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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Little One And Me

Since you all have been regularly reading and commenting on the various articles and posts here, I thought I may just once again re-introduce the other blog, My Little One And Me......

Yes, it is under the category of 'parenting', but you really do not necessarily need to be a parent to read what I write here. Its more a jotting down about the life of a modern-day mum, that I believe I am, and how it is in these times and days to bring up a little one, how different children are from our own childhood.... The blog is a place for all those who, of course, are parents, as also for anyone who is generally interested in children and would like to know more of the fun and frenzy of the world of being a parent.....

Do have a read and let me know your thoughts.....For your reference, here is the link:

The Doings Of The Ooparwallah

The building where I live is a multi-storey, a typical 28-floor building like many more in Mumbai. Its got a lovely mix of people, well, some of them are really good friends, almost life family, some are quite good, some are hi-hello acquaintances, and some I barely know....

Each morning if you look down your balcony, you will see a rush of people going out of the building. If you happen to look during dawn, you will see a surge of people going out for their morning walk, if you look a little later, post 7-ish, you will find a few mothers taking their kids down to wait for the school bus. The office crowd too starts to trickle out by then, all washed and clean and smelling of expensive perfumes and running out.

One such day my friend too was rushing out to work, all set for the day. When, suddenly, a downpour of water left her standing soaked and fuming. It was not monsoon time in Mumbai and there had been no clouds, and even if it was rain it would not have been smelling the way it now did from my poor friend's clothes. She looked up - and saw the water pouring out of a swishing broom at an upper floor balcony.

She shouted at the maid to stop, to see that there were people below and to tell her what had just happened. The maid scurried in. So my lady took the lift and went back up to the offending apartment, of course she anyways had to go back, she couldn't go to work dripping wet and smelling of phenyle water!!!!

The man of the house was already standing at the door when my friend reached there to tell them what had happened. He stood with his hands on his hips, barring the way for my friend to talk to the woman who happened to be an acquaintance. When my friend told him what had happened, he said it was not his problem, that he could not help it, and then, to top it, he said - 'hum to gundey hain, aisey hi hain'(we are goons, we are like this only).

Well, not that we were much surprised with his response, he is much (ill) famed already. But now, we are constantly careful of the ooparwallah's (the person who lives upstairs) doings, and dodge our way carefully to work.....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Antilla - The Ambani House Of Shame

For the last few months, the newspapers have been sharing a curious case of show-off....a show-off that should undoubtedly be billed as one of the worst show-off ever......
For the Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil, showing off has always been a way of life. What one brother does, the other absolutely has to do better and bigger. If you have splurged X amount of money on completely useless things, I will go ahead and splurge X Y and Z amount...and make sure the whole world knows about it, that I did it better than you....that is the Ambani mantra of so-called fame, which, in more humane terms, amounts to SHAME.

We all know Mukesh has gone ahead and made himself the most expensive residential building in the world - Antilla. For starters, Antilla is situated on a 4,532 square metres (48,780 sq ft) plot at Altamount Road on the famed Cumballa Hill South Mumbai, India, where land prices are upward of US$10,000 per square the maths. What would have been 60 floors in a normal building, has been made into a 27-floor building and has 600 full-time staff to manage the house. Antilla has 3 helipads, 6 floors for parking, a full floor for car maintenance, balconies with gardens , entertainment floor with 50 people seating floor, a refuge floor which would come in use in emergencies, facilities for athletics and a swimming pool, 2 full floors made of glass-front especially for guests of Ambanis. It has been reported in the media to have cost between US$1 billion and $2 billion, making Antilia the most expensive residential building in the world.
After the house was complete, the newspapers reported of the glitzy house-warming party thrown at Antilla, where 80 guests were handpicked from across the globe to come and have a look at this new marvel on the Mumbai horizon. Guests gushed over the ballroom (which they mentioned is second to none in the world), the bandh-gala clad attendants in the elevators who took them to a windy terraced garden that looked out at Mumbai down below...It was an instant success..

Of course brother Anil Ambani has already declared that the world needs to watch out for his new home, which, as is to be expected, should outshine Antilla.

Now just the statistics and a little slice of reality, nothing too important though:

1.While Mumbai has the world's most expensive residential building in the form of Antilla, India continues to have a third of the world's poor.
2.According to a World Bank survey, India falls below the international poverty line of US $1.25 a day (which is approx Rs.21.6 a day in urban areas and Rs. 14.3 in rural areas. Was just wondering what a family of, say, two adults and two children, with a daily income of Rs. 21/14, eat...any ideas? But of course the Ambanis need not bother, they are safely away from all these inconvenient facts, inside their home that costs only about $2 billion, which is about Rs.94,220,000,000..what a looong figure no, especially in front of a plain Rs.14...
3.Mukesh has made his kingdom the most expensive in the world, but India also tops the charts in other spheres. India has 230 million poor people who are undernourished - the highest for any country in the world. More than 1.5 million children are at risk of becoming malnourished because of rising global food prices, with India ranking 94th in the Global Hunger Index of 119 countries.
4.As the Ambani clan continues to grow in width and weight (of course the credit must go to the mouth-watering delicacies prepared in that house of diamonds they are so happily showing off), out in the streets of India, 43% of children under 05 years of age are underweight. So much so, that we have even managed to beat the data of the sub-Saharan Africa's figure of 28%.

Enough of the boring data and figures...I know Mr.Mukesh Ambani will really get bored by the time he reads till here (if he ever does that is), after all, I have failed to mention the dazzling chandelier, the spa, the swimming pool, the luxuries that are spread inside this magic kingdom.

Many nut-heads have tried to justify this splurging by saying he is providing jobs to at least 600 people at his that was the saint-factor that is being used to make it look justifiable? A family with a father, mother and three they really need 600 people to look after them, and, do they really need a house that is 60-floors? Mr. Ambani, give me a really good reason to justify what you have done here...really...take a look at yourself in the mirror, try and revive your conscience once (if it is possible) and talk to it, and then try and come out with a really good answer.....

Till then, keep living in your HOUSE OF SHAME......

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Just As You Step Out Today

Hey you....all set to go out? Ready for office? Or all decked up for that party? It's an evening out with friends, is it? Great....You're looking good...have a lot of fun.. n enjoy....have lots of good food and wine, or whatever is your choice of poison tonight....just have a blast...

But hey, as you leave out the door, can you just grab that pack of biscuit maybe? No no, I know you really don't need that....

You could give it to that little girl peeping in at your car window you know...the one who's so hungry and tired n yet needs to beg to eat...she would really have a treat with your pack of biscuit....

Most parts of India are in winters now....its so chilly isnt it? Cant step out of the house without being properly covered.... so you're all ready, aren't you? But one sec, why not pick up that old sweater? Yeah, that one, the one you haven't worn in the last 3-4 years, the one that doesn't fit anymore....stashed in the bottom of your closet? Just keep it at the back of the car will you?
You see that woman under the flyover? She is trying to keep her baby warm. See that spread of old newspapers she has on the road? And see that bundle on it? Thats it...her little precious baby...she has put him there so that the baby can have just a little more warmth, so that it can live just another more day......your old unused sweater would really save a life you know.....

The western parts of India are so so hot now.....the heat is unbearable, its summers here all over love that AC dont you? Bless the person who invented it... and the fridge...where would you be without your bottle of chilled water or cool juice? How refreshing, isnt it?
One sec...going out? Why dont you grab that empty bottle of water and fill in some drinking water in it? Yes yes, I know you dont need have your sipper of cool water all see, its just for that little boy standing out at the traffic signal, waiting for the lights to turn red and come asking for some help to get him his next meal...the sun is really harsh outside your cool car....your one bottle of water would give him much relief from the unbearable thirst you know...

And as you are already out of the door....why not pick up that old pair of slippers that you know you will never wear again? Whether its really hot or really cold outside, someone out there could really do with some slippers on their feet....

