Monday, December 29, 2008

Holidaying, our style

Spent Christmas in Washington DC. Rented a black Chevrolet-Cobalt and started out at 7 am sharp, Christmas Day, at daybreak. Reached Somerset uneventfully half-an-hour later. When we next took off, it was a full house (passengerwise and luggagewise !). Stopped for breakfast about an hour later, where the boys (Sabya Da and K) had coffee and cookies while Moumita & I settled for just the food part. Unexpectedly cheerful weather with lots of sunshine, a blue sky (a rare event nowadays) and beautiful cloud patterns high up above, looking like a customised ceiling. Quite a few toll booths and phone-calls-back-home-along-the-way (Moumita with Chaitali Di and us with the folks all assembled at Papi's place for the annual Christmas bash), drove into the parking lot of the Greenbelt, Maryland Holiday Inn, where we had one night's reservation. The usual ruckus centred on check-in time officially being an hour later at noon and our ( the boys' actually, we were busy checking out the Christmas decorations in the lobby and snapping away to glory) determination to pre-pone our entry, by hook or by crook.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Acorn Squash


Was a bit adventurous last time we did the grocery and bought an acorn squash. It looks eerily similar to a pumpkin but the very fact that it belongs to the squash family made me wonder whether I shouldn't cook it in the doodh-lau/doodh-jhinge fashion. Searched the net for recipes only to discover the immense versatility of the vegetable. It can be be made into a stew, a soup, a curry, a non-veg accessory and so on and so forth. Its 'velvety and buttery taste' however manifested itself in the best way possible once I had taken the risk of cooking it in the pepe ghonto manner. It proved to be a resounding success. Which was a big blessing, considering the trouble K and I had incurred in the mere cutting and peeling the vegetable. The rind had been too tough for the average peeler while our desperate dashes and spirited flourishes with the knife would have put even the most seasoned fencer to shame. The interior again was a mellow orange-yellow and couldn't have been told apart from that of a pumpkin. After the cooking was complete, we realised there was even a beautiful fragrance to the steamed vegetable. But our pre-cooking struggles would probably discourage us from a repeat experience of the same, however wonderful the end result turned out to be.


This is the description of the vegetable that I found in a website, in case any of you would like to know more :


Acorn Squash - Easily found in supermarkets. As its name suggests, this winter squash is shaped like an acorn. It's easy to slice into halves and fill with butter. A small acorn squash weighs from 1 to 3 pounds, and has sweet, slightly fibrous flesh. Its distinct ribs run the length of its hard, blackish-green or golden-yellow skin. In addition to the dark green acorn, there are now golden and multi-colored varieties. Select acorn squash with as much green on the rind as possible. Available year round.
I don't think I agree with the 'it's easy to slice into halves' part. The rest is ok.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rising costs and real fun

Brookside Gardens has decided to introduce separate heat inflow and water outflow meters in each of our apartments. This means that they have very considerately decided to not increase the monthly rent for the following year but burden us with excess expenses instead, depending on how hot/cold a climate we'd rather live in and how wisely we'd be utilising one of the world's most precious natural resources. They cite increasing utility costs on their front as justification. Rubbish. All they want to make is more money out of their tenants. But they do reserve the right to introduce new and alter old clauses in our 13-month apartment lease (why on earth did we agree on such a long one !) and so all we can do is grumble and sulk. And of course shell out more money at the end of each month. Damn.


Anyway, thanks to the notice we received from them informing us of little or no water availability from 8am to 6pm from the 10th to the 16th, we had to reschedule our daily routine, getting up at a painfully early 7 am and going to bed with babies at 10 pm. Hummmmph. It also meant doing bizarre things like taking a bath at 7.10 am, going back to bed at 8.30 am (after K left for office) and filling all available juice bottles and the bath to the brim with storage water for emergencies. No wonder I wasn't in the creative mood for quite a few days. The most annoying bit was that the plumbing lot (doing the water meter set-up) decided to turn up on the very last of the allotted days. Naturally, just my luck. The good part was that K had come home around lunch, feeling feverish. So I could take a nap while he supervised the maintenance guys. Not that they seemed to be waiting to take orders, trampling all over our freshly vacuumed floors and carpet in the very shoes they must have traversed numerous restrooms in. Eww. Gross. I think I'll do another round of vacuuming before we return the apparatus to the Shindes.


Returning to the former weekend. Friday evening was spent at Walmart, where we bought new beige-grey floor mats for the car besides a small pack of 200 buttons (in every shade you can think of) and a set of 24 spools of thread (rainbow hues) and three needles, each of the two costing just 88 cents. Also did some gift shopping, consisting of a beautiful set of bath toiletries in lavender (my favourite fragrance) for Moumita's b'day (long overdue, as it had been on 27th Nov) and a make up accessories set for Mitu. K had developed a crick at the waist (God knows how he managed so much activity at office) and was groaning and moaning in pain, but was extremely generous and waited for me on a seat in the ladies' shoes section while I tried on some of the cuts that appealed to me. My sincere efforts to discourage him, saying that it wasn't an emergency purchase, gave way before he insistence. I suppose he too (like me) is tired of seeing me wear everything (trousers and jeans at the moment) with a single pair of white sneakers. I was so glad that there are so many beautiful designs in my own size. It is tough to find any decent design in my own size in any good shoe shop in India. I always end up frustrated, hurling expletives at the genetic map that has endowed me with my big feet. After trying on three new cuts in my favourite neutrals (grey, beige grey and navy), we decided to look in the boots section. I love boots but don't want to buy something that won't be of much practical utility in the tropical climate when we return (oh, don't worry, my shoes do take a long time to wear out) and so, K and I hunted for something that would fall somewhere between an ankle boot and a pump. We found the perfect pair in a beautiful dark tan. The name of the model is 'Shani' (bizarre, to say the least) and it's a (gasp) size 11. Well, 10 was a wee bit tight and so I decided to not take chances. Here it is :


I helped K with dinner preparations after we finally arrived home. K did an excellent chicken curry (attested to by the currently much commented on photo of K in my orkut album) and we had rice instead of ruti while watching 'Major Saab'. Aaaah, nothing as good as our traditional mangsho bhaat.

Spent the entire Sat morning helping K to vacuum the place with the help of the Shindes' vacuum cleaner, which is weirdly different from the Eureka Forbes vacuum cleaner I've been used to all my life. The latter was a compact horizontal apparatus in a dirty chrome yellow and beige and I was glad that it was Baba who did the vacuuming most of the time, since I have a colour fetish and can't function when objects and accessories around me aren't my colour. Mamoni has got the hang of it by now but the rest of the world probably hasn't. It's a skeleton in my cupboard, if you will. But let's not meander. The Shindes' machine is vertically structured and an understated red and black (photo below). No wonder I was disappointed that I wasn' t the person allowed to do the vacuuming (to be honest, I was talking nineteen to the dozen with Titai and didn't even notice that K had begun !). But I did at least prove useful with moving things around and re-placing them after K was done with the whishing and whooshing. We both felt rejuvenated after the whole process, believe me, for some obscure reason, it actually felt cathartic.


Took a short nap after watching half of 'Dhonyi Meye' on the laptop while blowdrying our hair (did it for K too, who was amazed at all the extra hair he seemed to have developed at the end of the session, provoking much mirth in me). Had to go to Walgreens around 6.30 pm to replace a large plastic container that used to do double duty as the flour bowl and the marinade tray. Found one slightly smaller but almost a replica of the former. Then did a tour of the locality, taking photos of Christmas decorations for the folks at home. Almost froze to death at Adamsville, where my passion for photography took precedence over my sense of numb fingers and a bare head. An early dinner with shorshe begun followed by the online form submission for my EAD did wonders in warming up the body and cheering the spirit.

