Saturday, August 29, 2009


The dedicated devotees of the God of Enterprise sure know their business.

Usually, our housing complex has four Ganpati mandals, organised by separate Co-operative Housing Societies. This year, there was a new altar, and a new deity.

The debutante deity was organised by some residents working with Canara Bank, and the mandal was topped with a bright blue banner proudly welcoming all visitors to

  • Ganesh worship

  • Their new branch shortly to be opened at a conveniently close location.

When we entered to see the rotund and smiling deity, we were also introduced to the slim and smiling Manager of the upcoming branch.

When we were given the peanut-and-nakuldana (small sugar balls) prasad, we were also handed brochures detailing the bank's services.

When we put in coins in the donation box, we were politely requested to also put down our names and phone numbers, presumably for the marketing personnel to pursue us in future.

A rather neat way of dovetailing work and worship, don't you think so?

Only, instead of the usual commercialising of religion, maybe this is a case of religionising of commerce.

The only spanner in the works? A rival bank stole the idea, and put up a banner at a Ganpati mandal ten meters away, also proudly welcoming all devotees to the dual business of worship and banking.

The Divine Belly must be rumbling with glee at witnessing this industrious fight between enterprising devotees. But if we cannot bank on Divine Benevolence, then what can we bank on?

Monday, August 24, 2009


The media has been pessimistically predicting a lack-lustre Ganeshotsav this year because of the swine-flu scare. My mother-in-law (who keenly follows each and every TV news report directly or remotely connected to Mumbai, or Maharashtra, or Western India, ever since we shifted here) has been frantically calling us up almost daily with swine-flu updates, trying to persuade us not to venture out among the vast crowds teeming with germs, because we might all catch the dreaded disease. Or, of course, in case somehow the germs miss us, there are terrorists lurking in nooks and corners, hoping for some target-practice. Mind it!

My M-I-L is single-handedly responsible for pushing up the TRPs of all news programmes which showcase Mumbai-related “sansani tazaa khabar” (breaking news).

But although many seemed scared of venturing out, there are other people who are welcoming the elephant-headed God of enterprise through their own, surprisingly original ventures.

There is a fairly newly-opened soda pub near our home, you know the kind that sells 50 or so flavours of soda for ten rupees each. Since I never soar beyond the SOUR-5 (imli/kokum/kachchi kairi/kala-khatta/jeera-masala), I cannot vouch for all the flavours, but there is often quite a crowd in front of the shop.

That day, in honour of the festive season, my mother and I took our daughters for a soda-treat (I can almost see my M-I-L becoming all pale and panicky about their health, so please do not tell her this, she is a sweet soul actually). As we were sipping our cold, coloured and contraband sodas (Me-imli, Maa-kokum, Lil cat-orange, Copy kitten- lime-n-lemon), the smiling man serving us said,

Madam, naya flavour aanewala hai kal, Ganpati ke liye.” (Madam, a new flavour will be introduced tomorrow, in honour of Ganpati).

In answer to our obvious curiosity, he said with a flourish and a proud smile, “Swine-flu flavour.”

My first horrified and sick-making thought was that it would taste of blocked noses and phlegm. But Maa made a better, and closer, guess. “Maybe they will put tulsi (basil) and haldi (turmeric) and other such natural remedies for coughs and colds.”

A panacea for swine-flu-panic at ten rupees? Should sell like hot cakes, or at least like the masks dotting/clotting the cityscape.

Remember the much-publicised 1995 miracle when the Ganesha drank up gallons of milk in front of millions of astonished devotees all over the world? Maybe we need another miracle. Will the Divine Trunk sip a swine-flu soda this time around?

P.S: What with the Vighna-vinashak (God who destroys all obstacles) teaming up with indefatigable human innovativeness, looks like we can beat the H1N1-demon. Till then, enjoy the drumbeats. Have a happy and safe festive season.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


My mother has come down for a hopefully-long visit, and she has brought with her, quite like Baa Baa Black Sheep, huge bagfuls of fluffy wool. She arrived, white hair in its usual disarray, a pair of knitting-needles poking out of her bag, looking very like the archetypal Miss Marple (that wonderful old lady detective created by Agatha Christie), who always carried her knitting along everywhere.

