Author Archives: Lalita

About Lalita

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#A2ZChallenge Catch-up: W is for Water

Dear Water

As I looked on, the Brahmaputra showed me the full stretch of his expanse, and I was humbled. Were you a sea masquerading as a mere river? Were you THE mighty river spoken of only in myths and folklore? I could see in my mind’s eye the huts on stilts at a distance, and it looked like seafarers lived in them, not everyday village folks with regular real estate decisions. Then, again, when I saw the Zanskar and his emerald green waters from the mountains, I was stupefied. Not only were you called Zanskar, but you were of the bewitching Indus, creating curves of beauty imprinted on Ladakh’s unique landscapes. Such beauty in all your avatars, oh water.

But, this is not about that.

This is about the dance we do.

Eight what? What of Eight? What did you say?

I have been told by the ancient wise that drinking water can solve such a range of human challenges, it is not jocularity. Emotional upheaval? Here’s some water. Mad at the wi-fi, take a water break. Big presentation, take a sippa da water. Made a statement, sip that water for swag. Everything – from our epidermis to the follicle, from the nail to the liver, from the kidney to the knuckles loves water apparently. Even though we are 70% water, we still cannot get enough. And that brings me to ze rule. Of Eight. It started with eight glasses (the most widely split measurement in the whole Milky Way, I mean, what is a glass??), 2.5 litres, or eight cups or eight 1-ounce glasses was it?

I have heard everything. That does not mean I have done diddly squat. I can barely get through a measly bottle a day. And like every aspiring swimmer there is, I have bought gear. Oh, have I got gear. Ceramic, enamel, non-toxic stainless steel with trippy caps and key rings, and a little hook for the ladies’ purses. All of the jazz. None of the water.

Shakes and Bladders

The truth is what lurks within. Literally. The bladder. I feel mine is a major anatomical anomaly, with some cross-wiring in its internal modems and fluctuating capacities. Out of nowhere, it becomes code red. When you least expect it. And when you have to. Like in a public bathroom, or in the middle of an uphill trek with only barbs and wilderness around. Or when you are wearing a jumpsuit (note to the department of abominable apparel creations). Or when you are with your six-month old on an airline, while on descent.

Pee buddyWhen I walked the Oxfam trek, they handed us a “stand and pee” contraption, because everyone knows women in India have it tough (I mean, specifically, the state of pee places; no giant sociological opinion, nope). The idea is that you can pee anywhere you want into a little cardboard tent. It is as important an invention to India’s state of toilet-readiness as iPod was to the smart devices outbreak. So, a moment of silence for these guys.

And a big BOO to whatever it is in the universe that makes people mess up public toilets the way they do. It’s like someone’s bucket list to clog every drain there is, and leave a pebble trail. Which, unlike what happens in Hansel and Gretel, IS NOT made of bread crumbs. Less said, (also less seen, less inhaled) the better.

In the process, I got initiated into core and glutes strengthening even before I knew what these were. Hanging and squatting over the toilet seat or holding my daughter up in a handhold worthy of being recognized as a ballet move. All this, while maintaining zero contact with ANYTHING. Stronger arms, biceps, triceps, glutes and finer motor co-ordination. Full points for that. Terrible score for my bladder, which clearly missed the evolutionary train.

Signed,

Full of it.

W is for water

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#A2Z Challenge: V is for Viral Fever!

Dear Viral Fever

(Not to be confused with the social media viral fever. This is the original gangster which leaves your legs feeling like plutonium dumbbells and your backbone like if someone embroidered on it with iron thread)

There was a time when you had influence and clout in all circles. Your name meant something, and people would stop and listen. I fear much erosion. It’s just not the same anymore. You are not even an also-ran today. So, here is my almost-eulogy, because you are still around, and much feared, in a few limited demographics.

With great virtue, comes a great viral fever

You were always a good fever. I remember in the days of your or my youth, how being sick at school was actually an ignominy, but being “down with a viral fever” was top-shelf. Everyone would find a way to leave a “get well soon” message without Whatsapp. Some would even stop by after school to inquire, at a safe distance. You would bring plates of hot, runny kichchdi, everything else room-temperature and one hour more of mom time daily. At least one person would be in full attendance, either via shifts or one full person on duty. This was the king of respectable sicknesses. Your halcyon days. Don’t get me wrong, you still regularly knock everyone out, but the atmospherics has slimmed quite a bit. The emoticon has gone from “All hail” to “Meh, whatever, get in line”.

