Monday, August 30, 2010

Keep this Sunday free

The absolutely biggest, most important and completely critical event in my life is the impending release of my second book. It's called By The Water Cooler and it's published by Westland, the same delightful people who brought you Bringing Up Vasu - That First Year.

Right, so I am doing a pre-release reading for some friends over at the Book Lovers Club (I am a part of the club myself, though I am yet to attend a meeting thanks to the tag-team of the two pint-sizes that takes turns in keeping my hands full). The book has not been printed yet so I will be reading from the tattered print-outs of my manuscript. So stylish, I say.

Super-pertinent details about the reading.

It's at the Crossword on Linking Road, Bandra (not the one on Turner Road and not the one in Shoppers Stop either) at 3:30 pm on Sunday, September 5th. Bandra/Khar people, turn up! It will be great to say hello. Others too, of course.

Facebook page containing relevant details here.

Now to the next question - what does one wear for book-readings?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The joy of rainy days

As far as I am considered, the Kindle has been a resounding failure. It's not like I have any problem reading on it. Perhaps due to force of habit, I just end up buying and reading hard copies. Frankly, right now, I am not fussy with the mode, as long as I just get some reading done. According to famous, successful authors, you need to read A LOT and EVERYDAY in order to hone your writing. So if you catch me in a hammock with a tome while M chases after the two kids, please know that I am at work, yes?

Quick review of some of the books I have read recently.

Mr Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn : Actually, just scrap what I said earlier. This, THIS is what has put me off Kindle. This was the book I was reading on it and it was so Mills and Boonish that even I, who is decidedly and committedly obsessive compulsive when it comes to finishing what I have started, could not finish it. The Kindle patiently awaits me, stuck at page 71 or whatever it was and I avoid it's eye. I don't actually have a problem with Mills and Boons. I have even read some in my teenage years but not now, when I know better.

Aatish Taseer's The Temple Goers: It's gripping and Taseer has a genuine gift for narration. I think I will dip into Stranger to History, his other and more famous book soon. Aatish is the son of Tavleen Singh (DD viewers will remember her) and it's possibly his troubled life (he has strained relations with his father, a Pakistani politician who had a brief affair with Tavleen) that has given him a gentle but sad voice. I liked the way the story built itself to the climax and I liked the fact that it is based in Delhi even more. Speaking of books based in Delhi, City of Djinns is my favourite. In fact, these days I am sending friendship requests to William Dalrymple on Facebook which he is conveniently ignoring. Humph, see if I care, Bill.

(Incidentally, Ruskin Bond read from his latest book at Crossword last week and although I had plans of doing my fan-girl act and asking of him the one question that has troubled me for donkey's years - Sir, is Night Train to Deoli a true story? I got quite shy and did not.)

Back to books. 

Ismael Beah's A Long Way Gone is the story of child soldiers in Sierre Leone. It was haunting and tragic and the kind of book that remains with you for days afterwards and convinces you that there's nothing right with the world. I found myself really low for days after turning over the last page. It all happened, it's all true, I muttered to myself at regular intervals. So read it if you must but it's not a Wodehouse, really.

Wodehouse is what I need to take refuge in. With the two kids-no maid (TKNM) status that I am currently enjoying (heh), I am lucky if I get to eat a full meal in peace. Even watching movies late, late, late into the night is a task that spreads over four to five days. Amongst some eminently forgettable films, we watched the really funny The Maiden Heist. It's an art heist film and it was truly hilarious in parts, supported by some outstanding histrionics. My other favourite in the genre is The Thomas Crown Affair. It has Pierce Brosnan, enough said, though I also watched Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer recently and it was tragic to see Brosnan pay second fiddle to Ewan McGregor. Catch this if you'd like to see Kim Cattrall (Samantha Jones in SATC) speak in her (native) Brit accent.

What are you reading and watching and totally loving these last rainy days?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

German efficiency? Not so much.

Re: the last post, itna sannata kyun hai, bhai?

When you have a three year old light sleeper and a three month old infant in the house, it is imperative that peace and quiet is maintained at all times. Therefore, I hired a team of carpenters and mistris and invited them with their drills and other instruments that make screeching sounds while cutting into marble floors to come right over. They are making themselves quite at home as they replace the old kitchen sink, small and overall inefficient, a legacy of the old owners and replacing it with a new and overall perfect (naturally, since I have selected it) Nirali one. Incidentally, I thought Nirali was an Italian brand (a la Pirelli and Benelli and Cavalli and Tiscali). Turns out, this is the female equivalent of Nirala. We live and learn.

