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.''

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pickle and Papad Learning Da Engliss

It has been a sore point for me that I have failed to impart the love of the English language amongst my twins. While young Peanut is currently starting to read the likes of Malory Towers (with help from me) and Faraway Tree ( by herself), Pickle and Papad limit themselves to charming phrases like 'Shut up' and 'Stop it.'

However, Mondays are days where they have their Show and Tell, and I'm happy to report that they have stopped now running away from me when I try to get them to prepare. Earlier, there would be huge tantrums regarding this event, with both of them eventually throwing themselves on the floor, with a clearly stated refusal to participate, crying 'Main nahin boolunga enlisss main...Kabhi bhi nahin, Kisso ko bhi nahin!'

Recently, they have even started taking some pride in correcting me ( Mama, dis iss not paani...dis iss ou-ater), and have taken to speaking in short halting sentences in English, post which they proudly announce 'Maine Engliss main bola!'

This weekend was a little challenging though - they were given lines for their Special Assembly. Papad had something simple 'Now we will sing Bhajans for you', but Pickle's was a little complicated.

I was mulling over the line in his diary 'Lord Krishna grew up in Mathura, under Yashodhara.'
Vijay said 'What is 'under' Yashodhara? ...and plus, it was Yashoda, not Yashodhara.'
I was irritated 'I don't know, Vijay...this is how they've written it here...'
He said sagely 'They must have gotten confused because you are Yashodhara.' He turned to Pickle and explained 'Beta, you must say Yashodha.'
Pickle, who was sitting with us at the table eating Chocos, firmly repeated after him 'Jashodha' with his mouth full, attractively spewing his half-masticated food.

 Eventually, Pickle learned his line, although he probably wouldn't end up with full marks for clarity, mumbling as he was ' Lord Krishna...(mumble, mumble) MATHURA...(mumble) JASHODHARA!'

A little disappointed after several practice sessions, I turned to Papad with hope in my eyes, saying 'Papad, and now you say your line?' He had been saying it quite smoothly, and was quite the Prince of England in comparison to Pickle.

He puffed out his skinny little chest and said 'Now we will sing a Bhajan for you...'

'Very good.' I exclaimed, clapping my hands in delight.

'...unda JASHODHARA!'

I froze mid-grin and stared at him. 'No, sweetie, you're not supposed to say that...'

'Haaaaaan!' His tiny face crumpled and he started to cry. Through his blubbering, I could just about make out the issue - he clearly felt that since he was also Jashodhara's son, he needed to end his line with the same declaration. No amount of explanation on my part could remove this impression from his mind. Eventually, I had to let the matter go and hope for the best.

Today, they would have delivered their lines with their characteristic flair.

I can't wait to get home in the evening and read the teacher's remarks.

I just can't wait.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Our First Little Duet

Peanut has been learning the piano since February and she made such good progress that we went in for a Kawai Digital Piano at the recent Monsoon Sale.

In a bid to keep her interested, I looked through one piece called 'Sunshine' and tried to figure it out so that we could play a duet. Here's the result. 

Obviously, she's already way ahead of me, but I hope to be able to at least scratch the surface of reading music just so we can do a few more of these before she takes off to a level that's unfathomable for me. 

In the meantime, here's a short clip taken by Vijay of our first- and hopefully not our last - duet. 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013


The days of the week whiz by - even on Saturdays, where I volunteer at the Happy School, or occasionally take a Dance-fitness class in my complex, or try to accomplish sundry other chores - things are usually very rushed.

At least on Sundays, things slow down a bit. It's more of a Family day than other days, which is pretty much the norm for most people.

A Typical Sunday these days includes the following -

The Not-saying-Shut-Up Game

I watch my three kids whiz around on their cycles at dizzying speeds- their race track is through the drawing room and kitchen, and they take the turns at breakneck speed with surprising skill. I then notice they are all screaming 'Shut up!' 'Shut up!' at regular intervals.

I stop the oldest, Peanut, from setting such a bad example. 'Peanut' I scold 'Why are you saying a bad thing?'

