Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sorting Out Sid: Extract 1 ( The Agency Presentation)

So here's the first extract being released for my new book Sorting Out Sid. If you like it, now's a good time to place your pre-order for the book on Flipkart here at this link, because 200 people are also going to get a Happily Unmarried Beanbag Mobile Phone holder with their copy of the book!

 Extract ( From Chapter 7, The Agency Presentation)

Sid tapped his fingers on the table for a while, in a pensive mood. Finally, the door swung open and Ravi ushered in the agency team along with a couple of other brand managers. The first person to enter was Murali, the head of the agency. He burst in with his usual boisterous confidence and flourishing moustache, booming, ‘How are you, Sid?’ and extended his hand.
‘Fine, FINE,’ said Sid in a loud and deep voice that came pretty close to matching Murali’s in terms of pitch, allowing his hand to be pumped in Murali’s death grip. They had never really liked each other. Sid thought Murali was a condescending gasbag, and he had always felt Murali resented dealing with a client so much younger than himself. They stood there smiling affably at one another. ‘Take a seat, Murali, so good to see you. Coffee?’
‘Sure, would love one,’ said Murali, and plonked himself heavily on one of the chairs as the rest of his team piled in. Sid greeted each one and noted with a heavy heart that it was a crowd today – about ten people? His heart sank. This was bad news; he knew this only happened when there was a particularly horrendous script idea, and thus the need for reinforcements. Right now in the room, Sid noted, were people from the servicing team, the copy team, the creative head, the account director and one small fellow whom Sid hadn’t seen before, and vaguely suspected to be the office tea boy. Still, one would hear them out – one hardly had a choice.
Once everyone had settled down and the pleasantries about the weather were out of the way, Sid cleared his throat and said, ‘So, can we start?’
Murali opened his mouth to speak, but Ravi piped in, ‘Sid, Akash said he would join us, should we wait for him?’ Sid gave Ravi a withering look which had absolutely no impact on the young man. He was about to say that there was no need to wait, and that Akash would pick up the threads, when the door opened and Akash came in, bustling with self-importance. Murali stood up to greet Akash as did the rest of the agency. Sid cringed inwardly. Whenever Murali and Akash met, the conversation between them was always extended and jovial, with entirely senseless rambling. It was to be no different this time. After ten minutes more of poor jokes, meaningless reminiscing and comments about the weather, a lull in the conversation indicated it was finally time to start the script presentation. Sid looked at his watch – 11.30 a.m., already! And not one useful task had yet been accomplished all morning.
Murali put on his serious business face and turned to Akash. ‘Akash, we have something brilliant for you today, you’re going to love it. It’s brilliant, boss! When you hear it, you’re going to say, “brilliant!”.’ Akash nodded as if under a spell, but Murali continued with a warning in his tone, ‘But, you have to be able to see it, you have to be able to visualize … and if you can’t visualize it…’ He shook his head sorrowfully. ‘… you won’t be able to appreciate it.’
Akash nodded sagely and Sid cleared his throat, irritated that Murali seemed to be addressing only Akash. Murali continued, ‘Rimi came up with this script, so, I’d like her to present. Go ahead, Rimi.’
Sid noted that Akash had assumed his listening stance – he leaned back on his chair with a serious expression and covered his eyes with his hand. Rimi looked confused but Murali indicated that she should go ahead.
Rimi was a thin, pale young girl with long, flowing, black hair who had always given Sid the impression of being an anorexic ghost who smoked too much. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and started narrating the script in a low monotone that she presumably thought was very captivating and sexy.
‘The story opens with the camera panning out over a modern-looking room. There is a row of four beds, each of which has one person fast asleep under the covers. We cannot see who they are until suddenly there is a ray of sunshine that beams through the window over each of the beds in quick succession. As this happens, the people on the bed throw off their bed covers in perfect synchronization. As they emerge, we see that they are four very beautiful, young girls. they stretch in synchronization and step out of their beds in synchronization. In perfect synchronization they get ready quickly and have their breakfast. They step out of the house in synchronized steps. We then see that they have reached another building. At this building, they step inside and go into a changing room where there are four empty booths waiting for them. In perfect synchronization, they step into the changing booths and when they step out we see they are in swimming suits. In the climax of the film, all four dive in perfect synchronization into a swimming pool and it is revealed to us that they are in fact – synchronized swimmers!’
There were a few long moments of silence – of anticipation on the agency’s side, horror on Sid’s part. Akash was nodding slowly, his hand still covering his eyes.
As per protocol, Akash, as the most senior person, was supposed to speak first. Everyone waited … and waited. Finally, Akash uncovered his eyes and spoke, but only to sidestep smoothly by saying, ‘I’m still absorbing it. Sid, you want to react first?’
This was exactly what Sid had been hoping for. Biting back sarcasm, he asked politely, ‘This is supposed to be an ad for our lead toilet cleaner, Kollinex. I must have missed the part where that came in?’
Rimi fumbled with her script, the very picture of ghostly, pale confusion, but Murali stepped in, booming, ‘Well, obviously Rimi didn’t spell it out, Sid, but the very idea here is to bring a certain glamour to the category. These girls are well rested and fresh in the morning. “Fresh in the morning”. The morning routine consists of bathroom visits – it’s about the concept. Here we are trying to give you a feel of the whole story without the boring product windows and brand specifics.’ He paused for impact, and to give Sid a look that magnificently combined superiority with reproach. ‘But of course, you have to be able to visualize it.’
Work Sid prided himself on being a cool character whose feathers rarely got ruffled. right now, however, he felt the blood rushing to his ears. He was on the verge of telling Murali to visualize exactly where he could stuff his lousy script, when Akash finally cleared his throat and looked up at the several tense faces around the room.
He exclaimed, ‘I can see it! I can visualize!’
As Sid looked on in dumbstruck horror, unable to believe his ears, Akash continued, ‘Apart from the minor point that Sid has mentioned, think this is indeed brilliant!’ the agency faces lit up with happy, relieved smiles as he continued, ‘It is attention grabbing! It has glamour! It has a story! Brilliant! Let’s create the storyboard and put it into research quickly!’
He got up to shake Murali’s hand. The meeting was concluded amidst happy laughter and jubilation all around. Sid sat glued to his chair, numb with shock. His team looked confused and disappointed, with one notable exception – young, enthusiastic Ravi who continued to take what appeared to be copious notes, pausing every now and then to shoot gleeful looks around the room.
The agency left shortly thereafter. Sid presumed they planned to take the rest of the day off getting drunk. He bade them farewell, his fake work-smile pasted on his face. The room emptied and Sid was the last to leave. He sighed as he went back to his desk with heavy steps, and a thought entered his mind – would it be premature to resign before finding alternative employment?

Liked what you read so far? Pre-order the book now! Please note that the cool beanbags are only valid on 200 pre-orders on Flipkart at this link

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sorting Out Sid

It's here!

You can pre-order my new book on Flipkart right over here.

Please do so, people.

And if you need further convincing, here's the spankin' new trailer too.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Our Day at the Delhi Zoo

It was a pretty spontaneous plan.

