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Showing posts from 2007

Taare Zameen Par

We finally managed to go see TZP this weekend - our outing to the movie last weekend was foiled by some wannabe-famous who planted a bomb threat about the Gurgaon malls...And I have to admit, I had some doubts in my mind about the film and how it would do and what it would be like - apart from many other reasons, because AK is my favourite actor and I wanted it to succeed - but also because the theme of the film was different and I wanted to see how it was handled. Kids in Bollywood films are usually obnoxious ( remember 'Sexy' in Cheeni Kum?) and this film revolved around a child, that too one with a learning disability. Would it be OTT emotional? Would it be OTT melodramatic a la Black (Yeesh!)?

Refreshingly and reassuringly, it was none of the above. It was a simple story, simply told. No OD of glycerine. But quietly emotional and so genuinely moving...I had never understood Dyslexia in so much detail before, and realised how harrowing it must be only when I saw the film - I…

Winter in Delhi

One of the reasons that I love living in Delhi - all right, NCR - despite all its many shortcomings and hassles is the glorious change of seasons. I am a person who likes and revels in change - if things stay the same for too long, I get restless. I'd hate to live in a place where the weather is the same, so you don't know if you're in March or May. Delhi with its four definite seasons and a different mood for every month just suits me.

In the winter, Delhi is a different city to the dun-coloured, dust-ridden one it is in the summer. You wake up to an intensely cold morning, and despite having gotten a good nine hours of sleep, it feels like you just went to bed. You burrow into your many layers of thick razais some more, wanting to snatch yet another twenty winks. It's gray outside and so foggy you can barely see the ship building which in summer is like the lighthouse marker to your home. You can see the fluffy angora fog sitting on its haunches on your terrace as you…

Reflections on a 7-year Marriage

Our marriage turned seven over the weekend. I have to admit - it hasn't turned out as I expected. Over the years, as you grow up, through the books you read, the movies and the marriages that you observe around you, you come up with a picture of what you think marriage is all about. Well, life has a way of surprising you.

When A and I finally got married - after years of waiting around for a variety of reasons - our friends heaved a sigh of relief. At long last and all that. Someday I'm going to put our wedding invitation card up here - if I can find it, our camera can work and we can upload the picture ( don't hold your breath). I'm sure, somewhere in that statement lies a comment about our marriage and the way it works, but I can't find it.

I also can't find a lot of other things - bills, credit card statements, insurance papers...In fact, one of the things that I was sure would cause some major meltdown moments in our marriage was my ability to effortlessly lo…

The Mask comes off

In the past few days, finally the mask of encouragement and racial equality has come off the faces of various white peoples. The Jaguar dealers in the US and the board of the Orient Express hotels have both reverted with open revulsion to the Tata's proposal to buy each of these brands. According to these commentators on the issue, the US consumers and the potential guests of the Orient Express Hotels will not take kindly to Indian ownership. Regardless of the fact that their thus far predominantly white managements have made no great strides in getting either of the firms to perform profitably. Arcelor had announced similar reservations about a year back when the Mittals bid for the firm.

In a way, it's good to see that the mask is off. It's much more tricky and painful to fight a battle against guerillas. When the enemy is out in the open, the fight is much more clean. And what's more, in the new India, proud of her culture and self-confident about herself and her abi…

Age is just a number...

A colleague of mine recently turned 30. We were away in Bombay so all of us rang in to wish her, and I noticed she sounded a little depressed, not her usual cheerful self. "Come on, you're in the best phase of your life", I told her, but I don't think she believed me.

For some reason, between my 26th and 30th birthday, every year, on my birthday I found that I was a bit out of sorts, a little depressed, somewhat out of it. I never figured out why. My career was rocking. I had a wonderful, loving boyfriend ( now my husband). I had terrific friends, we had fun together. yet, somewhere, something about the day made me sad.

That changed dramatically after I turned 30. Nothing else in my life had changed - I was still with the boyfriend, we were still unmarried, I still had the same friends and job etc etc...But some transformation had happened in my outlook on life, or in the way I felt about myself that gave everything a different spin. I told my BFF about it and of cour…

Grrr...!

I haven't ranted here for quite a while, but the experience of the last few days has been too much. I wrote on this blog earlier about how DLF had subverted residential zoming to make a giant commercial complex of the area we live in.

Well, it started much before that. The colony we live in is a very unlike Gurgaon, high rise place, with row houses and little gardens and lots of parks - ideal for people with kids or older people. DLF apparently found this tiny little space bang in the middle of DLF's land very irksome. So they tried to buy it out, including putting all sorts of pressure. Thankfully, the Coop society which had bought the land originally, was one of media people, so they were able to resist the pressure.

