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Uncategorized

Sunday Melancholy

It is weird. This feeling of homesickness.

No matter which country I am in (even if I am in my hometown), come Sunday evening, and I feel a strange sense of melancholy and homesickness. I cannot understand why it is so.

Perhaps in my childhood, it was pre-Monday blues that dampened the excitement of a Sunday evening. Or maybe it was because everything was shut on a Sunday evening as we retired to a quiet, almost isolated existence, in contrast with a normal day that bustled with activity and with the company of friends and neighbours.

Still, that simply does not explain why two decades later, I still feel strangely sad and homesick every Sunday! Even when I am at home. Even when I do not have to go to school or work tomorrow.

For no obvious reason, I have this weird feeling on Sunday evenings. Its like I am choked. Like I’m scared. Of what? I have no clue.

Do you feel this way any time?

Any pointers?

Categories
Thought and Reason

The Virtual world – Virtual or Real?

With many of us living a parallel life ‘online’, one wonders if this throbbing, invisible world is really virtual anymore?

I remember reading a chapter on ‘the Internet’ when I was in school, and quietly dismissing it thinking it was too ‘theoretic ’. I could not have been more wrong!!

Right from my cute 8-year-old neighbour in Chennai till 70-year-old retired school teacher aunty, almost every single person I know is alive and kicking in the Virtual world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world).

Facebook FeverFacebook, Twitter, Google wave (and many more!)… ‘being online’ is not merely a part of life, but a basic necessity for many! Facebook discussions, for example, are so real that I often find myself pondering the entire day about a single thought floating around somewhere in virtual space. Some people go so far as to claim their life has improved with being able to instantly gratify their need for friendship! We are so involved with the online world that it begins to affect our day-to-day life. We do things, go to places so we can tell the world we have done it. We argue, we strive desperately to show we are right, we eagerly seek approval.. and all this from a community that we do not ‘see’ but only ‘read’.

Media Mania (pic courtesy Hindustan times)

There is this nagging urge to make a strong online presence. It could start off with a completely useless discussion on New Year resolutions that you know will not see the light of day! Or RT-ing anything that Big B, Junior B, or Beti B say (or gurgle, as the case may be). Or even reading a controversial article and throwing barbs at the authors hiding behind a shield of anonymity.

One thing is certain – no matter what form our online participation takes, it is certainly assuming gigantic proportions. Statistics indicate that many Facebook users spend more time on Facebook than face-to-face with friends.

Basically, we do not live in one single world any more. There is this invisible, pulsating virtual world all around us, drawing us deeper and deeper each day.

I wouldn’t say it is a vice, though. Let’s take a look at the incredible benefits of our virtual world:

  • Pretend to be friends with @SrBachchan and go ga-ga about Beti B’s name
  • Find love in chat-rooms (Sure, that makes a great story to tell your grandkids!)
  • Golu (Pic courtesy Wikipedia)

    Valiantly keep Indian culture alive. Especially all those lovely NRIs living in the ‘aasum You-Yes-Yay’ who post photos of exotic Golu and drool-worthy Paniyaram!

  • Say NO to dieting and exercise. I mean seriously! All you need is Photoshop. And tada!! You have a . Throw on a pair of dark glasses, Copy-Paste Santorini in the background, and notice how easy it is to get ‘liked’ without the Kolaveri of sweaty gymming.

    Instant makeover (Pic courtesy home-make-over dot info)
  • Keep a watch on the better-half! You wonder why his SMS reads ‘stuck in boring office party’, when he is simultaneously ‘tagged’ realtime with some hotties via ‘HTC Wild fire for FB’ 😉

Keep an eye on that teenage cousin who wears two-plaits and goes to a girls-school, and quietly tip off her mom when some weirdo with spikey hair comments ‘Dat Pic Lukng Hawt’. Whatever, dude!
Find out what your retired dad is upto these days (even if you don’t really want to). Dirty Picture at xyz Cinema with abc’. Gulp! Shouldn’t Zuckerberg think of introducing an upper age limit on FB users?

