Thursday, December 20, 2007


mmmm…it’s that time of the year when I am left reminiscing about how things went in the year gone by. After a lot of thought I am left with these 10 questions, which are haunting me time and again. Hopefully next year I can take off a couple of them from my list.

i) Why is it that I am capable of giving perfectly sound advice when it comes to other people and not able to think rationally when it comes to me???

ii) Why is it that I come out as a mature and level headed person (supposedly) to third parties whereas I am so pig headed and stubborn when it comes to close relationships???

iii) Why is it that I am stuffing my face with chips, nuts and all oily things (which by the way tastes so yummy but so bad for my waist) when I come back from work when my eyes refuse to see the perfectly healthy options which are placed right beside it???

iv) Why is it that I refuse to acknowledge all the important people in my life when all the while I am having imaginary conversations with them in my head???

v) Why is it that I know I ought to get in touch with family and close friends whereas I always postpone it with the same reason “May be later”???

vi) Why is it so difficult for me to get out of home on weekends when all through the week I make resolutions of walking around the nearby lake???

vii) Why is it that I get so jealous when I look at a well-turned out female when I know that getting back to shape is not such an insurmountable task???

viii) Why is it that only when I decide to go on a diet it is the festive season and thereby so much more temptations to resist???

ix) Why is it that I don’t make the effort to talk to more people whereas I am constantly looking for escape routes when I meet someone familiar from work at non-work events???

x) Why is it that I know so much about myself and still not able to change even an inch of the things where I am going wrong???

Sunday, December 16, 2007

You know you are growing older when…

1) The new movie heroes are actually younger than you … But thank God for Mammootty, Mohan Lal and our dear Rajni uncle!!! for as long as they are present in the tinsel industry even Mom feels young.
2) The latest heroines are literally half your age and even worse half your weight. But thank God for Madhuri Dixit. She knows the moves even at 40 and that too after 2 kids.
3) Li’l cousins who were just born yesterday handle computers, ipods and all possible electronics with the dexterity of a PRO where I am left fumbling and flustered. But thank God for the cousins’ moms. They make me feel like I am part of the “YO” generation.
4) Li’l cousins who were in frocks and shorts till yesterday suddenly metamorphises into young women who would put Ekta Kapoor’s leading ladies to shame – what with the jintak salwar kameez and matching accessories and Gosh!!! Is that “A kutty” in a shiffon sari??#$#% Thank God for family who has given up on me and let me stay in my trademark signature style – unwashed jeans and uncombed hair ;-p
5) You switch on MTV and not even a single song seems remotely familiar to you. But thank God for Google, where you are sure to find the long lost songs of youth and the first strands of the song is just enough to make you feel 16.

Friday, December 14, 2007

My First Tag!!!

Here comes my first tag in the blogworld. My new friend in the blogsphere has tagged me and here I am doing the honours… Trumpets plzzzzz

5 unique things found in my room:
Now since we live in an apartment I have twisted the room bit to apartment. So here comes the “5 unique things found in my apartment”.

The most unique thing in my house is undoubtedly hubby. Sis and all the people who know him will guarantee that he is one in a trillion.

Him apart, here is the list of unique things:

i) A miniature music box, which plays the tune of “Raindrops keep falling on my head.”

ii. A Turkish eye protecting our house courtesy our Turkish landlords.

iii. Collection of hats in various sizes and shapes from different countries courtesy hubby’s fascination for the same.

iv. A candle holder in the shape of Buddha courtesy a friend who is deeply spiritual.

v. A tiny nativity scene in glass from Venice. The beauty is magnified by the frailty and the smallness of the piece.

5 unique things found in my bag:
A word of advice to Dear Mathew. Never ever E.V.E.R. question the contents of a girls bag. Girls normally have the world in their bag. Since I have a bag cum wallet cum garbage bin, I would take up one of the questions.

i. Visiting cards – now the question is what is so unique about them??? Well, they are my old visiting cards from my ex-organisation. Just a reminder of the old times.

ii. A picture of an elephant drawn by a dear friend 5 years back. Yes, I am a hoarder of old things and also very sentimental (yup right, more mental than senti).

iii. A diary of phone numbers and essential contact information. This is something, which I have with me since the last 15 years. (Now I can see the raised eyebrows and more people agreeing on the mental part ;-) )

iv. A picture made by my kutti cousin. When she presented the drawing to me, I oohed and aahed at it for some time and thanked her for the pic of goldfish in the pond. Its only when she corrected me I understood that she had drawn a parrot in the cage ;-)

v. An assortment of chapsticks :- plain, flavoured, glitter, etc. After all you are peeking into the contents of a girl’s bag…what else did you expect? Now Mathew, this is G.I.R.L.Y… not a tube of Vaseline ;-P

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Are we growing antisocial as we grow older?

This is a question, which I have been asking myself frequently. It is not as if I have been a very social person all my life. Till some time back (ok, make it a few years back) it was very easy for me to smile and do a “Hi, how are you? ” and talk about weather, global warming and other such social niceties. But it has always been very difficult for me to let somebody become really close to me. I have now reached a point wherein I don’t want to go to large gatherings consisting of mostly unknown people.

I heaved a sigh of relief when my close friend also complained about the same thing. Atleast I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am not the only one having this problem. I guess the basic reason is that as we grow older we become more averse to change. We also become more confident about ourselves and we are at a point where we don’t bother whether are popular or not. Also it becomes very difficult to find people with the same wavelength. Earlier it was easy for me to relate to people even if there was a single common thread between us. But, now I am finding that it is not enough. On top of this I see a spate of networking sites opening up left, right and centre and I am left wondering whether is it just me who is feeling very antisocial?

