Friday, December 30, 2011

Achy breaky heart

I feel that heartbreak need not be absolute or immediate. Or about love. Sometimes its just the small things that chip away at you. Till you feel a piece of you crumble. And you know you just lost something irretrievable. A small bit of sunshine and a smile or two.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Non sequitur

Loudspeaker blaring Shehnai music, bunch of labourers apparently annihilating the house next door, Labrador barking itself into a frenzy, train whistle competing for top spot, car honking from alpha to omega...just some of the sounds assailing the ears this morning.
How can I possibly hear myself think!

******

AMRI fire tragedy a reminder of how close we all walk to the shadow of death. Disaster can strike anytime and at any place. Most of the time we are saved by just dumb luck. And we don't even realise it. But to see the healer turn into hellhound is a betrayal too hard to get over.

******

It's almost the middle of December and winter is yet to visit the city properly. It's just pleasant weather now though some people insist on bringing out the monkey caps. In a strange way its also tedious, this in-between feeling. This is not what we planned for.

Like life.
******

I am doing too many things. Sometimes that's how I want it to be. Sometimes all I want to do is nothing.

J'apprends le francais. I am learning French. I had a sort of crash course during my post grads but it was more like a fling than a serious affair. But I like languages and I thought I would love to learn this one better. I am enjoying the classes having finally made time for them. The fly in the ointment are the timings - I spend half of my weekends in French class. Not a model that can be sustained for long methinks.

Sometimes I want to go to all the parties this season, visit all the fetes and galas, listen to the choirs...I don't know how else I will really be able to feel this season.

Sometimes I want to just take a long break from work and sit quietly warming my toes in the sun or reading a novel snuggled up in bed...I don't know how else I will really be able to feel this season.
******

The other morning I hopped on to a rickshaw since I was getting late for work. As it wound through some narrow side streets, I suddenly heard someone singing loudly.."Jaane kahaan gaye woh din..."(wonder where those days have gone). I turned to see who it was - the local butcher sitting in his dingy workroom slaughtering chickens.

Life can be so surreal sometimes.

******

Monday, October 24, 2011

Excess baggage

Much to my surprise, I have begun to gain weight.

The surprise stems from the fact that I have spent several of my growing years bracketed as ‘skinny’ before reaching respectable proportions. When I was in school, my mother tried feeding me every weight gain potion and tonic she could find. I did my bit by doing weightlifting with water bottles and trying to develop a love for food apart from French fries. Finally, by the time I started my post grads, I had reached a stage where I no longer needed to celebrate the emergence of a new kg on the weighing scale. (Earlier I used to treat my friends to chocolates when this happened!)

Once I started working, I thought nothing of eating out at the drop of a hat. I love cheese and junk food and saw no reason not to indulge myself. I knew weight gain was not something that came easily to me. The battle of the bulge was the farthest thing from my mind much to the envy of my peer group. I say all this to give some idea of how alien my current situation feels to me. It is only in the last couple of years that I have begun to feel a slowdown in my metabolism. It took me a while to accept the idea that, yes, I was indeed sliding down the road to plumpness. The numbers on the weighing scale are inching upwards as the cheeseburst pizzas and zinger burgers begin to catch up with me.

For a long while it was just enough to look at people around me and think that at least I was not ‘that’ fat (you know what I mean?). But I couldn’t deceive myself any longer after I realized I could no longer wear some of my favourite clothes. After spending months simply ‘thinking’ about diet and exercise, I joined a gym. I decided that food was one of the greatest pleasures left to man and I couldn’t, simply couldn’t, starve myself or stay away from my favourite dishes. I joined the neighbourhood gym with a lot of gusto, the vision of a slimmer me, crystal clear in my head.

My enthusiasm and energy didn’t last long. I was waking up at the unearthly hour of 7am to go to the gym which was run by a couple of ladies in their home. The challenge of waking early was daunting enough. Coupled with a ‘no pressure’, homely atmosphere it led to a serious lack of enthusiasm. I needed to know that I was burning fat, I wanted to know which muscles I was building up, I needed something more motivating. So I dropped out after a couple of weeks and began to search in earnest for a ‘proper’ gym. After much research and deliberation, I joined a gym near my office. I reasoned it had to be close to my home or my office if I was going to go there regularly. I also decided to go after work to avoid the problem of waking up early.

