Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lets Gossip! =)

I have always seen men mock women for their characteristic interest in gossip.
Men think they are these really cool dudes. They portray themselves as tiny, uniform dots made with a pinpoint. They are especially conceited about the fact that they do not waste time in unwanted conversations. Whenever my group of friends gets together and the girls start off by listing the shortcomings of somebody not present at that time, my guy friends throw their hands up in the air. Then the girls get a lecture on how their friendship is riddled with malice and envy. Big deal!!
Gossip is extremely essential. If I had not indulged in gossip, the magnanimous manifestation of my personality would have been much shorter than it already is.
There are very few people in this world who do not go under the knife when it comes to my sarcasm. I am evil, malignant and irreligious. I accept it wholeheartedly and very cheerfully before I begin this dissertation, for I believe that if you are so bent on telling the truth you should tell the “complete truth”.

Gossip is the common name for what the dull gray psychologists call “catharsis”.
If drinking beet and tomato juice for all three meals detoxifies the body, gossip detoxifies the mind.
There are roughly two types of gossips. Let us call them “The Myopic Gossip” and the “Hypermetropic Gossip” or in easy words “Shortsighted Gossip” and “Longsighted Gossip”.
The shortsighted gossip goes on about the girl you commonly dislike. Having said that let me introduce you to a new concept. Like two average guys bond with each other better if they both support Manchester United, likewise two average girls bond better if the same girl gets on their nerves all the time. So the shortsighted gossip is about the girl that gets on your nerves. Every little thing she does to upset you is thoroughly discussed, debated upon and used to make serious character conclusions about her. It need not be the girl that all the gossiping women commonly loathe. If you are creative enough at descriptions you can get your gossip-buddies to hate anyone you hate yourself with all your heart. The positive side of shortsighted gossip is that when you talk about someone over the phone till your cell phone battery gets completely discharged it fills you with a sickening almost squalid guilt. Then you are not so mad or upset at the Gossipee and suddenly you are filled with a feeling of well being for her, which works in the long run.
It is a balancing act because as much as it gets the ill and the evil out of you, it also fills you up with a new found resolve for more humane consideration towards specimens that switch you off.

The longsighted gossip is really completely healthy. It is about the movie stars and the celebrities. I am an ardent longsighted gossip enthusiast. It does not fill me with even the slightest remorse or guilt that I spend time shuffling between the BBC and E! News all the time. I like knowing about all the celebrity link-ups. I like speculating about the probable success of a celebrity marriage. I like knowing how much Oprah Winfrey spends on her dogs every month. I like knowing the details of the rings celebrities buy for their girlfriends. I like knowing what kind of diet Beyonce Knowles is on right now and I also like knowing that Amitabh Bacchan goes for hair weaving all the time. Most of all, I like sharing all this information with my friends. There is an exquisite joy in sitting in some cozy café and talking about Rani Mukherjee’s weight gain or Aishwarya Rai’s fake giggles. It disconnects you from the boring realities of your own life and lets you into a world where you can say anything and get away with it. Crack jokes on people who hardly matter to you and have a good laugh to get your respiratory system revitalized.

When you are done, your heart is cleaned of all the vileness. You are innocent again. You get back to work; face your problems with new enthusiasm.
Women should not be ashamed of gossiping. I have seen and met many who just jump at any succulent piece of news and even add a few embellishments of their own just to deny everything in a different company and suddenly turn into these devout nuns. I think such kind of denial not only spoils the whole fun but also gives gossip a bad name.
There is however a thin line between leisurely gossip and turning yourself into an Ekta Kapoor vamp. It should not obsess you and give your dads and husbands (or YOU in case of the alpha woman) telephone bills that run in miles. At any given time you should have at least three people in your life you have never gossiped about and you never will. If you qualify the last few tests, then you are good to go and I welcome you to my club!
Gossip brings forth the lower stages of evolution of the mind. It frees us from excessive piety, excessive kindness and excessive loftiness. It can miraculously turn forty five year old moms into giggling schoolgirls. It can ease your clenched jaws after a long day at work with an irascible boss.
It also teaches you that the world is not an entirely good place. For when your eyes light up with things going on in other people’s lives that in no way are related to you somewhere you learn to accept the reality. That maybe somewhere in a similar cozy café someone might just be talking about YOU right now. You try and get yourself to become strong enough to chuckle and move on!! =)

