27 June, 2008

Water Witch

*Fiction is a piece of truth that turns lies to meaning. Just wanted to tell you that, for no apparent reason.

Sweet drinking water would come from 8:30-9:30 every morning. As the clock struck 8:30, everybody automatically suspended all activity. Whatever you were doing - ironing, getting ready, eating breakfast, itching, shitting, sleeping, reading the paper etc. etc. Each and very member of my blink and you'll miss it family would rush off to various orifices of the house. "Children - go to the bathrooms and fill all the buckets/तसला (tubs)/mugs in visibility. And whatever you do, do not forget the big red tub. The big red tub." Someone would rush to fill the bottles with water enough to last the entire day. Someone smart would time their bath perfectly in order to wash there hair in the sweet water, ingenuity helping avoid the brackish water we got throughout the day (it could give sea water a run for its salt anyday).

We underwent years and years later of this amusing rigmarole. The normal water would go. Seconds later amidst lots of gurgling/flatulent sounds, muddy water would whoosh out. It was brown, as a certain Ms. Roy would say, the colour of tepid tea-water. Patiently we'd wait and soon the murkiness would give way to lovely sparkling sweet water. "Taste it before you fill it." That was the test. Either your mouths would pucker into preservation or delight in the chlorinated artifice that we recognized as sweetness.

Then one fine day the Aquagaurd guy came along. With his newly acquired English and fancy instruments, he made the sweet water routine history. No more 8:30 alarms and sudden standstills of things that didn't involve water. Now sweet (yes Bisleri sweet) water was at our beck and sip. Here a glug, there a glug, everywhere a......you get the hint. We rejoiced in an era free of water woes. Soon the Aquaguard became more a part of our home than the family itself. It gurgled merrily in the kitchen watching over the maid as she washed the dishes in the oh-so-salty-water, over the basmati rice as it lay soaking lusciously, over talkative dinners and leisurely lunches.

Good things of course have this unbelievable inevitable pre-destined downward trajectory. The Aquaguard went kaput. The guy who installed it, once a smile plastered salesman, strong contender for the most frequent bell ringer contest, was now summoned. Where this that leave us? Spoiled by our life of luxury, we were jolted back into the reality of water collection. Argh. And without its halo (utility), the Aquaguard I realized was quite a monster. He chewed into our electricity bills, purifying our sea water but at what cost? For every 10L it purified, it spewed out 20L of... wait let me taste it...absolutely normal tasting water!

The Aquaguard got okay (yes its a cycle - good thing goes bad then gets ok but can never live up to its earlier reputation of untainted 'goodness'). But at the same time began my water saving experiment. I started trying to reroute all the water that the Aquagaurd defecated into something other than the drain. Buckets were lined up in self-effacing embarrassment, awaiting their turn as they collected the Aquaguard's waste. The collected water went towards watering the plants, washing dishes (though the maid cribbed forever), cleaning the car, washing clothes and bathing the dogs! So, for a few bottles of aquaguarded water, here I was managing to do all my other water activities. Maybe the poor Aquaguard wasn't to blame. He just needed some tweaking. Tapping all the water that was generally wasted became my maniacal crusade.

The मीठा पानी routine was again relegated to its rightful place in history. But I being the dud I am managed to inflict upon myself another completely voluntary water routine. Well with a falling water table and expanding waistline, I guess no one is complaining.

22 June, 2008

Sliding Doors

A Saturday afternoon. A good movie. Lots of free time. I couldn't ask for more. Sliding Doors. A story of Helen (played by Gweneth Paltrow) who's been sacked from her job and is taking the tube home (yes its set in London). The narration then follows two scenarios: one if she had managed to catch the train, the other if she had not. The movie is at worst a very pleasant experiment.

The humour is quirky, the acting decent and above all Paltrow [whom I have detested since long and now realised there must be something to her afterall she's married Chris Martin and he's on THE list] is looking stunning in crazily spunky cropped hair. I realized that she is strangely beautiful in an understated anoerexic way. She alternates between a dowdy limp-haired version and a short-haired smiling woman. Then there is this place in the film where she says, "For God's sake, Gerry. I asked you a simple question; there is no need for you to become Woody Allen." (The dialogue writer should be hugged for some of the utterly fantastic dialogues - so commonplace, believable and unassumingly witty.)

