Monday, April 30, 2007

confessions of a deranged mind...

Ok this is a result of someonearbit’s tag. I suppose it’s confession time!
Pick out a scar you have, and explain how you got it.
The ones on my knees from my tree-climbing days of youth have faded to sliver streaks. The ones on my heart however are pulsatingly raw.
What is on the walls in your room?
Besides the usual book shelves and CD racks, a pair of korean war masks, a pair of framed Jamini Roy lithos, a set of watercolours of Halong Bay done by yours truly.
What does your phone look like?
Sleek, black, functional. Completely unlike me.
What music do you listen to?
60s and 70s rock and Country.
What is your current desktop picture?
My desktop is way too cluttered with icons to appreciate a picture. (Cluttered mind you see!)
What do you want more than anything right now?
To be free. The mind is a prison.
Do you believe in gay marriage?
I like gays. Marriage however is another ball game. (Oops! the pun was completely unintended!)
What time were you born?
8.25 AM on a Saturday morning after making my mother suffer through the night.
Are your parents still together?
Yes. And I am not sure if it's because of the previous answer.
What are you listening to?
Right now, Garth Brook’s Unanswered Prayers.
Do you get scared of the dark?
Only the darkenss of the mind.
The last person to make you cry?
I can blame him. But it was really the onions.
What is your favorite perfume/cologne?
Dune, Cerutti 1881, Pleasures on me.
Fahreneit on my man.
What kind of hair/eye colour do you like on the opposite sex?
Hair that ain’t curly and eyes that don’t lie.
Do you like pain killers?
I don’t think anyone LIKES painkillers, unless ofcourse they are addicted. My pain threshold is high therefore I rarely use painkillers. (touch wood!) BTW are there any painkillers for heartaches?
Are you too shy to ask someone out?
No. Alas! Never get the opportunity.
Favorite pizza topping?
If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?
Hot chai at Bishu’s thek near our old Southern Avenue home in Kolkata.
Tiramisu will be close second.
Who was the last person you made mad?
Has to be my mother.
Is anyone in love with you?
I want the world to be in love with me. Dream on, did you say?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Inanity thy name

Today, I got out of work in the afternoon and dropped in to my regular beauty salon. My favourite girl (ok…this sounds corny, but she really is a doll!) is tending to one young metrosextual male with blonde streaks (I guess only males are called metrosexual…whoever heard of metrosexual women?) She smiled and asks me to have a seat and wait for a while as she was in the middle of a manicure session. I curse myself for not taking an appointment as I carelessly flip through the latest copy of Femina.
As I look around, there’s this young girl all of 5, having an adult dialogue with the attending hairstylist while the mother watches with pride. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have a huge thing for little girls. They melt my heart and make me desperate for a daughter despite the small issue that a man is required for the process. However, this one is really cute and she knew that. She had sweet-talked the salon girl into putting strawberry nail paint for her. I watch them leave with mixed emotions. At her age, I didn’t even know nail paints existed. But maybe she will grow up more confident than I am even at my age.
Lost in thought I watch a familiar figure loom close. I reluctantly manage a smile.
“What are you doing here?” she asks. Her tone overtly patronizing.
This lady is an old acquaintance. I don’t know her enough to hate her but I know enough to avoid her company. Coming back to her question, what does it mean?
  • She doubts whether I can afford this?
  • Am I too ugly for this place?
  • Did I ever sign a contact with her not to use the same salon?
I run through possible answers in my head.
I come here to letch at the men.
I am an apprentice here.
Ohhh My God! I thought this was the library!
I loveeee the music they play!
“I am doing a sex survey.” is what I finally say with exaggerated politeness.
The metrosextual is clearly smirking. The lady at the counter tries desperately to hide her smile. At last, Her Highness gets it. Turns and leaves without a goodbye.
It must have been my smile.
Now, you can call me a bitch, but my tolerance for inanity is close to zero.
Do you think I need help?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Smoke Signal?

