Friday, 7 December 2012

AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE

That's where I was. This long, amazing vacation that (sadly) came to an end last week. Needless to say, I'm in denial that it's back to reality now. Does that explain my absence from this blog? I apologise.

To make up for posts (of which there are plenty in my head; just got to get them down to cyber pen and ink), I'll come back in a bit with some pictures. Of course, they don't do justice to what is a simply beautiful country, or the equally lovely holiday that I had, but still. They do make for some many wonderful memories anyway. Soon.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

Romanesco broccoli, or Roman cauliflower, is a variant form of cauliflower.

To me, it's Just. Plain. Pretty.
And so of course, it went straight into my trolley at the food store. And then in to my salad bowl, but not before this (badly taken on the mobile phone) picture got taken.

Salad recipe -
Ingredients:
Pretty broccoli, cut into florets and boiled
Shallots, finely diced
Cherry tomatoes, diced into halves
Sprouts 
Salt, white pepper and a sprinkling of herbs to taste

What to do:
Toss in all the above ingredients into a big wooden salad bowl (or any other).
You could also add any other salad-y ingredients you like.
Add the seasoning.
Dish up! Eat! Enjoy!

SUPER DUPER GROSS

Bugs of any kind are NOT my friends. Taking a chance at friendship, however, was this furry fiend who was merrily plonked inside a head of cauliflower. Suffice it to say we didn't get along, and the not-so-little monster was evicted from Cauliflower Heaven. And no, I don't particularly care what happened to it next, really. Ick. Ick.


AGE + RELIGION + MARITAL STATUS = STUPID JOKES

Annoyance, storm of locusts style.

C'mon, give people a break. The movie mags are full of supposedly howlarious jokes, all because a leading lady of Bollywood married the guy she was seeing, also a huge star, a day or two ago. Stupid, crass, insensitive jokes that touch upon their age (difference), religions they follow (obviously different) and the fact that he had been married before, and has two children from the marriage. 

How does any of it matter, is what I would like to know? Two grown up individuals, capable of making a decision as well as the next person, two people who are committed to each other and have decided to take their commitment to the next level - and what they get is flak. Does it make a difference whether they're years apart in age? As with any couple, isn't it obvious that one would be older than the other? And as for being previously married, again, really, does the chap need to be hung, drawn and quartered for that? And if the both of them happen to follow different faiths, where's the problem. Isn't the world full of people in mixed marriages? And should one of them choose to convert to the other's religion, isn't it a personal decision? It's not like they're making everyone on the planet do the same, are they?

Incidentally, the children from the previous marriage attended the wedding ceremony. Clearly, a couple of pre-teens have more maturity than a whole bunch of twits adults put together.

Grow up, goss rags!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

SNOW CONE...

... in a cup.

Those lurid colours you see? Myriad flavours, ranging from cola to berry to vetiver to blue curaçao, topped with a dash of rock salt for that added flavour.


*Picture courtesy: The trigger happy husband

TO BE TAKEN WITH A PINCH OF... SUGAR


ONE LONE CROW

... At my window, a rainy day this monsoon.


FROM THE ARTS FESTIVAL

Wouldn't be me had these pictures been shared in time. 

Of course the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (see more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kala_Ghoda_Arts_Festival) took place sometime at the beginning of this calendar year in Mumbai, and the pictures were gasping for breath deep down inside the Land of Memory Card. Finally fished them out, and here are (a few) of them.

Enjoy!

 A classical dance recital

 An installation made of old discarded clothes (being almost a year ago now, my wonderful memory doesn't help to recall as to why the concept)

 A riot of colours, those scarves. Again, failing memory is the excuse for not being able to recollect the hows and whys.

And saving the best for last, my personal favourite - the serene Buddha.

EXTINCT FOR A REASON, RIGHT?

So a well-preserved woolly mammoth was discovered in Siberia some days ago. And that brought about the usual articles about mapping the fossilised DNA to recreate a brand new mammoth at some point in the (near) future. 

All very fascinating, and no two ways about it - a giant leap in scientific progress. With something like this, there seem to be endless possibilities ahead. 

So then what comes to mind is Jurassic Park. Digressing, must admit that none of the sequels were as cool as the first movie (but then, which sequels are, for the most part?) though. Dinosaurs fascinate me no end, and the very idea of real live dinos.... oooooooh. For the same reason, The Lost World is one of my all-time favourite books. (Read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_World_(Conan_Doyle_novel).)

But back to the patiently waiting mammoth. Isn't there a reason it turned extinct in the first place? Ditto dodos, dinos, and all other species (flora, fauna and animal alike), for that matter. I'm thinking out loud, but I do wonder what recreating extinct creatures will do to the Earth as we know it today? For one, the ecological dimensions are starkly different, let alone the geography. Each of these species survived an age, and died out a death (natural or otherwise) subsequently. Bringing in that mammoth - would it survive in today's world? Would it cause more damage to our surroundings, or succumb to them? Would there be serious pandemonium, à la Jurassic Park? Would there be a battle for survival, between man and beast? (No, no, we're not debating who's the man and who's the beast here. That's for another post.) Possibilities, again, and some of them not very pleasant.

If there's a show of hands, I personally want a bright shiny new dinosaur.

BAN IT NOW! REALLY?

So for a while now there's been talk about how tobacco based products are going to be banned. Or maybe the ban's been implemented, even. Why? In a bid to ensure that the consumption declines, and thereby leads to (hopefully) a lower rate of cancer victims. While I don't deny that the statistics of those affected by the dreaded disease are painfully high, and that tobacco consumption contributes to incidences of a certain type of cancer, I do wonder about the ban.