This gym has all the works. (Which it should, considering that it’s the most expensive one in the whole city!) They have the latest machines, a trainer to guide you and monitor your progress, steam rooms etc. Once I make it there, it’s all good. I exercise for nearly an hour and a half and while my body realizes just how out of shape it is, I get the satisfaction of knowing that I am actually doing something to correct the problem. Afterward, I drag my exhausted self into a cab and lie there like a zombie as some semblance of life slowly creeps back into me.

But. This entire scenario only works if I actually make it to the gym. I have discovered in myself an unfortunate tendency to dream up a multitude of reasons not to exercise on any given day. More often than not, I feel sorry for my poor self stuck in office the whole day. A minion of the corporate powers, my salvation seems to lie in making a run for home and hearth as soon as possible (or having a Wicked Brownie at the nearby Barista). So now I spend a bomb on my gym membership to satisfy some twisted part of my mind. My exercise in the last week has been confined to shopping for gym clothes and reading articles on the internet about treadmills and exercycles and lat pulleys…

But ……….today is a new day and as I write this, the spirit of my slimmer self is strong in me. I want to be her again…Watch out gym, here I come!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Oh Captain, my Captain!

Recently saw Captain America: The first Avenger. While the movie wasn't so great (even though am a sucker for superheroes), I rediscovered Chris Evans.

Is he a fine piece of eye candy or what? :)







Image courtesy: Google

Friday, September 23, 2011

Uttar Dakshin Purab Paschim

Well there's this major blog battle going on because a South Indian girl wrote some vitriolic stuff about Delhi boys here. The Madrasan, as she calls herself, has been lauded but has also been at the receiving end of major Delhiite outrage.

For my part, I think the girl is sharp but immature. Her post crossed the fine line between being humorously sarcastic and being genuinely nasty. And because generalisations are always crap. Just because she met an obnoxious Delhiite or two (or more) doesn't really mean that she can lambast the whole breed. Also I think that in this time and age, people would be more broadminded and judge (if they must) based on individuals not on communities or skin colour or gender.
Most reactionary posts that I read were not half as biting or offensive as hers was. Here's one which I particularly liked. Funny, witty and makes some good points. My only concession to the Madrasan would be that she has the 'right to write' what she wants to on her blog.

But her post shows that most people are still quite happy to play 'us vs. them' games. I guess its human nature to want divides. Being different is not always cool, sometimes its almost a crime. What else would explain all the communalism and regionalism that we still see these days. People want separate states (as if India didn't already have enough of them), people want to rename states to bring it closer to the regional name (a dumb idea if ever there was one!)...

I am a South Indian born and brought up in the Eastern part of the country and I speak fluent Bangla. Most people commend me for it and express their astonishment. By now, I have explained to several hundred Bengalis that the reason behind this is because I have been born and brought up in the East, because I have several close friends who are Bengali. Most don't seem quite convinced. In their eyes I'm still something of a rare bird. The other day a woman commented that "you people come from outside and learn to speak our language so well, I don't think I could do the same." I forebore to tell her that in today's age, when we have the freedom to travel and settle in any part of the world, to talk about 'coming from outside' is a moot point. I realised that telling her that my family had been settled in the East for a few generations had not made a difference to her. So I let her enjoy her blistering parochialism (or candour depending on which view you take). After all it takes all kinds.

I think its okay to be attached to a place, its historic grandeur, its warm people, its cute foibles and its appalling laziness. Its a bit like how one feels about friends - the funny one, the caring one, the full on masti one. One doesn't discriminate between friends basis community, religion or skin colour. I listen to generalizations but I react to individuals.
But sometimes I do feel that I am expected to align myself to a particular way of thinking and being. As if tying me down would give me more freedom. I resent this. I intend to set up a Non Aligned Movement of my own. And so I won't get into any discussion of Delhi boys and Southie gals...just tell me when you meet a nice PERSON.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Il Pensoroso

I find myself reliving the past more and more often these days. I think of the good times and the bad. I remember the simple pleasures and the complicated sorrows. I remember the heartwarming surprises, the lazy days in the winter sun, the chatter of familiar voices all around. I remember the trivial problems that seemed so huge. I remember the secret tears and unarticulated fears.

