Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Yesss! There is very definitely a NIP in the air.

Mumbai - sultry, humid, sweltering-round-the-year Mumbai - is actually having the onset of what-appears-to-be a Winter.

That's the only thing that Delhi had (apart from better roads and worse manners) that Mumbai didn't.

So The Times of India puns "KYA KOOL HAI MUM!".
So my friend writes on FaceBook, "I told you, Mumbai has always been a cool place!"
So the fans are having a rest, while the geysers work overtime.
So the kids have dug out all their woollens and are insisting on going down to play dressed for a Himalayan trek.

And me? I just want to TUCK my feet inside a warm duvet and sleep all morning.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


The annual visit to Kolkata ended a week back.

Work/school has begun and we are back in the swing of things.

The lazy mornings watching the world go by from our balcony, and the hectic evenings of catching up with friends and family have already retreated to the silent shots in the camera.

But Kolkata lingers...

In the 'panchphoron' and 'radhuni' - spices peculiar to the Bengali cuisine - that my in-laws have packed for me.

In the Cookme 'mustard paste' that is adding tartness and the sharp tang of memory to fish curries cooked in Borivili.

In the Bori (dried balls of ground lentils) that is adding crunch and the bite of nostalgia to Maharashtra-bred vegetables.

In the Jaljeera (a sweet-salty-tangy powder) from Tasty, which is being dissolved in water (and a bit of tears) to make glass after glass of cooling drink in manic Mumbai.

In the sarees from Dakshinapan and the books from College Street. When we open and use, we breathe in deeply and remember.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Today is Ashtami, and I assume that Maa Durga has already started to feel a little sad hollow in the pit of her stomach, because the end - of her longed-for visit to her baaper bari (maiden home) - is slowly drawing to a close.

I always feel a similar hollow in my (somewhat more rotund) tummy when I am in the midst of a holiday, because THE MIDDLE IS THE BEGINNING OF THE END, if you know what I mean.

And the really fun part of any holiday is the first part, just as the most maddening part is the packing before the journey.

Because our annual Diwali sojourn to Kolkata is drawing near, it was really quite easy to visualize this.

PLACE: Shiva's mountain-top villa/palace/cave in Kailash.

  • A flurried ten-handed goddess-wife-mother
  • A spaced-out, always-high husband
  • Four squabbling children
  • Sundry hapless assistants

Durga is packing suitcases. Ten hands help, but then, she has top carry a lot of weapons and other paraphernalia that'll be hanging on these arms for the stage-show. Plus, there is a hell of lot of pet-food to carry.

Durga: "Laxmi, you don't need so many gold biscuits and silver coins, just take the credit card. Saraswati, can't you swap those heavy tomes for an e-book reader? Ganesh, go on a diet, at least for the sake of your mouse! And Kartik, it is all right to be vain and metrosexual, but do you have to take so many boxes of pancake? Or your nasal hair trimmer? It is only five days, you know! Can we get things moving here? Nandi (Shiva's assistant, who is known to puff on his boss's chillum on the sly) have you booked our boat/elephant/horse/Meru Cab yet? Why does nothing here happen on time?

Shiva: "That's because we live out of time...in eternity... (seeing Durga's frown)...At least look at me, I am such a light packer, taking only my tiger-skin toga."

The be-spectacled Saraswati (she wears contact lenses during the five days) looks up from her copy of Lonely Planet:
"Yeah, and PETA is after you for that. Can't you wear something more eco-friendly?"

Shiva: "What, like those Naga sanyasis. You'd prefer me to be a nude-dude, then?"

Laxmi: "Baba!! Don't shock Ma's suburban sensibilities."

Durga, distracted from her packing:
"Hah! I was always a metro miss till your father married me and dragged me to the jungles and hills. What a place! No network signal on my mobile, and no work from any of you!! Just look at me, I've been packing since days, and there's still so much left."

Ganesh, chewing the edge of his trunk (which means he's hungry):
"Don't forget to pack enough food for me. You never bother to cook food during holidays, and I get jolly tired to pecking on fruits and sweets given to us. These humans are too clever by half, they polish off the really tasty bhog pretty darn fast!"

Laxmi: "You've taken my jewelry box, haven't you? And don't try to filch my bangles. Please wear your own...having ten arms is no excuse for taking my bangles and bracelets."

Saraswati: "Have you taken my I-pod? That loud dhaaker music makes my head ache!"

Kartik: "Can we stay near a salon this year? Five days of smoke and fumes from the dhunuchi and my skin cries out for a facial. And I think I'd like to have my navel pierced, it'd look cool with my dhoti and angvastram."