So now DLF has created a new commercial road right behind the colony, and unluckily, that's what our house back on to. Further down the road are several new office buildings, made of glass and cement randomly thrown together in the hope that they stick togeth…

The Night of the Cat

This is a funny but real story of an incident that happened many years ago. I just happened to think of it because we spotted a cat ( or bandicoot) last night while we were out for a walk. Bizarrely, it has nothing to do with a cat, but we have always called it The Night of the Cat!

This was way back when I was in first year college. My cousin, who is the same age as me, had come for a visit, and she shared the bedroom with my sister and I. We stayed in a government rowhouse on the ground floor, and it was summer, so we used to leave the windows open. We had a pet cat, Sphinx, who used to come and go at will, in and out of the house.

My sister, who was 12 at the time, always had a great talent for nightmares. I can remember countless incidents of her having a scary dream and crawling into my bed to escape. Anyhow, one night while we were all sleeping the sleep of the just, madame elected to have one of her nightmares. And she didn't react by crawling into my bed. Oh no, she began s…

Is marriage still an institution?

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Over the last few years, even back here in India which one would consider more conservative than the West in the area of marriage, one hears so many stories about marriages breaking up, people having affairs, people leaving their spouses after 12 or 20 years of marriage...Everyone I know knows at least 5 marriages in trouble, and it's something that's distressing and scary for all of us married people.
Most of us think we're in happy marriages and yet you never know what's around the corner. A friend of mine made a highly percipient remark some time back. She said, "I always thought my marriage was special. But suddenly I have realised that it isn't, that it is the same as any other marriage." It's true. Most of us who consider ourselves happily married think that we have something special, that we know a secret other couples don't know. And it's a highly dangerous misconception to labour under.
I was thinking back about the time when marriage …

Lawyers or hucksters

I love legal shows on TV - Boston Legal, Ally mc Beal, The Practice, LA Law, Street Legal and the lot. I always wondered why there seemed to be so much negative energy aimed at the profession of lawyers, especially when I idealistically thought, since my grandfather was a lawyer, that they helped even out the score between the common man and those well connected.

Well, this piece of idealism went the way of the birds thanks to a recent incident. About a month ago, my husband was coming home from work around 10:30 pm. He was in the back seat, chatting with his mom on the cellphone when all of a sudden another car hit his car from behind. He dropped the cellphone, still on, which worried his parents no end because they'd heard the crash, and the impact caused him to bang against the front seat, resulting in aching ribs and a muscular pain which is yet to subside. When he got out, he saw a Skoda Octavia behind his car, with a crumpled fender. His car's boot had been badly smashed …

Gardens

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When A and I moved into our first marital home, it was a teeny, tiny flat in Fontainebleau. We had a lot of fun and started off our marriage just right, but it wasn't quite what I envisioned as a home. I guess I watch too many Hindi movies. I've always wanted a home which had a big expanse of garden - big enough for a shade-giving tree like Gulmohur, to be planted in one corner. Lots of lawn area. A bedroom that opened out onto a green expanse. We should have moved back to Jhumritalaiya instead of Gurgaon!

The flat we rent here is inside a rather nice, very un-Gurgaon-highrise colony. It has row-houses with adobe colours, rather Hispanic in style, and each little house comes with a backyard and a pocket-sized front lawn. We rented space on the first and second floors of a house, as the ground floor was already occupied. The second floor came with a marble floored terrace and two large rooms, and the first floor had 3 bedrooms and one drawing room, no space for a dining table. W…

Why, but why?

We had to get a new RC (registration certificate) for our car, having lost the old one under circs which I shall indignantly blog about soon. In order to do that, you have to get a certificate from the Transport Department that there are no unpaid challans or tickets against your car. Yesterday, I and A being crazy-busy, my husband despatched our driver to get the certificate. The driver had a good time. First he went to an office of the transport department near Teen Murti. From there he was asked to go somewhere in old Delhi. From there he was further shunted on to an office near the Hyatt ( which is the other end of town). Having left at 10 am, he finally got a piece of paper at 4:30 p.m. When he at long last came back with it triumphantly to my husband, the paper read, "This car has not been reported to be stolen"!

Why in a so-called IT superpower, are these documents and records not maintained online, so that any transport department can access them and print them out?