Peanut had just finished her Initial Grade Piano Exam, and it had gone pretty well ( from whatever I could hear, straining my ears outside the room). The exam was at 12 noon on a Monday, which was a pretty weird choice given that it meant that several kids would have had to miss school that day. Anyway, since she was at home, I thought it would be a good idea to take the kids to see the Zoo - I figured they would get a kick out of it. Besides, on a Monday afternoon, I thought it would be less crowded. The twins were home by 1 p.m. and all the kids were very excited when I announced that we were going.

The last time that we had gone to the Zoo was several years ago, when Peanut was only about 2. My sister and I had taken her, and we had had a very enjoyable time. My sister was at work this time, though, so I called up my mother and asked if she would care to join us. She agreed and so we decided to meet at the Zoo. So I piled the kids into the car along with young Menka who is standing in for young Rinki these days, and off we went. My sister, possibly feeling left out of the whole deal, made a snarky remark on Whatsapp to me and my mother ''Wow. This is really something. First Time Ever the Circus Goes to the Zoo.''

We reached before Mother Dear, and I bought the tickets. The twins started causing chaos right at the ticket counter by climbing the steel bars that separated the lines of people, and generally getting in everyone's way. I think they thought they had already reached the zoo, because at one point, Papad peeped out from between the steel bars and said 'Mama. Yeh Jail hai?'

'Cage.' I corrected him hastily. 'And that's inside. With the animals. We're just waiting for Didu.'

It felt like an inordinately long wait since Pickle and Papad were now in full form and they were darting  here and there, climbing the tables that have been placed outside the ticketing area, chasing the crows and squirrels and getting excited that they were seeing so many animals already. Peanut waited more sedately with me while Menka got increasingly confused about which twin to watch, since they tend to run in opposite directions. I was thinking about how much I miss the enthusiastic Rinki and hope that she does come back. However, I told myself, we are lucky to have quiet little Menka. At least we're plodding along.

I spotted a Japanese Lady with long hair, wearing a cap and sunglasses, and carrying a large bag spilling over with its content, and of course, the necessary fancy camera. I smirked and was suddenly jolted out of it by Peanut exclaiming 'Didu' and running towards the Japanese lady. Oh. That was my mother. Of course. Same thing.

All the kids ran over to their grandmother, reaching her approximately at the same time and almost knocking her over with their collective enthusiasm. We could now actually go into the zoo. How exciting! We went in, with the twins throwing only a minor tantrum about having to pass through the metal detector thingy.

There's a bit of a walk to where the animal enclosures start, and Pickle and Papad decided it would be more fun to run it. We watched them benignly until we noticed that there were some vehicles on the road as well. Herding them to the pavement, we walked along. It was a very pleasant wintry afternoon and I was happy to note that indeed there wasn't as much of a crowd as the last time that we had gone.

The Delhi Zoo is very large and I had already decided that we would rent a vehicle to get from one place to another because of the several pairs of little feet involved. However, the 8 seater was already booked up. The next one due was a 14 seater, and even though it involved an outlay of 600 bucks, I thought it would be worth it, especially when I visualized three adults staggering under the weight of three children, since we would eventually end up carrying them.

As we waited for our 14-seater to arrive, we overheard a family of Sardars asking for a vehicle and being refused. In a friendly gesture, I offered to them that they could join us on our 14 seater. They agreed with alacrity and handed over 300 bucks to me. They were two couples, one little kid and an infant, and so we would fit in perfectly - we waited for our vehicle. As it arrived, we climbed in with perfect cordiality - our tribe occupying the front of the vehicle, theirs the back. And we were off!

The first stop that our nice, soft-spoken driver took us to was the deer enclosure. We all piled out, me convincing Papad that the Lollipop that he had found in Didu's bag wasn't as important as the sight we were about to see. The kids watched the spotted deer, awestruck by the proximity. I think they were just glad - as was I - that the deer were not in a cage but a fairly large green area. I wanted to capture the moment and took pictures of each of my kids in succession as they watched the deer. There was this little squeaky kind of noise emanating from somewhere nearby but I was too lost in the moment to give it much attention. Only a few minutes later when everybody had had their fill of the deer and were ready to go back to the vehicle, did I notice the squeaking had gotten louder.

'Didi! Pair hataiye na...Didi!'

Oh deer, I mean dear. I realized only then that I had been standing all this while on poor little Menka's foot. Had it been Rinki, there would have been shouting loud enough to frighten all the deer more than an impending lion attack, but little timid Menka could only manage the ineffectual squeaks of protest. Feeling like a clumsy and thoughtless oaf, I removed my Puma-clad-foot from on top of Menka's tiny slipper-ed one and murmured an apology along with 'Why didn't you say something earlier?' We headed back to our 14-seater, the Sardar family and ours.

We next saw the Rhino, which the children were quite awed by. The next hour was a whirlwind - we had our vehicle for an hour and wanted to cover as many things as possible, so there really wasn't going to be time to linger, which I had been aware of - as it is, while the children would be charmed at first, they would soon start to get more interested in the thought of their next snack. We therefore covered the   giraffes; the fox, the hyena and jackal; breezed through some incredibly pretty birds; caught the somnolent hippos, crocodile and alligator; of course, the majestic elephants. Naturally, the felines were the most exciting, with the leopard, the lion and a really vocal White Tiger who put up quite a show, roaring away in the most heart-rending manner.

The kids were very excited, and we had to consistently remind them that attempting to climb over the railings wasn't the smartest idea. The Sardar family were thankfully on the same plane as us in terms of which animal sighting to prioritize and how much time to spend where, so it was all fairly smooth. As we left, the strategically placed Sovenir shop caught the attention of my kids, and we therefore were forced to buy some overly priced and fairly crappy things to round off the experience. But overall, I thought it was totally worth it.

Now, the big downer -and there was only one, but it was a big one. I don't know why I didn't really notice it the previous time, but this time round it was so much clearer. The infrastructure at the Zoo strikes me as fairly good, and the animals seem to broadly be in okay shape; but the way the visitors behave is absolutely appalling. I would call it animal-like, but that would really be doing the animals a big injustice.

On so many occasions, right in front of big signs that requested Do Not Tease the Animals, there were people teasing the animals. They would call out to them, make funny noises and - to my chagrin - even throw things at them. I would have perhaps understood to an extent if this behaviour was limited to little kids who might be excused for not knowing better; but no, it was grown men and sometimes women. It was as if they were all there saying 'What the hell! I've paid my forty bucks and I want entertainment, dammit.' So they were intent upon making the animals ''do'' something for the sake of that entertainment, to get their money's worth out of the whole thing. It was really depressing. Especially when we saw a particularly charming fellow throw his empty bottle of Pepsi into the pond with the Hippos, succeeding in arousing their curiosity and then taking a picture of them with his mobile phone as they followed the bottle around slowly.

