Thursday, 28 August 2008

Maid-en over

aka One-Day maid service is here
- Bangalore Mirror, Wed 3 Sept, 2008

At a recent gathering, the topic of conversation, inadvertently, settled upon domestic help. As always, there was a lot of cricket in the background.

Both, subjects that everyone has ample to contribute to. That day was no different. While the men whined about missing crucial cover drives and third eyes, one senior lady went glum just thinking about her predicament at having to endure an in-form-out-of-form-out-of-town kaamwali. Another friend posed smug at the loyalty her mother enjoyed irrespective of malle, jaatre, habba, maava or akka na thangi!

Woes of trauma followed. Few scored and two were caught behind. India, in the meanwhile, was doing well with Dhoni on strike. That’s when a phone rang. Smug friend’s maid needed a week off! Her maava na magaa had been put into aaspatre. Well, well.

While the rest of the crowd looked on half amused , half sympathetic, my mother revealed our unique situation. With apartments springing up everywhere, home owners like us, have become a troubled lot. Floor-hopping holds greater sway over these maids who are reluctant to be stuck in one house for half a day. Fed up, my mother changed her approach. Dinaa cooli became the new mantra.

Post breakfast, my parents would go out scouting for a maid and anyone that looked safe enough to approach and was ready for a quick single, was brought home. The maid-of- the-match would save the day, and walk - never to be called again. This carried on for a couple of weeks. My mother would roll the pitch, the maid would run her innings and … out.

Our friend watched this show, curiously, on one of his visits. That same week, he donned the cap of Captain- Team Maid. Sticky wicket, yes, but took spin well. He would go out for the grocery and dutifully return with a new maid!

We were just laughing over the whole thing (cricket score in due check) when my smug friend’s dad clapped his hands and said, ‘First class! I’m doing the same as him now’.

Like a shot, our friend’s grandson, all of five, concluded, in a high pitch, for everyone present.
‘Yaaaaaaa! Just tell my Thatha. He buys them from the shop, you know? He brought one yesterday only. They are goooood.’ Eyebrows perked, he nodded earnestly.

Uproar from the TV corner. Beautiful timing. Dhoni hit another six and our host settled down with the remote. Beat.

Match over, the jibes that followed are best kept out of print.

~ -- Bangalore Talking -- Blog Talk -- One-Day maid service is here

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


printed as Vicarious pleasures
- Deccan Herald. Sun, September 28, 2008.

The stole clung to me in a frantic embrace as the howling wind soared phoenix-like, as if to obscure me from a vision that unfolded numerously in an age of ravenous cats and human game.

Rising heat, the damp of perspiration, raucous jeering of a throng of fifty thousand, mounting rapidly to a crescendo … and a gasp! A deadening quiet ... The air hangs thick with anticipation. Every muscle tense, all eyes are on a distant figure, far, far below. Nothing moves except the wind, wailing its solitary song. An owl screeches past. A deafening clang of heavy iron echoes ominously, way below, somewhere in the incongruous maze of sand and structure.

Man and beast stand face to face – terror rife, in the space between them. Each one, the hunter and the hunted.

Thoughts freeze, fists clench, chests heave and jaws tauten as the audience sits on egde, aroused.

The lion shifts its steady gaze … the gladiator moves, eyes fixed in shrewd strategy. His ankles cross each other and the slightest clink of shackles sounds out in the amphitheatre, shattering the silence.

Meat-on-meat-blood-on-blood. A vile chant picks tempo. And one man stands alone - torn.
A worthy spectacle.

Hell heaves open as the multitude rises in mass hysteria. And the heavens, unable to behold this gory scene, break down on all of us.

Reeling from what I’d seen, I gratefully stand in the rain, drained of emotion. Dazed, I look around me - the bloody tale of a ghastly tradition, nearly 500 years long, resonates in every grain of every stone.

The inescapable shadow of a pursuit so horrific and gruesome, lingers poignantly to this day. And through this dark cloud, rises an icon of Roman imperialism, an intimidating testament to its indomitable glory.

The arrogance of its power emanates from every column. The magnificence of design, the perfection of symmetry, the enormity of scale, all celebrate an architecture and engineering as grandiose as the empire they flourished in.

The past lives on with the present. Influences and reflections juxtapose each other in a fantastic draw of sensibilities that simultaneously celebrate a flamboyance of art, and contemplate a history as infamous as it is revered.

With my back to the Forum, I look again at the ruins of this masterpiece. My thoughts canter as I ponder the significance of its saga in our lives today.

In the collosseum of our minds, how many beasts have we not bred? How much sand have we not kicked? How many battles have we not staged? Are our own gladiatorial conquests and contests so different from what shocks us in history? Have we never screamed for blood and climaxed in our own sadistic pleasures? Have we not built our castles of toil and run the maze of time? And yet, we stride along, cautious step on cautious step - catching up and moving on.

