Friday, August 31, 2012

The saga of the chimney

One of the appliances that we inherited from the previous owners of our present house was the chimney. It was a Faber make and one had heard of them and it seemed to be alright. So we stayed with it. It wasn't very effective though and never seemed to do its job particularly well. I thought I would have it serviced and diligently called up the service center.

You know how all these domestic tales go but still, stay with me.

Two men landed at my doorstep. Madam, chimney service karenge, they declared and got right to it. I left them to it and got busy with other stuff. Minutes became hours and the afternoon gave way to the evening and they were still there. I started suspecting that they wanted to sublet the kitchen. I went into the kitchen and discovered to my abject horror that they had broken the glass that covers the lightbulb of the chimney. Much consternation followed. I refused to sign the papers and asked them to return with the glass and replace it.

They promised to do so.

They left.

One year passed.

Someone called me from Faber many months down the line. Hallow, they bellowed, are you happy and delighted with the experience with Faber? Not at all, I pleaded, the chimney is hardly working and nobody had come back with the glass. Oh, ok, we will send someone. Well, obviously nobody came.

The chimney gave up completely.

I decided to give it another shot. Fortunately in my obsessively organized way, I had recorded the complaint number and what-not. Normally, that is the loophole they catch you with. Haw, complaint number nahin hai? Then down with you, moronic customer.

So, yes, armed with the complaint number, I braved the good people at Faber once again. The woman at the helpline took my details and sounded really bored. Look, just get in touch with the service center directly, she suggested. I wanted to ask her why Faber had spent such a bundle on setting up a helpline but let it go.

I called the service center and told Sharad (I had asked for a NAME because NAMES MAKE PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE) my tale of woe. Sharad was very annoyed with me. What is this, madam, he told me. More than one year has passed and now you are coming to us with all these complaints. Had I been the person of yore, I would have lost my temper truly at that moment but I didn't. I told him that I would be grateful if he could overlook this lapse on my part (yes!) and send someone to fix the goddamn chimney.

A person landed up. I took his name down. Gaus Siddique.

Gaus got down to work and spent time trying to fix the errant chimney. Then he declared that the chimney was done for and it was time to buy a replacement.

All right, I conceded and shelled out good money to buy another chimney and availed myself of an exchange offer of some kind.

Old chimney out. New chimney in. Govind was the name of the person who put it in. AGAIN, LET'S NAME NAMES.

All is well?

Not really.

You see, last night, something terrible happened. At about ten in the night, I decided to make myself some Bournvita. Then, remembering the calorie count and so on, I decided against it.

I stepped out of the kitchen, went into the living room and the next thing I know, there is a loud crash. I rushed to take a look and there, the chimney has fallen down, denting the stove, breaking plates, shattering things. It is a heavy old thing and I can only thank my stars that my babies were not in the kitchen as they often are, specially when I am baking.

My diet saved me.

Mom and I spent the next hour picking up the pieces.

This morning, I called up the service center. Bored lady told me she'd send someone.

And guess what, Govind lands up again, chewing cud like a benign cow and looking very happy with himself.

Are you the one who had put this in, I asked.

Shayad (maybe), said he, looking most insolent. My blood began to boil.

How can this just fall down, I asked.

Arrey, ab ho gaya toh ho gaya, he tells me. Sau mein se ek ho jata hai. So basically, one in every hundred Faber chimney is expected to fall down.

Get the hell out of my house, I told him in no uncertain terms. And don't show me your face again. He left.

We took the time to inspect the holes he has drilled into the wall to fix the chimney. And you know what, he made them too large and then tried to make the screws fit by stuffing twigs (probably taken from a broom in my kitchen) into the holes. Obviously, the chimney couldn't rest on the loose screws and just came crashing down.

My mind is buzzing with the what-if scenarios since then.

Dear Mr Ravi Gupta, LinkedIn tells me you are the Managing Director at Franke Faber India Ltd. If you are reading this, please consider this an open letter to you. I hope someone, your PR department perhaps, will bring this blog post to your notice. My readers and I would be very interested in hearing what you have to say about this.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The other day, after dropping the kids to school, M and I trooped off to watch Ek Tha Tiger.

I love stories that start like that. So, so happy.

I loved the film. I know loads of people rubbished it but my last two Hindi movies were Jism 2 and Cocktail, both of which I had to walk out of midway. So, let's just say that expectations were scraping the underside of the barrel. Plus Bhai was making an attempt at real acting after...let's see....hmmm....I give up. Which by itself merits buying a plastic whistle if you are whistle-challenged like I am. Also, that Katrina continues to look like a million bucks which is probably what she charges per film but I digress. What price botox and so on. The music was pretty forgettable but one got a good world tour. I could almost see Aditya Chopra in the window of my mind, sitting with a giant atlas and wondering which countries have not had a Bollywood shoot yet. 