Orkut, Facebook, Yaari, Dushmani, what nots… these kind of sites are just multiplying exponentially. Though yours truly is present in one such site (didn’t understand the logic to join multiple sites and meet the exact same people in all the sites), I have just made 2 new friends whom I didn’t know before. One thing I see commonly as an introduction is “I am here only to keep in touch with my old friends. If you don’t know me personally, don’t add me as your friend.” Now I confess I too have something on very similar lines on my profile page. To my defense, I am fed up with people having profiles like “Luv me plzzzzz” and “Yours foreverrrrr” begging me for frandsheeps. Now I have very clearly mentioned in “Vendakka aksharam” (Bold & Big letters) that I am married and have also listed out my sterling virtues (pessimistic and antisocial being some of them) but these requests still keep coming. Though I would have to admit it does give my ego quite a kick that Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt had come requesting "friendsheeps" and I turned them down, how I wish they were the real ones and not the “desi” clones.

Now the networking sites do resemble Venice during its carnival time. How else do you explain the multitude of Hrithik Roshans, Deepika Padukones and Aishwarya Rais in my friends list? On the last count I am friends with atleast 3 Deepikas, 2 Lindsays and 4Hrithiks. Now this is a very dynamic situation as “Deepika” can suddenly morph into “Kate Winslet” depending on the “friend’s” immediate frame of mind. What is it about the Internet that makes people try on different masks? Also what is it about the Internet that makes people do things that they will never dream of doing in real life. I know of adolescents who would break into a sweat if a beautiful girl walked past by and the same boys don’t think twice before sending friendship requests to some girl who happens to be a friend of neuighbour’s daughter’s classmate’s relative. Whew!!! All these are rhetorical questions and yes, everyone knows the answers to these questions as well. One word, anonymity.

While I am being over the hill and rejecting all the “louveee” coming my way, I am extremely dazed that my “kutti” cousins some of them all of 10 years are chatting away to glory to totally unknown people whose profile pics makes me think that they have just got out of jail. What is it with today’s world? On one side there are people like me who neither have the drive nor initiative to make new friends and on the other side people who take intense pleasure in sending friendship requests to just anybody and everybody in the site. Where do you draw the line? I sincerely hope and pray that my “kutti” cousins know where to draw the line.

Oops, instead of discussing on people becoming anti-social, this post has turned into a tirade against networking sites. Somehow my views seem very negative when it’s put down in black and white. Networking sites also have its positives. I should admit that I have met some of my long lost school friends thanks to such sites. More so it helps people specifically like me who ended up studying all over India.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fit as a fiddle

Now don’t get me wrong… The title is no reference to my current physical condition. It is one of my fervent dreams to achieve this condition for the past 3 years and still counting….
While I would like to believe that I am pleasantly plump, my hubby and family have very cruelly demystified my belief by using the darn 3-letter word F.A.T. So proactively *that is after some 6 months of dilly-dallying* I joined my office gym.

I had to take a fitness test before I got to use the fitness facilities. So after successfully scoring single digit points out of a total score of 100 which convinced my instructor that this girl is in urgent need of the facility she let me join. Since some of my colleagues use the gym in the evenings, I very cleverly went for the afternoon slot.

Now, the first day at the changing room, I almost died of shock. I went in and I was faced with women of all sizes and shapes very nonchalantly changing into their gym clothes. (Thankfully they have separate changing rooms for men and women) I made a dash for the shower cabinet, locked it and got into my gym clothes in record speed and ran out. Next came the onerous task to actually start working out. When I gingerly kept my right foot (yes, I am very traditional) into the hallowed territory dreaming open eyed about the slim trim new improved version of me, again I almost died a sudden death, this time due to acute embarrassment. I was the ONLY one wearing ammachi* types tracks (that too in bright red colour) and a matronly T-shirt. Wait a minute, I take it back, even my ammachi won’t be caught dead wearing those tracks while the others were attired in teeny-weeny figure hugging biking shorts and sleeveless Tees. I tell you, these sights were already dousing my enthusiasm and doing nothing for my already plummeting morale, but still I lingered on in the vision of my improved self, which I would attain in a few weeks time. (Did I tell you that I am optimistic???)

My instructor then got around to showing me the functionality of the cross trainers, treadmill, rowing machine and what nots… Since the treadmill was something I felt comfortable, heaved myself up and got things going. I had visions of starting to run like P.T.Usha while the least I could manage was perform the mini earthquake sequence like Shilpa Shirodkar* in some Bollywood dance number.

Now I am all for people who can run effortlessly on the treadmill. I can just salivate looking at their stamina and I get the nice feeling that I am the one who is losing all the calories when they do all the hard work. After the Shirodkar episode, I have been avoiding the treadmill like plague. Now my latest friend is the cross trainer. So while I work out the dynamics of the “push- stamp” cross trainer routine while still ogling at the treadmill dudes, it is time for the ab exercises.

Now this is the most demoralizing exercise of the lot where time and again I am made to realize that colleagues double my age have triple my flexibility. As I grit my teeth and stretch, I constantly think that there must be seriously wrong with me to willingly submit myself through the sheer torture of stretching my TTs*. This is the time when the mirage of the slim trim new improved version of me becomes really very hazy. I have three quarters of the mind to chuck it all and head to the café for that sinful chocolate brownie.

All the above forms of torture are still bearable but what I find really horrendous is when some known colleague comes to gym in the afternoon slot. I get a stomach crunching feeling of being underdressed when my colleagues catch me in the gym. You can tackle them in formal wear with confidence with strategically placed scarfs and shawls which hide the bulge but when they see you in your red ammachi tracks, you get the sensation very akin to when you are caught stealing. (Not that I have much expertise in stealing) Anyways all you can do is to give a “valicha chiri”* and continue sporting.

