Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Introspection for the New Year's Eve.

Examination of the year on a seven point Likert scale of expectations
(1-Far Below:2- Moderately Below:3-Slightly Below:4-Met expectations:5-Slightly Above:6-Moderately Above:7-Far Above)


Physical Health: 4 (Fitness consciousness has improved, as has eating healthy, and most importantly excercising regularly)
Emotional Health: 3 (Rocky patch at the beginning of the year - but improved marginally over time)
Mental Health: 5 (No smart alecy comments thank you pliss)

Marital Health: 5 (At least I dont get up in the middle of the night and jump out of bed wondering WTF is that and what is he doing here)
Filial Health: 5 (Ah the usual rating for this one)
Outlawndish Health: No comments (Discretion is the better part ....)
Friendtenal Health: 6 (Bless them all).

Financial Health: 1 (Why doesnt this ever change? sighhhhhhhhhhhh)
Professional Health: 2 (Pune. Pune. Pune.Count to 10)

Blogging Health: ??? (Comments people? fishes welcome)

May next year rate 7 on everyone's Life scales! See you on the other side folks.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Use, Abuse?

So a few years ago, somewhere in the post-advent-of-Internet-era but pre-social-media-explosion kind of age (web 1.5?) I reconnected with an erstwhile friend from my 11-12th grade spent in an all-girls (*shudders*) school. Let’s call this girl T.

Now T was one of the members of the ‘group’ I used to hang out with (read: the crowd that sat down to have lunch together) – she was okay enough (except for a marked predilection for Mills & Boons - girls school effect *shudders*) and since she lived fairly close to where I did, she used to often hitch a ride with us (viz. my friend P and I who had a car-pool thing to school, and Goonda who pretty much lived at my house for four years). So we used to hang out and do all those things that 15-17 year old girls do together viz. gawk at good looking guys from HPS (girl’s convent hangover *shudders*), giggle at geeks, link each other up with any random guy in the right age bracket, sing tonelessly and loudly, blare music on the streets and deafen the old driver and generally feel very brave and adventurous and pleased with ourselves.

School got over, P and Goonda went to Delhi (and soon P moved to London), I left for Bombay and T remained in Hyderabad. And eventually while I remained in touch with the other two heroines and still do so regularly (the fact that P is also the daughter of a family friend not to mention that she is quite utterly insane, helped. And Goonda and I were er..BFF (Ugh. Puke. Yuck.) and shared a relationship based on a rock-solid foundation of extravagant insults which continue till this day, which leave our respective spouses rather bemused). (Also I need to stop doing these sidebars in brackets-for-background-colour things – I have almost forgotten what the post I set out to write was about), I lost contact with T until we got each other’s email ids few years later.

So I was happy enough to find her and we exchanged 2-3 ‘what have u been doing in life in the last few years ‘mails. Then suddenly one day I get a mail from her informing me that she is coming to Bombay to meet a prospective lover (which her folks don’t know about and the official version is that she is coming to Bombay to meet me) and will be staying at my house for a few days. Which was a little bizarre but since I have had sundry friends come and stay with me for many days at a time, I shrugged off the rather high-handed tone and said ‘sure’.

A few weeks went with no correspondence whatsoever and then again an unexpected mail came informing me that she would be reaching Mumbai at 10.15 and I should be at the airport to pick her up. By this time, Goonda (who has much shorter fuse than I do) was fuming at the rather arbitrary tone of the mail. I happened to have some function which I needed to attend to, so I wrote to her telling her that I would be unable to pick her up since I had to go to this wedding, but would leave the keys with the neighbour. She wrote back saying that she cannot change her flight timings and I should cancel my plans to go to the wedding and be sure to pick her up. By this time, I was also in a rather WTF mode while Ma and Goonda had smoke coming out of their ears.I said no go.

Then finally in the manner of one doing a great favour, she rescheduled her flight plans to arrive the next day and I went to pick her up at the airport (yes, I was quite a doormat and hated to give offense and hurt other people’s sensibilities. At one point (okay last sidebar, I promise), when I was in eighth grade, I used to carry two water bottles because one of my classmates used to drink mine. Why didn’t she carry a water bottle as well? Because it was too much of a pain/inconvenience to lug a bottle around)

So anyway, she came to my house, quite unchanged – as giggly, as loud as ever – I in the meantime had lost my father, had taken on financial and emotional responsibility so was not the carefree person of yore.

Soon after she landed, she called up a people and made plans for the evening to go pubbing with some friends and informed me that I should not expect her for dinner and so on; she left and then disappeared for the next two days. We were of course , frantic, as to where the hell a single girl in a unknown city, supposedly under our chaperonage had disappeared to. Finally we managed to trace her, figured that she had shacked up somewhere with the lover-boy .

The day before she was to fly back she called again to inquire whether I could see her off at the airport so that I could 'spend some time' with her. I politely declined the pleasure (working, had reduced the doormat quotient. Besides, I had Goonda threatening hell and damnation if I so much as thought of going)

Anyways, what was the point of this post and why am I thinking of it now after such a long time? Because someone else is attempting the same thing again. A person who has had my email id but had fallen out of touch. I reconnected with this person on a social media site again, and after precisely 2 mails, this person wrote to ask whether I could travel especially to Mumbai at a certain date to do something specific and complicated. And I don’t want to take that effort and I don’t see any reason for me to do so at the cost of being churlish ( Is the doormat dead finally? Yippie!)

So there are a couple of issues here.