Its the season of sharing and that....and be proud of yourself...that at least you do care, no matter what anyone else is doing or not doing, in your heart, you will always know that you did....and that someone did get a smile just because of it, if only to stoke your ego into feeling proud of your own self, if only to make yourself proud of doing something that you should simply do as part of being a human......

- Debolina Raja Gupta

I care for the countless little ones out there....Do you?

am too busy to care, but want to do something. Jaago Re and are helping me do my bit for the society.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gymming Torture...

Now why do I go to the gym everyday? To exercise and be fit, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought too……and that’s how it was and still is supposed to be….
But consider this… walk into the gym, all ready to sweat it out, that lean fit image in your mind that you one day aim to achieve and that always seems like such a distant dream….always eluding you like that …..please fill in the blanks here with whatever it is that you have been trying to get and are never really able to get…… go inside the gym with such a passion and energy…
Only to find out…………………………………….
That the aunty there is watching one of those ever-so-pathetic Indian soaps….the ones with the scheming in-laws and the scheming wives and the plotting husbands and second wives and mistresses and girlfriends and boyfriends and lovers out of marriage and lustful neighbours and crazy middle aged Indian aunties and horny middle aged Indian uncles and teenaged giggling Indian dumbettes and teenaged idiotic Indian machos and all those seemingly homely and religious Indian wives in one-hundred-and something yards of designer sarees and twenty kilos of jewellery and only five-six layers of makeup with backless blouses, peeling and cutting vegetables in a designer kitchen (no matter how much their husbands earn, since only the husbands earn in Indian soaps, the wives only chop and peel and look designer even when they wake up in the morning)………………..
Ok… heard it….
Now I really want to know what has any of the above got to do with a gymming session? Anything in common? At all?
If only, if only, those aunties, or even one of them is reading this right now…one aunty reading this will be enough, as she will be kind enough to pass it on immediately to the other ones….you’re getting the drift I see ;)
So yes, now I always enter the gym zone properly armed with my headphones, my ears already being hammered full-blast with hop-hop n some sexy numbers, so that I don’t have to be aware that the background score booming from the television set is always ready to make you go mental….. and a little secret sharing here with you all….sometimes I even hide the remote ;) wicked no? lol
Aaaahhhh aunties….i hope one day I get to meet the aunty of all aunties…yes, Ekta Kapoor herself, I will ask her only this….”What did we mortals ever do to make her unleash such wrath on us, why is she trying to wipe us all out like this?”

That Feeling Of Something New.......

What a lovely time of the year this is…isn’t it? Im sure you have felt that ‘something special’ in the air too.
Oh c’mon, get your lazy bum off the bed and go take a look at the world out there….you know, that wonderful smell you get as you take a whiff of the outside world and fill it in your lungs…its so screaming about the spirit of festivities and the feeling of joy that is all around.
Diwali is gone now, and the malls and the markets and streets are already gearing up for the arrival of Christmas and the approaching new year. As if we Indians need a reason or season to celebrate….looks like celebrations and festivals have become our regular daal-chaawal now, our staple meal….we simply need festivals to survive.
It’s so nice to walk out of the house and walk into festivities everywhere you turn and look - the stores are all decked up in those flashy little bulbs that keep blinking on and off with those multi-coloured lights, the malls that have already figured out the marketing strategies and are ready with their many events and shows, the stores decked up with Christmas tree already and the lights and mistletoe all in place.
Its as if the place is all buzzing with action and just giving you reason to get up and walk out the door and be a part of all the fun and activity happening out there….
So even though you really don’t need to buy anything as such, you still end up taking a stroll in the mall (yeah, I know you’re smiling or maybe smirking at my mention of the word strolling in relation to the mall, as if I was strolling in the garden, but oh c’mon, isn’t that what we really are doing these days? Like, spending more time in the mall than maybe in a garden?) so coming back to where I was…..even though we really did not plan to buy anything, we still end up taking a walk in the mall and by the time we are out, we invariably end up with atleast one shopping bag in hand…admit it ;)
So it’s really the festive season all around and the season when the pockets and the wallets are gonna show some real weight-loss ;)
Lots of cheer and fun and merry-making…..and a whole lot of good and wonderful things and gifts and joys in life…..
By the way, why not share a little joy with that little child on the street? U game?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Oldest Book And Its Memories.....

I am one of those eternal book-worms who, no matter the place or time, is always found with a book in hand, or as is the case on certain occasions, in the handbag. All my friends have at one point or the other, given voice to this statement.
I have always proudly stated the fact that I am die-hard book-lover. And my house is a testament to that statement. My bookshelf is packed from bottom to top with books – horizontal, vertical, diagonal, wherever there is even a teeny-tiny bit of space left, I have used it all up to introduce a book in between.
My love for books is a little partial – the older the book the more I love it. And I just love the smell of old books, though I also love the ones that are fresh off the press, but there is always a certain charm and story in a book that is old, that has had another keeper before me, and I love to smell those pages, to feel the hands that must have turned these very pages that I am now turning, in a different era, in a different place, maybe in another country altogether.

One of the oldest books that has lived on my bookshelf, is the novel titled ‘Hotel’ by author Arthur Hailey. It’s been almost twenty years now that I have the book with me.

The story of me becoming the proud keeper of this book is very close to my heart.
As a child I have always been drawn to books, even as I was a little girl of three, I remember my ma would sit with me on a cold winter afternoon, the sun shining shyly through the clouds, and me and ma poring together over a book -my eyes wide with the bright big pictures, while ma would read out the story word-by-word. And it was no wonder where my love for books came from. My ma was, and still is, an avid reader, and my maternal grandfather is the one before her who always shared a love, no, passion, for books.
So it was always a treat whenever we used to visit him during school vacations in his home in Assam, his room filled with bookcases that were stacked from top-to-bottom with books, very much the way my bookshelf at home now looks.
It was always my most favourite spot in the house. The bookshelf with all its charming titles was left open to me to browse and go through. As I grew from a three-year-old to a young child who could understand and appreciate books more, I was allowed to open the titles and read books that I could understand. My maternal grandfather never stopped me from picking up a title and reading it, just because ‘I was not the right age.’ He believed that, if I understood the concept and the writer’s point properly, I could try and give it a read. Of course there were certain books that were always off-limit – ‘you will get these when you grow up.’
On one such visit I was browsing through the bookshelf when I came across this red-covered book amidst thick leather-bound books. The red of the cover was what drew me to it in the first place. And the fact that it had a door-knob on its cover with a key dangling from it that said ‘St. Gregory’ was an even bigger mystery. I took out the book and turned to the back cover. It was a story about a ‘hotel’ , ‘St. Gregory Hotel’ in New Orleans to be precise, and the book’s characters were vividly drawn from tycoons of the hotel industry, the guests, the staff, men and women, young and old, the dedicated and the amoral. There is a robbery and blackmail at the hotel, a near-disastrous orgy and a takeover battle and a love story, and many more such incidents that remain etched in the minds of the readers along with the characters.
Of course I was not at an age right then to understand the whole of it. So I took the book to my grandfather and asked him if I could borrow it. The rule that time was that whatever book I could understand I was free to keep, but a book that I did not understand needed to be borrowed from him and returned. He told me I could read a bit of it and try again later, when I grew up a little more. I started reading the pages, but by the time my vacation was over, though I had only been able to understand the first few pages, I had started to like the book a lot. So I begged him to let me keep the book. ‘I know you will take care of it, so take it, and read it slowly. You will understand it better once you grow up.’ And that book became mine. It has been on my bookshelf ever since then, and I spent the initial few years reading it a few pages at a time. As I grew up, the book and its characters seemed to grow with me, and I began to understand their lives better, in a more understanding light than what I had thought the previous year.
The first page of the book has my grandfather’s handwriting on it, his name, Kalibhushan Banerjee, written in cursive with an ink pen. He is now no more, and this sign of his will always stay with me, reminding me of those wonderful visits I had at his place, and the love of books that he has left me as a priceless legacy.

