December 29, 2004

New Year Resolutions

- Think (high time)
- Feel (a lot more)
- Live (if possible)

Laasht and Final PJ of 2004: If some readers get started on their mission in life, Happy New Iyer to them.

File > New

The cursor throbs
Against the white screen
The tease beckons me
To tell all to Microsoft Word

As if by blackening the screen I will become white again.

December 28, 2004

Mammageddon Befriends The Bongs (In Bangla), Wonders Why I Crib So Much...

Then Realizes Why When The Unwashed Bong Ladies Demand To Be Cooked For And Order That We Supervise The Electrician Working In Their Flat While They Go Out For A Movie.

That just about sums it up. Just imagine all this happening at 2 billion decibels with the background aroma of unwashed feet.

Urgently Required: A knight/knightie to vanquish these formidable foes. No Bars.

Have you always been like this?

This question pops up every couple of months. This time, it was a colleague and before he (or I) knew it, I was strangling him and asking, “What on earth is the “This” supposed to mean?” He coughed to indicate that he was dying, popped his eyeballs back into their sockets, and looked at me with unadulterated horror. “What happened?”

Mostly, this vague question is asked by seniors/superiors and I have to just say “yes”. The last time it was asked, the unworthy crush was standing close by and launched into laughter that vaguely resembled an aria by an asthmatic hyena. One angry stare reduced him to a pile of ashes on the carpet.

Now I am not at all averse to answering questions. Ask me anything and you can be sure you’ll get an honest reply. You can also be assured that you will see me with my foot in my mouth and my arms lashing my back (complicated yoga posture: regretaasan) five minutes later. But I have to know what you are talking about to be able to answer your question, right?

Have I always been like this? Yes, I’ve been increasing in size irreversibly (sigh) and changing pattern unlike a leopard, but I have always been like this. No wait, like what? This time, I was bent on finding out.

“Like what?”
“Like a character.”
“As in…a character??”
“As in a strange person who is living inside you and sharing your body.”
I looked like I was dividing 3248548272032 by 596587543 in my head.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I meant it as a compliment.”
I tried to calculate up to ten decimal places.

All the people in the world cannot need to have their head examined. It has to be me.

Note: The Mammageddon series has been abandoned because of lack of inspiration. This space being the only spot in the world completely subservient to my whims and fancies, I can do this and nobody can stop me. Any readers who got their hopes up have only themselves to blame.

December 26, 2004


You can prepare all you want for the attack, but it will all be in vain. Today, I remember my dusting and Maggi-detoxification efforts with cynical laughter that brings tears to my eyes.

Ma left this morning. My junk is organized in a way I never thought possible. The kitchen utensils magically fit in the limited space awarded to them. The maid has actually started burning calories in the process of cleaning. It’s a whole new world…

In a move that proved the complete lack of logic among Dilliwalahs, the mater caught a cold and contracted tummy trouble two minutes after landing in the warm and clean city of Pune. We spent three days eating boiled potatoes and stew, which was very ennobling spiritually I am sure, since it was third degree torture for the body and mind.

A heart-to-heart chat one midnight revealed that the aforementioned organ is wrongly situated in the cranium of the parent and is completely absent from the earthly existence of the offspring. Ma said she often heard me choking on tears while on the phone with her, and my mind flashed back to her evening calls that I answered while chopping onions for dinner.

Shock of the millennium: Mothers are not nice angelic people. They are devilishly devious. Yours truly has been paraded before numerous prospective in-laws without knowing that this despicable activity was in progress! Interestingly, she has been rejected by all of them.

“Would you consider giving up your job after marriage?” my mother asked. Am unsure if she knows me AT ALL after all the years I have spent being a parasite on her! Have refused to answer any questions on the topic, hoping that experience has taught her already that she is blessed with an un-marry-off-able daughter. Spent some minutes in shock over having been rejected at first sight ten times in a row. Then gave up because I have a good reason to be really happy on another front.

More from the maternal visit as the week progresses. Look out for Mammageddon and the Bai, Mammagedon tackles the Bong Neighbors, and Mammageddon and the Fine Art of Shopping.

December 24, 2004


Go see Raincoat.
I cannot believe I've lived to see Aishwariya Rai act.

December 23, 2004

Watching "Dev"

If you think about it, we actually live in a world where vegetarians cook men and women in a bakery.