I don't know why but I feel quite a disconnect with the way of thinking these days. I am quite happily ensconced in the Chitrahaar era as far as my most of my beliefs go. I believe in the value of family, respecting elders, in true love, in wide-eyed innocence, in shyness as an acceptable virtue...in a simpler, less hedonistic way of living. I surf the net to connect to the world, I shop to feel good and I aim for a bigger house...but I remember a time during those long, familar power cuts when friends, family, neighbours sat around a communal aangan, drank endless cups of chai and chatted about everything under the sun to pass the time. Sometimes I participated, sometimes I just let their words wash over me like a river of warmth. Sometimes I read my storybooks by the light of a candle. Sometimes I made up poems and fairytales to tell the other kids.

I think of "multiverses" or alternate universes sometimes. It refers to the idea that there are multiple universes where maybe you also exist but your life has taken a different turn. You are not a mother of two kids settled in happy domesticity but a free-spirited adventurer. Or it could even be that time is not a contunuum as we perceive it, but an infinite series of parallel universes. This means that every moment that I have lived exists as a separate data point somewhere. I think that maybe, while I sit here typing out this post so full of yearning for days irretrievably gone by, there could be a world where that life still exists. Somewhwere in the vast mysteries of space and time.

After all think of how little we know about how the world was created. We run about our daily lives, one among the billions who inhabit a small rock suspended in what we call space. A space that has no beginning and no end. I find this incredibly awe-inspiring and scary. The idea that there is no beginning, no middle, no end to it all. How many other worlds are there? Is space really infinite? It boggles the mind to think of all these spheres spinning silently in eternity, sprouting life forms. Life forms who over aeons manage to complicate their life in incredible ways. We really forget or maybe we don't want to remember that at the end of it all, you are just an insignificant speck in the universe.

Yeah...its an effing trippy post.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where is the love?

A riot caused by consumerism. Teenagers in one of the most developed cities in the world resorting to petty thieving and violence just for the heck of it. Grabbing unlawfully what they haven't earned simply because they want it. Using social media to alert and coordinate with each other. A government that is supposedly ready to face riots but is unable to tackle youngsters in its own backyard. Anarchy due to avarice.

In another hitherto peaceful nation, a gunman mows down students at a youth summer camp and bombs the government building exposing a new form of terror - homegrown right-wing militants who oppose multiculturalism.

Even as the world grapples to solve old problems new ones seem to crop up. Wonder what kind of a future are moving towards if globalisation, greater disposable incomes, increased connectivity to all corners of the world do not result in increased tolerance and respect.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gray

Rainy, rainy day. Gray skies overhead. Water trickling down the windowpanes. Finally its cool enough to feel comfortable in your skin. For me, the first real monsoon day in Calcutta. That familiar difficulty in getting out of bed and getting dressed for work on a day that seduces you with its promise of cloud cocoons and lightning heartbeats. That familiar difficulty in getting a cab, waiting under a dripping umbrella with a laptop on my back watching the world rush by and feeling strangely distanced. I feel like I might keep waiting there forever – the rain flirting with me, getting into my shoes, breezing across my face, splashing onto my hands as I try to hail yet another cab.

I wonder what’s the worst that can happen if I just go back home and get into bed. I muse about the unfairness of a life where I run in an endless circle and let a marvellous monsoon pass me by.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New beginnings

Nothing is constant except change.


I am currently trying to get myself in a frame of mind where I am able to learn new things, about a new business. Have changed jobs after 6 years. Trying to gear up for whatever challenges may lie ahead. Strangely while everyone else seems to be view it as an occasion for going into raptures, I am a little more circumspect. The way I see it, I just gave up the comfort and security of a place where 'everybody knows your name' and am now about to dive into uncharted waters. It is exciting of course, challenging for sure. That is why I did it - I was tired of being complacent, of doing the same things everyday. But if you are a worrier like me, you will understand how I feel. And I have had a pretty bad experience with my first job itself. It was a campus placement into a reputed bank. Now I am amazed at how vulnerable and naive I was then. We all were. Out of 13 recruits, only 4 were left in the bank at the end of a year. So anyways, I am still somewhat troubled by the thought of the 4 months (yep!) that I spent in the bank. My benchmark is now 4 months. Fingers crossed.