James, her what-if love interest played by John Hannah (remember Brenden Fraser's silly sidekick in The Mummy) has the most irritatingly adorable sense of humor (sample: Everybody's born knowing all the Beatles lyrics instinctively. They're passed into the fetus subconsciously along with all the amniotic stuff. Fact, they should be called "The Fetals".) You would except something like that from a person who quotes Monty Python at the drop of a hat. He is certainly not good looking, has a bad haircut and talks way too much. I almost fell in love with him myself.

Then there is the cheating-two-timer-twerp-writer-boyfriend who was amusingly convincing in his backboneless twerpiness. He too has a terrible haircut - oily meets wavy meets long uncool length which just covers his ears (why did I notice everybody's hair so closely in this film? Weird). And his pathethic cheating is worsened by his inability to help Helen make ends meet. However, he couldn't be all bad - afterall he spoke to himself in the mirror and said something particularly inspiring - "I'm never going to finish that book, hell I'm a novelist."

Here is of course a better review of the film.

19 June, 2008


Just something I came across. Its quite silly but then since when did we stop playing that game?

Just a puppet on a lonely string, Oh who would ever want to be king?

Splendid. She had no balance in her cell phone. None whatsoever. Not even for a missed call. And she was planning to meet him in front of Wenger’s in 15 minutes. There was no way she could manage that with this traffic. With nothing better to do she plugged in her earphones and listened to Chris Martin’s latest. He crooned in his characteristic brooding manner amidst the clash and bang….The breeze mixed with the fumes making her cough. They had been at this particular traffic signal for over 10 minutes and the autorickshaw still seemed a kilometer away from the red light.

She shouted above the din, “Bhaiya kitna time lagega pahunchne mein?” (How much time will it take to reach?).
“Madam aadha ghanta toh lag hi jayega.” (It will take at least half an hour)

“I’ll never make it in time,” she fretted. She looked outside the confines of the auto. There was a kid making faces at her through the window of a car. Pigtailed and covered in lace, the child seemed fascinated with the sights around her. Traffic signals certainly didn’t bother her. Her manicured mother now coaxed her away from the window and gave her a lollypop which seemed to placate the inquisitive child.

On the other side there was a scooter groaning under the weight of a pot-bellied man, his make-up laden wife, daughter who sat squashed at the back and a toddler of a son who stood under the handles hanging on for dear life. She wrinkled her nose disgustedly, “Damn the population. If there weren’t so many people I wouldn’t be stuck in this traffic.” Objectivity in situations of crisis was one of her strong points.

Motorcycles were whizzing past irrespective of the stationery traffic, weaving their way through the traffic, defying lanes and all safety concerns. Amidst all this was a little scraggly girl balancing a baby on her narrow hips. Her hair was bleached by constant exposure to the sun and looked like that of the models’ who were on the covers of the magazines she was trying to sell. Flies sat around the baby’s mouth and it began wailing loudly. Unperturbed, she carried on reciting the names of the magazines.
Honk! Honk! The light had changed colour. The engines were starting up. Exhaust pipes spewed out their sins and the entire body of automobiles began heaving like a monster awakening. Suddenly, a young boy – he must have been eleven or twelve, emerged near the auto, his shirt drenched in red, his eyes open wide in terror.

“Didi meri madad karo,” he screamed, “Ek aadmi ghayal pada hai sadak par. Please aa jao. Please didi.” (Help me. There is a man lying wounded on the road. Please come. Please)

He began tugging at her kurta, tears streaming down his young face, forming rivulets through the grime. She gave him a stern look, seeing through the ploy straight away. Fake tears coupled with some good acting and red paint and you could cajole any unassuming stranger to help you. Many people had got led away by such stories of distress and robbed/raped by paying attention to these fiends. The newspapers were full of it. So when the little boy began crying, she turned away saying, “Kisi aur ko buddhu banao.” (Go fool someone else)

“Nahi didi, woh mar jayega. Bahut khoon…khoon khoon. Aap hospital ko call kar do.” (No, he will die. A lot of blood…blood blood. You can call the hospital). He began mumbling incoherently and clutched at her feet in desperation, willing her to make eye contact. Suddenly, as if on cue, the after effects of the green light filtered down to the auto and the traffic moved. The boy was left behind wailing. The incident had left her shaken, she wanted to believe the boy but common sense told her otherwise. “Anyway I don’t have enough balance to call a hospital,” she placated her conscience.