Wh…

The reluctant fundamentalist

Just read this engrossing book by Mohsin Hamid. He tells the story of how a boy from Pakistan, seduced by the US and its jobs, people, comforts etc, then turns to the other side, starting to identify with the feelings of fundamentalists even though he doesn't end up by becoming one. It was un putdownable. One of the most interesting things about the book is how the worm turns, gradually becoming more Pakistani/ Islamic, from a character who was on the fast track to success in America.

One of the things that has really annoyed me over the years is the simplistic analysis of Islamic fundamentalism by the West, in particular America, as the discontent of the have-nots against the haves. If that was indeed the sole argument, there are any number of have-nots in india or Africa or South America, all of whom should be turning towards terrorism.

In my opinion, one of the things that is leading to growing terrorism and fundamentalism is the readiness of the Western mind to consider the thin…

Free Burma

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KANK

Yesterday I watched this movie for the second time, and was moved by it all over again. I remember when it was released last year, it got a lot of criticism from the mass audience, and probably scared KJo right back into KKKG mode all over again (help!). I think it does a good job of explaining all the things that are going on in modern marriages today, whether people want to accept it or not.

I remember when I was a kid, there was one Kashmiri girl who lived in the house opposite us who was divorced. All of us kids and probably many of our moms used to be intensely curious about this strange creature - a 'divorce'. On Ran Navami, when all the girls in the neighbourhood were invited to go over for the puja and the puri-halwa, we used to keep staring at the poor girl, probably making her highly uncomfortable, because finding a divorce was such an unusual thing in a middle class neighbourhood.

Today, au contraire, divorces and broken marriages are becoming more and more common am…

Winter's on its way

Human memory is such a funny thing. In the dog days of the summer, when the temperature climbs to over 42 degrees centigrade, one finds it so difficult to imagine a world which is not searingly hot, in which one can take an evening walk without getting reduced to a little grease spot on the floor, and just looking at a sweater while packing for an overseas trip is enough to bring on an attack of heat rash.

During the winters, we get reverse amnesia - one can't remember a day when some body part or other was not frozen, days when we would long to eat ice straight out of the freezer. You can't look at a swimming pool without shivering, particularly during December-January which are unfortunately the only two months of real winter left in Delhi.

The weather has slowly started turning cooler now. The daytime temperature is still at 36 degrees, but at night it falls to 24 and in Gurgaon, even lower. Since our bedroom is adjacent to our rooftop garden, it's all the cooler there, a…

Cloud Eight?

Right after posting on railway travel, I had to do a painful Delhi-Bombay day trip yesterday. Painful because it seems to be one of Murphy's laws that if you have to get up at an unearthly hour to catch a flight, you will either end up going to bed late or get poor sleep when you do. I didn't sleep well at all, and A ( who was also going to Bombay) and I were tired and grumpy when we set out, not helped by the cabbie being late.

Anyway, at the end of a long day, I was back on the flight. I hadn't carried anything to read, for a change and hadn't had time at the airport to so much as buy a magazine. The flight was packed and my knees were jammed into my armpits - or that's what it felt like - due to the limited leg space. I didn't have the inclination to contort myself and dig out my laptop to read one of the books I had downloaded. Since I'm one of those people who find it hard to sleep anywhere, I turned to the only entertainment option - looking out of the…

The Romance of the Railways

I visited the National Rail Museum today on work, and as always was delighted to be there. It's an amazing place with a wonderful display of trains and engines, and brought back fond memories of traveling by train. I love train journeys and always have. Every summer, when we were kids, mom, I and my sister would pack ourselves off to the south for a two month holiday, with dad typically joining in around the half way mark. Earlier, the journey used to be in the good old GT or grand Trunk Express, which used to go from Delhi to Madras, where we had a 7 hour stopover before a new engine was attached which took the train up to Bangalore. Later, of course, the KK express - Karnataka Kerala express - took over, which used to take about 2 days to get there and was considered a vast improvement. Weirdly, I always used to start my asthma attacks at Jolarpet station before we got into Bangalore, and they would last the duration, finally relieving me when we passed Jolarpet station on our w…

Eye-what?

I'm no expert on politics and could have possibly biased views about the purported clash of civilizations. But my ears are constantly lacerated by the mangling of the names of other countries on CNN. I know Dubya and friends like to talk about nucular devices rather than nuclear weapons. And it may not stem terrorism. But would it really be that hard for Dubya and friends, or CNN and other American media to start saying I-Raq - I as in shIp, and Raq as in 'Rock' with a southern American accent; and I-Ran - I as in shIp, and Ran as in Obi Wan Kenobi? Seriously, how would Americans like to be called Amoricans or Amreekans?

