Sunday, August 08, 2010

Just a little Poem

Written for an event at my son's school (Courage House)


We at the Courage House
Caught a little mouse
And trained him to race
In a mighty maze

The mouse was surprised
That he could win a prize
By running a race
And eating cheese in a maze

The mouse raced along
The cheese made him strong
He was certified to compete
And his registration complete

Then came the day
When the officials say
"The race is to be at Ascot"
"Bring your mouse Godot"

We at Courage wail in dismay
"Ascot? That's miles away!"
We have tickets to book
Pack clothes taken off the hook

At Ascot the day dawns
The dew sparkles on the green lawns
Godot is wearing Green, White and Orange
All ready to face the challenge

We at courage bite our nails
As we follow Godot's travails
As the mice race on the track
We cheer for 10, the number on Godot's back

Godot was off like the wind
There was a ball of Gouda all skinned
On top of a golden cup
On which a thousand mice could sup

Godot won by a yard and more
And dived straight into the Gouda's core
Mice and men toast Godot's run
We at Courage had a lot of fun

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Random Chapter

Practicing to write in third person....


They had met a year and a half back, a few hurried business meetings throughout which his eyes bore into her. She had felt somewhat uncomfortable and wondered if ogling at women was a habit with RK (as he liked to call himself) but she brushed it off and returned his direct eye to eye gaze as they spoke. RK was assessing the teams across the globe and how best to leverage them and also trying to come to grips with his new responsibilities and seemed to be somewhat out of his depth. Shahana patiently explained the Indian operations and how the team she headed fitted in the big picture and the conversation drifted to Alzheimer's disease. "Maybe you can try wearing your watch on your right hand instead of left, then your brain will have a new signal for a routine habit" Shahana said. "Really? Does that work? I think remembering all these Indian names will be quite enough for me" RK responded. Shahana was a bit needled, the so called RK was a Tamil Brahmin with roots and initial education in India and twenty years in the US made him American? More organization structures and flow charts were drawn on the white board and eventually eyelids started to droop and coffee had to be ordered. The German gentleman, Wolfgang who was also in the meeting ordered black and so did Shahana. "Normal coffee in India is a concoction with lots of milk and sugar - would you like normal or black?" Shahana asked RK. "Black? Yuck, no normal for me please. How can you swallow all that bitter stuff?""I am trying to cut down on sugar so black for me" Shahana said and immediately regretted her statement as it reminded her of her nonexistent fitness routine.


Shahana could not accompany her guests for lunch as she had registered for a cancer detection camp and had to go for medical tests during lunch time. RK and Wolfgang had a hearty Indian lunch at the office cafeteria and were back in the conference room which now smelled like a hospital ward thanks to all the blood samples that were collected there for the Cancer detection camp. "I think I am going to faint, I hate the idea of blood being present in this room" said RK as he occupied a chair near the door. Wolfgang presided over the meeting, this time with the whole team, more charts were drawn, more roadmaps were discussed and in general the future was rosy. "With an innovative leader like Shahana, who wears her watch on the right hand to generate new brain patterns and ideas, I think you guys are in good hands" RK summed up. Shahana laughed and was somewhat pleased at being praised in a public forum, "He is just trying to pull me over to his side" she thought.


RK, now officially in charge was all businesslike, he wanted data, reports, contracts and demos, the team scurried to fulfill all his requests, he seemed to inject some energy into an otherwise bored team and his words held some promise for a brighter future. "Can you make it Chennai next week? I would like to bring you up to speed with some plans I have" RK asked Shahana. Sahahna agreed, though somewhat unclear about the exact agenda, when she asked RK mumbled something in an incomprehensible mid western accent. She had been having a tough time to understand his accent and was playing the role of an interpreter for the team who looked blank whenever RK spoke. "Well, let see what's in store" she thought. "Great. Would like to make full use of your time when in Chennai" RK said as he shook hands with Shahana and the rest of the team before departing.


Shahana was left with a highly excited team (RK had dangled the trip to US bait very lavishly) and a lot of questions. She was more restrained in her optimism and was not very sure how RK could revamp a loss making business unit and turn it around in a day. She was more inclined to think that he had some other objectives and planned to channel underutilized manpower to some of his other projects which may not be in the best interests of the team. RK went back to the US and promptly forgot his promises made during his Indian sojourn, Shahana heard from the grapevine that he was having a tough time to establish himself and chart a plan. She got sporadic requests from RK for support with some requests which she provided; she also provided her own ideas for the new business model which was to be launched soon. RK was always very appreciative about her and the team's work. Shahana had overcome her initial reservations about RK and grew to appreciate his style of working.


Somewhere in between Shahana started chatting with RK about politics at work, hobbies, and interests and so on and his witty and somewhat sarcastic humor kept her entertained. He would tell her about his future plans, current challenges and she would offer solutions or suggestions as appropriate. She almost enjoyed their exchanges even if it was mostly related to work. She felt appreciated and valued professionally. Shahana would often catch herself thinking of RK and then mentally shrug him off, "It is quite normal to think about colleagues you work with everyday" she thought. She knew his music preferences, his reading preferences, about his Great Uncle who he admired, about the rock concerts he attended with his Father and his interest in Che Guevara. She knew his wife's name, that no of years he was married, the names of his two sons, how they spent time during weekends, his workaholic nature and how he managed to find time for family, when he migrated to US etc etc. Shahana also collected other bits of information about RK from other colleagues; she also came to know about his drinking habits, his sweet tooth, and his interest in cooking and other odd bits of information. "Am I stalking him?" she would stop and ask herself at times and then shrug and carry on with her life.


RK visited India after almost 18 months, Shahana was leaving the organization, and she was somewhat disillusioned at the way the business model had evolved. There were no opportunities for her to grow professionally so she decided to move on and in the process had to handover a part of her responsibilities to RK. RK had added more weight around his middle and had almost gone completely gray, his accent hadn't got any better despite having to communicate with the 'desis' who never understood a word of what he said., "At least a few things remain the same" Shahana thought. Her opinion of RK had changed somewhat in the last few months, she thought him to be megalomaniac control freak who refused to delegate and empower people, which was one of the reasons she was leaving.


