Saturday, November 27, 2010

Of punctual yoga teachers and so on

Just coming around here to take a break and ramble about this and that. Structure freaks, please excuse.

The mater left for Delhi after five blissful months and although Mahesh and I wanted to fall at her feet and beg her to not go, in reality we were quite gracious and may even have thrown a 'have yourself a safe flight, ma' in her general direction. Things became chaotic as soon as the Person Who Knows What She Is Talking About left. Suddenly the help knows that The Person Who Only Pretends To Know What She Is Talking About is in charge (figuratively speaking) and they are making a merry hash of it. About the help, we have two new girls living in with us. I may have observed in the past that I have given up my study and that it now serves as sleeping quarters for the duo. At least it did on the first day the two of them took residence but the next morning we woke up to one of them accusing the other of making overtures at her in the course of the night. The accused flatly denied all knowledge. I have since then asked them to take turns to sleep in the kitchen. A good side-effect of these proceedings is that my midnights raids on the frig have come to a timely end. All that yoga would have gone to waste.

The yoga teacher lands up at my place, uncomfortably punctual at all times. I don't think he has any bones, only cartilage that he twists and turns into the most amazing shapes, much like those balloon shape makers (is that what they are called?) at children's parties. The problem is he expects me to follow suit. He also insists that I breathe like he tells me to. I have been most obedient though of course I may have lied to him about the cookies that I have been consuming regularly but hey I am feeding Ragini/I am bored/insert choice of excuse here. It's been showing results though, this whole yoga routine. I say this not because I weigh lesser or because I have lost a dress-size but because M asked me to get him a yoga teacher too. I asked mine to kindly oblige and find someone and the girl who turned up is a female clone of my own teacher, down to the no bones, only cartilage problem. Mahesh tells me that he loves yoga, as long as it consists of only shavasan. Shavasan reminds me, I have fallen asleep at least twice doing the same, much to the bewilderment and amusement of the teacher. In my defence, I wake up multiple times during the night and may be sleep-deprived. Ragini, are you listening, sweetheart? Oh, and did you see Ragini in this newspaper? I think she looks most adorable, which of course she is. Except for the waking up part in which respect she really is Adi's twin. It was quite a task to keep the two of them to pose for the photographer from MM.

I will soon be speaking at an event on the problems faced by young, working mothers. Speaking on the topic is not a problem. It's the shutting up that will require some effort.

I may soon have a hangout in Hong Kong, courtesy one of the sisters. Most thrilled. Also, with said sister safely ensconced in HK, easier to keep the mater kidnapped and with me, heehaw.

I have started work on my third novel. If not 'super-talented', 'the voice of our times', or even 'just what the starving world of Indian literature needs', I can still aim for prolific, eh?

I just love this website and cannot, cannot, cannot have enough of it. The first word I adopted was mingent. As in: Train journeys to the cow-belt are full of unwelcome and unavoidable early-morning sightings of rows and rows of mingent men. Understood?
And today, my firstborn sprinted his way to a silver medal at his sports meet. My heart swelled with joy and I may have squeezed the life out of the mother standing next to me in my excitement and unabated delight. 

And what have you been up to, my dears?

Friday, November 26, 2010

By The Water Cooler Review: Aneela

Aneela reviews BTWC in her own inimitable style. She starts by saying: 
...chalo Ghaghar nahee Water Cooler, but there is some aank matka happening in Sharma's latest, woo hoo. OK now no more spoilers.
To read the rest (and believe me, you want to), please go here. Thanks, A.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

By The Water Cooler Review: Zainab

Zainab starts by saying: 
I love Parul Sharma’s blog – Radio Parul – she’s sharp, funny and makes you laugh. So I ran out and bought her book, ‘By the Water Cooler’ soon after it was launched, and I haven’t regretted reading it.
 To read the rest, please go here.  Thanks, Zainab.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Letters to a little girl - six

Dear Ragini,

These last several days have been all about books and celebrities and events and what-to-wear woes and the mayhem that results from all of the above. But for now, for this moment, I am back to being only your mum and we will let the world wait while we talk about things, just you and me.

