December 30, 2011
More than anything, you sat me down and taught me all the things I am not, and forced me to confront the facts and deal with them. You gave me hours and hours to come to terms with myself, and though I used many of them to watch TV series and movies and read books, I think we made some major progress!
Oy yaar 2011! You made the husband start eating eggs, and have got me living off the poor guy’s salary while he feels a wee bit sad about the discomfort I feel in doing so! Tu pehle kyun nahin aaya 2011? Anyway, now please do proper knowledge transfer to 2012 about how to treat me. Thanks. Have fun wherever past years go to rest, and don't believe anything 2004 says about me.
December 17, 2011
If you could be ANY TWO of three things: healthy, wealthy and wise, which would you choose and why? The one you choose not to have will not become available to you via the presence of the other two: for instance, as a wise, healthy person you will not find a smart way to make money. Also, the one you don’t choose cannot take away the ones you HAVE. If you choose to be a rich but unhealthy person, your medical bills won’t ruin you financially.
So think about it and choose two and tell me why you chose them.
My choices would be to be healthy and wealthy. My simple reason: If I ignore health, as a wise and wealthy person, I’ll wish I had the ability to do something with my assets, and I’d always have a nagging sadness at the back of my mind. As a healthy and wise person, the sorrow would be a little less, but whenever I’d see a financial roadblock on my path to further wisdom and health, I’d be irritated. As a rich and healthy fool, I wouldn’t have the wisdom to miss wisdom, and if I saw a wise person who was either sick or poor, I’d toss my fabulous hair, pull my Burberry coat a little closer and say: “Poor geek!”
P.S: You’d think there would be a great deal of stigma attached to NOT choosing wisdom. You’d be right. However, I won’t judge you, I promise. I already traded my sound judgment for hotness and an apartment in London.
December 03, 2011
So the reason I’ve been away is that I’ve had a considerably tough time adapting to my new life. It’s not homesickness, it’s mostly the horrifying Dutch job market, and the realization that there is very likely no place for a person of my ethnicity and professional background here in the current economic scenario. It has been very difficult to accept that I shall not be conventionally employed for the foreseeable future, that I will have to choose between travelling on a whim and taking expensive Dutch lessons, and that even if I learn Dutch, it will be time to leave before I can reach a level of proficiency that enables me to put it to use gainfully. All this left me quite sad, my self-confidence shattered to bits (and not only because my neighbors used to ask me in the lift if I was a cleaning lady when we first moved in,) and it did not help that my only friend was a cat who liked to rub her face on my leather shoes.
I did not know I was such a people person. My mother thinks I permanently have a cold, because I clear my throat each time I start speaking to her on chat. That’s because my voice kind of goes away because of not having been used for the last six hours, and I have to cough it back into existence! Those who know me will vouch for my constant jabbering and I kind of miss my nightly jaw pain from spewing nonstop nonsense. This silence is a huge change, and has taken some getting used to.
However, as fog envelops my new home, the internal fog has lifted. I have made peace with my new life, and now I have a routine that fills my day with purpose and fun. And on this difficult journey, I have had loads of help from people who I must thank for being there. So here goes:
1. The husband: Poor guy, for months he has come home battered from the pressures of a new job to a high-strung, agitated woman who is all set to unleash her frustration and verbal diarrhea on him. His patience has ensured that we shall be celebrating another wedding anniversary soon.
2. My office: I was surprised that the boyfriend/fiancé/husband had been at the same job for six-seven years when we met, and since then have been constantly messing with his head to make him keep changing jobs and evolving. At the same time, this September I complete 5 years of association with MY workplace, which continues to indulge me and my insanity. A big thanks to my boss and colleagues who fill my days with work and fun and gossip, and bank account with pocket money even though I am thousands of kilometres away.
3. My family: They all have lifestyles that make me exhausted at their very thought, but they still take time out to sit before my stupid face for an hour on Google video chat to make me feel that they are right there (and also glad that they are not actually right there. Evil smirk.)
4. The Internet: I have a noisy office environment all day in my soundproof house. Marathon sitcom streaming allows me to work among some of the wittiest fake people in the world. It feels like “I Am Legend” when I reach the end of a series, but then I just get reassigned to another team.
5. Ramkali: My tiny foldable second-hand cycle with one handbrake has gone from being a pain the arse (literally) to my almost-daily companion on long and pretty rides around the suburbs. She makes me feel I have wings, she gives me the exercise that really does improve one’s mood as the experts claim, and she does not care where I’m from and what language I speak. For all that, I love her, and thank her.
P.S.: I am not alone in my misery. Wise Ishani has more info here.