Shahana was going through her handover agenda one by one when suddenly RK noticed her wrist and commented "You still wear your watch on your right hand! I tried your idea and it seemed the whole world had somehow changed so changed back to left. Looks like I have to make peace with Mr. Alzheimer". Shahana smiled and said that it was probably time for her to change and wear her watch on her left wrist, which she did the next day. RK asked her the time about five times during the whole day and Shahana would invariably look at her right wrist and then at the left and catch him with a faint smile and an inquisitive stare. Meetings progressed and coffee was needed and this time RK ordered black while Shahana settled for 'normal' and it was Shahana who had a faint smile this time, glances were exchanged and an old memory recollected but not mentioned. At a dinner later Shahana and RK spoke like friends who had met after a long time while the rest looked on perplexed and probably wondered the mystery behind the apparent camaderie.


Three days went by in a flash and it was time for RK to return to US, Shahana wished him well and he gave her a half hug and said "I'll see you soon, take care". Shahana made all the right noises while she tried to respond to the unexpected hug while her eyes questioned how would they meet again - this was the last time wasn't it? All of a sudden she felt a little bereft and wished that there was something to hold on to. She would miss his sharp, caustic wit and the conversations and also all the stories she heard about him from others, there would be no reason to talk or keep in touch once she moved to a new job except perhaps the new year or birthday greeting which would also eventually fade away. Shahana's mobile phone rang and her five year old daughter demanded when she would be back home, "In another thirty minutes, ask Daddy to help with homework and pass the phone to Shanti Bai". Shanti Bai was told what to cook for dinner and pack for Diya's lunch box the next day. The next call was to the driver to bring the car to the office gate, it was time to go home.


Friday, July 09, 2010

Greed and Creativity

People asked me why I stopped blogging and I would respond that once I started to get paid for what I wrote, writing merely as a form of self expression seemed a waste of time. It's true I earned a few thousands when I wrote for some publications and I thought that offers would now pour in because whatever I produced was so eminently readable!


Well offers didn't exactly pour in and I also did not pursue my career in writing in all earnest. I also lost touch with my one and only hobby thanks to good old greed. Well eminently readable or not, I can just write for now and rest can happen later.


Hello Again!

Testing My Vocal Cords

It's been a long time since I sang out loud, at the most I have hummed and once in a while sang in a rush at a friends place to relive some school memories. In some inspired moments, in an empty house after listening to a particularly nice song I try to reproduce it, go hopelessly off key and then give up.


I am also eternally embarrassed at most condolence meetings where I am asked to sing 'something appropriate' (a.k.a. Bromho sangeet or Ranbindra sangeet) and I sit stonily and mumble that I have forgotten to sing. At this stage people offer books which have printed lyrics (which seem to be peculiarly handy) and I cringe further and wish the Earth would swallow me up! But of course such things happen with only ladies as pure as Sita and not a out and out sinner (like me). I usually mutter more excuses and pass on the so called singing baton to the more abled.


Unfortunately (or fortunately?) some people have these elephantine memories and recollect that I used to sing at some point of time and become quite persistent. At such times I usually have to resort to my last straw which is the one and only Rabindra sangeet I know, knowing fully well that it is highly inappropriate. Traditionally this song is sung at ceremonies celebrating birth, and I have sung it a few times at condolence meetings (shradh ceremonies) with the explanation that death is a transition to a new state and hence a form of birth. Purists and the torch bearers of Tagore's work may send me hate mail I guess.


The other day I exhausted my stock and was asked to sing one more song (in other gatherings and encore would perhaps an ego boost) and I had to delve into deep recesses of my memory and recollect all the devotional songs I had learned centuries back. To my complete surprise I did actually recollect one of them and it was good to jog my memory and vocal cords to some forgotten tunes and I also discovered that training in classical music can never really desert you, the vocal cords seem to have their own memory. It is also a liberating and cleansing experience.


I am now suitably convinced that I should take up singing lessons and expand my repertoire, though not for an audience but as a form of self expression.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Published - At Last!

Dear All,

I am pleased to say that thanks to a dear friend of mine, I have been published at last. It's an awesome feeling to see one's name in print. Here is my list so far:
1. Design Today (April-09) - Write up on PVR Phoenix Multiplex interiors
2. Good Housekeeping (April-09) - Protect Yourself from the Rainy Days - an article on how to manage your finances during recession
3. Good Housekeeping (June-09) - Action Plan: Help Your Child Reach their Potential

Please do read the India editions of th emagazines listed above!

Thanks!
IC

Friday, January 30, 2009

Declaration

To all

I hereby declare that I want to write professionally because I beleive I have it in me. If you have a writing assignment then please contact me at ichatteralot@indiatimes.com.

Thank you,
IC

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Questions and Answers

I have not been tagged but the following set of questions is one I thought may be interesting to answer even if I am married, have a child and some situations have only hypothetical answers.

1. If your lover betrayed you what would your reaction be?
Love is an emotion that transcends hate, sure it's natural to feel murderous, suicidal, hopeless but beyond that there is love and hope and it is possible to forgive, forget and accept or to move on. Thats what I would do.
2. What’s it that you see in an ideal partner?
A person who can be a friend, in good times and bad, someone who will thoughtfully light a torch in the stairs when there is a per cut (as I cant see in the dark) and someone who will hold my hand whn I climb down stairs as they scare me.
3. What, according to you, is the perfect date?
There is no perfect date - wine, candles, cards, chocolates and flowers were invented to make you spend money. One can have a good time anywhere.
4. Would you like to have children soon enough? Or would you wait till your mid-thirties for the first child?
Biologically it makes better sense to have them sooner, emotionally you are better prepared when you are older.
5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?
Now let me think - no I think that would be sacrilege, even if he is the best looking man on this planet. Love is complicated while friendship is much more simple and I would prefer to maintain simplicity.
6. Which is more blessed: loving someone or being loved by someone?
A parents love and a child's love are the purest and the most divine forms that one can experience. The man-woman thing is often laced with unexplainable complications!
7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you love?
I didn't wait - I just married and you know what, its great!
8. If the person you secretly like is attached, what will you do?
That has happened to me all the time in school - all my crushes had crushes on the hottest girls in school - what can one do really except forget them!
9. What do you think are the foundation stones of a good relationship?
A balanced mix of space and caring
10. What according to you is the most beautiful thing about relationships or marriage?
Dissolving of self
11. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
An acclaimed novelist
12. What’s your fear?
I cant think of any
13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
No one tagged me so I think all people out there are just wonderful!
14. Would you rather be single and rich or married and poor?
Rich and poor is relative - I am what I always was, I neither feel richer or poorer, so marriage does not really make a difference if you ae careful about joint finances.
15. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously who will you pick?
Intriguing situation - flip a coin maybe?
16. Would you give all in a relationship?
Relationships are not about give and take, if we understood that, we would have everlasting relationships! Its because we think we give, we expect returns from the other side and that leads to all kinds of problems.
17. Would you forgive and forget someone no matter how horrible a thing he has done?
Depends. Its not possible to ignore a wilful desire to hurt someone, if someone does that to me I would disconnect immediately.
18. Do you prefer being single or in a relationship?
That is a question which has no answers - man is never satisfied really! If you are happy and at peace with yourslef, it does not matter whether you single or in a relationship

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Letter to a Landmark

Dear Taj,

The dust has settled, the debris cleared, blood stains whitewashed, candles have been lit, marches and speeches are over. You stand strong while your core is shattered, a symbol in a way, of the Indian stoic resilience.

