Thursday, July 31, 2008

In Passing

I love it when friends fight over the bill at a restaurant after a meal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If the Walls had Ears

The other night I was curled on a chair watching a movie. My mom and dad were reclined on the daybed next to me and my sister was sprawled out on the carpet. It occurred to me that it was after a really long time that we were sitting in the comfort of a home watching a movie all together. It had been ages since we had done that. We had the sound up quite high but it didn't matter because we have two vacant plots on either side of this house. So the space is largely ours to turn up the volume to a decibel level of our choice.

It was late at night and very quiet outside. Apart from the distant hum of traffic on the busy ring road outside, there was no doorbell or telephones to dispel the silence.

For a few moments, I diverted my attention from the engaging movie that was playing on the DVD palyer and thought to myself. This house came into our lives about two years ago. We put off moving into it until a year ago because we were pretty comfortable where we were back then. Or so we thought. It didn't occur to us that we were multiplying like amoeba and needed more space. Reluctantly, after many tear-filled battles and caustic exchanges later, we moved into this house. It didn't affect my life much because about a month after our arrival, I moved away from home to live on-campus which I couldn't have been happier about. There was no waythat I was going to call this pile of bricks, 'home'. No, that title was reserved for more sacred spaces that held my memories, where pencil marks indicated how tall I had gotten in a year or where the dining table had been just high enough for me to walk under one end of it and out the other without stooping an inch when I was a year and a half old. Much like the place that I had been forced to leave behind. Not like the new place that seemed to be a cheap replacement attempting to allure occupants with its bright shiny fixtures and 'newness'. Besides, it seemed too far away from all the things important to me - namely, the city centre. But after a year spent at a college on the outskirts, that was no longer an excuse. Moving in was inevitable.

Ironically, the college that I left home for was the same one that I hadn't considered on even applying to simple because its adminstrative office was in the same area as the 'new house'. Please note that the phrase 'new house' was used almost as an expletive. Turned out that my stint at this college, though I attended a month late, was the happiest period of my life. It aslo let me get used to silence - something I despised before. The quiet drove me insne. But at the new college, I had no choice because it was tucked away, 30 Km from the city, nested in village. I didn't mind a minute of it because my college experience was perfect. Nothing could make me think of it otherwise.

But just like all good things come to an end. College ended and I had to come 'home'again. That meant the new place that I still couldn't begin to call 'home', for all the reasons that I just put down. It was still my parent's house that I was just a guest at before I zipped off to graduate school in the US in two months.

Tonight, however, I felt differently about it. It didn't seem as horrible to me as it always had. It was where all of us could put our feet up and relax as a family. Where we didn't have to worry about interruptions and disturbances. For the first time in 22 years, the four of us shared a domestic space that was just for us. And contrary to what I had thought earlier, it actually felt pretty good.

Like, I've said earlier, home is where the heart is and I really do believe that. So while a large part of mine will lay firmly embedded in the home I left behind, where I had gown up all these years, I can now feel a small part join this house. Maybe I can now finally begin the process of learning to call it home.

I snapped back to reality and focussed on the movie again.But this timeI had a slightly goofy grin plastered on my face. I think I've finally made peace with the walls.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Desire fuelled by Fire

I almost forgot. Apart from Philadelphia, I also watched Fire, by Deepa Mehta this weekend. I thought it was only fair to complete the trilogy having watched Earth and Water earlier. Ms Mehta really is a talented filmmaker. And in this particular production, she had the added advantage of the acting skills of Shabana Azmi to exploit. Honestly, I thought Nandita Das was mediocre. I've never really been a big fan although she was better in Earth.

Getting back to the movie, it was new and interesting. It got me thinking. Is lesbianism a condition of circumstances or a definite predisposition brought to the surface by these circumstances? I posed the question to a colleague at work who said that all women are sexually curious when it comes to members of their own sex. In other words, all women have it in them to be lesbians. Strangely, that makes quite a bit of sense. Just for the record, I'm straight.

I thought it was funny that Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Azmi came together all these years later in a set up of role reversals. This time around, Azmi was the adulterous spouse , cheating on her excessively spiritually husband with her sister-in-law as opposed to Kharbanda who had been enamoured by a starlet and strayed, cheating on his wife played by Azmi in Mahesh Bhatt's, Arth. Talk about turning the tables...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bank on Hanks

Where do you begin with Tom Hanks? At the part where he plays young Allen Bauer who falls in love with a mermaid or as Winston Groom in Forrest Gump, struggling to make sense of the world around him, with only his mother's words of wisdom that "life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you'll get", as his only defence against cruel experiences. Perhaps it's when he plays frazzled Viktor Navorski of Krakozhia in The Terminal or as strapping American symbologist, Professor Robert Langdon in The DaVinci Code. Wherever it was the you first fell in love with him, he always gives you a chance to do it all over again.

And that's exactly what happened when I watched Philadelphia this Friday night. Yes, I agree that it's not the usual choice for a weekend-watch-to-be-teamed-with-popcorn see. But I figured it was about time that I saw this milestone movie.

