Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fiction and all

(Ok, now I have no clue where this has come from. You’ll have to excuse this non-autobiographical occupation that I will sometimes indulge in. Kthxbai.)


Time, the day, the hours, the minutes, the seconds, are ticking painfully past me. I can hear it in the sounds of this silence that I’ve wrapped around myself. It’s painful to even imagine the kind of trauma that this solitude unleashes in my brain. The immense helplessness that I straddle every waking moment that I spend in the quiet.

I’m not alone here, in this space. It’s filled with thoughts of you, who I don’t know. It feels like we’ve known each other forever. I know it’s an odd thing to say, but it’s true. Seems a little cliché to even think it, but I can’t help myself. I have nothing else to do. Sometimes I yearn for the sounds of the dusty city I’ve left behind just so I will stop myself from reaching out to you every single time I can’t bear this isolation.

And it is an isolation. A self-imposed hermithood. I’m far away from everything I know, from everything I love and from everyone I should be around. But I choose to remain here, alone, surrounded by people who are 7 degrees away from being mine.

I wish I knew what you thought and what you make of us. I want to know. I need to know. But I’m terrified that asking you will only bring another silence and my already overwrought mind will collapse with the force of it.

This is me, then, leaving it be, hoping that when we do have a conversation, it will being back the comforting noise that soothes me. Until then, I contemplate in this silence, this quiet, this maddening, deafening place of no relief.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The intolerables

- people who spell ‘aww’ as ‘awe’ – the words mean two different things for god’s sake. Why do you do this?
- people, like me, who can only talk about one thing – getting married. I’m in no desperate hurry, but I don’t understand why it’s suddenly the only relevant topic of conversation amongst my friends.
- overanalysing types. You know how you went to the club with your girlfriends and ran into someone you didn’t like. Then you proceed to spend the next 72 hours telling me how this should not be discussed with anyone else and what you made of his eyelash twitch at 11.21pm as he exited the club. I didn’t notice, since I don’t wear my glasses often there’s no point in asking me to notice. Most important being, I don’t care.
- Oversharing. You scratched your balls on the way in? Really? How exciting. Like, that truly made my day.
- Exes. See, you are out of my life. There’s a reason we’re no longer together. When I was 18 and swayed by the BS that Bollywood was selling, your sales pitch to weasel your way into my life would have been so touching. Now? It’s just creepy. So, stop. Ok?
- Best friends who met me 5 hours ago. You love me? “Awe”. I mean, what more could I ask for from life except maybe friends like you. Do I know you? Want to know you? Need to know you? If I’ve answered no to all of the above, then fuck off?
- Quiet ones. I need to know what is on your mind, if I’m going to be dealing with you. So, please, don’t expect me to pick up all of your telepathic signals because my antenna is faulty. Direct communication, sans the noise factor, is extremely effective!
- People with defective spelling who roll out mile-long spiels about grammar and linguistic propriety. Self-explanatory no?
- People who let you talk too much. Since you’re the bitches that bitch about the talk-too-much folks on the side, please run. I’m looking for you with a butcher’s knife in hand. Be scared. Be VERY scared.
- Know-it-alls. The kind that will rattle off jargon about some total buzz kill subject of dinner table conversation and then look importantly around to see how many people have not understood. It’s nothing to be proud of!
- Pinch-faced prudes. Are of the opinion that sex=eeewww, gross? Do not ever try to attract male attention and then marry it and then procreate. I might actually follow through on the death threats.
- Malayali boys. You have a thick moustache and a thicker accent. You only want “freaky girls”. You think attacking a woman “who had it coming her way” is actually cool. I fucking hate you. You should have been a pile of steaming horse turd.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How I met my husband! Part 0

One morning, at 9.45am, as I was getting ready to leave home for office, I couldn’t find the keys to the grill door. I asked my grandmother about it and she said she dodn't know where it was and she started looking for it too. This was a very dice-y situation. My grandmother is 79 and she has dementia. She doesn’t remember a thing, the only thing she knows with absolute clarity is that she’s Vasanthi Chandran and that she’s from the Veliyakainilayil Tharavadu in Murukkumpuzha, Trivandrum.

