Gl(amorous)

A few days back I got an invitation to attend an event for celebrities, hosted by celebrities, of celebrities and for shmucks. I am a shmuck.

Wow, I thought. I have never seen ramp-walk for real, up close and personal. It will be fun. Mrs India like. All the hot babes in swimsuits, the eminent jury, ex Mrs/ Ms/Mr Indias, and an opportunity for selfie with a celebrity. I must go and ogle. 377 egged me on. Now I can stare at girls without guilt.

So along with few more of my amorous friends, I went. Trust me it was tough. I had work at home. Leaving work alone almost broke my heart. But opportunity had knocked, if I missed it (or Mrs-ed it), I would never be able to forgive myself for the lack of respect shown towards all the females who were out there to make a mark in the …. carpet with their high heeled shoes.

Reached sharp at 7.00 pm. And bagged the first row. The event started sharp at 8.00 pm, just an hour late. And with the side-kicks. With the host and dost, Aman Verma, who needed to find a joker in the pack for all his punchlines. As he scouted the audience, his eyes passed by me, paused and stopped …. at the guy next and he became the butt of the attraction for the rest of the show “Hello Sharma ji”, “are you enjoying”, “breathe normally” in the insinuating hosting liberty, the “Sharma ji” enjoyed the attention from the host and the audience for rest of the 4-5 hours and refused to leave his chair, just in case he lost his 15 minutes.

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you got a few laughs

The side-kicks continued for a while, taking photos with so many partners, I quickly forgot. I started getting a feel of the event. It doesn’t matter if you are tall or short, thin or obese, if you can speak or not, all you need is your guts and …. the right wardrobe and connections to be right up there looking down at us plebs.

And then there was a break, go have some drinks and snacks before we start the main event, and as we wait for the celebrities who we know are going to be late. Too many hungry people, and not enough to eat. By the time the waiter reached, his plate was hounded and emptied. Once I managed to grab the tissue and a toothpick, yeee! And with all sugary “cold” drinks around, there wasn’t much choice. In my current stuck-on-calorie-count days, when I am counting every morsel, I stayed hungry.

We didn’t want to lose our front row seat so rushed back in 20 minutes, the timeout imposed on us. After half hour, we were asked to “can you pls sit somewhere else” by a girl with a large mouth and a larger derriere. This one is for organisers. Every man around me complied meekly, they were mesmerized by her moving …mouth, what did you think 🙂  And there lies the advantage of the back seat, you can’t be seen watching the backside from the back row.

Waiting and tapping your feet, it will start, be patient, we shall overcome some day, mood. Maybe an hour or so later, things started moving. Few low priced, affordable celebs came in, a former Mrs India, an actress of dubious origin, a singer, a TV star. Trust me, I have nothing against celebrities, they are the ones who have arrived… even if late. People hovered around them, I was somehow reminded of moths. Everyone took photos, their selfies, videos, and they smiled the same pouted smile reserved for such mindless activities.

Finally it started, at 9.30, more than 2.5 hrs later than the scheduled time. Half an hour was reserved for the introduction of the rich and the famous, with Aman falling all over the place reminding them of “Of I know you from so many years” “do you remember when” and “my very good friend”. The falseness was dripping and drooling all over the place. Most pseudo-celebs had a gown on, tight, skin fitted, with fat jutting out unglamorously from a number of places I would not care to describe.

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Ah my legs beyond compare

Then the ladies started walking on the ramp. Various shapes and sizes, tall to the short, married women, coming from all walks of life, from Pune and Chennai, from Assam and Bengal. They all looked cloned, wearing a saree with golden blouse, hair tied up tightly into a bun on top of the head, swaying hips, tons of makeup and still angular pose with a hand on the hips. They would all look so much better if real and normal. Mostly they looked stressed out, fake smiles, standing straight but still looking as if they had a back problem.

Interestingly a bunch of software engineers among them. As an engineer myself, all I can say is, nerds and glamour in the same package is rare and the sooner we realize it, the better for the world.

And then some of the divas opened their mouth to speak. Seriously, they should be banned from speaking. Most lost whatever little charm they held, as soon as they uttered their first sentence. Why? Did no one ever tell them, Hindi is also a language, if you can’t handle English, it is ok. Rote learning long poems to introduce themselves, and partially forgotten in the stress. Remember the children that are lined up “son, one poem for uncle ”.And everyone wanting to change the world since Sush did. It was so.. for a change I have no word to describe it, so unreal. To be honest, it was just a “show” (pun intended ) put on that tried to reek of glitz and charm, but ended up feeling fake and hollow.

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I have a backache pose

By the time it was almost 10.30 and I was hungry. I needed my daily dose of calories so decided to pass on rest of the evening for those who have the right level of interest in page 3. I had absolutely no inclination to continue for the rest 3-4 hours without food. The more amorous continued to wait with bated breadth for the Baywatch round that never came.

P.S. No intention to discredit any individual, the glamour industry involves tons of hard work and effort, just imagine the hours in the gym and parlours, and it is easy to find faults, maybe not everyone’s cup of (very sugary) tea.

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Ossum Assam

Yes, as on this Independence Day, I have to go back home, back to routine and to my work, which eagerly awaits me, and since the lounge was closed at Guwahati airport (the folks took freedom from work I guess), I picked up a coffee and sat down to pour my wrath on paper once again.

Let me start backwards this time. The lows followed by the highs. Maybe the irritation of seeing people misuse freedom still persists. Came to Assam for a flying visit.

Yesterday I was in the mood for some fine wine and dine. But since the other half was a little under the weather, we thought maybe we could just get something delivered. Between us, finding a choice that we both enjoy equally is anyway tough. After some discussion,  (read fight) we zeroed on pizza, that he relishes, and I find blemishes in. Over the course of the next hour, I figured why Guwahati is not Pune. Because things we consider normal just don’t work here. Full of matriotism (why does it have to be patriarchal), also having told the cook also to take a break, 8.00 pm when the hunger pangs started, we thought let us order (Domino’s, half hour, you see where this is going). For some reason could not find the 1800 number for Domino’s, that is fine, let me order online. Went to their site and was trying to specify the location, and then the system went crazy, it refused to recognise my location, whatever way we tried, it refused to deliver at our location. Disappointed, forget dominos’, we will try pizza hut. Fifteen minutes later, we are looking at each other. Pizza hut does not deliver at our location as well. Is there a conspiracy? True nationalism surfaced, I will try KFC. Luck had a day off too, they did not deliver either. How can that be, how is it possible that all these food joints had a special aversion against my location, would deliver 1 km away, but not where I was, in the heart of the city. By this time, I was ready to climb the wall. And I was hungry.

With the hubby’s pressure already high, I took few deep breaths to control mine. Let us order some local stuff from some local shop and drown the sorrow with the Glen. Looked at Zomato, Swiggy , ubereats and the likes of it for food delivery options. After eliminating the clowns mentioned above, very few choices remained, mostly places that looked quite dubious. Ok, let me order some Chinese north eastern variety, being the unpatriotic I was. I chose the first restaurant on the list (was too tired to really care), now where is the order button and the selection button for items, after a microscopic search, could not find anything using which I could order online. Sigh, so decided to fall back to the prehistoric method of calling the restaurant. First number, nobody picked up the phone. Second number, the line was down. All our options gone, I declared tearfully that I did not want dinner any more. (My language being a trifle more powerful like- I won’t die if I don’t eat today)

Thankfully I was convinced otherwise, and we walked to the nearest restaurant and got home something to eat, drowned it in with the aforementioned glen. Solace is, we did not go hungry.

Just two days earlier we went to a very interesting place in the heart of the tea estates- a place called Wild Mahseer. A pre-independence tea estate established in 1875, today converted to a luxurious boutique hotel. A few kilometers off Tezpur, the city with very colourful houses, and too much construction. As a side note, Assam houses are a variety of colour, you can find pinks and blues and purples and greens and various shades of yellow and brown, pretty interesting to see.  Driving through the city, which looked completely under construction with bamboo stuck all around, we reached just around lunchtime.

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our home

Our room was massive with a huge bed, that could tolerate 4 people easily and colonial furniture thrown all around. With a quaint washroom which was large enough to serve as a small bedroom. Feeling quite upbeat, we went down the narrow lane shrouded with greenery to the glasshouse where piping hot lunch was served. The spice just about right, food was not typical oily “hotely” stuff, more like home cooked but with the nice aromas and a solid variety.

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The glasshouse and lunch area

After a nap, the estate manager took us for a tour and showed us the place where “Aamir Khan” had spent a week, we Indians are star struck, we had to go sit where Amir did, take the selfie with the bungalow just to show off. But the place was big and beautiful and spotless clean, with a small golf course outside. it was like we were in a large country manor, somewhere in the highlands. Picturesque!

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The Amir bungalow, literally

Took a walk amidst the sprawling hectares of tea bagaans behind the estate, learnt all the art of how tea is made from the over-zealous manager, who was giving us a crash course in “Tea estate primer for dummies”. After a couple of hours of this, all I needed was a finished product, a cup of hot tea, which was served (yes, believe me) complete with a vintage tea cozy.

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The sprawling tea gardens

Couple of days of being spoilt rotten with the good food and drinks, long walks, with extra doses of sight-seeing, no TV and a backdrop of cheerful green, whichever direction you turn. The weather was far from perfect, humid and sultry. It was not a “doing” holiday, where we had to be constantly on the move, just a “chill” time.

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miles to go

But good times have to come to an end and we had to come back and face the pizza crisis in the noisy city of Guwahati. As luck would have it, the weather was hot and we could not spend too much time in the exploring the history of Tezpur, the bloodied city with its own story of war of Gods and a beautiful princess at the centre of it all.

Since the story is being completed a few days later, all is well that ended well, and I did get a something that looked like a pizza on the flight back.

In the Ghats for a day

When you live in Pune and it rains and you want to get away, there is a beautiful getaway called Lonavala that beckons you. Problem is, it beckons majority of the population around. Net result is chaos.

Last week I got an invite to spend the weekend in a resort at the very top, somewhere in that city and I jumped at the offer. Already dreaming about the rain and clouds and waterfalls and cool breeze, I wondered how to go, since taking the car was not an option. Well, driving on winding broken single lane mountain roads is not something I do very often, but the excuse I have is better- my car was being used by family so…So. I decided to take a train. Not having ridden in a train for quite a few years now, my first thought was, how difficult can it be, it is just about an hour and a few minutes away, with trains almost every hour, all I need to do is reach the station and board the next one.

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A view from the train

But then wiser and saner thoughts prevailed, maybe I should get a reservation. A dialogue with the hubby resolved the situation and he booked a ticket for me. So far so good. Reached the station almost 45 minutes in advance, years of non-practice does that to you. Waited with stamping legs and straining ears at the entrance for about half hour till the platform was announced. Managed to board without any incidents, just observing that the platform was decidedly cleaner than what I was used to in the yesteryears. Provided you don’t look out when the platform ends.

The train was cleaned twice in that small journey- nice. It was decidedly hard to resist the constant chant of “sabudana vada, veg cutlet, sandwich”, but the most interesting was “water pani” which I realised meant plain water and not “chilled pani”. Now, not having travelled this route before, I wondered how I would know my station was arriving and how long would it stop for and will there be enough time to get down. Yeah, I know, I am a totally inexperienced traveler. But outwardly, I was cool, even though I was doing the math in the mind, so many minutes from Pune, shall I ask Siri, what was the last station that went by and so on.., I did manage to get down at the right station quite safely. It is a different matter that after that, I had to climb up and down the bridge multiple times to find the driver. I mean how was I supposed to know “towards the city” didn’t imply towards the platform no 1.

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It is gonna pour

Sitting in the cab, with cool breeze blowing my hair, and rain drops down my cheeks, well, I was smiling away, I had arrived, and the rest was going to be a cool breeze (literally). Till I found traffic jam and jam and crowd and hawkers and no one following traffic rules. Well, this feels just like Pune, I thought with a grimace. Small congested roads, directionless people and honking all around. A little more than an hour, a packet of chips and several bumps and potholes later, I reached the resort.

It was as beautiful and serene as expected. Ah the beauty of a hill top resort when it is raining is beyond compare. Gorging on good food, good company, love and laughter. Even in 45 acres of property, we could find hordes of people coming from the dry state and debating whether to be upgraded to purple from white and other such nonsense. No, this is not a gyan session on Club Mahindra.

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6 am from the balcony
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Ah the colours

A day of relaxation, chai in the balcony, long morning walk, lot of selfies and a huge breakfast spread. We hogged so much, needed to lie down awhile. But then finally it was time to leave. The lime water in the tummy kept bubbling up and down as we encountered the familiar potholes again, somehow kept it from overflowing.

We stopped at the tiger’s point, or was it lion, or jackal, not sure. Some animal, definitely. Any self-respecting hill station in India has to have a Lion or Tiger’s point, and a sunset and sunrise point. Amidst a mass of humanity and cars and a breathtaking view, we too decided to do what the tourists do, walk, eat and click pictures. All around us were couple with the girlfriend perched on the boyfriend’s back, posing away, and few I-am-a-cool-dude guys posing on the cliff edges. Thankfully nobody fell off during our watch. After about an hour of touristy thingy, we followed the bro, the leader, who kept going in weird directions till we realised he was looking for relief and so we hastily retreated and went back to the car, relieved.

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At the animal point

Next stop was Bhushi ghat. Now that is a place, I would absolutely not recommend unless you are drunk and rowdy and enjoy sitting in dirty slimy water and throwing it around on yourself and others. The walk is long and bad, uneven stones does wonders for your back, the place has some broken steps with no railing and a sure chance of falling on the rocks, stairs that lead nowhere and a lot of smelly people sitting in smellier water, on the steps and throwing it around. Just not worth the time. The river on the other side that overflows at times. Not for me.

Came back to downtown, tired and happy and in dire need of ginger chai. Unfortunately, my train mode of transport did not work this time, simply because I did not get a reservation. Too many people, too little time. How will you go back, maybe come to Mumbai with us and then go back Monday. No way, I want to be back tonight. So, a cab, me and a 60 km drive back to home. With memories. And an agreement to go back again, with kids.

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The memory

 

The sarcasm shop

I was feeling sick. For multiple weeks inspiration had eluded me. I had done the world a great disservice by not writing. By not vomiting out my venomous spit of sarcasm. On thorough analysis, I realised the symptoms were not good. I was feeling quite all right with the world, I had not laughed at people for ages, I had not put down anyone for weeks. Something was wrong with me, was I turning over a bad loaf, I questioned myself. And shuddered at the idea. I can’t imagine myself oozing with goodness and other likewise characteristics and unless I did something quickly enough to recover into my usual mean, badass self, the infection might spread to my heart and then it would be all over.

So, I decided to indulge myself to some well-deserved dose of sarcasm, a perk-me-up. Such shops are pretty elusive and exclusive and unless you know the right brands and neighbourhoods, it is very easy to be duped with what has the appearance of sarcasm but is merely an endeavour to save self-esteem, and just plain mean, not the real real thing. This was a shop tucked away in a corner, with exclusive oozing from all corners. What the heck, I said to myself, let me see what brands this quaint witty shop has to offer to a world class cynic like me.

The aroma of well-cooked wit, cynicism and sarcasm was quite obnoxious, and I discovered a lot of interesting brands as I went from aisle to aisle. The first brand was a South Delhi brand, a quite down-market model which had the mis-assumption of being upmarket. As I opened the bottle, various anglicised accents littered out and started falling all over the place. It reeked of imported “maal” (stuff) and fake accents, of polluted minds and too many cars. Farmhouses and clubs and drugs bought out of “baap ka maal” (dad’s money). I think I will use that brand, especially after watching “the south Delhi girls” videos with their “baaaiiyyaa” (bro) intonation.

Further down, I found the Big C brand. This was formed of the smartasses on whose foreheads you can find “C” written in capital if you look closely enough. This is the brand whose only agenda in life is to talk about self and who cannot utter a sentence without “I”, “me” and “myself” and sometimes they use the royal “we”. They are the ones who appear bright till they open their big mouths. By ignoring everyone else in their lives, the narcissistic attitude often leads to headache for others and they live in the well-oiled isolation of self-praise. A lot of this Big C brand value get further accentuated when they travel to “phoren”(foreign) lands.

Now this one was interesting. The NRI model (a subclass of the Big C). This is the fellow who reeks of dollars and whose eyes are bright green with eyeballs the shape of $. The attitude is that of the people who have arrived and now only give “Gyan” to the relatives and friends who have nothing better to do than listen and nod their head at appropriate occasions. They go to all “desi” festivals and religious gatherings, which they avoided in their country, but it is the thing to do in the America, so how could they not follow the mass, literally. This NRI class has trouble breathing the desi air when they come back to God’s own land and tend to fall sick unless they drink bottled water.

Within the NRI, there was this exclusive Middle East Gold-man, dazzling with gold and diamonds. With foul tongue and no skills except that of earning tax free money and bringing jewellery back for their families, this is a self-proclaimed royal label who enjoy having devotes around them hanging on their every word and would follow them everywhere like the Vodafone bulldog and with almost the same expression. The ego is way up and the IQ way down. I mean, why isn’t stupidity a crime yet? Applies equally to the devotee and the deity.

Tucked away towards the fag end, I found the I-know-someone lineage who always knew someone who knew someone and claimed a mesh of connections like a spider’s web. Their solution to every problem and claim to fame is “I will talk to Mr. so and so and he will solve the problem”. They threw names around the way some of the others threw dollars and gold and reserved the rights to reach out to the “Bhai”. I mean, I understand, just because you are not related to Salmaan Khan doesn’t imply you are a nobody, right. When I say stuff like this, people think I don’t care, but I do. If you weren’t yourself, how would I find material to write?

By this time, having browsed through so many, I was feeling quite myself and raring to go but something was still missing. So, I went to the shopkeeper and told him you are missing a big make, the BS brand, which I could supply since I had in abundance. This brand is a pseudo intellectual weirdo who loves putting everyone down through their sharp tongue and ready wit and who does not mince words no matter who minded, (so someone who has a mind, would mind it, but then, never mind!). This brand believes they are the next biggest thing since Khushwant Singh and Shobha De and the only solution to the humankind’s misery. I told him I owned the exclusive rights to this and could license it to him, he could keep the money but had to give me the credits.

He threw his head back and laughed, a loud, full of mirth, crystal clear laughter. And then it struck me. This was Ah-I-don’t-give-a-shit model and actually didn’t give a (u know what I mean) to my BS. He was just doing his job without being impressed by anything in the sarcasm shop and was totally unaffected by the dollars and the gold and the accents and the imported cars. This is probably the most rare and exclusive of us but unfortunately not for sale.

The waiting room

Reminds you of the railway station, the crowd and cacophony, the chai and the stink. Train whistles, the incomprehensible announcements and the strain to listen for your own train. But this is a different waiting room.

Here only those people wait, whose trains have derailed, or are about to. They are trying to repair the tracks, push and pull to get the train back on track and somehow make it run, so they can leave for home. A few never do. 

Here they dont say ” train no so and so has arrived on platform number so and so.” Here it is ” Bed no 102″ and Kamble and Banerjee, the names and the numbers, and the call to feed or meet the doctor or sign something you have not read.

I am in the waiting room of an ICU. All around me is chaos. Sea of people, waiting to catch a glimpse of their loved ones, waiting for that ray of hope, that word from the doctor that can change despair to a smile or bring a frown and a tear. Noisy, crying, sharing, yet so distant from it all. Hearing it all, but not absorbing.

Hospitals are a part of life. And death. I am at the same place I was slightly more than two years ago. Same hospital, same ICU, same waiting room. I lost Baba here. He was already lost, but here I lost his physical being. All around me are faces, in despair, but still hopeful as they cross the nights of nightmares. 

When you think it cant get any worse, it does. And we get used to that and then there is a new low. How much the human mind can accept and get on with life, feels like a trial and error test.

Why does she have to suffer so much? In the past so many years, I have seen her lose her speech and her smile, her walk and her zest for life. A vegetable, that breathes and swallows, with a beating heart. That is about it. Just pain and more pain, which she doesn’t feel, or maybe feels and does not  express. Cancers, and then free from cancers. But not from this hell called dependence. Not from this journey that is a constant struggle for survival.

Who will I take home from here, a whole being or a part? A person who always smiled at me, now closes her eyes and shrinks away as I talk to her, or touch her.

Do your job, dont worry about the consequences. I was reminded today. Do your best, dont expect anything. Maybe that is the learning. And emotions? That are ready to flow, that have to be pushed back because there is so much to be done.

I try to work. In an effort to remain sane. Not break. I have to be strong and stronger, specially when I am powerless. Someone else pulls the strings and we dance. I do- the biggest fallacy. Who are we? Who am I? My face is expressionless, as I listen to the doctor’s verdict. Impassive but with a storm inside. 

Life sucks. Death sucks more. But maybe it is the end of suffering, pain and despair. But can’t it be painless? Among so much pain and pleasure, something goes on- that they call life, as it sits in the waiting room, for death. Somebody give respite from it all,  she needs to rest. In peace. 

What I don’t like about US of A

Travelling to US is always a matter of pleasure. I love being driven around in limos, friends making time to take you out in their shining cars and helping you shop (though they may never do that with their wives, but when you land in US, they consider it their sacred duty to show you all the local attractions), no need to clean and cook, and the flights with free booze.

But there are a few things I am totally pissed with. And someone with yellow hair and a grumpy face should listen and act upon it.

I can’t figure out why they must use tissues. I mean, wastage of paper, environment and all that shit apart, you hate the feel of it, butt. In fact, it feels shit hole hard! (pun intended) There is water everywhere, in the taps, shower, tub, bottles, fountains, but not a drop to jet wash the most vulnerable part of your anatomy. Being a जुगाड़ू Indian, water bottles come to the rescue, somehow reminding me of the times of toilet an old katha.

Why does everything have to be in dollars? In the world of Uber, Google maps and Amazon delivery, data is a basic necessity. But being the बनिया that you are, you don’t turn it on as every time you do, you can hear the meter turning nickels into quarters. and quickly turn it off again. And how do you shop? I mean everything gets totally multiplied by the cheap Indian mind-set and then you expostulate, 30$ (in disbelief), you mean 2000 Rs, soooo expensive, and refuse to buy it, (But then go to India and pay 5000 Rs for something worse). It is called misplaced patriotism.

Breakfast not included! Any self-respecting Indian always desires to chooses a hotel that provides free wifi and breakfast while paying no more than 120$ per night and if he finds one, Eureka! I mean, who on earth would pay 12$ (plus taxes plus gratuity) for toast and cornflakes and potatoes which is what a typical vegetarian ends up eating. Hence you skip breakfast (unless of course the company is paying for it).

These long flights are so cramped. Normally everything long is good, long legs, long.. oops, change the topic. but flights – when in cattle class, isn’t the best for your back and your legs, specially in your late forties. You can’t catch a wink; it is smelly all around with people releasing odours and socks which have no means to get out of the aircraft pores, and it is cold, the thin blanket is mostly useless. Your neck keeps rolling off, literally, and the foot starts swelling. So, though you intended to work, you end up watching worthless movies fiddling with earphones that don’t work very well and a screen that needs you to tap thrice to achieve any result (much like are you sure, are you very sure of the Microsoft fame). The only saving grace are when she asks you “and what would you like to drink, madam”.

This is followed by the lag of the jet. Sleepy in Seattle at 3 in the afternoon bang in the middle of a meeting doesn’t send the right message though everyone is looking at you in amazement, you survived 10+10 hours of flight, you are a hero. Interestingly you will find, for most folks here, Hawaii is the biggest adventure of their life. You drink some water, doesn’t work, and you hardly listen to the discussion around, focussing on fighting the deadly sleep, which finally you get rid of as soon as the meeting is over. Phew! By that time sleep is so upset with you, she refuses to come back when you need her. So, you are wide awake watching whatever it is ABC is telecasting at midnight. After a lot of cajoling, you manage to land into a slumber only to feel roaring awake at 3 am.

Who imagined getting a nice warm cuppa tea can be such a pain in the same body part discussed above. One would tend to believe that chai latte is the easiest thing to make other than Maggi. But you know, these guys have no bloody idea. They think dipping a porous bag in warm water and pointing you towards sugar sachet is the definition of making tea. And they charge you bloody 3$ (and some cents) for something which is barely lukewarm. So, in mutiny, I carry my own tea bags from desh. But my hotel refuses to provide milk powder (or creamer as they call it here, Americans are probably the ones who would call Rose by the name of crimson and get away with it). Since I have not developed the taste for black tea so far. I called and asked for it, and the girl refused to understand me, maybe it is my hinglish, i was tempted to resort to साली, दूध माँगा था, but resisted. So, black tea it is. Next time I resolved to carry my own Nestle dairy whitener.

And the food. I love the cuisines, trying various veggies and fruits and breads and chutneys and salads. But why do we say only Gujjus make food that is sweet, everything here is either cheesy or sweet, sometimes both. After a week, I am so missing, दाल चावल, curries and the spices. I almost salivate when I check out the Indian food available online, but I take one look at the price and realise that delivery charge is more than the cost of the dish, so swallow my saliva and pride and survive on my cold storage पूरीs. Yeah, पूरी and भुजिया is heaven when in the Americas.

The next time you travel to this part of the world, all fellow desi travellers are advised to add as a necessary part of their survival kit

  • A mug (or spare water bottles)
  • Tea bags and creamer
  • पूरी and भुजिया

And definitely leave behind your mental calculator.

But what happens only in America is having an ex-marine, future SeattlePD, muscular, tanned, girl in shorts driving your cab.

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Gym-nasty

Like I always say, once you enter the fourth decade of mortal existence, life takes on a whole new meaning.  You stop worrying about wearing the most unsuitable clothes and show off creaky venous old knees; you color hair not to hide the white showing through, but to get a brunette look.  And among some of the other weird things I have no wish to expose just yet; I also enrolled myself into a gym.

Yeah, so I did. I can’t fathom what on earth prompted me, after successfully giving it a miss for all of my forty and five years and suddenly here I was, struggling into tights and t-shirt and trying to get rid of my belly fat and other protruding anatomical juxtapositions which don’t look right (yeah, the fat would have looked better a few inches above). I guess too much time on my hands and a desire not to feel totally lethargic and waste yet. So, lo and behold, I was ready to take a swing at things I had not attempted before.

The gym is pretty close to where I stay, so walked over. Went inside to ear blasting music and a plethora of machines all around. I with my weary eyes had to look where I walked else I would be the first to fall flat on a dumbbell thrown carelessly around, or the jutting leg of a legpress. I was given a tour of all the contraptions and re-learnt all the muscle names forgotten in class VIII, triceps and biceps and hamstrings and which one is smaller and larger. I also got an overloaded with names of machines and exercises which I didn’t remember five minutes beyond. I could see several trainers repeating basic math- one, two, three, buck up, back straight and I fondly remembered my PT instructor.

Since I was not put off the place during my first visit, I decided to pay the fees and hoped that would prompt me to continue. Day 1. A baldy instructor confronted – why does everyone I encounter have to be bald?? Gods have something seriously against me. At least my gym instructor could have been a treat to the eyes. Sigh, he isn’t, doesn’t look a hunk from any direction (including upside down), looks more like a soft spoken teacher or a government servant. He started off rattling something in Marathi and I had to stop him mid way through his monologue, Hindi please, or English, I asked doubtfully. Yes madam. Then he started my routine. By the time he finished with me, I was almost dead, all limbs creaking and trembling, wondering whether I needed a stretcher to go home.

In my dotage, the way I exercise is my break time is almost equal to my exercise time. The fun during the breaks while I struggle to get my breath back is to look around and see the blatant display of chiseled torsos and muscular wealth. The day I joined, all the folks turned and glanced at the old woman gone crazy, took one look and disdainfully went back to their routines. So much so for my hotness! At least I can see a hot Dwayne smiling or a desi Hrithik looking at me sideways from the wall, and a surly looking uninspiring female body builder who gives a smirk.

Over a period of time, I learnt to use some of the machines, lift some weights, and perform some basic workout though it pains me to see guys lifting so much weight while I was struggling with the lightest dumbbell. Going overboard and trying extra would cause a “sweet and sour pain” in my glutes for the next two days as my instructor keeps repeating. He hurts my muscles more than my sentiments, and I walk out in a weird gait (resembling a three-legged-walk) since everything was sore, feeling distinctly old and in need for oiling.

Over a period of time, as I interestingly watched the steamy sweaty bodies and listened to Mika screaming “shake that booty” at the top of his voice, I realized there are basically five kinds of creatures infesting the gym.

  • The “hen-pecked-husband” whose wife doesn’t let him sit along with his pot belly in front of the idiot box, and packs him off to get a six pack. Poor harassed fellow, he finds it so tough to slide into most of the machines, which are really designed for human size. Huffing and puffing, his painstaking attempts at lifting weights and then taking half an hour of break with open mouth struggling to breathe in air right in front of the TV.
  • The “self-obsessed-and-proclaimed-hunk” wearing tight shorts who spends fifteen minutes lifting weights making alien guttural sounds and faces and then walks with a forced swagger and spends next fifteen in front of the wall length mirror looking at his jutting muscles from all possible angles and showing (off) to all the trainers around and measuring the micrometer change in his biceps. The mindless body and his gymfies on Instagram and Facebook lives. God save him!
  • The “I-have-time-and-clothes” girl who adorns yoga pants and sports bra (only thing everyone noticed) and something insignificant on top which is completely superfluous, with a ponytail and a mouth that can literally move mountains, and a magnetic personality, pulling all sweaty bodies towards it. With bobbing boobs and behind as she treads the mill, all trainers (including mine) fall all over themselves to train her and look at her with gaping mouths and rising heart rate.
  • The “exceptionally athletic Superman” who is actually focused on just building muscles and totally oblivious to the rest of the world around him. The guy who pushes every machine to its limits and cribs that they were not strong enough, and who spends daily 2-3 hours just exercising. And the walk, reeking of self confidence! But I wonder, he is already there, then why make the rest of us all look and feel nobodies.
  • The “aiming-to-impress-girlfriend” sweaty smelly thin fellow, the pea-brained nincompoop who wants to build brawns and not brains, with silky hair, big phone and glares and thin spidery legs, squatting away to glory, face straining hard to avoid the gaseous excretions towards his fellow folks.

Ideally I should qualify myself into a sixth category, who last squat was only during the last Indian style loo visit, but then being a unique specimen, I am not sure there are many like me around. In the past year, I have started enjoying the one hour stint at the gym every day (well, almost). And my top three reasons of visiting the same place regularly happen to be

  • After working out, I don’t feel guilty about not working out and the cake tastes so much better, especially with the icing (and I wonder why I am still putting on weight?)
  • That hot dapper who always comes in at the same time and is a temptation of magnificent proportions.
  • Enjoying my favorite mind exercise of judging and categorizing people.