December 30, 2010

Hyderabadi notions of distance and other things

Note to A: Leave Baudrillard at home only. Also his playmates.

Myth: Bas us gali mein hain (said without accompanying bhava or gesticulation)
Reality: There are many galis. Especially in the Old City, where it is possible to simultaneously insert two fingers of the same hand into two galis.

Myth: Oh, Punjagutta/ Hitech City/ Nampally is five minutes away.
Reality: Oh, I'm talking about helicopter travel. Otherwise it's 24, 4782949 light years away, if you get the MMTS train on time...

Myth: The MMTS train is just outside the station.
Reality: The MMTS train will come to the station in ten minutes.

Myth: Hussain 'sagar'.
Reality: Speedboat covers Sagar in a minute.

Myth: Bas baju mein hain.
Reality: 'Baju' paanch km lamba hain.

Myth: Bas chauraste pe milti.
Reality: A chaurasta, ideally, is a junction where four roads meet. Not an assemblage of four streets in different directions that you will pass on your way to the imagined chaurasta.

Myth: Famous Icecream kahan hain?
Reality: Scopes icecream khaon. Bahut Famous hain.

And my favourite one of the day.
Famous Icecream kahan hain?
Yahan fridge mein hain.

December 11, 2010

My article in The Hindu

Untold stories


Dastangoi performers Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain on the art they are trying to popularise.
Stepping off an empty Bandra by-lane into a chaotic world of flying sorcerers and audacious thieves requires, at the very least, a surreal shift in perception. And that is one illusion of many, a tilism, as a Dastangoi performer would put it. Over four days, ace dastangos Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain, with their brood of storytellers-in-training, presented tales from the Tilism-e-Hoshruba and other texts at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, as part of the first-ever Dastangoi festival.
The dastangos, dressed in white, kept the audience riveted as their voices soared above the persistent sea wind, bringing to life remorseless tricksters who behead everything in sight and spunky empresses who command an army of sorcerers.
Excerpts from a conversation with Farooqui and Husain, who have trained other people in the art for the past year.
How did the festival come about?
Mahmood: I have been working with people in Mumbai and Delhi for a year. Part of the idea behind the festival was to showcase all these new tellers. Also, all the stories have different flavours — we were able to present more stories than we ordinarily perform in a single show.

December 01, 2010

Eleven memories of JNU

On nostalgia trip, suddenly!

1. Staring at a nilgai and being stared at. Wondering if nilgai gore people to death. Tempting fate.
2. Eating rasmalai ka ras with my fingers.
3. Being called 'gudiya'.
4. Singing 'dhagala laagli kala' while standing on the armrest of a bench on the ring road. Later explaining the meaning to a certain bemused spectator.
5. Lying down at KC OAT and staring at the stars. And crying.They were so beautiful.
6. Eating upma and curd with M. Eating curd, yeah! And becoming the local advertisement for Priya Pickle.
7. Stopping to let a peacock cross the road.
8. Bicycling across campus. Cycling down the PSR stretch at high speed. Bike rides too.
9. Watching 6 am bidaais in Saraswatipuram.
10. Dancing in a Tapti room and being asked by concerned downstairs nerd if all was well. When assured that all was indeed well, she told me she thought it was a ghost.
11. Fighting over fans, bonding over fans, switching off fans, switching on fans, indulging in sneak fan speed wars. Fans!

October 22, 2010

Auto Motive

Today, I left home, running late again, thanks to my mother’s penchant for cooking me well-balanced insipid meals. I mean, she is a nice cook otherwise, but mornings get to her and she can never finish cooking insipid rice + insipid sambar + insipid vegetable + insipid breakfast. And telling her to leave one insipid component out doesn’t help. That my father’s favourite morning exercise is galloping from one end of the house to another whistling and making other funny sounds doesn’t help either. But then, he seems to find great solace in the act of running around the house. It makes him look busy. Hence – despite the presence of a washing machine, clothes must be subjected to third degree torture – no palpable difference in the whiteness of our whites; the bathroom, however, is a mess. To add insult to injury, after third degree torture, they are transported in ones and twos by father dearest, who cradles them like babies on his trip to the washing machine (babies who drip pee/water all over the house giving my mother good reason to go slip in them and then claim that the act of almost-slipping has permanently damaged her coccyx). But my SAB TV sitcom-material family is not the main focus of this post.