She pauses breathlessly and then explains 'Mama, it's not a bad thing. We're not saying Shut Up!'

'Then what are you saying?'

Pickle-Papad pass by in a blur, and I hear them screaming the words. I turn to Peanut and say 'You guys ARE saying 'Shut Up.'

'No, Mama! We're saying 'Shut off...and Shut us!'

'What does that mean?'

'It means that ...' she thinks hard and then says sulkily 'But it's not Shut Up.'

I know exactly what is going on. The kids long to shout Shut Up because it's banned, and now they've come up with this reasonable facsimile. I think about it for a while, and decide that there's probably no lasting harm from this. 'Okay, fine. But why can't you play something else now?'

'Sure. In a while.' Peanut takes off again, her hair flying behind her as she rushes to catch up with her brothers who are just turning the corner. I can hear them more clearly now, as they scream with renewed enthusiasm...

'Shut OFF....Shut US....'



Vijay tries to read the newspaper, with Pickle and Papad perched on his head.

'Aur Ye Kaun Hai?'

'That's Shashi Tharoor Uncle....see, beta, he always carries his red comb in his pocket whereever he can see the tip of it in this picture...'

'Aur Yeh?'

'Yeh hai Manmohan Singh Uncle...'

'Yeh bolta hai kya?'

'Actually son...he doesn't talk much at all...I think his beard and turban are bound too tight...''

''And thisss?''

''This is P Chidambaram Uncle.''

''Isske paas bhi red comb hai kyaar?''

''No, but see his big-big glasses?''

''Yeh Mama Hai Kya?''

''No, beta...not every woman in the paper is Mama...most of them are, but not this one...''


Last Sunday, I tried a deviation - I asked Vijay if he wanted to take the kids to the Bio-diversity park.

He said categorically 'No. I want to sleep.'

But the kids had heard me. 'Biodivosity Park!' Said Pickle.

Uh oh. Now I'd done it. But still. I was irritated with Vijay for being lazy. 'Okay.' I told the kids. 'Mama will take you!'

'Aap gaadi chala sakte ho, kya?' The question was from a surprised Papad.

I informed my son that I indeed could drive the car, it just so happened that I didn't drive often.

Vijay said 'Kya hai....why do you have to take them? Can't we relax on a Sunday at least?'

I was more irritated by this 'They deserve to see something new for a change.''

'What will they see? Some trees and plants? All trees are the same.'

I rolled my eyes at him and started getting ready, calling to my maid to get the kids ready too.

''What are you doing?' Vijay demanded 'You're going to drive them? You'll get stuck in that area with all the pebbles, I'm telling you.'

'I most certainly will NOT.' I said with all the dignity I could muster.

'Okay, listen, why don't you wait half an hour and then I'll take you?'

"No. It'll be too hot by then - and anyway, you don't sound like you want to come.'

'Honey.' He said in the manner of a long-suffering husband '80 percent of the things I do, I don't want to do anyway. So how does it matter.'

This really got my back up. 'Whatever. Don't need you to come if you don't want to spend time with the family.'

I muttered and got ready, with him watching me. I demanded 'Where's the Honda key?'

' I don't know.' He said in a smug cat-like manner.

'Fine.' I snapped. 'I'm taking the Innova.'

'What?' This was too much for him .'You'll seriously get stuck, and ...'

'I can DRIVE the Innova, Vijay. I've done it before.'

I stalked out of the house with the key, my maid Rinki and the 3 kids in tow. I was in a bad mood, and the fact that Pickle and Papad kept asking 'Aap Innoba chala sakte ho, kya?' wasn't helping.

We reached the car, and I assessed the situation. Damn. Why had our driver parked it in this corner? There was another car parked perpendicular to it, just a few feet behind it. Hmm. This would take some doing.

Five minutes later, I was sweating and breathless, and the kids were irritated, calling from the back. 'Mama. Aapko Innoba nahin chalana aata hai kya?'

Peanut spoke up 'Why are you just driving backwards and forward, backwards and forwards? Aren't we going to the Biodiversity park?'

