She: (Excitedly) You know.. Kasturaba Gandhi died on the lap of Gandhiji. She was one lucky woman.
He: Kab marna hai tum ko (When are you planning to die?). I will keep my lap ready.
She: (Excitedly) You know.. Kasturaba Gandhi died on the lap of Gandhiji. She was one lucky woman.
He: Kab marna hai tum ko (When are you planning to die?). I will keep my lap ready.
Statutory confession: I am no expert in man-woman relationship. I also believe that a relationship is deeply personal. This piece is just based on my experiences of being in some meaningful and not so meaningful relationships. Yet, I have immensely enjoyed this roller coaster ride called ‘being in love’.
Silence is ‘not’ golden: There was a poster in my friend’s hostel room which said, “If you can’t understand my silence, you can’t understand my words.” I don’t know whether my friend took it seriously or not but yours truly definitely took it seriously. So, I just thought that my silence would speak, solve all problems with my man. All that I would need to do is to sit in one corner of the room, maintain a Buddha like posture and if need be, shed some pearly tears. But real life is much more than a poster. Understanding silence is very serious business (more so for your man). I have realized that most men are not really good at understanding silence. They find it easier when you express yourself. So, the next point is a natural progression of this one.
Argumentative Indian: Amartya Sen, please forgive me for using your famous book title in this context. But I have discovered the joy of arguing. Well, it doesn’t earn me money but it gives me immense pleasure. And being a student of social sciences, I make sure that my argument is both historical yet contextual. Man, I know I am a late bloomer. But I never knew that there’s so much of fun in arguing. Sometimes it feels like a high octane tennis match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Feasting .. no more fasting : I thought I had this secret AK 47 weapon with me. Of not eating. Rather refusing to eat whenever we had fights/disagreements. Well, over the years, I have realized that man-woman relationship is a tad different from Gandhiji’s Satyagraha or Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption fasting agitation at Jantar matar, New Delhi So, I have surrendered my secret weapon with great happiness. Now, if I have a fight/disagreement, then I make sure to order mutton biryani, kebabs and polish it off with a plate of caramel custard or rabri with jalebi. Life feels uber delicious. The weighing machine sometimes look alarming. Well, everything is fair in love and war. And, didn’t somebody say love is all about layers? I am just adding layers to myself.
Still tectonic plates, dormant volcanoes: For years, I dealt with innumerable earthquakes, volcanic eruptions within myself. I was operating from a high disaster zone called ‘heart’, But of late, things have settled down. There has been no need for any disaster management. The tectonic plates are all still. And the volcanoes are all lying dormant. Life feels disaster proof.
(This was posted by my favourite Priyanka Chopra on her Instagram feed)
This too shall pass: When you are young and head over heels in love, you think this comes with a stamp of eternity. But then you grow up and you experience life, death, relationships, you realize that everything evolves in life. Evolution is the truth of life. So, the older, wiser me has decided to take a chill pill and curl up in the couch and revel in the line ‘This too shall pass.” Be it happiness, sadness, laziness or even dreadful Indian summer.
Nobody is going anywhere: The younger me had this terrible thought in her head —“If it ends.. what will happen?” Well, it took me some years to understand that nothing begins, nothing ends (To quote Osho). Nobody really goes away anywhere. And the husbands (and lovers who behave like husbands) find it most difficult to go away. They somehow manage to stick on, for different reasons. Even when I threatened my hubby recently with this killer line, ‘I would put you on OLX,” he just didn’t move an inch. I have a feeling my husband may have a similar tale to tell about me. Fair enough, I think.
Social media has other ‘social’ uses: I am not a great fan of people flaunting their love on Facebook. Most of my friends who write long love notes to their spouses on Facebook are not in a happy personal space (their off line confessions say a different story). I prefer to stay away from professing love on Facebook. Life seems blissful. Sometimes no virtual information is good information too. Unlike many other contemporaries of mine, I am freed from the pressure of being a Miss Marple / Lady Agent Vinod/ Bobby Jasoos or even to change profile pics thrice in a week.
Take love seriously but not the lover: I am fascinated by the idea of love. I feel just being in love makes me a better person. The lover is a part of the whole, large, beautiful concept of love. I fiercely protect my right to love. I love being in love.