We live our lives in history and make another as we go along. We stand for our influences and stand by our dreams. And as we pull the baton of our achievements, there is always the finish looming large. When we do take a minute to reflect on our choices, time's Collosseum rises forth, again. Another gladiator stares destiny in the face.

~ pleasures

Friday, 22 August 2008


Turn left, off Wimbledon Broadway, and take the 4th right into Effra Road. Tucked away at # 124, the temple priests piously go about their daily rituals - intermittent jingles of the holy bell soundless, outside double-glazed parameters.

For the uninitiated, a Hindu temple in the middle of SW19 is the ultimate paradox. To those home away from home, this is a charming microcosm of a vast envelope that is the Indian subcontinent. A cozy bubble that will not burst.

Hands folded and eyes closed in humble resignation to the remover of obstacles, I let the calm radiate through my being, disentangling my thoughts and revealing the way forward. Every once in an infrequent while, when my world closes in around me with conflicting desires and hazy identities, I look to my sanctuary - an oasis that keeps me from wilting. I stand, sound and proud in the knowledge of who I am. And I leave, reconnected to my soul and poised for another day.

In the comfort of its quiet dignity, thus, thrive a people who uphold their faith and spirit, undeterred, in a foreign land as much home as the soil that remains dear.

The amalgamation is complete. Tough roots nurture a community that keeps generations wrapped close. Family values hold and propagate their resilience down the line. The allure and proximity of a lifestyle more permissive than native contraptions notwithstanding, new blood toddles on, finding its way through the labyrinthine melee of culture, cross-culture and opportunity.

Spread far across the city of London and beyond, the custodians flock together regularly, to regale in festive fervor and reiterate their cognisance in a country unnaturally theirs.

What with the bustle of an unstoppable high street in the skirting, the swift drive up the hill into quaint Wimbledon Village replete with chic boutiques and top-end chains, the fabled serenity of Wimbledon Common with its sprinkling of woods and water holes and the all-imposing tennis with resident reverend Centre Court- the contrasts are unflinching.

Yet, an institution, ethnic in stance, prospers. And a country, staunchly protestant, revels in the multitude of colours as foreign as those who bring them in.

Constantly, silent and sure, mindful and determined, considerate and considerable, a new wave tides in and out of this idyllic suburb. Like clockwork, the priests chant their verse, the temple bells ring and the incense wafts its scent.

And every now and again, for redemption, blessing or on a whim, # 124, Effra Road, SW19, gets a visitor.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


printed as Adjust maadi, with a vengeance
- Bangalore Mirror, Fri 22 Aug, 2008.
I drive in this city, out of absolute vengeance. A pleasure I would play any prank to get my foot on, is now short of thrill and purely and utterly a means to an end.

Some time ago I would refrain from any opinion on the simple basis that I have been away and the ‘locals’ (a privileged nomenclature that had applied to me) would tut-tut at my sudden and ‘typical’ foreign scoffs. But now I find that, even in my head, I am more local than most locals I know. Hence I am entitled to every serif, dot and crossed t to follow henceforth.

Roll away smogged eyes and claim greater right on any judgment because- and this is true- I have only seen the result of and not the actual day-by-day and systematic smothering of a city that once breathed pure.

But not one of you can take away from me, my prerogative to mourn. And I mourn my loss of belonging. I mourn my loss at understanding how getting to Cunningham road, the other day, could take not 40 mins but 1 hr 40 mins!

I have been introduced to my new city of dwelling- Bengaluru. I have been acquainted with new roads, construction corridors (newer roads), ambitious projects (signal-free roads) and dream parades (all the digging for the metro rail, on perfectly good roads). I have been familiarised with ‘lanes’ on these new roads, with the exhilarating ‘outer’ lane. Globally understood as the ‘fast lane’, this third lane has been formulated by the traffic police as an 80 kmph lane, for drivers such as me who will invariably have a place to get to ‘within’ a certain time. But this lane is domicile to thelawallahs and trucks spewing loose jelly and overhanging rusty iron rods. They will not drive beyond 35 kmph and God forbid, no! also never allow vehicles with speedometers that accommodate numbers up to 200kmp to overtake and find their hurried way.

If I am lucky enough to negotiate a gap between two vehicles straddling my lane on either side, I get on the issue of belonging. I have to admit that this is an issue, as such, largely attributed to my going away. But I have been back for long stays every 12-18 months and more frequently over the past two years. And every time, it is a renewed eye-opener. Every time more smarting that the previous- deeming the term ‘shutter speed’ a very human form of defence and less of a technical adjustment.

This brings me, meandering, to a very interesting experience I was recently a part of. Solitary, spot-lit and public humiliation (campus jargon: stress-busting) not being my subject of expertise, I was nevertheless, made party to one such perpetration. Another ‘never’ prefixed to my expanding list of to-dos. Revelation: kids grow out of their title at 8 yrs of age. The increasing number of worldly wise young adults here, coerce me to contemplate- is the welcoming and tranquil Bangalorean I am, a redundant genus? I think not. If it is the non-Bangalorean hard nose and meanness (for paucity of a meaner vocabulary) that my psyche seems stubbornly immune to, it is - and I accept - a grave failing. One I am not mourning.