My mom told me to take a picture of the guy and report him - which we eventually did not end up doing because the kids were getting super cranky about getting out once our hour was up - as predicted.  It irked me later so much that I put up a post on my Facebook page about it - but still left me feeling most dissatisfied. An animal-loving friend who is usually quite vocal about these things asked whether I had told the guy it was wrong to do what he did, and could even put the animals in danger. I told her I hadn't because I rarely get confrontational when I'm out with the kids. Judging by the number of such incidents we witnessed (and the number of empty cold drink bottles we spotted in some enclosures) the behavior is really widespread. My friend pointed out that it was at least good that I was raising awareness on Facebook about how such behaviour is wrong - but I wasn't too convinced about that. At least, my assumption was that most of the people reading my post on my page wouldn't be the sort to behave this way. At least, I would hope so.

My friend also said that she's against the concept of Zoos altogether. I don't think I've thought about it that hard before - but I think purely because of the way the animals are treated by rest of us, it may be a better idea to just leave them alone. Even the company we had by way of the Sardar family turned out to be the callous variety, judging by how one guy reacted when the Leopard was squirted with water, and startled into coming into full view for our benefit. ''Bhaiiya, phir se paani chhiddakna!'' He called. My mother turned away in disgust and walked off, back to the vehicle that we would now share less willingly with them. I followed more slowly, feeling more depressed than before.

So the fact is -while altogether the kids had a really lovely time - I don't think I'll be taking them back again to the Delhi Zoo anytime in a big hurry. A safari somewhere nearby will be just as good even if it means we don't actually get to see half as many animals.

In the meantime, if you do go to the Delhi Zoo - be prepared for the one variety of animal that is truly uncouth - the average mobile-phone-camera-and-cold-drink-bottle-wielding-visitor-to-the-Delhi-zoo.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Such a Lovely Morning

I'm in the process of preparing for my next class at the Management institute where I'm facilitating a month-long Marketing Course. It's a terribly busy time, and there's a lot of work to be done on my upcoming book, too. The kids are getting ready for school, and I'm looking forward to their getting out of the house so that I can concentrate on my work.

My maid then comes in crying. Oh. Her grandmother has passed away. She says she has to go back to the village, and may be gone for a month. I have to bite back questions about why it would take that long. The family is grieving. And so am I, but for a slightly different reason. I now have no nanny, and a LOT of work to do.

After some confusion about whether to book plane tickets or rail tickets for the family, it is decided they will try their luck with the trains. I walk towards the nearest ATM to withdraw money for her, wondering all the while how I'm going to manage over the next few weeks. It's an SBI ATM, but it's not blinking that bright blue warm welcome at me. It's stone cold dead. Great.

I have to walk further along, enjoying the fumes of the traffic that mills about me, and finally reach an HDFC ATM. I withdraw the cash, trying to cheer myself up somehow. So what if I've not yet got any work done because of all the crying and the plane booking discussions and the fact that the Tata Sky guy landed up and messed up my internet connection while installing a new Set Top Box and all that jazz. I still have another hour or so before the kids come home. And after that? Well, we'll just see, won't we?

I wait patiently for my card. And wait some more. And then some more. This can't be happening. The screen has frozen with the message 'Please collect your cash.' Aha. It seems that the ATM has eaten my debit card. Hallelujah.

I somehow summon help and the fellow tries to reassure me that the ATM-cash-stuffing-man will be along soon and I should go home and wait. He takes my phone number and says he'll call me when the card is out so that I can walk all the way back to collect it. I look at his face, and it is kind. I give a hysterical sort of laugh and walk away, facing the fumes of the traffic all the way.

On the way back, I now notice that the closer ATM, the SBI one, is blinking a warm friendly blue welcome at me.  It appears to be in perfect working order now. I laugh again, shaking my head, the hysteria causing a few passers-by to gaze at me wonderingly.

I would love to have a nap now and sleep the rest of this day through. But I'm expecting a call regarding my ATM card anytime now.

Anytime. Now. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In Defense of Not Forgetting My Phone.

There's a clear wave of concern about the overuse of technology in our lives - phones, social media, cameras and the combination of these three powerful forces is resulting in our missing the moment and disconnecting from real relationships. This is showcased by the now-famous 'I forgot my phone' viral video below.

This really does ring true to an extent. There are so many instances where I've found myself sitting around with my family where there are moments where everyone starts to play with their phones. And my husband drives me crazy with the checking of his work email at home, and listening to Osho lectures instead of me ( although I don't think I can blame him for that last one much - it's perhaps a tad more calming listening to Osho than me. Just a tad.) Yes, there are many times that this phone-and-social-media obsession can get particularly excessive and therefore annoying.

Still, here's why I don't lament and regret the shift as much as some people claim to ( and it's worth examining when we do complain about the all-pervasive role of technology in our lives, whether things really were all that rosy in the past.) For me personally, I think life is decidedly better when it comes to the context of relationships and memories now. Here are just a few reasons why -

- Moment and Memory Capture: Ever since I switched to an iPhone - the clarity of the pictures on the camera resulted in, for the first time ever, my ability to capture innumerable precious moments with my children on film. You cannot carry a camera around with you all the time when you have three kids running around, and I think I've now built a really great collection of moments to look back on over the years. Including truly priceless pics like this, which would never have been possible had I been running around to get a camera all the time. Does it keep me from 'living in the moment'. Er...I don't know. I think it's great to be able to enjoy a situation and also keep a record of it. It doesn't always have to be a choice. If it is? Yes, I'd rather close my eyes and listen to Farida Khanum or watch a play than try to get a good angle for a shot. But I don't find a reason to choose in every situation, just some.

-Moment Sharing and Memory-Keeping:  Facebook and its phone application has allowed me to store the best pictures over the year - the fact is that when you're trigger happy, the best real filter (for me) is the pics that I think are worth sharing with my family and friends. It's comforting to know that that record is there. Hopefully Facebook will not shut down in the next decade, and if it does, it will allow us to take our albums with us.

- For fostering really close relationships: I haven't found something better than Whatsapp. I'm part of at least four different groups of about 5-6 people; a group of ex-colleagues, a family group, a group of batchmates from my older company - this is one form of social networking that I have found really meaningful and it's actually put me back in touch with people that I care about. In fact, I'd say this one single feature of group chats on Whatsapp has actually lifted my level of connect with people.

- Long-distance real-time moment-sharing: Facetime! Like a lot of people I have relatives living abroad and if there are going to be little cousins in the family growing up thousands of miles away from each other, at least they have the ability to occasionally 'see' each other and share all-important news like 'This my new toy' and relevant updates ( 'Waaah - he broke my new toy').

I could go on, but I think the point is made. Are relationships suffering because of technology, specifically because of the ubiquitous mobile phone? No - relationships suffer because sometimes we behave like idiots and don't set rules about our use of that technology. Too much of a good thing is bad - we've always known this. So why not put in place some ground rules for ourselves, with the people we care about - and recognize our own flaws and bad habits and just work on them - like with everything else?

Now, excuse me, while I go and share this deeply insightful post with the many people I care about on Facebook and Twitter and Googleplus and... 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Whacky Vaccinations

As a family, we tend to display slightly weird behavior regarding vaccinations. This month has been no different.