Shiva: "Yeah, let's swap our mandap for a mall this year. Some of them have really good booze shops..."

Durga (frustrated, exhausted, exasperated) challenges:
"Fine. Just take care of the reservations. It's so not fair having to take you along every single time. What about some ME-TIME for poor old me? Any more back chat from you and I'm flying solo. It's MY HOLIDAY and I'm going to chill."

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Serial watching is serious business.

Just ask my Ma.

It needs
multi-tasking (switching between channels and also doing other work at the same time),
time-management (between the same),
dexterity (with the remote),
hand-eye co-ordination (knitting and watching TV simultaneously),
an understanding of melodrama and human psychology (rightly guessing who will do what next, and also guessing what had happened in case she misses one/more episodes),
and, of course, an elephantine memory.

My Ma manages efficiently to keep abreast of all the prime-time serials in all the channels. And her 'Prime-time' extends from 7 p.m to midnight. And she manages to simultaneously cook uo delicious fish-curries for us.

When I asked her what was the secret behind her being such a SUPER SUCCESSFUL SERIAL-WATCHER, she placidly said:

"Ad breaks help a lot. When ads come on Star Plus, just switch to Zee. Then to Imagine. Then to Colors...
And, if you miss out for some reason, watch the rerun very late at night or next afternoon."

WOW!!! At least, serial-watching has a well-planned technique. Unfortunately, the never-ending serials themselves do not seem to have any such science or strategy.

Friday, August 20, 2010


There I go, that's absolutely the wrong question to ask.

Flirting is a delicate art. Like the art of making the fluffiest and lightest pastry or cupcake or gelatto, flirting requires a light hand. Make that a light heart. And a glad eye. And a lightly raised eyebrow. And the lightest, most coquettish fluttering of eyelashes. Accomplished flirts can flit - like butterflies - from here to there, bestowing a smile, a wink, a flattering comparison, a risque compliment, even a suggestive proposition. All this without getting enmeshed or entangled in anything heavy or sordid like a relationship. Flirting is like those 100% fat-free gelattos, they are frothy, dainty, gossamer, and 100% commitment-free.

Flirting is the art of the indirect.

Unfortunately, I am a rather direct sort of person. A bumblebee who blunders straight into trees, rather than a butterfly.

If somebody pays me a compliment, I always wonder, "Really?" and often say aloud, "Why?". I raise my eyebrows rather than flutter my eyelashes.

Maybe because of my contact lenses, it is easier to raise eyebrows than it is to flutter eyelashes. Whatever, I am really really heavy-handed and get all hot and bothered by any kind of flirtatious contact.

Which is a pity, because flirting can make your life really easy. You can jump queues, get small favours done, get the best products on offer, get extra discounts, get better service, get away with late-coming/bunking/shirking-work/not-meeting-deadlines/making-1001-mistakes/murder. Anything, actually.

Flirts can pirouette and escape the consequences of their inaction. Whereas blunderbusses like me have to prove myself with every action.

So, let me be direct, and ask you, "Can you flirt?"

Because, to my ever-lasting regret, I CAN NOT.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I hate tunnels.

Especially the under-passes built near railway stations or under flyovers, for teeming millions to cross over from one side to another. There is one near Sealdah station in Kolkata, and one under the Western Express Highway in Malad, Mumbai, which I had/have to familiar on a daily basis. And, in this case at least, familiarity breeds contempt. Ugh!

They are dank, dirty, musty and crowded. There's water dripping down walls and from cracks in the ceiling, and I shudder each time a cold drop falls on me. There are rodents and cockroaches scurrying along the drains at the side. There are pushing, groping crowds hurrying past in the permanent semi-darkness.

And what amazes me most are the tenacity of the vendors who have made these tunnels their workplace, staying in these claustrophobic surroundings for hours on end, like denizens of a nightmarish nocturnal hell.

And they sell spinach and bananas, garlic (to ward off vampires?) and knick-knacks. I always feel too suffocated to buy. The walls seem to close in, the ceiling seems to press down upon me. I rush as fast as I can, tripping on the uneven tunnel floor, ducking the leaking water, holding my breath to avoid inhaling the stale air.

The sunlight at the end of the tunnel always seems a bit too far away for my liking.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Grand Slams look unfamiliar these days.

Because Federer is exiting so early. No, not the first-round, but even the quarter-final is such an unexpected result from my favourite player. In fact, I usually do not watch the early rounds in Grand Slams at all, catching up with Roger when he strode into the quarters and beyond, mostly winning, sometimes losing, but always, always immensely, delightfully watchable.

