Wednesday, August 30, 2006

To sing or not to sing...

...Vande Mataram, is apparently, the question.

My most recent memories of Vande Mataram are from the A.R. Rehman directed version of it (very soft, very pretty), and then, Shubha Mudgal's knock-your-socks-off rendition (with the absolutely trippy video featuring this woman, who just by the way, would totally be second on the list of women whose babies I would want to have, If I ever turned lesbian. Oh I'm not supposed to say that out loud? Oh shush! You're the internet, internet, and if I can't bare my soul to you, then what use is a soul, I ask you!).

The first time I heard Vande Mataram sung (circa 1988), the only thought that crossed my mind was, "Oh pretty tune! It's the national song? Oh okay."

Was I flooded with feelings of nationalism? No. Did it appeal to the patriot in me? No. Do you know why? Because I hadn't a clue what it means. Nope. Not a one.

The song, you see, is in Sanskrit. Not exactly the Lingua Franca of the average Indian, let alone your average (and that's me being SO generous) eleven-year-old NRI.

And I'd be willing to bet a whole lot of money, that the cretins squabbling over whether or not it should be sung, haven't a clue either.

And yet, there's this.



Oh and while we're on the subject of songs, here's one that's been making perfectly seasoned, slow-roasted, melt-in-your-mouth seekh kababs of my heart (and also, not related at all, but I think I'm hungry).

Naina: OST Omkara, Lyrics: Gulzar, Music: Vishal Bhardwaj

Nainon ki mat maaniyo re, nainon ki mat suniyo,
Nainon ki mat suniyo re
Naina thag lenge

Jagte jaadu phukenge re, jagte jagte jaadu
jagte jaadu phukenge re neenden banjar kar denge
Naina thag lenge

Bhala manda dekhe na paraya na saga re
nainon ko toh dasne ka chaska laga re
Nainon ka zehar nasheela re

Baadalon mein satrangiyan bonve bhor talak barsaave
baadalon mein satrangiyan bonve, naina baanvra kar denge
Naina thag lenge

Naina raat ko chalte chalte swargaan mein le jaave
megh malhaar ke sapne bije* hariyali dikhlave
Nainon ki zubaan pe bharosa nahi aata
likhat parhat** na rasid na khaata
saari baat havaai*** re, saari baat havaai

Bin baadal barsaaye saawan, saawan bin barsaatan
bin baadal barsaaye saawan naina baanwara kar denge
Naina thag lenge

Jagte jaadu phukenge re jagte jagte jaadu
jagte jaadu phukenge re neenden banjar kar denge
Naina thag lenge.

Beg, borrow, download, if you have to, but listen to this song. If you loved Gulzar before, this song will make you want to get down on your knees and worship him.

P.S. There is some amount of dispute of about some of the lyrics. I have written what's made the most sense to me, the asterisked (I'm not sure if that's a real word) words according to the internet versions of this song are:

** parakh

Monday, August 28, 2006

A Letter

To the man who walked his math-impaired daughter down the perilous road from multiplication tables to differential calculus. The personal swimming instructor, raag identifier and consoler of weepy, red-nosed four- year-olds whose heroes have fallen. On celluloid.

That dresser-up of rag-doll-sleepy-school-goers, doll's-arm/leg/head-fixer. Tiffin-packer, chocolate-wafer-adder.

Patient-sitter-through of makeovers by six-year-olds, who think that salt-and-pepper hair in at least six bristly ponytails, with a minimum of three bindis on the forehead, is so him.

Photographer of horrific moments - like fancy-dress parties and clown faces.

Embarrass-er of daughters, by playing ancient recordings of said-daughter's-five-year-old-voice soulfully singing:

"Laila main lailaaaa! Aisi hoon lailaaaa,
Har koi chaahe mujhse, milna akelaaa!"

Hummer-of-tunes, never-singer, non-dancer.

Lover of books, The Beatles, and order. Watcher of every. single. news bulletin.

To the maker of the best chicken curry in the *whole* world.

Happy birthday, Papa. May this be one of many, many more.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I can walk English, I can talk English!*

This post, and more so the comments on it, reminded me of my own puzzlement with Indian English, when I moved here twelve years ago.

I was sixteen when we moved from Nigeria, right after my grade ten (and yes, we called them grades one to twelve. NOT classes one to twelve, NOT standards one to twelve. *Grades*) board exams. Owing to the bubble environment we'd grown up in, I spoke a strangely stilted Hindi, and very fluent, but very weirdly accented English. It wasn't Nigerian English and it wasn't Indian English. The closest I can come to describing it is, as a cross between Indian and British, with a touch of American thrown in for good (or maybe not) measure.

"But why should you have any of those accents?!", you ask. "I have NO idea", I say.

Hey, I didn't make The Bubble, I just lived in it.

The accent was never really a problem though. At least, not as far as making myself understood was concerned. Getting people to stop thinking I was snooty bitch because I wouldn't (I couldn't dammit) speak in Hindi, was of course, another issue altogether.

