Now if I had my own way...

Nothing is probably a better start to a day than watching a litter of newborn pups gambolling about playfully and whining to each other. The lane through which I walk down, it turns out, is a kind of a mating hotspot. Only two weeks back there were these brown set of pups, who have grown up into healthy teenagers. The new set is mostly black in colour. Yesterday evening while the mother was not around, I sidled upto our friends. It is such a nice feeling -- the little things nuzzling against you and wagging their stubby tails furiously.

Oh how I wish I could have a pup of mine own. Two years back, I remember I was in Sarojini Market and I came across this little cute lab pup. I wanted to have him so badly that I almost fixed up a deal with the guy. And called up E and S who were both at work. Their reaction: What? Are you crazy? You and pup can have the flat to yourself!

That was the end of it.

But nothing can beat the fact that I was about to become the proud owner of a baby owl. What happened was, last winter, a former colleague told me that me that her tenant's daughter had rescued a baby owl with broken wings and put it in the Jain Hospital. Now I have always had a fascination for owls. My mum while out for a morning walk came across a baby white owl which had fallen down from a tree. What did she do instead of bringing it home to me? She asked a guard at a building nearby to put it back on the tree.

So this hurt owl was my best chance. On a cold winter evening I made my way to the Jain Hospital. I had to take off my shoes and walk barefoot to the section where birds are housed. A guy there informed me that it had been released after being treated. He took me around the birds' section. All kinds of them - kites, eagles, parrots, sparrows, doves, pigeons, budgeriars - nesting around. The kites were kind of scary. They barely moved in their cages. In a way I felt sad for them. It must have been bloody claustrophobic. To top the injury that I got nowhere near my baby owl, I faced the ignominy of the guy trying to get fresh.

This was a good news though for E. She freaked out when she heard at what might have been. What would you feed it? It would come back with dead rats from its nightly visits outside! I am sure I would have found a way out. But it's not destined to be it seems. Sigh.


Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. I say that chivalry can never be a thing of the past.

Chivalry is not exactly the Indian male's forte. It is the Italian's.

In a matter of yesterday and today I came to the conclusion. Yesterday night I was attending the fashion show of Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre where at a certain point of time, a journo from another paper, S, and I were interviewing the CEO of Ferre. The latter pretended to be as dumb as possible with the result that we had none of our answers. As we were walking out of the hotel not very happy with life in general, an Italian guy held the door open for us and we sailed out. We turned back to smile and thank him. He was neither the doorkeeper nor was he trying to enter at the same time as we were getting out.

Today I was atttending a book launch. Now I K Gujral was there as the guest of honour. We walked out of the event at the same time and were waiting for our respective cars. I noticed an old lady who was kind of disabled and was trying to get in just after Gujral walked out. His PA, or whoever he was, held the door carefully open for Gujral but the next moment swung the door back on the lady. Of course she managed to open the door and walk in but there was nobody to help her. Not even the guard near the entrance who was standing watching people get in and out.

So if you want chivalry you know where to look.

On a different note, for the first time in my life, I watched a skywalk. Esprit launched in Delhi and for their fashion show, the models waltzed down the walls of the Shangri-la hotel. I revealed my awe and ignorance at the beginning by asking how they would do that. A photographer let me know that there have been shows like this in Bombay. And even though these models had ropes tied onto their waists and shoes that clung to the surface of the walls, I thought they were brave. Imagine walking down a five-star hotel and yet managing to look graceful!

Apparently colleague P was outside the hotel in the car and about to enter when she saw a person walking down the hotel wall. Her eyes popped out. "Initially I was trying to figure out whether I was seeing right (she was san lenses but wearing her glasses). Then I thought someone was trying to commit suicide. people had even gathered around because it could be seen from the road," she said dramatically as we stuffed into some yummy chocolate pastries and particularly nice chicken pizzettes (small circular thin crust pizzas).


Me a pickle freak

I am sitting at my desk and sneaking in a piece of mango pickle into my mouth (Colleague SB brings them on Saturday along with her aloo paranthas). If ever there was heaven, it is here, it is here, it is here.

I have always been a pickle freak. Especially pickled kul (I do not know the English equivalent for Kul). Whenever bottles of it would arrive at home in my grandma's suitcase, I would stash away one of them beneath the bed. Because when I was a kid, I was incredibly fond of two things as any other kid would be I guess - chocolates and pickles.

And I would hide them carefully since my brother had a bad habit of keeping them in the fridge right in front of my nose and preserving them for ages. Of course it wouldn't last. I would finish them off and Inevitably there would be a hue and cry about it and my mother would be ready to chase me around the dining table (it took some time, because the table happened to be really quite long).

The chocolates would come courtesy my aunt (father's sister) and my uncle (father's bro) from London. They would come in attractive packages like huge red stockings around Christmas. That was the time my aunt used to come down with my two cousins - Anna and Anthony - laden with perfumes, clothes, cookies and chocolates. Oh what times they were! I would stay with them for the entire time they were in Calcutta. It used to be a major party with their cousins as well accompanying us to trips to restaurants and the golf clubs. And there used to be this sardarji driver there who would take us around town. Nice man he was and very fond of me. I would chat with him for hours. Now I wonder what was the point around which our conversation centered.

The pickles though were a sore point with our family. Some baby or the other had died in the previous generation and mysteriously it was linked to the process of pickle making. Now don't ask me how? I am as confused and angry about it. I used to crib to my mother about it - why did we have to be saddled with such a weird excuse of not being able to make pickles?

Once I decided to flout this custom and I set out to make a bottle of lemon pickles for myself. It was an ambitious project may I say. First of all, my ma was not at all happy about the amount of lemons I had emptied on to the mat on the roof to be sun dried. Following which I dumped them into a bottle filled with a mixture of salt and sugar syrup. I waited for weeks till I opened the bottle.

I think it had turned into some kind of fungus instead of my dream pickle. So I have contemplating since then that it might have been a curse after all.

Now let me respond to Thalassa's tag before she accuses me of ignoring it!

Seven things I plan to do
1. Travel to my heart's content.
2. Open a paan boutique.
3. Own a nice sprawling farmhouse with lush greens all around. And have as my companions - an elephant, a horse, a panda and two dogs.
4. Keep a check on my foot-in-the-mouth disease.
5. Fall in love.
6. Get married at Cyprus - sort of an island wedding.
7. Shop without looking at the tags.

Seven things I can't do
1. Let my ego take a beating.
2. Be cheated.
3. Bear people trying to intimidate me.
4. Go window shopping (I end up buying no matter what).
5. Sleep well after a scary movie.
6. Not have popcorn when I am out for a movie.
7. Like my gym trainer (Laziest trainer I have ever come across. Just grins and says, wanna do more? I dread those three words).

Seven things I say most often
1. Gandu (an affectionate word in my dic)
2. Bitch (same as above)
3. Fuck
4. What the fuck
5. Basically (I hate this word. It comes up when I am doing an interview and am a bit nervous)
6. You know
7. Whatever

A random thought for the day:

Don't think the best things in life are free? Try not breathing for a while. Bob Smithwick


Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening

That's a Coco Chanel quote since I have had a weekend of fashion study that actually made me feel fashion is not so trivial as most of us tend to think. After all it has a history of its own. A fascinating one at that.

The workshop was at Manesar Heritage Resort (two hours from Delhi). The place itself was not five star but it was nice and quiet. Some of us were lucky enough to get single double bed rooms to ourselves because of cancellations by other journalists. And my room faced the swimming pool.

Some highlights from my trip:

As I sat on the other side of the desk and listened to lectures, I rediscovered the pleasures of studying.

I met several 'interesting' people on the trip. People with heavily false accents, supercilious attitudes, dirty old men, geeks and someone who suddenly and inappropriately reminded me of Horse & Hounds.

The individual in the first category, goes without saying, was shunned by all and somehow I did not feel sorry. And let me not stretch it to the plural. There was actually a dirty old man who insisted on latching onto every female on the trip. By the end of it he had succeeded in pissing off one and all. At the beginning of the trip when we met I remembered him from a French opera where we happened to be talking to the director of the opera. When we reached Manesar, he insisted on telling me that it is the dirty weekend retreat for some. Besides filling me up on how he sits at the Press Club all day and loves getting drunk. So when he was sitting alone on a field trip to a factory and asked me to sit next to him, I literally ran for my sanity. And plonked myself next to a person who reminded me of Hugh Grant.

Now when I say he reminded me of Grant, I don't mean physically at all. He was a nice guy with a sophisticated air about him. He was from some trade magazine, the name of which brought back Horse & Hounds to my mind. Weirdly I didn't at all feel he was trying to be overfriendly or irritating when he asked me about my beat and myself. Some people I am glad to say just don't rub you up the wrong way.

The export factory we visited had amazingly fashionable jackets. They apparently export to Zara, Tommy and the like. The owner and his wife (who impressed us highly with her oratorial skills) showed us around the place. Inside the place were some thousands of workers sewing, checking and rechecking the garments. It might be employment for those people, but a huge huge room chock full of people doing the same mechanical job for 10 hours every day didn't seem very cheerful. I can't explain it. It was just the sight of row after row of sewing machines and other machines and a sea of people inside that freaked me out.

Once back at the resort, we had more classes. For which PR girl BS made sure we were seated inside. She even trailed behind us to the loo!

The classes itself were really cool. And the persons taking them cooler. Not for a single minute did I feel bored. Though I must say the German lecturer, who took us on a presentation on fashion through the ages, was so flat it was unbelieveable. She could have made even rock n' roll sound flat.

As it became dark and we got back to our rooms to freshen up for cocktails and dinner, I was feeling so happy. There were diyas floating in the pool and Rajasthani folk singers playing there. It was just perfect. And the happiness increased as I tossed drinks down my gullet. One after the other... LIT, red wine, white wine, a delicious vodka drink...teamed with yummy chocolate cake. The effect may I say was profound. Besides the fact that I could hear only through one ear, the next morning I found my watch cracked and a spot of pain on my forehead.

The unexpected happened too. There were designers Ashish Soni and Manish Arora at the workshop. Credit to geek journalist who asked them, "Why don't these export houses tie up with you? The house we visited said Soni and Arora just make a lot of noise." You should have seen the reactions of the two. Arora who needs a setdown really badly got it. And it did Soni good. He spoke. At any given occasion, he who has the least to say couldn't stop making his point and making sense too! While Arora was this picture of amiability.