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I often end up asking Aai why she decided to call me Sai. Yes, that was what I was called before I very stupidly replaced the “i” with “ee”. I think my name has no personality and I so often wish that my mom had chosen some other inspiration for my name.
I was born when Indira Gandhi was ruling India. She could have followed the news and called me Indira.
My grandmother is called Anuradha. It is such a pretty name. It reminds me of a hundred waterfalls. It paints a tall and calm woman, with long curly hair who walks about in the house without a sound and leaves her presence in everything that she does!
Although my aaji is not exactly that kind of woman, she is calm and she does leave her signature on everything she does.
My mom is called Vasudha.
It might not be a soft feminine name but it does have a strong aura. It sketches a woman of strength. Vasudha means “the earth” in Sanskrit. It is really a “down-to-earth” name. Apt for a practical woman who wears brown shades of lipstick and never cries in public.
Priyadarshini is such a musical name. It can also be cut down to an affectionate Priya!
When your name is really long, somehow people utter it for a longer time. I envy people with long names. Sometimes just because it is a rare and long word, people tend to remember you more.
We have really entertaining names on my mother’s side. Her aunts are called Nandini, Ranjani and Sarojini. One of my mom’s cousins is called Alankar. It could be a rough English equivalent of “jewel” but that is not why he is called Alankar. In Sanskrit “Alam” means “Enough” and he being the youngest Alankar was a way of saying “ We have had enough kids”. I have always been fascinated by the sense of humor that runs in my family. =)
Some of the Bengali names I have heard are like paintings. If a guy is called Chitranshu, he doesn’t have to do anything else to look good. Siddharth is such a serene name. It sounds like half Buddha. Mihir reminds me of a tall handsome guy with tiny eyes. When I hear about anyone called “Rahul” I always imagine him to be wearing cool Raybans and a leather jacket. Maybe that is what too much of Shah Rukh Khan does to you.
One of my cousins is called Leelavati. She was named after a compilation in mathematics. And she is called Leelu for short. It is such a melodious name. When people across the hall call out “Leelu” even I would feel like running towards them.

On this picturesque background, my name sounds like someone is slipping off an abandoned banana peel on the street. Saee is such a slippery name. To make it worse, I have added two Es in the end to turn it into a slipping-on-soap name. It slips faster now. No one can shorten it affectionately because it is already too short and half the world doesn’t pronounce it right. Some mispronunciations are cute. Like when the Bengalis pronounce the “S” in other Indian names as “Sh”. But even the Bengalis don’t do that to me. Saee means “ a friend” which is like as lame as it could get. It is a name that reminds me of a girl who never grows up so when I am forty I would not be really suitable for my own name! Some names exude power or mystery. My name doesn’t do that. It is not a name that gets people wondering what kind of a person I could be. Like if a group of people talks about a girl called “Konkana” at least one of them remarks, “ Oh! Wow what a nice name!” It will never happen in my case. If my name comes up in a group discussion at least one of them will twist his or her face in a mixture of expressions that suggest a headache and a difficult math problem and ask, “ What? What was that name again?”
It lacks flavor too. Like Rashmi is a sweet name. Jyotsna is piquant and crisp. Laila is spicy. My name is like decaf coffee.
Some names have an inherent rhythm. Like Aniruddha. It begins and ends so gracefully. Saee has no beginning and no end. It is like something obscure mixing into something even more abstract.