She has this habit of hiding things under her mattress. Especially the keys to the front door because she’s scared that someone will take it. She also thinks I’m the bitch from hell who’s come to torment and murder her! So, on this particular morning, when I was looking for the keys, my grandmother joins me and goes on crying about how she’s never going to get out of the house and that someone had locked her in.

By 10.15, I’d started to panic. I called my aunt in school and asked her if she gave the keys to the neighbours, she said no. At this point, I knew that I was going to be late to work. I’ve always had trouble being on time and just that morning, I did what I could to be on time so that I would a) get an auto, b) go past the crowded traffic signals a few minutes before the pile-ups began. I was also hoping that my boss, who had informed me that she was getting a little sick of my late-coming, wouldn’t notice. That was not going to happen.

10.20, and I’d lost all hope of being on time, so I called the neighbours and they told me, "can you please check under the mattress, she hides things there". And I did, and there the keys were. I almost cried, to be perfectly honest. I almost did. After yelling and letting off some steam, I left for work and landed almost half an hour late. My boss was, obviously, pissed off. I couldn’t really tell her that my grandmother hid the keys to the front door under her mattress, hence, it was difficult for me to get out of the house. Who’d believe that? That would be like telling my class 5 teacher about the complicated way in which my math homework disappeared!

That’s the day I realised that Murphy, that lunatic who exists in every single pop culture reference about karma and whatnot, had a soft spot for me. In fact, I think somewhere along the trope of one of my misadventures, I gave in and married him! I mean, how is a girl to refuse someone who ruins her day on such a consistent and persistent basis? All he does is to make sure that I know that he’s watching over me. It’s so sexy, it makes my knees cave!

I could go on, endlessly, about how much Murphy loves me, and how much he cares for me. I mean, look at what happened last year, on Christmas Day, while I was in Bali, I got Chicken Pox. Chicken fucking Pox, while on my most-anticipated holiday. It’s almost like he didn’t want me to leave his aura in Chennai and come to Indonesia, where the tourist joy would overshadow his bullshit. No, he managed to weasel his way through that and make a point. Bastard!

Every single time I think I should do something positive, he comes along and ruins it. I don’t want to sound like someone who is refusing blame for her own inherent faults, but I don’t see how getting Chicken Pox or my grandmother hiding the house keys, or no one being at home to see me off before I left for Singapore on the 22nd is in anyway my fault!

Murphy, I know we’re married. I hope I’m keeping you entertained and happy, because you know that all I do is think of you!

Always,
Shruthi

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holidaying

So, it’s day three of my “holiday” in Singapore. It doesn’t feel like one though. The trouble with visiting this lowelee island nation is the simple fact that I don’t take in the sights and ‘experience’ the place. I eat home food, hang out with by-marriage family, shop and go back to Chennai.

Not that I don’t enjoy it. I do. But, I wish I could take a holiday with only my friends for company and really explore a new place. I don’t mind if the trip only lasts a week or even three days, but I would truly appreciate the time I take to look around and lech at a tourist destination.

Tourist-y leching doesn’t happen when I’m in Singapore. I’ve become a little jaded with the place. That’s not a kind thing to say. If my aunt reads this, she’ll probably want me dead, but it’s true. On an almost bi-annual basis, I’m in Singapore. Apart from Singapore, my passport’s been stamped for Thailand and Indonesia and Sri Lanka. I want to go to Europe and Australia and a couple of other places where I know the chances of me falling ill to a mysterious forest virus are very miniscule!

However, for now, my foreign travel is restricted to Singapore.

In India too, there are a few places that I would like to visit. For starters, Mumbai. Then Rajasthan. Then Gujarat. Then UP and Orissa and West Bengal.

I think my PoA for 2011 is going to be to at least attempt to travel to one of these places. If not alone, then at least with my idiot younger brother, who’s far better company than I give him credit for. At least, my parents won’t worry and for an unmarried girl, male sibling for company would be appropriate no?