My time in between jobs was spent in visiting relatives and friends. I hadn't seen this branch of my family for almost 8 years. It was such a thrill reconnecting with all of them. My cousins who I remembered as babies were now ready to give their board exams. The time I spent playing games with them was one of the highlights of my trip. I think its great to have children in the house. They keep you young. With their unbridled enthusiasm for life and their innocence.
Our ancestral home is near a village so I reconnected with a simpler way of living also. At one point, there was actually no network reception on my cellphone. But the doors of the house were thrown wide open and people kept streaming in the whole day. Somebody's uncle, brother, aunt, neighbour - they all dropped in to say hello and be introduced to me. It makes one wonder about the islands that we have become with our city bred ways. The whole area was surrounded by rubber plantations and my dad showed me the various plants and trees where he had played as a child. the food that we ate was plucked from the trees on the property. Nature at its purest. I remember standing near the front door putting my hand out to feel the rain splash on it while the trees whispered a melody all around me. Cool, fresh, green.

I went to stay with some friends after this in Bangalore. It was a short trip but one of the best I've had so far. We managed to pack in loads of adda sessions, lazing, shopping, sightseeing and of course, partying. The best memory would have to be when we were on this rooftop open air lounge called 13th Floor. The lights of UB city looming large amid the surrounding darkness, the cool breeze ready to whisk you away, the heady music, the soft chatter of the crowds and the company of good friends. Some moments are enough to last you for a long while.
We were having this discussion one day about what our vocation is, what is it that we want to 'do' in life. People who know what they are passionate about, what they want to become, are lucky - musicians, designers, even doctors or teachers. I think my calling in life possibly is to just chill with friends! That's the only thing I seem to be passionate about doing. And reading. Or rather having books to read. I returned home with 10 books after a 6 day trip.

And so, I sit here thinking about how soon time flies. I was just a fresher the other day and now I am a veteran, I was just the youngest in my family and now am an aunt, there I was waiting to vote when I turned 18 and here I am into my third decade. So cheers to new beginnings - the only way to live!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Highlights

    I know, I know! I have been away for what feels like ages. And the more time passes without writing anything, the harder it gets to write...
    But anyways, here's what I have been upto...some highlights of the days gone by:

  • Landing in Bucharest, Romania and getting that familiar rush of excitement to think that I am in a whole new country, a new continent. Somewhere where I have never set foot before. Even jet lag can't kill this feeling. I sit back in the car and drink in the sights and sounds on a chilly Sunday afternoon.


  • That same evening, I literally run into the warm restaurant fleeing from the chilly winds chasing away the daylight. My hosts tell me I should have brought something warmer. I tell them I am wearing my warmest jacket. It is an Italian restaurant with dim lighting and clinking glasses. I remember feeling nice and fuzzy - almost intoxicated by the ambience, the food, their friendly chatter and the unfamiliar accents and my exhaustion which was rapidly beginning to catch up.

  • Waking up to a foreign city shrouded in fog - making it feel all the more alien. Thoughts of Count Vlad a.k.a. Dracula float through my head and send a delicious chill down my spine

  • Another evening, another restaurant. This time high above the city. I sit close to the glass windows and see the daylight fade. I taste foie gras for the first time. And some amazing chocolate cake. And listen to our beautiful host tell us about Dracula...about how he has been demonized and victimized. Hmm...

  • I am having dinner. With Romanians, Serbians, Bulgarians. At times like this, I really love my job. It's given me experiences I never dreamed I would have.


  • Final day of the presentation is at a palace. Really. Stirbey Palace on the outskirts of the city. The grounds are full of wildflowers and bare trees. There is a lake where White and Black swans are gliding. Across the wooden bridge is a meadow where I can see a pony grazing. Can it get more idyllic? The palace itself is slightly sinister though in keeping with East European folklore.



