Wednesday, August 31, 2005

13th time lucky?

last week, King Mswati of Swaziland embarked on a hunt for his 13th wife and watched thousands of bare chested hopefuls perform the Reed Dance before making his choice.

The 37-year-old is King of a country with one of the highest AIDS prevalence rates in the world -- close to 40 percent of its adults are infected. Not only that, in order to keep his wives apart from one another, Mswati has decided to build new palaces for each of them. The International Monetary Fund has advised the government against luxury expenditures in the face of 'a declining economy, a record high budget deficit, rising poverty and food shortages among ordinary Swazis.' But Mswati said he would continue to spend as he sees fit.

The traditional Reed Dance was videotaped by courtiers so the king could review the participants later (eww). The ceremony has developed a reputation as an audition to join Mswati's household, with a number of previous dancers having been selected as royal brides. But not all are willing participants. Two girls were abducted from their schoolyards without their parents' permission. Mswati, who already has 11 official wives, has another fiancee chosen in 2002 who is still awaiting a traditional marriage ceremony.

Women's rights groups had expressed hopes that Mswati would be satisfied with 12 wives, although Swazi tradition puts no limit on the number a king may select. Mswati's father, King Sobhuza, had more than 40 wives and is said to have sired about 600 children.

I still haven't decided what's the worse thing about this story. Thousands of teenage girls dancing in the hope of becoming 'Queen'. The fact that this man spent millions on his Birthday celebrations and grandiose architectural vision while most of country gets by on about $1 a day.
Or that with the AIDS epidemic staring him in the face he leads by example and gets married every year.

Also I don't see what the fuss is about. I mean look at him.

Update: Before his coronation, the King had to prove his bravery and valour by slaying a lion. A task he readily completed. And why wouldn't he - the poor beast was sedated.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Wait till you're older

Wait till we move in to the new house

Wait till you get a job

Wait for interest rates to drop

Let's wait for Nitya

Wait till you get a better job

Wait till the next book is released

Wait till the dal is fully cooked

Wait wait wait... I'm sick of waiting. For things to get better, for someone to die and leave me a huge amount of money, for everything that's going to happen to improve my life.

Why doesn't anyone ever say 'Screw waiting! Go ahead and do what you want right now'.

I'd like to go home now. But I have to wait for the rain to stop.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Kaun Banega Cho***ya

As I type this Amitabh Bachchan is hosting KBC2 in a natty black suit, mismatched red hair and salt and pepper beard and lots of charm. Sitting across from him is Mr.Contestant. For Rs. 20,000 the question is

Which of these takes 365.242 days to complete?

A Earth’s revolution
B Earth’s rotation
C Sun’s rotation
D Sun’s revolution

Now after humming and hawing for a very long time Mr Contestant decides to ask the audience.

The audience takes 10 seconds to vote for options B A C in that order.

Mr Contestant goes for option A. The Big B does his Lock-kiya jaye routine and Mr C gets nervous and says ‘No no I will use 50-50’. The Computer then gets rid of options B and D and our dear contestant is forced to remember basic school-level physics.

Faced with Earth’s revolution and Sun’s rotation as options Mr Contestant is still unsure of the answer and opts to call a friend.

His friend after demanding that he gets Rs. 15,000 of his friends earnings for providing the winning answer, takes his own sweet time to offer C as the answer. (showing he fully deserves the money)

This only goes to prove that the people invited to participate in game shows (and their friends) have about the same IQ as Priyanka Chopra did on the night she won Ms. World (Dead sweety dead! Mother Teresa is DEAD)

And here is further proof that game show contestants will never win a Nobel Prize and will probably lose out to chimps as volunteers in brain research programs. (‘No No ex game show contestant. Touch your nose. Not your ass')

From The Weakest Link UK.

Anne Robinson (evil host) Which illness is named after it’s high temperature and red skin colouration?

Contestant Yellow fever

And some more proof…

The Richard Allison Show, radio 2

Richard Allison Which international brand shares its name with the Greek goddess of victory?

Contestant Erm… Kelloggs?

Oh and for those of you wondering Mr Contestant finally chose option A, won the 20 grand only to crash out 10 minutes later.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sorry honey!

I was moaning to my friend about how I was finding it harder and harder to find space for books in my house. And that if I bought any more books I would have to get rid of my husband to make space for them.

And he asked a very interesting question...

'If you could replace your husband with a book, which one would it be?'