Somewhere in the middle of a busy schedule of sudoku (in the newspapers) and minesweeper (on the comp), she plans to knit a few sweaters for my two daughters.

Now, knitting is not something I have ever managed to master (I usually end up knotting more than knitting). My daughters are extremely scornful about my (lack of) knitting skills and have already complained to my mother that “Maa toh amader kichhu i buney deye naa” (Maa never knits us anything).

As if we are all dying of cold in hot-and-humid Mumbai because I have not knitted sufficient quantities of warm woollens! Anyway, my daughters have already placed their orders with their Dida (grandmother), choosing complicated patterns from two dog-eared pattern books, and colour-schemes from the available stock of wool.

And although I should feel disgruntled, I am actually feeling kind of meltingly-warm inside, watching the three of them discuss pattern and colour solemnly, two smaller black heads nodding wisely to suggestions made by the older/whiter one. And I am not even wearing a sweater!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009



There is a thief on the prowl at
And that nasty, nameless fellow has stolen my entire library. Tonight when I sat down at my dashboard, ready to scroll down my reading list and catch up the latest posts, there was NOTHING there. Except this AUDACIOUS, BLATANT, BOLD LIE:

"You are not currently following any blogs. Use the "add" button below to enter blogs you'd like to follow in your Reading List."

EXCUSE ME? Of course I am following a lot of blogs. I collect readable blogs like I buy readable books - after a lot of browsing, and with a lot of anticipation that I will spend many happy hours reading and recolleceting. I have (had?) painstakingly acquired and added to my library of blogs (and books - but that is in the real world) over the months.

And now there's nothing there? Virtual emptiness? All that hard work and copy-paste urls and clicking-of-follow-publicly-button down the drain? WHY and HOW? Can anyone please explain? Where do I go to file an FIR? Report the theft? Waaaah!!! Or should I just bawl my lungs out???

Once bitten, twice shy. Now, this time, I am keeping a back-up. It will take me some time before I will be able to trace all the urls of the blogs I was following and 'add' them to my list again. (HOW BLOODY TIME-CONSUMING AND UNFAIR!). But I will write them down in my good old-fashioned real-world pen-and-paper diary, a precaution against future virtual theft.


Saturday, August 15, 2009


With the recent Swine Flu scare closing down schools in Mumbai for a week, my two daughters are cooped up at home, asking me a lot of questions about the hows and whys and wherefores of this readily spread-able malaise.

On learning that ‘swine’ mean PIGS, and obviously mixing-up ‘flu’ with FLEW, the Copy Kitten (my younger daughter) asked, “But can pigs fly, Maa? And where did they fly?”

Mentally suppressing an image of fat pink pigs flying and ‘oinking’ all over the place, I explained that pigs cannot fly.

My daughters are fond of pigs. They like the Three Little Pigs, especially the gutsy pig who lived in the house-made-of-bricks and who vanquished the big bad wolf. They like the small, unassuming Piglet, who is very loyal towards Winnie the Pooh and unexpectedly brave when it matters. They are especially fond of Babe, the adorable piglet who proves that he is a worthy sheep-pig by winning a sheep-dog competition and the trust and heart of his farmer-owner. And a few years down the line, I am sure they will like the book ANIMAL FARM, written by George Orwell – although the dystopic pigs in that book may not be all that likeable, because they try to boss over the other farm animals, believing “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”. But, no, none of these pigs can fly.

But PANIC can. Helped by an over-eager media, especially TV channels which keep showing the same footage and headlines over and over again. Helped by contradictory reports on the lists of Do’s and Don’ts. And most of all, given wings by rumour and by fear.

I am scared, too. Scared enough to tie a scarf around my nose and mouth when I go to the crowded marketplace. Scared enough to urge my kids and our maid to do the same when they go down in the evening to play with their friends. Scared enough to cross my fingers everytime I see somebody with a running nose or hear a sneeze or a cough. Scared enough to childishly wish that this H1N1 virus would fly, far, far away.

