Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Books have two lives - a HAPPY LIFE and a SAD LIFE.

When a book has its HAPPY LIFE, it is much in demand, pulled out daily from its alloted place on the bookshelf, flipped through eagerly, dog-eared and remoulded by over-enthusiastic fans, and read over and over (and over and over...) again (sometimes twice/thrice in a single sitting) and getting tattooed with enthusiastic comments in various coloured crayons and pencils by appreciative readers (or listeners, depending on their age - the human's not the book's).

Right now, in our home, a few lucky books are leading the happy life. Topping the popularity polls is PD Eastman's GO , DOG, GO, which the Copy-Kitten has near-memorised and where many of the dogs are decorated with add-on squiggles. Behind the dog-eared dogs, there is a haphazard list of second-bests like a sweet little book called BEEF STEW where Nicky has a surprise visitor for dinner, which is (the dinner, that is) obviously beef stew; the toils of the LITTLE RED HEN who baked and ate the bread all by herself giving nothing to her lazy friends, and some from the very active DICK and JANE series (those children who seem to endlessly jump and run and play and work).

The Lil Cat, too, is fickle with her favourites (as it the feline nature). Her Famous Fives are languishing while Junie B Jones, that funny opinionated little girl, is best book-friends with my elder daughter at the moment, the friendship threatened only by Sophie, the clever, and equally funny, little farm girl created by Dick King-Smith.

Once these favourites are replaced by new ones, these books will retire to their bookshelf-homes to lead THE SAD LIFE, relegated to dust and neglect, with nobody to open them and close them (as the Copy Kitten over-eagerly does, much to the detriment of the bindings of the books), and only the occasional flicker of the dust-cloth reminding them of the touch of little warm hands and grubby fingers.

The good thing is that re-reading is a frequent phenomenon and so the BOOKS have a REVIVAL of the HAPPY LIFE quite often.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The past week has been a hectic one, for me as well as my daughters.
First, there was Unity in Diversity day celebrated as the Little Cat’s (my elder one’s) school, where she had to dress up as a Bengali bou (lady) in red-bordered white-saree with a box of sandesh (a specifically Bengali sweet).
The same saree did double-duty under a sober shawl a few days later when the Li’l Cat pretended to be Indira Gandhi at her school’s National Leader fancy dress day.
Then we had to nip and tuck a rather large green salwar-kameez for the Independence Day patriotic song-and-dance competition, “Aao bachcho tumhe dikhayein jhaanki Hindustaan ki” (Come children let us see glimpses of India…).
The lyrics be damned (or, in this case, hummed), there was much enthusiastic dance practice on the bed and elsewhere for days (with the copy-kitten, my younger one, dutifully imitating). “Vande mataram” (Hail motherland), especially, is a very acrobatic dance-step, involving a simultaneous raising of one fist with the stamping of the other foot. The copy-kitten is just two-and-half, so the complicated fist-foot co-ordination would fox her at times and she’d topple over, only to get up gamely and continue, much in the true revolutionary spirit.
But the copy-kitten had her own set of school activities, too. One day for pretend-rakhi festivities in a hand-me-down salwar-kurta, the next for independence-dance-jump-prance-stomp in white kurta-pajama with tricolour dupatta (stole) and Gandhi topi (cap).
Coming up next is Janmasthami Day when the copy-kitten will be copying Radha, the eternal beloved. The blue/orange chaniya-choli is awaiting its turn.
Only problem is the copy-kitten insists that all her school dances be performed to the tune of “Sare jahan se achchha, Hindustan hamara hamara” (India is the best), ad infinitum. She keeps on re-cycling this same line over and over again. After half-a-dozen repetitions, she pauses, realizing that something is amiss, and says “What?” That is my cue to step in and complete the song, which ends on the same line, which starts her parroting and prancing all over again.
As I said, it’s been a hectic Independence week.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Well, that’s what it feels like, for the past few days. Either the net connection mysteriously disconnects, OR the page I seek cannot be found OR Blogger chickens out before I can publish my post (but after I’ve made all my corrections and decorations, which mean that all the hard work has to be done again…and again…).Internet? Hah! INTER – NOT, more likely. Or INTER – KNOT. Or, more likely, INTER - NAUGHTs and CROSSES, going by the amount of attempts I've made to publish posts. Then again, INTER - NIGHT would correctly define my state of being INTERRUPTED all through the NIGHT., are you listening? Isn’t it time that the knots were unraveled and the journey made smoother sailing?

