Tuesday, July 26, 2005


I haven't seen a crow in 9 months.
There are pigeons everywhere ofcourse.
And the Mayor calls them rats with wings.
I wonder what Thackeray would call crows if he took the time?
Chatrapathi Shivaji's winged warriors?

I love being silly.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What's in a name?

When parents choses a name for their child do they ever wonder whether the bawling, kicking individual in question will ever live up to the name they are about to bestow? Past experiences indicate that they do not.

I have met numerous Vidyas who are incapable of addition, Sushmithas who were forever grim and Shaktis who would go running off the playground screaming and crying when 'attacked' by grasshoppers.

Now I'm not blaming parents or children. Parents can only hope that Geeta won't sound like a defunct garbage disposal machine when she sings and it's not little Vijays fault he gets bowled out as soon as he reaches the crease.

Perhaps parents whould wait a few years before naming their children. See how they turn out first. Children could be given serial numbers instead. So after AD892 has shown that he is sufficiently discerning his parents can name him Vivek.

I know, I know. How cruel to serialise children and not give them proper names that they can be cajoled, coddled and cosseted with. Well it's not like parents really call their children by their actual names until they're 3-4 years old. Till then it's usually a mix of Bujju, Gudiya, Kannu, BooBoo and other such terms of endearment. Sure the children will have a hard time adjusting and responding to their new names. Some may even suffer an identity crisis. But what's worse? That or having Vishwanath (Lord of the Universe) getting pulverised by Mridula for his lunch money?

My parents took the easy way out. They named me after a celestial dancer (I think they were watching way to many cabarets back then). So on looking up the meaning of my name all I found was, well "celestial dancer". So I really don't have any expectations to live up to, unless my lack of dexterity when it comes to hip thrusts has let my parents down.

Sorry Mom.

Monday, July 18, 2005

He said She said

She Said " Which one looks better on me - the black or the red?"

He Said "Ummm... they both look nice to me"

She said " So should I take both of them then?"

He winced " Do you really need two ... take one"

She said " OK so which one... the black or the red?"

He said " Ummmm... they both look nice to me"

Moral... One would get more help shopping from a Lhasa Apso than from a spouse

And in other news the London Underground has united for a new cause - Harry Potter and the half blood prince! Everyone's reading it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tic toc

Does time fly when you're having fun? The two hours since my last post seem like the longest in my life. No sorry, the longest two hours of my life were on a road trip to Tirupathi, when I really really needed to answer the call of nature, but couldn't find a single toilet suitable for living beings. If even the flies won't go in you know it's bad news. Sorry if that was too much information.


I will the display forward
It stays where it is, defiant
Is this what they mean by 'time stood still'?
another three hours
flashback to school and college
the agonising wait for the bell to ring
but there's no bell now
except for the one in my head

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Memories of Luz

It's always nice to think back to the sepia tinged days on one's childhood. After 7 years of living around the world, my family put down roots in Luz - a leafy, tree lined avenue in Madras. It was wonderful. We were surrounded by madisaar clad mamis who took rikshaws to the market - their diamond earrings almost blazing in the mid day sun. Boys who played cricket at the corporation school ground down the road. Stray dogs that used to sleep in the shade of the mobile isthri vandi that was positioned outside our gate. It was wonderful. After years of living in high rise apartments where one would have to call neighbours before visiting, here I was free to wander in to 64/4, would be cajoled in to the house behind ours for cold home made ginger-lemon juice and was often employed as a messenger bearing sweets, invitations or news to the other denizens of our little world.

I lived there for 11 years. And then was whisked off one day to Bombay. And from there to London. But every year I go back to my old neighbourhood where I'm reunited with the people who have seen me grow up. The balding septagenarian upstairs who would correct me every time I made the same mistake when I sang Bhairavi. The family down the road who's eldest son would give me joy rides on his new motorbike when I was 12. Our family doctor, conveniently located right opposite our house - often roused from sleep to treat my viral fevers and my sister's wheezing.

New people have moved in. And some old faces have passed on. Many of the traditional bungalows have been replaced by modern apartments that stand out like an eye-sore. But some things never change. The stray dogs (grand children of the roads pioneers?) still snooze under the isthri vandi. The old mami behind our house still offers me her home made juice and the Doctor always asks how I'm doing. The anonymity that living abroad offers one may have it's own advantages, but sometimes I do miss living on a street where everyone knows my name

Here's a reminiscence of a street of a different kind.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

This can not be happening to me

9:05 am at Euston station. The usual crowds. People reading the Metro, basking in the glow of London's Olympic win. Then an announcement. "King's Cross Station is closed. Please use the Victoria Line and change lines for your destination." People groaned and grumbled. I said goodbye to my husband and made my way to the Victoria platform. And then another announcement. "Please evaccuate the station there has been an emergency. Please evaccuate."

Well that's a new one i thought as I trudged along with thousands of commuters to the exit. Outside Euston people crowded around London's trademark red buses hoping to get to work or atleast to the next station.

The 390 I was on was full of talk about what had happened. People guessing, surmising or just making things up. One man reading the news off his phone announced that a bomb had gone off at Liverpool Station because of a power surge. The bus stopped abruptly and we were told that it wouldn't go any further. Oh great, there goes my 9:36 national rail.

Euston Road, 15 minutes later. I'm lending my phone to people whos networks have collapsed. People calling in work, family and friends trying to get a sense of what was happening. More news of power surges and stations being closed. I stood on the corner of the road, wondering which way King's Cross was. And then it happened. I witnessed my first bomb blast. From a distance albeit. A bang. Alot of smoke. And a people running like mad.