  • Free campaigning for events and functions. All you need is an IIT/IIM based story, and Voila! you are the next Chetan Bhagat, and FB is under a deluge of your ‘book launch’
  • Forge great friendships and even greater enemies!
  • And best of all, you get all this for FREE!

All the same, we suddenly have many lurking dangers!

  • Trading Facebook for Treadmill. Er.. not a great idea, really!
  • At the risk of an anti-climax, most of those porn videos that you think are ‘Chi..chi!’ and then click when nobody is watching, are actually spam and could contain viruses. What is worse, the bleddy link does not even play a video afterall!!
  • Attack by virtual trolls. There seem to be an increasing level of aggression and barbed attacks by anonymous trolls who trade subjectivity for offensiveness. Actually, getting to watch a fight for free should go under ‘merits’ of social media, but then, it isn’t always pleasant, is it?
  • Identity theft – This is more common than we think. When I saw my mum receiving FB notifications, I wondered how a lady who refused point-blank to turn on a computer, suddenly got so tech-savvy. Duh! Someone had stolen her ID!
  • Mc Merry!!! (Pic courtesy www dot overgroundonline dot com)

    There is just no privacy! You can’t lie to your organization or school. Like, for example, you cannot bunk school and go to Inox or McDonalds, because somebody is always watching.

  • And what is worse… those annoying/boring/nevertheless curious folks you desperately try to avoid in real life, keep such close watch on you, its like having a personal Bodyguard
  • And on a serious note, considering the amount of time and effort you invest into social media, you really cannot estimate the value of ‘return’. Unless you consider ‘3 hrs per day on FB = 5 kgs gain p.a’.

Evidently, all these merits and demerits of the virtual world are quite tangible. Increasing awareness, thoughtful discussions, resultant mood swings(!), friendships, enemities, losses (of time) and gains (of weight!) are all real.

Can we still confidently draw the line between the online world and the real one?

Do we know when exactly a Facebook campaign suddenly gains huge momentum, facilitating a mass-protest in a country (eg., Egypt protests organized through Facebook and microblogging site Twitter)?

Pip pip Pippaaaa! (Pic courtesy telegraph dot co dot uk)

Why! We even saw a bunch of ‘real’ people who witnessed the Royal wedding and promptly went on to create a Facebook page for ‘Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society’. The page has 241,492 fans!

We did not see this coming (And I don’t mean Pippa Middleton).

We did not realise when or how the virtual world became an integral part of the real one. When being ‘online’ changed from a one-off indulgence to a gnawing daily necessity! When the power of the online world began to threaten that of the real one. Or when thoughts floating around online started influencing mind-sets in the physical world.

What do you think? Is the Virtual world really virtual anymore? Or is it so real that it poses social and even political dangers to society?

Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Perhaps we should ask Kapil Sibal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Cross-posted on the nri dot com)

 

Categories
Humour Incidents

On losing weight and gaining friends

Sigh! I finally decided to DO SOMETHING about my weight.

I got myself a really cool pair of cropped joggers and a branded sporty Tee! If that didn’t inspire me enough, I tuned the TV to a Fitness channel! And with all this gear in place, I got on. On to the laptop, I mean, and efficiently wasted an hour or so on Facebook and blog-hopping! (Now I don’t mean Blog-hopping is a waste of time… before our local Naradas and Naradis get to work on this!!).

Then I read a friends FB status about ‘Do-nuts and Krispy Kreme’ and almost felt faint at the thought of a delicious melting-in-the-mouth Do-nut 🙄 Before I could fall for the trap, I pulled myself up, and actually got onto the treadmill. Yippee!!!! Twenty minutes later (with about 3 breaks in-between 😦 ) I was still not through, and I tried some Aerobics from this DVD that promised me ‘REAL RESULTS’ 😉 (Which btw, quite turned off Hubby – who seemed pretty upset at the inclusion of that elderly lady in the group of young nubile lasses 😉 )

By evening, I was so enthused, that I laid a bet with a friend of mine, about who would lose more weight by the end of this month.

