Monday, June 29, 2009


In the hit Hindi film, Chaalbaaz, there’s a scene where the heroine, Sridevi, does a few smooth, rubber-necked dance steps. And the hero, Rajnikanth, who plays a taxi-driver, comments, “Arrey, Michaeli Jacksoni lagti hai (You look like a female Michael Jackson)”.

That was the magic of MJ. Millions of people, across genders, across nations, across class or colour or creed, many who had never before or since shown any inclination for ‘English muzik’ knew him, knew his dance moves, knew his status as the ‘King of Pop’. Like my ‘bai’ (the lady who looks after my children and home). She has never heard of Madonna, or the Beatles, or Presley. She does not know English. But she has heard about MJ.

When we were schoolgirls, in the long ago 1980s, whenever we wore jeans in our Bengali backwater-suburb of Barrackpore, we risked being eve-teased by the local parar dadas (neighbourhood rowdies), who would catcall, “Oi jachchhe Michael Jackson sheje (There she goes, dressed as Michael Jackson)”. Jackson’s post-plastic-surgery androgynous looks and high-pitched signature ‘Aooww’ shriek had them confused about his gender. But they identified him with all that was posh and westernized. He was their reference point for American popular culture.

The first MJ-album that I saw was BAD, when Doordarshan aired the Grammy nominees for that particular year. I saw the THRILLER video long after 1982. The never-seen-before dance moves blew my mind, and I liked the foot-tapping music, although, not being too tuned to American accents, I could not make out much of the lyrics. It didn’t matter, actually. The dance, for me, made up for all that.

Over the years, as the newspapers and videos showcased the facial changes and the court cases and the weird lifestyle, I wondered. Why a man, who could make millions feel so happy just by performing his moves and music, would obviously be so unhappy about his self-image as to keep on attempting to obliterate and recreate his own face? Why a man who had the world at his feet since he was a kid, refuse resolutely to grow up? Why a man who sang ‘Heal the world’ continue to exhibit bizarre behaviour in public and private? Why a man who was so confident on stage, be so bewildered and confused off it?

In an interview with Martin Bashir, MJ had said, “All I know of people is the applause.” Just goes to reveal how completely lonely and cut off from reality he was. For him, the stage was the reality. And now, the show is over. The eulogies have been written, the net has crashed, fans have mourned, the songs are being re-played, the mystery of the debts and death is being discussed and debated. But the wide-eyed, lost-misunderstood, tragic-pathetic, vain-pained, talented-tormented Peter Pan has forever left his Neverland to go and moonwalk among the stars.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


That, unfortunately, has never been the case with me. My head has, is, and always will be, over feet which are encased in flat footwear. Not heels.

Once upon a time, long ago, I had tried heels. Drastically high platform heels. Wooden ones making a horse-like racket on the hard cement floor. It had not been a successful stride. In fact, it had not been a stride at all. After a failed falter, heels became another one of those allergy-inducing objects which I could see, but could not use.

And, thereafter, I have always been a Cinderella in rubber slippers. No dainty-toed high-heeled glass slippers for me.

So I know all about the platform, the wedge and the vicious/vertiginous stiletto (the lady-boss of all heels). I even know about the non-threatening kitten heels, which are less than 1.5 inches in height. These innocuous-looking low-heels are treacherous creatures, because they can tempt heel-allergic flat-footers like me. But I am, and sadly will always be, a full-grown tabby cat, and no longer anything like a kitten. And so, even kitten heels trip me up.

Any heel, and my ankle rebels. A self-defeating rebellion, as it ends up getting twisted in the bargain. But I end up all in a tumble. Embarrassing!

Any heel-thy person will diagnose my disease as vertigo. For me, heel-thy is definitely not well-thy. I am scared of heights. Not on a rollercoaster (I love them on an empty stomach). But on my heels. I prefer facing life with my feet planted solidly on the ground.

There are distinct disadvantages. Shoe shops are apparently meant for the well-heeled, as most of the shelves are devoted to the sky-high variety of shoes. Whenever I enter a shoe-shop and say, "Flat sandals only, please", I am directed to some obscure corner where a shelf and a half displays the frumpiest of designs in the most boring of colours.

Even when flat shoes are 'in', like they were 'last season' with ballerina-flats, this is usually a passing fad, and women soon abandon their firm-on-the-ground-walk for a balancing-totter. Even the once-flat Kolhapuri chappals have turned traitor and sprouted heels.

I can be the darling of feminists (who rage against the tyranny of heels and the consequent commoditisation of body-image) and the podiarists (who rage against the foot and tendon problems caused by heels). But that is a limited appeal.