Oh my god. This isn't happening to me. This is something I watch on the news. In other countries. I just stood there. Not knowing what to do. So much for my "I always know what to do in a situation." And no matter how prepared you think you are, your mind just shuts down.
You're just walking about aimlessly waiting for someone to come and take control. Sirens wailing. Police. Ambulance. Someone in a bright yellow coat comes up to me and tells me to move as far away from the area as possible. To where? I'm not even that sure about where I am, I think. I walked down the road and called my office. Some smart aleck suggesting I walk to King's Cross and find an overline to Hatfield.

More news pouring in. No power surges. All bomb blasts. Underground shut. No buses will run in central London. All you can do is wait.

Wait for what? Another blast? WHy hasn't my husband called yet? My own overwhelming urge to call my family. Call them and say what? Hi there have just been blasts across London, I'm ok but just in case I love you? Do i sound like I was over reacting. I was. Around me women were having panic attacks. Sitting on the ground. Breathing deeply. Breathe deep I told myself. Don't cry. Nothing's even happened to you yet.

I looked around again. No buses. No trains. My only recourse was London's notoriously expensive black cabs. I saw a man getting out of one a few yards away from me. As I approached the cab he rolled the window down "I ain't taken you to central London luv". Since I was trying to get as far away from there as possible I hopped in and directed him home.

All the way back the radio crackled out more news - of casualties, emergency efforts and possible suspects. The cabbie kept up a steady stream of chatter - whether to take his mind off it or mine I don't know. But I was grateful.

As we entered the sleepy suburb I live in, the difference was startling. The sreets were empty as always, the odd grandma walked her dog and that was it. Half an hour before I was in the middle of a swirling mass of humanity. And now nothing.

I'm back home now. The heating is warming me up but hasn't reached the chill in my heart. The news is on, family has been called and reassured, and chai has been copiously consumed.

There are people who won't reach home tonight. Fatalities of a senseless attack. Someone's parent, spouse, friend, sibling. Someone's child.

And to think yesterday all I was worried about was a clogged drain outside my house.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Childhood memories

I grew up in a world of child prodigies with ESP, boys who romped with centipedes in giant fruits and friendly giants who farted before the Queen of England. And here's a critique on the man who made it all happen. It reminded me how much fun childhood was and how jaded we've become as adults. Here's to childhood!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A very brief affair

Sudoku. On the train. At work. On the web. I took a look at The Hindu’s puzzle. The grid of numbers looked back at me mockingly. .I used the sheet to mop up some spilt coffee. And returned to the crossword. Who like a Tamil film wife forgave me for my dalliance and welcomed me back with open arms.


The first six months of 2005 have gone by and I looked over my list of resolutions (yes I'm quite anal about these things and write them down lest I'm bumped on the head and get amnesia - you never know). Of the things on my rather long list I was pleased to know that I had ticked many of them off - get a job, learn a new language. Ok that's 2 not some - but it's better than 0 which is what most people have managed. With six months to go I realised that it was time to get started on the other things on my list - get fit, learn how to salsa, stay in touch with friends and family,etc. So today I'm off to the gym to get a membership! So to those of you reaading this - a gentle reminder to GET OFF YOUR ASS AND ACTUALLY SEE ONE OF YOUR NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS THROUGH.

(Wouldn't I be a great Good Samaritan phone counsellor?)

Friday, July 01, 2005

Raju chai!

As I made my morning cup of coffee in the office today my mind wandered (as it is proned to do) to the canteen boys that are littered all over offices in India. After coming to London, one must get used to the fact that there is no one to make your morning coffee/chai at work. Phew! It feels good to be able to say that without being looked upon as some elitist snob (these English I tell you). But those of you who work in India will understand. Even before your prehistoric PC has booted in the morning you're on the phone to the canteen asking what's for breakfast and ordering a chai. And as your PC is still groaning to life, a canteen boy will come scampering up with a plate of steaming poha and masala chai. Bliss. (There's nothing more depressing than making coffee from a sachet that says Kenco Frozen Coffee Granules)

But back to the canteen boys. 12-13 years of age, scrawny, beady eyed and always called Raju. (We once had a canteen boy we all called Raju for 7 months before we realised his name was Suresh) They start out as shy and timid creatures who you can bully and send back too sweet/too milky/too cold chai to and demand a replacement free. You can shout at them, harass them and ignore them. And then they learn the power they wield. They'll start bringing you your lunch cold. Then they won't bring you your lunch at all and pretend like they never got your order. Worst of all they'll slap you with a canteen bill so large you'll need a soft loan from Citi to pay it off. (Don't even bother looking over their ledgers either - it's written in a secret canteenish script that only they understand)

But be nice to them and they'll love you for life. When I quit my first job to move to Bombay, the canteen waived my bill of 500 bucks. A marriage gift they said. (I know - awwww).

Good or evil, canteens are an integral part of working life in India. It provides employment, is a great place to bitch about colleagues and bosses and has pioneered the art of making masala chai. I miss them. And I miss fighting with the Rajus in my awful hindi (which would invariably slip in to English when I was either very angry or when my pool of hindi words ran out).

So here I am in old Blighty, and whenever a caffeine craving comes visiting I can't help but instinctively reach for the phone. And in an attempt to recapture the past I've christened the office kettle Raju.