Going back to line one, as I stepped out, dreading the running behind buses that are not kind enough to stop and autos who don’t seem to want to go anywhere at all, including jahannum. I know about the last because I always ask autowallahs if they want to go there and they usually say no if they haven’t driven off yet. I don’t know; people were kinder when I was younger; buses generally stopped if you found your centre (and the centre of the bus) and ran towards the bus waving your arms. They were nice uncles. And I have always had long arms. How I digress. Today, the first auto I found agreed to take me where I wanted to go, an entirely undesirable place. I was overwhelmed with warm feelings of affection and had to resist the urge to hug him and give him a big puppy.

But that doesn’t take away from the angry young woman I usually am. All the peace karma I earned doing yoga in Bihar evaporates when I need to take an auto. My beautiful green umbrella broke a rib when I banged it on an auto windscreen on a particularly rainy day when I needed to get something really urgent done which required me to be anything other than soaking wet which I was. Sadly, nothing happened to the auto windscreen. On another taxing morning, an errant auto driver whose vehicle was commandeered by force when he refused polite means grumpily muttered something about how he would push me out of the auto if I were a man. I almost challenged him to a midnight duel in black clothing and masks but decided it was safer to unleash another round of kutte-kameeney verse instead.

Because that rascala might have the gall to ask for midnight fare to come duel with me.

October 19, 2010

When you stare, beware

Men who stare need some appreciation for their unstinting, unblinking efforts. And so, I am there.

Even otherwise, I think men need workshops on doing simple things in public spaces. I don't know why men in shared rickshaws need to wait for me to stamp pointedly and ruin their polished-to-perfection shoes before they realise that spreading their stubby thighs and airing their central nether regions are not conducive to travel in communal vehicles. Especially not if the person beside you is about to fall out of the rickshaw while you dry your privates. But I rise to the occasion gallantly, stamping and nudging them into joint-legged submission. Sometimes I really regret the fact that I cannot walk in stilettos. Such potent devices for leg torture. Sigh!

Shouting at the unblinking ones won't help, because they are masters of abhinaya and would give butter-stealing Krishna a run for his butter when it comes to looking blank and guileless. Returning the stare, however, is more effective. I refer to my bus ride back home today. I was sitting right at the back, and here I digress, for I am happy to note that the new low-floor BEST buses have better shock absorbers. As we turned off SV Road, I noticed a man, around forty-five years of age, who seemed greatly intrigued by my neckline. Which was not plunging, as I immediately looked down to confirm. I looked out of the window, watching Bhardawadi go by. In the meantime, he continued staring; the polished bus windowpanes let me stare back, you see. My heart had melted considerably - also because I was listening to Yahi madhava on repeat and feeling bad about Radha and Krishna's doomed romance. So I decided I must bestow complete attention on my devoted starer. From Navrang, he became the recipient of my unstinting, unblinking stare.

Years of being stared at have taught me a thing or two about this subtle art. There is only one rule - don't shift vanishing points too often. I am a good student; by the time we reached Indian Oil, the subject was trying to hide his face in the crook of his arm. Very unsuccessfully. I was angry now, because my subject had not risen to the challenge. When Ranjana gets angry, she gets very angry. She choreographs revenge, frame by frame.

White trousers have gone out of fashion, and I think that is so sad. He was wearing grey trousers, but I decided I'd give him a kick or two. Anyway there is no kalari class in Bombay. My skills will go rusty. I did consider aiming high, for his white shirt, but the bus was full and I didn't want to injure innocents.

As luck would have it, he moved to the door, intending to alight at my stop. I gleefully got up and bolted towards the exit, momentarily startling another passenger when I overtook him in my rush to the door. But I was a woman on a mission. Staring at his impudent back, wondering how best to kick him as we got off the bus, feelings of gory revenge coursed through my body. I wanted to do something that would count for more than a few grains of dust on his grey pants. And then I remembered my kajal pencil.

It is lovely, oily kajal, full of camphor. (Try it, it's really nice and available at Khadi Gramodyog outlets.) First I thought I'd give him an autograph on his shirt (how lucky!) in red ink; but then, bigger is always better and my kajal pencil needed sharpening anyway. His shirt was so beautiful and white.