  • Is it strange that the moments that really stay with me are when I was out for dinner? It's a beautiful evening, our presentations have gone off well so I am happy. It's our last evening in Bucharest and we are at a restaurant playing soft rock and serving great Italian cuisine. The ceiling is made of white drapes and the big glass windows look onto a street lined with mansions that house various embassies.

******************************************
  • I am returning on the day India plays Sri Lanka in the World Cup Cricket final. I love being a part of experiences so it is excruciating to sit patiently in the flight waiting for irregular score updates from the air-hostess. When I try to gently prod her to deliver more regular feedback given the urgency of the situation, she nods sympathetically. "Yes, I know. But the pilot has said he can either fly the plane or check for updates", she says apologetically. That settles that. The pilot is not Indian or Sri Lankan methinks.

  • As we get ready to make our descent into the Mumbai night, the aircraft hovers over the city and I can see fireworks all over the city. It is one of the most awesome sights I have ever seen. That's how I first know India has won the World Cup. After 28 years. Passengers aboard the aircraft pump their fists in the air and congratulate each other. There are cheers and applause as the captain confirms the win. My first SMS on landing is from Romania - our client wants to congratulate us on becoming world champions!

******************************************
  • Before I can quite recover from my trip, I have to plan for another. But this time its pleasure not business. Off to Puri on office Annual Retreat. Have been waiting eagerly for it because it means a chance to catch up with friends and unwind - something which has been in short supply for some time. I am gleeful as a child as I pile my luggage into the train and start clicking photographs before you can say "camera"! we laugh hysterically at stupid jokes as we fall asleep lulled by the movement of the train.
  • One of the first things we do, is hit the beach. But first it means trudging, slipping, ploughing through hot sand. And then at last, I can let the cool waters wash over my tired feet. the sea never fails to thrill me. Its roar pounding through my ears, the strong breeze making my spirits soar. As I sit later beneath the colourful umbrellas and sip on tender coconut water and look out at the sea, I feel like I can be this way forever.

  • The Sun Temple is fabulous. I am mesmerised by the thought of people striving to create this work of art so many years ago. 750 years ago actually, as our guide kept saying. I am captivated to know that the idol in the inner sanctum was kept suspended in air by being placed between two strong magnets. I wonder if this is true as I picture the scene and feel enchanted.

  • The guide is funny. He takes the boys on a special tour which is apparently censored stuff. Someone says temples had erotic carvings to encourage people to procreate. Whaaa?

  • Chandrabhaga beach as the sun is setting. We savour the moment, walking a far distance along the beach and writing our names in the sand.

  • Party time at night. Haven't danced like this in ages. I am so exhausted that I can barely stand straight but I don't want this night to end. I don't know when I'll get to dance like this with my friends again. I am so tired, I am almost high. High on happiness.

******************************************
  • Withdrawal symptoms for a day or two as I search desperately for something else to look forward to. Till someone reminds me about the extended weekend coming up. Yay! Laziness is welcomed with open arms. Sleep, eat, read.

  • Peace and quiet at work after what feels like aeons. Rocky Road shake at Mocha. Sitting with a friend in silence. Listening to 'Iktara'..."sun rahi hu sudh-budh khoke, koii main kahani, puri kahani hai kya kise hai pata..."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'll be back

Aargh! Not getting time to write at all! Been a busy couple of weeks! Will have to catch up soon... This is just a note to myself...I can still write!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hence proved!

Theorem:
Nothing succeeds like excess... ~says Nigella Lawson

Proof:
Given below


Old-fashioned Chocolate cake

Ginger Glazed ham

Cheesecakelets

Hungarian sandwich

Photos courtesy: foodnetwork.com

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Loves Likes Hates Adores

It’s that time of the year again. When love turns tangible. It floats around you in the form of heart shaped balloons. All that glitters in the jewellery advertisements is not gold but love. Red is the ‘in’ colour. From top restaurants to luxury spas, everyone just wants you and your beloved to have a romantic day. Really, that’s all they want. Oh and your wallet besides. Yes, its Valentines’ Day – celebrated by lovebirds and marketers all over the world. After all Shakespeare himself gives his nod saying, "They do not love that do not show their love". Oh well, a complicated emotion like Love needs at least its own day if not a decade dedicated to it.