Alas, I can never be a Posh Spice, who apparently even goes gymming in stilettoes (I hardly ever go gymming, so I do not wear stilettoes). All heel-addicts will rave about the sex-appeal of heels. How a shoe has to have a 'defined heel' to be in the 'sexy shoe' category. How heels transform us into objects of lust and desirability (check out any heel-vocabulary: 'stripper shoes' have 3" platform heels, 'hooker heels' are at least 3-4",'slut shoes' have 5-5 3/4 " heel...). My head is reeling after all those vertical stats.

To come back to the issue of sex-symbols and heels, I had once read that the legendary Greta Garbo (the reclusive and unattainable silent-era Hollywood beauty) always used to wear a pair of flat and comfy men's bedroom slippers (size 10 or thereabouts) under the long, trailing, lovely ballgowns she wore while filming.

That settled the matter for me. I chose the classic Greta Garbo over the upstart Posh Spice. And I'll stick to my slides and mules and unsexy-but-safe flat Dr Scholl's-type foowear. And my lovely red mojris from Mochi's, which make me feel like royalty. Even when I am not on a pedestal.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


WAS (once upon a time, circa 1990s) asking the (yet-to-be-) spouse, “Have you taken the class-notes properly?”
(Both of us studied English Honours, so being together in Honours classes was not the problem, but I had Philosophy as a ‘Pass’ subject, while he had ‘History’, and he would shrug his shoulders at my anxious query after the very few History classes he actually attended without me, and state philosophically that ‘History’ was past, so it was better to forget about it.)

IS (now, circa 2009) asking the spouse (-since-decades), “Have you taken your cholesterol medicines properly?" (I have a job where I leave the home early, and he has a job where he comes back very late, so marital communication, and romantic conversation, is chiefly via a series of questions over the phone - asked anxiously, answered with philosophical calmness and assurance).

As the great philosophers said, "The more things change, the more they remain the same". Class-notes, or cholesterol, I seem to have been in worrying-Mother-mode for the past (nearly) two decades. Pscho-analyse that, if you will.

Love, actually = worry! (Thank God, I don't chew my nails when I am worried, or I would not have been able to write this post.)


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I am in the middle of the latest book by Alexander McCall Smith in his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, THE MIRACLE AT SPEEDY MOTORS. McCall Smith says in the book, "The telling of a story, like virtually everything in this life, was always made all the easier by a cup of tea."

This delightfully languid series features the 'traditionally-built' (oh, what a lovely excuse for obesity!) detective-of-life's-little-problems and dispenser-of-wise-wand-warm-solutions, Mma Precious Ramotswe, and her assistant,the much-more-rigid Mma Grace Makutsi. Both of them drink plentiful cups of tea throughout the day, with Mma Ramotswe preferring the red bush tea (lovely forest-y name, don't you think?).

When McCall Smith praises the virtues of tea as a nerves-soother,temper-calmer, tongue-loosener, soul-refresher,camaraderie-builder, feel-gooder, most of us in India would echo, "How true".

Tea, perhaps, unites more people than any religion does. But, just as religions divide themselves into factions and sects and whatnots, tea is also divided into a number of different categories - of colour, cut and method-of-preparation.

We grew up knowing that there were two 'best' kinds of tea - the Assam variety and the Darjeeling variety - and, being parochial, fond-of-debates-at-the-drop-of-a-hat Bengalis, we vociferously championed the Darjeeling variety (never mind if Shubhas Ghising and his Gorkhaland cronies were trying to chuck Bengalis out of Darjeeling). A good cup of tea was made by adding the aromatic leaves of Darjeeling tea to just-boiling-water, taking it off the gas/stove, letting it soak for a while, and adding sugar and/or milk only if you liked it that way. True tea connoisseurs preferred not to let anything dilute the taste and fragrance of tea, sniffing in the aroma deeply and pleasurably and closing their eyes in ecstasy before taking the first sip of the elixir.

What a culture shock when I shifted to Mumbai! Here the most-loved cuppa is the one which is boiled with large amounts of milk till possibly nothing remains of the distinctive tea-aroma. To add to the sacrilege (from the Bengali point of view), people often add things like adrak (ginger) and elaichi (cardamom) to the over-bolied concoction! And the resultant muddy, thickish liquid is gulped down with relish, either the whole cup, or half-a-cup (the cutely named 'cutting' chai).