A law to ban smoking in public places could save more lives more quickly than the development of a single new anti-cancer drug - according to Cancer Research UK.
The Indian Government finally seems to have woken up to this reality and has announced a definitive plan to ban public smoking in Delhi and Mumbai by 2009. The announcement is a welcome move. But how far this will be successfully implemented is a matter of debate.
According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco causes one in 10 deaths worldwide which translates to someone in the world dying of a smoking-related disease, every eight seconds.
Consider this.
By 2010, it is estimated that the annual global cost of tobacco use will be half a trillion USD. This is more money than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 174 of the 192 member countries of the United Nations.
In India, the cigarette market is growing at around 4% every year, but what is more worrying is that the non smoking tobacco segment, including guthka, chewing tobacco, zarda, has seen 15 per cent growth. The hike in excise duties on both cigerette and bidis in this year’s budget maynot dent either the production or the consumption pattern. Also, it maybe too soon to comment. Just like every-where-else in the ‘developing world’, the tobacco lobby is strong and would have a covet operation plan to counter this move by the government.
Personally, to smoke or not is a matter of individual choice. But in a public setting this freedom of choice need not exist. I am reassured that the Government is taking this into cognizance and taking steps towards smoke-free public space.
Sorry folks. Smoke, if you have to. Just keep your butt out of our public places.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A lot has been written about the Flat World. And as the world stands today, a lot more would be written in the days to come. My CEO, a man I respect immensely both as a professional and as a person, has gone gaga over Friedman for over a year now. Every time I have met him since (and I meet him often) he has mentioned Flat World in some context or the other. He has even loaned me his author-signed copy to read. Subsequently, I have meet new people who live and breathe this phenomenon. This, it would seem has become the unauthorized bible of the new free world. (Amen!)
The gradually unfolding events do make it apparent that the world is indeed getting flatter. My humble opinion is limited to the question, how much flat is desirable and are we geared enough to manage the various dimensions of the fallout. However, we shall leave that for another post.
Niladri’s post got me thinking, personally how have I experienced the Flat World?
I remember my last trip abroaad and my desperate attempt to buy something ‘Made in USA’ for the folks back home, which did not burn a hole in my pocket. But everything that was affordable had ‘Made in Some-where-else’ tag and that left me trifle irritated. My Lee was cheaper in Bangalore. My Godivas were available at comparable rates with my friendly Brigade Road store and where I didn’t have to face the custom officer’s disapproving look at my sinful chocolate pile (If chocolates were sin, I am a sinner many times over!) Even, my Estee Lauders were a whiff away in the city malls.
Therefore I decided to try elsewhere. Finally I was gifted a Dreamcatcher. I was thrilled to find the ‘love’ Dreamcatcher that I had carefully researched. 25 USD. That’s expensive for a contraption of messily woven threads on a wooden frame with a few eagle feathers (!) hanging at the edge. You don't bargain in Reservation Area, I was told.  Moreover, this was a Dreamcatcher! It’s supposed to bring luck. And no one bargains with luck. I feel a shiver down my spine. This is it, I think. The package is wrapped carefully and I treat it like a pirate’s treasure till I unwrap it back home and discover this tiny tag. ‘Designed by local artists in AZ, USA. Made in China’.
I still have the Dreamcatcher hanging in my room over my bed but being of chinese origin, it miserably failed to ‘capture the heart's desire in my dreams’ as otherwise I believe it would have!
Long Live the Flat World!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Take off from an SMS

Celebration means....
Hundred bucks of petrol.
A rusty old bike.
And an open road.
Celebration means....
Maggi noodles.
A hostel room.
4.25 a.m.
Celebration means....
4 old friends.
4 separate cities.
4 coffee mugs.
1 internet messenger.

Friday, April 20, 2007

To all the Men

You showed me the stars and how to reach them. I lost my coordinates for a while when you died. Want you to know despite all the mess, I will make something of my life. Like you did. I will find my way too. I love you.
You never said you love me. When I slipped, it hurt. But you sheltered me when I was abandoned. You gave me hope when the world shunned me. You took up my cause when I was broken. I never said I love you either. But I do.
You taught me how to love unconditionally. From the blue-eyed stray kitten you brought home when you were five to holding my hand when I wasn’t strong enough. Death cannot take you away from me. In my heart you will always live. I love you.
You made me complete. You wrapped your tiny fingers around mine and we fell in love. When I look at you, I know my life has a purpose. You give me faith. I love you.
You gave me your friendship. You stood by me in my pain. With you I learnt to give myself. My friend. I love you.
You reached out to me. You made me a woman. You made me love myself. You gave me your wisdom and your passion. But fool I will always be. Want you to know that I love you in my fashion.
You gave me the courage to be selfish. You held me and I dared to dream again. You abandoned me when I was most vulnerable. But, perhaps that’s the only way to be. I walk again. I will love again. For that, I will always love you.

