Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ladies who lunch

A lot has been written about girlfriends. And i don’t mean treatises on an unfathomable species by generations of exasperated men, but glowing eulogies by grateful women... heartfelt tributes to an extraordinary species of time-resistant, shock-proof, battle-hardened partners-in-crime, belonging to an exclusive members-only cult if you may.

Before Sex and the City epitomised the lunching ladies of the Big Apple, i had already written a billion eulogies in my head to all those wonderful women who i thank for my daily, sometimes even hourly, sanity.

Every once in a while, my husband casts an annoyed glance at chattering 'chicks', who seem to be blissfully unaware that they are ruining many a peace of mind, while i grin sheepishly in the simple and comforting knowledge that i too proudly belong to the not-so-secret tribe of ladies, who quite simply, lunch. Ok, we also shop, guzzle beer, shoot tequilas, ogle (oops, aesthetically appreciate, i mean!), and often chase away the other patrons of the local watering hole by a cacophony of “no, you didn’t!”, “shuuuut uuuup!”, “he said that?!” and other such suitably loud and vacuous phrases, the loaded significance of which is incomprehensible to lesser mortals.

So yes, at the risk of acknowledging my peskiness, i’m proud to have been there, done that. And by that i mean being unrepentant in unashamedly chasing away grumbling unhappy people who could no longer bear the dissonance of deafeningly discussed diets, bare-all banter on the biceps of the boy next door and the hotly debated merits of insanely expensive accessories.

For all those of you who have had the misfortune to chance upon just the kind of scene i am describing, sleep well my dears... rejoice in the knowledge that there is someone out there who is lending a shoulder to all your girlfriends, wives, mothers, sisters to cry on, an ear to bitch to and a hand to hold, allowing them to let off steam that could very well be scalding your helplessly wrung hands at this very moment! And the next time you happen to lose your patience with one of our kind, making a nuisance in a public place, all you have to do is smile at the thought that some of your precious time is being saved for crucial pursuits like scandalous scratching, girl gawking, cricket couching and buddy boozing, time that could very well have been hijacked by ladies who.... hmmm... er... prefer not to lunch.

Cannabis cities

Have you ever been driving under the neon lights of a brightly lit fly-over on a November night.... just before the breaking of dawn.... mellow drunk, with Def Leppard on the stereo and one elbow resting on the rolled down window...... content in the sense of belonging that threatens to overwhelm your senses, causing you to nearly veer off the road, lulled as you are by the euphoria of knowing there might never be a more perfect moment?

Ah, for there ain't a greater high than zipping past the dawn kissed familiarity of the streets you love...

I have often wondered what is it about Delhi that makes me feel like i am the extension of its being? What is it that makes my hands itch to take the wheel every time the husband and i are getting back from a late night party? Is it the fact that this is the city in which i was born? Or is it because i have studied and lived here for the best part of the last 14 years? Is my attachment to the city a natural corollary of my parents' having spent their growing-up years, curiously charting its corners as i often do? perhaps all of these and more. What i do know is that the sight of the Red Fort after a few days away is like none other, navigating the traffic is often more exciting than a favourite video game and there's always a part of me that's missing every time i am away.

anyhow, here is a list of things that make Delhi more irritatingly adorable than any other place in the world (ever since Dehradun lost out on the top spot for a variety of reasons), borrowed, for now,
from an email forward someone sent me a while ago, a list of things (not exhaustive by a long shot!) that Delhiites swear by:
  • 1. The Other Side Law: If my side of the road has a traffic jam, then I can start driving on the wrong side of the road, and all incoming cars on other side will be re-routed via Meerut.

    2. The Queue Nahin Rule: If there is a queue of many people, no one will notice me sneaking into the front as long as I am looking the other way.

    3. The Mind Over Matter Law: If a red light is not working, four cars from different directions can easily pass through one another.

    4. The Auto Axiom: If I indicate which way I am going to turn my auto rickshaw, it is an information security leak.

    5. Spit and Span: The more I lean out of my car or bus, and the harder I spit, the stronger the roads become.

    6. The Cinema Hall Fact: If I get a call on my mobile phone, the film automatically goes into pause mode.

    7. The Brotherhood Law: If I want to win an argument, I need only to repeatedly suggest that the other person has illicit relations with his sister or mother.. .

    8. The Baraat Right: When I'm on the road to marriage, all the roads in the city belong to me.

    9. The Heart Of Things: If I open enough buttons on my shirt, the pretty girl at the bus stop can see through my hairy chest into the depths of my soul.

    10. The Name Game: It is very important for the driver behind me to memorise the nicknames of my children.

    11. Parking Up The Wrong Tree: When I double-park my car, the road automatically widens so that the traffic is not affected.

    12. The Chill Bill Move: When I park and block someone else's car I am giving him a chance to pause, relax, chill, reflect and take a few moments off from his rushed day.

    13. The Brrrrp Break: The louder I burp in a public place; the more it helps other people digest their food.

    14. The Bus Karo Law: If I stop my bus at the correct place near the bus stop, the city will explode and blow into 6 million pieces.

