Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kyuki Sassy Bhi Kabhi Bahu thi

These days I have come across a lot of stuff on literature for the female species - colloquially known as "Chick-Lit". This particular genre, is targeted I believe at urban girls between the ages of 25-35, working professionals, independent and all that jazz.

I suppose, I qualify.

But somehow I have never clambered onto chick-lit bandwagon. I have read a couple of the Candace Bushnell books ( the Mother of all Chick Litterateurs, The Fashionista-book Goddess, the One-who-started-it-all-with-Sex-and-the-city etcetera etcetera) and even sneakingly enjoyed the "Devil Wears Prada". But I don't think I can call myself an aficionado of the genre.

Maybe its because of the fact that there is too much fashion in it (and I really wouldn't know the difference between Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik. Heck, I hadn't even heard of them until I had do some work in the category a couple of years ago), too many stilettos..and uhm..I am rather coordination challenged. (As the hero wouldn't hesitate to point out - I must be the only
female in the universe who managed to fall off a stationary Exercycle. For the record, I did NOT! (whatever he may say hmpf)-. But the fact remains, walking around on stilettos would be a bit of a Hazardous-to-health activity) and well, chick lit has a LOT of alpha females (alpha types scare the shit out of me in real life, and in books).

Which is the reason I haven't seen Sex and the city or don't even particularly want to. Or any of travails of the Indian Bridget Jones (Brinda Joshis? Pliss excuse, couldn't help myself)

On the other hand I wouldn't say I was a sworn enemy either ( and if there are any rabid fans baying for my blood, let me interject hurriedly and say that I am a big admirer of slightly dated chick lit - viz. Heyer.There is a making-fun-at-self undertone in Heyer's work ( also sometimes seen in Desperate Housewives) which is quite lovely).

Anyways, I digress. If there is an audience who laps up stories of Harry Winston, chapatis and chips ..ahem .."post-coital cuddling", by all means, let the genre grow and multiply.

But what I DO want to know, is why each and every single of the book flaps, newspaper reviews, magazine articles, insist on describing these (the books, the protagonists and the authors) as "Sassy"?

I don't know what is about that word which manages to annoy me so much. It's supposed to be a emancipated word, but somehow it sounds utterly condescending which goes contrary to the woman-of-substance they try and portray. To my mind, there is something quite wannabe and brittle about the term.

Or maybe I am reading it all wrong?

I asked a colleague, a die-hard chick-lit fan, who is almost conjoined with a series of these books.
She told me that it meant women, who could stand on their own feet, and give (I quote) "as good as they get" back to the men in their lives, and who don't take shit from guys - even if they are significant others.Actually, even less if they are from significant others.

But doesn't that also describe Ekta Kapoor heroines I asked her. The Tulsi's and Parvatis of the world - who always have lots of money,seem to be living in mansions in metros, work ( take over their husband's business when those incompetent men cant do a thing) and are forever scrapping with villainous males in all shapes and forms? They even spend hours on their make up AND wear stilettos and high fashion kancheepurams.

She didn't seem very happy with the comparison. In fact she has stopped talking to me after that.

Maybe i should go and tell her that she is sassy.

Ah well.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thanking you verr muchly…

I don't know about all other bloggers, but I would assume there are many around who are closet crossers-of-fingers-waiting-for-book-deal varieties. I know I am. I have often whiled away many a pleasant hour thinking about how a publisher hopping through blogosphere will land on my page and will go screaming eureka down the cyber highway.

So your sensible blogger, who is a closet-crosser-of-fingers, will have a certain plan of action in anticipation for such an event.

There are the front bencher's types. The people who have the book written, wrapped and sealed, all ready for the printing press. Those who have done the homework, the hard work and are just waiting for the teacher to notice their upraised arms.

Then there are the networkers. The ones who might have a broad plot outline in their heads but will start the work of actually jotting the thoughts down ONLY after the deal is signed and the cheque has crossed hands. They utilize the time meaningfully and usefully by hopping and hobnobbing with influential sites and people.

And then there are others, like me, who don't really have a book ready, or even a firmed up plot per se. They just have good intentions. And of course, the acknowledgement page.

The acknowledgements page is the blogger's version of say the, Academy awards acceptance speech rehearsal (with the hand shower and bathroom mirror).

There is a great deal of thought and pain that goes into it, to make it just right. Sometimes even more effort is put into this as to actually writing the masterpiece.

There is always this uneasy thought lurking at the back of one's mind that this is IT. Quite possibly the ONLY chance you get to write the dratted thing. So it's important to get everyone in. (After roughly seventeen attempts which have not survived beyond chapter six, one is inclined to be quite conservative about future prospects.)

Unlike the "Dedication" page which is relatively uncomplicated, (in my case, it will be to my dad, who pretty told me that my "Cats" poem, written at age 6 1/2 was the hottest, more erudite, most insightful thing he had read in his life and planted of the closet crossers-of-fingers-waiting-for-book-deal varieties seed which was to blossom years later. The mother, who is quite indulgent about what she thinks, is a nice-enough-hobby-which-has-kept-me-away-from-drugs-and-scary-boys-in-my-teens. And the husband, who provides such a lot of inadvertent fodder for these posts, how can I not dedicate it to him. ); the acknowledgement page is a much more challenging task.

