Monday, October 31, 2011

Why do we need Lady Gaga for F1?

As the world attempts to cook up a Halloween trick, India takes the lap of honour. India has arrived on the international circuit - Yuppy!
But as with any mega event the Subcontinent undertakes, the Formula One gig too has had its share of criticism. With an expected speed of 315 kph, while it is touted as one of the fastest tracks in the world, the question is does India require this speed? It's put up with a massive $200 million, when the poverty line remains smudged, cry critics. 
Self-flagellation has become the second nature of Indians. If we act to attract global attention, our very own brethren trample us down. And if we don't yet we get thrashed for not doing enough.
So let's not get into it at all. Farmers will continue to commit suicide, poverty line definition will never be clarified, scams will continue unabated, the Tihar marathon will be regular event, some sports will be promoted more than the rest, media will continue creating mountains of molehills...if any of these were not to be, then it’s not humara des.
When the entire Europe is running helter-skelter to shoo away a snarling recession and even eminent Obama is juggling with competing issues in his land, shouldn't we be proud deswasiyon?
Guess, it's got to do with our self-esteem. Else how does one justify Lady Gaga's presence? Aren't there talented Indian artists. Why do we require a phirang to promote our very own effort. It's time we believed in ourselves. Chins up guys!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My first speech

I was invited to be a guest at one of the professional groups in Dubai recently. I walked in smartly dressed, lips parted to a decent width and checked if the head is alligned with my vertebrae (My family pranoically says I have a 'bird's look' head always tilted to one side).
Then gracefully knocked at the already wide open door. Was reminded of someone's  quote 'first impression is the last impression'. Ticking courtly manners correct, I searched around for at least one familiar face.
In no less than a fraction of a second I scanned the rectangular room yet again - this time to spot any pleasant faces. Discovered a few scattered in between.
Meanwhile, an elderly person seated at the entrance side of the huge conference table introduced himself. Quickly exchanged names and shook hands with four - the person sitting on my right, left and two others across the table facing me. I considered them my closest acquaintances for the rest of the evening.
The next task was to look the part...lowered myself elegantly into the leather chair only to discover it was too wide for my not-so-slender frame. So re-positioned myself diagonally to cover the volume and placed my right knee over the left and stealthy checked over the bridge of my nose if my tummy folds were bulging out. Took a quick pranayama breath to double check and it was fine.
The meeting began on the dot. I was impressed at the professionalism of the group. President's address followed by the master's made me relax and take in the atmosphere. Then a third person took the dais to speak of the agenda scheduled. By then I had calmed down completely and was enjoying the experience. When the adrenaline settles, you tend to wander. I sat studying those within my vicinity on the rectangular table, with the speech as the background score. I noticed their dress, their eyes to see if they were alert, their postures to check if they were confident, even their booklets to determine if they were new entrants or old-timers...

When I heard my name being called. Guests should introduce themselves before the meeting rolls off.
Stood up, when the President said, 'two lines will do'. Thank God for small mercies! Spat out my name, profession and place of work.
But when I resettled I was a bit ruffled and don't quite remember if I struck the correct pose in my practised right angle. Neither was I in a frame of mind to check if my torso had inflated by the air I gulped in on hearing my name out of the blue. Thereafter I was an obedient spectator. Didn't want another shock while on a wanderous trip.
Quickly enough, I was put at ease by the members' talks on varied topics, evaluations, round robin sessions, etc. Then came the impromptu section. Ah! this is the real test, I told myself, readying to see who was the smartest of the group. By now I was in the thick of happenings around, enjoying like a butterfly in the wind without a care, when I heard my name yet again.
Shucks! Why the hell should a guest speak? No one had warned me on this one!
I walked to the dais and faced the room. 35 pairs of eyes on me. I was handed a small chit with the topic that I needed to speak on for not less than two minutes. The clock starts ticking the moment I finish reading the enclosed topic. The subject read 'A wiseway diet from December to January'.
I had to collect my thoughts, structure them in my head with an intro, body and conclusion wrapped in ample humour as well as decipher the message hidden in the sentence and substantiate the same.
I re-read the topic to gain some time to sort these requirements.
Looked at the opposite wall and started, "Well, it is not a wise option to do so...and saw my elderly neighbour across smile at me. I can't remember how and what I spoke after that. Uttered and mumbled some jumbled lines in no particular order and yes, I remember saying a thank you even, when I was told I had another 40 seconds left. "Give examples," suggested a member.
Luckily I recollected my yoga teacher's favourite line and spun on it...until the timer signalled red.
As I took my seat, I prayed my neighbours don't hear my heart pound. For all my image-building exercise just an hour ago, how I wanted to disappear from the scene!
Nursing my bruised ego, I slumped blank in the huge chair, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. I didn't know when the session ended and the next started even.
Soon it was time for the awards and I was relieved the damn meeting was at last winding up. The grammarian was addressing the group. The best speaker was announced, followed by the best evaluator. He carried on..."Coming to the best quote of the day, it's by our distinguished guest 'What a shame it is to let a six-inch organ control a six-foot man'!
I was perplexed, can't remember what expression I sported while I stood up to acknowledge the applause. When my neighbour asked, "What was your topic?"
Opened the chit in my hand and the words were smudged beyond legibility. Quickly dropped the proof of my nervousness down and said, "Oh, it was something on dieting."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A wardrobe for sale