December 22, 2004

Mehrauli ki Almaari

When my grandfather came to India after the Partition, he brought along my grandma, my five aunts, a sewing machine, and the all documents of the insurance company he worked for. Helped by their Muslim friends, they traveled to India from a village beyond Lahore. My grandma and aunts were wearing burqas and grandpa was reciting lines from Ghalib on the bus.

The family settled in a one-room house in Mehrauli, where my dad was born some years later. My grandma and eldest aunt sewed clothes all night for neighbors. Grandpa helped the insurance company establish itself in Delhi.

They bought bits of furniture left behind by Muslim families. One such piece was a wooden cupboard in black wood. It was about four feet wide, and would reach my elbow if I stood beside it today. It was called the Mehrauli-ki-almaari.

I remember the peculiar sound the cupboard used to make when opened. The wood was excellent: strong and durable. When its doors were pulled apart, they did not docilely part like wooden doors do, but they went their separate ways with a confident ringing sound that belongs to the world of metal. It had to be this way: it lived in times where people survived by turning the wood within to steel.

It was many years before I grew tall enough to see that the top was formica-covered. My earliest memories of the cupboard are from when it stocked cloth nappies and sheets for my baby sister, and I ran to fetch a new set each time she made it apparent she wanted a new one. The cupboard sat in my grandpa’s room, under the portrait of Tagore.

When we moved again, the cupboard came along. From a duplex three-bedroom house to a barsaati atop a taxi-driver’s flat. It sat quite comfortably in the only accommodation the family of a Punjabi self-employed professional could find in Delhi. It stocked a lot of stuff and made itself indispensable in the tiny house.

It soon moved along with us to the new three-bedroom flat, where it found no space. In a move that seemed natural, it was given to a neighbor who needed a cupboard. She paid a small sum for it, as she did not want to take it for free. The durable cupboard now sits in her dirty house and works as hard as it always did.

Why did we part with it so easily? Not getting attached to things is an unwritten rule in my family. There are supposed to be no emotions involved with anything perishable, and people are often put into this category. Be ready to get up and move without anything is the mantra: it seems to flow naturally from the journey across the border.

I had forgotten about the cupboard completely, till last night. I was reading Manto’s Black Margins, and all the snippets from his tale of the Partition suddenly coalesced into a black wooden cupboard for me. An impulse tells me to go home and buy it back from my neighbor today. Another impulse, coming from the same source, tells me to never think about it again. I stayed up most all of last night, hearing the opening and shutting of wooden doors with souls of steel.

December 21, 2004

Subah Ho Gayi Mamu

I fell asleep reading in the living room last night. My head, facing the window, was propped on a folded pillow. My feet were perched on a rolled rug.

At some point in the night, my hair released itself from its rubberband sty, and went on a rampage.

I was woken up at six this morning by my aching neck. When I flung the keratin curtain off my face, I saw a red sun rising from between my toes.

December 19, 2004

The Ten Commandments: Version 3.9

  1. Thou shalt not agree with your colleague if she wants to invite your manager to see a movie.
  2. During the movie, thou shalt not make jokes that your manager understands but your colleague does not.
  3. During intermission, thou shalt not change you seats at some random person’s request.
  4. Thou shalt not think up evil plan of playing joke on colleague who has gone out for popcorn.
  5. Thou shalt not connive with a manager who is as evil and insensitive as you are.
  6. After the prank, thou shalt not continue cracking jokes and making manager hysterical and colleague pissed off.
  7. If the colleague gets really offended and disappears after the movie, thou shalt not accept the manager’s lunch invitation.
  8. Thou shalt not take the seventh commandment lightly.
  9. Thou shalt not be seen by three nosy female colleagues having lunch with cute-but-engaged manager.
  10. If thou hast broken all the above commandments, thou shalt not go to work Monday, to avoid interrogation by totally unconcerned persons.

No matter what thou dost, thou shalt be branded a harlot.

In related developments, Swades is a good movie. Inkspill is a bad child.

December 16, 2004

The Five-Minute Downside

“Do you live alone?” they ask.
“No. I live on my own. There is a difference,” I say.

