Tuesday, December 30, 2008

All I want for Christmas

Dear M,

Stop. Just effing stop. Stop messaging me. Stop wishing me a very happy birthday. Stop sending me occasion-specific greetings and STOP calling me ‘girl’ (I am not a girl, I am most certainly not YOUR girl). Just stop.

I suppose it is partly my fault. I shouldn’t avoid confrontation. I should’ve told you a long time ago that I did not want to be in touch. I should’ve told you to just please, please leave me alone. See the thing is, I kind of assumed that if I didn’t reply to your texts or take your calls, you would, eventually, get the message (it’s been, what, two years?). Now I know you’re not *dumb* (you may be a slimy bastard occasionally, but you’re not dumb) and it can’t be that you don’t get it. So you know I don’t want to stay in touch, you know that I‘d rather have a root-canal without anaesthesia than meet you, but for reasons known only to you, you persist.

By the way, what kind of reply are you expecting to yesterday’s “Hey whassup” message? (On an aside, have you heard of this sweet little thing called punctuation?) What’s up? I’m avoiding you like the plague, is what’s up. And have been doing so for the past two years is what’s up. And stop effing acting like you’re catching up with a buddy with whom you haven’t spoken in ‘absolutely *ages*’. We are not buddies, we never were. We were two people filling in for two other people. We were the two-month equivalent of a one-night stand for each other and for the love of god, M, who keeps in touch with one-night-standers??

And now that I’m done with foaming in the mouth, M, here’s what’s really up. We met when I was at possibly the lowest phase of my life (Maybe I should add a ‘so far’ to that phrase. Not tempt fate and all). Think about it, I was willing to *sleep* my way to a higher sense of self esteem. *Head-lice* do better than that. And you remind me of that time. Is that fair? No, I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t. But come on M, since when have we done fair?

So you can understand why I’m completely baffled by this strange let’s-get-in-touch-with-CS mission.

I don’t resent you, I don’t. Most times, I forget you exist. In the few times that I have heard about you from friends, my reactions can be largely described as lukewarm. Except maybe when S told me about your wedding. She showed me your wedding card, in fact. It’s odd, possibly a sign of my advancing years, that my first thought when I saw it was almost disgustingly maternal. “Awww…M’s getting married!” I believe, was the phrase that flashed in my head.

Excuse me while I throw up.

I’d be lying if I said I wished you happiness. The truth is, I don’t wish you anything. It’s hard to wish someone well (or ill) when you’re actively avoiding thinking about them. So, apart from the occasional bout of nausea (at my behaviour, not yours), all I really really want, is for you to leave me the hell alone.

Do you think you could do that? For old times’ (as they were) sake?



Sunday, November 16, 2008

In which we do some fugging of our own*

Naresh Goyal: (Maybe if I just sit here and smile impishly people will be too charmed to remember that little firing-re-hiring episode.)

NG: Look at me smile! All impish and all! GOD I'm cute! Smile with me! At me! Come on people you can do it. It was all my management guys! Honest! Would this face lie to you?

NG: Oh no! It’s that Virgin Heffner Kingfisher boy again! Look at him, all cocky just because HE didn’t fire anyone. Golly, he *does* look confident doesn’t he? There’s a certain…something about him….I can’t quite put my finger on it. Could it be that suit? It is rather…shiny?

Vijay Mallya: BEHOLD, the magnificence that is me!

Lackey: (in worried whispers) Sir! This is the press conference! We’re not in your bedroom on the yacht anymore!

VM: We’re not? But how does it matter? BEHOLD the magnificence that is ME!

VM: (Man, this suit is so sharp, I could cut myself to ribbons!). Look at me radiating confidence like a supernova. I didn’t have to fire any of my virgins wenches flying models!
VM: Virgins! Wenches! Flying models! Come to me! Surround me with your adulation! And in return, you can bask in the sunshine reflecting off my suit! Come, let's snuggle!

