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


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.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Lolling Heads

I once read a post about personal space in a Blog I visit often and I was reminded about it in an incident today morning.

Our country being densely populated with over a billion people, personal space in mega cities in public modes of transport is not even a millimeter. Almost every part of one's body is plastered against someone else’s and one is left to deal with body odor, sweat and what not! I have outgrown my days of traveling with the masses but I do use the office buses that my organization provides to ensure that we reach office in time.

Today morning I was sitting quite comfortably between two scruffy looking ladies and since it’s a long ride, I either read a book or look out of the window and count all red cars going by (ha!). My two neighbors had in the meanwhile dozed off. In the midst of an intriguing chapter from the book 'Feluda's Last case' by Satyajt Ray, I find one head dangerously close to my left shoulder. I cringe at the thought of the hair laden with coconut oil landing on my shoulder and staining my clothes. While the head on the other side seemed to have reasonably clean shampooed hair, I noticed specks of white - dandruff! Yikes!

Obviously the event of any head landing on my shoulder had to be avoided at all costs. My reading was abandoned while I navigated myself to steer clear of these objectionable swaying heads. The funny thing is that the moment the hair fell forward on their face; they were alert enough to tuck it back behind their ears (reflex action?) but when it came to controlling their lolling heads they blissfully let themselves go.

The devil in me took over and I positioned myself at the edge of the seat, away from the back rest, I knew a speed breaker was coming up and the bus would jerk. Predictably, the two heads collided together when the bus went over the speed breaker and a wide grin of satisfaction spread over my face!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Writer's Block

After 13 months of bright sunny weather the much dreaded clouds have appeared, dark and dense which keeps out the light of creative thought altogether. Perhaps this is the work of the so called cruel number thirteen? So many times I can see my mental typewriter tapping away thoughts and ideas for me to write about, something akin to white fluffy clouds that float about on a bright sunny day without the promise of rain. When it's time for the words to rain on this Blog, they just shrivel up and die.

It’s all there in my mind, all the fantastic stories, the amusing anecdotes, the various experiences of ordinary day to day life yet my fingers refuse to execute thoughts into words. My mind comes up with excuses as to why I should not be stealing fifteen minutes after lunch break to write something. All I need to do is just to sit down and write but alas!

How can such a simple action be so complex? Writing is after all a gift of expression and all we humans want to do is express ourselves. Why has my mind suddenly obstructing what is a seemingly natural process?

While writing this piece, I fearfully opened notepad (as that is the blankest screen editor possible!) and hoped that I could at least put into words my current dilemma and thankfully, the words did flow. Perhaps it's all in the mind (as a friend often tells me), all I really need to do is to break those imaginary shackles and let my words flow like an endless river...

Monday, January 29, 2007


Have gifts become irrelevant in this age of self gratification? Most of us have enough financial muscle to buy ourselves things reasonably within our reach. If it is slightly beyond our reach then there is always plastic money and the numerous personal loans which all banks are dying to offer us. The burgeoning economy and the retail boom add to the options of buying just about any international brand.

Do people even appreciate the sentiments behind a gift in this day and age? Increasingly, I am seeing that a gift is judged by amount of money it cost, from the shop it has been purchased from and such like. I have myself snottily turned up my nose at a lipstick given to me which seemed to be purchased from a throwaway sale - the label showed 0.99 cents. Immediately an internal voice from somewhere rebuked be for being crude and said its the thought that counts, someone cared enough to remember me, someone cared enough to think I was important enough to bring me a little something from somewhere, somebody cared enough to invest that one inch of space in their suit cased to fit in something just for me - don’t all those things count?

I have been on the receiving end as well when I could sense vibes about the 'ho hum' attitude, about things being the usual supermarket stuff, cheap, not exclusive, common and what not. Of course they all say the thank you's very prettily but lack warmth completely. Why did I even bother? Some of the people I have got gifts for have just accepted silently without a single acknowledgement. I had to ask - did you get the thing I got for you and they would wake up and say oh yes - thanks. What a waste yet again. I wonder what they would loose to show a gesture of appreciation to someone who has bothered to remember the person's existence and spent time and money to buy something that the person may like. It's perhaps insensitivity at its best.

I have experienced the joys of gifting as well, the whoops of joy, the smile and the true sentiment that goes with accepting a gift. All of it has been without exception from my immediate family. My Mother makes it a point to mention how much convenient her life has become after the onion chopper or how much she enjoyed the candied ginger and she is not saying that to please me. My son plays with the toys I got for him, my husband spent a little fortune to alter shirts I had brought for him but were of the wrong size.

Perhaps we are more diligent about the gifts when we gift to our loved ones and buy the other gifts out of a sense of duty. Perhaps it is best not to do things just out of a sense of duty and not give gifts to people who cannot appreciate the gesture of gifting and save precious time, efforts and money.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Beautiful Tree

During my days in LA, on a gloomy day I stepped out of my apartment with no specific aim about where to go and walked down to Santa Monica Blvd to catch a bus that goes somewhere. On my way I discovered this beautiful tree in full bloom against the backdrop a red brick house - on that gloomy day this vision was the best thing I could have started with...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Are Cartoons for Children?

I have been watching the cartoon series called Shin Shan on a local TV channel for the past few months and to say the least I am shocked at the language, the double entendres and sometimes obvious sexual innuendos. Add to that a harassed mother who constantly beats her child.

Hardly appropriate viewing material for impressionable young minds who may watch such shows on TV. In one episode Sin Shan forgets to wear his cap and after some yelling from his mother the only 'cap' he can find is his mother's underwear which he wears on his head. In another one Sin Shan drools over skimpily clad women or pretty nurses - are 5 year olds capable of such behavior? In another episode he shown to climb a female mannequin clad in a bikini because he finds it attractive. In most of the episodes he takes off his pants to show his rear. The only safe place he knows is his crotch and there are several other uncomfortable moments where I internally seethe and switch off the TV and warn my son not to see Sin Shan.

On a broader perspective, a lot of the cartoons and the humor contained in them are aimed at adults rather than children. I am still not convinced about the suitability of Dexter, Johnny Bravo or a few other popular shows.

I question the intellect of the TV channels that air this show and also our well known censor boards who are known to be prudish. Had actual people enacted some of the scenes in Sin Shan, it would be termed as paedophilia and banned straight away or given an "Adults" tag. Then why is it acceptable as a cartoon?