When I ask my parents why they didn’t do any significant research in naming their only child they roll their eyes and tell me that they had better things to do. Aai once told me that I was free to make some kind of application and get it changed, but like it so much goes with my name I did not take any active effort in making that happen.
Maybe I should try and build some personality into my name. Like how even though Mamata is such an affectionate name, Mamata Banerjee makes it sound like long nails screeching against a wall. Like how people look at everybody called Dawood with a hint of suspicion. Like how Brad, which could have passed off as a typo for Bread gets so many women’s hearts beating faster.
I should be grateful however that I am not Bhagyalakshmi Keskar or Gogol Ganguly!
Or maybe I should just cling to the cliché and praise myself by saying “A rose by any other name!” =P

Will Conservation

A lot of my friends believe that we get a share of happiness and grief. God rations it to us when He stamps our passports. Something like, “Ah! Ms.Keskar! You will shortly land in a city called Kolhapur. Here is your share of Joy and here is your share of Sorrow! Use it wisely. Have a safe trip. Adios!” He waves at us with his good-natured granddadly smile until his peaceful face disappears in fluffy white clouds.
Mysteriously enough, all of us lose our memories of having collected it and appear on earth as wailing, helpless babies with nowhere to go.

I don’t believe really in the Joy and Sorrow part. It depends a lot after all on how we see the world and most of all how we see ourselves. I do believe that we get a constant share of determination and will.
I think God gives us a constant Will power and irrespective of the circumstances around us, we end up using it somewhere or the other.
I am very cautious while using it. I don’t like to waste my determination in getting really stupid things done.
For example, I never use it to keep a check on my expenses or even to write them down neatly in a tiny black notebook. I think if I do that I will eventually end up depressed because I would realize that I am a reckless squanderer.
I never use it to keep fasts. My life is bad enough with whatever I eat everyday.
I kind of prefer keeping all the Gods out of what I eat. I do not like to test my will by starving myself in the name of God. I think He likes me more when I snack on fresh apples and drink milk.
Neither do I use it to turn into a vegetarian or cut down on tea. I think an occasional fish curry and three cups of tea a day are extremely essential in my path towards being a successful human being.
I don’t waste it in trying to walk in stilettos either. When you wear really high heels, somehow your brain goes down into your shoes. Then you are completely oblivious to what people around you are saying as long as you walk beside them. It needs a lot more than I can ever offer!
I do not use it to argue about the shortest routes when I am in the passenger’s seat. People on the wheel have a supernatural arrogance. They are conceited about their navigational abilities. So I just shut up and let them take an anaconda drive through the city. Eventually they realize that they had shorter routes and I know that I had thought about them!
In fact I do not use my will to argue with anyone unless they brutally offend me in someway. Arguments take up big chunks of determination. So does a constant Anger. These are luxuries that very few people can afford!
I never use it to keep quite when I am with my best friends and I never use it to get myself talking when I am with boring people. I have never even thought about using it to be less mean or less sarcastic or more compassionate and kind. I know I will have to balance this Bad Karma in hell, but I am strong enough to take it.

I don’t know where I use all that saved energy but then I am happy that certain things about my life are completely decided and published. It has taken me twenty-four long years to optimize the flow of my determination. It has been a cold dizzying ride. Now I have those many less forks on the road trip that would continue for a freakishly long time.
Maybe there is some truth in the rationing of Joy and Sorrow story but organizing and expressing such useless concepts and feeling good about it is like going against that Law. =)
It creates a lot of happiness in my Life.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday Afternoon

I like Sunday afternoons =).
I usually doze off into a book and when I wake up
my first thoughts are about the story that I faded
into mixed with the dreams that I woke up from.
Then I wonder what time it might be and I try taking a guess
even though my cell-phone is just about an arms reach away.
It is always around 4PM.
It gets better if it is raining outside. Then you can sit on the narrow space they leave before every window (that is actually meant to keep indoor plants) and sip tea while you watch the Rain.
By this time, someone always calls to ask if I have a plan for the evening ( which I never do owing to the excessively boring life I live)and I say that I am game for anything they want me to do. =)
So then the afternoon melts away into a walk with my friends or a movie or a Levis discount sale. Sometimes just an easy, inexpensive Pani-puri just around the easy unassuming corner. :)

Sunday afternoons make the stressful week worth going through!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Negative Positives

One of the most negative things that Life can bring upon you is a lecture on positive thinking. I could take all the insignificant to moderate misfortunes I have been through, amplify them a hundred times and still choose to go through all of it than listen to a rhetoric about Positive Thinking.
It is such a cliché and it always comes at the wrong time.
It is like asking a famished guy not to eat when he is surrounded by finger licking cuisines from all over the world.

