UMM O+N is now at http://ummon.wordpress.com/
Friday, December 28, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
And what struck me was that 2 good people did not necessarily make a good marriage. 'Being a good person' is not the criteria for a good marriage. If you can ignore, accept and accommodate, then that is far better than all the goodness in the world, for marital purposes at least.
How many times have we asked "how does her/his husband/wife put up with her/him", and then have been surprised to find that they don't get along that bad at all?
I guess that's were the ignoring and accepting and accommodating comes in... not any one, but all three.
That's a tough act -- you have to be either highly 'stupid/dumb' or half a step away from sainthood to do that.
Then again, it begs this questions. What is a good marriage? Where the children are happy/well-rounded? Where the spouses are equal? Where the husband is a good provider? Where the wife is an awesome home maker? Where they have orgasmic sex every day? Where there are no expectations? Or where all expectations are met?
I am beginning to endorse that German politician who says by law marriages should be a 7-year contract, extendable by mutual consent.
An interesting thought, and one that probably would do a whole load of good.
Not because we can get done with it and move on.
But because, we will make the best of the time together, when we know it could be for just 7 years -- when we know that we can't wait too long to say 'I am sorry', 'Let's try', 'I love you', 'Let's have a quickie' or 'Let's send the kids away for a day for a romp'.
We know we have only 7 years, so we will hopefully be less rude and more accommodating.
Of course, can't rule out being total jerks either, because we know after 7 years we would be free -- but such relationships are not meant to be in the first place!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
I must say the South Asians have a larger number of Knitas amongst us.
While in most societies knowledge is seen as a tool to not appear foolish, for us Indians, it is often seen as a tool to appear over smart. So much so, that in the absence of knowledge, they pretend.
We sit down for lunch. A couple of Indians, a handful of Lebanese, some Egyptians.
And while the Arabs talk about Indian cuisine and how they love tandoori, the Indian wants to show off his intellectual superiority. He talks about the Lebanese economy and how badly it is faring. As if that were a big secret.
While the Ls try to dismiss off, he decides that his mouth is too big to accommodate just one foot, so puts his other in it too -- and looks to borrow a few more.
Knita: "So do you think you will ever go back to your country?"
L1: Why not?
Knita (alias Mr Sensitive): "Because you have bullets flying. You don't have a proper economy or opportunities."
L2: Bullets are not flying now. And it's no secret about our economy. But it is our country all the same. Our families are there.
Knita: The Sri Lankans, who are just like you don't want to go back.
L2: We are not like Sri Lankans.
Embarassed Me: It is not the same situation at all. In Lanka it is a civil situation...
Knita: Oh you don't know economics. I know a lot of Lankans.
Embarassed Me: Obviously, you don't know too many Lebanese.
L3 (trying to change the subject): I cook the best tandoori chicken. I grind the spices too.
Knita: The Lankans don't want to go back. So how can you say the Lebanese situation is different.
L1: It is different because we are not Lankans.
Knita: I know a lot of Lankans, and I know economy.
L1: Forget the Lankans. Our situation is different.
Ready-to-flee me: Why don't you listen to what they have to say. Maybe they do know more about their country.
Knita (staring daggers at me): You don't know economy. I know it. And the Lankans don't want to go back.
L3: See the two top numbers on my phone are that of Indian restaurants.
Knita: When there is war, people run from their countries. That's why they are here. The Lankans and Lebanese.
Ready-to-kill me: They why are we all here. Everyone of us comes here because we earn better, or at least hope to.
L2: I am here because my standard of living is better. Nothing to do with fleeing the country.
Knita: No, in India we get very high salaries. We are not here for that.
At this point all the Ls turn away and start conversing in Arabic. After all just not worth making an attempt with Mr Knita who is here only for charity, and not for the money.
Monday, December 10, 2007
i am not so sure about that.
Illayaraja, ARR, Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghosal -- Class acts. No arguments there!
and that holds good for authors as well. i am a HUGE fan of the classics, give me a Dickens, a comfortable bed and some coffee, and you have made my day.
but great writers are there amongst the living too. Ann Patchett, Murakami, Mistry...
For every Chris Plummer there is a George Clooney.
For every Gandhi, there is a Mandela.
Amongst the living, as the dead, there are class acts. There are people who are inspirations... people who make a difference to the world. With their voices, their words, their actions, their looks (sigh! brad pitt!).
we just need to appreciate the present a lot more. Not dwell on the past or brood about the future so much, that we totally lose the most important moment of all. Now. Here.
ps: and while on the subject -- stop fantasising about the ex and the could-be, and embrace him, while he is still next to you :)
Thursday, December 06, 2007
what's the right thing to do?
Praising your child for everything s/he does or, be selective?
Set the bar high or not?
Get them involved in a lot of activities? Or is that too taxing?
Expect them to succeed or is that putting too much pressure on them?
Explain/answer everything, and they end up being argumentative.
Shout at them, and they grow up angry.
Hit them and they grow up too meek or too violent.
Coddle them too much, and they never do grow up.
Do everything for them, and they are not independent.
Expect them to be independent, and they grow up too quickly.
Not switching the channel when there is a sensuous scene makes them precocious.
Switch the channel, and they become secretively promiscuous.
THEN THE REAL BIG QUESTION
All that you do for your child, what you hope she becomes, when you want her to excel... is it for her. for you. or for the people around you?
is it in competition with other kids/parents?
AND A STILL BIGGER QUESTION
can there be one simple answer to this -- how do we stop ourselves from really messing up our kids?
that they don't carry their upsets/disappointments/betrayals/insecurities into adulthood. just as most of us have...
brings to mind a line from Savage Garden "...I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do..."
I believe that.
Just hope my little one believes that too.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
So he sang his way into our school girl hearts.
George Michael, for whom every girl in my school swooned.
Yesterday and today I hear his songs on the radio, from his 'still in the closet' phase.
Then he stepped out, and a million hearts broke. It was like a personal betrayal; as if we 15-year-olds stood a chance with him if he had only been straight.