One fine morning, I heard Pickle say to Papad, ''Lesh play Mama-Daddy''
''Okay'' said Papad. I was amused to hear of this game and waited to see what they would do.
Papad then picked up his sister's Mickey Mouse bag and said to Pickle ''Honey, it's 5 o'clock! I'm GOING.'' And then marched out of the room.
I laughed as I told Vijay about this, saying that I have no idea where they got that from. My attention then moved to other things - the kids had been unwell for a while, especially little Papad who had a bad cough. It so happened that this was a day that Vijay had a holiday, so I made a call to the Pediatrician.

'You can have appointment at 11 o'clock' said the depressed sounding voice of the receptionist.
I looked at the time - it was 10.15 a.m. 'Can't we make it 11.30?'
'No.' said the receptionist decidedly.
'Fine.' I said. 'Please book me in for 11 a.m.'

I told Vijay to get ready so that we could take little coughing Papad for a check up - it had been quite a few days and  now that we had this unexpected slot, we should definitely make use of it. Vijay agreed wholeheartedly and then proceeded to ignore me for the next twenty minutes and read the newspaper. Fuming, I got ready and asked our help Rinki to get Papad ready too.

'Papal kahan jaayega?'
'Doctor paas, Pickle.'

I gazed at my tantrumming son. What was with this fascination for going out, even if it were a visit to the doctor. 'But you're alright, beta. Papad is the one who...'

He came charging at me with his head lowered like a raging bull and caught me just above the knee. I gritted my teeth and told Vijay, 'You manage him now.'
'Arrey, I'm coming with you.'
'Honey. It's 11 o'clock. I'm going!' With that, I flounced out of the house, picking up little Papad on the way.
'You see where they get it from?' called Vijay 'At least take his shoes!'


In about 15 minutes, Papad and I had reached the doctor's office. Vijay had called and tried to stop me, saying that we should just take Pickle as well. I refused, saying I had only taken an appointment for one kid and besides, we were already late. Vijay had tried using his random logic 'You're anyway not going to make it on time - what's another few minutes.' I hung up on him after telling him that if he wanted, he could drive Pickle and Peanut over too, but the Priority was to get Papad to the Pediatrician as Promised.

Vijay and I often disagree on this. I'm a stickler for being on time and he's a lot more easy going. Sometimes I think he's being deliberately maddening, but this time, I had determined I would do things my way. So little Papad and I walked into the pediatrician's office - to find it completely empty.

The receptionist really could have given me a later time, I realized. There were hardly any patients around today since it was just after Diwali. Whatever. The friendly and efficient doctor made her appearance and gave Papad a thorough checkup. Within about seven minutes, the door opened and Vijay, Rinki, Peanut and a very irritated Pickle made their appearance too.

'Wheezing.' murmured the doctor as she examined Papad. We discussed his treatment and then the conversation turned to the Flu vaccinations. I explained that it had been a year and she gave me an explanation about this year's strains or something else that I pretended to understand.

Since Vijay was here, I thought I'd discuss with him the possibility of just getting all the kids their flu vaccinations on this visit. How unfair on them, though, I said to him - they came here unprepared and just expecting a joyride and to play in the doc's waiting room and now they're going to get jabs.

Yeah, he said. So? Let's do it. He was clearly as fed up with the relapses as I was.

About fifteen minutes later, there was still so much screaming that you would have thought there were about seventeen distraught families in that waiting room instead of just one. To add to all of that chaos, Vijay and I had both decided on the spur-of-the-moment to get our jabs too. I had half-jokingly asked the doctor if she could do ours too, but she agreed without batting an eyelid. We had all been sick and reinfecting each other, so the two of us merrily got our shots.

Vijay then said 'What about Rinki?'
'What about her?'
'She should get vaccinated too. I heard her cough this morning.'
'Yes but...'
'What?' asked Vijay.
'You know how she feels about injections!'

Vijay did know. Rinki acted all sympathetic when it came to the kid's injections but she was in reality terrified of injections herself. 'Well, never mind, she'll just have to have them.' he said virtuously 'it's good for her, anyway. She won't fall sick!'
'Well,' said the doctor 'there's no guarantee...'
'Rinki!' Vijay was already calling her. He informed her of the impending injection, while she listened in growing horror and then politely declined.
When Vijay wants, he can be very stubborn and convincing. Rinki walked in trembling into the doctor's office. The kids were now curious enough to have stopped crying, and they followed and crowded around the door, watching.

Rinki put on a brave face, but as soon as the needle was plunged in, she let out a wail that would have not been out of place in a Tom & Jerry cartoon, kind of like when Tom's tail gets cut off with an axe or something. I thought this would only upset the children further, but they appeared to think it was the funniest thing that they had ever seen - they almost fell down laughing, pointing at Rinki and even clapping in delight. It was the best end to a doctor's visit EVER, and there was much happiness and merriment all around, except for poor Rinki - but she soon recovered too and was as amused at the rest of us by the children's evident joy. Too late I realized that if the kids had seen me and Vijay getting our shots, we might have avoided several minutes of crying. Next time, I determined, we wouldn't miss the opportunity to get needles poked into us in full sight of our darling, strangely sadistic little kids.

For now, the ordeal is over - and for some days, all of us proudly sported those little square band-aids, the way one would wear their battle scars.

Strange we may be, but now you may please bring the winter season ON. We're ready!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


It's been a rather eventful couple of months, and it's kept me from posting. In a rare burst of energy though, let me share a few things that have been going on with me.

I finished my work assignment early September, and got busy with helping organize a not-for-profit event called the 'Globeathon - the walk to spread Women's GYN Cancer awareness'. With very limited time and funds, we still managed to get about 400 people to turn up for this walk ( which also happened in over 80 other countries!) on the 29th September. It was quite an experience organizing this thing. Someone I know who's been advising me to cut back and focus on activities just rolled her eyes when I told her I was doing this. After looking nonplussed for a moment, she threw out her arms and said 'Oh well. Why not!!'

My point exactly.

So anyway, October was exciting. I underwent two trainings of very different kinds. One to get certified as Practitioner Marketing Faculty for HT's new Bridge School of Management, for which I am likely to start teaching a marketing course end of November - that should be a lot of fun and very enriching, especially because it's a facilitator-type role and the students are people with significant work experience.

And the second was a training in Zumba with an excellent instructor called Lucas Mthenjane - (a superb teacher, super-fit with a Martial Arts background - and a good-natured hilarious mimic of failed attempts at dance steps, too). Before you ask, no, I'm not going to make a career out of this one: but this weekend, I start a batch in my own complex - twice a week in the mornings and as much for my own fitness as putting my newly acquired
'License to Teach' to use!

Now, here was the slight catch. I fell rather ill, and so did the kids, due to the change of weather - and was very, very low energy over the last few days. And that's when moments of doubt began to hit me. Was I really up to all of this? With growing alarm, I realized that I had also loaded several things onto Saturday.

Saturday morning - Zumba class
Saturday 11 a.m - my Happy School volunteering
Saturday afternoons - a four hour Marketing class.

Ack!! What had I done? Each of these things require tremendous energy, and here I had piled them all onto the same day. Not to mention the work that would be required during the rest of the week, including the piece I'm trying to do on my own Marketing Consulting Gig and leave us not forget the Writing Ambitions. The week was packed, but Saturday was impossible.