Last Night

Driving through blinding rain, she gets mesmerized by the incessant drops falling on the windscreen. Splatter. Splatter. Splatter. Swishh! ‘Get off, you scoundrels’ the wipers seem to be saying. But the drops are defiant. The high beam of the truck opposite, shines on the persistent splattering drops. Pure liquid gold. Falling. Scattering. Disappearing.
She barely hears the loud screech. The rain has forced her to keep the windows up. The audio system plays ‘Drops of Jupiter’ loud enough to shut the world out. Suddenly she sees the teary red tail light of the truck. No time for a prayer. She holds the wheel tight. Brakes hard to avoid a head on. The car swerves madly. The rubber slips on the sheet of water and finally comes to a screeching halt blocking the cars on the next lane. The drivers honk with alarm. She looks up apologetically. Her heart beating fast. This was close. Would have been fatal if the others were not alert. She thinks of the child waiting for her at home. She promises to be careful.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Great Pretender

It was the lie.
She had told him and he believed. Her words. Her voice. Her life. Her joys. Her pain. Her passion. Her dreams.
She found herself. She knew she belonged. She knew she was loved. Across space and time he reached her heart.
She lived.
But. She wasn’t her. That was the lie.
A lie that took all of it from her. His words. His wisdom. His pain. His passion. His joys.
She was left. Alone again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Janie’s Got a Gun

17/04/07. ABC News Cho Seung-Hui is a 23-year-old resident alien of the United States, a Virginia Tech senior majoring in English and the man who killed 33 people — including himself — on the Virginia Tech campus on Monday.
Over a conversation yesterday with a friend in LA, she expressed that she is scared to send her 5 year old to school since the campuses are becoming so violent. All this when I am hoping the world becomes a safer place for all my children.
Couple of questions:
1. Who will take the social responsibility for the deaths now that the killer is dead?
2. Agreed guns don’t kill people, people kill people but would some body wake up and make access to firearms difficult in the US of A?
3. Is it fair to assume that all consenting adults have the ability to hold reasonable judgment at all times when given easy access to kill another?
4. If yes, then why is US crying hoarse over North Korea’s/any-other-nation’s nuclear program? (I would assume that people taking decisions on nuking another nation have more control over their emotion and judgment and more time to deliberate than the average Joe who have a gun in their back pocket)
5. If the killer had say a switchblade instead of an automatic, the death toll would have been lesser?
6. Is it fair to highlight that the killer is not of American origin? Is redemption easier if he was?
7. Levitt says swimming pools statistically, claim more lives of children below 10 years than do guns. Will extending that argument trivialize the issue on hand?
8. Agreed bold policy decisions often influence ground realities like crime rate (abortion and its cumulative downstream effect on crime rate and here we are talking about US). But are we seriously analyzing the increase in the rate of first-time viz a vie repeat offenders across the various nations? And what are the correlations there?
9. Is it practical to police a campus?
10. Is it practical to do a socio-psychological profiling of all students?
11. Flat world is fine when it is with commodities (I have reservations here too). But the same in case of people/talent brings in socio-cultural challenges. Are we doing enough to address this?
12. Will this affect the immigration laws?
On a more personal note, I went to a school that had the following distinctions:
1. More students per square foot than the written words. (got a Guinness book mention no less)
2. An environment that stifled creativity and encouraged as Niladri said intellectual apartheid.
3. Apathetic teachers with only a few exceptions.
4. And all this in what was supposedly one of the better schools at that time.
Consequently, the level of frustration was high. In fact, my guilt-tripping, value-oriented upbringing did not debilitate me from plotting a plan to blow up the school before a physics test. We plotted and planned (while the blessed lot studied) but eventually it didn’t fructify because of a design flaw (the standby power generator room was too far away from the main building) and the fact that we did not have access to the primary raw materials required for the fire show. At the end, I got 82/100 in the said test. I went on to study in DSE and have a job that I love. If we had access and license to destabilize lives, I would have had a life term in prison.
I am making a limited point here.