Talking about Positive Thinking is so empty. I have been at the transmitting end of such lectures many a times and I must confess publicly that I get really angry with myself when I do that. When a person is low and you are not, uttering sentences like, “Look at what you have! Be grateful for the good things in your life” is like eating paper. I know and they know that it means nothing to them. They just listen to it because they are too tired from crying or getting mad to ask me to shut up.
When I am at the receiving end, I usually put myself on the screen-saver mode and just sit around trying to think about stupid things.
It is easier to laugh at your miseries than try and find positive things that are bigger than them when you are inside them. :)

To make it worse, people don’t come up with creative lines. They keep telling us about sunlight, horizons, hares and tortoises and famous people who have gone through a lot more (which I am sure I will never go through making me feel a bit small in the misery department).
It takes me by surprise that when I am traveling, I find people genuinely immersed in books titled “How to turn failure into success” or “ How to win friends and make them happy” “ The power of consistent positive thinking” “ How to shed twenty pounds in three weeks and think positive”!

Sometimes it has the exact opposite effect on me. The sheer intensity of the lecture and the dimensions of all the goodwill and happiness that I am in the process of ignoring when I am being low freaks me out! I run away from it. Like when it is too sunny, you go out wearing a 20 SPF sun block, shades and staying inside the car for as long as you can, sometimes too much sunny thinking does that to me.
You come home exhausted and miserable. Contemplating on how hard you work, how meticulously you plan your day and how you don’t even have the liberty to eat whatever you want. Then there is an added grief of your unwanted upcoming birthday to remind you of all the things you still haven’t done. In such tender woeful moments I would rather wear pajamas and socks and eat low-fat chocolate chip ice cream. Such moments are to be treasured. When even the most ambitious, rich and the breathtakingly beautiful people feel like big zeroes. They are philosophical moments.
Moments of truth that bring us face to face with a lot of things we choose to deny in crowded places. Where you begin to analyze the situation and develop defense mechanisms!

Then suddenly out of nowhere someone comes down on you and paints a big happy rainbow all over the room! With out-of-place blobs of reds, violets and indigos!
I know that the oceans of sadness are deep, but then the skies of hope are just as limitless. Somewhere between the two, Reality floats. Most of us miss it. We either dive too deep or fly too high.

I like to ease into those low moments and then wake up the next day and go into my running shoes. On a serious thought, the only positive thing about being low is that you realize that you have been through it before and it was okay. Maybe you will be there again, but it will be okay too! If you just wait around quietly without letting the Churchills and the Nehrus lead you to the path of a million dazzling Suns you make a gentle curve for yourself and get back on the smooth, steady baseline.
And there is nothing really as good or as bad as our minds can imagine. :)
So next time any of you get that unsolicited ranting lecture on Positive Thinking from me, please ask me to read this post!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Swing

Everyday on my way to work, I pass a house with a swing in its front yard.
It stands still in those early hours of the morning. When the owners might be busy getting their shoes shined and packing school bags.
I have always wanted to live in a house that has a swing. It is impossible in my current apartment because of the arrangement of rooms and anyway it is not worth it in an apartment at all. Then it becomes too small and you cannot let yourself go on it. A Bonsai swing that is just pretty.

