Monday, October 29, 2012

Second Chances

Don’t you simply loathe those people who simply can’t stay at home on a weekend and HAVE to throng all the popular places in Mumbai, irrespective of increasing auto fares, alcohol prices and obnoxious Bandra crowd? Of course you don’t, because you are one of them!

But I am one of those hypocritical people who claim that they are too cool to follow the crowd, that they love their own company and that for them, the weekend is all about cleaning/washing/doing laundry/paying bills, but secretly dress up and travel halfway across the city to try new places/things.

Like this weekend: we had this marvelous idea to go to Gateway of India, hire a yatch and sail for two hours. But it seemed the rest of Bombay had already beaten us to it, and after fighting off the crowd, we did manage to get onboard the Blue Whale and the next couple of hours were simply out of this world, literally. We managed to cruise across the sea, admiring the private yatchs of the Who is Who of Bombay, the light breeze playing havoc with my already messy curls, but the alcohol smuggled into the boat making sure that I no longer cared about it. The sunset itself was straight out of the Kerala Tourism brochures, and suddenly, I was miles away, lost in the memory of cruising through the backwaters of Alleppey and Kumarakom. And while I was living in the pseudo dream, one of my closest friends was actually getting married in God’s Own Country: a traditional Mallu Christian wedding which I so badly wanted to attend, but thanks to circumstances, had to pull out of. We wound up the night with a beautiful view of the Queen’s Necklace from the Hanging Gardens and pigging out on Chinese food. Life was almost perfect, but not quite.

I also read Lance Armstrong’s autobiography, “It’s not about the bike”, and given the recent state of events, I was not quite sure what to make of it. Irrespective of where things stand, he would always remain a hero. You can strip him off his accolades/medals, but you can never take away his place in history.

Life does give you a second chance, but at times, you are too scared to take it or you simply make a mess of it

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Quintessential Probashi Bangali

The good thing about Durga Puja is that you get an excuse to meet your close family and friends you genuinely like. The bad thing about Durga Puja is that your OTHER family and friends (whom you DON’T like so much) get to meet you. Usually during the year, I avoid meeting this species by making excuses like distance, long hours at work, severe venereal diseases: basically anything to escape any awkward conversations on marriage, babies and other people’s marriages/babies.

But since it was Ashtomi, favourite uncle is in town and I really wanted to meet him, I had to bear with the OTHER species as well. Now on a normal occasion I would simply take an auto and travel halfway across the city to their place. But given the recent spurt in auto fares AND rampant cheating by auto drivers over and above, I have been taken for a VERY EXPENSIVE ride on several occasions. So this time, I decided to take a bus instead. The peculiar thing I notice is that while most of my friends are moving on to better lifestyles, bigger houses and swankier modes of transport, I am on a downward spiral. Anyway that’s a story for some other day.

Coming back to Ashtomi, I decked up in my best salwar suit, and then very casually walked for 20 minutes to the highway, boarded a crowded bus and reached my destination two hours later, as the bus decided to take the most traffic-laden, roundabout route. By the time I reached, I was a picture of disaster with messy hair, kajal streaking down my face and my pretty salwar suit sticking to me in the humid October evening. But the silver lining is that it cost me only about thirty bucks, and in bad times like this, I shall live with it. I managed to get through the rest of the evening, pandal hopping, posing for happy family pictures and finally squeezing ourselves in Out of the Blue, JUST before the last order. I am not quite sure what happened after that, as I busied myself with the food and alcohol, blocking out all the discussions on marriages, babies and other people’s marriages/babies.

The next day was Navami, i.e. the last day of Navratri and a Gujarati friend of mine took us to a Dandiya event. Now, as I have reiterated several times on this blog, I am no dancer, and especially when it comes to dancing with sticks, let’s just say I would do a better job with a baseball bat. But since I have never been to a Garba before, I decided to tag along anyway, taking pictures and helping myself to some Gujju ‘snakes’ in the food stalls, as the colourful crowd whirled and twirled effortlessly in synchronized circles.