The second page of the book has my grandmother’s handwriting. She had presented it to him on his birthday, and it lovingly reads in her cursive handwriting, in an ink pen again, ‘To K Banerjee, on his birthday, from Bibha. 6.1.79’ she too is no more, and I can only look at this handwriting now to smile at those wonderful years that will forever be cherished in my memory.

As I see these handwritings, even now I can see the way their hands and mine write in a similar fashion.
I can never let this book go. How can I? when it represents to me the love and memories of my grandparents. They are the ones who helped and fuelled my ma’s and my interest in books, and for that I am forever grateful. I can never let this book part from me, it holds too many precious memories, memories that are mine and I will not allow to be shared. Memories of those days spent at the bookshelf, at those evenings discussing a writer or a book, those tea-time chats of who is reading what and sharing our thoughts on varied topics.
I thought I would forever keep this book with me, well, that cannot be. I have to be gone one day, the book will still live on. And though I was sure I would never be able to decide who to pass on the book to, now I know who is its rightful owner.
My little daughter of three is exactly like me. She is a book-worm, and can spend the whole day happily by just reading books. Like me, she too has her own bookcase, already crammed with her many books. And going by the love she has for books, I know she is the right person who should be made the keeper of this book and its memories.
My grandfather never had a chance to meet her, my grandmother did, that too only once, and I am sure this book will give her a piece of all those memories that have been mine over all these years.

To read about my books, you may like to drop in to my book world on

Monday, November 22, 2010

Whats With The Painters And Their Un-Decipherable Creations ???!!!

Yesterday I happened to be at one of the most well-known and respected art galleries in the country. It was my first time inside an art gallery.....and most certainly my last !!!

I thought I would be greeted with walls and walls of beautiful painting, depicting landscapes, or people, or places...or SOMETHING!!!!

When I stepped in I waited at the gallery gate for a moment...was this the right place? The walls were lined with canvases that were filled with...well, nothing!!!!
One creation, for example, was a huge cream canvas, with a huge black L in the middle...thats it...and it was SOLD!! really...I so wanted to meet the person who had bought it...and thank god it was SOLD...others would not have to see it again in the gallery.

Another one was again a cream canvas with a huge black line in the middle...thats all...and no prizes for was by the same guy !!!! Oh....someone, please someone, tell me who this so-called 'artist' is!!!!

Then there was the section of modern art!!!!
A broken hand that looked like it had been wrenched out of a human's why would someone want that???
A head...with a twisted nose and only one eye....what??!!!!
A wrist with five fingers intact (thank god) thats all....I thought it was supposed to be an art exhibition and not a decapitated body-parts show....

In an instant though I was very much aware of what a misfit I was there....I was dressed in a long orange kurta over jeans and had a silk green jhola with me, and chappals....well, the get-up was perfect..But what about the expression on my face?
I think my face reflected realising that this is what is called ART these days! There was this young man standing in the middle of the room, not sure if he was the artist himself, and he kept on looking at me in between talking to others, sometimes gave me a smile, sometimes an exasperated look, sometimes confused, as if trying to understand my reactions or why I was there in the first place!!

It was embarassing...for me as well as for those who I was with...My questions...'What??!!This is ART?" or 'Who made this L? Why?" or "I need to book a gallery too now...if this guy can sell, I will be all sold-out in minutes."

Finally we left....and I know I am never going to be back in this comedy-house again...well, so much for me being a creative soul !!!!

*The image in this post is for representational purpose only, courtesy Google Images.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Potted Palm...

That morning I ran out of the lift
That the watch was winning was already clear, my feet as always late.
That little nursery outside my gate was coming to life
That potted plant in the nursery across the road, the one that always stands in the corner, the one I always see.

I knew Chhotu worked there, I had seen him a couple of times
I knew his name was Chhotu, he used to weigh and buy my old newspapers too.
I saw him now in a dirty vest and shorts, watering the plants, humming a line, scratching his head.
I had been thinking for days of getting a plant, it would look good in my home I knew
I reminded myself again to stop over there in the evening.

Day was busy, coffee-breaks short, and work stretched beyond the given hour
Day was night by the time I entered my gates; Chhotu had left and the plants all asleep.
Day a month back Neeti had told me a plant would look ‘cool’ in my home, Monty had said it would add a ‘literary’ dash to my interiors.
Day was when I had made up my mind I would get a real plant, start having some nature in me. I had been planning to get the plant for long. I made up my mind it would be this weekend.

Palm…its leaves fresh, a lovely green…..swaying in the gentle sea breeze
Palm - I brought it in with much fanfare….the party with friends was due next weekend.
Palm – here in my home. Now the big question – where was the palm spot to be?

My so-called literary spirit required me to put it near the book shelf – but that would block the way each time I headed for a book – no, wrong spot
My nature-loving self said I should place it in the balcony, where the sea breeze would soothe it by day and the pigeons would come down to say hello – but what about the sun who would burn down on it the whole day? – no, wrong spot
My practical self said it should be near the kitchen counter, the green of the palm mixing with the orange and black of my marble counter-top kitchen. What a contrast it would be. But wait, what of the countless mind-numbing drink sessions and the parties that ran the whole night? What if someone tripped over the plant and spilled drinks all over? What a mess it would be!! No – wrong spot again….
My smile grew as I knew where to keep it – of course, the lobby near the hall, no one would be disturbed there for sure….but wait, the costly artificial plant was already installed there, the palm would take away its charm – no, wrong spot….

Oh come on, where would the right spot be? It was just a plant after all – how difficult could it be?

It turned out it was difficult and I was confused
It was late and I was tired
It was night and my favourite sitcom was about to begin
It was dinner time and I hadn’t cooked a thing – again!
It was time to call in a pizza – again!

So I decided to call it a day and end it with a nice movie and pizza
So I decided to postpone the palm-spot hunting for a later day
So I took it out in the common lobby near the lift and kept it there
So that it wouldn’t take up the wrong space in the house and make it a permanent place
So after the pizza was over I kept the box out in the garbage bin and checked the lock on the door
So now that all was done for the day I decided it was time to proclaim my love to my comfortor and go to sleep.

The next day I woke up with the dream still in my eye
The Hollywood crush from my teenage years again bringing back that dance in my steps
The morning awake and ready to head to work
The bath warm, the coffee bitter, the egg soft-boiled
The elevator arrived, stopped on my floor and I skipped in, my heels in matte polish, my bag in place
The hands of the watch trying to win and I trying to win it all over again

Chhotu was watering the plants
Chhotu had told me to water my plant
Chhotu had given me the palm
Chhotu had told me to water the palm – oh shoot!!!!

I told myself it was okay
I knew the plant would be fine when I came back home in the evening
I would water it then.
I told myself it was a plant and would sustain itself for the day
I closed my work and headed to the party – the one Nikhil threw as a surprise
I was sloshed by the end of it
I crashed in with Niti and slept off another horrible hangover – the ones I keep promising I will never have again
I borrowed her shirt next morning and went to work straight from her place
I finished the deadlines
I was dead by the time I reached home
I headed straight for the couch, then the call-in number, then the shower
I ate and fell asleep on the couch
I dragged myself to bed and slept

Next morning I ran to work
Next moment I remembered the palm – wasn’t I supposed to water it?
Next thing I thought was, it was out in the common lobby
Next-door neighbour would surely water it once at least
Next time I stepped home I would first water the plant
Next day next day next day….the week was over and my palm had stood alone, waiting…..

And I was out on a work trip
And the next I would be home would be two weeks later
And the one time I remembered about my palm was when I remembered I had forgotten to water it
And the only thing I could hope for was that my neighbour would water it

Chhotu was sitting in the lobby weighing the papers
Chhotu put the old newspapers in his bag and extended his hand to hand the change
“Chhotu, come back after three weeks” my neighbour said…..uh…what was his name?
Chhotu replied in the affirmative and looked at me as the door closed….