I debated cutting out the Happy School thing briefly or shifting it to another day. But this simple Saturday morning activity of teaching spoken English at this school for underprivileged kids brings me so much joy, and to those kids too - not to mention, my own, all three of whom clamber into the car with me and contribute to the chaotic time in class. I actually felt bad that I haven't been going regularly there for the last few weeks and redoubled my resolve to go again - I called up the principal, the lovely Mrs. Kamal Capoor and apologized, reaffirming my commitment to show up post Diwali.

Next was to call my own Zumba instructor, under whose guidance and mentorship I've learnt over the last year - 'Sameer! I don't think I can do this! It takes sooo much energy...and I've got all this other stuff...'
'Will power, Yashodhara...give yourself a chance...also, you've been ill, yaar, that's the only reason why you're feeling like this.' He said briskly. 'And lastly. Shift the class to Sunday.Bye.'


That's what I did - this simple shift caused a little chaos to a couple of prospective students, but will hopefully make my life that much more manageable.

I'm packing so much into life these days - my father-in-law is rather disapproving about my overall lack of focus ( as he perceives it) , but I've figured that it makes me happier than anything else. Besides, the way I look at it, it's nice to be able to do a whole bunch of things.  The important thing is for me to quit imposing arbitrary deadlines on myself and creating unnecessary pressure, which has been a bit of a habit. It does take a lot of planning; and it's most critical to have my health ( and that of my family) in place before I'm able to do even one of these things properly - well, we've just got our flu vaccinations ( and that's another story) so hopefully that will help!

However - I'm fairly certain that a time will come really soon (in the next month or two) when I'll have to shift gears and work on something single-mindedly, to the exclusion of some of the other things that take up my time. But in the meantime, this is how it is, and now that I'm feeling a little better after almost fifteen days of that damned viral fever - it ain't looking all that bad!

Oh and - lastly, before I forget. Here it is! Out in the next couple of months sometime at a bookstore near you, dudes! My second book. More on this soon, too.

Monday, October 7, 2013

These Stories are Not Okay

I know I've posted - and so have like a million other parents - about how inappropriate the good ol' Nursery Rhymes are. You know, how macabre they really are when you come to think of it, and how much damage they probably cause to an unsuspecting kid's psyche ( Rock a bye baby until you come crashing down, anyone?) So that part is done.

But when your children's playschool sends home weekend reading, you dutifully sit down with them and read those stories at bedtime - and the horror is relived all over again.

This weekend, we have Jack and the Beanstalk. So this dumb and disobedient kid exchanges his family's cow for some 'magic' beans, his mom smacks him and throws them out of the window, and the next day he looks out and (gasp) - a giant beanstalk. Naturally, he climbs to the top. A castle. A Giantess. She's kind enough to feed the greedy little fella, but when her husband returns, she tells Jack that he must hide. She distracts the husband and then Jack proceeds to steal numerous items from their castle on repeat trips, and then repays her kindness by killing her husband in the end. And of course, with the ill-gotten gains, Jack and his proud mother live happily. ever. after.

The values that this precious story imparts are too many to list.

It's a tough call between the above story and Puss in Boots though. There we have a guy who leaves his riches to his two elder sons and his cat to the youngest. In a thrilling twist, the cat is one who can talk, and for reasons that I have yet to comprehend turns out to be a bit of a prissy with a boot fetish. He demands boots and then proceeds to swindle the king of the land with stories about how his poor Master is actually the Marquis of Carabas. Here, too, an unsuspecting giant is slayed so that his castle may be presented as the home of the fake Marquis. The impressed King who is obviously the materialistic sort, offers his daughter's hand in marriage to Puss's master and they all live happily. ever. after.

Why? Why?? WHY???

More importantly - can you please recommend some good reading material for children in the age group 3-7 years of age? Much obliged. Thank you. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Globeathon 2013: 29th September, Delhi

This month, I've been involved with helping to create a low-budget cause-related walk called the 'Globeathon Delhi.' It's for the cause of spreading awareness about Women's GYN (Below-the-belt, as they're calling it) Cancers, and is actually a part of an International Relay, in which over 80 countries across the world are participating.

(Photo courtesy: The very talented Gaurav Joshi. Model: The very helpful Neha Jha)

The Delhi event is a 5 kilometer walk, and it's a very, very worthy cause, being put together with very few resources but a lot of resourcefulness!

Now, would really, REALLY appreciate your help in linking to this post on your blogs, and posting details about it on Social Media.

Date: 29th Sep, 2013
Start point/time: Registrations from 7-8 a.m. at Birla Mandir, Near Gole Market
End Point/time:  Closing ceremony from 10-10.30 a.m. at BLK Super Speciality Hospital, Pusa Road.

Please do participate! The Facebook Page is here, and the Event on FB is here. You should also look at the international website to register from the 23rd Sep onwards.

Either way - would be great to see you there!

Do write to me at yashodhara dot lal at gmail dot com for any queries whatsoever!

P.S - Am doing this on a purely voluntary basis, and it's turning out to be quite an eye-opener in so many ways. And this video is terribly, terribly important. If you're a woman, please take out the 16-minutes required to watch it. Trust me on this one. Please. My pick from this? ''Get a pap smear. Get a pap smear. Get a pap smear.''


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

3 Ps in a Mall

I've never been a big fan of trips to the mall as a means of occupying the children. But one has to admit that on a hot sweaty afternoon, it beats a public park.

In any case, I had to go and pick up some new Piano sheet music books for Peanut, and so decided that the kids could accompany me. They would walk into the big Kawai store and walk gingerly around the glistening majestic instruments, overawed and inspired by their potent silence.

I stood outside the Kawai store, blinking, my many children milling about my knees impatiently. Closed on Tuesdays. Oh. Dammit. I cursed them silently and then turned to a confused Peanut, and said 'Let's buy your books another day, okay?' I spotted a toy shop and added brightly 'How about we buy you that globe, eh?'

Peanut is all about the questions these days, as I may have mentioned and I usually have no answers. Vijay had mentioned that she would benefit from a bit of globe-gazing, and so we traipsed into the store to look for a globe, much to the delight of Pickle and Papad, who immediately went bonkers and started climbing into the toy cars.

This particular store has particularly khadoos staff, inspired by the particularly khadoos owner who never seems to have any change. I don't know why I continue to patronize it, but anyway, this time it was a matter of convenience. Except that they didn't have a globe and now Pickle and Papad were wreaking havoc and destruction. My maid Rinki's stern 'Nos' did nothing to deter them. They seemed to figure that if she were to be taken seriously, they would have been finished long ago. So now they merrily wrestled with the plastic wrapping on the toy cars, going 'Vrooom Vrooooom' while the khadoos staff voiced their disapproval.

When they registered that I would walk out without buying anything since they didn't have a globe, they called in for reinforcements. 'Raghu! Globe hai kya?' A scrawny unimpressive fellow materialized with a scowl and within a few moments had produced a globe, the approximate size of a marble. 'Yeh wala hi hai.'

I exaggerate - it was not the size of a marble, but rather tiny all the same. I squinted at it and found India. 'This will do for now,' I said in a harried manner, noting that Pickle was now waving threateningly at one store Bhaiiya who was trying to dislodge him from his car.

