Wednesday, October 29, 2008

For the Madrasi Mundas. Aaho.

This is my response to the forward that told us what North Indian and South Indian girl stereotypes could read like. Since I have no clue who wrote it, the inspirational forward shall be given a miss due to copyright issues. Leave me a comment and I promise to forward.
Here, all you'll get is my take. If you don't like it, I shall direct you to a better take on North Indian boys. Deal.
Chennai Boy
Disclaimer: (Any resemblance to the lead character in my life is coincidental- note some of these don’t apply to him :P)
-Grew up on a diet of thair chadam and vatta kozhamba and other unpronounceable names that give no indication of ingredients.
-Sees no utility for a spoon or a fork or a bowl. All he needs is a plate and his right hand. Mind it. - Goes bonkers if while switching channels, he encounters images of fat girls and old men dancing together to a double beat. You hear him mumble ‘classic’ at these times.
- Goes bonkers and makes you go bonkers if by some stroke of luck, he catches Rajni or Kamal on the above channels. He forgets you are in the room at these times.
- Knows no difference between baag (garden), bhaag (run), Bagh (tiger).
- Is sure to spell Shweta as swetha.
- Wakes up to suprabhatam everyday.
- Thinks it’s completely natural for someone to wear a bindi even when she’s not dressed in Indian attire.
- Does not give second thought to slithering on the floor because it’s too hot.
-Thinks girls in sphagetti tops are quite “bold”
-Thinks all girls in north India are fair and hence, beautiful.
- On spotting a fellow Tam (always a machchan), will break into Tamil, unmindful of non-Tam company.
- Drinks more coffee than water
- Genetically wired to make great dosas, great coffee and unfortunately, a great mess at home.
- Hates breakfasts that consist of toast/ muesli/ cornflakes.
Since you've reached this far- go further on your mad rush to absorb more stereotypes.
Over to the queen of hyderabad.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Presenting Daruwala

Our glorious bar cabinet- sirf naam hi kaafi hai.
I'm tired. That was 2014 words.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gondola city : Venezia

(Sept 17th 2007)
For Venice, we'd decided to go off the beaten track and had booked ourselves in a camp (Alba D' Oro)- that this was the cheapest option available, just made the decision easier. At 19 euros per person, an ensuite camp caravan wasn't a bad deal at all! Trust me, sleeping in a room with only one other person (as opposed to the 6-8 in a dorm room) was a welcome change and the sound sleep that we enjoyed was replendent proof.
The camp was about 20 mins away from the main city and the camp runs shuttle buses on the hour. As with most tourist cities, they offered a wide range of passes and cards based on your interest. We bought the Orange card, but that that turned out to be a huge waste of 22.90 Euros as we were hardly in the mood for museums and churches, having nearly exhausted our cultural cravings in Paris and Rome.
We started with San Marco Square (for those of you who'd had the 'fortune' of watching Bachna Ae Haseeno, this is the square where "Khuda Jaane" was shot- and now if you'll stop imagining Ranbir with his arms outstretched, we can move ahead) and then taking pity on our Orange card, went to the Doge museum.
Now the Doge was no ruler- rather a nominal head of Venice. Now, we are Indians and we know our president. So we understand what a nominal head means, yeah? So the Doge museum was some sort of a presidential palace and now it houses artefacts and the likes. In the era gone by, Venice enjoyed the reputation of being a busy trading and merchant port and the lion, its official mascot, represented Venetian dominance over land and sea. The lion also served to underline the differences between Venice and the Roman Church.
Although charming, the Doge museum didn't really hold our interest. What was infinitely more interesting was walking around Venice's ever-fascinating and sometimes-stinking walkways, crossing canals and hearing the gondoliers sing to (and fleece) romance-stricken tourists. Here's a video of the gondoliers.
The thumbs down factors were (a) the terribly over-priced and less than delicious food and (b) the crowds. Now, coming from an Indian that might sound slightly weird, but you do feel the magical ambience wearing down a bit when you see more tourists than locals. Also, more hands with maps and more fingers on the flash buttons mean more mouths to be fed and more wallets to be lightened. Really missed the great, cheap food of Rome!
Venice was also the first European destination to leave me lighter by several hundred Euros-I bought a few Murano glass pendants (hold it up to the light and you'll see colorful patterns dancing in front of you :) and.... a Venetian mask, which could easily be the most expensive piece of home decoration that I've bought or plan to buy in the near future. And here it is, my gorgeous Venetian mask, in rose and gold (esp for you Goofy Mumma!). It currently occupies the place of pride in my living room. Though I've realized that it does take some taste to appreciate something as exquisite. I was rather annoyed when a well meaning colleague asked me" tumhe isse raat ko darr nahi lagta" but then chuckled to myself realizing it would be quite funny if I-the scaredy cat, were to ever get up at night and see a gold face with hollow eyes staring back.
And since I've already declared my inability to stop at a single item of purchase, I also bought a charcoal painting- which the artist created from scratch, in a matter of minutes and exclusively for me! Here's the picture of the painting and also a small video of Marco skilfully converting a few strokes of charcoal into a Venetian landscape.

