Friday, December 29, 2006

If only...

...I could be as disciplined and single-minded as my husband.

We've been re-arranging the house - well, the stuff in the house - getting rid of long-unused things and moving things about because we were getting crowded out by our possessions which seemed to have multiplied quite aggressively over the years. Well, I say "we", but it's really been Pete who's done the lion's share of work... with some help here and there from his son and a friend of ours.

Okay, so most of the heavy stuff (computers, electronic equipment, computer books, all sorts of cables and and other assorted junk, hundreds of surprisingly heavy LPs and vinyl records and so on) was all his. I couldnt have helped move it about or sort it all, even had I wanted to... (Hmm, that last statement inadvertently revealed more of the truth than I wanted, but I'll leave it in, in the interests of said honesty.)

Left to me, I guess the moving-about would have taken a few weeks. I would have done it a little at a time, because housework is so bloody BORING! Boring work, I've found, is very tiring. Cleaning rooms and sorting things and humping cupboards and boxes about is not what I want to do, even if it's for my own house. The main room I re-arranged and sorted was the kitchen, possibly the one place that's more my domain than Pete's - if only because an Indian kitchen stocks WAY more stuff than British ones! :)

It's taken a few days of solid work from Pete to get the rest of the rooms in shape with everything where he wanted it to be. I would have ended up saying "That will do" or "enough for now" - but not Pete. His single-minded determination is not just for his programming, it extends to whatever he sets out to do. It all had to be just right. He might have been tired out, but he still found the energy to keep going until the work was done. I wish I could be like that. Hats off to my husband who's most definitely my better half, because whatever his real thoughts about my lack of input, he didnt once grumble about it. Not once.

And oh yeah, in case y'all think I'm a really lazy so-and-so, I have exempted him from any and all kitchen and laundry duties for the next 6 months. :)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Tis the season for office parties

And I'm keeping away from them. I've heard enough and read enough about these office Christmas parties (not just our company ones) to be wary of them and what goes on. Plus, in any case I'm not a party person - especially the kind of party where there are 90-odd people of whom I know about 8 (all from my office), and of which 8 I get along comfortably well with only 4, with the only certainty being that there's no way I'll get to sit next to any of those four.

One of the guys in our office gets - shall we say, "overexcited", when there's alcohol on offer. He's basically harmless, I guess, but he does tend to make uncomfortably suggestive remarks and also stand a little bit too close for comfort. (Sometimes I wish I had a force field that would stop people getting within 2 feet of me - particularly those people I dont want any closer than that!) That encroachment on my personal space, especially by someone who smells like he's swallowed a distillery, is not what I'd call a pleasant experience.

Multiply this by about 70 guys (give or take the odd teetotaler and/or the degree of unpleasantness) and the whole party thing simply doesnt hold any appeal. Especially as I dont much care for alcohol either.

Not that the women in the company are a shy retiring bunch. My colleagues were talking about a few of them from the parties of Christmases Past - a lady who got a little too up close and personal with some of the married men and had to be cautioned; another who clambered up onto a table and did some bump-and-grind routines which might have been appreciated at the time but earned her an official reprimand later; the gentleman who danced too many times with - and possibly too close to - his secretary and who faced a divorce action in the new year... many stories, all of them not quite of the inspirational variety!

Anyway, this party next week being a Christmas party, booze there will be aplenty, and a disco after the meal. Plus of course lots of back-biting and bitching and speculating and gossiping (and those are only the men I'm talking about!)... so, on the whole, the Office Christmas Party is one thing yours truly will not be seen at, especially alive.

However, our office branch has a nice tradition - the partner in charge takes us out for lunch on the day we break up (sounds like school, doesnt it?). That's next Thursday and I'm quite looking forward to it. Mainly because no more school - er, work - till January 2, 2007!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Adventures with Alistair Maclean

When I was in the 7th or 8th standard, I discovered Alistair Maclean. I dont remember just how I stumbled upon his books, but I think the first book of his that I ever read was "The Guns of Navarone". What a glorious, exhilarating, intensely thrilling discovery it was! For years after, that book was THE yardstick by which I measured other adventure novels. Any whiff of serious romance, any hint of anything less than heroic disregard in the hero for personal safety and physical pain, and those books, with their imperfect heroes, would fall dramatically in my estimation.

I had a healthy contempt for heroines in action books, and Mr Maclean's female protagonists did nothing to dispel that contempt. They were always feminine and shied away from violence and killing, they looked upon the hero with utter horror and distaste when he used either method against the heartless villains, even if he was only saving innocent people's lives, and always ALWAYS were so useless at whatever little task was set them (in the process of that life-saving action) that it was no wonder I didnt want any women around!

I guess I was at that age when any kind of romance was too sappy for words, so Alistair Maclean was the perfect choice. There was never any overt romantic action in his books, and what little there was was pretty aseptic, the most that happened being a kiss. I can still remember my heart sinking if there was a female protagonist who interfered with the action and forced the hero to rescue her and generally endanger both his safety and the pure adventure that I was seeking.

And of course, after reading "The Guns of Navarone", my hero against whom all other action figures paled miserably was... NOT Captain Keith Mallory, the mountain-climbing New Zealander who headed the team to Navarone, but Corporal Dusty Miller. I can't begin to describe just how much I hero-worshipped that wise-cracking, laconic, laid-back American who was "three parts Irish and one part East European" and whose every remark was sarcastic or ironic or both. How I loved that sense of humour! How I adored Dusty Miller's every remark! In fact, I even marked off my favourite quips in the copy of the novel and wrote them down separately to read over and admire while in school! (Ok, I admit was besotted and apparently had reams of time even though I was in school. Or perhaps because I was in school).

I read every single one of Alistair Maclean's books after "The Guns of Navarone" with varying degrees of satisfaction gained. "Force 10 from Navarone" was not half as good, but then hardly any sequels match up to the original. But "The Satan Bug", "Where Eagles Dare" (another HUGE favourite at the time), "When 8 Bells Toll", "Bear Island", "The Golden Rendezvous" and many others were all very satisfying reads. Sure, there were girls in the books, but I learned to ignore them for the useless time-wasters that they were!

Of course, over the years I discovered other authors and moved on (even, for the duration of my college days, stooping to reading M&Bs - I'm embarrassed but not ashamed to admit it... I had to do SOMEthing to kill time during lessons and M&Bs were the only reading matter I could borrow from the other girls). Alistair Maclean was relegated to the back of my mind for many years, although I still had happy memories of his books.

A short while back, I bought a job lot of Alistair Maclean novels on Ebay at a throwaway price and now I'm in the process of re-reading all those school-day favourites. I'm reading those books with fresh eyes, however - I'm no longer an uncritical 12-year-old... unfortunately.

So even while I'm enjoying re-reading "The Guns of Navarone" now, I'm aware that Mr Maclean's language was heavily skewed towards very complicated irony, that most of his characters whether hero or villain spoke the same way, that most of his heroes had simple first names ("John" or "Johnny" being favourite), that most of his heroines were "Mary" - in "The Way to Dusty Death", the mother was "Marie" while the daughter was "Mary"! - and that his main characters had a way of being highly self-recriminatory and prone to stupid mistakes even though they were supposed to be the best Government agent around.

Those facts, though, dont take away from the sheer romance of Alistair Maclean's books - and there's irony for you - but it was the romance of adventure and action. Just for that alone he'll always be my hero, flaws and all.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ammani's "I Ask You Write 13" - My Story

Read the other entries to 'I Ask, You Write -13' here

When you walked in through their door, you found them both on their hands and knees searching the floor for something. I guess you know what had happened.

I was the only one who thought that Pattabhi mama was not crazy. Eccentric, perhaps, but not crazy. Nobody who had made that much money, and was continuing to rake it in even at his advanced age, was crazy – certainly not enough to be dysfunctional or merit admission in a home for the mentally deranged... although his loving children would have it otherwise.

Actually I had the sneaky feeling that Pattabhi mama indulged his somewhat strange sense of humour and exaggerated his eccentricities just to maintain his reputation among his family and acquaintances.

I found him rather amusing, to be frank, but then I was a spectator - not a family member, just a neighbour who quietly kept tabs on the well-being of an elderly but still sprightly man, to ease her own conscience. We got on well, Pattabhi mama and I. And of course the kids in the apartment block adored him.

Pattabhi mama collected things – that was one of his hobbies. He had drawers and cupboards full of stamps, buttons, marbles, used bus tickets, pencil stubs, oddly-shaped cigarette lighters (although he didn't smoke)… all sorts of junk - some possibly valuable, most of it not. I'm not sure he cared what he collected, as long as he had lots of it. It drove his family nearly crazy that he wouldn't throw out what they considered junk and wouldn't sell what they considered valuable.

