Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm not even a morning person

My favourite part of the day is actually just 15 minutes in the morning. That brief shining window of time before I *have* to get up and go about my day. Before making breakfast, feeding cats, running off to work, for those few minutes I can lie in bed with my eyes closed, listening to what's happening around me.

The cats are fighting under the bed. A train toots in the distance. Cars horns have started honking. The fan is too fast, I'm cold. I feel around for a blanket and wrap it tighter around me. I realise I have a much better alternative, shrug off the sheets and wrap myself around the gently snoring bear of a man next to me. He grumbles and settles into a new comfortable position. A cat wanders by and curls up in the warm space between us, purring loudly, sending happy happy vibrations through us both, arching his neck for a head-rub. I've never seen as much bliss at a simple touch of the hand as this cat gets out of constant soft head-rubs. 

All this only lasts for a few minutes, seconds even... The other cat shows up and starts demanding food, phones start beeping, trains need to be caught, milk needs to be boiled and the day starts to buzz, and I hope it continues in the same pleasant, happy vein it began.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Before Midnight (and a bit of Gone Girl) - A feminist rant.

I saw the popular Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy yesterday. Long overdue, I know. Here is a small rant about the third movie. I know it's an old one now but if you haven't seen it yet, then spoiler alert. I also recently read Gone Girl and have included a small note about it. Spoiler alert for that also. I don't usually do reviews but strong feelings were there.


It was pretty easy to see why everyone loves the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight movies. Because they're fantastic. They are about intelligent people who are believable, who have good conversations, who talk about things other than relationships and sex. A pleasant change from so many romantic movies which are admittedly fun, but rather brainless. 

One thing I loved about Before Sunrise and Before Sunset is that the two characters are strong, equal, and non-stereotypical. Celine is not a giggling bimbo and genuinely seems unconcerned about her appearance. Jesse is not a wannabe alpha-male looking to pick up girls. They have their own independent successful careers. Celine talks in detail about how she wants an independent life, to be her own person, and to have someone to love without it defining her. All brilliant, and exactly how people (should) behave in real life. And what conversations! Wonderful.

Now here's where I have a problem with the third movie. In one sense, it's pretty great because it seems to realistically depict the progression of relationships beyond the honeymoon period without getting into overdone husband-wife jokes. There is compromise, there is discord. But if the maker of this movie has tried to retain the ingrained feminism that was so marked in the first 2 films (especially the second), then he has spectacularly failed, mostly in Julie Delpy's depiction of Celine.

Firstly, Celine is just unpleasant in this movie. She is angry, she is unreasonable, she jumps to conclusions, she attacks Jesse for things he has not even implied, she argues about their problems in front of their friends, she threatens to end the relationship over an argument that could have been simply avoided with some communication, she bitches about a nice gesture from their friends, she brings up seemingly irrelevant topics in an argument just to prolong it (or so it seems.) Not a very nice person.

But more than that, she is every feminist's nightmare- the reason why feminism gets a bad name, why it's equated to man-hating instead of equality. She instantly interprets Jesse's longing to see his son as an order that they must pack up and move to Chicago, without him ever mentioning anything of the sort. It might have been what he wanted, but to assume this and immediately start haranguing him about it instead of having a frank conversation was a startlingly ugly move. What should have been a poignant moment in which she empathises with him turned into an unpleasant vein of conversation throughout the movie with her playing the martyr and spouting off about sacrifices, independence and rights. I don't mean to say she should have agreed to move, but the fact that she refused to even have a conversation about the topic, especially after Jesse (seemingly with no questions asked) moved to Paris for her, was just cruel.

She seems to resent and belittle Jesse's career, blaming him for leaving her to go on book tours and insinuating that his writing is merely a hobby as opposed to a career. Poor Jesse clearly didn't care about being more accomplished than her, and has even told her multiple times how impressive and important her work is, but she assumes that he is trying to oppress her ambitions and "status in the relationship". Phoo.

