e finalized). Great!

Thank you, God, for the curry and the fish,
Thank you, God, for satisfying the client’s wish.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Sukku, the multi-faceted, globe-trotting, corporate honcho who can cook a mean rasam/sambal/omlette, has tagged me with a meme which required some amount of soul-searching and number-crunching. Thanks Sukku, and here goes:

5 Annoying Things (as in things that annoy ME):

The inevitable wait as my obsolete dial-up net connection blinks and flashes and STRUGGLES to open and move from one site to another

Getting mud-splashed by thoughtless cars while going to work during the rainy season

The didn’t-dry-properly smell of clothes inadequately dried under fans on sunless, rainy days

Going to my fourth class of the day with a mouthful of lectures, only to find that the students have run away after the tiffin break

Being refused by autorickshaw drivers when I’m pressed for time.

8 Habits (that I have):

Waking up reasonably early even on holidays (The Pavlov-effect of weekday alarms at 5.30 a.m)

Snacking on sour/sweet stuff in the staffroom when I’m not taking classes

Blogging post-midnight

Sleeping even later

Opening the refrigerator door and wondering what on earth I wanted to take out from there

Packing more clothes (in the suitcase) than I end up wearing (in the holidays)

Buying loads of stuff that is on sale to ‘stock up on kitchen-essentials’ (my kitchen is a hoarder’s delight)

Working best under pressure (which I self-create by leaving many things for the proverbial last minute)

6 Quirks (of Myself):

I always play Microsoft Solitaire when I open my PC before moving to worthier pursuits

I always carry two bags when I go out

I compulsively straighten bedcovers which are not laid neatly

I love to sprinkle salt on my cola

I cannot stand the sight of unwashed utensils in the kitchen sink piled untidily and always pile them neatly or wash them immediately

I always read books when I’m eating out alone.

That’s it. A whole lot of info about I-Me-Myself. Please feel free to help yourself to this meme if you want to dig deep into yourself. I enjoyed the self-dissection and the dissertation!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Thanks to Mystic Margarita, the many characters who leap off the pages of books and take up residence in my head and heart, now have a reason to display themselves. And so here are ten random characters I have long-loved, straight off my memory-wall:

Hercule Poirot: Agatha Christie is one author I never get tired of re-reading and I just adore the pompous and poised Poirot – from his egg-shaped head with the genius grey-cells, to his shiny-patent shoes; from the dapper-waxed moustache to the heart which conceals a sneaky fondness for robust, overdressed femme fatales.

Rhett Butler: Another hirsute hero, though with a completely different appeal. Since Mystic Margarita has appropriated Heathcliff, I lay quick claim to Rhett – his swagger, his swarthy-manliness and his persistent passion for the fiesty Scarlett. The impact on my swooning senses was all the stronger because of Clark Gable’s dashing portrayal – it was the first time I realized that mustaches could be so sexy!

Bridget Jones: Totally feckless, totally madcap-romantic, obsessed with weight-issues, and a wholly freaky-funny peril-prone thirty-something damsel like you and me. What’s not to love? And to top it all, she gets to bed and wed a reincarnated Darcy (another fave-figure appropriated by MysticGaaah!)

Precious Ramotswe: The founder of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency – the first of its kind in sunny-sinful Botswana. I love her weight (she is ‘traditionally built’) and her wisdom (she solves her cases through observation, intuition, common sense aided by endless cups of bush tea and by diligently referring to her detection-guide-bible) and her wide, all-encompassing, placid acceptance of life.

Karna: The Mahabharata’s anti-hero is my favourite underdog: forever strong, unshakably brave, fiercely loyal, but always dealt a cruel hand by the Fates. I cannot stand Arjun, Righteousness’s poster-boy, and I always root for Karna, although he is Fortune’s eyesore and always at the wrong place at the wrong time – right down to his death when his chariot wheel gets stuck in the battlefield.

Seymour: Seymour was the unnamed narrator’s elder brother in J D Salinger’s short story, Seymour: An Introduction. He had an enormous impact on his brother’s (and my) psyche and he killed himself almost before (or because?) he was thirty. Way out!

Charlie Brown: It’s impossible not to love the round-headed kid, eternally optimistic at baseball, eternally incapable of expressing his feelings to the red-haired girl, and eternally heckled by the crabby Lucy and by his kid-sister. I chose him over Calvin (him and his tiger Hobbes), because I’m a sucker for wistful losers!

King Lear: Another loser who has impacted me greatly (sorry for the irreverence in placing him next to Peanuts). Lear’s impetuosity, his royal arrogance and ignorance, his very human foibles and hamartia, his ability to forgive, accept and embrace and his free-fall into unplumbed depths of suffering – this is the only Shakespearean play which ACTUALLY moves me to tears.

Harry Potter: I’m unashamedly Potter-maniacal. Brave and balanced but not boring, smart and sensible but not smart-alecky, I loved the whole trajectory of his growth through the seven Potter-books. And he is not a loser. He is the boy who lives. And wins.

Winnie-the-Pooh: So what if he’s not human? I love the Bear of Little Brain and the Big Stomach always rumbling for honey. I love his winsome-ness and his wonder-at-such-simple-things and his whole-new-perspective-on-things. Once he entered Rabbit’s hole, ate too much honey and got stuck while coming out of the hole. That’s the way he is, forever stuck in my heart.

This list can actually go on and on and on…Thanks MM. Anybody who wishes to make their own list, please consider yourself tagged. The pleasure of reading will be mine.