Tuesday, 14 July 2009


I was just flicking through an old, really old issue of Champak. For those who need an introduction, Champak is an LS children's magazine. The typos and grammar WILL undoubtedly make you cringe.

But there was something really weird I caught while reading the inane stories, none of which have obvious morals or lessons that kids' magazines generally promote.

The fictitious names that these writers/contributors (who actually take bylines for what they churn out) attribute to their characters -- most of which are animals -- are ridiculous.

Here's a sample:

Kitty Cat (quite obviously)
Bhuro (Also a cat with "very good heart")
Gadru (A "simple donkey")
Chuchu Mouse
Guddu, Bittoo (Both "wrestler pigs")
Cheeku (The "clever hare")
Blacky Snake (None of Blacky Snake's caricatures show him to be resembling a shade even close to black)
Nanu Rat
(And Nanu's friend) Nikki Rat
Nittu Frog
Annu Ant (This is what made me laugh out loud)
Kalu Crow (The cliche disappointed me. Come on, after all that creativity, Kalu Crow is a let down)
Speedo Kite
Fighto Mongoose
Daba (Agarwal uncle's "outdoor" dog)
Roxa (Sharma uncle's "sheer lazy" dog)
Chandan (Reporter with Jungle Times)
Pipi Car (Features in a story involving a four wheeler and a bicycle)
Trin Trin Cycle (Yes the cycle starring in the above mentioned story)

That's that.
My personal favourite, Annu Ant (such alliteration!)

Saturday, 11 July 2009

In shambles

I've just about returned from a trip to Kerala, that's where they say my roots lie. And this time around I traced them myself. The process in itself was exciting and enduring and the end, rather anti-climactic.
A long, long drive on the NH47 -- bordered by coconut trees and paddy fields -- from Cochin to Palakkad took me to a small hamlet called Pazhumbalakode. That's where my great grandfather once lived as the village head or the 'adhikari'. It's a village that one is most likely to miss. It's probably meant only to be discovered by wanderers -- ones who've lost their way on a long and arduous journey.
The narrow pathway leading into the village is amplified by the chitter, chatter from the adjoining school. The path remains narrow till it diverges towards the pond/lake to the right. Straight ahead are the homes lined up one after another in a perfect line on both sides.
I was escorted by this lady who claimed to know my grandfather and kept questioning the family's integrity over leaving the village. 'And that too, when you're the adhikari? Unimagineable. Tch tch,' she kept saying. 'And for what? A luxurious life in a big city. Does it suit a brahmin to do any such thing, eh? Tell me, tell me.'
I responded with faint smiles for lack of fluency in malayalam and tact of handling old women who believe they've seen enough life and have the ultimate authority over anything under the sun.
I asked her if she could lead me to my ancestral home. She was more than happy to play my guide. 'Just two minutes ahead,' she said. I followed her. A few more steps and she stopped. Pointing at what was an apology of a house she said, 'That's it.'
No, no, no, I told myself. But that was it. That was what was left of my ancestral home. A 10x15 ft wall. Covered in moss. With a door that seemed to have been shut since at least half a century. It might just have needed a gentle push to see it all come down. But nobody had bothered. It was a wretch. A complete one at that.
I could only imagine what it would have looked like when my great grandparents, grandparents and the rest lived there. Should have made for the house that every villager envied for being the biggest in the village. I would also like to assume that it would have made for the most beautiful home in Pazhumbalakod. Grant me that.
Initially, I didn't know what to feel. I was confused. I then felt saddened by not being able to see an integral part of my heritage in all its glory. Then shame crept in while I stood in front of the shambles.
I stood there gaping at MY home for a couple of minutes, took out my camera, clicked a few pictures and walked along with village lady after being nudged twice.
I turned around. One final look. One final good bye. I then thought to myself -- maybe one day when I am really rich, I could buy the space back and build the adhikari's home again.
Some consolation!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Back from the Himalayas

I have lost count of the number of times I have visited Manali and trekked the mountains around it. It's become a routine holiday -- I let the summer set in, hop on to the Paschim Express, let it take me to Chandigarh. Then I wait to be transported by road to Manali, bearing witness to the strangeness of a new state. It never seems familiar.
The road journey gets cold by the night, I keep my winter clothes handy to shield myself from the pleasant, teasing cold winds rushing in from the window of the car/bus. Let them brush my hair till I suspect they'd make for a knotty, troublesome morning.
When it's just about dawn, I step into Manali. Breathe the cold, calm air and feel unusually at home. Routine. Routine but equally, if not increasingly, exciting with each passing visit. It was the same when I went this time -- routine yet exciting.
I have a strange affinity to the place. Every time I come to Manali, I see the place worsening -- with its traffic, pollution, congestion, tourism et al -- but there is still something that makes me want to return. It's been three days since I have arrived in Bombay and I want to return. Return soon.
The Himalayas around the city are overwhelming in their stature. But I find their presence reassuring. They are stable -- they have been there for hundreds of years and will remain so for many hundreds to come. It has resisted change in the past and will continue to in the future.
Reassuring to me!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Moment of clarity

It's been about three weeks since I first got to know that I would be away from India for a couple of years to study further. The first week went by dreaming and day dreaming about the winter in Europe, about the relatively emptier streets that I have only spotted in movies so far, about meeting Europeans in their pink skins, about having to cook my own food, about managing new currency and much more.
Till last night I was only excited about what was coming my way. But last night, some alcohol and a couple of good friends quite reversed my idea about the whole deal. For the first time I realised (and I would call it the moment of clarity induced by a bottle of wine) that it would need a lot of getting used to making new friends and more traumatically, missing old ones. I realised I would be missing people more than places. I'll miss the voices more than noises. I'll miss hugs and the kisses. I'll miss the chats and debates. I'll miss all those around me. I'll miss them all. :-(

P.S.: Sadly, there's no way I can miss you all. Borders don't matter to us right?