Yesterday I dropped in on the old man unexpectedly and arrived there at the same time as one of his daughters, the one with what I term a "drill" voice – shrill and penetrating. When we walked in through the door, we found Pattabhi mama and one of the kids from next door, both on hands and knees on the carpeted floor, scrabbling madly behind the sofa for something we couldnt see.

"Appa, what on earth are you two doing?" the dutiful daughter shrilled in dismay.

Pattabhi mama emerged from behind the sofa, white cobwebby hair dishevelled and his eyes twinkling. "Oh hello there, dont worry, it's nothing serious. I've lost my marbles, you see, and young Abhishek here is helping me look for them."

What can you do but laugh.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ammani's "I As, You Write - 12" - My Story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write - 12" here

She turned on the tv and screamed. What did Charu see that prompted such a reaction?

Surabhi was Charu’s best friend – a seriously talented documentary-maker, writer, singer… you name it, Surabhi could do it. And did it - usually in addition to the half-dozen projects or so that she had going all at once. Consequently she was the busiest person Charu knew. Charu loved all of Surabhi’s creative writing and kept telling her to get it published… but it always got set aside in favour of something that Surabhi found more exciting, creatively speaking.

This time, though, Charu had decided to take action herself. She sent off submissions in various categories to a nation-wide competition for unpublished and first-time authors, certain that Surabhi would win in at least ONE category. It would be a nice surprise for her friend. She didn’t tell anyone about it, and keeping that secret was probably the most heroically difficult task Charu had ever undertaken.

The weeks passed and the deadline for the competition came and went. Soon the winner would be announced. On The Day, Charu switched on the TV, watched with bated breath and mounting impatience… then she gave a scream of joy! Surabhi’s short story had not only won the “Best short story” award but she had also been selected as “Most Promising New Author”.

Charu grabbed the phone and speed-dialled Surabhi’s number. She had the best news possible for her friend…

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Apologising for history

I don’t know what anyone else feels about it, but I think that apologising for things that happened in the past - the distant past - is pretty damn stupid and a complete waste of time. Blair’s “statement of regret” about slavery (never mind the flippancy of the Tory MP) is what I’m referring to.

The thing is, he needn’t apologise for slavery – that was well before even his time and not of his making. What he (and George Dubya Bush) SHOULD be apologising for is the war in Iraq - that was totally unjustified, at the very least for the reasons that World President Bush and World Prime Minister Blair gave for declaring war and invading that country. Weapons of mass destruction, my foot.

That's what they should apologise for - but do you think they would? Hah. Maybe some British leader a couple of hundred years down the line might admit to “deep regret” for the invasion of Iraq – and chances are he wont be a Labour leader. But whether someone makes a near-apology or not in the future, the only thing that will hold true is – it won’t matter! Just like it doesn’t matter now.

Apologies don’t and can’t make up for any of the bloodshed, tears and atrocities. I’m not sure if Germany has apologised for the genocide of Jews but even if it has, would that apology undo history? Would it make the survivors feel all warm and fuzzy and ready to forgive and forget it all? I’m also not sure if Japan apologised to Korea for all the Korean women who were raped and prostituted. But if the apology was made, does anyone suppose that the – again, only the surviving – women would think “Oh good, the Japanese have apologised, this undoes all the humiliation and horror I endured”?

Closer home, how many Hindus or Muslims would be able to forget the murder of their family members in riots merely because the religious/political leader(s) concerned apologised for the violence that they most likely orchestrated in the first place?

Apologies, IMHO, are no good on a wholesale scale, as it were. Apologies are personal, for one-on-one situations between people. They can’t be carried over on a national or international scale because when it comes to that point, the damage that has been caused is at the very least on a scale that affects an entire nation or nations for decades afterwards. Wouldnt it be nice if politicians stopped making fatuous apologies for the past and worked towards making such token actions unnecessary in the present and in the future? Too much to hope for, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

So much to be cynical about

And here's a prime example:

Sunjay Dutt, found guilty in connection with the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, telling the judge:
"I'm the only earning member of the family." "So please dont put me in jail, for the sake of my poverty stricken family" is presumably what he was implying. Oh the pathos of it... not!

That statement coming from a manual labourer would be believable and pathetic - but coming from a Bollywood actor who has made millions and whose family has made probably even MORE millions in the past... it's laughable. I have to say that my heartstrings remained untugged and undisturbed. I'm not surprised the judge ordered him to stop speaking.

Monday, November 27, 2006

My (our) sleeping position

This is correct, no matter how this conclusion was made in the "test"! :)

By the way, this seems to show two men in bed, but neither Pete nor I is (are? am?) gay :) In fact, only one of us is a man and it isnt me!

Also, I've no idea why this is position is called the "Bubble Blower".

I am a bubble blower!
Find your own pose!

Why do these lawyers get involved?

Okay, Seinfeld's Kramer - or rather, Michael Richards who played the nutcase Kramer - insulted two hecklers in an unattractive (to say the least) racist manner. Okay, he's realised the negative publicity that could and possibly has come his way. And okay, he's apologised on TV, live, for the incident. Not just that, he's going for "anger management" therapy. All well and good. It should end here, right? Because the two men who were abused have had a public apology from an apparently remorseful Kramer.

But chances are it wont end there.
Because the lawyer for the two men, Gloria Dwyer, feels that public apologies are not enough, monetary compensation should be considered.

I dont think the two guys have asked for money. At the moment, in fact, they havent been found - even though Kramer (sorry, I mean Richards - but Kramer is who he IS in my head!) wants to apologise in person now.

So I cant understand why that Dwyer woman wants to butt in here and suggest that Kramer should pay out for his insults. Would a cash compensation make the racism any less distasteful? No. Would it repair the injury caused by the insults? Not to me it wouldnt. Would it make Richards feel any more remorseful? I dont THINK so! Yes, there's a chance that his apologies might not be truly meant, but I really dont think that any money Gloria Dwyer might manage to squeeze from him will be willingly given either. Me, I'd rather have the apology than any amount of money.

It's avaricious lawyers like Dwyer who make the world such a litigious, unpleasant place - they use their greed for money and publicity to make their clients greedy too. I prefer to think that most people (unless they be lawyers) would not automatically think of fleecing anyone - that is, if the greed that is dormant in human beings is not aroused by promises of unearned and undeserved sudden wealth.

And talking of lawyers, how come even the poorest people suddenly acquire their own attorney or lawyer when there's any publicity involved? Who chooses whom? Does everybody in the US - and of late, in the UK as well - have a pet lawyer, even if they have nothing else? (And wouldnt that be akin to keeping a rattlesnake in their pocket?)

Friday, November 24, 2006

He spoke from beyond the grave....

Or so you'd think, going by this headline:

Dead Russian ex-spy accuses Putin

As an ex-editor, I find these sorts of headlines annoying. I guess even if one wasnt in the newspaper business, it would STILL be annoying! I kind of expect more from the BBC. I wonder why.

Ammani's "I Ask, You Write" 11 - My Story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 11" here

First it was red. Then yellow. Now it's red again. Why can't Shailu make up her mind?

13 years is that exact age when a girl is no longer considered “little” and is not yet treated as a young woman. It’s the age when a girl usually tries to be older than she is, the drawback being that her reactions to everything are still instinctively childish. It’s the age when a girl can get her first serious crush – and not necessarily on someone of the opposite gender, because that intense but undefined feeling is the outward manifestation of a longing for things as yet only vaguely imagined. And that feeling is no less intense for being directed at more than one person at the same time.

That, in a nutshell, was Shailu’s dilemma.

She was going for a barbecue party with her parents. The idea of the barbecue did not attract her so much as the knowledge that two of the people she secretly most admired would be there as well. Jason and Sirisha. Jason, a godlike 16, a top athlete, blue eyed and black haired, who had been her neighbour for the last 10 years but had suddenly turned into a Greek God in the last year. And Sirisha, who was in Shailu’s class but was so trendy, attractive and worldly-wise that Shailu would have given her right arm to be like her.

