Wednesday, December 31, 2008

CALENDAR COLLECTIBLES

This is the time for many a change, including that of changing the calendars on the walls and on desktops.

Calendars come in two basic categories, the USEFUL (use and throw) and the INTERESTING (display and then keep).

The useful ones are no-frills-only-numbers-in-bold-type (which I can see from a distance without squinting), with the holidays generously marked out in red. These are usually gifted by various publishers (being a teacher has its perks) or bought for Rs 25 (for the Hindi version of Kalnirnay – ‘time-determination’). The Kalnirnay has detailed information on moon-phases and festivals and fasting-feasting dates, all in fine print my maid loves to pore over.

I, however, love getting my hands on interesting calendars, though not of the Kingfisher lean-mean-unclothed-supermodels-variety (maybe I’m envious of the monthly parade of hourglass figures). I like calendars with interesting concepts, not just nice photos but read-worthy texts as well.

In 1997, HSBC, my then-employer then called HONGKONGBANK, brought out a calendar showcasing different traditional trades and crafts of colonized India, with authentic portraits of the craftsmen and brief write-ups. A museum-piece.

The next year, they had a calendar with photos of different instruments used to measure time, chronicling the journey of time from sun-dials to modern nanosecond-measuring digital clocks. A calendar which will definitely last the test of time.

Three years ago, the spouse got a desktop calendar from an association of Bengali book publishers, which had rare photographs of Satyajit Ray and his films. A fine display of the master’s art, for all Bengalis to cherish.

I also love the PETA calendar, which has heart-warming tales (and totally-lovable photos with cute names) of various animals and birds rescued by PETA during the previous year. Each month tells a Janus-faced story of human cruelty and human charity, reminding us of the good and the bad that make up our world.

And on that note, I would like to say HAPPY NEW YEAR in hope and prayer.

Monday, December 22, 2008

VIRTU-REALITY

20th December was a SPECIAL DAY - a day when names took on faces, shadowy outlines in profile pictures took three-dimensional shape and the virtual became real. On the initiative and invitation of Suranga Date of Gappa, five of us bloggers met at a restaurant in Mumbai to interact outside the internet.

My road to reality was full of bumps and halts (courtesy Mumbai’s infamous S V Road –traffic) and when I reached the designated meeting-place half-an-hour late, the ice had already been broken.

Not that we were strangers, reading a person's blog is getting to know that person's views/opinions/raves/rants quite well, but FACE-to-FACE has a different IMPACT. We talked and ate and got to know each other better.

There was Suranga, with her storehouse of interesting experiences and wonderful conversational skills, the very sweet and serious Priyadarshan or Harekrishnaji, the suave and witty Vivek and the tech-savvy and multi-talented Kavi. And of course, me.

We talked about how we began blogging, how blogging became an integral and indispensable part of our lives, how and when we find time to blog, how our spouses (mostly) are not really too interested in what we are up to (in our blogs, that is). We discussed blog tricks like Twitter, common blog-friends and how comments on our posts really help us to reach out to others. Outside the blogosphere, we discussed weight-loss (but of course!), diets and vegan-ism (Priyadarshanji's exemplary account was motivating), gymming or the lack of it (slipped discs and slipped endeavours sustained in our battles with the bulge), our jobs, families, and backgrounds.

It was an animated discussion (with plenty of food - eating adds the charm, and calories, to any meeting) and I enjoyed myself a lot, listening to people whose views I love to read on their blogs.

Thank you, Suranga, for thinking of this meeting and making it happen, and thank you, all the others for your company and for the lovely memento (a china mug with the names of all our blogs inscribed on it). I’ll cherish both the mug and the memories, and I do really hope to meet again. And a special thanks for the absent Rajni Kumar, whose visit to India and desire to meet Suranga was the catalyst behind the meeting.

Up next : Probable pow-wow in Powai. I'm game and I recommend it highly. Wherever, whenever. Just get in touch with the 'whoever's.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

FREEDOM AT MATINEE

Have you ever watched a movie at a cinema hall all by yourself? I sometimes do so, and thoroughly enjoy the experience (and the movie, too).


In Kolkata, it is not quite the done thing for women (of any age) to go and watch a movie by herself. Only the intrepid ones do it, because a single woman (of any age/visage/girth) attracts stares (at best), catcalls or pinches targetted at softer parts of the anatomy. Maybe I am exaggerating - they say that times they are a changing in Kolkata, too.