Last month I put up an innocuous piece of information on the notice board in office.
A wardrobe for sale. Those interested, please contact me (email id and mobile number provided).
My intentions were naive. I wanted to do away with my three-year-old, Malaysian-made four-door almirah. Why dump something that is functional.
In less than 10 minutes, I get an email from one of my colleagues: "I need it. What price?"
"Dh100," I replied.
Immediately, the reply. "Pass me the photo na. Will show my hus."
"OK." Done.
Meanwhile, a male colleague came up to me. Asked how old the piece was, what make and what cost. No sooner I gave the three answers than he forwarded me Dh100 saying he would collect the item that evening.
But on afterthought, I put him off saying another person has already contacted me. Gracefully he exited. No qualms what so ever. Men are indeed from Mars!
During lunch hour, my potential client joins me and my friends...
"Arre, you're here. Went looking for you at your desk. Well, my hus liked the photo..." she said leaving her sentence incomplete to stare at my plate.
"So what have you decided?" I reminded lest she forgets the purpose of her visit.
"Bus ek sandwhich! How will you survive until evening," she squealed.
"I'm used to this. So are you interested," I repeated.
"Yeaaah, hus ko tho pasand aa gaye. Tell me how long do you people take for lunch?"
"We are done," I said matter-of-factly. "So what do you say," I pursued.
"Arre, frankly speaking. We don't like buying such stuff. Our priorities are all right..." she started off, pulling a chair for herself.
"Used stuff tho bilkul nahi. But kya kare, both of us are so busy these days. No time for shopping. My husband is the IT Director at the American cargo firm and they want him in California every month..."
"Why don't you take a part-time job then," quipped one of my friends who was visibly irked by her bragging.
"Kya part-time? My hus tells me to sit at home. And what shit salary here, I say. Not even sufficient for my pocket money! But time-pass hai, isliye aati hoon."
"It's time for us to get back," I said determined to call up the gentleman colleague.
"Chalti hoon. Bye!"
We sighed a collective oof! Though a mere three-minute visit, it was akin to a tornado passing over.
As I was about to pick up the phone to place the call, I see my inbox blinking. "We couldn't speak as you'll finished lunch time. What I came to say actually was bahut mehnga hai re. U used it for three years na. So tell me the best price. Aur mahogany be nahi, its malaysia only..."
As if anything that starts with m is a piece of wood!
I replied as graciously as possible. "No worries. Thanks for taking interest." Added a PS to curb any further communication: "The piece has just been taken."
In less than five minutes I receive a seemingly threatening mail. "Arre how can u just sell it off, when I came to speak to u? Let me put things in perspective. We are very decent people. We live for our children's future. So please settle it for Dh90. Reasonable na. Dh10 mein kya rakha hai. I'll come down now."
How my finger's itched to write Dh10 mein your kids future rakha hain. But took in a deep breath and keyed in: "Sorry. But the deal is finalised with another person. Regards."
I sat staring at the screen for whole 10 minutes. Relieved she got the message, I got about with my work, when I hear her.
Oh my, not again!
"Aree, everything settled." I see her coming towards me, pulling along the gentleman colleague as if like a sheep to abattoir. "He has absolutely no problem. Bol na," she nudged him more with her eyes.
"Here," she said and placed Dh90 on my table.
"She needs it more than me. I'm ok," he said before taking leave.
And madam started..."Actually all my furniture are from Home Centre or Home R Us. So I was confused in my mind. Do you shop from Ikea. Na baba, I don't like. Rates thoda cum hai lekin all things look same. I hate that. Arre lena hai tho brand lo, isn't it..."
Luckily I received a call...
"Chalo bye," she said as I walked off.
Returned to my seat to see a mail..."Pls find below my home address. Delivery Friday ko karna. And yes, after 11am please. Only one day to catch up on sleep na." Thanks
Excuse me!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Hyderabadi says nako to roko