What happens with a ban is this: there's a brouhaha, it gets written about and talked about, the dailies are splashed with pictures of stores being raided, and then comes that bit about people purchasing on the sly, never mind the ban, thank you very much. Sloooowly, much   later (and on the quiet), the ban gets lifted/ terms and conditions of the ban change, much like a starlet changing clothes for a magazine shoot, and life goes back to normal. That is, those who weren't put off by the grotesque imagery on packets of said products, go grab them in their eager little paws once more.

I don't know if there's a solution here, honestly - you may even question whether awareness campaigns even cut it any more. And hence a ban is justified, according to some. At least that way, access is that much tougher, and consumption goes down. On the flip side, a (not so?) small little black market flourishes, and the ban is effectively moot. Becomes a farce, like so many other things.

So if not a ban - what? What will make people pause, think twice before reaching out for that ciggie? for that tobacco product that seemingly gives a high? I'm not a fan of smoking, both passive or active, and strongly believe that never mind burning a hole in your lungs or throat or mouth, look no further than your pocket to begin with. There itself the hole burns deep. In fact, passive smoking gets my goat, and how: why should someone else be at the receiving end of what you're subjecting your lungs to, and that too not out of choice? 

I'd rather pay my shopping bill instead of a hospital's.

Friday, 28 September 2012

WHAT'S THAT? DO YOU HAVE VERTIGO TOO?

The sales were on a few weeks ago. If the sales are on, I - obviously - can't be home. You know, purely out of consideration to towards boosting the economy and all that. Oh, of course it has nothing to do with just plain wanting to shop. Nothing. At. All.

So there I am, drooling serenely contemplating the gorgeous display windows, while chairing a debate between my right brain and my left about life in general... credit cards, wallets, bank accounts. You know, just random casual discussions. So while I won't get into which part uh, won, what did happen was that I glided over to the shoe stores. In my flats. Granted, they are lovely flats, all silver and nude and fun, but flats nonetheless. And the shoe stores are screaming 'heels'. Only heels. Colour blocked heels (saw a yummy lemon curd tart yellow!), vamp red stilettos, strappy black sandals to put the Eiffel Tower to shame. And guess what I can think of?

Yup, vertigo. They were the kinda heels that give me vertigo just looking at them. The thought of slipping them on, attempting to stand - let's not even get into walk - is another blog post altogether.

Do you have vertigo, too?

Monday, 24 September 2012

BOARD GAMES. REMEMBER THEM?

Not saying that technology is bad (though it sometimes often repels me), but when it comes to a few things, I can't help but thinking that simpler times (read the mid-80s/ early 90s) were way cooler.

Play dates, for example. For mums it still remains the same - the non-hosting mum gladly packing off her child to the poor (harried) mum at the receiving end, and secretly digging into her chocolate stash in ecstasy. The kids (that included my friends and I) went berserk for the time, with a gazillion outdoor games (a large chunk of which were on-the-spot inventions) and others played (or enacted, as the case may be) indoors. These included board games and jigsaws. Cardboard (and later plastic coated) boards, brightly coloured counters, dice, play money.... oooh.

The jury is out on whether tablets and other forms of e-play (for want of a better word) actually do enhance the child's skills, but I'm of the opinion that there is no charm to it at all. Take a tablet game that allows the player to design a cake and 'bake' it, followed by generously garnishing it with a multitude of toppings. All electronic. My idea of fun? The same game, but with cardboard cutouts (either made by Mum, or dicier versions that we helped her make, so very proudly) of everything, then popped into a play oven. Garnished, too. Maybe not with coulis or berries, but at least good old chocolate frosting and a cherry on top.

Here's some board games/ jigsaw puzzles from way back when:

Saturday, 22 September 2012

FUN PACKAGING = HAPPY ME

Milk is not my friend (unless disguised as ice cream, is an ingredient in chocolate... you get the drift). But when it pops up at your door in the morning in the cutest packaging, you can't help go awwww. Maybe Definitely go back to disliking it after a few seconds, but have an awwww moment in the interim, nonetheless.

See what I mean?


ORGANIC, YOU SAY?

As I trawled the aisles of the food store, tossing in super healthy (ha!) goodies (read instant noodles, microwave popcorn, chocolate and such; you get the drift), I stopped short in front of a shiny new display that screamed the words 'organic' in large white letters. Anything new and shiny and fun (and oh, the packaging was fun!) strikes my eye (of course!) and the trolley develops a mind of its own and automatically grinds to a halt. It's not me, please note, it's the trolley to blame, as stuff I may not have planned to purchase gets rung up at the till. But I digress. But yeah, happens to you as well, right? Right? *hopeful look*

So the organic stuff. When the excitement of 'new!' wore off for a few seconds, I looked closely at the displays. Gorgeous packaging for everything, with uber cool designs and in a couple of cases, kitschy names too. Impressive. And yes - the product range included the gamut of lentils, spices and fresh veggies too. But while 'regular' red onions cost Rs 16/- (about 25 cents) a kilo, the smooth, plump organic ones were four times the cost. As for the spices, loved the packaging - corrugated cardboard (gasp!) and papier mache boxes (ooooh!) - but again, not so much the pricing. With a loud, thumping heart, making sure to check that no one was looking, I surreptitiously compared prices on both. And wound up with the organic cumin and pepper in my shopping cart. Also the onions.

Getting home, almost reverently dicing the onions for soup, decided that they smelt and tasted the same as any others, and thought that maybe the soup would taste different, if nothing else, to accommodate for the organic goodness. And oh, ditto the pepper.