Now a more mature me listens to his songs, and is still swayed. In my mind, he will always sing to me...
Last Christmas, and this, and forever more.
Monday, December 03, 2007
then they enter the gym, look at the women who don't observe the hijab, who are wearing long or three-fourth tracks and modest tees.
they smirk at us. then drop their yards of black. some are in proper workout clothes. but many are not. they are wearing lacy underwear, skimpy vests, tight shorts, they scream and chat loudly with each other, or talk long on the mobiles. They barely do a few minutes on the treadmill, before they reach for an energising drink.
they laugh at our unbranded, non-designer wear.
i used to be annoyed, frequently irritated. No longer.
In this room, where no men are allowed they can be as they please.
just as they are in the all-women sections at restaurants, in the malls...
a freedom amongst strangers, that they can't enjoy at home.
Friday, November 30, 2007
that working with Arab men is infinitely more comfortable than working with south Asian men -- for women that is. Arab men genuinely treat women with respect. There are strays. But most educated ones, with a bit of upbringing, will try his best not to make a woman uncomfortable. Especially Egyptian men in my office.
Sri Lankan men are very charming.
Arab women are so frustrated, and so bloody bitchy to Asian women in particular.
That success breeds envy.
That there is racism, sure; but there is also persecution complex. we Indians like to put down all our troubles to our skin colour/nationality. It is not always the case, though. Sometimes it is because we are not doing our job right.
That every time, I am brimming with confidence about my job or skill, someone will come along and put me in my place, and put things in perspective. Still a big fish in a small pond!
That every time I am full of self doubt about how good (or not) I am in what I do, someone will send an email appreciating what I do.
That every time I feel alone and friendless, a friend will text me or call or email, telling me years and years of knowing each other, and being in different countries, has only strengthened our relationship.
That every time I am upset about the mother I am, my daughter hugs me and tells me 'I am the best mother ever' (adding later, I am the only mother she has!)
That every time I feel low about the way I look she tells me I look beautiful, or my husband makes a pass at me :)
That (borrowing from the Gita) whatever happens, it happens for the good. whatever doesn't happen, doesn't happen for the good. This is one of the greatest truths of life for me.
That Karma is no myth. It is what we live everyday.
That I am not religious, I am not a worshipper, I am not a believer, but I am not an Atheist, either.
That I AM very spiritual. That's the truth, even if people laugh when I say that. It's my very own kind of spirituality.
Monday, November 12, 2007
But my lil Oviya (all of 6) wanted to know why her surname is that of her father's, and why mine doesn't figure anywhere.
And then she tells me she wants to be called Oviya Saraswathi (my second name) Cherian.
I was so over the moon, I made a few deliriously happy international calls to my sisters to tell them this.
That's not the only reason I feel like a superstar.
She tells me when she is a grown up she will work in Qatar Today, just the way I do.
For her I am perfect it seems, because she tells me day in and day, that she is going to be just like me when she is a 'grown up' and do all that I do.
Except today, when she very wisely added, "But I won't get that yellow sticker on the car or go to the police station".
Which reminds me, I have a traffic fine to pay. Again.
The saving grace being, my daughter is a discerning little imp!
and all from a truckload of lamb being led to the slaughterhouse.
so here i am rushing to an appointment, and right in front of me is a truck load of lamb. They are packed in tight, and i was upset wondering if they knew that was their last drive ever? and just feeling glad that I turned vegetarian a dozen years ago.
So that's my validation.
Then I saw them jostle each other, and one in particular seemed like it would fall over the flimsy barrier holding them in. And there I was thinking, "The bastards could not even get them a comfortable truck. They are literally on top of each other."
And then it hit me. They were! At least one of them managed to find some lust/romance in that sad moment, and was humping away. I was so hysterical with laughter, I almost lost control of the wheel.
So that's the lesson in life. If I am going to be led to the slaughterhouse, I am going to make sure I have one last good fuck!
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
here, as soon as i get into the car, i tune into 89.1, dubai fm, which plays hindi music. and it is not always a clear signal.
and i realise how easily we give up stuff we enjoyed, for things we think are better.
i remember vividh bharati at 7.15 am in mds. and again at 8.15 pm. and the deaf old man across the street listening to bbc news.
and then the english music station, don't remember the exact number.
now of course there is radio mirchi and all those kinds of stuff. i am sure i would be hooked if i were back home.
there is a difference however with what you hear on dubai fm. in the evenings especially, you hear these desperately lonely and sad voices calling in. and at the end of the minute or so, they seem to cheer up. i just hope the rjs know they are doing a wonderful job of being empathetic to these listeners, who live far away from home, and probably alone. of course there is one real rude rj -- gayathri -- someone should silence her!
now let me zero in on qatar's 97.5 fm. evenings are good, they play real nice selection. rj-ing is hopeless most of the time. but mornings are a torture. irrelevant stuff. about exhibitions being held in some vague corner of britain. and the then there are these real weird brit rjs who think they are being funny, but are only making asses of themselves...
give me back my vividh bharathi!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
my family, despite their quirks
my friends, despite mine
the lottery vendor who sat near my school bus stop, chasing away lecherous fellas
the neighbour who keeps my mum company
not suffering a debilitating illness or disability
my daughter's to-die-for mischievous smile
and her irrepressible curiosity
R's patience with all my eccentricities, and then some
for making my living doing something I LOVE
for the colleagues I have had over the years, who motivate, support and criticise...
to Gandhi for making my country so instantly identifiable. it gets more pronounced, since within India it is fashionable to come down on him, while world over it is the opposite
for Indian movies that entertain me so fantastically
for all the authors who have made my life so much better
for Babu who not only keeps my home, but cares for it. And by home, i also mean the people in it
for Anjalai who is so much a part of the family, I don't even know why I'm singling her out
for all the great breaks I've got in life, personal and professional
Monday, October 29, 2007
Osama can pass off for that congenial old bachelor uncle
George Bush can pass off for the intellectually-challenged, but well-meaning colleague
Salman Khan can be mistaken for that cocky elder brother of your best friend
Rumsfeld, the headmaster who tries to hard to be funny, but doesn't quite pull it off
Tim McVeigh as that geeky kid in school who flunked every subject except computer science
Dawood Ibrahim is that lecherous uncle, you can't run away from quickly enough (well, not that he is not lecherous in real life, if one were to go by media reports)
Prabhakaran makes great engineering designs for infrastructure projects (different matter all together that he is in the business of blowing up these projects)
Can you think of more?