Roko! Please! Stop the rokos. Work hartals, educational bandhs and rail strikes are not justified, whatever the demand.
Am neither a political commentator nor a social activist. Sitting miles across in the Middle East I watch helplessly as my city is being mauled at. Brand Hyderabad is being tarnished guys. Common on! Isn't there a saner way to accomplish political demands.
I understand the capital city is only a speck in the realm of conditions and reasons for the current upheaval, nevertheless it is the main bone of contention. Truth behold, Andhra Pradesh is on the world map today because of Hyderabad.
Telangana or Andhra or a third or fourth or nth party can take the cake and the have the icing, too. But please, don't spoil the show. Gracefully scoop and dollop it up. Don't smudge it all across the cake and table and leave everyone and everything around with a gooey mess.
With each additional day of protests, the demonstrators are ensuring more delay in normalcy (social, economic and cultural) to return once their demand is met with.
Scenes of the sprawling Osmania University campus inundated with protestors raises several questions equally important as the bifurcation of the state.
If bomb blasts by anti-social elements are called barbaric, I need to coin a more drastic word for spoiling the future of youngsters. KCR & Co should take moral responsibility for every single minute wasted of the next generation.
Denying students the right to education and disrupting the socio-economic fabric of the nation is not the way forward to achieve any demand. Reports claim the strike by about 45,000 coal miners of the state will leave several other parts of the country in the dark shortly as about 29 coal plants are allegedly running on precariously low coal supplies. And the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has been granted permission to import coal as an adhoc measure. Isn't this uncalled for expenditure?
Forget the political, cultural and business dimensions that would need to be carved out from the scratch once the new borders are drawn, what guarantee Rayalaseema will not put up banners thereafter? Soon after a bifurcation, lo! a trifurcation demand!
Meanwhile, please wait before one could vouch about the skilled performances of smaller states. Mother India is still just experimenting.  As of now, Jharkhand seems to be a disaster in the making. Uttarakhand is so far doing fine, minus its teething problems, and so is Chhattisgarh if we ignore the naxalite menace. But it's a long way from comparing notes of these kiddy states' performance indicators. 
A quick mention of the hitherto lawless Bihar’s resurrection becomes mandatory here. The 12th largest state in terms of geographical size and third largest by population is getting along on the growth path today, proving only an efficient leader is all that matters – not the resources or dimensions.
Having said that, and considering the fact that if the past five decades couldn't solve the issue, with Chief Ministers from Telangana also ruling the state, isn't it anybody's wild guess that inking the deal is going to be a long and arduous cry. Until then, if the current momentum of demonstrations is adhered to, imagine the loss the new states would have piled upon. Not to mention the irrevocable damage on its people!
However, in the event a Telangana does happen and the bifurcation hiccups are all sorted out by a magical wand at the earliest (let's not count in years) nothing like it. What more can people want than efficient administration; education and quicker employment opportunities? Hope the new bureaucracy is par excellence and not tempted by the 'currency lift'. Can KCR & Co guarantee that? Time for the Telangana sculptors to meet up with Anna Hazare.
Well, consider even that's taken care of. We will have officials sincere to a fault and politicians for whom welfare of the people is the only mantra. And consider by all stretches of ones wildest imagination that co-operation and camaraderie will be executed to the helm and unity among the bifurcated will stand to be envied, who will undo the damage being inflicted now. Damage on students, damage on the socio-economic fabric of the state and the city (I can't help bringing up Hyderabad).
Business heads in the capital are playing the diplomatic card. Rightly so. All are in the wait-and-watch phase. But don't expect them to wait for forever. Political sentiments do not figure in the balance sheets of business establishments!
KCR & Co please keep your feet up, for if the business houses decide to keep their cash registers ticking, don't blame them for pulling the rug from under your feet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I miss India, its holy cows, their bows and howls

