Sunday, May 30, 2010

Snippets of Summer

You know it's Summer, when:

1) You wake up in the morning, look out of the window, shriek loudly when it looks as bright as noon. And then you look at the clock. It says 5 AM. You shrug indifferently at the window, find the darkest blanket and cover your head to go back to sleep...this time, to really wake up at noon.

2) You open the cold water tap. Hot water runs. You open the Hot water tap. Hot water runs. You march up to the fridge, fill up a bowl with ice cubes, and use that to wake your teeth.

3) The fridge has suddenly become your best friend. In winters, it just stored jam and ketchup. Now it stores the essence of your existence. Everything edible. You look up and bless the person who invented it with every chilled sip of water you drink.

4) It is past 7 PM. You're waiting for some respite from the day. The clock ticks at 7.15, it is still day. Tick Tock. 7.30. Still day. You give up, draw all the blinds and watch Discovery Channel to see the stars instead.

5) Everywhere you walk, people smile at you. They give wide grins, but walk past you. Just as that warmth (like we needed any more of that) starts creeping inside your heart, you realize that they're just making that face to escape the sun's glare. Oh well. So much for the weather being 'pleasant'.

6) You step inside your car wearing mitts. The buckle of the seat belt singes your fingers, the steering wheel burns your palms and the pedals down below manage to irritate that part of your foot you didn't know was even capable of sensation (or don't wear flimsy chappals and try to drive like I did. You'll end up driving barefoot and burning them.) You then turn on the AC at full blast, to first get a steam-sauna, and after a couple of heart-rending belches, cool air.

7) Food? What's that? All I need is a coconut grove outside my house, preferably in a freezer. The idea of eating hot, cooked food makes me break into a sweat (pun intended.) Really, can't I just live on water and its by-products? Even Aloo Chat looks unappetizing.

8) The Loo. Ever heard of it? (I don't mean that restroom at the end of the corridor.) Those hot winds that blow and make whistle-y sounds (some even better than flautists in my old school band). Really, if the weather wasn't so balmy, this would've actually scared me. Boo.

9) Air-Conditioners. (Too much time in an air-conditioned environment make my eyes turn red, I start sneezing continuously like a stuck record....of all the things I am allergic to, it had to include this, right?) I like them at a distance, and not glaring on top of me like a big brother as I try and do my work. Some day, I will find the Central Unit of the Air Conditioning and turn the entire building's temperature to a pleasantly bangalored 24 degrees. Someday.

10) At night, when the work is finally done, you step outside for a moment. You see the stars peeping out reluctantly, but finally. The moon shines almost as brightly as the sun, but with that nice cold glow. You see the Mother Dairy shining merrily at a distance (uhm. This is an Ice-cream cart, not a cow.) You buy an ice-cream and slurp it down childishly before the entire thing melts on you. Just as you're done, the loo changes its mind and decides to act cold with you. A gush of breeze sweeps you away from the humidity and you smile.

Summer's here, and it's actually growing on me. :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A'am Lovin It!

Okay, two things come to mind with this title -

1) The new Shrek Menu at McDonalds. You HAVE to try their new guava-mint ice cream! Have to! (P.S. I tried it, thought it was pretty much like the mint fudge sundae at Corner House, except with a little more toothpaste and guava juice thrown in.) Also, you must take their happy meal! They give you the cutest Shrek toys! (I got a Puss In Boots that purrs thrice and goes 'Do I know You?' in a very 'I'm-too-hot-for-you' tone. Oh well, some compensation for the real Antonio Banderas.)

2) Now this is the story that really matters, since the title is supposed to be for this one.

My family is the epitome of a nuclear family. We're little units, scattered worldwide, and meet at least twice-thrice a year. The one thing that has kept us bonded are the 'Mango Stories'. Each of us has a tale of his/ her own related to mangoes.

Recently, when we all had a reunion of sorts, it happened to be Mango Season and these stories re-emerged. Today, as I happen to have accomplished a certain task (which I shall talk of later), I feel it's probably the best time to write an ode to these Mango Stories. Because they deserve a mention somewhere in the leaves of our lives. And because, maybe, the generations to come will get a glimpse of 'my' own little mango story.

