All your baby talk

A baby is quite a piece of art. Really. That said I absolutely adore the species.

At a lunch hosted by friend C, I met a cute, chubby angel. She looked like a female cupid. The only thing missing was probably a bow and a quiver of pink-tipped arrows!

Tiny brown curls capped an entrancing face made even more charming with pink cheeks. Baby pink was a bonny little thing wearing a pretty pink frock with her fat legs encased in pink woollen pants.

She was a happy child. Kept showing off a front row of two teeny weeny bottom teeth and kept babbling away. Keeping up with her garbled talk was enchanting. But the real task was walking with her. Her father was holding on to her hands while she tried her best to walk upright (she is just a year old, so has some time ahead of her to perfect those steps) when I intervened. And he warned me that I would have to walk her too to be of any interest to her.

So I got up and let her tiny palms rest in mine. Thereafter started a walk which made my back ache. And wasn’t her father glad. He had a wide grin pasted on his face as he said, “Tell me when you get tired.” Now I couldn’t really give up soon, so I had to humour my angel. In between, I tried stopping her and picking her up, but she was adamant. Amazing what will power these small individuals can exert!

Till I couldn’t do it any longer and swung her up in my arms and made her sit in a chair. Whereupon she grabbed my hair and wouldn’t let go.

I wish I earned enough to adopt a baby of my own. I have always yearned for one for the longest time. My mother though always expresses much concern at my train of thought. “It’s time you had a tot of your own,” she chides.

I once alarmed her when I seriously proposed adopting our tenant’s grand daughter H. I couldn’t believe it when she left our house with her parents to go back to Bombay. Every evening after I returned from college, I would rush to spend time with her. Once she peed on me. I was so angry that I did not let her come near me. Served me right when after changing she refused to let me come near her. It was only when I really cajoled her that she suddenly came running with unsteady steps into my open arms. Her favourite thing was to push my chin up and show me the sky.

She had an unusual name and an unusual twin brother too. The latter, a fat little boy with equally fat cheeks, once took a tumble from his pram onto our cemented driveway while I was wheeling him around. I will never forget that day. He started yelling and I started running up the stairs of my house. I got some really huge ice cubes for him which the nanny promptly put into his mouth. He loved it so much that he wouldn’t just pop it out.

That evening I was tensed like never before. I was sure I would be behind bars when he suffered a brain haemorrhage. It almost seemed like my mother had a black tongue. She had said earlier, “You never know when something happens and you will be sitting in jail.”

The next day however the nanny told me, “He fell down again on his head while he was playing on the bed.” Ouch! But boy was I relieved!


“I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes”

Not that I have a reason not to have my feet on the ground, but those feet savers have never made me feel so good. So I cannot have the Loubotins, the Aigners, the Diors, the Choos and the Blahniks (there's of course the pleasure of just gawking at them), but life never did stop for the lack of 'em, did they?

In two days, I have bought three pairs of boots -- beautiful ankle length booties, a pair of very comfortable Go Gos and one with killer stiletto heels. The inner glow is threatening to overwhelm my being. Isn't it just wonderful to slide your feet into a pair of new shoes and walk out, letting the heels tap smartly on the pavement?
Shoes for me once upon a time translated into a rather unobstrusive leather sandal from Sreeleather or something equally inane from Bata. Now that I look back I wonder how I ever wore them and felt good.

Really if my parents knew how much I spend on my feet, they would flip out and how! So when C spoke of stashing the bills carefully so that her grandmom couldn't come across them, I couldn't stop grinning. The horrified expressions of my parents leapt unbidden.

Little details that I would have made a face at, a decade back, have now firmly made their place in my list -- like those fur trims, cute bows, glittering sequins. If you ever drop by in Delhi and want to check out great deals, do take a peek at the collections of Soft & Sleek (however corny it sounds, the shop has lovely stuff from Bangkok) in Sarojini Nagar Market, The Shoe Garage in Shahpur Jat and Heels in Connaught Place. I promise.

Oh, it feels so good to be frivolous!


How high does the sycamore grow?/ If you cut it down, then you'll never know...

Life has been beautiful since the last few posts here. Ever since I returned from Calcutta. I learnt a lot too in those days. Like how you should learn to ignore strangers on the road and give them a wide wide berth, if you want some peace of mind. All I do is plug my iPod into my ears and go with the flow of music. Often I sing along. Yes, I am sure I look funny, but who really cares. The thing is we all learn to be happy.

But life is ironic. Things happen which you never thought could happen to you. Some time back I was out with a guy and I happened to meet his best friend, a photographer from Bombay, at a nightclub here. We danced together. That was the first time we had met and I had liked him a lot. It seemed the feeling was reciprocated. He had asked me if I would go out with him again when he returned to Delhi. There were some complications. I was not his friend’s girl or anything but he seemed to have got the impression.

After a long time, 8 months to be precise, photographer guy called. And suddenly at the end of the conversation he wanted me to be his girl. I was completely taken aback. I was floundering like crazy. I did like him but I certainly didn’t see THAT coming. Since then we chatted a few times. But one day I got very freaked out because he was thinking in terms of us setting up house together! He talked of converting for me (he belongs to another religion). On top of that he pronounced some words a bit funnily. And he has studied in a not-so-great college. Do I sound very superficial? It’s just that I do not want to be ashamed of the guy I am with.

One night I told him that we shouldn’t even talk because it would go nowhere and that he was rushing things. He wouldn’t hang up without a proper reason and really I couldn’t think of any except the religion card (which I admit was very cheap of me and wouldn’t really matter much to me). Finally he said he wouldn’t ever call me up.