In the feedback sheets we were given to fill up, I recommended such workshops once a month. I asked some others. They wrote once in 6 months.

I guess I couldn't have asked for more. A drunken weekend and let's not even begin counting the calories...oily bacon rinds, pineapples, cheese, lots of meat, malpuas, gulab jamuns and chocolate... Besides of course the worst pasta I've ever had!


Of blasts, crackers and ghosts

I love lazy weekends and I love the sight of the rich golden lights bursting in the night sky on Diwali. The chill in the air as I stand on the verandah craning my neck and trying to catch them going off in different portions of the horizon.

I don't love the green and blue coloured lights and I don't love it when rockets land on me. Thankfully this year they didn't because I sat at home with S and had a huge dinner of pizza, garlic bread with cheese and crispy honey chicken and mixed noodles. Wow that was a breathful. And calorific as hell.

But they did land on me once. I was in Calcutta in high school. It was Kali Pujo and I was standing innocently (I was just watching my bratty cousins light the chadkis and the tubris) between my two cousin sisters. When wham! a rocket hit my shoulder. I was stunned. Only when the burnt feeling set in, did I run inside. I have since always wondered at the uncanny precision of the rocket.

Also I don't love it at all when the crackers are lined from one end of the street to the other and they go off like the battering effect of the stengun. Yesterday night as I was trying to watch Shrek 2, the sounds of the damn things drove me up the wall. S gave up. She went to sleep as early as 9.30 while I gave up on Shrek and read a book. At present I am reading Vikram Seth's Two Lives. The man (pint sized though he may be) has magic in his fingers. I kept wiping my face as I read of his aunt Henny. The book seems even so better because I have just got over with One Night @ the Call Center by Chetan Bhagat. First of all, when I met him for an interview I thought he was a pompous ass with no reason to be so. I think he is just a guy-who-got-lucky-with-an-average-book phenomenon.

The weekend started off with a Chanel show on Saturday night. I was feeling so frantic that day finishing off with my stories that I didn't even go and join the crowd around the TV in office when I heard the word 'blast'. It must be some minor thing in some city I thought to meself. And I rushed home. In the auto I got a call from my London aunt. She wanted to know whether I was alive. But still I didn't find the time to flip on the TV. I rushed for the show. Thereafter the amount of calls I received told me that it must have been serious. An RJ even messaged and asked how I was. I was taken aback. I replied: "In heaven where they are having a Chanel show and serving champagne."

Got to know about the real thing from E. She messaged me: Get your ass home RIGHT NOW. When she called, I told her I was sipping on champagne and feeling happy. What she said next did make me feel ashamed. "There are BOMBS going off lady. One in Paharganj, one in Sarojini Nagar, in Karol Bagh and in a DTC bus!" What one of the designers told one of the reporters the same evening disillusioned me. When asked whether he had heard about the blasts, his reply was "Life has to move on!" And I met the son of a minister there who said that he 'had' to be there with his father at the site of the blasts.

Inspite of the scare, the next day I was 'foolishly brave' (as others around me described it ). I dragged P along with me to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And should I say I didn't regret it cos the theatre was practically empty. The sight of a nearly empty PVR on a Sunday evening is quite a thing. In the darkness though P suddenly grabbed my hand and said, "Can you feel the floor vibrating?" Truly it was humming. I reassured her with the words, "I think we are destined to live a few more years". A few seconds later there were mild sounds of a siren straining in. And of course P asked me what it was. If these diversions were not enough, there was a little curly haired kid walking around. She kept tapping P on her arms and jabbering away to her.

But do watch the film. I fell for the oompaloompas and need I say Johnny Depp. I watched another film that had me going gaga about Rahul Bose. It was Mr and Mrs Iyer.

Over the weekend (I had stayed over at P's place), I heard a story that of course scared the wits out of me. We were almost drifting off to sleep when P narrated her story. "My aunt and uncle were newly weds at the time. They had come to Delhi and were visiting the Humayun's Tomb. It was not so well kept then. They had sauntered off to the part where Bu Halima's tomb is. They got this peculiar smell and followed it till they came to this enclosure where they saw a body shrouded in white and patches of blood on it. They were so scared that they ran for the guard. The latter went back with the police and came back to say that there was nothing of the sort there. Very disturbed my aunt and uncle returned to the place they were putting up at. But the smell persisted. They shifted to another corner of the city after that." I remembered all the occasions on which I had trampled to lonely monuments in the city and also thanking my stars that I had not met any shrouded bodies or disgruntled spirits.



Well I am back. Two weeks of home was bliss.

The smell of the dhuno, the bhog, the smell of homecoming - I was so glad to be back in Calcutta.

We have a family puja which is some hundred years old (my father, heaven forbid, if you get him started on it will give you the history as vividly as possible and bring out the family tree chart as well). We rotate the Durga Puja among three houses, ours being one of them. But this time it was at an uncle's place.

I rediscovered many things at the puja. Amongst which foremost was a crush on a cousin. A distant one - may I point out! I still feel the same way and I was strongly tempted to talk to him about it. Thankfully this time I let my impulse take a back seat.

In the same house was my aunt's husband who is bedridden. He has cancer. From a healthy good looking man he has been reduced to what I cannot even call a shadow of his former self. His daughter has come down from the States to be with him. Apparently she has been crying all the time, so her husband sent her back. The aunt couldn't even smile properly when she met me. I felt like hugging her and telling her everything will be okay. But that was the one thing I just could not do, could I?

On the second day of sapthami I realised that I was only the youngster around. Otherwise it was only my parents, and my uncles and aunts. Would my generation ever take the pains to carry on this tradition? Seems highly unlikely. All my cousins are abroad and scattered in different parts of the country.

The relatives were highly flattering though. I was a major celebrity among them. "We read you every time and wonder how you know so much!" By the end of it my jaws were aching with smiling. Next they leapt on to what is their favourite territory. "Have you found a guy for yourself? What is it with you girls that you do not want to get engaged?" asked aunt A whose daughter N is the same age as me and studies in London. "I am telling you what I tell N. When you have a slim waistline, guys should fall in line. Is it that you don't want to commit?" she asked.

And she launched on to a story. She recently visited N and was very excited about her male friends. "It was a reunion. The first guy whom N hugged and kissed was this really good looking guy called Simon. I was excited. She introduced me to him and then his girlfriend. Some time later she hugged another guy, Paul, and told me he was a very close friend. He was not bad looking and I tried hard not to raise my hopes. She introduced me to his parents and siblings. I thought this is the one. Till another guy came along and she introduced him as Paul's partner." What was aunt A getting at? Get yourself a guy.

My parents did the best they could to remedy that in their own way. On consecutive days, there were two guys, AG and AGT, to see me along with their family.

With the two meetings coming to an end, I have realised that I don't want to get married in this way.

Being asked what I cook, why my Bengali has an accent (I don't. AG's father insisted I had. I didn't bother to argue after a point), why I want to get married (I replied very honestly to this. My parents want me to, I said. AG was of course not happy with it), what I had talked about with the guy can you believe this? AG's uncle asked me this. And I rattled it out.. what are my working hours, what am I looking for in a guy, why I want to marry blah
blah. Till the uncle looked at me and said you are a quite a child. I was pissed).

AGT was nice but I got brotherly vibes from him. My mum couldn't believe this. "You can adjust," she said.

I couldn't think of either as my partner. My folks were very disappointed. "Mamma, do you want to look for yourself? Is that it?" my father asked in a concerned manner. And then, "How do we say no to them now?" But there's always a way out. My father has figured it out by now.

Besides the boy and boy's family meeting girl sessions I endured, I did something I have been obsessing about. I had KFC. I overate till I felt sick.

And I went cycling. The weather towards the beginning was fabulous in Calcutta though a bit humid. But once I was on the cycle, I felt the world was at my feet. It felt so right.

All in all I was the perfect daughter (I did not fight for a single day). Except for the last day when I fought with them. We did make up before me leaving however.

Funnily I didn't feel much homesick after reaching Delhi. The weather is perfect.

It's not so bad to have two homes after all.


So here I go...

At last I pack my bags and leave for home today. Whee! The train's at 4.45 pm (Mental note: Stack in those books and walkman). The past few days have been hectic what with working overtime to finish extra stories. Also I have been dreaming of death. The aftertaste certainly isn't pleasant.

A few nights ago I experienced death, as close as you can get to it in your dreams. Phew! I saw an old friend Sudak in it. She and I were waiting for an elevator. I don't know why she kept hesitating while getting in. Finally she did get in and kept pressing over and over again. Suddenly the elevator started moving weirdly. We panicked at the sickening drop but we could do nothing except wait to die. When we got out of the elevator, I saw RS my photographer (this sure was comic) floating around and saying, "Come join me A. I have suffered the same fate as you. We are dead".

I came to the conclusion the next morning that I sure don't want to die a violent death. Cliched it might be, but I want to die in my sleep.

Yesterday night I dreamt of having something to do with ashes of the dead. And in the morning when I woke up I was reminded of Teri Hatcher covered in Martha's ashes. It somehow failed to bring a smile. Grim thoughts but I hope I reach in one piece to Calcutta.

Meanwhile, a friend has just broken up with her guy. He was physically abusing her. This is the same friend to whom I had said that I would be sorry for her if she went out with him. Now when I said that, I never wanted it to come true. So if you are reading this V, I am sure you know I would never mean them even if I said them at the time. I think you are better off without the bastard. S saw him the other night at TC's with some babe. The point is he is not worth anything. I am glad you are out of it. As they say, there are lots of fishes in the sea. You just have to look out.

Last of all, let me do the tag duty. A tag by Compulsive Confessor says, delve into your blog archive, find your 23rd post (or closest to), find the fifth sentence (or closest to) and post the text online.

Well here's the sentence. It's quite easy to comprehend. "One thing I hate absolutely hate - seeing those slimy silver fishes scurrying about the edges of my precious books." (June 13,2005)

Let's see whom I can tag: Motheater, Parna, Couchpotato, Essar, PS... Go ahead guys. Do it. It's not bad browsing through the old posts. Kind of brings a smile on your face.


Me... big mouth and coward

I have a big mouth. That's sheer objective analysis. It dawned on me doubly as I was speaking to my friend today. She is going around with a guy. And before they started going around, I told her one day, "You know what? If you ever go around with him, I will feel very sad for you". To this day I rue those words. Because each time I talk to her she reminds me of that one line.

