2.7.14

Two Left Thumbs





Fifa madness began just a couple of weeks ago for most; but, in my world footballs were being kicked and penalties being handed out for over a month and a half now. K’s focus and sincerity at playing the PS4 baffles me. I mean, I call myself a voracious reader, but can’t read more than a few pages at a time (that’s right now. There were times earlier in my life when gripped between the pages of a Forsyth, a Follet, a Sheldon, a Puzo or a Collins, I’ve gone for a whole day without food - ok, two meals….ok fine, one meal). He doesn’t call himself any grandiose names but is able to reach alarmingly high levels and ranks in short spans of time! 

Anyways, the gentleman that he is, he always invites me to play all his PS4 games with him; and though I really, really, really, really do want to, my two left thumbs leave me way behind the start line. Seriously. Behind the ‘start’ line. That’s how bad I am. But this time, when his new FIFA game arrived, I sincerely believed that things will be different.  I’m a fast learner - most of the time - but, this time, much to my feminist dismay, my very muscly footballers ended up doing a strange version of Ringa Ringa Roses on the streets of Brazil. And while they were ‘a-tishoo, a-tishoo’ all falling down, my thumbs, forefingers, index fingers and usually also the rest of my body did a weird mating/rain dance sequence to somehow get them to play football. 

Fine, so I made my peace with my non-sportiness and rejoiced when we bought a new game - a strategy game. Now, this had to be right up my alley, being the thinker/ponderer/mystery girl who also did some vague strategy courses in business school. Right? Right. 

Let me humbly and honestly lay my game controller down (for its own safety) as I admit, that apart from my two left thumbs all my other fingers go comatose during game play. Seriously. My characters just don’t move - no matter the button punching and lever pulling. They just stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk. I mean, at least my footballers did a sort of dance; but my strategising criminals/vigilantes stay put and indulge in small talk - usually in the dining area. Hmmm….!!! 


I am at that point in my gaming life where I’ve accepted who I am - the girl who can’t handle more than two buttons at a time. The thing is, that's okay; because, to shoot a very irritated bird at a gluttonous pig my two left thumbs are almost all I need. 

24.6.14

The Inconvenience of Peace




Arms crossed, lips pursed and an adamance in his eyes that I found amusing and disturbing at the same time, I watched my barely three year old cousin refuse to apologise to someone he had just been rude to. Sheesh! Egos develop early. 

As we grow, some of us learn our lessons and are able to keep our egos a small size - most of the time; while the rest of us let it balloon and usually have it pricked and deflated very quickly by the world. Thats why, seeking peace becomes a very important thing. 

I know that now. But, a couple of decades ago, after going for four days without speaking to my brother (post some silly squabble) I was feeling quite the victor - as a kid, being the sweetheart that he was, he would buckle and give in within a day, but the years added a lot of sense to him and, worse, diminished the efficacy of my vampish strategy. Four days of empty victory later, along came Sunday! 

So, we go to church - maintaining status quo - and though we would have loved to sit on opposite ends of the church, we had to sit together as a family ("get, set, go inconvenience!") Half way through the mass the priest said, “Let’s now offer each other a sign of peace”. Now, sitting beside each other made things extremely inconvenient for me; however, surrounded by the hawk like eyes of our parents, we had no choice but to look at each other with folded hands and say, “Peace be with you.” It sucked the air out of both our ego-balloons; but deflated as they were now, the inconvenience of peace suddenly became a bridge to truce. 

One thing I’ve noticed is that the inconvenience of peace is a global phenomenon. In Edinburgh, I’ve seen at least a couple of people, every Sunday, who suddenly just HAD TO find something in their purses or cough vigorously when it was time to say peace! In India, I’ve seen fellow church goers stand immobile, their necks straining as they stared straight ahead while those on their left and right looked expectantly - almost longingly - at them! I’ve even seen some family members prod their loved ones who were refusing said peace and offer it to them persuasively! 