A day passed. The next day he called. This time he said that he had to meet a girl from his own religion. “My mother and sisters are trying to set me up with her. And you cannot imagine how beautiful she is. You will lose your senses! She is so much more beautiful than you” -- was what he had to say. My reply: “Good for you! Go for her then!” I was hurt. I have never claimed that I am a beauty queen. So I thought that was pretty nasty and unwarranted. He ended the conversation with the fact that he had made up his mind about the girl he wants to be with. Then three days of silence and he called yesterday with a story about how that girl turned out to be pregnant. And how he was pretty astonished about me not calling him once.

Let me confess. I was a bit cranky about the absence of calls or text messages from him.

Right now, I am so confused. I really do not know what to do. I don’t even know much about him. He was supposed to come down to spend New Year’s Eve with me. But I told him not to. WHAT do I do?


Getting festive

Sitting atop the roof of a truck on the day of bisharjan, I was as happy as a 26-year-old can get. Really the simple pleasures of life such as bouncing a massive balloon back and forth at your 16-year-old cousin and entertaining a 2-year-old cuddly little niece gets to you!

On the way to the bisharjan

The sights enroute were beautiful. As beautiful as they look each year. The Victoria Memorial looking majestic and shimmering in the waters of the lake adjoining it, horse buggies standing by the roads waiting for enthusiastic passengers and Durga idols passing by on trucks with young guys in hordes leading the processions.

And then to return and feast on huge amrittis (imartis), shorshe ilish, aloo posto. Oh just thinking about it makes me feel so contented and full.

We actually have a puja in the family. It's about 150 years old and my father quite likes to boast about how it started off in Faridpur in Bangladesh. So an idol is brought to our relative's home and the entire family gets together during these four days of Durga Puja to celebrate it.

The ladies of our house during shondhi pujo when 108 diyas are lit. The shondhi pujo happens at a time when Durga is worshipped as Chamunda as she is believed to have killed two asuras - Chando and Mundo.

Below are some snippets of my jaunting around the city on ashtami night with friend E and her sister and brother-in-law.

All the way, Ma Durga!

On Vijay Dashami, I made sure that we had a look at the Hogwarts pandal in FD block, near my place in Saltlake. Apparently, J K Rowling and her publishers had sued the FD block association for it, but the association had gone ahead with it anyway. Am glad they did so. It was grand.

And Rowling lost!

P.S.: I got bitten by a dog. By a Dalmation of all dogs! Can you imagine how absurd that seemed to me. It was only after he barked, pounced and bit me (that happened so quickly I had no time to react) that my father said, "He had torn my shirt last time. I told you not to go near him." I wish he had said it earlier because when at night I applied some Homeopathy medicine on the bite and blood kept oozing out, it sure felt like hell. Especially after I had to take a tetanus injection thanks to which my arm swelled to twice its normal size and refused to go away for the next three days. Talk about an anti climax to the friendly 'hello' I sent the Dalmation's way!


Here's to good times!

Life is strange. It does funny things to you. If it lands a slap on your face, it kind of makes it up for it by making you go places. If it makes you work hard, it makes you smile too. And the happiness kind of makes up for the sadness.

And literally I did get slapped. It happened while I was in the metro station crossing a bridge to catch the metro towards my home. A guy passing me by molested me. I turned back and said, "What exactly are you upto?" The insolent look he passed me just had me fired up. And before I could think, I had slapped him. The next moment I felt a resounding slap on my cheek and I fell down. When I got up, I was trembling from anger and disbelief. I wanted to take him to the police. But he was too strong for me. I actually tugged at him.

Slowly people started stopping. And then from ones and twos a sizeable crowd gathered around me. Out of which a woman came and advised me, "Let them go. You are only making a scene of yourself." A man came up and said, "You slap this guy. Come." I was horrified. It was as helpless as one can get. Taking advantage of the crowd who were standing around doing nothing, basically enjoying the scene of a girl trying to take a guy to the cops, the guy ran away.

For four days I couldn't get out of it. Fat tears kept rolling down all the while. And just like that, on the fifth day, I snapped out of it. Why let a louse ruin my peace of mind after all.

Well, a friend then said that something good will happen to you. Like a junket will come your way.

And voila. It has. A junket has come my way. So on Wednesday I fly to Sri Lanka.

Though I must say I have been getting nightmares that the Tamil Tigers will probably get to know about the Indian tourists who have been put up in X hotel and take us hostage. Or that we will get bombed during our shopping or sightseeing expeditions!

I am sincerely hoping none of the above will come true.


Who says it doesn't get dark?

I have always wondered what it feels like to fly. My curiosity was sated yesterday.

It happened thus. I was walking down a road in Defence Colony while returning from my gym. I was trying to plug in my headphones, when suddenly a hand shot out from a bike and snatched at my bag. And because they were passing by at quite some speed, I flew in to the middle of the road and fell on my back.

Some labourers working at a construction site opposite came running and asked whether I was okay. By that time, I was up. It was numbing, so that I couldn't even say anything. All I could do was shake my head and just walk on.

Two or three yards away, there were these cops standing by a picket. The irony of it -- they had a bike on them (which they could have kickstarted by the time it happened and caught those guys). What did they ask me? "What happened?" To which I replied cuttingly (as much as I could between tears welling up and making them appear all blurred), "Didn't you see what happened?" Cop: "Did you note down the number of the vehicle?" While I felt like replying that I was busy falling, to see even the guys on the bike or the number, I pointed out to their bike and said: "You could have gone after them." Cop: "The rascals ran away."