This Venetian extravagance also meant that I and G skipped the gondola ride- At 80 euros a ride, we figured we'd save it for a more romantic episode in our lives. All said and done, Venice did turn out to be quite a romantic place- nowhere else, did I miss M as much or as often. Little wonder then, that a lot of people tend to make this a honeymoon destination. (Crowds are the root cause of all evil-refer point (b) above).
The great wine that accompanied dinner, compensated for the mediocre food and we ended the day, singing peppy Hindi film songs while walking to our ferry- we got a few stares and someone even commented on our happy state of being. Though embarassed for a moment, we quickly raised our faces and decibel levels and carried on singing.
The wine and song induced happy daze cleared up rather quickly when we realized that we'd missed our shuttle bus. We ended up taking public transport all the way to the airport and from there to the camp, thereby spending about 1.5 hrs to complete a journey of 20 mins. Another minor tragedy awaited us back at the camp- in our morning hurry to catch the bus, we'd left the caravan window open. It had rained during the day and the casualty of the downpour was my unfortunately located bed. Since I was too tired to protest and it was meaningless to sulk (M wasn't around to pamper), I just pretended it was a second class railway berth and crashed.
Traveller's Tip#1- Please buy your day card with care- we ended up wasting our money!
Traveller's Tip#2- Bargain with the gondoliers. Everybody does it. For a reason.
Traveller's Tip#3- Shop at the stores located at some distance from the main tourist spots. Even a distance of 200 m can save you 2-10 euros, depending on what you buy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Office crimes

Always brought on a smirk.-this sign in my office loo which told visitors to flush the toilet, throw waste in the basket and show courtesy to the next user. I wondered why they'd bothered to put such a stupid sign up. We were all educated grown ups who presumably had been toilet trained and did possess some basic sense of hygiene.
Imagine my shock then when at 8 pm today evening, I walked into a loo that resembled an unkempt public loo which had the tap open, tissue paper strewn on the floor and horror of horrors, the flush signal furiously blinking red!
The smirk has turned into dismay and disgust. Though guilty of hiring some process donkeys, my company has on an average, done a reasonably good job of hiring smart people. No one I know could I associate with such idiotic behavior. This is not an unwilling fart in the lift that you can try and fail to ignore. It just smacks of apathy, for what kind of hurry could induce such wilful neglect and indifference? What excuse could justify this utter lack of regard for others?

Now I'm wondering why that sign isn't in font size 42 because clearly a gentle reminder is not enough for people who work late but whose sense of shame has left early. Or why the instructions aren't more detailed with pictures & bold illustrations because clearly some of us haven't surpassed toddlers in matters of comprehension and propriety. Or why the cleaning staff must bear the brunt of these office crimes while the guilty roam scot free, making presentations to unsuspecting colleagues.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Pyaar ke side effects