September 29, 2011
Can’t blame Fate, really. It’s almost always been my bright idea to hop off the straight path and move bag and baggage to new places and new experiences. I remember how, on my first stint away from home (which was already the fifth bricks-and-mortar-thing I called home), I used to lie in bed, close my eyes, and try to recall each and every minor detail of the house. Once it took me a minute to remember our car’s registration number, and that shocked me! This oh-so-long adventure was just for three months, but created in my mind a (very possibly misguided) Home-Life dichotomy, and when the time came to make decisions, I regularly started choosing Life over Home. Many comic attempts were made to move to other cities, and a few of them actually succeeded. This meant a new home every few months, with not much motivation (and frankly never too many resources) to convert bare flats and rooms into tastefully decorated residences. With marriage came further confusion, and the hometown itself has now split into two, and perhaps it is my eternal pessimism that my spirit grates and perishes on the long road between my two homes instead of finding solace and belonging in the two sets of loving arms at each end…
I would be homesick if I knew which home to be sick about. I wistfully remember the entire floor I had to myself for a while in my childhood home, the (scandalous!) unisex hostel in Ahmedabad, the balcony in Pune that opened onto an endless stretch of treetops, the riverside hostel in London, and the sunsets through the palm fronds in my Bangalore home, but leaving each one of them has enriched my life, so I don’t really wish myself back there. (People-sickness is another matter altogether! I can’t do without my gang but I don’t really feel I have to do without them thanks to my superfast Internet connection!)
If I really look deep into my obviously-not-red-enough heart, I now carry my home with me. Right now, home is a little flat by the fake river in the tiny town that loves dope, and as long as the Turkish dry fruit seller brings me coriander leaves every Wednesday, and the darling husband flashes his million dollar smile over the sorry can-of-beans rajma chawal I garnish with the coriander, I am home, and not sick at all.
September 18, 2011
After dragging my lard across 9 kilometres on a tiny bicycle, I had reached breaking point by the time we got home this evening. As I parked the cycle, I realized the tyres were low on air: no wonder the ride had felt twice as long. With heads swimming, knees threatening to give way and shirts sticking to our backs, we decided to fetch groceries before we went home, because there was no way we’d ever make it back out of the house tonight. The road swayed a bit in front of my eyes as I walked, and when the husband decided to stop and take a picture of the sunset, I told him I’d continue “dragging my corpse” further down the road slowly, and he could catch up easily when he was done.
“Excuse me?” a voice rang out cheerfully behind me about a minute later. I turned to see a boy of about 20 in a manual wheelchair. “Can you please help me over the bridge?” he asked. The bridge is our a tiny but steep connection to mainland Amsterdam, and I often play the “cross the bridge in under 50 steps” game, making big leaps to meet my target. “Sure,” I said, and began pushing his chair. We discussed India, Morocco and our lovely neighborhood, and within moments this cheerful boy had dragged my corpse halfway across the bridge, and all my tiredness and self-pity out of my system. He thanked me and carried on alone, and I caught the rest of the sunset from the top of the bridge, waiting for my sweetheart photographer to catch up…
August 21, 2011
When we tell people in the Netherlands what brings us to their country, the standard reaction is a smirk, and the statement (sometimes preceded with an apology for the generalization) that they should have guessed! Indians in the West means IT and computer programming!
This used to rile me up but I had nowhere to take my impotent rage. Just as I imagine Dutch babies being born on bicycles, they probably imagine bespectacled Indian babies being born tapping away furiously on keyboards. While I hope both images are making you smile like they’re making me, it’s all wrong, wrong, wrong!
I’ve been thinking about it, and from a purely sociological perspective, one can imagine why the average Indian the West encounters is an IT person. Remember our lives 15-20 years ago? Between our family backgrounds, our religions and communities, our role model relatives, peer pressure, our still limited options, and the absence of an international perspective in our daily lives, life for us was going pretty much in directions determined by external forces. Then the computer (even without the Internet) came in and changed the rules of the game. Costing more than they do today, they probably never made it to most homes, but at reasonable prices, they became accessible to most urban teenagers in “training centres”. Here was a new thing that parents who wanted kids to be 100% studious could not say no to. No caste or community could lay claim to or criticize this machine. Rudimentary English skills could get you into this hobby/profession. “Accomplished” Uncles and Aunties could not say whether this was better or worse than being the doctors, engineers and architects that they were.