Lackey: Mr. Mallya? Sir? This is to do with the alliance with Jet Airways. You’re supposed to be friends now.

VM: WHAT?! ME, Richard Branson Hugh…dammit VIJAY MALLYA get into an alliance with THEM?! But they’re so…staid! And boring and none of HIS wenches crew wear tight, short, red skirts! Where’s the fun in that??
Lackey: Sir? We talked about this remember? We’re doing this because…?

VM: ?

Lackey: …because…?

Lackey: …we’re suffering…losses?
VM: YOU SAID THE L WORD! Off with his head! Virgins! !Whores!! Flying models! Take this…creature away from me!
NG: Yes, I think it’s the suit…it has to be the suit. Maybe if I just sidle up to him a little, he won’t notice…some of it might even rub off. It’s all a matter of projection. Projection! That’s it!

VM: Lackey, there is a MUNCHKIN on my lapel.

VM: Maybe if I ignore it it’ll go away.

VM: (Gotta keep smiling, that’s the key. Pretend it isn’t there….OR I could pretend it’s an accessory! Yes! That’s it!) Look, lowly paparazzi! There is a...small stylish...unique little...I have a munchkin brooch! But I can carry it off because I AM ME.

VM: Betcha thought I couldn’t do it, didn’tcha? Well HA! to you.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Why I am not religious*

: There is this girl I know.
: Yes?
: from TIS. (or she was at TIS, she quit before I did)
: She annoys the *hell* out of me!
: And that's a bad thing?
: Oh don't YOU start now!
: She's a Brahmakumari
: I notice your respectful capitalisation.
: Oh shut up!
: So why does she annoy you, this Brahmakumari (see? I'm playing along)?
: I don't know if it's annoyance, as much as disappointment.
: Explain.
: Well initially, I thought she was rather intelligent. As in, we'd had a couple of conversations and she seemed…well, I don't know, like a sane religious person!
: And you fell for that.
: But she DID sound sane! She actually said stuff like, "The reason most religions fail is because most of them insist on restricted brain-usage"
: Well, not exactly in those words, but that was the gist of it.
: And you fell for it.
: Would you stop saying that?
: My poor, gullible peanut, didn't you notice her clever use of the word 'most'?
: (which obviously implied all religions EXCEPTING her own?)
: No, I did NOT. And *must* you rub it in?
: Yes. (evil grin)
: Look, how many times do you have to have this conversation before you realise it's pointless? You're flogging a dead horse.
: :(
: And DON'T use that face with me.
: I can't help it, that's my default disappointed-in-people face.
: You mean your disappointed-in-RELIGIOUS-people face. People, in general, aren't too bad.
: There's room for improvement, but then, there always is.
: So what (specifically) did she do to annoy you?
: She said I was 'oversexed'.
: (glares)
: Oh shut up!
: No, I'm sorry, this is hilarious!
: (muffled guffaws)
: Don't make me come over there. (rolls up sleeves)
: Okay wait. (puts on straight face)
: NOW tell me.
: So how did this girl arrive at this remarkably perspicacious conclusion?
: (You didn't get drunk and hit on her did you?!)
: I did NOT.
: I had a conversation with her wrt (a lot of) religions' warped attitude towards sex.
: Like bramhakumari-ism's. As in, they're anti sex.
: I'd asked her what they had against it and she gave me the crappiest reason I'd ever heard!
: And I've heard a LOT of those.
: Being of hyper-vaishnav stock. Yes, I know.
: Tsk! Not hyper-vaishnav stock. Vaishnavism happened to the family later. Just hyper-religious stock.
: (and vaishnavism isn’t really anti-sex. Mostly they just pretend it doesn’t exist.)
: (unless of course, it’s baby-making sex)
: (which is understandably legitimate)
: (the patter of little vaishnav feet and all)
: (which mean greater attendance at little vaishnav temples)
: (and more money in the BIG vaishnav temple-coffers)
: But yes, do you know what her reasoning was??
: Do tell.
: She said, and I quote "We are all the children of one cosmic soul. Which makes us all brothers and sisters, and you wouldn't have sex with your siblings, would you?"
: You're kidding me.
: Nope!
: And you managed to resist the urge to slap her silly?
: I did.
: Pity. You know, sometimes, you should just follow your instincts.
: Especially when faced with such high calibre idiots.
: I know. I'm regretting it now.
: But I also asked her, "So by that logic, your parents committed incest as well?"
: I am pleasantly surprised. YOU followed up a (potentially) confrontational line of questioning? Not bad at all.
: "And EVEN if they did, considering that you are a product of that incestuous coupling, is it necessarily bad?"
: Bravo!
: She was NOT pleased! :D
: I shouldn't think so. :D
: So what did she have to say to that?
: She gave me the standard religious-person's-cop-out speech.
: "You won't understand this now. Tum is raaste pe chalogi, to tumhe samajh mein aayega. Spritually, you're still a child. "
: Ah, THAT old chestnut.
: That only.
: So you're a sex-fiend because you asked her why her religion is anti-sex?
: Apparently.
: (although I also asked her what they had against eating meat)
: (but THAT, she chose to ignore! Hmmph!)
: Also, there was a copy of Summer of '42 on my desk.
: And the blurb said something about Hermie being, 'sixteen, confused and obsessed with sex'.
: And she picked it up, read the blurb and said, "arre! ye to bilkul tere jaisa hai!"
: Dumb bitch.
: Ooh! Invective! She really got to you, didn't she?
: But I can't get over the idea of YOU as a sex-fiend. HAHAHAHAHAAA!
: I know! It's the most idiotic thing ever!
: It's weird you know.
: I don't *want* to be an atheist fundamentalist.
: I don't *want* to think that all religious people are touched in the head.
: But every time I start giving them the benefit of doubt, thinking that maybe they're not all delusional, I meet another moron like this.
: So these people put you off religion.
: Yes.
: And essentially, stop you from becoming a moron.
: I don't like where you're going with this.
: (smug grin)
: You know I'm right.
: I know no such thing.