'We ARE.' I said through gritted teeth. 'If you guys just be quiet and let me get the car out of here...Rinki, dekh...lage na...'

Rinki looked out from the back and informed me with happy confidence 'Haan, abhi lagne waala hai.'

I turned around to glare at her. This was incredibly frustrating. Just then, the kids cried out 'Dekho! Daddy aaya!'

I saw Vijay approaching languidly in his track pants. The Honda key dangled from his fingertips and he wore a supremely amused smile on his face. In a panic, I tried one final time to back up the car and turn out, but I was mortally afraid of hitting that stupid vehicle thoughtlessly parked behind me, and Vijay's presence made me even more nervous. Finally, I pressed the brake and opened my window. He came up to the driver's side, and asked innocently.

'Kya hua, honey?'

'Very funny.' I said.

He smiled at me again, and opened the door. Wordlessly, I shifted over to the passenger seat and let him get in.

It was a very short ride to the Biodiversity park, but it felt very long to me with Vijay's sideways grin and the children proclaiming from the back in a deafening chorus.

'Mama ko Innoba chalana nahin aata.'

It was also the main topic of conversation on the way back home an hour later.


                                       Perched like monkeys on the rocks at the Bio-diversity Park.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sorting Out 'Sorting Out Sid'

My next book 'Sorting Out Sid' is out this December. 

I'm quite excited about this one because it's a rather different attempt from Just Married, Please Excuse, in that it's my first real shot at Fiction. 

For now, though, there's a rather tedious task to be achieved over the next few weeks - namely - the edits. 

I was expecting to receive them in bits and pieces, but then suddenly I got the entire book in one shot over email, all carefully marked up by the painstaking editorial team at HarperCollins. 

Since yesterday, I've done about four chapters, and it's rather mind-numbing work, including philosophical debates with myself about - 

- Staring at one another, or Staring at each other? 
- 'Right?' vs 'Correct' as regular language?
- Disproportionate to vis a vis Disproportionate with?
- Insect Specimen or Specimen of Insect Life?
- Though vs But? 
- Small vs. Short? get the picture, right? 

I'm getting a lot better at spotting my own pet flaws - the tendency to use longer sentences than necessary; slight overuse of italics; dislike of exclamation marks even when they're needed; a love for the old-world use of commas and 'had had a baby' vis a vis the new-fangled ''let's drop the additional had''. The fastidiousness with regard to sticking with one consistent tense, even when sometimes pace needs to be brought in with the use of present tense. And yet, the informality and slight westernization in conversation and overall story-telling just because that's a style I relate with. 

It's a tedious process yet, but I find that even as I'm making changes to many changes that the editorial team has, in all their wisdom, made - it's forcing me to be a lot more conscious and deliberate about the use of language. My initial reaction had been to accept most of the changes, but as I went along, I realized - it's my book, and I can't possibly do stuff with it that I'm not fully convinced about. So I'm expecting a bit of a backlash from the otherwise-very-sweet editorial team - but at the end of the day, it's going to be a better book for sure, which really is the best part of working with Harpers. 

So yes. We're on our way. Stay tuned for more updates. I'll be releasing extracts and making the occasional post about the process of making a book over here. If

Sunday, August 4, 2013


I lay in bed exhausted on Saturday morning.

For some reason, I haven't been sleeping very well of late. There's been a lot of stuff on my mind, and I haven't been all that well either. After a food poisoning incident the previous week, this week it was a dizzy spell in office - a strange kind of panic attack that hasn't ever happened to me before. If it weren't for a friend of mine at the office who seemed to know exactly what to do to calm me down, it might have been worse - as it was, it just passed in a few moments, but I was determined to take it easy this weekend - and prioritize the right things.

First things first - I had to make a call to the Happy School and tell them that for once, I wouldn't be able to come in for my class with the second-graders. I felt a pang about it, but knew that I needed to do things differently this weekend. Usually, my Saturday mornings go towards this very worthy cause but I figured I'd go for a check up instead.