One machine came and lifted an entire generation out of a spider’s web of tradition and expectation, and did not discriminate based on Daddy’s salary, Mummy’s hopes, your academic grades (based on irrelevant-to-life syllabi) or your geographical location. For anyone who wanted to be an individual, West-style, the computer was a passport. And many used it. And aren’t we glad they did?
It’s these escapees you see programming computers and creating apps in your country, O cycle junkies. The funny thing, though, is that the spider’s web has now comfortably woven itself around the computer. All the relatives now want you to be a “computer engineer” and “status families” are willing to pay huge dowries for geeks. However, it’s still something anyone can work towards, and that’s why the next Indian you will meet at Schiphol, coming in with his suitcase full of Indian spices and a pressure cooker (C’mon! THAT isn’t about to change anytime soon!), is going to be a computer programmer.
P.S.: I am not a computer programmer, and you won’t give me a job. That is another reason why you don’t see more people like me, and I have a feeling you’re happy about that. Now sell me your bike at half price a.u.b. Dank u wel.
August 02, 2011
After going on a not-so-joyous joyride up and down the sinusoidal curve of dealing with unemployment (rejection, reapplication, stern rejection, depression, ah chuck it!), I am pleased to report that I have figured out a bunch of advantages that my situation allows me, and am making the most of it. If you are huffing and puffing on the job hunt treadmill, this post will give you reassurance. If you are approaching a coronary in your hamster-wheel of a job, this post will make you insanely jealous. So, without further ado, the bright side of joblessness:
1. Look at your sofa. Look how the sun’s rays caress it gently. Now lie down upon it. See how you can stretch you entire Indian height on it easily. Now hug the cushion and take a nap. When you wake up 20 minutes or 2 hours later, life will still be the same, except it will look nicer!
2. Remember your workday morning routine. Do you ever remember the back of your knees ever being dry? Whether it is the hasty dressing after a morning shower or the running about, or just the sitting in a chair all day, this crucial part of your body suffers! Now each time you bathe, pat dry the underside of the knees and sun-dry completely before puling on sweatpants!
3. Take your cycle out of the garage. At 2:30pm, your only enemy on the road is UPS trucks. Get fake confidence in your cycling abilities. Fake confidence begets real confidence. You could never get that in rush hour!
4. Watch 10 episodes of a sitcom in a row. Ok, that just makes you a loser. But you know it’s fun, and it’s the one item on this list that you might end up doing, so I’ll leave it in…
5. Earn some good karma. Go to the railway station, where hapless tourists from across the world are seconds away from missing trains, or are walking confidently in the wrong direction. Startle them by offering them help. You’ll get more smiles in a day than your colleagues give you in a month!
6. Throw the clothes iron away. Pack away your stupid shirts and their collars that are limp enough to not be presentable, but not too limp to bend into grotesque shapes! Buy some nice wash and wear clothes, and wash and wear them all the time.
7. Experiment in the kitchen. Do not have goat cheese with sundried tomato bread, or put red cabbage on nachos to make them healthy. There’s creative and there’s stupid. Remember the difference.
8. Did I mention naps already? Oh yes, the ones on the sofa. Smile to yourself as you make your bed in the morning. Soon enough, you’ll be back for a nap, or to watch sitcoms and eat cabbage nachos propped up by pillows. Try doing that at work, you employed smugmugs!
9. Go for walks! We all know that every branch of every chain store has the same stuff at the same price, but the thrill of discovering it for yourself is something else.
10. Plan holidays! Did you know that well-planned trips thought out thoroughly in advance are about 3-4 bucks cheaper than impromptu ones? And the stress of planning them makes them all the more welcome!
11. And finally, get your lazy ass to send out job applications daily, and do all the freelance work you get! This blasted honeymoon is not going to last forever! Do something! How come everyone else can find a job but not you! Shove that fancy degree where the sun don’t shine! Why did you not become a computer programmer? What’s this wishywashy thing you call a resume? Maybe showing up at some office with a WILL WORK FOR TRAIN TICKET placard will get you somewhere?? Ok breathe…breathe…
August 01, 2011
July 20, 2011
Uh oh where am I? Whose house is this? Well it is the landlord’s of course but now it is quite ours in the small and bare way that houses seem to become ours. And out the window is more water than a girl from the DDA flats has ever seen before. Remember when the tank was on the third floor and mom had to climb up a bamboo ladder to see that monkeys had not made off with the lid?
