Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Season

Warm and fuzzy. Quilt warming toes. Brain buzzed with hot coffee. Eyes dreamy and mind hazy like the cotton candy I had the day before. At New Market. Christmas shopping at New Market...a unique experience. So crowded as to put one off people forever. So alive that anywhere else seems to pale by comparison. Christmas trees, glitter, Santa Claus and stars. The warm aroma of freshly baked cakes everywhere. The ridiculously long queue outside Nahoums Bakery as though drawn by the Pied Piper. People looking ready to lay down their lives for cake. Plum cake, fruit cake, plain cake. Chaos and carnival time.

Lunch at Mocambo on Park Street. Of course we have to wait for our table. It's Christmas eve! Once inside, we are crammed into tables placed so close to each other that eavesdropping is not optional but inevitable. The restaurant is decorated with holly leaves, wrapped around the red lampshades. I look around at all the people wondering what their story is, what their plans are for the day. When the food arrives, it's delicious and the conversation at the neighbouring table is entertaining. Lunch is a success.

South City mall was also lit up like a fairyland. Santas here too. Multiple. And reindeer pulling his sleigh. And snowmen having a snowball fight. And penguins apparently come down from the Arctics. Shine and dazzle everywhere. Who dare feel unhappy in this riotous display? Shopping, that new opium of the masses, brings a new high in these surroundings. One can't get enough of the cakes here too.

Exhausted but still not done for the day, we try our hands at baking. Some experimentation later, more cake! The house smells nice. It looks nice too with the small Christmas tree and Santa Claus standing guard over the ornaments. And the deep red roses everywhere. I love this feeling of festivity. Life should be a celebration. This is the chance to live it the way it is meant to be lived.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

White Noise

A trip to the hospital to get a simple test done. Then again that's an antithesis - can any health related examination ever be simple?
A sense of stupid surprise that there are already so many people thronging the place. It's quite early in the morning but I guess time is not a variable in this equation. Making my way through the masses trying to locate the fastest possible route...with the sour realization that I am actually expediting a process that I dread. I run about and figure a way out of the maze which is hospital administration. It's not too hard though and it gives you something to keep your mind occupied.

Quite soon, too soon, I am sitting outside a white door in a white room amidst a group of motley strangers. I can see them try to guess the nature of my illness, my back-story even as I speculate about theirs. We stare gamely at each other pretending we don't care, as if this is something we do everyday. The hospital staff rush around taking charge. I marvel at the doctors, nurses and assistants as they pass by thinking about the courage it takes to spend all your waking hours here - in the presence of fear and disease and death. I for one cannot wait to run out as soon as possible. I already feel like I have been sitting on this hard plastic chair forever. I look around once more to distract myself. There is a television tuned in to the Cartoon Network. Someone has a sense of humour.

I look around to see if anyone waiting is watching the TV. No one is. There is an elderly woman who looks irritated with all the fuss, a few middle-aged men looking grim, a couple of them chatting away, just passing the time of day, there is a newly married couple sitting very close together on this winter morning. Some people just look resigned - been there, done that. There is an inmate of the hospital who has been brought in a wheelchair. Her face screams fear even as she sits immobile and soundless. Her daughter and husband are with her trying to draw her out of her misery. A boy who cannot be older than 10 is wheeled in. He is scared too. He clutches his grandmother's hand and picks away at the seat of his chair with the other. His voice rises in pitch as his grandmother leaves him alone for a bit. He is too young to be here I think.

I pray that he is alright. I pray that the woman in the wheelchair is fine too. And that the newlyweds have nothing to worry about. And I pray for myself. I know its nothing major (probably) but I realise that at this moment good health is the most important thing on my mind. Later I will worry again about a dozen other real or imagined problems...but right now I just say a short prayer.

I know that in that white room that day, my prayer at least was answered.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

BBC's Top 100 books

Have been tagged by Scarlett. Given below is the BBC's list of the top 100 books of all time. According to them an average person has read 6 of these books.
I'm marking the ones that I've read...let's see if I am par with the average or whether I'm an outlier... (Excuse the researcher speak! :P)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Hmm...not bad, if I say so myself...that's 32! :) I'm one of those people who simply can't remember the details so just going through this list has made me feel like I wouldn't mind catching up with some old favourites again...so, thanks Scarlett.

I'm also a bit surprsied that some books didn't make it to the list - 'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand for instance...

I tag anyone who wants to take this up.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Break ke Baad

Hello ji...am back! The last few weeks whizzed by a little too fast for me to devote any time to blogging. But now I've decided that if I am to make this blogging thing work, I have to work at it quite seriously. It would just get tougher to write, the longer I stay away. And yes, its the only good outlet available to me now, of indulging in some creative self-expression. Okay so there you have it - in writing - my commitment to THE CAUSE. (Note to self: read this post whenever laziness rears its ugly head).


I was on leave some days back and realized anew how a break is necessary to maintain a sense of perspective in life. (And no, this is not a plug for 'Break ke Baad'. Which, by the way, looks extremely predictable). The holiday came at just the right time as I had been swamped with work for some weeks and had begun to reach that stage where cribbing about it becomes a mantra that you repeat frequently. I felt claustrophobic, paranoid and people began to get on my nerves. Just before I turned into a grouchy bear, I decided to apply the 'Ask and you shall receive' principle. What's that you ask? Well it basically states that if you ask for something, you increase the probability of your receiving it. You might get it or you might not. But if you never ask for it, you will never get it.


So I applied for a few days leave, putting forward my argument for the Defence by pointing out how much leave I had accumulated which would go to waste once the year ended, how long it had been since my last leave etc. In hindsight, the only error I made was in not applying for some more days. Anyways, all's well that ends well. My leave got sanctioned and I quickly booked tickets to visit my two aunts in Chennai. I had last been there around three years back and had a great time on two side trips exploring Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram. This time the weather played spoilsport (retreating monsoons) so I couldn't go anywhere out of the city. However, my aunts pampered me no end and I was happy to relax and de-stress in their beautiful home. I went to the beach and just soaking my feet in the sea seemed to cut my worries in half. I also shopped a lot which basically left me content and broke. Let me reiterate - there's no therapy quite like retail therapy!


