Monday, December 10, 2007

The best review of Titanic I've read

This one was recorded on January 28, 1998, by P.D James in her published journal, Time to Be in Earnest. It pithily hits the nail on the head in a way that most film critics couldn't manage.

"It is over-long but the special effects are certainly memorable and will no doubt achieve an Oscar. I didn't believe in the young lovers and was irritated by the usual Hollywood anti-British bias. The Englishmen all wore evening dress to demonstrate their upper-class unfeeling arrogance, even on the last night of the voyage, when they would not have changed for dinner, while the Irish were happy innocents dancing their jigs below deck. One of the crew, who in real-life had behaved impeccably, was shown as a murdering coward, which I thought unforgivable. The young hero, Leonardo di Caprio, clung to the wreckage on which Kate Winslett was elegantly lying to deliver a poignant valedictory speech before sinking slowly out of sight. I felt the energy required for this could have been better spent in swimming to a similar piece of wreckage and keeping himself alive. But I have no doubt the film will be an immense success with adolescent girls all over the world."

Why I love P.G Wodehouse

Who else can come up with a gem like this one?

(The reference is to a pretentious poetess, who's also an imposter. The story is Leave It To Psmith)

"She was alone. It is a sad but indisputable fact that in this imperfect world Genius is too often condemned to walk alone - if the earthier members of the community see it coming and have time to duck."

Aaja Nachle

Objectively, I give 6 stars on my scale to this one.

Subjectively, I'd watch the movie again for Madhuri alone. The soul she puts into her performances, and particularly her nritya, is a rare treat for a dance lover. Like many other crazy fans in this country, as long as she's dancing, I'm sure to watch.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Movie Rating Scale...

that's maybe less arbitrary than the rest.

Despite online booking, ticket home-delivery, phone booking and the other paraphernalia of the multiplex experience, the pulsating thrill and racing heartbeat of getting a movie ticket remains unchanged for me. The magic of watching a movie on the not-so-big-any-longer screen is that for those few hours, you're in the film's world, you're consciously choosing to share the experiences and tribulations of the characters that inhabit this world. It's only fair to expect that this world live up to its hype, unlike the real world, which has very little hype and even fewer expectations riding on it.

Here, therefore, is a completely personal movie-rating scale devised after watching many of the much-hyped movies. In each case, a * is the existence of the attribute; no stars allotted for non-existence.

1. The film moves you or makes you think or makes you laugh (with it, not at it) (an extra * if you're still thinking about it favorably the next day)
2. The characters resemble human beings you may know or like to know (and I don't mean six-pack abs or perfect10 figures alone)
3. The performances make the characters believable
4. There is an interesting story, which is well-scripted and well-told (an extra * if the story is exceptionally different)
5. The film carries you along; there isn't a moment where you wish you hadn't spent all that money and effort to watch this one
6. The song-and-dance routines, if included, are foot-tapping or heart-warming
7. The dialogs and lyrics are non-cliched and add to the characterization/songs
8. The film explores some new ground, whether in story, direction, music or any other aspect

On this 10-star scale, my ratings on the last five movies I've seen:
Saawariya: 6 stars
OSO: 5
Dor: 8
Bheja Fry: 7
Dhamaal: 3

What are your ratings of your recently watched movies?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Shake a Leg...

Jhalak Dikhla Jaa judge Jeetendra recently said that dancing was about letting go of your inhibitions. Like most art forms, dance is also a very self-centered expression of emotion--joy, excitement, love et al.

Or so I thought till I joined the dandiya crowd. Some dance for joy, no doubt. It's evident in their smiles, in their movements, in their obvious enjoyment of swaying to the music. Some dance with pressed lips and blank faces. Some try really hard and the 1-2-3-4 in their heads obliterates everything else. Some are alive for the moment and let themselves go. Some dance with determination. And some dance as a pure demonstration of technique, as if to show how much better they are at it.

Expressions vary too. Some look you in the eye and smile. Some look at your dandiya stick, ascertaining the exact moment to hit it. Some have a very focused look, like in an exam. Some look through you. Some, especially children/adolescents dancing with adults, look either utterly self-conscious or supremely disdainful. The pros look indifferent, dancing in a vaccuum, indifferent to who, if anyone, is partnering them. And some actually look sulky.