As the soup was getting done, quickly whipped out the Berry to google up info on organic products. As expected, sifting through pages of wisdom, found that organic foods are healthier (duh!), have lesser chemicals and pesticides infused through them, are not genetically modified, contain more minerals, vitamins and other goodness as compared to conventionally grown produce. Or so they said.

Recently, my wallet was relieved to come across more research that said otherwise. Turns out that overall, there was not much of a differnce between the nutritional content, although the organic food was 30% less likely to contain pesticides. There is also no concrete evidence yet that there is a discernible difference in the amount of bacteria from eating organically produced foods compared to conventionally produced foods.

And oh, my onion soup didn't taste different, either. I think I'll use up that saved dough to buy myself a new ebook reader.

Monday, 17 September 2012

HURRAH FOR WHITE BREAD!

Hurrah!

And the good news is, some recent research on white bread that was lurking around as news in the papers. Turns out that all brown bread isn't good, because a fair amount of it has sugar and colouring. And also - happily - turns out that ignoring white bread may not be the best thing either; it comes with its own set of benefits (read nutrients). Yeahhh!

Here's my list of bread benefits (oooh, a list after long):
  • Tastes gooooood
  • Smells even better, freshly baked
  • Is compatible with all kinds of sandwich makings
  • Makes you sooo happy in the head (Seriously, have you tried baking a loaf? Or bought one fresh off the baking tray? Oh the sheer goodness!)
This only makes me wonder about food fads once again. If something's trendy, or is the flavour of the month, we tend to dump everything else aside, and scour the food aisles for just that product. And all else gets deemed 'bad'. But one day, the Product Fairy stops by, and things change faster than an F1 car revving at the start of a race.

Short lived or otherwise, I'm thrilled white bread is here to stay. Or at least, for now.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

IN THE NEWS

Trending on the news - and not for the best of reasons - is a cartoonist these days. The guy was popped into a jail cell on charges of sedition, for what were viewed as offensive in the extreme cartoons. Of course, it's redundant to say that there are various views here: a faction of people mortally wounded by the said cartoons, while others have merely laughed them off, and thereby gone back to their lives. Another set of people have shrugged their shoulders and fence sat, and gone back into hibernation. That said, there is also a fourth lot, the ignorant, who asked, what cartoon? which cartoonist, did you say?

The cartoons in the limelight go all out to diss the state of affairs in the country currently. From desecrating the national symbol, to depicting canines ditching their favoured fire hydrants to relieve themselves on more sensitive surroundings... the said cartoons have it all. So Faction One objects, naturally. What Faction Two says is, aren't they just calling a spade a spade? Not everyone voices - or in this case, sketches - what they actually feel, and an even smaller number ask for free hospitality courtesy their government by putting them up on their blog. This guy did that. And got a lot of freebies in the bargain, including his 15 seconds of fame on all media possible. People who didn't read newspapers (Faction Four) picked them up, and got more information than they even wanted, given the very exciting stuff that the papers are otherwise crammed with. Others who didn't know cartoons beyond what they saw on the telly in their childhoods, suddenly woke up to them. Faction Three, Those With No Voice, just melted into the furniture when asked for an opinion, God forbid they meet the same fate as the cartoonist. News media benefited too; they had something apart from murders and robberies to report. Ah.

Now that's the story for you. It of course brings up the eternal question - how much is too much? In an attempt to raise a question/ point out facts(?)/ create awareness/ whatchamacallit, is it okay to draw no lines whatsoever, and happily believe that anything goes? The eternal debate of creative expression versus going too far rears its head.

Can the twain meet? Here's what I think: yes, one can express what s/he feels. However, offensive needs to be married with acceptable somewhere. It may not always be a win-win situation for both, but there is something to be said about a few things being sacred. Religion, flags of various countries - isn't there a reason they're topics (normally) approached sensitively? I'd say go right ahead and do what you want - but not such that if it were to happen to you, you'd react as strongly, as adversely, as the reaction you've just gotten. That old adage - do unto others as you would have them do unto you - tweaked a bit, maybe.

Monday, 10 September 2012

SANGRIA...


... is the new Long Island Iced Tea. Or at least, in my books.

That pic above? From dinner last night - good friends, good food, good conversation... and some wonderful fun, laughter and memories.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

TEACHER'S DAY

In India, we celebrate September 5 as Teacher's Day, to honour the birth anniversary of former president Dr S Radhakrishnan, a prominent thinker, philosopher and educator.

It's a fun day at schools, with the older students dressed up as teachers, and then going to teach kids from the lower grades. Of course, it isn't a serious exercise, and results in frivolity all around. And the mad dash to 'entertain' teachers - skits, dance performances; basically anything goes. The more colourful, the merrier. Teachers are seen leaving at the end of day, staggering under the weight of (mostly) hand-made greeting cards and flowers, and the odd gift or two. Nobody deserves the honour more, in my opinion.

Looking back, you never do appreciate your teachers much while still a student. I remember desperately attempting to blend in to the walls on Open Days, when the parents (invariably Mum) would need to stop by school to meet with my teachers and get a heads-up on the progress I was making. Or not. Most teachers were held in awe, while a few others were more relaxed and approachable. However, whatever be their style of functioning, looking back, there's so much I learnt from each one of them. Some of them were super special, and I know I'm the person I am today thanks to their contribution.

Did you ever have that special teacher(s) who encouraged you always? Who was a parent away from home? A teacher who, no matter how grim things seemed, was impartial and firm? Loving, even? One who taught you right from wrong, but in such a way that you didn't even know you were being taught - and still changed for the better? Thankfully, over my academic career, I was blessed with them.