More about Me!

My friend Shreyasi’s post is the inspiration. Its not often that I think of these but they remain in my consciousness at all times. Just that every once in a while I puts words to wrap up the thought.
My best dream
That I am an astronaut (too late for that one!)
My worst dream
To hurt someone I love
I pine for
I am uncomfortable with
Closed minds
Negative gossip
Talking about money (specially when it’s mine!)
I am scared of
I enjoy
Cool fresh breeze teasing my hair
Darjeeling tea
Snow on the mountains
A good book
Driving with just the music for company
Listening to a friend
I dislike
Lack of imagination
One-dimensional personalities/opinion
Good friends think I am
Down to earth
Martyr (!)
Mother thinks am
(But she wouldn’t exchange me for anything!)
Father thinks am
Difficult to fathom
Fighting for lost causes
(But he would always support my lost causes!)
I think
I am Confident
I am Generous
I am Trustworthy
I am careless with my money
I believe
Happiness is peace within
Love begins with oneself
There is no absolute truth except death
I hope
To see the world become safer for my children
The forests are preserved
To have a library (of my favourite books and music)
I wish to
Make a difference wherever I am
My greatest fear
To lose my sanity
I am awed by
I love
Sharing a good conversation
Watching kids at play
Holding hands
I draw energy from
Gyatri Mantra
Believe in God and myself
I want to die
In peace
My Epitaph if I die right now
Miles to go before I sleep

Monday, April 16, 2007

Poila Boishakh 1414

It started off well enough. With just a 15-minutes delay. Which isn’t alarming by our standard. The resident bengalee community was regaling themselves with the splendor of dakais (sarees), kantha-work silk kurtas and enough gold to put fort knox to shame. The evening air was cool and crisp with no threat of rain. Greetings of “shubho nobo borsho” abounded. Most importantly, the ubiquitous screaming unruly toddlers ambled about with no concern for either the entertainment or the excitement that their parents shared. New-age parenting must be.
The cultural program began. The stage wasn’t wobbly. The sound system cooperated. The light guy knew what he was doing. Must mention this is a rarity in itself. Usually the technicians are local and have no comprehension of the language and goof ups because of it, are common. The singers sang surprisingly well and the dancers were well coordinated. Everything was going as planned. Now it was time for the bangla natok (play). Ten minutes into it, I miss my cue. The practiced script went blank. Hell! The others on stage are staring at me. Few seconds and a couple of heartbeats later I manage to squeak something that wasn’t completely out of sync with the scene. Praise the Lord! My ‘stage -brother’ glares at me but the rest of the cast catches on to the improvisation. All’s well. But moments like these are not meant to last.
“Mommy forgot the d-i-a-l-o-g-u-e-e-e !!!”
My six-year-old screams sitting in the front row (and now standing) and pointing a finger at me on stage. At least a dozen pairs of eyes turn towards him. I hear a few loud giggles. Ignore, I tell myself. But he wouldn’t give up till some one acknowledges his opinion. Why did I ever take him to the blessed rehearsals? Last I saw, he was being gently dragged by my mother, who had a hand covering his mouth.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Namesake@fLaT wOrLd