“Didi, can I take away the pot?”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beauty - Not How You Look But Who You Are

Was switching channels late night yesterday and came across this documentary on the Indian actress Freida Pinto, though really not quite sure if she still considers herself Indian or not, given her inclination towards all things Western and her sudden (smart move though) adoption of Hollywood and the Western film world.

The programme mentioned Freida Pinto as ‘The Ultimate Indian beauty’…ummm….welll….uhhhh……really?

Slumdod Millionaire was a nice movie…no doubt about it, but was it the only great movie that India has ever produced? And were the cast and crew who were a part of the movie the only good ‘talent’ we have in India? Come on, we all know we have done way better than this……agreed it was a nice movie, but I feel all the brouhaha surrounding it was quite too much, almost bordering on the point of being insane…..
Now who really thinks the ‘Jai Ho’ song is Rehman’s best till date? Well I wont say much about his talent or compositions here, but the fact is, listen to five songs of his and you have almost heard most of the work he has ever done or will do…
And what about the amazing singer Sukhwinder who actually sang Jai Ho? Did he even get the credit for the superb performance? Poor guy did not even get the visa clearance to travel for the Oscars…what a shame!!!!

I was watching the documentary and it was obvious the western movie people are much besotted with Ms. Pinto. Which is a great thing given the fact that in India, being dark or wheatish is considered an insult and unless you are fair, you are not really beautiful and capable of success (as per the #$%-headed fair and the lovely people in India) While someone tended to her hair, another was applying make-up, asking her in-between if she was happy with the look, someone was arranging food, someone water, someone procuring an umbrella to cover her when she walked out in the sun. There were people all around her, tending to her, looking after her, making her look good for the way it is needed in front of the camera and for the many glamorous shoots – it was all fine…But what I felt was not fine was the description of Freida Pinto as being the most beautiful face in India – a great body, yes, but the most beautiful Indian woman? Well that she seriously ain’t.

I have been born and lived in this country all my life and know for a fact that India is brimming with beauty. Agreed Indian women may not be of the slim build as many women in other parts of the globe – but when did beauty have anything to do with your waist size?

Look around you and I am sure you will see many beautiful faces. Why go elsewhere, look within your home first, what about your mom? Well, you may not think she is the typical ‘beauty’ now, but take a look at those old family albums and the B&W and sepia faces peeping out, you will soon know what I mean.
Or look at your neighbour, yes, the one who stands quietly in the lift each day as maybe you are all running out in the rush office hour. Isn’t she beautiful? She may not be the anorexic size-zero that is now the fad and definition of being beautiful, but catch her giving that good-morning smile to the watchman or sharing a candy with the kid standing out on the road and you will know what I mean.
That chubby mother buying vegetables at the local market - her son jumping around, hardly listening to her telling him to stand still – and there comes the slap on the back and the wail. For that moment you would never think she is beautiful, a chubby, out-of-shape mother slapping her child, how can that be beautiful? But look at her the next instant, leaving the vegetable bag and, instead, bending down to her child, wiping his tears and hugging him, apologizing for her anger and her eyes wet seeing her child cry – look at her then, isn’t she beautiful?
Your mad friend, the one who talks too much and is always fighting, the one who is always the tomboy and beauty is the last word you can associate with her, hear her concern when you call her at 2 in the night telling her about your worries and talking your heart out. When you hear her silence, tuned in to what you are saying and concerned for you to be happy, don’t you know then she is the most beautiful friend you have?
Your landlady may be the typical nagging woman you so hate, but remember those days when you were sick and missing your mom’s home-cooked meal, and surprise surprise, your landlady turned up at the door with a home-cooked dinner? Wasn’t she really beautiful in her care that moment?

Calling Freida Pinto beautiful is appropriate, and if she happens to read this at any point of time, I hope she does not have anything against me, I am acknowledging the fact that she is beautiful. But my problem is simply this – that no one has the right to label a face as being the most beautiful – what are the parameters? On what are you judging? A face that may be the most beautiful to you may simply be another ordinary face to me, and of course vice versa.

Beauty is neither skin-deep nor limited to follow labels and traditions set by society. Beauty is what you have within, in your heart and in your soul, beauty is how you look and behave towards other fellow humans, how you respect the other, how much love and care in your heart to give to the one who needs it. Beauty is not just a fad, it’s a definition of the person you are, the personality you carry.
The exterior may be beautiful, but if the heart is not, it’s just a shallow shell you wear in public each day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Taj Dinner for Rs. 100/- (joke)

Hey guys, this came in the mailbox from a dear friend..Just had to share it with you all :))

A beggar to another beggar: I had a grand dinner at Taj yesterday.
How? The other beggar asked.

First beggar: Some one gave me a Rs 100/- note yesterday.

I went to Taj and ordered dinner worth Rs 1,000/-, and enjoyed the dinner.
When the bill came, I said, I had no money.

The Taj manager called the policeman, and handed me over to him.
I gave the Rs 100/- note to the police fellow, and he set me free.

A wonderful example of financial management indeed

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hoo Haa Over Arundhati Again

Now that the whole nation as well as the world is divided into two sides, against or with Arundhati Roy, it was not much of a surprise that the topic would be the highest discussed in FaceBook as well.

I have never really liked her writing, but that does not mean that I don't have the right to agree with her opinion...I think having one's opinion is still allowed in this country..

So the moment one of my friend's status message read 'I hate Arundhati Roy' it was no surprise that all attention went directly to his profile...and what followed was some hot opinions and emotions running high....

My friend mentioned he hates Arundhati Roy and that she is the perfect example of how democracy and right to freedom of speech can be misused to gain personal fame. Responses started pouring in immediately, with people saying they agree with her, though they may not really like her writing.

Some people have jumped on to the conclusion that Arundhati means Kashmiris are not really a part of India and should be let go. Well, that may be what she implies, yes, but what is so wring with her statement? The tension and fear in Kashmir has been on since forever, as long as I have been born and can remember, Kashmir has always been a disputed land. There are many ways the Indian government could have 'really' done something for them. But a government that only has a big mouth and a hand that only works on corruption, such a government at best is only a crappy stinking shithole of a government, and has no right to promise our Kashmiri brethren that they will still be protected - when they don't even have access to basic human rights.

There was much the Indian government could have done - to begin with, they could have made the Kashmiris a part of mainstream India and provided them with jobs and the means to a better education and a safer and better life....clearly the government of India had no such plans.

Not to mention that the debate on FB attracted international journo as well, and there were many views expressed....But tell me something, if, even after decades of false promises, we cannot do anything for our Kashmiri friends but let them rot on their own, why cant we really set them free? Those who want to choose to be a part of India are welcome with open hearts, those who choose to be part of a separate identity should be given the right to do so.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Handing Out Your Child To Strangers

Was just going through today's newspaper a while back when came across this section that had a sketch of a woman on top of the column.

The heading below was even more dismal: "Baby snatcher"....

I read on to find out which was the latest case of baby-snatching if chain-snatching and bag-snatching was not enough, they had to do this too!!!

What emerged from the report was not so much a case of baby-snatching as a case of 'handing over my baby to you so that you can take it away'...literally!!

In the first instance, a mother was waiting at the CST railway station with a 06-days-old baby.A woman (the one in the sketch) befriended her and as the mother wanted to use the restroom, she handed her new-born to this stranger and left.When she returned, of course the lady had gone and so was her infant.

In the next instance, which is a step ahead of this, a lady was waiting at the V N Desai Hospital Santa Cruz with her two-year old grandchild. This woman (the one in the sketch again) befriended her and she handed her grandchild to her, going out to locate her daughter-in-law.When the two women returned, the burqa-clad lady as well as the baby had gone missing!

