Friday, October 31, 2008


After sitting on the fence for a very long time, I’ve taken the plunge. Head first, straight into L’Oreal’s Majirel hair colour, shades Mahogony and Dark Brown.

After being henna-headed for decades (to hide the grey), I needed the festive push of Diwali to dive into the bewildering and number-crunching (shades 5.6 and 3.2 in ratios of 20:80, or some such complicated equation) world of hair-colours.

If henna was DIY (Do it Yourself), then hair colour, at least for me, is very definitely GID@P (Get it done at Parlour).

And so I did. My fairy godmother, Kadambari (god bless her), who has been gently nudging me to take the plunge for a very long time, held my head and hand and led me gently into the colour-whirlpool. From where I emerged, all red-tinged hair, a local lady with a global head.

The mirror reflected a disappointingly brown head (though without a hint of grey). It was only when the light falls on it that the red shines, dazzling the eye.

I stepped out of the salon, peering at every passing mirror/glass and preening at my image. Imagine my horror when I peeped into the front-pane of a parked autorickshaw, with the sun in my eyes, hoping to see my own partial reflection and instead gazing into the quizzical eyes of a just-woken-up-from-sleep autorickshawallah (driver), who leered at me, thinking probably that I was soliciting him for unnameable services.

Like Red Riding Hood, I fled.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


We (the spouse, the kid-kittens and I) are off on our annual visit to Kolkata, where there’ll probably be no time to blog, bogged down as we’ll be by festivities, friends, family and food.

I remember being faintly offended when solicitous neighbours asked us, during our maiden year in Mumbai, “Are you going to your gaon (village)?” Kolkata/Calcutta was a big city, a metropolis, I would indignantly reply.

No more. The pace and polish of Mumbai has left Kolkata behind, way behind. It is a city stuck on ‘Pause’, maybe even slowly sliding down to ‘town-status’.

But let me not crib, not now, at least. We go to Kolkata expecting the city to remain the same, the same dusty-delightful bookstalls at College Street, the same decrepit-debate-ful Promodda's canteen at Presidency College, the same cacophonous-crowded Gariahat pavements, the same benign-bespectacled bhaiyya at Tasty's in Dakshinapan, the same affordable-and-mouthwatering restaurants at Park Street and Tangra. Yet we are also elated at every new flyover and mall that comes up (the South City Mall is a must-see this time), thrilled that our beloved "gaon" is keeping up with the Joneses (the IT cities and the biz-hubs). The changes may well be cosmetic, the malaise may well be deep, but the holiday-mood is upbeat and forgiving, so, we tend to look only at the brighter side of the bandwagon.

I’ll be back, with a lighter soul (reconnecting with the roots is therapeutic), and a heavier stomach (all those calorific treats lovingly insisted upon).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


My mother, who was staying with me for the past month, has gone back to her Bangalore home today. I always feel very mopey and maudlin whenever my ma goes away. It feels as if there’s a little girl trapped inside my undeniably grown-up self, howling and crying copiously, making my eyes prickle with tears at the slightest reason.

I feel so BEREFT, like a boat whose moorings have been washed away. Now no more will I come back from work to see ma sitting hunched up at the table in one of her faded gowns, frowning over her daily quota of sudoku. No more can I just demand that she makes my favourite tangra-machher jhol (tangra fish-curry) or other ma-special dishes that I look forward to for the entire year. No more will I feel that urge to gossip desultorily while working in the kitchen together, lapsing into silence now and then, and picking up any skein of gossip from a familiar pattern. No more of that ma-only feeling of tripti (satisfaction) and shanti (peace). TILL HER NEXT VISIT.

As I folded and kept her sarees and towel (she always has a stock of clothes at my place) back in the cupboard, my eyes welled up and I felt so lost.

And then, later on, when I was taking something out of the fridge, I found a china jar full of a tomato-date-tamarind chutney she had made just the way I like to have. Crying and smiling at the same time, licking the chutney from my fingers, I re-discovered what comfort-food is all about.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I am the optimistic sort, the type of person you can easily call foolish, because I believe that most people are either openly good or have a hidden store of goodness locked inside them. It may take a smile, or a listening ear, or sympathy, or praise, to unlock that store.

But I digress. Today I was lucky to encounter a really good person.

For a long time, I had been searching for a navy blue chiffon dupatta (stole worn over a salwar-kameez). Having done the rounds of all the shops and big departmental stores that I know of, I had encountered dozens of shades of blue (royal, ink, sky, powder, and that rather virulent shade called firoza). When I did meet navy blue, it was either in cotton or georgette (which get crushed too easily) or too expensive (BIBA had a gold-dotted navy chiffon at Rs 600 – which would have been way too heavy a burden for my shoulders).

I had gone down to the crowded basement of Gokul Market opposite the cacophonous Borivili Station to buy something else altogether, when a spirit in my feet led me (as the azure-blue loving poet, Shelley, would have put it) to a small hole-in-the-corner shop which sold only dupattas.

I saw navy-blue in cotton. I asked for it in chiffon. The man in the shop showed a brighter blue chiffon dupatta. I asked if a darker one was possibly there. The man said he’d try from some other shop of his, went up the winding, narrow stairs, and came down soon with the exact navy blue chiffon dupatta that my heart had desired for so long so longingly.

Absolutely delighted, I handed over the VERY reasonable sum of Rs 110 (did not even think of bargaining it down to, say, Rs 100). With a heart as light as the chiffon, I floated up to ground and went in search of the tailor the man had told me about to get the edges of the dupatta stitched (“beaded”, as we call it).