And I am a terrible coward. It was reinforced as I went to bed very reluctantly on Saturday night, actually morning. I watched Ghost Ship on Saturday evening. I had heard it was a scary movie from S. Even then I was so badly drawn towards it that as it struck 9, I surfed to the channel before I could stop myself. To mitigate the effect, I tried to watch other things at the same time, like the film Plan. Of course, it didn't help. As an extra measure I read an MB before turning in. That too, didn't. At 4 I went to sleep with the lights on. After some time, I switched it off and jumped into bed shrouding myself in a bed cover. Hence forth, I lay on the bed, stiff as a ramrod. I was waiting for morning and my maid to come and knock on the door.

Every time I see a scary film it's the same. I wish there was some remedy.

Once my brother told me about an experience that scared the lights out of me. It happened to him while he was in a hostel. The building in which he was staying at the time faced a Muslim cemetary. He was told by his teachers about some of the known incidents. One night he was studying alone in the hall when the windows (which were tightly shut) started flapping to and fro. My brother asked his teacher the next day about it. He was told, "See you can't do anything about it.You have to stay here. So there are two ways you can deal with it. You either ignore these happenings or get affected by them and cower each time they take place." My brother chose the former. I couldn't sleep three nights in a row after that.

There is one story of my father's that just confuses me. Do I believe him or not is the question that I ask myself till date. He till sticks to it. When he was a little boy and stayed in a joint amily, they used to have a separate kitchen where they used to dine together. To get to the kitchen they had to take a flight of stairs that was outside the house. Next door was an old British mansion. One evening as my father was going up the stairs for dinner, he happened to look into the neighbour's lawns. And what he saw apparently chilled him to the bone. It was a skondokata (that's the Bengali word for a headless ghost). Each night after that he would race up the stairs and refuse to look next door.

But once I read a book called The Adventures of Holly Hobby. It belonged to my friend Amy and it was the story of Holly Hobby, a ghost who came down to meet one of her descendants. They embarked on an adventure which led them to the jungles of Guatemala. It was a beautiful book and one that reaffirmed my faith in ghosts. Good ghosts that is.


When I want it, I really want it

I had a KFC attack yesterday. So after a satisfying evening of lingerie shopping and dinner at McDonald's, during which we happened to talk about the KFC outlet in Calcutta, I was craving for some KFC-style chicken. The attack was serious. I couldn't get past it. Now Delhi doesn't have a KFC damn it). So the least I could do was call up Slice of Italy at 11. The conversation went like this:

Slice Guy: What would you like today ma'am?

Me: Chicken wings. Now you have two types. One I had last time. It was really bad you know. Soggy and dripping with sauce.

SG (started checking his records): But the last time you had a pollo risotto.

Me: No I mean last to last time, maybe before that. But I need some KFC style chicken. Please.

SG: Ok (pause) you can try out the spicy chicken wings.

Me: But I want it done up well. Like baked very nicely.

From the next room S who was on the phone kept saying, "I can hear what you are saying. God!"

The chicken arrived sometime before midnight. I was happy. The chicken was not bad. Not ala KFC but definitely a big improvement on the chicken wings I had last time from Slice. So I finished reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi along with a box of chicken wings by my side. It was bliss.


For old times' sake

On Sunday morning, as I lay half asleep on the bed, I smelt childhood. The smell of Quality Street biscuits. The memory of the round tin with the buttery biscuits that I loved chomping down. It was weird because suddenly I thought of all the people I had almost pushed to the back of my mind, to the extent that now I have trouble remembering some of their faces and names. They were old people I knew as a child. For instance, there was Mr X (just can't remember his name) whose house was called The Haven. It was extremely ironical because his son had committed suicide in that very house. He was a sad man, my dad used to say. But to me he was a friend who used to call me Wax, play cards with me and chat with me for hours.

Then there were my three old neighbours. Their houses are opposite to ours. The extreme left hand side is the only one who is still alive. But Mr D doesn't talk to anybody now. I wonder why. He used to take me to the circus and whenever I used to catch sight of his wife we would wave to each other from our respective balconies with much vigour.

The other two are dead. Sometimes I forget it. And I expect them to be there when I go back. One of them, the owner of the house in the middle (It was the prettiest of them all. It was a small villa with flowers all over), was especially dear to me. Mr S had a swing in his house. And every day at 5 in the evening, I would be there to take a ride. I felt very privileged. After all it was not a community park thing that I would have to share with others.

Except that his dog Pixie was a bit intimidating. Initially she would growl and growl (I would make faces at her) but slowly she became used to me. Later I stopped making faces at dogs. Thanks to my friend Amy's dog Teddy, the hugest alsatian I have ever seen. The day he chased me and my other friend Sudakshina all over Amy's place (I happened to have pointed fingers at him which Amy had told me not to), I lost my fear of dogs. So with time I learnt to ignore Pixie even when she was in a black mood.

Mr S died in London. His mother is still alive and a broken woman. She hates the fact that has outlived both her sons.

Dr D, the third of my neighbours, used to give me medicines on every occasion. When I suffered from tummy aches to when I ran high temperatures. Last time I went back home, he was there. Now he isn't.

I miss them.

And there's a relative - an aunt's husband. I have seen him as a healthy man who would sit back and enjoy his drink, drive around a contessa with much pride. We used to live at the same time in Oman. They returned to Calcutta soon after us. I have the fondest of memories with him. Whenever I would meet him, I would plant a kiss on his cheek. It became a ritual with us except for when I grew up. Their house is near to ours in Saltlake. It is an ornate house with his paintings all over it.

When I was in college, I visited his place and carted out a huge canvas that was unfinished. After that whenever I visited his place, he ask me to bring it back for him to give it the finishing touch. He never got the chance. One day he had a stroke. Now he lies on his bed with one half of him paralysed. When I visited him last October, he saw me and tears ran down his cheeks. He couldn't speak. He had to be fed like a little baby by a nurse.

How things change. And how they make one overwhemingly sad.


Ask one what it feels like when dreams come true

I have always wanted to meet a man. His name is L K Advani. Some might grimace at the thought. But I have always been fascinated by him. I was taken by a colleague who is almost like a son to him. So I got a nice reception. I chatted with him for an hour. In the beginning, he seemed a bit stiff. But as time went, he became friendlier. You know what I liked about him? There was no coyness or hesitation. He even talked about the Jinnah episode. The quotes were cool. I didn't have to egg him on. Of course, he was prepared for it, but you have got to give credit where its due.

The man reads Mitch Albom. Now he's reading Shantaram. I guess that was enough to floor with me. It was one of my most satisfying interviews. Of course, his wife reminds one of a barracuda. But a funny and sweet barracuda (if that's possible). She insisted on showing me her favourite photograph, where she is glaring at Advani and he is very consciously looking at his plate.

It was a contrast of sorts with my interview with Maneka Gandhi recently. Who I swear is a bitch. She had the nerve to say to me, "Enough Bubbly. Now haven't I given you a long time? I normally don't give so much time to the others." My bloody left foot!

I was very excited. But look at my parents' reaction.

Me: Baba, I interviewed Advani!

Father: That's nice. Probably you should meet a famous architect friend of mine who would be as interesting.

Me: For god's sake don't say this outside.

How can people be so stoic I don't know!

Yesterday evening I also went for the launch of Farah Khan's jewellery collection. Farah Khan as in Zayed Khan's sister and not choreographer Farah Khan. Her whole family was there. Sanjay Khan, his wife Zarine (is rumoured to have beaten up Zeenat Aman because she was having an affair with Sanjay. P told me that Sanjay used to beat up Zarine. So I guess it's all a cycle), Fardeen, his fiancee Nitasha, Zayed and his fiancee Mallika, Farah's hubby DJ Aqueel, and Fardeen's mom Sundri.

Zayed resembled a monkey on the move. He was a show-off. Kept jumping up on the ramp, crossing it, hugging people, flashing perfect teeth like there was no tomorrow and crossing the ramp to get back to his seat where he sat at times with his legs raised halfway up. And he stared hard at the models, so that it seemed that given a chance he would eat them up. Fardeen on the other hand seemed like the perfect gentleman, sitting upright with his collars standing stiff in dracula mode. He kept whispering into his fiancee's ears every time a model appeared on the ramp. There were times though when I caught him catching a quick look through the corner of his eyes. Men will be men.

Then Bipasha Basu walked down the ramp as the special guest. And she was stunning.

At the end of it all, I felt distinctly grumpy because I couldn't speak to a single person except Fardeen's fiancee. I did't try though. What with huge bouncers trodding on my feet, all I could do was abuse them loudly while P kept saying in hushed tones, "What are you doing?"


Some things just don't change

For the nth time I watched Notting Hill. And it's amazing how that one line -- "I am just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her" --never ceases to make me misty-eyed. The seasons changing as William Thacker walks down to his book shop, the park where June sat along with Joseph, Anna Scott signing an autograph saying, Dear Rufus you belong in jail, ...it's all so perfectly done. At the end of it I was sighing and messaging E. Predictably she was watching it too in her hotel room in Bombay. She finally called me and for the nth time we had this why-doesn't-it-happen-to-us conversation. E said she wouldn't mind a film star. "After all, when you are asking, ask for something big," she said before the line got disconnected.

The last few days have been a throwback to my crazy spending-the-night-on-the-porch-and-stair days in the previous two houses (I used to forget my keys regularly). The day before, I reached home early. Like really early. At 6.30 pm. I was so happy, I went and chatted with the owner of the Pop Tate's clone right opposite my place. It has fab sandwiches and its owner is a sweet old man with a curiously trimmed moustache. Now how do I describe it? It is white and is trimmed and levelled into a straight line much above his lips. So there is a broad expanse of skin between his lips and moustache. Frankly I have seen all kinds of moustaches - a lion moustache, a mouse moustache...but not one like his. Anyways after he had made me buy a packet of methi paras (somewhat like matthris), I reached home feeling happy for no reason.

Then I dug my hands inside my bag. My happiness vanished in a trice. I had no keys.

Frantically I called up S. The only solution we came up with was for me to go all the way to her office to collect the keys. Rare moments when I hate myself. By the time I returned home, it was almost 9. One nice evening wasted after what?
A key.