Finally, yesterday being a holiday for Dushera (Bijoya Doshomi as we call it), we made the most of it, watching Chakravuh followed by a sumptuous Bengali lunch of fish fry, loochi and kosha mangsho at Oh Calcutta! after waiting for 40 minutes to get a table. By the time we finished at 4:30, we were the only people in the restaurant. We also went to the newly opened Starbucks at Fort, and I was simply blown away by the décor of the place. Now, I have had the Starbucks coffee and muffin at multiple places each time I have traveled abroad, and blame it on my middle class lack of refinement, I have never understood what the big deal was. I was happy with my filter coffee at the Madras Café at one-fifth the price. So when I read about the huge hype generated when the chain opened its first store in India last week, I dismissed it yet another instance of our wannabe mentality. But now that I have been there, I would unwillingly admit that it was a good experience, despite the complicated ordering/paying/service mechanism. I am sure it was devised by some nerdy, MBA graduate from Tamil Nadu who used all sorts of Queuing Theory algorithms to come up with it.

Then, just to keep up with tradition, we went to Tejpal Hall and Shivaji Park to watch the last minute paraphernalia, when hordes of Bengali women dress up in the traditional red and white sari and do all the sindoor jazz, just before the visarjan. There is something extremely nostalgic about Bijoya Doshomi which manages to break down even a hardened agnostic as me. As irreligious as I am, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad, a little depressed and a little homesick, with glimpses of my childhood days flashing in my mind.

So we did what any self-respecting Probashi Bangali would do on Doshomi: go to Hard Rock Café and get drunk.

And for a change, the music wasn’t loud, the silence wasn’t deafening and the calm wasn’t stormy

Monday, October 22, 2012

Durga Puja: The Bombay Way

Now that you have stumbled upon a Bengali blog, please bear with me as I go gaga over the ONLY thing that matters to us (apart from Sourav Ganguly): yes, I am talking about Durga Puja. The laidback, lazy people that we are, there is just ONE thing in the whole year that motivates us to get up, go out and do something productive, i.e. the five days of pandal hopping during this festive occasion.

There is NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING like Durga Puja: the lights, the glamour, the noise, the overall euphoria, the spirit of togetherness and of course the food. Now I never understood why so many people fast during festivals, be it Eid, Navratri or Good Friday, because, the way I see it, festivals are meant to be enjoyed, and I simply CANNOT enjoy myself without meat or alcohol. To me, Durga Puja has never been about religion or spirituality, but more about being with family/friends, dressing up, going out and eating to heart’s content.

Even though I hadn’t been to Kolkata for Durga Puja in quite a few years, my parents have always been around in Mumbai, and we would do the usual rounds of Shivaji Park and Tejpal Hall, just to get the flavour of Durga Puja. But this year, since I was all by myself, I decided to make the most of the occasion, instead of moping around and feeling nostalgic and jealously tracking FB posts of my friends enjoying themselves in Kolkata.

So, it all began on Friday, when even the Puja pandals weren’t ready, but we were, as we braved the Friday evening traffic and drove down to godforsaken Lokhandwala to catch a glimpse of the much touted Durga Puja organized by the famous singer, Abhijeet. While I found it pretty ordinary compared to the pomp and grandeur associated with even local mandaps in Kolkata, I gave it the benefit of doubt, since it was only Panchami after all. We made up for the disappointment by having an elaborate seafood dinner at Mahesh Lunch Home, as we feasted on fish and crabs washing it down with whiskey.

The next day, we did the typical Bengali pandal hopping, doing the rounds around Powai, Kanjurmarg, Bhandup and Mulund, desperately trying to recreate the childhood days when we would walk for miles, not missing out on any pandal, however small it may be. But it was JUST.NOT.THE.SAME.