FB has it right – there’s so much to ‘like’ in life really. Few things can compare with the joy of reading an engrossing book by a much loved author while letting the balmy weather wash over you. As Winter raises its hat in a final farewell, it imbues the air with a mellowness - neither too cold nor too warm. This is the time to warm one’s toes in the sun. To drowse in the daytime and dream in myriad colours. To catch up on good cinema, go for an open air concert or party. It’s time for a much awaited break.



And recently I read about World War I and the Russian revolution, saw a movie about the Gulf war and one fine day I found that an actual revolution was taking place in Tunisia and Egypt. It set me thinking about why human beings thrive on oppression and hatred. Hate is a strong word. To be used sparingly and with caution. If only people could ‘live and let live’ so many lives would be spared, so much pain minimized. Hatred begets hatred. But we never seem to learn unless there is a major upheaval. Maybe hate is genetically programmed into us, like love. Time to evolve.



The next generation will maybe find the way out. Right now they are bunch of adorable babies with wide-eyed curious stares. Many of my friends have had babies this year and I have been bowled over by each of the little munchkins. There is nothing like cuddling a small baby to bring out all one’s protective instincts. As I looked at each one’s face, all chubby cheeks and tendrils of soft hair that emanates a typical ‘baby’ smell (or maybe it’s just Johnson & Johnsons) I wondered what they would grow up to be. I pray that somehow they manage to retain a bit of the innocence they now have even when they move into adulthood. Choose a-little-Innocence over all-out-Cynicism any day.


P.S. The title of this post refers to a game that we used to play as kids.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

La Dolce far Niente...

...that's Italian for the "the sweetness of doing nothing". And boy, do they have that right! I am beginning to feel some of these European countries really have their priorities sorted out. I mean, the Italians have a phrase like this which pretty much advocates laziness, the Spaniards have their 'siesta' or afternoon nap - another beautiful concept. After yet another hard week's work, I feel sweet idleness is the true road to nirvana.

I mean, seriously, why is doing nothing so bad? Is it because the work ethic is so deeply instilled in us that to do nothing is seen as defeatist? Why do we push ourselves so much, constantly striving to reach who knows what - more money, a bigger house, a better car. And we slot our pockets of relaxation - one Sunday a week, one week off every six months or so. And even then there's this pressure to "do" something, "go" somewhere.

The more I think about all this, the more I find myself wondering what is the point of all this rush - waking up in the morning as soon as possible, rushing through breakfast, spending 11 stressful hours at work running between meetings, briefings, mails, desperately trying to finish a piece of work in the vain hope that it will give you some time to breathe, hurrying back home because its late, rushing through dinner and then trying to squeeze in some quality time with family before collapsing into dreamless sleep. Then there are vacations which have to be planned, social networking to be conducted, keeping oneself up-to-date with the latest news and views. And we do this day after day. No wonder we often wonder where the day, the week, the year disappeared.

Why this tearing hurry which leads nowhere, like running on a treadmill of activity? All we are doing really is sprinting through life, just hurtling towards the eternal end. What we really need, what I really need is to just Stop and Take a deep breath. Spread my time for "Niente" through the day rather than just once a year. Cut down on all the fevered activity and consequently cut down on a lot of stress. It is time to take control of our lives, to realize that the present is what we need to enjoy. The past is done with and the future may never be ours. If you are not at peace with yourself and able to savour your own company, then all the activity in the world cannot help you.

Peace is not to be found in travel to exotic lands or in going to the poshest clubs. Even something as simple as sitting beside your window looking out at the rain can be peaceful or watching your baby sleep or realizing how each petal of a flower is a work of art or looking at the shapes the clouds make in the blue sky... So to adapt a popular tagline, 'doing nothing IS possible'. I just hope one day I can achieve this. Best of luck to me and to you! :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Forever

"I'll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour...
I'll be there for you, like I've been there before...
I'll be there for you...'coz you're there for me too!"