Like good dreams, the details of which must be ritually blurred into a single hazy happiness, what I did between Indian Oil and Four Bungalows was a smorgasbord of delightful things. I slyly scrubbed my kajal pencil over his shirt. I elbowed him hard when I got off the bus, even as I dragged my foot over his pants. And I propelled myself off the bus by aiming a backward kick at him. He looked positively shattered by the time he got off. I was happy about that.

Later, I felt bad, quite bad, because I realised that the shirt I so happily stained will end up in the corner of the bathroom, perhaps waiting to be washed by a woman. Mostly.

But then, I am evil and scheming, so that has led to the idea that lipstick might be more effective next time.

September 25, 2010

Write a letter today

Today, I came back  from a long day, and saw a yellow package lying on a table. Then I saw my name on it. M has mailed me a letter. But this looked too big for a letter. It was a book from a completely unexpected correspondent; I remember she said she wanted to send me something, but I forgot all about it! 

Since my last postal correspondent and I are no longer on the same bandwidth, I have not received a single letter for over two years now. Though, if they opened the letters addressed to me in Bihar, assuming they've now reached, they'd be reading scandalous accounts of people's lives and equally scurrilous enquiries about mine.

Seeing an envelope with my name on it (in the 'to' section) has filled me with such insurmountable joy that I have decided to embark on a letter-writing project. There's so much more texture and flavour to letters. And letters let you say what tweets or Facebook statuses don't. And because letters are 'there' and not to be scrolled away from, they're so much more meaningful.

Write to me and I will write back to you. Or send me your address and I'll write to you first. Our letters need not be long. Or poetic. Or full of news. Our letters will just tell me you're there. 

September 24, 2010

Smell of ink

Though this is not the first time, my name in print always thrills me! Check out my interview of Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy of Nrityagram in today's Friday Review Delhi in The Hindu.

Meanwhile, Alarmel Valli and Madhavi Mudgal had lovely costumes yesterday, when they performed together. Worli Seaface looked beautiful with boats floating aimlessly in the water. And I almost had a cholesterol-induced heart attack after sharing a plate of Sardar Pav Bhaji with Reuben.

I can still feel the oil slick in my stomach.

September 22, 2010

Ganesha the DJ

This post is dedicated to my unfulfilled vipralambha urge for sleep. My morning dozing, afternoon sleep and the prospect of a good night's sleep have been interrupted by real and imagined drums.

And I think fake tutaris should be restricted to birthday parties in private, soundproof quarters.

Ganesha is really, really worried. Some of the things that happened to him today are:

Random vibrating drums - Ganesha does not want to be accused of causing an earthquake. Drops of dhinchik dhinchik are setting off the seismic plate under the ocean.
Himesh Reshammiya - I really see how 'aashiq banaya' is apt, but Himesh?!

What I thought was 'Jai Bhavani' - Ganesha is very secular, but like all famous people, he is also very narcissistic. He appreciates the respect you show his mother and aunts, but how would you feel if someone sang 'happy birthday' to your mother on your birthday? Which is why he was beginning to resent the overemphasis on the family tree.

Then, as it turned out, my worries about Ganesha's injured self-esteem were unfounded. My sister pointed out I had much ground to cover when it came to interpreting aural signals. The song in question, she explained, was 'Hai Jawaani'. So Ganesha is happy again, because they are telling him how he is in that subliminally perennial state of youth. I can see him shaking his trunk and a leg (when he is not sitting) and snorting 'hai jawaani, hai jawaani'.

Nadaswaram - Why are you ending Ganesha's innings as the flippant, naughty little creature who beats up his father because the latter tried to interrupt the mother's bath? A staunch mama's boy, Ganesha must always be single and ready to mingle.

Fake tutaris - Because they sound like elephants, interrupted. Asthmatic elephants. Ghastly choking-writhing-spluttering elephants. Ganesha does not subscribe to the misrepresentation of his ilk. Any publicity is not good publicity.

For next year, Ganesha says he will bring his own music.

September 18, 2010

In which Ganesha goes to the gym

So I hear that all the fairness cream defying Ganeshas are going to be disallowed next year. I shall have one less reason to hyperventilate about nirmalya lying on the beaches. And I will shed no tears on reading Ambai's description of a powerless monolith that floats aimlessly on the Versova coast and tears fishing nets to shreds. Also, Ganesha won't have to do Fair and Lovely Ads. Or even Fair and Handsome. He doesn't support stereotyping. But he is indignant. And petulant. First they put Sugar Free in his modaks, now they won't let him paint his face and then they say he should be made of clay so that he can dissolve easily. What is this dissolving-bissolving, he asks? Are they trying to tell him that he is obese and he should go to the gym because if he doesn't go to the gym he cannot paint his face and look hot? Ganesha is really worried.

