Monday, July 31, 2006

trendy on the tube. not

I suppose it’s possible to forget the presence of certain body parts. The appendix is not often thought of until it reminds us of its presence (and impending absence) with shooting pains. Nictitating membrane and eyelashes are two other things that come to mind. I mean who thinks about their eyelashes for God’s sake? (except people who don’t have them I guess).

Men and women all across the UK have made a startling discovery since the beginning of summer. Their chests. The realisation that 8 months of protecting themselves from the elements under layers of thermal vests, sweaters and last Winter’s must have military jacket has not caused them to disappear in to another dimension has had startling consequences.

Now, I can understand their joy and elation. It must be like meeting a long lost friend. Make that two of them. Let’s imagine an emotional reunion with two of your best friends after 8 lonely, cold months. How would you react? You would whoop for joy! You would hug them and never let them go. (Remember not to do this to other people’s friends) and after that you would want to show them off to the world. You would say ‘Look! I too have friends. Two of them!’.

For the last 6 weeks I have had the privilege of meeting many people’s friends. Male and female. Young and old. Perky friends and down in the dumps friends. Friends basically in all shapes and sizes. (If you haven’t gotten it yet I’m talking about breasts people)

Now I’m no prude. I think everyone should be allowed to express themselves in a way that well – expresses themselves. Whether it’s through pickling giant sharks and passing it off as art (freak alert) or taking your puppies out for a walk in the sunshine. Who am I to pass judgement?

The Brits are a funny bunch (and not just because they call underwear ‘pants’). After spending all winter whinging about the cold and rain and waiting for a ray of sunshine all through the damp days of Spring, they aren’t very enthusiastic about summer once it actually gets here. Kind of like guests coming to stay with you – you think it’s going to be so nice, and then on the second morning of having to listen to someone sing chamiya songs in the shower you can’t wait for them to be gone. The Brits share a similar relationship to Summer. A couple of days of 30 plus degree weather and they realise how ill equipped they are to handle the heat. And then they head off to Malta or Rhodes where it’s even hotter for a few weeks. If you can figure that one out, please mail me and let me know.

The ones that don’t go anywhere for summer, decide to bring their vacation to them. (Similar to the mountain and Mohammed story). This means Daisy Duke shorts, bikini tops masquerading as tops, see through skirts, Rastafarian braids and all out bare chestedness if you’re a man. I don’t know which is worse. Ageing breasts that look like weathered handbags, suffering from a memory lapse as they obviously can’t remember how to get in to a bra. Or hairy, beer bellies hanging over denim waistbands covered in tattoos. Somebody stop the madness. Travelling by tube is bad enough in the summer without having to spend 2 hours with someone’s butt crack staring at you.

If winter is the only way to get these people to cover up I’m all for it. I never thought I’d say it but I cannot wait for the temperatures to drop. The 60 year old bald man in satin shorts, sweat and nothing else striding down platform 7 at Kings Cross today morning was the last straw.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sentence or Story?

I came across this here.Take a look at some of the stories in the comments section.

I don't know what makes a six word sentence a story, but here goes!


She cries. And blames the onions.


Look Ma it’s Gouda cheese. Snap!


Blank. Rule of three be damned.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Blame the Raspberry Pavlova

It was hot. The sun sat resolutely in the sky like a giant, yellow, cat. One scorching eye trained on the human rats that huddled on the platform trying to escape.

She stood directly under its gaze. Tired, sleepy and hot. And a little drunk. She tugged at her dress, wishing she hadn’t eaten so much at lunch. Hadn’t reached for that second slice of quiche. Or that third helping of raspberry pavlova. Or worn this dress from 3 summers ago. Or these blasted underpants from Marks & Sparks that promised to help her drop a dress size. They were so bloody tight. And a pain to take off when she needed to wee.

She looked to her left and right. Everyone looked busy. Wrapped up in their Hellos and Heat. Who would notice? She was sure the pants were cutting off the blood circulation to her stomach. She was feeling faint and light headed. Or was that the Chablis?

She slowly shimmied her magic underpants down a notch. And sighed deeply and gratefully as her belly expanded over the tight elastic edge. Just a little more. Bliss. She looked down. Her paunch looked so pleased. Pleased as paunch. Ha ha.She hoisted her bag up over it.


He looked out the window. Bloody trains. Slow. No air conditioning. Fuck. He opened his paper for the tenth time, looking for some news snippet that had miraculously slipped past him. As he shook the paper straight, the day’s supplement slid out on to the floor. He looked at the cover. Bloody women’s nonsense. He scanned the compartment. No one from work – why not – there was nothing else to read. And didn’t the ladies like men who knew all this nonsense about pms and moisturisers?