It's hard to do justice to charcters that are played by exquisite actors like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington when they're sharing the same frame. But director, Joanthan Demme, is fair in his treatment of both and the camerawork added intrigue. The real highlight of the movie is Hanks who steals your heart as the gay lawyer suffering from AIDS. The scene after the party where he's explaining the opera to Wahington is haunting to say the least.

In one word, Tom Hanks is brilliant. Which other actor lets you believe that it's the same guy playing the single father unknowingly in search of love in Sleepless in Seattle, the mysterious hatter in You've Got Mail, or the man who has The Greeen Mile, the production of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the voice of Woody Allen in Toy Story to his credit? And when the lights go out at the end of a shoot, it's the same guy that you can still imagine going home to be Rita Wilson's charismatic husband and Colin Hanks' dad.

Tom Hanks' versatility as an actor never lets an audience get bored. It's definitely got to do with the sincerity that he puts into his work - the kind that can only stem from genuine love for your work.

Mr. Hanks, you raise the bar when you come on screen. Everytime.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday leftovers

Being a firm food lover, I find it difficult to outrightly dislike any kind of grub. But last night's dinner was partciluarly bad. I dined at Ruby Tuesday's on Church Street and was thouroughly disappointed.

The nachos were dismal. I'm pretty sure they were stale. It was served with an excuse of a salsa. It lacked any kind of flavour or taste. The chicken wings were the only saving grace of the evening. Liberally smothered in a tangy sauce with chilli bits in it, the meat was well cooked and made up for the nachos topped with black beans and an insanely small amount of cheese that preceded it.

The settings were also disappointing. It seemed as though it were trying hard to be a hangout but was just falling short of the target. The acousitics weren't too bad. The only highlight of the evening was the courteous staff.

By the time I had finished my meal, it was raining hard outside, torrents of water creating 'waves' against the parked traffic on the street, cascades from rooftops and sheets of liquid across windshields making it increasingly difficult for drivers to maneuvre their way on already crowded spaces. The person in charge of car parking ensured that I didn't have to brave the downpour by having my car which was parked at a distance on the street and not at the restaurant, brought to the doorstep by the valet attendant and being escorted to it while the watchman held a large umbrella over my head.

So apart from being slightly cold, I reached home safe and dry. That's quite a bit to be happy about. Oh, and I had gone to dinner with friends that I hadn't met in a long time. The coversation, the giggles and the endless photoshoots was why I was there in the first place. This was the real highlight of the evening.

But Ruby Tuesday seriously needs to revamp their menu. And paying some attention to the interiors wouldn't hurt either.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Great Indian Spirit

The monsoons are here early this year. So they're catching us unaware. And Bangalore is already notorius for its unpredicatble weather. It's one of the qualities that make this city so loveable. We might be out shopping in the sun or driving back from work on what appears to be a perfectly clear day when all of a sudden, we find ourselves in the midst of a heavy downpour.

A few days ago, I was parked at a traffic signal. As I waited for the light to change from red to green, it began to rain. I had nothing to worry about because I was in my car. My faithful, beautiful black hatchback would keep me dry as a bone. Heck, I even had the luxury of switching on the heater if the mildly chilly outside was too much for my delicate self to handle. Outside my window, I saw two girls, both of whom were around the same age as me. Only one was wearing a helmet. Both were dressed in thin synthetic salwaars - their only shield from the rain.

I felt a tiny prick inside me that reminded me that I was sitting in a warm dry car, a five-seater that accomodate four others, while these girls were getting soaked and cold. I was positive that if I had been in their position, I would have been grouchy and miserable. I hate being cold.

But when they turned their faces towards me, they were smiling! The windows of my car are tinted, so they couldn't see the look of utter disbelief on my face. It was like a one-way mirror, where they were the happy spectacle and I was the shocked spectator. I just couldn't understand how they could be caught in the rain without any warning and be so happy.

If that wasn't enough, I realised that several other motorists who were getting wet also seemed to be rather unfazed. While those who could get shelter were doing so, either by parking under a nearby bus stop or slipping into a water-proof windcheater that they had tucked into their backpack, the rest with no protection seemed just as comfortable. In fact, some of then were holding their faces up to the sky and using the raindrops to feel fresh. It was in their hair, their eyebrows and their mouths and they were enjoying every minute of it. Just then a car passed by on the other side of the road. It went through a huge muddy puddle at full speed, splashing copius amounts of unclean water on bicyclists, moped users and pedestrains, most of whom were already expecting the onslught. And even before the water could finish dripping of their moppy heads, they had all burst out into a fit of giggles. They seemed to be celebrating their circumstances.

So there I was sitting amidst an entire crowd of dripping wet individuals who thought it was hilarious that their shirts were clinging to their bodies.

That's when it occurred to me. That it's all about the Great Indian Spirit. That's what makes us different. That in no other part of the world will you find a lot quite like us. Where it isn't out of the ordinary to have leaking roofs and inundated basements, where it's possible that the beggar on the street corner makes more in one evening than the management student who's been trying to sell the face steamer/vegetable processor to passersby who shrug him off like vermin, where urchins tap the windows of bullet-proof sedans, where chawls share a wall with gated communties, where your kids go to posh private schools but your maid's go to the government one where the teachers never turn up, the bathroom doesn't function and the roof threatens to cave in. It's injustice sure. But it's also about survival.