The noble reason for living on your own is that you are very independent within. The base motive is that you cannot deal with people switching on the fan when you don’t want it, or spilling food on the dining table. I am hoping there is a third reason, because I cannot delude myself into believing that mine is the noble reason, nor can I accept that it is (only) the base one.

Whatever the reason, the outcome is pretty good. On the whole, it’s a great way to live this part of my life.

But no deal comes without a flipside. And the independent life deal comes with a five-minute flipside for me.

Whenever I get home - whether it is from work or from meeting friends, whether it is at four in the evening or at ten, my heart sinks as I unlock the door and enter my empty house. In one smooth mechanical motion, I put the lock in its right pace, switch on the light, fling my bag to the chair, kick off my sandals, and switch on the music system. And since I have been listening to Raincoat for a month now, the music system greets me in Shubha Mudgal’s voice:

Shaam dhale sakhiyan sab laut gayin saari
Akele hum nadiya kinare

Of course I could switch to the Pink Pussycat (it’ll take me my whole life to get over this album name) mix on radio, but I prefer not to.

Maajhi tora naam to bata
Phir kaise pukarein tujhe kaise pukarein
Akele hum nadiya kinare

For these five minutes I am lonely, not solitary.

December 15, 2004


“Till you leave this place, I will take care of you. I’ll make sure you don’t miss your mother.” When a Bai introduces herself like this, she has more than a foot in the door, doesn’t she?

Sushila Bai is now my self-appointed guardian angel. She has a bad knee, because her drunken husband gave her an extra special beating once. She cannot kneel or squat to mop the floor, but somehow manages to do a decent job standing up. If I dissuade her from cleaning the house daily, since it is locked all the time, she insists I must not neglect the cleaning. Goddess Lakshmi does not come to a dirty house, she explains. Expenses.xls on my desktop tells me that I need divine help, so I succumb.

“I’ll cook Punjabi dal and chicken for you,” she said enthusiastically after running a background check on me. I informed her that I was a vegetarian, had never eaten Punjabi dal in my life, and preferred to cook for myself. She ran another background check, wondering what kind of a blot-on-Punjabihood I was.

“Are you married?” she asked me. She’d been working at my place for twenty days. No, I said, wondering if there were ghosts in my house that she saw and I did not. “Then why do you live alone?” Am yet to figure out the logic behind THAT one.

“After I finish working at your place, I go to work at Suresh Kalmadi’s house,” she once informed me. My egg-and-toast screeched to a halt on its journey down my throat. Turns out she works for his brother. Am honored, nonetheless.

“My son is a friend of the cable wallah. You will not need to pay 3000 for the connection. He will manage it in 600,” she offers. I am tempted.

Last morning she was late for work. Her drunken son met with an accident at 3 in the morning. It turned out that her breadwinning daughter-in-law had turned the unemployed wife-beater out of her house, and he was riding his bicycle “under a lot of tension.” Her “Sahib” (read drunken unemployed abusive husband) was in the hospital while she came to work. She was cheerful as usual. My horrified protests and comments fell on deaf ears.

She’s invited me for her niece’s wedding. I got a printed invitation card with my name on the envelope this morning. The diwali kandils that I finally pulled down last evening were promptly put into a plastic bag and taken to decorate her house. I can yell all I want about child marriage. She’s happy that the niece’s 17-year-old groom has a job.

There is so much this woman takes in her broken-kneed stride. Her grandma expired. Her son is in the hospital. Wedding preparations are on in her house. And she’s standing at the door with the newspaper in her hand at 7:30 every morning.