Are you scared?

Saturday, August 8, 2009


The other day my daughters were playing together at home (harmoniouslywhich is a pretty rare occasion). Apart from ‘teacher-teacher’, one of their favourite role-plays is ‘mother-offspring’, with the elder Lil Cat enacting the ‘mother’ and the younger Copy Kitten being the impossibly obedient ‘daughter’.

Busy as I was in doing housework (you know, the usual stuff like folding washed clothes, dusting bookshelves, straightening the bedcover for the umpteenth time, etc,etc), one snatch of their dialogue was repeated so often that it caught my attention.

Taratari, taratari, deri hoye jabey” (Hurry, hurry, you’ll be late). The Lil Cat would pretend to hold a glass of milk in front of the Copy Kitten and say this. When the Copy Kitten finished gulping down this imaginary glass of milk, the Lil Cat would pretend to button-up an imaginary school uniform, all the while repeating this sentence. Then she would give a hurried kiss to her pretend-daughter and, giving her a small push at her back, say again the same thing, while waving good-bye as the Copy-Kitten rushed to pick up her pretend-schoolbag and ran to catch her pretend-bus.

Then, within a few seconds, she would be back again from her pretend-school. And her pretend-mom, the Lil Cat, would start rushing and fussing all over again, undressing her sister, hurriedly feeding her some pretend-lunch and then urging her to go to sleep. All the while repeating like a mantra, “Taratari, taratari, deri hoye jabey” (Hurry, hurry, you’ll be late).

Feeling rather indignant, I asked them why they were hurrying through their game. In an exasperated way, they said, But Ma, this is what you keep saying to us.”

What? And what about the time when I read all those endless books with you and make you sit on the kitchen counter when we all bake cakes and cook noodles and stuff?” I accused, feeling hurt and absolutely horrified at this image of myself as a hurrying harridan, forever pushing my children from one task to another - wake up, get ready, have breakfast, go to school, have lunch, have nap, do homework/study, gulp down milk, go to play, have dinner, go to sleep.

Oh, but that is only on Sundays and holidays. And we are playing Monday to Friday mummy-mummy now,” and they shooed me away.

So, am I like this only? Caught in a fast forward loop throughout the week, giving no time to stand and stare to either myself or my family. And then, pushing the pause button only on ‘Sundays and holidays’, to rest, relax and revel in the joys of family-life? Time to chill?

Monday, August 3, 2009


Having recently purchased a black leather belt, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was too loose for my waist. The goody-goody guardian angel in my mind praised, “Maybe the tummy tyres have deflated a bit.” But the nasty devil in my subconscious said with a sneer, “Must have been an oversized man’s belt. Or a belt with manufacturing defects. Which explains why it was on sale. And what with the amount of ice cream you are hogging (during the break from work because of the ongoing teachers’ strike), fat chance you have of reducing all that tummy fat.”

I shooed the horned horror away and went to the friendly neighbourhood mochi (shoe-repairer) to get an extra hole drilled into the belt. The gentleman in question knows me quite well, courtesy my umbrellas with the broken sticks and my shoes with the broken straps. He asked me, “Kitney holes chahiye?” (How many holes do you want in the belt?).

Hesitatingly ambitious, I said, “Do bana dijiye.” (Make two extra holes).

Deftly poking new holes in the black leather, he aked, “Aur ek bana doon?” (Shall I make one more hole?).

Banishing a wildly improbable vision of myself with a clinched hourglass waist, I despairingly said, “Kya fayda? Do se zyada to lagnewala nahi hai kabhi.” (What’s the use? There is hardly any chance of me ever needing more than two extra holes in the belt).

Lifting his head from his work with a huge encouraging smile, the man urged, “Aas rakhney mey kya harj haye?” (What’s the problem in hoping?).

And so I agreed. And purchased MOTIVATION for the minuscule sum of two rupees. And returned home with a belt that has three extra holes to tighten around my waist. Three extra notches of hope that “YES I CAN...trim the tummy" (Sorry, Obama, for frivolously misapplying your slogan).