Saturday, June 28, 2008


I know this may sound preposterous and pre-historic to anybody who does not live in our part of the world. But for those who do, especially those with kids or jobs or both, will understand how our entire life is maid-dependent. That’s to say, the peace and pattern of our existence (and many times, the progress of our careers) depend upon the ifs and buts, express-arrivals and explanation-less-absences of our maids.

As of this present moment, my sister-in-law is in a soup because one of her maids (they have a complicated system of checks and balances comprising ‘many maids, all-in-a-row’, devised in part by my mother) has upped and left, without any notice and with many lies and excuses. She has recently joined a new job (six-day week) and has two small kids (three and one year old), so obviously the domestic disarray has demolished the carefully built maths of her existence.

My neighbour, who has to leave for her teaching job at 6 in the morning (and whose live-in maid has also left without a bye-your-leave), is having sleepless nights and pre-dawn hysterics, waiting for the stand-in help to arrive before sunrise so that she can run to catch the train to reach her school by the morning bell.

Maids rule, period. Eavesdrop on any conversation involving working moms, and you are sure to listen to complaints about their maids (when they are there) or condolences (when they have left). Maids do not come on time, maids do not come at all, maids go AWOL interminably, yet mysteriously and quarrelsomely turn up when you optimistically try to replace them. They are often tardy, oftener temperamental and, a few times (very few, to be honest) thieving. And if they do deign to come somewhat regularly, you’d better count your lucky stars and stop counting flaws and faults in their housework.

Some women are maid-lucky, they have trusted maids who are paragons of perfection and punctuality. Some are plain maid-unlucky, and spend a major portion of lives searching for, or training, or waiting for, or agonizing over, or searching again for…you get the drift? But maid-luck is as fickle as maid-mood (i.e. whether your maid is chirpy or grumpy) and all we can do is hope and pray that we are maid-for-each-other…and do the housework when they are AWOL. There is no maid-to-order solution, is there?

Monday, June 23, 2008


A few days back I was walking with a friend when we both noticed the very long, oiled, braided and flower-bedecked hair of two women walking in front of us. This is a fairly common sight in our part of the world, where many women still find the time (and have the inclination) to oil and be-flower their tresses. Unlike me, whose shoulder-length tresses are always falling out or turning alarmingly-greybeneath their hennaed-hideout under a hastily put-up perpetual-ponytail (Because of stress? Genetics? What is the bald truth?).

When I was young, my unruly-curly locks were tamed by a succession of severe ‘boys’ cuts’, and it was my secret, rebellious desire to grow-up and grow down my hair till my waist at least, sometimes to be demurely plaited (without the dodgy scent of hair-oil, though), sometimes to be left free (but miraculously tangle-free).

Alas, that was not to be. I have never had the fortune or the fortitude to grow my hair really long. And though I once shocked my family and erstwhile colleagues back in Kolkata when I appeared with temporarily truncated-to-my-ear-length tresses (somebody amiably compared me to a hen shorn of its neck-feathers), my usual hair-length varies, through steps and layers, from neck to shoulder. Rapunzel remains a distant, gradually-turning-grey, dream – to modify Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan:
“At the age of 35 – (long ago, actually)
I realized I’d never ride –
Though Mumbai –
In a Mercedes –
With the sea-wind in my waist-length hair.”

PRAGMATIC P.S: Can anyone tell me why all the hair that falls with monotonous regularity from my head are always black, and the ones that determinedly cling on are grey?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Our Copy-Kitten is off to school. Well, actually, playschool. She was not too happy about the fact that there would be no beige-checked uniform, no brown-paper-covered books, no bright-yellow school-bus, nothing like her didi’s (elder sister) proper school.. In fact, she is yet to be convinced that her playgroup should be accorded the status of SCHOOL at all. It seems all play and no school to her.
But though it was a compromise, she was all set with her blue Mickey-bag (which had the coveted tiffin-box inside), her all-new waterbottle, pink raincoat and red umbrella (with the bees and the butterflies - she chose it herself, don't you know?).

The first two days have passed smoothly. In a blur of toys and rhymes, puppet-shows and songs. She has been happily chalk-scribbling all over the walls and rushing down the plastic slide in the playroom (both taboo at home), secure in the knowledge that ma and Babydidi (my trusted maid) were in the room, too.

The bawling may begin next week, when she’ll be ON HER OWN. I’m hoping she won’t cry, at least not too much. Here’s wishing her a great growing-up journey ahead. To echo Erica Jong, “May Goddess bless and Goddess keep” our little copy-kitten happy and safe and curious.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Mumbai has two seasons – sweat and wet. In summer, people sweat it out; in winter (that’s a joke) people sweat it out a little less; and in monsoon, people wet it out (as well as sweat it out under their raincoats).