The kind of conversation that can only make you feel more helpless and ridiculous. So I got away as fast as I could.

Now of course I am sitting with multiple bruises. Last night all I could do was cry and feel incredibly helpless. Today I have decided to do something about it. Call up the DCP and complain. For whatever it is worth, nothing might come out of it, but at least I wiill have done something.


Didn't I tell you everything is possible in this deja vu?

The humidity is killing. It rains for some time and, well, everything stays the same. But then have you looked, really looked I mean, at the sky especially as the sun sets. As the rays light up the contours of a streak of cloud. Along with the puffy little clouds floating past on a rather azure blue sky. The effect is of gazing at a watercolour work. At times when I am gazing at such a sky, I feel like going somewhere. Don't know where though. I think if ever one was to grant me my wish of travelling, I would be torn between the places I have already been to and those I have not.

A friend has to do a monsoon story, you know, one of those typical things where you have to ask celebrities what they would like to do on a rainy day. So I gave her my opinion (which she really didn't need I guess) of what I would like to do. Sit on the box seat of a bay window looking on to lush greenery and the sea in the distance while sipping on a mug of creamy cappuccino and snuggling into my guy *sigh*

What would you like to do on a rainy day? Assuming that you are not working or rushing somewhere. Imagine an ideal setting.


The Lord brought me so far, he won't leave me now

So I spent last evening sitting at home. Munching on a whole lot of goodies -- a medium thin crust pizza topped off with cheese, pineapples and barbecued chicken, a pack of chocolate chip cookies, a small pack of Pringles, all washed down with diet coke. And reading my newly bought copy of These Old Shades (I dig Georgette Heyer for her witty heroines). And a book that starts off His Grace of Avon Buys a Soul is reason enough to get hooked.

Pounding on the treadmill at the gym obviously went for a toss. It is okay to take a break. Hmmm...no?;)

But I am glad that I am back to reading voraciously. Whatever I can lay my hands on. The credit for which goes to Chicken Pox. That much-dreaded disease. At least I have always dreaded it since I was a wee thing. Because I happened to have seen a snap of a certain Guru in my history book whose poor face was marred by pock marks thanks to the fact that he had contracted small pox when he was a child. He had even lost an eye. Thenceforth I have always thought of C Pox as S Pox, even though there is a world of difference between the two. All these days that I have managed to not get the virus is probably because my mum would always put me on a diet of shojne datas (drumsticks) daily with the onset of spring. Now obviously I don't have her here to do the same.

So when the doctor looked at the bright red spots on my legs and tummy and pronounced solemnly that it was "Chicken Pox", I was ready to bawl. The curious thing however was that I had no fever or cough. I was fit as a fiddle. When you are as fit as that, you cannot imagine how painful it is to sit at home pretending to be sick. Only this was no pretense. The damn spots itched so much that I would go out of my mind even when asleep.

My mother flew down, it being barely a month that she had left me to settle things back at home. Parents will be parents no matter what. What would we do without them.

Anyway, this was the time that made me dig out all the books that I had kept stacked in my cupboard (you see, I have this habit of buying new books and saving them for later). A month back I had raided ex-flatmate S's collection. Among which was The Kite Runner. I just couldn't stop reading it through the night. Neither could I stop the tears from welling up as I turned the pages. It was beautiful.

My reading list thereafter included: Shadow Lines (Amitava Ghosh), a few MBs, Second Form at Malory Towers (Enid Blyton), The Mountain of Adventure (Enid Blyton), The Foundling (Georgette Heyer), Family Matters (Rohinton Mistry) and more recently Me and Mr. Darcy (Alexandra Potter). I think I read more than watch the telly.

Meanwhile I had to work from home on the office laptop. So I did not go mad as I had thought I definitely would. Then on the Sunday of the second week, when I couldn't take it any more, I escaped to Sarojini market. Why I use the word 'escape' is because my mother was dead set against me venturing out. And the minute I saw her moving stealthily towards the board where rests my home keys, I ran behind her and we had a mini tug of war (she was planning to lock the doors from within!). Thankfully, my Corey keychain came off the battle san much harm. And I was happy.

Between, I have bought this really tall umbrella with snazzy blue checks from Wetside -- the grandpa variety, complete with a wooden curved handle. I am in love with it. And so are people who come across it. Like my colleagues. They want me to buy it for them. It's a victory thing for me over my mum who insisted that I would look ridiculous walking around in public with a grandpa chhata. I have always wanted to use it for whacking wayward men -- the kinds who let their hands stray.

It was only today that I used the umbrella, to my glee, for the above mentioned purpose. I was walking down the road to hail an auto rickshaw, when suddenly a hand tried to grope my back and a man on a bicycle wheeled ahead as fast as he could. Simultaneously, I noticed a white Santro slowing down beside me and a guy peering at me through the tinted glasses. I just waved desperately at him signalling him to stop the guy.

Which he did! As I turned round the bend, I saw him catching the asshole by the collar and dragging him towards me. I ran ahead with my umbrella. You know what the ass said? He mumbled: "Haat galti se nikal gaya tha (my hand just slipped out by mistake)!" The guy slapped him real hard. And when the man tried to flee on his cycle, I landed the wooden handle of my umbrella on his back with a crack. Ooooooh how I loved it!

I was very keen on taking him to the police station. But then I had an appointment for a hair cut. The real hero, however, was the guy in the car. I thanked him profusely.