That's academia for you. But it's not just people who imparted formal education that need to be appreciated and told how much they've made a difference in your life. Do spare a thought for your very first teachers - parents. Siblings, even. Friends. And the list goes on.

As I type, I still am learning, and hopefully, will continue to do so. And pass it on.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

... AND THE INFRASTRUCTURE CRUMBLES AGAIN

Yesterday was a day of torrential rainfall in the city. It started to rain around mid-afternoon, and by evening, even those proverbial cats and dogs were overshadowed.

People started to leave work earlier than they otherwise would, trains were running late, roads were flooded - yes, flooded, with much more than knee-high water in places - and let's not even start on the traffic. My usual 45-minute commute took me closer to three hours, and apparently I was one of the luckier ones, both in terms of comfort and travel time. Why? Because while local trains were bravely ploughing along, they were devoid of electricity - ergo no fans - and were packed beyond imagination. Those who travel by train here would know what I mean, and for the others - let me see - it's about four people to a square foot of space. With maybe one more squeezed in for good measure. So there's heat, humidity levels at a crazy high, and no light (save for what would filter in from the windows and the doorways) to speak of. And then, these same trains made unscheduled halts for as much as an hour between stations, owing to flooded railway tracks.

On the roads, while I was safely ensconced in the air conditioned confines of my cab, negotiating the traffic was a nightmare. (I'd thought ahead and booked myself a cab in the morning itself; having made up my mind that it wouldn't be fun to drive myself home in the evening. Thank goodness for instincts.) Plugged in to my music, I'm glad I wasn't the cabbie. So there you go, not that the roads were brilliant, either. To add to the vehicles, people were spilling over on to the roads (not that we use our pavements to walk  on, even on a good day) and adding to the treacherous driving conditions. Of course, there was no saying where the potholes might be, so negotiating your way (both humans and cars) was tricky. Unless you were an SUV, in which case you barrelled on regardless.

This morning, while the rain continues - though feebly, in comparison to yesterday - the chaos does too, although to a smaller extent. Trains still continue to ply late, traffic snarls exist, and people troop in to work close to noon. Happy employees like the significant other are told to work out of home, so as I leave earlier this morning, he is happily sunk into the couch with his morning cuppa and the papers. Hmph. Envy.

The point of this rambling is just one: year after year, the city goes through the same situation, at least once every monsoon. Nothing changes, really, but that the number of people braving the mess have grown ten-fold, while the infrastructure has shrunk ten times. Development projects, while more appealing than food at a Michelin star restaurant on paper, are just that - on paper. They don't materialise, and when they eventually do - it's years too little and too late. What ails the city? Lack of one cohesive administrative body, one that takes accountability for its actions. With the buck being passed from one to the other (given the number that claim to be working for the city), there isn't any one that stands up, acknowledges that they're responsible, and functions as such.

We keep drawing parallels between the capital city and financial capital. Mercifully for them, there is just the one body that is accountable for the city's infrastructure. That is why you see projects being flagged off, and completed within a reasonable time frame. There is someone who stops to question what's happening - or isn't. The reasons for this - votes, public support at elections - may be questioned by a faction, yes. But if that's the case - I say, so what? Wouldn't you want to vote for such a party/ person? At least the work's getting done, which is why you elect someone in the first place. So no, there is no favouritism per se. It's initiative. And drive.

Things can change here too. All it needs is a spark.

For now -  and for a few more monsoons, seemingly - maybe we'd best invest in a boat.

Monday, 3 September 2012

BEING POLITE? NOSY? JUST PLAIN ANNOYING?

You know those things called Mondays? Who likes them, anyway? Working a six-day week, the lone Sunday zips past, and before the coffee has even kicked in, bam! here's Monday already. Meh.

As if it's not bad enough it's Monday, you bump into people on the elevator in your apartment building/ at work. Worse if they're the moronic cheerful sort, who love Mondays, are perkier than Betty Boop and hate weekends because "there's nothing to do". I hate when they go, "So, how was your weekend?" C’mon, really, like you even care. So I debate about whether to launch into a tirade about the laundry, my washing machine that's on the blink, about woes with my house help, or how I ran out of vegetables and had to survive on Maggi (which isn't a bad thing) for Sunday lunch and dinner. But no, I don't - only because I'm mortally afraid that I'll get a reciprocated update. So the thing here is, what's the appropriate response to "what's up?", "how was your weekend?", "how are you" and the like? You get my drift.

Cut to lunchtime Monday. Scene on the elevator, rinse, repeat. Twice. Briefly contemplate tossing in something that’ll range from mildly to severely risqué and/ or scandalous, but throw it up in favour of the less brutal. Also the fact that I'll need company at lunch through the rest of the week influences my decision. So I throw in a movie instead. And a fabricated visit to the nearest mall, singing about the sales. Sneaky. When I turn to the colleague and politely enquire about her weekend, I'm given an  insight into the angst of bringing up a nine-year-old, grappling with the mother-in-law and an ill pet (dog). In graphic detail. At lunch. Really, the dog isn't the only one with buggered innards now.

Come Monday week, I'll invent something that I can describe in lurid detail as revenge. Until then, I'm still glassy-eyed from the information overload on the anatomy of a canine.

YUMMY-NESS!


Vanilla cupcake with sunshine-y frosting. Ended the weekend on a sweet note... literally!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

HOW ABOUT SOME PAELLA? A CHIMICHANGA? CHOCOLATE GANACHE?

Or maybe you'd prefer couscous?