All this anger might be completely unfounded. If this were a real couple, I wouldn't know the backstory. Maybe Jesse is routinely horrible to Celine. Maybe he has previously ordered her to move to Chicago. Maybe he's chauvanistic and inflexible. Who knows. But on the basis of what we know, what has been portrayed is not feminism. Having strong women characters who say fuck and pussy is not all feminism's about. It's the thing anti-feminists think it actually is, and rebel against. A belief that all men are pigs, a tendency to hate them on principle and to scream oppression at every opportunity.  

Another grouse I had is all the constant talk of "how men behave" and "how women behave". Men say this. Women say that. One thing I hate about men is this. One thing women always do is that. All this does it reduce people to stereotypes of what men and women seem to do. Very "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus." I've always hated this categorisation and analysis. I really believe that there are no "men" and "women" when it comes to behaviour. There are only people. They say and say and do what they do. Period. 

One way to look at Before Midnight is that it's just a very realistic movie. People have their faults and insecurities, and the most idealistic, romantic people with the best intentions and principles grow into resentful, cynical people who just want to exert power over their loved ones to make themselves feel superior. 

But it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Ok that was a long rant but I really loved the first 2 movies and was quite disappointed with the third. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for a proper happy ending. But this is like real life I guess?

PS- While I'm on the topic, I'm very befuddled by all the articles talking about how Gone Girl is a shining example of feminism. I think people are just starved for strong women characters who are not all about the boyfriends and weddings and babies. Just because there's a multifaceted woman who's a calculating, murdering psychopath doesn't mean she's the long awaited symbol of female empowerment and a signal for women everywhere to follow her example to take control of their lives. Geez. The woman in the book is crazy and should be put away. Applaud the story and appreciate the nuances of it, but don't celebrate her enterprising nature. It is not a misogynist story, nor a feminist one. Every story needn't fall into one of these categories. Tsk. Now carry on.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Shot Story #1

My very first Shot Story

Bhola returned to his spot on the sidewalk on Friday morning, utterly exhausted and covered in pink paint. His beatific smile couldn’t have betrayed the fact that he had just spent several excruciating hours daubing every single leaf on a long row of bushes with paint that he had silently pilfered, all while steering clear of cops or any unwanted attention.

He collapsed and slept, dreaming of the honours that would soon be bestowed upon him.

He awoke that evening, spruced himself up and waited eagerly for his next task. The voices told him that this fine evening, he was to steal as many guavas as he could from the neighbourhood market and throw them into open house windows till the sun came up.

With the faint stirrings of dawn and after a close brush with an irritated Pomeranian, Bhola called it a night, ate his sole remaining guava and returned to the pavement to sleep.

Now they decide upon his next task, so they can continue to have their spot of fun.

“It’s my turn today.”

“Shut it, you got to choose just 2 days ago!”

“Quit squabbling. Let her have her turn.”

In a manner most unbecoming of deities, they bicker in their portraits above the sleeping figure of Bhola, deciding on that night’s mischief.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Think of a polar bear wearing a graduation hat. Think of it throwing the hat up in the air in glee and slight disappointment that it is not a fish.

Imagine if videos were sentient. Living quietly in your hard drive, having quiet lives and dysfunctional families, hoping they never get noticed by your eyes. Oh and what eyes, glaring and ferocious, eyes reddened from watching too much TV and reading one too many open letters for your own good.

Because, you see, a video does not want to be played. But that’s what it’s made for, you might argue. But how can you tell? Maybe we humans were made for being snowboards for hyper intelligent polar bears but as a twist of fate, ended up here. Just like that, maybe videos were made to lead quiet sheltered lives. Only, they have been cruelly exploited to provide entertainment to millions. “Naach Basanti!” is the message sent to a video when you hit the play button. And if the video is actually a Sholay clip, so much more the shame of the poor thing.

When the media library is opened... Now that is their worst nightmare. That is when they quake in their little bitrate boots. Those terse moments as the mouse cursor flits from one file to the next... Oh how they shudder and squeak until one unfortunate soul is picked. Those crickets you think you hear as you sit in your lonely room and watch FRIENDS for the umpteenth time? Those are the squeaking videos, yeah they are. 