2. All the e-mail notes I wrote and all the phone calls you made
3. Crispy fried chicken from Nirula’s and also enjoying a Manhatten Mania ice-cream while walking from Vasant Vihar to the last range of Aravalis (figure out what’s)
4. Gulzar’s ‘Katra Katra’ from Izzazat — still playing on
5. Our mutual love for poori-aloo ki sabzi
6, When Moonlight samosas and jalebis were bought with love and affection
7. Learning to make chicken curry and actually doing it well with a desire to cook a nice meal for you.
8 Living up to the image of ‘Argumentative Indians’ in front of each other
9. To perspectives, experiences and discovering
10 For all our grey hair and all the love that come with it
11. Long sleeve white kurtas and blue jeans you wore
12. Conversations that continued in the stillness of the night and finally waking up
between fantasy and reality
13. For the India within us, the India we are dreaming of
14 Our deep love for Gandhi and his thoughts
15. To that extra-ordinarily beautiful rainy night on the rock. Not many are as lucky as we are.
16. 236 Jhelum — bare walls, mattress on the floor yet it felt so complete
17. Politics — wholly, partly but substantial too
18. To that unexplained feeling that this relationship will survive against all odds
19. For not tying my hair even though you wanted me to do that (rebel without a cause)
20. Sitting on the verandah of the Sabarmati Ashram with you by my side (my spiritual home in every sense of the term)
21. Longing and belonging — in between sunrise and sunset
22. Love and affection — beyond context and structure
23. All the ear-rings you bought for me, my love
24. Marx, Gandhi, Rumi, Kabir — discovering all of them in one life and then embracing and celebrating
25. To the clock that has ticked diligently for the last 25 years even as we loved, laughed and fought occasionally too.
She is one person who is really close to my heart. We worked together in Delhi years ago and became close friends. We are soul sisters but the irony is that we also lose touch with each other and then after some years we again find each other. This time, it was for six years. I last talked to her in 2012.
Few days back, I was talking about her to my younger colleagues. On an impulse, I tried to track her in Facebook but I couldn’t find her there (I have lost her mobile number). I logged on to twitter, saw her profile. I couldn’t send her a direct message. So I tweeted, “…where are you? You nut case..a slice of my heart walking outside my body.”
She started following me and then we got into chatting via direct messaging. There was so much to talk. Finally, we talked to each other on phone on Monday night (as she was having her weekly off day and I finished work early).
She had no idea that I have lost my mother in 2013. I had no idea that her father (whom I lovingly call uncle) is now lying in a state of semi coma for last four years. I had no idea that she had a harrowing experience while chasing dreams in London. My eyes welled up in tears as I was listening to her. She said, “My dad was like a huge beautiful oak tree under which I flourished and drew strength from. And today, he doesn’t even recognize me.”
There’s no answer to loss. You can only feel loss in your heart. I couldn’t sleep on Monday night. After six years of losing my mother, my loss paled in front of hers.
All I can feel is love for her and for her dad. It hurts me to even think that uncle won’t recognize me. But I can recognize him and remember his love for me.
After we ended our conversation, she messaged me, “Six years of my life condensed into this conversation that lasted for 100 minutes.”
While growing up in a sleepy town called Bhubaneswar, Sunday morning luxury was all about my father packing a breakfast of idli, masala dosa and sambar from a small restaurant. These were earliest memories of pushing the creative boundaries of my palate. Having a South Indian breakfast is what we looked forward to. The same happened when I shifted to Delhi to pursue my higher studies. On some Sundays, the hostel mess used to serve masala dosa and coffee. And if I remember correctly, the girls from UP, Bihar, Orissa (then) and West Bengal were more excited to have the so called exotic Southern breakfast more than anybody else. The same emotion was recently shared by my Gujarati friend’s 80 year old mother. She told me, “I used to feel pampered and loved when my husband ordered a meal of butter naan, paneer butter masala and kaali dal in a restaurant. It was a refreshing change from the roti, shaak and khichdi at home.”
It’s a different story now in urban India. Many of us probably took the 10 year rule of UPA government with a remote control in Sonia Gandhi’s hand too seriously. Suddenly, pasta became omnipresent. Every neighbourhood kirana shops started stocking pasta packets in different size and shape. With great difficulty, he gives you a list of Fusilli, Penne. From chicken tikka masala and paneer butter masala, urban India has graduated to pasta in pesto sauce, nachos and Mexican hotpot. Suddenly you see restaurants showing signboards displaying proudly, “Punjabi, Chinese, Italian, Mexican.” If you happen to stay in Ahmedabad (as yours truly), you will get a Jain version of everything. From Punjabi, Chinese, Italian and Mexican. You will always have a choice of Jain pizza in Ahmedabad. Please don’t ask me how it’s as I have never tasted it.
