Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sikkim chronicles: Day 1

I took a trip to Sikkim with my family recently. Sikkim, known to its natives as Sukhim (the land of peace and prosperity) smote me with its largely untouched beauty. Unlike Shimla and Manali, which are done-to-death tourist hubs, thronged by tourists from the length and breadth of this country and abroad, Sikkim remains under the wanderlust radar. I wish its immaculate beauty would stay that way, but tourism could actually bring in some much needed revenue and spur infrastructural growth for this North-Eastern state. There are already signs of man's insatiable spirit of enterprise conquering this hilly frontier- as we drove from the Bagdogra airport in Siliguri, West Bengal to Gangtok, our garrulous Sikkimese driver, Jite pointed out the hills that were being blown up to make way for hydel power plants- a development which rather saddened me. I quite like hills whole, unkempt and enigmatic, untamed by any of man's grandiose plans of "development", raw and feral- hills should awe, and not be pitiful testaments to man's avarice. But, such is life. Progress at any cost. We don't like concrete-free, steel-less spaces. Down with Nature.

Jite was a little sparrow of a man. He swelled and puffed with pride when he showed us the various professional degree colleges that the Manipal College has set up in conjunction with the state government, and reminded me more and more of a wet sparrow which puffs up to shake off excess moisture. The line where West Bengal ends and Sikkim begins is a curiosity- for one, the demarcation between the two states was so stark and pronounced that I had to catch my breath. The shops on the West Bengal side were tumble-down, derelict, poorly lit and the owners desultory, while a few hundred metres away, on the Sikkimese side the market place looked prosperous, planned, spick and span and the owners jovial, happy with their lot (a fact that Jite didn’t forget to point out). The transformation was not only aesthetic, but also spiritual- something that was reflected in our dispositions as well. Attending my cousin's wedding in Kolkatta in an oppressive 40 deg C, battling a power outage and braving tenacious mosquitoes had made us sleep-deprived and not-so-happy troopers. All of us snapped and bickered at the tiniest provocation throughout the flight from Kolkatta to Bagdogra and the drive from Bagdogra to somewhere around Sevak Road. Sikkim brought about the major metamorphosis-the low temperatures and lush green hills caused a meteoric increase in the "happy" quotient (which had run dangerously low for quite some time) in our hired Wagon-R.

The 4 hours long, tortuous drive from Bagdogra to Gangtok reminded me of the drive from Manali to Rohtang- except, this time we heard Kishore Kumar and not some obscure Punjabi folk, Pankaj Udhas (who just seems to sing of alcohol, alcoholics and pubs/bars- it sounds better in Urdu though) and the Dus soundtrack. It was as though a sacred hush had descended in our car- the combined magic of Sikkim’s hills and Kishore Kumar’s melodious voice was simply arresting- quite a far-cry from Kolkatta’s heat and Mumbai’s hustle and bustle, both of which I was glad to escape. The river Teesta wound in green and silver threads, with each bend, each curve in the road, as if keeping time with the car’s advance

Just as we entered Gangtok at about 8 p.m. and headed for our hotel, our car suffered a flat tyre and I shuddered at the thought of carrying our bags (crammed to capacity thanks to my dad who comes prepared for a snow-storm in a desert) up some 150 steps at an 85 degree incline (ok it wasn’t 85, but fear tends to exaggerate reality). And miraculously, this toothless, toothpick of a man emerged out of nowhere and offered to carry four heavy bags for a mere Rs. 30. I asked my dad to give him more because it didn’t seem fair and besides the guy looked so decrepit and ragged that I wondered if he would be up to the mammoth task. He did it without so much as a whimper and we, the well-fed, city slickers with the best healthcare that money can buy huffed and puffed and panted and were ready to collapse after climbing 10 steps. (My heart’s memo to me: *Gasp* Exercise *Pant, huff, puff* Stop eating junk food *Pant, scream!!! May-day, May-day. Heeeeeeeellllppppp!*)