December 14, 2004

Does Not Merit A Title

Pre-School: I learnt the alphabet and dozens of nursery rhymes before I was three. I spent the year being horrified at the prospect of being beaten up like the other kids in school were.
Nursery: I never asked what the “guardian” in guardian angel stood for. I won a prize for Prayer.
Kindergarten: I never questioned the logic behind addition. I got all my sums right.
First Grade: I knew the names of all the Indian states and capitals in alphabetical order. I could not place any on a blank map.
Second Grade: I topped my class. I got beaten up by my Hindi teacher for pretending to write with a broken pencil. I was doing so because I was scared she would beat me up if I asked my neighbor for a sharpener.
Third Grade: I learnt an 80-word answer for geography by heart, without understanding a word. I topped my class.
Fifth Grade: I wrote a long speech but never had the courage to go up on stage and deliver it. I gave it to my friend to speak out. Both of us topped the class.
Eighth Grade: My English teacher dictated answers in class, confident that we could not write a sentence on our own. She broke down and wept on the last day of school, because nobody in class could describe what a verb was. I topped English that year.
Tenth Grade: Nine teachers told us on the first day of class that our scores this year would determine the course of the rest of our lives. I believed all nine of them. I had a nervous breakdown during the Social Sciences pre-board exam. I hated the subject, and spent most of my study hours on it. I got great grades that year.
Twelfth Grade: I wrote a long poem that contained all the correct numerical answers for all Physics experiments. I learnt this poem by heart. I never slept Wednesday night or ate on Thursdays, because I dissected rats that day. My rat dissection got so good that it was put up for the whole class to see. I got full marks in all Science practical exams.
BA First Year: I scored 45% on my first assignment: an essay on what tragedy was. I was mortified, till I was told it was the highest in class. I never did any research on any text. I topped the university.
BA Final Year: I studied the bare minimum number of texts required to answer the papers. I graduated with honors. And with 95% attendance.
MA First Year: I worked afternoons and did not even apply for library membership. I did not read any books that were not on the syllabus. I wrote my papers in 90 minutes while the class struggled to complete them in 180. I had nothing to say. I topped my class. Half the English department of Delhi University applauded as I received a prize.
MA Final Year: I dropped all the texts I could do without studying. I never read of a prescribed author’s other work. Writing papers took just 60 minutes now. I still managed to complete the MA second in my class.

If any of these “achievements” make you think I’m showing off, you are wrong.

Consistently doing well at exams is the symptom of a disease. The disease is conformity.

I am a monster of the education system. It promotes weasels like me.

I am the reason students should no longer be taught. They should be left to learn.

December 13, 2004


For the last one week, I have been taking “cigarette breaks” at work, which mean that I quit my desk, go stand alone in a corner outside, and do absolutely nothing. I am afraid I will start smoking soon.

Over the last couple of days, I have developed a strong allergy to female voices. I wish all the women of the world would shut up and not utter another word. I cannot bear the simpering and the screeching. I almost killed a colleague of mine who called me up to ask me something. Whoever said that women should be seen and not heard was right.

I sat in a car for the second time in fifty days yesterday. I ventured out of my village after dark for the first time in fifty days. I had forgotten how comfortable cars are.

I have decided to jump from the seventh floor of my office and land in the wedding hall next door. A tragic death will make the site unsuitable for hosting weddings (which are themselves tragedies in my opinion). My colleagues will be able to work in peace. It’s called sacrifice.

December 10, 2004

Ze Inspection

The countdown begins today. Ten days from now, my mother will land in Pune. Her spy has already been to inspect and report my clumsy housekeeping and pathetic cooking skills. The Boss is arriving now to see for herself.

I have been informed in advance that I need to take no special pains to clean the house or beautify it for the visit. Ha! I am supposed to believe that only 25 years of having unconditionally loved me will make Ma approve of my housekeeping?

Naah, this is just a ploy to catch me off guard!

So I am kicking off the preparations today.

Step one: Throw out the cigarettes, the ash trays, the beer bottles and the porn. Oho! I’ll need to procure all this first to be able to throw it out! To much trouble.

Step one (modified): Throw out the Maggi and the Pizza Hut menu card. And after the inspection, get a life.

Step two: Use a rag cloth to eliminate all dust from all surfaces, including the dial of my wristwatch. Do this daily so that it looks like a habit when performed before Ma.

Step three: Bribe someone to set the cupboard in order. Or, for the first time in life, do it myself.

Step four: Train the Bai to pretend that I am very carefully following her wherever she goes around the house, and not reading in the sunlight while she assumes total control over my house.

Step five: Stock my fridge with salad and fruit. Make them look comfortable, like they visit me often.

Step six: Make some mischief. No mother, however wonderful, deserves to be greeted with only thrown-out Maggi packets. Perhaps I should implement Plan B.

Plan B: Convince a friend to put on boyfriend act. Check if Ma really means it when she says “As long as you find someone….” Outcome one would be that she sees the guy and has a heart attack. Outcome two would be that she is very happy, and this makes the guy have a heart attack.

Ok. Abort Plan B.