If you thought that Bollywood with its all jazz and item songs is minting money, then hold on the food industry is ahead of the film industry. The all consuming ‘eating out economy’ is on a roll. According to a FICCI report, the restaurant industry is expected to contribute about 2.1 per cent to the total GDP of India by 2021. Eating out is big business in India. If you have not booked a table on Sunday, you will be condemned to stand in queue for hours and count the stars in the sky (if you are lucky to spot them). In developed Gujarat, if you walk on the road on a Sunday, you might think that there’s a Kumbh Mela waiting to start soon. You have to push through forever hungry men, women and kids to find your own way in between cries of ‘one veg manchurain, one fried rice, double cheese pizza (whatever this means),’ The roads are chock-a-block with milling crowds waiting to have their share of world on their platter.
There’s a gourmet revolution happening in India. Post-liberalised India is on a platter high. And everybody is in a race to be cool. So cool that he finds it uncool to have anything other than Italian and Mexican. So, the uber cool stylish new ‘kids’ on the block are pastas, pizzas, cookies, garlic bread and hold on how can I ever forget ‘cupcakes.’ Few days ago, a colleague bought a box of cup cakes to celebrate her birthday at work. Yes, I did bite into it and wished her very warmly. But by evening, my sweet craving was so intense that I did run to the nearest mithai shop to have my sinful share of ‘jalebi with rabri.’ Hot jalebis literally soaked in rabri. I could have died of happiness. You can call me ‘desi gal’, I will take no offence.
Yes, food needs to be celebrated and I see no harm food being looked at boundaries. After all, aren’t we living in an age of globalisation? With every other person turning into a food blogger or food photographer, I can see the winds of change sweeping our platter. There’s a glasnost happening there. Modi’s much talked about ‘acche din aayenge’ actually arrived on our plates some years ago.
It’s not just that people are tasting different cuisines at restaurants. But there’s a silent revolution happening on the kitchen shelves. The refrigerator is also witnessing a revolution. The ‘maharaj’ (the man who cooks and takes a salary) needs to be on his toes to master the perfect art of making the pesto sauce. He has to be a globe-trotter in the kitchen, otherwise there is every chance that he might become another Lehman Brothers employee in late 2008.
But I am still unable to understand why urban India is in a rush to prove its CQ (Cool Quotient) only by having pasta, nachos and garlic bread? It’s fashionable definitely. But to link your CQ to your platter might not a very great idea. Or so do I think. But you need not agree with me. India is all about having thousand opinions.
P S: Eons ago when I was working in Delhi, there was a colleague who used to come and share his breakfast menu. To be fair, I used to ask him also to derive some unexplainable pleasure. Rolling his attractive eyes, he used to say, “Oh, normal…bread, butter, omelette, bacon and orange juice.” Poor me used to go green with envy as I was munching my so very ordinary veg puff available in the canteen.
Once he fell ill and didn’t come to office for few days. Out of concern, I made a call to his home (there were no mobile phones then) and his mother picked up the phone. And we had a nice chat and in between she told me, “Beta (She was a Punjabi. As you must have realised Punjabis are capable of addressing their enemy as ‘beta’), please tell him to have his food. Before he had this fever, he used to eat a hearty meal of roti, gobi/tinda ke sabzi in breakfast and go to office.” The moment I heard this, my mind went back to my friend’s talk of ‘eggs, bread, bacon with orange juice.’ Well, the irony called life.
Should I have pasta in pesto sauce for dinner tonight? Let me think.
My mother-in-law thinks I am bekaar (useless). This unilateral judgment only stems from the fact that because I am a dud when it comes to bargaining. The other day I went to the nearby market with her. Being a Mallu she loves her share of coconuts the way an Italian loves his/her pizza. But she will not buy the coconut just like that. She has to haggle and haggle till the shopkeeper loses his patience (if not his customer) and hands over the coconut at a price demanded by her. I asked her, “Why do you waste time and energy for Rs 16?” She answered back, “How can I not? I am a senior citizen.” And thereby dismissing me at one go. Well, even if I am no fan of Ektaa Kapoor’s soppy saas bahu soaps, I have learnt to be quiet. You see, over the years I have mastered the art of domestic silence. All in the name of peace and happiness.
My mother-in-law has a theory (read brilliant) of bargaining. Actually she can put any economist worth his salt to shame. On a balmy July evening, I bought a dress and did the mistake of sharing the price of the dress with her. She almost fell off the sofa and when she regained her composure, she taught me the fundamentals of bargaining. Her funda goes on like this — if the shopkeeper says Rs 400 all that you have to do is to divide it by 2 and then deduct Rs 50 from it. So, a T shirt worth Rs 400 should be actually Rs 150. She will never go to a shop which has ‘Fixed Price’ written on its wall in bold letters. In her dictionary, only one word rocks and that’s ‘bargaining.’