Having known the utter joy of letting yourself be one with the music, I wonder what other motivations they could be for dancing, especially in a setting that is community-based, non-competitive and purely voluntary. Does anyone have any ideas?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ear-plugs anyone?

The first day of Navratri is here. Mumbai is dotted with bright lights and dandia pandals. The orchestras and live DJs are earning a sizable part of their annual incomes. So are chaniya-choli and jewellery sellers. A good time is to be had by the local economy.

Our society has also organized nine nights of garba and dandiya, with a live DJ on the last day. The surprise is that my thrive-in-noise daughter is unwilling to go; unsurprisingly, she's more interested in what the TV's dishing out. Like every year, I'm torn between going to look at the dandiya (I love watching it, though I haven't yet had the courage to try doing it) and staying as far away from the cacophony as possible. I think I'll follow my daughter's example--probably check out Jhalak Dikhla Jaa for some good-quality dancing (I used to be a die-hard Nach Baliye fan, but this season is more about masala melodrama than dance. Plus, Saroj Khan isn't there) and give the headache factory a miss for today.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lead me from temptation

This anniversary brought not one, but two, boxes of Belgian dark chocolate. Shatrujeet, to whom chocolate means nothing, put them in the fridge without a second thought. Kaavya, who lives for chocolate, doesn't like the dark variety with its bitter overtones and strangely flavoured fillings. As for me, with my serious weight problem and equally serious efforts to do something about it, I was afraid to open the fridge.

It didn't help to think about painful old age, blood pressure, diabetes or any of the other fearsome consequences of obesity. The fact that I'd recently lost some weight after iron self-control was hardly a motivator. 'If you did it once, you can do it again,' said a voice, as the rich brown squares beckoned after each meal. I tried to divert myself with a million things, but it was like a tune that plays in the back of your mind. Every thought I had was laced with dark chocolate.

I travelled the tried-and-tested route of each temptation: ignore (Try not to think about it), deny (I don't want it), appeal to goodness (It's full of calories and very unhealthy), warn about consequences (I'll gain weight again and I know how hard it is to lose), and then the brainwash and the false promise (Ok, one small piece isn't going to hurt. I promise to stop after one piece). I felt a force stronger than me leading me to the box, struggling desperately with the covers, till I bit into one piece of the heavenly stuff.

Well, half of one of the boxes is over, generously aided by me. I've tasted all the flavours in that box (cinnamon and coffee were absolutely wonderful) and the weighing-scale shows a rise of one kg. Sigh! There's still one whole box to go, and my generosity seems to have withered in the face of such temptation. I cannot give it away, I cannot throw it, and I definitely cannot eat any more. That's not completely right, I can eat more, but I don't want to. Well, I want to, but I shouldn't. And what one should or should not do is never a very good reason for anything.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Impressed by 'Possession'

It took me more than a month, and a few digressions to less taxing worlds, but I've finally finished reading Possession by A. S. Byatt.

It's not a book to go to for a light read or an adrenalin rush. It isn't 'interesting' or simple, it isn't heart-warming or mind-numbing. But I found that it lingers, like a faint perfume or a half-formed question.

It's a labyrinth from the present (in the book) to the past, it has so many layers and characters and metaphors that one read is simply not enough. It professes to be a romance, which it is, doubly so. It is also a mystery, a satire, a commentary, a history, a cultural study and poetry, with a bit of science, religion and philosophy thrown in.

I read it fairly slowly, which is unusual for me, and I did peek at the last chapter when the suspense got too much, which is pretty usual for me. Though it answered most of the questions it set out to answer, it left several questions in the mind, especially to someone like me, whose idea of Victorian times is confined to Agatha Christie's observation that the Victorian mind is like a 'sink'. There were many references and allusions that I desperately wished to understand better; there was so much poetry that I wanted to interpret better.

My biggest grouse with the book, however, is that the core of the book, the poem about Melusine, is incomplete. When Byatt took so much effort to compose poetry, I wish she had taken a little more effort and finished the tantalisingly beautiful poem.