After another forty minutes through heat and smoke, she found herself in CP. He will be fuming in front of Wenger’s pacing up and down, feeling awkward and not knowing what to do with his hands. She almost smiled as she pictured him grumbling, his hair a mess and his forehead ceased into a frown. With a useless phone and him no where in sight, she felt utterly handicapped. “How did people ever make and manage to keep plans before cell phones?” she wondered. “Where the hell is he? He is late and I was worrying all this while. So much for all the lectures he gives me about punctuality.” It’s strange how we find it hard to empathize with people in a situation for which we would have liked to be forgiven. Cursing him, she went into the pastry shop to grab a mutton patty for herself, a mushroom one for him and two éclairs (both for herself – he didn’t care for sweets). She stood watching people walk through the arcs of Connaught Place. Old people doddering, young ones cuddling, gossiping, haggling, boys strutting, girls sashaying. The evening was fast turning dark and the flies gave way to mosquitoes. There was a slight breeze and the stars were beginning to twinkle. She sat around, idling, angry at being made to wait, worried about reaching home late, disgusted with him and his utter callousness (he could’ve called at least).

An hour later, she got up in a huff. The Wenger’s doorman gave her an apologetic smile. Maybe he had seen many people stood up before. She certainly hadn’t and wasn’t too happy about it. Reaching home in a rotten mood, tired and irritated, bubbling with horrible things to say, she lunged for the phone and jabbed in his number with vehemence. Deep breathe. 1 2 3. “The number you are trying to call is currently unreachable. Please try after sometime.” It was the proverbial last straw.

* * *

She groggily opened the paper and scanned the headlines. At the bottom of the second page, there was a small piece on an accident. “Famous lawyer’s 24 year old son dies due to car accident. Delay in medical help costs life.” The article went on to moan about the city’s deteriorating and deplorable medical facilities, the insensitivity of by-standers who watched the man die and how an 11 year old had tried and failed to get any help.

15 June, 2008


If feelings were faucets
On and off at your will.
If memories were a disease
Would you swallow the pill?
If being you could mean
I could undo the I,
The world would be a metaphor
An escapist's sty.

10 June, 2008

Grin Gyan

One fine day my laptop decided not to work. It wouldn't switch on. Now even for a nincompoop like me, that spells grave news. I rushed off to my friendly neighbourhood computer guy (read the technical dept. of my college...the guys there know me pretty well and regard with me with well-concealed amusement and ill-concealed irritation). Imagine that pesky fly on a sticky summer afternoon that keeps hovering near you, sitting for a while, flying off just as you try to swap it. Well I am that fly. So, armed with my comatose laptop I went up to them.

"Yes? Kya problem hai?"
"Mera laptop on nahi ho raha. Kal toh ho raha tha. Aaj try kiya toh koi light nahi. Kuch nahi."
"Madam aap aaj aur kal ki baat kar rahe ho. Poore poore log mar jaate hain itni si der mein. Laptop kya cheez hai?" Insert smug I-am-so-witty-grin here.
Ok I did NOT like the tone or direction of the conversation. Changing tracks, I said, "Toh aap please dekh sakte hain kya problem hai?"
"Abhi bahut busy hoon. Aapka laptop coma mein chala gaya hai. ICU bhejna padega."
The humour was lost on me again. Completely.

Two days and a different computer man later , I am typing this out on my reformatted, cured, all data retrieved (except some GB of music boo hoo) laptop. I feel like celebrating. Yes all my bookmarks are gone, I have to install ALL my software again, the desktop looks alien but still I feel like its a homecoming. Attached? Hell I am in love with this flattened piece of machinery.

Of course there are other reasons for me to smile. I am back from an invigorating holiday at my village. Rafael won the French Open. I liked his frog green outfit this season (he looked like a patch of grass on the clay and that seemed to me a befitting pun as he thrashed Federer in the final). Then India is back to playing the kind of cricket its best at losing and winning - the 50 over kind. After all the IPL fast food (I only watched the final and what a thriller that was), I'm looking forward to a proper meal. And as I finishthis, the men in blue have calmly undone a very unconvincing Pakistani side.

03 June, 2008

Growing pains

The main problem with adulthood is that the problems you are faced with aren't the kinds which get settled through a hug. Its the realization that no one is going to come and tell you, "There there don't cry, I'll make it alright for you."


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