And not satisfied with that, we tried to get her to pick up more lifelike dolls. As she tended towards fair-skinned, blond, blue-eyed life-size doll, we convinced her that it was not as nice as the dark-skinned, brown-eyed, black/curly-haired little moppet that stood in a corner. We marketed the doll well, and walked out of the store with that… We tried dinning it into her that this doll was superior to the former. Is that racism? Are we telling her those with fair-skin and light hair/eyes are not good enough?
Or is it positive reinforcement that it takes all kinds to make the world? That the role-models fairy tales and toy-makers push ahead are not the real stuff?
I have to give it to the Americans, though. Be it Barbie, Bratz or any regular doll, they give you a choice of ethnicity to choose from.
What is really appalling is that in India, most dolls are ‘the fair-skinned, blond, blue-eyed’ varieties… now how many in India fit that mould?
I am sure some think I am making a pox out of a pimple.
After all it is just a doll! But it is more than that. It is a child's first exposure to prejudices.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Now, my worry is -- Am I being judged?
Madam No 2, stomps into my house, starts clearing out and cleaning up my kitchen cupboards, gets all the dry goods into boxes, throws out expired foodstuff, folds every last piece of clothing in the laundry bag, arranges my daughter's cupboard...
I can live with all this (though I wonder what's the big deal about 4 week old laundry not finding its way from basket to cupboard, and so what if I have empty bottles and dry goods in the original packaging, and does it really matter if my daughter's home use, underwear and party wear are all together?)...
Though I can tolerate her attempts to organise my home, I refuse to be judged for coming home and charging right to bed for a nap, and then potter around doing nothing for an hour, after which I force myself to the gym...
When she comes back to work next week, I am not going to make excuses for taking a nap ("I wake up at 5.30 am I am tired"), not clearing up stuff ("I have a bad back"), and for leaving my child behind with her to go the gym ("the doctor insists")...
I will not make any of the above stated and the dozen other easily mouthed excuses.
What if I had been super organised, very energised, and totally not lazy? Whose loss would it have been? Hers of course!
So she can go about cleaning, and organising and papering my shelves, but I am not going to let her get to me.
PS: I have had a cleaner -- B -- for 6 years, who does a great enough job without making me feel small. He even leaves visible dust spots and uncleared garbage to make me feel better about myself. So what is her problem, huh?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I want to Learn to
* Control my anger
* Tolerate other people's quirks and play down mine
* Play one sport, that doesn't involve the keyboard
* Use Shorthand with fluency
* Deep sea dive
* Ride a sports bike
* Ice skate
* Speak Arabic
* Be a Better Mother
* Be a Kinder Daughter
* Be a Saner Wife
* Be a More Accommodating Friend
* Have multiple orgasms (or should the learning be by the other?)
* Please, and be pleased easier
* Carry my bulk with a bit more grace
* Answer irritating and embarrassing questions from daughter without losing my temper
* Reply without being rude to indecently inquisitive queries from absolute strangers
* Hate the Brits a little less
* Love the mallus a bit more
* Enjoy being ogled/leched at
* Ogle/lech less obviously
* Earn tonnes of money
* Save tonnes of money
* Do the above, without cutting back on shopping
* Shop without guilt or doubt
* Be less jealous of every author I read. You either have it or you don't
* Laze without making excuses for it
* Not procrastinate
(will continue rest later)
Moved me to tears. Parts of the book were brilliantly written. Parts were an attempt to do so. Was a bit confused on that count.
Otherwise such a topical issue. Just thought the end was a bit too sad... it was almost like the author doesn't like loose ends, and was tying up every arm of the plot.
Still, raises so many ethical issues connected to medical research and treatment.
And of course, as always, you realise there are no easy answers, sometimes no answers at all, to most issues in life. Be it personal or professional.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Then my father's friend (Kapali mama, whose children were not into books) gifted me his entire collection of Hardy and Lawrence, when he realised i was interested in these books. Old books from the '50s and '60s. Yellowed. Name written with an old-style fountain pen, bound in cardboard and canvas for longevity.
Everytime I read one of the books from that collection, it is not just the plots and words that transport me into a dream world. It is also what I imagine of the previous readers of the book. Old uncles in the younger days, reading Hardy in public and Lawrence on the sly.
Discussing the daring adventures of the heroes of these books. The poetic flow of the authors... the many friends of Kapali mama who borrowed (was my dad one of them) the books and read it under the single electric bulb in the sitting room in the late '50s.
I don't think I ever quite thanked Ms Kamakshi for nurturing my love for books, introducing me to new authors, tolerating my over-ambitious florid essays and gently guiding me towards more understated elegance. That I am still in love with books and words is a tribute to her. I don't know where she is, if she is still there. She was nearing 60 when I was finishing school in 1991.
Again, I don't think I thanked Kapali mama sufficiently either. I just greedily grabbed the books with a perfunctory 'thank you'. He is no more, but am sure he is aware that the books are in good hands, and his gesture was enormously appreciated.
Next time someone introduces me to an author, lends or gifts me a book, I better thank them properly when I have the opportunity.
While on this, I better thank my dad, who however hard-up he was (4 daughters and a sister to educate and take care of, apart from a long line of cousins who stayed with us, all on one salary), he could never say no to money that would be spent on books or studies. He can quote from Shakespeare and whole bunch of other classics. He is the one who drilled into us that no matter what you have in the wardrobe, it is what you have on your bookshelf that matters (not so politely though).