I also find it interesting to observe the life, the pace of a different city. Chennai has good infrastructure and hardworking people. It is a city that constantly seeks to upgrade its lifestyle without losing out on its traditions. The people generally wake up early and make their rangolis (kolam) outside their door after their bath. The city is bright with women in colourful sarees and flowers in their hair. I was impressed with the aesthetic and efficient construction of a lot of the two-three storeyed houses that lined many of the streets. There are huge malls and all manner of basic amenities. The local fishmonger hands over a card with his number which you can call to receive home delivery of your required items! Vegetarian fare is of course very popular and I enjoyed one such meal which had 15 different items! In my home city, it is quite unthinkable to want veg food if you are a non-vegetarian but since I enjoy it, Chennai was great for me in terms of cuisine. The main grouse I have with the city is that the most common mode of transport is the auto-rickshaw where you have to negotiate the fare to your destination with the driver. What does a newcomer do? It can be really difficult if you don't know the place and doubly so if you don't speak the local language. But something to pick up and something to be proud of everywhere I guess. And homebird that I am, I began to miss Kolkata, after only a week and was happy to fly back and share the treasure trove (read: sarees) from Chennai with mum/masi/sis and bask in the mellow November sun...


A holiday is like a cocoon that we weave for ourselves away from the stress of daily life out of which we emerge refreshed and rejuvenated. It's like living a different life, seeing new places and things, taking time to stop and smell the roses and most importantly, realizing all that life has to offer you. And hence for me it always serves as a way of bringing balance into my life, of revising my perspective. Of reminding myself anew of what is important and what really doesn't matter at the end of the day. Human nature being what it is, I don't know how long I can hold onto this simple realization, this positive vibe. So my challenge is to try and carry the holiday glow with me till my next holiday. Cheers to that!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Season of mists and mellow fruitfullness

Back.
From the streets of London, from the chaos of Kolkata during the Pujos. Had a great time. Rushed about from one gathering to another ignoring jetlag and exhaustion, fueled by adrenaline and mouthwatering lunches and dinners. The chance to catch up with good friends after what seemed like ages, the thrill of an entire city partying till the late hours, so much to do and so little time. How could I afford to miss out on all the craziness when I knew this would only last for 4 days? The recovery started from Dashami and carried on through the week. Lakshmi Puja led to an extended weekend and a chance for more relaxation. I love this season. Durga Puja flags off a fresh period full of festivals and holidays. It coincides with that time of the year when the evenings get longer, smokier somehow, smelling of fragrant flowers, a slow intoxication that culminates in a rapturous farewell to the year.

As for my trip to London, was more busy this time than I had expected. Glad that I managed to do some sightseeing. Went to Oxford - that land of dreaming spires, where every true-blue English Honours student of Calcutta University hopes to one day visit if not study at. Beautiful town with every turn packed with history so that every street you step into waits to tell its story. Had lunch at a pub that C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien used to frequent, read texts from the 16th and 17th century which outlined the efforts that the learned men of the day were making to decipher science and geography and language at the Bodleian library, went to Alice's Shop that featured as the Old Sheep Shop in the famous novel, visited Christchurch College where parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed...so much really to take in on a cold, grey English day.

Getting slowly back to normal (read: boring) schedules. Can't believe tomorrow is Monday again. Where did the last three days vanish... Ate a lot, slept some, hoped in vain for some good movies to watch and finished reading a few novels. P.D. James' "Cover her Face" was interesting. In the vein of typical Agatha Christie style English countryside murder mysteries. Not as good as an Agatha Christie but not so bad either.

Also finished reading "The Immortals of Meluha" by Amish. It's part of the Shiva Trilogy which the author will be penning. Based on the very intriguing premise that Shiva was an ordinary man who was elevated to the status of a god by his actions. Building in a lot of religious references that are given a practical explanation. Felt extremely let down however, by the language used which is very contemporary and casual. Shiva for instance keeps saying things like "bloody hell"! One would think we were not talking about the ancient Hindu god but about the reincarnation of some Englishman?! The book has novel theories and ideas, but in a literary work, how can language be ignored. And this I read after the P.D. James where a few choice words were enough to convey every nuance with economy and subtlety, often leaving the reader to work out the meaning of a sentence.

Anyways, I've spent enough time on the computer...time to log out of cyberspace...au revoir...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Up, up and away

Immense lethargy. Also nagging headache since last couple of days. Piles of pending work that I don't even want to think about much less look at. Irritable. Shopping incomplete and for once urgently needed. Heaps of clothes scattered everywhere. Sure to forget something. Can't bear nitty-gritties right now. Everybody fussing over me. Not always pleasant. Want to speed things up and get on that plane. Want to curl up in bed and go to sleep. I miss home and I haven't even left it yet. Schizophrenic.

Off to London.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A decision made and some other life lessons

Decisions are always so much easier to make when they don’t affect you directly. I had to make a difficult choice recently and after a lot of careful thought I went with what my heart said – something I think I knew from the beginning. Different people gave different advice – some vehemently, some gently. But if there’s one thing I have learnt in life, it is this – always listen to others but eventually do what you feel is right.

Nobody and I mean nobody, not your closest friend or your family, can take your place in life. What this means is that they can never completely feel your happiness, your pain, your confusion, your angst as much as you do. They cannot live for you. They will always be one step removed from the real thing – you. The sooner one realizes this, the easier it becomes to stop relying on others. However much you take opinions about how to run the race, eventually you will be the one running it. That is not to say that the advice doesn’t help or guidance or sympathy or some kind of empathy doesn’t help. Of course it helps. It goes some way in fine-tuning the ideas that are already present in your head. It gives you solace. It shows you a different way of looking at things sometimes.

But the thing to remember is – your life is yours only. You will have to fight your own battles. You should be solely responsible for whatever decisions you make. And there is comfort to be drawn from that. And courage in owning up to it.

Another thing I realized is how you have to figure out what works for you. In other words, one man’s meat may be another man’s poison. What sounds like a great opportunity to one person need not seem that way to another. It is all a question of priorities. And it is important to be sure of one’s priorities in life. There are so many things we compromise upon in life. Too often, it is too easy to get drawn into something that goes against what you once believed in. It is essential to be aware of the non-negotiables. To realize that no matter what, this is something you are not going to give up on. It is important to take a stance and stick to it because otherwise you will fall for anything and everything the world throws at you.

It is important to realize that you don’t need to, and more importantly, can’t, please everybody all the time. It is impossible. This is one of those realizations that are guaranteed to bring about a lot of satisfaction in the long run. It is hard to avoid the temptation to be a crowd-pleaser. And it is also not necessary that you have to rebel against everything. Just learn to live with the fact that everyone may not like you. And that’s cool because you don’t like everyone either.