Saturday, August 16, 2008


India is…
…as ancient as the mountains and oceans which embrace it; as recent as the latest bomb-blast (that attempts to explode the notion of India as a nation).
…as convenient as a spittoon for cynical outbursts (against the government/population/pollution/corruption/roads/traffic/you get the drift?); as luminescent as Lata Mangeshkar’s “Aye mere pyaare watan” (O my beloved nation).
…as preciously-begotten as our independence and the centuries of sacrifice and struggle that made that magical midnight tryst with destiny possible; as carelessly-frittered as sand through our fingers as we rush, blinkered-blinded, towards self-oriented goals, denying/devaluing/destroying everything else.
…as fragmented as shattered windowpanes (after yet another bout of public-fuelled arson) by divisions of class, caste, religion, language, even food habits; as united as the spontaneous eruption of unanimous joy at any sports-victory (the latest superhero being Abhinav Bindra).
…as frantic-fast as the rush-hour sprint of passengers to catch the local trains; as silted-slow as the bullocks who sit down (with their cart) and chew cud (their driver chews tobacco instead) to block traffic on highways.
…as sentimentalized as the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes whenever I hear the national anthem; as soppy as the television-serials and the tear-jerking movies watched by us be-sniffling billions; as soaring as the tri-colour fluttering high; and as supremely variegated as the peacock’s proud-tailed display or the tiger’s arched-striped back.
India accepts, absorbs, praises, pushes, moves, immobilizes, mystifies and de-constructs…all in the same day and also all down the decades and centuries.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I’m the kind of person who watches ads on TV (and reads them in newspapers and magazines) with avid interest.

Recently, two ads for Cadbury’s Chocolates caught my interest, although for totally opposing reasons.

The TVC for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk showing a crowd of people on a railway station intently watching a nail-biting cricket match is really, really funny and bang-on observant:

It pokes fun at our cricket-obsession. Only a sari-clad woman in a tea-stall is unaffected by the match. All the others are glued to the TV, including the seller hawking Dairy Milk bars in a tray – he foolishly, if magnanimously, offers free bars if India wins.

India doesn’t, as happens so very often (in real life, that is). They lose in the very last ball to the unfancied Kenyans. Again, a wonderfully satiric take-off on the irresistible, if irritating, predilection of the Indian team to lose almost-won matches with monotonous regularity.

After the deflating defeat, the crestfallen crowd is cheered by a young boy, determined not to miss out on the free-chocolate offer. He asks the vendor to give the promised treat because “koi toh jeet gaya” (at least somebody has won). Accurate child psychology and karmic philosophy, that.

And finally the hilarious exit lines – the bewildered vendor, finding his chocolates disappearing at an alarmimg rate (Indians love freebies) amidst much cheering and shouting of “Kenya jeet gaya” (Kenya has won - Indians celebrate at any and every excuse), timidly asks “Yeh Kenya hai kidhar?” (Where is this Kenya?). And the self-satisfied, smug-ly ignorant average monkey-capped middleclass Indian (for whom Kenya is a name that rhymes with Babua and his ilk, common nicknames in INDIA) answers, “Idhar hi toh tha…gaya hoga kidhar” (He was here only…must have gone somewhere). Totally brilliantly ridiculously witty.

NOW, can anybody tell me how this same company can come up with the extremely INANE and sick-making ad about their Celebrations range of chocolates, where a precocious young boy offers his sister a box of gift-wrapped chocolates, saying it is a book. And the girl – the ASININE, BIRD-BRAINED TWIT – actually turns down her mouth in disappointment! How SILLY is that? I do realize that many young children do feel that books are useless, but does the ad (and the company, and the agency, and, by extension, the viewer) really have to endorse that view?

I felt so, so disappointed and disgusted, especially since my expectations were raised by the terrific Dairy Milk ad.

Friday, August 8, 2008


For those of us living in sub-urban Mumbai, autorickshaw-travel is automatic, so to say. And, in my few years in this crazy city, I've had quite a few interesting conversations with autorickshaw-drivers.

One such memorable man had a book-shelf attached behind the driver's seat, displaying various booklets on religion and self-help by a charitable organisation called the Gayatri Sangathan. To cater to the multilingual client-base of his vehicle, the driver had thoughtfully arranged the booklets language-wise: English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati.

Impressed by his devotion (to religion and to books) as well as by his marketing initiative, I chatted with him about the organisation, to which he also belonged. And ended up paying four rupees over and above my fare for a copy (in English) of The Law of Karma.

Since most Mumbaikars, at least in my corner of the city, hardly regard reading as worthwhile karma (action), so this driver seemed to be an exception worth remembering.

Monday, August 4, 2008


How times have changed. Now we have Friendship Day thrust upon us, whether we need it or not. On 4th August (3rd being a Sunday), when I go to college, I will be overrun by hordes of students tying ‘friendship ribbons’ on both my arms (thankfully, one arm at a time). The same fate will befall every single denizen of the campus. Masses of yellow roses will be exchanged, admired and agonized over (by those who wanted to be ‘more than friends’). And the next day, we will return to gossiping with our ‘real’ friends and bitching about the ones who are not.

But anyway, over and above the media-and-market created Friendship Day frenzy, here’s wishing my friends (here and out there) a happy day and year – thanks for being a cushion, a sounding-board, an alarm-clock and a screw-driver, as and when I needed them.