And so my vengeance carries on. In the face of worldly wise kid-adults who put all I have been taught, to question. In the face of materialistic pageantry and social mortification that has become the anthem of most aspiring and veteran P3Ps. In the face of influential luminaries that enlighten less and reflect more. In the face of propagandists who will existentialise the motive of an entire city.

Bangalore stands proselytised. And I will plough through. I will conquer every underpass beyond every flyover, both of which will portentously have some structural under-completion. I will drive on every road including every deviation and every pompous re-re-re-direction. I will stick to my lane and completely frustrate the bus (yes, bus!) that will manage a niche 7th lane right behind me.

This is it. It is this quintessential simply adjust maadi stance that keeps us going. Just taking it. And giving in.

Bangalore will always remain a golden screen on which the transient hues of Bengaluru will cast filter upon filter and draw new identities, on and on.

With a vengeance, it survives. A vengeance I am beginning to enjoy.

~ -- Bangalore Talking -- Blog Talk -- Adjust maadi, with a vengeance

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Write side up

Writing came to me because of my mother. She was always in the limelight, compering events and organising them. Watching her, I started doing the same with my dolls. I would orate to them, teach them alphabets and recite my own four-line poems. I can’t really pin-point when writing became my own hobby. What I do know is that it gives me a release. There is a sense of finality when I put my thoughts down on paper. The moment they are manifest in ink, my thoughts cease to be mere cranial processes. They become my expressions. I like that.

Two years of copywriting taught me, to an extent, the craft of succinct writing. Considering an average ad. space of 40cc where even nine words of copy were nine too many, crisp writing was really a mode of survival. Such training however left me quite inept at writing anything longer than 100 words. Even at this moment, I find myself straining to stretch my sentences, adding more thoughts and at the same time trying to avoid verbosity and putting you out even before you get to know me. I have experimented with a fair bit of copywriting, now it’s the turn of my ‘writing’. Seeing it published would be nice. Having it read, nicer. Enjoying the comfort of home, the nicest.

My husband keeps dreaming of a JK Rowling incarnation in our house - he is responsible for my daily dose of non-baby humour (did I mention my 6 yr old?). But if he dares to dream, and my mother keeps at pushing, the least I can do is give them company. And maybe even some writing.

So, the word’s out. Let’s see if I read the sign posts correctly.


My eyes are closed. I am aware only of a cold autumnal breeze caressing my face. I take a long whiff of the crisp air and open my eyes, rejuvenated. In front of me, far away, I see a curtain of fog slowly revealing in its translucency, the unmistakable outlines of a fortress. As if hypnotised, the cloud of mist sways to the light filtering in from the street lamps in the distance. The moonlight waltzes in, making the ramparts of the fort suddenly shine out in splendour. It is mesmerising, this sensuous dance between the elements.

Such a magical welcome sparked my romance with Edinburgh almost immediately. Even the taxi ride felt dramatic. The moon was generous with her light and each cobblestone, smoothened with use, glistened its age. The dark, the empty streets, the narrow lanes, the high walls, higher church spires and those cobbles, all told tales many years old. It was as if I was in the 17th century, riding in my horse drawn carriage, as we rumbled through the city. Hiding every now and again around road bends and behind those impressive stone buildings, the fortress on the other side continued its company with us. Never could I ignore its magnificence. That evening I slept with a warm heart, waiting to hear more wonderful stories.

In a city with such a rich heritage, I didn’t really need a plan, the next day. Before I knew it, I was down the famous Royal Mile. If the place looked like a dream the evening before, in bright daylight it looked like a sunflower in full bloom. The market place was vibrant. People were dressed in all colours and wonder of wonders, they all wore a smile. It made sense really. Amid such beauty there couldn’t be room for much more than happiness and goodwill. To prove me right, the bagpipes broke out just then. Three men complete in tartan highland gear turned a regular shopping-spree into grand festivity. Though I was famished, lunch just had to be left for later.

The fort had already impressed upon me its timeless majesty. At 1 ‘o’ clock, it also imposed its power. A loud boom echoed in the mile, and I had to obey my stomach instantly. My little son was most wonderful throughout. It was as if even he was enjoying every moment of the day. Not for long though. And just until I had walked right up to the foot of the castle.

Away from the concrete and plasterboard reality of our automated lives, here was a legacy, treasured with love. In spite of a few modern restorations, the rustic, sophisticated charm and wizardry of an ancient architecture held their own supremacy. No number of tempered glass sheets or shining granite could fade the dignity of this fantastic structure. I would have carried on, had the rain gods remained clement.
The Edinburgh International Festival ’08 (8 August 2008- 31 August 2008), a brilliant spectrum of culture and festivity has the city under its spell. Check out what's going on.