And when I turned to the auto wallah, who was sitting there watching the entire drama unfolding before his eyes, he agreed like a meek cow to the price I quoted without a word. Oh, the ways of the world!


Go West Where The Skies Are Blue

It's raining so hard. I wonder whether it will ever stop.

Inevitably I was caught outside, sulking at the stand, waiting for my bus. My saviour was my colleague P who happened to be passing by. As I scrambled in beside her, she said, "You don't how many jealous eyes followed you as you got into the car."

And now that I am in office tucking into a plate of puri and sabzi with great gusto, I am feeling all warm and happy. I guess it doesn't take much to feel happy. But then at times, those same little things seems so insignificant. Like yesterday evening I was happy for no reason whatsoever as I was walking down to the gym. But then I looked into the mirror in the gym and wanted to just disappear. An hour of cardio was showing in my trousers! Eeeks!

At that moment nothing seemed to matter but the fact that my part of my bums and the sides of my legs were wet. All I could do was bug gym friend S. Till at last she said it: "If you are uncomfortable, go home." That convinced me. Flinging my towel into the nearest basket I scampered out.

It was sweat. I know. Just sweat. So big deal. But the sight of it was mortifying.

And now I don't feel like going to gym today.


So the seconds went by

Happiness is so transient. Just when you think that something good is finally happening to you, the kind that you hear happens to others, it all ends with a bang. But this I have come to believe from this particularly mind numbing experience that please do not take away from anyone her right to truth.

It makes you wonder whether you can take anyone at face value ever again.

Actually, I just met someone. I had not previously, but I had seen his snaps. For two weeks I kept talking to him on the phone. Daily conversations that would extend to 3 am. He said all the right things. Of course I waited for that toe-curling feeling that accompanied those calls.

And then I met him. He flew down from Bombay.

A brief recap of what took place that evening.

1. The moment I set my eyes upon him, I wanted to let it out: "Err...you are NOT the same person I have been talking to!" The pictures he had sent me must have belonged to his brother. This guy looked at least 40.

2. He was a pansy creature. Too pansy for my comfort.

3. He insulted a girl who was trying to promote some wine to us with the words: "Do you realise you are interrupting an intense conversation!" And let me tell you what the intense conversation was about -- it was about my level of inanity. I was horrified. Next a waiter while passing us by asked him if he wanted another round of drinks. He received no response. So I had to turn to the hapless waiter and say: "Sorry, I don't think he wants anything else." Was he classless!

I have been never so humiliated in my life as I was sitting in that beautiful restaurant-bar. Whenever I asked him a question, he would turn his head the other way, turn back to stare at me and then say nothing.

4. Apparently the fact that I had chosen to simply sip on a cranberry juice had put him off so much that he couldn't bear to order a drink for himself or talk to me at all. And even though he did eventually ask for his favourite tipple, he would not talk. Just stare at me.

I have never spent a more strained 2-hour rendezvous ever. To the point of desperately wishing that anyone, just anyone, would rescue me.

Disbelief, shock, numbness, sadness and an incredible surge of anger that made me want to throttle the guy -- a variety of emotions has been keeping me busy the last two days.

And right now I have one wish -- that I could press the delete button. On all of it.


Such are the ways of the world

If it's (as Jane Austen said that) true that one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other, it's also stands that one half of the world cannot understand the pain of others. Why else would someone like Amitabh Bachchan be donating wads of Rs 100 and Rs 500 bills to fat priests in Tirupati? To earn blessings for the newly-weds? Couldn't he have just cast a look at all the poverty around him.

True, we cannot alleviate poverty all by ourselves, but then every drop counts.

Flipping through the newspapers, it's ironic to see right on the adjoining page featuring the preparations for the wedding, a man dying of malnutrition. And equally heartening to read about the simple gesture of some students from St Stephens' to take care of the treatment of a tea stall owner suffering from cancer in the urinary bladder. To the extent that though not completely healed, he is back in his stall and living life.

And as the story aptly concludes: Hope floats.


Come sing along with me

*Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay, um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay
Supercalifragilistic expialidocious...*


Remember those early school days when you could sing it out loud with your classmates? Maybe because you loved watching Mary Poppins over and over again *sigh* When life was kind of uni-dimensional. Getting hold of that bottle of grandma's tamarind pickle and slipping under the bed and finishing it off. Sneaking off your brother's share of Toblerones, Aeros and Mars and eating them till you felt sick and having to finally throw half a bar of Toblerone. Why? For if you got caught with one of them, the spanking would be bad. Anyway you would have gobbled them up by then.

Reminiscing does make one feel so happy. What at the time seemed particularly heartbreaking and sad suddenly seems to make one laugh in retrospection.

Back to the present, the world has suddenly shrunk.

The office has shifted. To a place where we don't need intercoms. We're all within hollering distance or should I say whispering distance of each other. But all my friends are around me, so I am happy. The room is very peppily done up in orange and lime yellow. There's a canteen here -- yippee -- that has food cooked by guys who have broken away from the Andhra Bhavan canteen. If I sound overtly excited, it's because our earlier office had a small pantry which sold only soggy samosas and kachodis.

The list in the canteen is runs long. It serves hot and spicy fried chicken cooked Andhra-style, chicken biryani, upma, dosa, idli, yadda, yadda. So we have been taking frequent food breaks, gorging on syrupy bread halwa and daal vadas along with filter coffee.

Life is pretty yummy and rummy at the moment.


