Friday, December 28, 2012

Off with their heads.. err.. stubble

This post is a part of the 'Shave or Crave' movement in association with

Knowing each other for over 15 years has its pros and cons. (yeah, yeah.... we are ancient and all that!!). G and I know each other well enough to complete each other's sentences, and yet, there are times when shy, subtle hints are just not enough to convey a heartfelt message.

G prides himself on his immaculate grooming at work in the hospitality industry. So much so, that there have been instances where he has shaven twice in a day to ensure brownie points in a meeting. Hence, as I went through the misery called wedding rituals, I would take one look at his drop dead gorgeous looks and congratulate myself on a job well done.

Alas! Little did I know Dr.Jekyl and Mr.Hyde were not a fiction of someone's imagination .... they truly exist! Let me elaborate this complex situation by using a conversation during our first few hours after the wedding ceremonies:

G : Hey gorgeous...... wakey wakey!

Me (eyes still closed) : Hi sweetheaaaaa ...... err..... what happened to you?

G (hands going to his face) : What? Oh this? This is my macho look..... a stubble.... nice, no?

Me : Err...... ummm......... What are we ordering for breakfast? (dodging the deadly weapon on his face in an attempt to save my face.... literally!)

G : What happened?

Me (still trying to be a nice bride) : I haven't brushed yet.......

Thankfully, by the time we were dressed to go out for the day, he was back to being Dr. Jekyl err..... G. Pretty soon, I discovered that G was the alter ego of "Office G", when it came to shaving. He was content with the 5 o'clock shadow (5 o' clock shadow my foot !! what about the morning, evening and night? I could sue whoever coined that phrase) that adorned his face on the days that he lazed around at home.

I tried various subtle hints, from screaming 'Ouch.... A porcupine!!' when his face found mine, to placing his shaving razor at all unimaginable places. (Truth be told, I married a kind man - he did not seem to mind the razor showing up on the breakfast table, on the TV remote, inside his pajama pockets, or even on his favorite spot on the couch! He simply scratched his head muttering "Strange......" while putting it back to where it belonged)

In yet another instance, I clicked photos of him in all his sleeping glory, and showed it to him during an exceptionally romantic moment. He reacted quite badly to the way he looked. "Hey, I look so geeky! Thank God for that stubble, huh?"

Yes, I waited till he walked out of the room to physically try and kick myself, thank you very much!

In another instance, I bought for him, one of the best shaving products (you know, like Gillette says, "The Best a Man Can Get" ....) to try and coax him to shave. He was touched. "Wow!! Thanks dear.... I've  always wanted this one. Will use it when I get ready for the meeting tomorrow" ..... This time I almost succeeded in strangling myself.

Pretty soon, I realized that for the good of all humanity for my own sanity, I would just have to get the message accross.

G and I were looking forward to a lazy weekend.  No parties, no mall hopping, no friends. Perfect oppurtunity!

I decided to go ethnic on him. (Call it slimy, scheming or just plain selfish - whenever I care to wrap the 6 yard devil's creation around me, I use the sari to my distinct advantage). My red georgette sari (thank you, Sridevi and no thanks to you, Mr. India!!) with a ridiculously low cut blouse, not to mention the perfume that G loves, and I was ready.

G : "Whoa!! Where are we going?"

Me : "Nowhere..... why?" (God! I am good at this!)

G : "W-Why are you dressed like that?"

Me : "Oh, you don't like it? I'll change then..........."

G : "No.... please don't. Looks great" (Pulling me towards him, running his hands over my arms)

Me : "You really like my arms, don't you?"

G : "Yeah ..... so soft. You sure we aren't going anywhere? You're wearing that perfume too!"

Me : "Well, I want tell you a secret."

As G's eyes widened like Mr. Bean's, I whispered lovingly in his ear, "I wax my arms, you know."

G : "Huh?"

Me : (still whispering conspiratorily) "I also do unthinkable stuff to my eyebrows too."

G (the gentle soul that he is, he was getting distinctly uncomfortable with the conversation) :  "I already know that.... and I don't think I need the gory details....... W-What do you want?" (I swear, I almost saw him holding a cross to ward me off)

Me (smiling sweetly) : "Why don't you shave on the days you are at home?"