She almost wept with joy as the train pulled up. But the happiness ebbed as quickly as it had flowed. It was packed. There wouldn’t be anywhere to sit. Fuck.


He barely looked up when the doors beeped open. This woman’s stuff wasn’t that bad after all.


“Four in five pregnant women are forced to stand on public transport – Chivalry is dead!”

You can say that again she thought shifting from one foot to another. Oh that one’s wearing a nice jacket. Wonder where it’s from?

He felt a pair of eyes boring down on him. He hated it when people read over his shoulder. He looked up in irritation.


Idiot she thought. Move your head I’m trying to get a better look at her shoes.


He looked her up and down – not bad he thought. He was about to go back to the article when he noticed her bump. Was she? No - see no ring on her finger. So? It didn’t look like a baby bump. You’re just making excuses. You know it is. Go on do the right thing. Get up.


What’s he getting up for then? What a nice bloke. Sap.

She sat down and began rummaging in her bag. She was sure there were some biscuits left over from last week.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lucky cow!

In today's Independent:

"Temperatures on buses in the hottest part of Britain hit 52C yesterday while the London Underground reached 47C. EU guidelines state that cattle should not be transported at temperatures exceeding 27C"

I am changing my name to Moofiend so that I may demand my bovine rights.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sing Shoefiend! Sing!

We’ve all been through it – the compulsory education in a centuries old art form. Dance, an instrument or the (s)training of one’s vocal cords with the noble aim of producing sweet music. In addition to this we are encouraged to take up a sport of some kind, so that we are capable of executing Bhairavi and a breast stroke with equal ease.

As a child I tried my hand at gymnastics – a failure because I was scared that headstands and cartwheels would leave me suspended upside down forever. Netball proved futile, as my immediate reaction to an approaching ball was to duck. I enjoyed swimming but only after I agreed not to press charges against the instructor for trying to kill me (he wanted me to keep my head under the water for a minute. Murderous surely?)

I wanted to learn to sing like my elder sister and proved my enthusiasm by keeping taalam with such vigour I had red welts on my thighs and singing so loudly, our teacher’s neighbours complained. That was when I was about 6.

After moving about a great deal we finally settled down in Madras. The years in between had seen my try my hand at choir (I was relegated to the last row) and playing the flute (which I was surprisingly good at).

Back in Madras, my never-say-die Mother was sure her daughter had the voice of an angel and began to search in earnest for teacher who would draw out my (very) latent talents. The search ended when my former teacher’s Mother agreed to take up where her daughter had left off. So thrice a week after school I would walk to her house with a frayed copy of A.S.Panchapakeshva Iyer’s Ganamrutha Bodini that both my mother and sister had used.

Rukmini Paati lived in an old, crumbling house that stayed blissfully cool in the summer months. She taught about 6 of us at the same time, boys and girls, ages varying from 4 to 14. Her enormous body draped in a Rangachari sari ould be perched precariously on the edge of a rusty, metal-framed bed, her harmonium box resting on her lap and keeping taalam with a broken, metre long ruler. She was mildly myopic, and would peer at us, trying to decipher who was singing off key and who was just going through the motions of singing – lip-synching in a time before Britney.

Her efforts were seriously hampered by the fact that she was pretty deaf. Which meant most of us were singing our own versions of Mayamalavagowlai and Mohanam. Adding plenty of Sondha sarakku as a favourite blogger of mine says.

After a few months of Rukmini Paati’s unique teaching methods, my mother on hearing me sing realised that it would just not do. The Paati’s services were terminated and the search continued for a guru.

This time two teachers were found – a carnatic vocalist and a flautist.
They were talented in their own right. Excellent teachers. And very strict. Countless tears stung my eyes from class 7 till class 10. But it was not in vain. For once I was decent at something – managing to claw my way up to keerthanams. But I was never that good, never practiced as much as I should have and frankly, never really my heart in it.

So when I finished my 10th board exams I stopped. Both teachers were saddened by my decision, because despite my shortcomings as a student, they had grown quite attached to me.

After that I lost touch with singing – apart from the occasional and humiliating ‘group light music’ events I was forced to participate in during inter-department culturals. (oh the horror of having to sing Words accompanied by a wan guitar that was held ‘like you’re used to playing the sitar’ as the judge said.)

My last brush with singing (not including a few tipsy renditions of Dancing Queen and You’re Still the One at Not Just Jazz by the Bay) was after I got married.

As is tradition, the newly weds must visit the homes of all the ageing aunts and uncles of the family. Since the entire family, village and neighbouring village are no longer invited to ‘see the girl’, it is the first time a family gets to inspect the new daughter-in-law. Discreetly check if she has all fingers and toes. That she can hear (cunningly tested by speaking in very low voices). And of course how talented she is. As culinary skills can only be tested on visiting the bride at her own home, the obvious substitute is to ask her to sing.