But here in Mumbai, they have already changed and it's not a big thing for any individual (man/woman/third gender) to enter the multiplex and enjoy the movie and one's own company.

I have done it sometimes and enjoyed every moment. For one thing, I get to choose the movie. I am rather picky about movies, especially if they come at multiplex prices. I saw OM SHANTI OM (delightfully kitschy), FASHION (tease-and-gossip lowdown), and, very recently, OYE LUCKY LUCKY OYE (layered rollicking critique of consumerism from a wannabe-at-any-cost's viewpoint). I doubt if the spouse would have sat through the first two.

I could gaze starstuck and plot-awed at the screen, blissfully undisturbed for three hours. I don't feel forced to apologise for my choice (how could you drag me to see this #@it?) or to go into lenghthy critical discussion of subtleties (This part seems borrowed from that prehistoric Hollywood movie - well, who cares? Even Shakespeare copied. If it entertains me, I'm happy). I could read my books (THE WHITE TIGER - which is a more trenchant critique of India Shining and India Struggling and MAUS - I and II - graphic novels exposing unforgettably the horrors of the Holocaust) in the multiplex lobby till the movie started. I could forgo the cola and the popcorn (mandatory when the kids tag along) and chew on my thoughts instead. In peace.

The last time I took the kids along (for TAARE ZAMEEN PAR), taking in the 2 p.m show (because the younger Copy-kitten would sleep through the movie), it was a mini-disaster. The elder Lil Cat refused to cry even when the rest of the audience were sobbing away, because she wanted to have something to eat. Her plaintive demands woke up the Copy-kitten, who went into bawling-overdrive right away. I paced the lobby and missed vital chunks of the secind half, had steamed corn and popcorn dribbling down my T-shirt, and had to stomach all that overpriced-leftover grub at the end of the movie, which I nearly missed.

No more. I now go alone for the 10 a.m shows (after rushing through my classes for that day), and relax and revel in my-time matinee freedom. Long live the Movies.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

KEEPING WARM - SOUL SIDE UP

India has many winters – and many ways of keeping warm.

I’ve seen red-cheeked cheeky children in the snow-capped Darjeeling hill-slopes running around with hands deep in jacket pockets sucking yak-milk toffees noisily to keep warm while returning from school.

I’ve seen grandfathers in Kolkata wrapped in dark shawls congregating like chattering crows nodding their monkey-capped heads vigorously in debate or discussion to keep warm on morning walks.

I’ve seen beggars in pilgrim-pious Benares stuffing newspapers in shoe-cracks and garment-holes chanting prayers incessantly to keep warm in temple alleys and under shop awnings.

I’ve seen construction-workers living in makeshift tents sitting around fires and singing lustily in their native dialects rubbing palms to ward off the night-chill to keep warm on the roadside.

I’ve seen Mumbai-dwellers welcoming their two weeks of winter with a shiver and a smile, no extra winter clothes for us, thank you, only the autorickshaw-drivers put on woolen headbands and earmuffs to keep warm in the sunless early mornings.

I’ve seen my two daughters spoon into each other in C-shapes, the younger one snuggling inside, the elder one cuddly-protective outside, to keep warm as the moon moves and a chill pre-dawn air wafts in through the window.

As I put the bedclothes back on them (kicked away in the course of bedtime-acrobatics), watching them puts a smile on my face. Enough to keep me warm.

P.S: Winter is on its way, and this post was specifically written for Michelle’s December Write-Away contest at her warm and well-written Scribbit.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

BANK BLOOPER

The spouse and I went to the bank a few days back to put some money in a fixed deposit. The lady at the counter graciously helped us out with the forms, and then gave us a photocopy of the different rates of interest for fixed deposits.

The chart mentioned the rates for the different TENORS. The spouse and I exchanged bewildered glances (isn’t ‘tenor’ a musical term referring to a high-pitched male voice?), before comprehension (and amusement) dawned. Ah, TENURE! The interest rates were given for different terms/periods of fixed deposits.

Being English Literature students once-upon-a-time, we pounced upon the MALAPROPISM with glee and giggles. Surely unexpected from a posh private bank with an all-India network, where, presumably, the photocopied rate-chart was being circulated all over India?

Or maybe, was it a clever musical symbol for the recent rise-and-fall of various economic indices, including interest rates? Maybe someone at HDFC Bank conceals a musician’s soul under the bland banker’s fa├žade?