Yes, these lines are from the popular and much-loved US sitcom, FRIENDS. I caught myself humming this tune the other day and realized that I knew the words to the whole song. I had memorized it without even realizing it. And that's just one example of how this serial becomes a part of your life. I am a huge FRIENDS addict and have seen not just all the seasons but also multiple reruns of the same. In fact, FRIENDS is one of those rare serials whose appeal does not diminish over time and which is consistently funny.


FRIENDS started off in 1994 and continued through 10 seasons right until 2004. I remember watching an episode on Star World (or was it still Star Plus back then?) and then catching another on Zee Cafe on the same day. FRIENDS was and still is, one of the best ways of passing a lazy Sunday or enlivening a tired weeknight at home. Every episode with the sitcom's central characters, Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica and Phoebe was sure to generate several grins, a few chuckles and a couple of belly-laughs.

The gang who hang out at Central Perk the New York coffee house, became such a big part of my life growing up that my friends and I often refer to their exploits or try to decide which FRIENDS character we are most like. Here's a short roundup of the six key characters around whose lives this serial revolves:


Ross Geller (David Schwimmer): Thanks to him, we know what the word "paleontologist" means. He works in this capacity at the New York Museum. He is quite geeky with his love for dinosaurs and fossils and is not street smart at all. He is Monica's brother and has been Chandler's college roommate. He has long had a crush on Rachel and has an on-off relationship with her. Despite being a decent guy who wants nothing more than to settle down happily, much to his chagrin, he has been divorced three times. The first time (to Carol) because his wife turned out to be a lesbian, second (to Emily) because he said the wrong name at the altar and third time (to Rachel) because he got married when he was drunk. He has two children: a son Ben from his marriage to Carol and a daughter Emma with Rachel.


Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston): She starts off as the spoiled daughter of a rich doctor who runs away from her wedding. She finds her feet with the Central Perk gang by learning to live on her own by first working as a waitress and then using her natural fashion sense to work as a buyer in fashion house of Ralph Lauren. She also knows Ross and Monica from high school and shares a room with Monica. She is always very stylish and the kind of girl all the guys fall for. She is also credited with giving us "The Rachel" - a layered haircut that she popularized on the show and which was then adopted by women all over the world.


Monica Geller (Courteney Cox): The mother hen of the group who loves being the hostess. By profession she is a chef and is often rustling up some delicacy or the other. She is also known for her obsessive-compulsive and competitive nature. Everybody knows Monica will get mad if there is any kind of mess around. Monica has a history of being extremely overweight and some flashback episodes show her like this leading to much hilarity. Monica eventually finds love with Chandler Bing and marries him.


Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow): The singer of "Smelly Cat"! Phoebe is an eccentric masseuse and musician. Phoebe is known for her toneless self-written guitar songs which everyone pretends to like. She is in her own words, "flaky" but is also street smart having to be on her own on the streets of New York City. Her previous lifestyle and wild stories often shock her friends. She also has elaborate stories about her previous lives. She has evil twin sister named Ursula who is completely self-centred and with whom she doesn't get along. She has also acted as surrogate mother and given birth to triplets for her step-brother and his wife. In the last season, she marries Mike Hannigan played by Paul Rudd.


Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc): He is a struggling actor and food lover who shares a room with Chandler. They initially live across the hall from Rachel and Monica. Joey finds fame (and stalkers) with his role on Days of our Lives as Dr. Drake Ramoray. Joey is a womanizer with many short-term girlfriends throughout the series. To woo the girls, he uses his standard catchphrase, "How you doin?" to great effect. Joey's key charm lies in being a child at heart and a loyal friend.



Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry): He is the wise-guy of the group and is always cracking sarcastic jokes about everything. He used to work in a vague analysis job for a large multi-national corporation but is not happy at it so he quits and becomes a junior copywriter at an advertising agency during season nine. He has had an unhappy childhood with his father being a Vegas burlesque dancer and his mother an erotic novelist. Chandler hates Thanksgiving since his most vivid memory of Thanksgiving was when he was nine years old and his mother and father told him they were getting divorced so his father could run off with the house-boy. Chandler therefore refuses to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional way. So every Thanksgiving episode has a backstory about Chandler. As Joey says, "It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Chandler bumming us out!" Though he started off as the one with the most problems with commitment, Chandler is the first of his friends to settle down happily with Monica.