Yesterday, we decided that desperate situations called for desperate measures, as I convinced a dear friend (note: no longer a long lost undergraduate acquaintance) to sneak us inside Rani Mukherjee’s puja in Juhu. This time, I decked up in a sari and completed the Bengali look with kohled eyes, big bindi and heels, trying to mingle with the well-turned out crowd. There was a two-hour performance by Hema Malini, and while I would not take anything away from her, I found the entire show to be mind-numbingly dull. It simply refused to get over, and as I longingly pondered over the tempting food stalls lined up just outside the stage, I was almost murderous with rage and hunger. Finally, when it did wind up, none of the stalls would serve my favourite fish fry/fish chop, and I had to be content with an egg roll, and if you know me, that’s nothing short of a sacrilege.

Anyway, here’s a pic of me in the sari, taken just before we left.

All said and done, here I am, sitting in office on an Ashtomi, but I still have a lot to look forward to

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Rachael Green Syndrome

You can take the girl out of SCMHRD, but you can’t take SCMHRD out of the girl. Now, I wasn’t exactly a role model student in my MBA, nor did I think it added much value to my education. Besides, I almost looked down on HR as a specialization, because let’s face it, no employee in any company across the world has good things to say about their HR department. And after all, HR is like, you know, so GURLY!

So, so, so I opted for finance/economics instead, even though I hated it. But unfortunately changing my aptitude is tougher than changing my specialization. Hence I continue to exhibit traits normally associated with HR personnel, and lately I have been doing a lot projects related to Diversity, Talent Management and Communication, none of which are remotely related to my original mandate. Apart from that, there is recruitment and I have been completely enamoured by the whole interviewing/evaluating process.

But now comes the tough part: decision making! Now, I am the sort of person you would describe as a ‘push over’ or as I would like to call it, ‘flexible and understanding’. I am not comfortable with taking charge, I am not comfortable with making decisions and I am definitely not comfortable with power. Even in simple day-to-day situations like going out with my friends or group projects or eating in a restaurant, I usually go along with whatever others decide. I am happy with someone else taking charge, I am happy when others decide where to go and I am happy when my friends order on my behalf, while I just sit there looking pretty, smiling and worrying about my weight, because I am too shy to say that I would rather have the plain parantha than the butter naan, because, you know, I don’t want to add to the confusion.

The only occasion when I am headstrong is when it comes to any sort of authority: my parents have never forced me to do anything, and that has made me uncomfortable with blind compliance, be it with professors, seniors or bosses. But with peers, I am the most malleable person ever!

Which is why, I simply hate making decisions, especially decisions which would impact multiple people and now that I am being forced to do so at work, it makes me extremely conscious: on one hand, I am flattered that people would put so much trust in my judgment so early in my career, but on the other, I am worried about making the wrong choices, being biased or simply messing it up.

Sigh… If only I gave it so much thought before making choices in my own life, things would be much simpler!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Small Wonder

So it’s been almost a week since I have become, you know, smart. But me with a smartphone is still as awkward as Rohit Sharma with a cricket bat, Manmohan Singh with a microphone or Arjun Rampal with a script: I have no idea what to do with it.

Until, until Friday!

Now that I am all ‘socially active’ and ‘cool’ (thanks to this 'awesome' app called What’s App which now dictates my social life), I decided to meet up with some long lost college friend (who would ping me once in a blue moon in the invisible mode and ask probing questions, much to my annoyance), but since we were close once upon a time, we thought we should catch up in, hold your breath, godforsaken Bandra!

So, in the usual course of events, I would get into an auto and argue with the autowala because he would take me through some long winding road, but not being able to do anything about it. But now, with the mind-numbingly simple Google maps, I could just navigate my way to Elbo Room MYSELF!

In the usual course of events, I would listen to my ipod with feeble headphones, the sound of which would get drowned by the din of traffic. But now, the music was simply overpowering.

In the usual course of events, I would be typing furiously, sending drunk text messages to all the people I hate. But now I could be cool and just SWIPE on Whats App, even though I don’t really have anything to say.

I also got together with a bunch of ex colleagues from Company D, and for the better part of three hours, all we did was bitch about what was the first job for most of us. It is so much fun to run down the place with which you share a love-hate relationship, where you have so many memories and which marked the beginning of this long journey to hell.

