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.