So I ask the same question now... if you could replace a spouse with a book... which one would it be?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bath tub spas

At $785 a night, The Reethi Rah isn't a resort you'll find on The Backpackers Guide To Male. And as one of The Leading Hotels of the World, it isn't favoured by the jet-set for nothing. It offers manicures and pedicures by world-famous podiatrist Bastien Gonzalzez (though why a Doctor of Medicine would want to give pedis to the rich and famous is beyond me... famous foot fetish perhaps?) The One & Only Reethi Rah (as it is always referred to in hushed revered tones) is most famous of course for it's spa.With Vitality Pools, Crystal Steam rooms, Sauna, Lifestyle Showers and stimulating Ice Fountains (something like sticking your head in an ice box) it's a place where 'time has meaning'. And here I was thinking otherwise.

As a spa junkie, The One &Only Reethi Rah is a dream holiday destination for me. There is nothing that leaves me happier than a good massage, lots of incense and strains of a didgeridoo or some other pagan instrument wafting in the air.

Now as a lowly copywriter, my salary does not afford regular spa trips, unless I choose to not eat for a few months or sell a kidney. So I do the next best thing. I bring the spa home.

I'm a sucker for books about home spas and detoxes. Any hardback book printed on recycled paper that allowed a community of poisonous frogs to survive in the Amazon will have me reaching for my credit car faster than you can say Dendrobates duellmanni. I have a small library that tells me to stew nettle leaves for glossy hair, St.John's Wort (eww) for better skin and Primrose oil for brighter eyes. But since I'm not one of the three witches from Macbeth I take a short cut and go to The Body Shop. God bless Anita Roddick, I hear cauldrons are a bitch to clean.

So now back to home spa-ing. It's easy really. If armed with a few candles (not like the ones we use during power cuts - nice scented ones), natural sounding products that have saved seaweed beds off the coast of Northern Island and funded the IRA and a glossy magazine any one can spa at home!

So on Sunday, armed with all these things I bid goodbye to my husband, left him his dinner on the table and descended in to spa-heaven.

The hot oil head massage (which left my arms begging for a massage of their own) was followed by the hot towel head wrap. Now this is tricky. If the water is too hot it will leave you looking a singed cartoon character, if it's not hot enough it's like wrapping a giant boogger around you head.

So there I was suitably oiled with a face pack on and a rapidly cooling towel on my head. And I took out the home made almond and cashew paste (hey looking good ain't cheap). Since I had a face pack on I rubbed it on my hands and feet. As the fragrance of nuts enveloped me, I had a brief vision of giant squirrels breaking down the bathroom door and trying to eat my limbs.

I followed this with a foot scrub and decided to run a nice hot bubble bath. As the tub filled with steaming water and camomile bath salts, I tried reading this months issue of Living etc. A little hard considering the fact that my hands had turned in to nut treats.

Now when spa-ing it's important to prepare a check-list. And number 1 on that checklist is to make sure that there's enough hot water to fill a bath tub. And as I lowered myself in to the tub I realised that this was something that I had overlooked (one of the occasions in life where the saying 'better late than never' does not apply) After trying for 5 minute to to relax in the luke warm water, I decided to turn the hot water on and wait for for the nice hot soak I deserved. A considirable wait as many of you know. And to pass the time, what did I do? I dumped live Greek Yoghurt on my hair and massaged the rest in to my arms. Not a clever thing to do, as the bathroom was slowly starting to resemble a meat locker - cold and smelly.

After a painfully cold 45 minute wait, I showered in water that was as lukewarm as it had been three quarters of an hour before. The Greek Yoghurt mixed with the lavender body scrub, and the tingling sensation I was promised was more like third degree burns.

So after almost two hours of feeling cold, wet and burnt, struggling with imaginary giant squirrels and trying to put out small fires started by the candles I emerged. The bathroom was a mess, I was no where near relaxed and I exuded a fragrance that was a mix of Greek dairy hand and Naturals' roasted almond ice cream (proximity to candles not advised)

So have I learned anything from this experience? I hope to. I really do. And to help me, I have a fresh copy of Luxury Spa's at Home in my bag.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Mangal gets Bungled

OK, so I'm not a professional film critic, but hey I paid good money to go see a film so I think I should get to comment on it. Note: In my review no fancy words will be used, I will not name drop big names like Udayakumar and Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao or even what's his name... oh yeah, Spielberg. It will also be a short review.

First of all, I felt let down by Aamir Khan. After waiting four years for one of his films I can't help but think - this is it? This is what he's been doing? He grew that moustache and horrible mullet for this?