A few torn ligaments and minor strokes later, we reached the hotel and I have almost never been as happy as I was then to see flat, solid, terra-firma with no slopes and inclines and definitely no stairs. Phew! The room was OMG, to die for and I would have kissed my dad for this wonderful arrangement if we were on those terms (we have only managed to shake hands so far-not too touchy-feely, my family). Dinner was complimentary (wow,wow,wow!), but I didn’t get too attached to the fare. My camera was buried deep in my luggage, so I don’t have any pictures of this leg of my journey :( However, this is what my room looked like (I shared it with my mum and watched trashy saas-bahu serials till my eyes couldn’t take the psychedelic saris and make-up, while my dad and bro feasted on IPL matches)

The rest of my trip will be narrated in a three or four part series- depending on how verbose I feel :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Feeling good.

Sana and Sali- two beautiful, intelligent, spunky, talented girls with stars in their eyes and so full of goodness that it breaks my heart. These kids graduated out of my organization recently.

Sali is a great cook and insists on getting lunch for me everyday. So, in addition to my own lunch which my mum packs for me so lovingly, I end up eating Sali's lunch- not great news for my increasing waistline, but who cares so long as we are feeling good right?

Sana couldn't care less about cooking. She talks nineteen to my half a dozen. She keeps calling everyone "gorgeous" (me included..yippee).

Sana and Sali are best friends and my heroes. I admire and respect them. They bought me a chocolate and made this for me:

They are incredibly talented and create the most beautiful art I've ever seen. They make me so happy, I feel like I'm floating high up somewhere, away from all the despair and sorrow.
I have almost never been this shiny and happy in anyone's company :) I think I prefer kids to grown-ups.

Animal crackers

Conifer and I have the habit of taking a stroll after lunch (which in my case is just an excuse to walk to the little shops that line the roads leading to my workplace and buy chocolate for my daily chocolate fix). The shop which is nearest to our office is next to this little spot where pigeons (gazillions of them) come to feed. So everytime we walk by, we have to be careful not be smattered by pigeon poop (Conifer's score is 2 and mine 1-so she's still leading me by 1 point for getting smattered more frequently than I). When we do get smattered, some idiot says "buy a lottery ticket" because apparently it's lucky to be pooped on, and it makes me wonder if that superstition was invented just to cheer up the victim. It makes me wonder if most superstitions have some mundane explanation- e.g. maybe too many accidents occurred when people walked under ladders, may be mirrors were hard to come by (those who didn't want to deal with 7 years of bad luck would have to be careful with their mirrors) and so on.

Conifer is a huge animal lover. She wants to join PETA, but can't because she loves her chicken and fish. She contends that meat/fish is dead anyway, so why shed tears. She sees no conflict between her carnivorous food habits and her otherwise tender feelings for animals. I agree. A girl's gotta eat. Anyway, she is fond of animals and birds ( my charity rarely extends beyond my immediate circle of humans, so I find her love for animals quite unusual) and feeds the stray dogs of her area, celebrates her pet canary's birthday and the list of her cookiness is never-ending. Whenever we walk on the streets of Mumbai in sweltering heat, dodging traffic, perverts, bulls and other stray animals, Conifer stops to marvel at the "cute way the stray cat sleeps", or the "sweetness of the dog" who patiently waits for the biscuit as she unwraps it for the dog and then sniffs her in gratitude or whatever.

I took this picture when Conifer and I were on one of our strolls to the pigeon-poop store. She bought a packet of biscuits and split it between the dog and the cat, who broke bread (or biscuits in this case) side-by-side, in peace.

Whatever happened to fighting like cat and dog, I wonder? Funny thing peaceful co-existence, wouldn't hurt to try it out for size, I think.