She wanted to let them know how much she thought of them, but in a subtle way that would not make her stand out like a fool. Her plan was to give them each a perfect rosebud from the garden. She had two of them - a red one, and a yellow one. She couldn’t decide, however, which one was for whom. The red rose for Jason, and the yellow for Sirisha. No, red roses meant love and she would just die if Jason laughed at her. The red one for Sirisha, then. But would someone think she was in love with Sirisha? In love with a girl? No no, the yellow one for Sirisha… but… what did yellow roses signify? No… Shailu simply couldn’t make up her mind.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 10 - My Story

Read the other entries to 'I Ask, You Write10' here

Somewhere in the dark recess of that wooden cupboard, there is a photo album. And somewhere the middle of the album is a photograph of Vaijayanti. She's leaning against a tree, looking up at something and smiling. What is she looking at? When was this photo taken?

I have only one photo of my daughter Vaijayanti - the one that Magistrate Ramanujam ayya’s daughter Chinnu took just a few minutes before she died. She was only 7 years old. My Vaija was 14 then, the constant companion of Chinnu from the day she was born, as carefree and full of fun and mischief as Chinnu herself. I wonder if Vaija remembers the person she used to be, all those years ago…

Of course I kept telling Vaija to be careful - she was only the cook’s daughter while Chinnu was the pampered, headstrong child of a very rich magistrate. But Vaija didn’t listen… she played along with Chinnu’s wild ideas and enjoyed all the mischief-making. Children never imagine disasters – that is left to the mostly helpless adults.

Magistrate Ramanujam ayya and his wife treated us very well, especially as Chinnu was so fond of Vaija. Vaija was Chinnu’s companion and minder at the same time. They expected her to look after Chinnu and keep her out of trouble - but that was no easy job. How that girl got into mischief! Always running around, always getting into scrapes, never scared of consequences. Maybe my Vaija didn’t always try too hard to stop her because she was such a child herself, even if she was 14 years old.

That day, that terrible day, Chinnu had got a new camera and wanted to take photos from the big mango tree in the garden. Of course she was too short to reach the lowest branch herself, so Vaija lifted her up. I watched from the kitchen window as Chinnu climbed the tree like a monkey. Vaija was leaning against the tree, smiling up at the little girl.

Chinnu took a photo – and then, in one endless moment that I relive in my dreams, it all went wrong… my scream of horror mingling with Chinnu’s shrill cry as she fell headlong from the tree, the smile frozen on my Vaika’s face. That was the last time I saw my daughter smile... the shock and guilt of the tragic fall broke Vaija’s mind as surely as it broke Chinnu’s neck.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 9 - My Story

Read the other entries to 'I Ask, You Write 9' here

It's been 14 years. But will Ananthasayanam ever get it right?

Ananthasayanam was well known for never giving up halfway anything he started. Whether it was a jigsaw puzzle or just a nonsense question like “How long is a piece of string?”, Ananthasayanam would stubbornly keep on and on trying to solve the puzzle or find an answer.

Unfortunately, Ananthasayanam's well-known obstinacy was matched only by his equally notorious ineptitude in all matters logical or scientific.

He’s been trying for 14 years to solve the Rubik’s Cube and probably even longer in trying to find out how long a piece of string is. Will he ever get it right?

My opinion in one word – NEVER!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 8 - My story

Read the other entries to I Ask, You Write 8 here

Can you see Sarasa over there? Notice how she winces as she climbs the stairs. She's torn a ligament in her ankle. Ask her how she injured herself and she'll say something vague about tripping down the stairs and so on. But I think you know the real story.

But I do know the real story. I’m Sarasa’s best friend and Sarasa was telling the truth about tripping down the stairs. What she was vague about was how it had happened. I can tell you how, though, in one word – Mahalingam. No matter what he does to her, Sarasa will never, ever, EVER complain about her husband. He has the ultimate hold over her in the form of their daughter, Radhika. Did I say “their daughter”? I really meant “her daughter”. Sarasa’s daughter, but not Mahalingam’s.

Sarasa had made the one proverbial mistake when she was 18 years old, and paid for it in the one proverbial way - by getting pregnant. Her horrified mother married Sarasa off to Mahalingam, her younger brother - yes, Sarasa’s own uncle. It sounds horrible but that sort of marriage used to be traditional in villages, so although there were some raised eyebrows, there wasn’t any outrage as such.

It suited Mahalingam – he had always had an eye on attractive Sarasa. Also, I suppose he felt like a hero and to Sarasa, he was. He had not only saved her from certain disaster, but had even accepted another man’s daughter as his own. At first, that is. He was happy enough when Radhika was born but when the months passed and Sarasa did not get pregnant again, his attitude changed, slowly but surely. He took it as a personal affront, as if Sarasa was deliberately insulting his manhood. She was the uncomplaining outlet for his frustrations. To me she said that she understood his anger – and his threat to let Radhika know that she was illegitimate effectively ensured her silence.

I’m very worried for Sarasa, though. Mahalingam is getting progressively more violent. If I spoke up, Sarasa might be spared a few beatings, but if Mahalingam follows through on his threat to tell Radhika, Sarasa will never forgive me… and her suffering all these years will have been in vain. What do I do?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 7 - My story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 7" here

I don't have to tell you what you already know about Chakkrapani. So do you think he should have done what he did at the restaurant the other day?

When he wasn’t working as a waiter at the local hotel-cum-sweetshop, Chakkrapani was forever practicing his over-arm bowling action to keep up his position as the fast bowler of the Narayanan Street cricket team. He couldn’t even walk down the road without making run-ups and bowling with an imaginary ball.

Opinion was divided as to his talent – some thought his bowling action somewhat dubious, and inevitably his detractors’ nickname for him was “’Chuck’rapani”. Chakkrapani always hotly denied any accusations of questionable bowling, even if he in his heart of hearts knew better.

One slow evening at the hotel, Chakkrapani was practising his bowling on the spot at the counter, since there was not enough space for run-ups. He actually had a “ball” this time – a large boondi laddoo that was acting as understudy for the real thing. When one of the other waiters indicated for Chakkrapani to toss him a pen, he was so far gone in his fantasy of bowling to Javed Miandad that he automatically let the laddoo fly, flinging it as hard as he could…

That was the day Chakkrapani’s nickname was set in stone for fans and foes alike.

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 6 - My story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 6" here

What happened last Tuesday when Rajamanickam had gone to the bank to deposit a cheque?

Rajamanickam was not often given anything important to do. His parents had written him off as “useless” and only suffered him to remain at home because they didn’t want to get a bad name in the town. It was his younger brother who was the apple of their parents’ eye because he was everything Raja wasn’t – good-looking, academically clever, always winning competitions and prizes and so on.

Raja, however, was a dreamer. Perhaps he was a little slow, but in his quiet way he was stubborn too. He hated school and because he kept failing, his parents had not bothered to continue his studies after Std 10. The one thing he was very good at was art – painting came to him as naturally as breathing. Once – only once – he had asked his parents if he could study art, and the resulting tirade ensured that he never brought up the subject again. His parents didn’t consider art in general and Raja’s artwork in particular – or, for that matter, Raja himself - to be worthy of notice, and they made their contempt very clear. But Raja’s secret dream still lingered…

That Tuesday, however, circumstances ensured that Raja had to deposit a cheque for Rs.1.5 lakhs in the bank. As the cheque was made out to “cash”, Raja’s mother instructed him at length on what to do at the bank, stressing the fact that if he lost it, anybody could encash it. Finally she let him go, and Raja set off.

There was a crowd outside the bank today, watching a young artist who sat there with a small open box beside him and a hand-written placard saying that he was trying to finance himself for art school. He was doing quick sketches of the people as they watched, hoping that they would buy his drawings. Unfortunately there wasn’t much money going into the little box.

Raja watched the young artist for a long time. Then he quietly placed the cheque in the artist’s box and turned back for home. He himself might never amount to anything, but at least that young man’s dream would come true. That satisfaction could never be taken away, no matter what his parents did when he got home…

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ammani's I Ask You Write 5 - My Story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 5" here

It was the same thing every morning. Jo would slam down the alarm, turn over to the other side and go back to sleep. And invariably, she would curse herself for turning up late for work. Today however, she had a fool-proof plan. What was it?

Jo was tired of being late for work every morning. Today, however, she had a foolproof plan – one inspired by a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and she was a brilliant engineer, after all. She spent an hour Sunday evening rigging up an arrangement using a simple pulley system that would result in a small bucket of water, balanced on the mantel over her bed, spilling its contents all over her face at the right moment. (Don’t ask me how she worked it out – I’m no engineer).

Jo was very pleased with herself - for once she would be at work on time, ready for her performance review – as she snuggled down on the sofa to watch an hour of “America’s Next Top Model” on TV before going to bed.

Alas for Jo – she fell asleep right there on the sofa halfway through the programme and didn’t wake up all night.