It’s been raining for the past one week, with no sign of ever stopping, and already I’ve forgotten what the sun looks like. On some days a pale sun peeps out timidly, like a sick child wanting to get out of bed, before dark thunderous looking clouds (like an angry scowling nurse) chase it back under the covers.

Back in Kolkata, a day or two of heavy rain would mean that schools and colleges would declare rainy-day holidays and we could all sit cosily watching the rain from our windows or balconies.

But in Mumbai, nobody has the time to stand and stare, or sit cosily in an armchair. Everybody’s up and running: people going to work armed with umbrellas, women in trendy transparent raincoats and waterproof make-up, plastic-coated children bending under the combined weight of books and raindrops.

Rain is a fact of life from June to September, and everybody in Mumbai faces it matter-of-factly. Many, incredibly, claim to love the rainy season.

I, however, just CAN NOT. I have many many cribs about monsoon and wet clothes and wet smells, but there are four monsoon-months’ worth of blogposts left, so I’ll save my cribs for another rainy day.

And so, the rains go on, endlessly….

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


My younger daughter lives in hand-me-downs and hope. Hoping that she will soon be as big as her elder sibling. The word ‘small’ is absent from her vocabulary (she pronounces it as ‘malls’ – a fallout of living in mall-infested Mumbai).

She is always frantically imitating her sister (when she is not fighting with her):
sitting like her(often with a book which she flips through importantly),
studying like her (she’s put all her elder sister’s old school-books in an old school bag, which she takes to ‘school’ daily and does her scribbly-homework in),
talking like her (like an echoing-miniature, sometimes with hilarious results),
dressing like her (or insisting to – to keep peace I try to buy co-ordinated clothing),
playing like her (this begins well but ends badly, usually in a fight, because toys not shared are snatched),
having her hair cut like her (they recently had matching mushroom-haircuts, though they look as different as ebony and ivory),
…even sometimes sleeping like her.

We call her copy-kitten, a sobriquet which suits her purr-fectly.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


It’s official. My and my elder daughter’s summer vacation ends tomorrow. Mumbai’s summer of 2008 ends the day after; the weather department has declared the arrival-date of the monsoon (give or take a few days; weather and weathermen are not very reliable). In fact, it has raining gustily for the past few days, but that's the PRE-MONSOON downpours, insist the weathermen (as if that made any difference - Wet is WET is WET).

Though I always look forward to regaining my working-mom status (being a stay-at-home mom stresses me out totally - it's too much of hard work) and spending a few hours away from my demanding duo, I also love the summer holidays.

Here are a few random reasons why:

I can spend the whole day with my daughters (a mixed blessing, though!). We eat together, I tell them stories, watch stuff together, feed them when they are busy playing, build tents for them to play house-house in, take them to the park to play, take them to the shops to shop, sit them on the kitchen counter when I'm cooking and allow them to shell eggs and stir mixtures. I so tired at the end of the day that I usually fall asleep while putting them to sleep. BUT I WOULDN'T HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY!

I can have countless, endless hug-athons with my daughters.

I can ditch my contact lenses (for professional use only) for geeky glasses.

I can cook to my heart’s content (I have to: the maid goes on leave – another mixed blessing!). Out comes the cook-books, my brain goes on overdrive planning menus, shopping for the ingredients and my daughters excitedly accompany me in these culinary adventures, from the market to the kitchen-counter to the dining table.

I can gorge on mangoes and black jamuns, my fave fruits! My daughters love picking up raw mangoes which fall unheeded from the many mango trees in the neighbourhood, and I love pickling them.

From our bedroom window, I can watch (with the spouse and kids) the green hills of the
National Park come alive with the flame-red flowers of the krishnachura (gulmohar) - surely the loveliest of all summer-sights?

I can read/surf/blog past midnight without worrying about getting up early in the mornings…

…but that’s about to end. With the coming of a new season (monsoon) and a new session (at school and college), this summer is over.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


This is the first time I've ever been tagged and, obviously, I'm totally Alice when she entered the magic garden of flowers!

Mystic Margarita has tagged me and I owe her big-time, because this is a tag that I've seen on some other blogs and had wished that I could also play this tag-game.
Ok, here are the rules:
Pick up the nearest book.
Open to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences.
Tag five people, and acknowledge the person who tagged you .

The funny thing is, I always sit with a book when I'm using the Internet, simply because net traffic moves so slowly (I have a pre-historic dial-up connection) that I always reach for the book when I'm caught in a net-traffic-jam (while it's loading, I'm reading).

At present I'm reading Dorothy L Sayers' Have His Carcase starring her adorable, aristocratic, amateur- sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey and his will-she-marry-me detective-novelist girlfriend, Harriet Vane. Most of us have read or heard about the popular Agatha Christie, D L Sayers was her contemporary crime-fiction writer in the Golden Age (Inter-war Britain). Her novels are much more allusive and erudite (and so, less popular), Wimsey is quirky, self-deprecating, well-read and very, very amusing. The plots are convoluted (as they should be), the setting is always vividly re-created and the Wimsey-Vane relationship is a working-comedy-of-manners.