Auld Lang Syne

I was woken up last night by the wistful cry of the friendly neighbourhood koel. There seemed something deeply eerie and haunting about that cry which rent the still night. Like it wailed for lost times, memories in which it both rejoiced and mourned. Like some deeply entrenched emotion in the darkest recesses of it's being had been released and all it could do was coo in response.
It was an epiphany of sorts for me. Nostalgia struck. I thought about seemingly unconnected things- things which were important once or had touched me or affected me deeply, but had been since forgotten. So, should old times be forgotten...

For Donna di. I remember how you were the only one (except Bubun da) who came to watch me debut in my 10th standard school play. You made it a point to come for my play since my parents were out of town.You said Christmas Carol came alive for you with my "Ghost of the Christmas past" (hideous wig and make up and all). I remember how I stayed at your place for a while when Ma and Baba were out and we listened to country music on 107.1 till 12 a.m, how we experimented in the kitchen with random masalas. I remember how you kissed me on my cheek (right on the street, I might add) the day my 10th standard results came out , happy with my performance.

For Bubun da. Thank you for scaring the bully in my class who used to torture me and call me names, when you were 8 and I was 5 (then I became the class monitor and got back at him.) We barely speak anymore, but I will remain forever grateful to you for teaching me how to burst Diwali "crackers" (atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, lavangi etc) and for introducing me to your delicious "banana cream" and Table-tennis. You were the one who accompanied me on my first day of engineering college and even paid the travel fare!

For Tinks. Am not going to use your real name out of respect for your privacy and because I'm too ashamed to admit my flaws. You were one of my best friends and I don't remember ever having as much fun as I did with you. Yet, I went ahead and betrayed you quite wantonly, for perverse reasons of my own which I'm neither too proud to admit not too strong to forget. You are my greatest regret. Not a day goes by that I don't think about the pain and hurt I must have caused you. I never remained in touch because I was too ashamed to do so. But the golden girl that you are, you forgave me for my transgressions and even called me before you left. You wanted to meet the one person whom you considered a friend and who gave you betrayal in return. How did you come to be so generous?

Unspoken words. I wish I had the courage to say these when it mattered.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Karmic Carousel-Part 2

(Where tables are turned and stuff comes around)

Where I work, we have something called “assessments” to assess (what else?) the learning that has taken place in a given academic year. The word is only a euphemism for “exams” so kids are lulled into a false sense of security and they don’t panic about these as kids normally do when they hear the E-word. But I think the kids we teach are smarter than that. They panicked anyway.

As an assessor, I went to a younger learning centre which had 5-year olds who were being assessed (damn, too many Ss in that word. No red squiggly line from Word, which means I actually spelt it right. I’m deeply worried, therefore). I recently read this piece about how children get deeply scarred emotionally after traumatic experiences in their early childhood and are socially maladjusted as adults. I didn’t really want to perpetrate such “trauma” and have these kids reclining on couches years later pouring their hearts out to shrinks who would squarely put the blame on me. So, I was understandably jittery.

Following are the excerpts from my assessing experience.

(Enter Kid1)
Me: (Making my voice and general bearing as cloyingly sweet as possible) Hi K1. My name is XYZ. How are you doing?

K1: (not making eye-contact, stares desultorily out of the window as if looking for an escape route)

Me: (smiling still, while my brain tells me the assessment is already going downhill since I haven’t established any warm rapport with the kid, as the training manual had sermonized) Good. May I ask you a few questions, then? Is that OK?

K1: (nodding mechanically and turning limpid doe-eyes towards me)

Me: (already feeling like the wicked witch of the West. Hell, I will probably be the prominent feature in this kid’s nightmares. And I look at the window and wonder if it’s too late to make my getaway, job be damned) OK. Good. Can you count from 41-55 for me?

K1: (stares at me silently. There is obviously no recognition of the words coming out my mouth. I bet his thought bubble would have said, “Why is this crazy woman talking to me in this high-pitched voice? I want my mommy.”)