All these forms of torture have done absolutely nothing to my physique. In fact my weighing scale will tell you in confidence that I have gained a couple more kilos, which you will never hear from moiself. Colleagues have come and gone and in the meanwhile lost 10 kilos whereas all I have done is come and gone.

Seriously you won’t think that it is due to the fact, that I have been having a lot more chocolate brownies, muffins, cookies, tarts, and pastries now that I have started gymming. In fact, the sole reason that I am having all these is to reward my body for the torture I am putting it through with the strenuous workouts and ab crunches. Anyways, tomorrow is an other day and I still have visions of the slim trim new improved version of me. (Well, I did say before that I am optimistic, didn’t I ???)

* Ammachi - grandmother
* Shilpa Shirodkar – A former Bollywood heroine who was very generously endowed. Usual romantic Bollywood dance numbers became hilarious when she was shown trampling some poor Switzerland hill with her slow motion run.
* Valicha chiri – a watered smile which is more of a grimace rather than a smile
*TTs – I can’t be telling you everything. Go figure it yourself ;-p

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Shared Hobbies!

Lately I have been reading a lot of relationship ‘gyan’ courtesy the e-papers. Every paper worth its salt, pepper and turmeric is devoting a lot of screen space on guiding us poor mortals on better relationships. Must be the growing divorce rate is a cause of concern to these well-intentioned papers. The surprising fact is that they are only guiding us on bettering our relationships with our better half’s and not with parents and siblings. (If there was ever a course on better relationship with siblings, I am sure that mom would have certainly signed up sis & me. Mom used to live in mortal fear that one of us was surely going to kill the other one. Very plainly put, there was no love lost between us, sisters. Now that we both have passed teenage with both of us surviving, I am sure mom has all the experience to author a book on “Relationship guidance for siblings.”)

Coming back to the relationship gyan for spouses, the common point, which I saw in all the newspapers, is “Have some common hobbies / activities. Love and intimacy increases when you both share some of the activities.” Suggestions given were 1) Cook together 2) Go out together, 3) I stopped reading after that. As I was going through the suggestions, my heart was plunging towards the deepest depths of despair, as I couldn’t find a single activity which yours truly and hubby dear (here after addressed as HD) had initiated which ended happily and with more love. All our joint activities ended with one of us (mainly me) going off into a sulk.

The main reason being much as we love each other we are as different as chalk and cheese. Please read further for illustrations:

i) Cooking together drives me mad: After I got married and stepped into this territory called kitchen which I had rarely visited in the pre marriage days, HD came with this theory of sharing kitchen work. Now for a novice like me who was busy making sambhar slush and unchewable rice the last thing I wanted to hear was “This is not the right way to cook XYZ dish.” HD was getting on my nerves giving me unsolicited advice when I was desperately trying not to burn down the kitchen. So we came with first of our “shared activity”: “You cook, I clean” whereby yours truly did the onerous task of cooking something remotely palatable and HD did the post cleaning activity (I do make a royal mess of the kitchen). Also to be remembered during this “shared activity” is that the other half is not allowed entry into the kitchen.

ii) Watching TV together makes me mad: We have very different tastes even in television watching. I am in this phase wherein I am totally into investigative thrillers and hospital drama, which shows cutting bodies as easy as cutting vegetables for the Veg.kurma. All this blood and gore is making HD puke whereas yours truly is totally glued on to her seat. (Did I hear anyone calling us women as delicate darlings???) HD is a total sports and news aficionado. His mode of TV watching is watch football match and tennis match simultaneously and between breaks move on to BBC and CNN and wait was it Boxing on the other channel? Now yours truly whose only known sporting activity in school was bird watching and gossiping cannot take this overdose of sports. So here comes our next “shared activity”: “You watch TV, I watch episodes of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ on the Internet.” So now there is lots of love after this ‘shared activity’ as HD has got his daily quota of sports and I have my daily quota of movies, gossips and songs courtesy the Internet.

iii) Why would any sane person want to move his / her butt on a weekend???: HD tried to entice me into more “shared activities”. For somebody who doesn’t want to move out of the house unless it is on fire or for some essential grocery shopping so that the inmates don’t die of hunger, I don’t see the logic of going out on a weekend. I am perfectly happy to curl up on the cozy sofa and read to my heart’s content (I have to finish a book when I start whereas hubby reads one book a year) or watch TV or to just look out at the amazing scenery. HD doesn’t agree to my viewpoint, for he is somebody who can’t sit still. HD is one person who doesn’t go to the theatres to watch movies as he finds it an impossibility to sit still for 3 hours. I wonder how his poor teachers handled him in school. I have heard that most of his teachers took voluntary retirement. (pssst, don’t tell HD ;-) ) So here comes our next “shared activity”: “ You go out, I don’t budge an inch from the sofa.” I personally guarantee the success of this “shared activity” as by the time HD comes home dead tired from tennis, shuttle, squash, jam, butter, etc. I am looking forward to some company other than moiself and is willing to lent a patient ear to hubby’s exploits in the sports field. Must say HD feels gratified that he has a loving wife who listens to all his sports field stories without even blinking an eyelid even when he says he has thrashed all the others. (I am so good for HD’s pride.)