In my land, news clamours for attention. So what if some are dug deep from the dung that it stinks. They are news after all - they are heard, read, told, re-told, analysed and put to bed only to be scratched to surface a few days later. Why? Because the new bit of information needs to be compared and weighed against the buried shit.
One such sham winding and whining ever since the British took leave of us is the honorary class.
If an institution bells one holy cow, then another pulls along the more senior one from the herd only to be mau-maued. And for a few days the howls make tamasha of the awardees as news, views and sinews do the rounds until another power monger dangles the carrot and decides to de-serve the 'conferred'.
The fact that undeserving candidates continue receiving honours from deserving institutions that make wrong choices only speaks of an inherent deficiency in the very system.
The holy cows of India should be explained the phrase - It is better to deserve without receiving than to receive without deserving!
South Indian megastar (or is super bigger than mega, please correct me if I'm wrong) Mohanlal is the latest one to cry foul. He has postponed all assignments to pacify the Indian Army. He was allegedly seen flaunting the honorary Lieutenant Colonel's uniform in a commercial. 
This I will call the mother of all shams simply because it involves one of the highest bodies in India.
What the hell does the Indian Army lack that it had to rope in someone like Lal to promote itself? Had the third largest military force in the world chosen someone even seemingly fit for the uniform, it would have absolved itself of some misdoing. Squeezing his one-pack belly with the belt of honour to accommodate the stars on his leaning shoulders! With all due respect to the actor in him and the talent he nurtures, the Indian Armed Forces deserves the shit it has got itself into (however fake or true) for choosing someone who does not even have a proper gait or physique.   
From Bollywood actors to sportspeople and artists all have been grazed by tall orders. One such episode broke all ceilings when the President's office alleged the honorary doctorates awarded to Nasreeuddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Asghar Ali Engineer were without Madame President's approval. This was in 2009. And the act continues.
Schools and academies of artistic genres should be honouring these actors, not universities and definitely not the Indian Armed Force.
Educational institutes need to wake up to the real world. At a time when employers devalue highly-priced degrees on sale in institutions shouldn't the scores of unsung heroes doing research out there be honoured. They would provide better role models to youngsters than these glamour quotients.
When ex-President Bush was honoured with a degree by Yale University in 2001, the students boycotted the function, because they did not believe he deserved it. An example for Indian students here.
But the depressing fact is the PR activity includes educational institutes themselves.
The Chennai High Court early this year pulled up MGR Medical University for conferring honorary doctorates to seven doctors. Doctorates are not freebies, it said. Doctorates are given to those who bring a new perspective to the field of study in such a manner that helps society. But today politicians who haven't seen the inside of a college are honorary doctors if they donate substantial amount to any educational institution.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam - a mentor, innovator, visionary, and statesman - refused to accept an honour from a university, stating he was satisfied with the ones he has earned with his hard work and determination. Does this require explanation?

Monday, October 10, 2011

When will Indian women learn to respect their husbands?