Now, without Federer, the courts seems emptied of artistry, bereft of magic. The red clay of Roland Garros is harsher, bloodier with the grunting, lunging, gutsy, athletic Nadal and his power-tennis. Wimbledon's grass is no longer that shade of brilliant green it was for the past so many years.

Now, watching the finals of a Grand Slam is no longer a matter of biting fingernails, knotting-up stomach and clenching fingers together in prayer. Where I would jump from point to point, game to game, set to set, swinging between hope and despair. Where I could cry unabashedly when Federer's subtle charms would self-destruct or be mauled by the hard-hitting determination of his opponent, usually Nadal. Where I could watch, enraptured by the mastery of a man who could transform a movement into a masterpiece with his timing, touch, grace and fluidity. Where I would rejoice at witnessing magic and history weaving together a unique spectacle.

Now, I can relax during a Grand Slam final. It's just two men slugging it out - with the stronger one, in mind and body, the one who seizes the moment, winning. Tennis has become a battle of power once again. A game for gritty warriors, not the magic of the artist.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Not just the low-pressure zones in the sky that invite the heavy rain-clouds and the monsoon, but the hollow feeling in my stomach when I look at the still-wet washing hanging on sagging lnes inside rooms where they have no business to be. Wet clothes should dry fast and smell fresh and sunny, not go on hanging for ever.

Is the muck that rises up to greet your feet (or ankles, or knees, or waist - depending on the water level) when you wade from job to home, or anywhere to anywhere.

To take the raincoat or the umbrella? The foldable brolly or the huge one with the hook-like handle that always gets stuck in other people's bags? Whatever I decide is ineffectual anyway, because the monsoon has a mind of its own. And a heavy downpour can throw cold water on all my decisions.

The sheer cussedness of auto-richshaw drivers who are always zipping up and down, but never where you want to go. In monsoon, along with dengue and malaria, auto-rickshaw refusals reach epidemic proportions. Even if you have tons of grocery bags on your arms, or wet-and-wailing children in your arms. They'll never go where you ask them to, but always stop and pick up the next person.

Personified by me when I am standing in the pouring rain, trying to flag down an auto, with an ineffectual umbrella in one hand and the aforesaid tons of grocery bags on the other hand, getting horribly late for home.

Personified by monsoon-mad Mumbaikars who seem to be in love with this misery-pouring season. As Obelix would say, "These Mumbaikars are crazy!"

Me arguing with the above-mentioned mad phalanx and saying, "Monsoon, huh? The sooner it is over, the better. And anyway, why doesn't it just go and rain on the lakes, instead of messing up my life?"

Is a fast-forward to a future when the lakes are full and the sun is shining.

Care to add some more words to the list?

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Probably I'm late, as usual. Probably everyone of you have already been there and done that.

But I'm just so, so excited about about this on-line bookshop I've just found out about - FLIPKART.COM.

They have the most amazing collection of books that most other bookshops (even my favourite haunts like Landmark and Crossword everywhere) do not have in stock. And they offer you pretty decent discounts! And they'll deliver it home, if home is in India, without any shipping charges!

I managed to track down a whole lot of completely delicious and completely unavailable-elsewhere women detective fiction authors from the 1940s-1960s. Everybody's heard/read/seen/bought/trashed/loved Agatha Christie. Her contemporary, Dorothy Sayers, - more erudite, and, ergo, less popular - graces Crossword/Landmark shelves in her shiny reprinted avatars. But I totally flipped over when I found rows and rows of juicy murder mysteries by Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh (Christie, Sayers, Allingham and Marsh are together revered as the Queens of British Golden Age Crime Fiction), Josephine Tey and Patricia Wentworth! Virtually close enough for me to reach out and touch! Now I can't wait to bite into them!!! And it's great fun just browsing along and adding random favourites to my wishlist!

But if you are completely unmoved by Miss Marple and Miss Silver, Lord Peter Wimsey, Roderick Alleyn, Inspector Grant or Albert Campion and the rest of those ancient genteel-detectives, you can always search and find your own poison!

A site for all bibliophiles to flip over!! I have!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Sometimes, I travel to the ad agency where I work part-time via a little neighbourhood called Amboli in Andheri. It is a place where many of the residents are Catholics, and it's a place where things seems to slow down of their own accord.

My auto-rickshaw, which hurtles down the manic Andheri roads when it is not fuming at traffic jams, trots with leisured ease down the winding paver-blocked Amboli roads. The sun seems softer, the shops seems sleepier, the air seems gentler. There's a playground where somebody has thoughtfully hosed down the grass-less field, so that the kids can play without the swirling dust choking them. There's a street-corner flower-shop, where a maxi-wearing young lady with flowers in her hair deftly weaves myriad garlands. There are gaggles of goats and sheep by the roadside - some leaping out to surprise the auto-driver, some chewing cud casually. And there are numerous wooden or concrete crosses with the legend I.N.R.I (Jesus of Nazareth, King - Rex - of Jews; in Hebrew script, I and J looks the same).