iv) Shopping makes me go mad: I am somebody who HATES shopping. I have heard that there is a fridge, which senses that milk is over and will automatically send an order to the supermarket. Now, if anybody has already built this fridge, please get in touch with me as you have just found yourself a new customer. The place where I live, the people mistake the supermarket to be the church where people gather after the Sunday morning mass to bitch about others. Here people don’t go for mass but all of them land up in the supermarket with huge bags to exchange pleasantries. People if you really want to bitch about others, could you please move that freaking trolley from the middle of the vegetable section??? Shopping instead of a relaxing activity is a high Blood Pressure activity for me. Now, HD, the inquisitive soul that he is, has to look at every product in the store and every discount that is on offer whereas I am like a horse on a derby match solely looking at attaining my goal of provision shopping under 34.33 minutes flat and gallop triumphantly out of the shop. Now comes our next “shared activity”: “I shop for provisions, You shop for meat and anything else which catches your fancy.”

v) Listening to music: This is an activity, which is guaranteed as a sure hit by the relationship tutors. I have to grudgingly concede this point to them. Now HD and me have very different tastes in music also as we do for a 1056 other things under the sun. Whereas I am more into the semi classical and melodious songs, HD is into the “dhinchak beats wala” songs. But we do share some common ground in the music of Bryan Adams, Ace of Base, Sting and lately Harris Jeyaraj. Yours truly has to listen to a song atleast 100 times if she has fallen for it. HD bore the brunt of it when he had to listen to the songs of “Vettaiyadu Vilayadu” for atleast 364 times and still counting. Now he has reached the conclusion that he loves these songs. Poor guy didn’t have a choice as these songs are irrevocably drilled into his brain as I have been listening to these songs non-stop every waking moment. So our next “shared activity” is “You listen to your music for 1 hour, I listen to my music the next one hour unless it is Harris Jeyaraj, Sting, Bryan Adams, etc., etc.”

Seeing the success rates of our shared activities, we came to a conclusion that we didn’t want any more shared activities as we were sure that if we did anything more together we are surely heading towards Splitsville. We were standing at the tram station and discussing about this point in the midst of me pointing out beautiful girls to him and commenting on them when suddenly the bulb (ting! For sound effects) lit in my brain. Halleluah!!! We do have an actual “shared activity” and that is Ladies and Gentleman (a half second pause for better effect) is bird watching!!!

Now I am somebody who appreciates beauty in any form and HD is after all a poor male whose head automatically turns if a PYT (pretty young thing, you moron) is anywhere in his 5 km vicinity. Both of us love looking at PYTs and discussing their best feature on display. It could be lovely green eyes, parrot beak nose or a toned butt for that matter. Both of us are great connoisseurs of beauty and tend to have interesting conversations during our daily train ride to office thanks to our “shared activity”. I am sure that, people who overhear our conversation will definitely mistake me for a L*****N but who cares, we are in the midst of our “shared hobby / activity” and enjoying it for a change ;-)

Am back!!!


am back and that too after a loooooong break....

Friday, July 6, 2007

Terrible Two

And I thought terrible two was only for babies…

Most of us would have heard of the term ‘Terrible Two’ in connection with babies. If you haven’t heard of this term, it is the phase wherein absolutely angelic babies start behaving like brats. You tell them something and they behave the opposite. It is the phase wherein babies are tying to establish their identities.

I for one have found a strange coincidence of terrible two in marital life as well (personal experience). Like a newborn, marital life is also hunky dory in the first year. Everything is new and exciting with the first flush of love and adrenaline. Like first time parents patiently taking care of the newborn, new spouses are all understanding and self-sacrificing trying to be the paragon of virtues. But as time passes by, patience level also drops. As parents start disciplining the child, he realizes that things are not rosy as it was before. He does not like it and starts with his tantrums and whining.

I guess the same goes for marriage as well. As spouses settle into marital life, things, which you could earlier easily shut your eyes to and say as wonderful quirkiness of your spouse, become major irritants. “Ohh, she’s so reserved. How cute!” becomes “Why the hell can’t she be more social? @#$%#@” and “He loves sports. That’s so cool!!!” becomes “Why the hell can’t he watch something other than sports on TV???%&”

Like a child, spouses also start with their tantrums and whining. The major fear being that one’s identity should not be lost. Whereas the child fights to create his identity, the partners fight to retain their identity. In all these melee, people end up being hurt but also learn more about the other person, which you would have never found out during a candle light dinner.

The good thing is that babies don’t remain two forever and so does marriage. Both grow up. So now starts the next phase where kids and spouses are confident of who they are. So the fights and skirmishes are reduced to a large extent with an occasional one here and there. Parents learn to enjoy the kids for who they are, of course, with disciplining them wherever necessary and spouses also reach a compromise and begin to enjoy the real persons whom they have gotten married to.

Life goes on hunky dory and terrible two is largely forgotten except to pull each other’s legs about the fights that took place and then comes the next big thing wherein terrible two seems nothing in comparison. You guessed it right. It is TEENAGE. By now spouses forget about themselves and their differences and concentrate on their teenaged kids so that they can grow up into confident adults.

Will let you know if there is any similarity between teenage in children and in marriage when I cross that bridge. For now, let me get geared up for my next fight with hubby :-)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Conversations with Family

To my dear li’l cousin sisters,

How are you, my beautiful girls? I look at you and wonder how fast time has flown by. Wasn’t it just yesterday you were all fighting amongst yourselves wanting to be flower girls at S uncle’s wedding? All of you were on your best behaviour as your mothers had threatened you naughty girls that you wouldn’t get a chance to be flower girls if you threw tantrums.

I still remember the look of awe and wonder in your faces when sis & me landed home from Bombay for the summer vacations. You all very timidly asked us “Malayalam samsarikumo?”(Do you speak Malayalam?) I know it was our devilish uncles’ who had brainwashed you little ones into thinking we are some pseudo mallus, but believe me when I say that we are true blue mallus.