So every summer, my grandfather (or thatha, as I refer to him) sits down with a HUGE plate and a bowl of mangoes. The news is generally running on the TV, occasionally alternating between some movie (when I manage to find the remote and change the channel), and then going back to the news (when my dad re-finds the 'lost' remote).

He begins to peel the mangoes first. Not in a clumsy way that would waste more fruit on the skin, but with the skill of an artisan. He practically carves the mango, coaxes the skin to leave as much juice as possible within the fruit, and just surrender itself without too much trouble. The skin that he peels off the mango is so thin, it could give the phrase 'Size Zero' an inferiority complex.

Now that's just not it. He not only peels the skin thin, but in one single gesture. At the end of this masterful operation, we find the entire mango skin like a twirling ribbon around the mango, that can be pulled off with one stroke, and not a single crack or seam can be seen. An entire mango is de-skinned in one long, tenacious but graceful attempt.

Remember the times when we would sharpen pencils and take extra care not to break the shavings? We'd try to make them as long as possible, and compete with each other about the length of continuing shavings. Transgressing to mangoes after that seems the only natural thing to do.

This is my thatha's little mango story. Once the peel is off, it is carefully preserved (by me) and observed ( by me again). Eventually, my mother gets exasperated at seeing me collecting the now rotting skin, and throws it away. But for me, it still signifies a piece of untainted beauty and perfection.

Yesterday, I peeled a mango. In one shot, I managed to get the entire skin off without breaking it or cracking it. I was so ecstatic that I held up the skin to show it off to everyone at home. In the process, I stained a shirt with mango dribbles from the juice of the fruit (okay, so that would mean my peel still had juice and fruit, and was thick. Uhm. Some points were deducted for that.)

I looked eagerly at thatha for approval. He smiled, and although he can now no longer sit on the floor and cut mangoes like he would every summer, he was content with my peeling. I guess he realized that there is finally someone in the family who can continue his tradition of mango-peeling! (Okay, I'm sure the rest of my family can peel mangoes really well too. But that's their story to tell. And I just have to share mine.)

So I created my own little mango story yesterday. Up until last night, I always wondered what story I'd tell my family if the event came up (believe me, the mango stories always come up. My dad's story of having climbed the Mango tree and chipped his front tooth are evidence of the fact - he still hasn't done anything to that tooth!)

Patience and Perseverance lies beneath that Mango Skin. And although my shirt has been given a touch of abstract art (It's true dude. Mango Stains are tough to come off), I'm glad the splash of yellow lies there. Reminds me of how much A'am Lovin It! :-)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shopping for Adventure

Ever been to T.Nagar? Try it, once in a year or so. It's highly recommended to sharpen your survival instincts and clean the rust off your 'fight-or-flight' responses. Of course, whether you come out of it unscathed, depends upon Social Darwinism and um, what you ate for breakfast that day. But still. It's always worth it.

Mission: To Buy.
Now, you could be buying sarees, jewelry, flowers (real, fake, dried...or even something you've never imagined of.). Or maybe you want to experiment with the latest styles and want fake hair? It's there. (Believe me, I had to ogle at the lady selling it for one full minute before realizing it really was fake hair.) It's like Aladin's Genieland. You wish for it, it's there.

Vision: A must.
It's good to have a vision beforehand. That sort of helps you figure your route-map for the day. T.Nagar is not for those who want to 'explore'. You may find yourself dragged into the invitingly cool air-conditioned showrooms of a saree shop, just by the crowd entering it (like the Mumbai Locals, but here you're entering better weather.)

Or you might just find yourself dragged away someplace random if you happened to stand for less than 10 seconds without a vision. (In my case, I was projectiled towards the fake-hair-selling-lady, because I was trying to take in the 'atmosphere of it all'.)