But I'm rambling again.

Episode 1:
The first time I was let in on the gossip going around in school, I was told in hush-hush tones that persons x and y were 'going around'.

Me: "Going around? Going around what??"
Random Girl in Class: You know... they're having a love affair!
Me: A LOVE AFFAIR?! But..but they can't have a love affair! They're in school!
RGiC: So?

See, till then, the only time I'd ever come across the words 'love affair', were in Mills & Boons novels and heavens! Love affairs were things that grown-ups had. They were, you know...sordid and occasionally even featured (oh fetch me my smelling salts!) *sex*!

So yes, I was quite scandalised, much to the puzzlement of the RGiC, who began wondering whether Indians in Nigeria were like, really backward, 'cos y'know, like, everyone goes around dude.

When V and I started dating, I proudly informed RGiC that we were 'going out' (by which, of course, I meant that we were seeing each other).
RGiC: Going out? Going out where??
Me: We're not going anywhere, we're just, well...he's my boyfriend now.
RGiC: Ohhhh! You mean you're going *around* now!

Episode 2:
In Indian English, it is understood that when you use the word 'parlour', you mean a beauty parlour (or 'salon', if you prefer).

So I'm on the phone with n and she asks.
N: Haan, so where are you right now?
Me: In the parlour.
N: (after three seconds of confused silence) Isn't this your ghar ka phone number?
Me: Hunh? Yes it is. Why?
N: Tera parlour tere ghar ke paas hai?? Do you have an extension there?
Me: What on *earth* are you talking about?! Parlour ghar ke andar hota hai shaayad? And this is the main phone line...the extension is upstairs.

N thinking: MAN these Nigerian Indians are a weird lot!
Me thinking: MAN this woman makes lesser and lesser sense every day!

And all because English is a very funny language.*

*Part of this dialogue from an old Amitabh Bachchan movie, Namak Halal.

Trial by...

Why do trial rooms have those strange doors? You know, the ones that look like they ran out wood so they just sort of fitted in whatever they had left over and hoped that people wouldn't be that upset about the world being able to see their socks?

Only, there is a much more disturbing aspect to these doors, which I discovered when I went shopping for a pair of jeans* yesterday.

Woman walks into a store. Woman does not like pushy sales people. As if on cue, she is immediately accosted by one.

Stud Boy Sales Guy: Hi ma'am! Can I help you?".
Woman: I'm...ummm...looking for a pair of jeans.
SBSG: Sure ma'am! What waist size?
(at which point SBSG looks at woman's midriff appraisingly and says, "I know size x**!", and saunters off to get it)
Woman: Actually, I want a size x+1, in dark blue...with a regular rise.
(SBSG stops in mid-saunter, turns around horrified)
SBSG: But ma'am, low rise is in right now!
Woman: Regular, please.

SBSG returns with jeans in hand and skepticism on face. Woman steps into the trial room, SBSG stands right outside, and that is when she realises; SBSG is standing right outside said trial room, which means, he is going to know when Woman takes her pants (trousers, if you're thinking Brit) off. Okay, so he can't actually *see* anything apart from sock-clad feet but still...he knows, and that's enough to make Woman want to climb up the walls, Spidey-style and then face whatever trials (pun unintended, but apt) come her way.

Woman, sadly enough, has never been bitten by radioactive spiders, so climbing up the walls is out. Lacking a plan 'B', Woman decides that a little Houdini-style-flexibility is the call of the hour.

Woman tries to squeeze herself out of line of vision (complicated, when you're in a 3x3 room) and try on jeans at the same time (a difficult maneuver, at the best of times). She is mid-wiggle into the jeans when she hears a voice.

SBSG: Ma'am, is it okay? Is it too tight?
(woman freezes, much like bunny trapped in headlights, only imagine bunny in inconvenient state of undress as well. Woman, however, not being bunny, eventually recovers enough to stammer out) Ummm...a little, yes. Can you give me the same style in size x+1?

SBSG passes it over the door.

SBSG: (at eager-beaver-best) Is it okay ma'am? Can I see?
Woman: (What?! No! You can most certainly NOT see, you dolt! What Woman *says* however, is) Uh...No?
SBSG: Is it tight around the hips?
Woman: (with tendrils of smoke beginning to snake their way out of her nostrils) Look, can I come out and have this conversation??
SBSG: (most obligingly) Ya sure!

Woman steps out and hands SBSG the jeans with an icy, "I don't like them, thank you." and a matching frosty look. SBSG, obviously never having understood the language of icy looks, takes proffered denims and further proceeds to dish out advice.

SBSG: See ma'am, the problem is, in proportion to your waist, your hips are too broad.

Woman first blinks in disbelief, then seriously contemplates whacking SBSG over the head with her handbag. Having been brought up to be polite and infuriatingly non-confrontational however, she regretfully discards this line of thought, instead, switching to that last weapon in the arsenal of the wuss, sarcasm.