* And also, why I need friends who are less smug.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thanks for all the fish

My mother was schooled at a convent run by Bengali nuns. From what she remembers, the nuns were a nice (if slightly batty) bunch of women with a particular aversion to make-up which in those days consisted of, uh…kajal. One of her most vivid memories is of the nuns telling off a serial-kajal-wearer with a vehement, “Chokher GOO bhore daao!!” [1]

This probably explains why my mother never really took to kajal, but not why she developed the inexplicable fascination for all things Bong[2]. She can read, write and speak the language fluently, has been to Kalighat about fifty-million times, and has assiduously, over a period of seven years, acquired a collection of Bengali sons-in-law that would put your average laal-paar-sari-clad-shashuri [3] to shame. Lately, she has even taken to wearing the shaka-pola [4] bangles despite being of, and married into 100% Bihari stock (It is apparently (culturally) fluid stock).

Fortunately for us, she kept this fascination largely to herself, except for one distressing episode involving a certain Mr. Pannalal Bhattacharya, who found his way into the Skepticus household in the form of five audio cassettes of
Shyama sangeet. The man had a good voice — I’ll give him that — but what my mother did not realise, was that her brood did not want to wake up to the sound of it every sunrise. You know that state when you’re just drifting out of sleep and halfway between dreaming and wakefulness? It was surreal enough on its own, but when you added to it a deep and mournful voice singing in a foreign language, the disorientation reached new heights. Come early morning and instead of the twittering of birds, we would wake up to Mr. Bhattacharya’s sad baritone filling the house and our ears.

As we sat around the breakfast table, groggy and barely sentient, she would translate the songs for us, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘captive audience’.

And then of course, Art School happened, where 80% of the population (student and teacher) was as Bengali as they come. Robi Thakur was the presiding deity — spoken of in tones of breathless reverence — and Calcutta (if you had grown up there, or Raisina School, if you were Bong but grew up in Delhi), was Byzantium.