Sunday morning, following breakfast, was a mad scramble to complete preparations for the cooking of lunch (K did all the cooking eventually, helped by my cutting and washing and getting the ingredients ready) amidst Skype-chatting with Ma-Baba-Mitu, giving them a virtual tour of the entire apartment via webcam and feeding instructions to the GPS for our afternoon destination, the Regal Commerce Center 18 in North Brunswick. We managed to turn up late for the 2.20pm show, thanks to my misreading GPS instructions and consequently missing turns at two consecutive points (it was my first day after all) but luckily made it with enough time in hand for the 2.55 pm (which thank goodness, also offered low ticket prices at $8 each).

'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi' being a Hindi film, one can make a good guess at the nature of the audience that day. They turned up in true desi style, late, the fat people armed with more fat (disguised as popcorn and colas) treading on exposed toes at the last moment and sharing the most eventful details of their rock-star lives into the opening credits for a good 5-7 mins. Until King Khan appeared. Then there was pindrop silence. As if someone had just silently ordered everyone to stand at attention.

It was a totally-feel-good knockout slick commercial package that clicked. Quality acting, excellent Salim-Suleiman music, a fresh female face with a figure-to-die-for and that surpassed by her being a miracle of a model who could act and act well too, at that. Kajol (a classic, gasp, wow, with still that figure !)-Bipasha (understated and charming)-Lara (sultry seductress)- Preity (pretty-as-a-picture)-Rani (disco diva) guest appearances, witty dialogues, a strong sidekick in the form of Vinay Pathak (capitalising on the critical appreciation of 'Dasvidaniyan') bringing the house down with a paisa vasool Bobby-the-faithful-hairdresser-friend-with-outrageous-hair-and-role, colourful cinematography and a simple plot with excellent handling did wonders for us all. Down to the toddler who insisted on changing his seat at the climax and forcing his poor harassed father to sit on the stairs between the aisles and watch the last few minutes there with him. The four of us (esp Moumita and I) laughed helplessly throughout and I cried twice, which means that it was a hit for me, at least. That included crying at the sight of the Golden Temple and the beautiful natural landscapes of Punjab, which all of a sudden aroused an intense sense of nostalgia within me. If it wasn't due to Moumita's wonderful collection of snacks (including a deliciously fluffy homemade cake and scrumptious kima patties), I might have been a soggy heap of tissues at the end of the day. However I cheered up enough to negotiate GPS directions more successfully this time, reach home by 8pm and turn in by 11 pm after watching the rest of 'Dhonyi Meye', which proved great fun. K had enjoyed it enough to voluntarily call up Sushmit and give him his impression of the entire experience. We are already making plans for a Christmas excursion with the Maitis. The only unpleasant part was K's persistent complaints of feverishness, which did actually result in his feeling queasy enough to work from home half of Mon and the entire Tue.

P.S : This is for the dance-challenged, who like me, just can't get enough of the song 'Dance Pe Chance'. With lyrics like these (and a dance instructor like Anoushka for the guys), we too might possibly have the chance to achieve stardom !

West to West, on the East

This made fun reading, so I give you the link. Interesting that such perceptions do prevail among our parents' generation. One hopes our generation would definitely have a different take on this !

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just wondering...

I always thought your best friend could be your best critic as well. That means, the BF is privileged enough to tell you all the things you would detest hearing about yourself from other people but which nevertheless happen to be true. And the BF always gets away with the diatribe of character-analysis (more like assassination, initially, to the person who's at the receiving end) because the 'victim' knows that the BF is a BF because he or she wishes and means the best for him or her.

So now, if your BF does something nasty and hurtful to another friend of yours, would it estrange you forever from him or her if you confronted him or her with the enormity of his or her action? And if you are scared to do so, would you really be a BF ?

It's an issue I'm reflecting on right now. And a related one, namely : 'Customising Ethics to Suit Yourself'.

N.B : I personally think I'd prefer honesty to cordiality or politeness or whatever it is that keeps you from speaking out. More so if I'm anyone's BF.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Time to think and act...

I found the first link on Sunayana's blog and found it impressive enough to re-use it on my own. Here it is.

And this is another video that arrested my attention during its circulation throughout orkut. I was moved to tears and have ever since been making serious efforts in everyday life to do my own little part in preserving the earth's depleting resources.

Ammunition

No, this is not about terrorist attacks in Mumbai. It's about my fortifying my wardrobe with suitable stuff to ward off the winter. K teasingly calls me a 'guti poka' during this season. For the non-Bangalis, that translates as the silkworm, a street-smart insect species which retreats into hibernation during unfavorable points and emerges much later, when the scenario looks better and less bleak. This is the coat in which I've already braved an entire evening of persistent snowfall on Saturday and thanks to it, actually managed to find the whole experience enjoyable !


Friday, December 05, 2008

Making an effort...

Have finally taken Barnali's advice and emailed a couple of poems to a couple of e-magazines of a good standard and reputation. Have also mustered enough courage to send a photograph I took to another e-magazine of a slightly more multifaceted nature. Am keeping my fingers crossed.

Tried my own version of rajma yesterday night as K was dead tired, having had a long day at work. It didn't taste as good as the one K prepares, more so as I decided to experiment with it, leaving the methi out at the end. I think I'll leave this particular dish to K, in future.

We've been watching 'Oye Lucky Lucky Oye' in instalments (we are so lazy, OMG) over the past two days. Couldn't care less whether it turns out to be a hit or a flop. It's racy and ridiculous and roaring fun. Am loving it !

Am reading Coetzee's 'Slow Man'. I have a bit of trouble concentrating when a concrete plot goes abstract, but then, having read 'Foe' during my MA has managed not to totally unnerve me. Plan to finish it soon. Hope it ends as brilliantly as the other novel did. I remember having been impressed enough to churn out an appreciably large term paper on 'Foe' for our PoCo classes. I must have been really inspired, now that I think about it.

A huge heap of weekly shopping illustrateds await my inspection. This time, there's also a Holiday Gifts Special booklet from Walmart. I guess their Christmas is equivalent to our Durga Pujo. In terms of meaningfulness, I mean. I just realised my vocabulary is getting limited. Must catch up on my reading. The more you read, the better you write, I've always noticed.

Jhinuk has written a funny post on Srinwanti's orkut-related problems on our group blog. Had fun reading it. To think Srin hadn't know so long how to change her profile photo when we people have been vain enough to change ours several times in a week itself. Come on Srin, all you need is just ask ! LOL.

Have been GTalking with Ma and Mitu for the third day in a row now. Am on top of the world. Nothing like family gossip to cheer you up when you're alone at home.

Took some new photos of this place (home) and uploaded them on orkut (where else? !). They look much better, now that (1) we have a few more things to fill up the rooms and (2)I had the intelligence to use the flash.

Rony-Tanima and Pintu have finally been able to see both the photos and videos of Siddhant that we took during our recent trip to Atlanta. Picasa seems to have introduced a new set of options in terms of album accessibility. Well, at least they made sense to me. What with the new Gmail themes, introduction of video chat by Google and now this, I love the very name of Google. Oh, and I even managed to locate our block in Salt Lake in Google Maps. The place has finally received its due in the virtual world. Hurrah !

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Before I leave...

Yesterday we completed watching the last instalment of Dasvidaniya. I have been thinking ever since about my wish list. So many things that I should have to do in order to settle my accounts in case I need to leave before time. I certainly won't be able to limit my list to a mere 10 things, unlike Amar Kaul. So many debts to own up to, so many apologies to acknowledge, so many moments to rewind to and re-create. To learn Spanish. To learn salsa. To publish an anthology. To become a Rabindrasangeet singer. To complete reading the entire Agatha Christie collection. To have a child of my own. To resolve my parents' conflicts forever. To listen to all the secret sorrows Mitu (my sibling) has been piling up against the world and would only care to share with me. To take my mother on a long holiday to some beach. To confess to Baba the tears I've secretly shed every time I've argued with him. To tell Brinda, Sanjukta, Sohini, Sharmistha, Shobhana, Indranil, Rashi, Pooja, Tua, Ayantika, Shonali, Swarnadeep, Nilanjana, Debarati, Barnali and Moumita how they have all somehow contributed to making me a better person. To tell Bubun/Angshuman (my cousin) what a difference his mere presence or absence can make in my life. To tell K what he means to me. To just let life know how much I enjoyed the warmth of its embrace.

