Friday, June 23, 2006


Just found a new goodie, My Media List. Have added it to my "the world outside my window" blog. Go to

Sunday, June 18, 2006

On being 41

In a few days I'll be 41. The 30s were bad.

You change your color, shape and size. All the clothes you try out in the mall, look absurd on you. Your daughter learns to back answer you, and her idea of being nice to you, is to ask you to exercise. Your husband looks at you as if you were sour curds, which he has to eat nonetheless, because there's nothing else at home. Or he is thinking of how to get a bowl of fresh cream, on the side. When you go for a body wax at the local beauty parlor, your beautician tells you, you need a disaster management plan. Not only little kids, but people with little kids of their own, start calling you "Aunty". Your old friends live in different continents. Your new friends are mostly your daughter's friends' mothers, and they talk mostly of kids and kitchens. You haven't become a film star, or a famous film director, or been nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature, and you haven't even become rich. You are cranky, irritable and weepy most of the time, and hysterical in spare moments.

Then, you hit 40. You decide to like your new color, shape and size. You learn to buy clothes that flatter you, even if they displace your milk-and-eggs budget at home. You put the local beautician in her place, by not tipping her every time she mentions a face-lift or Botox. When the moron next door calls you "Aunty", you reply warmly, "Hello, beta" and promptly forget about him. You dance with your new friends in the middle of the night, while your daughters look on at you amused, and think, what the heck, you are having fun, even if you did spend hours earlier in the evening talking of potatoes. You decide you are above material success and the rat-race. You don't feel guilty any more about your parents, your spouse, your kid, your country, poverty, injustice, etc, etc. You take hormonal replacements, Vitamin D and calcium, and don't swing moods anymore. You learn to ignore and neglect your daughter and husband and spend most of the time blogging.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

trapped in a tin box

The other day, we made the journey from Opera House to Malad fly-over in an hour. As we mounted the fly-over, a familiar dread sunk in. I woke up, from the open-mouthed exhausted slumber I tend to fall into these days, determined to be cheerful, and keep Teja from freezing into cold darkness as he moved the car at 1 km. per hour. We took 56 minutes to reach the Times of India signal, barely a kilometer away. From there to home, again less than a kilometer, took 20 more minutes. My foolish attempts at singing off-key, and playing the clown dribbled away against sheer despair.

Shut up in the tin-box of a car, I try to fight claustrophobia by telling Dhanno stories of a glorious growing up in Pune, where we cycled everywhere, to school, college, across town to friends' houses, to the British Council Library, to rendezvous with boyfriends. She cannot even imagine a city like that, because Pune too, is now chock-a-bloc with cars. My father cycled to work until he was 60-odd years old, and we made him give it up, not really because he was incapable of cycling any more but because we were embarrassed to have our father on a cycle, when mopeds had become the norm.

Mum said, that even when Dad and she were younger, the women in Pune cycled everywhere, in their 'kashtha' saris. Perhaps, that is what gave the 'Puneri' girls their air of freedom, the wind against their face, as they picked up their vehicle and just went wherever it was they had to go. I know that when we were in college, the boys who came from other towns, always went bonkers over the girls zipping around everywhere, on their own.

I feel stripped of this freedom by the car, which I've learnt to drive, but find impossible to do so, in this knee-paralyzing traffic. I look at the stoic faces of everyone else in their cars, and the even more harrowed faces of those in the public buses beside us. At least, we have our air-conditioners on. I feel guilty because I don't have to travel everyday, like the people with regular jobs. I know socially conscious people advocate use of public transport, but Mumbai local trains, were something I never got used to.

Teja and I make a fairly good couple, and are decent parents. We get along well, have good times, share the same values. But cooped up together in the car, we have our worst fights. We look at each other with sullen hatred, wondering why we are together in the first place. Everything, but everything, comes under a shadow of doubt - our career choices, our marriage, the country, the Indian character, life in general. Our existentialist angst is at its highest then, as we sit on the highway, contemplating how many more years of our life we've got to spend here, waiting for the roads and fly-overs to be finally in working condition, for the metros to be working, for there to be footpaths, for there to be enough public toilets, for there to be a negotiable city.

Everywhere around us there are shanty towns, nothing like the beautiful spread of Marine Drive or Oval Maidan, which is the face of Bombay. Every time, I go to South Bombay, the sparkling clean roads, the footpaths bereft of hawkers and illegal extensions, the wide roads, makes me envious, grumpy, cheated. I want to scream at someone, hey, I pay taxes too, will you come and look at my part of the city, please?

Here, everywhere around us the roads are dug up. A lone JCB bulldozer works listlessly. A solitary worker is still digging up the road, clocking in his last few minutes at work. The others have already flagged off, changed into their every day clothes, and are sitting around, gossiping. Rage fills inside us, against them, for shirking off work, even for those few minutes, which could have taken us a little closer to the end of this agony. A traffic policeman, bravely doing his best, waving his hands about, as usual, seems to me to be a part of the larger conspiracy of traffic policemen to create traffic jams. I say, for the umpteenth time, to Teja who grits his teeth, "The jam's because of this guy. He doesn't change the signal fast enough." I know we are both thinking of how we will survive this monsoon.

Friday, June 16, 2006


After 'Fanaa' and yesterday, 'Phir Hera Pheri', all of us vow never to see Hindi films except on PIRATED VCDs. The Hindi film industry deserves to crash.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Rickety racket

Every time I'm bored of life, moaning about what I have or what I don't have, I take a rickshaw ride into the unknown. A rickshaw ride, out here, in the back of beyond, is full of adventure and all kinds of games.

The first game we play, the rickshaw driver and I, is '20 Questions' even though I usually know all the answers.

"Where are you from?"

"U.P., Madam/ Didi/ Aunty"

Depending on whether he's called me Madam or Didi or Aunty, I decide to proceed further. Of course, any rickshaw driver who dares to call me Aunty, can expect no further conversation from me.

As the rickety racket of the rickshaw gets more rackety, I ask, " Why don't you get the rickshaw repaired?"

He laughs, or grunts, or stammers apologetically, as the case may be. But the answer is always the same.

"I am only the driver, Madam/Didi"

"Then why doesn't the owner get it ..." I stop mid-way, already exasperated.

"Oh, there's no time. The rickshaw's always riding, Madam/Didi. 3 shifts, 24 hours. We take turns."

"Is he proud of that, or what?", I think grumpily. As we approach the signal, a new guessing game starts. Will we or won't we stop exactly near the exhaust pipes of a truck? As there are more than enough trucks to go around, and as the height of the rickshaw is just right, I get my fix of carbon monoxide without much grief, actually. The smell of the fumes mix with the smell of my perfume, and the smell of the rexine seat, and make me quite faint, though alas, not with ecstasy.

The signal changes. I shout above the din of wind and rickety racket.

"Do you have a license?"

"Naw!" Shyly, that. Of course not. What was I thinking?

"No, Madam/Didi. Am just learning. That's why I drive in this area. The police don't catch so much here."

I'm honored to be useful, surely, in this young man's pursuit of gainful employment. In the meanwhile, I pluck imaginary petals from imaginary daisies - "Today I'll live, today I'll die, I'll live, die, live, live, die, die", as we hurtle across the highway, up the fly-over, down the fly-over, faster and faster.

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