But, my best ‘peace’ experience was in Shanghai. Despite the mass being entirely in Mandarin, by sheer habit I knew what prayer was going on when; so when it was time for peace, I was all set to say peace to my Chinese brothers and sisters. The Chinese offer peace pretty much like us Indians - folded palms - and I did the same. It was a few moments before I realised that a very, very old Chinese lady (did I mention how ancient she was?!) who had been sitting a couple of benches ahead of me was completely enthralled with the only Indian face in that entire, huge church. She did a complete 180 degrees turn and continued to offer me peace with folded palms for a very long time! 

Inconvenient? Not really. Amusing and a just a tiny bit embarrassing - to me and everyone else in between me and cute old lady? Very much! 

14.6.14

Home is where my camera's heart is


A trip - any trip - is a rejuvenator.  Seeing something new or even revisiting something that you have already seen and enjoyed earlier can help remove cobwebs and infuse freshness into our drab routines. That’s why when K told me that we were going on a trip to Tokyo, I was over the moon and whatever is beyond! And the first thing that I got ready was my camera. 

My camera was my husband’s ‘thala Diwali’ (first Diwali after the wedding) gift to me. It’s an Olympus XZ-1 and is one of my favourite things in the world! And the pictures it takes are pretty awesome too. 




And being a passionate photographer’s spouse it’s only natural that I picked up a little bit of that interest too! Sayonara Chennai, Konnichiwa Japan it was! After some initial literally 'picture perfect' shots, my camera got moody and after a while simply retreated into a shell. 

Our second trip - to China - was met with even more over-the-moonness than the first! I love…LOVE…LOVE Chinese cuisine and after watching A Bite of China both hubby and I were looking forward to our food…err…business trip! (If you haven’t watched A Bite of China yet, please do! It’s an amazing documentary and an addictive watch - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRHNa9qdtlw. ) I had vowed to take photos of every single thing we eat - B, L, D and any snacks in between! So, we reach Shanghai and, as promised, I take pictures of the ‘original’ shrimp fried rice, the mind boggling Xialongbao and the tarts and biscuits that were complimentary at the cafe in our hotel. A day later, my camera starts sulking and a few hours later goes to sleep. 


The thing with traveling is that though you might be blown away by the newness, awesomeness and yumminess of it all, at some point in time it makes you realise that the chaotic, messy and familiar place you left behind - and only that place - is the legendary ‘sweet home’ people talk about. 

So, when we returned to sultry, hot and traffic-jammed Chennai and my camera suddenly sprung back to life, I realised that despite its Japanese roots,  my sweet camera is actually a Chennaite at heart. 

P.S: My husband says that the sensor in my camera starts acting up because of lower temperatures (both Tokyo and Shanghai were chilly when we went) and that’s why what happened, happened. I think this argument is best settled over full meals and filter coffee. 

19.7.13

Kidnapping of a different kind



Growing up in Delhi was a very social affair; we lived in a housing quarters for bank officers, so everyone knew everyone else. Birthdays, every kind of festival and other happy occasions were celebrated with much fanfare and togetherness. Deaths too saw neighbors and others show their solidarity and consolation - many a times relieving the grieving family from the chores of cooking for days together. This particular incident happened during a birthday party; there was a family that lived in the floor above ours and it was their elder son's seventh birthday. All the kids in the building - including my brother and I - were invited to the birthday party.

The party had a great turn out, and sans one unpleasant incident where their younger son planted himself at the door and refused entry to those who didn't bring gifts everything else was as much fun as a kid's birthday party could be. A few minutes after the cake was cut and we were all balancing our share of it on our paper plates, the door opened and about four men came in; the birthday boy's parents welcomed them with much respect and led them to another room.

Somehow, I remember that when they all walked in everyone became very quiet and there was an uncomfortable silence until they were out of sight. The oldest of them must have been in his mid fifties. He was well built, wore a pale green kurta pajama; it didn't look new, but it was perfectly ironed. He wore a black cap - a wooly one made of some animal's hair - sort of like a badly made wig. The other three men with him were much younger, maybe in their early twenties.