You have always welcomed me so graciously and when you needed help, I was unable to be by your side. I wept invisible tears of anguish when I saw you and those you held in your arms being ravaged so ruthlessly and berated my general helplessness.

You are so grand and so beautiful; I have always been in awe of you since my childhood. I always wanted to see you in person someday and it happened on my first trip to Mumbai for a job interview. A friend had invited me for tea and I accepted just because it gave me an opportunity to see you. Your grand staircase, beautiful paintings, chandeliers dazzled me. The view of the lighted Gateway from the Sea Lounge was ethereal in the evening. The tea and cakes were heavenly; the person playing the grand piano at the front was playing some hauntingly familiar tunes.

Going to you was an aspirational journey, a raise, a few extra dollars earned from a trip outside India, special occasions and the many more milestones we had yet to celebrate. Your welcoming ambience reaffirmed our belief in ourselves, that we could come back for more when some more of our aspirations are fulfilled.

Dear VT,

You are the symbol of Mumbai, the busiest place with teeming millions passing through you everyday, the beautiful facade serene and timeless. I have passed through you so many times, always in a hurry, not really looking around to see the details. On the day your floors were spattered with blood and bodies, I saw your structure in relief - familiar and yet shockingly unfamiliar in its new avatar - a terror struck place. The odd passer by, families waiting for a long distance train to their home town, vendors, and policemen, here now and gone the next - wiped out by a massive wave of hate eliminating life forever.

Masses of humanity still flow through you, perhaps a little quicker than before as if fearing the aura of death that hangs over you. Life must go on, those who pass through you must think and they must also fleetingly think how quickly life can end even in the most common everyday places

I pray for both of you and those who died in and around you, I pray that we recover our faith in humanity, I pray that we live with hope and not with fear, I pray for Baby Moshe whose parents were killed without reason, I pray for peace and the mundane predictability of daily living.

Happy Republic Day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The True Secular Indian

A few years back, a lady named China worked for me in the capacity of domestic help. When she joined I asked her why she was named after a country. Her answer was that when she was born, nobody wanted her so the name China (meaning "not wanted" in Bengali) stuck. She told me her real name as well but I can’t seem to remember it now.

China had this immense need in her to feel wanted and that showed up in her sphere of work as well. She used to pamper us with all kinds of good food and later she sought out the attention of my neighbors by preparing all sorts of delicacies for them - without my approval. Soon my monthly grocery supplies started to diminish at the speed of light. So I decided it was time for her to leave. She was politely given a one way ticket to Calcutta and asked not to return.

The lure of money is too hard to resist and apparently cooks are in short supply in Mumbai. She came back and has been living and working in the area I live for quite some time. My current domestic help is got to know her and off and on she tells me some bits of gossip about China. It seems that China has large debts; her room mates are tired of shouldering her expenses and were contemplating on marrying off the much married China to a truck driver with HIV and lots of money to clear the debts. How she is kicked out of almost every job she takes on as she is unable to work or be regular.

With such problems China could only turn to God for help. She converted to Christianity and Jesus provided her with some basic necessities. In return, she goes and prays to Jesus every Thursday regularly. For her debts, she turned to Allah during the holy month of Ramzan. She wore a veil and sat in front of a mosque where she received a sizeable amount of money donated by the various people who came to pray. She was able to repay her debts by the grace of Allah. To keep her often failing health in order, she wears an amulet and chain around her neck with the image of Goddess Kali and prays in the night.

That is what religion is to a person who is struggling with every day living and to think that people fight and kill in the name of religion...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Lady of the Night

Life and its polarities have always been topics of debates and discussions. What is good and what is bad dominates almost every aspect of our existence. Man is always attracted or curious about the "bad" while the "good" is just normal and boring.

Prostitution has always been considered one of the evils of society, the ladies or girls are labeled as "bad" along with a wide vocabulary of phrases to describe their "fallen state". I was as curious as the normal average human being about these ladies who wear garish make up and gaudy clothes and stand on some bridges of Kolkata in daylight as well as early dark. I used to see them while going to Alipore and there used to be a queer silence in the car with some odd whispers saying "Look at them" while others turned their heads in the opposite direction in an attempt to shut out the seamier sides of the society from their lives.

I was told that Kolkata has these "pick up points" in the midst of the hustle bustle of markets and popular places which I heard but never came across as such as I was always busy going my way and had no special interest in my surroundings. One day I asked the Taxi to stop next to Triangular Park gate as there the road is easier to cross. I saw this very elegant lady dressed in a sari with every pleat in place and jasmine flowers in her hair. I gave her a passing look of envy and rued my ever clumsy appearance and walked on almost coming in the way of a tram that came trundling down the tired tracks of Rashbehari Avenue.

On many evenings I continued to see this lady patiently standing near the gate - each day perfectly groomed and the flowers fresh and fragrant enough for me to catch a whiff. I assumed she was waiting for someone perhaps. One evening I saw a car slowly halt next to her, the man craned out, the woman bent down to speak to the man at the window, their conversations were inaudible as voices were low. A few minutes later she got into the back seat and the car drove off into the dark night.

Another evening I caught sight of her and pointed her out to my husband and said that I see her almost everyday near the gate of the park. He took one look at her and said she is a prostitute of this locality and I should avoid being around the park gate as that was a "pick up point". I connected the cars that stopped and the negotiations and then realization dawned.

I can’t remember any immediate reactions as this was years back but when I think back, my first thought is one of admiration. She and many in her situation have to deal with the unknown on a daily and hourly basis, they have to act out parts, fulfill fantasies, get abused and beaten perhaps, deal with pimps and law enforcers, fight over commissions and the areas of operation and probably other situations which we don’t really want to know about. In this vortex, she and others like her, have to be presentable enough to be purchased - after all what looks good sells more.

