Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mostly about cafes

Because we are really cool and non-worrying second-time parents, we have been stealing out of the house when Ragini naps. Alright, perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that the grandparents are around but even so, this is a huge achievement, I think. Please give credit. Thank you.

Today we went to the newly-opened Pali Village Cafe. Only the insiders know about it for the simple reason that it doesn't have a board outside to announce the name. Bandra is full of places with a lot of character and not much else going for them. Thankfully, PVC turned out to be different. It is very pretty, if you go for the rustic Italian, paint intentionally peeling off walls, biscotti in glass jars sort of look. We had to sit in one of the-heat-will-kill-you sections because the air-conditioned rooms were all full. I am fairly certain people sitting there were laughing and pointing fingers at poor sods like us who had to sweat it out but maybe it was just the heat playing tricks with my head. Once we were seated, I started my favourite pastime of spotting minor celebrities and sharing information with M.

Me: That's veejay Juhi.
M: How can you tell? You both have your backs towards each other.
Me: Don't ask.

Me: That's Sunil Shetty's wife.
M: My dear, that's really good, even for you.
Me: Thank you.

Me: That's Rhea Pillai.
M: She used to be married to Sanjay Dutt.
Me: Some of my magic has rubbed off on you. But who is she married to now?
M: I knew it was too good to last. I give up.
Me: Leander Paes, hahaha.

The cafe basically attracts two kinds of people - the overweight and the gorgeous. I caught a reflection of myself in one of the glass doors and decided that I fall somewhere in between. They were all rich though. It could have been a gathering of Louis Vuitton bags.

The food was excellent. Crispy pizza crusts that made me forget the horrible, horrible excuse for pizza that Little Italy had the gall to deliver last night. Excellent mocktails. (Yeah, I know. Sigh.) Delicious pitta bread and hummus. Superb bagels. But the best part was that between walking in and signing the cheque, it all took only one hour! Yes, I am going back for sure.

I love people who talk loudly in restaurants. It saves me the trouble of concentrating hard to hear what they are saying.

I have been meaning to go to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for a long time but I knew that the Gods wanted me to go there when I saw that the gang in Entourage is always hanging there. The coffee there is really good and grudgingly I must admit that it is a vast improvement on the greasy channa-bhatura serving Cream Center that it has replaced. Even so, I had a tough time letting go of Cream Center. For years, Turn right at Cream Center and be prepared to be fined because it's one way was the standard direction to my old house. The old guard and all that.

Once you have kids, you just stop shopping for yourself. The Magical Force of Parenthood just automatically directs you to the kids section in store and you buy more stuff for your precious offspring that you have no idea where to keep. Perhaps it is just as well. Nothing fits me anyway.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Books make a difference

This would have been another inane post or even no post had I not opened my Google Reader and gone to dipali's blog first and learnt of this initiative by BlogHer. I truly believe that words can sometimes come together in a powerful way that can change a person's life. I also believe that more often than not, such magical words are to be found between the covers of a book. 

Even so, I am finding it difficult right now to pinpoint that one book that has had the greatest impact on my life. Nor can I really remember the first book ever to have had a magical hold on me. Was it Enid Blyton with the Malory Tower series that made me beg the mother to pack me off to a boarding school? Gone With The Wind? Rebecca? To Kill a Mockingbird? Krishnakali? No, I don't know which was the first to unlock something deep within. All I know is that it would have been the first of many.

They probably made me more reclusive too, those books, setting standards that were too high for mere people to meet. (I am older now but I have had no reason to change my mind.)
All books that we connect with do impact us in big or small ways. Some inform, some entertain, some question us, some make us question the world but they all leave us changed when we turn that last page. And when revisited, books, like smells, transport us back in time, to the people we were when we first met these friends.
On that verbose note, let me quit rambling and get to the point.

(Of course I could be cheap and say that the only book that truly changed my life was BUV because it elevated me from being a self-doubting writer to a self-doubting author but like I said, that would be cheap. True, nevertheless.)

The point of this post is this:  

BlogHer and BookRenter, a company that rents textbooks to college students, have joined forces because we know that books make a difference.