As I was waiting in the tailor’s shop, the dupatta-seller came hurrying. “Sister, here is your ten-rupee note. It was lying on the floor of my shop. It must have fallen out of your bag. I guessed you would have come here to stitch the dupatta, so I came hurrying to return the money.”

I was amazed and humbled. This man had come all the way from his shop (quite a long way, actually), jostling past festival-shopping-mad crowds, on the slim chance that I would be still there in the tailor’s shop, just to return a small amount of money! My smile got wider, my steps got lighter and the sun got brighter, all because of this one unselfish act of honesty.

Angels don’t always descend from the heavens, they also emerge from basements. This unlikely angel just made my day.

Monday, October 6, 2008


The withdrawal of the Nano project from West Bengal is the most depressing and disappointing news I’ve read in a long, long time, more so because I, like so many other hard-working, right-thinking Bengalis, was hoping that the project would somehow be salvaged.

Not that the project was a pristine one. Questions can justifiably be raised as to the way in which some of the land was acquired, and maybe on other policy matters as well. Ms Mamata Banerjee could well have asked for a referendum to be held, or some such other legal and acceptable form of protest.

But then, legal and sane is not what Mamata is all about. She is famous for her histrionics, for rushing in where angels fear to tread and for her pro-people paglami (madness). She has to maintain her brand image, and the image of West Bengal can go take a dive for all she seems to care.

She is such a wrong sort of opposition leader in a state which desperately requires a strong and SENSIBLE opposition. It is simply not healthy for a democracy to have a ruling party, which by hook or crook, has remained in power for donkey’s years.

The CPI(M) is an ugly party, period. In its cynicism, behind its doublespeak, under its smooth manipulation of facts and factions, in its ruthless and systematic mowing down of any protest, in its seeping down and eroding basic services like health/education and basic values like work culture, in its three decades of anti-industry-stance and recent pro-industry ‘won’t you come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly’-attitude, it reeks of ugliness. A little deodorant in the form of a smiling Buddhadev Bhattacharjee is not really enough to hide the stench.

There is something rotten in the state of Denmark (as Hamlet said) and Ms Banerjee is not the person to stem the rot. Instead of offering viable alternatives, she is getting sucked into the very rot which she is supposedly exposing. And caught in the crossfire between UGLY and PAGLI, the Tatas have left Singur, breaking a million hopes.

I feel so, so sad when I hear people talking dismissively and derisively about West Bengal. It’s a place where people talk more and work less, where no business can thrive because people are only interested in politics, where it rains bandhs and strikes…that is what I hear all the time. The red party flag has become synonymous with STOP WORK.

The Singur project was supposed to change all that. It was supposed to herald a new era, a BENGAL SHINING instead of a BENGAL SHIRKING. That is not to be. And the schism between my West Bengal, muddled and riddled with self-destructing Ugly-s and Paglis, and the rest of India, marching ahead with new-found confidence, has widened all that much more.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Durga Puja and Navratri are here, hand in hand with Id this year, and the crisp, suddenly-cooler air is spiced with festive feeling!

Nine random thoughts for the nine festive days and nights :

1. We have arrangements for garba dancing in our housing complex, and I love to see the colourful crowd religiously and rhythmically dance away the evenings. I am your usual sedentary Bengali, more twinkle-eyed than twinkle-toed, but even after three years in Mumbai, I love watching people of all ages dancing in ever-moving but never-breaking circles, clapping their wooden dandiya sticks with perfect timing, talking while dancing but never missing a beat, entering and leaving at will without breaking the undulating pattern.
2. My two daughters share none of my toe-tied-ness, thankfully. They put on their newly acquired chaniya-cholis (long skirts with blouses), and run around the dance venue, eagerly stepping in time with the music. And the dandiya sticks, which have to be hidden for the rest of the year because of their status as potentially-dangerous-weapons, are now wielded in the cause of melody and music.
3. Their behaviour at the dandiya is typical of their essential characters. While my elder one, the Li’l Cat, is diffident and obedient, dancing a little, watching a little more, coming back when we say it’s time, her Copy-kitten sister sways and stamps with all her heart and soul, and bawls lustily when we carry her off, reluctant and refusing to leave.
4. Durga Puja begins on Shasthi (the sixth day of the new moon). Bengalis believe that Durga comes to visit her parents on earth for these five festive days. My mother has come to visit me since September, so my joy started early. I know this is reversing the usual trend of daughters visiting mothers, but what the heck! As long as mothers and daughters meet, it’s reason enough to celebrate.
5. My maa diligently observes fasting on Shasthi, eating nothing all day and breaking her fast at sundown with fruits and a divine-tasting hand-blended mix of sabudana (tapioca)-milk-sugar-banana-and-fresh-grated-coconut. Glutton that I am, I have no intention of fasting and every intention of gorging on that mom-made stuff.
6. I also love the sheer-khurma made and generously shared during Id by my Muslim colleagues at college. This rich milk-custard drips with dryfruits and calories, but the taste is worth waiting all the year for.
7. Apart from eating, the other profane festive activity that I absolutely love is shopping. And this is a time when shopping is totally-god-sanctioned and therefore guilt-free.
8. But I do confess that I have been shopping a bit too devoutly – new clothes for everybody (including myself), new bedcovers for the house, new crockery for the kitchen, new books for everybody, even new groceries for my kitchen-store. I am penitent but ecstatic.
9. To move from self to the world, here’s praying that this festive season brings hope to our strife-torn, terror-tormented planet and happiness to all of you.