Six months, little lady and all the milestones that go with that age. The sitting up, the solids, the mmm-aah and upp-aah sounds, the outgrowing of clothes, the rejection of your own toys to go diving face-first into your brother's, the looking up with keen interest when the Vodafone friends ad plays on the telly, the sticking out of the lower lip when things don't go exactly as they should - you know that you have us wrapped around that little pinkie and you have no qualms in milking it dry. You are a kid in one hell of a hurry to catch up with the older sibling. I guess going out for school, playdates, cycling, park runs, yoga, drama, endless cricket and screen-time beats hollow the crawling on the carpet and the holding of rattles. And so I don't blame you, you beautiful thing.

So life-lesson time once again. Up for it? Here goes.
  1. It's alright to take your mum for granted till the day you don't know that you are doing it. It's ok for her even after that. But it should not be for you.
  2. I recently read about a little girl who is being bullied for liking Star Wars. Yes, seriously. Well, you could be in the same position one day, you know when people tell you that only pink and nice is the way to go. You have to fight it. With your light saber.
  3. Don't knock it till you try it. Life has a way of surprising you in the most unexpected ways and you never know what talent you have for things or what capacity for joy lies in you unless you have tried it.
  4. You will think you have met the pettiest person in the world and then someone with an even smaller outlook will come along. Fortunately the reverse is also equally true. You cannot have a rich life without meeting people on either extreme.
  5. Your handshake should be like you - true and strong and not to be messed with.
  6. It was always bad form to ask people how much they earn. It still is and it always will be because it shows that you are willing to consider the possibility of judging them basis their wealth.
  7. The law does not distinguish between what is right and wrong. It only distinguishes between what is legal and what is not.
  8. Sometimes the way to be kind to animals is by not owning them, however heartbreaking that is. 
  9. Your father loves Head of a Dog by Renoir. Do you know why? You should find out. 
  10. It's alright to forget birthdays and anniversaries. It is not ok to not call when someone loses a loved one. When you don't know what to say, a simple 'I'm sorry for your loss' will suffice. But call. 
That's all for this time. Impossible as that may sounds, we all love you more with each passing day.

Love,

Ma

A very important announcement

I need to announce that I reverse my decision to reverse my decision. What does that mean, you wonder. Well, since I received this very important looking letter from SG's lawyer a few days ago, I have been given to cold sweats and shivers and am generally hanging about the corners of my house in abject fear and misery. My family tells me they can't bear to see me like this.

SG, you are hereby reinstated as the winner of my contest. Please let me have your address in the next two days so that the book can be sent to you failing which I will send it to your lawyer. Shiver.

Of course I am not doing this to circumvent any hassle. I am doing this because I truly, madly, deeply believe that you deserve to win.

Letter from lawyer? Seriously? I have arrived.

Naturally, all this does not prejudice any of my rights – which I reserve in full.

Being launched

I had to wait for my second book to come out before I could experience what young ladies in the 1800s must have felt when they came out. Debutantes they were called. Well, my debut was no big deal really. It was a small event. A book launch event at a bookstore. You probably see events like those everyday in bookstores. It still meant a lot to me though and I spent a reasonable amount of time getting into outfits, getting jittery and getting with it. 

Now one of my fundamental rules in life is that one should not attempt to do something that another is better at doing and is willing to do. And so, I asked for help all around this time. All my blogger friends - you know who you are - helped spread the word about the contest on their blogs as well as on Facebook. Many of you asked me if I knew what I was going to wear. Well, all outfit-related problems were swiftly delegated to the sister who sourced options and then couriered them to yours truly. Friends, some of whom I have never even seen went out of their way to get in touch with celebrities for the event and to spread the word on Twitter. A very special lady even wanted to come from Pune to lend me her support but had to back out at the last minute due to a family emergency. Complete strangers lent their support when I needed it, online and otherwise. All in all I felt cushioned by their goodwill.

The launch was to begin at six thirty. I was there with my babies and the help and my mum at six. Rows and rows of empty chairs stared at me and I wondered if anyone was going to turn up. What would I tell my chief guests, Sathya Saran and Tanvi Azmi? What would I tell Rajev Paul who had agreed to come and read for me? I wasn't really expecting any press because frankly why would they cover something like this? Regret messages poured from all over at the last minute - Would love to come but...death in the family/meeting at the other side of town/unwell children/other engagements/out of town....I started to panic a little bit at this sudden lack of popularity. 