So by the time I graduated, I had had it up to *here* with Bangaliyat, and made up my mind to stay away from anything even remotely related to the state for at least a decade. And I managed, to a certain extent, to be Bong-free until about a month ago, when the menu from Meals on Wheels was dropped into our postbox and Oh Calcutta! was on the list of restaurants they had tie-ups with.

Now I've always had a deep and passionate love for that fish-in-mustard-paste dish that Bongs make (yes, even through the height of my stay-away-from-the-state-phase). To the extent that despite being incredibly queasy about handling raw fish or meat (it looks alive okay?!), I tried to make it at home. Many, many times. But there are some dishes that should come with the ‘Do not attempt to replicate at home*’ warning and mustard fish is one of them. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you why. Because if you screw up the proportion of mustard-paste to fish, you’re going to feel like you’ve swallowed fire. I kid you not. And if you attempt to brush your teeth after THAT, people, there is pain. Real, honest-to-goodness *pain* (in your mouth, of course. The next morning might be a completely different story, but for then, the pain is in your mouth). And for those who have never had to deal with a palate and tongue that actually hurt, let me tell you, it is NOT fun...not fun at all.

So now that Oh Calcutta! delivers to my house, I am a joyous little hausfrau (except for the hausfrau bit). I wake up on Saturdays humming happy songs because I know what we’re having for dinner. I smile at my monitor at work** while I dream about the glorious, glorious fish in that heavenly curry. I might drink dishwater-coffee all day long, but my taste buds tingle in happy anticipation of dinner.

I don’t know about Robi Thakur***, but just for the Shorshaay Bata Maach[5], I’ll put up with any number of Bengalis you throw at me [6].

[1] Fill your eyes with poop, why don't you!? (Is the essence of it, I think.)

[2] THAT would be the Stockholm syndrome.

[3] Umm...Bengali mother-in-law who wears the traditional Bengali white sari with a red border.

[4] Red and white bangles worn by married Bengali women. Equal to a wedding ring.

[5] Which is what it is called in Bangla.

[6] Theoretically, that is. If you really threw Bengalis at me, I would probably go hide behind my mommy. Not that she's any good at catching either, but at least she handles them better than I do. Also, YOU should consider an alternate career as a bouncer. Or a Khali competitor.

*Unless you are (at least partially) Bengali.

**Yes, NEW Bawa company has a five-and-a-half-day work week. Yes, I appear to be going through a Bawa phase.

***Okay, I do, but that’s another post altogether.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

2008 - The Year of the Nerd

So, the Boss-crush. Like most workplace crushes, it was awkward, embarrassing and very, very inconvenient. There was perfect coherence as long as we were discussing work but anything else - anything at all, the weather, travel plans, hell, a simple 'hello' - and I was back to being thirteen, tongue-tied and incapable of constructing complete sentences. He just had to pass by me in a corridor and I'd be reduced to a fiercely blushing mass of utter stupidity.

And I don't get it, I just don't get it! The man was (is, actually, but I don't work there anymore) a complete and utter nerd. He had the standard issue nerd-glasses, the weird, high-pitched voice, the lanky, disjointed Pinocchio-walk, but all he had to do was smile and I'd be marvelling at the way his eyes went all twinkly and how his teeth were *just* like 'thirty-two hand-picked chiclets' (Summer of '42 anyone?). And OH when he rolled up his shirtsleeves* and got to work...*dreamy sigh*

And he had the most efficient mental-rolodex I've ever come across. You could walk up to him with any sort of question - tech, content, graphics, code - and you could almost see the cards flipping in fast-forward (and totally making that 'vrrrroooossh!' sound) as he came up with the exact, perfect, without-a-single-superfluous-detail answer to your question. Not the kind of guy you want to look like an idiot in front of, but that's what I did. Inevitably. Every single time he walked past.