We have one in Kolhapur at my grandparents place. It would not be an exaggeration if I say that I grew up on it. We used to make a “swing house” by draping a sari on all the four sides. My aunt would be at the end of her wits tying and untying saris for us. My cousin and I carried our entire toy kitchen inside to bring life to the moving house.
I remember one time our cat had a golden kitten and we decided to host a “naming ceremony” (excuse my language but there is no parallel word in English for this and although it sounds goofy, this is the only one that describes it the best) where traditionally babies are put inside a crib in India. So we converted the five and a half feet long swing into a crib. We decorated it with garlands of marigold. My grandma used to be very enthusiastic about such things. We made invitations on a chart paper and went across the whole neighborhood inviting people. The three of us, Aaji, my cousin and I planned the menu. We brought paper dishes, napkins and made a place for a “serve yourself” buffet table. It was supposed to begin at six in the evening so we draped ourselves in saris at about five thirty and waited for the guests. My cousin and I were about eight and six respectively so Aaji had to fold one fourths of the sari all across its length because we were too short to wear an adult sari.
The swing was set. We tied a wind chime in the center by suspending it on an almost invisible string diagonally across opposite chains so that the kitten would not get bored while it was being named.
Everybody arrived on time but in our evident mirth over getting dressed up and playing the “charming hostesses” we had completely forgotten to keep an eye on the kitten. So it took us a very long time to hunt for it especially since crawling under all the beds in a big house wasn’t that easy when you were wearing six yards of vanity around yourself. We caught hold of the reluctant kitten and its completely disinterested mother finally and brought them ceremoniously towards the swing.
The proud mother managed to scratch my cousin and run away. So fearing that we won’t have any cats to complete the ceremony we hurriedly put the kitten into our embellished crib. I have managed to remember all these minor things about the incident but I fail to recollect what name we chose for the kitten. Perhaps because the name and the kitten were not as important as the apparently minor things!
It ran away as soon as one of us named it and Aaji insisted that we leave it alone after that and just have food and fun, which we were more than ready to do.
They used to remove the wooden base of the swing from the chains during the first showers to save it from getting drenched. The swing is tied between the kitchen and an open terrace. It is open on tree sides so an unruly rain almost always covers the entire area around it!

It was a lot more fun with just the four chains suspended in eternity. I used to throw water and soap on the floor and we used to slip and skate using the chains for support. Of course this was a clandestine afternoon activity as throwing soap water on floor in a house inhabited by seventy-year-olds was a serious crime.

The greatest pleasure however was the simple uninhibited swing. Hold on to the chains and push against the kitchen wall with your feet. It took me a while to grow taller and be able to do that without anybody’s help but it has given me the greatest joy since then. In my grandparent’s house all the important discussions are always carried out on the swing. Whether it is scrutinizing the resumes of the prospective grooms for my cousin or renovation of the house. All of us gather around the swing.
Neighbors come to visit with samples of their culinary experiments for my aunt and then linger around on the swing making small talk with her. Their kids finish their homework and hurry up to book a seat on the swing.
If you are lucky enough to be just two inches over five feet tall, you can also get your afternoon nap on it. That is what I do when the weather is cloudy and I have a great book to doze off into.

That swing is a permanent memory for me. Every time I see a similar or a better one anywhere around my mind goes back to the days when eating ripe mangoes, running around the neighborhood bare feet and getting our nails cleaned using safety pins were the only really important priorities in our lives. When getting up at ten in the morning was something people adored you for and drinking tea with four spoons of sugar never created that crinkle between my eyebrows. I guess this is why we get a childhood and a good memory. For when Life swings back and forth between day and night, it reminds you of all the fun you had doing that long time back. :)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Itsh Sho Funny!