But I guess I have faced worse times. Like when I was in the first house and in my second job, I would frequently forget my key inside the house. So it was not an unusual sight for me to take the drop back to office at 1.30 at night. The drop organisers would look at me getting down from the car and smile, "Madam has forgotten her keys again?" Once I didn't even check my bag till after I reached the door and my colleague had dropped me following an office party. So on a very brrr winter's night, a very drunk me was sitting on the stairs dying to pee and get under the covers of a warm bed. That morning I saw the right hand side neighbour's waking up habits. He would get up at 5 in the morning, do some yoga stretches and burp loudly.

The other time E returned from office to find me walking in the park at 2 am. It was not a very wise thing to do I know. But did I have any choice besides sitting on the stairs and die of mosquitoe bites?

I have tried to come up with ingenuous ways of never forgetting the key. Like putting it into a chain around my neck. Somehow it has not worked till now. Think will have to give it a shot. Sigh.


Was it the wrong train?

Reading Couchpotato's post on train journeys just triggered off a whole lot of memories. Like when I was a child, I was fascinated by trains. There was a simple explanantion for this. I hadn't travel much within the country as a kid. It was always shuttling between Oman and Saltlake (that's where I live in Calcutta). And in between stopping over at places like Dubai, Muscat, Singapore... So I had never set foot on a train till I was really much older. As old as when I was in the Xth.

There is one train journey that at times I treasure. And often I loathe. This was during my post high school days, when I was relaxing doing nothing. I accompanied my brother for an exam of his to Delhi. The chaperon for the journey was my dad.

When I got into our compartment, I saw this trio of young guys seated opposite us. One of them, I noticed was very cute with nice sparkling eyes. As the train chugged out of the station, my dad and bro got into a conversation with our neighbours. They, it turned out, were doctors (a bonding thing immediately happened between my bro and them), who were going for the same exam. Slowly I came to the conclusion that the whole train was choc-a-bloc with young docs.

I was mum during the initial phase of the conversation. Soon cute guy SS started belting out jokes and riddles. I came up with an answer or two. Those were my first few words with him. But I enjoyed myself immensely during the course that we chatted. It was a bit intellectual and at the same time very funky. It was special. I liked SS a lot. He was funny. Next I saw him in Delhi at the exam venue for a second or two.

But I knew he was working with a hospital in Calcutta. Several months later on an impulse, I walked in one day with my friend into the hospital campus (this damn thing called impulse has always landed me in trouble). We asked about him. They told us his room was locked. Still we climbed up and while we were locating his room, the door to the next room opened and SS stepped out. I made an about turn and ran down the stairs leaving my friend behind. My heart was beating so fast, I couldn't hear anything above it. I can still feel it. The embarrassment.

I had walked out to the road, when I saw my friend coming down followed by SS. While I blushed and blushed (I have never blushed ever before like I did then), he kept saying, "I can't believe you are here!"

I went out on dates with him. In between he would leave for Shimla, his home. And come back with gifts and stories of how he had told his mom about me. That kind of did it. And the day that put an end it to all was when he kissed me. I felt repulsed. Because he was so desperate to get me into bed. I told him I never wanted to see him again. I stopped taking his calls. He landed up in college and I made my friends ward him off. He followed my friend (the one with whom I had gone to his hospital the first time) one day to the British Council Library. I was horrified to see him. He tried to placate me and finally he said it. He flung it in my face: "It was you who came to me first." And even though it was true, that one line made me feel so small.

He walked out dramatically throwing a parting shot. "You'll never get a guy like me."

I didn't regret the meeting on the train. I regret what happened later. I wanted to be just friends with him. But I guess it sounded unbelievable. And since then I have been always very careful of never making the first move.

This was a long detour. But damn it, it feels cathartic.

The next journey that is stuck to my memory like it happened yesterday was on the way from Delhi to Bombay. I travelled on unreserved tickets with friends. This was while I was studying in Delhi, and three of us (including S) made a plan to go to Bombay for the New Year's. So there we were shifting from one compartment to other lugging our huge rucksacks along. Till we got one seat in a compartment crammed with kids. They looked like dolls arranged in a row in the middle bunk. One of them was this chubby little girl. She kept pointing at us and going into fits of giggles. I guess we did look funny. Seated in one row on the upper bunk at the side.

A station or two later, some cops strolled in and sat in the bunk beneath ours. It was cramped up there, so I couldn't resist dangling my legs. One of the cops got up and said something. I thought he wanted us to move, but then I realised he was offering us another seat in the next compartment. K told me the one on which we had planted ourselves was theirs. "And have you noticed the man in chains with them?" she asked. I was stunned. "Really?" I said and peeked. I saw this thin dark handcuffed man. He looked up at the same time. I drew back hastily.

At night, I moved to the seat offered to us by the cops. I had dozed off when I was woken up by a cop. He patted me on the head and moved on. After some time, another cop came and wanted me to give him some space to sit. For the next few hours neither did he let me sleep nor stay quiet. He told me about the prisoner - a Chhota Shakeel guy who had been caught finally after being in the police records for a few murders. They were taking him to Gujarat.

Later in the night, I realised the cop was trying to act funny. It was a desperate attempt to rid myself of him. That I managed to do by saying I wanted to go to the loo. I just went and sat at the edge of another seat. It happened to be the one facing the prisoner. So all night long, I was trying to read a book in the dim lights, while he kept walking up and down, from the loo to his seat and back. And though he did not lech, he did keep looking at me curiously like I was the prisoner there. In the morning, he changed his pullover and washed his face, applied cream and brushed his hair very carefully. Then he got down at a station surrounded by his many chaperons.

Lesson learnt: Train neighbours are better left alone.

So now I always plug my walkman into my ears when I am on the move.


I am an actor, I am a star, and I even have my own car, and I'm hoping so much you'll say...

They said it anyway. That they love him. How many times did John Abraham hear the word sexy and hot at the photography exhibition yesterday? I lost count. From wee sized kids, powdery faced aunties and teenagers wearing itsy bitsy numbers to six footer men, all were drooling on him. And even though I didn't feel the thrill running down my spine (which happened when I saw Shah Rukh Khan for the first time), I have to say this that he is the nicest man I have ever met.

In fact, I have started to wonder whether he has an alter ego. You know what I mean? He is a hunk, doesn't drink, is a vegetarian, is honest, is very caring... The amusing thing is that even when he praises himself he is very matter-of-fact. Mamma's boy and daughter's dream in one package. It doesn't get better.

Not a single star has ever looked my way and cared about whether I have got my interview with him. John did. First of all I was tagging him like a shadow. At 10.30 at night I was seated right at the back of the room where he was being interviewed by the television channels. The moment I saw this editor of one of the newspapers which was sponsoring the event enter the room, I took it for granted that it was over. But then John happened to look at me. And he smiled and asked, "Where are you from?" Next he assured me that he would just get over and sit with me. "I am sorry for making you wait," he said. That is also something I have never heard any star say. I am touched.

There have been quite a few changes in my life of late. My parents left for Calcutta the day before I shifted along with S to our new apartment. In the beginning there were the predictable shifting blues (and I was missing my folks as well) but now it feels nice. Reaching office in 15 minutes and paying peanuts to the autowallah.

My face has gone through a few changes as well. I don't know how that sounds but seriously I think I looked like a puma cat a few days before. Now I look less like one.

First of all, I was licked by a cockroach or it might have been a spider. The right side of my face, a considerable part of it, had turned bright red. It seems aeons now that it has been there on my face. But it has grown tired of being there I guess. I am tired too, of peering at it day and night. If it wasn't enough, now I have a bright red round spot right on the bridge of my nose.

Three days ago I went for a fashion show. Certain scented candles caught my fancy. I started poking at the transparent wax with a plastic toothpick. Then I decorated them with rose petals while sipping on my glass of red wine. I felt very nice. That feeling of doing nothing is bliss. I could see tiny bubbles forming as the petals gradually sank into the wax. Next moment I heard a popping sound and felt a blob of searing something on my nose. Must have been the bloody wax. So when the fashion show started I was standing at the back pressing a block of ice on my nose. It was wrapped in a white hanky. And then to my dismay I looked to my left side and saw a few male models. One of them is somebody whom I interview often. Of course he was staring.

I guess it has to go down in my evergrowing list of embarrassing moments.


Message in a blog

My conversation with a subject:

Me: Could you tell me about the turning points in your life? (in a flirtatious tone cos he has quite a reputation as a lady lover;)

He: Why don't you come down and we can chat.

Me: Geographically not possible. I am in Delhi. (He is in Bombay)

He: Doesn't matter. You can come down with that Little Terrorist guy. (He meant Ashvin Kumar)

Me: Giggle giggle

He: At the age of 14, I got kissed. That was my first turning point. It happened to be a big disappointment. Because the girl who kissed me was a 16-year-old and was a first time kisser too. There was no music. No violins playing. After that I never kissed till I was much older.

I had to keep on laughing till my jaws ached while he guffawed at his own stories. (Painful)

He: Next when I was 16 years old, I was seduced by an older woman of 24 years. She told me she would teach me to please women, for what is most important to a woman is taken for granted by a man. For the next 9 months I was tutored in the art. One day she warned me not to fall in love with her because then I would be history. But of course I did fall in love with her. And even though she did not drop me like a hot potato she did disengage herself gradually. I have never looked back since.

Me: What about something in your career?

He: My whole life I have spent courting, chasing and pleasing a plethora of high achieving women. That's my career.

Me: (Gnashing teeth and laughing at the same time) No, I mean what about when you opened your first restaurant?

In that restaurant of his he had a fixed item that never changed. What was that? A board with the words: 'The management reserves the rights to kiss all pretty girls on the premises'.

I was dying to get off the hook. He wanted to go on. "Don't you want to know more about my life?" "Err...actually next time I can call you for more on your life. Bye..."

He: But you must seduce a 16-year-old. Catch them young between 15 and 21. You will be doing a service to other women out there.

Me: Sure the message will be passed on.


What's in a word?

We spoke too soon. On Saturday morning S and I got a rude shock. We went to sign the lease for our new apartment. I was supposed to rush for an interview with a fashion designer right after and he had called up to confirm the time and place. So I excused myself for a few seconds during which I absent-mindedly noticed the landlady showing S a room on her floor that was unoccupied. Even while I was busy noting down what Mr Designer was saying I kept thinking, Why the fuck is she showing a new room to S?

I finished my call just as she too was done. She led the way back to the drawing room. Where her son (this tall gangly guy with hair tied into a knot on the head), says S, was busy applying a face pack and peeking from the loo (it was right opposite to where S was seated). He also put on some music way too loud till his sister yelled and he relented to lower the volume.