You've gotta feel sorry for those poor Pilot episodes. Seen by everyone, always the first to be humiliated in front of his brothers. 

It's a pet theory of mine that if all this were true, Two and a Half men was made just to give the poor videos a break. To be such a terrible show that no one would want to watch any of the episodes.

What a flop that plan turned out to be.

Maybe we humans do deserve to be snowboards. Let's educate those polar bears

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Let's stop feeding the dust bunnies little dust carrots.

It's been a long time since I've written a letter. Or even a nice long email.

I used to really ramble on in letters and emails. Describe what I was doing. Where I was. Where I wished I was. What I wished I was eating where I wished I was. How the animals around me would react when I ate what I wished I was eating where I wished I was.

And now there is nothing.

My brain feels like it's sitting in a little corner of my loft, gathering dust bunnies that leap and dance and merrily play whilst I sit far away being pathetic and devoid of both brain and little brain vacuum cleaner.

Imagine that. A brain vacuum cleaner. You stick it in your ear and it sucks all the metaphorical dust out. It makes the brain shiny and happy and functional. Then we can gather all that braindust and mix it with confetti and sparkles and throw it at our enemies while saying Happy nooyear! So what if it's not nooyear? Why can't we celebrate bros?

Let us deploy people to study babelfish technology and use it to power brain vaccum cleaners. Kickstarter would explode.

This feels nice. Braindust and babelfish. Away dust bunnies, off with you. Don't cry, I am made of sterner stuff than that.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Vanilla vanilla yum yum

So everyone keeps asking me what it's like to be married. They ask me with bated breath, expecting either stories with violin scores and muffled lovemaking as background music, or stories about throwing of chappals and wall rattling arguments. 

It's just.. life. There's about as much change in it as you feel when you go from age 12 to 13, when you expect the teenage fairy to give you your big girl tiara and proclaim you ready to deal with all matters pertaining to high school scandal and romance.

Life now has on demand cuddling. Life is good :)

It was bit of a bummer to be thrown back into Bombay from Bali though. Bali had clothing optional, footwear optional, if you felt a bit tired you dunked your head into the sea that's always right there being ridiculously annoyingly blue.

We went scuba diving and volcano climbing and paddy field walking and it was so fabulous yaar.

Now I have the regular and the mundane which is actually a lot of fun. Now I have buying exotic cheeses and boiling milk. Now I get to have my own bar and pour my friends a drink when they come home. Now I am thinking of getting a kitten. Stay tuned for the next episode of the most vanilla reality show ever.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

About a dog

I've been begging my parents to let me get a dog since I was five. For the first time ever I'm a little glad they  never agreed. 

I've met dogs who I've patted, fed and played with from time to time before being on my way, but recently I had my first ever prolonged exposure to a dog. A little black stray puppy with white paws who wandered into my office and adopted it whole-heartedly. We named her Kunti because she happened to turn up when the Mahabharata was being discussed and it just remained, as did she. She went from a nervous, cautious wreck of a puppy to a happy, trusting, bouncing thing in no time at all. Soon she was a regular at work, turning up everyday, whining to be let in, sulking and crying when we sternly kept her out as a punishment for peeing inside and tripping people up while happily exploring the office. She attacked everyone's feet, appropriated everyone's shoes and tried to eat all the computer wires she could find. From time to time the boss would lift her up onto his table and she would sit contentedly on his warm laptop charger and sleep off while it baked her little butt. She was beautiful. 

She hadn't been turning up to office for a week or so and so I went to ask the neighbouring office people, who usually fed her, where she was. They told me she died. She wandered out onto the road and was hit by a car. 

I knew that puppy for exactly a month and I fell fully in love with her. In the back of my mind I vaguely feel like I might be overreacting to the death of a puppy that I knew for barely any time at all, but... the memories of this one month itself are a tad painful. How she would always go and sit on the feet of the one girl who was terrified of her. How she would weave in between everyone's legs as they'd crowd around the table for lunch. How she'd attack the little plastic bowling pins that are always (inexplicably) lying around in office and run around with them. She was a very tiny little thing that barely lived before she died, just because she didn't know any better.