So, um, anyway, plan your vision carefully. Draw a map, prioritize your ambitions of the day. Sketch out routes that will take you to the-right-shop-at-the-right-time. Keep strict timing for every rack, every floor, every style you're remotely interested in. Little alarms might help too. Be prepared to revise your vision. Chances are you will find a hundred better options.

Position: Always train the GPS in your mind carefully to know exactly where you are and where you're headed. You may begin at Pothy's (which resembles an African Safari, with actual foliage and pretend monkeys peeping at you from the entrance) but land up at Kumaran Silks, Nallis or RMKV, without your realizing it. It's like a tour you embark upon in a dazed sort of way. Keep pinching yourself once in a while to know your positions.

Composition: Like I mentioned in the beginning, it helps to strengthen yourself a bit before starting your adventure. A hearty breakfast, extra glasses of milk, and maybe a mound of fruits ought to help. Oh, and carry some glucose biscuits and an endless supply of water (I have no suggestions on how to carry that) in order to sustain yourself with an irritatingly optimistic nature about finding what you want to find. You'll find it, but not without turning a few hairs grey.

Hm. I've never tried it, but maybe watching The Amazing Race, Armageddon, Independence Day (feel free to improvise and choose other movies too!) might prep you up for what's in store. could get walkie talkies and stay in touch with home base (just makes the whole trip more adventurous, don't you think?)

Conclusion: Do a re-check of belongings, bodyparts and such after your shopping is done. People have been known to have left their sanity behind, as they step out of the mayhem. Of course, if you're like me, having no sanity to begin with, then it's fine. No problems.

And finally. Remember to see, re-see, re-re-see your wares at the end of the day. Believe me, it'll be worth all the effort. :-) I know this sounds like a statutory warning, but nothing can ever beat the charm of shopping in T Nagar. This place has a charm of its own, that drags you and intoxicates you with the colours, patterns, sounds, smells and people (uh, don't imagine them all together. That just sounds odd.) Show off your wares to other Bangalore people, and watch their faces light up with awe (ok, this I haven't tried yet. But if you have, let me know if they DO light up 'in awe')

So people who visit, and work in T.Nagar, hats off to you. You've battled the recession, rains, heat, (no bomb scares, strangely), and made this market one of the most exciting places I've ever been to.

This place reminds you of what 'culture' really is. How warm people are, despite having to serve hundreds of demanding clients. How they stay cool despite the scorching heat. How they never fail to greet you with a smile, even when you haven't bought a thing. How they all mingle amongst each other flawlessly, helping a fellow shopper find her 'perfect' ware. It's an amalgamation of goodwill, if you ask me. The place where occasions become adventures and functions become fairytales.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dil Se Dilli...

As part of the experiential exercises practicum in my first month of college, we conceptualized a radio station, and named one of the shows Dil Se Dilli. As I reflect upon the past year, the name comes back to me....reminding me how apt a title it becomes for this post.

Last year, this time around, if you had asked me what my 'plans-for-the-future' were, I would've probably either:
a) Burst into tears, scared at the prospect of not knowing where I was headed.
b) Strangled you for being the 24,568th person to have asked that.
c) Done both. First b, and then a.

But today I'm back home. Officially done with one year of college and not having to worry about ring road traffic making me late for class for a loooooong time. Here are a few snippets from my past one year, that just HAVE to be documented somewhere. And since my diary has been filled with 'Oh-my-god-I-will-fail' entries, I figured this is probably a better place to record it.

1) The 'DU' culture: Words like 'Ho-Jayega', 'Jugad karlenge' 'Kitne Vella hai hum sab' and most importantly, 'HAW' have all infiltrated my I only speak in English, you mortal people vocabulary. From Aiyo Papa, I've transgressed to Arre Yaar. From hyperventilating about not having completed my assignment on time, I', I still hyperventilate. I guess the DU culture needs to rub onto me a little more.