PS. Her pulley system worked, though. It took Jo the rest of the week to dry out her mattress and bedding.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 4 - My story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 4" here

You haven't spoken to your best friend Jalajasri for nearly two years. Do you remember what caused the rift between the two of you?

Do I remember, you ask? I wish I could forget that back stabbing, self-serving b*tch! After all that I did for her when they moved to this city on a transfer - helping with admission for her snivelling daughter in the prestigious school that my Sreeja attended (actually getting her into the same class!), introducing her to the headmistress to whom I was very close, arranging for her to meet the other mothers and my kitty party friends, putting in a good word for her husband at our club… oh, the list is endless! She was my friend, my best friend, and I couldn’t do enough for her. When my friends praised her to the skies, I was happy. When she became head of the parent-teacher association, I was thrilled. When she was asked to be the compere at the school function, I was pleased for her. All this wasn’t enough – she just had to get it all!

How, you ask? Our esteemed Education Minister was going to give away the prizes at the function and the headmistress had actually told me that Sreeja might be asked to present him a bouquet at the beginning and make a pretty little welcome speech. How I slaved away at the speech! I even showed it to Jalajasri to get her opinion. I could see my little Sreeja so clearly on the stage, being photographed by the press and getting her photo with our esteemed Education Minister in all the papers. I made Sreeja practise the speech over and over until she had it word perfect.

On the day of the function, even as my Sreeja got ready to go on stage, my so-called friend coolly announced her own daughter’s name to present the bouquet to the waiting Minister. To add insult to injury, the speech that the girl gave was the same one that I’D prepared for MY daughter!

And you ask me if I remember what caused the rift???

November 02, 2006 3:14 PM

Ammani's I Ask, You Write 3 - My story

Read the other entries to "I Ask, You Write 3" here

She knew he wouldn't approve. So why did Visalakshi go ahead and do it anyway?

Visalakshi had dreamt of doing it for literally years. As she walked quickly down the road, she knew nobody was likely to give her a second glance. She was only 30-something years old but even her contemporaries called her “mami” rather than by her name. She looked traditional and orthodox because of her oiled, braided and bunned hair, the big kumkum pottu, the diamond studs at ears and nostril, and the fact that she only wore sarees.

Her upbringing had also contributed to her image – her strict orthodox parents who married her off at 18 to a man who was a good 15 years older, then having to live thereafter in a joint family with equally orthodox in-laws. Added to that her own shy, quiet nature… all these had contributed to her maamification (as she resentfully thought of it) much before her time. She was sidelined because of her looks. Nobody stopped to consider that she might have an open mind on controversial matters like premarital sex or divorce or inter-caste relationships.

Her husband did not care for “modern women” – but what annoyed Visalakshi was that his disapproval extended not only to looks and clothes, but also to opinions. And now it seemed like her 15-year-old daughter would be forced to go the same way as her. Well, Visalakshi would NOT allow that. She wanted a lot more for her brilliant, sensitive daughter. But to be heard, to be noticed by husband and family and outsiders, she knew had to do something radical. Something that would make people realise she was not the typical orthodox mami with typically old-fashioned views.

She was going to the hairdresser’s for the very first time in her life, determined to drop her old persona along with her long hair. Visalakshi knew her husband wouldn’t approve (to say the least!). But she would go ahead and do it anyway. For her daughter’s sake.

November 01, 2006 12:40 PM

Trying my hand

Yep, I'm trying my hand at writing short stories, a la Ammani, by taking part in her "I Ask You Write" event. I wish I'd taken part in the first two (although I suppose it's never too late to join in!) but I'm determined to give it a go for as long as she continues this event! At least that will force me to exercise my imagination and maybe write something.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Five Things Feminism Has Done For Me

MumbaiGirl, this one's for you :) I'm taking up your kind tag-vitation - as if there was any doubt that I wouldnt!

1. It has taught me to accept the occasional courteous gesture from men (opening the door for me, pulling a chair out, etc) without feeling that I am letting down womankind. I know that they're doing it not because I cant do it for myself, but because it's a nice thing to do.

2. I do "wifey" things for my husband because I want to, not because anyone (lest of all him) expects me to. It comes down to love, not "duty".

3. I dont need to be a "rabid" feminist to understand or accept what feminism is about. I dont resent men for being physically stronger and I dont think that being feminist means having to square up to them physically either. It's what's in the head and mind that matters most - size doesnt count there.

4. It has taught me to value my opinion and stick to it without being obstinate. The loudest voices dont necessarily have the most intelligent brains behind them.

5. "Women's work" - something I dont like doing but do anyway... some of the time. I dont like it to be taken for granted that I'll automatically do the washing, cleaning, cooking and the hundred other things that need doing around the home. We share according to ability and willingness - I hate hoovering. He hates washing up. And so on.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The three tag

Usual prologue: Love being tagged for memes, nobody tags me, I tagged myself, here's the result.

3 Smells I love:
- Petrol (call me weird)
- Pasi irukkum neram thalippu osai (I hope I've got the Tamil bit of it right, feel free to correct me if not. Yes, it's the Tamil version of Kajol's "awaara bhavre"). Translated to "the aroma of tempering/seasoning when you're hungry". Smells so much better than it sounds!
- Pete's deo (something by Gucci, I think)

3 Smells I hate:
- Silage/fertiliser in the fields. Ugh.
- Any perfume smelling of musk. Double ugh.
- Smelly sweaty shoes.

3 Jobs that I have had in my life:
- Journalist
- Journalist
- PA

3 Movies that I could watch over and over:
- Mrs Doubtfire
- Michael Madana Kama Rajan
- Sholay

3 Fond memories:
- Playing cricket with my dad, mom, brother, sister, friends and village kids in Songea, Tanzania
- My first trip to New Zealand, entirely on my own finances!
- An impulsive trip to Luxembourg where Pete and I cycled/walked everywhere.

3 Jobs I would love to have:
- Travel writer for a glossy upmarket travel magazine. All expenses paid to travel/stay first class everywhere, PLUS a fat salary to go with it!
- Looking after 2-5 year old kids in a creche.
- Editor in a publishing house.

3 Things I like to do:
- Read.
- Travel
- Sleep.

3 Of my favorite foods:
- Traditional southie snacks (thattai, cheedai, murukku etc)
- Idli-dosa-side-dishes combos in Saravana Bhavan
- Amma's mysore pak

3 Places I would like to be right now:
- At home (friends and family optional extras)
- Any of the CSI cottages in Kodaikkanal, with my friends
- In Peru/Mexico/Chile with Pete

3 Things that make me cry:
- Frustration (leading from fruitless arguments)
- Old people (especially those who are nice) being ignored/treated badly merely because they're old and cant assert themselves
- Migraines

Monday, October 16, 2006

The 18-wheeler truck loomed ahead of her like the behemoth it was. She should have pulled out to pass it earlier, but every time she decided she would try, there was someone else pulling out from behind her first. And now she was right behind the truck, with cars piling up behind her and no room to pull back. She could almost feel the concentrated impatience of the drivers boring into the back of her neck. She knew what they were all thinking - is she going to move out or not? Well, how could she? Why didn’t they drop back a little so that she could get some distance from the truck? She couldn’t see around the truck! Was there traffic coming the other way? Should she peek? Would a vehicle belting down in the opposite direction run straight into her if she did? Was this going to be her day to die? What if she caused an accident and someone ELSE died? She couldn’t bear the thought of being in the news, of having her family and friends know, or (worst of all) having to go to prison. She veered slightly to the right, then jumped as a car flashed past. See, there WAS oncoming traffic! She could have died, right there she could have died! Was that someone beeping their horn at her? She wanted to disappear in embarrassment. She HAD to do something before a concerto of horns started up. Oncoming traffic be damned, she was going to pull out, pass the mile-long truck no matter what, and if it was her day to die horribly, she would just… wait, the truck was indicating a left turn. It was turning!!! The road ahead was clear, hooray!
She leaned back in her seat and floored the accelerator. Driving wasnt that big a deal, really.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

And another thing

People who abbreviate the phrase "Come on" to "common" - URRRGH. As in, "oh common, you must be joking." COMMON IS NOT AN ABBREVIATION FOR "COME ON"! "Common" means "not rare" or perhaps "not classy". C'mon folks, if you can type 6 letters, you might as well just type the entire phrase because it has exactly as many letters as that perceived short form! Let me say it again - and I think the guilty ones should read this aloud now - "Common"is NOT an abbreviation for "come on".


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

These are a few of my least favourite kinds of people...