But in all fairness, my mother-in-law is not alone. Almost every Indian has this unique art of bargaining running in his/her DNA. The most primary example is the raddiwala or the kabadiwala. I mean, selling newspapers brings more smile on our faces than reading the newspaper in the morning. The thicker the newspaper on Sundays, the broader is the smile. And selling newspapers is not an isolated mundane act. There comes the great act of bargaining. If the raddiwala says, “Rs 4 per kilo”, immediately he’s told curtly, “The other guy was offering me Rs 4.50 last Sunday. But I was going out to meet somebody, so I couldn’t sell it.” And the haggling will continue till it’s settled at a price suitable to both. Such is the power of bargaining.
Same story is repeated at vegetable vendors. I remember one particular incidence of a lady coming in a swanky car and buying 500 gram potatoes and then asking ‘Give me one tomato free.’ Getting dhania (coriander) and green chilli free is every Indian’s fundamental right. But I think, there is a threat to the fundamental right as now I hear my neighbourhood vegetable vendor telling, ‘No free dhania now. It’s very expensive.”
The other day, we were having sev puri at a roadside stall. And then I eavesdropped on a conversation between a father and his eight-year-old son. The conversation was somewhat like this:
Father: How much did you pay for the sev puri?
Son: Rs 20
Father: How much he asked for?
Son: Rs 20 only
Father (In a much higher decibel voice): And you gave him Rs 20 without even bargaining once? You didn’t ask for a single rupee discount. You think, money grows on trees (I instantly thought of former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s famous statement ‘Money doesn’t grow on tree.’)
I almost choked on my humble sev puri hearing this conversation. Certain lessons really start early in life. No wonder, I am still struggling as a ‘bekaar’ in life as my parents never taught me this art of bargaining. Picking up these lessons from my mother-in-law and the ‘unknown’ father, I decided to be a world class bargainer.
The other day, while walking on a crowded street, I decided to pick up two traditional puppets. I asked the price and the young boy said, Rs 250. Immediately, my mom-in-law’s face danced in front of my eyes. And then I said with loads of confidence, “Rs 75.” He gave me one of those Gabbar Singh laughs but then I too was in a Phoolan Devi mood./
I kept on walking and he kept on walking behind me. After a while, I told him, “Why are you following me?” He told me, “Why should I?” But in true bargaining style, we decided to once again strike a fresh conversation. I used all kind of tricks in the world right from telling him how poor am I to how many new customers I will bring for him if he sells me these two puppets at Rs 75. Finally, I won and got the puppets for Rs 75. For a nanosecond, I felt like one gold medalist at the Olympics. But the story doesn’t end here. When I told me mom-in-law about my great bargaining act, she dismissed all my tall claims by telling, “I could have got it for Rs 40.”
Well, if my mom-in-law were my FB friend, I would have blocked her immediately. But then we have a ‘real’ relationship. So, in spite of all our fights, we end up sharing a cup of tea. But I am learning the art of bargaining. Wish me good luck.
ON INTERNATIONAL HAPPINESS DAY (MARCH 20)
A cup of tea
Getting lost in the pages of a book
Looking at the changing colors of the sky
October … arrival of autumn
Winter morning, evening, night … actually everything about the winter
Watching children play
Decluttering drawers, desks and wardrobes
An air/rail ticket in my handbag
Glowing table lamps, floor lamps
Colourful handmade notebooks (and saving them for that special occasion… middle-class upbringing)
Conversations with nieces, nephews… kids in general
Cooking meals from memory (as once cooked by my mother)
Rice, egg curry, cucumber-tomato-onion salad
Sitting in a quiet cafe and seeing life pass by
Getting lost in the wonderful world of textiles at Ahmedabad’s Rani no Hajira/ Gamthiwala/Gurjari, Boyanika in Bhubaneswar, Nalli in Hyderabad, Anokhi in Jaipur, Baroda Prints in Vadodara…
Browsing through Fab India and thinking what can be purchased without spending a fortune
Stories dancing in my mind
Deleting whatspp group messages without reading them
Never ever opening a ‘Good Morning’ message
Looking for pickles, soaps at Khadi Bhandars
Buying glass bangles at Charminar in Hyderabad (even though not wearing them regularly)
Running fingers through my mother’s saris
Dreaming of owning a cafe in the mountains
Travelling in AC Two Tier in Rajdhani Express
Poori-aloo ki sabzi for breakfast
Watching varied moods of Bay of Bengal
Full Moon Night
Listening to Elton John, Cat Stevens, Adele, Kishore Kumar
Momos, fruit beer at Dilli Haat
Reading Lonely Planet India and imagining 1000 trips in my mind
Vivek Express, Gatiman Express, Nilgiri Toy Train and Palace on Wheels — Imagining journeys in each one of them
Istanbul, the home I have never been to…