I paid the Rs. 155 - my 500 rupee note was of course summarily rejected by the store owner, it seemed, purely out of habit or as a matter of principle. I dug into my overflowing purse and found the exact change. It was a little too much for me when the fellow examined my slightly moldy 5 rupee note and said 'Doosra hai, Madam.' I drew myself up to my full height and said 'NAHIN.' and flounced out with the children and the maid in tow. I was back in a second to collect Peanut who was clutching her new globe while looking dreamily at a Barbie doll-house. I flounced out majestically again.

What now? I had already taken them to Nirula's just last week. It wouldn't do to make it a habit. Peanut spotted a sign 'Hangout!' She cried and then sighed dramatically. 'I LOVE Hangout. I wish I could ever go there. I have only been there two times in my LIFE.'

What the hell, I thought. 'Okay! Let's go to Hangout.' Peanut started bouncing off the walls and Pickle-Papad, without fully understanding what was going to happen, but judging by their sister's reaction assuming it was something good, started randomly doing the same.

We stood at the lift, pressing 3. It would take a while for the lift to reach our floor, but Pickle immediately began to whine 'Kyon nahin aa raha? Mama, KYON nahin aa raha?' I tried to pretend he wasn't mine, but there was only another couple standing near me and they weren't buying it. Papad decided 'Hum WO leke jaate hai,' and headed off like a shot towards the escalator leading down, to be caught by the scruff of the neck like a little puppy by Rinki and brought back squealing.

Peanut in the meantime was exercising her reading skills and my patience skills 'What's UG mummy? Upper Ground? What does that MEAN! How can a ground be Upper, ground is always down!' She spotted another sign and said '' She registered this and then glanced down at the bag with the Globe in her arms 'Mama! This is a plastic bag!'

Being a terrible parent, I urged her 'Well, then, come on! Say no to it!'

'NO' She scolded her bag. Suddenly realizing that something was amiss, she looked up at me with a confused expression and said 'Wait...why did you make me do that....' Being quick to take a joke, she began to giggle and so did I 'Mama, did you just make me a buddhu?'

'Yeah' I confessed and we laughed loudly. I stopped when I saw the couple standing with us throwing me disapproving glances. Whatever, creeps, I thought as I sobered down. May you have Triplets. Then we'll talk.

Somehow we made it to the third floor and Peanut spotted Hangout. It was as if Mowgli had found his way back to the Jungle or something - all hell broke loose and Pickle-Papad escaped us to run into that Haven of Fun. They ducked under the arms of the security and disappeared. Rinki slinked in as well in an attempt to quell them. I stood in a dignified manner waiting my turn to recharge my card and Peanut waited patiently with me looking like a little angel - she too had learned the art of disowning Pickle-Papad at such times.

'How much recharge, Madam?'
I thought about it and said '500 only!'
'Recharge for a 1000 and get 100 free...'
'Okay!' I was getting excited but stopped myself 'No way! You guys always do that. I don't want ...'
'Okay, Madam, your wish' she said smoothly and handed me back my card.

I spotted Rinki with Papad, but Pickle was nowhere to be seen. I looked at her questioningly and she pointed. I turned and saw my tiny little boy standing in the middle of the large area - he was looking first this way, then that - he would take one step towards one machine and then change his mind and switch direction towards another. Finally, with reckless abandon, he went and threw himself on top of a little car which was humming with movement and lights. He was like a little bull in a China shop and I found myself excessively glad that the Kawai Piano store had been closed. What the heck was I thinking?

Peanut at Hangout has only one aim in life - to collect loads and loads of tickets in order to try and win something more exciting than an eraser. The first time we went there, someone helped us to win the game of Tetris with a bonus of 500 tickets, which she had used to buy herself a little Tiara, which was literally her crowning glory. It had even lasted two weeks, and had left an indelible impression on her mind, and she wanted the Tiara again.

We played several games with me cheating as much as possible to try and win her tickets, but as usual, we were quite the losers, usually getting only about 15 tickets per game. At one point, Pickle disappeared again and I peeped into one covered car-like space to find him wrestling with the joystick and announcing that he was the Auto-driver. I looked around and surmised that this was some sort of shooting game. But then I saw it said 'Suitable for all ages.' In the what-the-heck mode that I was in, I thought it might be fun for him, so I swiped the card and the game started. Peanut had climbed in next to me but looked a little scared about what was going to happen. I told her not to worry, this was not a scary game at all.

Within seconds, we were on a jungle trip with machine guns blasting in an attempt to keep at bay all the giant frigging spiders that were bent upon trying to make a meal of us. I reflexively grabbed a joystick and began to shoot. Pickle's joystick wasn't working because I hadn't swiped Player Two's slot, but I yelled encouragingly to him 'Good shot!' everytime he pressed the button in an attempt to fool him that he was the one doing the actual killing. Minutes passed, and some sort of strange adrenaline kept me going as I defended our party with natural ease and skill, resurfacing from some period of strange video game obsession of about fifteen years ago back when I too was a mere child.

I was dimly aware that Rinki had poked her head in and urgently asked if I knew where Papad was. I didn't know and at the moment I didn't care. I was fighting killer spiders and now as a bonus, they were sending some killer bees my way. I blasted them into oblivion too. I made it to a pretty high score and it was only when the last reserves of energy were drained from my character from having sustained too many spider-bites and bee-stings that the Game was Over. I sat back satisfied and it was only then that I noticed that Pickle appeared to have stopped playing a while back and was whimpering to get out. Peanut looked traumatized but was staring expectantly at the slot of the machine. When it became clear to her that this game didn't have any tickets despite Mama's high score, she turned up her little nose at me and said 'What a ganda game.' and scampered out. I followed more slowly, Pickle in my arms, feeling dazed and more than a little sheepish.

Papad had apparently slipped into a restricted area. The lady over there told us that we had to pay Rs.250 extra to get a kid in there, which I thought was ludicrous, as was their demand for socks. Well, we couldn't produce socks suddenly and I wasn't going to produce extra money for some stupid extra play area. Luckily, Papad was soon found trapped and panicky inside one of the more convoluted contraptions and we rescued him and made our way back to the main play area.

I tried to make up for the Spider-bee-game-thing by using the card to let the kids enjoy some more games and rides, but naturally, with a 500 buck refill, it didn't last all that long. Peanut didn't mind. She gathered up all her tickets and ran to the redemption store hoping for a Tiara again. The fellow measured the tickets and informed us drily that we had 76 points and indicated the prizes we were eligible for. Peanut couldn't believe it. After all that, only these sad little toys again? A tiny ball, a fancy pen, toffees...what was this crap? Finally, she settled for an eraser cleverly shaped like an iPhone and it was immediately snatched away from her by a belligerent Pickle. I retrieved it before she had a meltdown by bribing Pickle with a toffee. It was obvious the twins were in no mood to leave the place, so I had to entice them with Ice-cream from Nirula's again.