So in the selfless spirit of TRUE friendship, we set off to encourage each other.

With best wishes and warm regards, I sent her a box of laddoos and milk-sweets, along with a packet of yummy Cheedai!

For her part, my ‘friend’ promptly sent me a HUGE bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate! I couldn’t hurt her sentiment, so this morning, I forced myself to eat about 6 pieces of that divine treat 😦

Sigh!!! What else can one do? Refuse a gift and hurt a friend’s sentiment? Or accept the gift, and make sure you give back much more?

Got to go now, folks. Plans are on, to make and send some paneer makhani in return 😉 So much for weight loss!

Categories
Humour Incidents

Hectic Chennai & Bloggers Meet – Chennai Diaries Part III

Why is life in India so busy??? No time to stand and stare….

No time to blog, even! Or perhaps it is just me, unable to adjust myself to the really hectic lifestyle in India.

This is how a typical day starts … Wake up to early morning calls from the Milk(wo)man and sounds of stairways being swept and cleaned. And ofcourse, the newspaper neatly tucked into the grill by a really busy newspaper-boy 🙂

This followed by a quick breakfast of toast (or dosai, if lucky 😉 ) complemented by the noise of a wholesome fight over water, between a skinny, grumpy watchman and an obese, grumpier apartment resident!

Following this fiesty morning start, the day just whizzes by uneventfully, punctuated by umpteen rings on the poor little doorbell (indicating visits by servant maid, watchman, servant (again), salesgirl, post, watchman (again), courier folks, medical shop assistant, courier folks (again), flower-woman, laundry (iron) boy, laundry boy again – this time to deliver neighbour’s clothes as neighbour isn’t at home, exactly 15 mins later, neighbour himself, to collect the pile of laundry!, casual visit by some other neighbour…the list goes on. If lucky, we are also blessed by a visit from above-mentioned-grumpier-resident’s grumpiEST wife who rattles on for half an hour, about her plight and that of her entire family tree!

In between all this, naturally, the phone rings ATLEAST once an hour. Crank calls, Telemarketing guys, Relatives whom we like, relatives whom we hate too ;-), Ex-colleagues, Calls for little birds who have already flown this nest, a couple of wrong numbers…. (hey, what fun is it without those wrong numbers!)

And to think that in between all this interesting socialization, we also need to take care of our mundane chores and Live a little…. phew…!

Like I said, Life in India, is absolutely hectic.

Which explains why, despite having such fun in Chennai, and taking notes in the mind, about interesting events/tidbits, I’ve found no time at all, to log into my dear virtual world!

There was this one scene that has been captured in my mind. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera on hand at the time. It was THE MOST CREATIVE lighting solution EVER! Enroute to the airport (to pick up my lil sis who flew in all the way from Hyderabad), we saw this road rather dug up towards one side. Someone had put up a shabby little wooden fence, more as a ‘sign’ and less, as a protective measure! The best part was, the lighting solution on the fence. The same someone had simply fixed a little bulb onto one wooden pole, and had upturned a red plastic pot (the ones we use to collect water in!) over it. And voila! We had a beautiful red lamp glowing away in the hazy darkness of a typical Chennai evening 🙂 This is one time I REALLY cursed myself for not having taken a camera or phone along! Sigh!

And did I mention our little Blog Meet? A few of us (the same group that had met earlier on in January this year) met up at this supposedly quaint restaurant called Dhaba Express. Uma was the first to arrive. Dressed in a chic blue kurti, one would never imagine she was a Mommy, and that too, of teenage kids! She brought her vintage chocolate cake, as always. And it was such a treat!!! The darling that she is, she even gave me a huge chunk to take back home for the Brat! Thank you, Uma, and May You Bake many more 🙂

Aaroo joined almost immediately. We never read each other’s blogs, but trust me when I say, no trip to Chennai is complete without meeting her 🙂 The three of us managed to squeeze into the low-levelled tables and got chatting.