How does one involve everyone yet make it pithy and snappy and interesting?

The friends and family - of course, after all they are inflicted with the vagaries of my artistic temperament without actually expecting any artistic output.Who stoically tolerate mood swings, crankiness, and my space cadet meets bhatakti atma mode without batting their eyelids.

The rest of the acknowledgee's vary as per my mood, state of mind, and environment.

I use it as my own personal merit system. viz. If someone has been particularly nice to me, I bung him in, "ah the liftman, was really nice and sunshiny on this F****** Monday morning, why don't I put him in my acknowledgment page?"

Conversely it also is a very powerful weapon of demonstrating annoyance "Just you wait you #@*(#&*(@, I won't put your name in my acknowledgement page HA and nothing you can say will change it."
(As an aside, I have these whole series of absolutely ineffective mental protests such as "I--will-absolutely-wear-my-worst-possible-set-of-clothes-because-i-hate-you-so-much-and-you-are-unworthy-of-any-effort" The recipient of this mental vitriol of course, will be completely oblivious to the fact that I am wearing my worst set of clothes, and probably couldn't care less. Oh well.)

I scan through joke sites on the Internet collating sundry funny, charming and self effacing quips which of course I discard every other year as being jaded or not quite funny of not 'me' enough or not in sync with the tone of the plot which I happen to be mulling over in that particular year. .

There have been nights spent lying awake brooding on the consequences of missing some important person from the page and then playing out scenarios of dealing with devastated/offended people.

Then of course the very important question of placement. Should be right at the beginning of the book where everyone is sure to see it? Or should I place it at the end of the book, after I have established a relationship with the reader?

After having done this for ten years, ( with no book forthcoming in the intermediate time), I have reached a stage, where I have to write the dratted thing or burst. Besides, after so much honing and refining and polishing, it is really quite a gem of an page and would be such a waste not to publish it!

So dear readers, let me write an acknowledgement page for my blog.

I would like to thank everyone for reading this particular post and the random ones I have written over the last four years, my office for encouraging all these kind of jobless thoughts, the strays for keeping me up at all hours at night, the lift man for being sunshiny of this f**** Monday morning ….

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In the quest of a perfect roti

(After my last post, viz, Vegetose, I recalled another post dealing with my cooking (mis) adventures – so I pulled it out from the archives. It was posted almost to the day (17th Jul to be precise) 4 years ago. Before marriage and bais and everything else happened. Hmm. Nothing much seems to have changed.)

The scene cuts to early noon on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Yours truly is sprawled in front of the television, trying as far as possible to ape the soporific habits of vegetables, idly zapping away, the mind nearly in a state of suspended animation.
Into this nearly idyllic situation enters the villain more normally known as Ma.

Ma: What are you doing in front of the TV like that - come and help me in the kitchen
Me: Huh? Who? Me? Why?
Ma: What do you mean who? You need to learn how to cook!
Me:( raising a very pertinent (according to me) query) Why?

Uh oh.. Wrong question. Next ten minutes we see a lecture on
a) how I am lazy
b) how I am of marriageable age
c) how when she was my age she managed a family and a household
d) just because I have a job does not exempt me from household tasks .
Which concludes with me reluctantly being marched into the kitchen. (I have never to this date won an argument with Ma. Sigh.)

Don’t get me wrong. I am not really hopeless cook. On occasions I have been known to whip up really rocking exotic khana - but that is when I am in the mood, when I have plenty of time, and when I’m feeling adventurous.
This daal- chawal- sabzi business - never attracted me somehow. And rotis!

Lets not even talk about rotis. Rotis have always been my bete-noire. Whatever I do, they will insist on being intractable and stubborn.

Now the perfect roti I believe is the acid test of the female, more so the ‘bahu’ of the house. It determines whether she is competent enough to be called a home manager. She might have many other sundry accomplishments like managing a high stress job and household and children or being able to dish up the most exotic seven-course meal for twenty of colleagues of her husbands on the spur of a moment – but if she cant make the perfect roti (viz. fluffy, puffed up, light and most importantly ROUND) she is still a failure in the condemning eyes of society.

Anyways I digress. Coming back to rotis. I can make rotis. Given proper encouragement I can even make rotis that reasonably look like rotis. But to expect rotis to be made fast and to be made circular is a bit MUCH.

So I make the first one, expectedly it looks like the flapping ear of an African elephant.
Ma restored to her good humor after successfully getting me into the kitchen peers at it. Muses "What shape is this? It looks like some continent"
Me: Don’t stand over my head Ma - you disturb an artist’s concentration
Ma suppresses a sound that sounds a mix between an incredulous snort and a chortle.
Ma: Your husband (mythical person this) will die of hunger by the time you finish a roti if you take so long
Me: If my non-existent and unknown husband has a problem he can jolly well make the rotis and eat them himself. And why are you taking that person’s side as opposed to your one and only daughter anyways?
Ma: (mollifying) Okay we will get a hotel management professional for you- he can cook.
(She is thoroughly convinced that a KRA of hotel management courses is to cook)
(Also, somehow I have noticed these days; conversations have a way of eventually ending up in my marriage ...wonder why! We can be talking about astrophysics but it somehow; it will veer to a conversation about my future husband hmm!)