Though the sentences I'm posting (from Page 123, sixth sentence onwards) sadly do not demonstrate Sayers' wit, tag-rules are rules. Here's Inspector Umpelty (I just love the name, don't you?) detailing the mysterious actions of the murder-victim, Paul Alexis, (a few days prior to his murder) to Lord Peter Wimsey (another delightful name!):

"To cut a long story short, they went to the Seahampton branch of the London & Westminister and got the O.K on the notes, after which Bennett handed over the gold and Alexis took it away in a leather hand-bag. And that's all there to it. But we've checked up the dates with the bank-people, and it's quite clear that Alexis drew his money out here for the purpose of changing it to gold as soon as ever he saw the account of Ann Bennett's death in the papers."

Now, doesn't that fill you with suspense - WHY and WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? As I've not finished the book yet (my pagemark's on Page 252), I don't know the answers myself.

To finish my tag-task, I'm tagging
Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


My kitchen-window has a sort of an attached hanging balcony (which we can enter only after considerable exercise: climbing on to the kitchen counter, opening a recalcitrant, jammed sliding window, lifting up a heavy iron grill and lowering ourselves into the so-called-balcony floor...I said 'sort of' balcony, remember?)

Our infrequent visits (usually to clean up) seems to have encouraged a veritable zoo of creatures to take up residence there.

There are the pigeons (grey, gregarious and ubiquitous all over Mumbai), who stay on the ground level. Their family (joint-family, more likely; pigeons in Mumbai suffer from a severe housing-crisis, much like us humans) motto is 'Live messily, love loudly, propagate proudly'. I've never seen birds having babies round-the-year (don't pigeons have a mating season?)...even as I write this, there are two new scrawny additions to the overcrowded pigeon ranks (they also emit a rank smell, don't you think so?).

Then there are two newly-wed shalik (magpies), who spend a lot of time chittering together (as is usual in sometimes-cootchie-cooing/sometimes-bickering honeymoon couples). They flirt and flit about, camping here and there.

What delighted us most was the parrot family (parrots being a rare sight in Kolkata, where I grew up) occupying the upper-storey of my window-zoo. Brilliant-green with beady eyes and red beaks, they are perfect window-candy. To the delight of my daughters (one of the first word the younger one spoke was 'tota' - parrot), the parrots are great acrobats, too, twisting in-and-out of the narrow iron grills and hanging upside-down obligingly to please us. The daily circus-shows at the window helped to distract the younger one while I would plonk her in front of the window and plonk food in her mouth (the easiest way of feeding children, don't you think?)

In the midst of this avian hostelry, there is a stalwart squirrel - a lonely fur among so many feathers. There is also a lizard who is determined to shift base from the window to the inside of the kitchen. I am equally determined to keep him out!

In fact, the lizard is the only resident of the zoo that I am not fond of, the others are welcome to stay as long as they like. On second thoughts, maybe some of the pigeons could also think of shifting to a new apartment....

Monday, June 2, 2008


The IPL is over, long live cricket! Rajasthan Royals, led by the crafty Shane Warne, defeated Chennai Super Kings, captained by the cool Dhoni, by the proverbial last-ball –whisker. There were spills (Parthiv Patel’s last-over fumbling comes to mind) and thrills galore …an appropriately well-contested final, inappropriately over-dressed cheerleaders (does anyone even glance at the male jack-in-the-boxes?).

The cricketers played to the gallery (some sixes went beyond), the gallery (with its eyeball-grabbing assortment of stars) played to the media (Aamir Khan displaying his toothy debutante nephew Imran) and everybody either paid or made money.

Gautam Singhania, Aamir Khan and Sachin Tendulkar standing side-by-side in the VIP stands made a telling visual synopsis of the IPL: Corporate + Bollywood + Cricket = IPL.

But this media-created, money-backed hype does not translate into passion. And sports, genuine sports, is all about passion. It is about cheering from the heart at a win, it is about heart-wrenching grief at a loss. It is also about taking sides passionately.

You can support an individual (a Becker, an Agassi, a Venus) or a nation (your own or Brazil – in football, that is) or a team (Man-U, Mohunbagan). This support of the fan is won by a history of togetherness – player and fan triumphing or agonizing together to form that special bond that is sport’s gift to the ordinary person.

Hype is shallow, lasting till the match ends and the stars go home; support runs much, much deeper. The most natural support is for teams or players belonging to one’s own country; created from a sense of identity and creating a new sense of pride.

Money can buy cheerleaders who jump up-and-down with practiced perfection, it cannot buy the sea-wave-like roar of noise when countries clash in the World Cups. It cannot buy the fans dancing impromptu on the streets long after the match is over.

IPL was fun and forgettable. True sports leaves behind memories.