After some time, when we were all finished with our cakes and drinks, the birthday boy's dad scanned the party and invited a select few children - children who were my brother's age and younger - to the room. Now, I have always been very competitive, especially with my brother; even as a little girl, I would divide the chores such that my little brother and I had equal work to do!  I began arguing, obstinately demanding to be allowed into the room and finally - with much exasperation from everybody - was allowed.

They made the children stand in line and I watched entranced as the old man began to speak to them in soft, hushed tones. There was an unsettling focus in his eyes and though he didn't use any of the things we normally associate with it, I realize now that he was, in a way, hypnotizing the children. He began asking them about a child - a relative of the birthday boy's family -  who had been kidnapped. The children were asked what they could see, what they felt, what colors they saw; they were asked to describe the surroundings, the clothes they could 'see' the boy wearing and such. The man took his time with each child, patiently repeating questions and probing for answers. By the time he was with the third child, I was bored and decided to go home.

When I reached home, mom asked me where my brother was; not knowing what hypnosis was and being too  young to be aware of the gravity of the situation, I nonchalantly answered that some old guy was asking questions about some child who had been kidnapped. I'll never forget the look that came over my  mom's face; I was really scared, because though she wasn't yelling, I knew that she was very very very angry.

She marched upstairs with me in tow; like an angry mother lioness, to the shock and horror of the birthday boy's dad and the hypnotizing man, she barged into the room where the 'interrogations' were taking place; my mom gave them such a piece of her mind that they both cowered in embarrassment and a little fear. My brother was the one who was being questioned when we had walked in; mom grabbed him from the chair and came back home. The funniest thing (in retrospect) was that despite this, the birthday boy's parents kept asking for just another minute with my brother because apparently he had found a 'connection' - but they kept their distance.

Mom was so angry and emotional. I didn't understand it then, but I do now. Her fear and shock of having had her youngest baby misused that way. After we came back home, she prayed over my brother and did the other things that Indian mothers do to ensure that no bad vibes were around my brother. I was still in awe over my usually calm mother's near violent outburst that I don't really remember how the other parents reacted. But, I do know that hearing all the commotion several of them pulled their children out of the party.

A few days later, I asked my brother what it was that he had actually seen and that little imp tells me that he never saw anything, but let his imagination take over and made up stories for his own entertainment!

Be careful where you send your children and whom you leave them with. There are many wolves in sheep's clothing lurking around the most innocent of places.


29.6.13

Some songs...


There are some songs, especially French and Italian and those that they play on old time World War movies when soldiers are enjoying an unexpected glass of wine or cigarettes - amid chaos; songs that unlock the uncomfortable thought of the volatility of life.

When I listen to them, I feel like I'm at the cusp of change; like I've fought and battled against it; like the wave of change has crashed over me and drenched me in its inevitability.

Like, life moves on....life must go on.


Listen to Edith Piaf's La vie en rose, you might just feel the same way as me.

4.4.13

The Future Beckons

It was a lovely Saturday evening in Pondy. Mum and her friends were walking down a 'Salai' that I can't remember the name of. I'm not sure if they were shopping or were going some place. I was tagging along, a six, probably seven year old. We stopped at a crossing, waiting for the light to turn green for us pedestrians. There was a little jostle for space at that corner and I suddenly found myself standing right behind one of mom's friends whose braid fell way beyond her waist. In fact, I reached only up to her bum and the curling end of the braid was right at my face.

I stood there captivated. The way the locks of hair seemed to slide into each other, without tangling, was nothing less than a ballet of the tresses for me. At that moment, I felt such a pang of anxiety as I had felt only a few days ago.


I wasn't allowed tea or coffee as a child. But sometimes, mom would let me have a sip of what she was drinking (always non-alchoholic! Mom's a teetotaler!). So, on this particular day, mom asked me if I wanted 'garbled sound' to drink - I said yes. The drink - warmed to my liking, arrived. I took a sip a another and another and another and was overcome with a heavy heart. A feeling that I could relate to an incident that had happened only a few days ago.