All in all, a really rich book, if you're prepared to enter its world, for it makes no effort to make the task easier for you. Like all good books, I won't forget this one in a hurry.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tug of War

A small, sturdy boat, bright blue and red, eager to feel the wind and touch the water, impatiently pulled at the strings holding it back.

The boatman sat on the bank, he and his wife had spent many days making this new boat. He wanted to look at its gleaming colours and perfect body one more time. His hands hesitated on the strong rope; he didn't want to take the boat out; he knew she would never be the same again. He could feel her tugging but he didn't want to let go yet.

This was his own boat, the very first he had built for himself. His eyes shone with pride as he looked at her. He looked around the river, his boat seemed to be the most beautiful of them all. His heart felt heavy at the thought of his boat becoming like the others. He thought of the harsh sun and the lashing rain; he saw his proud boat admitting defeat; tears came to his eyes as he saw the wreck she would be reduced to.

He looked down at the boat again. She was bobbing excitedly, tugging at the rope furiously. The gleaming paint caught the sun, making the boat glow with joy. A wind from the water ruffled the boatman's hair. He held the rope tighter; the boat felt like it would break away any moment. He got into the boat and set it free. His heart lifted as he felt the boat moving, one with the water and the wind.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Though the number has many cosmic (and even cosmetic) connotations, this month, it marks the number of years I've been married. Someone asked me what it felt like, whether the seven-year itch was a reality.

I don't know if it's that precise a delineation. I guess you can get the itch anytime, depending on the current relationship and the opportunity or temptation available. I don't even see a sea change in my relationship from this month on. What I do see is the gradual development of an understanding where words become unnecessary; I also see an acceptance, resigned, half-hearted or cheerful, of quirks and habits. I sense a rhythm in life, and I strongly sense my reluctance towards any change that breaks this rhythm.

Discovery seems to have given way to surety; conversations now start midway through thought. Arguments have become fewer and are usually along well-traversed routes: his smoking, my obsession with perfectionism in housekeeping, his busy schedules and utter ignorance of anything to do with the house, my impatience with Kaavya. Learning about each other continues, though the pace has slackened with time and the need for individual growth.

I've begun wondering if marriage is overrated in our society. How important is a stable relationship that you can take for granted? Is it worth the effort that goes into building a relationship, with all its paraphernalia of home and family? Many people of my mother's generation are of the opinion that the basis of marriage is procreation and child-rearing. Some friends remarked that 'spending time with each other' was not what marriage was about; after a certain number of years, they said, spending time alone becomes preferable. And remarks like 'this is not the man I married' or 'we've grown apart' or 'she's changed' are common enough to be almost cliched. So, are we back to the fundamental truth of human beings--to want ties and freedom at the same time?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

THE FINAL on the streets

India broke its 24-year record of not winning a World Cup Final yesterday. The Twenty20 World Cup is ours, we defeated Pakistan, and we did it without a coach and the 'experienced' players of the team.

The day of frenzy began with radio stations dishing out couple passes to watch the match on the big screen of a Fame theatre. I witnessed history on Linking Road, Bandra, the haven for street-shopping in Mumbai. The place was deserted, what with Ganpati Utsav and the match. Apart from loud honking and the rain, the one constant sound was radio commentary. In one shop, the cashier was glued to the telephone, as the caller told him about the fall of the sixth wicket. The salespersons looked preoccupied as they tried to figure out what the score was.

In another lane, the radio was on full blast in some shop, and most people just stood where they were to listen. Some radio station was also doling out Rs 10,000 to lucky listeners for every wicket that fell. A heavily frequented sale saw the customers trying really hard to gain the attention of the sales staff. Conversations about shoe sizes tried to fit into updates about runs, overs and wickets.

In the row of pavement stalls, amidst dirty streets wet with rain, the final wicket fell. The news came from a guy, who was listening to the commentary at a shop and relaying the news to the unfortunate who had to attend to business as usual. The joy was palpable, audible and overflowing. People congratulated each other, there were calls to stop working and go out for some mithai. Loud fireworks followed soon after.

