Sunday, December 31, 2006

Awwww! How Sweeeet!

We all make so many assumptions as a mean of simplifying our complex existences. Pirates, bad. Sunny days on the beach, good. Ice-cream, cold. Babies, cute.

Hold on a minute there, though. Babies, cute? Yeah, right. Oh sure, they eventually grow into cute enough toddlers after a point of time, when you get used to their faces. But honestly speaking, have you never experienced a twinge of true horror and the urge to leap backwards to safety, when a particularly revolting infant is stuck in your face, with the parent's proud accompanying 'And this is our little Chintoo!' or whatever the little creature's name is.

Hey, Baby-lovers out there - you may as well quit reading this post right now - that is, if you are really one of those who actually believe that all babies are cute and adorable. You might also be the type who goes about throwing daisies in the air during springtime, although this is not a judgement on you. But if you are normal, you will have to admit that not all babies are cute. It's a fact of life.

All puppies are cute - or at least, mostly. But not all babies.

The truth about most babies is that they are pasty, patchy-haired, overly pink, and their heads are too large for their bodies (which by the way, are freakishly tiny - especially those little fingers...brrrrr!). And their parents just do not seem to notice this fact - they are completely oblivious and in love with what they have done.

In the recent past, I have met some really ghastly-looking specimen. It goes like this: You peer into the crib, expecting to be charmed (in your usual naive, trusting manner). And then, you are rewarded with the sight of an unappealing onion-head with defiant eyes staring like the devil, right into your very soul. You start back involuntarily and hit your husband's nose with the back of your head. Your heart leaps into your throat and you suppress it somehow with a gulp. Without a moment's respite, you are then immediately faced with a beaming, expectant, adult face. It is at this point that you salvage the situation by finding your breath and exclaiming, perfectly honestly:

'My god! It looks just like YOU'.

You are then gently admonished by being told that THAT is the uncle and not the father, and secondly, the baby is not an 'It' but a 'he or she' - as the case may be. You decide it wisest not to argue these facts and move on, allowing others to gush dishonestly over the little beast.

Once you have left the room, you breathe a sigh of relief and start to talk to your husband about the terrible experience - you stop dead in your tracks when you realise that your husband is no longer with you, having omitted to follow you out the door. You head back and see everyone crowded around a delightful sight. Your husband appears truly enamoured by the child, tossing it in the air while it gurgles happily, establishing a special bond by making ridiculous faces that make the baby look good, and also appears to be in the process of teaching the baby its first words. Trust me to be married to the world's most natural Dad.

Either way, all hope is not lost when you see a really ugly baby. I know this because I have seen baby pictures of my friend Richa. Luckily, we have known each other only around 13 years and not before that. If I had met her as an infant, my little heart may not have survived it.

She was uuggh-ly. The old pictures were thankfully black-and-white so as to mask some of the true horror of her persona. It was the usual bright faced infant, head three times the size of the body, hair that began only at the top of her head, giving her the impression of a bad combover like Donald Trump's and wide, staring, round eyes - and for some reason, she would look straight at the camera every time, with this really puzzled expression that seemed to say 'D-uh! Is THIS expression scary enough? No? Let's try again!'

Anyway, the good news is that she is perfectly good-looking now. Except in photographs - the expression hasn't changed at all.

So the bottom line is: let's call a spade a spade, shall we? And if you can't say anything nice, just don't say anything. But quit lying through your teeth: the next time you see an ugly baby, just grin and say 'Ohhh...Can I get a picture of Chintoo?' (if the baby's name is Chintoo). Then take it home, compare it with your own early pictures and only then, decide if you have the right to feel superior.

But if I ever have a baby and it's ghastly, remember to just lie to me: because I'm the one who came up with the picture idea, and I will kill you.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Life Jinga-la-la

Giving into the much over-marketing by Tata Sky, my husband finally ordered it for us, last week. He had been going around the house trilling 'Life jinga-la-la' for a long time, but I had bravely refrained from commenting on it.

He was so keen to get this set up, that once he had placed the order on the phone (on Monday), he kept calling them everyday and reminding them to come over and install it - not paying any heed to the fact that neither of us would be home on any of the weekdays.