- People who profess to be religious and think they are, just because they donate huge amounts to the Tirupathi temple... while really they're depraved, lying, swindling, money-grubbing offspring of unknown parentage!

- Noisy, smoking, drunken louts and loutesses (for want of a better word) who dont care that there are people other than themselves in the pub who would also like the chance to enjoy themselves - QUIETLY!

- Advertisers on TV or anywhere else who make ads with ridiculous claims while trying to sound scientific about their nonsense. Phrases like "micro-fruit oils", "fruit AHAs", "extract of ginger in its purest form" and so on really REALLY p*ss me off! I dont mind ads that deliberately exaggerate just to be humorous. At least those are fun to watch.

- People who call my office by mistake (dialing the wrong number, for instance) and sound annoyed when I tell them it's us, not whoever they wanted. I didnt call THEM, did I??? Luckily these morons arent that common, but I still dislike them.

- Salespersons who, if you buy something, immediately ask you for the names and addresses of 10 other people you know who would like to do exactly what you've done because if you "get 10 of your friends to join us/buy from us, you'll get this cheap, crappy plastic bag FREE"! A variation is "If you buy THREE of whatever, you can get a fourth whatever at half-price". Whoopee.

- People who cant spell simple words correctly and go ON spelling them incorrectly even though they've seen the corrected spelling - day after day after day after day! This used to happen an awful lot when I was editing copy in newspapers, but it seems that zillions of people who aren't reporters STILL DO THE SAME DAMN THING!

- People who keep using my name when speaking to me - in every sentence. This is for them - any of them, all of them: I know my name. YOU know my name. I know you know my name. Dont wear it out in one conversation! More than anything else, it's annoying. It's the most obvious sales ploy in the world! It does NOT make me feel closer to you or more willing to do what you want. And dont stand so close to me, the phrase "one-on-one" does not mean you need to be so close physically that I am forced to inhale your breath!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

How about this for sheer gall?

I'm constantly amazed by what what some people can get up to. The bare-faced lying, cheating, skulduggery that takes place in the world is one thing - even though the liars, cheaters and skulduggers (?) cover the entire gamut between common criminals and super-rich celebrities - but I think this woman Carol Glover is one of those that take the cake, the icing, the cherry on top AND the whole bloody bakery for sheer brazenness!

Carol Glover stabbed her retired police officer husband to death, was sentenced to 2 years for manslaughter, was told that she would not receive a widow's pension - and actually challenged that decision in Court. After all, she was a widow, and as a widow she deserved to get the pension that was her due ... never mind that the reason she was a widow was that she killed her husband!

Good thing that the High Court
dismissed her claim. The thing is, I just cant believe that the Court actually thought there WAS a claim worth debating.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cant get you outta my head...

It's an immutable fact of life that when a song decides to take residence inside your head, it's almost always a crappy one, dredged from some deep, unfathomable well in your mind which houses the worst songs you've ever heard. And the song goes round and round like a hamster on its wheel, getting rid of any coherent thoughts before they can even form. There isnt any logic to which songs my brain latches on to - genre, era, language... nothing's a barrier when it comes to picking irritating tunes. Even if I deliberately try to think of songs I like, once my attention is diverted, the earworm sneakily crawls right back.

In the past few days, I've had the world's worst radio station playing just to me in an unending loop. They say joy shared is doubled. Perhaps, but pain shared is even better because pain shared is... er, pain spread around, so that you can dont suffer alone. Call it selfish, but what else would you wish for with songs like this on your personal radio?

The Cheeky Song (aaarrrgh)
I'm a barbie girl (see what I mean about era?)
Manjula Manjula (Where'd Baba Sehgal come from??)
Dr Jones (oh no not Aqua AGAIN!)
Crazy Frog (helllllllpppppp!)

and the one that's driven me to write this post out of sheer desperation is "Dekho maine dekha hai yeh ek sapna" from Love Story. yep, that movie from 3 decades back starring girly-boy Kumar Gaurav and dumber-than-a-wooden-block Vijayta Pandit. The irritating part is that I seem to know the entire lyrics to that miserable damn song - and I've not even seen the movie because I cant stand Kumar Gaurav and never could! So WHY WHY WHY is "main aayi aayi aayi aayi aaja" skittering around in my head like a demented bird in a cage?

I think I'm about ready for that homicidal maniac with the sledgehammer...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I'm not a nerd

But I knew that already. Just wanted y'all to know it!

I am nerdier than 16% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!


Also, I'm kinda cool.

I am 28% loser. What about you? Click here to find out!

Yep, knew that too. Now you do as well.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Yeah, but what about the goat?

Did anybody consider ITS rights when they forced this Sudanese guy to marry it?

Any animal rights organisations going to take this up, I wonder...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Talk about dumb questions...

"Is prison really the best place for criminals?" (a discussion point on a news site)

Gee... of course not.

Criminals - in prison? Shocking! Imagine putting them in a place where they cant rob, steal, mug, cheat, rape and otherwise make the lives of innocent people a misery! Isnt that against human rights or something?

Let's just lock law-abiding people away so that they cant interfere with the unlawful activities of criminals or otherwise inconvenience them. Why put the anti-socials to the trouble of having to sue householders because they dared defend themselves, their homes and family?


Friday, August 11, 2006

Smokers - yuk!

Smokers cant read.

I've come to that conclusion because of all the smokers who light up cigarettes in toilets despite signs that say "No smoking". Well, it's either illiteracy or an irresistible fascination for toilets. Toilets seem to attract smokers like garbage attracts flies.

What's the appeal of smoking in an area that has been clearly labelled and signed "NO SMOKING"? I'm not a smoker and never have been, so I honestly dont see the inherent allure of toilets as places to relax with a fag (whether it's just a smoke or a differently-sexually-oriented person).

I speak of women smokers, because obviously I dont frequent men's toilets - but I assume male smokers do the same in gents' toilets. I could JUST about understand the compulsion if the pubs/restaurants/whatever had a total ban on smoking, thereby forcing desperate smokers to furtively court cancer in the toilet cubicles. But more often than not, there ARE areas set aside for smokers - so why do they need to poison the air for non-smokers in restrooms?

Pete and I have spent a few weekends in a tiny seaside town called Borth, in Wales, with our caravan. The caravan site is huge, all out in the open, with fabulous views all around. No bans on smoking whatsoever. The toilets/shower areas, however, ARE non-smoking and have plaques on the doors that clearly state "NO SMOKING".

You'd think, wouldnt you, that the cigarette addicts would take the chance to be outside in fresh air and enjoy the view while lighting up? You'd think. But nooooo... it's the toilets they prefer. Anybody know why?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hindi in English, and Hindi in Hindi

I wonder how many people will empathise with me here, but I've been looking at Hindi words written in English for so long that they look kinda weird (and too short, or too long, or possibly just too "hindi") in the original Devnagari script! :) How odd is that!

I dont have the same problem with Tamil words, perhaps because I'm not as fluent in it (especially written) as I am in Hindi - although I have to admit, not speaking Hindi at all for years on end is turning my grasp of even that language quite rusty. For instance, when my boss asked for the Hindi word for "cat", I hemmed and hawed and had to go away for a quiet think before I remembered that it was "billie".

You'd think the word would have automatically popped into my head - I mean, he wasnt asking for the Hindi equivalent of "supercallifragilistic" (just a for-eg)! I felt like a right idiot, I can tell you. Had to save face somehow, so I told him "Hindi isnt my mother tongue". Luckily he didnt know that of the two languages, I'm (supposedly) much more fluent in Hindi!

And while on the topic of languages, the first foreign language I learnt properly was German. It's been yonks since I've written or read anything German, and a few more yonks since I last spoke it... but when I was learning Spanish a year ago, it was the German words for everything that jumped into my head first. When I had to practice Spanish conversation with my classmates, I had to pause every single time and really THINK about what I was going to say, so as not to blurt it out in German.

It was nice in a way to realise just how much of my German vocabulary I remembered (although not the grammar, ha), but it was also extremely annoying when my brain wouldnt remember anything in other languages. It's not even as if German and Spanish sound similar.

I'm hoping to go for Italian classes in September. Italian and Spanish are quite close, linguistically and phonetically speaking. I wonder if I'll still be remembering my German, or whether my brain will, just to be contrary, provide me with the Spanish equivalent of Italian words instead. My brain appears to have a mind of its own. I wonder where I've lost mine...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Another website to note down on a permanent basis

Okay, I know, my blog seems to have become THE place from which you get to other blogs... but honestly, how could I NOT recommend this site after seeing the adorable photos on it? be warned, they're cute almost to the point of overload, but my "cute overload" limit is practically limitless... there's nothing so cute that I've had to "barf a rainbow", as eloquently put by someone on this blog here - I LOVE cute!