On one of my recent visits to Kolkata, I saw her again, same place, the same pristinely pleated sari, the jasmine flowers in her hair, her head held high waiting for a person who she can offer some solace, comfort, passion or love - for a price...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Accidental Pilgrim

I am a Hindu by birth, a Brahmo by marriage, I feel close to Islam and connected to Christianity yet I have never been religious, I believe in God and that for me is enough. I have lit a candle at a church, offered a chaddar at a mosque, I tied threads in a dargah and I have rung a bell at a temple, most of my experiences have been due circumstances or my curiosity to see the place.

My first experience was when I went to Jharkhand with a group of friends; the trip in itself will need another long post which I will write later. We decided to do some trekking and found the hill on which a famous Jain Pareshnath temple was situated to be an ideal location. Right below the hill was a Digambar Jain monastery where we had to stop to attend to nature calls. We turned beetroot red with embarrassment at the sight of near total nudity of the senior male residents. We kept our eyes strictly focused on the way to the wash rooms which were incredibly dirty) and once done marched out with our eyes focused towards our toes. The hill was about a 1366 Meters climb, the first half was a gentle slope with nicely laid out steps while the second half was a steep climb on a dirt trail which was somewhat non existent due to recent landslides. We came across a gurgling post monsoon stream flowing down which we gingerly crossed by stepping carefully on the stones in between. By the time we had climbed three fourths of the hill, our bodies were screaming with exhaustion but we could not give up so we literally dragged each other and ourselves up the remaining portion of the hill and by the time we reached the steps of the Pareshnath temple, we felt as if we had conquered Mt Everest.

There was a sense of achievement and purpose to our climb once we entered the temple which was very peaceful and quiet. While doing the customary parikrama, I was astonished to discover the height we had climbed. The sight of the lazy Barakar river flowing below was a wonderful sight to behold. We did not have the luxury to remain at the top for long as dusk was near and the hill was not safe after dark. There were dacoits as well as wild animals from adjoining forests to contend with so we descended as fast as we could and by the time we reached the bottom, we resembled the walking dead.

My affinity to Jain pilgrim spots did not end with this stint. Recently on a family vacation, we went to Shravanabelagola with some vague expectation that Bahubali would be visible without much effort. However this was not the case, Bahubali was situated atop Vindhyagiri hill which is about 436 Meters high with about 500 steps to climb. At noon in mid summer this was not a feat for the faint hearted or the easy going vacationer. Being the stubborn one in the family I said I would climb by foot while others opted for the doli which was a cane chair carried by 4 people. The climb was easy enough though it had me panting in between and I had to stop to recover my breath. It’s always a nice feeling to look down to see how much one has climbed. There was a serene looking square pond visible below which is actually the 'belagola' or pond. There is a shrine midway (also known as Odegal Basadi) which has 3 large statues of Jain Tirthankaras carved in black stone.

After crossing this shrine there are a few more (steeper) steps leading to the Gomateshwara shrine which I climbed easily enough - thanks to the midway rest. Nothing had prepared me for the awe inspiring statue of Bahubali or Gomateshwara which stands at 58.8 Meters, mysterious, peaceful and casting no shadows around it. Humans were just a speck of existence at his feet. The pillars around the temple have many beautiful carvings which are worth seeing.

Rest of my family had a rather adventurous journey up and down the steps on a cane chair. The 4 men literally ran up and covered the 500 steps in 15 minutes or so one way while for the average human it takes about 45 minutes one way. By the end of it one either has a sore bum or sore feet but what’s a little soreness in front of such magnificence which is centuries old?

Monday, June 16, 2008

English: A Language that Unites while it Divides

India, a country with an ancient heritage and culture which is thousands of years old, a country which has many thousands of languages, in some way or another derived from Sanskrit and yet ironically we don’t have a language to unite our country.

Hindi has been announced as the language that will unite India. It is mandatory to learn Hindi in schools but we often come across instances where people from other the eastern or southern parts of India can barely understand it. If the region has a high infiltration of Bollywood films then there may be some hope but down south where the influences of Bollywood have been firmly kept away due to a strong south Indian film industry, chances of people knowing Hindi is almost remote.

In most schools down south, children are allowed to carry books and consult each other during the Hindi exam while the person 'on watch' kindly looks the other way, which of course is not the case for other subject exams. If you are a tourist in Tamil Nadu then there is an unwritten rule - don’t speak Hindi!

It’s even more ironic that our country shuns a language which is indeed 'ours' and universally accepts English which is a leftover of the British Raj. Everybody in urban areas and some of the emancipated rural areas can speak a smattering of English or they are trying their best to learn. Even Indian bureaucracy uses English as it crosses all vernacular barriers. If we observe our daily conversations at home and work, it is comprised of almost 50% English and 50% vernacular.

On the other side while in a way English unites our country, it divides our classes - perhaps more in the urban context. People with better diction and vocabulary are regarded highly 'educated' and 'cultured' while regional accents are frowned upon. When people use a wrong word inadvertently, we are quick to judge and snigger within ourselves - "Oh probably he or she was not educated in an English medium school!" At a workplace one's capability to write and converse in English has a distinct advantage.

So much is our love for English that we look down on the use of our own languages and have now stopped learning it altogether except for what schools force upon us as mandatory learning till class 10.

We are probably victims of our colonial past but it may be interesting to observe that highly advanced first world countries like Japan and Germany have progressed using their own languages while ancient India being the inventors and significant contributors to science, medicine, mathematics and astronomy use a borrowed language to progress.

We have benefited from our colonial past too, the wide knowledge of English in our country helps it to be the back office to the world and provide IT services to many countries so I guess we may love it or hate it but we definitely cannot do without it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Au Revoir Tooth Fairy

Bidding farewell to tooth fairies in my thirties is probably a little late in the day as I should have done that when I was 10 or eleven as that is the time by when one looses all one's milk teeth.

My one particular canine was rather reluctant to part with me so it stayed on refusing to budge as the years went by. In the process the suppressed canine protested and violently pushed up my fourth incisor on the right hand side, leaving me with one crooked tooth, a flawed smile and a general bad feeling about my appearance. The dentist gave me a wire brace in my teens which suppressed the crooked tooth for a while but it reared its ugly head (or is it face?) once my mouth outgrew the brace. The dentist maintained a stoic silence in front of a desperate teen, who had to flash pretty smiles at men but could not. He asked me to accept my crooked smile and said that it adds character to my smile! D'uh. The guys definitely didn't think so - no one said I have a pretty smile so far and that more than thirty years.