When he finally went as far as to suggest that we stay home for half a day on Friday so that they could do the installation, I lost my cool- and asked him why we couldn't just wait one more day and get it installed on the weekend. His argument was a weakly muttered 'Life jinga-la-la?', but he did decide to wait that one more day.

The next day, the Tata Sky men landed up, and they brought with them this huge dish to put on the roof. Now, we live in an apartment and the roof is naturally a common one - hitherto untouched and pure, it offers a lovely view of the sea and is open to all who wish to take a breather at any time of the day or night - only now, it is marred by our large and ugly Tata Sky dish set up right in the center.

After the installation of the dish, Vijay came down from the roof to complain to me about the neighbours complaining.

'That old Parsi couple of the sixth floor - they think they own the building! They asked me if I had taken permission from the Society Secretary to set up our dish!'

'Well', I asked, 'did you?'

Vijay said bleatingly 'No...I didn't- would you please come with me and ask him? You're so much better at arguing'.

'No, I'm not', I said (well aware that I was arguing and thereby proving his point) 'Anyway, it's already installed now, isn't it. What's the point of asking him now? What if he says no?'

'If he says no...if he says no...I will convince him...that there is actually a way that all of us in the building can get Tata Sky through just one dish, if we all decide to subscribe to it'

I said 'that's a pretty a Big 'If'. And will that be through the dish we've already set up?'

Vijay said 'No - through another special dish we will have to buy'.

I asked ' will that help him to allow us to set up the one we've already set up?'

Vijay left the room in a huff. At this point, he clearly felt his only friend in the world was the Tata Sky installer-guy, who was fiddling around and putting the final touches on the TV in the drawing room. Unfortunately, a little misunderstanding then ensued which somewhat damaged this budding friendship.

Vijay - Bhaiiyya, iss equipment ko kahan pe daalonge? TV ke upar? Shelf ke upar?
Tata Sky guy (unexpectedly and quite rudely) - Aapke upar.
Vijay (in no mood for this nonsense, drawing himself up to full six feet) - Mere upar? Kyon bhai? Kya matlab hai tumhara?
Tata Sky guy (cowering): Nahin saar. Aapke upar hai ki hum kahaan rakhen...mera aur koi matlab nahin...

Once the drama of the installation was over, we have settled down to watching television through Tata Sky.

And I really have to say, the picture is a lot clearer. It also helps to be able to see what is coming on different channels at any point of time. I earlier used to wonder if I was truly getting the max out of my TV viewing time by watching the best available program at any point of time - no more wondering about that. Now, it's wondering how there can possibly be so much crap on TV at any point of time.

The thing doesn't record, so that is one major limitation - and there is this creepy 'Tata Sky' music that plays whenever you switch to the menu to select channels. Brrrrrrrrr...

I hope I discover many other new exciting features in the thing, over a period of time. Because I now realise it was more fun watching Vijay get Tata Sky, than it is to actually watch it.

Well - I guess it's better to depend on constant entertainment from watching your Idiot, rather than your Idiot Box.

Ha Ha Ha. I really didn't mean that, hon! After all, you make my life Jinga-la-la.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Maid in Heaven

One of the key things that has made it worthwhile to move from the peace-and-beautiful-weather-of-beloved-Bangalore, to the hustle-and-bustle-of-noisy-Mumbai is: you guessed it - the help.

We were lucky enough to have wangled an apartment with a Sea View on Bandstand. It was on the first day of unpacking, when we were admiring this view from the living room window - we were just standing there- side by side, basking in the quiet contentment of husband and wife, enjoying a brief respite between harried moments - when the silence was shattered by a blaring, high pitched voice which rang through the apartment.

Disembodied voice (unnecessarily high decibel): MAIN TUMHARE LIYE CHAI BANATEEE?

Trembling with fear, we turned towards the door of the living room and the offender stepped out of the shadows. A sari-clad wizened old creature around half my height, stood gazing challengingly and authoritatively at us.

Vijay(taking charge of the situation): Chai? Haan, haan, chai. Par...aap ho kaun?