And then I should thank my sister (no 3). She made reading books hip for me. Since all other rolemodels where old and not-so-fashionable, it was the sight of my college-going sister burying herself in the classics, that kept me clear of other junk books that my friends devoured. Of course, I would sneak in a few in defiance, but never enjoyed the read.
Books. What would our life be without it?
Monday, October 01, 2007
you watch tv, especially american, and you see these pseudos always referring to ugly people as 'she/he is so beautiful inside'. hang it please!
here is my take on beauty. there are these varieties of people who look good regardless of whether you love (brad pitt) or hate (aish bachchan) them. but beauty is something that grows on you. how many of you would call you best friend 'ugly'? how many parents would think their kids are butt ugly?
if you really like/love someone, they automatically become good-looking don't they?
Thursday, September 27, 2007
But now, I am up by 5.30 or so, and out of the house by 6.30 with my daughter. Funny thing is that I really enjoy this. I love the morning drive to her school. I like chatting with her. I feel real fresh and raring to go...
Come weekends, and it is a relapse.
Someone told me it is the owl and swan sydrome. Apparently I fall into the owl category. Who 5 times a week turns into a swan... hmmm!
Is the owl/swan sydrome genetic. Everyone in my house is an early riser. Earliest being my dad who is up at about 4 am. No one sleeps in later than 6!
Sunday, September 23, 2007
While most airlines give at least 30-35, Qatar Airways gives a measly 20 to passengers travelling India-ME segment, while giving 60 or so to those travelling to Europe and the US from India.
Now of course, we would much rather prefer that a light flight takes us safely to our destination, no doubt.
But here is the other thing that they are beefing up, unnecessarily.
Travelling Doha to Chennai, the meals choice was veg or beef. Excuse me! The destination is Chennai, India. Why the hell would you give beef as the only non-vegetarian choice? And not even stock enough veg platters as an alternative?
What if flights to the Middle East offer only Pork as the meat choice? There would be a jihad over that, for sure.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
what annoyed me this holiday was not the bad civic amenities, but age. The ageing of parents, relationships... everything looked old.
And it gets worse when you are the youngest in a large family...
At the airport, when I turned around one last time to say bye, it was age that gave me a tear-jerking slap.
My parents and parents-in-law, looking old and alone.
The selfish me was resentful of the fact that I will always know my parents a few years less than my sisters, and also a few years older.
I resent that my mother cannot be as sprightly with my child as she was with my niece and nephew.
But that's me. I don't only want the good things in life, I want more and more of it.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Before you dismiss me off as a cynic...
The first glimpse of Madras as the flight takes a turn around the bay and heads towards St Thomas Mount. At night it glitters, during the day it looks wonderfully green
Long haul flights. Probably because I do them only for work, and hence don't have to travel economy.
The fact that I don't have to pay for BA Club World
My work, not necessarily my job
The smell of babies
Smell of MY baby
The non-existent wrists and ankles of newborns, and their million little wrinkles
Massaging their tiny hands and legs and torso
The confidence with which children mispronounce words
Their total disregard for being politically correct
My husband running his hands through my hair, when he thinks I am asleep, but I am only pretending
Holding hands for no reason at all
Long, fast rides on the HOG, and then the static sensation on the skin long after you are off the bike
Sharing a dosai, and racing to the masala-filled centre
Kisses. Sensous ones from a lover. Sloppy ones from my child. A wholesome hug and a kiss on the cheek rolled into one, as only mothers can dish out.
Hugs. Of all kinds. (If you want to win an argument with me, or end a feud, just give me a hug. I will shut up)
Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Emily Bronte, Ann Patchett, J K Rowling, Stephen King
Lost, Desperate Housewives, Gilmore Girls, Friends
Kathy Griffin and Ellen De Generes
Men with smooth. dark skin, and a ready smile
The now extinct Sayadeen Cafe in Doha, that served the yummiest dosais. Sob! Sob! No more!
Rasam saadam with potato fry
Pongal, both the dish and the festival
Shopping in Pondy Bazaar and Egmore platform in Chennai and the souq in Doha
Buying cheap footwear, knowing very well it wont last
Collecting watches and pens
A good argument
Being right, always
The smell of rain
A Marlboro light and vodka with a twist of lime, alone on the beach
Spending the night by the beach, at the foot of the dunes, eating idli and chutney, with friends who matter
Cooking for a group (only)
A neat house, without in anyway being responsible for keeping it that way
The smell of sun-dried clothes
(to be continued)
Friday, August 10, 2007
- Men who lech and think they are being cool
- Men who adjust their testicles and scratch their crotch in public
- Men who wear tight trousers that gather at the crotch and rise at the ankle, and think it's cool
- Fair men who have no hair on them. Really yuck!
- Men who pee where ever and when ever they please, just because they can do it standing
- Salman Khan
- Wife beaters
- And the wife who takes it more
- Parenting tips from people who don't have children
- Parenting tips from people who do have children
- Parenting tips... Period
- Supermoms who look down their sweaty noses at those of us who tend to relax a wee bit
- Fathers who think their parenting participation begins and ends with impregnating their wives/partners
- Parents who think rude and badly behaved children are cute and naughty! At least show your disapproval if you can't correct the child
- Bras. More so because I can't afford to not wear it
- Frayed panties that show over hipster jeans. If you HAVE to wear those jeans, go get yourself a proper pair of panties please!
- Mismatched blouses and underskirts with sarees...
- Tall women who wear heals
- Tall women who wear long skirts. A la Aunt Hilda
- I hate cynics (and whatever this rant may sound like, I am not one)
- Slim women who show false empathy and talk about their excess weight to those bordering on obesity
- And more so, when they are patronising enough to say, "You are just big, not fat!"
- Women who obsess about their weight so much, they can't hold a conversation on anything without it turning into "Have I gained? Have I lost?" rigmarole. Who the eff cares?