Being the eldest at home, there is too much of age difference between us. Dear T-kutty, you are old enough to be my daughter and whenever you call me “chechi” and show me one of your new discoveries, (like the time you discovered shampoo is for washing your hair) your words definitely tug at my heartstrings. Dear N, I still have the drawing you made of the parrot in the cage. I am very sorry I mistook it for a goldfish in the tank when you gave it to me.

In this year, some of you are finishing your twelfth standard, one of you getting into twelfth and some getting into high school. Its an eventful year for all of you.

For the ones getting into college, enjoy this new phase of your life. College life is one of the most enjoyable and beautiful phases of your life. Study hard and party harder. I am sure that a lot of boys are going to fall for you. Its OK to fall in love but don’t let that cloud your studies. Your focus should be to study well and be independent. And in the meanwhile if you have managed to find your life partner as well, what’s the harm? But if you are going to come home with poor grades and the reason being heartache or lack of concentration due to this good-looking boy, I will surely whack you.

Dear gals, empower yourselves, as your family is not going to be around you for the rest of your life. There will be times when you have to take decisions for yourselves. There will be times when you will have to go to new places for study, work, etc. Its ok to feel scared but don’t let the fear overcome you.

Believe in yourselves. Don’t feel disheartened when you hear some bad comments because you are all beautiful, intelligent, smart and confident girls. And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Loads of Luv,

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mallu Weddings

I come home and there I see an envelope in cream and gold and I know for sure that one of our cousins is tying the knot. What is it with Malayalees and their fixation with gold? Gold is such an integral part to every Keralite that no ceremony is complete without the presence of the yellow metal. Hence it is a matter taken for granted that you would see an excess of it during the Malayalee weddings.

When you are travellling by road in Kerala, every second hoarding you would see will be an advertisement for jewellery stores. Alappat, Alukkas, Kalyan are some of the names which I recall immediately, but these are just the big players in the jewellery market. There are several small players too. It’s hilarious to see paintings of male Malayalam film stars on the jewellery hoardings. Very often you would find Mammooty or Mohan Lal wearing a huge chain or an atrocious gold bracelet on huge hoardings smiling at you with the name K.R.Jewellers or something to that effect written right beneath it.

Shopping for gold before the wedding is a major event. As lakhs of rupees is spent, the entire family goes for the shopping escapade. The girl is made to wear every chain and bangle and opinion of all and sundry are asked to see whether that particular piece is fit to be bought. Normally, the boy’s and the girl’s family shop together for the wedding rings and the “thali”. Mullamuttu mala (jasmine bud chain), Palakka mala (chain with green stones), Manga mala (Mango chain) are some of the traditional chains, which are sure to be found in every mallu bride’s trousseau.

Irrespective of the religion, in any Mallu wedding, you would normally find the bride bathed in gold. She resembles a mannequin in the jewellery store. Very often she is found with her head bowed down. It’s not because she is trying to look demure and coy but due to the fact that her neck is weighed down by almost 30-40 sovereigns of gold. If she ever fell into the water, she would drown for sure. From head to toe, there is gold everywhere. It is not unusual for a bride to have dizzy spells during the weddings as she is covered in gold plus golden kancheevaram sari plus the incessant lighting of the videographer and added to it the thousands of people who are crowded in the wedding venue.

There are lots of families who get special jewellery made for their daughter’s weddings so that they will have jewellery that no one else have seen before. Such is the craze for something different that people even travel to Delhi and Jaipur to get authentic kundan jewellery. These, then become a closely guarded open secret (which everybody knows) and is taken out on the day of the wedding so that none would copy the design. The bride’s jewellery is a matter of intense discussion and debate among the ladies at the wedding. From the design of all the items displayed on the bride, to the cost of each item to the place where the jewellery is bought is the major topic of conversation during the wedding feast.

Fashions in gold are also subject to change. Earlier you would find the bride wearing 3 feet long chains whereas now you would find her wearing chockers. Now the preference is slowly but surely changing to diamonds. Nowadays thankfully, the focus is on simplicity and comfort of the bride rather than the ostentatious display of wealth. So it should not be shocking if you find the bride wearing a single diamond chain on her wedding day like I did for mine. But then I guess I may be one of the exceptions than the norm. However, it is very difficult to imagine an authentic mallu wedding sans the yellow metal.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Life as Banker’s Children

I was in the midst of another doodle when I received a call from Dad informing me of yet another of his transfers. This time around he has been posted to Bombay. (I refuse to use the name ‘Mumbai’) As banker’s kids we have been dragged across to a whole lot of places. We have done our schooling in about 4-5 schools. We have made friends and have borne the pain of having to leave them. This time around it was easier to accept as number one, I don’t stay with them as I have set up my own establishment and number two, sis is almost on the verge of completing her degree, so dad can move without worrying about admission and stuff like that.

Dad is somebody who has always been very averse to the idea of hostels. So whenever there was a transfer we all moved lock, stock and barrel. Luckily for me, transfers came at easier times in my student life. It was my sis who bore the brunt of transfers in her crucial student years with transfers in her 9th and 11th standard and also having to learn Marathi in her 6th Standard. The poor girl was saddled with learning a totally alien language and to give her credit she did it very well.

I don’t remember much about the first transfer. I was barely 5 and have only faint recollections of going to the new school. I guess the enormity of change was too much to be realized by a 5 year old. Then came next transfer after 5 years. Now I was this 10 year old who refused to leave my school, my friends and no way I was going off to an alien place. But no amount tears and tantrums seemed to melt Dad’s heart.