Oddly enough, I said the same thing about my plans for 2010 too. Apart from the temple-hopping, nothing really materialized. You know how sad that makes me? I wish, I truly wish I was like my darling friend N who saved money and traipsed off to Europe in June this year. I want to save money and traipse. I like traipsing!

Ok, so, I stop whining, yes? And I continue to enjoy this tropical country and my half-mad extended family!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chronicles

I could give this a timeline and make things easy for everyone. But, these are stories that began when we were all three years old. The stories of us who walked into school crying and kicking and screaming and left in pretty much the same condition I’d say.

Somewhere in the process of being around each other for 14 years, we all became friends by virtue of spending too much time together!

“If you had to pick one person from class who would be your booty call today, who would it be?” is the question that is raised past midnight, I don’t quite know if it is Tuesday or Wednesday. There is, as always, an equal representation from both sexes. That’s how it’s always been with our class. Always an equal representation.

I escape with, “you know who, and he was the only decent looking guy in the entire batch”. Everyone nods and passes the question on.

There is an awareness in this room, amongst the people talking, that we’ve all come quite a long way from the days when we were skinny teenagers in school with bad hair and worse uniforms. We’ve grown up, made some mistakes and turned out alright. The possibility of losing out on our relationship with one another is so huge, but somehow, thanks to social media, we’re in touch.
Staying in touch is important. Its how we know if whatshisname still has a soft corner for that curly haired girl and how the two of them talk to each other now, as opposed to never having spoken to each other in school.

It seems like there’s so much to talk about. We’re asking the same questions about each other, re-living moments from the past, a decade ago, looking at things, justifying and analysing and wondering how we managed to keep it together enough to get degrees and get jobs that paid well and re-assured our parents.

We’ve turned 26/27 too quickly it would seem and this is oh-so-apparent at a wedding. From a class of 64, which included students from the Science and Commerce streams, there are a few of us remaining who haven’t tied the knot and had babies. We congregate at each wedding/trip to the home town of Chennai and bitch and moan about how our parents are traumatising us about getting married and then go on to make fun of people who have done the brave thing – get married.

It occurs to us that being 26/27 is about the best thing to be, in a normal world. However, in India, South India to be more specific, being 26/27 and single and living under your parents’ roof is about the stupidest thing you can do. For starters, because you live with the folks, there are curfews and suchlike stupidities and other assortments of guilt trips for all the times that you neglect family dinners and go out and get drunk instead!

I text all the available-in-Chennai folk for a spontaneous midnight gathering and everyone says, “Yes, we’ll be there, name the time and place”. So, we meet, bride included. It’s a snapshot send-off for her. Only the people she likes and cares about are sitting at the table, talking nonsense as always. We’re asking her how she met her husband and how they decided to get married. It’s a time to analyse our own love stories and wonder why we never thought to be sensible.

We’re set to meet at 11, and some of us are on time. Well, I’m on time, which effectively means, everyone else will run late. If I be on time, the world is definitely running late! We meet, we talk, laugh, hug, wonder, ask stupid questions about who’s getting married next. Wondering if we’ve gone to meet A and S’s baby boy yet. At the end of it all, when we had to leave because Chennai is not open longer than 11.30, the bride is happy. We’re waiting to meet at the wedding and talk some more.

The next day of practice sees us introspect a little more. Confide a little more. Find out more common friends. Because, Chennai is a little English village and everyone knows everyone else and their brother. P and I hide behind the curtains to get our steps right and the boys are secretly pleased. When we come out, there is a camera recording the proceedings in the great hope that we were actually up to something. So they settled for the sexy dance step instead. “Girls, I don’t think you’re getting that step right. Priyanka Chopra does it really well in that song. I think you should rehearse it properly.” We can only roll our eyes and get on with it.

More songs are chosen, YouTubed for steps and so on, clipped, choreographed, perfected and finalized. At the end of it, after much back and forth, AP has one thing to say, “We may not put on the best show ever, but one thing’s for sure, thanks to P, we won’t repeat a single step!”

Dinner conversations are pure rewind. It’s never tiresome. We bring up a few uncomfortable topics of conversation – the misunderstandings we had. If this was an American movie, at this juncture in the narrative, the protagonists would have had a big ass fight and walked off and the group would have had to split up. “Shit, what was that about? We were so idiotic then, right?” is the common consensus.