The next two rotis progressively become more circular. If you peer from a distance, one can even mistake them to be round. Ma pats my back encouragingly - "Yes that’s better but you know try and avoid making them lumpy in the middle and thin outside next time okay?"
The next time round I make it thin inside and lumpy on the outside - so thin in fact that it’s practically a hole. Hell! Let me not beat around the bush - it is a hole!

After some more in this, Ma finally kicks me out of the kitchen assuring me that she will ensure that the feller I marry has a cook

Amen to that I say!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


My friend N called me just as I was drifting off to sleep in the afternoon

“Where the HELL are you?”

I told her that I was bunking office for no other reason than the fact that I was bored witless, wanted to quit (and believe that leave encashment is a complete scam) and couldn’t stand the sight of my colleagues after ten months of unleavened interactions.

After establishing the fact that she approved of this unseemly use of holidays she went to inquire about my activities at home. So of course, I started cribbing about chores.

“I have to buy vegetables today.”

“So what?” she asked, quite callously I thought.

“Well….its not the BUYING part which I mind so much. What stresses me out is deciding WHAT to cook. I mean, I run out of vegetables by Thursday evening”

“What do you mean you run out of vegetables? How can one run out of vegetables. Buy more of them.”

“Not like that” I explained. “I don’t run out of quantity but types! You see Mondays its cauliflower and potatoes and brinjal, Tuesday okra, cabbage and yam, Wednesday its capsicum, peas and carrots, on Thursday its mushrooms and beans...and then I am out of vegetables again!”

“What about tenda, parwal and lauki and karela”
she asked.

“Uhm lauki taste blech so once in a while, karela is bitter and tenda and parwal is is tenda? What does it look like?”

Yes. Sigh.

I am ashamed to admit it, but even when I am ageing and on the wrong side of the hill, and I still cant recognize ALL the vegetables.
And some of the condiments (took me a couple of months of sniffing tests before I could differentiate jeera and saunf) and don’t even get me started on the lentils. Split masoor, full masoor, covered masoor, naked masoor – and that’s just one of the dratted types. And some you soak and some you boil. Some you soak till they are fat, some you soak till they grow things on them. But you can’t boil the fat ones till they grow things on them. They you need to throw the fat, hairy ones away. Just too many algorithms, too much confusion.

I could blame it on growing in a Goan environment where fish is the staple and vegetables a punishment. But I can’t recognize all types of fish either.

Anyways, I digress. When I first started this cooking exercise, I did in all earnestness try to learn the vegetables. I used to call up Ma who would give me descriptions over the phone for stuff which wasn’t in my normal cooking repertoire.

“Okay you know beans right- Buy those.”

Yes. Beans are good. I know beans. So off to the greengrocers I would go, confidently pick up 250 grams of beans, laboriously try and deciphers Ma’s completely complex cooking instructions – (“Okay you need to put water – but not too much water because then the flavour goes away.. How much water? Well do a katori... but don’t put the very big katori but a medium sized one...but if the beans are looking dry put more than one katori. Bah..You don’t understand the simplest things.”)

But whatever I did, the damn things refused to taste like beans that Ma made. Until I found out the simple explanation for that. They didn’t taste like beans, because they were not beans I knew (French beans) but gawar (Cluster beans)

So after some mishaps with Methi and Palak (and they even call the darn seeds Methi to confuse one further) and Yam and sweet potato, I have resolutely stuck to the vegetables I know.

And there is the whole stressful charade at the greengrocer place. When one walks in and picks up some vegetables and discards some others – the concerned and careful homemaker charade. I have absolutely NO clue which is good and which is bad. (Ok I have some clue if the cabbage is drooping and grey, and tomatoes are oozing out squishy stuff, and if cauliflower is black, but other than that, not really.)

Should I pick up the really dark green cabbage or the medium green one or the pale green one? What type of onions are better – the pink ones? The white ones? The dark purple ones? The pale peach colored ones? What size potatoes are good – the tiny-one-mouthful or the Big-Daddies?

I have absolutely no clue. So I go there and pretend. And I pick up some and discard others. With the uneasy suspicion that the chap at the counter is seeing right through this little play acting and mentally chortling away to glory.

As N put it “Some people suffer from colour blindness, others from night blindness. What you suffer from is vegetable blindness. THAT is your problem”


P.S. Before people start pitying the husband and sending him condolence cards, please note that I am a surprisingly decent cook ( as in regularly surprise everyone by concocting fairly palatable, nay tasty, dishes, usually through a completely accidental process (“Okay there are no tarragon leaves? Lets put some marjoram leaves, they sort of rhyme” and viola a perfectly interesting dish is born). If you still feel sympathetic towards the husband and what he is inflicted to, you are free to fed-ex food though.