I then regretfully informed my Zumba gang that I wouldn't be able to take the 5 p.m. class that I've been doing on-and-off on Saturdays - it takes enormous energy to lead a class, and I was in the mood for conserving mine this weekend.

The check up at Fortis was a bit useless though - the physician declared I looked perfectly healthy but wrote a bunch of medicines ( which I didn't take) and a bunch of tests ( which I did), which also revealed that in fact, I am perfectly healthy - if you discount a minor insufficiency of that darned Vitamin D. The Doctor suggested that I drink more water since I might be a little dehydrated. Vijay paid the bills, muttering something to the effect of 'Drink more water...yeh toh main bhi bata sakta tha...ridiculous...'

I was very tired when we reached home after the check up, but was determined to do something productive. I decided to go ahead and do something I haven't done for months -attack those damned besan ke laddoos - I spent my entire sabbatical trying to get them right and came dangerously close one time. Without practice, I knew that I would lose my carefully acquired skills.

I set up a google search and a youtube video and roasted the besan happily while waiting for the videos to load. Pickle wandered in and got very excited when he learned that I was making besan laddoos.

I blame Pickle for distracting me, my phone for loading the video and search results too slow and my general impatience which caused me to roast the besan on high-flame instead of low-flame. One moment, the besan was that light brown color, and the next, it was charcoal black. Oh god. I told myself, dismally, that it would probably still taste as good, and quickly turned down the gas and added the ghee. In my nervousness, I added too much ghee, and lo and behold - there it was - a black oozing mass.

Irritated, I added the powdered sugar anyway, and poured it out onto a plate. Maybe once it cooled, I might still manage to salvage it, although chances looked dim. I carried the mess into the drawing room and stared at it dismally. Pickle wandered up.

'Ban gaya kya, Mummy?'

No, son. Not yet. Maybe not ever, I added under my breath.

He looked at the plate, quite unperturbed 'Yeh Chocolate hai kya?'

'Yes.' I was inspired. 'Chocolate mithai.'

'Main Bhi banaoonga.' He reached out to it, and I protested it was too hot. After some time though, I gave him a bit of the ghastly preparation. I tried to roll a ball out of it myself, but it was a miserable failure, as expected.

I looked over to see what Pickle was doing, and found to my surprise that he had eaten the entire portion that I had given him. A little worried, I asked him 'Kaisa tha, Pickle?'

'Bahut yummy.' he declared thickly, spraying a little bit of the remnants in his mouth.

That's when I decided I'd go ahead and roast some more besan and mix it to the congealed mass in order to get at least the right consistency if not the right color. And so it was that after about half an hour, when we all finally sat down to lunch, I proudly served Vijay and Papaji with perfectly rounded but terribly dark brown laddoos.

'What's this?' Vijay looked wary.

'It looks better than it tastes.' I turned to my supporter 'Right, Pickle?'

'Haan.' Pickle asserted, adding 'Maine bhi banaaya.'

'Oh.' Vijay and Papaji exchanged a glance and then hesitantly took a piece each.

Vijay popped one into his mouth while Papaji, more slowly, broke his in half and then followed suit.

Vijay said 'Oh.'

I waited, and he finished swallowing and asked politely 'Have you added....something else?'

'It's a special recipe' I gushed 'I put in Sooji.'

Vijay said 'Oh.' and then added tentatively 'Perhaps next time you could put in just besan?'

'Okay.' I was sulky.

Pickle jumped in angrily 'Bahut Achha hai.'

Vijay added 'And I was also thinking...perhaps you could burn...I mean roast the Besan less...'

I nodded unhappily.

Pickle spoke even louder, almost shouting 'BAHUT ACHHA BANA Daddy. Stop it!'

Vijay and I just stared at Pickle and then burst into laughter. I reached out and hugged my son, and said 'You liked it na, Pickle? You're my favorite...'

Throughout the exchange, Papaji said not a word. He just slowly reached out for the remaining half of his laddoo and manfully put it in his mouth.



P.S - I was going to write about Sunday too, but got tired. Later.