Sofas are nice. Never really had one ever before this. The coffee table continues to be ugly but it’s one of the few things made of real wood, unlike the Ikea activity that’s just collapsing like a punctured balloon if struck hard! The oven is big and is tempting me to start baking, but if I make a cake or a batch of cookies, then we’ll just have to eat it all ourselves won’t we? That girl in the student residence in London gave us such nice brownies… but I can’t imagine sharing a kitchen with anyone ever again! Except with the husband, who’s gone from not eating eggs to serving them sunny side up with a flourish that would impress Gordon Ramsay, even though that dude is usually just being an ass on TV on the rare days when we watch the TV because when you’re on the sofa in front of the TV, it’s much nicer to turn your head just a little bit and see all the water outside the window…the water I wish I had for long baths when I was a kid. It’s nice, this house. The first time that a house is OURS, even though funny mail comes into the letterbox, and someone else’s name shows up when you punch the number in the keypad at the entrance.
Yes. I think I will bake something nice in this nice house.
July 16, 2011
Just back from a three-day trip to Paris, and it’s quite pointless to say “Paris is lovely” or “Paris is beautiful,” because Paris is Paris, and that is that. It is quite pointless for me to try and write a post about it.
Somewhere between climbing up the steps of the Eiffel Tower, blowing kisses to Mona Lisa at the Louvre and Sarkozy Dada at the Bastille Day Parade, the city and its friendly (yes!) people made me vow to myself to visit as often as I can.
If you’re a virtual tourist reading this post, I’ll put you in the best hands I know. If you want to fall in love with Paris, just click here.
July 10, 2011
But this post is about train ride number 6, between Antwerp and Amsterdam, between 9 and 11 at night. At one of the stops on the way, two girls got on, took their seats, switched on music on their phone loudspeakers, pulled out packs of food, popped open cans of aerated beverages, and started talking, singing and burping(!) quite loudly. Everyone on the train seemed exhausted, at their wits’ end, and just wanting to go home and crash. Some people tried to politely remind the girls that there were other people on the train, but the girls yelled “Sorry? Sorry” loudly with one hand cockily placed behind the ear, pleading deafness. The protestors sat back in their seats murmuring and shooting stern glances in impotent rage. The girls laughed it off and went back to singing and burping.
The husband, who had aged about 10 years since the morning, what with chattering banking interns from Mumbai discussing inter-caste marriages, British schoolgirls playing tippy-tippy-tap and other such high-pitched noises that had shaken his inner peace, was at breaking point with these girls, who were sitting right next to him (God, I like your sense of humor dude!). I am almost always completely psyched about being on a train here, so I was having a ball observing them, and the discomfort they were causing. Sure they were a nuisance and someone should have thrown them out of the (moving) train, but they were two young girls, travelling alone at night on a train, having the time of their (probably sad) lives, and they were pulling it off in style! Could this have happened in a country like India? No chance! What’s the probability two dudes could be and would be pulling this off on a train ride on Saturday night? Very high!
As they got off the train, the girls smiled at all the people who had stared and complained. From the platform, they knocked loudly at a window, and waved goodbye with idiotic grins on their faces. The guy next to the window angrily flipped the bird, but that just made them (and me) laugh even more! Sure their food packets, abandoned on the seat, gave off whiffs from hell for a good hour after they were gone, but as I left the train, I found myself humming the corny song that played on their phones.
July 04, 2011
There are dedicated lanes, bike shops, bike rentals, bike repair, bike everything except bike classes everywhere you look. So how long can you resist getting onto a bike? Just because you never got beyond balancing yourself on two wheels is not a good enough excuse to walk about everywhere or use public transport, is it?
And that’s why I went bike hunting last week. Almost fell off about 10 bikes in various shops in various cities, and realized that there were probably 2 or 3 bikes in this whole country that I could successfully ride: low seat (at five feet four, I can barely see the top of the heads of Dutch bicycle-riding toddlers), hand brakes (with biking, like with speaking, I cannot stop once I start), and pedals that freely move backwards so that I can take the Vastu-approved stance (right leg up) for propelling my bulk into forward motion without STEC (Skull-To-Earth-Contact).
One of these 2 or 3 bikes awaited me at a second-hand bike store this Saturday! It stood alone alone in a corner, and the token cobweb to denote age and neglect, the hasty and clumsy coat of silver paint to denote its potential stolen status, and the smile on its face as soon as it saw me (or so I’d like to think) sealed the deal. All that was left was to take it for a test ride, and as soon as I dragged it to a quiet lane, sat down and started pedaling, the seat began to sink down (just like office chairs do, when you’re yelling angrily in a meeting). How many of you cousins of Lance Armstrong can claim to have ridden a bicycle with a rapidly sinking seat? I did not fall, and if a cycle can be evil and still safe, that cycle was made for me! Or more likely, it was stolen from someone, painted crudely, and decorated with a cobweb for me.