Me: (Adjusting my hair, nervously. I rattle off all the questions on the list and still no answer)

Me: (at the end of 15 interminably long minutes during which I had been talking to myself. I now realize how difficult it is for actors to deliver monologues. I will never, ever deride them. Never.) Thank you K1. It was nice meeting you.

K1: (walks away without so much as a glance in my direction)

(Enter K2)
Me: Hi K2. (still talking in the retarded voice) My name is XYZ. How are you doing?

K2: (flashes a brilliant smile and my spirits lift) Hi didi.

Me: (silently thanking K2 for being born. I love her already) Is it OK if I ask you a few questions?

K2: (Still smiling, nods vigorously)

Me: Ok, Can you count from 41-55 for me?

K2: Yes, didi. 1,2,3,4..

Me: 41-55 K2, not 1,2 etc.

K2: 1,2,3,4…

Me: (my soaring spirits crash to the floor) How about 81-95?

K2: I don’t know didi.

(The rest of the interview goes pretty much in the same vein. After K2 leaves, I take a little break to check on Conifer to see if it’s just me or is everyone going through the same. Conifer seems ready to cry. Better not aggravate matters, methinks and I withdraw silently)

Of, course there were some really smart ones who got all the answers right and I owe them my sanity. And there were a few gems of the other kind. Sample:

Q: Can you count from 41-55 for didi?
A: 41,42,43…49, forty-ten, forty-eleven, forty-twelve… (sigh)

And for the written questions, we had quite a few hilarious ones. And this was from older kids:

Q: Write a 300 word essay about life in 2250.

A: In 2250, because of global warming, fair people will turn wheatish (sic) and there will be no difference between blacks and whites. And everyone will be equal….
(So global warming solves racism. Is Green Peace listening?)

Q: Who is the most influential person in India, according to you?
A: According to me, terrorists are the most influential people in India.
(move over Gandhiji, LeT is here to stay)

Kids say the darndest things.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Karmic Carousel- Part 1

I don’t know if you have heard this song by Justin Timberlake, but don’t judge me unfavourably for knowing of its existence. It’s just one of those annoying songs that stick in your head steadfastly until another equally or more annoying song substitutes it. I was listening to FM Rainbow (107.1 in Mumbai, to the uninitiated. The only station worth listening to if you ask me). They were doing this one-hour Elvis special on the King’s birthday and I was glued to the station much before the special began, lest I missed my favourite tracks. That’s when this Timberlake song assailed me (right before Blue suede shoes assuaged my wracked nerves). I have never liked Mr. Timberlake and have never bothered to follow his career graph; in fact I thought Timbaland was just Timberlake misleading people into buying his music by changing his screen name (I don’t listen to Timbaland either, come to think of it). Anyway, the song had an eerie, prescient quality to it- in a totally different context though. It was something of an omen, a forecast of certain events about to unfold in my life.

(Following are the excerpts from my recent B-school interview.)

I was interviewed by a panel of three- a middle aged lady, flanked by two youngish people-one male, the other female. The Holy Trinity, ha. The lady in the centre looked oddly familiar and just as I was about to say “Good Morning”, realization dawned- she was in the interview panel last year when I had made a thorough fool of myself. Dear G, please let her not remember me, please, please, please. Even if she did recognize me, she wasn’t letting on much. Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths. May be she doesn’t remember. Yeah, not everyone has a good memory. Just get me through this G; just this once and I promise that I won’t ask for anything ever again. Having got the obligatory social niceties out of the way, we proceeded towards the raison d’etre of the panel- the grilling of JD.

(All three started at the same time. Sheesh, there was such an enthusiastic, violent alacrity to grill me that they were all vying for first place. Anyway, the youngish female (YF) won by dint of a high pitched voice)

YF: So what made you switch from IT to an NGO?

Me: (smiling inwardly. I had rehearsed this answer at least a zillion times)
Blah, blah and blah, blah.