Yup, the foodie in me rises again (if ever asleep in the first place).


This is what I give a two thumbs up to, what with the world getting smaller, a global village, glocal and other similar management jargon. I like that I can explore world cuisine, and not just in a cookbook.


Indian telly grew up too, with the advent of satellite television. While I'm not a fan of the soaps, I do love sitcoms and lately, food shows. Needless to say, I'm happily hooked on to one as I type, and can't wait to get my weekday fix of gorgeous food, beautifully plated (see, new word - courtesy said show!) and completely droolworthy.


Initially, when a ganache slipped into my life, as did everything from a lasagne to (gasp! chocolate) fondue to a beautiful cucumber gazpacho I was breathless. You know that proverb about kids and candy stores? Well. I did enlist some help - the good old Internet, to translate some of the exotic sounding names for me. And of course those ingredients. It got only better when slowly those only-on-telly foods sprouted on our local world food store shelves. It all seemed more real now.


Then restaurants moved beyond pizza, and tapas bars came in. When a fizzy lemon soda transformed into a smooth red wine sangria, teeny cubes of apple et al, and tostadas didn't sound like toaster pronounced with an odd accent. They also turned Michelin starred, hatted.... ooh!

On my next holiday, I'm gonna be sampling loads more local flavours than ever before.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

CULTURAL DIVERSITY

Received what I believed was a forward via BlackBerry Messenger a couple of days ago. Turns out, not only was it not a forward, but had actually happened with the colleague who sent the message earlier that day.

The brave guy was relying on the city's crumbling infrastructure to get somewhere, and hence found himself on a local train. Sitting next to him was apparently an extremely pretty girl, with distinctly Oriental features. Of course, a conversation had to be struck (initiated by him) and with some luck, the rest of the train ride (and whatever else) would be made more pleasant.

So the guy (let's call him S) comes up with (what he believed then to be) the prefect opening line -
S: So what do you think of India? Isn't it a beautiful country?

Now for the rest of the conversation -
G (the girl in question): Yes, it is.
S: Do you like India?
G: Oh yes. I've been staying here a while now.
S: Really? So have you been staying in Mumbai long?
G: A while, yeah.
S: So where are you from originally? (names a couple of the Far Eastern countries, hoping to hazard a lucky guess and get even luckier)
G (complete with deadpan expression): Actually, I'm from Nagaland... India.

Basically, our South Indian hero didn't just put his foot in his mouth, but both his feet and his hands too.

By the time I was through with alternating between rolling my eyes and laughing, I texted back to know just how big his black eye must be.

Turns out he apologised profusely to the very much Indian girl, muttering something about not making assumptions any more. No phone number in his wallet of course, just a cold shoulder.

And then we talk about unity in diversity, cultural melting pots and (hopefully lesser) racism.

What makes it sad is the fact that such is the state of our country - one section doesn't recognise, let alone acknowledge the other as its own. Diversity that clearly co-exists with ignorance, indifference and apathy. Who's to blame? The powers that be for letting things get this bad? Where there is no communication - let alone connect - between one part of the country and another? Where there is neglect, and chaos, and a constant feel of being alien, the outsiders? There's loads more that can be said on the subject, and probably none of it may suffice. I guess all we can do is hope and pray - and act - for change.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

OLD HAT

This one's been a topic of debate at some point or the other for almost everyone who owns a TV/ goes to the movies: celebrities who grace the screen, big or small. The screen, that is. And the fact that while they seem to have the most amazing, glamourous lives, they actually don't.

When was the last time you had to worry about having worn the same outfit? I don't have anxiety attacks about wearing the same outfit to work, sometimes twice in the same week. And I sure as hell don't own a closetful of footwear, just to coordinate with a similar number of clothes. Or accessories, either. I don't always - okay, almost never - have glossily painted nails, and bad hair days were inspired from yours truly. Imagine the nightmare - a new outfit each time you make a public appearance, or mixed and matched so well with something else that it looks different and new. Else it's a field day for the shutterbugs and the publications they work with - and a disaster of epic proportions for the celeb in question. Worse still if somebody else - and at the same do... gasp! - has the same stuff on.

I don't even claim to understand make-up. While it's definitely not about being ill groomed *shudder*, I can't imagine having to dress my face up as well. The amount of make-up I own, if everyone did the same, all those brands would file for bankruptcy. And models would be out of work.

And then the bit about going out in public, and more so in broad daylight. How would you like to be surrounded by bodyguards all the time? Where the page that defined 'privacy' was torn out of your dictionary? That brings me to the sunglasses and/ or hats. While I guess they are necessary (?), I still maintain that they look ridiculous when worn say, in a hotel lobby at nine in the evening, or inside a movie theatre. Being mobbed all the time so that even going grocery shopping is impossible. No, scratch that. Maybe a coffee; who goes grocery shopping without a gun to their heads anyway?

Of course, the counter argument is that it's a price knowingly  - and very willingly - paid. You trade in normalcy for the bright lights, the adoring fans, the money and the fame. The paparazzi is a devil you willingly shoulder. It may in fact be difficult and infinitely more painful - not to mention embarrassing - to not be recognised or mobbed, or stalked by that obsessed fan. It's a secret kick in the head without smoking something weird.

So then, do celebs have a right to grumble when the paparazzi chase becomes too much? What exactly is too much, and having once decided to embrace it, can a celeb then expect privacy at all? Don't they agree to become the public's darlings? In which case, shouldn't both the cupcakes and the green vegetables be accepted in equal measure? Or should the public be all sensitive and back off at a point?

Maybe.

I'm unsure if there's even a right answer.