The last word came from my maid this morning. "Those players are going to earn pots of money. What are we going to get? Are they going to give us even a rupee? The public goes mad for no reason at all!"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Corporate Culture (hardly!)

I was recently in a telecon with the CTO of a Mumbai-based company. The subject was a case study for one of their vendors. The vendor's marketing offices are in Delhi and Bangalore, apart from Mumbai. So, I dialed a number in Delhi, the Bangalore and Delhi marketing persons joined, then the CTO was called, after which the Mumbai marketing person also joined in. Here we were, talking seamlessly from three corners of the country, discussing how the vendor's solution had helped the company. It made me wonder if technology contributes to the illusory sense of self-importance that the corporate world is reeling under.

On a similar project, I had once gone to interview a senior manager in another company. He looked at me in wonder and said, "So you have come alone...", probably expecting an entourage of reporters and cameramen keen to find out how his security solution had helped his company.

Anyone who's worked in a corporate would have encountered situations of being in the same elevator or the same cafetaria queue with senior management. In most cases, the manager will look through you even though he knows you; if you aren't on his project, he sees no reason to even acknowledge your presence. (Of course, you can say this of many co-workers too.)

It's easy to imagine the sense of power at that level. Making decisions worth millions, being invited to give your opinion on sundry matters, giving media interviews, taking calls on appraisals and recruitments.... Swollen heads and bloated egos are natural consequences, as managers begin to feel they have a God-like status in their respective domains. Interestingly, the more incompetent the manager, the more drunk he is on his power... or should that be vice versa? Even more interestingly, this attitude tends to seep down as the company grows. As rounds of promotions happen, the promotees pretend to move to a different universe and divorce themselves from the unchanged realities of their yesterdays.

Having been part of this world for a considerable period of time, I have shifted from disbelief to resignation to sheer amusement. The last time I shared that elevator with two managers who were still in the company because they were too complacently incompetent to go anywhere else, I could hardly keep a straight face. I mean, here were these two guys, trying very hard to talk about strategic decisions and bringing in business, in a space that they were sharing for less than a minute. What were they doing the whole day, if this discussion had to happen at 8 PM in the elevator? And even if they were extraordinarily busy (hard to believe as we had very few projects or pitches at that time), surely there was tomorrow?

And I haven't even started on other corporate paraphernalia like meetings and processes. The intentions behind both are always good, I admit, and they're designed to make life simpler for those involved. Experience, however, shows that only about 10 percent of the meetings I've attended in my working life, and an even less percentage of processes, have met that purpose. I've created training sessions on how to conduct meetings and make them productive...need I say more?

My point is this. When the company is small and is exploring new ground, there is very little hierarchy and very few processes. At that stage, everyone has fun working. Dedication, creativity, imagination and quality of work are all-important; new thoughts and ideas are welcomed and employees are encouraged to think out of the box. As the company grows, all this takes a backseat to hierarchy and processes; decision making becomes slower and more cautious, fewer risks are taken, and 'corporate culture' sets in, acting as the last nail on the creativity and innovation coffin. All of this is reality, even though there will be exceptions. Isn't there something wrong with this picture? Shouldn't things be different?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Lost in translation...

Croissants, a popular-ish brand in Mumbai if not anywhere else, has opened a branch nearby. For those not in the know, they make croissants, of course, and the most delicious, scrumptious, melt-in-the-mouth pastries (heaven must feel like a bite of that Dutch Truffle). They also sell something called bread. For four days last week, they were out of bread, whatever time of the day I asked for it. The standard response each time was, "madam, abhi-abhi koi le gaya". This conversation happened on Day 5 and left me all confused.

"aap roz kitni bread laate hain? ek?"
"nahin madam, do."
"bahut zyada laate hain!"
"nahin madam, zyaada nahin laate. yahaan koi bread nahin khareedta."

The rains are back!