I think I'd better get down to it before it's too late.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

To Rashi, With Love...


The Art Of A Good Marriage

Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow old.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.

Wilferd Arlan Peterson

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend hangover

K greeted Fri evening with a heartfelt "TGIF" ! I amended that to TGIFF. Thank God It's Finally Friday. Can't really blame either of us for feeling that way. For him, it's been an exceptionally long week due to not the number of hours he's been putting in at his Piscataway office, but the sheer intensity of the work itself plus all the stress and anxiety that come as an unwonted package deal with it. As for me, spending most of my waking hours at home (and in the virtual world), I can't distinguish most week days from each other, except a Mon by K's long groans and moans prior to slipping on his formal shoes and Fri by the smile that replaces his usually nonchalant expression, a smile that broadens remarkably as the weekend approaches and starts waning predictably, Sun evening onwards.


K's office registered an unpleasant aberration from its usually monotonous routine this week. He came hom early on Tue afternoon, explaining that there had been a leak in their water pipes at Boundbrook. That ended up in a massive shortage of drinking and running water, necessitating that their canteen be shut down too. I was glad about the unexpected company at home (to think I'm saying this about my own husband gives an idea of how lonely I must usually feel at home) and made the most of it of course in terms of well, you know. Shouldn't have to elaborate on everything in life. One should a little leave something to the reader's imagination as well ! LOL. Anyway, my good fortune proved to be quite shortlived (as usual). K was back at office next day although he had a hard time along with others, trying to cope with purchases of miniscule bottles of drinking water. For 8 hours. The HR hadn't bothered to email employees about the still unresolved water crisis. Needless to say, he went to school...er, office...armed with a huge water bottle the next day.


Dinner on Fri night (when we finally managed to find enough will power to resist inertia of rest) consisted of mix-and-match (K has inherited Mamoni's culinary genes after all, it seems !). The previous day's leftover rajma curry with that day's mixed veg khichuri and fish fries. Dinner was fun as we ate while watching 'Ratatouille'. I'd somehow never managed to get around to watching it earlier on. Quality animation and novelty of storyline plus lots of witty dialogues. A combination that defintely worked for us. I was logged on to Skype and thought I'd heard a missed call. It was from Rony. Tried to call back but he seemed to be offline after that. Caused a bit of confusion as I couldn't make out whether it had been a test call or a missed one.


Saturday saw the Mukherjees (us, silly) getting up at dawn (9 am) and eating the shortcut breakfast. Soup and toast. Soup sounded fancy, 'chicken with wild long grained rice'. Tasted just about ok. Experimentation doesn't always work, I realised ruefully. Breakfast over, I went for a bath while K called home. We had missed the 1st wedding anniversary celebrations of Titai & Abir, my nonod and nondai although we did call up to wish them on 21st Nov, the red letter day. But somehow, hearing lots of cheerful voices in the background coupled with the info that Mamoni-Bapi were there besides several of the couple's relatives and friends alongside Rimjhim and quite a few other of Abir's actor colleagues from the mega-serial 'Khnuje Byarai Kachher Manush' while we were missing out on all the fun hadn't done much to console us for our stay here. Talking to Mamoni and Bapi somehow partly made up for all that as they were unusually eloquent (especially Bapi) and managed to provide a lot of fun bits & pieces and scatter considerable local colour on the persons concerned. Titai was elated at her anniversary gift from Abir, a pair of diamond earrings (especially as she had demanded it as a reward for tolerating his persistent presence for a whole year) and Abir proved to be quite satisfied with his gifts too, a watch and a pair of branded trackpants. Mamoni and Bapi had proved quite uneventful and predictable in their choice of gifts, clothes (Titai's candour will definitely be her undoing some day, LOL). Bapi had been quite upset at Mamoni's not wearing the costume jewellery he had got her on their anniversary to Abir-Titai's party although she did don the Bomkai that had also been his tribute to their 31 years tempestuous years together. He finally relented when she showed him that pink jewellery did not go with a maroon saree (I thought Bapi had already conceded before family members that the light in the saree cum jewellery showroom hadn't been strong enough to distinguish nuances of colour) and so they had better let the matter rest. Abir had decked up at the party in Rimjhim's gift, a nagra, and Ma-Baba's gift to him (which had been part of our post-marriage pujor totwo) this year pujo, a white panjabi.



Anyway, after that, it was time for our round of groceries. The fridge had worn a very miserable look for the last week or so as we had exhausted our stock of 'fresh' as well as frozen vegetables and had been living off rajma, pindi chana, various types of pulses and lentils and soyabean for the last week. Witness to K coming home after a hectic day at work and looking too tired to take the car (and me) out again after that, I didn't have the heart to push him too hard. This time though, we didn't buy too many veggies and fruits since we would be leaving for Atlanta early Thu morning and so it would be rather a waste of time and energy at the moment. So we just bought relatively reduced quantities of most of the usual stuff like soup, granola bars, garlic bread, cookies, juice, bread buns, chicken, cheese etc. In fact, we did buy a couple of new things this time instead. That includes a jar of honey mustard dressing, a packet of vegetable chips, a large pack of chicken patties (for sandwiches) and a box of blueberry muffins. There was also a packet of pre-cooked shrimp this time for Madhav, K's colleague, whom we had invited to dinner the next day, disguising it as his unofficial 'aiburobhaat'. Poor fellow, he's soon to be a martyr to the cause of marriage. So you are allowed to interpret this as our attempt to cheer him up on the (un)happy occasion and prepare him for the prodigious quantities of food he would in any case have to be mentally prepared to consume at all occasions appertaining thereunto, back in India.



The major part of the next day was spent cooking. The menu planned ran thus : Fried rice, paneer butter masala, chicken masala, chingri malai curry, tomato-raisin-cranberry chutney. K plumped for the shrimp and fried rice while I decided to do the rest. Inviting guests over is certainly fun, but it's a lot of hard work too over here, since the whole process includes doing the dishes, cutting and washing the raw material, heating, cleaning the gas range and countertops before and after, marinating the chicken and shrimp, often recollecting the ingredients we've run out of and making a quick sortie to salvage the situation etc - steps that are usually excluded back home where the division of labour always makes entertaining easier and less onerous here. This time, there was an unusual setback in the form of the hot water taps running dry. Although maintenance was already working to resolve the issue, we didn't have the time to wait for them, which meant a repeated heating of water in the saucepan for various pre-cooking chores. In between, K managed a trip to the local Indian store to procure coconut milk and green chilli. He came back unusually elated, following his discovery of a newly introduced halal section functioning there on Fri, Sat and Sun. Men are such cannibals.


Despite the water issue, we managed to get everything done by 2.30 pm, after which I went to take a bath and prepare lunch. What with my gastric problem and a heavy dinner awaiting us that night, K and I agreed to lunch on soup and toast. We took a short nap and woke up around 6 pm. Madhav had to receive a friend at the airport, so he told K that he would be rather late and so, we had tea and muffins while watching 'A Big Fat Greek Wedding' , which I quite liked. It was a refreshing change from the usual Mills & Boon stuff that I'm generally attracted to most of the time. I can spend a lifetime just watching romantic comedies. I don't think I'll ever have enough of them.


Madhav arrived just as we were getting involved in the second film, 'Monster-In-Law'. J-Lo is so sweet. It was getting late in any case and past 9 pm. Since Madhav was absolutely adamant about not having any snacks, we headed straight for dinner. It was a fun affair, though the usual messy one, with newspapers spread out on the carpet and the aluminium foil trays laid out in the middle for easy access while we sat around them and ate buffet-style. I was relieved that Madhav took to all the dishes and had second helpings of most and even a third helping of rice. I'd been a bit apprehensive about the paneer as it was the first time I'd made this dish and wasn't sure that I'd got the masala : paneer ratio right at the end. Thankfully it tasted delicious. K's malai curry was evidently a hit as Madhav even asked for its recipe. Shob miliye amader mukh roilo, in short. It was a bit tough for Madhav to sit on the comforter and eat as he seems to have a knee ligament problem, but I tried to somewhat sort that out by fashioning him a makeshift table out of the box in which we'd bought our floor lamp. The oven is really turning out to be a great help in terms of heating food like chicken and rice, especially as we still haven't got ourselves a microwave. Quite a few people tell me that an oven is actually better than a microwave when it comes to heating food but I guess I'm not experienced enough to judge that for myself yet.