- Fat women wearing spandex. Hello? No mirror at home?
- Flat chested women wearing low necklines. That cut is only for the well-endowed please!
- Women who pretend not to gossip. Bullshit! Who really doesn't?
- Flight attendants who are mean to those who seem to hail from the labour class, while ready to drop their pants for those flying business/first.
- People who honk just as the red turns to green at the signal
- People who honk for no reason at all
- People who keep flicking cigarette ash out of the window
- People who drive with their kids on their laps
- People who drive autorickshaws. Bloody thieves!
(to be continued)
Lecherous men -- the way only Tamil and Malayalee men are capable of being -- drool at every female on board over the age of 12. And worse still, they think they are doing the women a favour!
They also try to pack in as many Jack Daniels as possible.
Qatar Airways once again shows its total disregard for common sense. A flight bound to Chennai, and apart from the veggie meal, the only other available is beef curry! Don't these guys do their homework?
Anyways I knew for sure I had reached home (flight landed at the unearthly hour of 3.45am), when a cop reeking of alcohol tries to thrust a 500 buck note (probably flinched from another passenger) into a traveller's hand and asks him to pick up a bottle of scotch from the duty free.
I knew things were changing for the better in some ways, when the not-so-assertive looking traveller turned him down pointblank and walked away.
Immigration was superbly efficient and quick... they really can give some tips to the sloths at the Doha airport.
Porters were very helpful and very obvious about wanting to be rewarded. Which is fine, as long as they were are helpful.
Advantage of reaching at that unearthly hour is that traffic is easy.
For the first time, no one comes to receive me, because I insisted. The travel agent's car is there to fetch me.
Am definitely home, when goofy my aged and almost-blind cocker spaniel still recognises me and brings the roof down. And my little one wakes up to fill me in on all the details (that shows her in angelic light) with me.
I am home!
PS: A counter at immigration reads Diplomats/Physically Challenged. Shouldn't it read Diplomats/Ethically Challenged? Why insult the disabled by clubbing them with diplomats?
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
What would one year of absence throw on my face?
Would appa's prosthetic knee have slowed him down further, making his age that much more obvious?
Would there be extra greys on amma's head, and denser wrinkles on her hand?
Would my sisters' lives have evolved so much that I become not more than an annual guest?
Like I keep saying, though I return year after year to India, my reference point is still the year I left it for good (or worse) in 1999. Those are the memories that are frozen in my mind...
But for those who have continued to live there, there is little connection to what life had been 8 years ago.
Am I already a stranger at home? Can I still call it home? India, Chennai...
This fear never goes away. If anything, it festers, and grows deeper every year.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Of course, the writer of the mail took several months to complete her rant, but she made it worth the wait.
S is my only 'postal' correspondent.
We chat almost every day, mail each other on the days we don't, or at least exchange a few text messages. Yet, we have managed to write letters as well.
Ok, I just read the lines above, and it may sound weird. Let's just say we have lots to gossip about, are rather highly opinionated and think we deserve to be heard... that should explain why we correspond so much.
Anyways, last week I landed grumpy at work, to be greeted by this fat brown cover on my table, with a familiar handwriting on it. The cover was so bulky, I actually thought it could be a book or a scarf... It was something for more interesting. Over a dozen pages of rant. It took me more than one read to decipher the whole letter, for obviously S is no longer comfy putting pen on paper... her handwriting has always been 'horrible' to put it politely. Now it has taken a turn to the worse.
Still, no other gift, absolutely none, would have made me this happy.
I have small briefcase full of letters and cards, when it was still in fashion to use paper and pen.
I love receiving post... And mourn rather often of the dying art of letter-writing!
And I am just so glad, even if it is once a year (or two), there is someone who thinks it's cool to WRITE to me.
Monday, August 06, 2007
But this is about the contrasts in my gym.
First the ones who are are there to workout:
Fat women, indulgences, excesses, too much to eat, too little work, enough money... and too little clothes... leaving nothing to the imagination.
And then the cleaners at the gym, who go around wiping down the sweaty machines, and cleaning the floors:
Skinny women, not enough to eat, too much work, barely sufficient salaries... and oversized clothes, hand-me downs.
One wishing for the other's body.
One wishing for the other's comforts.
A sad, sad world!
Saturday, August 04, 2007
But let me start here.
On July 2, my five year old daughter travelled alone to India, to have a longer vacation there. R and I will join her in the next couple of weeks. First me, then him.
The first 2 days were AWFUL.
Then things kind of fell in place, and I tried to make best use of the situation.
Now before you do so, let me give you full right to judge me, badly.
It doesn't matter, because I think I am learning the tricks about guilt, and know how to handle it.
For the first time in some years, R and I have time together. I work days, he works evenings, so any common time is spent being parents.
And as you can imagine, that left little time for us to be just 'us'.
Might I hesitantly add that we are beginning to enjoy this time alone. That we don't bark and scream at each other so much. We seem to look at each other as people instead of appa and amma?
But we appreciate this break. We are not bogged down by responsibilities. In fact, my kitchen has been officially closed this last few weeks.
We don't have curfews, bedtime, school activities etc to contend with.
It is not that I don't feel guilty. But as R keeps pointing out, she is having fun. The grandparents and aunts are loving it.
Yes, not like I sent her to boot camp to spend time with R.
And when I look at it very, very practically, this will benefit her more. Because the next time she sees her parents, she will notice (yes she will, because she is smart little thing) that we smile so much more at each other. That we are not so quick to snap and fight.
She will notice and she will like it.
So here is the moral of the story: Parents should absolutely have time alone at least once a year. I don't mean dinner and weekend at local hotel. I mean totally alone.
I don't know how soon we will relapse and become those grumpy parents again. But it is certainly nice while it's lasting.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
9 out of 10 people tell me they write or love to.
"I write letters to the editor of my local newspaper, every week. Two have even been published." -- Yes, you are ripe for the Pulitzer now.