Well the tooth prevailed and remained and it didn't really create any major problems once I 'accepted' my smile. Somewhere in my late twenties my solitary baby tooth started to make its presence felt, it ached, it chipped and it ached some more and then it disappeared. Of course I wasn't going back to philosophical dentists anymore so I just popped a pill instead.

Slowly and steadily the milk tooth kept depleting, my smile in my photographs started to take on a Draculean air (Dracula Like based upon the word Herculean). The milk tooth now resembled a small fang ready to dip into an unsuspecting neck - it was a nicely chipped triangle hanging from my gums and to make things more sinister, it started to blacken. My aversion to Dentists kept me away - Dracula beckoned.

The other day while brushing my teeth with my contact lenses on I happened to catch sight of my right profile and I nearly shrieked out loud with horror. All my long held affection for my solitary reminder of childhood vanished and I fixed myself an appointment with the Dentist (after 15 years), I marched in bravely and just said - this little black one has to go. A prick of anesthesia and a yank was all it took and it was over in five minutes. The Dentist knowledgably informed me that it was my milk tooth and a new tooth may... just may grow in its place. If that happens, my crooked incisor may just straighten up. Definitely a life changing incident - a perfect smile without spending thousands! If not, then a ceramic replacement would do just as well - one has to compromise I guess.

So technically speaking I am entitled to my last tooth fairy visit, the remains of my milk canine which will be placed under my pillow and I hope she will leave me a nice present....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Father's Brother

I guess it’s a strange way to refer to my Kaka (Uncle) but it describes it the best. Jotu as he was known in the family, parts of the family also called him Lal Mama, because he was fair skinned and had pink cheeks, lived in Germany for almost his entire life. Some of his initial years were spent in Lucknow scraping through educational institutions after which he went to Germany to pursue further studies - at that time many Bengalis opted for the erstwhile West Germany to pursue further studies.

From whatever family conversations I had heard about Jotu Kaka, studies were the last thing on his mind in Germany, blessed with good looks and oodles of charm, he was probably busier pursuing ladies rather than higher education. One particular lady - a very pretty lady named Uta managed to stop his wild ways and domesticated him. As the family lore goes, Jotu Kaka lied to Uta Kakima about his age, wooed her and finally married her. He was about 12 years older than Uta but claimed he was just 2 years older. Uta says she was so much in love that she believed everything he said.

After the marriage in Germany - a church wedding, photographs were sent to India, some of the older family matriarchs fainted on hearing the news - a Bengali Brahmin marrying a German who eats beef, the shock was too much to bear! The younger members of the family were curious and eager to meet this "memsahib" who the much loved and popular Jotu had married. When Jotu and Uta came to India for their second traditional Hindu wedding, they were welcomed with open arms by the young and the old. Uta was a lovely girl who won over the family with her charm, manners and respect for the Indian traditions and cultures. The wedding was a grand affair, from what I have heard, which ran into several days with hundreds of relatives converging in to Lucknow. Video shoots were unheard of back in the sixties but thanks to German technology, the wedding was captured on film which includes my Mother's exotic hairdo. My Mother and Jotu Kaka got along well and Jotu Kaka would often tease my Mother about how much effort she spent on dressing up and elaborate hair do's.

I was born much after the above events took place, to me Jotu Kaka and Uta Kakima were just a photograph in the album - it was their wedding photograph, a black and white one with Uta in a white dress and probably orange blossoms in her hand and both of them looking deeply into each others eyes and smiling. That photograph still epitomizes the word romance for me. My pre teen adolescent mind fed by Georgette Heyer, would often wonder about how magical their meeting and coming together must have been.

One fine day my Father announced that Jotu Kaka would be coming to Delhi to visit us, I was very excited as for me the photograph would come alive. I cannot recollect my first impressions of them except that they seemed, for the lack of a better word, foreign. Jotu kaka used to teach Physics to school going children in D├╝sseldorf (Uta Kakima had forced him to study and get a degree after their marriage) and Uta used to work in a departmental store called Metro AG. Both were avid golfers. We took them to Lucknow, where our ancestral house was to meet Pishima and then for a short weekend getaway to Badkhal Lake - a place near Delhi where migratory birds come during winters. My Father used to cook biriyani very well and we all cooked biriyani together at the Badkhal resort and it was served with much fanfare, decorated with silver sheets (warak), and photographed from all angles. At that time I found it very odd that Jotu Kaka accompanied all his food with beer, it seemed like sacrilege to mix the world's best biriyani with beer.

Jotu Kaka's next visit was after my Father had passed away, by then I was well into my teens and this was the most memorable visit ever. The first few days were difficult; I think my Father's absence along with some other family under currents related to division of property made them uncomfortable. Jotu Kaka wanted to visit Kashmir and he suggested that we also accompany him, which we did. Those few days were when I had my first long conversations with him, about my school, my friends, my hobbies and whatever else that came up. He taught me how to use the Minolta camera which he had given me, I discovered the joys of photography and the many tricks of manual focusing and uses of light. I still remember the plight of an old man leisurely pulling on his hookah somewhere in the Shalimar gardens, he was asked to sit and pull the hookah at some angle while Jotu Kaka photographed him. I am sure it wasn't pleasant for the old man but he complied readily - maybe he was just being polite because a gora mem was beside him.

Family property is more of a curse than a boon, the sale of our ancestral house in Lucknow managed to tide over some difficult times and provide the much needed monetary support, on the other hand its sale created rifts as deep as the Grand Canyon between the people who benefited and those who did not. I think no one can really give up ancestral property - it’s probably something to do with our roots and our desire to hang on to them, even if it is just a few thousand rupees in our bank account. From my perspective, since then arctic winds started blowing in our direction with very brief bouts of warm weather when some relatives remembered my Father and visited us.

The ensuing arctic chills and the many misunderstandings (which now seem inconsequential) kept me from meeting Jotu Kaka during his visits to India. Weddings are a time to forgive and forget, my wedding card was sent to Jotu Kaka and Kakima and they came to India soon after. My husband and I went to meet him, I was happy to find that he was still the happy, enthusiastic, somewhat childish and spoilt person that I remembered him to be - fifteen years is a long time and not much had changed really; maybe the distances we create are more in our mind than in reality.