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Simple complexities

It's been more than 20 days that I have been wanting to get a haircut done and everytime I call my salon, they say they are booked for the next two days. Even my dentist doesn't ask me for such heavy-duty prior intimation of my arrival! Anyways, since I can't decide what I what I would be doing 48 hours in advance I am not comfortable with the whole idea of getting prior appointments with a hair salon.

But then I told myself that it's my problem and the big, complex world of today revolves around appointments and meetings and blah. So, I gathered myself up and tried fixing myself up thrice but got tired of being turned down because they don't work to match my timings! What the fuck! I was just asking them to chop off a little bit of the hair that I thought was redundant! It's not going to take more than half an hour, is it? But there they are, just not interested! Isn't this their job?

So, I gave up on my salon and called up this other guy, who is also really good -- that's what JP old me. And the Other Guy also happens to be an extremely busy hairstylist and asked me to give a call the following week! A whole week before he can touch my hair! That's frustrating! I just want to have my hair cut, damn it!
But I tried being a little patient and called him up the following week, as per his instructions and he asked me to get an appointment at another branch for the weekend!

What the fuck?

What IS with these guys?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Colour, colour which colour?

There's this little girl whom I meet at my gym every day. Well almost every day. There are days when she doesn't wake up on time and there are days when I don't wake up on time. So let's say we meet about four days a week on an average.
Anyway, she might be about eight years old. She's skinny and around four-and-a-half feet tall. I heard her telling the instructor the other day that her mum thinks being four-and-a-half feet tall is terrible for an eight-year-old. And that's what brings her to the gym. So, while the rest of the women (it's an 'only ladies' gym. I think women in Dombs are still very conscious of working out in front of men) sweat it out to lose or add flab, little girl tries growing a few inches taller.
One of these days while I was trying to make sense of parents wanting their children to grow taller than what they can naturally be, little girl diverts my attention towards something I found even more irksome.
"Didi, main itni kaali kyun hoon?" she asks a gym instructor, who has a relatively lighter skin tone.
"Go and ask your parents, why are you asking me?" the gym instructor replies jokingly.
"My mom is very fair. Bahut gori hai. Main kyun aisi hoon?" girls asks.
Gym instructor tries ignoring her volley of questions by telling her that it's important to be tall. Far more important than being fair. She does a good job because little girl gets back to her grow-taller regimen.
Two days later, I hear little girl asking another instructor how to have fairer skin. And that's when it really begins bothering me. Bothering me enough to rob at least two minutes of sleep every night thinking about why little girl is so worried about her colour.
After two nights of thinking, my surmise is she has enough reasons to be fretting.
I am sure the rowdy thugs in her school might have named her kaali naagin or some equivalent of that. Her fair-skinned girl friends might be making her feel ugly. Her teachers might never have chosen her to play a Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty for the school's annual function. Her relatives might have suggested kapuzillion ways for her to grow a shade or two lighter -- drink more milk, try this fairness cream, no, that one's better etc. Her mother and, possibly, father might not be letting her play with other children for fear of little girl growing darker under the sun. Her playmates might be pointing fingers at her, laughing, gossiping and speculating why she can't play along with them -- she is a bad girl, she might have failed in her exams, blah, blah. While little girl might try watching TV to distract herself from the badgering, she would possibly only take notice of all the fair and good-looking women living beautiful lives behind the silver screen.
Phew. Tough life she has. And she is just eight.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


This one is for one of my very close friends AD, who passed away last October. I am certain she still checks my blog and has a hearty laugh from up there.

You know what I had to do today? Stand outside YOUR Shah Rukh's Mannat from 5 pm to 8 pm in the hope that either Sourav, Buchanan or he would come out to update us, the byte-hungry, demented, jobless media about the ongoing KKR controversy. You know what it is about, right? Yeah. So, there I was burning myself away in the heat and sweating myself away like a pig when I could have been chilling my ass in a pretty cool pool tournament. But such is life.
Anyway, all along I hoped for your SRK to come out to speak because then I could have told you how he looks, smiles, waves, speaks, walks in real life. But that was not to be. Forget Shah Rukh, not even his dog Hippo came out to greet us. We just stood there, saw the sun go down into the sea, saw his house light up and also saw Dada storm away to the airport from Mannat.
If you still carried a phone, I would have called you a hundred times to update you about all what happened and curse your King Khan for being so heartless to not even offer us water. I would have gone on for less than five minutes and then heard you go on for half an hour in his defence. But I couldn't do any of that.
Such, also, is life.