It is exactly then that I know, 20 years down the line, spouses and babies notwithstanding, we’ll still be friends. And friends are about the only relations for whom you don’t have to trip over yourself to prove anything.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Weddings and all that - Pt 1


As I’m typing this, the henna on my hands is an insane shade of almost-black. If I were a bride, then it would be a sign of the deep and abiding love that my to-be husband will have for me (is the grammar ok on this one?). However, for this wedding, I am the bridesmaid. So, most people will only tell me that the blackish henna tattoo on my palms is an indicator of the immense love I will get from my future husband. Good.

It’s 4am, I’ve been staying up since Tuesday and by late I mean start dance practice at 7pm and end at 5am. After dinner, “practice” is just us sitting around in P’s living room talking, gossiping, asking questions, re-knowing each other, despite having gone to the same school since kindergarten. From being the kids in wan gray uniforms in school, we’ve all grown into very different people – some of us have some flesh on our bones, some of us are losing hair, some of us talk more, some of us have better hair and clothing, etc. We all do have one thing in common, we’ve known each other for way too long for us to ever be fake/weird around each other.

There’s always an element of TMI in our conversations. The same information would be met with a great amount of censure in any other social circle, but not this one.

There is a certain comfort in talking to each other. A certain complacence in not minding manners or words. These friends of mine deserve a lot more than a few measly I’m-too-tired-to-compose-right-now posts.

Hence, excuse the delay, and please to lech at the byootiful henna on my hands. Thanks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wishes

In the best interest of my once-existent waist, god, I would much appreciate the gift of fortitude from you. The fortitude to resist the temptations of cheese and chocolate and carbohydrates and other things that are not healthy.

It’s something that I would like to take up more seriously, because honestly, I’m sick and tired of feeling like a big blub of flab. I tried yoga, in the hope that all that bending will whip me in shape. However that turned out to be an epic fail because I don’t think I’m good with bendy. Bendy is not me. Somehow, being from India, I should be all about the bendy, well, I’m not.

So, God, once again, I need to stop eating, else I’m pretty sure I will resemble a blimp and won’t be able to sleep on my bed because most of me will be falling off the sides. I beseech you, make the eating stop!

****

Now, it isn’t like I’m anorexic nor am I going to turn bulimic just because I need to lose weight. If I don’t do something now, I’ll be arthritic, my teeth will fall out because I’m eating too much of the sweet stuff, and I won’t fit into my clothes. As it is, I face the occasional embarrassment of not fitting into any one of my saree blouses because these love handles have just popped!

Truth is, I never was the skinny kid. I wish I was. I truly wish. Then I would have had cause to complain about how I’ve let myself go, blah, blah. No history there.

This, this fat phase of mine, is pure lethargy. It is the inability to say no and the absolute need to keep eating. It is also the inability to think, for one second, that I won’t accumulate all the nonsense I’ve been eating despite the fact that my stomach protests at the slightest provocation…

****

In other inappropriate news, I think washing machines are bad for people like me. Because, I own half the world’s underclothes and they just pile up because I know I have enough to get by and that I can shuck the lot in the machine and get it all washed in one stretch. I should be a little more conscientious about this, like I was when in the hostel in Delhi, but then again, conscientious and me are not very good friends, as illustrated above.

****

My best friend’s getting married on Sunday, and her being Sindhi (they who were once in Sindh, Pakistan, but ran away during the partition), means her wedding is a three-day do, which starts today. And since Pooja and I are such good friends, we’re dancing at her engagement party. We’ve been practicing since Tuesday and instead of being good children and practicing ever harder yesterday, we decided to try out three parts dance with one part vodka just for fun and ended up being all kinds of buzzed until 5am this morning!

Thing is, Seema and I have been best friends since we were 11 (and she was 12. I was the youngest in class, etc). We also went to college together. Most of our friends are people we’re studied with since kindergarten. These are boys and girls who’ve grown up with us. Thing is we were all pretty close as a class and over the years, we’ve taken the time and trouble to keep in touch.