This benign spirit seems to guard and cosset lilting lulled-down Amboli from the heat and dust of Andheri - with its buzzy busy-ness and reckless skyscrapers and frantic shops. Amboli houses are small, dilapidated, sloping-roofed shanties, or four/five storeyed small-townish apartment blocks.

That place has a character of its own - a stubborn refusal to blend in with the rest of the faceless, multi-storeyed, swanky-malls-dirty-roads urban desertscape of the rest of Andheri.

It's anyone's guess how long this oasis will hold out. Deserts have a habit of taking over everything around it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


My maid, who lives with us, often mispronounces English words. With the unexpected effect of hitting the nail on the head!

For instance, she says "China" instead of "channel" (her favourite TV 'China' being STAR PLUS, with its plethora of primetime tearjerking soaps). Maybe she's just being prophetic, CHANNELS in India are about the only thing that are not being MADE IN CHINA at the moment.

She also says "Anyplane" instead of "aeroplane". Again, it is an insightful comment on the aviation sector, especially since any number of airlines are now fighting it out for their piece of the sky.

But the one I just love is "TOPIC JAM" instead of "TRAFFIC JAM". It is almost poetic in its possibilities. Check this out:

Elder daughter sitting in front of a pile of books right before exams, wondering where to begin. TOPIC JAM.

Packed Staffroom at our college. Teachers talking in loud voices across the room at cross-purposes, everybody unable to hear anybody else. TOPIC JAM.

Fourth lecture after recess. Poor students yawning away at my Communications class, head already full of Accounts and Economics and Maths. TOPIC JAM.

Me racking my brains, stumped and struggling to come up with new names/lines for pens/financial services/just-about-anything for clients who seem to be insufferingly insatiable. TOPIC JAM.

Newspapers refusing to budge beyond the misadventures and misdemeanours and misappropriations of Lalit Modi, even though the IPL is history. TOPIC JAM.

Me gazing at "still working"/"loading"/"refreshing" monitor, cursing slow Internet traffic speed. TOPIC JAM.

Lovely phrase, is it not?

Monday, April 12, 2010


The Copy-Kitten (my younger daughter) is a bold little mite. She tries her loudest best to argue the pants off people ten times her size (and age), and her voice is the 'most-heard' (top-of-the-volume-charts) in the playground.

But two things scare her, especially at night. Especially when she's in her bed listening to her routine bedtime story, and she wants to go to the drawing room to get a new book. So I have to suspend my story-telling and accompany her - small hand gripped tightly in mine - to the bookshelves to pick out another book.

She's scared of Wee Willie Winky. You know, the fairy fella who looks in at windows and peeps through the locks, to see whether all the children are in bed by "eight o' clock" (That's for Brits, I've modified it to 11 o' clock). The Copy Kitten calls him Winky Willie and gets all round-eyed when the curtains blow in the night-time breeze. It just might be Winky Willie, she claims in a hushed voice.

But she is re-assured by my BIG-ness (age-wise and size-wise). From the pictures of the puny, pointy-eared Winky Willie in nursery rhyme books, she has deduced that her Maa will be more than a match for him.

What scares her more are AATANKWADIs (Terrorists - she pronounces the word in the Hindi way). Whenever there are noises of crackers bursting too loudly, she'll get all worried and plaintively ask whether there are Aatankwadis around. What do they do? Where do they come from? How can we save ourselves if they do come? How will we fight them? How will the police fight them? ....

I don't know where she learnt about terrorism. I don't know when and where terrorists will strike. And this not knowing makes my reassurances rather unconvincing, at least to myself.

The Winky Willies of fiction I can combat. But as for the aatankwadis, I feel as helpless as any four-year old. And angry, at this spoiling of innocence that is the legacy of our terror-riven world.


Monday, March 22, 2010


I travelled with Deepika Padukone today. As I was coming to work, I sat alongside a smiling Deepika, all demure-pretty with a clip in her hair and a sunny yellow dress, posing against an impossibly-blue sky and a fairy-tale cottage with a riot of flowers in the garden.