"I used to write for my school/college magazine." -- Wow! Ramon Magsaysay award probably?
"I used to keep a diary. When I was 12 years old. For a whole month." -- Right, Let's look for a publisher. The next Anne Frank, are you?
Don't get me wrong. I think writing is a great relief, and everyone should write at least few lines every now and then. It is refreshing and puts things in perspective. Take blogging, for instance. A fantastic medium, and such amazing talent.
What I have a problem with is when I tell people I am a journalist and I write for a living, they think it is the same as their "Why I love my parents" essay in 2nd grade.
The pomposity of these people gets to me.
Just because I manage to operate the myriad electronic appliances at home or change the light bulb, does it make me an engineer?
Just because I know how to do a neat dressing for a wound, or prescribe myself and family paracetamol for fever, am I a doctor?
Just because I do my household accounts, does it make me a Chartered Accountant?
Just because I sing in the bathroom, am I Shreya Ghosal?
Just because I shake and sway crazily when music of any sort is played, am I Michael Jackson?
Remember, the Pen is mightier than the Sword.
And next time someone uses the 'I am a writer line..." I will poke him/her in the eye with my mighty pen.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
A picture that takes us away from the mundane routines of our lives. Home, office, children, husband... A picture that not only triggers lovely memories in the four that are in the frame, but the 5 who are on the other side of the camera.
Do you ever wonder, that memories are rarely in video mode. It is more a series of snapshots, almost like a cartoon film. You flip through those images quickly enough, and it plays out beautifully.
The reason I consider myself truly lucky is not merely because of those images, that I have those memories...
It is because all those who made those memories what they are, are still very much part of my life. My sisterhood. A link where all of us are in touch with each other, either directly or indirectly. Touchwood, none of us is estranged. Busy, pre-occupied, sometimes down, sometimes indifferent, but never estranged. We are all in different places in our lives. Our priorities are different. Yet we are there always for each other.
And that is saying a lot for women, who tend to wander away from their best friends, their best memories once they are married.
... I keep looking at that photo, that one of the gang dug out and sent to all of us. I also keep thinking that we were better looking than our low self-image led us to believe then ;)
Saturday, July 28, 2007
This video is absolutely hilarious, and just about sums up the male-female take on orgasm and sexual satisfaction.
It is the unachievable for some, the non-existent for others.
Ya-ya party discussions sometimes tread on this (depending on the comfort level of the women present), and almost right away one can make out the FAKERS from the FEELERS.
The FAKERS begin with a confused giggle (orgasm? is that a bacterial growth in my vagina?) and the when wisdom dawns slowly, they agree vehemently without offering details, because they claim they are too shy to do so (thank heavens it is not a bacterial growth, but then why aint't I getting it?).
The FEELERS know that next time around, at the get together for spouse and offspring, all eyes would be on her husband. That elusive male, who walks the talk.
The FAKER holds tighter to her husband, hoping that the closer she stays, the sooner it would grow (not the bacteria, but the orgasm, that even wikipedia doesn't have satisfactory explanation for).
At the next ya-ya party, there is a showing of When Harry Met Sally, to help FAKERS master their art.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
But the writer in me, tugs at my sensibilities, when I want to write about stuff like SEX.
Still, it is time that I did. Because for most virgins and married women, sex is on the mind, all the time.
Sex after Children is what ya-ya party sob stories are made of.
Speak to most married (girl) friends, and it is the same sob story again and again.
See, while men cease to speak in detail of their exploits once girlfriend turns wife; secretive girlfriends turn into big-mouthed wives, and have no qualms of discussing sex or the lack of it.
So, back to the subject of children being a natural contraceptive, especially for us Indian folks who believe in sharing the bedroom with the brood till they learn to scream "stop rocking the bed you two!"
Then the next day, there is a flurry of shopping for second hand bedroom set and setting up the spare room, and kick the kids out. But then this usually happens when the children are about 8-9, by which time, the hymen, due to limited activity, starts to grow back.
It is not about lack of opportunities alone, it is also about how everything starts feeling looser, and it just doesn't seem worth the effort to suffer lacy underwear that causes an itch under the arms.
Why am I ranting? Because, sometimes a girl just has to!
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Till I was about 12 I hated it fervently. Just too unwieldy, and not fit for a length any longer than an inch or two.
And then while spending time at the workplace of a hairdresser family friend, 3 clients asked for a perm like mine. A new found respect for my AWFUL curls.
Ever since, I am vainly in love with my hair. Of course, I kept it short for a long time. But the last several years, I have let it grow.
Please note this. Growth of curly hair is not the same as the growth of straight or wavy hair.
The curly hair does not grow down. It grows out. In all directions, except down.
So shoulder length curly equals mid-back length straight.
After coming to Qatar I've been exposed to style products that include 'tousled' and 'out of the bed look', which roughly translates to 'parata thalai' in Tamizh or 'Sai Baba' style.
My appreciation for what I possess, grows. So I can get out of bed, just run my fingers through the unmanageable locks, and run out of home, looking stylised (and very weird).
The other thing about curly hair is that it's seasonal. From tight manageable curls in winter to frizzy and furious in summer.
Somehow, the global trend to respect anything that looks, sounds or feel unreasonable and untempered has helped me with my bad hair days!
Hail curls, and I just hope this is one fad that never goes out of style...
Saturday, July 21, 2007
So it's 2 am, I am a little tipsy after the night out with some girlfriends, and I drag my very sleepy husband out of home in search of that one elusive book shop that is selling the books at 2 am!! Al Saqr zindabad.
So after some luckless rambling, we land (taking a no entry) in front of the store and I bark at the guard to stop locking the door, and thrust a 100buck into the cashier's hand and grab my Deathly Hallows.
Unputdownable... I grab some sleep after the first 100 pages, and then am glued to it again.
All this would not be so frightening if I had been say half my age? Or atleast 10 years younger. But for a grown woman, with responsibilities at home and work, to stay curled up in bed a whole day?
How, absolutely delightful!!