I am not going to call this a case of kidnapping...For how can this be so when the parent herself has been callous enough to hand their child to a stranger? I mean, what happened to all those instances of crimes we have read about in the papers? What about the basic rule that our mothers have always drilled into our heads - never talk to a stranger, never accept any gift from a stranger.... And here they are, handing away the most precious gift of their lives to a stranger!!!!

I felt really sorry for the little ones who have been taken away from their mothers forever for no fault of theirs.....another life added to the begging world, another face added to the million innocents outside our car windows.....

This is the sketch released by the police of the monster who stole the babies. And if ever she is caught...I hope she is skinned alive...May she die wherever she is..

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Durga Pujo

It’s my most favourite time of the BESTEST pujo is here....Durga Pujo, the biggest event for any Bengali anywhere on the globe!!!!!

You will find us Bengalis spread across all parts of the globe, many times it is difficult to differentiate a 'probashi baangali' (a Bengali who lives outside Bengal) as they will be completely in sync with the place they live in. But come Durga Pujo and it is utterly impossible to let that Bengali spirit remain within, if you are a Bengali, your Bengali-ness will reflect in all its splendour for all the days of the Pujo.
Suddenly, everywhere you look around, you will notice to your surprise, that the place is teeming with Bengalis of all ages. The elder ones will be typically recognised by the 'shaakha-pola' on their hands (those red and white bangles that are a sign of matrimony in bengalis), the younger lot will suddenly be sporting a traditional look, the get-up complete with a saree, big bindi and traditional accessories and those lovely big kaajal-lined Bengali eyes that are so hard to miss. The young men will typically be dressed in lovely kurta pyjamas, especially the toshor ones on the day of Ashtami.

I remember, when we were young, Pujo for me and my brother would begin much before the real festivities started. The beginning of Durga Pujo would be announced by the mahaloya, for which my parents would wake us up in the wee hours of pre-dawn, sometime around four-thirty, five in the morning, and we would listen intently to the heavy baritone singing and chanting shlokas and hymns from the other side of the air waves, we would be sleepy-eyed, still in bed, covered in the sheets (for winter too would begin its arrival with the advent of the Pujo), and most years, we were already back asleep even before the mahaloya had finished.
Ma baba would wake us up earlier than other holidays, we would grumble, but would then remember it was Pujo day and would quickly be done with the bath, to change into new clothes. It was an event we looked forward each year, those were not the times when we did shopping through the year like its done now. Durga Pujo meant we would go shopping with ma baba and we would get our new set of clothes, we looked forward to this special shopping trip, curious to know what kind of dress we would be wearing in this year’s Pujo.
Durga Pujo meant freedom for ma from the kitchen, no cooking at home, baba would get breakfast from outside and after we had had our fill, we would all leave for the pandals. The smell of the dhuno the beats of the dhaak and the divine eyes of Durga would transform us all into a magic world, a world from where we had no intention of returning soon. Some time later the stalls would open up and we would hog on the mughlai paranthas and the egg rolls and the chops and the fish fry. The book stalls were always a big pull as we would eagerly wait the whole year for the Pujo edition of ‘Anandomela’ and ‘Shuktaara’.
The music stalls would play songs from the latest artists and Pujo specials.
We would go from one pandal to the other and after lunch at one of the pandals we would head back home for a short rest, before waking up in the evening and changing into a set of fresh clothes and head for another pandal. Various cultural events and entertainment is planned for the Pujo, hence we always had a great time watching live shows and performances by renowned artists. After that we would head for a snack or dinner, and then again more pandal hopping.
How I hated it when the day of Dashami arrived, the day Durga would go back to her husband’s home, the day she would be immersed.
We would all begin looking forward to next year’s pujo from right that moment on.

How I miss those days now. Grown-up and so unable to enjoy those special moments. Caught up in work and responsibilities. Wish I could go back in time for Durga Pujo at least.
So I am happy that my daughter too has started loving Durga Pujo. She loves the sound of the dhaak, loves the fish and the food associated with Bengal and Durga Pujo and loves to dress up and visit the deity. I look forward to re-live my childhood Durga Pujo memories with her now.

Wish you all a very happy Durga Pujo!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Un-'Natural' Look ;)

You know was recently in the presence of some wonderful beauty-magicians...those make-up people without whom so many 'dark' secrets (read dark circles) of the glamour world would have otherwise made us 'regular' folk look glamour-world acceptable too ;)

I have always been a fan of clear glowing skin and love to see fresh clean faces in the mags and screen, I feel less make-up always make your features stand out, unlike the notion that the more you highlight your features the more they will look better. Well, everyone to their own view.

Recently I was seeing the deft fingers of one of the ladies work magic on a 'star' face.....well, the lady in question obviously has amazing skin and lovely features. So it was decided that we would go along with her 'natural' look. I settled down comfortable on a chair and waited for the session to get over much time could it take to attain a 'natural' look after all?

Well, just lets say I am still quite naive....and if you are thinking on the same lines, welcome to the naive-souls club...

The first half hour was only to clean up the skin and to give it a smooth even do away with all patchy skin, any signs of pigmentation, any suggestion of uneven skin tone, the first half hour took care of all that...the next part of the hour was used up in defining the features, in giving the skin that glow that I thought came from good food and habits !!!!

Honestly, by the end of the whole episode, which was almost one and a half hours long, I was too bored to death to even appreciate the 'natural' look that was achieved.....

The same night I looked into the mirror and saw a face that had been around for quite some time now.....and somehow, even with all its imperfections and mismatched skin colour I have come to like it.....the little dark circles under the eyes reminded me of the nights I had cuddled my little one in my arms and sat awake till late in the night wile she slept peacefully in my lap...the small spots on the skin reminded me of those trips out in the sun when I have rushed out for a meeting, forgetting to apply that much-vouched-for thing called 'sunscreen.' The little laugh lines that are still too fine for the naked eye at the first instant, remind me of all those joys and happiness that have made me break out in laughter.

Really, I did see the 'natural' look in the morning, but I think I liked the 'natural' look reflected later in the mirror that night :))

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

That Music That Era

Ok well so I have a lot of work today and just needed a break as well.....u know been out of sleep, work crawling into my dreams as well.
so woke up to another lovely day, ready to take on all the roles that lay ahead...started by waking up my little one for school..tickled and cuddled and played itsy-bitsy spider on that small foot sticking out of the pink minnie mouse comforter....
running around, getting her ready, breakfast somehow made to finish, then off to school she was packed off..
next came all the assignments of the day that had to be taken care of started the day with a nice hot cup of ginger-tea...i have found it to be an instant boost and a great start to my days...n the next thing i did was to press the 'play' button on......
Its been so long I heard anything as awesome in western music as playlist includes a mix of beats like Dancing Queen by Abba, Rich Girl by Gwen Stefani, Im a Slave For you and Me Against the music featuring Britney and Madonna, Baby I love your way by Big Mountain, Cocoa Jumbo by Mr. President, white flag by dido, heal the world by MJ, frozen by madonna, simrik by tarkan, i love rock n roll by britney, that thing you do by the wonders, cecillia, honey sugar sugar by the archies, aqua, believe by cher.....all those tracks remember we used to listen to and sing along all the while moving our head and grooving to the rythm?
Cant say this anymore about the tracks these days...i think there are just so many many tracks coming out now that its really hard to keep a track of each and every one of them...maybe there are good ones too, of course there are bound to be...but what about this music that we all have heard sometime or the other and really loved and connected with? Some of us am sure will have special memories attached to many of these songs, I do...and i really miss listening to more music like this anymore..

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

With Language Politics On, Mumbai could soon give cold feet...

Even as India strives to be one with the global world out there, proving to the world that we are not lesser capable than anyone else, that we have what it takes to be a winner, a few narrow-minded politicos are hell bent on creating a barrier within the country itself.

If earlier forcing every shop in the state to display its name in Marathi was not enough, the Maharashtra government has passed a new rule which says that for any grievance that you wish to bring to the notice of the authorities needs to be in Marathi only. The State Consumer Redressal Commission has issued a circular making it mandatory for all complaints at consumer forums to be filed in Marathi.