What's your take?

YOU KNOW YOU'RE GETTING OLD(ER) WHEN...

... like me, you're tucked in under your duvet, bed socks included, at ten-thirty on a Friday evening, with a good book for company.

I wouldn't change a thing.

HOW TO BOIL WATER 101

Being born and brought up in India, one tends to take hired help for granted. The time a toddler learns to say his/ her first words, chances are it's not the traditional 'mama' or 'papa', but 'didi' (sister, typically elder) or 'auntie' instead. Because that's what the Nanny would be called. Growing up, you're convinced that your house help is dearer to you than a cousin. More familiar, too.

I don't remember ever having to lift a finger. Sure, Mum made sure that my sister and I did routine chores like making our own beds, dusting and setting the table for dinner and such. But that's because, according to her, those were things you needed to know and were consequently non-negotiable. As also doing the laundry and cooking, both of which my sister happily complied with - while I didn't.

Result: much to Mum's consternation, I couldn't boil water for the longest time. Not even for a cuppa tea. My idea of the ideal cup: a teabag popped into a mug, which was then zapped through the microwave. Still is, actually. Had a friend over a couple months ago, who swore that he'd never had tea as bad as the one I'd made and offered him. Think he was traumatised, really. Won't be surprised if he's stopped drinking tea altogether. Must ask him sometime. *makes mental note*

Ditto coffee. Where would I be without the coffee maker? Given the title of this blog, it's obvious that I have coffee flowing through my veins. But nothing makes me wanna edge up to the gas stove and make it the traditional(?) way.

Did you ever manage to burn Maggi noodles? I did. They stuck to the bottom of the pan so well, that a new pan could've been lifted off the actual one. You know, sorta like a pie crust. Then there were times there was so much water left, that the noodles aimlessly floated around in it. They're now called soupy noodles, and packaged and sold. Since I didn't patent it, I'm still waiting for my first million.

Of course, to have survived, no surprises to know that the mother is the World's Best Cook. Period. 

Coming to housework. Again, there's help at hand, so at the most the Dusting Fairy needs to be appeased, off and on. And the Wardrobe Monster, because there's no way that I'm responsible for the way my wardrobe looks, minutes after I've organised it.

As with most things, there's the good news - bad news setup here as well. There are times you're thankful for the hired help - it makes it so much easier to juggle both work and home. And children too, I'm given to understand. The bad part - in a lot of homes, the help isn't treated well (never mind fair), and sadly, that's because labour is ridiculously cheap. Terminating the services of someone is as easy as changing clothes, and there's never a whiff of a contract, formal or otherwise. The lame joke that does the rounds is, wives are more concerned about the well being of their house help rather than the husbands', because they're the ones who keep the house going. Meh.

That said, it's true that I've never washed my car.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

FASHIONABLY LATE. ALWAYS.

Being fashionably late is so uncool in my books. There's this couple though, friends of the significant other, that firmly believe otherwise. I wonder how they even managed to get married in the first place, given that they're never on time. Indian weddings happen as per the determined auspicious timing, but that's another story. And so they're always late, even as per Indian Standard Time (IST). How IST works is, say you're to meet someone at 8:00 p.m. You won't reach there before 9:30, and the other person would be surprised at best, if not harried. Because he expected you to reach not before 10:00.

We once decided to take in a movie with them. We reached in time - for the end credits.

Then there was dinner at their place. Like the good guests, the significant other and I reached at the communicated hour. Even had a chocolate cake in hand, being excessively polite and all. And when we rang the bell, we heard scampering and muttering on the inside. After three hundred light years, the door opened - to him still in his shabby home clothes, while she had dashed into the shower. I don't even want to know more. Eventually, I wandered off into their kitchen to fix dinner, because it was approaching my bedtime.

With them, we've cancelled and rescheduled plans previously made. Where we were to go out at seven in the evening after lunch with them, we've managed seven alright - the next evening. That's because we had lunch at four, since they didn't come in much before.

Honestly, even babies when born stick better to their due dates.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

I HEART YOU, JAVA BEAN!

HAPPINESS IN A FEW BITES!

One of my favourite chocolates. Ever.


ARE YOU ECO-FRIENDLY?

Before I get walloped for this, let me clarify that I'm not anti-Mother Earth, or being eco-friendly and things, it's just that sometimes I think it's getting to be a bit much.

Carbon footprint? C'mon. Didn't even know that I had any footprint apart from my giant size 8 one until recently. And I survived. Now, I feel guilty if I use the AC, the TV (maybe that's why sitcoms are only for a 22-minute duration?), the washing machine... The microwave makes me worry about some heinous rays that are gonna gobble me up (instead of my eating the food that I'd popped into it in the first place). That I'm adding to landfills with any and all non-biodegradable trash gives me nightmares. If I purchase an extra charger for my BlackBerry, I'm worried that I've defiled the environment. When I use plastic, innocent animals choke on the pieces when trashed and meet a gory end. Let's not forget that I drive to work, and that my automatic laps up precious fuel. And almost with each breath I take, I seem to be increasing my carbon footprint. It's now about the size of Bigfoot's shoe, should he be wearing one. Or two, even.

Take this new drive we have here. You're charged for every plastic bag you ask for at a store, in a bid to reduce the usage. Initially, you did see people bringing bags with them, but now, all you see is a well-manicured hand airily waving away the question of whether a bag is even wanted. What's another few rupees on the bill, anyway? Worse, you can't take these into the store with you anyway, they need to be checked at the baggage counter. So when I'm done shopping, because I thought ahead and brought my own (cloth) bag, I'm now sailing through the store, all five levels of it, with garments in hand (and a new sock or two on the floor). And then the wait at the counter to retrieve that bag. Note to self: don't try this when buying lingerie.