THEN there were the highly inappropriate dreams. (No. Not 'fun' inappropriate, just...weird). In one of them, S (colleague, female, motherly), Boss and I are sitting in a hotel lobby. I’m wearing some sort of a halter-neck-y top, which has officially put imagination out of a job. Somehow, all three of us realise just HOW skimpy it is at exactly the same time, and while S subtly whispers in my ears about how maybe I should try and fix the fabric shortage, Boss, absolutely unfazed, actually *points* and said, "Yeah, you know you need to cover up a little. I can see real spillage happening THERE."

So in addition to the crush-induced-embarrassment, every time he walked past my cubicle I'd relive the stupid dream and get even more flustered. The poor chap must've wondered whether beet-red-and-stammering was default-CS**.

It’s all making me wonder if this drastic shift in type is a result of my err…advancing years. See, my teens were spent in the pursuit of surly, sulky boys, my twenties, the artists — singers, guitarists and the odd poet (Not, not odd as in ‘one-off’. Really odd). The thirties are showing worrying signs of being declared as the decade of the nerds.

That, or as Billy Joel said, ‘I've reached the age where competence is a turn-on.’

(Also, apparently, the age at which you start quoting Billy Joel.)

*Yes, I have a thing for rolled up shirtsleeves. No, I can't explain it.
** If he ever noticed my existence, that is…damn him.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is it still a happy birthday...

...if you're dead?

I live in an area which the newspapers describe as a Dalit stronghold. Which means that anything to do with Buddhism, Dalit politics, or Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, results in shamianas mushrooming all over the place, very loud music (mostly the nasal-plague-reshammiya variety) and firecrackers all through the night.

But yesterday was Ambedkar Jayanti and all day long the loudspeakers outside my house played:

“Hum bhi agar bachche hote!
Hum bhi agar bachche hote,
Naam hamaare hote Babloo, Paplu,
Khaane ko milte LADDOO!
Aur duniya kehti Heppy Buurrday too yoouuu!”


”Tum jiyo hazaaron saal,
saal ke din ho pachaas hazaar!”

Which was refreshing change on the music front,
but I wonder how *I’d* react to people wishing me a (very, very) long life if I’d been dead for over half a century.

And dammit! Now I want laddoos too!

Monday, April 14, 2008

In loving* memory of

Chronicus Skepticus, Instruction Designer
Died 11th April 2008 aged 5 months and 20 days.

Developed an appalling crush on her boss (more on that soon). Had her first (in all five years of professional life) in-office meltdown. Learnt the difference between an em-dash and an en-dash, and the similarities between project managers and pond-scum (and OH SO MUCH MORE ON THIS).


If my life were a cheesy seventies bollywood movie, this is the part where I’d be in the hospital, shedding remorseful tears over my comatose blog, which is lying on a hospital bed, a white bandage (with a big bloody blotch) around its head.

I’d lean over and sob:
”Mujhe maaf kardo blog! Mujhse galati ho gayi!”

(Nothing. Not even a goddamn curtain-flutter)

"Main fir kabhi kisi job ko tumhari jagah nahin lene doongi!"

(Bastard blog resolutely stays in coma)

”Aanken kholo http (private nickname and all)! Aankhen kholo! Tum mujhe yun chhor ke nahin jaa sakte-e-e-e-!”

(And as a tear falls from my eyes onto blog's peaceful face, there is a slow, delicate flutter of eyelids, and he opens his eyes and says weakly, “Arre CS? Tumhaari aankhon mein aansoo?")

Cut to blog and me, dancing around trees in the mughal gardens. Me in a bright yellow chiffon saree, blog in tight white pants and matching shoes (think Mithun, not Jeetendra. I have *some* standards. So what if they're not very high?).**

Umm...so, yes. This is me, being back.

*Hey, I liked her okay? So she was prone to walking around with bloodshot, mad eyes and muttering to herself, but once you got past that, not a bad sort.

** I did say 'cheesy bollywood movie'. You were warned.