Aman

When I first found out I was having a baby I didn’t feel very much besides nausea. I had never been overly maternal or felt any ticking from the old body clock. Over the months of gestation, the nausea receded but though various worries kept manifesting themselves, I didn’t feel any special bond with the baby. I worried about that too.

After my son was born, since I was woozy and passed out from the sedation, everyone else in the immediate family saw him before I did. And even when I saw him I didn’t feel what I expected – a gush of love so strong and powerful that nothing else would compare. My husband seemed to have bonded much faster than I did. Through the first couple of months of endless feeding and cleaning I guess my son and I took our first tentative steps (obviously metaphoric in his case) towards understanding each other and maybe liking.

My son is six months old now. And today as I watch him, I am touched by myriad emotions. At times his air of fragility and vulnerability an…

Karwa Chauth Etc.

I don't know whether I'm tipping far over the side of bra-burning feminism but Karwa Chauth has always made me see red, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I find it completely senseless that anyone should believe that God would grant a longer life to someone based on whether his wife fasted for him on one day in a year. I have always believed that God doesn't make bargains of that sort. In any case, if that were true, people whose wives fasted would never die, or at least not before the ripe old age of 80 or so, right? So any man who dies young - do we just assume that their wives didn't keep the fast or at least not with the requisite spirit?

Secondly, if wives are supposed to be so fired up about preserving their husband's life, how about a little quid pro quo? Where is the fast that husbands are supposed to keep to ensure a long life for their wives?

I always get pissed at this 'festival', as does my husband, and my mother and sister take the opposite side…

The Talent Crunch

India has been busy patting itself on the back and talking big numbers at international fora for the last couple of years. But those of us who live and work here can testify to the fact that attaining these numbers is going to get harder and harder if something is not done about the talent crunch. There is a crying need for talent right from the bottom-level of management to the top level. At least at the top levels, since the need for numbers is lower, companies can make do by poaching or hiring external talent. But where are the people who are going to come into the talent pool at the bottom of the ladder?

The Government and its idiotically politically motivated HRD minister and blinkered MPs running after vote banks have been mooing and creating about reservations of jobs and higher education seats. What they are trying to do by creating this unnecessary furore is to cover their tracks in the matter of the colossal failure of successive state and central governments in the matter of…

Chak De India

Just caught this movie yesterday. I have to admit, when I saw the long-winded promos with a seemingly endless litany of girls who were going to form the Indian hockey team, I wasn't sure how the film would turn out and whether I would even want to watch it. But having heard nothing but good things from everyone we know, we decided to park kiddos at home and catch this one yesterday.

I am a Shah Rukh fan but not blindly - for that my hero is Aamir Khan. Shah Rukh can make my knees turn weak in a romantic film, because he has a way of bringing a touch of authenticity to those roles, and in at least one or two scenes can make my heart go pitter-pat. But this film? Shah Rukh hasn't had too much success of late in his experimental roles, though you have to give him credit for trying out new things. But after he began part of KJo's candy-floss brigade, those have been the only types of films of his that have pleased the box office. How much would he be able to contain his inner-R…

Cheeni Kum - still a bit over-spiced

Last Sunday, A and I finally got to watch Cheeni Kum. Our average hit rate with movies has taken a drastic plunge since we decided: a. to have 2 kids; b. to spend their waking hours with them on weekends; and c. that we were too old for night shows any more. We waited weeks for the DVD/ VCD to release and promptly invested in the same.

Having heard lots of good reviews and having worked with Balki, the writer-director, in our previous avatars in Lintas, we were anticipating a fun, hip, urban-slick movie. CK does not disappoint for the most part, but there are bits that are quite out-of-whack with the basic premise. Balki was famous for saying, "Say only one thing in any ad" as CD, so we were surprised to find so many parallel tracks in the movie.

The whole backstage at the restaurant with the numerous jokes about the buck-toothed waiter were repetitive and started to pall after a bit. The interminable last scene with Paresh Rawal was the stuff of high-melodrama, compared to t…

Hum Hindustani

I have quite a few blogs cribbing about the state of affairs in Good ol' Hindustan. For a change, I thought I'd look at the bright side - and boy is there ever a bright side, even ignoring the economy and all that good stuff. So here goes:

A and I have recently been hooked onto watching the various musical reality shows on indian channels - Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Voice of India and Indian Idol. And each season when one watches, one gets blown away by the sheer quantum of talent and general musicality of Indians. There's got to be some deep soul in anyone who enjoys music, and we Indians surely do enjoy music. I can't think of another country which has a party game dedicated to music ( Antaakshari), or in which people routinely know the words and tunes of literally thousands of songs.