Anyways, in between all these distractions I realised the landlady was saying that some guy working with a 5-star hotel had shifted his stuff into the apartment. So could we adjust and stay in a room on her floor, use the loo on the terrace and share her kitchen if at all we cooked? (The latter she was insistent about since she was under the impression that we never cooked).

I was dumbfounded as was S. One look at her face and I saw it had become very grim. I covered my face for a second. The landlady kept staring and saying, "You are like my daughter Simran. We will keep you like her." When we told her that we had irregular working hours, she said, "Of course you will not be using the kitchen at 2 in the morning will you?" Next we suggested that the guy was single and he could easily do with the room she was now offering us. "No actually the hotel is paying for the place through cheque." What was that supposed to mean?

Then she and her husband took us to the terrace to show us the loo. (I felt shrieking at her, "Well would you have let Simran go to a loo on the terrace of a house to shit or pee?") Was this happening? I was ready to cry right then. Here we had given notice to our present landlord and was ready mentally to live in the new house.

Not only had this woman duped us, she had dealt us an underhand blow. For money. She had never even bothered to call us and let us know about it. Damn it, she had given usher word that the apartment was ours for the taking.

So we left our prospective new place with no lease in hand, with no place to live in after the 15th of this month unless our present landlord was thoughtful enough.

Sunday morning: E left for Bombay. We dropped her, came back and went through the classifieds desperate for some ray of light. We went through some 5-6 shitty houses in a place which I had always thought to be shady. Depressed like hell, we landed in another area of the city and walked into some vague property dealer's office. After we trudged back and forth between the broker's office and some three other houses, I can say proudly that it's official. (Touche) We have a new house. And yes, this time we paid some money in advance right on the spot. We are gonna sign the lease today. So I will be a really (I mean really really) broke individual starting today.


There's nothing better than a great romance...to ruin a perfectly good friendship

This tagline of Lot Like Love doesn't make sense. For starters there
was never much romatic romance. Like the kind of romance that leaves you in a daze for days on row. And really Ashton Kutcher is too funny to be seriously romantic.

But it is a nice early morning watch before heading for work or when your flatmate (read: partner in watching mushy movies) is leaving for another city.

Between have been subject to a certain teenybopper's perfectly kittenish charms. I have been wondering aloud about it in front of her. But she has taken it in good humour excepting of course for some faux pouts. I guess that's what I like about her (no, not the pouts). But seriously when she started giggling and saying breathlessly to this filmmaker guy, "Oooh I love Johnny Depp!" I did a double take. That, she says is the perfect way to get a guy to open up (no puns intended).

On the parents' front, my mom and dad are interesting to watch (I had forgotten just how amusing it can be). They squabble all their waking hours. Like for example, when dad is relating a ghost story with added effects (the hushed voice, the killing pauses et al), my mom suddenly starts off on one of her matchmaking stories. A day back, he was getting started on one of his favourite ghost stories from college for E's benefit, when my mom popped in from the kitchen and suddenly asked me, "I haven't told you about this good looking guy who called in today to take a look at the flat, have I?" Now that couldn't have but snagged my attention. While my dad looked on with a helpless god-save-us kind of a look and kept shaking his head at the insensitiveness of his listeners.

But I could totally identify with poor dad. The same used to happen to me back home. Dinner time would see me all enthusiastic with my stock of the day's events, gabbling away (mom would often interrupt and ask me to breathe in between), when my bro would say just one line and grab all the attention. I would pout and pout and sulk and sulk and vow never to speak. This happened everyday.

Now I think I should have had what I have now. A blog.


'Meet me in the altar in your white dress'

My parents are here with an agenda. There are four points on this
agenda. a) To take me back to Calcutta, b) To pack me off to London from there, c) To meet this family friend whose son is of marriageable age in London, d) To see me married as fast as possible.

My thoughts on the above:
a) I have no objections to returning home except this that if I do,
either me or my parents will end up killing each other. Since the time they have landed in Delhi I have been fighting with them. And I don't mean to. It's just that I can't help it.

b) I would love to go to London. But it would mean being 'taken care' of by relatives. Really I couldn't think of anything worse.

c) This is the reason behind my parents' eagerness in sending me to
London. Considering the fact that I have turned down two eligible
bachelors in a matter of a few months, they are highly concerned. (My mom has been asking me with a very serious look, you know the puckered-brow type look, on her face, "Now why did you say no to the last guy? He was so good. Mamma you are so foolish.")

When I asked them what I should do in London, they gave me two options, "You can work or study. Do anything." Now that sounds tempting but not when I know the ulterior motive. And the mentioned family friend's son is somebody I have been seeing since I have been attending my cousin's birthday parties. We have never talked till now. He's ignored me. As for me, he's somebody who has never existed till now.

d) No objection again. "Do you want to get married at all?" asked ma yesterday with much revealed anxiety. Of course I do, but at my own sweet time.

If you notice, most of their arguments are for marriage. Frankly, now I am scared.

I need to cure me of my depression. So I am soaking my senses in
chocolate. No, not Ferrero Rochers or even Dairy Milks. I am reading 'Indulgence' by Paul Richardson. It is one man's selfless search for the best chocolate in the world. The summary led me on to read it. Here: "Everyone loves chocolate. From Willy Wonka to Ferrero Rocher, the Cadbury's Flake girl to the man from Milk Tray, it is embedded in our culture as perhaps no other food stuff. Depending on who you listen to, it either clogs up your arteries or reduces the risks of cancer; it is the bringer of acne or the 'Prozac of Candy'; it produces the same chemicals in your brain as when you fall in love."
Perhaps it will do the trick for you too.


Some days...

just flow by. Like a dream. Days when I feel like my life couldn't get better. When I feel like hugging everybody. When I feel light headed with happiness. The past few days have come close to this kind of feeling. Only now its waning at lightening speed.

It started from yesterday evening. E is leaving for Bombay. S and I have to shift. It's house-hunting time yet again. So S and I went to meet this property dealer who was supposed to show us what sounded like a nice deal - a two-set apartment on the terrace (a barsati type). When we reached the place it seemed nice, just like our present place. Except that its shortcomings were going to strike us very badly soon. While we were waiting at the broker's (surprisingly it was quite plush. Complete with an AC, a laptop and a smart phone on display), he asked us whether we were architects with the DDA. I was startled. He said, "Actually two girls had come for this flat and they were architects. So I thought you were the same people." (A sign. Those girls obviously never came back).

A guy was sent with us to see the apartment. He suddenly said, "Madam, yaha to kitchen nahi hai (Madam there's no kitchen here)". We looked at each other. The guy spoke again: "Aur madam yeh LIG flat hai.(And madam this is an LIG flat)". Now LIG stands for Lower Income Group.

It seemed to be a day of revelations. Bad ones.

About turn. We marched back to the broker's office. Listen to what the broker said. "Oh we will get a kitchen done" and "I had told you it was an LIG flat". Liar. Fraud. Add to that indecent. He didn't even show us the way out of the colony.

This was the start of our nightmare (topped by the fact that my sandal straps were cutting into my feet). We seemed to be walking forever till we reached the highway. No auto rickshaw would take us which meant we had to cross the road. When I say it was quite an impossible task, I am not exaggerating one bit. We saw the signal go red. The next second we turned back towards the bloody signal and it was green. We kept standing for what seemed infinity while the lights kept alternating betweem red and green. As S commented it was like a bad comedy. The humidity was the icing to the evening. Finally after aeons we scampered across the road. And crossed the other.

Bless the auto who took us to our next destination - an apartment to be vacated by an acquaintance of S. Though we reached there in a few minutes, we got lost in the alleys. We landed in front of a barber's that said Nice Hairdresser's. Let me tell you, nice was the last thing on my mind when I ran away from there. What happened was S asked a man there for the address. He asked, "Kaun log hai? Bangali hai ka?" We walked away a little distance and S called up her acquaintance P.

Meanwhile the man kept calling me. I approached him and said we didn't need any help. My foolishness. The man said, "Aaiye na. Darr rahe hai kya?" (Come here. Are you feeling scared?) I just turned back and both of us hurried out of there. P was going to pick us up. He and his girlfriend arrived in their car promptly.

Their apartment was huge. My eyes grew wide as I heard the rent for it. No, this time it was something good. It was ridiculously inexpensive. Apparently the girlfriend had struck a hard bargain.

P and girlfriend dropped us till the bus stop. Well, again no auto would take us to our place. But all of them lined up looking at us
expectantly. Waiting for us to run back with our tail between our legs I suppose. They were in for a big disappointment. Finally we got the right man.

Back home I was thinking about the evening. Just one evening and we met a variety of people. The broker (an asshole), the guy who was going to show us the apartment (astute. In 2 mins pointed out the flaws), the auto wallah (a sweetheart. No nagging, nothing, took us to P's place), the man at Nice Hairdresser's (a fucker) and lastly P and his girlfriend (kind. They needn't have bothered to pick us up or drop us. They needn't have taken the trouble of showing us the apartment. Nonetheless they took the trouble. And that touched me).

So I have come to a conclusion. That there's a right place and a right time for everything.

And, dare I say, the right man.


Cause I'm keeping you forever and for always

I have met him. He is a firang. I don't know his name, I don't know where he is from. I don't know anything about him. I can just speculate. He looks like Ashton Kutcher. Better if I may so (can't do away with the rose-tinted glasses). And I think he's a photographer.

It happened like this. I had gone to attend a photography exhibition of a guy called Haran who is actually from the streets. A slum kid coming so far is very touching. Such nice work too. I was tempted to buy a photograph till I realised I couldn't afford to shell out Rs 10,000 in one go. Anways, the firang was standing right there and going click, click, click. And I was leching. Leching and drooling till I could probably fill up an ocean.

I made one of my photographer friend take his pic. I am going to post it too. So my love, if you ever see it, do write back to your Demi.


So I like a kid...

In fact I love them. Only I have this decided partiality for good
looking babies. I know it sounds shallow and disgusting, but there it
is. On Sunday, P, N (P's flatmate) and I went out for a quick dinner at Pizza Hut. It was anywhere near quick. There was a queue outside the place (That's one thing I detest. Waiting for food or being asked to leave because there are others waiting). By the time we had the good fortune of getting a table, N had to leave. She had to meet her beau(boyfriend sounds decidedly schoolgirlish).