Fortunate is the girl who skilled in dance – the more exotic the better – after all who keeps a stock of Kathakali make-up at home? Those who are amateur Veena artists are in no such luck. Most ageing harridans often played the instrument themselves and will probably have one languishing in the corner of their bedroom. But woe betide she who has learnt to sing. She has no choice but to agree.

Unless she is willing to put up a spirited half hour argument on why she can not sing (a good idea - it will give way to gossip that you are strong willed and don't listen to elders.) My secret reasoning was that a squeaky rendition of Kanchi Kamakshi would not be a good first impression, so I firmly and repeatedly stated that I could not remember a single word of a single song. Which in retrospect was probably not wise, because now they all think that I have an undiagnosed memory problem.

My excuse that day was not entirely untrue. I have forgotten much of what I learnt as a child. The odd line here and there and some humming in between is all I can manage really. But I’ll always remember Rukmani Paati’s cool room and droning harmonium, my music Sir’s woeful sigh as I hit those higher notes and my flute teacher’s spirited renditions of movie songs when we took a short break for coffee.

Some memories just don’t fade.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

a 55 word prayer

Please god. Let him answer the phone. Just this one thing and I won’t ask for anything else. Ever. Promise. I won’t call him an idiot again. Complain about his mother. Or grumble that he never helps out and forgets to fold the newspaper. I won’t nag. Or fight. Or throw things. Please god. Promise.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mumbai Help

To all those who think that blogs serve no real purpose, please go to

Thoughts and prayers to all those in Bombay.

Monday, July 10, 2006

a moment

It had been another long day. The boss had yelled, the witch in the cubicle next door had been insulting and her idea for the television commercial had been hijacked and turned in to a big joke. As she trudged from the mainline station to the tube, her feet ached in the new shoes she has bought as a pick-me-up. She should have taken her doctor’s offer for a Prozac prescription instead.

People pushed and shoved. Large bags smacked against her. Commuters walked on the right hand side even though it clearly said ‘Please Keep to the Left’. She looked at the faces that rushed by. Corners of lips seemed to be on a natural downward curve and brows were scarred by the deep ridges of permanent frowns. Everyone was so wrapped up in their own lives they didn’t have a moment to spare for their fellow human beings.

As she approached the turnstiles an announcement stopped her.

‘Due to a passenger under the train, there are delays reported on the Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City and Circle lines. Please find…’

Had the passenger tripped, been pushed over – or had the hypnotic pull of an oncoming train been too much to ignore?

She stopped and listened to the announcement one more time before sighing with relief. None of the delays were on her line. She’d be home in time for Corrie.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

summer x 3

Copper sulphate blue her grandmother
called that particular shade of blue
How did she know though,
having never set foot in a chemistry lab?

Her anklets are stiff
Like an old school friend you have lost touch with
The awkwardness soon gives way to a familiar comfort
It’s bells chattering away with every step taken

The woollen trousers and boots have been packed away
Cotton skirts voluminous and crinkled
Gently caress the soft inner skin of her thighs like a lover
Making her smile that secret smile

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Clutching the brush and dustpan she surveyed the sickly brown striations that patterned the linoleum floor. In a far corner of her mind she heard the phone ringing. Probably her mother-in-law checking to see if her darling son had had his dinner.

Tiny mustard seeds that had found the oil too hot had pole vaulted over the rim of the non-stick wok. She liked to think that they had been cheered on by their comrades ‘Don’t worry about us. Save yourselves’.

'Yes’ she thought ‘Save yourselves. We all have to save ourselves.’ Thin green stems, denuded of their pungent curry leaves lay like felled trees. A lone pea stood in the middle of the kitchen floor, searching for kith and kin. She nudged it towards two carrot tops with her toe, but they didn’t seem to have much in common.

She got down on her knees and with long strokes ran the harsh, black bristles of the brush across the floor. The phone was ringing again. ‘Call all you want Amma. No one's answering that phone tonight’. Creeping forward, each square inch of the floor was meticulously covered as she coaxed the errant pea, unfriendly carrot tops and eel like slithers of potato skin in to a tiny heap.

‘Some more subzi dear?’ she called out, wondering whether the words would reach her husband over the din of the quarter-final highlights.

When the usual grunt failed to reach her ears she made her way to the dining table and sat opposite him. He was slumped over his plate, face submerged in rice. His dark, bald head streaked with sambar.

‘Look at the mess you’ve made.’ She chided. ‘I suppose I have to clean up? For once your mother’s right . A woman’s work is never done.’