So… a lot of the heavy stuff today but that’s another side to me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

She - II

She breathed a sigh of relief. The meeting had gone off well. She began to feel herself relax, letting some of the stress out. She wanted to just sit still but began collecting up her papers instead. She could celebrate after she was out of the client's office. As she said her goodbyes, the marketing director walked up to her, lauded the presentation once again and pretty much made her day. She left the boardroom with a smile she couldn't quite conceal.

As they waited for the elevator, she listened with half a ear to the excited babble of the junior managers. The deal had been an important one and she had clinched it. Her boss hadn't been around to see it of course. Such was life. But even he couldn't ignore her contribution this time.

As the elevator doors opened, she saw there was already a man standing inside. As the elevator continued its downward journey, her kohl-lined eyes lazily lingered on him. Clean cut good looks, short hair, blue shirt, sharp tie, sleeves rolled up showing a chunky wristwatch on a strong forearm, nice shoes. Everything classic and understated. 'My kind of man' - the sudden thought flashed through her head taking her by surprise and making her look away hurriedly. The blinking lights told her they were still some distance away from the ground floor.

She looked again when she felt his eyes on her. She saw the nicest eyes she had ever seen - a colour that should be named 'Twinkling Brown' she thought. She felt her heart lurch, but maybe that was just the motion of the elevator. Before she could gather her wits and look away, a lazy smile slowly lit up his face and teased out an answering smile from her as well. The moment seemed to stretch and expand in her mind till everything seemed sharper and hazier at the same time. The elevator bumped to a stop and brought her back to her surroundings.

She stepped out and walked briskly away without a backward glance. She was feeling a little shocked at her behaviour. Had she just smiled at a guy, a stranger, in the elevator? A guy who had been checking her out, no less. Well, in all fairness, a guy she had been checking out too.

She smiled to herself. It was a sunny day.


* This story can be read on its own or in conjunction with two other pieces I've written - "She" and "He".

Nothing in particular

Okay, this is going to be a rambling post about nothing in particular.

I am currently reading "Rage" by Jonathan Kellerman. Interesting in parts. Just happy to find some time to read again. Also reading short stories by Stephen King written under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. And about to begin on the third book of the Millenium trilogy by Steig Larsson. In the middle of Sherlock Holmes' "A Study in Scarlet" too.

When I was younger, I had this rule of reading one book at a time so as not to dilute its essence. Now I find that I rarely get much time to read and when I do, I'd rather go with the type of story that fits my mood at that point in time. I mean, if I'm reading at 11.30 in the night after a gruelling day at work, I cannot bear to read anything too heavy. I'll probably miss the nuances or the beautiful use of language and fall asleep after the first paragraph. What I read then is a fast paced bit of fiction - just a story nothing more, nothing less. Over a lazy Sunday afternoon (or a day like today, when a bandh disrupts any chance of going out), I read books that require more attention. Just having all these books to read makes me happy. Never mind that I read them in bits and pieces and infrequently.

The last movie I watched in the theatre was "Lafangey Parindey" Read my review here. I have been wanting to watch "Byomkesh Bakshi" - a Bengali movie based on the detective novels of Saradindu Bandhyopadhyay. While I enjoyed the Doordarshan serial starring Rajit Kapoor, my main motivation for wanting to watch this is because it stars a friend.
I also want to watch "Dabangg" - promises to be a seeti-bajao type laughathon. A movie to be watched with a group of close friends ready to laugh at the stupidest gags and corniest lines of Inspector Chulbul Pandey (yes, that's Salman Khan for you). And with a song like 'Main Zandu balm hui, darrling tere liye!' can anybody even doubt its eccentric humour! also directed by Anurag Kashyap's brother, so there's a recommendation right there.

A close friend is in town and we will be catching up soon for lunch. I have been missing a Peter Cat sizzler for some time now. *Dreamy grin* Gorged on pizza again over the weekend. Sometimes I think my life can be divided into Before-Domino's and After-Domino's phases. More festivities lined up in the coming days means more good food. Donno when I am going to diet! Eid is this weekend - brings to mind all the delicacies that our Muslim neighbours would share during Ramazan when we lived in Park Circus. Fresh fruits, spicy Chana, keema puffs, potato and onion pakoras, sewai...yumm!

On a different note, read in the papers today that some politician justified today's bandh saying that "people face problems for 364 days in a year, so what's 1 more day? That too when its for a good cause!" There are so many things wrong with that statement that I'll get too agitated before I can articulate anything properly. By the way, the "cause" is price rise, Centre's policy of divestment, petrol price hike and more...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hot headed

Two weeks of fevered activity – the first because I actually had fever and the next because my weeklong absence from office had led to a work pileup.

Week 1

I’m one of those people who suffer through frequent, random and inexplicable bouts of common cold, accepting that this is their lot in life. So I was not unduly alarmed when another bout of sneezing, watering eyes (and nose), assailed me over the weekend. By Monday night however, it became clear that not just the weekend but my entire week look set to be ruined. I came down with fever that would subside on having paracetamols only to resurface after a few hours.

I realized that fevers are a great way to spend time. In the sense that you don’t realize where time flies as you lie in a haze of discomfort, unable to gaze upon the world because your eyelids have grown so heavy and your limbs as unfamiliar as strangers. You dream, or think you dream, of inconsequential matters and wonder if this is how it all ends.

The doctor I went to, was an Old School guy since unlike the new breed, he refused to let me have antibiotics at the earliest possible opportunity. He also prescribed tests but again advised me to wait for a day or so. Eventually these tactics led to nothing more than another fevered day, so after much second-guessing of the doctor’s advice, I got tests done and started on the antibiotics. The tests indicated nothing serious but my fever thought otherwise.

In between, we were visited by some relatives – namely a noisy uncle, his brood and a censorious family Elder. My poor mother nearly fell ill with worry after having to manage them and me together. Anyways, all’s well that ends well. Their visit went off beautifully and even I managed a respite from what was declared to be a viral fever (which apparently is plaguing everyone in my city).

After a couple of false starts, I finally began to walk on the road to recovery. The fever weakened and then finally disappeared. I felt pretty weak and zombie-like myself but wild horses couldn’t keep me away from work. I’m just kidding.

Week 2

Getting back to work took some getting used to. A heap of urgent mails, policy meetings, decision-making nightmares and several new projects welcomed me back. I figured hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? So I rolled up my figurative sleeves and plunged in.

