Category Archives: Life and love

#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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#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: 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

 

#A2Z Challenge: Q is for the Queens of Hearts and Diamonds

Dear Queens of Hearts and Diamonds

I don’t know if you remember what Shri Shri Eagles sang a few years ago in a feted piece called “Desperado” which must be required listening in all syllabi for all courses in all universities in all worlds.

“Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy

She’ll beat you if she’s able

You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet”

Like with most lyrics to meaningful songs, I can understand whatever my pea-sized brain can accommodate. I don’t know why Clapton did not shoot the deputy or how Alanis Morissette managed to define a zeitgeist in “Ironic”, for most part, by not being, in fact, “Ironic.”

I have my guesses who this Queen of Diamonds might be.

  1. She could be the one who Billy Joel talks about in that mind-bender of his, “She is always a woman to me” because does n’t he say, “She can kill with a smile.” Or that thing about carelessly cutting you and watching you while you bleed.
  2. She could be the bitch. Or the sinner. Or the saint or nothin’ in between that Meredith Brooks croons about.
  3. One of the girls who is running the world, as Beyonce pointed out helpfully.
  4. Or, anyone of the girls who just wanna have fun, as Cyndi Lauper said. When the working day is done. They just wanna.

This Queen of Hearts though, who is she? Is she the one who does not dress up pretty but is the best 4’o clock friend? Who says it as it is, without any eyelashes batting? The one who laughs off many transgressions because she is cool with all that? The one who silently aspires to be loved, but till her turn comes, just indiscriminately sacrifices? The one who will wait till the last train of the day pulls in?

The question is why one or the other? Why not one today and the other tomorrow? Why not both on the same day? Why a queen, anyway? Why not the knave? It is the luck of the draw, is n’t it? Let it be drawn, thy destiny for today.

Signed

Blouse of Cards

Q is for Queen of Hearts

#A2ZChallenge: M is for Marie Kondo

Dear Marie Kondo,

I am a fan. Since being introduced to you by a friend, I have read of you, read you, watched your videos and simultaneously slipped into a reverie of being in a decluttered, cherry-blossomed Japan too.

And when you say that tidying up is life-changing, dear God, you are not fooling around! At first, I was tentative, but then as I folded away t-shirts and socks and gave away magenta ribbons, I was inexorably drawn to the prescient value of what you preach.

“Ms Kondo delivers her tidy manifesto like a kind of Zen nanny, both hortatory and animistic.”, says the New York Times. I could n’t have said it better. In fact, I COULD NOT even have said it because “animistic”. Also, “hortatory”. (Times why you do this to me?)

Anyhoo, I thought I was an “organization” all-star person till you happened.

KonMari, that’s Japanese, not Hindi

What if we liked less stuff? And where is minimalism a well-understood concept? Nowhere, that’s where. I have in one day shopped for

  1. A charpoy (since it was collapsible, it was collapsed immediately upon purchase, how it stays till today)
  2. An automated garden sprinkler (for a large garden comprising four pots of coriander and basil)
  3. A German mop operated over the Internet (this one though)
  4. An annual subscription to badyogi.com (which requires me to attend a retreat in Auckland first)
  5. A Zara scarf on discount (which is hideous on the inside and the outside)
  6. A clicker for dog training (for a fully trained dog, who just shook his head in resignation)
  7. Any Fisher-Price/ ethically responsible toy which my child rejected straight-away for an old bucket
  8. Top hits of Mithun da you missed (the real gem in this disastrous list so far)

When I started journaling (buying a spanking spiral notepad, because the few million I had stashed fell short), then I saw the destructive pattern. And I turned to KonMari, your patented take-no-prisoners cleaning-up diktat. “Unless something sparks joy, it has no place in your home or your life.”

DISCARD, DISCARD, DISCARD

This is the spring cleaning that I am used to – selling three things online every year, giving Kamala amma clothes apologetically and sending the rest to my mother. You put the focus back on just how much accumulation mankind can do, left undeterred. Me, as Exhibit A.

It starts with letting go of (or responsibly donating) your less loved wardrobe items, kitchen pans, bath salts, free ketchup sachets, the ugly stuffed-toy pangolin in the living room. You have helped clients go lighter by over a million individual things! It also goes onto relationships that are unnecessary and exhausting. I knew you were the true apostle of organization when a client wrote in that she got a divorce, as part of her tidying-up quest.

And ah the ritual. The act of saying thank you to that thing you bought and used little or sparingly, and then bidding adieu. When I first said goodbye to my origami papers, it felt mildly crazy. Now, it’s like a one-armed bro hug.

I wonder though how that client said bye to the husband. “Hey you were good and kind and a husband. Our paths must separate now. I must declutter of you. Thank you. Here is your copy of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and also, my forwarding address. Long live and prosper.”