In one of the other visits Uta Kakima and I exchanged email IDs and we kept in touch though occasional emails. The last time I met Jotu Kaka was when he visited Mumbai a few years back. That’s when he met my son for the first time; it was touching to see how easily they connected. After the introductions were over, Jotu Kaka asked my son "Babaji, cholo ice cream kheye aashi". My son, ever so glad to get some windfall in the form of ice-cream trotted off happily across the busy Malad streets. Both of them came back looking extremely satisfied as if they had accomplished an important mission. I cooked biriyani for them trying my best to reproduce my Father's recipe. I gifted him the remaining biriyani masala which he promised to use in Germany - which was incidentally; powdered using the mortar and pestle used by his mother, my grandmother who I had never seen. I showed him the only remnant of the Lucknow house which I had - the mortar and pestle, using which my Thakurma (Grandmother) ground the paan (betel nut leaf) which she could no longer chew with her teeth.

A few days ago, we got a phone call where a relative said that Jotu Kaka wasn't keeping well and these may be his last few days. A day later we heard he had passed away and had been suffering from lung cancer. They were in India, in Mumbai for a while to visit Pishima. I am not sure why he didn't get in touch with us - I guess I'll just put it down to the fact that this as a typical trait of my strange family, it’s always full of surprises.

I was perhaps through my interaction with Jotu Kaka, trying to discover my Father who I had lost when I was 10 years old, trying to find a bridge into my Father's world; with Jotu Kaka's passing away that bridge has become too frail for me to cross - maybe its best left alone.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Broker vs Broker

I was checking with a colleague who has just moved from Mumbai to Kolkata and this is what he had to say about Mumbai and Kolkata brokers. I hope you all find this entertaining and in the meanwhile let me rack my brains how to rid myself of this darned writers block. I seem to be having rather long continous spells these days or was my 'writing' phase just a passing phase I wonder...

"
Just an example of the difference I am finding between the two places –

“I met my broker for house hunting today. He is a 70 year young man with big black spectacles, dressed in dhoti and a kurta and greets me as “Kaimon ache babu?” and takes me around tree lined lanes of lake garden in a cycle rickshaw humming a old Bengali tune. He shows me 6 houses within 1 hour and manages to sit for tea with one of the landlord, a ‘bhadralok’, who forces me to have a cup too even if I am not keen to rent his house and discusses about the working culture in banks nowadays and whether Obama or Clinton will win.”

“When I met my broker in Mumbai, he was a 25-26 year old man who was wearing an ordinary tee-shirt and trousers, chewing gutka and greeted me “Time nahi hain boss, bolo kitna budget hain tumhara”. This is the first sentence he speaks! And then he curses the fact that I have no car and takes me in a taxi to andheri all the time yelling in his phone and punctuating with expletives which could make a goonda blush. It takes us an hour to reach the house over cramped and congested roads. The landlord shows us the door within 5 minutes when I try to negotiate the rent saying I like the apartment and would move in soon if we could reach a better price. He also warns the broker to not waste his time like this in future”

So, I think Calcutta is treating me really nice.

"

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Winter Picnic

Winter is the season for parties, family get togethers and picnics and so we even joined the hordes who set out of Kolkata to the outskirts in search of some open spaces, good times and of course good food. Lorries and buses full of screaming or singing adults and children are quite a common sight. The caterers follow with food to feed a small army for the rest of the day.

One boiled egg, two slices of buttered bread and one banana is breakfast which is usually distributed to all in whatever mode of transport the revelers travel in. Inspired by this age old custom, even we packed neat boxes with the above. Lunch was purchased and packed in individual packets the previous night which comprised of luchi, alu'r dom, nolen gurer mishti, macher chop, one plastic spoon and one napkin (English translations would be pointless!).

We set off to a place near Diamond Harbor - Radisson Fort was conveniently located there in case we feel the need for amenities and ambience. The Tata sumo was equipped with a good stereo system and the FM radio churned out non stop hits in the midst of meaningless chatter. It was a good time to catch up on the last few years and we chatted almost endlessly. After breakfast, oranges were brought out to curb thirst and hunger pangs brought on by constant chatter.

Radisson Fort wore a somewhat deserted look when we disembarked and stretched our cramped legs. We crossed the drawbridge over the moat, the interiors were pleasant but the best was the terrace overlooking the Ganga where the water glistened and sparkled with sunlight and tiny boats bobbed up and down. Some large fishing trawlers ambled by now and then. The gardens within the resort were next to the river with a paved path along the river. There was a barbed wire fence separating the resort with the parallel lane outside.

My son was carrying his cricket bat, we were generally strolling around, a boy of about 10 years was walking with his cycle just outside the fence and he happened to see the bat. He kept asking my son to give him the bat, of course my son would do no such thing, and finally when he got this dialogue went over 15 minutes, my son said "You give me your cycle and I will give you my bat". The boy looked rather dejected at the impossibility of the situation and walked of with drooping shoulders. Perhaps if the fence had not been there, both the boys could have played cricket for a while and had a good time. Some fences are just to high to climb I guess...

We had some rather costly coffee, a small price to pay for using the premises for a few hours and then set off again by the vehicle right to edge of the Ganges. We arranged ourselves around a tree which had a cemented area around it and felt the cool winter breeze. Lunch packets were brought out and devoured with gusto while observing a fisherman arranging nets a little into the river to trap unsuspecting fish. Used napkins, spoons and general garbage were collected into a bad for proper disposal. The driver was scolded severely for throwing a plastic tea cup into the river.

After walking around for a while and dipping our feet into the river, we were on our way back to Kolkata. Since we had time to spare, we went to another popular spot - Victoria Memorial. Unfortunately, the grounds are no longer free for all and there is a queue to get in so we give up the idea. Instead we settle for steaming hot cups of tea from the maidan opposite to Victoria Memorial. We also manage to find a horse driven carriage with strong sturdy horses that would be able to bear the weight of 7 healthy people. The ride down Red Road was scary with all kinds of vehicles zooming past while the 2 horses trotted but it was great fun as well. The horses and their driver got money above the negotiated rate as everybody was generally very happy.

The maidan has its own share of ponies which my son rode and was highly thrilled to shoot balloons of all colors with a rifle. Soon it was time to head back home. The picnic is over!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Basic Instincts

I am sure this makes us think of Sharon Stone ice-picking through various men but believe me, the basic instincts portrayed by Sharon Stone and her various men comes way below in the list of other prominent basic instincts displayed by humans at public gatherings.