From May 3-28, together we are working to make a difference in children's lives by generating new books for children who need them most -- via the nonprofit organization First Book.

Want to help? 
For every answer we receive in the comments to the following question, one book will be donated:
What book has had the greatest impact on your life?

That's right: All you need to do is leave a comment, and BookRenter will donate a book to a child in need -- up to 1,000 books.
Want to help even more? You can blog about our campaign, then add the specific URL of your post to Mr. Linky and we'll add another book to the tally.
Because books really do a make a difference.
There are still a couple of days till the 28th- please do leave a comment, and blog too!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Update from the house with two kids

We have been hit by the Curse of the Disappearing Maid yet again. This time the cook has gone missing. Where does all my domestic help go? Is there a giant black hole somewhere in the universe that gobbles up all my maids and cooks, never to return them again? Anyway, if you know of any way to attract good help karma, please let me know. And while you are at it, please forgive me for not answering your mail/ answering it after you had clean forgotten that you'd written it at all. It's all the kids' fault.

The word 'kids' has replaced the old 'kid' with the same ease as Ragini has entered this family and become one of it. I still have days when I get up in the mornings and realize that I have a daughter, A DAUGHTER, WORLD! and want to throw a wild cheer and my imaginary hat into the air but at others I feel like I do not really remember the life I had without her around. And this is the hold she has on me at the ripe old age of two weeks. Someone is going to get so spoilt. However, I still call her Adi about half the time which pisses off the boy no end. That is not Adi, he tells me crossly, that is Raagu. Right, then. Raagu incidentally has replaced Daddy as the Number One Person in Adi's book, causing the latter to look very hurt. I think he plans to bribe the boy with untold amounts of gummy bears just to get some of the lovin' back. We will keep you posted on events as they unfold.

Given that I am confined more or less completely to the house these days, I am spending this time constructively in the pursuit of excellence in media. In other words, I am watching a lot of TV. Entourage, to be precise and I must admit that although at first I felt it was not really my kind of a show, lately it has really grown on me, thanks to a certain Ari Gold who is altogether brilliant. I think I will watch the six seasons without too much of a struggle. Any other show you think I should watch, leave me a comment.

My script has completed its resting phase and I think it is now time to bring it out of hibernation and attack it with a vengeance, provided I can keep myself from cringing when I re-read it. That's the thing about keeping writer's hours, my friends, you don't even get maternity leave. I mean, I have seen Mahesh look at me questioningly a few times when he sees that I am doing no work at all these days. The 'instead of wasting your time surfing, why don't you finish your second draft?' remains unsaid but still hangs ominously in the air.

Bob the Builder, can we frickin fix it? Bob the Builder, yes, we frickin can. This is the refrain of choice in the house these days. I think Upsy Daisy's throne has finally been usurped by a more annoying character. In a first of sorts, Adi also believes that he actually IS Bob the Builder and keep referring to some yard that he needs to go to. It would not be such a bad idea if he really could fix things. I have a whole list of things around the house that need some attention.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Delurking back in fashion again

And so it's that time of the year again. Which time of the year, you ask? Well the time of the year when a young man's fancy turns to love.

Also, when I get really curious about my readers and get on your case about delurking.

I normally don't hound you to come out, leave comments, discuss things. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to stalk you. I do. So yeah, leave your name, address, phone number, PAN card/social security number, bank account details complete with transaction password and I will get right down to it.

No? Yeah, that was a little tough to sell.

So we will make do with whatever you'd like to share. I know most of you are in the US or India or Singapore but hey, what about you there in Slovenia? And you, my dear reader, silent in Korea? I want to shake a virtual hand with you too. And the four hundred odd people who are reading this via their feed readers, it's just a click, you know, you can do it if you try.

Who are you? What rocks your boat? What gets your goat? Do you appreciate poetry like the kind I just wrote? This is about making you a little more real for me. So share what you will, but share. Anonymous is perfectly alright but use a nickname. You can go right back to being silent readers after today and not a whimper will be emitted from my corner.

Declaring Delurk Divus at Parul's, version 2010 now open!