Sometimes I puzzle over high school-related drama that I watch on TV or read and I think, “I would never have these issues with the monkeys I studied with”, I guess it also helped that my mother was the English teacher. But that should have made my life miserable. It didn’t, unless you count “Shruthi, what questions are coming in the Lit section of the paper?” being asked incessantly during exam time. For the life of me, I could never understand why people thought English was a tedious subject to study. More importantly, why they never studied English. I mean, you speak it, how hard can it be to understand?

But, I digress.

This weekend is all about my best friend, and her wedding and the fact that she will be moving to the UK after. I won’t have someone asking if I’m okay, because after December 19, that process will become an international text message. No more cupcake birthdays and shopping sprees and angst on email. She’ll be married and in another country and time zone. But I don’t care about that. She’s my best friend, we’ve been through nonsense together for the last 15 years, I think we can pull this long-distance thing off.

And on that happy note, I shalls post a more nostalgia post after the wedding is over…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

100

Salivate.

It’s what happens when your mouth is suddenly filled with a thin, non-viscous fluid. It’s an instinctive reaction, something out of your control, it’s what happens when you experience a fleeting moment of intense want, no, need.

Salivate is precisely the term for me and my reaction to mango avakkai pickle. When I open the bottle and stare down at cubed raw mango pieces pickled in a thick mustard paste with salt and chilli powder and enough gingelly oil, I salivate. What else can I say really? If you’ve ever sat down to eat rice, curd and avakkai pickle, you’ll know. If you’ve ever eaten a bowl of curd and avakkai pickle you’ll know. If you’ve ever mixed avakkai pickle in hot rice and some ghee, trust me, you’ll know.

And this ladies and gentlemen is my 100th post.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Travels and travails

We're on the train. This time, we know about the bed bugs and cockroaches lurking behind the curtains of a A/C 2 converted into an A/C 3 bogey. (As per the Indian Railways a bogey is, in Indian English, is the entire carriage, and a compartment is where you sit/sleep.) This time the food was packed for fewer people, so there was lesser chaos. This time, it was just us and the people who were seated in the same compartment who were also going to the same place. This time, we set the alarm for 4am (that was my mother) to make sure that we got off at the right station. The trouble with travelling on the train to an in-between destination is that you have to know at exactly what time the train will arrive at your destination and what the previous station is so that you can get your luggage out.

Except at the first and last stops, trains don't wait at in-between stations too long, unless they're loading food or they're running late.

That's how my mother, two aunts, cousin and I went to Palakkad. This time, I was there for my younger cousin's wedding. S's wedding was fixed in September, we got the call on Vinayaka Chathurti telling us that she was getting married in December in Guruvayoor. My mother announced this piece of news with a very heavy heart. Not that she was resentful, just that she was really hoping to organise a wedding before my father's younger brother got the chance. As was my mother's sister no1. She actually told me one night, "don't worry, we'll make sure you get married before S does", yes, this is a race and I really want to win it, thank you so much for understanding the inner workings of my mind!

In Tamil, there is a saying - "Veedu katti paaru, kalyaanam panni paaru" - or something to that effect. It means, try building a house, try organising a wedding. These two are some sort of definitive events in the life of every average human being and will, in some way or form, add to one's life experience, or so they say. Organising a wedding, in a country like mine is a pain to say the very least. The entire family gets involved at some point and just about everyone who can articulate their thoughts will have something relevant to say about it. Whether it is about how much gold the girl will wear, to what saree she should wear, to which beautician she should go to, etc. But the second you announce that you intend to get your daughter married in Guruvayoor, the process takes on a whole different direction.

To begin with, Guruvayoor weddings, like all Malayali weddings, are blessedly brief. They don't take too much of your time. But Guruvayoor is also the place where you have to wait in queue for about 5 hours if you wish to see Krishna, the presiding deity at the temple. The place is a pilgrimage spot of sorts, so it's crowded almost every day. If you're there during Ayyappa season, then you will be dealing with an insane amount of humanity! On a good day, aka, when the stars are aligned to ensure that the bride and groom will live happily ever after, at least 300 weddings happen in Guruvayoor.