Random ramblings for the day

Things go wrong. At times, it becomes so difficult to know where it goes wrong. Like it is at the moment with two individuals I know. Both seem to operate on a similar modus operandi. Seriously. Like calling you at their own sweet will and then expecting you to be ready to take them up from where they left.

The first one, VS, used to call only at night and land outside my door at say 2.30 am. And given how impulsive I am, I would go out for coffee and night walks with him. One day he suddenly stopped calling. After about five months, he called me one night and wanted me to go partying with him and his friends. I agreed. Like a fool.

Cause what happened that night quite took me aback. We partied. His friends were fun. In between, I happened to dance with one of his friends who is a photographer from Bombay. He was really cool. Photographer dude was the kind who sits quietly in a corner looking like a brooding duck. But he did open up gradually as I kept raving about Bombay to him. "Appearances are deceptive," he told me in between. And I realised what he meant soon -- that is when he joined me on the dance floor. He could really groove. We bonded.

VS didn't like that. And it is not as if we were seeing each other or anything of the sort. Later while driving me home, he suddenly dropped a line: "I know all about ND". He was talking about a common friend who had asked VS's friend about him on behalf of me. And that friend had obviously twisted things around a bit while telling VS about it. VS was apparently really upset. Which is why he explained, he had done the disappearing act on me. And he asked me something really stupid. "Were you trying to make me jealous by dancing with my friend? I have been two-timed twice before. So I should know". The rest of the time, I tried to find out what he was so upset about, but he wouldn't let on. So I stopped.

And I have decided to be a hundred miles away from such a complicated character. Just the kinds who can make you understand in a trice what the term 'mindfuck' is all about.

Then came another such individual. One with an inflated ego. Who apparently works frightfully hard for a living. So I told him that I too work hard, that my job has its pressures too. He has been asking me out on dates, cancelling, disappearing, asking me out again, and again disappearing. It's almost like I am a doormat.

Whatever have I done to deserve such louses!

In the meantime, some things are still running along the same track. Like my shoe jinx. Recently I was running about for my stories at the fashion week, when to my horror, one of my pump shoes gave way. And while I was walking on imaginary heels, loudmouth photographer RS had to draw attention to it. To which one of my fellow journos exclaimed: "Hey now you are a model!" (a silly one, but yes he had a reference. His line was drawn from last fashion week when one of the models had to walk without heels. The heels of one of her stillettos came off while she was walking down the ramp).

This incident prompted friend S to recall the time when I had to come back to work in Dhoni's bathroom slippers. "You could get Dhoni to sign them and you could auction them on e-bay!" S's brilliant idea would have worked because it was more than a month before. Life, however, has changed since then. Both for Dhoni and me. And let me confess that I had chucked the slippers last summer.

Then gym friend G tried to fix me up with a former model-turned-artist friend of hers. I was quite horrified because it brought this feeling of deja-vu along with it. That of S and her hubby making me meet one of his friends who is an actor. This time though my other friends accompanied us. And we all had a blast -- getting drunk and dancing our feet out.

At times, it does seem like I am waiting for something. But what is it?


A post-dated colourful tale

Yes, it's coming a tad bit late. But what the heck, I have got to share my exhilaration with you. If you remember Holi was celebrated in Delhi on Sunday...On Friday night, I was buying film tickets for Eklavya at a theatre in West Delhi along with friends C and T. T's husband P was in the process of parking the car.

Now C expressed her fascination for a certain pattern on the shiny granite floor outside the counter. In two minutes, we realised that it was actually water that had assumed an arty tree-shape and that it was the result of some people thowing water balloons at the people queued up at the counter. Mind you, they were all grown-ups laughing loudly and taking potshots from a first floor balcony right opposite the counter.

I was in a very tra-la-la mood. Just two days back I was in Bombay and the feel of the city was still fresh in my mind. You could say that at the time I was in the Bombay-state-of-mind. And there was a perpetual dreamy smile on my face I guess. That made my friends grin too.

All was fine till I felt and heard a splat sound on my trousers.

I dialled 100. The first time I explained the whole thing for a long time to the cop. Midway he hung upon me. The second time I called, I made a point to tell this other cop that I was from the Press and I wanted them to come and do something about the matter. "Madam, aap rickshaw walle bhi hote to hum aate," he said. I felt like retorting, "And pigs can fly!" ( a trademark line of mine that comes out very often whenever I express disbelief). Difficult it was, but I had to suppress this particular expression and say, "Then just come and prove what you said."

Meanwhile, I was dying to do something about it. I was not sure that the PCR would arrive. I asked P where the police chowki would be. He did and before he could ask why, I was stalking off to the chowki along with C and T. We found two constables, whom we immediately dragged along with us to the house. While we were thus stalking towards the house suddenly I was thrilled to see a huge group of cops coming towards. So there we were -- proceeding towards the house in full strength. I vaguely remember the sounds of people clapping at the counter.

The entrance at the house was so dark that for a moment I faltered. The stairs looked exactly like they would lead us into a dungeon. Anyway, when we reached the door of the 'perpetrators', we found that theywere seated for dinner. The expressions on their faces were what I wish I could have captured on a camera. Because you have to see to believe how the guilty can pretend.

Initially there were two teenage boys and their mother (she had been standing and laughing at the spectacle of people being bombarded) who kept insisting that they had no idea what we girls were talking about. Then when the cops collared one of the guys, she caught hold of my arm and said: "You are doing something very wrong. When we go to the market, people throw stuff at us also." To which I said: "Then you should do something about it." And then she said: "This is going to come back to you..." and went on and on. I was furious. From somewhere this fat middle-aged Punju aunty emerged and started convincing C that she is her 'dadi'. C, being a sweet natured person, was nodding her head. While I said, "Dadi? Which dadi?"