In the process, I also ran into an old undergraduate acquaintance from Xaviers, who is now working with a major telecom company (and therefore has free passes to all important events sponsored by the company). We were never exactly friends, given the age-old Xaviers-Sophias rivalry, but since now we are both grown up and I want to attend Rani Mukherjee’s Durga Puja next weekend, I was my friendliest best (which, if you know me, takes a lot of effort). The world is indeed small.

And in the middle of a busy weekend, I also managed to get started on my first William Dalrymple saga: The White Mughals. It’s a little confusing to follow the trail of history and research, but so far I am holding on to it.

And yes, I am figuring out my way through this maze of technology, even though my life continues to be as simple or as complicated as before

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Prodigal Daughter

So friends, fellow countrymen, NRIs and Sonia Gandhi: yesterday I did something earth shattering, something which will ensure that my life is never the same again, something which will change the basic framework of my communication.

Yes, I finally gave in to peer pressure and bought myself a smartphone! After two months of research, discussions with cretin colleagues, inputs by tech-savvy friends and bullying by a geeky brother and fund raising from family, I am now a proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Duos. I am yet to figure out what’s so great about it, I am still struggling with basic functionalities like receiving calls/texting/setting an alarm and I am too scared/nervous to explore too much lest I drop it/spoil it. But I am sure in the next few days I shall realize that it is god’s gift to mankind, that the whole world is, in fact, not as stupid as America and it is indeed a device which would solve all the problems in my life and make my existence a little more meaningful. After all, the power of WhatsApp is so overwhelming that it has the potential to alter my general aversion to social networking or indeed, any kind of networking.

I also bought a new watch from Citizen (simple yet classy) but I still miss the Titan Raga one which I lost in freaking Malaysia. Finally, I bought myself a very pretty churidar suit and matching accessories. So yes, I have been on a shopping spree. May be it’s the impending Durga Puja when all Bongs tend to go crazy and loosen their purse strings for a change.

Now that my credit card bill has shot through the roof, I have been having recurring nightmares of my dad chasing me with one of his dynamic excel sheets. Now you have three main regulators in India: RBI, SEBI and my dad. Not only does he manage all my investments, tax filings and demat accounts, but he also insists that I file quarterly expense reports in a complicated format where I can’t fudge information. So yes, I am dreading to send him my next one.

It’s amazing how much baggage a simple phone can carry, it’s amazing how much of your life is reflected even in a non-smart phone, it’s amazing how difficult it is to let go of a stupid ugly handset.

But now that I have a new phone and I am making a fresh start, I think I am going to be ok...

Monday, October 8, 2012

A little bit of Bombay

As the regular readers of this blog (all five and a half of you) already know, I love food. I love food so much that I don’t really care what I am eating. And of all my meals, breakfast is my favourite, by a long way. Being a morning person, I usually wake up with an enormous hunger pang, which, if not satiated, can lead to serious consequences. Even in campus, there were multiple occasions when I would bang at the mess door sharp at 7:15 am, demanding that they feed me.

So, this Saturday, I finally did what I should have done a long time back. I got up at a godforsaken hour, traveled all the way to Colaba (by auto/train/cab) to savour the much-touted breakfast at Theobroma. I had been there a few times and I could swear by its pastries and cupcakes, but breakfast, ladies and gentlemen, was a different ballgame altogether. I ate till I was full up to the neck, then I stopped, and then ate some more. Of course, the slow service helped in regaining my appetite. Given the generous sprinkling of foreign tourists and rich South Mumbai crowd, the mere mortals from the suburbs are treated as second class citizens, but for a change, I hardly noticed it.

If that wasn’t enough food, I also watched English Vinglish, which is basically a story of a middle-aged woman who makes awesome laddoos and rants about her life. Sridevi, in her comeback movie, was a natural, but the melodramatic musings made it a typical Bollywood affair. For instance, if your kids are so mean to you, you probably deserve it for bringing them up as spoilt brats. May be I don’t identify with the context, may be I am too insensitive to appreciate the insecurities of a woman with limited exposure or may be I am just too judgmental, but at the end of the day, the movie failed to move me.