I dont know much of Marathi, but I know a hindi saying and this is what I have to say to the 'khaandaan' in Mumbai (or BOMBAY as I will still call it) - 'Tucchh log tucchh vichaar', which, translated into English means - low level people low level mentality.

What is it with these politicos emerging out of this one family that is only pulling down Mumbai into the gutters? Talk about hypocrisy and being a frog in the well (well well its not well in this well for sure).....sending their own children to English medium schools and holding lecture sessions proclaiming that all kids should 'COMPULSORILY' learn marathi....while their own kids learn French as a language.
I have been living in Mumbai for the past 4 years and I have started learning the language out of my own choice. Not because some stupid neta said so over the microphone. I like languages and it is the only way I believe that someone should learn a new language, if you like it you learn it.....

As far as forcing it down the throat is concerned, well, now if the middle finger responds to that, I am not to blame!

Talk of not getting enough work, and if this attitude continues, it wont be long before major players in the Mumbai market begin to pull away their executives to better and more sensible places. I guess the only work left in Mumbai then would be to open Marathi schools and try and teach the language to those left behind....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Friendly Elevator

Living in an apartment building there are many people you come across everyday. People who may be dear friends, people who are your immediate neighbours, people you meet on and off and know just as a face and people who you don't know at all.
I happen to live on the 23rd floor and everytime I get into the elevator there is bound to be someone or the other who will get in before I reach the ground level. Over the last couple of years I have realised this is one of the best ways to get to know those who live in your building.
Each morning when I take the lift to drop my daughter to her school bus I meet people who are leaving for office. On most days the faces are same. Its almost a routine, so much so that I know exactly which floors the elevator will stop before we reach ground zero. These people generally hold the lift for some time while the wife/maid/mother hands them their tiffin and wishes them a good day. They are usually loaded with a laptop bag/files/folders/of course the tiffin that was just handed and are all set to face a new day, albeit with some boredom. I wish there was more enthusiasm there. A simple smile and a nod suffices in these cases.
Then there are those I meet while going back up after dropping my daughter for school. This time round the traffic is of a different kind. Not the office-goers, these are others who come to drop their children for school, mostly mothers/grandparents, people returning from morning walk/yoga classes/temple/gym, maids coming in for work. They will usually talk about the latest happenings in other families in the building, complaining about this or that, asking me to visit them sometime (to which I politely nod my head and invite them back-of course none of us ever visits each others' home). There is not much to talk here either, but lots to hear ;)
The next session when I go down is when i have to leave for work/meeting. This time round its mostly the college students who enter the lift, their ears shut out to the outside world in the music of an i-pod or the regular phone, their jaws working in a constant rythm with the chewing gum, their eyes on their sneakers. We share a 'hi',talk about which song is playing, nod, smile and thats it.
On days when I return late I usually end up being in the lift alone, or maybe someone else too is returning from work and we end up taking the lift together. Conversations in this scenario will mostly begin with complaints about the trafiic, about how the roads are packed, about a busy day, about the kind of work that we do, about general chit-chat related to work and traffic. Then again a bye and a good-night as each one gets off at their respective floors.
On days when I am at home I usually take my daughter down to the park. Such evenings are fun for both her and me as we almost always meet our friends in the elevator who are going to the park as well. So its my friends and their children who are my daughter's friends and there is always a lot of noise and commotion and singing and talking and chatting and trying to control the kids to which we all fail miserably when they gang up and decide to be naughty together...on such days when we return back home together its a lot of fun.....
Most of these people, apart from our friends, we hardly visit at home or meet on other days or on personal ocassions. We do not invite each other to our parties, we do not even converse beyond the elevator conversations. But on days when someone is missing from that regular schedule, we all wait to see if the person is coming or not, asking them the next day if they are fine, if they had gone on a trip. We hardly know them, yet know where they live, who is in the family, where they work and what is the nature of their work.
Neighbours they are, and if it wasnt for the elevator, where else would we have met?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wavin' Flag by K Naan

Im sure ALL of you have heard and swayed along to the Wavin Flag by K Naan this year right?

You haven't? Well then, you really dont know what you have missed out on.

The song that was chosen as the Coca-Cola's promotional anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa had already hit the #1 spot in places on the globe like Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Italy, UK and Ireland. And of course by now, its reached almost a cult status in India as well.

The best way to listen to this song, as I have rightfully discovered, is to directly plug it in your ears and pump up the volume - you cant go wrong on that one, the song is literally blow you off your feet and make you sway and dance along with the beats, and beware, you may even put your hands up and start swaying with the Wavin' Flag...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

For You Didan....Rest In Peace.

Didan – a term of endearment. Many in Bangla call their maternal grandmother dida…I called, or rather, will still call mine ‘didan’.
The very first memory I have of didan is when she had come over to Delhi to our home to look after me, while my mother was expecting her second baby. I was somewhere between five and six years of age that time and it was the very first time that I had been away from my ma. Didan had come to look after me specifically for that reason – that I do not feel lonely and that I could get the love and care of a mother – she is my ma’s ma after all.
The first image I have of her is surely from then. I was alone at home with her, and she was telling me a story, trying to make me finish my food spoon by spoon. I remember she would try and try for hours on end and when I still did not listen, she would admonish me with that gentlest of voices, telling me that since I was not listening to my didan, she would have to go away. Most of the time that did the trick and I was back to listening to her. Of course that would be followed by a story and putting me off to sleep in her arms.
As we were growing up, our interactions with didan were more and more restricted to school holidays and vacations. We would look forward to visiting her in the house at Assam. It was always a joy – plunging into that treasure chest of stories that she always had with her, listening to all those childhood memories she would relate to us about when we were small, taking part in some childhood conspiracy and being on our side if we got caught – the typical ‘grandparent’ thing that every child looks forward to. And of course when we visited her, there were always those special dishes that only a grandma can prepare. I don’t remember all of that though, but what I still remember is that on those afternoons, when she would cook up something special for us kids, we would all be sitting together around the dining-table that was covered in an oil-cloth, waiting for her to come and feed us all, and the added attraction being the story to accompany the warm delicious food.
Over time those stories spilled over to an interest in books, and as my ma introduced me to the world of books, didan further helped me understand that world better by gifting me books and making me know how special they are. Today, my little daughter is already a book-addict, and I have didan to thank for playing a part in it.
I used to write to didan in Bangla, a script I hardly used with anyone but didan and maashi, and she would always tell me she loved reading my letters. In later years, the letters gradually disappeared and instead, we would sometimes end up talking over the phone, her soft voice always asking me how I was and what it was that I was doing, always trying to take an interest in my life and understand me better.
Years passed, I grew up and got married. She was very old that time, but still she made it all the way to Delhi, just to attend my marriage and give me her blessings, placing her hand on my head and telling me that her wishes would always be with me.
I remember last year when I took my daughter to meet her for the first time, it was such a special moment - my didan meeting her daughter’s daughter’s daughter - it was a really special moment. And I am glad it happened, she was so happy to meet her fourth generation.
I was planning to visit her again this year, but that time will never come now and I will always have that one regret, that I wanted her to meet my daughter again, to show her how she is growing up, but it was not to be.
The day didan passed away there was a bright moon outside my window, its glow somewhat dimmed by the clouds. I looked out at the sky and as I did so, a touch of that silver came down and settled on my hand. As a child I remember having heard that when someone passes away, they go up there to live in the sky. Was she up there that moment? Was she sending her blessing, her caress, down on me? I liked to think of it that way. And I closed my eyes and talked to her. I told her I am sorry I did not take care to be with her sooner than I had planned, I told her I loved her for all those times she had spent with me and those times she had been away but still her blessings and love were with me, I thanked her for blessing my daughter, and I told her that night, that if again I get a chance of meeting her, I would not waste a moment again, but tell her how much I love her.
That night as I went to sleep I looked out in the dark and smiled, thinking that from somewhere, didan was surely watching me.
I don’t know the truth or false of it, but all I know is, that for me, my didan will always still be very much alive, very much a part of who I am, and when my daughter grows up, I will tell her about didan and how special she was.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Indian Wife's Poem.....