I'm encouraged by banks, card companies and cellular phone service providers to sign up for e-statements. Sure I will. They claim they save entire rainforests. What they don't mention are the rupees they save too. Sneaky. So as the consumer, do I get passed on a share of this surplus cash? A discount on my bill, maybe? You think!

If I'm to ride a bicycle to work, there need to be roads to support that. As it is, I'm always in danger of snogging the bumper of the car ahead of me, given the traffic we have. Don't even want to know the possible effects on a bicycle to my hand, knees or head. Public transport has no space at peak hours for even a worm to wiggle its belly through - let alone an adult human. The last I checked, both my carbon footprint and I occupy a fair amount of space, thank you.

So while I'm not saying that anything goes, there's just so much of carbon footprints, eco-friendliness and stuff that makes sense, really. Human beings have been in existence a long time, and so has the Earth. The last time the Earth tired of her populace, she purged them all. And so another race began. Won't she do much the same again, should the need arise?

Monday, 20 August 2012

CHOICES

Disclaimer: Boredom levels on this post may be high(er) than usual. That said, read on.

Do we really make our own choices? Or are we initially conditioned to do stuff/ believe in things, and then later as we grow, convince ourselves that they were really our choices to begin with in the first place?

Take religion, for one. When you're young, you're taught to follow a particular religion, to pray and to learn prayers and rituals that the religion prescribes. Of course, it is only natural that the religion of choice would be the one that your parent(s) follow(s), and not any other say, just because they liked it, or were fascinated by its tenets. Or for that matter, you were. And so we learn.

It's not just about religion. Take food choices, or lifestyle choices otherwise. A person normally settles down to routinely eating what's specific to his/ her community/ region. You start to believe that that's just what you want adopt by way of a routine, because that's what you grew up with. And believe that you chose to yourself.

Of course, as we grow, we do make changes - some may choose to not follow the religion, others may change dietary preferences. And so it goes. But that's later. Initially, it's more about teaching/ learning/ absorbing/ accepting, and only then do choices, and decisions following those choices arise. 

CRAFTY, THIS

Work in progress.
Did I mention just how much I love cardboard crafts? While I'm nowhere near professional, there's nothing more fun than creating with cardboard. This of course being a dolls' house for a friend's child.


More furniture to be made. Right now, it's all in my head.

CRAZY CARD BILLS. ALL MINE!

Right at the start of this post, I'm convinced that it's not my fault that I have crazy credit card bills.

I remember the first card that I'd ever gotten. At the start of my career, as a management trainee (absolutely at the bottom of the employee food chain, basically) I had a card company send me a shiny new piece of plastic basis the salary I had just started to earn. They didn't care that the grand sum total of my work experience was about a quarter of a financial year, or that what I had stated on my application was an amount that I hadn't even seen in one place, as a student. Still, they loved me. Loved me enough to give me a gold card. Ironically, the bank that I worked with then, was not so benevolent - they gave me a silver, and that too around six-odd months later.

It's so much easier to flash plastic, right, versus carrying around cash? One, you don't have to have a cow about bags getting picked (pretty routine on our public transport systems here, thank you), and second, more place for the kitchen sink. That's another thing - however hard I try, the bag always has an assortment of stuff that I don't always need - but I'm sure I will. And of course, given the deep love and affection that Murphy has for me, I will - just as soon as I remove it from my bag, in a bid to lighten the load. Meh.

And so the cards live on. Of course, the downside is you don't always keep tabs on where all it's been swiped, unless you save the chargeslips. The last time I did that, it worked well - until I cleaned my bag and tore up those slips into teeny little bits of non-paper.

Worse are the bloopers. Went to purchase clothes once. And thankfully got a call within minutes of signing a charge slip from the card company, asking whether I did indeed spend fifty thousand rupees (or about nine hundred dollars) on a single garment. After I was done hyperventilating, turns out that the shop assistant (or whatever is the politically correct parlance) had swiped my card for two zeroes more. I love when they 'void' sales. I wish they'd do it with legit purchases too, as a surprise for being a good customer. But I guess that's what gets me into a fix in the first place.

Then the other time I swiped my card at dinner. And left my card at the till, so that our server returned with the bill, and some cash. A tip to the customer it wasn't, as it turns out - but a cash refund. What had happened was, since I had left my card at the counter, they'd swiped it for the next customer as well. Not that I'd realised.

Another time that I was so sure I'd lost my card. Got it blocked too, since I couldn't recall where I'd put it, when attempting to bill at the next store. Wasn't lost - I'd left it behind two stores ago. 

And after all this, I persist. And whimper in actual, real pain when those stupid statements come in. Must do something about it, really must. Like leave the cards at home.


Friday, 17 August 2012

INDEPENDENCE DAY? WHAT DID YOU DO?

So there were these posts floating around on social networking sites on I-Day, which of course got reposted/ retweeted/ shared faster than you could say 'independence'. The brouhaha was super quick to spread, and how. In a matter of minutes, that's almost all I could see for a bit. What was this all about? About how, we as a nation, are more obsessed with the release of a new movie, over the celebration of independence day. Yes, a new movie did hit the screens the same day, and yes, it did open to packed houses. But aren't we quick to jump to conclusions?