Then we landed up in the educational capital of India, Madras. (I refuse to use the name “Chennai” as well.) Now coming from the land of water, water everywhere, it was difficult to adjust to the hot, humid and perpetually water scarce Madras. The first day at school was full of trepidation, as we knew no one in the new school. From being queens at our old school, we were total nobodies here. But children being children manage to mingle fast and within a short span of time we were speaking English and Tamil fluently. One major factor that Dad took a transfer to the metro was that his children would become smart. (Dad must be wondering now as to why he has two outspoken and opinionated daughters as against the timid ‘garelu’ (homely) daughters of his cousins)

After another 5 years came the next transfer to Bombay. If I were still in Madras I would be going to school. But as we landed in Bombay, I was going to Junior college. College life in Bombay is the best, with so many days, Rose Day, Friendship Day, Traditional Day. I thoroughly enjoyed my junior college days whereas little sis was busy mugging up Marathi. I should say I truly became a little bit more confident about myself after being in Bombay. I was transformed from a bespectacled student with braces on her teeth to a contact lens no braces girl. Must say it did wonders for my morale.

Every time, we went home for the summer vacations, our family members were anxiously waiting to see the change in us. Whenever we went home from Madras, we were called ‘Pandis’. We were mercilessly teased by granddad and uncles to take a proper bath in bountiful Kerala to get rid of all the accumulated dirt. The most shocking look was when I landed home from Bombay in my jeans, short top and contact lens.
In MasterCard terms:
Black & White top : Rs.200
Black Jeans : Rs. 750
Contact Lens : Rs. 1250
Look on family’s face: Priceless

Must say my transformation from a geeky kid into a non-geeky teenager was startling to the family. Now don’t think I have metamorphosised into this beautiful swan. Its just that this duckling has been given in the outer trappings of contact lens and other paraphernalia so that she can atleast attempt to pass off as a swan :-)

From the hep Bombay, Dad got yet another transfer to Kerala. Now sis and me were not too delighted with this transfer as by now we had outgrown Kerala. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Kerala but I find it stifling after 2 weeks. The men with their twitching nerve problems (njarmbu rogam), the MCPs who think all women are theirs to comment on and pinch, etc. etc. Added to it the countless family functions we had to attend. Now being out of Kerala for more than 7 years apart from the mandatory summer vacations, it was claustrophobic to meet the same relations week after week for some baptism, first holy communion, engagement, marriage, funeral, housewarming, etc., etc. Added to it, the pain of arranging outfits for all these functions. I must add that most of my cousins have photographic memory when it comes to dresses and boyfriends and crushes. So heaven help you if you attempted to wear an outfit more than once in the nearby timeframe. We were reminded with precision as to for which aunty’s daughter’s engagement we wore the same outfit with which shoes and earrings. Whew! For people whose only known outfits was old jeans, tees and uncombed hair this was too much of a makeover.

Mom was the only happy woman those days as she got to see her messy daughters wearing something nice and that too with combed hair. But all good things (bad things for us, sisters) come to an end and so within one and a half year, Dad got his next transfer to Sadi Dilli. Now as I was in the midst of a professional course I didn’t really suffer much but Dad had a lot of running around to do to get my sis admitted into the second half of 9th std. Dad ran around all the convent schools carrying letters from parish priests to Bishops but the hard hearted nuns didn’t budge even an inch. One prestigious convent school in Delhi said that they would admit sis in 8th std and not in 9th. To think of the temerity of these people; this paltry offer, inspite of my sister having very good academic records. You wouldn’t believe me when I say, that these stupid people called up home in the annual vacation offering my sister seat in the 9th std when she was busy preparing for her 10th std.

But thankfully, one brave principal took one look at my sister’s academic records and agreed to admit her in the 9th std. Must say that due to principals like her, banker’s kids like us are able to complete our schooling without any breaks in the academic career.

Delhi was a revelation as this was the first brush with winters for us mallus. For people who knew only two types of climate till then (hot and hotter) courtesy Madras, Kerala and Bombay, the first winter was terrible as we were ill equipped to deal with it. But over the years, my family loves winters and looks forward to it with as much excitement as a true Punjabi. Must say the first brush of winter was not exactly nice to yours truly as she had to get up at unearthly hours, run to attend classes in the midst of thick fog and then run from there to office and from there to the next set of classes from evening till night and then limp back home. This was a very tough time for me but thanks to the prayers of near & dear ones and a bit of hard work from yours truly managed to pull it off very well.

The only irritating thing with Bombay and Delhi and the rest of India, is that any person becomes a Madrasi even if that person is from any one of the southern states. I have shouted myself hoarse a 100 times saying that there are 4 different states in the south of India and not one lump of earth called “Madras”. The other thing, which I got to hear even with more frequency, was that “Aap Madrasi lagte nahin ho, aap itne gore ho” (You don’t look like a Madrasi as you are fair). This line used to get my blood boiling. One thing being called Madrasi and the second thing being that all people from South India are assumed to be coal black. I took pains initially to explain to these ignorant people that not all people were coal black in the landmass of Madras but after a point of time I just acted as if I hadn’t heard this particular dialogue. It was easier not to react than to get all angry and bothered.

Very soon Dad got his next transfer and this time around back to Madras :-) I was happy as I was getting a chance to meet my close school friends. This time around we were shocked to see the transformation in Madras. From a conservative and orthodox duckling Madras was changing into a hip swan. I guess IT industry and call centers have a huge role to play in this makeover. With a lot of IT companies setting shop in Madras, there was an exodus of non-Madrasis into Madras thereby polluting the orthodox climate of Madras. Whereas 10 years back you would have seen girls in pavadai-davani (half saris) with mallipoo (jasmine) and mookkuthi (nose ring) it is very easy to spot traditional girls in jeans with mallipoo, mookkuthi and the pottu (bindi).