YF: (confused into silence at the profusion of words that came out of my mouth. Hoo-ha, take that! Score: Panel -0, JD-1)

OF: But you left a high-paying job for a pittance?

Me: (High-paying? Ha, hardly. Yeah, like the simple arithmetic never occurred to me. Duh.) Blah-blah. (Some noble, self-righteous jazz. And then some more. God I hope she buys it.)

The Only Man (TOM): So, which was your favourite subject in college?

Me: (Holy &@!%*$. It’s been two years since graduation and they still expect me to remember stuff that my memory retained only for exams. I don’t even remember what I had for lunch three days ago. Jeez!) Er, (smiling sheepishly) I don’t remember very well. But, I’ll try to answer. OR was my favourite. (I said tentatively, mentally gauging the depth of the shit I was in)

OF: (Finally in her element) Ah, ok. What is Linear Programming? Give me an example.

Me: (Phew! Easy-peasy. I knew this.) Blah-blah.Bl-

OF: (interrupting me with an imperious wave of the hand) You are complicating things unnecessarily. Give me an example.

Me: (the cockiness waning a little. Good thing I remember) Blah-blah. Blah-blah. And that’s how we solve it.

OF: But why only the points of intersection? Why is that the optimal solution?

Me: (stumped) Blah-blah. (Squeamish, tentative answer. 1 all)

OF: (leaning back in her chair, purring satisfactorily. She had had her fun with me.)

TOM: So, tell me. Do you remember anything in Thermal Engineering?

Me: Sir, not really. (again hoping he’d buy the smile. JD-1, Panel-10)

TOM: Ok. Can you tell me about the Narmada Bachao Andolan? And which side won?

Me: (Won? What was this, a cricket match?) Blah-blah. Blah-blah.

TOM: (not too pleased at my answer. Panel-15, JD-1) But, I though you work in the social sector. So you must have more than a lay-person’s opinion about the issue?

Me: (Damned ignoramus. Social sector, yes. But I work for children’s education. And it’s not as if we have a secret network of all NGOs and are totally up to date with the details of each and every NGO. Gawd) Sir, my involvement is with the education sector.

TOM: (silenced. As if education was not as meaty as dams and bhook-hadtals. Damnation. JD-0, Panel-20)

OF and YF: (In a ghastly jugalbandi of sorts, tag-teamed to ask me questions. One fired and the other glared. Then the roles were reversed) But why an NGO? What compelled you? What was your motivation? What are your plans? Why MBA? Where do you live? Why an MBA after working in an NGO?

(Good thing my sex allows me multi-tasking capabilities and a general verbosity. I wouldn’t be badgered. I wouldn’t perish. I’m a survivor played in my head. Damn, why always the songs I don’t like, why never the ones I do like? Why? Why? Anyway, I did manage to out-energize them, but was the worse for wear.)

YF: (the first to recover her breath) So, you are from West Bengal?

Me: (What are you, Raj Thackerey??? I have lived in Mumbai all my life, so what does that make me, huh? West Bengal, my left eye-ball.) Well, Ma’am, I was born and raised in Mumbai. (smiling sweetly) But, yes my parents are from W.B.

YF: So, what do you think of the happenings in Nandigram and Singur?

Me: Blah-blah. Blah-blah. Blah-blah.

OF: (wounded at being left behind at this modern day, B-school version of the Spanish Inquisition.) Which are the neighbouring countries of India?

Me: Blah-blah.

OF: Which is the link that connects Sri-Lanka and India? And what’s the controversy surrounding it? What are your views?

Me: Blah-blah.

OF: (looking very bored suddenly. Maybe I wasn’t sufficiently moronic for her predatory tastes. Sigh.) Ok. Thank you.

TOM and YF: (smiling in unison) Thank you.