Half an hour later and much stickier, we left the mall. I had to send Rinki back to get the Globe which Peanut dutifully had left behind, first at Hangout and now at Nirula's. I called our driver, glad that this was now over. It wasn't as if I hadn't had fun, it was just that I needed a couple of hours to recover. I was looking forward to my quiet time alone at home when I noticed my twins were running away. I knew that good ol' Rinki would catch them though so I strolled along behind her with a happy Peanut.

After a few seconds, I realized that the twins were putting some distance between themselves and Rinki, who has become more portly over the last few weeks. She was calling out to them but they were merrily ignoring her because they were now whizzing down a ramp towards the area where the cars picked up passengers.

They were racing towards the cars.

Pickle, who usually wins races by hurtling his little self along like a tiny truck was ahead of Papad and Rinki was now way behind. A sudden panic gripped my heart and  I dropped Peanut's hand and started running towards my kids. What if they didn't stop on time and continued out onto the road and got hit?

I was wearing my running shoes and my innate laziness was now overcome by abject fear, which propelled me to shoot past Rinki who was waddling along in her sandals at the best speed she could manage. The visitors to the mall were then treated to the unusual sight of a lady in her thirties dressed in a flowery green shirt and jeans running down the ramp like a madwoman screaming the unlikely combination of words 'Pickle! Papad! STOP. Right NOW! Pickle! Papad!'

It worked. Pickle heard my panicked scream and skidded to a stop a few feet before the cars. Papad stopped too, wondering what the fuss was all about. Pickle apparently hadn't liked my tone and when I came up and grabbed him by the hand, not knowing whether to smack him or hug him, he took the initiative by kicking me in the shin and screaming 'Ganda Mama'. After admonishing me for spoiling his fun by saving his life, he then promptly burst into tears and was inconsolable on the way home.

Frankly, so was I, and it will be a while before I take them to the mall again.

At least a week.

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's a Spiritual Life. Ha ha ha!

One of the most important reasons for me to try and find some answers regarding the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything guessed it...having had a bunch of kids who are all about the QUESTIONS. 

Of course, Peanut is the most curious of the lot. At the tender age of six, she has witnessed the death of two people and this is the topic that she seems rather obsessed with. Unfortunately, I still haven't found the best answers to give her. 

I remember when I went sniffling to my mother at the age of about seven, saying 'Mom, I don't want to die.' She comforted me with 'But you're not going to die till you're much older, you know - 70, 80 years old.' That sounded like a really long time away to me and I was therefore satisfied that it wasn't really that big a deal. I went away happily, probably to do something productive like juggling eggs over Mom's radio in the drawing room but that's really not part of this story. 

When Peanut came blubbering to me, all frightened and said 'Mom, I don't want to die.' My first instinct was to comfort her with the same spiel, about her not dying until many, many years later. Being a far more intelligent kid than I ever was, Peanut paused with the blubbering to give me her scornful 'YOU're my mother, really??' look and then resumed her crying with 'NO. I don't EVER want to die. NEVER!'

It's been a little difficult for me to deal with, although her fears regarding death come back less frequently now than they did a couple of months ago. Earlier, it used to be almost every night that she'd have a meltdown about this issue, and now it's only about once in two weeks. However, her obsessiveness with the death question continues, including conversation-starters like -

'Mama. When are you going to die?'
'Mama. Do our words die?'
'Do our CD's die?'
'Mom. Can books die?'

I tried to remind her about her Theme 'Living and Non-living things' but she denied vehemently having learnt about it in school a year ago. I explained that it was only Living things that could die, to have her gasp 'But why?' 

It's so much easier to run out of answers than questions. 

When my sister is over, I let her field the questions. 

'Masi.' Peanut said while we were travelling in the car. ' Do cars die?'
'No, beta.' Patient Masi said 'Cars are machines. Not living things.'
'But cars live.' said Peanut indignantly 'They breathe!'
'No they don't!'
'But their tyres have they breathe.' 
'Okay.' Clearly, my child had trumped my sister. 

I've looked up in a couple of places about the best way to answer her questions about death. I'm mildly worried that it's an obsession for her, the way it comes back every now and then. But I'm more interested in the best way to get her comfortable with the idea. For the time being, I'm coming up with zilch. I think I made a bit of a boo-boo by suggesting the idea of reincarnation in a moment of desperation and it quelled for one night because we decided that in our next lives, I was again going to be her mother. However, it later led to so much angst around the idea that 'You mean, I could become a BOY if I'm born again? Waaaaaaaah....' It started all over again and I hurriedly tried to dissuade her from this line of thinking. Yeah, I'm a bad, confused parent in so many ways. 

For the time being, Pickle and Papad have no concept about these things, so it's a lot easier. I was listening to Vijay having a conversation with them yesterday, trying to instil in them some form of faith or belief in a higher power. 

'Pickle, Who is God?'
'Me!' That's a natural first response from the twins to just about any question. 
'Er no.' Vijay prodded. 'Who's God?'
'God ish Bhagwan.' Pickle said with confidence.
'Bhagwan!' Papad piped in a millisecond later to prove that he was as knowledgable as his brother. 
'Very good.' Vijay was delighted at this unexpectedly correct response. 'And what does he do?'
Pickle looked stumped but Papad promptly replied 'Puja!'
Vijay frowned at him 'Kisski Puja?'
Papad wasn't about to back down 'Apni.'  He asserted firmly. 
Pickle filled in with 'Wo Sab kuchh dekhta hai...'
'Okayyy.' Vijay said, pleased again. 'So, tell me, what does God look like?'
There was a little pause but then Pickle said encouragingly 'Very nice!'
'But what does he look like?'
Pickle said 'White hair...'
Papad added 'Lambi daadi.'
Vijay was trying to digest this when Papad added, very excitedly 'And very naughty ...he gives toffees!'
'He does?'
'Yesh. Mere school mein aaya...upar se neeche, aaya!'

I helpfully interjected to explain at this point to a confused Vijay that they were talking about Santa Claus, whom they apparently regarded as their personal God. 

Vijay turned to his sons and looked them in the eye. He opened his mouth, clearly about to launch into a speech to correct this false impression. But Pickle gave him a disarming smile, clutched his tummy and said
'Mujhe Potty aaya!' and ran away to do the needful. This deflated Vijay so much that he didn't even try with Papad, who had started describing the Naughty Santa-God again. 

So, in short. We're still figuring it all out. And you? 

Edited to add -  

Conversation after this post:

Vijay: Do you know the Gayatri Mantra?
Pickle and Papad: Yesh! Ommm bhoor....bhuva swahaaa...
Vijay (enthused): Very good! ( Nods encouragingly, mouthing next line)
Pickle ( confused by Vijay's interruption): ...Aaa-ha Tamatar Bada Mazedar..
Papad ( picking up the threads quickly)....Ek din ussko patlu ne khaya...Motu ko bhi maar bhagaaya!

I rest my case.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Vijay and Y's Spa Day Out at Four Fountains

Life has been a little more stressed out than usual, and Vijay and I haven't had time to do anything really relaxing and fun for a bit. So when I got yet another reminder from the team at Four Fountains ( who for a while now have been asking me to come and check the place out), I finally decided enough was enough and this time, we were going for it.