Soon the cops hauled the guys downstairs on to the road where there was these mohalla wallas had gathered to partake of the 'fun'. One of them in an abhorring black shirt with loud silver sequins took my breath away. And an old man who was trying to tell me that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. Then suddenly anti-climax came in the form of T's husband P who came and listened to the whole thing and uttered just a few words "Ye to chhoti si baat hai".

Heavens! It was almost comical. But the matter was taken out of our hands when the cops decided that they would take care of it. They did note down my name, father's name, cell number and address. So we went ahead for our show while they, I am sure, wrung a neat dough out of the donkeys. Good for them.


You're beautiful, you're beautiful, you're beautiful, it's true, la la la la la la

Woke up to strains of James Blunt. Then sprayed on S's bottle of Beautiful. As did E. And almost instantly we were taken back to our days of staying together in Malviya Nagar. Umm... I sound disjointed. It's a random state of the mind. You know when you are so happy that you cannot just put it down in words. When you feel like flying around work and making everybody smile cause you are happy.

Now to throw some light on the above. I have been on a kinda roller coaster ride in the last two months. Great highs and great lows. But to quantify, the highs have been higher than the lows.

If I start from yesterday night, I would tell you how I had the most amazing time with ex-flatmates S, E and S's husband V. The evening started with S and E making me wait at Sarojini Nagar Market for half-an-hour. After which we set ourselves on shopping, shopping and shopping for 33-100 ruppee skirts and what not. In between, we were caught in this shoe shop (Soft and Sleek -- if you are a shoe freak, you must visit this shop in SN. It rocks and I am not exaggerating), mainly thanks to E. It almost felt like we were part of the staff at the shop -- only we were trying out all the shoes under the price tags that said 150, 200 and 300 ruppees.

Some more shopping and we were finally out of SN. Once at my place, we of course modelled all our clothes and each of us had two more opinions to count on (I shudder to think of my bed. It is a humongous pile of clothes). By the time, we were out, dressed in our respective new buys -- E in her 'bordello' top (an affair in red topped off with sheer net), S in her lime green sphagetti and me in my new tunic -- we were pretty late. So much so that we reached GK and found that we were walking down the middle of a ghost town. It was only 10 pm.

But Gelato Vittorio was open. "You got us here for gelato?!!" the two shrieked. But since it came right at the point through which we entered the market, there was not much choice left for them. I was conned by the guy behind the counter in to buying two scoops of Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch and Whiskey Irish Cream and shelling out Rs 135. "Divine justice," mouthed E and S.

Since there was hardly any dining option, we sat ourselves in Yo China. Where I did an Obelix. As in picked on three plates of Crispy Honey Chicken and ate my through a huge plate of vegetarian noodles. The fact that I could move on my feet after that was in itself a piece of good luck. Meanwhile V had joined us and had what he said was soup that tasted like nothing he had before. It was not a very appreciative comment actually. And E had met her friend who is getting married.

When all was done, the four of us headed to Shangri-la. This time for coffee. I have probably never laughed so much in my life what with old stories and reminiscences of our recent trip to Murud Kashid together. I think you have never heard of any one drunk on chicken. I was. It was so bad that I was planning to rest my butt on a water-filled platform in the hotel. S stopped me thankfully. Thus we ended our night or should I say started today.

But truly, simple pleasures create such great memories.


To capture moments that put me on a high...

Funny, how one week I was sitting at home watching the ad campaign of 'Malaysia, Truly Asia' on the telly and the other I was staring at the rather imposing twin towers which are apparently 279 times my height. Though we didn't get to go to the skybridge, because our tour guide didn't happen to book the tickets ahead of time.

The twin towers, by day:
The Prada window inside the Suria KLCC:
And a peek at the towers by night, from in between the Hotel Nikko buildings:

The same day, we rushed from the twin towers to a shopping mall called The Weld. My friend P wanted to buy handbags from there cause there was quite a deal at hand. She bagged three of them for just 100 RM (ringgits). I had to literally keep my hands tied down, as I had quite finished with shopping by then. Which is why, I have resolved to keep a tight rein on my impulsive and compulsive shopping. At least I would not have to suffer from shopping pangs on future outings.

While returning to the towers (where we were supposed to meet the rest of the group and guide D) we had a nasty experience. We hopped into a cab. I mentioned that the Twin Towers were our destination and P happened to say Suria KLCC (which is basically the same because the mall is within the towers), when the man behind the wheel turned back and bit out: "I am confused about where you want to go." He was a bad 'un, that one. Whirling back he asked us where we were from and in a trice asked us to just get down. It was the offensive manner in which he spoke that raised my hackles. But I guess for every good experience you have, you do come across a bad one.

One evening we had the chance to walk down to Central Market or Pasar Seni. It was just perfect. I love to explore a place by walking through it. After I had shopped like crazy at this departmental store called Watson's, I came across these street musicians strumming the guitar and singing romantic numbers. With them was this little kid with a small guitar. He was adorable. So I went up to him. He was accompanied by this cute young hippy guy (not in the pic) who was quite a flirt. He told me that if I wanted to take the little fellow, I would have to take the big fella with me as well!

While these musicians were on with their strummings, young guys and girls were seated around enjoying a breezy cool evening. An ideal setting for sitting down with friends and doing nothing. Not even chatting probably.