I've been waiting for this for almost a month now, in which time I've tried to psych the rain gods into visiting us again. My ringtone and my chat status message have been giving out really big hints. And finally, all those prayers are answered! After a dry July, the famed Mumbai monsoon is back and all's well with the world. (Which makes me wonder: was I farmer in a previous birth?)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Edit It

Copy editing is something I love doing. Carving meaning out of language, testing the limits of words, creating something that the reader would like to spend time over are some of the perks that come with the job. Another perk, of course, is to see the horrors that language can create (no offence meant to anyone whose work I have ever edited). When these masterpieces don't come to me en masse an hour before the deadline, then, well, there's something to be said about their unintentional humour. Here's one of those, about the writer's visit to a hospital to interview someone for a story, which was too bizarre for words. It's in mint condition, except that names of people and places have been removed, for my safety.

"DR have give us proper direction, where to come but (the) campus is so huge, it really very difficult to find out where is sits in campus. On top of that, the security guard standing on the gate gave us a wrong direction and we end up reaching into (the) mortuary. What we saw there left us horrified and totally grossed out. Dead bodies stacked up in half open gunny bags! What were those doing there, we have no idea. Anyway, after an hour long hunt we finally managed to find our destination."

Ik chhota sa lamha hai...

Gulzarsaab has the knack of putting a lifetime of thought into a single line. This is one I often think about, the one moment that haunts you forever, that you can't let go of and that doesn't let you go. Aren't all our lives full of such moments?

Time doles out generous doses of amnesia. Life picks up pace everyday, till you are running so fast that you don't know whether you're coming or going. The dust of life's journey settles on things gone by, on innumerable moments that were precious back then, but seem to have no meaning now. 'Moving on' is important; is looking back important too?

In the hazy world of memories, it's difficult to tell between castles in the air and the ground beneath your feet. Yet, in this ever-shifting, ever-changing world, there are always islands that stand out crystal clear.

Sometimes, I don't need to do anything to realize that I'm on one of those islands. Talking to a friend reminds me of our long Ayn Rand discussions. A chance e-mail takes me back to many, many conversations that changed the way I looked at things. Working furiously to meet a deadline sometimes brings back the fragrance of winter nights in Delhi. Kaavya's voracious, delightful ice-cream eating always, always reminds me of my first taste of Nirula's Hot Choc Fudge, of one afternoon spent with friends when we talked of nothing in particular. A casual conversation suddenly stirs up dregs of the past, things that I thought I had left behind, things that don't seem to have left me.

I recently watched Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar again. I didn't expect a nostalgia trip, but I got one hell of a roller-coaster ride. I don't watch Dil To Pagal Hai any more; not because I don't like the movie, but because it brings me face-to-face with bitter-sweet moments that haven't ended for me.

Memories don't need roadmaps, they only need cues to come out on stage and play their part. And as long as life goes on, there will always be moments that refuse to take their final bow.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The spirit of Mumbai

There are two kinds of people who talk about this phenomenon:
1) Those who run this country/state/city, or are supposed to. This sect believes that showering praises on the undying spirit of Mumbai gives them cause to test that spirit some more, and absolves them of all responsibility;
2) Defensive Mumbaikars or Mumbai-ites, especially when in heated conversation (read the 'I'm superior' argument) with Dilli-valas or Delhiites.

The spirit of Mumbai is the flavour of the season when drains overflow, uncleared garbage and dead rats compete for space on the roads, the Western Express Highway becomes negotiable by boat, and people spend their days throwing rain water out of their houses. The average Mumbai resident is as capable of a drunken brawl as his North Indian or any Indian counterpart, but somehow, the state of the city doesn't raise any tempers. Year after year, people die of dengue and malaria; year after year, officegoers take pleasure in relating 'stranded in the rain' stories. Flooding, water logging, houses being submerged... these aren't inconveniences any more, they're part of the Mumbai folklore, of what people have to go through to survive in this city.

Is this much-famed spirit just another name for sheer indifference? Or is it that the people of this city pleasure their struggles with the monsoon? Does it add to their self-esteem to have braved another rain, to have vanquished, perhaps, the only opponent they can vanquish? Is this some warped superiority complex that says, "Hey, look what I have to go through to just reach to work and back, look what I have to fight to live?" Or, is it a stoic resignation, a fatalist shrug of the shoulders, as eking out an existence and chasing dreams leaves space for nothing else?

saawan ko aane do...