2) Driving: In Bangalore, I'd always blame it on the traffic, the roads, the cows, the crowd on Fridays near the mosque and basically, go back to blaming the traffic, the roads etc. A vicious cycle that had made me lazy...and a coward. But necessity is the mother of conviction. I got myself to get into the car (and not in the passenger's seat) and actually drive it. So today, I can not only drive to college, but also honk like a frustrated English teacher of a Hindi Medium School and can swear quite fluently in Kannada as well! ( It's best to swear in an unknown language...and Kannada is such a boon...even swear words, if said sweetly, manage to shake the irritation out of you, and befuddle the enemy into believing you're praising his driving)

3) Canteen: 2 words, my friend. Samosas. Rs.3. Nothing else can *ever* beat that! Nothing.

4) The Agra Trip. I have waxed eloquently on the topic for hours together. I can still never do justice to its magnificence. It will always remain a favorite memory in all my college years. :-)

5) The Glovely Gang! They've been the best thing to happen since the Smart Girls and The Foo Foos. Yes, so I've been part of weird sounding gal pal groups....but they've all been a riot. And this is no less. May the devil's horns bring us glory, my glovelies! :-D

6) The course in general: Ahem. Yes. So that's what I've gone for. It deserves some mention no? Ok. I've learnt to go beyond just the textbook, use my brain, the internet and the library more wisely...and of course, actually understood what my subject is all about. It's an irritating habit, I know. But I really can tell what a person might be thinking just by seeing his/her communication style, body language and general behaviour. Whoever said we can't read minds? :-D

7) Exaaams: The only thing in this world that can make you regain all the 6 kgs you had lost in a bad viral infection. Sedentary lifestyle galore...and that too for a month. Taught me how to find interesting, and even more sedentary hobbies to pursue when I was not most of the time anyway.

8) Flying: Yes. I have aerophobia. I've admitted it ok? So I get very very jittery on flights, keep thinking that my flight will fight with clouds and maybe hit an air pocket, or combat with lightening or develop a technical snag or...okay, I'll stop. You know the irony? I've diagnosed my phobia, and given myself cognitive behavioural therapy to get over it. Whoever thought my first ever case would be I, me, myself? (P.S. If you're wondering, it has worked to quite an extent...I've ruled out the air pocket disaster from my list already..*gasp*..such an improvement, I tell you.)

9) Fooooood: Aloo Chaat! Cakes - Birthday and Non-birthday ones, Oreo Cookie Doughnuts, Parathe Wali Gali, Humongous Jalebis, Oreo Cookie Krushers, Ridiculously expensive but heavenly tasting Chinese food at Chopsticks, the rolls near college..and that date with momos at 8.30 I've never been able to keep! :-D Hm.....this may have contributed minutely in my weight gain. Oh well. I am still apparently 'under weight' but now I can donate blood. Maybe the food has come to some use.

10) My final adventure as an MA (Prev) student. :-) The dinner at Dilli Haat, preceded by the boho style hair braiding (Dude, the people in Delhi airport gave me such These-weird-Children-of-Today's-generation-wearing-weird-extensions-on-hair-that-jingle-and-look-like-they're-loving-it looks! It was only 1 braid ya. Okay. So it was in Purple, Green and Hot Pink with two bells at the bottom. But still. It was harmless. Totally unwarranted for those looks. My parents just gawked for 2 seconds, and then conceded that if this was as 'hippie' as I would get, then they could live with it.)

This was followed by late night Ice Cream at the India Gate. Such a beautiful place, I tell you. We enhanced its beauty by purchasing those glow-in-the-dark devil's horns and lighting up the place with our dazzling smiles! Of course, the late night auto-ride back to the slumber venue was no less than a formula one race! :-D

The entire night...eating parathas at 4 in the Maggi (Ok, cooked. We looked.) Using the powers of the internet to unleash our creativity, and finally...trying to fall asleep.

So thank you PsychoMommy, Mirage, Mash and Soos (sorry...I thought of Moony...but I guessed you may not like it! Please help me with a better name ok?) for an awesome time! Ash and excuses next time! :-D Buy your devil's horns and keep them ready!! :-)

What can I say? This year's passed me in a blip. A single post would never do justice to all the things that need to be documented...but it's still enough...because it's Dil Se Dilli :-)