They'd offered me a complimentary therapy since I blog and they seem very confident of their services - I figured it was a good idea to take Vijay along and pay for his massage. That way I could get his perspective too - especially because, strangely enough, he's the more regular spa-goer between the two of us - it's actually just his love for the Thai massage ( woh tod-phod karti hai, toh bada achha lagta hai), and possibly his innate laziness t( he thinks that a regular massage can make up for all lack of exercise.), but either way, he's the massage-lover.

We were both looking forward to it the day before, although the fact that I had booked a Couples Therapy Room for us was making him apprehensive. In the morning, he was positively bad tempered though, snapping at the maids before we left the house. He was muttering to himself as he drove and I finally asked him what was wrong with him. It was then that it emerged that he was unhappy at having had to bathe early in the morning. I had told him to get ready quickly and have a bath by 11 so that we wouldn't be late for our appointment. The two things that Vijay hates on Sundays is to be hurried and to have a bath.

'And now, I'll have to have TWO baths' he said, indignantly. 'One before, and one AFTER the massage. Ridiculous!'

'Oh come on, Vijay.' I tried to cajole him and put him in a better mood.

We reached the Supermart I near Galleria market and spotted the spa quickly enough - at least their branding, which was very prominent, considering that they had taken the main entrance arch up in their bright blue. We parked in the basement and climbed up to the first floor, and soon were in the midst of our 'Spa menu selection.' at a nice reception with the usual cool Spa-type decor.

'And this is the Swedish massage...this is the Green Tea scrubassage....'

'That's it!' I said 'I'm going for a Scrubassage!' I'm a bit of a sucker for cool branding.

Vijay looked a lot more confused about his choice. I urged him to go for the Swedish massage rather than the Thai massage that he was tending towards, as usual. He finally agreed. Then he became confused again when the polite lady asked him if he wanted the Swedish Massage with some special Wintergreen oil. 'Does it smell bad?' He asked, wrinkling his nose.

They brought him a sample and he announced 'This smells like Iodex. No thanks!'

'Fine sir - so you'll go for the regular sesame oil?'

'That smells too!'

'No sir, it's odorless.'

Vijay looked like he had his doubts about this and said to me out of the corner of his mouth 'Til ka tel, na? Wo bhi to..'

'Vijay' I whispered back to him out of the corner of my mouth.

'Okay, sesame oil is fine.' He agreed and there was a general sigh of relief that went around the room.

Suddenly he thought of something else. 'I'll have a male masseuse, right?'

'Yes, Sir' said the polite lady.

'Well, that's it then! We're not going for the couple therapy room...ridiculous...' He whispered toward me 'I don't want a man in the room when you're...'

'Okay, okay.' I said impatiently, even though I knew there would be a screen. Clearly Vijay didn't value any form of intimacy with me when there was another set of people in the room.'Individual rooms, please.'

They gracefully acquiesced to the request.

While our rooms were being readied, the polite lady at reception, who turned out to be a doctor, took a stress test. She asked me a series of questions.

'And do you get irritable and lose your temper often, sometimes, or never?'

Before I could answer, Vijay piped in with 'Always!'

'That's not even an option, Vijay.' I was very irritated and said 'Er, often.'

Sure enough, I was in the high-stress category, as we all knew I would be. Vijay then had the questionnaire administered to him.

'And do you get irritable and lose your temper...'


I almost choked in indignation 'Vijay! Who was snapping at the maids before we left, and ...'

'Okay, sometimes.' he conceded.

To his chagrin, he also turned out to be in the High stress category. Before he could argue this with the doctor, our therapists announced they were ready for us.

I was led down the dark but elegant corridor - I haven't been to that many spas in my life, but I love that spa-smell. It's extremely relaxing by itself.

I was then treated to be a very nice massage by a young girl, who was much stronger than she looked. I was quite impressed - I asked her later and it turned out to be her first job, and she was only about seven months into it - clearly, the training program she was put through was something else, because she used very confident, powerful strokes. I was glad I'd chosen the Scrubassage - it was basically the same as the Swedish massage, but with a green tea scrub which was very relaxing. I topped it up with a head massage for another ten minutes - we'd discussed beforehand that both Vijay and I would get that at the end of our massages. I rounded it all off with some Steam and finally, a shower.

In the initial part of the massage, I found that I was still tense, my mind wandering and working overtime, as usual. But then I began to relax and really enjoy myself. I even came to a few important conclusions about the next few months, but that's fodder for another post.

So anyway, here's a quick few things about today's experience -

a. Overall, Four Fountains offered good service and a great massage. I'd give it four stars out of five. I take away one star only because I'm being picky and there were a few small things I thought could have been better - more accessible toilets, for one. Also, there were a couple of times the electricity went - not their fault really, but it was just a little distracting during the therapy.

b. I thought the prices were quite affordable - they were lower than some of the others I've seen, although since I'm not a connoisseur, I can't quite say for certain. I did note that they seem to have some pretty killer membership schemes, so if you're a regular with that sort of thing, I would say you should definitely check it out.

c. I liked the fact that at the end of the therapy, the lady at the reception handed over two diet and de-stressing booklets, as well as a little bottle of something which she said would help us relax if we put it on the soles of our feet before sleeping. It made me smile, that tiny complimentary bottle.

d. I'm really not sure about how to compare - or even the necessity of comparing - Four Fountains with the one sole Spa experience I had last year at the Aresa spa - but I know that at the end of this session, when I walked out with my husband at my side into yet another rainshower that briefly caught us before we made it back to Basement parking - I was feeling like a million dollars - which was the same thing I'd said in that post. So net-net - massages are good, and I think I might start treating myself to one on a slightly more regular basis than one-a-year.

In the car, I asked Vijay how his massage was. And I got a grumpy 'Arrey yaar...the massage itself was good...but then, just as I was falling asleep, the guy said 'Sir, time for your head massage.' and woke me up! Tchah!'

'But the massage was good, right?' I pressed 'You liked the Swedish? Better than your Thai?'

Vijay had been nodding along in agreement until I reached the last word, at which he started to protest 'Thai ki toh alag baat hoti hai...wo jo tod-phod karti hai...'

I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the window as he went on. I felt better than I had in weeks. That was enough for me.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back Cover Thoughts : Sorting Out Sid

What do you guys think? It's just one of the first drafts, really. But still.

''Siddharth Agarwal a.k.a. Sid looks all set in life - after all, he's been married for a good long ten years, has a bunch of close friends...and plus,he's slated to become the youngest VP in his company at the tender age of 36. 

Except that he's really just in denial about the fact that his life is slowly falling apart - with his marriage on the rocks, parents who treat him as if he's still twelve years old, his overly-interfering and backstabbing best friends, apart from the HR vixen and the obnoxious boss in that office which sells ... wait for it ... Toilet Cleaners. 

When lovely, pocket-sized, spunky single mom Neha materializes into his life, it appears that there's some hope. It's just the calm before the storm. 

Who said it would be easy Sorting Out Sid? 

A funny, quirky novel set in contemporary urban India , about a man who's still a boy at heart - and whom it's easier to love than to like. This story will have you laughing out loud even as you find yourself relating to Sid and the various colourful characters in his life.''