In the middle of the much-awaited monsoon, parts of the country are wishing the rain clouds away, while in other parts, hopeful eyes gaze at the blue skies. There's something about the weather that always makes it a hot topic for conversation, whether you meet someone for the first time, renew contact with a long-lost friend, greet your spouse in the morning, or chat up a prospective partner. The weather is in nobody's control, yet everyone has an opinion on it. And the wisdom of the ages sprouts anew in the human mind, when the year's first rain showers the earth.

From the met department to the predictor family of astro, numero, and tarot, everyone is into second-guessing what the clouds have in mind. And once the monsoon's gameplan is clear, news channels move in for the kill. You can sense the announcer's exultation when the reporter hits paydirt--flooding in Milan Subway. The excitement is palpable, when citizens of this wet, wet city badmouth the BMC on camera. Channels feel they've earned their ad revenue the day the tracks get flooded, trains stop, commuters are stranded, and the country can see this live 24x7. As long as the monsoon arrives, and as long as this country has politicians, the news channels are assured of breaking news for at least three months of the year.

Despite the saas-bahu melodrama that the monsoon has been reduced to, there's still some untouched beauty left there. The fury, the unpredictability, and the sheer joy that rain falling on earth evokes is almost indescribable.

In Delhi, like everything else, the rain arrives with a lot of shosha. Dusty winds churn dead leaves and roadside garbage, the sky is thunderously angry and lightning flashes threateningly, until the rain begins, cooling tempers and bringing relief from the never-ending heat. In Mumbai, the rain arrives with the matter-of-factness of a crowded local train. Dark, heavy clouds move in from the horizon, gather mass, and empty their load. If you aren't smart enough to jump for cover in time, you're drenched, and before you know it, the sun is out. I had a ringside view of this at Marine Drive. Two women, deep in conversation, didn't bother to move, because they knew the futility of it. College kids took the opportunity of getting a good drench. Lovey-dovey twosomes... well, they continued with what they usually do at Marine Drive. Everyone grinned at each other, deriving pleasure from predicament. The tea-coffee and bhutta vendors peddled their wares with more confidence.

Of course, if you watch the news carefully, these images will flash too, along with the ones that satiate the morbid appetites of the nation. Like everything else in life, the monsoon too has two sides.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Sound of Silence

"Why is it so quiet? I like noise," says my four-year-old daughter.

I can't recall at what age one begins to prefer silence. When do you realize that you like to sit quietly, with yourself, for a few minutes that stretch to infinity? When does the complete lack of any sound stop being threatening? When does the endless sea of cacophony--blaring horns, impatient vehicles, incessantly ringing phones, conversations, arguments, television, radio, Himesh baba blaring in Coffee Day, loud music at every favored hangout--become an ordeal that one must live through to reach the shores of all-engulfing silence?

The wait for quiet is never as excruciating as during the Navratri in Mumbai. While bright lights and loud music find adequate complements in earthily colorful chaniya-cholis and feet that can't stay still, the monotonous and nerve-racking noise soon becomes an assault. There are those who live for these nine nights, there are those who are overwhelmed by the city's changed colors, and there are those who can't wait for them to get over.

Some people prefer the solid familiarity of noise over the unknown infinity of silence. The boundaries of their world are comfortingly etched by noise and sound; they hate to feel the gulf of loneliness that lies in the silences beyond. But silence is solitude too; quiet is comfort too.

Silence also has a voice, but it speaks only to close friends. Shyly, it welcomes the tired souls who have heard enough, seen enough, been through enough. It's a soft hand on the forehead, a firm grip of your hand, when you need it the most. For all its elusiveness and fragility, it is still a friend worth having. I have known no silence more intense, no quiet as deep, as that which flows from a clear night sky. The dark sky quietly ponders over its deep secrets, as the stars twinkle down at me, reminding me of the proper place of a single planet in the unfathomable cosmos.

