Friday, February 27, 2009

To the real hero of Slumdog M

And the Oscar kept going to Slumdog Millionaire.

Everyone got what they wanted. Anil Kapoor got photographed with the gold nude in his hand. Freida Pinto got a Hollywood agent. Dev Patel got Freida Pinto. And they all lived happily ever after as “good friends”.

It’s got something for everyone. Westerners want to see the slums. My kid wants to see the dog. We all want to see a story where a poor boy gets rich and gets the girl… but hey, isn’t that what every other Hindi film is about? What’s so great about….

…and then Rahman goes up on stage. And I have no more Q. or A. Just a big lump in my throat. Is this the best movie ever made? I don’t know. Is this the best song he’s ever made? I don’t care. If a boy with not much in his pocket but big dreams in his eyes, can today stand up with an Oscar in his hand… then the story’s turned out right.

It’s easy for me to be funny, or cynical, or droll. But it takes a moment like this to make me proud. So proud.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

when santa won't behave

Today was Neel’s first ever big school Annual Day, and he had ONE whole line to say on stage. For that, his father took half day leave from office, (this is a man who took his laptop into hospital for his own disc surgery) and his mother (me, for the uninitiated) almost collapsed.

I was assigned a vegetable carving of Santa Claus, for which I spent the last 3 months searching for a piece of ginger shaped like a reindeer. Every veggie vendor in town thinks I’m trying to hit on him, the time I’ve spent.

Finally, my friend Goury found 1 ginger reindeer which kept swooning, and needed critical care bandaging with cello tape to stay up. The other reindeer, because of condensation, stood in a puddle of water, which looked like it had peed on the school project. Santa – a brinjal painted red (and try painting a slimy brinjal red – it looks like you've stabbed Santa and he's bleeding!) kept falling off his sleigh, which was a pear balanced on 2 drunk green beans. To add to the Christmas debacle, there were cauliflower florets supposed to act like snow, which sadly lacked these acting talents, and oblivious of their great role in the Annual Day, rolled all over the school steps.

The teacher, thankfully, was very nice, and took in the tired vegetables, and the exhausted mom, with a smile.

Neel’s one line went off brilliantly. He saw us off stage, and smiled and waved from on stage. I smiled back, though I was so tired, my eyes criss-crossed, and I might have waved at the vegetable display instead. But it still beat my Santa brinjal, whose eyes had fallen into his sleigh by then.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hair and the City

It’s a known fact that women feeling lousy and wanting to feel better, go cut their hair, then hate their hair cuts and feel more lousy.
It is also a known fact that men do not know this known fact.
So it was I came home yesterday with short hair and a long face.
“Why do you cut your hair if you hate it so much ?” asks S, proving my theory on men, women and known facts right. (Men cut their hair whenever it tickles their ears, or a new female employee joins, and no one ever notices it – not the female employee, the man, or even his barber.)
Other reactions to my haircuts are dramatic - “Hummm”, “Achooo!” and “Wow, look at your nice pink shirt.”
Hoping to cash in on my 4 year old son’s love for his mom, I ask “Neel, how is my haircut?”
“One side is longer than the other, “ (ignorant man-in-waiting !)
“Well,” I explain, “this style is in. Don’t you see the women in Sex and the City?”
“No,” says Neel, “you don’t let me see it. What’s Sex ?”

Today’s talk has not gone well. Today's haircut has not gone well. I think I should forget today, and wake up tomorrow and make some drastic change to make me feel New and Better…. Like cut my hair?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Val Day, Mr Mutalik

Mutalik saying Love is imported from the West, and sending him pink panties (also imported from the West) must rate among the Valentine Day’s Funniest Evers. But the award goes to …

One Valentine’s Day, I met an old buddy with his new wife – you know the kind of shoulder-punching, bhutta-on-the-road-eating guy who makes a great friend.

“Don’t worry,” he’s saying, “I’ve told my wife about us.”
Us ? There was an “us” ? While I was eating pani puri (or bhutta) on the road, he was building us a family, kids, house with a garden and plumbing problems?
“She also knows about our break-up,” he added.
“errrr…. When did we break up? “ I had to ask. Was I too busy drinking roadside tea (ok ok bhutta) to notice we were breaking up?
Now, wife-status simpers. “Oh, you’re still in denial! He told me about your break-up, tantrums and final mental breakdown.”

After they left, I sat down to raise a Valentine’s Day toast to myself, to the grand romance and tragic end of a relationship I didn’t even know I’d had.

Learning : Eating kulfi (yes, yes, bhutta!) on the road is a culture imported from the West, and will therefore, lead to divorce and gastroenteritis.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Roughing it out is NOT in

For the LAST TIME, I told the smug snooty HR-girl-with-a-foreign-degree, book me into a hotel with a heated swimming pool, or I AM NOT TRAVELLING! She cursed in Scandinarabic and scuttled away.

Flashback movie style to my backpacking college days: I once slept all night on a railway platform at some unheard-of station in Rajasthan. The trains too hadn’t heard of it, because no train stopped there for hours on end, and when one did, we had to hang on to the closed door of a running train (told you it was movie style) for a coupla minutes.