We all had diet pepsi to wash down the dinner and Madhav left soon after, since he had a lot of packing to do before he left for India but very little time to do it in, the next two days being weekdays and therefore necessitating that a whole lot of time be spent at office. We've promised to host a welcome party for Silpa and him, after their post-marriage return to USA. I'm quite looking forward to meeting her, especially (despite K's disgust at my Linda Goodman phases) as she happens to be a Gemini. Till then, so long.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Of speaking up. It helps.

I'm not a feminist per se, but I do invest a lot in terms of emotion and interest in what may very broadly be termed human rights. So, when I came across the following video on a blog I regularly follow, I couldn't help but ask permission to use the link on my own blog. The owners were kind enough to grant permission and here it is:

This public service ad, directed by Pooja Das Sarkar, Nandita Mary Thomas and Subuhi Jiwani, tries to raise awareness about 10920, a government-run helpline for women. The directors are Master's-level students in Media and Cultural Studies at the Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Speak Up was made as an assignment for a video class on social communication in January 2008.



I have always felt strongly about the topic since a very young age, when we had maids not turning up on certain days and my mother would look sad instead of angry at having to shoulder all her household responsibilities herself. Much later, I understood the reason why. Some of these girl-women were simply not educated enough to realise that walking away from a bad marriage was better than having to overhear relatively better-off (maritally) women offering sympathetic stares and commiserating candour on their own variations of domestic strife. Even after my own marriage, I was a helpless witness to Mangala, the domestic help at my shoshurbari, who didn't turn up for several consecutive days and then left with her salary one evening. Mamoni later told me that her husband had beaten her up so severely that she looked and felt too scarred to make any sort of public appearance whatever. This from a woman whose husband probably earned only as much as she did and yet, had the audacity to distrust her movements ouside home and the company she kept, coercing her to finally give way and lead the routine housewife's life once again, washing and cleaning and cooking etc. I, who had known her since my pre-marriage days and had become accustomed to her greeting me with a smile and a cup of hot tea on most mornings after marriage, couldn't imagine her spirited personality constrained by physical abuse and emotional blackmail. But I had no idea what I could do to make any difference in her position. She had made a decision, she told Mamoni, and would try to live upto it. Mamoni respected it. But did she respect it herself after all?

Couldn't Mangala have dared to tarnish her good name in her community by deciding to rebel and regulate her own life? Maybe, like most of us, her spirit was willing but her flesh was weak? We do so want our marriages to work after all. Whatever social stratum we hail from us. Each of us women. Educated or not. Bold and beautiful. The neither bold nor beautiful. All of us are slaves to what we think is love. To the silence that is actually not any solace at all.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shopping and Ethics

Backlogs scare me, especially as they are second nature to me when it comes to things which I'm passionate about and yet have managed to neglect completing. I keep on coming up with all these silly defences, like one needs distance to gain perspective, in the spirit of Wordsworth's 'emotions recollected in tranquility'. Unfortunately, too much of tranquility doesn't seem to leave me with any emotion at all. LOL.

We watched 'Quantum of Solace' last Saturday and I must admit, it was definitely more than a mere quantum of solace on a very rainy Saturday, when the only other consolations were a lunch consisting of paneer paratha (yippee) and my latest creation, a chicken korma (well, it was described as a 'mild chicken korma' in the net recipe, but I don't think that sounds very gastronomically tantalising, so I'd leave the mildness out) besides a round of shopping at Walmart, seeking a gift for a not-even-a-month old baby (Siddhant, of course).

Shopping first, I think. Apart from bread and desserts (which I'm perpetually mystified as to how we manage to consume so much so fast), there were two important things on our mind this time, trackpants for K (thanks to our extreme show of torpor which explains the monthly visit to the laundry) and a befitting present for baby Sid, my latest preoccupation (I so need a child of my own). The first was hard enough to locate since we wanted low prices and tasteful designs (in a trackpant?...I know, I know...but...er...that's so me) and flannel, so it took quite a bit of time. Turns out that buying gifts for children is a challenge. I mean, you have to know exactly what you want, otherwise there's too much variety out there for the not-so-ingenious (and the not-so-patient, by which I defintely mean K) to get anything at all at the end of the day...er...search. I don't recall so many options when we were children ourselves. Well ok, that was some twenty odd years back but children still are children aren't they? How much change could they possibly have undergone in just two decades.

A hell of a lot, it seems. My jaws dropped at the sight of the huge space and several aisles that were devoted to children at the W. Toys, games, board games, books, cards, dolls, rides, gadgets, musical paraphernalia...wow. K seemed literally dumbfounded (not that it's hard to say that about him on most occasions) and was all in favour of coming back another day, especially since Moumita called to say they were running late and to ask whether it would be possible for us to get the movie tickets. I voiced a vehement no.I don't think I could have taken the trouble of patiently exploring each and every single one of all those aisles and after that, lived to face an empty-handed me. Well, you may naturally ask, since there were so many options, what was the problem. Aha. That was the problem. Too many choices and two clueless adults. There seemed to be so much for children but not much for babies (obviously it had to be that way, since that was what we were looking for in particular). And certainly not for babies less than 6 months old. Hello? What are they supposed to be, non-human? I suppose the manufacturers think that the only things that would suit them are clothes and adult-chosen toys. Don't even ask what we ultimately bought. (It's a surprise in any case for the Baby, so hold your breath till post-Thanksgiving,will you ?) Just a hint. Something that K seems to want to be allowed to play with, too. I know I would so love the expressions on your faces if I could see them !

Now for 'James Bond'. I know that that's not really the name of the movie, but several people at the Reading Cinemas ticket counter seemed happy to think of it that way. Fortunately, the tickets were not very expensive. That would have triggered on dollops of guilt in me, I being the half of the Mukherjees that was extra-hyper about watching the film on the big screen. Well, it was definitely worth the hype (and the 400 odd rupees spent respectively). I am totally converted to Craigomania and over Brosnan (who looked a tad too flirtatious, I always thought). Olga whatever was a great performer too. I loved the action sequences especially the airborne one and the initial chase. The opening song was slightly misleading, I thought. It looked like Bond was going to be The Man in a film where all the heroes, villains etc consisted of solely women and the action sequences were all likely to take place in bed. And the principal issue, the question of the ethics of revenge, made me very happy. It called back memories of all the ecstatic hours I'd spent in JUDE days, contemplating Hamlet. For the forgetful many, I reproduce the classic soliloquy :

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. - Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.


(Act III, Scene 1)

Of course, it always seems to be easier to preach than to practise. But with time and determination, I have learned not to hold malice.I am not saying I forget, I only forgive. And the most important thing here is to remember that revenge destroys you as much as it would the potential victim. It's not important who started it all. It's so much more meaningful to be the magnanimous one who learns a lesson from the past and simply moves on. And lets go. You must exorcise your own demons at the end of the day. For as Hamlet saw it, murdering the murderer would be akin to stooping to the murderer's own level. Therefore, he simply could not initiate action until Laertes had dealt him the death blow. Being attacked, he could retaliate, knowing that Laertes and he forgave each other even as they died. But Claudius' death does remain controversial as the question of ethics still hold. A modern day Hamlet, Bond works at the Freudian cure, reliving his past and thus overcoming it. I'm glad I did watch the film. I'd been going through a traumatic experience myself and it kind of purged me of my hurt. I'm no longer in rewind mode.

K says I think too much. On this occasion, I think he would be glad I did since the results are so positive in nature. As for the person who tried to hurt me, his/her dwelling on the past while I live in the present is ample punishment. What say you?