I’ll just throw the Maggi out and wipe my wristwatch dial and meet her at the airport.


There is a wedding hall right behind office. This hall is a paragon of effective resource utilization, hosting two weddings a day at the very least. Music starts playing at atrocious decibel levels from about 10:00 am in the morning, and continues till about 6:00pm on especially auspicious days.

Last morning a highly respected and even more highly uninteresting professor of finance was educating yours truly on the nuances of pricing credit derivatives. I am subjected to this privilege once a week. “Literature… and Finance?” he says each time he sees me, as if the pain of this transition were his, not mine.

He handed me a printout of some scholarly thesis on credit derivatives (I am hoping that using the term repeatedly will help me understand what it means.) The document began with a quote by Omar Khayyam, and I was happy that at least two lines of text were speaking to me in a language that I could understand.

The wedding hall staff began testing the microphone “Hello Martians! Can you hear us? Is there a weather out there?” I decided to digress from Finance into regional weddings, only to be informed that South Indian weddings happen early in the morning and are a painful event, and will I start studying now? I stopped imaging the professor’s painful early morning wedding some hundred years ago, and buried my nose in the papers.

For an hour, he persisted in explaining to me how perfectly normal individuals (with families, friends, and cable TV) actually spend their whole work-life entering into fifteen financial contracts to avoid losing 0.01% of the money they had invested in one risky deal ten years ago. He turned the page each time I asked “But why would someone do that?” Apparently, like war and disappearing socks, credit derivatives are a reality of life one has to learn to live with.

Just as the professor and I gave up the struggle and silently lamented each other’s stupidity, the wedding hall DJ inaugurated his day with:

“Tumse milna, baatein karna, bada achha lagta hai
Kya hai yeh? Kyun hai yeh? Haan magar jo bhi hai…”
I sped out of the room to call up my manager and inform him that my eddication for the day was over!

Note: After a month of being surrounded by them, I finally got invited to a Maharashtrain wedding. My Bai’s 14-year-old neice is getting married next weekend. Dunno what to say.

December 09, 2004

Mujhe Door Koi Kheenche...

Whoever decided that women’s clothes did not need pockets was either:
- Completely Dumb
- A Man
(Research is yet to prove that the latter is not a subset of the former)

A pocket is not for storing Y-chromosomes and suchlike. It is for storing your wallet, keys, handkerchief, cellphone, movie tickets, and random bits of paper whose business is to get lost at important moments. I need a place to store these things as much as men do!

So I shop in the men’s section of Fabindia, or force tailors to stitch pockets into my kurtas. Then my pockets are used - and abused. The poor things are bursting with my worldly belongings on most days.

But this is just the beginning on the story. When I walk through a doorway, I am usually concentrating on where I am going, and am totally oblivious to the fact that the doorknob has made its way into my gaping pocket, has been unable to decide whether it wants to stay on with the door or go with me, and has solved the problem by ripping my pocket and part of my kurta apart.

A krrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr tells me that another precious dress will now need to be darned/cellotaped/donated. A hole in my pocket makes another hole in my pocket as I set off to buy new clothes.

How to deal with doors pulling at my pockets is beyond me. Advice is welcome.

Note: Yesterday was my Naani’s birthday. A snapshot of the personality she used to be:
65-year-old Naani takes off to Connaught Place for a weekend lunch on her own. She has difficulties crossing the iron chain that encircles the Inner Circle. She asks a cool dude standing nearby to help her. Dude says: “If you can’t walk, why do you step out of your home?” Nonplussed Naani says: “I step out because I know you have stepped out and are going to be standing here doing nothing. Now give me a hand.”

This one-fourth of my gene pool is sadly recessive.

December 08, 2004

Hoodi Sides?

Happiness iz:
Octagonal aaloo paranthas
Adrak chai
An illegal nap in the sunlight
Warm water through your hair
Well-written mails
Pirated music files
Coca cola on the balcony
Someone seeing your point of view
You not seeing someone’s point of view

Misery iz:
Unevenly cooked breakfast
Powdered milk in tea
Hair falling in the shower
Inbox full of documents to read
Limited disk space
Pesticide consumption for sanity-retention
Having an idiot understand you
Not understanding a genius

News iz:
Blog has a feed now. Tx Robot!

December 07, 2004




Full of emptiness.