G : "Oh I get it now - you don't like my 'at-home' avatar!!.....  This why I've been finding my razor all over the house? I just want to be me! This is the real 'Me' ......... so get used to it!"

Me : "OK dear. I completely get it."

G : "Y-You do?"

Me : "Yes ofcourse, I do. I love you, remember?"

G (as he took me in his arms) : "I love you too"

Me : "Awwww.... I am sure you too will love the real 'Me' next weekend. 

G : "Err.......What?"

Me (almost gushing in excitement) : I can't tell you how happy I am that I can be in my nightie all day long! And no waxing, no threading, no makeup... wow!! You are a darling, G! ....... Oh! And I hope you like under-arm hair as well...."

The next moment, I was on the floor, G was running towards the bathroom, razor in hand.

Mission accomplished. Sanity restored....... the Best a (Wo)man Can Get indeed!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Once upon the Tracks of Mumbai - A reivew

Railway tracks and India go back a long way. We have depicted the railways as being a catalyst in many of our movies, the ones that come to mind instantly being "Jab We Met". Of course there are many, many more that can be pulled out if one really wants to remember.

At the same time, I wonder how many books are written on the familiar settings of the enormous presence in our country called the Railways! And what better place to have the story than Mumbai, the 'city that never sleeps', where the Railways contribute to the economy and the lifestyle.

Allow me, ladies and gents, to put before you, in the usual Nirvana style, yet another book I have been fortunate to get my hands on Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra

First things first, I got an autographed book (Yay!!) The cover has two pretty faces over the railway line. While this is definitely the settings, do not be misled into thinking that this is all there is to the book! The book goes into much more shades of grey, black and white than you would assume from the cover.

Pic courtesy Rishi Vohra

  • The Plot : Without letting too much of the proverbial 'cat' out of the bag, let me just tell you what the synopsis of the book says about the story :
"Autistic. psychotic. Schizophrenic....". For the twenty four years of his life, these are some of the words "they" have used to describe Babloo. He knows his family agrees with "them" and he senses that he is different. He doesn't hate people; he just cannot find the right way to connect with anyone. Vandana is the only exception. What can he do to make himself worthy of her?

Babloo finds simple pleasures in small things, A random twist of fate along these familiar train tracks brings Babloo face to face with the harsh reality of escalating crime in the local trains of Mumbai, and shakes him out of his apathy.

  • The Writing Style : The writing falls into the usual style of writing adapted by young Indian writers - easy prose, with a fair amount of 'Indian English' - though here, the author has used it only when the characters communicate to themselves or to each other (so much more believable). The story is told in two streams  - one in which is in the first person (of the protagonist) and the other, as narrated in third person. Sometimes, it gets a little confusing where the first person has stopped and the third person has started. Goes to show that this is not a book that you can read while multi-tasking.
Also something that was pleasant in the writing was the sketch of the city I love so much - Mumbai in all its glory, and sometimes, the coldness of the city too.
  • Character Development : The characters are well sketched out. Which, in a way, may not have been always good for the surprise element - from the early introduction of the characters, they are very clearly bucketed into 'good' people and 'bad' people. This has a tendency to create a bias in the readers' minds, and, to an extent, remove the element of surprise that evolve in the twists of the story. On the other hand, this approach makes one take sides very early on in the book, and hence cheering when the 'good guys' win.
  • Words and Print Quality: Jaico has done a good job of the Printing, and there was no jarring typo that one usually associates with many Indian authors. The words, as mentioned earlier, are easy to comprehend. This works well for the story, which, since it looks at what goes inside of a person's mind, is complex enough, without using big words. An example excerpt :
"No one understood the dual existence of 'him' and me that made me the person I am. Only the railway tracks that ran along outside my bedroom window knew the both of us individually. The endless, idle wooden planks connected by durable steel had formed a fine segregation between my fantasy and reality."

For some more excerpts, do visit this site
  • Final Verdict : Some mature writing, of a topic not written much about. Some insights into a schizophrenic mind that has learnt to love, and a real look at how the average Indian family treats people that have different needs. A must read, if only to explore Babloo's mind.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mother of a Son

Yes, I have a son.