    15. The VIP Rule: There are only 7 important persons in this city - Me, I, Myself, Main, Mainu, Aami and Moi!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Arranged derangement

(Note: this is an altered version of a piece that was published earlier this year... was considered by most friends as apparently misleading, hence i have made some corrections to drive home the point !)

i spy from behind a pillar, trying to ascertain the latest in the long line-up of potentials that my parents ceaselessly foist upon me. My eyes settle on a tall, similarly discomfited specimen in his mid-thirties, wearing (No! It can’t be) a cravat! Even as my brain is crawling towards accepting the futility of escape, we’re suddenly face-to-face.

Like two captains mid-pitch for a toss, we size each other up, each tentatively coming up with a distracted greeting. Perhaps it is just my fevered imagination, but my reluctance is mirrored in the stranger’s steady gaze. Yet he isn’t a complete stranger for we have had a few absorbing conversations on the phone, and he seemed nice enough to be spotted with in a frequently visited Barista by friends who would immediately recognise a parental hook-up.

And he does pass the early tests: holding the door open for me, waiting till i am seated comfortably, and then zealously whipping out his wallet to procure two steaming cappuccinos. i decline a bite, not wanting him to know right away my penchant for all things edible. Educational backgrounds are discussed, career choices debated, music notes exchanged, and with some well-needed investment advice from Mr. Why-would-a-man-wear-a-cravat-in May, the awkwardness of the moment is temporarily dispelled.

A pregnant silence follows while we each ponder the merits of chartered accountancy versus research, Dire Straits versus Megadeth, fat pay packets versus petty change (mine, obviously!) and the fact that, well, parents will be parents. Then, the inevitable happens. He leans in slightly and just as he loudly asks me what i am looking for in a “life partner”, the music stops and suddenly it seems that everyone around us is more interested in my reply than their cooling coffees, Scrabble squabbles and tuneless guitar-playing.

i mumble something about needing some fresh air and stumble out, nearly hyperventilating. Is this it, i wonder? So i throw the question back at him. And, after a small speech on values and compatibility, suddenly, deliverance! He asks, ‘hypothetically’ of course, if i am the kind of person who would be rebellious enough to go on a girls’ night out while he clocks a self-inflicted 90-hours week.

Three years later, i can still feel the warmth of self-righteous relief as I walked away after five more minutes of polite talk. Now as i look at my husband sleeping next to me, i’m sure that Mr. Cravat would be someone else’s perfect match. and just when i had thought i had finally found mine.....Ha..Hah!

Bite of the Big Apple

(Note: i apologise for the confused grammar in this one... still haven't figured out what tense to use!)

New York. There simply ain't no better city in the world in which you can leave your prescription glasses in a taxicab. The same New York, where you stick out like a sore thumb if you do not possess any of these accessories: dark glasses (to be used even at night as you sit dozing in the subway), an iPod, a suitably uninterested expression and oodles of indifference.

So leave those glasses behind, if you may, but hey! Remember to take the bill from the cabbie and make sure you are carrying a mobile phone, in the absence of which it is absolutely imperative that you have a prearranged emergency “what-if-we-get-lost” code with your spouse. Phew! it was our lucky day because we had none of these.... And to think that i only ever wanted to go to New York to hold hands with the husband on Times Square.

So, if you are unfortunate enough to get left behind on a subway station, with your sunglasses on, DESPITE all the precautions that you did not take, just remember never to carry any quarters, to make the experience a truly memorable one. For starters, your pocket will be lighter and you will avoid the high blood pressure that comes from cursing at the evil phone booth that snacks on loose change. What’s even better is that you might get asked out for the evening in exchange for those elusive quarters, right after you explain that you need them to call your husband whom you seem to have lost! Twice. Which is more dates than i had in a single year back in high school!

So after you dutifully store the scraps with hopefully scribbled mobile numbers in your handbag, you can use the change to call your absconding relatives in Indianapolis, on whose answering machine you may leave a message in the hope that your spouse will do the same, and pray that they will check their messages in time to connect the dots and realise that you have been separated, Bollywood style, by the closing doors of a train at a grimy subway station.... Oh, and whats more, if you are lucky, they might just do it in time, given that you have only one day to absorb the sights and sounds of a city you have wanted to visit for as long as you can remember!

So in your search for quarters and during the endless wait for a manna from heaven, you get into a polite conversation with a pleasant albeit geographically challenged American commuter who heaps praises on your country, right after you tell him that you are from Delhi, which on his First World map is an inseparable part of Pakistan and yes, yes, of course, “Gandy” was a great guy. You suffer his map rearranging till you find a good (and rather cute looking ) Samaritan who ignores his approaching train, and good naturedly walks out of the station for a mobile signal, allows you to make two frantic calls, and then also uses his subway pass to get you back into the underground. Wow! Was he for real? i told a New Yorker friend about this kind stranger... the epitome of unbelievable kindness (he missed his train. and went patiently back to wait for the next one.) so when i told her, she sat in horrified silence for a few seconds and then whispered to me not to tell anyone about him, as nothing less than New York's reputation was at stake!

In the meantime, more messages have been left on various answering machines and been picked up, analysed, replied to and soon you are on your way to a rendezvous with your lost (and by now, rather annoyed) spouse at Times Square, that quaintly magical neon jungle of crass consumerism...