When we sat down, I noticed this little boy with chubby cheeks and little cupid lips working on his portion of garlic bread with a fork very earnestly. I kept turning around to look at him. P's reaction: 'I was convinced that day at Maurya that you are a paedophile.'

I had met this cute little firang kid a month back on an assignment. He was bouncing about in the swimming pool at Maurya Sheraton along with his little elder sister and fat lardy father in tow. He was the baby of the shutterbugs who instead of training their cameras on a bikini-clad model gave our little friend their full atttention. And wasn't he lapping up the attention! He posed for them, grinned, rolled about with pleasure...I stood at the edge of the pool smiling indulgently at him. Now whenever the dad happened to look at me, he caught me looking at his kid and he shot me suspiciously looks henceforth. Each time the kid tried to run towards our side, he caught him and dumped him on the lounger. I wonder if he thought along the lines of P.

I think I want to adopt a kid. I suggested it to my mom. She freaked
out. One of our tenants had their twin grandchildren from Bombay
visiting them. The visit was a long one. When they arrived they could
just crawl around. By the time they left our place they could walk. They were fraternal twins - Haloushka (the gal) and Hriday (the boy). This happened to be during the final year of my college.

With the exams looming in front, my mom became very hyper whenever she would find me playing with the kids. She warned me: 'Just wait till you drop one of them and land in jail.' I would say bah and steal down every afternoon. Till evening I would be with them. Hriday was a confusing guy. Very chubby and cute. The moment he would see me standing at the door waiting to be let in, he would gurgle with happiness and come running on his unsteady legs and fall. Then five seconds in my lap and he would die to get back to his nanny. Very tiresome.

Haloushka was always content to be with me. She didn't like it one bit when I tried to be pally with her naughty brother. She was a pretty little girl and very winning in her ways. When she smiled a toothless smile and rubbed her cheek against mine I would feel on top of the world. Then one day she drenched me. Feeling the wet thingie on the front of my clothes, I freaked out. I put her down and started telling her naughty she was. She in the meantime kept tugging at my clothes asking to be taken back. I didn't. After her nanny changed her clothes and brought her back and after I had changed mine as well, she refused to come to me. She sat on the stairs and played by herself. Only when I had tried placating her and pleaded for a good 10 mins, did she come running to me. At that point, I felt like she was my baby. I again told my mom I wanted to adopt her. She told me off saying I was out of my mind.

Anyways one evening I was out with them in our driveway as usual. I took hold of the pram in which Hriday loved toodling off with his nanny. The latter asked me to take care of him for a while. I was walking him around, when after five minutes as usual he started getting very shifty. He kept moving till suddenly I saw him toppling out of the pram (that too right in front of his grandparents' doorstep. Thankfully it was shut). As he let out a earsplitting wail, I picked him up and ran to his nanny who advised me to get some icecubes. Now when I tried to put an icecube on his head, he shrieked even louder.

What his nanny did put my heart in my mouth. She popped it into his mouth. The little guy just wouldn't take it out of his mouth after that and was very happy with it. I was shit scared. The icecubes were particularly big and even I couldn't keep them in my mouth for long. What if he choked? Nothing doing. He wouldn't take it out. I remembered what ma had said. I panicked and called up my friends. Of course my mum never knew. She still doesn't. She would have killed me. But the next morning Hriday fell off from the bed and hurt himself on the head again. (okay okay I was being terribly mean) I heaved a sigh of relief .


Money money money

E read out something from the newspaper today morning(Since I have
stopped reading them). Let me confess, I didn't even know about the
Fardeen Khan controversy.

Anyways as I was saying, this happened in Calcutta 4 years back. A guy was travelling on his bike when he was hit by a bus. He was rushed to the Ruby General Hospital. He showed them his mediclaim of Rs 65,000. They started the treatment and then stopped saying they needed at least Rs 15,000 there and then. The people who had taken the guy there somehow managed to collect Rs 2,000, but the hospital people refused to restart the treatment. The guy said his parents would reach soon. The hospital waited for 45 minutes. The guy died.

What kind of doctors are these who care for money more than human beings? The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has passed a order saying they have to treat any critical patient whatever the case might be in future. What about the parents? The commission asked the hospital to pay them Rs 10 lakh. Now you know the worth of human life - Rs 10 lakh.


How was the other night?

Now when my colleague asked me this, it simply meant that the other
night was a cool one, in fact a (brrr...) cold one. I finally hired an air conditioner and installed it in my room. Though it was a hell of a job seeing my room covered in dust and cleaning it up thereafter (besides cursing myself for thinking that getting an ac fixed is a piece of cake), the end result was undescribable. I even called up my dad and started giggling excitedly: "Baba it's so cold and nice." He must have thought: "My poor daughter seems to have lost it. She's reacting like she's seen an ac for the first time." But aloud he said: "Enjoy mamma". And I am, so much so that even two days later the novelty refuses to fade away.

However, all this doesn't mean that good days are here. What an ac can't take away is the pain of travelling for assignments on hot sultry days in auto rickshaws. E says I should probably look for a car on hire!

Yesterday I had this drooly drooly experience for sure. I met Abhishek Bachchan. When I say he's hot, it's an understatement. As I sat across him for an interview, I couldn't take my eyes off his chest (his shirt was carelessly carefully open till some point). But he seemed to be quite a twerp when it came to giving candid answers. I bet the word 'candid' doesn't exist in his dictionary. Another thing...he's bloody tall.

The rest of the day was a stinker. First of all my shoes gave way on the road while I was on my way to my next assignment. I had to hobble back to the cobbler with the road scorching my bare feet. It was pathetic. At the assignment, I caught hold of this theatre personality whose name happened to be Khalid Muhammad (yes same as that of the filmmaker). The foolish PR person told me very confidently that it was the filmmaker guy. I went up and asked him: "So Mr Muhammad what projects are you working on at the moment?" He said: "I am not Khalid Mohammad of Silsilay." Why why does it happen to me?

After this I went for a third assignment. It was an UN event on anti
drugs day. My bait for attending it had been a performance by rock band Them Clones. But the prelude was too much to weather. Plus there were tiny hammers pounding together in my head, all at one go it seemed. I decided to meet P for coffee. My auto stopped somewhere near P's office and the autowallah was caught by the police constable. The autowallah had the gall to bark at me. It was like a bad comedy. I couldn't understand what he was saying nor could I make what he was shouting at me for (he had stopped of his own free will). This was followed by me standing on a dusty road desperately trying to hail another auto with an irate constable's aid.

On my way back home after dinner at Pizza Hut, I realised with a sinking feeling that my cell phone was nowhere to be found in my immensely cluttered bag. To top it all, while I was rummaging for it, my compact fell out of the auto and I saw the mirror inside it breaking into tiny little shards (well, I am a bit superstitious about mirrors). The guy at Pizza Hut was the icing. He calmly flicked out my cell and said: "Is this yours?" I am sure nothing could have been more obvious than my relief. But my good friend didn't think it was proof enough. He wanted solid proof. At that moment when I felt like screaming at him out of sheer relief and frustration, there was a stranger across the room who smiled at me in silent solidarity. It feels funny how small gestures can touch you. I smiled back at her and felt decidedly calmer. After I established my identity as the owner, I walked out an immensely relieved individual.

I returned home. There was no light.


Why can't Bengali men be like Brad Pitt?

.... So mused my friend P after a two-and-half-an-hour dose of Mr & Mrs Smith. I was, well, prone to agree with her, only there was one problem. Mr Pitt happens to have a reputation for being the smelliest stud. See... there's always a hitch to every guy. Damn.

The film itself was pretty hard-earned. Literally so. We had to stand at the PVR counter at Saket maintaining a hawk-like stance while from in front of our very noses the guys at the counter were passing on tickets to some guys who were busy blacking the same. One of the latter even approached me and asked in a whisper, "Which show tickets are you looking for?" I said: "7.15 pm" He said: "150 for 200." I put on my best bargaining behaviour. It didn't work.

I was at the receiving end of a smirk followed by the words: "Maddam
yaha 190 nahi ho raha hai aur aap 170 ki bol rahe ho?" (Here I am not
even going down to Rs 190 and you are talking of Rs 170) So I moved in a huff back to the counter determined this time to create trouble if I didn't get two tickets. I am glad I got them then. Cause I was in a mutinous mood, basically in a mood to call up Ajay Bijli right then and letting him know how pathetic everything was. (Well I did message him and express extreme indignation. And he did call back and ask for details. However I refrained from mentioning my identity. The best part was he didn't even ask.)

Inside the hall, we had to move seats because we happened to have
plonked ourselves in the wrong seats. There was a guy sitting beside P who was really weird. I asked him to shift and he refused flatly saying, "This is my final seat. Your seat must be elsewhere." And he wouldn't budge. How tempted was I to drop my bag on him (it seemed to weigh tons. It had my Vikram Seth). Finally he must have heard me mouthing loudly to P: "Is this guy retarded?" He moved.

The result was I had him sitting next to me and almost leaning on to my seat. So I got a crick in the neck while leaning towards P. Then in the middle of the movie, he suddenly said to himself, "Mr & Mrs Smith". I swear he wasn't on the phone. After the interval he returned with popcorn and started stuffing it into his mouth like muri (puffed rice). You can forgive me for begging her to exchange seats with me. She wouldn't.

In the midst of all this I got some messages from an ex colleague which pissed me off thoroughly. He made it a point to advise me to drink, but not to drink like a fish. Because apparently someone he met at a party claimed to have dropped me home "in an inebriated state" besides claiming "several other things". Hmph...Why do guys lie so badly? Obviously the latter is lying and to top it all I get this sneaking suspicion that my ex colleague's not exactly the benevolent saint he's portraying himself to be. He refuses to let out the name of the guy.

Among other things I bought six books from a Saket roadside. I have to stop buying books. Seriously. I think I have a pile of some 20-odd books waiting to be read. Meanwhile my Vikram Seth continues to be a marathon read.


Truly skin-deep

I met this Punjabi babe the other day. A tall, well-built gal with blue blue eyes (read contact lenses).

This is how I came across her. I had reached a concert where Indian Idol Abhijeet Sawant would be performing. I was supposed to meet him
backstage for an interview. The only thing was I couldn't get anywhere inside. The PR girl I had talked to was nowhere in sight. Finally in desperation I caught hold of someone who did look a PR person and said, "Please get me backstage to Sonia." As it turned out I was asking Sonia for Sonia. My sigh of relief could not have been more pronounced. Jostling for space out there among muscle-flexing guys and auntyjis with their little kids, I was quite out of depth.