Me: (a little unsure. Is it over??? I couldn't believe it) Thank you. (attempting a smile)

I came out blinking at the abrupt ending of the grilling. In fact, it wasn’t even a grilling. It was more like a light sauté, tenderly done- something which ended even before the heat could be turned on. Sigh. I can never evaluate these things. Was I to feel good or bad? Were the smiles welcome-to-our-college ones or hell-no-we-plan-to-keep-you-out ones? I can never tell. Inscrutable humans. Damnation.
P.S.-Panel-?, JD-????

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The randomness of JD

I made friends with this really, really sweet American girl, Calamity (ok, she’s not accident prone or anything, but her name rhymes with the word) from California, who finds herself slap bang in the middle of Mumbai slums teaching under-privileged kids. Mumbai slums via war-torn Afghanistan. Well, obviously don’t ask her for holiday destination advice. Calamity and her husband W (who was a journo) shifted base to Mumbai and now live in a non-descript suburb trying to make sense of “mystical” India. Thankfully, they aren’t the tie-and-dye hippie types, or ISKCON adherents, or Rajneesh/Maharishi XYZ spouting weirdoes, or the white-blubbery, stringy clothes wearing Goan tourists whose major draw is cheap booze and other things we don’t mention in polite conversations- they answer to no stereotype, but are normal people who believe in this cause we are working for.

They shop for refrigerators and furniture and rush to Pantaloons’ “up to 50% off” sales, eat in Indian restaurants by pointing out to the waiter the unpronounceable food items (much like we would in French restaurants), go to the local darzi to alter their clothes and relish onion and tomato uthappa, well, atleast Calamity does. She digs the accompanying sambar and the coconut chutney. She joins Conifer and me for our “Five-star fruit and nut after lunch” ritual. She digs the “Five star” too. Yes, they are that unremarkable. But, it’s so cool to see her discovering everything in India for the first time- the Mumbai local trains, BEST buses, kirana stores, udipi restaurants, speaking Hindi, the unavoidable Roadside Romeo gaze- things which function in the background or are like second nature to us Indians, but must be so novel and exciting and even bewildering to her.

But the woman stumped me. We eat lunch in this small room called the “pantry” (a misnomer, considering it has no food). The sink in the pantry was clogged because someone forgot to unplug the metallic cap thingy from the sink-hole. So, Calamity thrust her hand in the murky, yellow coloured water of the sink and unplugged the cap- when I just wrung my hands daintily in the background. But the stumping part came when she told me that the tiny black ants which swarm her living room through crevices in the walls freak her out. Apparently, groping about in a filthy, putrid, clogged sink is harmless, but black ants mean the bubonic plague or something. Go figure.
Learnt an important lesson in the adage “Practice what you preach”. Only about .003% of all the humans to have ever walked the earth follow it. And they are all dead. I realize that it is very easy to pontificate and power-point your way through to instant office stardom, and have people ooh and aah at your wisdom and spirituality at the seminal slides with seminal messages that you show. But, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. So, dear pseudo, “example is better than precept”. You don’t read this blog, but if you ever do, I hope this makes you blush. I can’t believe you could meet my outraged stare after your abominable behaviour. For all your revolutionary ideas, you aren’t even worth the corn in Che Guevera’s dead and decaying left pinky toe. Yes, I’m naïve enough to think this is revenge. Ha. So, I should just stop expecting civility? Yeah, I bet you’ll quote The Bhagvad Gita about expectations. Guess what finger I’m holding up?


Wunderkind is a sweetheart- a sensitive, discerning male of his species with an exceptionally high EQ and a silver tongue to boot. We loves him, my precious. But, platonically and all. (Nothing scandalous please.This is a PG-13 blog, states my priggish antaratma). He was nice enough to talk to me when I thought I’d burst. I owe the averting of an impending brain aneurysm to him.

Ok, so you saved me again from brain aneurysm through some human agency of yours i.e. Wunderkind. But, why did you have to break the mould? Your sense of what counts as decency is appalling. You should go see someone about it. Oh, right. You can’t possibly have shrinks where you live. With the tidy packets they make, they must have got a more tropical climate for their Eternal Rest. You don’t think things through, do you?