While the world identifies with Gogol Ganguli as he searches for his identity and even promises a possible Oscar, let me tell you, no one was so benevolent with me!
Must say, I am fortunate that my grandmother overcame the overwhelming urge to give her brand new grand daughter a complex-intonated bengalee name that would have surely twisted my Grade I teacher. For that I am thankful. Therefore I was saved from the torture of having to spell out and pronounce my name repeatedly whenever I met someone new. Except when someone asked for the meaning where in I would invariably blush and say it means ‘darling’. ‘Oh, how nice!’ my father’s German friends would comment.
School was smooth sailing as far as the name goes and in college it always managed to garner some curiosity among the male crowd since there were atleast a dozen bollywood songs that they could tease me with. This unfortunate trait continues till date.
In Delhi, my cosmopolitan DSE classmates didn’t stumble over my name and most thought the combination of my first name and last name was ‘sexy’. Therefore, I hung in cloud nine when a visiting French prof. I had a crush on back then, rolled my name on his tongue, making it sound very endearing indeed. You got to give it to the French.
Next stop, Mumbai. No problem here either. Though many were surprised to meet a bengalee with a name that was not as elaborate as Sushmita, Anindita, Anusuya, Shashwati, Suchismita or exotic like Ujjaini. Well surprise surprise. Only a friend insisted on calling me Pee-ya and he alone choked at his own joke everytime.
Finally, I was hurtled to Bangalore. Here alone began the fun.
Circa 1996. I am in the queue for my driving license at the RTO office.
What name madam? (that's how we speak here!)
Piya De
Prrrriya Daay? (Damn! They have to roll that bloody ‘r’!)
Its Piya…no ‘rrrrr’
Waaatttt? (yes, that's how we speak here!)
Its P-I-Y-A
Ohhh! Peeyaa....daru peeya? The officer sniggers, immensely proud of his hindi.
(I am counting backwards from 10-9-8-)
I get my license eventually and for the first time felt foolish about a name that I was hitherto proud of.
As I continue living here, I have gradually stopped being obsessive about correcting one and sundry about the right pronunciation and spelling. In fact, I respond to Priya more readily than I do to the original.
Only regret, thanks to globalization, my collegue Subramaniam has become Sab, my friend Anindya had become Andy, I of course remain where I began. As my mentor says, Your's  is already ‘globalized’.
My grandmother, the wise old lady that she was, must have seen this coming.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hahazaaro.n Khvaahishe.n aisii ki har Khvaaish pe dam nikale

She looks out of the window. White clouds float in the sparkling azure sky. Her dreams were many. But she has learned to let go. It doesn’t hurt anymore.
He looks out of the window. The brightness hurts his eyes. He lost all his dreams and the pain remains. Why did he let her go?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The girl from yesterday

He left her. Just like that.
She kept staring at his picture and the eyes of her unborn daughter he promised they would have. She continued living on the memories they had made.
It has been weeks. But she waits for him everyday.
Her foolish heart didn’t know she had become the girl from yesterday.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Hazards of the profession

My father dreads going to the dentist. It’s a fact well established and accepted. As I see him enter the sterile room I can feel his jaws tighten. The pronouncement wasn’t happy. He needs a RCT (root canal treatment, for the uninitiated). My father of course was already in denial.
“Will it hurt?” he asks the young doctor.
“Not a whole lot and we will be giving LA”
“Local anesthesia”
“Don’t worry, once the crown is fitted it would be like a regular tooth”
“Shall we start?”
Wait! How will the crown stay? It’s an upper tooth.”
“It’s an upper tooth. The crown will fall off because of gravity, no?”, his attempt at humour.
I am looking at him bewildered. This is not my father. I am not here in this clinic.
“Look at the ceiling fan. Is it falling off?” the doc retorts. He is amazingly self-possessed.
“If we anchor the crown well it would never fall off”
With that she gags his mouth with a rubber extender.

Learning to let go

Pride is when I watch my 6 year old beaming as he receives his award on Prize Day and then promptly runs to me saying, “This is for you, mommy!” I look at the prize (which is a delightful heap of books!) as he prances off with his friends to have that last dash to the playground and the tussle for the swing. This was his last day in Standard I and the last day at this school. The thought of a new school after the summer holidays, has filled him with excitement and sadness in equal measures. He says, ”I will miss the swing” as his Principal, the affable Sister Aneeta bends to shake his hand. “Such a sweet boy”, his class teacher, Mrs. Philips gushes. He is her pet and she bestows him with affection and attention that he may not deserve at times. Being a boisterous child he could be quite a handful.
In the last few months, since we moved house, I have been waking up real early to drive him to school and taking a break from work in the afternoon to pick him up. It has been hectic and it has irritated me at times. But knowing that I wouldn’t be doing it again, fills me with sadness. I looked forward to our time together in the morning and the long drive back home at afternoon. His continuous chatter about his day. His little joys and hurts.
“Adi pushed me today”
“And did you push him too?”
“Is that the right thing to do?”
“You always support him!” he whimpers, close to tears.
Then begins the hugs, the reassurances and the wiping of tears. At the end of the drive we are best friends again.
Oh! I will miss all that. And I realize something else.
As a mother, I will have to learn to let go.