I tripped in to the air-conditioned backstage feeling like a queen after the sauna-like experience in the open air. I saw this huge white enclosure with cubicles lined on both sides with names on them. All the Sony actors and actresses were rehearsing. I happened to look in at one of those cubicles where this actor Sasha was doing a mock dance. Ok so I have eyes. Which fell on Sasha's cubicle. He banged the door in my face. "Do an about turn A," I muttered to myself and went into the cubicle marked out for Abhijeet and the Indian Idol finalists. Only to see Abhijeet rushing out to the stage. I looked at the other people in the room - rather the only other occupant - a girl with blue eyes sitting on the other side of the room. The Punjabi babe.

She smiled. I smiled.

Me: Are you the choreographer?

She: No, I am Sudhir's girfriend. (I drew a complete blank. Was I
supposed to know who he was?)
My musings were over in a minute. Entrez Sudhir. In a flashy purple shirt showing a lot of pale skin, a huge golden cross and a really bald head looking at me through mousy eyes. And almost immediately started doing little jerky steps. I averted my eyes bashfully for some time. I don't know why. He was an anonymous dancer for the evening.

She: So you are reading a novel. Which one (I held up my book. Vikram
Seth-A Suitable Boy. I really have to stop carrying it around. The last time it was mishandled by a French hottie). Now it's good to read to increase your knowledge and all that but I can't go beyond two-three pages of a novel.

Me: Oh so you are not a big reader

She: I read Archies

Here there was a lull in our conversation. After which Sudhir disappeared and our lady came and joined me on my sofa. She introduced herself as Anisha. I ventured forth to ask her about her profession.

She: I am in Class IX in Presentation.

My eyes popped out. Me thought she so looked a 26-yr-old.

She: Ya I know some people ask me if I have failed ever. But I am very good in studies.

Me: Ok, but why would you need to do presentations in Class IX?

She: It's a convent. Presentation Convent. Very well known.

Me: I am really sorry. I don't know much about Delhi schools.

Next my questions veered to what she wanted to do with her life. "I want to go into the glamour line," she said. Modelling, acting,... what? "My mother was a model who left the industry because of you-know-what, so I will not go into all that. I will be an international air hostess," she informed me. She also had me know that she can sing, dance and act well. To which I wondered aloud why she wasn't out there on stage. "Well, Sudhir already has a dancing partner - Jyoti." I looked at her and said, "You don't need a Sudhir to be performing!"

15 minutes with her and my head was buzzing. Anyways next I made a comment.

You are a Punjabi?

She: How do you know?

Me: It's pretty obvious. (Quickly) I mean you look like one. Take it as a compliment.

She (flicking her hair three times in a row): Ya I know Punjabis have
fair skins. But I like dusky skin (turning towards me). I like your
skin. You know it has an allure about it.

The conversation ended there. God stepped in, in the form of the Indian Idol finalists trooping in after a performance.



Late though it is, let me do the part of a taggee.

I am a book freak and apart from reading them I love collecting them as well. So when I enter a bookshop, I go completely berserk. I just don't know what to leave out from my list of buys. The result is every time a poorer me emerges out of the bookshop.

One thing I hate absolutely hate - seeing those slimy silver fishes scurrying about the edges of my precious books. I have never managed to exterminate one till now. They are so incredibly quick.

Now let me stop straying and get to the details.

How many books do I own?
This is really tough. I have a library room back home which is stacked with books and books. Some of it are my parents' collection and it has loads of Bengali classics, of which I have read only two per cent(I have just asked my father to send me a copy of Saratchandra's Parineeta). The rest of the books are my additions over the years of haggling with booksellers on College Street and afternoons of coming out laden with books from Landmark and Oxford Bookstore.

The last book I bought
Quite a few. Yesterday I went and spent a grand on The Motorcycle Diaries of Che Guevara, A Georgette Heyer and a Tintin (sheepish smile). The week before I bought four classics because I loved the binding (of course it was a big bargain): She by Rider Haggard, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, Madame Bovary by Flaubert and The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The last book I read
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. An entertaining read.

Five books that mean a lot to me
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts - To think that a convict could write so well! I was enthralled by Shantaram (Roberts was christened so in a village in India). The way he has documented Bombay, I don't think any other writer has ever managed to do that. Immediately after this I read Suketu Mehta's Maximum City Lost and Found which was again on Bombay. It paled in comparison.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth - From the beginning I have been hooked on to it. And the fact that it has been criticised by the Dragon, has egged me on to prove him wrong. But seriously san any hidden agenda, I am enjoying the book.

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee - Yeah yeah I know it is a cliche. But I fell in love with Atticus Finch.

Feluda series by Satyajit Ray - I have guzzled each and every book of Ray in my teen years. I just can't get over Feluda and his adventures. They have this wonderful holiday mood about them...E has brought back a fat collection of his stories from Cal. I am
dying to get my hands on it.

Narnia series by C S Lewis- Indelibly linked with my school days

Now I feel like going on and on and on about more books. I am straining at the leash.

Five more people to tag
Now whom to tag? Hmm...
Ok ok I have run out of names. Cause almost everyone in blogland's been tagged.


Three words ain't enough

This is what I have been upto of late. Covering concerts, checking out men dancing to Bollywood item numbers and being thought a pick up by some French bastards. The most taxing of all - catching up with a former crush and pretending nothing's on between us.

*Men dancing to item numbers for the ladies sounded tempting. I was
convinced it would be a night out ogling strippers. My fantasy never
came true. These were men dancing bare chested trying to imitate the
likes of Shahrukh, Salman and Hrithik. They were hopeless. Not only
because they didn't go the full way with the Full Monty act, but also
because they were pathetic dancers.

*I couldn't believe I was interviewing Engelbert Humperdinck (And
all the while I knew that he was dead). Anyways the interview happened to be a pleasure. The man had no hoity toityness about him. And his concert took me back me even more. I was not exactly dying with enthusiasm to attend it. But I was surprised to see that a 69-yr-old man could be so entertaining, that he could be so enjoyable. The old-world charm was infectious. And I was glad that I had gone after all.

*Now I know better than try to talk to weirdly dressed French guys. Even for a story. At a do I saw this guy in a flamboyant orange hat, nerdy glasses and natty suit. He looked quite like a strutting cockatoo as he went up and down about the whole place. You couldn't miss him. I couldn't. My next move was trying to talk to him since an extremely drunk PR woman kept saying he was some interior designer. What she didn't tell me was this: He was a nutcase.

When I first tried to get his attention, he swept past me royally. His friends turned to me. Now just a while back I had been casting admiring looks at one of them. He was quite a hottie. But the moment he brought his face inches close to mine and asked me: "What book are you reading? Is it a Bible?" I could have swatted his handsome face. Instead I had this saccharine sweet smile on my face: "Yeah I carry Bible to parties."

When I finally talked to Orange Hat, he had this eeky smile on his face. Putting his hands on my shoulder which next kept traversing the length of my spinal column for the duration of our talk, he said: "First lets have some dinner. Come, come." The moment I said I was from a newspaper everything changed magically. His response changed to: "Let me finish dinner." For the next few minutes, his friends (including the hottie) couldn't take their eyes off me and P (who was standing at some distance all the time). I guess they must have thought we were easy lays. Bastards.

*What is it about attraction that irks one so? I have been having some old turbulent feelings resurface after I met my former crush. He's come down from Princeton and is on his way to Calcutta even as I write. I might try to pretend that I want nothing from him, but the truth remains that I do. Depression's setting in real fast.


Please vote for me

On a hot Saturday afternoon there I was at the gate of the Press Club trying to garner votes for a candidate -- my colleague's dad. Whew it was weird. Going up to people, smiling coquettishly and saying prettily, "Do vote for Mr X". Add to it the fact that for the first time in the 24 years of my life I was campaigning. These are the few things I learnt:

Steer clear of those with a purposeful stride. They know whom to vote for. They brush you away like flies.

Make a beeline for the grandaddies. They grin toothlessly and even mark out the candidate you point out to them in the pamphlet. God bless them.

Never call a woman journalist an aunty (Actually that's the last thing any woman wants to be called for sure). A girl campaigning for her father happened to address this lady as 'Aunty'. Poor girl was snubbed badly.
It's good to learn from other's mistakes.

Avoid other candidates. Especially if they happen to be former colleagues. This photographer, an ex colleague of mine came up and asked me to campaign for him too. Ahem it was a bit of a sticky situation. Unless of course you say sunnily, "Aw but I am already booked."

At the end of it, we badly needed nourishment. Entered the dining area. Was greeted by a host of old faces, some leery, some too busy to look up from their plates and some busy picking their teeth(shudder)

We ended up driving further up the road to the Women's Press Corps
and enjoying a lunch of appams and coconut chicken. And not to mention the fact that it seemed a mini office thing there with most of our colleagues scattered here and there. Everywhere.

Sometimes the world is too small.


Planet Bollywood beckons

My entrepreneurial instincts are at their best. Having just covered the pre launch event of Planet Hollywood restaurant, I whispered into fellow journalist eM's ears that a Planet Bollywood would go great guns instead of the former. I put my blind trust in the star crazed millions out there.

And as I watched visuals of Arnie serving stuff to guests at Planet Hollywood, I could actually imagine Shahrukh Khan and Fardeen Khan carrying plates around. Just as they have dishes that are favoured by the likes of Demi Moore and Sly Stallone, we could have dishes named after the stars, e.g. 'Shahi Shahrukh murg', 'Lolo's lobster' or 'Fardeen Falooda'. What fun! Now only for a financer.


Up and down, up and down we went down the road to hell...

But then the road led to paradise. I was on my way to interview a famous photographer (lets call him FP) at his farmhouse. Sometimes I wonder when you are on the way to wallowing in the luxury of your plush farmhouse, how can you bear the brunt of the roads, if I would be pardoned for calling them roads. In fact the roads seem incident to the potholes. The farmhouses I passed on the way made me yearn for one. A small bungalow in the middle of mustard fields, surrounded by rows of ramrod straight eucalytpuses and silver oaks. And me relaxing on the porch with a tall glass of iced blue lagoon and a nice book (for sound effect, the gentle swish swish of the leaves) Hmmm...