The creature suddenly seemed to remember her manners and attempted an ingratiating grin: MAIN ZAREENA. ISS BUILDING MEIN MAIN-ICH KAAM KARTEEE. SAB FLOOR PE MAIN-ICH. EK FLOOR, DO FLOOR, CHAAR FLOOR, SAB FLOOR. (in a revealing tone) TUM TEEN FLOOR PE HO.

Dumbfounded and unable to argue this fact, we nodded assent. She discovered that we didn't have tea in the house, so she went to the floor above and used the raw materials and utensils there to bring down two steaming cups of tea for us. I was immediately impressed by her resourcefulness and decided she was exactly what we needed. While sipping the tea, I was quick to quietly but firmly impress upon Vijay that he shouldn't try his negotiation tricks and drive her away (since his usual idea of negotiation is to bid 1/25th of the initial ask price and this tends to turn some people off). He reluctantly agreed.

After the brief discussion on payment which she won, she demanded of Vijay: MERA CHAABEE KAHAN HAI?

Vijay (wary from past experience with shady Maids in Bangalore): Chaabee nahin dega.

Zareena (Shocked and hurt): KYOON?

Vijay (searching for inspiration): ....Uhh....Ek hi hai!

Zareena (With a condescending guffaw): MERE KO DEYO. MAIN BANWA KE AATEE, NAA. PHATAFAT BANWA KE AATEE.

Vijay, defeated, handed over the key mutely. Soon, she was back, with two extra copies of the key which she gave to us. And then, she proceeded to take over the house.

We were quickly delighted to learn that Zareena would not only cook for us, including early morning tea, breakfast and dinner; but also take care of the other household bores like cleaning, buying veggies, etc. It really is quite fantastic - it's like having a live-in maid without her living in.

She has her drawbacks, of course - the chief of which is her disinclination to fold up clothes and put them into cupboards. She much prefers to put them straight into the washing machine, regardless of whether they need cleaning or not. I have bought many new clothes, tried them on once, left them on the bed, only to find them hanging out to dry the next day. And since she enthusiastically and indiscriminately bungs in everything into what is clearly her favorite invention in the world, more than one wonderfully expensive new shirt has been tainted with the bright color of a cheap undie (Vijay's).

The other drawback is that once she gets into a chatty mood, it's difficult to end the conversation.

Zareena (out of the blue, while I'm reading): MAIN SAARA HINDUSTAN KE LIYE KAAM KIYA.
Me (genuinely impressed): Achha? Saara desh mein?
Me (understanding): Oh, achha. Hindustan Lever ke log ki liye.

(Cue for the beginning of Never-Ending game of us trying to establish who lived here before us - and who before them - and so on - ending only when it's sundown and time for her to go home).

Overall though, she has been quite a catch - has a heart of gold, works efficiently, and most importantly - today, she made us Methi Paranthas for breakfast.

And with a Methi Parantha inside you, and the sea in front of you, Mumbai doesn't look so bad, after all.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006


I set myself up for this. I created this blog wherein my few regular readers (around 20 at last count -okay, maybe 3), now log in regularly, expecting to have a bit of a laugh, or at the least, read the entries with a knowing smirk on their faces.

But have you all ever thought I might have deeper feelings? Feelings that go beyond making fun of myself and other people? Concern about the state of the world? About poverty, about global warming, about the children of our future, about what's left of Michael Jackson's nose?

Well, I have plenty of deep feelings. Deep, deep feelings. Feelings of pain. Dejection. Rejection. Disappointment. Regret. Worry. Moroseness. Despair. Sorrow. And my stomach hurts.

In case you are wondering, I am ill. I have been unable to go to work for two days. I am like the mythical Kumbakarana, only better looking, and waking up at shorter intervals to feed myself and wreak havoc on the hapless mortals around me.

Yesterday, the husband promised to be by my side always, to lovingly tend to my every need, for all time. He couldn't take it for more than a day. I saw him click his heels together as he skipped off to work today, and I think he was whistling too.