Today, for the first time in my adult life, I saw an empty road, the usual kilometre of traffic strangely absent, at the masochistic traffic lights near JVPD. I am also masochistic and go there sometimes, hence I almost felt bereft, like I was being denied my lawful right. But then, I saw many strange things today. On SV Road, I saw a group of people dancing around a cart that carried the band. No horse. Check. No bridegroom. Check. No Ganesha. Check. 

Why is it a rule rather than an exception - bring small truck, plonk Ganesha in it and fill with people until truck bursts at seams? You are not visarjan-worthy if the truck exterior has even a single inch of unoccupied protruding metal.

Today, I heard a lustily sung aarti in the cracked voice of an old Maharashtrian matron. It sounded so nice. It reminded me of Chavande Kaka, who was the daytime watchman and who sang the aarti every year. I always tried to drown his voice out because he didn't sing it the way Lata Mangeshkar did. And we kids hated him for not letting us play on the building's water tank. Now, I am tired of shrill-voiced Lata impersonators who are ably supported by bad accompaniment; the rule is, the higher the better. Much like Hafeez Contractor.

No, mungda, mungda, main gud ki kali... is not a Ganesha aarti. Gauri would fly down from the heavens to curse you if the airfares were not so high. However, I really like the remixed Ghalin Lotangan with DJ type beats on those flat tawa-like things in drum sets. Wonder how they'd remix Pasayadan. 

September 06, 2010

Extended status message

Tomorrow, Reuben and I are going to Giri Trading because our per capita income has increased, just so slightly, since the last time we went. Then, we could only look at the rows of Kalanidhi Narayanan DVDs and Aruna Sayeeram and MS and Brinda-Mukta and drool and drool some more. Meanwhile, we are also celebrating the discovery of his ancestry. He is of warrior stock. Mindit, he will banish you to Kavaratti faster than you can say Easaw Panicker if you don't give him respect.

Today I was reading about the haleem at Mohammad Ali Road and I suddenly recalled reading something about haleem getting GI status, which means it is geographically exclusive to Hyderabad and haleem made outside Hyderabad cannot be called Hyderabadi haleem. Theoretically, a vegetarian haleem is possible, I thought, though I'm not thinking of paneer...yuck! I'm just thinking of the haleem without the meat. 

September 02, 2010

Radha on pot

I have never broken pots in my life, but this year, I am finally open to breaking a leg. Anyway, my on-the-ground stability, or the lack of it, doesn’t count for much. I have been dwelling on the pot. Or the pots, since Bombay is a city of pluralisms. Today, my ears were assailed by five different types of Govinda music within the hour and for all the peeking out while trying not to fall out the third floor window of low-ventilation high AC fancy business centre where I work, I couldn’t see a handi.

Since that moment of suspension close to the slats of a window, I have been wondering what my handi CV looks like. I have never broken a pot. Yes, I once experimentally broke a kulhar, but I felt quite bad about it later. One needs to be emotionally detached from the pot. I didn’t even eat dahi until recently, so I was always quite disgusted when the person at the top breaks the handi to have the dahi go all over. Sure, my hair might benefit from the conditioning. Now I eat curd, so that problem is solved. My question is, can I have mishti doi instead? (Krishna could be fussy, why can’t I?)

Questions for employers

I have banged many pots, does that count? I have broken many mugs and priceless utensils. I even hold the proud distinction of having broken a sealed thermos full of hot water without spilling a shard of glass. Now, that is downright impressive.

What about insurance schemes and provident fund benefits? What if the pyramid under me collapses and I am left swaying from the rope? What will I do if the curd goes sour? Die of hunger? And worse still, die a bitter woman? Will a golden parachute erupt from the handi and float me down to safety and perfect curds? What is the perfect fist needed to break the handi? Are the pots glued together with Fevicol? Will they respond to soft caresses or do I need to jam my fist in? Thumb in or thumb out?

Can I pick my own songs please? Most DJs have terrible taste in music.