The elite microbes take over

At a microbe convention somewhere, the virus community felt they needed to mix things up a bit. They had had a good run at school and other community establishments, but some microbe with an advanced degree in risk management, took it onto itself to “Make Viruses Great Again”. Hello, all kinds of elite viruses. They had their own four-letter alphanumeric acronyms, task forces, government funding, wait lists, bumper stickers, preventive helmets and what nots. The only thing this achieved was make washing hands cool. Now, every community establishment has a cool interactive touch screen about all the ten movements involved in washing your hands in the ONLY ONE WAY that the World Health Organization approves of. A classic anticlimax. In the bargain, the original gangster viral fever also kept losing ratings, because it was not mean enough. It had become a parody of itself.

Those terrible, terrible remedies

Calling in sick for a viral fever is worse than the sickness itself. It does not carry the entitlement it used to, and everyone, with our own personal MBBS degree, automatically assumes that an antibiotic exists that will fix it. When, in fact, an antibiotic has as much power on a virus, as Netflix has on timely sleep. NADA. Or when you are supposed to be healed by such timeless quotidian magic as “Feed the fever”, “A fever will leave in seven days if treated, and in a week, if untreated”, or the evergreen, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Why do we even have medical schools, anyway? I could just do with these and regular viewings of House M.D. Too much drama and elevator misuse in Grey’s Anatomy.

So, Mr Viral Feevs, you can be out-virused by anything today, and there is much diversity in the sick leave “hall of fame”. Someone has signed off on “intestinal disillusionment” and “thoracic heartbreak” in some office today.

You are still a force to reckon with in daycares and schools though. Ask any mother of little creatures. Or don’t. Mothers are now immunized against such platitudes like “this flu has been in the air”, “this is the luck of the draw”, “you are a working mama so this had to happen” or my personal favorite, “have you done steam inhalation yet?” They are your fans, Viral Fever. Every year, you do the “hafta vasooli” with Mamas Incorporated, and they still dread you. Especially in those summer months, when “flu is in the air”, and all those other months when “there is that bug going around”.

They said Thanks. Just kidding. They DID NOT.

Signed,

No virus were harmed in the making of this gibberish bunkum

Viral Fever

#A2ZChallenge: U is for Unsolicited Advice

Mythsy

Dear Unsolicited Advice,

CC to “Bag of Salt”

Unsolicited, from Latin, “sollicitus”, meaning, “I have a finger to put in every pie so we can all eat better pies.” Some lexicon liberties might have been taken in that statement.

Here is some unsolicited advice for you, Unsolicited Advice.

Why are you so needy? You show up everywhere, on about every issue in the world, also on all the insignificant others. Advice is, as it is, is going through a global retrenchment and protectionist wave. Most people will take advice only from their own trusted fools, and anything from any other living or non-living entity will be met with derision, disdain, and most importantly, inaction. And that will be your entropic end.

Set yourself up for success

Given the general aversion to advice, and its lofty cousin, gyan, one must acknowledge that no one really seeks you out. Textbook…

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#A2ZChallenge: U is for Unsolicited Advice

Dear Unsolicited Advice,

CC to “Bag of Salt”

Unsolicited, from Latin, “sollicitus”, meaning, “I have a finger to put in every pie so we can all eat better pies.” Some lexicon liberties might have been taken in that statement.

Here is some unsolicited advice for you, Unsolicited Advice.

Why are you so needy? You show up everywhere, on about every issue in the world, also on all the insignificant others. Advice is, as it is, is going through a global retrenchment and protectionist wave. Most people will take advice only from their own trusted fools, and anything from any other living or non-living entity will be met with derision, disdain, and most importantly, inaction. And that will be your entropic end.

Set yourself up for success

Given the general aversion to advice, and its lofty cousin, gyan, one must acknowledge that no one really seeks you out. Textbook definition of unsolicited. This is like the Buzzfeed article that crams your feeds from everywhere, and you compulsively read, only to feel tainted by a strong after-taste of “that did not just get written.” If you want to be taken seriously, be like The Smithsonian Magazine, so that your advice holds up against the best. Don’t just say, “Always feed the baby to the tune of the Mayan calendar, and every Thursday”, say that you know for a fact that Mayan feeding schedules are used extensively in the Jolie-Pitt household. How are they called now though? Jolie-Ex-Pitt or Pitt-Ex-Jolie?