Thankfully, the weddings happen in these tiny mandapams built outside the East Nada or the door that Krishna is looking out of. However, since 200 other people are getting married in the same venue, chances are you could find yourself exchanging garlands with the wrong person! It has happened to a few people, almost happened to a few others. We knew this and made sure my cousin and her fiance were the ones who got on the mandapam. Thali-tying and garland-exchanging later, we went to eat.

See, eating at an Indian wedding is about as sacred as getting married itself. It all hinges on the food, if the sadya/meal is bad, rest assured that your wedding is an epic fail. Never mind how pretty the bride or how much gold she was wearing or how many people showed up. The sadya is the key factor, I'm sure the food at a wedding is the key factor everywhere. I don't think human beings are charitable enough to come to a wedding just to bless the couple and take a few smiling photographs and leave. Everyone wants to eat!

In the midst of all this, my parents managed to sweet talk one of the wedding photographers to take some pictures of me that could be circulated in Shaadi.com/to marriage brokers/ and other assorted marriage-related people. Me and my Copper Sulphate blue saree. The guy was taking pictures like there was no tomorrow. I refused to pose, of course, so half the pictures look like my facial muscles are convulsing of their own volition.

The worst part is the relatives. My father has 8 other siblings, which means I have some 20-odd first cousins. Then, both of my paternal grandparents, who are thankfully not related, also have a huge number of siblings, which means my father has his own share of the cousin market, meaning I have way too many aunts and uncles who only have one inappropriate question for me - "enne ariyo?/ do you know me".

Dear relative, especially you, who I don't know how I'm related to. I live in Chennai. I come to this part of the country once a year and only meet my immediate family, how on good god's earth am I supposed to know who you are if we've never met, and more importantly, have never been introduced. Tell me? Seriously, tell me!

My parents won't be around at such opportune moments and then I have to go looking for them, with unknown relative in tow, find them and deconstruct the relationship, and then smile a big smile and answer questions.

After plenty of this the next round of my trip involved going to one more temple to book one more pooja so I get married. We also went to my cousin's husband's hometown. All of this by car and on Kerala's lovely two-lane, undulating highways where everyone has this weird habit of driving exactly in the middle of the road and dodging one another at the last moment. Not to mention the buses which are all racing one another to get to their stops first. I was ill the whole time. Phlegm and cough and fever and what have you. Shruthi's Annual Mega Sinus Blowout was in full swing and there wasn't a damn thing I could about it except hide it under make-up, which didn't work.

By the time we got back to Palakkad, I'd spent too many hours in a closed vehicle. I needed some Chennai dust, as delivered by auto rickshaws. Of course, on the morning of December 13, the day I reached Chennai, or yesterday, to put it more succinctly, Chennai vaguely resembled some hill station (that's what the Brits created when they couldn't handle the heat/dust/humidity of India). There was dew and a mist for effect. To think of a mist floating above the Cooum is just bizarre! The auto ride from Central was a bit of a shocker, my mother and I were stunned for a few minutes while driving down Spur Tank Road.

I like Chennai like this. But this won't last for too long. Humidity (Humidras [humid+Madras] as a friend T re-christened this city) is the hallmark of this city. My next mission is to find a way to get me to stop hocking all the phlegm that seems to have replaced my blood. Turmeric and milk apparently does that or what is known as "masala pal" (pal [pronounced paal]=milk). My mother only had this to say about the combination "if you're brave enough, try it".

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ponders

I’ve always loved writing. That’s pretty much a standard response that you’d get from most writers, or should I say writer types?

I’m the writer types, I like saying “I’ve always loved writing”. However, the lady who put the “This is a 10-mark question, where is the rest of the answer” comment in your English answer sheet will have a different tale to tell. That lady is my mother, my English teacher in class 12/12th grade.