The infamous RS had to disturb my reverie. He filled me in with
details about FP, how he grew up with FP's son, how FP has married
thrice...la la la. By the time he was done with his vivid descriptions, I had nodded off.

FP's house was quite out of the common. It looked a Rajasthani
haveli with beautiful jaali work and contemporary tile work as well. I was mesmerised by the brilliant aqua coloured tiles that formed a part of the steps to the house. Beat this, there was a huge lime and mortar pestle as well, where the lime was being ground by a huge chakki (wheel). Plus FP is a big garden freak. His huge huge garden boasted trees from Kashmir, Singapore, Bali and San Francisco and lotus ponds (from where snakes crawl out and sun themselves during the monsoons on the neaby rocks... shudder). There was a bird house that housed pigeons, colourful crested fowls, rabbits and ducks and a swimming pool too. Given all this, I was completely bowled over.

The best part was the view from the pavilion of the house. You could see for miles around and see the Aravalli ranges and greenery all around. Beautiful blossoms... laburnum, gulmohar, bougainvillea, roses, hibiscus. Oh it all seemed so surreal.

(Whisper) What befuddled me was FP and his wife. He is quite old and she is as young and good looking. Ok I am straying into RS's territory now. He would love to tell you how colourful FP is.

Now I have a new passion. A farmhouse.


Neighbour neighbour where art thou

Neighbours are a risque affair altogether. My colleague SB was regaling us at lunch with stories of her fat neighbour who does nothing but guzzle pizzas all day long. SB has christened her Fatty, so let me use this pet name. The other day Fatty got Mickey (that's SB's other neighbour) into trouble. It's a long story, but to cut it short the aftereffects of a spat between the two turned out thus: Mickey landed behind bars because Fatty filed an attempt to murder case against her with the cops. Actually to frighten Fatty, the former had touched her with her car, because she was refusing to budge from her path. That was it. Fatty lay prostrate on the ground and kept yelling about being murdered.

Back home, our neighbours were sort of ok. Except one of them. This fat guy with a weird voice next door, Rahul, was incredibly spoilt and kept fighting with his parents and sis. He had company in the form of their spitz dog Toffee who would not stop yapping till Rahul would. Now Toffee was not exactly an amiable creature, quite ill-tempered actually. And I would take full advantage. On afternoons when I would feel extremely bored and perverse, I would stand at my window (which overlooks onto a landing of our neighbour's place and where Toffee would be dozing off) and wake him up with 'Tch tch' sounds. It was a pleasure making faces at him. He would go berserk. Often Rahul's dad would step out to see what was wrong. But he never found out the reason. I was good at ducking down (this was an acquired habit. I was used to training my binoculars into our hot Malayasian neighbour's house and duck down whenever he happened to look up. Well he was not exactly Malaysian but an Indian who stayed there. He had fab abs).

I guess I was a painful neighbour. When I was 18 and learning to drive our bulky ambassador, I once drove it onto Rahul's garden. His mom was incredibly fond of their green patches, for she would spend hours on getting the hedges pruned at exactly the same level. So as I ploughed in to her manicured hedges one winter morning, she almost suffered a heart attack. She was standing at the verandah sunning herself with Toffee at her heels when I entered the scene with my four-wheeler. At that point my legs were trembling, but now as I recall her gripping the railings of her balcony, so much so that it seemed she would leap from it, it's hilarious.

What goes around, comes back. So it's payback time, I guess. Now we have this garrulous old Punjabi woman staying opposite us. Every time I open the door for our maid Leelavati, she miraculously pops out (I am convinced that she is obsessed with us) and starts insisting that the terrace door is unlocked. So when for the nth time, she bugged me about there being no lock hanging there, I ran up in front of her and looked very grimly at her in the eye and said, "Well it is locked." She must have been quite disappointed.

The first time I met her and had a thorough Q&A session with her
(exclusivity to the question part was hers), she learnt that the three of us are from Calcutta. So she insisted that when we go back home, we get her back Chikan sarees. I was convinced then that she was a bit touched in her upper works. Even when I informed her that Lucknow is famous for than Chikan work and not Cal, she just ignored me.

This is not all. Once S and me had to suffer a half-an-hour session with her when we needed some number. Since I was asking her stuff in Hindi, she suddenly looked at S and said, "Can't she speak?" Poor S had to explain to her in broken Hindi why she wasn't taking an active part in the conversation.

And she is forever curious about what we do and what we eat and where we are. Not to say this that she cribs about us to Leelavati whenever she can get her alone. That we don't chat with her, that she misses her old neighbours... I guess by the weird timings we keep, she only stops short of saying that we are sluts;)


They call it paranoia

I am suffering from an extreme case of paranoia since the past two days. Today morning for example, I locked my bedroom door from inside, opened my balcony door which connects me to E's room and got out from there. Then I devoted minute attention to little details in the house, like the buckets and toiletry stuff in the bathroom (I shifted them to one our bedrooms), a carton of books (to my room), a carton of cassettes (to E's room), the fridge door and the kitchen door. The latter had a huge padlock hanging on it thanks to me. Now it did look look funny. But look at my other option: Returning home after a weary day of work to see dirty feet marks all over the white kitchen tiles.

No I have not acquired a syndrome over the weekend. We have a few labour hands at our place repairing a leak in one of the loos. It's a mess out there. One Sunday at home, locked inside my room till evening, and I was indescribably worked up. Give them an inch and they would take a yard. One of them happened to ask me, "So you do not cook at home?" I said no and smiled gently. This was obviously taken to be a sign of cow-like gentility. So the next query was, "Your dad's not home?" It called for a snub. And with all the practise I have had in the three years of living away from home, I couldn't have performed better.

The fellows just wouldn't get over with their work. Every 5 minutes
there would be a tap on my door. "We need cold water", "We are going out for lunch", "We need a rag", "We need the gas for burning a rod"... Till I felt like shouting out: "Well, I need you people to get out!" I had it when I caught one of the labourers washing his dirty face and hands in one of our clean buckets. I screamed out : "What the heck are you doing?" The others found it pretty amusing. They laughed at me in a condescending manner which spoke volumes: "She's such a sissy".

Today morning one of them arrived and since S was fast asleep I made
sure the guy wouldn't knock on her door with this and that. So I left a bottle of cold water which obviously wasn't so by the time he arrived. The fool asked me for a bottle of water. I was on the verge of leaving for office. I said, "I left one for you" He smiled benignly: "I splashed it onto the cement". I said coldly, "Very good. Now you can start by bringing your own supply of water." That sure wiped the grin off his face.

And so I have arrived at a conclusion: Some are born rude, some achieve rudeness, and some have rudeness thrust upon 'em. I belong to the last species.


Now honey you aint no spring chicken

Turning 25 can be really stressful. Ask me. My parents are gung-ho about getting me 'settled in life' with a 'nice brilliant' boy (Read: A fat spectacled Bong guy. Ok so maybe I am exaggerating a bit). So I have had a tiff with my pa over the phone. That was two days ago. He went on and on like a stuck record about a particular guy he has in mind, till I wanted to throw up. I cut him short. He's not called me up since. I just can't get my folks to understand my idea of a guy.

I guess I am waiting for my prince charming. But it not's gonna happen, is it? On second thoughts, I should pray for a knight in shining armour. At least he could rescue this poor damsel in distress.

Arranged marriages, it seems, are tough ventures. After all, how many
times do you tell the prospective grooms about yourself? At least I am tired of it. After talking to the first guy my parents were keen on andwho turned out to be a slimeball, I have had to communicate on mail with another guy on e-mail, cause he stays in London. And I have had to go through the rigours of writing about myself again. At one point I felt like sending him a link to my blog. But sanity prevailed and I didn't. Enough about Bong well-to-do guys and matchmaker parents. I guess I sound obsessive now.

Yesterday I happened to bump into my alcoholic mate eM at a vodka
launch. With her and me around, goof ups are just waiting to happen.
Last time she didn't want to get out of the ladies' room. Yesterday was my turn. It went something like this. We had a very teenybopperish drink in the form of a classic Finlandia with cranberry juice. And I was eager to try a mango vodka. eM promised me we would get the drink from the vice president of the company itself. Let me call him Wiggy (he had quite an atrocious wig on) After some time, our conversation with him went like this.

eM: Now Mango Vodka is a very unique flavoured drink. Haven't heard of it before.
Wiggy: It is our USP.
eM: I was wondering whether we could smell it?
Me (Vigorous nods)
Wiggy beckoning the waiter: Get them a bottle of mango vodka. They want to smell it.

That's as good as we got!

Next the PR woman came up and asked us whether we had a taste of
Finlandia. We looked at her and said we were curious about the mango
flavoured one. She offered to get it for us and looked askance. Did we want it? I smiled and said, "Why not?" The woman came back with a
thousand apologies. I wished myself invisible. Next, they offered us
watches as 'small tokens' from Finlandia. I tried to put on my
wide-eyed-innocent-act and was at my coyest best while accepting the
watch 'unwillingly' when I noticed the other PR girl trying to warn me about something. I found out soon. There was a step ahead. Of course I missed it.

The evening was hellish. I had to put myself through an hour's torture of shrill Punjabi Pop. The singer was called Mehsophuria (apparently his father is from a Punjabi village called Mehsopur). He sang some awful number called Ranjha Jogi. I thought I would go into convulsions. But the balle balle crowd was at its enthusiastic best. Including dancing to Mehsophuria and buying his CDs to get them autographed. I am sure had Hitler ever come across Mehso, he would have snapped him up. Nothing better than Mehso performances for his gas chambers.

To my chagrin, I had to talk to him for a few minutes, within which span I just couldn't take my eyes off his flashing gold teeth. There were two in the front part.

The worst part is yet to come. I got lectured by a guy who was compering the show. I had asked him to hasten up the autograph session. I was getting late. Smartass told me, "I am also into journalism. I know how it is. You have to wait. After all, we are not the celebrities." That was it.

I was at my snooty best as I asked him, "So which organisation do you
work for?" He looked at me and said, "I am doing my bachelors in
journalism." Did he say bachelors???!!!! I stared at him in disbelief, at his cocky sureness. Dirty liar. Next when he tried to tell me that he takes autographs of the people he meets, I looked at him in utter disgust and said, "Another rule. Journalists DO NOT take autographs." Sometimes, a single action of yours can make you delirious with happiness. I loved myself at that moment. And I walked out a happy woman.