PS: In response to Ipsitaa, I can scream (and how, ask my parents for recos), randomly also, can dance anywhere (no I'm not telling you where I normally dance), and I love water. Red water is even more turning on. So HR peeps, when do you come calling?

August 29, 2010


Erm, I’m vegetarian.

When the train pulled into Howrah station, shortly after it was scheduled to reach, I sat motionless on my seat, not sure if I was in Calcutta yet. I asked a porter, who looked at me like I was his country cousin, and sniggered to reiterate his impression. And then I spotted the local trains.

It took me a while to locate the exit to the station. I found a knot of cabbies who immediately surrounded me and quoted stupendous prices. When I finally settled on an offer that made me feel less fleeced, I started unloading my luggage. We were in the taxi lane and a Sardarji cabbie was driving past us. He exchanged pleasantries with the taxi driver and then remarked to me, “Beta, Chennai Mail aa gaya kya?” 

It took us twenty minutes to cross the stretch in front of the station. I was not sure if the driver had heard where exactly I had to go. So after we had covered a safe distance, I told him again. It would have been too easy if he knew exactly where I wanted to go, so he didn’t. And my friend Srin is not very, erm, goal-oriented. She bunny hops from goal to goal, you see. And my phone wasn’t even working, so each new twist by the cabbie meant I had to check back with Srin and then confidently answer his questions. After a while…

Cabbie: Where in Lake Gardens do you want to go?

Me: AK Ghosh School. AK Ghosh Bidyalaya.
(Is it even called bidyalaya in Bangla? I should have known when I once got a prize in a Rabindra Sangeet competition for my courage, for attempting to sing in Bangla. Face it, dear Ranjana, you are Chennai Mail material.)

Cabbie: Where is this school? I don’t know. 
(Cabbie has also smoked his last Charms cigarette and is getting increasingly restive)
Should I take the flyover?

Me: If it’s on the way there…
(Srin has messaged saying I can also use Dhakuria bridge)
Or we could take Dhakuria bridge.

Cabbie: (getting gruffer) Now it’s too late! How can you ask for this now? Why didn’t you tell me before? Then you will complain I took a longer route! ^?&*(**((%#$

Me: Just get to Lake Gardens, please! Whichever way you like.
(This fast resembles a lovers’ quarrel. We soon reach the lake that gives Lake Gardens its name. Cabbie stops with an air of finality. Turns back deliberately and informs me…)

Cabbie: This is the lake. (Implied speech: this is the lake, get off my back and go drown in it.) You said you wanted to go to Lake Gardens. This is the lake. This is Lake Gardens.

Me: (Gulp) Yes, that’s great. Now can we please go?

Cabbie: I don’t know where that darned school is. Find out yourself!
(I find out.)
That is past the flyover. This is too far. You didn’t tell me you had to go so far.
(One would think I’d asked him to drive me to Dhaka.)

Me: (in my best primary schoolteacher voice, as he drives, muttering angrily under his breath) Now this is the flyover, you go over the flyover and then we will be in Lake Gardens.
(Meanwhile, I am frantically messaging Srin for directions, which do not meanlandmarks. Not Lords Bakery, but right-left-right-median-fork-blah-Lords Bakery! By this time, we have left the safe space of the flyover and are again at the left-right-left crossroads. Having stopped again for directions, we are hurtling through Lake Gardens, a spluttering cab with an angry cabbie and a primary schoolteacher, my rucksack bouncing in the back. Note, we are now in Lake Gardens. I can see the signboards by the houses, which say, say, 234/4224, Lake Gardens. I hope the numbers are in some order, so that I reach 188/64 soon. But, alas, the next one is a 929!)

Cabbie: This is not Lake Gardens! This is not Lake Gardens. You fleeced me! You cheated me! (Wow! Such original indignation!) 

Me: (having lost all pretence of the loving student-teacher relationship, I have now joined the decibel-busting competition with gusto, determined to lay down my life before I lose) Don’t you see the SIGNBOARDS that all say Lake Gardens? You think I’m a blasted fool who’s never been to Calcutta, which is why you’re taking me for a ride? (I’ve never been to Cal, so what? Now I have.) You operate from the railway station and you don’t even know your way around the city? What did they teach you?!

Cabbie: (yelling/ bawling) This is not Lake Gardens! This is not Calcutta! You fooled me! You fooled me!