This just came in the mailbox....and I really just had to share it here... All thoughts and ideas expressed here, the entire poem, is someone else's work and what you see here is merely a copy of that...nothing related to my views or thoughts, just a few funny lines...

He didn't like the curry
And he didn't like my cake
He said my biscuits were too hard,
Not like his mother used to make....
I didn't prepare the coffee right
He didn't like the stew,
I didn't mend his socks
The way his mother used to do.
I pondered for an answer
I was looking for a clue.
Isn't there anything I could do
To match his mother's shoe
Then I smiled as I saw light
One thing I could definitely do
I turned around and slapped him tight....
Like his mother used to!!!!!

author unknown...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Let's Help Them....You Know You Can

Remember the last time you went past that red signal on the intersection? The little boy peering in the window, trying to convince you to hand him some coins so he could have some food, so he could give some to his little sister who was standing with him, holding on to the thin hand with little thin fingers. Remember that look?

Remember that young woman, poor and helpless, standing at a side of the road, waiting for the light to turn red so she could walk up to the many tinted windows and ask the people sitting inside in the cool air to give her something, some loose change, some money, so that she could buy some milk for the little infant who was hanging from her saree end, tied up in an old rag around her reed-thin body, the little head dangling dangerously from side-to-side. Remember the way she was wringing out water from her wet saree, the cloth that had got soaked wet in the rain, the same cloth that she was using and would use through the day to tie her little infant in? The wet cloth that the infant would be strapped in the whole day?

Remember that old woman you saw sitting on the pavement, too old to get up and come to your window, but looking out at you nonetheless, waiting for some hand to roll out of a window and hand her some change that could buy her next meal maybe.

Maybe you remember,
Maybe you don't
Maybe you'll help them,
Maybe you won't.
Maybe you will look around for those coins after all
And hand it out without a second look,
Maybe you will shrug and call it all a fraud
"They don't need any money, they are all just crooks.".......
Maybe they really don't need any money
Just a little smile and a little help still could do,
Why not a pack of biscuits,
Or some fresh food or fruits,
Why not a bottle of milk
Or the old clothes you know will never again be worn on you.......

We all say these children begging on the roads, these women with the infants strapped to them and even the old people who look so helpless, are all just a part of a criminal activity going on, that this is all a sham, that none of this is real, that they are all just acting.....

And of course I do not advocate handing them any money...coz who knows where the money will go, and more often than not, they will only be passing on the money to the many 'dons' and beggar-lords who run the no help for the real ones in need....

So why not help them a little tiny bit by giving them something that will really help? A little tiny gesture from our side that would mean so much more to them. Next time when you head out in your car, why not make it a practice to keep a few packets of biscuits in the glove compartment, so that when the little one comes up to beg and ask for money for food, you can hand him the packet, some real food.....Believe me, they really need it....So many times I have handed out packets of biscuits to these little unfortunate ones, and they have grabbed it with a big smile, tearing it open and finishing off the contents, showing it off to their friends who then have been directed to me, and I have handed them out more packs, so they all could eat.....I cant tell you how it felt to see those smiles for some time. Who knows, maybe it was the only decent food they will have in the whole day, at least they had something then...And maybe someone else will think likewise in the evening and give them another packet in the evening....

Your closet desperately needs some cleaning and the old clothes are spilling out, with you constantly in a fight with your cupboard and its contents, trying to keep them under control while they threaten to revolt....why not take them out and sort them out as per age and wearability? Why not make piles of clothes that are sorted out based on who can use them, like infants, kids, women, men. Then you can easily take the bundles and hand them to the local beggar kids and women, even the old people who sit begging on the streets. Don't tell me "I wont do it coz they will only go and sell it off..." You know its an excuse, it sounds unreal and unconvincing even to yourself. And even if they do sell it off, what would you have done with those clothes in the first place? Never worn them again, keep pushing them at the back of your cupboard, and then maybe sell it off to a guy who buys old papers and stuff? Wouldn't you be selling it off too? Come on, you dont need those any more, so why not give it to someone who will definitely use it some way or the other? Old shoes and sandals (but please, only the ones that are wearable...not ones that are beyond repair!!) old sweaters, caps, mufflers, socks, handkerchiefs, napkins, towels...basically anything that you will not use....why not share it with them?

On birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions, we all go out and celebrate, throwing lavish parties and spending big moolah..... great.... but why not add a little bit more joy to all these good times by sharing that happiness with some of our less fortunate friends? Birthday...why not go to the nearest orphanage and give them a birthday treat...a birthday cake and some chips and food maybe. Or why not share some food with the beggar kids near your place? Why wait for occasions? If you can, why not make some extra food once a week, or once in a while, a proper meal, even something as simple as noodles if a meal is too much...and why not head out and just hand it out to them? I have handed out full meals to these kids....and mind you, not to the adults who roam around, but only the kids, and I have waited to see that its only the kids who sit and eat the food, and have left after they have had their fill..This way, atleast you can make sure that what you are giving to the kids is not being taken away by the adults who are always nearby. Some days I have given them noodles and they were so happy, some days I gave idli-dosa and that too is a different food item than what they usually get. Even sandwich...they love that...

But almost always, we have started keeping packs of biscuits and cornflakes in the car, so that whenever that knock comes on the window, we are ready to give back something to that endearing smile that hardly has any reason to smile.....

You can do that why not start today and feel the happiness within? Thanks a million if you decided to do so too........And if you still will not do that little bit, well what can I say.....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Delhi Monsoon - The Way I Remember It From The 'Then'....

I was a little off the news scene for the last couple of days and had missed many a headline. So it came as rather a shock and surprise when I called up my parents in Delhi to ask them how they were and the response I got war – “Pretty difficult this time, given that it is a first for Delhi to get flooded.” What??!!! Had I heard that right? I thought they were confusing things with Mumbai getting flooded in the monsoons or something - at least it sounded more normal. I shared my confusion and they told me it had rained heavily for a few hours and that all the roads and lanes and places were flooded. Was I not watching any news or reading any paper? I admitted I wasn’t.

So the next thing I did was to leave the phone and switch on the television. The TV screen now is flooded with images of a flooded Delhi!!!! There is water everywhere and people are going about with a dazed expression – ‘how did this happen in Delhi’ - they seem to be thinking. Not that it is a surprise though. Delhi’s roads and drainage system are not made to handle so much rain, actually hardly any rain. As it is more of a dry state, the little rainfall it has always received has been enough to keep its citizens happy. And the drains and roads have only got used to that till now. Till now…………now the rain gods seem to have finally changed their mind.

I have lived in Delhi for 25 years. That’s a long long time. And for all those twenty-five years I have experienced monsoon in Delhi as a mere trickle, now that I compare it to the monsoon in Mumbai. Not that I felt that way earlier, when I lived there that is. I have never seen Delhi this wet, grappling to come to life after the rains have flooded everything around, even the Metro tracks as well as normal rail tracks and other routes have been flooded and thrown out of gear and East Delhi cut off from the rest of the capital. It’s a really different experience for me, to see this chaos in a Delhi that has hardly ever received so much rain in any monsoon previously. Almost all news channels and papers are reporting the Delhi monsoon in the exact same terms – waterlogging, traffic snarls, stinking garbage, outbreak of water-borne diseases………. But I remember the Delhi monsoon in a totally different picture frame…..the rain drops on my forehead, the smell of wet earth filling up my senses…….