I had to write an ‘essay’ about this Keki Daruwala short story – Love in the Salt Desert. That question was worth 10 marks in a section for 55 marks. I was expected to wax eloquent about the ending of the story. Did I want to? I don’t think I did. Somehow when I was 16, having to wax eloquent about two people from two different countries who fell in love when their eyes met, was not my specialty. I was just happy writing three paragraphs of relevant sentences that made the point they had to. Hence the comment “This is a 10-mark question, where is the rest of the answer”.

I really and truly wish that I could go on and on endlessly about things. I mean look at some of the articles and columnists out there, read how they write with a certain amount of wit and panache about just about everything under the sun, even your chaddis if you let them. Well, I think some journalists have attempted to write about underwear, but it’s not in very good taste, don’t you think? I like good underwear, who doesn’t? But to sit and read about someone’s inners? Not very interesting, if you ask me. However, columnists still live and they are still talking about all and sundry, good for them. I tried to do that, for roughly two years, turns out, as much as I like spinning a verbal spiel and the next writer, I can’t run around being a commentator about all and sundry.

Now, what next? The writing gig didn’t work out. I should have taken the hint in class 12 when my mother pointed out very helpfully that I should attempt to pay some attention to what’s being asked of me. If I’d known then, I would never have attempted poetry and thoroughly embarrassed myself by creating a blog of poetry! Le sigh!

It’s that time of year, again, when I’m wondering, nay pondering the purpose of life again, and once more, I have no answers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nose and all

I tried writing this very profound post about weddings, etc. Then I realized the subject has already become redundant, in a manner of speaking, in this blog, so that post was abandoned.
Now, I’m too ill to think straight. Now sounds like ‘dow’ when I say it. My eyelids are all puffy and I’m beginning to look Chinese – it isn’t like I’m some doe-eyed Indian type anyway. This mega event that I’ve christened ‘Shruthi’s Annual Mega Sinus Blowout’ happens once a year - when I get so ill I can barely stand straight for a few minutes at a time. The rest of the year, it’s just a mild or non-existent version of things. Unlike my friend P, I have it easy in the allergies and sinusitis department. There was a time, however, when things were different. A time when all I remember was being ill.

This was school. There were about 3,000 other students there. I was in a class of 50-odd kids. Sat right in front and had to answer ‘how do you write with your left hand?’ at least once a day. I also remember having to blow my nose a lot. When you’re in my kind of school, it’s not the best thing to be doing.

Primary school was about the worst time of my life. Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats how annoying it was. To begin with, I was younger than the entire lot – born in November 1984 in a class full of people who were born in 1983 or early 1984. Then there was the matter of how short my hair was. My mother’s reasons were very simple, if my hair was long, she’d have to oil it, wash it, keep it pretty-looking. Short hair meant less work for her and fewer lice, yes lice. Any average Indian child in the under-10 category has a lice phase – it’s not cool. The girls in my class all had thick, long braids and I was so jealous of them.

The most standout commentary of my life as a school student was – ‘look how fat she is’ and other vernacular and more insulting versions of it, ‘her hair’s so short, she’s a boy in disguise’ and other vernacular and more insulting versions of it, and the worst ever, ‘mookuchali’ or snot. That’s right, a lot of the kids in my class called me snot and they loved every sniggering minute of it. To add to my worries, I had this maths (in India we say maths not math, ok?) teacher (or to be more appropriate, maths miss), who enjoyed giving me nose-blowing techniques and would constantly send me out of the classroom to go and blow my nose because me and my snot bothered her. My snot was a fairly big talking point for a few people and no, I’m not exaggerating for the sympathy votes here, one of my friends’ mothers remembers me as the girl who always had a tissue to her nose!

It didn’t help much that this was not just a childhood thing. Most of my adolescence was also spent tissue pack in hand. It’s only recently, since I stopped going out so much – you know school, college, masters, travel by bus/train within the city, inhale all this lovely dust – that my nose has settled down a bit. Working in an air-conditioned office as its advantages, except when those bums spray room freshener a few centimeters from where I’m sitting, and my trouble starts all over again!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Letter

Dear extreme honker,

The other vehicles on the road? The ones moving in the same direction as you in the pouring rain, they have nothing against you, really.

Everyone is going someplace, in pretty much the same hurry as you are. It isn't like you're the only vehicle owner on the road who is going somewhere important - everyone is.