Over the next few minutes, having woken up all the sleepy morning walkers in Lake Gardens with our early morning not-so-loving exchange, we gradually reach the school in question, where cabbie stops his car, insisting that the right turn I ask him to make takes us into Dhakuria; now we are properly leaving Lake Gardens. Another shouting match ensues, and my visit to Lake Gardens/ Dhakuria will be remembered by many early morning stragglers. Thankfully, the one place Srin did give me right-left instructions for, I didn’t go wrong and was safely deposited at her creeper-laden red house.

As a parting shot, cabbie dearest hefted my rucksack out of his boot and dumped it on the road. The dumping part, however, was not so successful, because the weight of my rucksack hampered the freefalling nature of his emotions. 

The curious traveller's guide to circumnavigating the Earth. Or the North Pole. Or living at the North Pole.

What we do when we have better things to do.
Tips and questions:
1. Do you like the cold? Be rest assured, the North Pole is warmer than the South Pole.
2. Does your pee freeze at the North Pole?
3. Will the dal freeze? If yes, then you have a problem. If no, what will you cook it on?
4. Do you know how to make dal? If not, you have to make do with fish and seaweed.
5. If you starve from the lack of dal, Reuben will eat you alive. He has seen Sazayein Kaala Pani and knows where to get good advice.
6. I don't like seaweed.
7. Antarctica is in the south, but it is still cold.
8. If you flattened out the globe from the top, the North Pole would be at the centre and so would the South Pole. Then you could play hopscotch between islands and travel from Russia to Canada.
9. Reuben says we might find a Mc Donalds somewhere. However, he is unsure.
10. We could volunteer as elves at Santa's workshop, he says. Do they have self-heating toilet seats,asks a niggling worm at the back of his mind? Reuben, elves are small, you're too tall. 
11. He'll pull Santa's reindeer. And won't carry his own bag.
12. What after we leave Santa?
13. Maybe they'll have a beauty pageant, to crown the Ice Princess. You win ice.
14. I can drill a hole in the ice and make use of my experience in hydroponics. 
15. Will Reuben fall into a hole I drill? I will be chief hunter-gatherer. That way, Reuben says, when they excavate or thaw our frozen bodies, they will see how women were the providers of sustenance. Note the doubt in his voice, he thinks I'll be such a bad provider and then we will die of starvation.
16. And when I fall into a hole, he will dial 100 and get the Mumbai Police.
17. But does MTNL have towers at the North Pole? 
18. Now that Reuben has eaten seaweed and slept in his igloo, he thinks we should hire a diamond cutter from Surat or Antwerp and cut the glaciers into diamonds - show them the maal in situ, as he puts it. Clearly, he is not one for ecological sustainability. He is so lazy, he won't venture south to sell his fake diamonds. The clients have to come to him.
19. He thinks I lack suspension of disbelief.
20. We will have our own mineral water business. Because glacier water is better than Evian. And if we drink up all the 'glacier ka paani', then we don't have to worry about melting glaciers that will drown us. Makes astute business sense. He never knew he had entrepreneurial qualities. But then, living at the North Pole brings out the best in us, doesn't it?
21. We will have a different address each year.
22. Reuben has heard that reindeer grow algae on their hide in the summer. Now he will go for anything green.
23. The North Pole is nice; however, tomorrow, I will go for a walk. 
24. I will have clairvoyant connections with the Aurora Borealis. Reuben thinks he could die after having seen that. And he gives me permission to eat him after he has seen AB.
25. He says we should take lovers also. I say he will eat them all after the long winter.
26. Reuben is a praying mantis.
27. PETA, where are you? Reuben wants to shave the reindeer and use some wet felting process to realise and release the fashionista in him. Well, what does one wear at the North Pole? Surely not woollens from Sarojini? 
28. Reuben will wear felt.
29. And for once, we'll have a real Christmas tree! But Reuben will cut that up later, to use as fuel.
30. And he will let me teach him Odissi, in our spare time. We will have an ice skating rink too and then we will hybridise the two.
31. Maybe they'll make a film out of our past lives.
32. We will promote tourism. Paradise. Human Population: 2. Have we already eaten the lovers? My, we're sinking to new lows with each step. They'll overthrow our regime before we get there.
33. And supposing we're still alive, we'll write you more notes. No, don't say don't bother.