No bets with M this time around. This is between you and me. So hello ji, myself Parul, what about your good self?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A very special Mother's Day, indeed

All together say, welcome to the world, Ragini. 

The connection at the hospital was terrible and so M missed his once-in-a-lifetime chance to write a post on my blog. I am here now with all the news though. Ragini missed sharing her brother's birthday by about twelve hours and made an appearance at 9:12 am on May 5th. I will still host only one joint birthday party though.

The cesarean was very unlike last time's. There was much less stress all around, mostly thanks to the doctor. Dr FRS, respect. You are not called the top doc in Bombay without a reason. I was back on my feet in less than a day.

Ragini looks exactly like Adi. Which means that the jury will be split exactly half and half on who she looks like, M or me. I am cool with that. 

She has got beautiful hands. Like a pianist's. I am going to buy a baby grand tomorrow. 

Adi came to see Ragini at the hospital and when she started crying told her - don't cry baby, I am here, I will take care of you. We were much heartened, nodding sagely and telling each other that he was going to be the typical older brother. Taking care of the baby since we have brought her home however has largely involved screaming incessantly as she sleeps, telling her that it's actually his crib that she is being allowed to sleep in and shaking the mattress in the same crib violently. Interesting times we will live in. 

Being a mom of two still feels unreal but I can already see that the days are going to be very full. There's going to be some serious action around here.

And hey, I did want to say thank you for keeping me and the baby in your thoughts.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

No, this isn't the post from M

Everyone is waiting for the baby. The neighbour aunty got really curious and even rang the doorbell to check if the baby had arrived. She looked most disappointed when I opened the door, complete with my big belly. The part-time help took a day off and feared that the baby might have made an appearance in her absence. The guards downstairs who themselves are apparently eagerly looking forward to the new arrival told her that I had not been seen trundling off to the hospital. People are sending Adi tentative birthday invites, attendance totally anticipated basis whether he is a big brother yet or not. Friends have been telling me that I have been most amiss in my responsibilities and it's very tiresome for them to wait for the baby's arrival and could I please just hurry up with it and get it over and done with. I have completed a full forty weeks today and am having trouble even shifting my weight from one side to the other. Oh well.

Everyone has an opinion on the gender of the baby. Everyone thinks it's perfectly alright to assess my belly from all sides and then proceed to proclaim - ah, all belly, bet it's a boy/girl. The maids walk in and tell me that it's a girl/boy (depending on what they believe I want) and that I should load them with new silk sarees and gold ornaments when they are proven right. Yeah, right. People from Tamil Nadu believe that the later the baby arrives, the greater the chance of it being a girl. People from Maharashtra believe in the complete opposite. Predictably, M's mom and the maids are standing on opposing sides of the fence. I should have started a betting pool and made some money off this racket.

In the midst of this waiting, tragedy struck and my full-time maid who had been hired just a month back and was proving to be such a treasure that I did not jinx it by even mentioning her on this blog was diagnosed with kidney failure. The physician who I took her to after she complained of pain told me that it's a matter of time, that she should not work, that she should be hospitalized immediately, that she could slip into a coma at any time, that she should be with her family, that she had been ill for a long, long time, that she needed a kidney transplant. I called her husband home and explained the situation to him. He confirmed that he could have her treated in a hospital because he is a government employee and works at the Mantralaya. I got to know that he did indeed take her to the hospital and that she is under the care of a nephrologist now. But I also know that he drinks. She has a ten year old daughter whom she wanted to send to a good hostel. She is thirty-two years old. I cried that night.

The pigeons that live in and about our planters outside the house's windows have been thriving. Many of them have had babies. We have watched them carefully as they go from being invisible lives inside eggs to hatching to resembling chickens to getting all gray and black and then flying off from the ledge to have lives of their own. Pigeons are not empty-nesters for too long though. They get to the business of having more kids almost as soon as the earlier batch has been packed off to college. The gardener who comes to water the plants every morning is not very sentimental about the birds. He saw an egg in a gamla and watered all over it. This was most upsetting for everybody, including the mother-bird. The gardener was ticked off. I am here to look after the plants, not the birds, he grumbled. This morning Mahesh was very upset because one of the eggs was carried off by a crow. I think without really realizing it, we have pets.