Woman: (smiling brightly) Really? Thank you so much! I think you're *wonderful* too!
SBSG: (smiling brightly back, absolutely oblivious to the dripping sarcasm) That's okay, no problem!

And that would be the first, of three times in the last week, that random people have said to me, sentences ending with, "your hips are too broad".

Jeans fit weird?
"Your hips are too broad".
Slipped off the raft?
"Your hips are too broad".
Global warming?
"Your hips are too broad".

Is this fair, I ask you. Is it?

*Which, in Chronicus Skepticus' speak, translates into, 'I walked through the fires of hell', because my GOD, there are few activities* I *loathe* more than shopping.

**And just because you're the internet and know pretty much everything *else* that there is to know about me, is not reason enough for me to let you know my waist size as well. Some secrets are *meant* to be taken to graves alright? Let it go now.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tag! Or 'Meme', if that's what YOU call it!

Well, since no-one *ever* tags me (and yes, I'm enough of a blogging newbie to sulk about it) I shall go ahead and tag myself! So there!

Also, I'm suffering from the worst attack of blog-clog *ever* (no wisecracks. I FORBID you to make wisecracks!) and I have read from reliable sources, that a tag is the best way! Cures it right away, it does*. So, here goes.

I'm thinking:
About these lines from the title song in Iqbal -

Guzre aise har raat raat,

Ho khwaaishon se baat baat...

- and I'm trying to remember the last time, if ever, I was this excited, this hopeful about anything (and no, romantic stuff doesn't count). You know the lying awake at night, thrilling with anticipation for the next day? Yes, that feeling. And I'm wondering, will I ever have it again?

And the answer is scaring me.

I said:
"Oh, what the hell!" and went ahead and did it anyway.

I want to:
Be in The Yellow Submarine song. You know how when you're listening to a song, you can see it happening in your head? The yellow submarine, the bells, the marching band, the happy stoned-ness of the whole picture? You can just see them all drinking beer and having a jolly good time, and in the picture? I would totally be the happy high guy echoing Ringo Starr as he sang,"everyone of uuuus (everyone of us!) has all we neeeed (has all we need!)! Sky of bluuuue (sky of blue!), and sea of greeeeen (and sea of green!), in our ye-he-llow submareeenn!".

Don't you?

I wish:
I was oh about ten kilos lighter...and about eight inches taller...and had a sharper nose. Who needs world peace when you're pretty, I ask you!

I miss:
Not caring about consequences. Or hell, not even considering that there might be any. "Consequences Shmonsequences!" is what I would have said, if you'd mentioned them a year ago.

I hear:
Everything wrong. And the few occasions I hear right, I misinterpret completely! I either have a hearing problem, or a perception problem.

I wonder:
At the fact that S and I are friends. It just seems so...unlikely. She's the kind of girl who lights an agarbatti every day in front of her potted tulsi plant. She also believes that if she touches the darn thing during her periods, it (the plant) will shrivel up and die. She's been fasting every goddamn friday for the last ten years and believes, really believes that 'God will take care of her'. Despite all the evidence to the contrary.

She has a room full of (ugh) stuffed toys, loves Madhuri Dixit and (Oh horror!) Hum Aapke Hain Kaun which she's watched FOURTEEN TIMES. Hold me up somebody, I'm fa-ll-ing.

Still, we're friends.

I regret:
Very little. Except the 'Oh what the hell' decisions.

I dance:
Well enough, but not better than n. That woman can *move*!

I sing:
Waaayy better than I dance.

I am:
in a funny sort of place right now. Y' my head. AS IN, my head is IN a funny sort of place right now (and again, let's just skip the wisecracks, shall we?), NOT that my head is funny place to be in. How would you get in anyway?

I cry:
And then I get really mad at myself for being such a wuss.

I'm not always:
Soft-spoken. And those days, I am not a nice person to know.

I make with my hands:
A delicious mushroom and potato subji...and fish in *hot* mustard curry. Oh and music on my guitar...and dog-ears to mark my pages in books.

I write:
Much better in my head. No, honest. My head is filled with thrilling prose, but somehow, it doesn't get past my fingers. Damned fingers. *aside to fingers* I ought to chop you off for being so darned un-co-operative.

I confuse:
People...or so I've been told. Why that should be is beyond me. Far as I know, I'm an open book.

I need: you really want me to get into this again? A NEW JOB!


I've been reading a collection of Carl Sandburg's poems, gifted to me by the Crazy White Girl (whom, sadly enough, I did not have the planned angry dance-off with, because the dance-off-erred did not show. Hmpfh.) and while I know that he's talking about Chicago, I can't help thinking that all of his poems seem to fit Bombay just as well.

Sample this:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

Doesn't it sound like it was written expressly for Bombay? Sorry Carl Sandburg, and thank you Beth! :)

*And see? It works! Not only did the tag make me post, it made me do a Long Rambling Post!