One of my friends - a gym-going, club-hopping woman in her mid-thirties - has the audacity to change the houseboy's name. Reason: Her husband is his namesake. "Every time I call him I would be taking the name of my husband. How can I do that?" reasoned the pativrata. 
That guy should have thrust the broom into madam's face and asked her to get her 'woh' to clean up. But that's the sorry state of the less fortunates - both househelps and househeads alike. 
What a pity most Indian men get shooed and cooed by the wives in the name of being respected! It's worst in public places, for respect is at most times only demonstrated.
Consider this - A wife calling her husband aji, oji, loji, sunoji...and if her man refuses to answer, she will continue to wax lyrical and add all the remaining matras in Hindi language to the 'ji', but for his name.
When push comes to shove, they will take his genetic title...Raju ke papa; Munu ke papa and Guddi ke papa in the name of bestowing respect.
But the dominating Bengali mamas will leave children aside and check on their mens hearing abilities instead. Most Bengali married men are respectfully addressed 'ei je shuncho...' (meaning aiji sunte ho [are you listening]) before being spoken to. 
Similarly, Assamese women first test their mens sense organ. The common pronoun they use is Hoonisha (again the word means are you listening).
These women should be given tympanometres as dowry.
The South Indian ammas are equally funny...Malayalis, for instance, are the dramatic lot. They call their older brothers and hubbies the same - 'chetta'. Now the cats on the wall will pronounce it a bit different to say they aren't the aunty-types. Try this chetta: Tch - i -tteh. First lift your tongue to the palate, whirl your lips and thrust it out so that the 'Tch' is forced out as 'tsh'  out of your mouth. Isn't it a lot easier to pronounce the man's name than this exercise? Then there's the achaya and ichaya lot. I guess brothers are the former. A or i, I can only hear chayas!
Andhraiite women are a more somber lot, at least initially. They begin their sentences - be it conversations or requests - with 'Ente' (the word actually means 'what'). Something similar to the virtual lingo of today - 'what say'. And the 'e' in the ente will be pulled harder, the longer the husbands take to acknowledge them. Entee, enteee - Why the hell can't you answer sort of eeeeeehh! No, it's not frustration, that's their way of respecting their devtas!
Gods on earth, saviour, purushottams, et al, are the various statuses bestowed on husbands by respect-howling females, who insult men folk in the name of following tradition.
I know of one such husband worshipper who crosses all limits of sanity. Another invariable fact is all such pativratas feel they are the epitome of beauty and graciousness - Ma Sita's modern avtars. As if those who pronounce the names in full come running from the wild!
This aunty-of-a-woman who claims Aishwarya Rai is lucky to have been born 20 years later than her, begins the day by touching her snoring husband's feet at 7am. Then she heads to the washroom to check the colour of her bindi. During her 'days off' she sports a huge roundish black colour between her brows and not the everyday reddish-brown stickers. This is followed by MS Subhalaxmi's 'Kausalya Suprabatham' after which she proceeds to fix a cup of coffee before waking him up. All that's left of the ritual is for her to garland him and burn an incense stick between his ears!
Even as I storm for a suitable word to define such mockeries in the name of respect, am reminded of the 'silent generation'. Have heard stories of several old grandmas of traditional Kerala homes who never appeared before the male members, not even their husbands. Can't fathom how they produced so many offsprings though! And considering that the norm then was hum-do-humare-dus, am curious about the modus operandi. At least it would help clear the numerous rape cases languishing in Indian courts today.
Well, until some sportive grandpas come forward that will remain a mystery, but at present I'm puzzled why today's men are tolerating such disrespect. All the wohs and jis and sunos must sit on a hunger strike to rewrite tradition that lets married women use all permutations of syllables to rename them at their whim.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Her giggles changed me…

The father of modern technological revolution passed away this week. As cancer cut short his journey, I join global netizens in mourning his death, but no eulogies as I know Steve Jobs only through Apple. However, the few speeches I read of the man makes me believe he will rest in peace as he lived a life – his life – in faith.

That’s the one main reason he touched scores of people. In fact, any soul that fulfills even a part of its purpose in earthly life will leave an impact on at least a few mortals before it leaves the body. One such person touched me, too…

My family knew her for the last about 26 years. They had rented a house opposite ours in Secunderabad towards the fag end of 1980s. She was a rolly-polly short woman who perpetually giggled. With two toddlers in tow, she soon became a regular at our gate. I didn’t like her spending time with mom, especially in the evenings when we returned from school. On weekends, when we were at home I believed I didn’t get to see enough of my mother because of her. She was constantly yapping away– that’s what I called her conversations then. If it was not to speak of her siblings back home, then it was her house owner’s tantrums, or her neighbours kids, or it was to borrow some tea powder or sugar or sweater and a reason for the same always ran into an hour-long monologue. Come winter or summer, while in mourning or celebration, she didn’t need a reason to laugh and talk. If her constant presence irritated me, her giggles snapped at my nerves.  Why can’t she speak with a straight face, I wondered on several occasions.