And then there were the old memories rushing back as I walked through Nariman Point, stopped for cold coffee at Geoffrey’s and shopped at Crawford Market.

South Bombay continues to have a charm of its own, long after the whole of Bombay stopped making sense

Friday, October 5, 2012

When I Became a Stalker

So once upon a time, I was this ordinary citizen with an unpopular blog and he was this famous engineer-turned-MBA-turned-consultant-turned-journalist-turned writer. And of course, by a sheer stroke of luck, he got a book deal with one of the most respected publishers in India, and then became the writer of a best-selling novel. Which, in the Indian context, isn't really a great achievement, but you have got to give it to the guy, simply because he was rib-ticklingly funny. So despite being a strictly average writer, he could keep the reader hooked. And was I hooked!

That was last year. I bought his first book, found it hilarious, recommended it to everybody I knew and put a word about it on my blog in this post. Little did I know that this writer snooped around the blogosphere reading inconspicuous posts by random bloggers who were secretly jealous of him.

So obviously when he LEFT A COMMENT, I was completely floored and started acting like a besotted teenager. I stalked him for the next one week, reading the Wikipedia page on him, his articles on Rediff and Mint and of course, the archived posts of his blog. And then I did what any self-respecting modern young woman of the 21st century would do: I added him on Facebook AND Linkedin and started following him on Twitter. I even emailed him a few times regarding some personal career-oriented confusion and he actually responded! I was like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, with better hair.

In a span of a month, I was ready to write a thesis on him and like any diligent stalker, I assumed that I have found my friend, philosopher and guide in a totally random stranger. Ahh, the innocence of youth. On his part, like any self-respecting celebrity, he ignored my FB and Linkedin invitations.

Now the wrath of a wronged woman can be a dangerous thing, and I was determined to ignore him as a writer AND bring down the sales of his second book singlehandedly. So when the second of the three-part series was launched, I was strong enough to resist the temptation to pre-order it. Not only that, I started reading books written by his competitors even if they were really bad, just to get back at him.

But it seems I may have over-estimated my influence over the nation’s young readers a tad too much. Despite my master plan of not buying his second book or not promoting him on my blog, his second book ALSO became a widespread success. And finally, this weekend, I read it, BORROWED FROM A FRIEND WITHOUT BUYING IT.

As much as I hate to admit it, I really liked it and as much as I hate to admit it, I really think he is talented.

As much as I hate to admit it, I really like Sidin Vadukut...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Being free

So we have three national holidays in a year: Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti. Now people demonstrate their patriotism in different ways: maintaining a ban on alcohol, listening to patriotic music and watching movies which unite all parts of India: like Border, Bombay and Andaz Apna Apna. For me though, it works a little differently. I spend ALL my national holidays in Bangalore, Koramangla to be specific, with anon and the guys from college.

There I was again, on an extended weekend: three of the hottest women in K/M (anon, DB and me), four of the sweetest guys on the verge of life-changing events (getting married/having kids/moving to new jobs) and Neil, the ultimate wannabe who tries to fit in but cannot, doing all the things that has made us happy over the years.

So, we lounged around the house, eating homemade paranthas and rajma chawal made by anon and DB, watching India Pakistan and playing above-mentioned patriotic music in the background, binging on cheap alcohol while we gossiped till late at night.

We discussed Indian history the way it would make our historians turn in their grave as we watched Jodha Akbar.

We went to Jimmi’s, being the only ones there on a Saturday afternoon, as we drank at a godforsaken hour and then to Egg Factory for the biggest Sunday brunch of my life.

We sat on the terrace, smoking and discussing ‘deep, philosophical aspects of life’ till we got bored of our own voices.

We saw Vir Das perform live as we doubled up in laughter, holding our stomach till we felt we would explode.

We went to the Hard Rock Café and drank till we puked, hoping the loud music would drown the deafening silence.

Then there were the non-human elements like Dhaula, the dog and Kasturi, the GPS voice, both of which formed an important element to the weekend.

And then I came back, feeling empty, not wanting to leave, not wanting to let go and hoping for the never-ending freedom that no national holiday can offer