Monday, October 28, 2013

Touch of Grey

On my recent visit to Kolkata, I met a lot of elderly people, some of whom I haven’t seen in ages. Whatever vague memories I had of them were of my childhood, when they were strong, cheerful and bustling with energy, as they force fed me with sweets or loochis. Over the years, when I was too busy growing up and growing apart, many of them have lost their spouses, had their kids married off or moved abroad. The same people who were traveling halfway across the world were now plagued with severe health issues and almost held captive in their homes.

As I visited them, many of them did not even recognize me, but when they understood, they either hugged me or had tears in their eyes (I would take a huge liberty here and assume that those were tears of happiness). No longer did they have the strength to cook a three-course meal, but still they force fed me with sweets and snacks like they used to ten years back. While I was a little bored, while I was a bit impatient answering the hundred questions they had for me (the weak memory often made them ask the same question multiple times) and while I may have looked at my watch discreetly, at the end of the day I was deeply touched and significantly moved by the very idea of how crippling age can be. When it was time to leave, tears shone in their eyes, and this time, it was not tears of happiness. It was the fear of death, the fear of time, the fear that they may not be in a position to talk to me or greet me ten years later if that’s when I visit them again. It was not about me, but about them.

And then it hit me. You can’t hedge your bets against age. It WILL get the better off you. And it will get the better off you when you most vulnerable and have no one to turn to. Your spouse may not be around, your kids may have their own compulsions and your friends may well be in the same boat as you are. If you are lucky, you would have a compassionate nurse/maid to take care of you or sympathetic relatives or a half-decent old age home, where you are treated with respect and dignity.

I came back, my head hanging in shame, and promising myself that as an only child, I cannot would not put my parents through the same ignominy as I saw on my trip…

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To the Moon and Back

Yesterday was Karvachauth. How do I know this when I am a staunch opposer of any form of rituals? It’s not hard when you have close to 400 ‘friends’ on FB, many of whom are newly married and therefore enthusiastically celebrating the occasion with the gusto of James Faulkner against Ishant Sharma. Further, one look at the ladies at work, casually loitering around in their bridal finery in office, and you would not be allowed to forget the fact that the singlemost sexist festival is upon us.

Now I have never understood how it would enhance the lifespan of a man if his wife fasts for the day, dresses up and stares at the moon once a year, especially if the man in question continues to lead a sedentary lifestyle, smokes and drinks excessively while stressing about work. If all it took was an annual fast by the wife, then most women in India would be outlived by their husbands, especially since there is no reciprocal ritual where the husband fasts for the wife.

If you ask me, this is more a festival for the mom-in-law than the husband. Or an excuse to wear that insanely expensive bridal outfit you bought during the wedding and haven’t had the chance to wear since. Or like most rituals, an attempt to conform.

My mom never keeps a fast for my dad though she goes on a liquid diet every week to detoxify her own system. What she does make sure though is that she cooks healthy food at home, minimizes eating out, hides his cigarettes and screams at him every morning to go for a walk. Most importantly, she shares both financial and emotional responsibilities at home, she listens when he is having a hard time and supports him thick and thin.

It’s not an annual exercise but a daily rigour year after year after year, which if you ask me, is much harder simply because it involves being patient and understanding with another human being rather than looking at a far-off celestial object which doesn’t argue back.

Now, not for one moment am I suggesting that women who believe in Karva Chauth are not good partners, but being a good partner requires more than just an elaborate annual ceremony.

To all the women out there, look at the moon all you want, but do so with a pinch of salt. Posing against the moon in bridal wear makes for a wonderful Sanjay Bhansali set, but if you really want a long life for your husband, drag him out of bed for a run in the morning and hold back that extra piece of butter chicken. Even if it makes him angry.
The moon has its blemishes so don’t rely on it to add years to a human life.

The annual trip to moon is a feel-good exercise, but it’s time to get back to earth

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ten Days of Being a True Bong

Like a true Bengali, I went on a 10-day hiatus during Durga Puja to, surprise surprise, Kolkata!

Like a true Bengali, I refused to do ANY work during this time, which means no blog posts either!

Like a true Bengali, I shopped in the shady bylanes of Kolkata and picked up some awesome stuff at throwaway prices (suede boots and a couple of sarees)!

Like a true Bengali, I watched Mishawr Rohosyo (The Egyptian Mystery) as soon as it released, and then criticized it as it fell short of expectations. Let’s face it, Kakababu would never be able to dethrone Byomkesh or Feluda, but Prosenjit as Kakababu is sublime!