Another thing - recently on sa re ga ma pa, there was a controversy because there were media allegations that the Pakistani candidates had refused to sing Indian patriotic songs. Frankly, who could…

Driving me crazy

I live in what the politicians call, in a fit of hyperbole, the 'Millennium City', Gurgaon. Well, they didn't define what millennium they are talking about, so if they meant the last one, they are right on the money, because it certainly is not the present millennium, going by living conditions here. First of all, there is no public transport, apart from an appallingly maintained and run bus service that one can't count on. And of course, Gurgaon is full of yuppies like me who want to look at least presentable while going in to office so the buses are out anyway. Leaving us with no option but to own our own car - one for each individual in the house, unless they are recluses or kids in which case they don't get out much. (Actually, maybe the Gurgaon government should be given an award by the Yuppies Association of India - imagine having a legit excuse to splurge all that money on a separate car all for yourself. Maybe the Gurgaon government is sponsored by the Auto…

Municipal Corporations

It's all over the front pages of newspapers in Delhi today. One big monsoon type rain and the kind of havoc it created in the 'National Capital'. This is a city where more has happened to improve living conditions in the last few years than in any other city in India. the metro is up and running, there is a series of fly-overs to move traffic along faster than before, there is an expressway...New buildings are coming up at the speed of light. And yet, at the first instance of the kind of thing that is supposed to be a daily occurrence during the monsoons, the city comes to a grinding halt.

Why this has to happen year after year I have no idea. Surely the municipality knows that rains are a feature of the monsoon, and that therefore they have to get the drains cleaned out and compleet whatever perishing digging-up the roads works they have taken up before it comes pouring down. But why should they bother? They are more concerned with fighting with other departments or pointi…

Bangalore

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I was in Bangalore on work last week, and a couple of things made me realise, "Toto, we're not in Delhi anymore!" 1. When the cabbie got lost, he actually stopped by a cop to ask him for directions 2. The cop actually replied, and politely too 3. I couldn't breathe as we wove through traffic because of the pollution

Name Trends

Of late, parents in India have become more and more interested in finding unique names for their children. In olden days, a name was very much the grandparents' prerogative to choose, and indicative of either the qualities one wished the child to have or a person the grandparents wished the child to emulate or please. Or of course, there were all the names of the 5000 gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon.

Choosing the name was as much a rite of passage as the mundan or thread ceremonies. A south Indian child, even today, is named on the 11th day after his or her birth - the Namakarna ceremony. The first name chosen is a 'fake' name, symbolising various qualities of strength and logevity, essentially meant to hoodwink evil spirits. The second name is based on the star of the child and the initials connected to that. My daughter's initial came out to be 'SH' - the harsher sound, not the softer one in Sharada or Shraddha - in which we were really hard put to …

Monsoon magic

As I've said on my other blog, the monsoon is one of my favourite seasons. There really is something amazing about it, and the monsoon touches the extremes of moods, from the dramatic (torrents of rain) to the awe-inspiring (thunder, lightning, winds and rain) to the bathetic (trickly, drippy rain - as if the cistern is leaking again). India being a largely pastoral society and that too, one with subsistence farms and lack of sophisticated farming methods, the rain is truly the farmer's friend, if it comes at the right time. And rain has always been celebrated here, from classical music - Raaga Malhar - to a number of folk and movie songs. There is even a famous story about how Akbar's beloved court singer Tansen was challenged by jealous rivals to sing a Raaga which would result in him being surrounded by flames if he sang correctly, and how he taught his daughter to sing Raaga Malhar which of course brought down life-giving rain at the right moment.

I suppose it isn't…

India - the time is now!

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It seems like a new discovery ( or is that tautology) that the West has made of China and India. Lately there has been tremendous media and political coverage and comment about the vast markets of the East, i.e. India and China, and a genuine undercurrent of fear about what the tilt of economic power might spell for the West.

Within India we have read and heard debates over the last couple of years about the India vs China scenario and which one wins/ will win, with statistics about the length of paved highways and number of airports and ports being quoted ad nauseum. It certainly makes a refreshing change from the former India-Pakistan comparisons and jingoistic comment.

However what we are forgetting is that this ‘discovery’ of the East is nothing new. This happened many centuries ago. Most of the great geographical discoveries of the world happened because someone was setting off to look for the mythical riches of the East, right from Ancient Greek times. Interestingly, most of those…