If she had to buy anything new, she turned to my mom for advice, if she received a letter from her parents, the contents were shouted from across the compound. My mother, meanwhile, took the role of a counsellor, an elder sister and advisor. In short, my mom developed a soft corner for her in no time. Soon she began keeping aside her chores to attend to her needs – and I kicked up a ruckus at home. Looking back, I don’t think there was a single instance where I let my mom help her in peace.

We were regularly treated to ghee rice, mutton stew and kheer – her specialties. On Eid, we were invited over and I hated that even further. I refused to go to her place. So a parcel would be duly sent. In fact, she only needed a pretext to bring food. My mom sneezed and she would lay a spread on our table requesting her to take rest. And I muttered and sweared around. I just hated her presence and loathed her dominating maternal instincts at play. I said her show of affection was for her to fulfill her own needs.

Soon her kids grew up and the little girl was admitted to my school. There followed another request. I was to take the child along. A four-year-old tugging along meant I couldn’t run and jump into any bus along with my friends. I had to wait for the rush to subside, which delayed me by 10-15 minutes (it was humongous period of time and unacceptable then). There were days I literally dragged the girl along in anger. That was enough reason for me to completely ignore her mother, who would invariably be at our doorstep when we returned home. I would walk-in in a huff with an annoying pout and be reprimanded for the same until one day when my mother just gave up. Luckily that ordeal lasted just two years as I completed my 10th and moved on.

Shortly afterwards they shifted residence to the next street and I began to see less of her. Only the weekend visits I was privy to as most meetings took place during college hours. But the mention of her name was enough trigger for me to put up my dirty side on show.

Apparently my mother found a friend and younger sister in her and I had failed to see that then. All that I saw was my mom sharing with her the time she ought to have spent with me or so I believed, which was totally unacceptable. Her presence in our house I considered a compulsive invasion. Her non-stop jabber irritated me and her perpetual giggle was fanatically unbearable. I would close the door of my room as she walked in lest I hear her giggles and imagining her whole upper body moving in rhythm made me mad.

Years passed…as I joined university and spent more time on studies and things more constructive, the irritation on seeing her lessened. I later moved to Dubai and forgot all about her. During my short annual trips, when my mom updated me of community news, she did figure, but I was unaffected. I had moved on. She was totally out of my world.

But this July – July 7, 2011 – when I landed in India, my mom told me, “Naseera is here. She wants to see you.” And I said so very casually with absolutely no feelings, “So let’s finish it now.” Because going home and visiting her later was not advisable – my home is 170kms away from the airport, while her accommodation just a 15km drive.

My parents, though, had visited her several times during her 45 days hospital stay - never considering the distance covered on each trip.  There’s no math in relationships!

I walked into the room, to find a frail frame – yes, the rolly-polly woman whose upper chubby body mass shivered in rhythm to her giggles was reduced to a skeletal frame holding a bald head.

The moment she saw me, she tried getting up. Her aged mother helped her.She was wheezing hard while she tried helplessly to independently cover her legs with a bed sheet. She wanted to set her sparse hair right, but couldn’t manipulate her fingers to her whim. Her old mother helped with that, too.

But all through this arduous exercise of helping herself up and trying to decently present herself to the guests, she was giggling.  I now saw how even her hollow cheeks and darkened skin couldn’t soil her giggles – her trademark expression that once irritated me no end. Though her flow of speech was affected, she started off.

In between bouts of wheezing, coughing and holding for breath, she said: “You look the same, Nisha. Put on a little weight. But you are the same girl I knew when I first came to Secunderabad.” She turned to her old mother and said, “She was this tall even while in school. She used to take Suneera to school  (Suneera is the little girl I dragged in anger on most days). Oh, now you cut your hair. She had long hair…” and so she went on, as I stood blankly.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Soon it was only some sound that I heard, for I couldn’t arrest the thoughts that barged into my head – those of the hatred I nursed almost two decades ago. It was for no substantiate reason. Why did I hate her? I couldn’t think of even one reason?  It was my personality trait – of not being accommodative. Period. But that had no effect on her. As I trailed back into the room, she was still on…”your daughter looks like you only, Nisha. Even she is so thin. You were very fussy with food. Is she also like that?...” Oh my, she remembered my eating habits, too.