It's supposed to be a well known and widely acknowledged fact that a boy needs only two belts- brown and black. Since I was on an expedition to another galaxy when they made one and all aware of the above fact, I merrily bought M 3 belts on his birthday. You know, I thought variety would be nice. Also, I have a technical flaw-can't really buy ONE of anything. As far as I can remember, clothes and accessories have always been bought by me in 2's and 3's.
If I thought the ridicule and laughs that followed the unveiling of the gifts was the worst that could happen, I was wrong. You see, M also has a technical flaw- he's a boy. And by definition, that means ridding self of all accessories-wallet, watch, company id, coins, handkerchief- at no fixed spot, each time one comes back home. The dining table, the centre table, the desk, the kitchen counter, the ironing board, the bar counter, the side crockery cabinet, my dressing table, the printer- all have been blessed at some point or the other with his highness' mess.
Now the wallet, company id, watch etc are all essentials and leave with the bearer the next morning- all except the belt because thanks to the generous wife, he proudly owns FIVE of them- 5 belts to strew around the house, as he pleases. So the belts sit pretty in their corners- only to be discovered during the weekly dusting mission. To twist a line from Asian Paints: Har ghar ka kona kuch kehta hai. Ki is konay mein har week ek naya belt rehta hai.
Now I know why boys only need 2 belts. I also know what self inflicted pain means.
In his mind, M equates the bed to an open cupboard, with the result, that the actual cupboard yearns to be populated with clothes, socks or even belts, while the bed in the guest room resembles a clothes' village after a typhoon. The disarray does not attract M's attention but puts me in distress mode.
So I neatly fold all his clothes and restore the bed to some degree of order only to have M tell me in an excited voice " You know our house has magic elves. They fold clothes!" M also refers to the part time maid as our weekly fairy godmother. Sigh.
Do you know of a fairy tale character who spanks kids who mess up their rooms? M needs to be introduced to that character. Before I become the wicked witch of the north/west.
We've watched quite a few Hindi movies heavy on Urdu/Punjabi words in the recent past (Khuda Kay Liye, A Wednesday, Singh is King)- enough to have taught M the use of words & phrases such as " fakr hai", "mehfooz", "mehsoos", "ijaazat", "bhootni ke", "kamaal hai", which he uses in the most unlikely situations- e..g instead of how are you, he asks me "sab khairiyat?" on chat! Sounds ever more hilarious in person- the lovely Tam accent accentuates the fun :)
We watch animal planet quite regularly and he keeps asking me for animals' names in Hindi. And since, I havent yet mastered the art of shoving my foot in my mouth, I tell him.
He's using baby magarmachch (crocodile) , baby gilahari (squirrel) and lakkadbagghi (hyena)as terms of endearment for me.
I quite like gilahari, though.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Roma-15th Sept07

This could very well be a post on the Colosseum- it pretty much captured our imagination and time.
The magnificent structure was built in 72 AD-Nero, Octavian and Dalmatian all played their role in its construction and eventual use. It is likely that you are a pre-historic fossil or that were born on Mars and hence haven't had the chance to watch The Gladiator , if you don't know that games of gladiators and beasts were held at the Colosseum. For 400 long years.
The structure was built with limestone, bricks, volcanic rock and marble in an intricate but highly evolved fashion- for instance, there were underground rooms that stored weapons, equipment and housed the animals in cages- the animals were later brought to the arena through a pulley system.
The seating in this torture theatre was strictly as per social class and profession- closest to the arena were the Editor and the senators, then came the priests, followed by professionals such as teachers. Plebians were to plonk themselves in the upper sections.
Cruelty kept a schedule. In the morning, beasts such as hippos and lions were tortured to death. Afternoons were reserved for the duels between gladiators and beasts. The duels were proceeded by a gladitorial procession which began from the Arch of Constantine ( if the name sounds familiar, it's because he was the founder of Constantinople and also the emperor who stopped the persecution of Christians and who converted to Catholicism). In the event, a gladiator could ask the Editor (usually the emperor) for pardon. As a glorious example of letting populism guide decision making, the Editor would then look to the crowd. Mass sentiment controlled life and death.
The church put an end to the savage and brutal games in 523 AD, after which the Colosseum became nothing more than a source of building material for the Romans-this is the reason why one wing of the Colloseum is almost gone. The pillaging stopped only after the church started using the amphitheatre for religious purposes.
Walking through those ancient corridors, listening to the commentary of the audio guide and conjuring up those images in front of me- I felt I was reliving the scenes from my favorite movie (no points for guessing!). After a while, my imagination resorted to pleas of mercy , but the sun was relentless- we literally baked in an open oven and finally when brain threatened to turn into gooey mass, we made way to the Roman forum.
It was something else. Oh, to take in the same view that 2700 years ago, was the most magnificent view for the Romans. Scenes of ordinary life and commerce played out here. History was created here. Hell, Ceaser walked along the same path. The path that was paved with betrayal and death. History lessons came alive in the midst of the famous Roman ruins.
Again, had the weather been kinder, we'd have lingered on but since we didnt want to turn into historic shrivels ourselves, we kept moving. (in retrospect, a very wise decision as the series "Rome" recreated history better than us, and in a manner that could be enjoyed in the comfort of our air-conditioned room!)
The evening was spent visiting the Pantheon, which was earlier a pagan temple and ironically, is now a church!; the tomb of the unknown soldier; Giolitti for gelato and finally the Trevi Fountain- a beautiful and majestic, (what else but a) fountain. A very cash rich fountain at that, for tourist after tourist pops in coins-this ritual is supposed to get you back to Rome one day. Yes, the stingy desis (G and I) also rummaged through the bags and found the coins of the smallest denomination to throw, in the hope of return.
We are hoping the legend does come true. Since we parted with only petty coins, I won't be surprised if we have to make the trip back on a budget airline!
Traveller's tip #1-Take the train to Colloseo- MRT station is right outside the building.
Traveller's tip#2- Be very careful of your bags etc especially in & around tourist spots and trains- we were witness to a pickpocketing scene that happened before we could blink and register what was happening. What made it worse was that it was done by a band of gypsy girls who were pretending to be pregnant. I recommend sling bags or a waist pouch!
Traveller's tip#3- Right opposite the Pantheon is a souvenir shop, run by an old couple. You'll find really nice postcards and knick knacks there. I don't remember the name of the shop but look for the adorable senior citizens- you won't go wrong!
Traveller's tip #4- If you can make this the first day of your itinerary, you'd really allow the eternal city to make its best and everlasting impression on you! That's the only thing we'd have done differently.
Traveller's tip #5- Audio guide for Colloseum is a must!
Traveller's Tip #6- Carry sunglasses, enough bottled water and some asprin. The sun can be harsher than you think and beverages around Colloseum, more expensive that you'd care to find out.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Roma-14th Sept 07- Part 2