During Durga Puja, most probashi Bengalis (Bengalis living away from their state) spend the better part of the days and nights at the community puja pandal. The kitchens in most of our homes shut down on Saptami, Ashtami and Navami where bhog is served in the afternoons and dinner is usually a mad rush for all the typical Bengali food available at the adjoining food stalls.

We moan and groan about the hectic schedules, anjali in the mornings, bhog in the afternoons and the cultural programs in the night and of course we MUST doll ourselves up with fresh (preferably new) clothes on each visit to the Pandal. The much designer saree'd women, dripping with diamonds and gold jewelry and the men with their elaborate panjabi with gold buttons and dhoti from some designer in Kolkata all form a merry gathering at all times.

All the veneer of apparent sophistication however vanishes when bhog is announced - people run helter-skelter to get to the beginning of the queue, a push or a stiletto digging a hole into your feet does not even require apologies. After all we humans are running towards our foremost basic need - FOOD! The instinct in all of us resembles the early caveman where we hunt for food lest it finishes before we can reach it. So I have come to the conclusion that hunting for food is the primary basic instinct of man.

On Ashtami and Navami when crowds peak, chairs are at a premium and often we have to stand and watch the shows or stand and eat. The hunter in us awakens again in such situations to hunt for chairs, a member of the family goes trawling through the stretch to catch some unsuspecting person who has just got up for a minute and snatch out the chair from under his or her butt. The poor person believing the chair is till there, lands with a thud on the muddy ground. The unapologetic 'chair thief' looks back with a wicked giggle and nonchalantly walks off with the much coveted chair in hand. I think we can attribute this aspect of human behavior to our basic instinct for hunting out a safe shelter at all costs (in this case represented by a chair).

The thousands of years of 'civilization' still hasn't tamed us - we are still very much the cave men and women we were thousands of years back where fight or flight rules us.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tagged! For the first time!

May I say that I am honored to be tagged by Nautilus but its rather a dillemma to write about myself. I dont know what to write really. Who am I? Let me try and discover that as I go along these random eight facts about myself.

1. I am a narcissist - I cannot stop admiring myself in front of the mirror for the brief seconds that I catch glimpses of myself throughout the day! This has a flip side as well - the extra pounds that pile on whenever I look at ice-creams or samosas make me hate myself.

2. I dream a lot, my first dream was to be a rock star of repute. I was rather spoilt at school when all the auditorium noise faded away into pin drop silence when I started singing and the little gap after which the applause started. So understandably I felt that being a female version of Elvis was possible. My second dream was a rather common one - to find a man straight out of a Mills & Boon book and of course that did not happen (though I still live in hope!) as such men just dont exist - they are only a figment of a woman's imagination *sigh*. My third and most recent dream is to become a writer of repute - just because I get comments on my blog, I think I can write and Penguin or whoever will offer me a million dollar contract - well lets see...

3. I love being the center of attraction, at times I am the most social person around, while at times I withdraw completely and prefer to be left alone. I can actually go off people altogether for some time. At times I can be detached and cold while at times emotions brim over. At times I am a selfish bitch while at other times I can be better than Santa. At times I look great (with a little effort) while at other times I look like a hag. There is a lot of duality in me - not that I mind. I dont get bored of myself that way!

4. I love giving unsolicited and unwarranted advice. I often play the role of an agony aunt lending my ears and shoulders and of course advice. I am proud to say that I have saved a mariagge, helped in breaking destructive relationships, finding a long lost ex girlfriend of 20 years for a certain gentleman and sending back many gentlemen who have chased me back to their wives or after other women. Advise anyone???

5. I have funny feet, my second finger is way longer than my first and no matter how fancy the shoes may me or how sturdy they may be - they always tear at the most inopportune moment and I am left looking stupid and clumsy either limping along or carrying my fancy sandals in my hand. Now I have resorted to keeping feviqwick in my hand bag to save me from all the shoe horrors.

6. I live in fear of dance as I am no good at it. These days when people are happy and celebrate, shaking one's bums to music is almost mandatory and it is moments such as these that I wish that the earth would open up and swallow me or magically transform me into an ace dancer. I tried to overcome this fear by joining a salsa class but alas, I only became more acutely aware of my shortcomings. Oh the agony of not being able to sway my hips to music - only I know it! Another fear that I cannot conquer is the fear of driving - I am happy to be chaeffeured around.

7. Any kind of transformation awes me. The transformation of obese people into svelte people on reality shows, the transfomation of plain janes into glam dolls on a make over show, the transformation of your everyday common man or woman into a celebrity, the transformation of a new born baby into a 10 year old boy, the transformation of a domineering and sarcastic mother in law into sachcharine sweetness, the transformation of love to indifference and so much more. Change is constant and it is always for the better.

8. This is the most unglamorous but well its quite a passion with me - I love cleaning the loo. Sparkling tiles, milk white basins and commode, clear mirrors give me a sense of achievment!

I hereby complete what I have been asked to do and in the process revealed a bit more of myself than I intended to do but what the heck - its liberating!

I also hereby tag
TCP, Winsome Reflections, Punster, Amader Dadu and BlondeButBright. I have broken the rules as I think the others I know in blogosphere have already been tagged so I cannot tag them twice!

And here are the Tag Rules:
1) Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2) People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3) At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
4) If you fail to do this within eight hours, you will have to endure the stigma of having a blog without visitors or comments!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Goosebumps

I have this chronic sensation of goose bumps all over whenever I go for a movie at an Adlabs hall (movie theater chain). I am not sure when I discovered this apparent malady but since the last 4 or 5 years it happens every time - without fail!

After the usual advertisements, there is a roll of drums and screen message 'Please stand up for the National Anthem). Almost always, the response is immediate except for the popcorn laden people who get up an in the process create a carpet full of crunch. The tricolor flies high in the wind in full size in the screen in front while the National Anthem plays in the background. Most are still embarrassed to sing along though I do see a few lips moving. Most kids sing on top of their voices though and shout a spirited 'Jai Hind' at the end.

I don’t sing, but I swell with pride and patriotism when I hear the National Anthem and that is when the goose bumps appear. I can imagine how people who represent India in sporting events feel when they win a medal and the National Anthem of the winning country is played - I am sure they have an attack of the goose bumps as well.

I thank the founder of this movie theater chain for reminding us who we are, for having our moments of realization about the great country we belong to and teaching our children to be a proud Indian.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rule Britannia

After spending eight years in Bombay, Irani cafes were still virgin territory for me, something which I had read about in every single publication, heard about from many friends and acquaintances yet somehow never had the opportunity to go and discover the much talked about culinary delights they served. To add to my worries, I also kept reading that most such institutions were shutting down or selling out to make way for the retail boom in the space starved south Bombay.