Btw, here you will find a simple and sensible essay on the theme of revenge in Hamlet, for those interested.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Musically speaking...

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
~Berthold Auerbach


There are songs. And there are more songs. And then there steps across the trodden paths a new age pied piper with a certain song. It strikes gold in the depths of your heart, makes you feel like you've lived a million years and scaled epic heights, traversed irridescent oceans and seas and witnessed a panorama of noble emotions, woven countless dreams and hoped to fulfill them all, loved and lost that one special person to whose cause you could have been a martyr over and over again. That in short is 'Dil Ka Rishta' from Rahman's latest musical jubilee,'Yuvvraaj'. Yes, Rahman remains unsurpassed in the scope and grandeur of our musical destiny. And 'Tu Meri Dost Hai' comes a near second. Near but not quite there. It's hard to pinpoint why. Probably because as some famous person concluded, there is only one masterpiece. The others are all unconscious derivations.
I feel fortunate, at this time and place, when people everywhere only seem to talk about crises and conclusions, where the world at unholy moments literally seems to be a study in scarlet, in chaos,cunning and cruelty, that I can still wake up in the morning and feel I have enough strength to go on. Thank Rahman.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Exit Fall

Time to bid goodbye to fall too, as leaves vanish overnight and brown heaps of them are shovelled away by maintenance crew. Birds migrate elsewhere, seeking warmer climes and enough foliage cover to rear their young in safely and securely. Nature removes her gifts one by one and shows us a totally different aspect of her we in India are not very familiar with. Yes, Halloween signals fall end and we are all getting braced up to welcome (not sure that's the way I feel but let's be a tad magnanimous, shall we) winter with bare branches and a colourless Christmas...the following video captures the state of things here in our neighbourhood.


Friday, November 14, 2008

We're going global !

I've just been reading Aamir Khan's blog and couldn't help but chuckle at his childlike wonder at the most bizarre of commodities that seem to be available through tele-shopping and yes, I did laugh outright when I discovered that he too had almost been sold into placing orders for several of the things they claim to sell, confident that they'll revolutionise your lifestyle forever and give you heaven on earth. It brought to mind the hilarity that I'm provoked to when I realise that of all the grocery shopping we periodically do, few of the products seem to have been actually maufactured here, in the USA. So far, I recall having bought cherry jam made in Poland, caspicums grown in Canada, soya and chili sauces imported from China, maggi made in India, water sourced from Fiji, hairdryer, toaster and steam-iron manufactured in China, coats and jackets knitted/woven/assembled in Mexico, China, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong etc. Our microwave-friendly food containers take the cake. They are made of 'global components assembled in USA'. The funny thing evidently is that except for most cosmetics and certain food products, almost everything we buy in the supermarkets here seem to be sourced from almost every other country around the world. Numerous electronic/electrical goods on the racks even have 'made in China: Patent pending' stamped on them, if you take the trouble of reading the fine print. Well, if you are a country that is dependent to this extent on parts, products and produce from so-many other supposedly not-so-well-off countries all over the world, it defies my comprehension how you can be a world leader/global superpower/first world country. I think India should definitely qualify for first-world-country tag, if you take into account the fact that it produces most of its own consumer goods within its own geo-demographic bounds and we do buy and use most of them. I, for instance, have tried out numerous varieties of exotic and expensive cleansers and toners and found that the very local and pocket-friendly Ayur suits me relatively better.
Moral of Story : I'm definitely not taking loads of cosmetics home just to show off to folks back home that I've been to the USA.

What the Hell ! :-)

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's" Divine Comedy Inferno Test

Thursday, November 13, 2008

For K

It's a very dreary sort of rainy day today...plus that time of the month when being a woman doesn't seem a very pleasant thing after all. But it's better than yesterday, when dysmenorrhoea pained the hell out of me. I was in no state to do anything productive, K rushed back home early and dinner consisted of a marvellous khichuri that my poor K had to prepare and I must say did a commendable job of. Anyway, to cheer myself up, being all alone with my thoughts today, I've been recalling bits and pieces of the past through songs and poetry. And came across this jewel from Neruda.

If You Forget Me

I want you to know one thing.
You know how this is:
if I look at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

If you, like me, just cannot have enough of Neruda, try this link :

http://www.poemhunter.com/pablo-neruda/

P.S. I know you know it all, but I feel like telling you, all over again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

ARE WE NEXT ?!

FROM THE TIMES OF INDIA_10/11/2008
No one to rein in 3-wheeled menace

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Kolkata: Aniruddha Guha was sitting on the driver’s right side on Saturday afternoon when he was thrown and run over by a truck. Had police cared to enforce the law, a young life would have been saved. For, it is illegal to seat any passenger in the front seat of an auto. That’s only the beginning of the long list of law violations by auto drivers who are a law unto themselves. From using the carcinogenic kaata tel to fixing fares on their own, a large section of auto-wallahs breaks every rule in the book. The highly unionized auto drivers challenge the government and get away with it. Police officers admit the threewheelers are the most unsafe passenger carriers in the city. The anarchy is largely driven by economics, says transport economist Barun Sarkar. There is no regulation on how many autos should ply on a particular route. The result: terrible competition in a swarm of three-wheeled menaces that cares nothing law, or life and limb. Hence, the cut-throat brazenness of auto drivers. Each of them takes risks to pick up an extra passenger. So, overspeeding, lane violation, over-loading have all become endemic with the city’s auto-fleet, Sarkar said.
The driving skill of auto drivers is highly questionable. “A couple of years ago, we did a drive against illegal autos. We were shocked to find that at least 25 per cent do not have licence. Most learn on the job, which is dangerous. They do not know road regulations. So they do not even understand, if they violate any traffic rule. The moment we prosecute them, they burst into anger,” said a traffic sergeant. The biggest violation is taking passengers on the right side of the driver. In the front, there is hardly any space for an extra passenger, let alone two. “Once you take a passenger on the right, the driver gets no elbow room. This cramps up the driver and is in itself dangerous. Besides, the passenger on the right gets exposed to being hit by vehicles,” said a public vehicles department official. The administration’s reluctance to act against errant auto drivers has only emboldened them. “In 2003, police and the transport department tried to put holograms on the legal autos so that action can be taken against illegal ones. We were stunned when we found that a large number of autos, which were illegally brought from Delhi, were given registration after changing their chassis and engine number. But we had to retract under political pressure,” said a former assistant commissioner of police.
“Despite several attempts, autos have largely remained untouchable for law enforcing agencies. Even though most of the autos are illegal, they thrive under Citu patronage,” said Sarkar.
FOR DETAILS, GO TO :