Here are some ganeshas I saw at the Central Market that I was totally enchanted by:

(Clockwise) Canopy Ganesha, Teaching Ganesha, Bathing Ganesha, Mirror Ganesha and Sleeping Ganesha.

A woman selling yummy eatables on the pavement outside Sogo Mall:

This is a cafe outside the Sogo mall area where I tried Mee Goreng (spicy fried chicken noodles with the leafy local vegetable sawi and doused in soya sauce). The cafe owner was a Malay who was just very amused by us. I don't know why though.

The cutest chef I have laid my eyes on:

One night I went to Zouk (check out its facade with the lovely lighting that changed from blue to magenta and thereon), the hippest nightclub in KL, with the despicable Mr D.

That was the night he decided that he could hit on me. Even after I had warned him that the fact that I was talking and dancing with him doesn't mean that I am easy. The git had the guts to say later that he wanted me to put my arms around him because there were four girls trying to seduce him. I wish I could have flicked out a mirror and made him take a look at himself.

Inside Zouk:

A shot from the car, of Selangor, the city of lights:

We set out early in the morning on day four for Putrajaya, the venue for the Flora Fest. There were hardly any security hassles once we were in through the initial barrier. No checking. Nothing. After all, the place has been lucky so far as to have not been hit by terrorists.*Touchwood* It was a refreshing change.
These lovely girls wearing orchid garlands were waiting with pretty bouquets for the king and the queen:
It was kind of equivalent to the displays on our republic day. The individual states like Sabah, Johor, Selangor, KL, Terrenganu all had their flower displays. Even KFC had a display. Check out the KFC float:

With lovely music playing in the background and colourfully dressed men and women dancing, it was absolutely stunning:

The national mosque of Putrajaya. It was so pretty. I wore a bright pink huge jubba to get inside. That's when they decided that I could not get in because I was a non-Muslim. It hurt. The driver S who accompanied me there apologised profusely. It was touching considering the fact that it was something he could not help. Neither could I.

Just married!

Yes, this couple had just got married at the mosque. They made a charming picture in their shining white clothes. The guy is wearing a sampin (skirt), the baju malayu (kurta) and a songkok (cap), while the lady is in a kabaya (dress) along with the dudong (headscarf).

Aha, this one is a shot of the sting ray.

Inside the KL Towers itself there is an aquaria called Aquaria KLCC. Where I got to touch a star fish (rather gingerly) and a shark that looked more like an eel (the reaction here was a shudder). And of course I got to see all kinds of creatures -- green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles, bamboo sharks, electric cat fishes, tree frogs, treetop serpents, tarantulas -- very eeky creatures most of them. The cutest of them was the common marmosets which were very human I must say. They kept on playing with each other. By that time, I was out of battery, so the digi cam wouldn't work, much to my dismay. Hence I missed out shots of the beautiful leopard shark and a massive black thing called the Tapa fish. The latter was omnious. It was resting quietly in a corner of the aquarium. "Mind you, that quiet demeanour is deceptive. It was bought by these locals from the rainforests. They had to carry it and bring it here. It was possible because it can live for an hour or two without water," said Fiona, the pretty PR for the Aquaria.
Now let's come to the most adventurous part of it all. It was the day we drove from KL to Penang. A tiring road trip, but when we stopped at a snake temple on the way to the hotel, here's what I saw:

This huge lady was open as was the one in the background and another python (not in the pic). This python seemed awake, while the other two appeared dead to the world. The reason being the fact that they were shedding their skins. What I did next never ceases to amaze me.
I touched the lady python.
It took me a good five minutes to actually touch her (you cannot imagine what a phobia I have of reptiles. I get nightmares of crocodiles and snakes with their slimy selves trying to get at me). The owner, a Chinese man called Chew, really coaxed me in to patting her. But when I touched her, she hardly felt slimy or the like. It was exactly like the way those smooth crocodile skin bags feel. After that Chew urged me to wrap her around my neck and get a pic taken. Now that I couldn't do. Lady python had her last meal some three weeks back.

Then there was Naja Naja:

This cobra was initially lying quietly in a corner with its mate. Till my idiotic group guys wanted it poked because they wanted nice pictures. "Aisa kijiye ki ye phan phailaye na!" said Mr J, which was translated duely to Chew by Mr J's friend, Mr S. But the funny part was that all of them went and stood behind the open cage, while I who is a complete coward, stood in front of it and went click, click, click, as it rose up with a hiss thanks to a good few pokes from Chew.
What really made me feel nice was holding a baby bunny and feeling it burrow in my hands. This talkative little 6-year-old Chinese girl, Zhiling Teow, who stays on the farm with her parents and uncle Chew, is holding the baby for me.
Just a feel-good picture by the pool at the Bayview resort in Penang:

A delicious lunch at The Happy Garden restaurant in Penang. The owner, Sherin, is a former Miss Hainan, who prepared this authentic Hainanese meal for us. So there were stir fried veggies spiced up with garlic, chicken dry fried in chilli and cashewnuts, claypot tofu and sizzling prawns served along with special Chinese tea.

More food! This time it was at the open eating area in Padang Kota in Penang. In the yellow bowl is the Laksa (rice noodles in tangy fish gravy), the blue plate has the Kampung (vegetarian fried rice and noodles cooked in soya sauce, garnished with an omelette) and in the orange dish is some Javanese noodles (cooked in a thick brown peanut sauce along with fish balls and prawns).