Next shot : We’re in this flea-bag hotel in Sikkim, where the room rate was so low, till we realized it was sponsored by the long queue outside our bathroom window, with tickets being sold for a peep-in.

Next shot : We’re in a little car in breath-taking mountainside, with my head hung outside, hair trailing the dust, coughing, gasping, puking my insides out. Breath taken all right!

Hot meals used to mean pulling a leech off my leg, boiling it and eating it…(leeches are rich in Vitamin Something). And Room Service meant someone coming into my room to chase a rat away at 2 a.m. while I jumped up and down on the bed screaming. Travel Insurance : I once kept my boots on for 7 days and 7 nights out of fear that someone would rob them. Someone did – on the 8th day.

So the HR girl came whimpering back, with the heated pool hotel. It has Continental and Indian restaurants, she offered. NO CHINESE? I growled, I can’t be expected to stay in a place like that !
(After all, eating live leeches is definitely Chinese cuisine, wouldn’t you agree?)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Guns or Roses ?

A neighbour said she didn’t let her son touch a toy gun.
I came home to find Neel and Nikash shooting at each other, rolling over, playing dead, with hands plunged into gory imaginary blood wounds, and tongues grotesquely stuck out, eyes rolling. The toy guns, knives, ropes were OUT !

S came home to find his son surrounded by a PINK teaset, dolls and teddy bears. The dolls were OUT !

Out went Ben-10 and his aliens, OUT went the sharp toys kids under 3 “may swallow”, out went the rockets, gum, toy snakes, poisonous paints …

Meanwhile, in the last year, my sons have swallowed a bee, then a red crayon, jumped from a plain ole sofa and twisted an ankle, fallen off a SAFE rockinghorse and cracked a head, fallen off a child cycle and torn a ear ! One almost beheaded the other with an ABC book. I have come to the conclusion they can turn cotton balls into life-threatening missiles.

Learning : Children who play with guns don’t grow up into terrorists. 15 years back a kid who played with guns grew up into Abhinav Bindra, and won an Olympic Gold, or they turn into army cadets. It’s never what you put into their hands that shapes their life. It's what you put into their heads.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The TV broke

One day the TV sent some ziggy zaggy beams, beeps and coded high-secret spy signals to Outer Space, and then died.
I did a jig – finally our family could TALK.
S came home from office, read the newspaper and then read it backwards, and then we spoke for 1.33 seconds till his office called for 2 hours.
Neel gave a version of Bob Marley’s “No TV, No Eat”.
Nik pushed the TV buttons, the remote buttons, my cell phone buttons, my shirt buttons, and then threw the remote control at Neel.
That started a full-fledged battle/ chase and the dog joined in, all screeching.

The neighbours called up to say “Turn your TV volume down”.
I went upstairs and TALKED. To the TV repair centre, and begged them to come home immediately.

Learning : Contrary to what child specialists say – TV is brilliant for family bonding. The best conversations in our house have been with the TV on full volume.
S : Neel, come and watch Van Persie kick
Neel : I can kick better
Nik : Nicky kicky

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My baby no more

When he was 2, I went : “Don’t cry ! Don’t be such a baby !”
When he was 3, I said : “Don’t hit your little brother, he’s a baby !”
When he was 4, HE said : “Don’t kiss me in front of my friends. I’m not a baby !”

Now, he’s not yet 5, but he’s too old to be seen with “Cute stuff” on his clothes. He’s too old for me to hold his hand. He’s too old to drink from a sipper. He’s too old to be given stuffed toys.

But sometimes of a night, on a day when nothing’s gone right – when the troubles of being a “big little small boy” hit him hard, he’s game for a little cuddle. Just when no one’s looking, you understand. Just me and him; and the complexities and confusions and scraped knees and bullies of the playground forgotten.

Because being almost 5 is a big big burden. He’s not a baby any more. But he’ll always be mine.

Monday, February 2, 2009

yes, I can't cook

I was introduced as a young bride, “pretty, yes, intelligent, yes…. But…….”
In a whisper “SHE CAN’T COOK !”

I met some distant (and after this meeting, even more distant) relatives, who said
(compliment) : Wow, you’re looking so slim after all these years.
(not-so-compliment) : It must be because you can’t cook.

I’ve thought of learning. I’ve bought half the recipe books ever published.
And then I’ve realized I’m not learning to cook.
I’m learning to give in. To what every woman “must know”.

So I’m publishing it. I have a personality flaw. I had a deprived upbringing.
I learnt Shakespeare, to fly kites, to skate, to swim, to write a play, the rules of boxing.
But I never learnt to cook.
I am the only person I know who can burn water. It takes me 20 minutes to make the Maggi 2-minute noodles. And it still tastes raw.

Learning :
I can’t spend hours in the kitchen making a dish to make my guests go orgasmic.
Instead, I spend the evening chatting with them –about things that really matter. Like the food we’re going to order in.