Learnt another important lesson about first impressions and how stupid and simplistic it is to judge someone based on an off day they may be having. I seem doomed to be simplistic and stupid- I never learn from my past wherein I’ve had to change my impulsive judgments of people, much to my mortification. So, here’s what I’ll do- if I don’t know somebody or just barely know them and they are lousy to me, I’ll just be a lamp-post with no opinion, turn the other cheek and smile sweetly. They may just be having a bad day. If someone I know well is crappy to me, God help them.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I never thanked you….

It was rude, I know. I haven’t been raised this way, you know. You DO know. Of course, you do. You ARE omniscient after all. I should have thanked you earlier. It is funny that when something bad happens, or something goes wrong, and I’m debilitated by grief or confusion or anger, I waste no time in railing at you. I rave and rant. I scream and cry. I abuse you, I revile you, I ask you “Why? Why me?” .But now that a thin shaft of the sunlight of hope and joy seems to have pierced the thick pall of gloom that had set in, I dither in thanking you.

I think I know why, though. Maybe my eyes are so accustomed to the dark, that light is painful and suspect- it’s like one would mistrust pleasantness in a desert, thinking it a mirage. Light hurts now and my brain instructs me to be wary, to shun celebration, and to suppress the expression of joy. Do you think me blasé, jaded, an ungrateful brat even? That I doubt your ways? That I stand at the brink of the calm sea that you have set before me- dipping a toe in, doubtful of the calm, wary of violent undercurrents? Do you think I lack faith, or do you understand this state of being?

You know, I had toyed with the idea of disbelief. I tried to be one of those who dismiss you as superstition, myth, a figment of our imagination or the resort of the weak and cowardly. Some say I could go to Hell for such sacrilege. But, I know that the whole idea of “Heaven and Hell” was something you let them believe- it was just a practical joke you played on them, to keep them in line. I know that Heaven is a place on earth. And so is Hell. And that’s how you intended them to be.

I won’t argue with your logic, but I think you are taking the “mysterious ways” bit a little too far, don’t you? Wouldn’t it be just easy to give us a bird’s eye view of your grand schemes for us? So we know that the black weft threads interlaced with the gold warp ones actually form your rich, beautiful tapestry of a plan and are both equally important for the integrity of your plans? So we bide our time during downs and are sedate during ups? But then, you never intended this puzzle to be simple right? I agree. But still, there’s no harm in negotiating, right? Right.

So here I go. Thank you. Even for the black threads and especially for the gold ones.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Confessions of a closet bigot

Did someone say “sugar and spice and all things nice” make girls? Ha, this should teach you to be wary of stereotypes, especially those in nursery rhymes. A case in point, Tommy Stout may have been nicer than Tommy Thin, but not all those with adipose to spare are jolly. Look at Idi Amin. Look at the woman who nearly pushed me off a running bus. (Ok, mean-fat-people examples are getting scarcer and scarcer with our “size zero” fixation.)

But I digress. A few days ago my nerd-dom was firmly established and now I discover that I’m a bigot too. This is adding insult to injury, I tell you. Now that I’ve been found out for the unusual hybrid of a Ku-Klux-Klan member and Steve Urkle, my mum’s groom hunting has received a setback of biblical proportions, quite unbeknownst to her, poor dear. Us digressed again, my precious. Us has to stop running pell-mell. Where was us now? Oh yeah, bigotry.

My biases are many and varied. Some are not even logical or rational. They just are. Evidently, I’m a pathological bigot. And all this while, I’ve been pretending to be a purist or whatever-else-ist. But let’s not mince words. In the spirit of “outings”, let’s call a spade just that.

Sample my bigoted views.