I was in the last leg of my professional course and doing the whole rigmarole of classes, office and more classes. Must say that being at Madras for the last lap of my professional course really helped me as it scared the shit out of me when I realized I knew nothing about the course. How do you feel when there are thousands of iyers and iyengars who solve sample question papers as easy as gulping down “thayir sadam” and ask profound questions like “Did you try question No. 2(b) from the year 1993. I have found an alternative solution for the same”. For yours truly who had not even set her eyes on the question set from the year 2000, this was a wake up call that if I wanted to pass my exams, I really need to study and that too fast. Sis was having a good time at her school with her discovery that her super long tongue could be put in good use in the field of extra-curriculars. Thereby life was going busy for both of us when Dad drops his bombshell that he has been posted to Delhi again. Now with Sis in the midst of her 11Std and me almost finishing my course there was a lot of confusion.

Dad was very sure on taking the entire family to his next posting as well. Dad, this time went straight back to the kind principal who had last time given admission to sis in the midst of 9th and asked her to help us out this time again as well and the kind lady obliged us again. Sis got busy with preparing for her boards whereas I had just completed my first professional course. Now, this was a long time back and now after 6 years, Dad has been told of his next transfer. This time around, Sis has almost finished her first professional course and is about to finish her internship and start with her masters.

Must say that Dad and mom must be a bit relieved and relaxed this time around as they don’t have to look out for kind principals.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Cooking Experiments

My early recollections of entering the kitchen to make something would be when I was about 13 years old. Dad being the overprotective father that he is was scared that we would end up cutting our fingers or burning ourselves. I guess the paranoia was due to the fact that my sister had got scalded with hot tea when she was a year old.

Even when I entered the kitchen at 13, I didn’t make any earth shattering cordon bleu delicacy. Like all novices, I started with the humble tea. My family stoically bore the burden of drinking the tea I made. I guess mom & dad were trying to encourage me to cook but sis being the person that she is bluntly refused to come anywhere near my tea. My mother refused to promote me to the higher class in cooking school. I was stuck in the class, which made tea for endless years. The only other work she used to give me was peeling onions and garlic and washing the dishes. I thought that may be a couple of months later she would let me make something, atleast an omlette. But no, I was stuck with peeling onions. I was discouraged and refused to enter the kitchen.

Then came the phase of board exams and higher studies. At that time there was only time to shuttle from one class to the other, study, come home, eat something and fall asleep. Home at that time resembled a hotel, as all I did was eat and sleep there. Once I completed my studies I started working. By this time, kitchen had become an alien territory. Here was this 21-year-old girl whose only known culinary skills was making tea and peeling onions. Now mom was getting paranoid as who would marry a girl who could only make tea. Mom was desperately trying to entice me to the kitchen but why would I want to leave the Jeffrey Archer I was reading and go and peel onions? Mom was getting nightmares of my mother-in-law scolding her for not equipping her daughter with the requisite skills in the kitchen.

I had very clearly told my husband before marriage that I was terrible in the kitchen. One of the things I had asked mom, as a wedding gift was a recipe book where she listed out the common malayalee dishes. As soon we set up home, I was sent to London on a project. Though I was heartbroken to leave my hubby soon after marriage, it was actually a blessing in disguise. I was staying with 4 girls who made excellent food. I assisted them in the cooking process and gained the much-needed confidence. The day I came back home from London, I surprised or rather shocked my hubby with half cooked rice, really thick sambhar (almost a sambhar slush), unchewable ‘payar’ (lentils) and a nice payasam. Even though the food was barely edible, hubby was pleased with my effort. He could atleast expect to have food at home rather than the takeaways which he had resigned himself to for the rest of his life.

Then came the phase of having friends over at home. In the earlier times, I was hyper tensed at the outcome of the cooking. Most of hubby’s bachelor friends were ready to eat anything provided it was cooked at home. They were my brave guinea pigs (they really hogged like pigs too. So it is a literal and figurative comparison) who willingly placed their lives in my hands. They have had the honour of drinking my pulav, having dosa maps and eating burnt chicken among other things. But as time passed by I have realized that I had observed a lot of things which my mom did while I was peeling onions. I seem to remember when the masalas need to be put and so on. Now I can say that I am a fairly decent cook and you needn’t be scared for your life, if you came home for dinner.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Super Women

I am witnessing a surprising phenomenon these days. I see that the average marriageable age for a woman is going up and for the man is coming down. I am not sure whether this is an occurrence only in India or the world over. I see that women from my generation want more out of life. They are not satisfied with finishing their studies and getting married and settling into a life revolving around husband and kids.

Women of today want high paying jobs, want jobs with responsibility and power. Gone are the days when women opted for a strict 10-5 job so that they could spend more time with the family. Nowadays, I see Indian women jet-setting around the globe, attending business meetings and being part of the top management.

I am talking about the average woman and not overachievers like Indra Nooyi or Lalitha Gupte. This change has percolated down to the average woman in any metropolitan city and is slowly going deeper down to the women in towns. I had a male friend jokingly ask me as to why women are taking up professional degrees. He said men have to study better than the girls, get more marks, get higher paying jobs and then marry somebody who considers them as good husband material. He said that it is too much pressure to be handled by an average male.

Earlier a woman who had not had atleast 2 kids by the age of 28 was considered different, whereas now I see that women are not even married by 28. You really can’t fault the woman, as there is a paucity of overachieving men in comparison to the number of overachieving women in existence these days. One girl friend told me that whereas girls have become smarter compared to the earlier generation, men have remained the same. So it has become really difficult for the girls of today’s generation to get married to a guy with the mindset of the prior generation.