I can only blame the director. The pace of the film was often disrupted with songs that had no business being there (Rahman disappoints - Mangala was lovely but the others failed to impress). It was as though every time he wasn't sure what to do next he put in a song to give him sone time to figure things out.

The dialogues were average. Strange as it was to see Aamir sprout dialogues in English, his Hindi lines were even less effective. When he's firing up his comrades to fight the Brits it left me cold. I couldn't help but think of movies like Bravheart and the Patriot. Those pre-battle speeches made me want to go and fight with them. Aamir seemed so trite. Wide glaring eyes don't make up for bad dialogue.

The women in the film were superflous. Rani was alright and Amisha was screechy whenever she came on screen (which wasn't alot - honey, why were you making so much noise about this role? The sweeper in the film had more dialogues than you did)

The gora who played Captain Gordon was good, and some of the scenes between him and Aamir were lovely to watch.

On the whole not great not bad. WHich is terrible I think. A film should touch you in some way. Even if you really hate a movie at least it incites some kind of reaction in you. Mangal Pandey left me exactly as it had found me. Hungry.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I have had the finest of wines ( a bit wasted on me, as my untrained palatte can not tell the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and a Mataro Shiraz). I've feasted at the finest restaurants, sipped Cappuccinos in Rome and enjoyed lazy lunches on Parisian sidewalks that made me believe I was Catherine Deneuve.
But nothing tastes as good as curd rice and mango pickle on a hot summer's afternoon. Nothing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Happy Garden Gnome Day

The Italian Government has just passed a law setting aside October 2nd as Grandparents' Day. This is apparently an effort to honour grandparents who are integral to helping raise children and passing on age-old traditions.

Now it's a lovely thought. My own grandmother was a very important part of my life. But I can't help think that this too will one day become a Hallmark monopolised media circus. Oh wait, that's already happened. Apparently, The Italian Goverment will also be handing out 'best grandparent' prizes to those senior citizens who have made the most contribution to their family and society. I wonder what they'll get - free dentures and a year long subscription to Life at 80+?

If only Governments would spend time and money on senior citizen health and welfare instead of yet another meaningless day that no one will remember next year.

Also, here are some of my own suggestions for Happy ____ Day Celebrations.

1. Garden Gnome Day - come rain or shine they're out their in our gardens looking ugly
2. Silicon Implant Day - celebrating the miracles of modern science in anti-gravity studies
3. Survivors Day - for those who have battled and survived botched boob jobs, freak DIY accidents and incidents involving super glue

Suggestions are welcome


When I was growing up the only celebrities we knew of were actors, singers, professional sportsmen and charismatic politicians ( a breed that seems to have died with Rajiv Gandhi).

As satellite dishes mushroomed across the city, lunch time talk veered from Rajni and Kamal to the shennanigans of the residents of Santa Barbara (known to our grandmothers as Shaantha Barbra) and the forever 16 residents of Beverly Hills 90210.

Fastforward to 2005. The term celebrity seems to have undergone more changes then Cher's face. In India, film stars and cricketers have been forced to share the limelight with the likes of Shefali something or the other, the secretary every one wants - Rakhi Savant and a random mix of socialites, fashion designers and lifestyle gurus.

But one phenomenon that has yet to splash itself all over Indian papers is the reality TV celebrity. Now I'm not talking about Indian Idol winners or those whiny kids from MTV Roadies. I'm talking about the likes of Abi Titmuss (I swear that's her name), Kinga, Kate Lawler and Vanessa Feltz. Names every proud British citizen worth his/her crumpet knows.

These people have all at some time or the other won, been a part of or been humiliated on a reality show. They have no talent other than the ability to let millions of people tune in every week and watch them eat, bathe or fornicate with bugs. And they all have managed to cash in on their few seconds in the spotlight.

Take for example Ms. Titmuss. After a high profile relationship with another vague Brit celeb, she went on to appear in The Sun and Daily Mail giving interviews about her ex-love. She then began to appear in a number of lads' magazines with very very little on (earning every inch of her last name). Ms Titmuss is now a regular on shows like 'I'm a celebrity get me out of here' and more recently 'Celebrity Love Isalnd'

Now I don't have a problem with the fact that these people have made money and earned fame from simulating sex with an inflated doll. So why have I been going on and on?

A recent survey of girls aged between 9-15 in the UK revealed that more than 60% of them thought being a celeb reality show participant was good career choice. Lap dancing came in at number two followed by being a glamour model (i.e posing topless for The Sun). Many of them mentioned Jordan and Abi Titmuss as role models.