Film and fiction plus a rainy day

We got our new numberplates on Saturday and I came home while K got the car inspection done at a govt-authorised private inspection centre, dropping me off on our way back from the dealer's centre at Raritan. I prepared lunch, a simple repast really but a rather gloomy one, if you take the weather into consideration. The latter is becoming moodier by the day, so that we are rolling our trackpants into shorts one evening and freezing under the comforter while watching TV, the very next day. And it's not really so bad unless it's raining. Then it's properly depressing. It makes you just want to go back to bed, wanting to wake up to a clear blue sky, lush greenery and sunshine streaming onto your warm face. Anyway, we settled down to watch a movie after that. 'Shoot on Sight' seemed rather cliched in terms of storyline and slow in terms of narrative progression, so we moved onto something more light and lively, namely 'EMI'. Unfortunately, the last part didn't seem to be available but what the heck...we got to watch the film first day, first show (well, not exactly perhaps, but it felt like that) and we liked it. Or as much of it as was within our access. Of course, we were lucky enough to locate the last part the very next day. It was a bit of a letdown. The slowly and smartly built up quartet of drama and crises seemed to resolve itself all too hurriedly, so that what was gained in terms of time was definitely lost in terms of credibility and audience satisfaction.
That reminds me. I've been reading a collection of 5 Agatha Christie novels entitled: ' Murderers Abroad' : Five Complete Novels'. Three of these novels (They Came to Baghdad, So Many Steps to Death and Passenger to Frankfurt) run concurrently on a fairly complicated plot against a bizarre backdrop, anarchy and conspiracy in and around the times of the post-cold war and in the sombre aftermath of the first world war. One motif is strangely similar, the inconspicuous - because plain and naive looking - woman getting to the bottom of it all by simply letting the villainous lot interpret her in the most obvious manner, thereby underestimating the worth of her solid common sense. This struck a chord with me as it reminded me of several instances when my mother/sister or a certain friend insisted on a particular person or incident making them feel uneasy and I had just shrugged it off as nerves. They were almost always annoyingly right. Whereas my father always overlooked these gut feelings, dismissing them as feminine fears and now K seems to do the same, as if concrete evidence could always account for something that later goes irretrievably wrong. I think all these people (the nervy ones) might have one thing in common, the fine power of perception combined with an instinct for survival that unconsciously alerts them to a potential crisis , thereby making it easier to react to people and situations who/that may be too opaque to the rest of us, futilely trying to balance the logical and the lyrical.
I never respected the Kolkata weather until I had to be at the rceiving end of snowfall in Oct and minus temperatures dropping sharply in Nov. Titai, my nonod informs me that it's still hot and humid there and that's a saving grace when you consider all the successive outdoor festivities, where the weather does make a marked difference to the extent people do or do not enjoy themselves. Here it's a bit scary as influenza is secretly at large and flu shots have been made available at your nearest pharmacy for $30.
It's tough if you have long hair. You get dandruff both when you wash it and it doesn't dry fast due to lack of sunshine and even when you don't wash it often enough. It's just a matter of choosing what type of dandruff you'd rather have. The hairfall is equal for both dry and oily dandruff, by the way, FYI. I was all for cropping my hair short and growing it back after winter here, which would mean post-March (post-April, if I'm singularly unfortunate). It wasn't a happy thought, considering the frustratingly long time my hair took to reach the mid-back length and I was petrified at the thought of all the oiling, shampooing, conditioning, seruming and hair-spaing I would have to do to regain the lost treasure...er, I mean tresses. K was traumatised at the very notion of re-trimming my hair (I had subjected him to that torture a month and a half back) and bought me a hair-dryer at the very next opportunity. Now, I wash my hair twice a week and dry it immediately afterwards. It seems I might not go bald after all.
We also watched 'The Omen' on Saturday evening. This was my latest sortie into the arena of apocalyptic reel fiction and I must admit that it was scary enough to satisfy my gargantuan appetite for the supernatural in Christian religious mythology. It took me back to my 'Exorcist', 'End of Days' and 'Stigmata' period, which I didn't recall with much nostalgia until now. I guess I haven't paid my preferences much of their dues. But I think I can afford to do that now, with a 100 mb/sec net connection at my service. I love the thought of being scared !!!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Stomach and Parking Woes

I've had a bad scare yesterday. For the last two days, my stomach has been feeling hot and spicy after each meal, until things came to a bad pass yesterday afternoon when the condition began to cause me such discomfort that I interpreted it as gastric ulcer for sure and was forced to frantically call up my school-friend, Sharmistha, now in Flanders, ,and ask her advice. Medicines with the composition Ranitidine or Famotidine were what she suggested, besides the compulsory biscuits every hour. I was utterly perplexed (and highly annoyed by my lack of foresight) to find that we had no Omeprazole or Zinetac among the huge heap of medicines we had carried over from India. K was taken aback by a very evidently-scared-out-of-my-wits me bursting into tears over the phone and asking him to come home as soon as possible. Despite a steady shower, we left for the closest pharmacy (RiteAid, of course) immediately after he had had tea and an evening snack and hunted down the aforementioned medicine. Luckily it's an over-the-counter drug, so all we had for concern was the price tag. We chose the in-house RiteAid product with the exactly similar composition but a lower price tag. All the same, it came to about $6...if you convert that to rupees, you'll probably empathise with my mental state after that. The more I try to save money, the more I somehow end up wasting it in some way or the other.

We had a hard time parking the car. It was raining non-stop and there seemed to be more cars than usual along the kerb, so that there was hardly any space big enough for a newly trained driver to easily manoeuvre the car into a straight (and legal) position. We wasted a lot of time in one smaller spot before K had the good sense to surrender and move on to a much more larger slot. I had volunteered to get out and give directions to help park but I don't think I proved to be of much help after all. I made a sorry sight in a white hooded jacket, clutching two umbrellas (both open, for some strange reason), a crumpled white polythene carry-bag (in which to deposit the wet umbrellas and thereby protect the car) and a white paper packet containing the treasure of the moment (my medicines, silly). But it felt good to feel that I had a loving husband, who, even after a hard day's work, gave precedence to my miseries over his own. It is something most women dream of but few realise. I'm glad to be one of the blessed ones.

K was decent enough to cook dinner yesterday, one of his specials, the chilli mushroom-and-vegetables that he does occasionally. For the first time in my life, I made narkel laddoos and they turned out quite well. So good, in fact, that after a trial in the evening, K looked crestfallen at the sight of just one as dessert for dinner and demanded another. I can't describe the sense of achievement that I woke up to after that. It was a great feeling.

That reminds me, we noticed something strange at RiteAid. They've happily put Halloween miles behind them and have promptly and unceremoniously replaced all Halloween decorations and puppets with the same having Christmas as the new theme. People here must really be short of enough festivals to go around.

Mitu (my sibling) has a fashion show around the corner and has, as usual, assumed with impenetrable (outrageous) composure, that I am naturally going to edit her accompanying write-up for her. She called me up on GTalk to brief me on the theme and what she wants from me. Sigh, younger sisters !

P.S. I just discovered that the writing behind the Ranitidine tablet runs thus, "Dr Reddy's Laboratories Ltd, Bachepalli -502 325 INDIA".

Of all the */#%@* !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sweet Somethings, Now Nothings

Grihoprobesh Photos_27/07/2007




I've been enumerating the things that I miss, now that I've been doing without them for quite some time and find my adaptibility a strange shade of extreme. My money plant (which Mamoni had bought me from Gariahat more @ Rs 20 but we managed to avenge it several times over) seems to be able to flourish without me there every morning, excited at the thought of finding a couple of more leaves perhaps having unfurled their tiny green selves overnight. The wedding wardrobe with pull-out concealed alnas on both sides and a full-length mirror running the length of an entire front panel. Comfortable cushioned chairs, a sofa, tables. Tubelights. A proper bed with a solid mattress (we're quite comfy here with a dark brown comforter below us spread out on a carpeted floor and another blue comforter over us). Lack of decorations and knick-knacks. The circular three-photo-frame containing a photo each of our marriage, reception and honeymoon, greeting us smilingly from the surface of the wedding trousseau bedside table. The room-that-is-not-only-a-room (a verandah, for the unimaginative few). The sliding-glass-window in the living room and the broad windowseat where I had got used to cosying up (with Mamoni) when I felt the need for my own corner. The colourful curtains that K and I had selected so carefully just prior to their grihoprobesh, when we hadn't even been married. Most of my wedding sarees, blouses and petticoats. A locker full of wedding jewellery.The morning pujo and the accompanying fragrance of incense that provided a heady start to each day. The other plants in the verandah that Mamoni and I shared the responsibility of quenching the thirst of, periodically. The hard copy of the everyday newspaper. Reading it while lazing over tea and biscuits. All the birthday parties, anniversary celebrations and wedding invitations. The much greater variety of transport (wow, I actually admitted that !). The freedom to venture out alone and not worrying about getting lost anywhere at all. The frequent get-togethers at shopping malls/CCD/Barista for just a coffee or milkshake or attending the first day first show of a much awaited film at Priya. The ability to haggle over things as silly as junk jewellery and flip-flops by roadside makeshift shops and not feeling in the least embarrassed over losing the bargain, just moving on to the very next one and starting all over again. Hanging out for hours at Starmark or Planet M, checking out the latest arrivals. Above all, our friends and family, who made us feel longed and cared for.
Our now desolate bedroom :-(

Well, I've sure worked myself up into a sense of wistful melancholy right now. I'd better wait for it to subside before I can blog on an objective note. Bye for now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

After a horrifyingly long hiatus..