Due to its popularity, the show has also seen several celebrity stars appearing in guest roles. These include Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Tom Selleck, Julia Roberts etc. And one of the best parts about FRIENDS is that the actors became good friends even in real life. They negotiated jointly for pay hikes and insisted on being treated as an ensemble cast without any member being given more importance than the other.

Essentially FRIENDS was a story of six young people on their own and struggling to survive in the real world using the comfort and support of their friendship. It struck a chord with so many viewers because one could identify with each one of the characters at some point of time or the other. We have all been a little geeky, a little sarcy, a little control-freakish, a little crazy and so confused a lot of the time.
For those of you who have watched it, you know what I mean. And for those of you who haven't, go watch an episode now...you don't know what you're missing!
Here's a toast to one of my favourite serials, something that has brought so much laughter into my life: a promise to be FRIENDS forever!



Picture courtesy: Google Images

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Auld lang syne

The story of my life as written on a T-shirt - "So much to do, so little time".

Have been completely submerged in work post X'mas. Hoping that this is just a phase and will pass and really worried that this may be for keeps. I am used to working hard and generally average around 10 hours at work each day. But at this time of the year, when winter finally, unbelievably and enchantingly, descends on my city and all I want is to warm myrself in the sunshine, I am spending around 12 hrs cooped up inside office. And while I get all existential and wonder why I am screwing my happiness like this, my fingers (and toes) are crossed hoping for a better time soon.

Okkkk...now that I've got the self-pity out of my system, let's talk about happier things. I have quite a few good novels stacked up and waiting to be read since I went on a book-buying spree recently. Currently reading Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants". It's a voluminous tome but pretty interesting so far. Also finally purchased Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns". I had really liked "The Kite Runner" and I've heard good things about this one too. My Sherlock Holmes is not over as yet either. Also pending is the third book in the Millennium trilogy, "The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest". Have lost interest in this though due to its long-winded writing style, replete with unnecessary details. Also have a Frederick Forsyth ("The Afghan") and Wodehouse ("A pelican at Blandings") waiting. If you are a book-lover, you will understand the joy the very thought of these treasures brings me. I am a member of a library near my office and those hurried walks in the evenings to reach the room full of musty books is sometimes the high point of my day.

Since we are into the New Year and New Decade, its clearly the time for resolutions. I hadn't thought of any new ones this year since I realize that a 'copy-paste' of last year's would work fine. The goal I've set myself is to do at least one new thing - join a gym, a music class, a language class, learn to drive. Start with minimum one activity. My focus is also going to be on watching what I eat since am beginning to gain weight. But two weeks into this year and the report on this is pathetic. In fact, am dreaming about a Cheeseburst pizza even as I write! Who would have thought the perennially skinny kid, whose mom tried everything under the sun to make her gain weight, would one day have to think twice about food. Blame it on our sedentary lifestyle. Gone are PT classes, the Lock 'n Key games, the long walks to the Metro station, the running up and down staircases. Just some of the things the last decade took away with itself.

I remember my graduation and MBA days as some of the best of the last decade. I studied what I really wanted to, saw some academic high points, gained the confidence to participate in more extra-curricular activities and made many good friends. I also started working in the middle of the last decade and stepped into a whole other dimension of life. I gained financial independence, the satisfaction of tackling new and different challenges and best of all, the chance to travel to lands beyond India.

The last ten years were also a period of great change for me emotionally, turning a shy, reserved girl into a much stronger person than she could have ever believed possible. This girl saw some tough times especially in the last few years when death and disease struck at her family. She felt ravaged by pain unlike any she had known before. But she also discovered a small flame of optimism in her that refused to go out. And so she hopes that this decade will bring a better time, a happier time. For her family, for herself and for you too. Touchwood!

Happy New Year and may God bless us all!