I dealt with the mad rush of phone calls, e-mails, meetings as I dealt with my trembling fingers and constant exhaustion. Somehow, its Friday now and I still live to tell the tale. Yes, I’m working tomorrow also but a weekend is a weekend is a weekend. I’ll still have some time to call my own.

The medicines had killed off my appetite initially and some twisted part of me actually thought that I could benefit from this by not eating out for some weeks to come – thus saving money and watching weight. I am happy to report that things are back on track and I had lunch with a friend at Pizza Hut yesterday. The pasta and pizza have left me yearning for more so am all set to order my beloved Domino’s pizza this weekend.

Also thinking of watching ‘Aisha’. Seems promising. Inspired by Jane Austen’s “Emma”. Alicia Silverstone starrer “Clueless” was also on the same lines and that was good fun. I saw ‘Inception’ and joined the band of those who liked it – gripping, convoluted and the special effects were cool.

Finished reading Ruth Rendell’s novel, ‘Live Flesh’. It was disappointing and depressing. Have borrowed “The Bachman Books” now – a collection of novels that Stephen King wrote under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman. I really like Stephen King’s prose – lucid, graphic and extremely easy to relate to. Not easy to write like that – putting your finger on those half-baked or half-remembered feelings, those sensations that stick like a lump in your throat, those thoughts that one cannot voice. It’s not just about horror.

So, well, now that I’ve shared the latest thrilling episode of Sparkling Supernova and the Mysterious Fever, its time I put my pen down (or should it be its time I stopped clicking on the mouse?). Over and out.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Recent highlights from my life

Haven't written for quite some time. Feel like am hitting some sort of a writers' block. Before it gets too pronounced, thought I should write something. So presenting the highlights of the week gone by:

Attended a seminar on brand management which was held at a prominent city hotel. While the meet seemed promising in the beginning, it soon petered out amid copious amounts of consultancy style jargon and content heavy slides full of flowcharts. It didn't add much value but at least it was a good change after so many days of being locked up in office.

Friends who are based in different cities come visiting this month. Have had some good times catching up with one of them and we have eaten out almost every day that she was here. No wonder I feel like I have gained a few kgs! Also met up with someone who is soon to be a part of our friend circle - she is all set to marry one of my close friends. Can't wait for their wedding - it's going to be so much fun!

Finally redeemed the vouchers I had from Oxford bookstore. Bought three novels after shelling out some more cash from own pocket. The new Jeffrey Archer, a Ruth Rendell and an omnibus of Sherlock Holmes tales. Ha-ppy!

Saw "Up in the Air" - good watch though slightly depressing eventually. Clooney is the best thing about the movie - great screen presence.
Also saw "Saptapadi" today. It's a classic Bengali movie starring Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. Well made, interesting and with that gem of a song, 'Ei path jodi na shesh hoy (If this road didn't end)...'

I am also experiencing wanderlust once again. It's clearly time to pack my bags and leave on a jet plane. Hope it happens some time soon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Yenna rascala! Mind it I say!


Rajnikant is God in Tamil Nadu. Here is a hilarious forward I received paying tribute to him:

1. When Rajinikanth does push-ups, he isn't lifting himself up. He is pushing the earth down.

2. There is no such thing as evolution, it's just a list of creatures that Rajinikanth allowed to live.

3 .Rajnikanth can divide by zero.

4. Rajinikanth can judge a book by it's cover.

5. Rajinikanth can delete the Recycle Bin.

6. Rajinikanth can slam a revolving door.

7. Rajinikanth once kicked a horse in the chin. Its descendants are today called giraffes.

8. Rajinikanth can make onions cry.

9. Rajinikanth destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise.

10. Rajinikanth once got into a knife-fight. The knife lost.

11. Rajinikanth never wet his bed as a child. The bed wet itself in fear.

12. Rajinikanth doesn't breathe. Air hides in his lungs for protection.

13. Rajinikanth does not own a stove, oven, or microwave, because revenge is a dish best served cold.

14. Rajinikanth has already been to Mars, that's why there are no signs of life there.

15. Rajinikanth doesn't move at the speed of light. Light moves at the speed of Rajinikanth.

16. Rajinikanth knows Victoria's secret.

17. Google won't find Rajinikanth because you don't find Rajinikanth; Rajinikanth finds you.

18. Rajinikanth leaves messages before the beep.

19. Rajinikanth calls Voldemort by his name.

20. Rajinikanth’s calendar goes straight from March 31st to April 2nd, no one fools Rajanikanth.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Unrest

Restlessness reclaims my soul,
The planets again spin out of control.
Rebelling against the drudgery of life,
My Yin and Yang are locked in strife.


I yearn to run away and explore,
Hidden treasures and foreign shores.
Who knows what person, place or thing,
Might quell this fury deep within...


Why does it trouble me so, this flame unkind,
This familiar threat to my peace of mind.
Breaking down the facade time after time,
Till I start searching again for a life sublime.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another candle on the cake

A few days back I crossed another milestone in this confusing journey we call life...it was my birthday you see! :)

I have to confess: I totally look forward to my birthday - its like my own personal cue to happiness. I'm not quite sure why this is. I suppose its a residue of childhood that I still carry with me. All I know is that when I'm counting all the holidays from January to December to see when I can catch a break, my birthday is what keeps me going through June. On our birthdays each one of us can feel special. We may be part of a group of students or teachers, Geminians or Librans, North Indians or South Indians...and still feel unique.


This year I was thinking about how the way I spend my birthdays has changed over the years. Now that I'm a grown-up and all, you see. When I was a kid, it was about children's parties. Lots of chocolates, candies, munchies. The "khoi-bag" which when torn would spill out a host of goodies, the birthday bumps, the games which involved all that running around, exhausting but ultimately satisfying. And who can forget the gifts! I was happiest when someone gifted me a book. But I was also mesmerised by a new box of pastel colours or sketch pens. I loved the board games that I got and the ping-pong bats and the yo-yo. What I did not like was when people gifted me money - I thought it was such a waste!



Of course as I grew older, I began to appreciate gifts of cash more than kind since it meant I could get myself whatever i wanted. I really wished people would refrain from gifting me clothes. I was developing a sense of how I wanted to dress and the ideas of well-intentioned but sadly clueless relatives did not help. :(

When I was in college, birthdays meant giving a treat to friends. So we would all bunk classes and go in a huge group to some joint having decent food and modest prices. I fondly remember some such trips during my B-school days where almost half the class would make their way down in a chattering group to a restaurant nearby and gorge on biryani or butter nan. Considering how many birthdays there were in a group of 20-25 people, we often suspected that our combined appetite single-handedly kept the restaurant running!