Now, if you could only get your tiny brain to process that information and drive reasonably, we could all go where we need to, in better tempers, and with our cars in better shape.

Thank you,

Sincerely,
Shruthi

Friday, December 3, 2010

New in Shh world

Since November 22, I’ve been waiting for that feeling you get when you have no job, with the entire day stretched out in front of you and you’re thinking, “shit, I have nothing to do with my time!”

It hasn’t happened as yet, and I don’t think it will until January. That’s how much time I will be spending with my family, visiting temples, travelling out of the country, etc, etc, etc. Now that I’m not enjoying it, however, I don’t enjoy the fact that there is no pay cheque at the end of it all.
And that’s that for opinions.

********
(that was a sign on the window of the compartment we were sitting in)
14 people travelling in A/C 3 of the Indian Railways on the West Coast Express going to Mangalore is about as adventurous as I can think of being! The cast of this trip includes my 79-year-old grandmother who has no recollection of time or space or people. A home nurse we’ve hired to look after her. Our neighbour who, as a physiotherapist, is constantly telling us how to look after my grandmother. My mother and her three siblings who were all loud, opinionated and insisted on doing things their way, my father who really wanted to stand by the door of the bogey and get some air, me who really wanted to read a book, my two cousins, 11 and 7, who were constantly jumping from one upper berth to another, my mother’s brother’s wife, two relatives from Singapore who were travelling by train the first time and who had tons of hand sanitiser and suchlike.

We’d planned this trip to the Mookambika since June. And since June we’ve been planning the menu. With my uncle going to Sabarimala, the menu had to be vegetarian add to that the fact that the trip was, primarily, a temple visit, the menu HAD to be vegetarian. Now, when the possibility of no meat in a meal looms in a discussion that my family is having, things don’t turn out great. They just don’t. My aunt, my mother’s first sister, thinks vegetables are god’s curse to mankind and she makes such a production about no meat in her food that you’ll be forced to make something chicken just so she’ll shut up. The only vegetable that’s given any due consideration by the family is the humble root, the potato. So after much deliberation it was decided to make chappatis and potato podimas (it’s one thing made of mashed potatoes). Then we had to decide who was eating how many chappatis. Making the chappatis was nothing compared to the packing of the food bags.

My family takes an immense amount of time and effort into packing train food bags. When Siddharth and I were younger, and we travelled on these mammoth train journeys to Assam, Himachal Pradesh in the summers to see my dad, amma would pack enough food to last us those journeys and then some. There were times when we offered food to our co-travellers. From biscuits and chips to slices of vegetables and bread and butter and jam and cheese and boiled, unshelled eggs, tissue, and so on. If she could, she’d have carried an induction stove too! Those were good times on the Indian Railways.

So this trip, the food bags were loaded with roasted cashews, Pringles, mixture and chips from Grand Sweets, the dinner we’d made, water, the works. You know what? I couldn’t eat a damn thing! Yeah, that’s right, I couldn’t eat any of it. I had a stomach infection and I had to watch what I was eating, drinking, etc. So that happened and I was sulking pretty much the whole time. The fact that people were passing around food indiscriminately while I was sitting in the middle of the chaos of the train was not helping me one bit. The one thing that can truly send me into one of my infamous rants is the lack of food. I get really angsty, I get really annoying and I can’t fathom a sane reason why vegetarian food is such a bitch to cook. I really don’t. Anyway, I’m a pampered nut job whose mother still cooks for her so I should STFU. Even then, why is it so hard to cook some vegetables my family, WHY?!
(The Mookambika Temple)
Bitching about food aside, the trip to Mangalore turned out great. (Except for the prayers for “chinku to get married soon, please!”) The thing is I love temple-hopping. There’s something calming about being in a place of prayer. The only thing I don’t like though is the fact that people are constantly hinting at the amount of money you should be spending on doing a certain pooja that would guarantee you good health and other such wonderful life-necessary amenities! Temples, especially the ones in South India are built beautifully. If you’re not keen on praying, you’ll have plenty to look at. That’s something, no?