I paid an unreasonably high amount to the shopkeeper and went cycling in a park. Then on a semi-busy road. And since then, I’ve been practicing in an open space near my house. I’m getting so good at it that today I accidentally rode it with the front wheel turned 180 degrees and the brakes facing me! And I still did not fall! Is this cycle great or what?
It would be childish and immature to name the cycle, so I thought a lot about it, and I cannot decide between Masakkali (mah-cycle-y) and Dogmatix (because the tiny cycle and I look like Dogmatix and Obelix going for a walk).
Wish us luck! And remind me to buy liability insurance. Using the brakes is not on my list of things to learn till next week!
June 30, 2011
We lived in a busy lane just a few months ago. Cars, motorcycles, and even buses and trucks used to pass right under our home in a honking hurry to reach their destination. The half-dozen children in the building, whose parents had bought peaceful homes and not anticipated the traffic diversions that Bangalore would collapse without, would scream their lungs out in the stairwell, forced to exhaust their bountiful supply of childhood energy without stepping out the building. In this cacophonous neighborhood pressure cookers would whistle, music wafted in through the window, and the neighborhood alcoholic and his wife would have a screaming match with dogs barking to egg them on.
The calluses on my feet beat a hollow rhythm as I walk barefoot on the floors of my home. Their sound is deafening. Through the double-glazed, weather-proof windows, not a whisper can pass. When the windows are opened to let it fresh air, one only catches the polite whoosh of cars going swiftly and silently by. Even the construction of the large complex across the road is progressing without much smash-clatter-bang.
They who can be calm in a storm are admirable. I cannot claim membership to their club. For me, my new-found silence is precious. Long days that go by without uttering a word, long naps that end only because I want to wake up, long periods of quiet that let you reflect without having to resist the constant assault of new stimuli…I am addicted to them all.
Some would say the din I’ve left behind is life-affirming: a heady cocktail of sound gushing through the labyrinth of existence. For me, there is too much life in that noise, and too much noise in that life.
June 23, 2011
Don’t look at anything that’s too close to you, or your head will spin! Focus on the distant horizon instead. It’s the best policy for life and for train rides. Take breaks from the view, else you’ll be possessed by a demonic urge to crash through the panes and go walking in that green field or the patch of woods you just passed by. Look at your fellow passengers intermittently: smile at the old ladies and get smiled back at (the sister recommends this highly), assure the two Italian hooligans that they did NOT need to punch their tickets at the station, smile pleadingly at the British girl to dissuade her from spending the next two hours talking on the phone about a party she’s planning.
If you have a long day ahead of or behind you, try a nap. Be prepared for the finger of authority poking your sleepy shoulder and demanding to see your ticket, though. Scores of fake sleepyheads have obviously tried to snooze their way out of buying a ticket, and your snores are falling on deaf and cutely suspicious ears.
The train is also a great place to catch up with work, because your real life partner, the Internet, is not there to distract you. Read a book, complete an assignment, or dream up the emails you need to send out. The next stop is: Workstation!
I just love the trains. Grumpy office-goers complain that the trains always run late (which they actually do, in the mornings), but what do grumpy office-goers know about trains running late? Yaatrigan kripaya dhyaan dein: Hyderabad ko jaaney waali AP Express samay se 12 ghantey deri se ravaana hogi….
I’ve been looking for an adventure, a sanctuary, a bedazzling, shifting panorama, and a long journey. For me, the trains of Europe are running right on time. Goede Reis!
June 19, 2011
Today's multilingual atyachar: "I am a flower-arranger lady" in Dutch + Hindi/Urdu + Japanese + Gujarati = "Ik ben ik ikebana ben"
June 14, 2011
Yesterday the last long weekend before Christmas came to an end (for the husband of course; my life is the longest weekend in the universe as of now). We spent the cloudy afternoon enjoying the curtailed train services, browsing through a sports goods store for cheap shoes, and finally buying an extra set of bed linen from Ikea.
As we walked back from Ikea with our precious cargo (the store started out as Wonderland for me, and now sucks happiness out of every pore of my large surface area body for some reason), we saw a sea… no… an ocean of humanity spill out towards the ArenA station.
Old elderly white-haired couples hand in hand….roughly 34,000 of them, Wikipedia tells me, were exiting the ArenA after a concert. Many of them were aiming for the same train as we were, and after fortifying ourselves with a sandwich and lemonade (how quaint!) we got to the platform.