Even once I started working, I was lucky to have a group of friends who ensured that this day felt special even at the workplace. We would go out for lunch and exchange gifts. On the weekends when everyone was more likely to be free, I would make more elaborate plans to meet and treat various groups of friends from school, college and work.


As we grow older and our lives change, a lot of friends and relatives have moved out of my city. Birthdays become a great way to catch up with almost all of them in a single day! I look on this as one of the great perks of birthdays. With the advent of mobile phones, receiving calls at midnight has also become that much easier. This year also friends and relatives called up at the stroke of 12. It is a different matter that I had fallen asleep, thus causing several parties various degrees of aggravation ("How dare you fall asleep when I stayed up waiting to call you!").


Since I spend so much time out of home anyways, this year I spent a quiet day with family at home and celebrated by cutting a cake (chocolate of course). This cake cutting ceremony is a tradition that my family religiously adheres to and even if I feel silly sometimes, no birthday feels complete withou it. We had an amazing feast at home itself and I got chocolates, perfumes, clothes and... gift vouchers for Oxford bookstore(big hug to my sis)! When I returned to work, I received a card signed by my colleagues and cut a couple of cakes (yes chocolate again) as is the practice. Later I met some friends for a lunch date and had a great time drooling over some awesome Italian fare (food I mean).

As I grow older, I have increasingly had people ask me about my future plans. They sometimes hint and sometimes state that time running out and I should hurry into doing the things I'm "supposed" to do. They try to suggest that my birthday is now more a signal that the clock is ticking than any occasion to celebrate. But age is just a question of mind over matter, as far as I'm concerned...if you don't Mind it doesn't Matter!

I realize that things are changing with every passing year and sometimes I wonder how I became 29 so fast. I sure don't feel 29! But the wistfulness soon passes. I have too much fun childishly looking forward to birthdays to be too bogged down by the numbers. I guess what I'm trying to say is, any excuse for celebration that we get in life should be grabbed with both hands. After all, that's what when you truly celebrate Life! :)



Photos courtesy: Google Images

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Remains of the Day

Recently one of our family friends passed away. She was a kind-hearted and generous lady of around 70, who lived an active life. She had lived with her doting husband in Kolkata, working for an NGO that helped underprivileged children. Their only daughter studied, married and eventually settled in the US. This lady had gone to visit her daughter this summer and passed away most unexpectedly of a cardiac arrest. She did not have a history of heart disease. Her husband is inconsolable. He is a UP Hindu and she was a Mangalorean Christian. They were part of the swish set of 60’s Calcutta – he a squash playing, party loving dashing young man, she a beautiful, dainty young woman with an independent spirit. They met at a party and hit it off.

Their love and beautiful sense of companionship could be seen in the way they spoke about each other. Now, this uncle says, he doesn’t know how to stay alone in his big house. Everywhere he turns, everything he sees reminds him of her. He speaks of her beautiful saris which are hanging in the cupboard, her neat little kitchen where she would experiment with different cuisines, her favourite couch on which they would sit down to watch the latest DVD’s their daughter sent… At 75, his love hasn’t dimmed.

Their daughter is here now, to share this hard time with her father. But what will he do once she is gone, I wonder. He refuses to settle down in the US at this late stage of his life and she has her life waiting for her back in Chicago. I watch as he dabs his eyes with his handerkerchief and wipes away some memories. In a voice that is cultured and unfailingly polite, he thanks us for going to visit him. I put my arms around him and give him a hug. I wish I could do something more to ease his pain but I know that in life, as in death, we are alone.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rain

There was no calm before the storm.

It began with a surprisingly cool breeze that soon turned into a strong wind. Doors banged and window panes rattled. Dust clouds floated and whirled like mad dervishes. The people tried not to get their hopes up but the gleam in their eyes gave them away. The wind persisted, howling in their ears, whipping up the dust, scattering pieces of paper, making sails out of curtains.

A loud clap of thunder brought the neighbourhood to life. Babies began to wail and dogs barked madly. The women reached for the clothes hanging on the lines outside and shouted instructions to their husbands. Doors were latched, windows that had been pushed open as wide as they would go, were pulled shut. The children ran to the balconies to watch, aware of the sudden excitement in the air, the crackle and sizzle of it. A fork of lightning streaked down in the night sky – terrifying and captivating. Following close on its heels, another loud boom sounded from the skies. Even the most cynical husband and the most disbelieving wife now looked expectantly at the sky - the Nor’Westers might have finally found the way to their homes.

Big fat drops of rain fell onto the parched grey street. Slowly but yet so fast, the distance between the drops lessened and their frequency increased. It was actually raining. Slowly at first and then in a hard, dense sheet that pounded the ground beneath and raised a familiar smell of wet earth. The rain seemed to make up for its absence with a ferocity that looked unstoppable. The people stood on their verandahs and near their windows, peering out at the rain and feeling its spray on their faces. The street urchins rushed into the cascade, screaming and dancing for joy. The lightning made the raindrops glitter like diamonds as they fell.

The smell of the rain was like the earth’s sigh of relief.

Time vs. Money

During my college years and especially during my post graduation days, I nurtured a fond dream. It was called “When I start earning my own money”. It involved vivid and vibrant schemes for self-indulgence and self-improvement. I dreamed of a high-powered lifestyle where I played squash in the mornings and went swimming in the evenings. I also learned a foreign language, joined a photography class with my new digital SLR and learned to play the guitar and/or piano. These dreams were founded on a single glorious truth – I would be earning enough money to indulge myself.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I couldn’t pursue all these activities as a student. I just didn’t want my parents to pick up the tab for my essentially whimsical dreams. I wanted the liberty of doing something because it pleased me and giving it up when it didn’t. I also felt it would be a lot more fulfilling to pick up a new skill on my own steam.

But alas! Maybe I was naïve, maybe plain clueless, but I never realized the demands my job would make on my time. On an average I spend around 11 hours at work, 5 days a week. Most times I work on Saturdays too even though “technically” it’s a holiday in my organization. It’s the same story with friends who work in other private sector firms. The mantra for success is ‘perform or perish’. Work or my office now forms an overwhelming part of my life and occupies an uncomfortably large part of my thoughts. On weekdays, when I return home, I am too exhausted to even contemplate a hobby. On the weekends, I de-stress by doing nothing more taxing than chatting with family, watching movies, eating out or shopping.