None of today’s gals would get married to a guy who expects his wife to be home by 6 and has dinner ready by the time he comes home. I am not saying that all the Indian men today are archaic in mentality. I would say that they have become more tolerant and adjusting than men of the earlier generation. Somehow I don’t see the fire in the belly or that spark which I see in the average woman in the average man. There are few men who are extremely good, but alas they are all taken by the time our lady starts thinking about marriage and family.

One thing I appreciate in these women is that they are not getting married to any Tom, Dick or Harry just because everybody else is getting married. They prefer to wait for their Prince Charming and discuss their hopes and aspirations with him and then get married.
One amusing thing, which I notice, is that most of hubby’s male friends have tied the knot and settled down whereas his female friends are busy concentrating on their careers. Such a far cry from the generation just before us. I can say with surety that the tables have turned a full circle.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lunch at IBL

IBL is a place where I have made wonderful friends. And I have utterly enjoyed the lunchtimes at IBL. For this I should thank Mallya sir, Suma, Deven and my hostel caterers.Before you scratch your head and start wondering which restaurant is IBL, let me clear all such doubts. IBL was the place where I had previously worked.

Working at IBL had its plus points and a lot of minuses. But the best thing about that place was our lunch times. Now we were this motley bunch of constantly hungry people (atleast me) who assembled at lunchtime to take a sneak peek at each other’s tiffins and demolish food as if there was no tomorrow. Everyday, by 12.45, I used to put on my most charming smile and ask Mallya sir what he had brought for lunch. Mallya sir’s wife is an exceptional cook. She really has magic in her fingers. And knowing the brats that Mallya sir had as company for lunch, she used to pack extra food so that her beloved hubby didn’t starve amidst plenty.

Her food is legendary. Various types of dosas, which I hadn’t heard of till then, appeared in his lunch box. Neer dosai, Dal dosai, various permutation and combination dal dosais were frequent inmates of his lunchbox. Now Neer dosai was this soft, white, melt in the mouth, thin dosais, which you could never stop with one. Likewise anything she cooked was wonderful. The problem with singing praises of Mrs. Mallya’s cooking is that you never know where to stop. Each dish of hers requires special mention and if I did that I will overshoot my one-pager limit.

Next comes Suma and she is famous for her dal rotis and her corn chaat. She used to cook other lovely dishes as well but I was totally bowled over by these 2 specialties of hers. She was equally famous for her salads. 15 minutes before lunch, she used to take out her salad and used to get us into the mood for food. Deven’s wife’s speciality was typical north Indian khana and soft rotis. The khana was spicy and tangy and extremely tasty.

Now comes the turn of yours truly. At this point of time, I was single and living in a hostel. A pair of Tulu brothers ran my hostel catering and they served some amazing food. They used to pack me salad, roti / rice and veg curries. Their fried rice, veg Manchurian and channa curry were amazing and everytime I had these items in my dabba, there were more takers for my lunch.

This doodle will be incomplete if I did not mention about the amazing Masala Khichdi, I used to order from the restaurant right below. This is the yummiest khichdi I have had. It used to be delivered piping hot accompanied by papad and raita. This used to be my staple lunch whenever I did not bring lunch from the hostel. And sometimes I consciously did not bring lunch so that I could eat the masala khichdi.

As of now, yours truly no longer works with IBL and so does 2 others mentioned here. But whenever we end up talking we talk about our lunchtimes at IBL, which were truly a gastronomical delight.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Poetry writing sessions

How green is the paddy,
O, look at it granddaddy…

I was sitting at the windowsill
Enjoying the beauty of the hill,
When I noticed there was a mill….

By now you get the drift. Yes, I confess I was the wordsmith (not to be confused with Wordsworth) behind all these beautiful creations. Now, when yours truly was in Class 6, she discovered the world of poetry thanks to William Wordsworth, Shelley, Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath and a lot of such luminaries whom she met regularly in her English textbooks. Now I being always with the literary bent of mind, had to try my hand at poetry when I saw the beauty of their poetry.

The only rule, which was drilled into my head, was that for a bunch of verse to be called poetry all the verses should rhyme. Things like meter, intonation and other inane things never entered my 11-year-old brain. So began my crazy poetry writing sessions wherein I was finishing notepads at alarming speed. I was like a man (in my case girl) possessed.

The approval-seeking girl that I was, I would run to show off my creations to dad & mom for their appreciation. I never did understand why Dad had sudden bouts of coughing or why mom’s lips twitched after reading one of my most beautiful stanzas (of course, all perfectly rhymed).

Then, all hell broke loose when my sister also got into the picture. Whereas dad merely coughed, sis guffawed outright at my face after my poetry recitals. Now I know for a fact that literary souls are very sensitive and they do not take any reviews other than glowing appreciation kindly. So yours truly used to go into bouts of depression at frequent intervals. She could never understand as to how her own flesh and blood could not understand the greatness of talent, which resided in their house. Her only solace in those moments of depression and self-doubt was the famous age old Malayalam saying “Muttathe mullayku manam illa” (Meaning you don’t appreciate the things in your own home.)

Now sis being a person of the long tongued variety started pulling my legs at all family functions about my poems. I, being the elder sister brushed her off and couldn’t bother less as I had discovered something new. Yes, my dear people, leaving my beautiful poetry aside, I had moved onto something bigger; story writing.

P.S.: Effects of my story writing on my family call for a separate article in itself.

A small step for mankind but a giant leap for Eljo

So here I am finally taking the plunge. For somebody who is so risk averse, I have finally managed to take this decision of blogging after considerable thought.