Surprised? Don't be. Ever since I came to Mumbai, I have travelled with the likes of a fresh-faced Salman Khan (with long-hair, cute-smile and his shirt-on, looking like he did in his Hum Aapke Hai Kaun days). And with Amitabh Bachchan, when he was still a beardless and helmet-haired angry-young-man with an intense gaze and a sneer on his rouged lips. And a cherubic-fresh Preity Zinta, or an angelic-vacuous Aishwarya - often dimpling down at me or gazing down at me from both sides. Or sometimes a Shah Rukh Khan from his floppy-haired, puppy-eyed days, who looks ready to break into a K-k-k-kiran every time the vehicle stutters in a traffic jam.

No, I don't travel in a Merc. I travel in auto-rickshaws. And one of the greatest amusements is to find whose image will be there on the inner walls of the rickshaw when I climb in. Glossy, glamourous and larger-than-life travelling companions I can look at when the rickshaw is stuck in a traffic jam.

And imagine myself in the company of stars. After all, Mumbai is the City of Dreams, and a little bit of tinsel gets rubbed off on me even when I am caught in the middle of suburban roads and daily chaos.

Unfortunately, all auto-rickshaws do not have Bollywood stars as interior decoration. Some have lights and blasting sound-boxes, some have shabby velvet and some have shiny rexine. But, for me, the shine is missing from a rickshaw-ride if I don't have a brooding Amitabh by my side. Or a rosy-cheeked Aamir. Or a twinkling Juhi Chawla.

I'm not choosy. Just celebrity-struck when I'm traffic-stuck.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


...is a man (the AGE-OLD saying is reversed, obviously...we are the NEW AGE women, are we not?)

I have a husband who (till now), loves me a lot. I also have a husband who criticises me a lot. Oh, they are one and the same person (till now, at least).

And although I appreciate the love and crib at the criticism most of the time, on retrospecting (on the belated and auspicious - to shopkeepers - occasion of Women's Day) I realised I should value the criticism as much as the adoration.


Because the spouse's criticism...
...keeps me grounded. (Too much flattery swells the head.)
...gives me a challenge. (I thrive on 'TO-DO-BETTER' lists.)
...gives me a chance to fight back. (Shouting is a good stress-buster.)
...has become such an inextricable part of my daily routine that I would probably die of shock and deprivation if he changed suddenly and became all 'red roses and diamond rings'!
...lets us enjoy the process of making up after a bout of accusation-flinging and screaming match.

Now, I am not going to tell you how!!!


Monday, February 15, 2010


Being a neat-freak, I would probably have chucked them straight into the dustbin.

Till the tear-drop-shaped beige half-shells of a kilo-bag of pistachios were rescued by my daughters, who demanded, "Maa, we want to play with them."

The younger Copy-Kitten, who loves her Sunday-morning pasta, went to the kitchen, withdrew enough pots, pans and ladles to set up her own restaurant, and started cooking pista-shell Macaroni (resembling the shell-pasta - conchiglie - I often make for them).

The older Lil Cat, who is now deeply into the rollicking-Roman-and-gallant-Gaul world of Asterix comics, decided to convert her hoard of pista-shells into sestertii - the coins used by Julius Caesar and his ilk.The Copy-kitten, true to her name, abandoned her presumably half-cooked macaroni, followed her sister and became a sestertii-trader.

When children propose, Mummy obliges. So I spent the better part of Valentine's afternoon (the spouse was away in Pune on post-blast news-duty anyway) mixing gold and silver acrylic paints with binder and applying colour painstakingly to about two hundred gold and silver sestertii. The new-found treasure is now safely stashed in an unsed moneybox. And I re-learnt a lesson that happiness often lies in the most trivial of things.

You are welcome to come and share. The macaroni, the sestertii, or the remaining pistachios. Or your take on the question stated in the title of this post.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I was writing a kite-flying post for my other blog, Past Continuous, where I mentioned the manja - the sharp paste containing powdered glass that is coated onto kite-strings to give bite and edge to cut the strings of competing kites.
In Bengali, when a girl dresses up in all her finery, people (especially older male relations) often comment in jest, "khub manja merechhis toh!" (You've put on a lot of manja).
Presumably, it means that adornment (dress, make-up, et al) is like a weapon with which the woman arms herself (like the kite's weapon is the glass-edged string). If life is a battle of sexes, then it is only logical to step out armed with a suitable weapon.
For whom, though? To cut other kites, or females, out of the competition? And, is there an underlying assumption that women are like playthings in the hands of men, and they can pull us along like kites? Ahem, ahem!!
But the manja is a double-edged thing. It can cut other kite-strings...and also cut the palms of the inexpert string-puller. So, men beware!!! If you persist with making inoffensive but double-meaning comments to prettily-dressed members of the opposite gender, remember that your palms may get badly slashed, especially across the heartline.