Kanagu walked in a few minutes later. First, we did a Hi-Five to celebrate our Success in the BPL contest (and to show off to Ums and Aaroo 😉 ) Once Anish joined, we are all chatting away like long-lost friends. Anish again, has been off the blogging radar for long, but it was fun to meet him in person.

As you know, VIPs always arrive late. So did our Prince Villiam! After many phone calls and SMS-es between him and Ums, he finally made it to the event! Looking neatly scrubbed and perfumed, he barged into the scene, gulped down some Aam Panna, and rushed out after a few pics were clicked! So much for a guest appearance!!

Amidst all the chattering, the power went out for about half hour. We diligently used this time, to hog the totally yummy and absolutely delicious chocolate cake without being seen by the restaurant authorities ;-).

Pics will be posted soon(est). Why I cannot post them today, is a sad story in itself. But that post, is for another day!

For now, let me just say, I am glad to be back on WordPress and Facebook 🙂 Hope to catch up on all those posts in my Reader really soon.

Cheers folks!

🙂

Categories
Food and recipe Incidents Short story

The scuffle..and a resolution.

A chill wind was piercing through the littered streets of the eastern part of this elite city called London. It was no wonder however, neither the wind nor the litter. The weather forecast had spelt a “bright and sunny day”, therefore the wind had to launch its attack. And the litter ? Ahem…this was the Asian pocket of the city.

Families were thronging the grocery shops (“Cash & Carry” shops, they were all named, although they did accept credit cards). Men and women wearing colourful Indian outfits (unfortunately hidden under dull coats in varying shades of black and grey) were entering the Temple. The daring ones were lingering about at the shops that sold pirated DVDs. “Sarkar Raj..only GBP 2.50”, the poster screamed. “Buying pirated versions is unethical !”, my Conscience whispered. “Now..that’s incredibly cheap ! Going to the cinema to watch this movie, even in Chennai, would cost me a fortune !”, the Intellect thundered in reply. We hurried to buy our copy and make our way to the popular South Indian restaurant round the corner. It was rather late in the afternoon, and we were ravenously hungry.

Hotel Saravana Bhavan was decorated with flowers and streamers, brightening an otherwise dull, grey skyline. Their anniversary, it seemed.

The bespectacled waiter greeted us with an oft-rehearsed “Good afternoon, Sir/Ma’am ? What will you have ?”

We scrolled down the menu card…the same card they had printed three years ago, when the Hotel was first inaugurated here. They cards had been laminated after the first couple of months, to minimise the risk of having dried granules of sambar/chutney/etc. imprinted on it by the hotel’s patrons.

The waiter shuffled from one foot to another, looked around at the other tables, and then returned his gaze to us, as politely as he could.

“Tomato Soup”, I quickly ordered.

“Two by Three”, added my enthusiastic father. This was his first visit to London, and his last bid to escape the scorching 45 degrees Indian summer. (He was still bewildered at how he had left Chennai that morning, to reach London again the same morning.)

The waiter’s eyebrows raised involuntarily. “I.. I am sorry Sir.. but we don’t do two-by-three soups here. You can order either two or three soups”.

“What ? But in Chennai, we always have Two-by-three or One-by-Two, in fact we can even have One-by-three soups!”, replied an irate ad hungry Daddy.

“Daddy..please..its not like that here…”, I started, my cheeks reddening. My gracious husband saved the situation (as he always does) by quickly deciding “Three soups, please”. The starters and main course were ordered quite blandly. And by blandly, I only mean, Daddy was already learning the ropes, and so ordered items on the Menu, and nothing else. He was tempted to ask if they served “Pizza”, but as an afterthought, decided otherwise.