And the thing is many Brits I mentioned this to found it amusing. And didn't see that 10-15 years from now their country wouldn't have enough teachers and doctors to serve society. Something that will no doubt force them to reach out even more to their former colonies for skilled professionals.

So how outrageous is the idea that England's immigrant numbers are in someway linked to thong clad celebs ? Perhaps Mr Blair should ask Ms Titmuss to button up.

Monday, August 08, 2005

i wonder

Today morning, I read this - Bihari women learning how to be ideal wives and daughter-in-laws. And this is no 'finishing school' in Switzerland teaching the likes of Queenie Dhody how to order servants about. This place tells girls not to look at blind people when they’re pregnant, how to brush their teeth in the in-law’s house (because of course, the way the task has been carried out up to that very moment is in a manner disrespectful to senior citizens) and how to treat your husband like God.

And in the so-called ‘progressive’ West, The Bible i.e Vogue (yes I read shallow fashion magazines) expounds the importance of being feminine for Autumn/Winter. And by feminine I don't mean wearing florals and twin sets (which is apparently boho and mumsy). I mean burn your current wardrobe and get dressed in clothes two sizes too small that effectively shut down your respiratory system and force you to walk with 'tiny hip wiggling steps'. Heroin chic has apparently been replaced by the asphyxic equivalent.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Save Our Jugs

One of the great things about living in the UK (apart from drinking luke warm, milky tea) is getting to read The Sun/ Daily Mirror /News of the World and other illustrious newspapers as part of my job. In an effort to help me get better acquainted with the British way of life (something that all us immigrants/refugee seekers/ brown people are trying to besmirch) my office buys me all three newspapers every day.

Today, there's 'Get back in your cave' on the front page - an article urging Ayman al-Zawahiri to learn how to use the rifle beside him because the SAS are going to come after him. The usual page 3 topless model (who says 'I have always wanted to do this. It's a real honour.') (note - the concept of page 3 here is very different from that back home. I mentioned to a Brit colleague how all socialites in Bombay want to be on page 3 and his eyes bulged)

But the best article in the entire newspaper had to be a double spread entitled SAVE OUR JUGS. The EU has issued a directive ordering all bar maids to cover up their assets. Apparently, prolonged exposure to the sun when serving pints outside could give them skin cancer. The Sun of course is outraged and demands that the EU keeps its, and i quote 'hands off our barmaids' boobs.'

Now I wonder about many things regarding this situation. Two of them are a) How many barmaids did the EU have to meet with and how many er, jugs did they have to observe to come to this decision? b) Doesn't the EU have better things to do with it's time?

A sentiment shared by many of the bar maids interviewed by The Sun. "The directive is stupid" "They're bonkers" were some of the opinions shared by these young women (apart from an ample view of the at-risk body part.

I suggest we start a petition to save this sacred English tradition. Do not scoff. Would any of the Carry On movies been the same without the compulsory bar maid cleavage? Think of all the Skiving Scholars and Hogs Nipples that would have to shut down because of loss of business. It's our duty as citizens of the world to help The Sun in its noble endeavour.

And in other news - a drunken man battered his wife with an 8 pound pike fish, a DIY fan narrowly missed death after shooting himself in the heart with a nail gun and a young 15 year old girl is the proud mother of two - children fathered by her step brother no less.

The British way of life. God bless it. (and the Queen)

What to do?

My boss is out till 2:00 and my art partner called to say he's not coming in. This is the perfect Friday. I've flitted from blog to blog, left comments and resisted the call of Marc Jacob shoes on ebay. And now I don't know what to do.

Perhaps I should practise the great Indian rope trick.

Does anyone know what the great Indian rope trick is?

Apparently the Western Paragliding Association do. Huh?


It's Friday morning, and I've already started counting the hours till freedom. Come 5:30 pm and I'll be out the front door of my office faster than you can say Speedy Gonzales.

All weekends are inaugurated in a similar fashion in our home. Friday nights are for take-aways and rented dvd's, enjoyed in the comfort of one's oldest and most de-elasticated tracks. (I know, Friday nights are meant for getting dressed up and dancing the night away, but please - after a week of writing direct mailers for yobs in Manchester I do not have the energy) (Also it's not as fun as Hitchcock and chow mein)

The next two days of the weekend are passed in an enjoyable haze of sleeping in, coffee, late lunches, meeting friends, naps, more movies, half hearted cleaning and grocery shopping. Ah! The bliss of the predictable.