December 06, 2004

Weak End

Since a lot of people are busy wiping the cowdung off me, I can write about my weekend.
Saturday was spent at Nature Trails, essentially an activity camp for children. It opens its faraway doors to the supposedly-grown-up on the weekends.

We were to go on bikes, which means that I had to choose between sitting on a bike or not going, which means I had to sit on a bike, which means that I was very scared.
After the first couple of manholes (personholes?) my friend chose to jump over, I got fairly confident of her driving skills and sat comfortably and enjoyed the whooshing wind plucking all my eyelashes off my face.

The camp was in the middle of nowhere, which is a great pace to spend a holiday. I went exploring, climbing tree houses in three-inch heels because the sponsor of the picnic ensured I never got home on time to go buy shoes. I wanted to re-teach myself how to bicycle, but ze boss popped in to see what I was up to and I did not fancy breaking my bones in his presence. I found a hammock in a secluded corner and fell asleep, only to be awakened by a secret smoker looking for a place to hide. A short chat later, he was reciting Coleridge’s Kubla Khan and I was praying to the cigarette to combust faster and throw the serpent out of my Eden!

The place served organic food grown on the premises, and cooked without oil. It was tasty! Strawberry yogurt should have been immortalized in poetry instead of Kubla Khan.

Got home and cooked for the neighbor (kill me) because madame wanted to learn a recipe.

Met Toro on Sunday. I am sure everyone knows what it feels like to meet someone who knows everything there is to know and a little bit more, I am not saying anything except that I suddenly feel very very stupid and all my years feel very very wasted (as in ill-spent, not opium-influenced). I had the satisfaction of making him spend a fortune on books (which I am going to borrow, thanks in advance) and of dragging the recently-left-poor soul to Vanity Fair.

If you have read the book thrice, there are some scenes that you want performed in a certain way, and that does not happen. Toro had never read Thackeray or suchlike but knew more than me. Since it is not polite to kick people for that, I behaved myself, and kicked myself, and watched the movie.

Witherspoon is legally blonde and illegally Becky Sharp. Mira Nair takes liberties with the plot, but packs in some good lines to make the film worth a watch. The lady in the seat next to mine informed her guy that “…this chap wrote all those novels: ‘Vanity Fair’, ‘Women in Love’”… I dunno who she’s talking about, I think it’s Mr. Occidental-Author-of-All-Literature-Centuries-Eighteenth-Through-Twentieth. She also let out an "Awww" from deep within her hormonal system at the sight of a baby, and I am sure her guy is now a very scared man.

Got home to meet ex-colleagues who’ve moved to Pune. Yakked, ate pizza, and watched Tom and Jerry: the only kind of entertainment available in my non-cable-TV abode.

Woke up at six today to see the sun rising. Then came to work, where a smelly bucket sat tilted, awaiting a blissful soul.

December 05, 2004

Happy Monday, Peeps!

There was supposed to be a long entry about my lovely weekend, but as soon as I walked in to work this morning, someone emptied a bucket of cowdung on my head.

Bbye bliss.
Hello work-week.

Quote of the week (courtesy the bull who has nothing to do with the bullshit)

“It’s so scary when you cannot, but people think you can.”

December 02, 2004


After the maid had left, I opened all the doors and windows of my house and let the sunlight pour in, hand in hand with the nippy breeze. I dragged my spare bed and dining table to the rectangular patch of sunlight in the drawing room, lit an agarbatti on the table and lay down. For half an hour, all I did was observe the chiffon smoke emanating from the incense stick.

It twirled languorously, waltzed with itself, and dispersed into nothingness. The breeze played with it, sometimes nudging it towards my face, so that I could imagine it brushing past my cheeks before converging to enter my nostrils. When the smoke had moved lazily for a minute, the breeze came in a gush that sent a single, sharp stream of smoke on an emergency mission in whichever direction it fancied.

The agarbatti steadfastly held on to its ashes till they got to be a big burden, at which point they were dropped unceremoniously. The tip of the agarbatti glowed a fiery red for an instant when the ashes fell, and then returned to a resigned orange veiled in brownish-grey.

The sun and the breeze felt really good against my nose and my toes. The performance of the agarbatti reminded me that I must drift in whatever direction the breeze takes me, and must be prepared to drop all my baggage in one painful but liberating instance.