When he was born, there were joyous celebrations to welcome him. My elder child, a daughter, welcomed him with love only a sister can have for a brother. All the ashirvads (blessings) of “Doodho nahao puto falo” (bathe in milk (ugh!!!) and give birth to sons(!)) had apparently worked its effect well.

Before my son was born, my daughter was my entire world. I would glare angrily at anyone who even remotely suggested that my second one (I knew I wanted two!) had to be a boy to “complete the family” (whatever that meant!).

I was certain that my second one would be a daughter too – because I felt I would never be able to love a son as much – yes, that’s how much I love my daughter.

But when he was born, it ceased to matter that he was a son. For me, it was just love all over again. I remember how some indignant relatives (angered by the fact that I preferred to have healthy babies to “puto falo”) told me that bringing up a daughter was a difficult task in this terrible world. How the daughter would prove to be a huge responsibility – even a liability (“Paraya dhan” – somebody else’s 'property' - WTF!!)

But today, what prompted me to write this post is not how my daughter is my blessing (which she is!). Rather, it is to explain why I am glad I do have a son.

No – not because my family is “complete”.

Nor because I feel he will set fire to the pyre when I die (frankly, I care two hoots what happens to my body after my death). Neither is it because I think a son is insurance to an easy retired life, or because of a dowry that he traditionally is supposed bring in.

No – not even that he may act as a bodyguard to my daughter…..

After all, these are the traditional reasons to have a son, right?

My reason is something different. The way I see it, raising a son is way more difficult.

See why,  in my post at Parentous.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Walking "The Talk"

I thought I'd just shut my eyes and ears, and maybe I'll be able to breathe with lesser difficulty. I was wrong. Every time there is any woman I know, who does not come home by the usual time she does, I panic.

When it happened in Guwahati, it was because 'she was drunk'.

When it happened in the various villages across Haryana, it was because the poor young boys had too much chowmein

When it happens in the city we just love to hate, it is because they wear clothes too short or too tight, or too bright. Or maybe it is because they party too much, go to all the wrong places, or are dressed too well.

When are we going to realize that in all the statements that we make about such incidents, anything that comes after "because" is exactly what these demons in human form bank upon. It is all the 'because's that help them go scot free after having taken away, horrendously, from an individual their right to live fearlessly.

When I was moving out of home to a hostel closer to college, my parents had 'the talk' with me. All young girls know 'the talk'. My mother first sat me down, and went into the details of what was 'right' and 'wrong' for me. She overcame her embarrassment to tell me all about staying safe, and about wearing right to stay safe. She reminded me that I had to remember them - her and Dad, before I did anything that might cause them pain.

Then Dad sat me down to tell me his version of what he thought I should be doing so that his little girl was not hurt. He too, in his own words, conveyed the message I already knew. I had already been groped, pinched and leered at in crowded buses, in trains and in market places.

When my sister was ready for the same move, this drama repeated itself. She too, got her share of 'the talk'

I do not have a brother. Which means I am not an authority on what parents tell their adolescent / young adult son. So let me ask you readers, especially the men, or women who have male siblings out there, something...

How many will have 'the talk' with their sons?

Let me tell you of a relative who did sit his son down and give him a serious talk. The talk went something like this:

"Son, I know you will have fun. Colleges are meant for that. You will find girls too. Sexy ones (a whisper here) too. Its ok to have fun. Just remember that you can have all the fun in the world, but you will marry the right girl who we choose."

This is not the talk I meant. How many parents of future men have sat them down to teach them to respect women?

How many will tell their darling sons that women are not objects, are not meant to be leered, groped or pinched, no matter what their clothes are.

How many will actually overcome embarrassment (yes, mothers and fathers) to tell the Alpha male that all women, like the person who gave birth to them, have to be treated with dignity? And that the choice of who touches the women's breasts and bottoms are entirely their choice?

How many will tell them that rapists and molestors are a reality, and may even be their friends?

How many will tell them that no woman, irrespective of religion, caste, creed, age, skin color, deserves to be treated the way the girl in Guwahati was, or the girl in the moving bus was, treated?

How many will tell them, "Son, there will come a time when peer pressure will look you in the eye and tell you to do something you know is wrong. When that happens, promise me you will kick peer pressure in the ass, and do the right thing."

I have a son. Embarrassment be damned, I, for one, will tell my son as much, when the time is right. Will you? 