A version of this is also “It worked for me so by the powers vested in me by the castle of Grayskull, I now pronounce you He-Man”. Sorry, I mean, it will work for you. It’s a universal law.

Get your research mojo on. Don’t just be silly. There’s enough of that on everyone’s FB group pages, which we join voluntarily and with full volition.

Where is the Off Button on this thing?

Everything needs to be turned down, out, off, over or under for a while. It is a necessary fact of vitality and function. And so, you shall be no different. Who appointed you Atlas and left a celestial sphere on your shoulders? (Greek mythology is super complicated and, the word now is, Atlas was not, I repeat, not holding up the world. Sorry to rock your world, no pun intended). Anyhow, you can have your day off! Just resist the urge to get in your prescriptions through the door. The world will live. Its ok to make biryani in a  pressure cooker (no, I won’t call it pulao, get yourself a lawyer), and ok to give the child a full-throttle no-apologies chocolate cake at 9 pm and ok to do Yoga in the evenings. These things happen once in a while (and not in your turf), and that’s the time you get your time off. However, when someone asks you, “Tell me everything you know that I am doing wrong right now in your entirely subjective position”, don’t hold back. Kick up your heels and knock yourself out.

Time and place, and screen presence

In real estate, they say, the only three things that matter are location, location and location. I am suspect of the numeric part here but I get what they are saying. For you too, unsolicited advice: same deal. You need to nail it for awesomeness. Like when Don Corleone says, “A man who does n’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Or when The Joker says, “If you are good at something, never do it for free.” Or do it like Hobbes and magically make life lessons sound like an order for your favorite ice-cream (though, honestly, only Hobbes can do that).

Let all your advice sound like a gigantic motivational poster that can only do good. The worst it can do is maybe, just maybe, bore someone, that is the maximum collateral damage. It won’t be counted as annoying, know-it-all, alien pearls of wisdom that we just said, “Thank you, but no thank you” for. Lets not put the vice in advice, y’all.

Signed

Knew-it-all

Unsolicited Advice

#A2ZChallenge: T is for Tintin

Dear Tintin

If there was something called a platonic crush (most crushes end up becoming platonic, involuntarily though, if you think of it), I would so have it for you. You and your lovable menagerie are the best fairytales of all times. The taller, unbound version of each single title could launch monthly dreams, back in the dark ages where I grew up. Where bookstores and a cycle were the ONLY portkey to a life less ordinary. I could never save enough to buy more than three, and even manipulated friends to forsake theirs on my account. Once told an unsuspecting greenhorn that The Blue Lotus was not actually Herge’s Tintin, so they would sever ties with it. That did not work. So, in the What’s Not to Love section of our report today (we will keep the allegations of racism for another day):

Captain Haddock: sober, inebriated, any which way

T is for TintinThe first cuss words I learnt were “Blistering Barnacles”. Ok, not the first ones but these are the most resplendent, and that’s how all profanity should be. Of course, this is never sold single. It is accompanied with a recital of other sea and aquatic-focused curses. Sometimes, when I have been mad at someone at work (everyday, thrice), I have pictured Captain Haddock yelling abuses at the slave trader who is sailing away in the Red Sea Sharks title, and when Tintin says that they have sailed out of earshot, the Captain walks out on the deck with a loudspeaker and starts his thundering playlist again. How can you not swoon over a man who refuses to bow to the laws of physics and wind velocity! I would totally do that to a slave trader, and also to lesser defaulters. Unlike Captain Haddock, I do not drink so I overcompensate by harboring murderous thoughts against co-workers.

Also, “Interplanetary Goat” deserves some ink all of its own. And the always pummeled “guardian angel” who wants the Captain to watch both his temper and his tequila.