C'mon, it's not as if the entire nation got up as one and threw themselves at multiplex doors. Kids did go to school, celebrate I-Day as they do every year. While offices and other commercial establishments were obviously shut for a part of the day, the day prior saw celebrations take place. Tricolours were everywhere. On I-Day, housing complexes hoisted the national flag; versions of the national anthem and songs with patriotic fervour rent the air. In fact, it's just a couple days a year - inde and republic - that most people even hum along to patriotic songs. So yes, celebrations were visible. None of these are forced on you; people do them out of choice.

The same social networking sites, by the end of the day and the next, were flooded with pictures of I-Day celebrations that people obviously did enjoy.

So what's the big deal if a faction of the populace went and saw a movie too?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

MISSION... MARS!

When news of the country's progress on a count or two hits the headlines - and not in a good way - you know that either people are thinking, protesting, or both. Dunno which is scarier, but I guess it depends on whether you're the powers that be, or a lay person. If the latter, your opinion doesn't count anyway.


That's the case with India proposing to send an expedition to Mars in the coming year. There are, of course, two ways to look at this, as is the case with those age-old glasses that are either half-full or otherwise. So while it sounds like the coolest idea possibly, unsure whether it really is. The reason is, here we are, with people gasping for basics like food/ water/ homes/ education/ jobs/ infrastructure/ generally a better standard of living - and not necessarily in that order - and then we go and spend millions that we don't have to go stick a flag on Mars. Exploring a little closer to home, say in the interiors of smaller towns and villages, would also turn up a fair amount of (possibly nasty) surprises - and at a fraction of the cost. Money that will be saved as a result can then be used towards providing those basics we just talked about a couple of sentences ago. Not that I'm one to say that scientific progress is a route best not taken. It is, but then it's also a matter of picking the right time, among other things. Also possibly the teeny inconsequential factor of working on what the immediate requirement is. Really, at this point, what will we do heading to Mars? Send those same starving people there for a free meal and board? Put up schools there, or build highways? Nope, however much I try, I'm unable to see how that's gonna reduce my ridiculously long commute to work. Or how the daily wage labourer - because labour is cheap here - is gonna up his earning from the current little over two dollars a day.

Was speaking with a friend just yesterday, whose house is currently under renovation. It's running behind schedule, because there's just so much that someone can work from ten a.m. until five p.m., all manual labour under the scorching sun. Even if you do add on more workers, isn't it inhuman to expect them to work endlessly? That was the friend's take on things, and well, it's not incorrect.

Then there's the other headlines, probably more bizarre than any other - that of providing a mobile phone to each citizen in the country. Free talk time included. So where will these people in remote villages charge their phones? From electricity they don't have, or get maybe for a couple hours a week at best?

Maybe we'd be better off on Mars after all.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

TECHNOLOGY BEATS ME SOMETIMES

It's pretty amazing how technology has progressed. Sometimes, though, I have a firm belief that it's been planted there - part of a larger conspiracy theory - to drive me crazy. Has it happened to you - that feeling of accomplishment when aha! you've finally gotten the hang of something, and just when you're ready to gloat to the world and your pet goldfish, bam! you realise that that was so yesterday. C'mon. It has to have had.

With me, it's as natural as breathing.

Figured out how the digicam works, when we went and bought a new one. Which while supposedly similar, was also strikingly different.

And all those million beeping buttons on the microwave. One, do they really need to beep? Really? Why? And two, why are there so many? So while I've been using a microwave for years now, every time I chance upon one (say at a friend's, or at work) - it's back to where I'd started from. There's chances of someone making a round trip to the moon on their flying carpet before I figure out that one.

Ditto the washing machine. All those settings. After randomly hazarding a guess (or two. or several), I zap at a few dozen buttons, spin a few dials. Only to have at the end of a 42-minute cycle, either (a) my clothes as unwashed as they were when they first went in, (b) sopping wet, as I have clearly failed to successfully nudge the dryer settings, (c) hopelessly tangled, so that shirts with sleeves need out of necessity to be rendered sleeveless, if they are to be worn at all. Because that's the only way I'll be able to prise them away from their now conjoined twin, or (d) a combination of the above.

As for cell phones, let's not even go there.

OF LOVE, DEATH AND ONION PRICES

There have been times in the recent (and not so recent) past when onion prices have literally made people cry here in India. To peel back a few layers, all you need to know is that artificial demand for onion was created, people stockpiled, and boom! onions vanished faster than you could wipe away your tears. Result? Our sudden love for onions, at whatever cost, literally. Until then, I'm sure people didn't hyperventilate or check themselves into hospitals because they hadn't seen an onion. But on the demise of the onion...

It's the same thing with humans. When a person is alive, you really don't hear any good stuff about him. You know, it's always been about how he's been a big so-and-so, how's he trampled more than a few careers in his path, how it's not only his carbon footprint that should have been eliminated much earlier... you get the drift. Suddenly, in death, he's now Mr Popular. The same chap has now sprouted a halo that could wrap itself around the Earth several times.

It's like the drunken uncle in the family. Nobody cared about him, nobody invited him to family dos, and noses wrinkled in disgust if he did turn up, owing to someone's serious lapse in judgement. But now that he's no more, the bottle is long forgotten, and his grieving widow is the favourite aunt, while he has been elevated almost to the heavens. Pun unintended. Of course, his snotty nosed boy, the Cousin No One Could Stand, is now the favourite, without whom all celebrations are incomplete. That one random memory with said uncle now comes to the fore, which up until then was best forgotten. Embellished, of course, such that it would put a brocade tapestry to shame. Everyone is suddenly so close to uncle, aunt and cousin, that everything else pales into insignificance.

Is it, as a friend mused, just human nature? We are raised to believe that we shouldn't speak ill of the dead. Or cry about onion prices.