Friday, May 21, 2010

What if beggars became choosers?


Office party. The usual suspects doing the unusual dancing and making merry like there was a nationwide merry shortage. It's fun though, this ritual of putting people who you work with in a semi-dark room with 80s music,  free grub and booze, while expecting them to relax and forget all about low pay packets, stalled increments and all those bad hair days at work in a single night of drunken swaying. This can have a particularly surreal (eerie?) quality to it. Especially if the hallowed venue happens to be the House of Horrors, where they "do not serve anything Indian" and the kebab-like apparitions are referred to as "chicken charcoal", in awed whispers, if you please. Where pizzas are thin and tongues get fat, pretty soon, with second-rate vodka.

So this place? It's a temple of kitsch where pseudo-faithful devotees can pay obeisance to Panjoo excesses. Well, the faux Adonis & David statues aside, the lighting is upscale dhaba, and the dining room at the back makes you feel that any moment soon you'd have someone's head served to you on a platter. Preferably one that you've been meaning to off for a while now! Then there's that fountain of giant mutant grapes and water spray fans that generate so much mist that it's entertaining enough to watch people stumble in and fumble their way towards the "party". Oh, and every time you open your mouth to speak, it tastes like you swallowed a mouthful at Marine Drive (which, by the by, I did, once -- but then that's another story for another day). As some one said, "If Veda is an old world brothel, then this is all leather and chains". I believe there is a Rohit Bal connection here as well. It figures. Though I do wish I could claim that line as my own. Sigh.

Still, I like office parties. They're so overrated. That's why they're so much fun. As it is with most overrated things. Like having sex with the most popular boy in school. I'm just saying. Or designer labels. Well, you won't see anyone swinging an Hermes Birkin bag complain about what an unwelcome burden it is, will you? Me? I'm just saying.

Popping bubble wrap. Now, that's still waiting to get its rightful place in the world. We need a revolution.

Ok, time out. We just got our annual appraisal letters, so this blog post must be cut short. Something about me being an open book and all that. Besides, I did think about scratching out all of the above, it might come out sounding like I'm hurt if the news ain't good.

Which, by the way, I already am. And this is what I have learnt from the experience: intense pain is the most effective antidote to extreme embarrassment.

Don't believe me? Try falling down on your hands and knees at a big traffic crossing, bang in front of your office, and then valiantly walk in to your place of work -- all covered in mud with a bloodied knee and a big tear in your dark lycra churidar through which said knee is winking mortification at the world -- and you'll know what I mean. Oh, and on top of that extreme physical and emotional ordeal, add the fact that someone from a local bus asks you "Arrey, kya hua, Medem?", as you wince and try to recover your dark glasses from where they are now precariously perched, on the bridge of your nose no less, while bravely lifting and dusting yourself off, all the while trying hard not to cry at the unfairness of it all, especially after a savvy lunch at one of the city's finest restaurants where you gave some heavy-duty gyan to a foreign diplomat and THEN you'll know what I really  mean. Damn CP and its muddy pavements and scattered stones and errant wires that lurk beneath them -- pure evil in Delhi's darkened heart.

But the pain, it rescues you. It lifts you up from the immediacy of the humiliation and transports you to a place where you wave a dusty palm in a sheepish hello to sundry colleagues who stare at a muddy you -- aghast at the possibilities -- and politely wonder what hit you. This, right after you pop a cotton ball on the bloody knee, using the hole in your pants to access what's going to be a nasty, nasty bruise the day after. Let's not even go into how the rest of your mortal frame might feel after a day of re-living the fall followed by a night 's worth of fitful sleep after a few mind (if not pain)-numbing drinks with an old friend.

So, yes, I'm in pain. Truly. May the tetanus shot be damned.

And the letter? Oh, that? Hmmm... As I said, I'm in pain.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Karma kicker

Just this morning, a friend and I were discussing the embarrassment potential of parents. I bet I am not alone in this universe for having to endlessly endure the telling of cringe-worthy tales from my childhood, often narrated with a kind of absent-minded relish by my over-adoring parents. Unfortunate references to long-forgotten baby-talk, bloopers all the way from kindergarten right up to my braces days and beyond have a way of turning up at the most unfortunate of times, often in the midst of a civilised discussion on turnips.

Imagine my 30-something brain trying to process the insult of having an over-zealous parent asking me whether I remembered to wish a particular acquaintance who I had dutifully been chatting with for about five minutes before said parent appeared, making me look all indignant and say, “Err, of course, Dad!” To add insult to injury, this usually is a cause for laughter all around, followed by a cutesy little tale about my unfortunate antics as a child that inevitably follows, as night does day, while I slink away to fume. Parents, I tell you!