Signed,

Recovering Clutterbug

Declutter

#A2ZChallenge: J is for Jughead Jones

Dear Jughead

You are pretty awesome. I can say that as a certified authority on Archie Comics (there was only so much quality enrichment in small-town Indic 1980s).  I have procured these comics in second sales, in bargain basement nooks, or crisp, first-hand copies at a corner bookstore when one Double Digest set me back by more than ten Tutti-Frutti ice cream units. Archie turned 75 last year btw, Happy Birthday to you, Carrot Top.

But to me, you, Forsythe Pendleton “Jughead” Jones the third, will always be the star of my first comic-book universe. You are that quintessential friend we all want yet need too. The fun that true friends can be, the rocks that they have to be and the perilous truths they must always tell.

The one we need…

The friend who gives Reggie a dressing down for being full of it, yet takes him out bowling the same day. The one who doesn’t judge Betty for being stupid-in-love with Archie, and is always around for a good cry in the end. Without having any romantic intentions, potential or otherwise. The friend who will call Ronnie for being the bitch she channels sometimes and revive her somnolent sense of righteousness, with just a passing quip.

He or she who always warns you that your idea is a terrible one, but still goes along for the ride and has the most fun. Will take your dogs for a walk and your children to the planetarium, on a Saturday. Most likely also to sit out every detention with you, while still effortlessly jesting with the Bee or Miss Grundy. When you want to go on a charity drive, she will go to every door that you missed, even the ones you did n’t know of. Also, Dilton was no nerd to Jughead, he was just his friend. It’s a good person whose friends are friends, and not labels.

 …maybe the one we want

And it won’t all be Liam Neeson noiseless  kick-assery. There will be enough tomfoolery to go around with this all-around amaze friend. Doodles about your worst fears will go up on bulletin-boards, both online and print. Every whimsy plan you make to join Golds Gym, yoga, pilates, meringue pie baking, ancient scriptures appreciation and didgeroodoo classes will be ridiculed brutally to your face, amidst large social gatherings. That said, for late evening classes, you will always call Jughead on the way back saying either that “this package is not working for me” or that “5 weeks is too long a commitment.” These are the people who always say “I told you so” but somehow never when it will rip your heart.

Also, they will not share the good grub with you because doughnuts and sundaes do not multiply when you give them away. On occasion, they will lament your taste in books and movies, and when that last argument about Chetan Bhagat’s tweets, books and screenplay goes down, there might be ugly tears.

And just for that

While Jughead has plenty weaknesses, such as an insatiable appetite for whatever you are eating or a general aversion towards the romantic of the matter, he be adorable through it all. Even Hot Dog knows that, and forgives his master for his many small transgressions.

The love for the truth, however unpleasant, successfully delivered in wry, pithy packets of nonchalance is trademark Juggy. The kind of friend you want your son or daughter to be. Take nothing seriously, unless it’s a food truck or your mother. And when its time, suit up and save Riverdale, asking for nothing in return. Quietly, one dipsy doodle at a time.

Signed,

Can’t wait to get my hands on the Jughead 2.0 comics

 

Jughead

#A2ZChallenge: G is for Ghost Stories

Dear Ghost Stories,

If there was a ghost appreciation scale, where zero equaled renting a place which the broker says is a 100% haunted and ten equaled installing a separate “GhostBusters approved” lock on all doors of one’s house, then I would be somewhere at 4.5. While I think The Blair Witch Project is a disastrous idea for academic exploration, I don’t usually recite the Hanuman Chalisa when I take a trip to the bathroom at night. I call on Hanuman ji’s blessings for what I assess are bigger tests of my character, like getting my toddler dressed for school.

Growing up, uncles and aunts with a sharp sense of what is age-appropriate for children (..not), had enthralled me with the standard-issue ghost narrative which includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Lady in white saree and long black tresses on a highway flagging down cars
  2. Slow tap dancing on roof
  3. A dark-ish, usually monochromatic cat
  4. Rustling leaves after sundown
  5. Leaky faucets and taps, other plumbing
  6. Someone humming something very deliberately and low timbre (aa-aaaa-aa-aaaaaa), later televised into Zee Horror Show’s theme tune
  7. Old abandoned fortress/ house down the lane
  8. Apparitions near trees or tree tops, likely a banyan

Over time, ghost stories came to me in various forms of discourse. Most stayed in the bell curve distribution of jingly anklets, radio transmissions, whispering flora, restless fauna, gently tinkling bells, vibrating dishwashers or some other aural stimuli. Occasionally, it was updated with a wind chime or an old Volkswagen screeching to a stop.

My favorite story is of a horse with a horseman in a carriage, shuttling people from small town A to small town B. This ghost was a prankster more than poltergeist, the only sign of his supernatural other-worldliness was that his eyeballs would spin inside his sockets to scare off passengers, albeit only at the end of the journey. How this affected fare recovery I don’t know. At that time, hearing first-hand accounts of ghosts was a privilege. It still is.

The story worked. Between this story and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, I never call for a horse while booking my Uber.

Signed (reverentially)

A believer.

G is for Ghost Stories