Slowly though the seats started filling up. Mahesh came from work. Isha came from work. Familiar faces of friends and family showed up, folks from the media came, not to cover the event but just to attend it as readers and book lovers and friends. I breathed a sigh of relief. I have to say this - my celebrity guests were incredibly sweet and gracious about the whole thing. I was wondering if holding the event on a weekday was a mistake and she told me that she (really senior journalist and author to boot) had held a reading on a Sunday afternoon and had had a grand total of eight people attending. Perhaps as writers we are doomed to a bleak future, I said. No, there is a small but steady readership, she said with a smile. Much heartened.

Rajev read some passages from the book which seemed to go down well with the audience. It was music to my ears to hear the beautiful and elegant and unbelievably graceful Tanvi laugh out loud as she sat next to me. If I can make you laugh, dear reader, you ain't goin' nowhere, no sir!

Oh and I found out at the last minute that there was no emcee and the person who offered to host did not have public speaking as one of his talents. So I took over that part as well. It was fun. I don't mind speaking into the mike. All I need to do is to focus far, far away such that I don't get exactly cross-eyed but almost there anyway.

My phone died on me at the last minute. Down with Murphy and his stupid law.

And my children. Adi had been quite excited about the impending event and had told all and sundry that his mother is an otter. I am sure people look curiously at this boy who claims that he has been birthed and brought up by a fish-eating mammal but I know that his pride in me is complete. My mom had the unenviable task of keeping Adi and Raagu in check which of course she performed brilliantly even as she possibly accosted browsers in the store and led them to where her mega-superstar daughter was launching her book. Nothing like a dose of maternal pride to assist that chin-up.

I missed my dad more than ever.

I must say I was very impressed by Sathya Saran's homework. She got the book just one day before the launch and she not only read it through, she had prepared questions! This has got to be a dream, no?

One of my blog readers came for the event and wanted to get her copy signed but did not come up to me. I can't stop feeling awful about that.

In all the last minute getting ready, getting kids ready, getting diaper bag ready, getting their snack-boxes ready, giving instructions to the help and so on and so forth, I did not have the time to empty out the SD card and charge the camera. There's only so much I can do, right? Right! I leave you with pictures taken with sundry phones. It is now time for me to revel in the flowers that have been delivered, to leave all of this behind, to look inward once again and to start thinking of the third. Book, book. 







Friday, November 19, 2010

By The Water Cooler Review: Monika Manchanda

Monika of Monika's World has reviewed By The Water Cooler. She starts by saying,
I was mighty excited when the book arrived and I laid my hand on it 4 days ago… for one Parul is a dear friend and two I had enjoyed her previous book Bringing up Vasu throughly.
The rest of the review can be read here. Thank you, Monika.

This review has been cross-posted here as well.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

By The Water Cooler Review: dipali

dipali of the blog of this and that was one of the first to procure a copy of By The Water Cooler. She begins by saying, 
Parul's second book is out! By The Water Cooler is the quintessential fairy tale, transposed to modern corporate Mumbai.
 To read the rest, please go here.

Thank you, dipali. Much appreciated.

P.S. I will be linking to all the reviews in the sidebar to the right. Please do leave me a link if you review or find a review to BTWC.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

No strangers, only friends we haven't met yet

M is the kind of person who commits every single face and its corresponding name to memory and never ever forgets it. Never. At our wedding reception, as hundreds of people made their way to meet us, he regularly psyched folks by remembering exactly how he knew them, the last time they had met, the history of illnesses/jobs/embarrassments in the immediate and extended family and went into deeper and deeper details of the same till people begged for mercy.

Random Man: Congratulations, beta, you wouldn't remember me. I have been abroad for the last two decades. I am actually....
M: Ho, ho, Menon Uncle (or some such). Of course I remember you. We met in 1986 in Shimla. How are Chhoti and Montu? They must be, let's see, 25 and 28 respectively. Does Aunty still bake that lovely carrot cake of hers?
Random Man (now not so random anymore): Stunned silence

Given that I have memory like a sieve and regularly forget my own kids' names - arrey, what's your name IshaAdityaRagini being the regular handle for the offspring, this attribute in M is most upsetting. And therefore what happened this afternoon was very cool. We walked into a coffee shop, M spotted someone and his eyes glinted with recognition. Must say hello, he muttered and marched upto a good man, working quietly by himself on his laptop. Placing a friendly arm around the man's shoulders, M offered a 'hello, sir, working hard on weekend'. Such was his confidence that the man also grinned broadly and got up, shaking hands vigorously. However as he was getting up, M's eyes fixed at a point about ten inches above his head and not finding anything except thin air realized that the man had finished standing. How come you are so short, people gain and lose weight, not height, he seemed to say to himself before the shocking truth dawned on him. This was not who he thought he was. You look just like my friend xyz, he gasped. But I am abc, said abc. Yes, yes, I am so sorry, I thought you were someone else, said M as abc started edging away. I watched this whole scene unfold with much mirth and took due pleasure in M making a mistake which in the regular course of life falls strictly in my domain. 