I loved Sundays more than any other day. Of course, no school, no piano practice - no Sister Judith. It meant a visit to the bakers after Sunday mass and a non-vegetarian meal. Being the coastal girl that I am, fish and prawns are and have always been my all time favorites, but the family preferred meat, so it was usually chicken or mutton. So, on this particular day, lunch was quite delicious. Though, after my meal, in that state of utter obliviousness to reality - when you're almost asleep, but not quite, I had a thought that distressed my still growing brain - what if I am never able to tell the difference between a chicken dish and a mutton dish?

Which brings me back to the lukewarm drink. I couldn't tell if it was coffee or tea - it was just a brown, sweet liquid. How was I to grow up and offer people coffee or tea and then make it?

Which brings me back to the braid. How will I survive this world without knowing how to braid my hair.


Looking back, I can see that I worried a lot about my future! What a trying time it is to grow up, huh? But, as I look at myself now, I am filled with gratitude for the knowledge and friendship of God. The future beckons, but doesn't scare anymore! 

19.9.12

The sound of running water

In my building, the apartments are such that the kitchens share a wall. So, when my neighbor cooks, I'd know, with all the clanging and banging and the whistles from the pressure cooker. It was reassuring, somehow. Or at least that's what I expected her to feel, when she heard my vessels clang and bang and the mixie whizz at, umm.....unconventional cooking hours (K & I are both midnight snack lovers!)

But my neighbors moved out about a month ago. So, I don't hear any anymore Bengali through the brick walls. There's no constant, rhythmic thud, from a pre-teen practicing basket ball at home. And of course, there's no clang and bang and no smell of food cooking in the Bengali favorite mustard oil.

A couple of days after they'd left, one afternoon, I heard the tap from something I imagined to be a bubble top water storage open and close. I thought, 'Hmm..there are new people here already? How come I never heard them move in?' I soon forgot about it.

The next day, I heard the same sound, again. It was like someone opened the bubble top and were filling a bottle with water. I was in the kitchen, so I came out to see if K was using our bubble top. Nope. So immediately I opened my door to check if my neighbor's door was locked. It was. From outside. A small shiver of fright ran criss cross inside me. Asking God to help me control my high flying imagination, I went about my day.

But this sound of water wouldn't leave me alone. Seriously, whenever I was by myself, I'd hear this sound. What is supposed to be calming (the sound of running water) suddenly started scaring me. I thought, gulp, I was hearing things. And things were making themselves heard only to me.

One afternoon however, while K and I were having lunch, I heard my ghost sound. This time, K reacted and was looking around for the source of it. Can I tell you, I was so relieved that I wasn't the only one hearing these sounds. We tried to figure out the source, and before he left for work, he managed to whisper "maybe there's a ghost here" and bid goodbye, chuckling naughtily.

By now, I was pretty distraught at hearing these mysterious sounds. Why running water? Why at only certain times? Why not at night? Why does the source of sound seem to come from different directions everyday? Are there invisible people living next door? Or are there invisible people living in-door? Maybe there's a time dimension oddity and there are two families living in the same house and I can hear them, but they can't hear me. Maybe the audio will turn visual one day and I'll be able to live in my dimension, but also witness a different dimension.

It was confusing and scary and weird. So, I did what any normal person would do. Watched T.V. In HD. So good.

It was while I was watching T.V, that I heard the sound again. This time it was very soft. And 'EEEEEEE' very close. I investigated around the sofa like a hound. Only I used my ears instead of my muzzle.

And I found it. The source of my distress and mystery and fear and palpitation for the past week.

Drumroll.

 It.....was........my.......phone.

Sheesh.

It was then that I remembered that a week ago, I had downloaded an app to remind me to drink water every few hours. And it had been dutifully doing so. At regular intervals, with the sound of running water.

To say that I was relieved would be an understatement.

Imagination....thou art an fickle friend.