And coffee, the hot 'South-Indian filter coffee', is a SERIOUS CONTENDER to the supremacy of tea! Coffee, for most Bengalis, is a diversion-drink, to be taken in fancy bone-china mugs (coffee MUST be served in mugs, tea in CUPS, or so we were told) when guests drop in, especially in winter. It is emphatically NOT a dozens-of-time-a-day-drink-of-sustenance, for Bengalis at least.

And as for the new-fangled entrants like green tea, and herbal tea, all true-tea-addicted Bengalis will say, "Jatto shob! (Bosh!!). We'd rather believe in ANTI-CAPITALISM than in ANTI-OXIDANTS, you see. Tea is for pure pleasure, health-issues are completely secondary.

Not to take sides on the tea-vs-coffee debate, let me confess that I am a tea-totaller. I DO NOT DRINK TEA and I DO NOT DRINK COFFEE. Not the hot varieties, anyway. I like my tea cold, with lemon, or with ice-cream (they did a great job of that at Dolly's in Dakshinapan, the tea-boutique in Kolkata). And when I go to Barista, or Cafe Coffee Day, I have my frappe or my latte ice-cold (but no chocolate, please). And if there is fresh-lime-soda (or jaljira or nimbu-paani) I'll opt for that!

I guess that makes me a FREAK in the eyes of most tea/coffee/both- addicted Indians.What's your brew?

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Mumbai media has been all agog at the arrest (and, of course, subsequent bail and release) of Sheetal Mafatlal (of the multimillionaire-multiple-chinned-husband and looking-very-trashy-in-Versace/Valentino-togs fame) for attempting to breeze in through Customs without thinking it necessary to declare gold and diamond jewellery worth around Rs 50 lakh.

While we, in our strictly-suburban college staffroom, were poring, and ooh-ing and aah-ing (only the 'ladies'), over the list (and intricate details) of the ornaments allegedly smuggled in by her, the South Bombay socialites were making the most of the photo-op by giving incredibly inane soundbytes. One Haseena Jethmalani (wife of political-defeated-debutant and high-end-lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani) apparently said (and conveniently later denied) that Rs 50 lakh was too piddly an amount for the likes of Sheetal Mafatlal (and the rest of the So-Bo brunch-packers) to bother about, and that women frequenting a salon owned by her (the fair Haseena) regularly strolled in wearing jewellery worth more than 50 lakh.

Just a few questions: if Rs 50 lakh is a paltry sum to the likes of Mafatlal (as it obviously is), shouldn’t the Customs Duty (which would be a certain small percentage of this puny amount) be like small change to her (as it obviously is NOT)? So, why not declare and pay it upfront and straightforward, honey? Or is the small change too difficult to see (and the fine print too difficult to read) through those oversized Dior shades?

Just another point: Today I went to Bank of Maharashtra’s Malad (West) branch, where most of the customers were dealing in amounts ranging from Rs 300 to a few thousands. There were old and limping pensioners, peering shortsightedly at a fistful of currency. There were illiterate women, putting their thumb impressions on withdrawal slips for a thousand rupees. There were hardworking men, whose sweat-beaded brows remained knitted into frowns under the blast of the AC, and whose grimy hands clutched at worse-for-wear passbooks containing details of minuscule savings accounts.

To these people, residing in the vast and teeming suburbs of Mumbai, far far away from snooty-snobbery of So-Bo (that's South Bombay's snob-abbreviation), Rs 50 lakh would, perhaps, be a big amount, an amount to aspire to through honest blood-sweat-tears, not an amount that can be sneered at with a shrug of couture-clad shoulders. Or carried in casually (and illegally) in alligator-skin designer luggage.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I AM ECSTATIC. Because ROGER FEDERER has won this year's FRENCH OPEN.

  • Equalling Sampras (another fave)' s record of 14 Grand Slams.
  • Becoming a champ on all four surfaces, a long ten years after Agassi.
  • Settling the debate on who is the greatest player of all time (in my mind, though, there was no debate, it was only a matter of numbers).

I know, there are the nitpicking-Nadal-naysayers who will smirk about his huge deficit against his Spanish-nemesis. It WAS a stroke of luck that Nadal got eliminated early on in this year's French Open. But then, champions are made of talent, hard work, determination, and a generous dose of luck-by-chance. And who cares, actually? The records books will write down his name as the winner, and that is enough for me.

Actually, I am not just a Federer-fan, but a Federer-fanatic. You may wonder at a sedate 36-year-old college-teacher behaving in such an uncharacteristically juvenile manner, but even I was surprised, a few years back, when I started following Federer's matches regularly, by my passionate involvement with his game and with his destiny as a tennis player. I had thought that kind of nail-chewing intensity of tension (while he played), that kind of euphoria of elation (when he won) and, yes, that kind of broken-hearted agony of depression (whenever he lost) was a thing of my volatile teenage past.