Friday, June 23, 2006

India travel blog

Chanced upon this really good blog by this English guy about his travels in India - he's brilliant! His insights, descriptions, experiences will all strike a chord at some point with everybody who's from or has ever been to India. You can see he loves India, accepts its idiosyncracies and still has a whale of a time - and the best part is he's very very VERY funny while writing all about it. Well worth a look, and I can tell I'm going to be spending a lot of time reading all his posts here:

Horn Ok Please

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tag -

I'm it! Surprisingly easy to play tag when it's just me in the game. No strain on any faculty whatsoever.

Here goes the meme:

I am thinking about...
Going home.

I said...
"Isnt it 5 pm YET?"

I want to...
break free. (I mean, what else could I possibly say?)

I wish...
Plants could propagate without pollen. Hayfever is misery.

I miss...
Going to Kodaikkanal with my friends

I hear...
birdsong at 3a.m, although I dont WANT to.

I wonder...
why hardly anybody tags me. I like memes, folks!

I regret...
Not being more organised with photos taken over the years.

I am...
mostly happy.

I dance...
only at gunpoint on a bed of live coals while surrounded by a pink elephant orchestra wearing fake fur coats and playing "I dont want to dance" by Eddy Grant.

I sing...
when nobody can hear me.

I cry...
when I read moving passages in books, and at melodramatic Indian movies (but if anybody asks, I deny it)

I am not always...

I make with my hands...
sometimes works of art, sometimes just a mess.

I write...
in black ink with a fountain pen.

I confuse...

I need...
books. All the time. Everywhere I go. Whatever I do.

I should try...
And then again, I shouldnt.

I listen to...
whatever I like.

I find...
things I wasnt looking for. And, sometimes, things I was.

I dislike...
narrow-minded attitudes.

I have...
a well-developed sense of the absurd.

I'd like...
to get rid of all terrorists in all countries and from all religions.

I expect...
that someone will find this meme silly.

I finish...
with a flourish.

I tag...
Whoever wants to be tagged. (Please let me know!)


The NSPCC (National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children) keeps showing an ad on TV that goes something like this: "At this moment, there are 32,000 children in danger of being beaten, abused or even killed in their own homes. Shall we stop it now?" and then they ask for a donation of £2 a month. This is a charity, so their asking for help is okay. What I'D like to know is, if it is established fact that 32,000 children are in danger right now, why is the government not doing anything about it? Why isnt it spending a few billions on helping these children who are known to be at risk? Why leave it to a charity? Why waste all that money on stupid useless projects that never get completed, or on even more useless and destructive wars?

And on a not entirely unconnected note, there's a charity that helps animals and also has its own ad on TV. Guess how much THEY need to save animals? £4 a month. That's right. £2 for children, but £4 for animals. Not that I have anything against animals, but...

Plus, there's a Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals... but perhaps the Regent doesnt feel a need for royal protection extended to children?

Monday, May 22, 2006

The trip that almost didnt happen

Remember me grumbling about how slow the Indian High Commission in Birmingham was in processing my passport application? Well, I was wrong - they werent slow (that is, if you didnt compare them with the UK Passport Office). I was told that it would take 4-6 weeks for my new passport to be issued, and that they would let me know by telephone when to collect it. This, despite my informing them that I needed my passport back as quickly as possible in order to travel abroad.

Anyhow, it didnt take the stipulated 4-6 weeks. In fact, it only took two weeks. I applied on March 9, and the passport was ready by March 22. Surprisingly efficient, you think? End of story, you think?


Although my passport had been issued, the Passport Department neglected to inform me of that fact. So I waited in good faith for about a month, after which I called up the HC to ask about the status of my application. I got their answering service. Apparently the HC has enough technology to go automated but hasnt bothered to incorporate any customer service, automated OR human. So, instead of being told how to contact anybody in the Passport Dept, I was asked, in a strongly accented (North Indian, methinks) voice, to leave a message. No assurance of "we will get back to you asap".

Still, hoping for the best, I left a message asking them to call me back on my mobile phone with any information.

Then I waited yet another week, with no response.

By this time, there was just over 2 weeks left for me to apply for my US visa. Which, obviously enough, I couldnt do if I didnt have a passport. Worse yet, within that period was the long Easter Bank holiday weekend, which meant that instead of 10 working days in which to apply for, and receive, the US visa, I only had 8 days.

This time I emailed the HC. Predictably (although I was still hoping for the best), no response.

Two days later, I was in something close to panic, so I emailed them yet again, explaining the circumstances in somewhat strong terms (to put it politely, ha). This stirred them from their apathy and I got a phone call the next day to "come and collect your passport, it is ready". Except that the phone call came on the Thursday of Easter weekend, so effectively I could only go the following Tuesday to collect it. That left 8 days for the US visa.

Which would not really have been such a problem, if the US Embassy in London had been a bit more reasonable. When I telephoned to ask for an interview date, they said the earliest available date was May 19. Not very useful as we were to leave on April 29 for the States and return on May 17. A polite email request for expedited processing of the visa was curtly rejected.

Panic stations.

Then Pete called around the other US Embassies and Consulates in the UK, and discovered that the one in Belfast, Northern Ireland, had the authority to issue travel visas. He immediately asked for the earliest appointment and was told that I should be there at 11am on Tuesday, April 25. Which was 3 days before we were due to leave.

It was a nuisance but I managed to wangle a day off work. We flew to Belfast on the Monday night and at 11a.m the next day, I presented myself at the US Consulate there. I wasnt very hopeful of the outcome to start with, but then I discovered that there were just 6-7 people ahead of me, no crowds and no touts. What was more, all the staff were extremely polite and friendly (what a nice contrast to the self-important puffed up specimens one finds in Western embassies in India - and for all I know, other countries as well!).

I was in and out of that office in 40 minutes - it all went smoothly enough. Except that when I asked if I could collect the visa before flying back to England that evening, I was told that they would only send it in the post. No deviations from that rule, no matter what the urgency. So we had to leave, hoping for the best.

And thank god, the visa arrived two days before we flew out to the States. It's the sort of tension and last-minute nerve-wracking situation that one doesnt need EVER, much less before a holiday that has been arranged and orchestrated by other people half a world away! Imagine if I hadnt got the passport, or the visa - everybody's plans would have been thrown out of whack and my sister and brother would not only have seen their efforts go to nought, but would have also wasted a great deal of their money on non-refundable tickets and bookings, etc.

Still, all's well that ends well, and we had a fantastic 16 days in the US. I just wonder why the Indian High Commission had to be so indifferent and - let's face it - incompetent when there was no NEED for it to be that way... especially as someone there had actually issued the passport well in time. What would it have cost them to let me know about it immediately?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Meet Siegfried and L'il Draco

The "Build-a-Bear Workshop" is one of the cutest shops that I've ever been to - imagine being able to choose your own bear (or dog, cat, frog, cow, whatever animal takes your fancy from the range available) and dress it and accessorise it! Okay, it's meant for children, but it's so much fun that I think adults should get a look in as well.

The Workshop where I got my Siegfried is in Seattle. My sister had mentioned the existence of such a shop, and of course I simply HAD to go there, whether or not time permitted! Luckily, though, there was nobody in the shop (other than the shop assistants, duh), so there was nobody to bear witness to the childish antics that I had to go through (the assistant said it was de rigeur if i wanted my bear). Or dog. And I DID want my dog.

So I pressed the pedal on the machine that blew the stuffing into my dog, I chose a little red heart (representative of mine) to give to him, rubbed it between my hands to warm the heart, gave it a kiss, and watched it being quickly sewn up in the vitals of my dog.

My sister deeply regrets not having a video camera, but I'm grateful for the lack of one! It's childish enough as I've described... but a video of the whole thing for posterity? - no, that would have been simply too much to take! :)

Anyway, after the dog was stuffed, then came the REALLY fun part - choosing the accessories. It was lucky I was on a tight budget, or I would have blown every last cent I had on getting more and more ridiculously adorable outfits! There were firemen uniforms, desert camouflage uniforms, army uniforms, beach bum outfits, ski outfits... you name it, it was there. And these were just for the "boy" bears/animals. There were bows, ribbons, belts, dresses, frills, all sorts of pretty girly things for the "girl" toys.