But being ill puts life in perspective. You tend to become more philosophical. You know, how you never really appreciate the simple things in life until they are taken away from you? A sunny day, the song of a bird, the ability to retain what you have eaten for more than five minutes?

They say, when you are happy, you forget what it is to be sad and vice versa. I say, when you are ill, you forget what it is to be well and vice versa. And that's why, all you who are well today, probably have no clue what it feels like to be ill and are thinking that I am just making a big deal out of nothing. All I can say is, my time will come - you too will be very ill soon and will remember this then. Not that I wish you ill, it is just inevitable that it will happen.

Which brings me to another philosophical musing - the inevitability of it all. That dark day is not far away, when it all comes to an end. We can keep deluding ourselves about the meaning of life, but sometimes it just seems easier to give in to the hopelessness. The only thing that makes the ride more amusing is observing the Irony of Life. Irony is....pretty Ironic, sometimes.

'Scuse me. Feeling sicker now, for some reason. Bet you are too.

Friday, December 1, 2006

The Game-of-the-Name

There are some people who are really good with names - they can see a face and immediately know what to call it.

And then there are people like me.

Names have often proven to be the bane of my existence. And not just others' names, mind you - my own nickname has been a cause of trauma during my formative years, and no, I am not going to tell you what it is. Anyway, this is not about names that I would like to forget - it is about names that I forget to remember.

It happened again last week, at the tea & coffee machine in office, a place that I often tend to embarass myself.

I was sipping my tea dreamily and peacefully, when a girl with a familiar face came up to get a drink. Never one for small talk, I nevertheless thought it would be good to practice.

Me: Hi!!
Girl (Smiling in a friendly manner) Hello.
Me: How've you been?
Girl: Good! Pretty good!
Me: Haven't seen you around lately, you been Travelling a lot?
Girl: Uhh..No...I've been coming here everyday for the last three weeks.
Me: Really? Well, I haven't seen you.
(Pause as we both sip and look around)
Me (To break the silence) Your hair looks great.
Girl (Pleased, but looks a bit uncertain): Thank you.
Me (Continuing to push it): You've grown it a lot, haven't you?
Girl: Uhhh -'s always been like this only..
Me (Now confident in the chatter, thinking this is going unusually well - I clearly know her better than she knows herself!) What are you saying! It was sooo short earlier (gesturing with hand above ear)
Girl (A little less friendly now): You're talking about someone else. I don't think you know me.
Me (Truly shocked by this twist in the tale): What? Aren't you Neha from Accounting?
Girl (A little icily, maybe she doesn't like Neha) No, I am not. I'm Asha, I work in Training. We met three months ago at the course in Bangalore.
Me (Trying to salvage the situation): Ohh..heh heh...this is a little embarassing. You really look like Neha though. Do you know Neha? Short hair like soooo ..(can't stop myself from gesturing again)
Girl (Bugged, clearly not flattered by the obvious resemblance): Yes,I know her.
Me (Trying to get out of this): Well, I'm Y and I am bad with names, as you might have guessed. Ha ha.
Girl (looking like she wants to throw her coffee on me): I know who you are. We've met before.
Me: Well, gotta go! It was nice seeing you again.... (Sudden wave of hopelessness)...What was your name again? I'm sorry...
Girl (Fiery hatred in her eyes) It's ASHA.
Me: Ok, bye....Asha! (Escaping into nearby bathroom, cautiously emerging only after I am sure she has gone)

Author's note: Please note that the names in this incident have been changed, to protect the identity of the characters - and also because I have subsequently forgotten them

But, in my defense, I would like to say that I know for a fact that this kind of thing happens to a lot of people. Take one of my best friends, Richa.

So Richa knows a lot of people, is one of those popular kinds. But one day, after having had a long conversation with a familiar faced fellow, she realised that she had no idea who he was. She could probably have managed to get away with it, but her curiosity got the better of her at the end of the conversation, and she thought she had cracked a really smart way to find out his name.

Richa (Super casual): So listen, yaar! Just tell me...I was having this argument with my sister...about the exact spelling of your name do you spell it?

Guy (nonplussed):
t ??

Stunned and embarassed silence all around.

I know how you feel, Richa. I know it.