Like a true Bengali, I lounged around the house, watching TV, reading and discussing with my dad about the most evil men in history as we watched the documentaries on Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Nero and Idi Amin!

Like a true Bengali, I feasted on the home-made preparations of my favourite dishes including fish fry, fish chop and chilly fish which my mom served up every day!

Like a true Bengali, I snacked on chanachur, churmur and cha (tea) while abusing Ishant Sharma for the collective stupidity of humanity!

Like a true Bengali, I gorged on the Arsanal mutton biryani and chaap and the Bijoli Grill delicacies while stopping for puchkas and egg rolls that only Kolkata can make!

Like a true Bengali, I went to a random barir pujo just to savour the delicious Pujo lunch on nobomi!

Like a true Bengali, I walked in heels for hours, pandal hopping through the streets of South Kolkata, so that I don’t miss out on my childhood favourites: Durgabari (opposite my school), 23 Pally, 68 Pally, Ekdalia, Babubagan, Samajsebi, Bullygunge Cultural, Bosepukur Sitala Mandir, Badamtala, Suruchi Sangha and many others. It was my first Pujo in Kolkata ever since I moved out of the city and I was holding on to each day, knowing it was too fleeting, too transient and too ephemeral!

Like a true Bengali, I visited as many relatives we could cram in during the short visit, as they all asked me the same questions, as I smiled sheepishly at each one of them and as I quietly polished off the platefuls of mishti doi and sondesh, while protesting vehemently!

And like a true Bengali, I bid my parents goodbye once it ended, too soon and too incomplete, all of us wondering if I would ever be able to come back to my roots and live in the city which shaped my childhood.

Like a true Bengali, I wanted nothing more than the simple pleasures of being with my family, eating with them, talking to them and criticizing the government with them

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Pardon My French

Now that I have been part of the corporate world longer than an average Hollywood marriage, here are some not-so-subtle observations which run rampant in the office environment and which I still find difficult to accept:

Every time you write about a problem to someone, the standard response is: “We have forwarded your case to the CONCERNED PERSON.” Now, not only does it not solve my problem, it also bothers me that I should be subjected to such blatant abuse of the English language, EVERY TIME. For the last time, a concerned person is a person who is worried/bothered (like my mother, for example). You have forwarded my complaint to the PERSON CONCERNED, and not the CONCERNED PERSON. And do me a favour, do away with the concern altogether, and just raise the issue with the PERSON RESPONSIBLE, who is actually responsible and not merely concerned.

Another annoying habit is if you talk to any of the younger employees, preparing for CAT/GMAT/GRE, the most oft-repeated conversation which makes me cringe is, “boss, are you GIVING CAT/GMAT/GRE this year?” Dude, seriously, if you have any chance of cracking the exam, get your basics right. You do not GIVE an exam, you TAKE/WRITE it, or you APPEAR for it.

Then there is the rampant use of “GENTLE REMINDERS”. For any event/meeting/unnecessary waste of time, there would be a long mail (with bold words and highlights), asking instructing you to attend it. This would be followed by regular “GENTLE REMINDERS” from all corners, which frankly are more threatening than gentle. Every time I suppress my urge to Reply All with a stinker, “Heard you the first time. And if I want to, I will come. No need to spam my mail and gently remind me every alternate hour.” And yes, there are events which I attend voluntarily without being bombarded and there are events which I skip simply to rebel against being bombarded. If you want me to be a matured adult, first treat me as one. And stop sending gentle reminders.

Also, I don’t much care of typical corporate phrases like, “do the needful”, “urgent attention” or “careful consideration” and the likes, simply because they are obscure and open to interpretation. So, instead of saying ‘do the needful”, I would rather define what “the needful” is and replace “urgent attention” with a realistic deadline.

Finally, while these are not that much of an eyesore, I try to avoid acronyms as much as possible. I know people are extremely busy, but call me old-fashioned, I would rather cut down on five minutes of my coffee break and write complete words/sentences than simply send mails with a plethora of “FYI”s, “COB”s, “EOB”s, “ASAP”s, just as a courtesy to the reader.

But there you go, the corporate world has its own language, and all I can do is conform and add an apologetic, “Pardon my French” as a signature

Friday, October 4, 2013


After three months of struggle, multiple visits to the Passport Office and the Police Station, numerous phone calls and emails, my tussle with the combined force of the bureaucracy and the police has finally come to an end.

I have finally earned the right to freedom without having to pay any bribes, even though the amount I spent on documentation, phone calls and traveling to aforementioned offices was considerably higher.

I have finally renewed my passport