I still dream of joining up for some non-work related activity but I never seem to have the time to find out the details and in case I do, I find the hours incompatible with my work life. I have to admit, I have also lost a bit of ‘ye olde enthusiasm’. I could probably squeeze in some class on a Sunday but after all the time I put in at work, whatever little I get to myself is sacrosanct – meant only for some good ole R&R (rest and relaxation people, not rock and roll). “Me” time is strictly rationed.

So after five years of being a salaried professional, I am yet to bring down the house by strumming a Spanish guitar or spout melodic French to awed listeners. It is only now that I feel most keenly just how much free time I used to have as a student. How much freedom I had (and to think I used to chafe at parental restrictions!). Such little responsibility. Sigh!

The irony has not escaped me – When you have time, you don’t have money and when you have money you don’t have time.

But I don’t give up easily. And our dreams however small or big, are our spurs. Someday I will be a sporty, French speaking, guitar playing, expert photographer...someday. And did I mention Bhartanatyam dancing?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

He

He entered the restaurant to escape the heat outside. He was early again, as always. It would be another fifteen minutes at least before his friends showed up. He didn't mind. Being alone in public didn't hassle him.

The heat had leapt at him like a beast once he stepped out of the air-conditioned confines of his office, even though it was now rapidly getting dark. So he entered the nearest A.C. restaurant he could spot. Of course, he thought, looking around, it would be wrong to call this a restaurant. It was one of those new fangled places that offered you coffees and salads and crepes and things. Could one call it a delicatessen, he wondered.

Whatever it was, it felt comfortable, he thought feeling the cool breeze from the AC duct on his face as he sank into a big sofa and dumped his laptop on the floor. And he could use a cold drink. He browsed through the menu, tempted by the variety and the pictures. Finally settling on one of the cold coffees. Not that these places would call it that. They seemed to think that it wouldn't sell if it didn't have a fancy name.

He rolled up his shirt sleeves, settled himself more snugly into his seat and looked around. Mainly couples everywhere of course. A few chatting away earnestly, one playing coy eye-contact games, a couple who looked like they were trying to ignore each other. The whole world had found a mate it seemed, he thought cynically. There was an after-office group too who seemed to be in high spirits. Thank God its Friday, he thought. He looked away not wanting to let work-related thoughts seep into his mind even unknowingly. To his mild surprise, there was also a group of elderly uncles and aunties. And not the hoity-toity kinds. More like the parents of somebody one knew. They looked like they had wandered in here by mistake and were making a brave attempt to go with the flow. The crowd, the music (popular English numbers from the 90's!), the menu (sandwiches for Rs.150), it all seemed to perplex them.
People watching could be an interesting and diverting sport he thought. He was well-versed in it, having spent enough time waiting in airports in his travels around the world.

His eyes drifted to the LCD TV that hung silently in a corner punished by the 90's music. An IPL match was on but his favoured team wasn't playing. He had just about checked the match score when the lights went off. A loud murmur rose from the crowd and fell just as swiftly. A power cut after all can happen anywhere and who in India is not used to it. When the lights didn't come back on within a minute, he heard a lady asking the waiter about it. The waiter made reassuring sounds.

The power cut had transported the restaurant into a different space. The place had huge glass windows on two sides and the darkness was partly lifted by the glow of streetlights that poured in through the windows. It gave the place a strange intimacy and anonymity. He was surprised to find that he liked it this way.
There was a mild breeze outside and he could see the shadows of the swaying trees on the walls. He felt lulled by the hushed whispers, the tinkling of glasses, a womans' laughter...somebody was sharing a funny story and he was an unwitting listener too. He caught a flash of golden. It was the drink on a stranger's table glowing amber amid the surrounding darkness and silhouettes. He was struck by the visual wishing he had his camera with him then. He thought, not for the first time, about the beauty one finds in unexpected places.

The side doors swung open and a girl entered. The lights came on almost immediately. The girl seemed a little taken aback by this and a little bemused. She had beautiful kohl-lined eyes and the hint of a smile hovered on her lips. She was scanning the crowds...looking for her mate, he thought.

Just then his cell phone burst into song. He told his friends where they could find him.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Many a slip between the cup and the lip

KKR is breaking my heart.

In the third season of IPL (Indian Premier League), India’s T20 cricket tournament, the Kolkata Knight Riders have again failed to prove themselves as a team to be taken seriously. This year they started off on a better note than the pathetic performances that characterized the last couple of years. However, it soon became apparent that inconsistency was to be the name of their game. The hopes of all Kolkatans rose and fell with each match they played, mirroring the rise and fall of the team’s fortunes. After having lost a couple of key matches, one after failing to defend a high score and the other in a spectacular show of incompetence, they are now all set to bow out before reaching the semi-finals. The only sliver of hope now remains in the minds of the mathematicians and the hearts of the most ardent fans.

I wonder now whether this entire IPL ‘tamasha’ is not all just a scam. After all, everybody makes money – the players, the team owners, the sponsors. The only people who lose out are the ‘mango people’ a.k.a. ‘aam aadmi’ who treat cricket as more than just a game. For them it is a chance to find heroes in common men, it is a chance to replace the frustrations of daily life with passion , it is a chance to triumph with every swing of the bat, it is a chance to revel in the reflected glory of a bunch of guys from different corners of the world. Cricket is catharsis in this country.

But now, with all the big bucks involved, the auctions, the big ticket sponsorships, what incentive is there for the players to win the game? Is the love of the game enough? Especially for the international cricketers like Mc Cullum, Hussey et al, whose pay packet is ensured and whose solidarity is not really in question. Even for the younger Indian players perhaps the good money, the temporary adulation, the endorsement deals and the post match parties with PYT’s are enough. As for a senior player like Ganguly, the belief of several hundred fans does not seem enough to keep him going for long. And it may be a sad truth that Dada is now unable to cope. Vindicating himself in one match with a half century plus a super stumping plus a cocky catch, we find him blinking in the face of defeat in the next.

Shah Rukh Khan, the owner of KKR, was another reason for many of us to support the team. But this has been one of the few, possibly the only instance, where SRK’s Midas touch has not worked. Yes, yes, he has still made money but surely for a superstar with justified egotism, this dismal performance is unacceptable and embarrassing. His tweets only show how increasingly irate he is becoming with KKR. Perhaps it is time for him to dissociate himself and remove the pressure of his popularity from the team. He is, after all, part of the reason why the stands get full in Eden.