No one is infallible, eh? Poor M.

***

Winners of the (somewhat controversial by now) By The Water Cooler Contest, pay heed. I am sending out your books on Monday. Enjoy, people!

***

Friday, November 12, 2010

You are cordially invited, she wrote primly....

Do I have any readers in Mumbai? Any at all? I don't hear from you too often, you know? Well, this may be as good a time as any to say hello in person. Would love to meet you. Do come and mail me at parulsharma1503(at)gmail(dot)com if you need any clarifications. In other news, some folks have already ordered BTWC (yay, flipkart) and read it. Keep tuned in for reviews. Now I go off to decide ultra-important things like what to wear for the launch such that I look twenty kilos thinner. See you there! 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The fifth winner....

....is Gymnast! Well done and congratulations. Please mail your postal address.

Patient readers, regular programming will resume very soon.

Friday, November 5, 2010

An important announcement

I read this post at Boo's Baby Talk. It gives many links to different posts on various blogs but here is the gist - SG took a picture off YaadaYaada's blog and took credit for it. He apologized later saying that he was not aware that the image did not belong to him and removed the post (though some of the links on Boo's post were still going through, perhaps due to a web cache and I was able to read the post by SG in question and see for myself what had transpired.)

Ordinarily I would have left this to YaadaYaada to sort out and lent support only as a matter of principal but since SG is one of the participants and winners of the By The Water Cooler contest, I am taking a stand. I firmly believe that once you have a blog or a website, you are responsible for all the content that goes in it. At no point can you absolve yourself of that responsibility. Since this particular incident has brought to light the possibility that SG may or may not know where all the content on his blog is coming from, I am going to reverse the decision of declaring him a winner in the contest.

The winner in his place will be declared shortly. The esteemed M has been asked to go back to the drawing-board.

As people struggle with....

ever-new ways to use crackers, lights, diyas and sweets in text messages to wish people on this gorgeous day, we will resort to a simple Happy Diwali to you and your loved ones (frenemies included). Have a great day, all ye readers of Radio Parul and do indulge in loads of sweets. Now when did hazaar ki ladi stop being cool and become a source of eternal pain? Just about the time I stopped being a small kid and had small kids of my own, I guess. I leave you with pictures of the house and jump out to meet and greet some laddoos. Yes, early in the morning. What? It's Diwali!








Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And we have the winners

I compiled all the entries into a neat MS Word document and presented them to M last night and watched him turn into a complete wreck over the next twenty-four hours. 

How do I select five, he groaned, there are at least fifteen that I love. 

I have a shortlist, he said the next morning, except that it is not short. 

Life is so unfair, he philosophized in the afternoon.

Maybe we can have more than five winners, he suggested hopefully as he reached his decision. 

I stayed far, far away from it all.

Finally he presented me with his five favourite entries. Wow, I said as I took a look, I may or may not have selected differently. He aimed a swift kick at my rear. 

But ladies and gentlemen, here we have them, the five winners. Congratulations, you guys, take it away! And everyone, thank you so so much, for making this contest a resounding success. Much fun was had. Winners, please mail me your address at parulsharma1503(at)gmail(dot)com so that the book can be duly signed and sent to you as soon as it arrives at my doorstep. 

Hum Punjabi log bahut cool rehte hain, indeed!

Nearly got hired again. At the wrong job.

That CEO was a sweetie, yo. (Quite unlike the one in my book.)

As if one foot in one mouth is not enough, we have four. Feet, that is. 

So what really stands by the water cooler? Read this to find out.

Must do for today: drop by at these blogs and leave them a congratulatory word or two. Now I need to go and put that sobbing heap of humanity aka M to bed. Will see you around later. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shoe on the other foot

Good ol' Chandu of Bohemian Rhapsody fame tells me about this super-fun contest that she herself has participated in. Since I was feeling quite out of it while you guys were telling your stories for my Contest! (note excitement), I decided to take the plunge for this one. Ok, so maybe Chandu twisted my arm a little bit and perhaps the prospect of shopping for free also had something to do with it but who is complaining? You? Off to the corner.