I especially enjoyed this meal because I was eating out with only guide D and driver S. The others were dining at Pizza Hut after we had just had a huge row between spoilt Ms S and D. Her mother even called up D threatening him with his job. It left him quite speechless as it left me ashamed of this group that I was stuck in.

A guy on with cooking satays:

This is the evening before the morning we set out for home. I took a real long walk on the beach by myself. And it was refreshing though I did feel a bit lonely at moments.

Whoa! It sure was a marathon post. As you can see, it got me going.


A big hallo!

I was sitting in the middle of this ballroom yesterday night. It was done up in red right from the luxurious drapes to the woman dressed in red silk dresses. Yes, it was a pre-Valentine bash thrown by a cosmetics company that launched its new age miracle cream. Cyrus Sahukar, who was hosting the show, described the place rather aptly -- he called it a giant tomato.

But be it a giant tomato or not, they played the most mushy soundtracks from Roxette, Savage Garden, Seal... You might cringe at the thought of it, but paired with red wine and cheese croquettes, it was a heady combination alright. It was the moment when I thought of all my loves -- past and present. And how futile they always turn out to be.

And however much I might snigger at the concept of Valentine's Day, it feels sad and pretty left out to watch couples linking up hands and revelling in each other's company. Wonder what that feels like.

Before I fall into the blues, let me talk about a trip that I went on to Malaysia. It was magic all the way.

In seven days, it felt like I had lived a lifetime of happiness. However it was a sponsored trip by the tourism board of Malaysia, so I was stuck with other journalists who were a shame to be with. There were six of us altogether -- three girls and three men.

Two paunchy middle-aged men were only interested in drinking and making us wait, without fail, in the hotel lobby every morning and evening. The third man was someone who was so well-travelled that he couldn't stop talking about Italy and Mauritius, that too with a fake accent. His grammar might have been occasionally screwed up, but hey he had an accent! Now among the girls, there was this madam who was flaunting her wealth besides the unwholesome sight of an ample paunch and the crack of her butt (thanks to a low-rise jeans and a short top). "I own three luxury cars in Delhi -- a Baleno, an Accent and a Corolla," she told our first tour guide. This guy was loaded with ready wit. He insisted, "We'll take you to one of our luxury car showrooms and you can take home another one." The fifth of us, this girl with a travel magazine, was the only one I got along with.

Now that I've let out my co-traveller woes to my heart's content, I must confess that the place itself was perfectly cosmopolitan. There were no lecherous men on the streets or anywhere, the people were very well-behaved, the public loos were spick n' span, the buses were swanky, the cabs were all air conditioned and ran by meter. Add to that a tropical breezy weather san humidity and you had the perfect place on earth. I was totally won over by the ample opportunity to do cheap shopping. So in the first two days, I exhausted my budget and ended up buying a huge travellers' bag to stuff everything in!

If we start at the beginning, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport is fantastic. There are aerotrains that go right into the main terminal. Now on the way from the airport to the Hotel Nikko, which was quite a long drive (a one-hour one) flanked by zillions of palm oil trees, I was a bit taken aback by the sight of fields of dead palms standing out among the lush greenery. The guide pointed out that they kill their palms when the trees are around 30 years old by pouring kerosene oil down them. "To do away with the less productive ones," he said. Sounded morbid, even though it makes sense to them I guess.

The miles of unhindered greenery gave way soon to skyscrapers and beautiful Islamic buildings, Moorish edifices and old Raj style buildings. The next day we visited the king's palace which is also called the istana.

The palace grounds

We were of course not allowed in. So all we could do was click pictures from outside, of royal guards on horseback (who change every two hours) and a colourful outer garden (changes every three months). The king here changes too! Every five years. The present king is Tunku Nizan Zainal and he happens to be the youngest king so far at 44. But he's a shy one. Apparently he doesn't meet anyone and even appointments do not work with him.

Our next few stops were the ASEAN Garden and a war memorial in the same compound.

Check out the bronze soldiers in the War Memorial -- they symbolize victory, bravery and courtesy

What I loved especially was the Moorish style architecture of the National Railway building:

Opposite it was the massive KTM Berhad, the railway administration building, designed by E C Norman, a Brit architect:

The National Mosque itself was unconventional. None of the usual domes that you associate with a mosque. It has a Javanese design with the main hall topped off by an open umbrella roof in a beautiful turquoise blue:

I think each building looked stunning, be it the National Library, the National Museum or be it the 'Sexy lady of Kuala Lumpur' which is actually the building of the Haj Foundation.

Where we went for lunch in the city centre actually was the icing on the cake. It was the Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower) with a revolving restaurant. From atop the tower it was a lovely bird's eye view of the city.

These two old ladies admiring the view of the city while lunching at KL Towers were rather endearing:

Some miscellaneous pix from within the buffet area of KL Towers

This lobster shed its shell in the aquarium here apparently in the 1990s:

This cake is apparently three years old:

The buffet was very sumptuous as well.

The dessert counter:

Only I got excited by the sight of this jar stuffed with what looked like fried papads. I greedily piled a few on my plate, when I was warned that I might not like them. By that time, I had even popped one into my mouth. I can't tell you the incredible reaction it had on me. The papads were fried in fish oil. Not that I am a fish hater. I am a Bengali after all. But stinking fishes are the limit. I must say, that otherwise, the fishes were cooked very well in lemongrass oil and had a lovely flavour.

The evening was spent shopping in an arcade opposite our hotel and then soaking my feet in hot water. They were as sore as hell.

Part 2 of the trip follows in the next post. Kind of running short on time.