Unfortunately the dog that got my heart didnt look like a girl to me. So I chose to outfit him in beach casuals... a colourful shirt, white underpants (!!!), denim shorts, sandals and - cutest of all - really cool sunglasses! My sister chose his name - Siegfried, because apparently he "looked like a Siegfried". I didnt come up with anything better than "Droopy Dog" - I know, an awful awful name and I'm glad I didnt burden him with it!

Once I'd chosen the clothes, it was time to complete the rest of the "transaction". I had to put in my name, age, address and date in a computer (prompted by embarrassingly loud and clear instructions), and eventually out came a Birth Certificate for Siegfried, complete with date of "birth" for him. The saving grace is that MY age is nowhere on the certificate, although it has my name as "parent"!

Oh, and the little puppy with Siegfried - completely irresistible, so I had to get him as well. He's a baby Boxer. I know a grown-up Boxer here who's called Draco, so this little guy became... well, L'il Draco, of course.

Hey, I never said I was imaginative.

Friday, April 28, 2006

This is ART?

Group hugging is ART? Since when? A publicity gimmick, yes. A minor feat of logistics, yes. Even a nice gesture, yes with a bit of stretch. But art? I dont think so. The "artists" here, who are from China, chanced upon this mass hugging thing because of the lack of hugging in their country. I dunno, but I cant offhand think of many countries whose inhabitants go around en masse, hugging strangers uninvited and at random... and what about their statement that they have organised group hugs in "different ways". How many ways are there to bug a stranger?

Art. Huh!

On the other hand, since there are artists whose works include old crumpled newspapers, soiled underclothes, even natural bodily functions (or the products thereof), I guess I dont mind group hugging as art - it's innocuous enough to be an acceptable gimmick and your stomach doesnt churn at the thought of the artists or their "work".

Friday, March 31, 2006

Isn't it depressing/annoying/demoralising/you-name-it to realise that no matter how accomplished a woman might be, how good her potential for a job, if it's a man who's hiring a woman for a job, more often than not it's her good looks that tilt the balance in her favour.

This young lady who applied for a job with our company, along with a few others, was the only one who sent in a colour photo (of herself, duh) with her application. She was the least qualified in the sense that she had no works experience and was still at university. The others (who only sent passport-size B/W photos, if at all), even if they didnt have formal degrees, definitely had experience in the sector in which they were applying. To varying degrees, they were better qualified for the job advertised than this young lady.

Guess who topped the three semi-finalists, so to speak? (Ok, so I revealed the plot in the opening paragraph - but y'gotta allow me some rhetoric!) Yup, our pretty young lady. She got called first for the interview and spent a phenomenal 2 hours with our slightly pop-eyed chief. That must have been SOME interview (for an office assistant's job!)! Good thing nobody else was scheduled to be seen that evening.

Yes, the other two ladies were also duly interviewed, but it's the PYT who's going to join us "on a trial basis" next week.

No, I'm not jealous of her - she seemed perfectly nice (even if ravishingly blonde! *wink*) and I dont have any animosity towards her. She'll probably even be fun to work with. Time will tell if she's the sort of woman who plays upon her good looks to get ahead career-wise... but at the moment we're all giving her the benefit of the doubt. In other words, it isnt her fault that the boss hired her despite her lack of references or experience.

I know there are women who blatantly use their looks to get ahead in their jobs. But they can only get away with it because there are men shallow enough (and dumb enough) to let them. So whose fault is this situation, really?

(Good ol' blog - always ready for a good old moan, no questions asked!)


With that off my chest, let me say that I'm really looking forward to April 13. What's so special about that day? My mother arrives here from India, PLUS there's the long Easter weekend to follow - whee, what fun!


And apropos of other things not mentioned here, I've had to apply for a new passport, because the old one expired of natural causes. I've been informed by the Indian High Commission in Birmingham that it will take them 4-6 WEEKS to process my application and get me my new passport. So I'm still waiting for it.

Pete also had to apply for a new one, at the UK Home Office. He got it - wait for this - THE SAME DAY!


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Trying to cheer myself up...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I've been tagged!

Just cant resist a tag - especially if it's to do with books. Thanks, 30in2005! :)

1. What is the total number of books you've owned?

I had a collection of about 250 books, lovingly collected from when I was a kid - birthday presents, gifts from my parents, cousins, friends etc - before my grandfather "donated" them to a library despite my objections. Oh well. I now have five boxes of books and one of assorted comics that are stored in the shed because there's no space in the house at the moment. The spare cupboard is getting filled up again as well, so I'm making a guess that I have about 500. But I'll be able to make a proper head count when we move to a bigger place. Watch this space! :)

2. What is the last book you bought?

Jodi Picoult - My Sister's Keeper. She's pretty good, especially when you read her for the first time. Once you get hooked and follow up with the rest of her books, you quickly discover she writes to a formula. But within the confines of that formula, her writing rocks. She's GOOD and has the ability to make you read faster and faster just to see how the damn book ends. That's good writing. Just make sure you dont read all her books one after the other.

3. What is the last book you've read?

Joanna Trollope's "Other People's Children". I've never read her books before, and now that I've read this one, I'm going to rectify the situation lickety split. This book is about ordinary people living ordinary lives (didnt somebody write a song to that effect? heheh...), touching on their troubles and joys and all the normal situations that dont involve rich beautiful jet-setting people and their sweat-soaked purple-prose passion on trite satin sheets!

4. What are you currently reading?

A book of (very) short stories called "Pixel Juice" by a writer called Jeff Moon... he's brilliant, weird, amazing, bewildering - that's four descriptions for the four stories I've read so far. And I have 46 more to go - yay!

5. What are the 5 books that have meant a lot to you or that you particularly enjoyed?

Difficult question... how can a lifelong book lover like me be expected to make a list of just five favourite books? Will try anyway, and this is not in any particular order:

- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I've read this book any number of times and love it afresh with every read. Such gentle humour, such a difficult, touchy subject handled with so much understanding.

- The Guns of Navarone, by Alistair Maclean. I read this first when I was in the 7th standard, I think. I dont remember for sure, but it was probably my first foray into fiction for adults. The character of wise-cracking, world-weary, cynical and yet brilliant Dusty Miller set the standards for my ideal hero for years thereafter, and Alistair Maclean was one of my favourite authors because of a refreshing lack of overt mushy romance in his novels :)

- The Tramp and The Dog, by Christine Harris. My favourite cousin gave me this book on my 12th birthday. I didnt like the book that much on my first reading - it was full of strange Romany gypsy words and I couldnt quite appreciate the storyline or the main protagonist, a good-hearted, gentle tramp. But two years later, I re-read it, and fell totally in love with the book and the tramp AND his dog. I lost this book along with my first collection (thanks, grandpa) but last year I tracked down a copy on the Net and now I'm happy to say I own it again.

- A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry. One of my favourite Indian authors, very readable and not in the least ostentatious or elaborately "Indian-geared-for-a-Western-audience".

- Blackberry Wine, by Joanne Harris (we share this one, 30in2005) - I saw Chocolat the movie before I read the book... then I read Chocolat the book and went on to read Blackberry Wine thereafter. Lovely book, lovely prose.

6. What book(s) would you wish to buy next?

Hmmm... again, I dont know where to start! But here's a quick list:

- The latest Stephen King - Cell. I'm a diehard King fan, despite occasional hiccups like "Gerald's Game" and "Rose Madder" which, frankly, were piss-poor. On the other hand, books like "It", "The Stand", "The Talisman" etc place him fairly and squarely in the list of my all-time favourite authors.

- Any new Terry Pratchett book that gets published.

- Black, White and Gold, by Kelly Holmes, winner of two gold medals in the 2004 Olympics

7. What book(s) caught your attention but you never had a chance to read?

Strictly speaking, I suppose I've had a chance to read this, considering it's been in every library - You're Joking, Mr Feynman... but I havent read it, and I aint joking either.

8. What book(s) that you've owned for so long but never read?

Easy: Tolstoy's War & Peace, Winston Churchill's "The Second World War" in 6 vols. My dad owned the books but I've never really got around to reading them. Maybe I never will.

9. Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why

Argh... I'll tag them but since not everybody responds well to being tagged, I wont mind if they dont take it up. I have only one reason for tagging these people - I find them interesting and would LOVE to know more about their reading tastes and experiences.

I tag: MumbaiGirl



Sunday, February 19, 2006

Salman Khan - crime and punishment

So Salman Khan has been sentenced to a year in prison for poaching and given a fine as well. That's the good news. I'm glad he's been found guilty.