People “crowded” the platform in three lines parallel to the train tracks, they barely whispered as the train rumbled in, “jostled” in neat queues to get in first, 60-year-olds gallantly gave up their seats to 80-year-olds, and by the time the doors closed, hardly anyone was standing! We tried to entertain the venerable music lovers with a pole dance, of course, but nobody seemed interested.
I hope never to lose the feeling of joyful wonder at how well-behaved people can be. And how lovely Dutch trains are!
P.S. Stopped by at Pathe to pick up tickets for Kung Fu Panda 2 in IMAX 3D for next weekend! My first IMAX! Der aaye, durust aaye!
June 07, 2011
Our neighbourhood has lovely garbage disposal points within 50 metres of any gate, and ever so often there’s something that’s too big for the bin, like a sofa, that someone just HAS to get rid of and there’s nothing to be done except to leave the sofa next to the bin! Till the garbage crew comes along, passers by are welcome to sit on the sofa and enjoy the view of the bin, or to even carry it home with them if they need it! (Sofa, not bin. You Guys!!!)
When our landlord gallantly came over with a cart to take away all the unwanted stuff from the apartment’s storeroom, he left quite a few nice things, like a beautiful mirror, next to the garbage area. On our post-landlord-inspection victory walk that evening, we saw a rather nice lady pick up the mirror, examine it, and walk away with it. It was heartening to see that the mirror was not going to lie around waiting for the trash lorry, shatter due to the crazy river breeze in the meantime, and hurt someone.
It also made me bold enough to prod about in collections of stuff people leave there. Once someone left a darling green ceramic pot that was crying out to be taken home and have a plant installed in, but the husband looked at me with a look that I don’t fancy being looked at with, and I put the pot back. And did what any sensible woman would do. I went alone the next time. But the pot was gone. Never mind.
Meanwhile, my oh-so-white and proper kitchen had been looking like a mess because of all the oil and spice bottles I want at hand while cooking, and with no way to keep them neatly, I’ve been arranging them the way I have arranged my whole life… in a mess mostly. But a visit to the garbage bin has changed everything! Some kind soul cleared his or her storeroom and threw away a drawer-separator that had obviously been purchased but never used. After a minute’s hesitation, I picked it up and triumphantly brought it home. The husband initially suffered a combined attack of shock and disgust, but was so amazed at what I did with it, that this post is being made on his special request!
P.S.: I think I'll paint it white
P.P.S.: I was warned I’d become a junkie in Amsterdam, and seems like it’s happening.
P.P.P.S.: Of course I cleaned it. You Guys!!!
June 04, 2011
After a day of housework (it DOES consume every single second of your waking life if you let it) I went for a walk last evening. It was like any other one-hour excursion into the city, with one difference. I carried no handbag. Nothing on my shoulder, nothing in my hands. Just the keys, wallet and cellphone in my pockets, and NO BAG. You know how unusual that is for a woman? VERY. How can I be so sure? I came across a good 4-5000 women in that hour…tourists, officegoers, general chill-outers and unemployed women who had had enough of housework for one day, and NOT A SINGLE ONE of them was without a bag of some sort. Some were carrying their houses on their shoulders, which is normal for people landing at Amsterdam Centraal Station, and a couple of them were carrying just a tiny sling bag, but unlike roughly half the men I encountered, no woman was bag-free.
It was a lovely feeling to be able to walk without something pressing down upon your shoulder, threatening to slip off at any moment, or bumping against you with each step you took. Why can’t we do this more often. Unless there’s a porta-loo in that bag, why do women think they need to carry that bag and men don’t? Is the need to carry a water bottle, an umbrella, or a book exclusively feminine? When was the last time you stepped out of the house without a bag, ladies?
It might be a fun experiment. No bag for a week, no matter what. Must try! Water can be bought at a grocery store. Rain can be hidden from under an awning. Faces can be read instead of books. (Baazigar has ruined the poetry of that statement forever, hasn’t it?)
May 22, 2011
So anyway, here's an extract from a recent poetic post by the husband:
Imagine a cold, overcast day. Now imagine a quaint pub at the corner of a street by a canal. Entering it on a day like this is like entering a new world. You are sitting, chatting with colleagues with a glass of iced tea in your hand. Music plays in the background but faintly – for it doesn’t want to intrude on your conversation. In fact it is so faint that it sounds like a whisper from a world beyond ours. The music changes and your ears catch a vaguely familiar strain. But they can’t quite place it. Besides this is a pub – most of whatever little reached your ears is drowned in conversations around you. That nagging sense of familiarity persists – and the inability to clearly hear the music strengthens it. Then suddenly, by some stroke of good fortune, the conversations at your table and at the table beyond and at the bar stools pause for a fraction of a second – as if everyone was reading from the same page and encountered a full stop. And you hear with unmistakable clarity a voice that you know can only be Paul McCartney softly crooning:
Michelle, my belle.
Sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble,
Très bien ensemble.
I challenged him that I could better this, and here's my version:
Miserable cold day! Thank God for the cosy pub. English music drowned by chatter and tinkling glasses, as usual. Wait! Don’t I recognize that song? Maybe if I could HEAR it you know! Ah! Paul of the Mc Cartney variety of course! I love you, I love you, I LOVE YOU with increasing urgency, as if waiting in a long bathroom queue. But why is it so quiet all of a sudden? Oh nerve gas! Ouch! Bye! Logging out!
Look at the economy of words! The depth of feeling! The stream of consciousness! I'm wasting my talent I say! :)
May 11, 2011
I slept during My Name is Khan, so I don’t know what the plot is
But thanks to that blasted movie I know all about the epiglottis
Grammar, even English, has been tantalizingly out of my reach
But in the Netherlands I know the epiglottis is THE part of speech
My facebook status message has a cute little heart
That says Inky is in a relationship with her OV Chipkaart
It’s the choice that’s so amazing, but it’s the choice that I loathe
Debating between tram and metro, I often miss them both
I have zout popcorn in one hand, zoet popcorn in the other
It’s all good roughage, I tell my concerned mother
And the only problem with Oude and Jong kaas
Is that they are bleddy going directly to my arse
May 09, 2011
My first Dilliwali impulse is to abuse him and shove my shoe into one or more places in his anatomy, but then I remember I am in Amsterdam. I smile and say:
"This is Prinsengracht. Go a bit further up and take a left. You'll be on Singel"
P.S. Dilli or Amsterdam, you will be rammed into by two-wheelers even when you're crossing the road correctly. Some paradigms never shift.
May 08, 2011
Making a fresh start involved not just the mandatory letting go of a rented house, phone number etc. but a practical erasure of our Bangalore footprint! All our furniture. gadgetry and electronics were given/sold away, practically all the books we had collected over the past many years were sold to Blossom or given to friends, the husband's painstakingly collected music CDs, all 500 of them, found new homes, and when we handed the keys of the apartment back to the landlord, it was as empty as the day the husband had moved in.
We’d always taken pride in how little stuff we owned, and how we had been able to emotionally detach ourselves from our possessions. While turning the house inside out, we discovered that we were not quite as virtuous as we thought.
One month later, here we are: in a bigger house(!) with very little stuff and very limited storage space. Here’s hoping we’ll be able to live out our philosophy this time.
May 05, 2011
And, very rarely, it is the time of sticking your middle finger at the slings, arrows, bouquets and brickbats of outrageous fortune, chucking your secure jobs, hugging your forever-to-be-grandchildless parents, selling/giving away/throwing out all your worldly posessions, packing your life into 23-kilo suitcases, and moving to a new country where only one of you has a job (with the same designation with which he started 11 years ago!)
In four days, we celebrate one month of moving to Amsterdam, for better or for worse (for good? there's no way to know.)
I’ve learnt some disturbing things about myself along the way, and the silence of the last few months has not been due to the absence of things to say, but because I’ve had too much to process.
The husband has been posting in his Zen way on his blog, so you can check out how we’ve been passing our days if you’d like. For the uncensored craziness, watch this space.
January 20, 2011
I recently traveled to Amsterdam, where much fun was had, although not the kind you’re imagining. However, this post is not about Amsterdam. No Siree, this is about the amazing, amazing place called the Charles De Gaulle Airport (Pronounced Sharlesdegaul, or Chardegol or Chago depending on how much of a hurry you are in, or how French you are, or both) I am neither in a hurry nor French, so I’m gonna call it CDG (Pronounced Seedy Ji).
I’m not in a hurry now, but at Seedy Ji, I had 2 hours to catch my connection to Schiphol (pronounced Skhiple and as Achmed the dead terrorist informs me, is spelt Ess Phlegm Eye ….). So anway, according to the map on the plane, Seedy ji is in France. Ten seconds out of the plane (no aerobridge was provided, since the weather outside was so brrrrrrrrrruddy beautiful how could anyone miss it) you know that either France is a tiny cold India or you have been tricked and taken round and round in the plane for ten hours. Not to sound unpatriotic, but we do seem to mop the floors of our arrivals halls with a random mix of phenyl and pee. If we mop them at all, that is.