A series of irritating sounds proclaim that someone's car is in reverse gear, and the whole universe must stop its ruminations and take note of the fact.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Overheard at a coffee shop

“You never understand what I’m saying.”
“But I do.”
“No, you don’t.”
“How can you say that?”
“Because you never do understand. I know.”
“How do you know?”
“You never remember what I’ve told you.”
“Okay, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand you.”
“So, you do understand my feelings?”
“Of course. I think I know you better than you think I know you. Do you know me at all?”
“Of course I know you. I know you better than you know me. I’m good at knowing people.”
“Okay. Let’s order ice-cream.”
“No, too many calories. I’ll have coffee.”

Friday, July 6, 2007

Ah! The Joys of Parenting

Here are some things that only parenting allows you to do. It follows that, if you don't want to do any or all of these, don't even think about that bundle of joy! (Statutory warning: I've been a parent for only four years; so this list is liable to change as my work experience increases.)
  • Chant about brushing, bathing and eating as you would a prayer
  • Try to fight a range of fears: monsters, strange sounds, whether the body can crack and break up, darkness, strangers, cockroaches and other bugs...
  • Answer endless questions about bodily functions, including throwing up and the like
  • Have a ready, rapid, thought-on-your-feet, and reasonably believable answer to any unforeseen 'why'
  • Devise endless games and conversation to motivate eating
  • Think up all the stories and rhymes you can, and make up your own when all else fails
  • Play with dolls (or at ball) all over again
  • Learn to read out loud better than they teach at all those voice-modulation classes
  • Think back to how your parents 'disciplined' you
  • Be prepared, awake and alert at any hour of the day or night
  • Grope and grope for ways to keep the over-energetic, extremely inquisitive, and ever-ready-to-play-but-not-ready-to-sleep thing busy
  • Pray for schooldays and groan at holidays
  • Get in touch with your rusting imagination
  • Witness the creation of an individual

I guess the list will never end. But more additions that you can think of are welcome.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Happiness in a coffee-cup

My first recollection of coffee is from more than 20 years ago, when we visited my parents' friends in Bangalore and Chennai. I was fascinated by the all-pervading aroma in each household. I envy each South Indian, especially Tamilian, their filter coffee even today, for I still can't get it right, no matter how much I try. I recently met a Tamilian who said she preferred tea and hated coffee. Blasphemy!

Tea and coffee are religions, and conversions are near-impossible. I need a cup of strong, steaming, fragrant coffee to come to terms with each morning. Give me tea, and I don't think my day will ever start. The followers of bed tea look at me strangely.

I used to be a chai-pakoda person in the monsoon, but that was before. When it rains outside, I sit at the open, long windows of my 4th-floor apartment. The warm mug of coffee feels heavenly when raindrops gush in and fall like fine spray all over me. After the mad morning rush of doing everything that comes with running a household, including packing off husband to office and daughter to school, a cup of coffee is my sigh of relief, the brakes I apply before moving on to the rest of the day. And not so long ago, when I used to work or study through the night, I found that nothing beats the aroma of coffee mixed with fragrant night breeze. In the crisp, cold nights of December, or the raat-ki-rani perfumed nights that brought on warmer weather, this strong brew was my constant companion, keeping me awake and alert.

Connoisseurs are finicky about their brew, but me, I'm a fan. Any good coffee is good for me, as long as it's not too milky or too sweet. The worst coffee I've had is at airports, both Delhi and Mumbai. It's cloyingly sweet, very watery, and usually flavored with 'ilaichi'. And through bitter experience, I learned never to order coffee at any restaurant in Maharashtra. Whether you order coffee or 'Nescoffee', the latter priced double the former, you get a milky, creamy, sugary thing, pale brown in color, with no hint of coffee ever having been added to it.

So, what's your religion?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The fever of communication

Communication, information, in the loop, on the page, revert, get's spreading like a disease, this need to know, to be aware, to not be left behind. Work is 'appreciated', commitment is 'rewarded' and performances are 'appraised'. Are we talking the same language here? Or maybe I'm mistaken in believing that work is passion, commitment is inevitable, and performance is the result. According to one of the world's many prevalent philosophies, one needn't worry about the result; one only needs to worry about working whole-heartedly.

There is a mis-communication, I know. Forget about page, I'm not even in the same book. And worse, I don't know who my reporting manager is. So, who will tell me what I'm supposed to do, where I'm headed? Did they even create an ID for me in this century?