DEATH

Leave me no more room to love
Let you be all that I must ever have
As material to live with you on and on
Stumbling in the depths of the mind horizon
Gathering shelter in the memory of your charms
Seeking sustenance in the warmth of your arms
Knowing that we shall never belong
To others, to existences shadowy lifelong…

Since you are gone, never to appear before eyes
And these days must seem like dark nightmare lies
My cries bewilder those that haunt the earth
Who beguile me to more marriage and mirth
Trusting in tragic time to forget and heal
Mocking the power of the wedding seal,
The flaming red that knows you live on in me
That we always believed in what is destiny…

If there are no smiles, it is because I laugh
Glowing in the halo of my once better half
If there is no music, it is your echoing voice
That leaves me enough cause to rejoice,
Ringing in my ears, singing out my woe
Easing the course of the tears that flow…

Battling the burden of the rest of my role
Dancing lightly in the locus of the soul
Rendering moments, monuments, emotions whole
Filling up what morbid dust might expose a hole.


GARGI MANDAL-MUKHERJEE
25-09-2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Daylight saving causes confusion !

Daylight saving was supposed to end on Nov 2,2008. I forgot as usual and woke up, extremely perplexed yesterday morning to find my alarm ringing at 8.30 am when I could have sworn I had set it for 9.30 am. Any sharp sound in the morning wakes me up promptly, so it was no use trying to get back to sleep. The damage had been done, I thought. So I grumpily left a very loudly and peacefully snoring K hidden in the depths of the comforter and went to complete my daily bathroom rituals. Preparations for tea and breakfast complete, I was bugged to find that K showed no signs of stirring. Not intending to do double duty for breakfast on a Sunday morning, I tried to make myself (well, 'my muscles' would be a more precise choice of words perhaps) useful by doing some pranayam and freehand exercises. Meanwhile, the grumblings and growlings in my stomach seemed to be getting louder and more insistent although I tried my best to ignore them. I finally decided I had had enough of a patient wait and would at least make tea for myself so that I could have a couple of biscuits at least in order to survive. Playing somewhere at the back of my mind, I secretly have often thought, may also be the fear of reactivating my gastric ulcer symptoms, which landed me in a horrible predicament during my H.S. exams, way back in 2000, but scared me sufficiently to make me never venture out of my home post-that-mishap without at least a small pack of biscuits in my handbag.

Anyways, I had just let the milk boil and was a bit preoccupied with putting sandwich buns to toast in the oven when the sound of blinds being raised made me realise that K had finally had the mercy to wake up and I could now eat. May he snore in peace forever. I took a quick glance at the battery operated alarm clock we had brought from India and noted that it was 11.30 am. Hello, I thought startled, hadn't I seen the wristwatch showing me 10.30 am? I checked and found that my eyes were functioning properly after all. Flummoxed, I pondered. And then realised that it was 2nd Nov today !

Tanima and I have displayed extreme dullness of comprehension by not being able to master the concept of daylight savings, Rony and K assure us. However, I've luckily managed to locate a site or two that is more enlightening in its explanation of the event compared to their obscure outlines of this unnatural state of affairs. Here they are :

http://aa.usno.navy.mil/faq/docs/daylight_time.php

http://geography.about.com/cs/daylightsavings/a/dst.htm

However, if you are more concerned and curious about how the process of setting clocks ahead of the usual time in summer and putting them back in winter affects the difference in time throughout the rest of the world, I refer you to the following link, which is comprehensive in its data line-up :

http://www.worldtimezone.com/daylight.html

And if my understanding wasn't poor enough already, I had a tough time elaborately enlightening my much-more-obtuse-family-members regarding this whole abstract (to me, for sure !) concept. It all runs in the genes, I suppose. To think that I was supposed to be 'intelligent' when I was young. Sigh !!!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mixed Bag

So Siddhant is into his third day on earth and his parents are, I suppose, slowly comprehending the extent and gravity of their responsibility now. Debarati and I are seriously coming around to the idea of becoming mothers sooner or later some day. We are more concerned about whether our respective husbands are ready to shoulder such responsibility, burdened as they are with work and sleepless nights and liable to turn irritable at the slightest domestic provocation. Not that we're complaining. If we don't understand them, who will ? But what troubles us more about them is whether they are in any position to be shouldering any more worries, baby related and all. K openly admits that anything pregnancy-related makes him feel queasy and although I initially found that material for considerable hilarity, the fact that he may seriously feel that way doesn't exactly bode confidence for the future. I only hope seeing the way Sushmit-Namita are handling their parenthood inspires more respect in him for the role that parents fulfil and reduces his trepidation at assuming a similar status in the not-so-distant-future.

Meanwhile, we have received the second batch of photos from the 'thrilled and proud parents' (to quote them verbatim) and the accompanying updates too over the phone. Baby Sid is not very pleased, it seems, at the excretory operations that the body must regularly perform and announces the fact quite vociferously each time he has to participate in the painful process. Ah, if only he knew that this is nothing compared to what greater obstacles life holds in store for us humans, he would be a happier man. But I certainly (and to my intense perplexity !)prevaricate. Let him become a child first, then ...er well, ok, much later perhaps...we may broach the topic of maturing into manhood etc.



Tanima and I have been discussing the Baby in Our Lives and have arrived at the consensus that He is likely to do us all proud, what with sporting so much hair at birth (apparently the proud parents did not have much of the same at their respective births and hence, feel justifiably relieved at their offspring's accomplishment) and displaying such a prominently aquiline nose (remarkable indeed for a newborn baby) so early in life. I personally think that there isn't much he could do to not blossom into a good-looking chap, with such a handsome father and a petite and pretty mother handing down some real genetic goodies. My only hope is that he turns out to be a lean-and-not-so-mean hunk with a heart as golden as that of his family and on a slightly divergent note, doesn't have our tendency to gain weight at the slightest and sweetest provocation.
Halloween was a big flopshow yesterday. K was in a flurry to purchase some candy yesterday evening at RiteAid nearby to satisfy the trick-or-treat demands of the children in our complex but none turned up. Probably because they supposed we wouldn't understand the significance of their festival. We spotted quite a few of them across the road from Rite Aid, dressed in some grotesque costumes (sorry, I for one can't conjure up any more apt epithet for the same) like that of a bumble-bee and a butterfly and more appropriately (I hope that's the right word in this context), masks of devils and ghouls and nasty other synonyms that escape my memory (thank goodness) at present. We bought a cask of orange-pineapple flavoured coolers and a bottle of mojito at a discount store nearby to cheer us up on such a cold Friday night and to console us on the inability to celebrate Diwali this year, owing to particularly inclement weather. A father appeared while we were there with two tiny children, attired in disproportionately huge wigs in bizarre shades of orange and soot black. I was considerably entertained at the sight of such small children at a liquor store, but thankfully, it seems, they were out on their regulation halloween outing and promptly demanded 'lowwippops' of the Indian lady manning (?!) the counter. They were rewarded with chocolates. Their father had to assure them that they had got a better deal than they had expected, not that the children themselves seemed very convinced of that at the end. By the way, I must confess extreme annoyance at the way a couple of young Indian men ogled at me while I stood by the counter and K had gone to get the mojito. I know it might not be very natural in our country to see women in a liquor store and their behaviour could and perhaps should be excused on that account itself. All the same, it is rather an affront to notice men staring open-mouthed (literally), when they can quite make out that you are not happy at their attitude and would rather be overlooked. I have never learned till date to take any form of gazing at me as a compliment in any way. I'm sure many other women also feel the same way.