Time to bitch out Hefele. I had some dreams of having a sleek modular kitchen, all effortlessly sliding drawers and grain trolleys and so on. But Hefele only showed me that treating consumers like shit is the new mantra to attaining lasting brand loyalty. I called the numbers given on their website and spoke to someone who promised to get The Concerned Person to call me back. Now the problem with The Concerned Person is that he is not concerned at all. And so I was summarily ignored for a few days. Completely devoid of self-respect as I am, I called them again, only to be snapped at - you had called-aa? Who did you speak to? I was afraid to admit that I had not taken the person's name. I was put through to the sales department that finally put me in touch with The Concerned Person. Can you come over and take a look at our kitchen, I humbly asked. A few hmms  and haws later, he told me to call later - pause for effect - to confirm the appointment! I think I displayed superhuman grace that I did not bang the phone down on the ass and ask him to take a hike (technically though I could not have done both). To cut a long story short, TCP landed at our doorstep the next morning, chewing gum and looking remarkably nonchalant. I guess Hefele doesn't give sales targets to its staff. After looking at this and that, he informed us that he will get his carpenter and get in touch with us since they sell only hardware. On the appointed day, we were told by TCP that the carpenter had fallen prey to the flu and would be hale and hearty in a couple of days and would report for duty. We prayed and waited. On that day, nobody came and they didn't bother to call either. When I called, I was told that the carpenter was still ailing, perhaps expecting me to declare a mannat at this. Agar carpenter theek ho gaya toh main ek hazaar ka prasad chadhaoongi and so on.

I promptly cancelled the appointment (not that they were coming anyway) and called the local guys to come over and start work. If anyone tries to tell you that going for a brand over a local worker is better because the former is more professional, know that they are lying. I did not feel that they wanted my business at any point.

What had your experience been with the big brands when you were doing up your house? They have nearly always driven me to want to shoot myself in the head. All except Asian Paints, that is. They were great.

Now back to the grind. Literally.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dental drama

A wisdom tooth is the kind of thing that must surely be filled with self-loathing. It must look itself in the mirror every morning and ask of itself - what is the purpose of my existence? I am troublesome through the course of my life, unwelcome on my arrival, accompanied by delightfully high fever and memorably excruciating pain and equally sweet going out, complete with the fanfare of drills and other instruments of torture.

Wisdom teeth drive crazy not only the person who plays host to them but also the bouncer who is paid good money to forcefully evict the tenant, namely the friendly neighbourhood dentist. Why else would this person ask of his patient - So, what did you think of 'Inception'? Do you think there was an underlying sub-text about dream incubation? How did this relate to the concept of lucid dreaming? all the while messing about inside his mouth. One would love to offer an opinion but it is slightly difficult to get words out when one jaws have been held open by a metal block the size of a fair-sized cantaloupe. Perhaps it was only a rhetorical question, not really requiring an answer, the patient consoles himself while offering 'Gah, Gooh, Gumph' by way of conversation. Oho, just raise a hand when you are in pain, says the good doctor as he busies himself preparing his instruments, checking to see if the needles are indeed sharp enough and is the whirring deadly in that drill. The patient excuses himself to fall into a dead faint.

Wider, wider, WIDER, shouts the dentist. The patients who has recovered from the fainting spell mentioned previously cowers in the chair, wondering weakly to himself how Krishna had managed to show Yashoda the universe in His mouth when he cannot reveal one tiny tooth to the poor man asking him to do so. Perhaps that after all is the difference between man and God.

You cannot have too much of a good thing, as you know and so it is proven that two dentists are better than one. Words like occlusion and bicuspids and Gingivae are bandied about lightly. Ah, look at that dentin, doctor, says one to the other, have you ever seen anything that ugly? Never, never, take it out, counters the other. The patient groans inwardly, given that outward groaning continues to be impossible. The conversation between the two specialists is brought to a sudden end when the pocket that is positioned next to the patient's ear starts blaring 'Uff, teri ada, I like the way you move' at top volume. The patient jerks suddenly, startled out of anaesthesia-induced reverie. Oho, you shouldn't have done that, says the dentist, the wrong tooth came out. Anyway, let's take a go at it again.

The patient faints again.

P.S. Posting has been slow due to some real dental trouble. Now that we have been root-canaled, things should be back to abnormal very soon. Fortunately for me, my own dentists have been infinitely more competent than the ones mentioned above.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

When you are trying to teach....

...your son about non-violence and peace, about controlling aggression and channeling it right, about the benefits of being calm and controlled and how hitting and fighting is really, really bad, perhaps this is not the best choice for wall-stickers to decorate his bedroom wall.

Another parenting blooper. Sigh.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Letters to a little girl - three

Dear Ragini,

Being a second child has its limitations. I should know, I am one. You will be bossed over and be expected to fall in line pretty much all your life. You will always have someone telling you just what you should do and how it should be done. Armed with the voice of experience, an older sibling is protective and exasperating all at once and you will have plenty of opportunity to experience it firsthand. Let me not mince my words here, baby, having an older sibling certainly knocks one into shape. That said, your brother seems quite besotted by you. I was prepared for sibling rivalry. I expected him to throw tantrums and fly into rages. I expected mood swings and unreasonable behaviour. All of that is there and none of it because of you. In fact I have used his adoration of you as yet another weapon in my arsenal - behave, Aditya or the baby goes back to the hospital. Works like a charm everytime. Cruelty, thy name is Mum.