Music bigotry
I judge people based on their taste in music. I will hang up on a person if I don’t like their caller tune. Heck, I won’t even be polite to them. Let alone fraternize with them in broad daylight. And I will air my disapproval quite overtly. Anyone who likes techno, trance or stuff that goes “dhichak-dhichak” is no friend of mine. People’s ringtones have to be tasteful too, or else. Who think Himesh Reshammiya is God’s gift to those with sound aural faculties- “I heartily invite such birds, to come outside and say those words”* .Those who go into whirling dervish trances on hearing the pretty boys from 98 Backstreet, Britney and her ilk, Shakira and her ridiculous lyrics, Enrique etc , had better stay away from me. I wouldn’t put unspeakable acts of cruelty past me, should the opportunity present itself. The list of those at whom I would crinkle up my nose is long and going strong.

Book bigotry
This close friend of mine once lent a guy Five Point Someone and a Wodehouse. The guy had the audacity to think the former funnier; he saw no humour in my beloved P.G.W. creation. Wodehouse compared with Chetan Bhagat. The nerve. This girl told me that she thought Catcher in the rye was trash, “Don’t recommend this to anyone ever again”, she said, right after going gaga over God of Small Things. Bloody murder, cried my inner Nazi. This is what I’m talking about-those who read Nancy Drew, Mills and Boons, Daniel Steele, Sidney Sheldon and such atrocities and call themselves discerning readers and actually, and this is rich, recommend these books and then maddeningly enough compare a Sidney Sheldon with O.Henry. It’s like comparing Marlon Brando with, oh I don’t know, Adam Sandler may be? I am busy thinking up something violent and macabre for such criminal ignorance.

Food bigotry
Veg. Manchurian (which in itself is a mongrel of sorts) with Naan, Tandoori chicken/paneer pizzas- another hybrid, diet/sugar-free mithai- either eat these the conventional way with tons of ghee and sugar or don’t eat at all, papad with everything (lasagna and papad, falafel and papad, fries and papad), adding dollops of ketchup to food- it kills the inherent taste of whatever you are eating, insipid and diluted coffee, cookies/biscuits with no character-plain bland varieties not worthy of human consumption, non-chocolate candy- totally not worth the empty calories and sugar rush (Rich, dark, chocolate? ummm, now you’re talking!). These push my buttons in so many ways it’s not even funny. Gas chamber? Impaling? Firing squad?

Film bigotry
Those who think that a film is good just because it’s in a foreign language (read: English), not only have a colonial hangover but also have cheese for brains. So these people catch a C-grade English flick with Paris Hilton in the lead and then brag about watching an English film, “Oh look how sophisticated we are”. Engage them in a conversation about quality cinema (they have never even heard of The Godfather) and they will look at you like you are the interloping square egg and label you arrogant. One tight slap!

Language bigotry
Don’t even get me started on this one. This is where I am an inexorable purist. The normal, everyday language that we speak is peppered generously with words borrowed from other languages. I speak a curious mixture of English, Hindi and Bambaiya with my friends. Fair enough, ‘coz let’s face it, regional languages express some ideas more succinctly and beautifully than English does. My problem is with hybrid words- marofying, talofying, fekofying; take a verb in Hindi, suffix a –fy and voila, you have a stylish (?) new word. How I wish I could tolchok these words and their progenitors into oblivion. Also, copious usage of the word “like”- aaarghhh. I see those in the entertainment business lacking adjectives; almost anything can be qualified by the oft-repeated ones- “rocking”, “mind-blowing”, “amazing”, “awesome”, “sexy” (why, but, why?). I plan to buy them all their own personal copies of The Roget’s Thesaurus, even if it results in my bankruptcy.

I have made new enemies, haven’t I? Sigh.
*Borrowed from Dorothy Parker. She said this of Charles Dickens:

“Who call him spurious and shoddy
Shall do it o’er my lifeless body.
I heartily invite those birds,
To come outside and say those words!”

Borrowed from Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange