From Two to Four – wheels

Learning a bicycle is piece of cake, once you have digested it. I remember I was at my ननिहाल, for an extended family gathering having fun. And I wanted to learn to cycle. So my मामा decided to help me out. I was nonchalant 13. The first time you get up and sit on that thin seat and ensure your frock covers your vitals, you wonder how on earth can anyone balance on such thin tyres (observe the oxymoron – thin tyres). The bicycle just insists on falling towards one side, and even if you use Physics to balance, it almost always fails and you end up falling on your rump. My मामा did try his best to help by holding the carrier, but the bicycle handle refused to stay straight, it insisted on swinging in the direction opposite my fall. Murphy or whoever wrote the law of how many times you fall when learning to cycle, I proved it true every 5 seconds, till I had bruises all over and my ego was hurt beyond repair. Three days of tenacity, and I could manage to hold the wheels steady for about 10 meters, and then the law had its way. Fourth day, I managed just about not to fall off, but driving in a straight line was still miles away. I was mostly cycling like a drunk, weeing from one end of the road to the other and at times when I knew the forces driving me to the ground were winning, I chose instead to land on my two left feet. A week into it, and I was under the delusion that I was master of the game.

Came back to Jodhpur and decided to try my skills on Baba’s bicycle. Problem, it had a hard rod, so climbing on to the fellow was a project it itself and then climbing down was another. (Just reread what I had written and trust me, that was not the intent, whatever you may think ) And the Jodhpur lanes, if you could call them that, full of gravel and sand. Anyway, as I said, I believed I had wings (even without red bull), and the supreme arrogance of a beginner. So went full swing, round and round across lanes at full speed. Second round and I was coming down a lane which was an inclined plane. Now physics was far away from mind and my speed tried to defy the still unfamiliar laws and of course, I slipped and went straight into the ditch. A visit to my favourite doctor where he had to tch tch and scrape off all sand and gravel stuck into my घायल legs. He probably wondered whether I did it deliberately to have an excuse to go see him every now and then. Did I? Even though I have now cycled for years, the art of holding my skirt down against the wind with one hand, while trying to keep the handle straight with the other and using my mouth to shoo away the traffic, it is tough to say the least. These days I prefer the one that you can pedal, but which doesn’t go anywhere.

I learnt to drive four wheels in my late 20s, during the forced relaxation period after popping out my baby. The Maruti driving school was good and while in the learner car, my beginner confidence was back with a big bang. Except that I lacked the ol’ fella called courage. We even bought a car, which was kept safely parked outside the home gathering dust while I went to office on a rickshaw. One day I was encouraged a lot, you can do it you know, Is there anything you can’t do? Now, I am a sucker for motivation. And my dear husband took me and the car to a road and literally pushed me to the driver seat. I knew the ABC yes, had read the user manual and done test drives but driving on Noida road alone for the first time with no safety break on the co-passenger seat was perilous. Anyway, started the car with shaking hands. First 20 times, it stalled. Wasn’t giving enough raise (Same problem with us salaried people, when we don’t get enough raise, we stall). So pushed the accelerator, created some noise and moved ahead a few feet, hit the first speed-breaker, and stalled again. After a few feet of this, I got the hang of ensuring, car didn’t shut down, (though the unnatural noises emanating from the sudden pushes and jerks did nothing to calm my nerves, remember I am talking about the car).  There after I started looking at the road and other vehicles around me and realised I had too many cars crowding me, I screamed, “what to do”, froze with horror, panicked, shut down the car in the middle of the road and came out trembling, I can’t do it. And refused to take the wheel after that. Thus ended my first day on road on a four wheeler.

Then came a day when again I was challenged, you can take out the car yourself from the narrow lane where we lived, why should we take a three-wheeler. We should take our car. No, too many cars around, I can’t handle reverse. Yes you can. Three times, she said it and I was persuaded. So I started the engine, reversed, bang, hit the car parked on the other side of the lane, changed gear and curved right, didn’t cut enough, scratched the car on the left, full body length, recovered, swerved right, I guess too much, went into the car on the right, and there I was, driving steadily down the lane. (Well, I did better than a certain someone I know who drove the car right into the boundary of the house across the lane) Poor car owners, never came to know what hit them, by the time I came back, I was already a pro. Once you have dented a car on Delhi roads, you are virtuoso.

This was a WagonR. Few years later, we went hunting for an SUV, as we upgraded ourselves from middle class to middle class+. ( And also I had a fervent desire to look down on some people and what better way to do it than sitting on the tall seats) The Tata sales guy was more than willing to let us test drive the Safari, as he handed over the keys to my husband, who forwarded them to me, his face paled. But his job was at stake, there was no way he could say no. (He asked to see my licence though). I could literally smell his fear as he watched me turn the keys in the ignition. Blimey, ‘Tis the end of the world if ladies started driving what has so forth been exclusively for the gentleman. Disgraced in my eyes, he survived, didn’t wet his pants, to give him due credit, but did not make the sale. At the end of the drive he meekly managed, मैडम आप तो अच्छा चला लेती हैं. We chose a Scorpio instead. I caused two accidents while driving the Scorpio. All because I was driving an SUV on Noida roads, quite unheard of in 2005. A fellow on a cycle came from the front, looked at me, opened his mouth and fell off as I passed by and looked down on him on the other side of the road. It was such fun to be the first to drive off as the light turned green, being the fastest on the road had its own charm. Then there were these two fellows on a bike, who went and hit an autorickshaw since they stared agape so hard at me, they forgot to look at the rest of the traffic. I enjoyed the attention unashamedly. The moral being that a woman driving an SUV with undisguised confidence is still a visual hallucination so people either give a wide berth or have accidents.

I, me #selfie

Long back during school time, there was this short story that spoke about the world of photographs. That alternate world, where everyone was always happy and smiling and never grew old. That story still strikes a chord somewhere except that now you make an extra effort at looking like Donald duck.

For those of us who are blessed to be born in the 70’s in middle class households, we had the luxury of never owning a camera for many years. And finally when we did, it was kept locked in the Godrej, gathered dust, and only came out on special occasions like weddings and could only be operated by people-who-would-never-drop-it aka adults. So, if you wanted to have your memories cast in print, while growing up, you had to rely upon

  • uncles less miserly
  • school friends whose parents doted upon them and would take your photos if you behaved as their best friend
  • school official photos during annual days
  • and find an important enough occasion so that Baba took that contraption out finally

After marriage the jinx was broken and we finally had a Kodak at our disposal. Imagine having your very own camera to carry while holidaying. But we remained staunchly middle class with just 36 possible photos in a reel and with 2 reels that needed to last a 10 day vacation. Somehow this middle class thingy has been following me all my life. Every photo had to be planned, ensuring smiling countenance even when you were upset, right direction, exposure blah blah because world of photographs was forever, it couldn’t be undone, at least not then. Your vacation budget had to include reels and the worst thing was, you could not see the results for several days after the vacation. I remember a reel that we got washed after a couple of years because it got lost in a drawer which was overflowing, we were busy with office and kids growing up and just plain forgot. What a pleasure to find it and develop it and what a pain to find it was overexposed.

I also learnt meanwhile that when it comes to saving your tooth (and nail) or camera, camera has the upper hand literally. College time, borrowed an expensive camera from a friend and was figuring out all its nuances, pretending to learn photography just because it was decidedly upper class in a hostel full of girls who barely made ends meet. Walked back to my hostel room, tripped over something and fell face flat. The hand automatically moved up saving the camera, and my dignity but breaking two of my front teeth partially. I lived to tell the tale.

As we graduated to upper middle class, we dared to buy a SLR, all the way from अमरीका. Again, a legacy of my family, it found a permanent spot inside my Godrej and was taken out on rarest of occasions. Our first vacation with the SLR, we could not get in the beach water because, come on, you had a 300$ SLR in your hand which was more precious than mere enjoyment. One day we discovered dear SLR wasn’t working. It was a whole project to figure out who in Lajpat nagar could repair it. And finally when we did manage to get it repaired, it went plain out of fashion as digital had taken birth.

Life is so bloody easy now with megapixels increasing day by day and camera phones. You don’t need to count how many you click, you have a choice to delete them if you don’t like. Though we hardly ever (delete), we like to clog the memory. The good thing about digital memory is that it isn’t like the almirah, here the photos don’t gather dust, and there is always more space than you can imagine, and you can play tricks with all apps floating around. And the biggest advantage, you can clutter all you want, your mom will not ask you to clean it.

The front camera was added as an afterthought. Nobody in his or her wildest dream felt the need of a camera for taking self image with a contorted face. Talk about narcissism! Probably stemmed from the aversion of handing over your expensive phone to the nearest passerby for clicking you. Well, these days narcissism is probably measured as the number of selfies a day. I, me, #selfie. BTW I have not been able to fathom why the name “selfie”. Wouldn’t selfick or selfoto have been better suited?

And now wherever you go, you find people clicking themselves away everywhere, at malls, concerts, theaters, hospitals, cliff edges, highways and some of them falling, hurting, drowning, such is the craze. The way things are going, you can expect “no selfie” zones coming up soon next to the “no smoking” signs. Yeah, both kill.

selfie

Personally I have not been able to master the art of selfie taking, thanks to my short arms, clumsy hold and lack of desire to learn. Or maybe the camera has taken a dislike to me. Every time I try it, I face one or more of the following issues

  • I am looking somewhere totally weird
  • My arm and fingers occupy a major part of the image
  • The image is blurred, or is it my vision?
  • I don’t like my face, which is most of the time. (or maybe I am looking fat) (maybe the pout backfired)
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fingers occupying half the screen 😦 and you can see the broken teeth too 🙂

 

Ps. My habit of using numbered lists stems from my childhood where Baba taught me to write in points always saying, science students only get marks if they write in points. So now you know why I never scored in English essays (other than the fact that I could not write).

I can think of several apps to be developed around the art and science of selfie (and not the ones that make you look better than you are). Like the one that defines and enforces an upper limit on how many selfies you can take a day. Just imagine the camera shutting down and going to sleep just because it is so tired of looking at you. Or vrrr, camera direction changing to focus on a flower or anything except your face. Or a robot hand that comes and punches you and gives you a real swollen pout.

Coming back to the point, literally, my clumsy attempts at taking selfies, should I angle it from bottom to top, or vice versa, hold it in left or right hand, and how to use the thumb properly, where to look, how to pout, how to get everyone in the frame. I have tried really, and my results have been far from encouraging and I strongly feel like Taking The Perfect Selfie course at London.

 

 

During the middle ages

Yeah, I am 40 plus (in age, mind you) and I absolutely refuse to specify how many years, months and days plus, just like any other smart woman my age. That is why I hate sharing my id proof, I have a push-pull fight every time at the airport. But moving on, one fine morning, or rather, one fateful day, I woke up and realised the most terrible thing in the world had happened, ( no, I am not referring to Sep 11 )  I had become middle aged. My world collapsed. Something drastic needed to change if I could not move the clock back.

I had had the symptoms for sometime but did not quite get that it implied the seven signs of ageing. Firstly my hair started falling at an alarming rate, the washroom drain would get choked daily and I would roll my eyes at the maid for not cleaning it properly till she showed me a headful of hair, after which I shut up. ( not to mention the fact that some ( ok, have it your way, most) of them were white which was the second symptom). Third sign being that aha, sweet back pain as I got up in the morning, which wasn’t so bad that I needed moov, but made me move with my hand on my back, reminding of, well someone in the category of Nirupa Rai moving around with a stick.

And then I turned blind, I could not read. I had to move the newspaper as far back as as the selfie stick and still I the letters were blurred. The ophthalmologist was very gentle with me, said, don’t worry, it happens to the middle aged. And I was adorned with thicker owlish glasses which goes with my intellectual personality, or at least that is what I like to think. The only issue with this accessary is that not only do I look blind, I also act like one since my reading ability has vanished.

My memory was the next to go. I would look at a guy and try hard to remember his name, which would like fail me forever, till he said goodbye, and then it would come to me in a flash, yeah, his name was Gordon. So we would have had a half hour conversation where I asked innocent questions like, how is family? (Not remembering if he was married, or whether he had kids, this was the cleverest question, could imply his parents as well). I wanted to do an entire blog on my forgetfulness, but then I forgot what I wanted to write.

And the perspective change of course, where Aashiqui one was an all time favourite and Aashiqui two was a disaster, can’t stand these cliched goddamn self destructive drunken martyrs any more. And my son remarked, mom, you don’t like this. you are old! No my dear, at my age, we call it experience.

I am not going to talk about waist size at all, it should suffice to say that, my husband’s clothes are a good fit on my permanent four month paunch, rather than my own wardrobe, which suddenly developed a strange habit of bursting at the seams. Do clothes really shrink that much? Three square meals a day, makes me a खाते पीते घर की।

What to do? I had to do something to reach the fountain of youth. Since allopathy has not invented anything to reverse the process, I had to find other means. Visit to the homeopath. Can you stop my falling hair? Can u remove the wrinkles below my eyes? He sighed and said, madam, I am no anti Newton, hair will fall. Skin with wrinkle, madam, इस age में ऐसा होता है।. And I walked out defiantly. A friend tipped me that wearing a Ray Ban is a great idea to hide the telltale under eye wrinkles and I looked around and could suddenly see people of all frames and sizes wearing black glares. Oh yeah, so that is the reason. ( Other reason being it is easier to stare, Indian favourite pastime after cricket, but that is not under discussion for now).

I started discovering all age reversing, anti ageing and wrinkle removing creams in the shops. Somehow only those would catch my eye. After trying a handful of such creams and asking dear husband, कुछ फ़र्क़ पड़ा ? Actually that is a pretty wrong question to ask. He can’t say no, he dare not lie, poor guy. So faced with too many diplomatic responses, इतनी जल्दी पता नही लगता है। तुम cream के  instructions follow कर रही हो ना ? and so on, I came to the forgone conclusion that nothing was going to change. Creams are creams and don’t perform miracles, despite what is written on the leaflet.

With all international brands available at अपनी दुकान and brick and mortar stores, shopping has never been as easy. Except that everything is supposed to be for teenagers and forever 21 kind. And trust me, even when you try them on, you still don’t look young unless you close your eyes and dream. I walked towards a row of interesting looking garments, but the assistant gently moved me away to show me plus sizes. I surreptitiously moved back and defied her by picking up a medium size shirt for trial. With my head held high I moved to the trial room and after a few minutes, come out, threw away the garment carelessly, I don’t like the fit, being my excuse. The assistant silently handed me over another one, try this mam. This time I don’t meet her eye, walked back head down, and finally smiled, this one fitted. As I moved over to the cash counter, she gave me a big I-told-you-so smile, standing right next to the plus size rack.

The biggest problem ever since I aged is ogling, this really tall hot guy that I eyed at the mall, clandestinely holding my tummy in, gave me a really flashy smile, that immediately melted me and I smiled back behind my glares. He moved towards me, oh God, this breathing in thing is tough, stood right next to me and asked, Auntie, would you mind moving a little to the other side, I am trying to look for my friends and you are in the way. Aargh… Yeah, he was probably my son’s age anyway. The only good thing is at least I can breathe now.

 

Cats, Dogs and other creatures

As a kid I was dead afraid of dogs. Not sure of the reason, we never had any. I still remember an incident where Baba asked me to drop the rent cheque at the owners who stayed couple of houses away. Since walking was a pain for a 10 year old, I ran to their house, delivered the cheque and was running back again, when a dog with four legs decided I looked interesting enough to chase. So, bark, yelp, he followed me to the chase. Not knowing what to do, I ran even faster. The four legged monster enjoyed the fact that I was playing with him and continued the pursuit.

How much more? I screamed for Baba. When terrified, only dad’s can be saviours. He came running and I tripped on a stone and fell. The dog decided the game was over and promptly left. Baba picked me up, crying, scraped and bloodied knees and all, all the while shouting at the unknown owner of the stray dog, swearing as the passers by looked on without interest.

My hatred of the canine species continued.

A few years later, we had gone to Pali for a family wedding. They had big big dogs. At my insistence, they were kept tied up most of the day. One day, I was busy inside बीहड़ वन, carefully following the doings of Phantom and Diana. Once the comic was over, I sighed and looked around to see one canine on my left and one on my right, tongues hanging out, panting away to glory. For one second, I thought I had died and gone to hell, but next moment realised if they had not attacked me all this while, they were pretty unlikely to do so in the next few days I was there. And the fear vanished in thin air. Then onwards I have been able to love all species of canines.

Now cats are different creatures. I have always loved them, even the black ones that cross the street in front of me. My love with cats started when I was very young. Some stray cats come to our home, Maa started feeding them milk and they adopted us. We had a full family, named Singsong, Chunmun, Pingpong and other such catty names. Maa had made a small bed for them in the gallery. Over time they became bold enough to discard their bed and  start climbing up on mine and lying down on my pillow.

There is only one thing about cats that I never liked. They die. Singsong was such a lovely creature, used to spend the evenings on my lap as I studied and would have spent her lifetime with me. But the neighbourhood dogs weren’t quite happy with that. One day she was chased by a horde of dogs and bitten all over. She somehow made it back to our home, all bloodied and mangled, at her deathbed. I came from school and there was this strange stench around her, which I did not quite understand at that time, later realised it was the smell of death. She crawled to my lap and after some time passed away, quietly. My first encounter with death. It was the saddest day of that chapter of my life.

30 years later, I have a family of cats all over again. There is the mom cat, who has adopted us, whose sole purpose in life is to produce progeny every season. She comes to us and हक़ से takes her food 4 times a day. Then she brings her kittens to us and leaves them in my care. The babies, ooh, the pretty white and golden ones, treat me like their surrogate mother and have to play with me with before eating their food. Scratch me all over and overall make my son jealous. Maa, you have more time for them than for me. I now own a family of a very hungry mom cat and four playful kittens in their basket right outside my front door. Anybody care to adopt?

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picture purrfect

जब कुत्ते बिल्ली की बात चली है तो can rats be far behind. My first encounter with the furry creature happened maybe around 25 years back as I was working most focussed on my mechanical drawing in college, angles and elevation and was totally lost in that. Finally after finishing majority of the drawing, looked up and stretched to see a rat on the ground right in front of me. I screamed and I am sure it screamed in its own language too and both of us tried to run away from each other, but got tangled up instead, the fellow under my foot. Ugh, ish, poor fellow died on the spot and I puked all over.

And then recently, a few years back, we discovered that somehow a rat has found its way into my home. Now my philosophy is very clear, rats and I cannot coexist in the same premises. So, it had to be found and exiled and banned from forever entering my nest. Take it from me, catching a rat is only as simple as, can’t find a simile.  Rat prisons did not work, even when lured with chapatis with ghee, potatoes. It was clever enough to come, eat and get away. The only good thing was, it was confined to one room. Then we decided, there was only one way out, we had to poison the fellow. Rat poison was sumptuously spread across the room. Still nothing. What to do? After a few days, the room started to smell and it was the same stench of Singsong times. So, the rat had gone and died somewhere and we had to locate it and dispose off its body as to leave no trace of the heinous crime. Under the bed, almirahs, nowhere was it to be found. After a day, finally discovered the remains of the creature in the loft. My brave maid cleaned up the loft and transferred the remains to a far enough location so as to leave no incriminating evidence behind. The room had to be cleaned and fumigated multiple times before it started feeling normal again. I continue to hate rats.

A bundle of joy

Though technically I had no control over the circumstances, slightly more than 45 years ago, a bundle of trouble and joy came to this world, aka, me. Well, of course, I don’t remember my birth and the circumstances that led to it. Hey, don’t worry, this blog is meant for family audience and I will not talk about the birds and the bees.

This is a story that I learnt from my mother, with her descriptions and art of story-telling. Not having inherited that, I will retell in my own words. My dad, being the nerd he was, was doing research at IIT K, in late 60’s. My mom used to teach at the campus school. We had been staying at the campus for the past 2 years and my mom was expecting, a byproduct of Dad’s research. Mom wanted a daughter, she already had a son, but those days the information was available post birth only. The doctor at the campus hospital regularly looked at her, things were looking steady and good.

And then she got the pox. And badly. In those days, it used to take a long time to heal, could not take too strong medicines, lot of it had to be treated naturally, herbs and leaves. She got blisters all over her body, face, inside the mouth. It was pretty bad and she was in hospital for almost more than a month, just a couple of months before I was due. The doctor was very worried about how it may have impacted the baby. She told my mom not to expect too much, the baby could have been affected in multiple ways, mutilated, some organs not functioning well, at the least pock marks all over.

On the expected date,early evening, she was taken to the hospital, the doctor examiner her and said, you have more than 12 hrs to go, I have a party to attend. So the doctor went out to party saying she will be back in a few hours. Mom fell asleep. Dad went back to feed my bro and put him to sleep, promising to come back soon.

This was a small hospital inside the IITK campus, very few doctors, not like the busy multi specialty ones that are in vogue today. Pretty thinly staffed, few doctors available during day, hardly anyone during night. But mostly everyone stayed close by and easily reachable.

She woke up after an hour and could feel that baby was ready to peep out, and there was nobody around! She broke out in cold sweat. She was getting her pain waves quickly enough and knew from past experience she did not have enough time. She shouted for someone, but there was silence. She was desperate and did not quite know what to do. Even PSTN was not born then.

After a few minutes, the cleaning lady came in to sweep the room. Mom just clutched her hand tightly, My savior! I want the doctor NOW. The cleaning lady was- like what, the doctor will come when she is back, you have to wait. Be patient. She had seen so many patients with jitters before in her career.

My mom would not listen, this one crucial point in life, she held on desperately to the only human in her vicinity and kept repeating like a parrot, get the doctor, baby is coming. So the cleaning lady thought maybe she should take a look, she did and knew mom was right, baby was almost pushing herself out (talk about पूत के पावँ,  this was पूतनी का सर). And then she got busy, by some means called the doctor (even her party would have been close enough), got another staff doctor to come in. The hospital machinery started rolling.

An hour later, I shot into the big bad world with a cry and a yawn. As mom described “a small, white, perfect bundle of joy with no blemishes and imperfections”. The doctor held me up for inspection and said my eyes twinkled and thus my name. Blemishes came later.

As Maa wrote for me much later, once I turned into a brat

I have a pretty little girl

Who is as bright as a pearl

When she is good, she is very very good

But when she is bad, she is horrid!

family

 

Food Food

My relationship with food started when I was very young. Even as a kid, I loved the warmth of the place, the aromas and the dishes my parents cooked up. I vaguely remember sitting on the kitchen floor (our kitchen was huge, you could put a double bed and sleep), my mom making hot chapatis and my bro and I would hog like anything on simple  रोटी and भिंडी की सब्ज़ी. My dad also loved to cook, so when it was a question of specialty dishes, he would shoo mom out of the kitchen, turn his lungi into lambda/2, curse everyone around, and get going. Every couple of weeks, we would have family friends over, my parents would spend the day cooking and those coming would also bring some variety, and we would have a feast. I never knew how eating all that food never fattened me up (in contrast to even water being fattening these days).

So, was it surprising that I wanted to cook too? And my mom would not let me. See, in very early days, we had a kerosene stove, and she was not comfortable with me going close to it. When I was in about class VII, we got our first gas stove and suddenly I had access.. Still she would not let me. “You worry about your studies, you have your whole life ahead, ज़िन्दगी भर खाना तो बनाना ही है”. So what would a persistent brat like me do? I would wait for her to leave home and then I would do whatever the hell I wanted. The first vegetable I ever made was आलू की सब्ज़ी, when my parents were not at home. And it turned out to be somewhat edible, my parents ate it, with complaints, but finished it. And then there was no more stopping me.

Unlike a lot of educated girls in my generation, I knew the basic art and science of Indian cooking, all my spices and oils and what goes with what, several years before marriage. Yet, when I got married, my first kitchen experience with traditional “पापड़ सेकना आता है?”, was as tough as it goes. I passed, but barely. See, the papad turned out, not 100% flat, a little too much burnt in a few places, some pieces chipped off as I used a चिमटा and held it too tight. (I still do that, I can’t hold a papad with my bare fingers near the flames). Even after 20 odd years, I have only marginally improved. My bong food experience of yesteryear’s did not teach me “how to  सेकोfy a papad perfectly and impress your mil”.

Cooking after a full work day was not something to look forward to, but early days, I had the enthusiasm. And with practice, the daily bread churned out in one hr flat, with one curry, daal, rice and chapatis, thanks to the great invention called the pressure cooker and its separators. And once in awhile, we had friends over and I figured out quite a few things to cook, that wasn’t time consuming and went well with folks, including reusing leftovers.

These days, the biggest bottleneck with cooking is, the fellow who eats it. He will not have anything to do with pastas, but he loves Pizza; any kind of noodles is completely no, no. So most non-indian cuisines are ruled out. And he has a hate hate relationship with the most coveted spices like cloves and cinnamon. Any whiff of that and.. You end up hearing remarks like “ दाल में आज कुछ problem है” ,“सब्ज़ी hostel वाली लग रही है”, “इसमें गरम मसाला डाला है”. Talk of paranoia. The spice is not there in the house, and he can smell it. So, working with such restrictions, it is best to let the maid handle it and pass on the comments to her. In my home, you eat what the maid cooks up, or starve. Maybe he will be happy the day he can download food.

The interesting fact about cooking, my cooking, is that when I put a lot of effort into this art, the dish is typically a flop and I have had the pleasure to throw away stone cakes (cakes as hard as the adjective) which even insects refused to touch, creating food that people could barely eat and I had to finish it across three days.

The day I know my maid is going to be missing in action for the next seven (unbelievable) days, my temper starts soaring higher at the thought of being made to cook by maid. It doesn’t matter that I love cooking and it hardly takes me an hour to cook up an interesting meal from scratch (or a story like this one). My husband is content with खिचड़ी also, but when I decide to get worked up, I really work at it.

So day 1 is really, oh well, just दाल चावल. Excuse me, it does qualify as meal. And I have excuses, several of them eg, coming home tired after a hard day’s work (can you hear the dripping पसीना), followed by multiple calls and a long 3 ½ km brisk walk. Day 2 is more normal (the undying guilt of feeding दाल चावल to hubby) with रोटी and my special culinary delight called पत्तागोभी मटर (ugh, even I could barely ingest it).

Third day I decide to go experimental with अचारी दही वाली भिण्डी and when I hopefully look at my dear husband for an encouraging feedback, all I get was “ये कड़वी क्यों है?” How do I know, ask Sanjeev Kapoor. Embittered but emboldened, relentless search on the internet for the next designer dish from my exclusive boutique results in पनीर पुदीने काली मिर्च the next day (except that I forget the kalimirch part of it), but it is still a hit. Again my hopeful look (why don’t husbands get it, you are supposed to say it is awesome, to get something edible next day), and this time I got “अच्छी है”. Mere 2 words for an hours work! Wonder what I’ll try the next day? With all the encouragement I get, I would probably stick to safe खिचडी.

 

Whatsit?

Once upon a time there used to be a drawing room. And you could have friends and relatives over, sometimes uninvited, who you did not want to spend time with, but as a matter of familial courtesy, you had no choice. You had to smile at their pjs, you had to listen to their gibberish and suitably respond and sometimes say a few nonsensical things as well. The only good thing was, after some time there was a surety that the pain would be over, the people would leave for their respective homes, and you could apply the Jhandu balm and relax.

And then came whatsapp. And all serenity and peace in life was suddenly over. You not only had people you don’t know in your whatsapp room, they could talk to you whenever they wanted, whatever they wanted and you had no choice in the matter. The only advantage was, they could not see your reaction and hear your blasphemy. And you could throw away your mobile, and no one would be wiser.

Once upon a time, when emails first came into being, we were warned about chain mails and waste and viruses that would come and occupy our inbox and which we should never open as it may corrupt the computer, never to forward and more technical stuff like that.

And then came whatsapp. And you started getting all the same junk email, photos, videos which have eternal lives and keep on circulating for ever and ever and create the kind of waste you have always been warned about. And it came right to your drawing room and you felt smothered. And then you took a deep breath and thought about exiting the group. And dream about how peaceful life would have been without technology.

What do you have when 100 odd people who barely know each other but have the common factor of having graduated from the same Alma mater, come together after 25 years. In the drawing room days, you would have but met but once on the 25th anniversary, exchanged addresses and phone numbers and then forgotten each other’s existence for another 25 years or till you had Alzheimer’s, whichever was later. But now, life no longer being the same, with technology being around, everyone comes together forever on a whatsapp group and exchange meaningless posts that no one reads and follows. Trust me, if the people who share all the “things you should do for world and inner peace and your health and religion” followed 1/10th of their own advise, the world would be an infinitely better place.

Let me bust the myth about whatsapp, that it is the biggest thing since somebody said, let there be Internet. After racking my brain hard enough, I could come up with three primary uses of the app. And you can decide the usefulness based on your own priorities. First to talk to you son away in another country without spending a farthing ( sorry, still in UK mode). Second when you are shopping and cannot figure out whether to buy dress 1 or 2 or 3 or all of them, sending the images to your spouse to hear the confirmation “buy all of them”, and hence not feeling guilty. And lastly, sending new year and Diwali greetings free of cost to the entire phone book. Diwali greetings remind me, I am rather offended by those who keep on sending greetings for all the obscure occasions that happen almost every day in India, and don’t identify themselves. Just a ” best wishes on Hanuman Jayanti for you and your family” and message is over. Now the number isn’t stored in your phonebook, and the image is that of a kid/ celebrity whom you can’t place. So the dilemma of the century, do you know this person, doesn’t he/ she know you have absolutely no interest in any jayantibhai, should you ask the person his name? After lot of internal struggle you decide to ask in a small voice, do I know you? And quickly the response comes, Guess who! I give up. It is easier to just say, same to you and leave it at that.

Now we have the power to read all the jokes, first in text format, then with loads of smileys around it, then attributed to Santa-Banta, then to Jack and Jill, then husband and wife, then Tom and Jerry, and then the images start, same joke presented visually,… I am frustrated, I see these jokes in my sleep, and wake up, all drenched in sweat and trembling, (yeah it is hot too). And in every forum, the same joke gets forwarded, your college group, school friends, office, Facebook, and all jokes/fun/ whatever forums you subscribe to. Whatever happened to my privacy, when someone adds me to a group, why doesn’t the fellow ask me if I am interested and a timeout taken as a no (saves me from the internal struggle between the ardent desire to say no and the social stigma attached to it).  No, by default you get added, and then if you want to opt out, you have the next social dilemma of what will people think? Can I leave without a message pop up. Will people think I am too stuck up and unfriendly. Oh forget it, let me be there, mute it and not read anything ever.

And then it had to add videos, so now all YouTube videos are shared, all karaoke self sung songs that should have been trashed in the first place are shared. If I want to see or listen to YouTube, or Ted, I know how to type http://www.youtube.com, or whatever, you don’t have to force me. And what do you do with the 500 odd messages that you get daily? My mobile battery goes for a six, all the space in my mobile isn’t enough to store everything. Just imagine if all this was on paper, how much of mind boggling waste would we be generating. The digital world is overloaded with virtual trash. There goes my swachh mobile.

It is also a psychological torture. Other than my neck-ache, which I have been getting since I was subscribed into a few groups, sometimes, in order to be deemed an active member, you bring yourself to write something and post it. And then if there is no response for the next 10 minutes, there is this mental cycle of oh God, did I send something wrong, has it been shared before, should I remove it, why isn’t anyone responding, was it in bad taste, how can all of the 100 people be busy simultaneously, shall I exit from the grip. Uff. And my Jhandu balm is back. And the worst thing is people know whether you have read something or not, it is no longer big brother watching, everyone is watching. So it becomes a must to at least put a smiley or thumbs up after every post, especially after your mobile keyboard has given up on you. ( by the way I am still confused, in my days, showing the thumb or tongue used to be considered a taunt, cheeky, ever since the cold drink and smiley world came into existence, it seems to have become a positive reinforcement, when did the world change?).