But that is not what this post is about.

Before the start of the film, the theaters here play the National Anthem. I've never see a person not stand up when it plays. Most people don't sing along but they do manage to be still for a few seconds. Except for that day , when one of the college kids seated a few rows ahead kept sitting. He had come with friends and they had no problem standing but this boy refused to. He was making it amply clear that he was doing it to make a point. In other words, there was no physical ailment that was keeping him from standing. Indeed, he was seen bounding about quite nicely when it was time to fetch popcorn and so on.

What was the point he was trying to make?

I don't care? I cannot be arsed to stand up for a few seconds? I don't agree with this unnecessary display of national pride? I am just a rebel? I am someone who refuses to tow the line? What?

I tweeted about this. A couple of people said that this is not against the law and so he is not doing anything illegal. But isn't this beyond mere legality? When you refuse to respect the signs and symbols of a country - the flag, the anthem, the song - what is it that you are protesting against? The country? The practice? Does that mean you are not a patriot?

My concern was more immediate. What should I do? In the end, I did nothing but it did make me very uncomfortable and many hours since, I was still thinking about it. In fact, I still am.

And so I ask you, dear reader, what do you think?

Friday, August 17, 2012

The 'Just Married, Please Excuse' Contest

I met Y through my blog and for that alone, I consider blogging a success.

This marketing pro, IIM alumnus, mother of three, reed-to-the-point-of-inspiring-envy-thin lady has decided that life was not busy enough and has added another feather to her already brimming cap. Yes, I know you know about it but this is my shout-out to Just Married, Please Excuse. Please to buy, circulate, review and do all that is necessary to keep an author in business.

Right, then, this is my entry for Y's contest.

When M and I decided to get married, one of the big things that weighed on my mind was my opposition to the whole concept of kanyadaan. I was fairly clear in my head that I didn't want it.

Ah, the old readers are screaming 'We know that story!' Well, yes, I have told it before but I asked Y if she was okay with my circulating puraana maal and she graciously agreed.

And so, I am reproducing this post as it were...was...were...whatever.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Remembering Punditji or happy anniversary to us

Its been exactly four years since the day at least ten people shouted in chorus - NO KANYADAAN!

Let us expand. I mean, elucidate, elaborate, expound.

I told M pretty much on our first date that if he was making any long-term plans featuring me, he should know that I would not be willing to change my name and that I did not believe in the custom of Kanyadaan, preferring not to be treated as one man's possession being given off to another (I am a little finicky like that). He gave me a look that seemed to say - long-term plans? with you? are you nuts?

Clearly, he changed his mind somewhere along the way because there we were, planning to get married and doing the thousands of things that people who walk that way need to do. One of the prime items in the things-to-do list was - Brief Punditji about kanyadaan. This item featured on everyone's lists, my mom's, M's and naturally mine. Meetings were organized with the designated Punditji and he was told repeatedly, just, you know, skip the kanyadaan part altogether. Punditji nodded his head furiously at whoever was doing the briefing at the moment and seemed to have understood the gravity of the situation.

Well, Pundits are a stressed out lot. So many rituals to perform, weddings to attend, food to be eaten etc. Our Punditji performed a brilliant ceremony. Being an Arya Samaj wedding, he took time to explain the shlokas that were being chanted and everyone nodded along/ nodded off, depending on how much they had had to drink. I played the coy bride to perfection, which is to say I arrived late (not my fault but different story), giggled hysterically and got hungry. Then arrived the all-important moment of Kanyadaan and Punditji blanked out about the instructions given to him.

Ab aap kanyadaan karenge, declared Punditji loudly to my mother.

It was then that my family, M's family and a couple of other well-wishers shouted in chorus - NO KANYADAAN!

To his credit, Punditji shrugged and proceeded to the next step - appropriately the saptapadi if I remember correctly - and a major crisis was averted.

It's four years to the day today and it seems like yesterday. I must have had a lot of fun!

Everybody participate. This is your chance to win a copy of the book and a free lunch. Yes, apparently a thing like that exists.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A giant kind of update and hopefully a comeback

You know I am really disappointed in you. Yes, you, dear Reader who has taken the time to check in on this long-forgotten sort of blog and are currently surprised to find a new post. In you, yes, I am disappointed. Other bloggers go by a couple of weeks without posting and there are picket fences outside their houses and stalkers are threatening them in dark alleys for the want of a post and here I am, non-active for the I don't know which month and nobody has bothered to ask if I am ever getting back to this gig. In fact, there have been a couple of whispered 'good riddances' tossed my way. Yes, I heard that. My hearing is getting better in my old age.