What I find most amazing (and somewhat adorable, if you come to think about it on your good days) is how parents continue to treat you like a kid while forever asking you to grow up. So even while they’re asking you to pull up your socks or your grades, they continue to tell those tales to all those on whom you wish a make a grown-up impression about you peeing in your pants when you were two. Adding to their tales are often those pesky relatives who remember seeing you last when you were just a wee lad or lass and who can’t get over the fact that evolution has a way of making you get off your hands and knees to become a responsible and respectable bi-pedal person who can do without being constantly reminded of just how much they have grown, horizontally or vertically!    

Now, even if anyone were to deny this fact, all they would have to do is to take a look around them at the battle of popular culture down the ages, which seems to scream on about this tussle between two seemingly harassed generations. On the one hand are those lovable but crazy folks, trying to understand why their sweet little girl listens to noise as compared to actual lyrics; while on the other are their kids who are desperately trying to find a way to explain the Internet to a generation that still continues to remind them to ‘post’ an Archies card by mail to an auntie in the US whose birthday is more than a month away.

The other day I was listening to that Linkin Park song called ‘Numb’ (yes, some people as old as me also like them…a lot), along with my friend’s eight-year old son (yes, some as young as that also listen to them). Well, he wondered if I had any of the band’s tracks and here I must admit to feeling immensely ‘cool’ that I did have it on my iPod – cool (or silly) enough to try and show off my entire Linkin Park to an eight-year old by playing it on the short drive to a mall.

And, to my sudden horror, I remembered my parents trying to casually drop phrases like ‘pep up’ into conversations with me in my wannabe years. There I was, trying to push my coolness down the throat of a little boy, who I remember as a day-old baby and whose embarrassing stories I am sure I will repeat to at least one girlfriend in the future.

This is the beauty of life, I thought. We become what we ridicule. Its God’s little joke on all those who have, at some time or another, looked at their parents as if they were aliens.  

So, as I start to resemble my mother more and more each day (and here I am talking about more than facial features) I realise that it is these pulls and pressures that define the topsy-turvy world of kids and grown-ups. What’s more, it is the bewilderment of one generation about the habits of another that continues to give us some of the most hilarious (and annoying) moments of our lives. And you know what the best part is? If we’re lucky, we’ll get to experience the madness from both ends. So, bring it on mom and dad, I don’t think I’m all that afraid anymore!    

Thursday, May 13, 2010

They're on to us or Bawl, baby, bawl



There are certain things that should have remained in the domain they were intended to, but have found their way across the gender divide to shake up things as we know (and prefer) them. Like checked shirts worn by Marlboro-ish wannabes. I admit I gave them a test drive in the 90s when I was into this weird college-dressing revolt thing of mine. But then I moved on and began investing in slimming blacks and flattering reds and have not looked back since, thank the Lord. 

And what's with men and phone charms? Wrap a locket on a chain or a bobbing Hanuman on your rear-view mirror and be done with it, now. Why must we have to endure the harsh glare of that diamond encrusted alphabet hanging off your phone along with the one playing peek-a-boo from underneath your baniyan, all on top of that annoying Bollywood ringtone? Ever been startled awake at six in the morning, while travelling in a train from India's Wild East to the tune of Altaf Raja begging someone to please answer their goddamn phone? It ain't pretty.

But I guess we can make our peace with that. Boys will be boys and all that. But what feels like a direct assault on all that's good about this division of assets is when boys want to be girls. I am referring to men crying in public. As if Baby Sreesanth was not enough, we now have more live emotainment from that other playground favoured by Indians: politics.        

It appears that the Madhya Pradesh state Assembly Speaker, not knowing what to do about protesting Congressmen who have been holding a parallel assembly session, which he has no control over, wept daintily into his bushy moustache. Like, shed actual tears. Caught-on-camera tears. Why? Because those mean boys taunted a lady from the lotus-eaters' party for being late, blaming it on a visit to the beauty parlour. Well, I had warned about this enslavement to vanity in an earlier post, people. And look how even a harmless mention of that neighbourhood temple of makeovers has come to bite us in the behind.  

I guess it's payback time, and we should have seen it coming. We never should have left the warm comfort of the hearth to slow-drive our way to the office, wearing pleated trousers. Or tried to bend it like Becks. Should have continued to  quietly spend it like Posh. What a mess we've made of things.

As if taunting us with paternity leave was not enough, they went ahead and started waxing their chests, before moving on to pink shirts and pedicures -- facials even! And look at this, they're crying openly now. Where does it end? It's war. Looting and pillage. What will they take away from us next?

I just hope it is not my sparkly Saturday flip-flops! They don't do too well with toe hair. Oh, but they're into waxing them now. Time to wave the white flag and surrender. Sigh. Enjoy your bubble bath, you weepy little bugger. I'm off to share a frosted one with my buddies.