The other day I was teaching my two-year-old niece how to watch a tennis match.
We were sitting on the couch, she on my lap facing me and reading the match and my expressions now and then. It was a Nadal-Hewitt game.
After a few moments of contemplation she remarked very loudly , “ Itsh sho funny theje pheople hit the ball with that thing for shuch a long thyme!”
Every time a point was lost and one of them served she used to throw her hands helplessly in the air and shout, “ Uh-Oh there he goej again! Itsh sho funny”
I taught her that “we” were supporting the guy with the blue headband, the one with long hair and a sleeveless Nike t-shirt. She very proudly declared, “ Oh I don’t like ‘im tha’ much. He wears funny pants!” My niece has been lucky enough to have a sensible mom around. She has been raised without a TV in the house and she reads books and goes for a walk in the evenings. They stay in a small town in Wyoming and she was here to have a taste of “India”.
I got thinking later. All the games that we enjoy watching are really funny if you subtract all the competition, money and statistics from them. I mean what is soccer? Angry people chasing a ball all across the ground! Or even cricket for that matter!
It takes such a long time, again with people hitting and chasing a stupid ball all over the place! Tennis is about a bunch of high maintenance, ambitious, fierce and edgy kids running around on court surrounded by similar spectators!
Men watch men’s tennis for the break points and tiebreakers and men watch women’s tennis for all the athletic long legs. Women never even stay long enough on court for other women to pick up their fashion statements.
Half the things are in vain. What is with Nadal’s shoes with Rafa written on them?
Oh, and the suave Federer walking in with an out-of-place white jacket on his dri-fit Nike gear!
Besides all of these things, it is so unnervingly refreshing! A great match can set my spirits right even after a catastrophic day at work. Watch the spectators during an intense volley. They might as well have clocks over their heads with such perfectly coordinated head moves! Then, the one who loses the point after such a long volley shakes his head in shame and yells at himself! All for a stupid green ball! It really IS funny if you see it from a two-year-old kid’s perspective.
Every inch of the court is booked by sportswear brands. It is like a different parallel Universe in there. Where all the fancy shades, pretty hats and nervous, expensive shoes are worried about the battle for the green ball.
Maybe we should have a Calvin Ball in real life too! Something that would have complex and creative rules and would keep all the two-year-olds entertained.
Well, I must confess that somewhere after two sets, even my niece began liking it. I guess that is what it is all about, being so simple and full of rivalry. Being so fast as to render linear thought impossible during the match. Being so intense focused and lavish. Talking about a lifetime of hard work, consistency at the cost of public scrutiny, staggering amounts of money, adulation and fashion all at the same time!
All of that just for hitting a funny green ball across the net for a very long time!
I like tennis. :)
I hope my niece likes it too!
Having said that let me stop typing and cross my fingers for Roger Federer.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Book Review: The Kite Runner

I just read “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.
This is a poignant story about betrayal. Amir and Hassan grow up together in Afghanistan. Amir is an expert kite flyer and Hassan an expert Kite Runner; someone who runs after the very last kite that is cut by the victorious Kite. Hassan is a Hazara or a lower caste servant who works for Amir but being the same age they are more like two best friends. Something terrible happens to Hassan after a Kite tournament and Amir is too scared to stand up for his friend. He betrays him and their life changes forever.
What I liked the most about this book apart from the wonderful description of Amir and Hassan’s childhood days, is the accurate portrayal of the “Other Side of Betrayal”.
When someone lets you down, betrays you, there are a million different ways to make peace with the insult and humiliation mostly because you know you could not have helped it. This book talks about the other side of betrayal. It talks about the self-doubt, the anger, and the helplessness of the person who betrays his friend.

There are certain lines that we should or should not cross but we unknowingly end up violating these subtle rules. It can be perfectly rationalized later. We amaze ourselves by coming up with perfectly logical explanations for not doing what was instinctively expected of us or for doing something that was not expected of us. At the end of each day however, we know that we crossed the line or stayed back out of cowardice. It becomes all the more difficult when the person who is betrayed by us refuses to retaliate and instead fights his own internal battle to come to terms with it. Then all those cunning explanations just make us lose faith in ourselves. It makes us wonder whether instead of treating our own Ego with an extravagant honor, maybe reaching out honestly to the helpless person and sharing a part of his misery would have made us more honorable.
And the confrontation and apologizing that should probably take a minute or two sometimes takes lifetimes! With every passing day fusing our bones together and making redemption all the more difficult! This book talks about that time, between betrayal and redemption.
It talks volubly about the war in Afghanistan and the unfortunate fates of war-ridden children who end up orphans who are subjected to cruelty in all its elements. It talks about the Taliban after the Russian invasion and the Taliban a few years later. It talks about destabilized minds. It talks about people who flee their homelands and land themselves in countries that may be liberal but leave little or no room for them to live as “Afghans” and the subsequent trauma they go through for having lost their identity.

All along as you read this book, you realize the value of real brave men.
Men who never dishonor their friends, their wives and their children and who stand tall even in guilt than choosing to flee the shadows of their mistakes by making up intelligent explanations. Something that an illiterate Hazara servant, Hassan could do silently in about a week and it took the well read, intelligent, university educated Amir all his life.!
I strongly recommend this book! :)