And as good friends always validate your obsessions, far, far away, another crazy adult is trying to grab pages between feeding and poo washing...
And in other land far, far away, is a woman raking it in...
And all over the world are muggles enchanted by her quill...
The Deathly Hallows
Have you ever been the one who could never understand the passion displayed at the Kacheevaram Silk Sarees section Nalli's? You look at the women grabbing bright, gaudy sarees and drape it around themselves and stare so (strangely) admiringly at themselves in the mirror, and wonder "What the eff is wrong with these women?"
Well, that's how some people viewed me, this last week, when I was get delirious with excitement over the last part of the HP series.
Point is, nothing is wrong with me. I am under a spell. Have been for 6 years now, when I first laid hands on the first book.
The series is amazing... I won't say this is my favourite book(s) ever, because there are just far too many. But problem is many of them were written before I was even born. But I saw the story evolve, I see the author write about reality. Yes, yes , it's about magic. But above all, it is about people, about relationships... it is a book about emotions.
And it is very clear about right and wrong...
She doesn't talk about good and bad changing at convenience, she simply equates it to being humane and not being humane; however silly your humanitarian spirits may seem, they pay off; and however clever inhumanity may seem, it destructs.
And then it is the belief in innocence, the trust in youth, the confidence in giving chances... the spirit of love.
A truly amazing book, that shows darkness to reveal the power of light; that shows hatred, to reveal the power of love... And does it all without being stupidly sentimental.
No Spoilers here... just that whatever adults-in-denial (yours truly in particular) may say, HP is a book for children... It ends as such. With hope and love.
JUST LOVE IT!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Confident, Confused, Sexy, Gawky.
All Woman, All Girl. Just a child?
My first job. Am all of 21. And Billy Joel sang the sang to me, for me...
Sitting in the beautiful, dilapidated Indian Express building, in the Express Estates. Sunday afternoon shift. The dumb shift that interns serve. And we sit listening to this, me and a few others.
A different world, before other women joined the domain. The only female in a department of 12 (apart from the alpha female). A girl amongst men of all ages, attitude and stages of hairloss.
And I sit listening to the song with the guys... feeling confident, confused, sexy, gawky...
The way a woman would feel in a room full of guys. Most of them rather nice.
And without our noticing it, the clock has struck 5, and with that the chief walks in, ordering us back to work. Back to reality...
Memories are made of moments... and while we remember with great clarity the beautiful ones... every breath, every sigh, every smile and every word... the not so great ones are a blur.
The beauty of memory is it's capability to make the beautiful more beautiful!
On a tough day, Billy Joel is the way to go, girls!
And for all those men who made me understand Joel better -- Thanks.
She's always a woman
She can kill with a smile
She can wound with her eyes
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child
But she's always a woman to me
She can lead you to
can take you or leave you
She can ask for the truth
But she'll never believe you
And she'll take what you give her, as long as its free
She steals like a thief
But shes always a woman to me
Oh-she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants
She's ahead of her time
Oh-and she never gives out
And she never gives in
She just changes her mind
And she'll promise you more
Than the garden of eden
Then she'll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you're bleedin
But she'll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause shes always a woman to me
She is frequently kind
And she's suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases
She's nobody's fool
But she can't be convicted
She's earned her degree
And the most she will do
Is throw shadows at you
But shes always a woman to me
About six weeks ago, my lifeline went on the blink. Or so I thought.
I rush home, all eager to grab a bag of crisps, a steaming cup of coffee, the remote control, the phones and plonk down.
Because that’s how most weekday evenings are spent. Tea, reading, phone calls, dinner, even social visits… all in front of the TV.
Yet, if you had asked me two months ago if I were addicted to the tele, I would have said ‘no’.
Then the bitter truth. I was a closet-addict. In denial. Because when the satellite receiver went dead, and the familiar drone of Frasier, 24 and Lost was lost, the future seemed bleak. What would my evenings be like?
There is only so much gallivanting you can do in Doha.
What would life be like without the comfort blanket.
Apparently, not so bad.
It is like when you give up smoking, and smell the flowers.
The lack of tele-noise at home has had such profound impact on my senses, that I have convinced a friend who is redecorating her house, to relegate her big screen TV to a less prominent place. And as that move happened, her son wondered loudly how he would have his dinner from now on!
Probably it was easier for me to give up the tele, because I never ‘only watched TV’. I always, watched TV while doing something else.
Like eating, reading (yes, it’s possible), doing puzzles, ironing, preparing dinner, browsing the net.
But that is no reason for the die-hard addicts to give up hope. It just needs a little discipline. To wean yourself away from the tele, start by diluting your tele-time. Do something else while sitting in front of the TV.
If you don’t want to go the length and disconnect satellite/cable TV, then here is an alternative. Activate parental control, and courier the remote to a friend in another country. It will be at least a week or two get it back, and you would be forced into detox.
I have decided not to renew our cable connection for now. When I feel like watching something, I choose from the collection of DVDs and cassettes. For news updates I go online.
There are times, alone at home, when I pine for an emotional Oprah-moment, a high-pitched Richard Quest report and even the toons. But those are fleeting. Most of the time I just feel clearer.
Do I claim that ‘I now have more quality time with child/husband/laptop/pet cockroach’? No such clichés. I don’t know if I am doing anything better, since giving up non-stop access to television. I only know that it doesn’t feel bad at all. It feels great almost all the time.
The home just seems so much more relaxed and serene.
And since it’s in keeping with the spirit of the day, let me also add, I am doing my bit towards controlling noise pollution (and other environmental hazards TV causes, that I am not fully aware of).
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
She is also wonderful with her nieces and nephew.
Still, every time someone refers to her, and wants to make a distinction between her and her sister, they say: "The unmarried sis-in-law..."
It annoys me so much, the next time I am going to poke the person in the eye with something pointy, and tell them that she has so much going for and to be identified by, that has nothing to do with her marital status.