This probably happens a hundred times a day around the city, around the country. It makes me glad to think there are organisations out there who go about sterilising stray dogs so that there are no puppies to go and die when they can't be taken care of, caring for them when they fall sick, urging people to adopt stray dogs over buying pedigreed ones so that these scrappy things can have better lives. 

These are two organisations that I know of and keep hearing of. Head on over and donate to them, or any other that you might know, so they can do what they do a little better, because of you.

How I'd feel if a dog I had known for years had died is unimaginable.

But I will still adopt a stray puppy whenever I can. I'll adopt a whole bunch someday. And I'll coddle them and love them till I'm known as that crazy animal lady. 

RIP Kunti.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Disjointed life update.

While I perform stern and propah grownup activities such as looking for houses and buying a Raymonds suit with a faine looking man, the clouds they rain merry merry on me.

I've seen only 3 houses till now but even that much is spectacularly depressing. Reams of desolate poetry has been written about the Bombay real estate scene, for it is a ruler most fickle and fierce. My new job has ensured that I am happily broke and every time a broker states rent rate, my newly relocated heart it plummets and weeps.

Hopefully a home shall soon be found which I do not have to sell any limbs for. A home which gives a warm yellow glowing feeling inside, a home which feels like your whole world once you're in it.

I have a recently concluded trip to Turkey with my best friends, a shiny new job, and an upcoming wedding. I'm very happy.

Best of luck to meeee.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A piece of apple floats in a sea of absolute delight.

So much I've been eating, so much I've been eating. Mygawd.

Dhansak and custard and bread pudding and tender coconut icecream and chunky chocolate icecream and mango lassi and Philadelphia cheesecake and molten chocolate birthday cake and red velvet cupcakes and carrot cake cupcakes with a little carrot drawn in cream on top. 

How can people not enjoy food? How can people not want to roam the world and eat all the pretty and exotic and interesting things in sight?

I have discovered scones. Contrary to all expectations, they do not look like cones. I always imagined them looking like those cheap cream puffs with orange cream in the hollow centre. They are so good boss. I want to wear a hat made of one large scone and nibble away gently at it whenever the mood strikes. If I could do this, I would turn my milliner into a millionaire.

So Tea Centre has been next to my office for some 8 months now and I never stepped into it because I always thought "Meh who's going to pay so much money for chaaaaaaaaaai." I have now eaten my words and a large portion of their ridiculously good menu.

They have this wonderful nonsense thing called hot buttered apple tea and it is like wholeseome happy warmth in a cup. It is what cuddles are made of. It is the tangible version of the feeling you get when you glance at someone and catch them looking at you with gentle unwavering affection and a promise of many beautiful things to come and see yourself reflected in their glasses looking puzzled and so very happy. 

I'm leaving this office in a few days and this makes me sad for the sole reason that I want to be  able to pop next door and spend several Bombay monsoon days in Tea Centre's chairs with a book and a pot of this tea.

Cannot wait for the monsoon. This weather makes me want to go bald and then throw my hair at the sun in a desperate act of frustration that would achieve absolutely nothing but make people stare at me in astonishment and maybe buy me a cup of tea to calm me down?

Friday, April 26, 2013

On the beautiful absurdity of Douglas Adams.

If someone asked me my favourite author of all time, in a heartbeat I’d say it was Douglas Adams. I regularly have a good natured yet heated debate with a friend who dislikes his books. “They’re too smug”, she complains, and I’m always taken aback that anyone could feel anything but overwhelming affection for this man and his work.

I read the Hitchhiker’s and Dirk Gently series when I was 16 and they instantly struck a chord with me. At that age they taught me to stop taking myself too seriously and to appreciate the value of the bizarre; to give free reign to my imagination and let it leap and wander into fantastic places it had never been before. Absurd was not a pejorative anymore and logic was no limitation to anything. It might have just been due to fortuitous timing, but I would gladly attribute all of my imagination, lateral thought and humour to having being shaped by Douglas Adams.