Right so, wedding tales. My own wedding is now only a blur of a certain Ritu Kumar lehenga (I know! Fancy, right? I will probably have to run three back to back marathons to be able to fit into it again) and orchids all over and hundreds of strange people that I had never seen before and will never see again but still, some memories really stand out.

For one thing, I wanted to look my best but at the same time, like myself. I mean, I have personally been to plenty of weddings where the bride has been introduced to make-up for the first time in her life on her wedding day and it's difficult to catch your cousin or friend or neighbour under the layers of all that war-paint. So I did not want friends and family to look at me and proceed to look for Parul elsewhere. Famous Stylist Person, baby, I was told, go to her. I don't know how things stand now but back then, you had to book Famous Stylist Person pretty much when you went for your first date. And so she was booked.

On the auspicious day itself, I found myself standing in a salon to which I was completely new, clutching my lehenga and jewellery close to my heart and sort of nervous. Famous Stylist Person comes in only at the end of the process, I was told, the staff will take care of everything else. From then on things were pretty much assembly line. Wear lehenga, go to hair-dresser, get hair done, wear jewellery, go there, do that. All the conversations that I had had in my head about the exact look I wanted seemed to vanish into thin hair in the face of this level of expertise and experience. That may have been my big day but to them it was just another busy day at work. As for giving them any ideas, well, I don't think that would have gone down too well and to tell you the truth, I was rather priding myself on not being temperamental thus far and did not really want to spoil that by bursting into a tantrum of mammoth proportions in a strange salon. So I sat there quietly and had my hair tugged this way and that and someone put my jewellery on me and I was finally sent to Famous Stylist Person. I was rather prepared for more high-handedness. I was to be surprised. She took a look at me, talked of this and that and made me feel quite special. Then she took a dab of this and that and started putting things on my face even as she kept up the gentle chatter. Within a few minutes, I was transformed into a creature of beauty and grace. Wowzers, lady, you know your stuff was the ruling sentiment. She was probably used to compliments given in slightly more graceful a manner. And so, that is how, I looked my best-ever on my wedding day. You should see the pictures sometime. In fact, I should see the pictures sometime. It's been ages.

Moral of the story? None. Point of the story? Famous Stylist Person is Famous Stylist Person for a reason.

***

I hope I win! Have stories of your own? Here are the rules.

All you have to do is blog about one or more of the following topics:
  • My big fat Indian wedding
  • What “not to do” while planning a wedding!
  • My dream wedding – Simple or lavish?
  • Traditions I love/hate in Indian weddings
  • My wedding shopping spree!
There are no fixed rules for content of posts. Anything goes as long as it is fun and original. Just use your imagination!
 What’s in it for you?
-          The best blog entry wins Rs 3000 worth of free credit on 99labels.
-          Second prize:  Rs 1000 worth of free credit on 99labels.
-          Two 3rd prizes: Rs. 500 worth of free credit on 99labels.
And furthermore, you get Rs 100 worth of credit when you sign-up and an additional Rs 500 if any of your referrals buy from our site!
Here’s how to participate:
1.       Become a member of 99labels (If you are not a member already) by clicking on the referral link at the bottom of this post. (You get Rs 100 worth of credit free to shop!) .
a.       Create a log-in preferably using the email id attached with your blog. This is to protect the anonymity of some bloggers as the referral link (read rule 2) displays your email-id.
2.       Post your referral link on the post (This means that whoever becomes a member clicking on the link gets Rs 100, and whenever you referral buys an item you get Rs 500). To find your referral link
a.       Log in on www.99labels.com
b.      Click on “Invite friends” on the top menu.
c.       Go to bottom of page and look for “Copy and paste your personal invitation link” and paste the link at the bottom of your post
3.       Copy and paste all the rules in your post.
4.       Leave a link to your post in the comments section of the contest page of 99labels http://blog.99labels.com/2010/10/25/wedding-week-blogging-contest/
5.       Copy and paste this image at the end of the post and the category under which you have posted.
Last date : 8th November, 2010
 Other Rules
-          Multiple entries are welcome.
-          You can repost old blog entries as well, as long as they are original.
-          If you don’t have a blog, you can write as note on facebook instead! Just make sure to leave us a link in the comments section!
Shoot your queries at marketing@99labels.com
And I think my story fits into the My Big Fat Indian Wedding category, no?