This afternoon, we undertook a trip to the Manville Walmart in our new car. K did me proud by driving quite competently despite the entirely different system of driving we have had to get used to here. We had to get some gas near East Main Street and were disgusted to discover the amount we had lavished on cab fares ever since our arrival here, especially after we had calculated the gallons of gas we could have bought at that amount. Well, better late than never. Walmart was crowded as usual on a weekend day, particularly as the weather was quite clear and pleasant. Besides the usual necessities like bread and milk, we shopped for car accessories this time, which was definitely a novelty for me. Car deo, car sponge, ice scraper, wet wipes...wow, we do love our car ! Also discovered potpourri in some interesting fragrances like mulberry, hazelnut cream and apple-cinnamon. The latter was a bit overwhelming and the hazelnut one was rejected on grounds of our common failure to appreciate the thought of our bathroom smelling like a Dunkin-Donuts outlet. The usual and expected confusion took place at the cosmetics section where purchasing a cold cream turned out to be a major headache for formerly mentioned reasons (the monstrous variety, for those who suffer from amnesia like me) and locating a simple pair of socks engendered considerable mirth (since I eventually purchase two pairs in light and deep blue and in material that resembled the feel of a soft toy more than it did any form of cotton or wool). A navy blue tweed skirt on sale was the unexpected additional purchase, more so for the simple reason that it actually did fit my paunch and looked good too (the two rarely go hand-in-hand, in my case).

We had a wonderful but rather belated lunch of ghee-bhaat with daal, alusheddho and deembhaaja at 4 pm. Well, in retrospect, it might not have been that late, considering that we had had breakfast at 10.30 am...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dhoom 3 spells Doom. Almost.

We were watching ' Papa Kehte Hei' on YouTube last night. Correction. I was watching. K was tryng hard to resist the seduction of an early retirement to the comfort of bed, fearing that he might trigger off my classic all-you-care-about-is-office monologues which start as a random comment and then go on like forever. Well, while I was searching for the elusive next part of the numerous episodic format YouTube forces you to plod through, I chanced upon a video claiming to be the 'Dhoom 3 : official trailer' . Intrigued, I ventured into it. It was a big drag. Scenes from 'Dhoom' (2004) and 'Dhoom 2'(2006), interspersed with shots from 'Don': The Chase Begins '(2006). Disgusted but not frustrated, I searched for 'Dhoom 3 ' in Google (where else?!) and was simultaneously amused and annoyed to find a whole bunch of irrelevant results...this, however, was the most intriguing video I came across among all of them :

Without being very explicit, it strongly hints that SRK and Aamir Khan will be pitted opposite each other. Surprisingly, there is no media report to back up this audacious hypothesis.
But this was nothing compared to the following, which sent me into a speechless stupor at the thought of the things people will waste time on, particularly when they must know they are contemplating near-impossibilities ! Have a look for yourself, if you are suficiently hooked by the description of my extreme responses to all this :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HmFQMWakJs

On a totally different note, I recommend all you Bollywood addicts to have a look at the 'Hello'(2008) website. For those of you who are not book-savvy enough in these days of netomania, let me inform you that it's based on Chetan Bhagat's bestseller novel, One Night at The Call Center (2005). The film itself wasn't too bad actually, thanks to Chetan having worked on the screenplay himself, with Atul Agnihotri of 'Sir' fame having just been content with overlooking the whole process and having no issues on the lines of ego-tussles, sharing credits and such routine affairs. Chetan produced some very interesting posts on the making of the film and audience responses to it on his blog, but unfortunately he seems to have recently retired to ruminate on his forthcoming novel, as of date just an idea. But the website of the film had a fresh look to it and wouldn't be not worth wasting a few minutes on. Incidentally, the songs were mostly irrelevant and Salman managed to sabotage even the cameo he had proudly been presented with by the gullible author-director duo. Watch the last scene of the film to find out just what I mean.
P.S. I found a video capture of 'Hello: On Location'.

Cosmetics confusion !

I thought I'd go for a walk about noon today, since sitting in a warm and cosy room, however comfortable it is in terms of sensation, also breeds discontent and monotony. Well, honestly speaking, I also had a specific goal in mind. They've been planting slim red-leaved plants along the kerb. (Trying to make it look picturesque I suppose, at a time when halloween might mean festivity to people here but bodes ill to most of us, as the spectre of a long and dreary winter looms large on the mental horizons of us aliens here, born to appreciate lush evergreen tropical foliage.) And naturally, they immediately came up with a makeshift 'No Parking: Somerville Police' signs here and there along the entire stretch of the East Cliff Street Brookside Gardens complex. Poor K had a tough time this morning, having overlooked those signs and therefore, startled and perplexed to see a mini-crane in gardening mode bang in front of our car just as he was about to get into Ajay's car (Ajay, FYI, is a generous colleague who patiently awaits his gobbling-breakfast-and-grabbing-bag routine every morning en route office). He immediately deposited his bags and rushed back home, where I was already at the windows, armed with the necessary weapon...er, I mean the car keys. The dearth of parking slots nearby caused him to park our new car a long way off, near Gaston Bakery.
Naturally, he called me up later in the morning and wanted me to 'go have a look' to check whether it was still there or not. I forgot to ask him the natural question. What on earth did he suppose might occur to it within such a short interval? I don't suppose a car can be abducted or robbed in stark daylight, could it? Anyway, one can't expect the possessor-of-a-new-car to patiently provide rational responses to all these highly impertinent enquiries. One just accepts them and moves on. To humor his nightmares and reassure him that they are unwarranted. In any case, I needed some sunlight to resolve my dandruff problems and this was a highly agreeable opportunity for me to go air myself (and my hair).

I set off after a shampoo, appropriately attired in turtleneck top, jeans, sneakers and of course, a woollen jacket with a hood that comes in extremely handy on such days like today, when the wind can wreak havoc on your hair and treat it as rudely and roughly as if it were hay.

Well, the car was fine, though a trifle dusty, it occurred to me, from some distance. I was actually more interested in my environs where various fall colours jostled for attention and impressed me with a favourable view of my impromptu outing on the whole. I considered walking on a little bit further to RiteAid Pharmacy to check out the latest seasonal discounts. No sooner thought than done.



K is always it seems, in a hurry, whenever we have to buy a few things at any store. There is so much in these American stores that is new and enchanting to me, but I hardly ever have the luxury of indulging my interest in the same. Today, I was a happy person as I walked the length and breadth of the store, strolling in a leisurely fashion through the aisles and pausing, whenever something caught my fancy, to examine it more closely.

There was enough to keep me engaged and engrossed for the better part of an hour. There seem to be numerous cosmetics products here, ready to make you gasp with wonder if you are a perceptive writer and groan with exasperation if you actually intend to buy something as simple as a lip balm or a face cream. For the variety and range and categories are, to put it bluntly yet politely, chaotic. Quite literally.

For starters, I spotted a huge aisle that provided only hair products. Well, I suppose most of us would comprehend hair oil, shampoo, conditioner and the daring amongst us would perhaps be familiar with terminology like hair gel and hair serum. I was born under a lucky star, I guess. I have seen hair salads, hair creams, hair root tonics, curl holding fluids, straightening washes, mousse, volumisers, solutions for damaged hair, hydrating lotions for dry hair, countless varieties of hair machinery (sorry, couldn't resist using the term) ranging from hair brushes of a plethora of shapes and sizes, straighteners, curlers, tongs etc etc. Pheeeeeeeeew.

Let's move on to lip care products. There is the quintessential vaseline lip guard, neighboured by lip balms (cherry tinted, extra-moisturising, rejuvenating), chapsticks, moisturising lipsticks, medicated lip creams, lip balms with sunscreen, lip gliders etc etc. Wow, I actually remember all those names. Now that's an accomplishment for sure.

And don't even mention creams, bodywashes, deodorants, moisturisers and sunscreens. I've had quite a lot of them for a month or so, thank you. And to think that I've just explored the cosmetics section today. That too, in one of the smaller ones among the entire RiteAid chain of stores !

I have a gut feeling that K knew the feelings of revolt that such miscellaneous and myriad products might engender within me. No wonder he's always in a hurry to head home.

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