In the foreword to A Salmon of Doubt, Stephen Fry has expressed a perfect perfect sentiment. He mentions that Adams’ work appears to speak to you, the reader, and to you alone. That although everyone else might admire him, you feel like you’re the only person who truly understands and connects with what he is saying. You feel chosen, special.

"It's like falling in love. When an especially peachy Adams turn of phrase or epithet enters the eye and penetrates the brain you want to tap the shoulder of the nearest stranger and share it. The stranger might laugh and seem to enjoy the writing, but you hug to yourself the thought that they didn't quite understand its force and quality the way you do- just as your friends (thank heavens) don't also fall in love with the people you are going on and on about to them."

It’s as though Fry was reading my mind. As irrational as it may seem, words cannot describe how irreparably hurt I was when I read this. To learn that exactly what I felt was shared by countless others, to hear this emotion described as the result of a clever writing style, it stung. I was terribly jealous of everyone else in the world who had felt this connection; I wanted to be the only one. Such is Adams’ genius, he really has communicated so strikingly, as though he was speaking to you individually and appealing to your taste without even trying. And not with evidently deep insights either, though his over the top humour and zaniness have an underlying truth about the world and its people. You read what may seem like a sci-fi story about maniacal aliens and might not immediately realise you have read a book on existentialism and the human condition.

Adams’ style is simple enough that the lack of structure in his stories is a plot device by itself. His metaphors and similes are unparalleled; many have tried to replicate his style of description and always fallen short. The leaps of his imagination would’ve put a Kentucky Derby horse to shame (see, I just tried and failed) and not once did he seem to let sanity be an impediment to his expression. He’s used unfathomable comparisons that you’d never think could work but are absolutely spot-on. A few remarkable sentences stay with you long after the books are done and gone, which is what makes them so eminently quotable. None of it makes a whole lot of sense, except… it all does. The characters are all extreme parodies of their type, the situations they find themselves in are utterly ridiculous and yet everything comes together in a harmoniously chaotic way that no one could have foreseen.

You’ll see I haven’t bothered to describe any of the books in detail. They’re too implausible, too rich in wit and humour to be successfully summarised. Every time I reread any of them, I find something fresh and new and marvel at his brilliance, at his turns of phrase, at his strange thought process. The inexplicable worlds created by Adams will always be something you’ll wish you could experience for real.

“The Galaxy's a fun place. You'll need to have this fish in your ear.”

Pushkar: There will be a show tonight.

Five years of college in Jodhpur meant five years of hunting for free weekends so we could hop on a bus and be off to Pushkar. We travelled all over the state back then, but kept coming back to Pushkar.  

Pushkar is dusty, Pushkar is crowded, Pushkar is the most charming place in Rajasthan.

The main part of town is one long winding street. Wide and calm in certain places and impossibly narrow and raucous in others, walking the length of the market is the best part of any trip there. Quaint roadside cafes with cows brushing by you as you eat, people of all nationalities dressed in outrageous clothes, shopkeepers selling stuff ranging from clothes and jewelry to antique swords and metal lingerie, who seem to enjoy haggling more than making a sale, there are always way too many things to look at.

The place we usually stayed at had a lovely green lawn where we’d spend our nights, sitting in a circle with our drinks, playing the occasional bawdy game of charades. There were 2 gentle tortoises on that lawn. We once had to convince someone not to use one as a pillow. The tortoise seemed to appreciate our efforts.

Pushkar is a fully vegetarian town. Contrary to all expectations, it doesn’t actually matter. The food is so good, even the most seasoned carnivores don’t miss the meat. Though most of the places serve excellent food, Israeli and Italian food is what should be given priority.

Once we set out for a proper food trip. We started at one corner of the town and ate our way through it. Various dishes made with hummus and falafel, the best thin crust pizzas I’ve ever eaten, a strange wrap called a Mars Bar Roll, the ubiquitous popular dessert called Hello to the Queen, we ate so so much. After all this, we couldn’t do much but lie down on the grass and give those tortoises some company.

The town is actually alcohol free, so you need to source your liquor from nearby Ajmer or look for people who peddle it on the sly. Most people however, prefer to have the local bhaang drinks that are sold everywhere.  Any food item with the word “special” in the name means it contains bhaang. Special juice, special lassi, special Nutella pancake anyone?