A short while later, we had to take leave because my little girl was getting impatient. Life is cyclic! For the first time in our long-acquaintance I was beginning to bond with her and my daughter was playing the spoilsport.

When we got up to leave, she held my mother’s hand and said, “ I’m so happy, chechi, you brought Nisha and her daughter. Now don’t delay. You’ll have got a long drive ahead.”

She then looked at me and said, giggling as always, “I’m happy to see you. This is the first time I spoke for this long in months. I become breathless off late. So I just don’t attempt speaking. But today I’m ok. I’ll improve now. Will get back home and call. You must be tired, the packing and the flight you must not have slept last night, too, isn’t it?...”

And so we took leave of Naseera aunty.

On August 1, 2011 when I returned from shopping late in the evening, my mother was still in her working saree, looking soiled and worn out. “Naseera died this morning,” she said. Three weeks after I first bonded with her – she was gone.

That night though I was extremely tired after a day-long outing, sleep eluded me. I couldn’t put off Naseera aunty’s giggles. Am sure she would have sensed a teenager’s feelings for her, but she never once showed it. The positive character that she was she treasured her giggles on her deathbed, too, even when the ugly tentacles of the disease spread to her insides.

Only after I promised myself not to ‘hate’ people; only after I made a resolve not to use that word ever again; only after I decided that even if I were to have an earth-shattering reason to abhor someone, I would only ignore them or dislike them at worst, could I rest that night.

My faith in relationships has been strengthened by someone’s innocuous giggles. Her death may not have made news, her deeds may not have altered the destiny of thousands, but her life has definitely changed me.

PS: A tribute to an aunty who I will always remember.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My shoes give me a culture shock

Oh! I love fresh kicks. I just can't stop drooling over their feel, their looks, their makes and continue piling on the increasing numbers in my rack.
So recently when I heard two new Dubaiites talking of going footwear-shopping, I threw myself into their conversation uninvited and enthusiastic, like children would when their birthday party is being planned - they know the best.
From sales and deals and formals to party dos and beach wears and matching boots, I ranted out the malls that housed identical and branded ones of each type. 

Picture Courtesy: MorgueFile
Soon the two new colleagues became my admirers. Now that gave me a further kick, exactly like the high I feel when I try a new pair on. I soon began recounting tales of a finicky acquaintance who matches her hairdos with that of her sandal fabric. She adjusts the bounce of her tresses with the length of her heels. They were in splits when I said how she reminds me of a well-bred shiny horse that moves its well-chiselled head in rhythm with its banged tail.
I quickly learnt the duo belong to the same breed. They were both Thoroughbreds! But now I had treaded too far that I couldn't just pull my foot out - it was stuck in the wrong place. The classic case of putting one's foot in the mouth.
"So you have a shoe fetish," they chorused.
Oh yeah! I added with vanity oozing.
"My only regret is not getting all my pairs, you know. The damn baggage limit. How I hate airline rules," said one.
"Tell me about it, I just could pack 109 pairs. Have asked my mom to send across the rest," said the other and added "it feels good to know someone shares the same craze as me. So how many pairs do you have?"
I pretended not to hear and said why don't you head to Dubai Mall? Suddenly my fetish seemed amateurish. My treasured 35 numbers seemed kiddish.
Alas, the show jumping was well underway..."I've never seen you in heels."
"You don't believe in stilettos to work, yeah," one of them inadvertently came to my rescue.
"I just cannot stay off them," said Miss 109.
As if she sleeps in them, too. Why do women exaggerate any indulgence that's already brimming all rationale norms anyways!
With a new-found determination, I said, "you'll only see me in flats."
"Somehow, I find flats washroom culture!," said Ms Baggage Limit, and quickly uttered a "sorry, I didn't mean anything personal."
Washroom or prayer meet, party bash or official forum and no matter what the dress code I stay loyal to my moccasins, flip-flops, grungy crocs or strappy wedges. The farthest I can walk holding my vertebrae upright in is on kitten heels.
Now I need to quickly come up with a name for people like me. Who would love to say they have a fetish for shoes, even when their pairs do not cross primary double digits; who cannot walk on heels even when threatened by a firing squad; and who hates being categorised under washroom culture!

You may want to check out...