But it's only been this way for the last 8-9 months. That's the wonderful thing about London. No one would dare suggest you work on a weekend. And the working week effectively ends on Friday afternoon when people head down to the local Rat and Parrot or Trout's Head for a pint or two or three. Unlike back home where weekends are two days of free labour employers extract, this good Christian country rests with their Lord.

And it's a liberating feeling. Knowing that you can make plans and stick to them (the number of times my husband has bought exhorbitantly priced tickets in black that have then been passed on to friends) I no longer need to keep a low profile all Friday long so I'm not asked to come in and work on a pitch for fairness creams for cats. And I no longer need to face the sly and leering comments of coworkers on Monday morning asking how my weekend was. (when they of course were slaving away at work)

Why I ask you? Why do we begrudge other people when they've managed to finish their work on time and head home? Why must we wink and nudge as these people go by, say that they aren't hard-working enough and doubt their commitment? Is it so terrible that people get two days to recharge and relax?

And then we come to a country where people know and understand that work isn't everything and that there is a life outside the rat race. And what do we do? We mock them! 'Ah these lazy Brits. Don't want to work hard yaar. They all leave sharp 5:30 and shout if you call them on weekends.'

Well if leaving at 5:30 sharp makes me less Indian and more Brit, then it's one part of my 'Indian'ness that I'll gladly give up. Tea anyone?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Jingle bells

It's a lovely day here. The sky is picture perfect blue, there are little clouds floating along like Little Bo Peep's sheep. Why I even saw a bit of dandelion fluff float by my window. And I'm thinking about Christmas. I know, I know there's more than 4 months to go for the second most important day in the calendar celebrating God (the first is the Annual MGR birthday celebrations across the South).

So why am I thinking of Christmas? My work demands it of me. As an advertising copywriter I've been forced to immerse myself in premature yuletide joy and come up with lines like

"Park! The Herald Angels Sing."
10,000 free parking spaces at The ...........

Sigh. Sigh. And sigh again. I don't know what I feel worse about - insulting the Herald Angels or insulting the people who are going to read this poster.

It could be worse I tell myself. I remember a time when I used to do ads for a chain of household appliance stores. 'Hot deals for a cool summer' was a favourite.

We all do it in advertising. Write lines we hate. Skip channels when embarassing tv commercials we had a hand in are aired. It happens to everyone in the industry. Like doctors who forget scalpels inside their patients. Kind of.

So what can one do? I could insist my better lines be accepted (and I assure you there are better lines) I could take a year off and find inner peace. Or I could make myself some coffee and wait for Valentines Day, Easter and Hanukkah.

Coffee here I come.

(And Herald Angels, in some of the words of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol 1 'If you're feeling sore about this when you're older, I'll be waiting'.)

Monday, August 01, 2005


murderous in bombay. 972 people. thousands of animals. i refuse to conform to the rule of 3.
non existant in chennai. a source of livelihood to thousands of corrupt metro water lorry drivers. back doctors. and little boys who will carry your kodams for 5 rupees.
threatening in london. will it. won't it. an overcast sky that teases like some bar dancer. showing tantalising glimpses of the blue sky beneath.

a first

I am tasting licorice for the first time as I type this. Not the long, black tentacle like sweets they sell at the corner shop but the actual plant from which it comes. My very English art partner brought me some when I told him (much to his shock) that I had never tried the aforementioned sweet before.

Other English things I grew up reading about

- ham sandwhiches as consumed by the famous five
- earl grey tea as consumed by ladies and other well to do dowagers
- scones, clotted cream and jam
- haggis a Scottish er delicacy of stuffed animal parts
- Guiness beer

As a strict vegetarian I've restricted myself to the tea and scones and now licorice. Which is very much like the stick Rajini used in Yejaman to clean his teeth in that song with Meena.

So I leave you now to perfect my Rajni impersonation and hum the song in my head. If only I could remember the words.

Ah yes - Alam pol...


"Why does it rain?"

"Why do I have to go to school?"

"Why do I have to do march past?"

"Why can't I go out with my friends tonight?"

"What's wrong with talking to boys?"

"Who cares what your relatives think?"

"How will calculus help me in life?"

"Why is pre marital sex taboo?"

"If we ever go back to India will we have to live with your parents?"

"Would you raise your children abroad?"

"Why haven't you had children yet?"

"Why do you ask so many questions?"