Just for the record, KKR are now ranked 7th out of 8 teams. With a good chance of finishing at the bottom. Black or purple, it’s clearly not the team colours which need changing. Maybe the players, maybe the coach, maybe the owner, maybe the mindset.

For a lot of people in Kolkata, “IPL season 3 is now closed”, like a friend of mine put it. Unless…

Saturday, April 10, 2010

She

She stood next to the traffic policeman. She waited for him to blow the whistle that would call a temporary cessation to the hostilities, that would let her cross the road.

She stood on the small stretch of no man’s land between two lanes of traffic moving in opposite directions. Her thoughts felt alien, like they were pulled into distorted shapes by the chaos that surrounded her. Vehicles, big and small, rushed past, belching black smoke and loud noise. They rumbled past relentlessly, not seeing where they blew the dust, not caring who came in their path.

People thronged around her, pushing past and jostling each other. With an almost bovine impatience they scrambled for the best position even as they waited to cross the road. Hoping that their collective haste would make the traffic stop.

The sun beat down with no regard for the fact that it was a relatively early hour. She could almost feel the steam rising off from everything around her - like they were all giving up their souls to some hellish inferno.
There was a building being torn down on the pavement across the road. The sound of the hammers had a rhythmic quality to it – a haunting sound amid all the cacophony.

Flashes of chrome and plate glass made her squint. She felt she would not be surprised if she was run over. It was almost too easy. One step forward or one step back would make all the difference - the Dance of Death she thought morbidly.

She felt disoriented – cut off from past and future. Locked into this eternal present where the sun grew hotter, where the din of the traffic wouldn’t let her think, where the crowd made her feel invisible. Her kohl-lined eyes yearned to close themselves against this brutal reality. She felt she would gently float away into a space that was far removed. Someplace pure. Clean. Quiet. She felt she would give up almost anything for such a moment…The whistle blew with a piercing shriek and she jumped out of her reverie.

She crossed the road and started walking briskly forward, trying to get her thoughts in order.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Food, glorious food!

I just adore cookery shows on TV.

There’s something enchanting about seeing the everyday ingredients transformed into tempting creations with minimal hassle and with more neatness than I believed humanly possible. I love seeing the neat little bowls of spices and condiments, the shining pots and pans, the variety of spoons, knives and spatulas, the bright greens and yellows of the vegetables, expertly julienned or diced, the pristine looking filet of fish, the tender piece of juicy steak, the glazing with honey, the sizzle of butter, the batter of eggs and flour, the melting chocolate, the frosted icing…

All this might make you believe that I love cooking and you couldn’t be more wrong. Some people might find cooking relaxing but I find watching cookery shows with their aesthetic, non-messy approach immensely therapeutic. I take comfort from what the great French cook, Julia Child (on whom the movie Julie & Julia was based) said, “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then I just ate.” So there’s still hope for me…

Anyways, my favourite celebrity chef is Nigella Lawson. She hosts ‘Nigella Feasts’ and ‘Nigella Bites’. Her cooking style is relaxed and almost flirtatious. A few male friends have even been known to say that they find Nigella's cooking almost sensual. Here’s what Rahul Khanna had to say - "Nigella Lawson's cooking show is mouthwatering. And the food looks delicious too!" :) Well anyways, for me the most important criterion is that the dishes she rustles up look immensely edible. Also, she doesn't skimp in terms of portions or ingredients. Whether it is rich chocolate cake or honey glazed chicken roast, you know you're getting the real thing, diets be damned!


Kylie Kwong is an Australian-Chinese chef famous for her Oriental cuisine. She travels the South-East Asian countries speaking to the locals and cooking up the delicacies the region offers. I am sorry to say that the dishes she makes, fail to make my mouth water. Don’t take me wrong – I like my ‘Chinese’ cuisine as much as the other person. But I’m not into exotic foods overmuch. My dissatisfaction with Kylie’s show could thus have something to do with the episode where she boiled small octopuses. I guess I'm not much of an octopus person.

The men are not to be left behind of course. Jamie Oliver is the cute Brit guy on the cooking show scene. He is also known as The Naked Chef – thankfully not for his sartorial preferences but because of the unprocessed nature of the dishes he makes. His show focuses on using organic and fresh produce, from his own garden sometimes, as ingredients. The dishes look healthy and sumptuous at the same time. He tends to be a little rough and ready in terms of style.

Anthony Bourdain is a famous American chef who hosts ‘No Reservations’ – a travel cum food show. He travels to different places round the globe and samples all the food that it offers. He has the distinction of having eaten fermented shark, warthog rectum and uncooked seal eyeball! Okay, sorry for the gross-out but it’s true. On the other hand he also roams the valleys of Tuscany sampling choice Italian dishes. And the streets of Mumbai eating “bheja fry” or fried goat brains…okay, seriously I cannot get over what all this man has consumed and lived to tell the tale!

On a more comfortable and homely note, Rachel Allen, an Irish celebrity chef, has a show called ‘Bake!’ where she…err…bakes. Since I am not an “I-hate-carbs” person, the delicious and warm looking goodies she makes are right up my street. Cakes, breads, biscuits – it’s a wonderful fairytale world in Rachel’s kitchen. Her focus is on making baking seem like a relatively simple process which you don’t need to be a celebrity chef to master. On her show, she also teaches groups of people how to bake different items and makes it seem like the easiest thing.

While we are at it, let us not forget Madhur Jaffrey – the grand dame of Indian cooking shows. This multi-faceted personality is “an actress who can also cook.” Besides being a noted actress credited with introducing Ismail Merchant to James Ivory, Jaffrey is the noted author of cookbooks of Indian, Asian, and world vegetarian cuisines, many of which have become bestsellers. She is credited with introducing the Western world to Indian food. I caught a few of her shows on Travel & Living and enjoyed watching her cook some spicy South Indian fish curry. She feels like a grandmom sharing a personal recipe for a favourite dish.


Kunal Vijayekar is another new ‘Foodie’ on the block (and boy, doesn't he look the part!). He is also a well known character artiste but I feel he fills up the shoes of a gourmet best. He tends to leave the cooking to experts and instead puts himself in the shoes of the audience. Except of course that he gets to sample the dishes that the chefs conjure up.