August 28, 2010

Leela Samson at NCPA

Watched a lovely Leela Samson performance at NCPA yesterday. I seem to recall that Experimental Theatre did not have a raised stage the last time I was there. It is simply horrid. The floor was better. I remember that lovely Sutra stalactite-stalagmite set filling up the space. 

The post-performance discussion was annoying and hilarious. I wish people could understand that post-performance discussions are meant to be critical ones and are not job fairs or marriage meets; you do not ask Leela Samson for her contact details five times in a row and waste valuable question time! Go backstage and hound her for all I care! To Samson's credit, she fielded questions beautifully.

More on the post-performance discussion soon.

August 21, 2010

Too many potatoes

NB: For all those who recognise the title, whacked from a Bodhi Tree song, I blame my lack of imagination on the bald stupor caused by yet another display of the various ways in which potatoes can be put to use.

Before I moved to Delhi, I knew of the potato. I actually liked it; it was an occasional carbohydrate stuffed delicacy that we ate once a week.

Then I moved to Delhi.

Two months later, home with typhoid and too many boiled potatoes, I went into hysterics when my mother placed before me a dish of little diced potatoes, just the way I liked them.

Then I came back to mess food and between snake gourd and ash gourd, I wanted to do violent things with and to gourds, so I opted to eat the potatoes that were liberally sprinkled over each dish. Oh, and in case one didn't get enough of them, they also made their presence felt at breakfast, at least thrice a week.

Somewhere between all this, winter came, and ensconced in my sweaters, I failed to notice how I was fast becoming a potato. Why, now that I think of it, that sounds a little like one of Roald Dahl's stories come alive. Not too nice an allegory, I'd say, though I quite liked reading Dahl.

After that, the next 18 months passed in a war of potatoes. If you didn't like this potato there was that potato. One learnt that potato was the most transgastronomical vegetable ever. Start your day with alu paranthas or perhaps alu kachoris or chole bhature with alu in the chole thrown in for good measure. I even had sprouts with...potatoes. That little insignificant cur of a tuber suddenly dominated our lives. Except, it has always appalled me that Delhi cannot make decent batata vadas.

Like everything else, too much of the potato is harmful and one is susceptible to withdrawal symptoms no matter how much one hates it. When I went to Kerala, there was no food, and no potato. I still fail to acknowledge the side of me that walked into Big Bazaar one day and picked a ready-to-eat alu mattar off the shelf. I don't know her.

Eventually, I did return to saner climes, and saner food, where the children study their green vegetables well. Erstwhile exotic delicacies like rajma, chole and any remotely alu-using dish have been banned from the table on pain of death by potato-sized temper tantrums.

March 11, 2010

That time of the year...

It is again that time of the year when an exam is not just around the corner, it is less than twelve hours away from being in your face.

I am yet to grasp the higher meaning of the words that fly around, though I have grasped the weight of the reader they reside in. It is very heavy.

I have been trying to look for notes of classes I may have been physically present in, and I have found in them much proof of the fact that the mind knows no barriers, page margins or geographical. Last semester, staircases fascinated me, now silhouettes and maps of Marine Drive are commonplace. Also, my skewed, biased, selective memory has again come to the fore – I don’t remember any of the classes I seem to have attended (credit this discovery to another newfound obsession: dating notes), but I remember what I was doing every time I have missed a class, in excruciating detail. It seems I went to Khajuraho, shopped till I dropped at the World Book Fair, slept, slept some more, washed my hair, watched innumerable dance performances, slept still more, when I could have watched my pen fly across paper (autopilot) in class.

But this is not to say that being in class is boring. The creative academic process pushes the boundaries off the edge (and us off the boundaries) and we always excel. Sample the following.

Reflections about and during a boring class

Darken classroom. The steady whir of the projector is conducive to sleep. As are all methods of vocal monoton(e)-ality.

Going to the toilet is a source of much entertainment. You rediscover leaking cisterns, watch with awe as the tank fills up, then beginning to leak, before you flush it all out, your ears relishing the sound of this gurgling mountain stream.

You splash water on your face, washing cold drops trickle down and dampen the rim of your sweater. You place a droplet on your forehead and let it make its way down till it ricochets into the washbasin with a trickle.

Creative urges expended, and temporarily suspended, I return to the dark world.