On 14th August my husband and I were in South Bombay for some work and we made desperate calls to friends and acquaintances to tell us about an Irani cafe in the vicinity - a Google search may have yielded better results though! Some friends were vegetarian and did not know about any while others were vague about directions, one last call was fruitful though and the kind gentleman told us the exact location and said that Britannia would be closest to where we were.

After a few misses and wrong turns we did finally find the place. A washed out tin signboard with faded red paint with 'Britannia' written over it was just about decipherable. We crossed the street to enter, the place looked dark and deserted, my heart sank, we were well beyond lunch time - maybe we could manage some snacks. The old gentleman and a younger man at the counter with a booming voice said that they were closed. I was hungry and shattered with grief and my husband was probably relieved that he did not have to endure food at this seemingly squalid joint.

The gentlemen proudly said that they were the only eatery in Bombay to shut sharp at 4 in the evening, I resorted to begging for food - surely they can rustle up something. 'It's all finished', they say. I say how much I had read about Britannia and how it was a part of Bombay history and how much I had been looking forward to eat here - still hoping that their hearts would melt and they would offer us food but alas to no avail!

What ensued next was a conversation that I will always hold dear to my heart. The old Parsi gentleman asked us where we were from and seemed quite pleased to hear that we had come all the way from New Bombay - a good 60 kms away. He was even more pleased to learn that we originally hailed from the state West Bengal. The younger gentleman (the son?), immediately said ' Ah! Then you must be a fan of Sourav Ganguly! See how well he is playing now that Chappell has left? He was a real villain I say!' We of course being true blue Bengalis, whole heartedly agreed! The old gentleman went on to say that how much he admired Bengalis and about a friend who was a lone survivor of an air crash. How his niece had married a Bengali and they were living happily ever after somewhere in Canada. (Now that is something as mixed marriages are a strict no-no amongst the Parsi community - they are a fiercely proud lot who are trying to hold on to their roots). Then came the next statement which will floor any Bengali - the old gentleman said 'Why Ganguly, there is Subhash Chandra Bose - he is the greatest Bengali ever'. We were of course floored and sold for life and beaming from ear to ear. We wished them a happy Parsi new year which was on 19th Aug and promised to come back really soon.

Somewhere in between this happy exchange, loomed a dark cloud, the younger gentleman said that they were looking for a buyer and would sell immediately if they got the right price. I sensed some undercurrents of a reluctant younger generation who seemed burdened by a family business which was and is a passion with the older generation as long as they live. Perhaps it was this passion which kept the older gentleman coming in to the eater every day and interacting with the customers and taking orders and supervising the kitchen.

After hearing about the impending sell off we literally rushed back the next day, the commute was much easier as it was a holiday and there was almost no traffic on the roads. South Bombay wears a deserted and desolate look on such days as it is predominantly a business area. Britannia thankfully was open and buzzing with customers. The place was lighted, tables covered with green check cloth and topped with a glass cover. The menu was a printed sheet under the glass cover, straight backed wooden chairs round seats, marble floor, peeling green paint on the walls and a specials menu written on a whiteboard. Almost all tables were full, we managed to find a table though, my husband went and greeted the old gentleman - any Ganguly admirer is his friend for life! The old gentleman left his lunch midway, walked up to our table and assisted us to order our food.

We settle for Chicken Sali Boti, pav (bread), Mutton Berry Pulao and custard. All meat is served boneless here so no fuss. The chicken gravy was mild and thick, tasted pleasant with the handy pav which soaked up the gravy. The potato straws generously scattered over the gravy gave it a unique twist and texture. Once we were done with the chicken, we shifted our attention to the berry pulao, which is a derivation of Persian Jeweled Rice. Saffron colored rice with brown strands of fried onion and generously topped with fried cashew nuts and decorated on the sides with tiny meatballs. The mound of rice hid pieces of mutton cooked in what seemed to be a gravy made with the famed Iranian barberries which were specially imported from Iran or the nearby ever resourceful Crawford Market where one can find any condiment or exotic food item. The berries had a presence in the pulao as well as little bits I think but I will have to go back and verify this - some excuse to eat some more! To say the least, the Berry Pulao is the best pulao I have ever eaten in my whole life - it is divine. The ecstasy did not end here; more followed in forms the famous rich Parsi custard, which is made out of milk that’s been cooked over a slow flame till it turns brown. The custard de molded and served in thick caramel syrup and is indescribably good. The Parsi gentleman's admiration for Bengalis showed up in the menu as well, Mishti Doi (sweet yoghurt) - a Bengali specialty is available here too and that too in a khuri (an earthen pot)! The old Parsi gentleman stopped by again and said that we must try the Mishti Doi and tell him if it is as good as that available in Calcutta. We tried it and found it to be better than what we tasted in Calcutta.

While waiting for the bill and carefully masking our burps of satisfaction, we looked around to find a truly cosmopolitan lot, there were some Japanese tourists, Germans, Americans and of course large merry Indian families enjoying bottles of Dukes Raspberry (which I believe is a fixture in all Irani Cafes) and Berry Pulao all around. The price is modest for such a grand meal; we wave our goodbyes to the Parsi gentlemen and thank them for such a wonderful meal and the hospitality. They thank us and say 'We are always at your service' with a small bow.

There is no love greater than the love of eating - that’s the slogan of Britannia & Co. Restaurant, Ballard Estate, Mumbai. Phone: 2261 5264. If you are a 5* freak then you will realize that the food they serve there is a pale comparison to the truly delicious food made with love that they serve here.

Hail Britannia, Save Britannia. Rule Britannia.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Arresting Images

Some images remain with you always and they are best retained in our memories as we can retain what we felt, heard, smelt and of course saw unlike the two dimensional photographs which just manage to capture the visual moment.

One such image that has been my most perfect visual moment is from my ancestral home in Calcutta. It was about 11 in the night; there was a power failure so I went out to the balcony. It was pitch dark, the crickets humming, a frog croaked somewhere, mosquitoes sang in my ear and the glow worms twinkled off and on at a distance, the leaves of the coconut tree in our garden swayed gently with a hint of a breeze and a bright full moon just above the coconut tree casting it's gentle light below.

This is beauty that no camera can capture; it just is something that I will always remember for ever.