Maybe it's just your temperament or maybe I goof up less this time around but you sure make things look easy. You rest in your swing, you don't throw a hissy fit at the sight of your stroller, you don't look at the crib with utter disdain before giving me your best 'surely you jest' look, you don't bawl if someone other than immediate family picks you up. For all this and more, you have my eternal gratitude.In fact, it's only because you do all this that I even attempted a trip abroad this last month. You know your brother is having a terrible existential crisis. Will you please handle that as well? The Lord know that he seems to hear the voice of reason in your coos and gurgles.

I don't know where I read this but it comes to me now. Mothers don't have favourites but they do have allies and that is why, my child, already you listen attentively when I complain about things and people and the world in general, all the while contemplating the print on the fabric that covers your swing. This is called the burden of responsibility. It is not a surprise then that you need to chill out regularly and actively join your brother in the movement for increased TV time. Mom, I need Tom and Jelly, he says. Waah, you join in. NO! say I, because I am after all, your mother and I know best. It spoils the eyes, kiddo. How do you think both your father and I landed with glasses?

Some more nuggets for you, child.
  • Parents spend a lot of time building their children's self-esteem. So you owe it not just to yourself but to us to steer clear of people who make you feel bad about yourself. Show the door to the ones who run you down. 
  • Don't be the kind of person who will never have her picture taken gracefully. All you will land with is tonnes of pictures of half-hidden faces and limbs. It rather defeats the purpose of not landing with a bad photo.
  • Your true love will never call you fat. Not once. Not even when you realize that you are wearing a size three times larger than when you first met. He's not blind. It's just not important enough to upset you. (That however does not mean that you do not need to watch your weight.) 
  • All that you need to know about life, you will learn in the pages of The Godfather. Whatever is left, the sports field will teach you.
  • The sports field will also tell you a lot about people. Unnecessary aggression, fair play, sportsmanship, cheating - these are things that cannot be faked. Not when you need one run on the last ball to win the match. (Or equivalent, I grew up in cricket-crazy India after all).
  • Call mom. She's always waiting. Always.
  • Baksheesh lakhon ki, hisaab paise-paise ka. If you are giving to charity, don't count. If you are not, make sure you take the last penny into account.
  • Kaajal, perfume, lipstick. Black dress, black pumps, black belt. Book, phone, snack. Keys, wallet, cash. Sunglasses, scarf, sunscreen. 
  • Pray. Believe in it. There comes a time in everyone's life when that is pretty much all that's left to do. It's cruel to take it away from yourself.
That's it for this time. You are perfect as you are.



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The one where the treadmill comes home

Since treadmills are the flavour of the day, here's the conversation I had with my own, soon after installation.

Me: Hello, hello, welcome to my humble abode.
Treadmill (looking around): Humble is right.
Me: No need to get uppity.
Treadmill: Well, surely the salesman at the shop told you that I have cousins in Malaika Arora's house, Aamir Khan's house, John Abraham's house....
Me: Err, he did.
TM: Anyway, clearly you need me more. Though people over 120 kgs are not allowed on me, hope you know that.
Me: We have a long way to go and many cakes to consume before you need to worry about that, really.
TM: Also, you need to be careful about not using me for more than sixty minutes at a time.
Me: I don't think there's any danger of that.
TM: Oh looky, an adorable child. They are so cute, never give me any trouble since they are not allowed anywhere near me. Gah! What is he doing? Get off me, you imp and stop fiddling with my controls. Stop pounding I say! No, don't pull that plug! Why are you pressing all my buttons? Help, someone!
Me: Aditya, leave the treadmill alone. No, you may not bring all your toys and put them on top of it. No kicking! Off to your room now, shoo, shoo!
TM: Phew, what was that?
Me: No one. Now about a trial?
TM: Sure thing! I have all these fantastic programs - Uphill, downhill, underwater, in the sky and so on.
Me: I am sure. I just need to walk a bit and see what it feels like.
TM: Oh yes, I forgot you are a non-celebrity.
Me: Let's see now. 5.5 kmph should do it.
TM: Huh? Surely you joke. Any slower and you might as well start adding calories. Why, Malaika runs at 35 kmph, sometimes even 45 kmph and once at even 65 kmph.
Me: Any faster and she might just take off.
TM: Made a career out of supposed witticisms, have we?
Me: You could say that.
TM: So anyway, I was telling you about my programs. I have an incline function, an interval function, a.....
Me: Do you have a drying function?
TM: Huh?
Me: Because ultimately, all you will be used for is drying clothes, no?
TM: Nahiiiiiiiiiiin.

Fade to black. Or faint to black out, as the case maybe.