Now I am off to wait for the baby, like I have been doing these past twenty days. Please wish us well. We ought to have some news soon.

I need to vent against Kent

Have you seen that ad where Hema Malini proclaims to her daughters that Kent se paani mittha ho jata hai. Yeah well, I saw it too and when we moved into this new house, we decided that it was time to invest in a water purification system as opposed to picking up two twenty-litre Bisleri bottles every few days. Well, the machine was delivered at the old house and we were asked to get in touch with them once we had moved so that the technician could come over and fix the machine. I may have told you about the leery man who arrived in the name of a technician. Honestly he looked like he had come after smoking up. Not that I have a problem with that but still, it would be nice to have a technician who got to work rather than gave the kitchen a cursory glance before declaring - sorry, no can do. I was up to my ears in uncooperative workers at the time so this particular case was handed over to the good man and husband who used all manners of coaxing and cajoling to get the work done. The technician left after installing the machine and we heaved a sigh of relief.

Not for too long though.

Six months later, the machine beeped a few times and died on us. It was back to Bisleri bottles while a complaint was registered and a fellow from Kent RO lumbered over and changed some part and fixed it. Isn't it a tad early for the machine to be giving trouble, we asked tentatively. Take the AMC, came the stern reply. Well, that doesn't bode well, we thought with some trepidation.

Sure enough, a few weeks later, the machine went into relapse. I registered a complaint on Friday. Someone will come either tomorrow or on Monday, I was told. Oh ok, I said and waited with bated breath and no drinking water, ghar aaya mera pardesi playing in the background. No one came. Bisleri bottles were bought. I called on Monday to find if all was well and the company had not gone belly up over the weekend. What is your complaint number, snapped the lady who took my call. I don't have one, I said. Well then, I cannot help you, she said. Give it to me now, I said. Yeah, whatever, she seemed to say and gave it to me, now someone will come on Wednesday. Oh ok, I said and ordered some more Bisleri bottles. Wednesday came and went, Kent RO person was nowhere in sight. I called again. Oh well, something must have happened, maybe tomorrow, said the unperturbed lady at the customer care cell. Then someone called me on Thursday evening. I am the Kent RO technician, he declares grandly, I am in Bandra, at your old address. Err, why, I asked him, because you know, the machine is where I am, which is at the new address. Oho, ab kya karen, he asked. Well, there is no need for panic, I told him, we are only five minutes away, you can come here now. Sounds like a plan, give me your new address, he said. So I dutifully explained the landmarks and turns and the whole hog. Two hours passed and no sign of him. I called him again. Where are you, when are you getting here, I ask. Oh, it's you, he tells me, I decided not to come today after all and listen, get your address changed at my office.

By now, I have made so many calls to fricking Kent RO that I am feeling married to them. Also, smoke is emanating from my ears.

So on Friday, the weekly anniversary of my first call to them, I get in touch with them yet again. The unperturbed lady takes my call and has the gall to tell me that ab toh Monday ko hi hoga. This is when I decided to do my harridan act. You listen to me, I told her, it's a fuckall product and you guys have fuckall service but I don't care. That technician had better land on my doorstep today. Oho, how will I send a technician now, she grumbled. I don't know and I don't care, just send him, I screamed. After some backing and forthing with her boss on this (I could hear them clearly), she told me that she would send someone over.

And predictably didn't. The technician steadfastly ignored my calls (I had procured his mobile number despite some serious resistance to the same) and finally switched his cellphone off.

This morning, at our wits' ends, we called the corporate office in Noida. I figured we better go right to the top and asked for the Chief's number. Some Sunita Arora at the reception held back the Chairman's number but after she figured I wasn't going anywhere, she put me through to one Mr Vinod Srivastava, the Chairman's secretary. The man heard my story and assured me that it would be taken care of. Now where have I heard that before?

Updates to follow.

Moral of the story: Don't listen to what Hema Malini says (and it's meetha, not mittha). And keep the Bisleri guy's number handy.