When we were small and the rains would approach, even a little amount of that water from the skies was enough to make us shout ‘monsoon’. Delhi was always the place of less rainfall. Its people complained about the heat and the dust and the lack of rains, and just as it would begin to seem there was no end to the sweaty torture of those pre-monsoon days, the clouds would break and the rains would arrive to soothe our burning skins.
A shout would go out in the lanes and by-lanes, with mothers running to pick up the clothes hanging on the clothes line, and grandmothers and aunts scurrying about, collecting the pickles that had been kept out on the terrace in the sun.
Children would begin to scream about in the gully, with young boys gathered to play cricket enjoying a match in the rain.
Students returning from school making a splash in the puddle.
Girls returning home from tuition would scamper for cover, their heads covered in dupatta, the ones in jeans trying to shield themselves with their books and hands.
Mothers would quickly return from the terrace with the pile of clothes in hand, dumping it on the bed and running to close the windows if there was any wind with the rain, else they would let the breeze fill up inside the house, and proceed to check where the children were, often finding them getting wet in the rain and bringing them in with a scold and a tug at the ear.
On the road, people driving the scooters would scamper for cover, huddling together at bus stops to escape getting wet.
On those wet evenings when the fathers returned from work, they would always bring a brown paper bag of hot and spicy pakodas, samosas and juicy sweet jalebi, handing it to the mothers who would keep it in the kitchen, to bring it back a little while later with a tray of steaming hot cups of ‘adrak chai’ (ginger tea) and a warm glass of milk for the kids to gulp down the sweet jalebi with.
The lights would invariably go off even with a little rain and some thunder, and families would sit together around the flickers of a candle, talking about the day, complaining about the electricity board’s inefficiency, mothers scolding children for not finishing homework before it became dark, and amidst all this, a cry going out through the neighbourhood again as the lights would return back to life……..almost always the kids from the mohalla would shout ‘aa gayi’ to announce that power supply was back again…..

It was a nice time as I remember it, those Delhi monsoons, filled with so many memories of those lovely days of my childhood. Now things are changing….Delhi is flooding!!!! I still find it unbelievable!!!!
But every time I will think of the monsoon in Delhi, it will always be about those cool green days, when the aroma of the earth would drift inside my pores, when life would feel so magical and poetic yet again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Few Lines From 'The Last Mughal' by William Dalrymple

I am in the midst of reading one of the most impressive and wonderful historical texts that has ever been written - 'The Last Mughal, the fall of a Dynasty. Delhi. 1857' by William Dalrymple.

I had heard so much about this book, especially as it is about my homeland, and one of my ever-and-most favourite cities, Delhi, that I was more interested in reading it. And as I began turning the pages I realised this would be one of the most precious books I will ever own, not in a monetary sense alone, but more because of the priceless information that lies between the 550-odd pages.

More on this book will keep appearing in other posts as I keep reading, but for now, I simply had to share these lines from the book, these lovely lines that talk about my city, Delhi, and bring back beautiful memories, of a city that has raised me and made me fall in love with it despite its many pitfalls.

Excerpts from the book, describing William Dalrymple's first encounters with the city of Delhi:

'I would take a rickshaw into the innards of the Old City (Old Delhi) and pass through the narrowing funnel of gullies and lanes, alleys and cul-de-sacs, feeling the houses close in around me. In particular, what remained of Zafar's palace, the Red Fort of the Great Mughals, kept drawing me back, and I often used to slip in with a book and spend whole afternoons there, in the shade of some cool pavilion."

"I have now divided my time between London and Delhi for over twenty years and the Indian capital remains my favourite city. Above all it is the city's relationship with its past which continues to intrigue me: of the great cities of the world, only Rome, Istanbul and Cairo can even begin to rival Delhi for the sheer volume and density of historic remains. Crumbling tomb towers, old mosques or ancient colleges intrude in the most unlikely places, appearing suddenly on roundabouts or in municipal gardens, diverting the road network and obscuring the fairways of the golf course. New Delhi is not new at all; instead, it is a groaning necropolis, with enough ruins to keep any historian busy through several incarnations."

"I am hardly alone in being struck by this: the ruins of Delhi are something visitors have always been amazed by........
For miles in every direction, half collapsed and overgrown, robbed and reoccupied, neglected by all, lay the remains of six hundred years of trans-Indian Imperium....hammams and garden palaces, thousand-pillared halls and mighty tomb towers, empty mosques and deserted Sufi shrines - there seemed to be no end to the litter of ages."

"One of the most enjoyable aspects of working with him (referring to William Dalrymple's colleague Mahmood Farooqui) on Bahadur Shah Zafar has been gradually piecing together the events and shape of this book over a Karim's kebab, a Kapashera biryani or, more usually, a simple glass of hot sweet National Archives chai."

"...Delhi has always been quite clear about its superiority to the rest of the country. It was the seat of the Great Mughal and the place where the most chaste Urdu was spoken. It believed it had the best-looking women, the finest mangoes, the most talented poets."

And here is a look at the treasures that lie hidden in the National Archives in Delhi:

"Yet all this time in the National Archives there existed as detailed a documentation of the four months of the Uprising in Delhi as can exist for any Indian city at any period of history - great unwieldy mountains of chits, pleas, orders, petitions, complaints, receipts, rolls of attendance and lists of casualties, predictions of victory and promises of loyalty, notes from spies of dubious reliability and letters from eloping lovers - all neatly bound in string and boxed up in the cool, hushed, air-conditioned vaults of the Indian National Archives."

Truly, just the first few pages and this book is already such a revelation !!!!!

I have only just begun, but if you have not read this book yet, really, it is time you do so. For this is the first book ever that has impacted me so much into reading on history and reliving all those events and memories that happened at some era in the past.....Thanks Mr. Dalrymple....

A Few TV Sitcoms I Am Watching These Days

Been watching a couple of great TV series on my laptop these last few days. Always find it more interesting and of course, more convenient, when things go as per your beck and no surprise here that I am not as much a fan of TV as I am of a few TV series....

The new one that landed my way is called 'Royal Pains', right now both hubby n me pretty hooked on to it in a big way. The series is about a young ER doctor, Hank Lawson, who, after being wrongly blamed for a rich patient's death, moves to the Hamptons and becomes a concierge doctor, or a 'doctor for hire' for rich and famous patients. Curious and weird cases come up as one after the other interesting and sometimes funny incidents happen that call for his attention. Though Hank is reluctant to have joined such a service which clearly clashes with his regular idea of what a doctor needs to be, he soon begins to love and enjoy the work he is doing.
Currently in its second season.
Main characters are: Dr. Hank Lawson, Evan Lawson, Dr. Jill Casey, Boris, Divya Katdaria

Royal Pains

The TV series by HBO, Entourage, is another one such series that has managed to interest me in recent times. Though it is now in its seventh season, I am still in the earlier seasons. Initially I was not much impressed by the begining, but as I began to watch it regularly, the storyline as well as the characters began to grow on me and I am now quite hooked on to what these guys are up to.
The series is about a young actor Vincent Chase who is slowly making it big in Hollywood. The plot is loosely based on Mark Wahlberg's life, one of the series producers, whose experiences as an up-and-coming film star have been used in the plot.
The series revolves around Vince and his 'entourage' - his best friend Eric fondly called 'E' by the group, who also works as his manager, Vince's elder half-brother Johny 'Drama' Chase, and another of Vince's childhood friend, Turtle. The last in the entourage is Vince's agent Ari Gold.
Watch the series for many special appearances by many Hollywood biggies.

(From L-R) Johny Drama, Turtle, Vince, E, Ari

One series I had really started loving and looking forward to was Joey...Remember Joey from FRIENDS? Once the FRIENDS team split, Matthew LeBlanc had been part of a new series which took his character Joey from FRIENDS to the next level. Many people felt it was a wrong move to start it after FRIENDS, but if seen apart from FRIENDS and not as a connecting series, I think it was going really well. The series was stopped after the first season without any ending, so maybe they will bring it back again sometime.
Main characters are: Joey, Alex, Michael, Gina, Bobbie, Zach