Snowy, in and as very imaginative name

TintinBefore Milo in “The Mask” and that Tuffy, in our own local social masterpiece, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Snowy was busy fighting crime. Rephrase that. By and large, he was hanging around to get tipsy on his whiskey, and sometimes, for no fault of his, he would become an unlikely hero. In between almost becoming Lord Shiva’s offering and bouncing about in space, Snowy is the only sane voice in the outfit. Shocking as it may sound, he voices caution into Tintin’s audacious sense of adventure and sometimes dutifully warns the Captain of the arrival of Abdullah.

The Stories

If you grew up reading Indrajal, Amar Chitra Katha and Tintin, with intermittent phases when you could afford or steal Asterix and Obelix, you could become an astrophysicist. You just knew so much. As a sampling, Al Capone, Native Americans, Stolen Treasures, African warlords, Intergalactic Magicians, Pirates, Emeralds, Spaceships, Inca Warriors, Eccentric Scientist ready for the moon, Frozen Egyptologists, evil Greek tycoons whose demise remains inconclusive, hospitable Indian kings, Bowler Hats and the two accompanying Scotland Yard’s “best” detectives and the abominable snowman. It’s a smorgasbord of stories that could enrich any bedtime chatter or light up a rainy evening. And who better than to deliver the best lines but Snowy.

Tintin is not Tintin per se, it’s like the Marvel Universe but more adorable and where you can understand all the hipster talk. A family of oddballs sprinkled with all-star winners at the World Cuteness Awards. Thomsons, the professor, Nestor, the Sheikh, Oliveira da Figueira, and even, Ms Castafiore and her beauty past compare.

Signed,

Certified Diplodocus

#A2ZChallenge: S is for “Sasuraal”

Dear Sasuraal (hindi, translated literally to the house of the father-in-law)

Marked: Urgent

You need to change your PR agency. I have done a review of your marketing profile, and some things do not look good. There is some amount of image erosion over the last several decades, which we can tackle through a two-pronged approach (these prongs, however gross they sound, are important to any strategy, anywhere). First, damage control. Second, positioning, influencing and profile building.

Damage Control

Stop being that place! In some depictions, sasuraal is the place where fun is a persona-non-grata. Visa permanently denied. In other extreme media representations, this is the place where people mix lizards in hot milk for DIY poison. This is, in the very least, the place where you cannot wear your torn and faded pajamas forever and forever.

It’s almost like where Cinderella lived, before moving out to the prince’s castle. Except Cinderella’s luck was really crummy, and it was her “maika” and not even “sasuraaal”. Tough luck, Cinders. When vacation time is divided between mom’s pad and sasuraal, some complicated differential mathematics leads to one or two days less at the latter. Human analytics, it is called.

You are more fun that that! You have to stop all these uninviting associations. Stop hanging out with the uncool guys. Get rid of the archaic rule book, and get in some amendments. Let the grandkids run the place through a blind trust. They will be fair to everyone, especially themselves, which should work out for everyone. Let judgmental aunty say “this place has gone to the kids.”

You need new slogans

This is just another place where you meet your best friends, set a few boundaries, intuit each other’s strengths and weaknesses and in the end, through all the quips and fights, come through for one another. But why do we have to be so “Hunger Games” about it? How about easing up a bit, and changing the atmospherics a bit?

Doing some hashtags might help.

#SasuraalRocks #NotallSasuraals #HangoutattheSasuraal

Maybe one of those classier tourism promotions can cut right to the chase. I think Amitabh Bachchan does one for Gujarat. Kerala has its “God’s own country.” Pretty much all the stunning states in India have their own “visit us” marketing collateral ready. So should you. You can makee free movies online, just stringing together happy and candid pictures of sober tourists, and also a list of chief attractions. Throw in an upbeat Latino number in the background, and your website will crash with booking requests. Get a few TripAdvisor points too, just in case.

Visitors Advisory

Often times, we play along with the customs of the place. We dress up as locals do, we eat their food (hunting out the farthest corners to do so) and we stop them to click selfies with their cute livestock and carts. When in Rome, I guess, we could do a few things as the Romans, if not all. I mean, the Romans used to throw people to the lions while the townsfolk watched. Hard to be a fan of that. Maybe tourists could do the top 50 things recommended by TripAdvisor. For all the other activities, we can seek out that old wooden box that says in red and bold  – YOUR FEEDBACK. And then we can write all the “Can you not” stuff? For instance, Can you NOT throw humans to lions or vice-versa? Can you NOT put lizards in milk, I am vegetarian. Can you NOT be so hung-up on full-sleevs in all forms of clothing. Stuff like that.