While we waited for the food to arrive, we chatted animatedly, discussing the weather, the flight, latest family news, etc. I must admit that Hubby and Daddy are both terrible at sharing information. They do not volunteer the tiniest piece of gossip. It takes a lot of skill to extract it out of them. My college mates however, had been diametrically opposite. Their typical Friday night comprised a movie, beer, spicy peanuts and gossip…mostly about their delicate fellow colleagues. It had taken me quite some time to digest the fact that men enjoy gossip ! Anyway, I expected the same out of dear Hubby too, but as you can see, I was sadly let down.

The aroma of “sambar-vada” (and the tomato soup) wafted gently, making its way to our table. My mouth watered. As soon as the waiter placed our trays before us, and moved on to the next table, we jumped on the food like a pack of wolves !

Suddenly, there were loud voices coming from the next table…”Come on, give it to me…”. “No, I won’t”.

“What’s the scuffle about?”, we wondered, greedily swallowing the perfectly soaked vada.

“No no, give it to me!”, the men were demanding. Our lanky waiter looked from one person to another, his tired feet waiting for some respite from innumerable walks into and out of the kitchen. The two men continued to argue. The women smiled demurely. The babies were beginning to fret.

“This is not fair”.

“Of course it is”.

“No, we called first…its ours”.

And the scuffle went on amidst the din of clattering spoons and plates. We chomped our way through the crisp masala dosas, and started talked in low whispers. Before you misunderstand…this was not an action arising from a deeply ingrained civic sense. It just helped us hear better.

“Come on, Shekar…”, the woman pleaded. “Let’s not create a scene here”.

“OK then, Ravi, here you go…you win this time. But not the next time, eh?”

Mr.Ravi half-smiled and took the check. His eyes ran through the length of the scroll before finally falling on the “Total inc. Tax”. His eyes squinted and his mouth opened. “Eighty pounds !!! What the…”, he muttered under his breath. He slowly fished out his wallet. Mr.Shekar stepped out to make an ’emergency’ phone call, while his wife smiled at their cherubic son.

“Shhhhhhushhhh ! What a pest you are! We are not going to bring you out hereafter”..Mrs. Ravi shouted at her little daughter. She didn’t seem very pleased at her husband’s ‘victory’. A few minutes later, their table was cleared. We heard the “good-byes”. A couple of happy, high-pitched ones, and a couple of low, subdued ones.

My cheeks reddened again and I almost blushed ! “What a scene ! Ravi or Shekar, one of them should have just paid the check in silence”, I volunteered.

“Or simple enough, they could done a One-by-Two”, Hubby added, with a wink.

This time, it was Daddy’s turn to blush.

We thought of all the times we had given or received a gift. The first reaction: “No ..no ..no, you shouldn’t have…”, followed by a toothy-grin and a “Thank you..since you insist!”. Why can’t we do away with the pretence, and graciously thank the giver, “Thank you..I love it..how thoughtful of you !”.

After some discussion over steaming cups of filter coffee, the three of us made a resolution.

– The next time someone says “No, you shouldn’t have..” over a gift, we would take it back right away.

– The next time we go out with someone to a restaurant, we will avoid all conflict. We will allow them to pay, without a fight 😉

We smiled, imagining the reaction this behaviour would elicit. We could well be seeing the last of Hypocrisy !!

As we slurped the last few drops of the fantastic coffee, the waiter arrived with our check.

“Please give it to me”, said Husband.

“Of course not, this is my first day out here, so I am going to treat you”, replied Daddy.

“Daddy, this isn’t fair, you are our guest, and we must take care of you”, said dutiful Husband.

“No Ram, how can a father take money from his children?”, came the gallant reply.

The waiter looked from Hubby to Daddy, and Daddy to Hubby.

He adjusted his glasses, and sighed !!

“The scuffle continues…”