The Money Tree

The seventies (probably even the early eighties) households reverberated with healthy doses of words such as ‘responsible spending’ and ‘saving for the future’ and ‘when I was your age…..’

But somewhere along the way, we lost these words as we got caught up in the race to get better jobs, bigger cars and grander homes. But more zeroes in our monthly paycheck did nothing to increase the happiness quotient, as much of the extra income went into that jazzy new phone or that funky new hangout that everybody was talking about!

Spending and living luxuriously, on par with the Smiths and the Jones, became the aspiration of every bright-eyed collegiate from the first day he stepped into his first job. The path to instant gratification had already been set all through school and college, where guide books with exam questions replaced conscientious teachers, Google replaced libraries, and Facebook replaced canteen frolics.

One of the biggest challenges G and I face is to distinguish where that illusive line needs to be drawn; the line that differentiates responsible providing of reasonable luxury, and blatant mollycoddling. Both G and I are products of the seventies, when the world was yet to see the information explosion that todays’ kids are exposed to....

See how we approached the problem at Parentous..... a platform for sharing tips and tricks for the most challenging job in the world - parenting!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bias and Opinion

When my daughter was all of 6, she adored a certain Bollywood star to bits. She had very famously declared that she would ‘marry’ the star, and go to play in the snow with him. Till, one day, when the actor was on TV, she ran to pick up the remote from the table (as a rule, we don’t keep the remote in our hands – its common property) and changed channels! The conversation that followed went something like this:

Me: "Sweety, why did you change the channel? He’s your favorite actor!"

Little G: “No he’s NOT!” There was a certain distress in her voice which made me sit up and probe further.

Me: “Why? You used to like him so much….”

Little G: “Because he’s a (religion).

My face must have given away my shock. G (the husband), who was sitting a little away, looked at me and shook his head. I understood what he meant – Not now. No reaction. Probe, and discuss later.

Discover what G and I did after this ....... an article published at Parentous.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When Stars Shine Down - My entry to the GetPublished contest

Have you ever chanced upon that little sprig of grass which grows in the middle of nowhere? Or that last stubborn leaf on the tree that refuses to follow suit and drift away in the autumn wind like all others before it? Or the frail rosebud that weathers the tumultuous storm of the night, to face the next day with pride and beauty? Unfazed, unafraid, proud. But was the rosebud really unafraid through the storm?

Pic courtesy Soni Somarajan
This is Naina's story. But Naina's story cannot be whispered without weaving through Siddhant's story in the same breath. A story that commences during the darkest hours in their life, but culminates to a point where they cease to exist as two separate beings.

While Naina tells her story, one cannot help but notice that her beautiful eyes intermittently seek out the 'reason' for that story from amongst the crowd. Her eyes are the first thing that you notice about her - as they dart across the room, bright and eager. They turn moist, the moment she spots him. I smile, but I decide against interrupting her time travel.

This is a tale that will take you through the minds of two people - one who refuses to acknowledge that love exists in such a cruel world, and the other, who conquers everyone around with selfless, sometimes charming, love.

My inspiration for the story is something Naina told me, "Even if there is one woman out there whose life may change because of my story, I think it would be worth the effort."


When he held me, I knew this was where I wanted to be. But not just for now; and not just because we had to share an umbrella in pouring rain. If only it was because he wanted to hold me.....

I could sense his irritation at the unexpected torrents that would ruin the day for the creative team today. The rains lashed on the stalls that the team had put together so beautifully; now they would need to heartlessly drag the stalls into the pavilion, to salvage whatever remained. They would resurrect the stalls; Siddhant was not one to give up easily, and he would give it another shot - a second chance for the event.

Suddenly, I wanted another chance too. I wanted a chance at real life, at real love. I wanted him. As I realized this, standing with him under the umbrella that did an unsuccessful job of keeping us dry, I suddenly wanted to run as far from him as I could. I pulled away, planning to run towards the pavilion.

But he did not let go of my waist. "Don't like the rain, or don't like my company?" He had a smile on his lips, but his eyes held much deeper thoughts. I turned away and I ran all the way back to the pavilion, liberating my impatient hot tears into the cold rain. 

This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.

If you liked this entry, do remember to 'like' it on this link at Harper Collins