Signed

Saajan Chali Sasuraal

S is for Sasuraal

#A2ZChallenge: R is for Romantic Comedies

Dear Romantic Comedies

What draws me mindlessly to you?

I have excavated and watched so many rom-coms, that Wikipedia could wiki me on this. Are you a guilty pleasure? Like hell, you are. You simplify love, destiny and our happy endings (except for that one time in 500 Days of Summer) in a glittery gift box and tingly musical interludes.

However, just like all tiramisu is not created equal, so it is with you. For something so formulaic, right down to the last pan-up to the clouds, there is some serious range in my high and low scorers. The score is just a statistic though. I would watch every rom-com ever made, and so does she. As I keep score, I managed to distill this equation so:

Lead Characters

If the movie has Colin Firth, then this straightway takes the score to the stratosphere. Else, even his other beguiling compatriots will do. I will extend the scope to include Irishmen and Scotsmen. All the twangs, drawls and accents will work. The other side of the pond, any of the Chris or Ryan guys will do. They are all extremely dishy, and one can substitute a little bit of old-world Brit charm with American (or even Australian) rakishness. While exploring other continents, maybe South American people with last names of Bardem might work swimmingly too. And of course, all bets are off if we are talking about When Harry met Sally.

The female lead? Anyone would make the grade I think, suitably channeling 1980s Meg Ryan or Drew Barrymore, or even Katherine Heigl, on a lazy day. For the slightly more ballsy characters, we are looking for more Sandra Bullock-ness with a touch of Julia Robertseque vulnerable appeal.

In Bollywood, this space is cornered entirely by Alia Bhat, Varun Dhawan, Parineeti Chopra and Siddharth Malhotra, in various permutations and combinations onto themselves. After Ranveer Singh went full costume drama, he wrote himself out of this club.

Conflict

Is the conflict an angry, selfish, greedy father-in-law? Are goons beating up people to a pulp? Does someone have to pay off a large housing loan? Is there a tragic parting that circumstances have forced on the truest love that ever was? Yes? Then sorry, please show yourself out. You are not a rom-com. The whole premise of a rom-com is to airbrush real life’s dark and implosive craters, and make a little potpourri photo-frame of alabaster and wrinkle-free people flying on gossamer clouds.

The conflict is usually that someone left the city or did not take a big hint, which his/ her friends were holding up in large placards. Such as

  1. “HE LOVES YOU, ARE YOU BLIND?”
  2. “THIS IS A FIRST WORLD PROBLEM”
  3. “I CAN DRIVE YOU TO THE AIRPORT NOW BUT IT WONT BE DRAMATIC”
  4. “EVERYONE HAS COMMITMENT PHOBIA, ITS LIKE A MILD VITAMIN DEFICIENCY, LETS JUST MOVE ON”
  5. “YOUR SISTER/ MOTHER/ TEACHER IS GIVING YOU TERRIBLE ADVICE”
  6. “BEST FRIENDS IS A NECESSARY AND SUFFICIENT ATTRIBUTE”

Epicness

This is an overriding feature which when added to the rom-com analytical model, just melts everyone into pink blobs of strawberry crush on the floor, from whence you shall never rise. This is when a special protocol is initiated, and the heart turns into several fluttery butterflies and floats around in the room. These lines/ moments are the equivalent of “the unbreakable vow” in romantic comedies (unnecessary Harry Potter reference detected).

Like when Jerry Maguire says “You complete me” or when John Cusack silently holds the boom box up outside her house. And if you like over-the-top, when Justin Timberlake breaks into a flash mob dance in Grand Central station or Heath Ledger’s one-man opera for Julia Stiles.


There is a reason why psychologists say romantic comedies mess with our perception of romantic love and help feed a frame of reference that boyfriends and husbands come up short against. I would say these guys are lucky. They can easily rustle up home-whipped dinners and desserts, cuddly plush toys, rushed airport rescues and hidden diamond rings in a dainty mise-en-scene to win over the ladies. Now, imagine if they had to go up against William Darcy. No, I could n’t watch that.

Signed,

Bridget Jane Austen Jones

Romantic comedies