But being the devi of forgiveness that I am, it's alright. I am here now and you have been warned.

So, what's up with me? Well, I wish I could give exciting reasons for my absence but I wasn't abducted by aliens and I've not really come up with a solution to world hunger. I have been doing just the usual - reading, writing, raising children - just a lot more of it than I used to. The thing is, our kids have inherited our love of gadgets and ironically, it has become our task to keep them away from the same devices and fruitfully occupied. So there is a lot of art and craft and reading and playdates and what-nots that need to be done in order to keep their attention away from the soaring stock price of Apple.

Then there are the birthday parties. Many, many of them. I am a low-energy person even on my high-energy days and partying for me now means draining a bottle of red while watching a movie at home. So when the kids come home armed with yet another high-impact birthday party invite, my old soul sighs quietly to itself.

The travels have come to some sort of a standstill thanks to M's knee surgery. Oh yes, the man bust his already-weak knee playing football at his b-school reunion and it had to be operated upon a few months ago.

Before that though, right at the beginning of the year, we made a trip to Delhi where I took the kids around on a City of Djinns inspired tour. Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar, Lodhi's Tomb...what's not to love. In fact, I think I would love to work with the Aga Khan Foundation if they'd have me. Restoration of old monuments, yes, I'd like that. Anyway, so it was altogether wonderful and I know I should have written about it but let me quickly distract you with....


Delhi was followed by Ramgarh where we stayed at a very lovely and very old bungalow. Ramgarh, ladies and gentleman is the real deal when it comes to mountains and such like and so when people tell me I should head to Lonavala to experience the hills, I am tempted to tell them.....but wait a second, though.


This was almost immediately followed with a trip to Jaipur for the lit fest. Enough and more has been said about the carnival that is JLF but hey, we had loads of fun, not least because we had the irrepressible Aneela for company who introduced us to Mohd. Hanif and M and I followed the good man around like love-lorn lambs. Hanif was the absolute picture of grace and down-to-earth charm and when I expressed to Aneela that I had every intention of being as approachable as him when I became famous, she told me that I wasn't doing a particularly job of that even now and that the climb looked all uphill. That was when I sighed and gave up. In other highlights, we did meet Vinod - Lucknow Boy - Mehta, again courtesy the good Pakistani. I really loved that book. So, overall the trip was declared a grand success and we were seen consuming inordinate amounts of fatty foods at Lakshmi Mishthan Bhandar to celebrate. On our last morning in Jaipur, M and I took off to roam Amer Fort, a truly spectacular structure.

We returned from Jaipur reasonably exhausted and swore never to travel till the children are completely grown up. It was only natural then that February involved a trip down south with the grandparents. Much temple hopping was accomplished and may I say at this stage that if you like old edifices as much as I do, you ain't seen nothin' till you've seen a bunch of them old shore temples of Mahabalipuram. Of course footwear isn't allowed and of course it's blazing hot at noon and of course we need to carry the kids around as we make a dash for the shade but if you ask me if it was worth it, I can only offer you....


And then March arrived and with that my birthday and yes, you missed it and yes, I am upset that you did but you know I was being really stylish, celebrating it in London. Well, not very stylish as being raccoon-eyed with fatigue but still, it's nice to be out and about. It wasn't my first trip but I walked around a lot on my own this time and I met Broom so it was pretty special. On my birthday, we went to Westminster Abbey. I have for you....yeah, it's getting old.

Anyway, so travels came to a standstill after M's surgery and we were quiet for a couple of months. The children's birthdays came around and we had a small party at home this time around but with a live theater performance! So much fun.


And in June, my best friend - the one who is now a much-respected scientist in Seattle - got married in Meerut and M and I trooped off to my old stomping grounds. It hasn't changed much, that old town of mine. We stayed with my extended family and I am happy to report that the wit remains razor-sharp and as unforgiving as ever. We laughed and laughed at all the old stories that remain buried till a familiar face comes around to dig them out. In other news, M sampled the imarti and pronounced it best in class so all was well. No pictures of that, I am afraid.

The writing goes well. There was much heartbreak and consternation when a book that I'd sent to my publishers was rejected, right at the beginning of the year. But you know, I love my published books a lot but I love the rejected books a little bit more. And so, I am holding it close to my heart and not letting anyone else see it. Since then, I've already sent something else out and we will see how that goes. At the very least, I now know what rejection feels like. It's a good life lesson to learn, if nothing else.

One of my articles is soon going to be published in the Brooklyn-based literary magazine Annalemma. We are not just about fun and games, you see.

So that was my year thus far in a tiny sort of nutshell. Your turn. What's been happening?