So you see, i finally did get to see Times Square with him, after two silly quarrels, one moment of sheer panic and with the aid of heaven sent messengers who made it possible... thanks to all of them! .... as they say, all's well that ends well. Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Kick religious dogma in the balls!"

... so as the quotation marks indicate, this ain't an original line, much as i wish it were, since it was uttered in a kinda i'd-love-to have-said-that' moment. i was at a friend's place last night, having dropped in for some kebabs and a pint to kick in the navratras... feasting before the fasting, if you like.

sadly, the husband was away with his buddies in Gurgaon, happily ringing in this bi-annual season of abstinence {with some rather pleasurable exceptions, of course ;-) } as i made my way with half a heart, expecting a fun but quiet evening with my friend of many years (and many tears!) . little did i know it would be a laugh riot, and the one thing that would loosen our tongues would be an animated discussion on our misplaced religious beliefs. mind you, i say misplaced, because i don't think anyone has got it right.... which is perhaps how the all-knowing gods intended :-)

It was in the midst of a gorging orgy when the conversation inevitably drifted to the reason-we-were-there-in-the-first-place, and someone asked the all-crucial question .... why fast at all? aren't all days the same? so for the next half hour or so, we debated the merits of religious austerity versus decadent living... till 'to fast or not to fast' was no longer the issue, giving way to the rather controversial "how to fast"?

What exactly is the difference between true fasting and tashan (fad) fasting? should you smoke, or is doing so defeating the purpose, assuming that one fasts only to ease one's guilt (another opinion, not mine)? taking the argument further were such issues as should you eat meat/drink alcohol on Tuesdays? if you are a Hanuman bhakt, and you think that you must abstain from the above mentioned pleasures, then why not do a Full Monty and go celibate as well? or, as in the case of another gentleman present, is it alright to be a true Shaivite, yet go piss-drunk to rub sandalwood on Shiva's lingam, in honour of this particular lord's hedonistic reputation? and on and on and on...

as far as i am concerned, my relationship with my Gods (yes, i do believe there's more than one..) is purely practical, and i have long-suspected that my practicality springs from the need to add all the possible strings that i can, without worrying about upsetting the divine applecart- all of it geared towards easing my guilt over not being the puja-paath types! but do i need to feel guilty if i am not conforming to what others feel is their way of paying obeisance to their myriad Gods? i don't think so, since i know that i don't even conform to my own pitiably low standards most of the time....

all i know is that my gods are probably smiling down on my cheekiness right this moment. and yeah.... religious dogma be damned!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Miscellaneous Music

My head is like an Mp3 player, only that it stores a dream number of songs… those from the past and those that I make up (and I had hoped to sell to Richard Marx one day!).. loony tunes in my head, especially when I am happy. Why the sappy Richard Marx, you ask? Well, that’s another story… later maybe. Actually, to cut a long story short, I loved his song "Endless Summer Nights", but hated the video, which made me enjoy the song just a wee bit less.... so, I decided to write him some lyrics, and ask for the rights to re-make some of his old videos! Ah, the dreams of youth!!

But, seriously, think about it - if MLTR (Michael Learns To Rock, for the uninitiated children of the 21st century - a horrendously poppish popular pop band of the 90s) can have a hit song with the lyrics "I have never seen/ such a lovely queen....From the skies above/to the deepest love...", how bad can I be? Oh and did you know, Richard is married to "Penny"? If you have seen "Dirty Dancing" even half the number of times that I have, she was that awesome dancer who gets pregnant... Just imagine the stuff you learn from 'lifestyle' mags!

On our wedding anniversary, my husband gave me one of my most cherished possessions, an iPod, but then even before that I had plenty of melodies playing in my head. They’re happy songs, for I save the melancholy for my poetry. Yes, I do like to believe I’m multi-faceted though there’s a fine line between self-confidence and delusion, or so I’m told. However, I choose to believe I’m on the safe side of that line, whatever that might be.

Every memory, every era, and every self-discovery comes with its customized song menu. I belong to an era when the toothy band members of A-Ha ruled and Madonna had just hit the scene. Yes, I’m that old, only I look much older than the still-revered Queen of Pop, don’t have her oomph factor and can only hope I dance with a tenth of her chutzpah. What a sad way to be, you must be thinking. But, hey, I have my delusional belief in myself and that must count for something, eh?

The truth is – not all of us can be Madonna, which is a good thing for we could all be Paris Hilton! One shudders to think of the possibility: all that money for a name that sounds like, and is, in fact, a hotel. Still there are worse ways to live. Like the fact that you decided to read till the end of this. So, where does that leave you?


  • a lazy train ride after a lazy week away...
  • the ramparts of the Red Fort... another homecoming...
  • yet another drive through infuriatingly tricky traffic, which you barely notice...
  • long hours of sipping tea across the dining table, with the rustle of the newspaper and the soft clicking of a laptop keyboard...
  • mindless television and a naughty nap...
  • a stroll through a familiar bazaar...
  • scrambled eggs and sausages for dinner...
can a day be more perfect?