Though I have seen several other such programmes some from the good ol' Doordarshan days, these are the few people who I could name off the top of my mind. Those who made their food speak to me. There are many other such shows and many other dishes to be tasted…
So till then I will leave you with this tantalising visual and just say, bon appétit!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Resilience

Shards of pain stabbed through my veins,
I felt like I would never exhale again.
But Life swirled by and swept me along,
And there seemed no good reason not to go on…

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wah Taj!


From last year's visit to the Taj. Ahem, like I said earlier, I'm an aspiring professional photographer.

And here's a cheeky one a.k.a. experimental photography a.k.a. hand of god:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Resolutions for a New Year

I know I'm about two months too late to be writing down my NY resolutions, but hey, better late than never! So here are the grand plans for this year (not in any order):

1. Exercise regularly. In researcher speak, it doesn’t matter that I’m relatively fitter than most others, I need to be healthy at an absolute level also. Do free hand exercises at home in case its still difficult to join a gym

2. Learn to play a musical instrument before the year is out. Can sign up for guitar lessons (memories of school fests always make the guitar seem so glamorous) or at least get my sister to teach me some basic piano playing (all the infrastructure and investment needed is already there at home!)

3. Join a language class – French, Spanish or at least Malayalam! Knowing a language that others don’t, can feel like a secret superpower

4. Stop dreaming about one day waking up to find that I have superpowers

5. Join a photography course – it combines aesthetics, creativity and stamps permanence on the face of time

6. Attempt playing tennis – again more for glamorous reasons. Keep having this vision of oneself smashing the ball across court with a glorious forehand shot. And yes, I was a Steffi Graf fan

7. Get my driver’s licence. Okay I know it doesn’t make sense till I get a car but hey I got a cycle and I still don’t know cycling!

8. Learn to cycle – wipe the dust off my beloved Dulaari (yes that’s what my bicycle’s been christened)

9. Keep a daily record of my expenses – I should know where I’m throwing my money! ‘Have money, will spend’ is not a good mantra

10. Take a vacation and get out of Kolkata. Going to places where I have family doesn’t count. Maybe go to the North this year.

11. Find out if there is some CRY / UNICEF programme I can help out with – not just financially

12. Stop and smell the roses – in other words, take some time off to do nothing rather than keep running around at a frenetic pace. Some quiet time is necessary to calm down

13. Take up one Home Décor / SUPW project – embroidery, cross-stitch, painting – it’s a good way of passing time and its creative

14. Shop more in local markets and less frequently at the malls. They have good stuff at cheaper prices – never mind the crush of humanity.

15. Read more non-fiction. Be it history, politics or biographies – it expands mental horizons and makes one realize that one is not the centre of the universe

16. Do the crossword everyday – it used to be feel-good factor once upon a time

17. Speak less about own life and listen more to others even if they are just cribbing – sometimes people just want you to listen, not share.

18. Remember what people tell me. It’s rude not to. Especially when they can recall what you told them.

19. Learn to cook – some dal, chawal, sabzi at least. It’s a basic survival skill.

20. Send people flowers – it feels good

21. Blog more regularly. What’s the point otherwise?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What say?

"If God made everything, then God must live in China!"

- Dennis the Menace

Saturday, February 20, 2010

That Saturday feeling

In keeping with the tone of my previous post, I have decided that Saturdays are the favourite day of the week for me.

They herald the end of the working week and the beginning of that complete holiday, Sunday. My school believed in a mid week holiday so while Thursdays were off, I had school on Saturday. Even in those days, I used to enjoy Saturdays - we were allowed to borrow books from the library on Saturdays, we also seemed to have dance classes or sports on this day plus my parents would come back early from work too! It was about as good as it could get for me back then!

Saturday is my semi-activity day. It's a day when one is relatively free from the shackles of everyday work but also a day when one can get things done. Like someone once said, 'only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday'. :)
So on Saturdays, I may go to work, but its usually not for the whole day. This means that I can catch up with all the little tasks which have piled up during the week - going to the bank, getting a hair cut, buying that pair of jeans before the sale gets over, meeting friends for a cup of coffee, catching up on some much needed sleep, finishing the last few pages of the novel, watching the latest blockbuster...it makes me feel good. On Sundays most places tend to be closed so activities are somewhat restricted to malls and restaurants. More importantly Sundays make me feel like the end is near and time is running out on my precious weekend. Sunday evenings are by far the worst. You can see a 'Manic Monday' beckon with glee just round the corner.

So let me raise a toast to my favourite day of the week and mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say, 'I'll miss you when you're gone'!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Morning Blues

Monday mornings raise existential questions within me.

I begin to question the basic tenets of life. Why am I here in office today? Is it really necessary to work? Where did my weekend vamoose? How does time pass faster when you are having fun? How come I never seem to get enough sleep over the weekend? You get the drift…

I find myself nodding sagely in empathy as I read the line, “Monday is a lame way to spend 1/7th of one’s life.” So true, so true.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Life is beautiful...

…we just need to take time out to appreciate it.

I am writing this at Cape Town airport while I wait for my flight back to my country. This was an official trip and hence for a short space of time. However just this short time was enough to clear my mind of the clutter that our hectic daily lives fill it with and absorb some peace from the surroundings. It is summertime in South Africa and the natural beauty of the country is several times enhanced.

Since I have visited this beautiful country before, I did not feel the need this time to rush about to any of the famed tourist spots nearby like Table Mountain, V&A Waterfront etc. Instead I enjoyed the beautiful weather in the town of Stellenbosch where I was staying. The town is free of the hustle and bustle that so often characterizes big cities. It is mainly a University town and has a laid back feel to it. Everyone seems to be enjoying the summer by spending as much time outside as possible.

The azure skies, the stately mountains in the distance, the huge acorn trees, the beautiful white houses lining the boulevards, the sound of soft music playing somewhere in the distance – the atmosphere is as intoxicating as the wine that the region is famous for. There is nothing loud or hurried – or so at least it felt to me. It is impossible to spend time here and not tap into an inner tranquility.

I remember in particular, one night when I was returning to my hotel after dinner. I looked up at the sky and was immediately mesmerized by the lavish sprinkle of stars. In the absence of the artificial lighting that proliferates in our cities streets, the stars seemed to shine brighter. I felt that I had never seen as many stars I saw that day. It took my breath away to see such awesome natural beauty. I think that was a defining moment for me somehow – the stillness of the night, the silhouette of the mountains and the giant trees framing a small slice of heaven.

This trip made me realize that sometimes it really just IS enough to take time out to smell the roses. And it’s just as simple. One just has to keep the senses open to capture all ‘intimations of immortality’ that may pass our way.