A friend once told me a fun fun story once about how his parents went with him to Pushkar to see the Hanuman temple there. They unknowingly had a lot of Special Mixed Fruit Juice and gave him hell for it later. It’s probably best to keep your adults on a tight leash when you’re there with them.

The people here are very friendly. Also, slightly batty. Sadhus lurk near the lake to spot couples and immediately bless them with a future that has marriage and several children. Waiters go out of their way to give you food recommendations. Shopkeepers start chatting with you if you linger at their shops, and make surprisingly accurate guesses as to where you’re from.

I remember being offered a pinwheel by a stranger in a tiger mask who then saluted me and ran away. Another time, someone stopped us, handed us flowers and told us that if we threw them away, the apocalypse would be upon us all. Yet another time, a Tamil waiter in a café gave us all free drinks because he heard one of us speaking in Tamil and claimed to feel a special bond with us.

I miss going here at every possible opportunity. Sitting by the lakeside, eating truly spectacular food, watching the sun set over a wall featuring the work of the local graffiti artist, Kikasso (oh yeah), with friendly stray dogs at your feet, I miss that. Stepping out after dark into the empty streets dotted with sleeping cows, joining a group of stoned foreigners quietly playing cards outside a tea stall, I miss that.

Being in Pushkar is like being inside the video of Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite. It’s easy to imagine that a circus is set up exclusively for you, every single time you visit. The performers dance, the crowds entertain and when you leave it shuts down and packs itself away, waiting for you to come back and take part in the show.

“As Mr. Kite flies through the ring, don't be late.”

Random out of place book review

No, really.

A while back I wrote a couple of articles for an online magazine that seems to have shut shop in a rather dramatic manner. (See! Whatay.) I'm going to put those articles here because clearly I'm a hoarder and life will fall to pieces without proper categorisation. 
Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox

Picture a stack of Russian dolls; each doll being of a different colour, each having a different countenance, each enveloping a drastically different smaller doll. One with a face so angelic that you want to caress it gently, the next with blood-stained fangs bared, ready to pounce and rip out your soul. That is Mr. Fox.

Mr. Fox is mystical and magical and is a handful of utter confusion. It revolves around an author named St. John Fox, his wife Daphne and the woman he loves, his closest friend, his muse, a figment of his imagination, Mary Foxe. What begins as a narrative between St. John and Mary, in which she berates him for conveniently murdering all the female characters in his books, quickly turns into a furious challenge in which they weave each other into stories they make up; some poignant, some gruesome, all entirely touching and fascinating. As this game progresses, St. John and Mary grow closer and closer, and Daphne begins to suspect her husband is having an affair.

The novel has a rather sparse main plotline. The bulk of the book is made up of the fantastical stories that the characters create for and around each other. It’s hard to always tell who the narrator is of the one you’re reading and what possible implication it could have on the main plot, but it makes you want to figure it out. What slowly develops is a tangled web in which you realize you don’t fully know what is real and what isn’t. Your grasp on the thread of the story may seem tenuous as times, as it darts dizzyingly between fantasy and reality. Could Mary actually be real? How much does Daphne know? Could it be possible at all that the main characters are just losing their minds?

Though the book raises more questions than it provides answers for, you realise you don’t actually care. As each short story laid out by your trio of fictional narrators envelops you, you are drawn into their twisted world teeming with wonder, intrigue and chaos. The initial short stories are quick and light and are satisfying on their own, but as the book progresses, the stories get deeper, more intricate, more complicated. You’re disoriented at times. You actively, desperately hunt out the significance they could have on the main plot of the novel.

Mr. Fox could be construed as a quirky take on violence against women, it could be an innovative rehashing of Bluebeard and various folk tales, it could just be a tale of a great love that could never possibly be. You could choose to see this novel as a whole and take it to your heart or if you prefer, you could ignore the main plot and view it as a series of unconnected whimsical and compelling short stories. Either way, if you like books that make you think, if you don’t mind sifting through a little confusion to get to some beautiful nuggets of prose, give this book a read.