The bad news is that I really doubt he'll do the time, and as for the fine - Rs.5,000... it's a joke! A five-thousand rupee fine for a man who's worth millions - what was the court thinking? That pathetic amount wouldnt even BEGIN to register on Mr Khan's conscience, much less his pocket. Why couldnt the court have fined him according to his financial worth? Rs 5 lakhs... that would have been more fitting, although even that amount, I'm sure, would be small change for that so-called "actor".

And while we're on the subject of actors, calling Salman Khan's movie performances "acting" is a crime - and to have to sit through any movie starring Mr Shirtless Wooden Face... that's what I'd call cruel and unusual punishment.

But I digress. Not only did Salman Khan kill protected blackbuck, he also drove over and killed people sleeping on the pavement, back in 2002. Although that case is still ongoing (and it will probably drag on because those poor people weren't "protected" by anybody), he should be in prison a lot longer than one year. That man is a disgrace to humankind and his behaviour a slap in the face of humanity.

An orgy of violence thinly disguised as religious fervour

That's what I thought of the movie "The Passion of the Christ", directed by that born-again Christian, Mel Gibson. Yes, I know it's not a recent movie - the fact that it was being shown on TV just proves that.

Talk about gratuitous violence, though... I dont know what Mel Gibson set out to prove, but all he succeeded was in grossing me out with the cruelty he so lovingly showed in glorious technicolour. If I had been a Christian to start with (or at all religiously inclined), the movie would certainly have turned me off God on a permanent basis.

I mean, what sort of God lets His son take such terrible punishment, and for what - just for being His son? What sort of father would let his son suffer like that? I thought there was a telling comment, if I can call it that - something Jesus said in the movie that just about clinched it for me: "No man is greater than his master" (or words to that effect). In other words - and this is my take on it - if the Master, Jesus himself, is fated to undergo that sort of torture and suffering without any intervention from God, there's no hope at all whatsoever for the master's followers, mere mortals that they are. Which, I guess, is why there's so much suffering in the world.

What was the POINT of Jesus' agony and suffering, is my question. What did it prove, and what does that say to religious folks now? I do not believe that suffering makes one a better person. I cant bring myself to accept that suffering and pain are experiences that a loving God gives to his believers deliberately just to see how their faith stands up to it! Why cant religion be synonymous with happiness and joy?

Anyway, to go back to the movie - it was over-the-top and how! Did they really have to show the whipping scene for quite so long? Did the camera have to focus quite so lovingly on the blood and gore? Did the director really enjoy the brutish behaviour of Jesus' tormentors and what passed for funny for them - viz, torturing Jesus? (I can actually answer that myself: Yes! The director must have LOVED visualising it because it takes up a LARGE chunk of the movie, by god). Jesus must have taken about half a dozen spectacular falls while carrying the cross up the hill, of course while being whipped and whacked and kicked all the way. Lots of loving, close-up shots of his blood-stained teeth and bloody face. Mel Gibson must have been in the throes of an ecstatic religious fit, is all I can conclude.

One thing about the movie - and I dont remember this being mentioned anywhere - all the dialogue is in Latin or Hebrew... not in American-accented English. That was a surprise, allright.

Friday, February 10, 2006

What a dad!

We had a client in our office recently, who wanted a survey done on an old nursery school he was going to buy. People with deep pockets sometimes buy old buildings to do up and re-sell as fantastic homes - I guess some of them are property developers, but quite a few of them are private individuals who have the time, inclination and, most important, the money to get themselves a beautiful, characterful home. So there are lots of buildings that have been converted from their former avatars as whatever - railway station, school, farmhouse, barn, etc - into lovely residences. The major clue to their past is usually that they retain the description as the house name... The Old Railway Station, Old Church House, Teacher's Cottage, etc.

So when I heard that this nursery school - with some 20 rooms - was being purchased, I couldnt help wondering why, if only because it would have taken a really huge amount of money and many years' worth of permissions and planning applications to convert it into a mansion. Especially as the gentleman buying it had already bought himself a huge country house just a few months back, which also we had surveyed.

But it turned out that he didnt want to convert it to anything. He had a young son who attended that nursery school. The school building was on auction-sale because it wasnt viable and the nursery itself was going to be closed down. This was something our client did not want - because the school was conveniently close for him to drop his son off every morning, because he thought the teachers were doing a great job and, not the least, because the little lad liked his teacher very much.

So he decided to buy the school building and put in enough funds to keep the school running and its staff in jobs. THAT'S what I call a dedicated dad! I mean, how many men do you know who would buy an entire school for their son? (Or who would have the means to do it?)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Optical illusion

Fellow vertigo sufferers will probably relate to this much easier than those who can look down from great heights without feeling the compulsion to just tip over the edge...

This was when Pete and I were driving up in Scotland, near Ben Nevis, the highest mountain. The road was extremely hilly, going up and down steeply. Every time the car reached the top of one of the humps, it was facing up at such a steep angle that I couldnt see the road ahead. I KNEW the road didnt end there. And, yet, every single time I had the completely irrational but completely convincing and deeply panicky feeling that we were at the top of a cliff and that's why I couldnt see the road ahead. I kept seeing mental images of Pete blithely driving our car onward and toppling it over the edge. I didnt tell him what I felt in case I came across as a total berk - but... brr... heights do my head in!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I just LOVE Frasier!

The American sitcom about the psychiatrist from Seattle - it's one of my favourites... it's just that right mix of classy yet slapstick comedy that appeals to me most, and tonight's episode only reinforced that liking!

Basically, Frasier and his tough woman boss, strongly attracted to one another, have shared a kiss. But then he begins to wonder if she really liked him or was using him to further her own ends, and makes a comment about such manipulative women. Daphne, the live-in carer who looks after Frasier's father, asks Frasier: "But what about men who use sex to get what they really want?"

And Frasier snarls: "How can men use sex to get what they want? Sex IS what they want!" before he storms out the door.

Classic! :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

An apocryphal moment on the phone

Except this happened for real, when the phone rang in the middle of our weekly morning meeting:

Me: Good morning, (name of company), how can I help?
Unknown caller: I'd like information on a particular commercial property.
Me: We're in a meeting at the moment, but I'll get our property manager to give you a call back in half an hour.
(before I can ask for any information from her)
UC: Do you want my phone number?
Me: Nooo... I'll just try and guess it, shall I?

Well, I didnt say that, but oooh the temptation!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Right, I've had enough

That's it! I've searched for my inspiration long enough, with not a clue about where it's gone or if it will ever be back. There's only so long one can go on searching for something that disappeared without so much as a wave goodbye! The sort of life-long commitment seen in Indian movies (or old-fashioned romantic novels) does not have a place in my world any more. So it's goodbye, inspiration and hello, sheer determination. Or something like that...


I was serenaded today, at work. My first serenade ever, and all that was lacking was a guitar and a starry, moonlit night. What it didnt lack was an audience - my colleagues were all there, cheering him on.

The serenader was our jolly postman, who never misses an opportunity to flirt with everybody - but I suspect he targets me in particular because I am easily embarrassed by extravagant compliments and flirtiness. Embarrassed in a tongue-tied, oh-gosh-what-do-I-say-now sort of way, not in a bad way, because our postman is really a sweetie and not in the least offensive.

Postie (as we know him... one of these days we really HAVE to find out his name) is usually the highlight of our working day. He's invariably cheerful, funny and like a ray of sunshine on a dull morning. And that simile is remarkably close to reality, considering how dull, leaden, cold and dark these winter mornings are!

My first impression of our Postie was that of a big man with a booming voice and a large misshapen strawberry for a nose in a face that was skewed ever-so-slightly, as if he was partly in another dimension. Until he smiled - and then not even his crooked teeth could take away from his undeniable charm. He's the personification of that oxymoronic term "pleasantly ugly" - and he's witty, funny and warmly genuine with it. A one-in-a-million guy, that one. I'm glad we're on his morning rounds!

Oh, and if anybody is wondering what he serenaded me with, I havent a clue. It was something in Italian.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hello to everybody, 12 days into 2006

Nearly two weeks into 2006, and this is my first post. Well actually, it's only a few lines from me recommending somebody else's post! You might think "how sad is that, she cant even think of anything to write herself" - but to me it isnt sad. In fact, it's totally the opposite of sad, because this post (the one I'm about to recommend, not that one I'm writing as I type) is wacky good fun and I'm doing a good deed by bringing it to the attention of those who havent already seen it! :) The writer, Jay, is one of my most favourite bloggers because of his acid, quirky sense of humour!

No more delay, now... here's the post - have fun! I did.