It's about hope based on dreams that allows the urchin to believe that he'll be on the other side of the glass one day.

And that I have lots to learn from two minutes at a a traffic signal, which hasn't been covered in my posh private school.

Never before have I come across a race that has the burning instinct of survival searing through them as strongly as it exists in Indians. They find humour in tragedy and possibility despite no ready opportunity. Bill Cosby once said that if you can find humour in something unfortunate, even poverty, chances are you will survive it. That's what's been driving Indians for centuries.

Sometimes I don't know if that survival instinct stems from circumstances or whether the circumstances in this country are such because of the resilience of our people. What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Masala ka Jalsa

Dinner tonight was especially fantastic. We tried this new place that's opened off Church Street. Ada.

It's pretty inviting from the curb onwards. I though it had rooms as well but turns out that it's just an Indian and Chinese restaurant. Works just as well I guess, since food is usually always the first priority.

Tonight, we decided to go Indian.

We got a corner table. I ordered a murgh shorba to clear up my sinus. It was quite a mediocre beginning to a sumptious meal that followed. The cheese naan, again, was average. But the kheema that it went with was absolutely divine. Finely minced mutton seasoned with aromatic spices and gently garnished with almond chips was almost melt in the mouth. I've never been a big fan of fish. And the fish curry helped me maintain that stand. But the sheekh kebab compensated for it.

Service was spot on. I got the feeling that the staff was meticulously trained to play the perfect hosts (You'd be surprised how many places overlook this very important detail). They were effiicient without being over attentive. Managerial staff was especially helpful, volunteering to show us around the rest of the dining area. That's when we discovered the open air seatng area and made a mental note to ourselves to make another trip soon and take advantage of the great outdoor. That charcoaled broiled food is likely to taste particularly delicious while the cold night air kisses the tip of your nose.

Acoustics need slight improvment. But Ada definitely warrants a second visit. Check it out for yourself (Resthouse Road, Bangalore).

Consummate a fine evening with pan from the guy at the corner of Residency Road. Bring India home to your tastebuds!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Venus doesn't need a Penis

The Weaker Sex.

The Fairer Sex.


Think with their heart.

The Nurturers.




...And other annoying titles. Women have been called every name in the book and described in every imaginable way, good and bad. And it seems that over time, they have begun to believe the names which others assigned to them. For example, there are scores of women out there who believe that they are a notch lower than men, in most aspects, because some chauvenistic bastard* would have got them to believe that, and hence they behave that way. They will consider themselves to be stupid (to put it mildly) and thus behave like they really are. That in turns causes others (read: men) to treat them similarly. So who's to blame?

It's a vicious cycle.

*As for the chauvenistic bastard, let's say that it's him more often than not. Let's give the men the benefit of doubt. Sometimes it can be plain old social conditioning as well. Whatever the case, it's not possible to blame others because you choose to behave like a dimwit.

Whether you choose to accept it or not, we still live in a male-dominated society. Women need to realise that it isn't necessary to prove their superiority against men. However, it is essential to acknowledge them as equals and strive towards asserting their own stand.

It's so rare you find this healthy move being achieved because very often you come across only one kind of extreme - the bra-burning feminist or the pathetic wimp. Where's the balance necessary to restore balance?

This post is a shout out to women to begin to take themselves seriously. It's only when they do that others will do so in return. Women need to believe that they are just as capable as anyone else and start living their lives that way. I'm tired of seeing women behave like they don't possess a brain or the mental faculties to think. Women drivers are still a standing joke. Have you ever noticed how blonde women are the butt of jokes but not much gets said about beach bum men, however furiuosly their hair might be bleached?

You may wonder why I'm writing this now - at a time when it seems as though gender equality has been restored to the civilised world and the Feminist movement was over years ago. But if you read betwen the lines, you'll see that women have a long way to go. They've come a long way. But they still have a long way to go.

Women are powerful. Period. It's just that so many of them out there don't know it yet.

And for all those women who indulge in male bashing, please take a minute to think what the world would be like with no men...

P.S. A comforting statistic that I came across the other day is that women constitute 49% of the world's population. Despite female infantoecide and skewed sex ratios in several parts of the world, there are still a substantial number of us out there. So let's get working!

P.P.S. Dont ever let anyone make you feel like you have to feel sorry for being born a girl. Embrace your sexuality and never think of breasts, glutes or your uterus as something you have to apologise for. Don't stand for unneccasary attention being paid to them either. A strong, confident woman can take on the world. So tell 'em to bring it on!

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to offend anyone, men or women. I am a woman who is very proud of her race. I've also had the good fortune of having some brlliant men in my life. So I'm a firm believer in the goodness of men. This post is just an earnest wish of a blogger for people to take charge of their own lives. No one is going to hand you the life that you want to live or the way on which you want to live it. It's up to you to build that for yourself. Learning to take control of your life is the first step.