Then we climbed up a rickety spiral ladder-staircase and collided with passengers trying to use an aerobridge to get to their Emirates flight. For a couple of minutes, we got all mixed up with folks whose boarding cards were not going to be checked again before their plane took off! How cool is that? Eventually we were shooed back down the stairs in French, and we waited for our turn to use the corridor. Which led us to a hall where hundreds of people waited to board shuttles that would take them to their terminals. “Eff Eff Eff “ (not the swear word, the letter) we shouted and probably broke a few necks and legs as we made our way through the crowd into the shuttle. Thankfully it was so cold that the people we injured did not feel a thing till we were safely out of their reach.
We made it to our gate ten minutes before boarding, and this time was used in trying to find the rest room, and let’s just say we are not sure whether Madame and Monsieur went to the correct sections. Thankfully everyone else was even more lost than us, so we did not encounter anyone in the process of conducting our business.
I’d heard the Amreeka-flyer husband complain about Seedy ji and assumed he was too fancy, but looks like the poor dude was just asking for a clean and organized place as he got off one long flight and on to another, longer one. Seedy ji had their lavatory exhaust next to the cafes when we were taking off for India, so I’m hoping not to have to go there again. I do love their language though. And that pathetic view of the Eiffel tower from the plane is not crossing that goal off my bucket list. What to do? What to do?
January 03, 2011
The right and proper way to fry and consume an egg if you are me:
- Stick a slice of bread into a toaster. It’s nice if it’s the mini-oven kind, because it dries up and browns the toast very evenly.
- Take a very, very clean non-stick pan and heat it for a couple of minutes on a low flame. Add 2-3 drops of oil.
- Break an egg into the pan, taking care not to pierce the yolk with the jagged edge of the eggshell. (This accident has a higher chance of happening when you’re cooking the egg for yourself or for someone you want to impress. See Murphy 179:2)
- Now take a clean spatula and resist the temptation to mess with the egg for a minute.
- Ok now stop playing with the spatula, switch off that toaster already, and gingerly test the edges of the egg to see if it’s ready to come off. If it isn’t, your gas flame has switched off and your house is about to catch fire, or your pan was dirty and your maid is about to be fired.
- Once the egg is happy to let go of the pan, lift it onto the spatula. If you’re like me, your yolk is obviously not right in the centre of the arrangement, so lift the egg such that the yolk rests on the spatula. Now take the naam of Jai Sri Ram and flip the egg.
- Not so hard! You’ve broken the yolk! Yellow goo is flowing out from under the pretty egg. Find someone who will appreciate a cooked snack and feed this to them, and make yourself another. This time, turn the egg over gently.
- In a minute, begin the spatula prodding again, and convince the egg that the toast is a nice and comfy bed to lie down upon.
- Turn egg upside down and sunnier side up onto the toast, this time saving the yolk from your spatula’s incision, and sprinkle salt and pepper.
- Now, like a 2-year-old, break the yolk with the spoon and smear the golden awesomeness of it all over the egg.
Side Effects: This recipe is known to generate a strong craving for Darjeeling tea afterwards. And rusk to dip in it.
Remember the summer holidays, when the excursion to the mountains was done, the homework more or less completed, and the cousins had come and gone, and it was up to you to entertain yourself? Out came paper taken from dad’s office, with the letterhead portion torn off not-so-neatly using a footruler, and out came the box of poster paints, and the brushes. My brushes were always bent like a dog’s tail, and stuck stiff with the memories of ghastly artwork from many months ago. They were made with sable hair, apparently:
The sable (Martes zibellina) is a species of marten which inhabits forest environments, primarily in Russia from the Ural Mountains throughout Siberia, in northern Mongolia and China and on Hokkaidō in Japan…. It has historically been harvested for its highly valued fur, which remains a luxury good to this day. (Wickedpedia)
Yeah! And Camel/Camlin was making 2-rupee sable hair paintbrushes for my grubby generation of schoolgoers. Rrrrrrrrrrrright!
Anyway, the paints were all dry and cracked, of course. Asking the parents for a new box was risky. Before PowerPoint and Excel, it was difficult to make a business case for the procurement of new resources for a project that was not expected to even recover costs, so the old paints had to be revived. A bit of water, vigorous shaking (with the lid PROPERLY closed) and waiting a few hours yielded acceptable results. And when the brushes were dipped in water, they un-clumped and resigned themselves to the torture that awaited them.
And so it is with the blog. I’m putting water in all the cracked paints: the ochre of comedy, the Prussian blue of insanity, the crimson of angry rants, the black and white of memories, the green of uninformed opinion, and the brown of bullshit. The dog-tailed brushes are probably made out of dog tails, but I’m getting them ready again nonetheless!