Yes, she is 40. Yes, she is unmarried. And yes, most of the time she seems extremely happy. There maybe times that she is not so. But which one of us married ma'ams can claim to be content 100 percent of the time?
I wonder, if it upsets me so much that she is referred to as the 'unmarried' daughter/sister/aunt/friend or whatever, how much it should affect her.
Why can't they just call her the one with a doctorate, the one who is awesome with the kids, the one who is a well known researcher...
What is our obsession with marriage, when most of us who are married can't stop complaining about our spouses.
Here is the other interesting thing. I notice women making this reference more frequently than the men.
Why is that?
Monday, July 09, 2007
Men maybe quick to react, but they are as quick getting over issues and moving on.
In my 13 years experience across various jobs, women colleagues, I find, have been more consistently petty, jealous and seriously bitchy.
Men do bitch, and boy, do they gossip. But as I said, somehow they are quite honest and open about their loyalties. What you see is what you get most of the time.
Not so with women.
A colleague told me the higher you rise, the fewer friends you will have at work. That is the 'success tax' you pay. It is not so much about who you are, but where you are!
At my very first job, my boss was a woman. And when I joined as an intern, I was the only other woman in the department of 12. Wise woman... because other departments headed by women, with women in the team, seemed to be a lot more tense.
Of course, I had teething issues... my boss and I didn't quite trust each other for a while, and then once trust was established, it was real smooth sailing.
But I was young, out of college, with no previous exposure to office dynamics. And that has been my greatest experience, that at the very first job, I realised it was easier being a woman in a man's world, than a woman in a woman's world.
That experience has helped me deal with female (and male) colleagues ever since.
First with the latter -- while working for or with male colleagues, the cardinal rule is not to be timid. But if you are the boss, then it is not being overtly aggressive, confusing aggression of manly leadership.
Now that we have the simple part over with, let's get on with female colleagues.
Working for a female boss, empathy counts. Believe me! That doesn't mean being patronising, nothing can be more annoying than that.
Working with women is a fairly easy task. If everyone is at the same level, there really is no problem.
But if you are the boss, then get ready for a whole load of shit!
No one resents a multi-tasking woman more than another.
There is no easy way of handling them... If you are too empathetic and understanding of their home-life balance, chances are you will be taken for one long ride.
If you are not, then you are termed 'Queen Bee'. And really there is no middle ground.
While men may resent you, they either get over it or get on with it. But the intentions are clear.
With women, it festers.
... To Be Continued
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
And believe me I've been one of the friends every now and then, and always came home angry that amma could not make the 2 minute noodle. She would spend hours on her elaborate cuisine.
Years later, i'm remembered as the person whose mum is a great cook.
My daughter's friends will remember me as the Maggi aunty. For the 3rd time this week, despite second and tenth thoughts on the ingredients in the pack, I dish out Maggi for dinner.
But that smart mum on tele was a fake. What am I?
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Drink and smoke with great abandon, without fear of setting a bad example to our children.
Just hang out, and feel there was not a care in the world, other than getting hope tipsy and safe. The husbands indulge: they would take care of the kids.
Just 3 girls, wanting a night out. After weeks of planning and re-scheduling, we hit the only easily accessible joint in town. Everything about the place, from its name and rickety tables to the patrons and the music, was askew.
But we were determined to get drunk. And being drunk would be the only way to enjoy that dig.
Tequilas and cocktails fail miserably in their endeavour. They barely draw out a few giggles from us.
An hour before midnight Cinderellas start discretely, and then not so discretely, looking at their watches. And then call out the men to drive us back home.
Where we having fun? Oh, yes, we were. That was for sure. But somewhere in all that wanting to cut loose and run wild, mommy-strings were tugging at us. Has one been fed? Is the other up? Are the men watching violence (and whatever else) on TV while the children are around?
Are these creeps around us -- young and old, really the alternative for what we have left behind at home for the evening?
Apparently not. Final analysis:
We girls do need to go out and have some fun -- Get drunk, get high, smoke ourselves senseless. But the beauty of it is, our life is not so screwed up that we need to do it everyday.
Just that one night in ever so many moons, when we want to be just girls. Not wives and mothers.
Just Girls out on a night for some Unadulterated Fun.
Just wish Doha had a few more decent joints to do that.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Not that I am without the one, and immune to the other.
But do feel these are wasted emotions. Makes no sense whatsoever. Just wish the world would be a better place and relationships easier if these disappeared.
Monday, May 14, 2007
And then comes this lady and tells us how proud it makes her feel to see working women, doing so well.
The compliment just grazed us. One was keener on taking her 5-year old to the bathroom, the other was on the phone enquiring about her unwell 3-year old.
so what are we? working mothers in that order of priority.
or just mothers who happen to work?
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
more or less what my mother did with me.
but in this case without that total belief. with doubt, with impatience... true me.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
s it merely for the young, restless & cellulite-free?
No. In fact it is more important for the older, without-rest & what-have-you...
Flirtations. It sure can kick-start your day.
A few nostalgic exchanges with someone from the past.
A fleeting smile or eye-contact with a total stranger at the traffic signal or jam.
A teenager who ogles at the 'aunty' (big boobs are big boobs for the inexperienced, who cannot differentiate it from mere fat).
Even an unexpected call from partner of many years...
Flirtations... as important as a strong cup of filter coffee, a good review for your byline, a hug from a friend.
Flirtations... on certain days, when the mirror is exceptionally rude, is more important than all of the above put together!
Thursday, January 25, 2007
If you are at the receiving end the best way to hit back is to ignore and succeed.
If you are dishing it out, and dont like it, then just stop being such a fucking asshole.
But ignore Big Brother. And Good's pilgrimage.
And for goodness sake, Shilpa Shetty is used to racism in her own country. So what's the big deal.
She is after all a dark (and absolutely beautiful) woman living in a country obsessed with fairness.
A country where south Indian accents are mocked by brethren up north, who cannot string a grammatically correct sentence together.
Get your free publicity, some money and get on with business!