But then that is what Federer is all about. He has made me revisit my adolescence. He has made me feel again the pure see-saw of emotions that the best of sports can kindle in the spectator. During the French Open final, there was a fan in the stands carrying a banner which said ROGER and MAGIC, with the words written like a + sign, intersecting at the G.

That's Federer for me.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


A few days back, my daughters and I had gone to Hypercity in Malad to pick up a few things (one of our last jaunts before summer vacation ends). As always happens when the kids come along, we strolled along the aisles picking up unnecessary things from the shelves. Things like lollipops (the sweet kind), easy-to-make cr̬me brulee and vanilla pudding mixes (the very sweet kind) and chocolate donuts (the very very sweet kind) Рyou get the drift?

And, with our trolley groaning under all those superbly superfluous calories, we waited in the check-out line, using our time to pick up a few more mama-please-I-want-them-so-much-otherwise-I-will-bawl-my-lungs-out stuff like bubblegum and chocolate-bars.

In front of us in the queue stood a lean and muscled television actor (Gaurav Chopra? I have a BAD TV-celebrity-quotient) accompanied, presumably, by his slim and pretty girlfriend and two overloaded trolleys. I STARED – at them and at the trolleys:

Dozens of Sofit soymilk tetrapacks – check
Tubs of low-cal yogurt – check
Countless tetrapacks of Real Active fruit juice – check
Kilos of cucumbers – check
Quite a few watermelons – check
One tiny bottle of olive oil – check.

I looked from their calorie-low shopping trolleys to the six-pack abs and the sixteen-inch waist. Then, with a sigh, I looked at my calorie-flow trolley and my tummy-tyres (spares).

It figured.

Monday, June 1, 2009


  1. getting to smell that ineffably sweet mixture of Johnson’s baby powder-cum-curdled-milk emanating from my little baby’s downy softer-than-a-petal neck, which is my favourite snuggling spot. I am doubly lucky to have a double treasure of snuggly-soft back-of-the-neck spots.
  2. having two extra pairs of helping hands in the kitchen in the holidays. Although I am not too sure about the helping part. But the best thing about these two pairs of small (and smaller) hands is that I just love how they hold tightly on to my hands sometimes, when we cross a busy road or when we walk into a dark room. Whenever.
  3. …giving a contented sigh when I see the two little fast-asleep faces. I find it so amazing how they manage to fall asleep in a jiffy. One moment, they are wide awake - demanding a glass of water/ a new story/ an answer to some unfathomable question, then their eyelids droop, the stare becomes fixed-yet-unfocused, and the next moment they are fast asleep. Blessed and Glorious Peace reigns. And I rub sleep away from my own tired eyes and get up for some me-time: reading books, blogging, what-have-you. I am really happiest when they are sleeping!!!
  4. sitting two seats away from the spouse with the kids hogging the seats in-between. We are just back from a week-long trip to my brother’s place in Bangalore, and at the airport, a newly-married couple was sitting all lovey-dovey, hands-entwined (to put it mildly), side-by-side. And all the oldly-married couples saddled-with-children (like us) were looking at them enviously as if at a distant memory. That life when we could gaze into each other’s eyes uninterruptedly for hours on end seems to belong to a past life. Now the daily clock has been hijacked by two little terrors. And romance is a few stolen moments spent remembering the old together-days or discussing – guess what? – children!
  5. …a job with a 1001 responsibilities, round-the-clock duties and NO OVERTIME PAY. The boss (or bosses, two in my case) are perfect little tyrants – very demanding, moody, ungrateful, tantrum-throwing divas. It’s funny - in this job, I have LOST a lot of things: my sleep, my hair, my happy-go-lucky care-freedom. And all the nice things that happen usually happen to my two BOSSES – the first smile, the first rolling over, the first crawl, the first faltering walk, the first lisping talk, the first day at school. I (and the spouse) are just the foolishly-happy witnesses/caretakers/cleaners. But though motherhood is such a tough job, I wouldn’t have it any other way, actually.

    Thank you, SDG at Whims-and-Wishes for this wonderful tag about the 5 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT BEING A MOM. I thought hard and deep, but could come up with only two (the neck-snuggle and the hand-clutching). The other three points are THINGS THAT ARE BOUND TO HAPPEN IF YOU ARE A MOM - WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT!

    Instead of passing the tag on to specific victims, er…parents, I leave it open for all mothers and fathers to comment or write a post about their own 5 favourite parenthood moments. Enjoy!