From the Basilica we moved on to the Vatican Museum, the highlight of the day- The only cribworthy factor was the linear progression scheme which meant that we had to spend time in the boring sections of modern religious art, in order to get to the Sistine Chapel.
In those days, most Art was commissioned by the church and was used to depict scenes of significance from the Bible, to impart lessons in divinity and the power of Jesus. Once such work of art that was entrusted to Michelangelo in the 16th Century was the decoration for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And from an uninspiring brief, (Decoration for the Pope's residence) and a reluctant artist (who really thought he worked his best as a sculptor) emerged this famous fresco- which means that it was painted while the plaster was still fresh, so that the paint got integrated into the wall. And this was no ordinary side wall either- but the ceiling itself, thereby making this complex process even tougher.
Standing at the centre of the room, staring at the vast canvas above you, you just can't help saluting Michelangelo and his phenomenal brain- For someone to have conceptualized and executed this fresco with no modern aids at his disposal is simply astounding. (He even created the scaffolding on which he stood and made this fresco!)
The popularity of the Sistine Chapel and it's famed ceiling also meant that we got limited gawking time. So by early afternoon, we beat an unwilling retreat to the hostel.
The quiet afternoon was spent doing groceries and cooking-buying veggies was actually the most eventful activity of the afternoon- G got ticked off at a wet market, when trying to buy tomatoes. We just thought the fat bald stall owner was being rude & racist by not letting us touch the tomatoes (!) -but then when I faced the same ticking off in a supermarket, it occured to me that there was something bigger at play here than the color card. The helper at the supermarket lived upto her job designation- she helped by directing me to the plastic gloves and it's only then that I realized that in Rome, you need to put on a plastic glove before touching fresh produce! Since we were in Rome, we did what Romans do- wore gloves and bought Pomodoro for pasta :)
Food and nap later, we walked to Piazza del Popolo, where we met a couple of G's friends, who took us to this authentic Italian restaurant. We had starters (veggie in tempura style and best mozarella cheese I've had so far) and good pasta. The real dish, though, turned out to be the owner of the restaurant!! But alas- the looker's girlfriend exuded too much hotness and the dish never made it to our table.
A post dinner walk to the Spanish Steps followed. The nice and festive atmosphere seemed so much like India-something that you'd see on a summer evening at India Gate, perhaps. We drove around and then went to Old Bridge Gelateria, which I was assured, serves the best Gelato in town. And i'd have to agree- the Bacio & Chocolate Gelato was yummy. So yeah, the day ended with good food and drink and with the promise of the Colloseum and the Roman Forum the next day. Slept giddy happy.