The first one is that: - Yes. In friendships and other relationships, one person often has to put in effort, be inconvinienced for the other. That is the part of the give and take and the cornerstone of any meaningful relationship. but it is easy to abuse that relationship and get into a territory which is "using" the person. And hell, Im pretty sure no one likes to be used. T, this current person, (both might be rather extreme examples I know)I certainly felt like I was being suckered.

The interesting conundrum is WHY! I know, that with a different person, and exactly the same set of circumstances, I might feel completely different about it and take the effort gladly and willingly and unhesitatingly.

It's not even the fact that there has been a time gap in the relationship. There are enough and more friends who I havent seen for years, who I don't foresee this issue coming up with.

Is it the tone I wonder?

So the question is that why is it that for some people, one can go to extraordinary lengths to help and for others, even a minor detour seems like an imposition.

Is it the give and take thing? But then isn’t friendship supposed to be relatively altruistic? So if I am willing to take effort only for those people who reciprocate that becomes a contractual and not emotional relationship doesn’t it?

The other, is after saying “No” to people who fall in the latter category, how is it that one ends up becoming the churlish, uncooperative, unhelpful person?

Relationships are weird.

Okay very long and very rambling post.

Seasons Greetings to all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Beauticians are in the eye of the beholder

Ed Note: The first of the beauty rants written in Jul/05 – forerunner to this. Recycling this since I am unwell(shameless sympathy fishing here) and am not supposed to be up and about..

There are three things in the world that I am afraid of - dentists, lizards and superior-young-women-at-beauty-parlours. Today's post is dedicated to the third.

A typical scene from a beauty parlour goes thus

I walk in (usually without an appointment - somehow this thing about taking appointments for parlours has never cut any ice with me - I don’t take appointments for doctors and I’ll be damned if I will take one for a parlour)

Usually two or three extremely superior young women will be standing there looking well, extremely supercilious. The minute I walk in they will turn around and look at me with a slightly contemptuous sneer on their face (I promptly feel that my hair is all wrong or my clothes are inside out or there is a zit on my face or SOMETHING!)

After about three minutes of looking helplessly around one will condescend to come upto me to ask what is it that I want to do. (Usually something very basic - a hair trim perhaps)

She will seat me on the chair (ah, that’s the reason I don’t like beauty parlours’ - the chairs are the same as those they have in a dentists consulting room!).

She stares at my face and asks me "what is your skin care programme"
Me: "Uhm skin care programme?"
She: “Yes skin programme - what all do you do to take care of your skin?”
Me: (Half defiantly, half sheepishly) “Nothing much really - just wash it and keep it clean and don’t experiment with my face wash/soap/cream”
She (rolling her eyes heavenward - one can almost hear her begging God to deliver her from these half-baked-skin-programme less-morons). “You should have a skin regimen - you need to take care of your skin - if you don’t you will end up with wrinkles and marks and look something like that” pointing in the general direction of the picture of an 87 year old woman with a pockmarked face.
She continues: “Look at this - you already have a blackhead here if you don’t take care they will go on multiplying”
I much shaken, peer into the mirror and see zilch: “Uhm where?”
She: “There on your nose! Can’t you see it???”
I peer more intently and manage to locate one solitary blackhead.
She: "You need to take care of your skin - you should have a proper facial and get your skin cleansed and toned - should I do it now?"
Me (feebly): “No- not today I am going for a movie in an hour or so - I just need a hair trim right now”
She (sniffing disapprovingly): “Ok. But I suggest you get some scrubs for your face”

(I have but a nebulous idea what a scrub is - I used to always think it is that thingummy one washes ones clothes with which they beat the dirt out- I have recently discovered it’s a walnut based or apricot based paste, which one is to apply. I haven’t seen it yet but I have just heard all these fancy descriptions from my cousins.)

She (looking at my hair from all angles): “Your hair - it’s so DRY”.
Last time I went there they told me my hair was too OILY - you never win do you?
She lifts my hair up and tells her colleagues “Look at her hair it’s so DRY”
I am ready to sink through the floor, for shamelessly walking around the world with DRY hair.
Then she starts to measure and cut and meanwhile continues her rant.
She: “What shampoo do you use?”
Me: “Head and Shoulders or Pantene”
She (aghast): “Those? Those are very strong! They will ruin your hair - it will eventually all fall off”
Me: (Quaking at the thought of my suddenly going bald):"Uh..what about Sunsilk? Which one should I use?”
She: “Tetra hydrox something something" (I don’t get the last part of the name but it sounds like a washing machine)
She continues: "You should colour your hair - that will automatically condition it and stop it from becoming dry"
Me: "Er no I don’t want to colour it - everyone I know who has coloured complains that it ruins the texture of the hair"
She: "Bah! They do lots of research and testing before they out it on hair - of course nothing will happen to your hair"
Turns to her assistant: "Get the catalogue of hair colour"
I flip through the catalogue - somehow my imagination balks at the thought of me as a peroxide blonde.
I tell the lady the same.
She: "Don't get a global hair colour get it highlighted - that will look nice"
Me:"Uhm but the texture - have been told that it completely ruins it"
She: (In an obvious effort to explain things to a cosmetically-challenged half wit ) : "If you are so afraid of it you should go in for the ammonia free hair colour"

Ammonia? They use ammonia to colour hair? ...Eeeks! I thought ammonia was used for disinfectants.

Me: "Er no ..I think Ill pass the hair colour for now- I just need to trim it you know"
She: "At least come for a conditioning treatment"
Me: "What is that?"
She:"You have to come here and we condition your hair"
Me (suspiciously): "How many times?"
She: "At least five times - you'll need to come every 10 days to sit here for sessions of 45 minutes"
Yeah right - here I barely manage to go to the damn place once in 5 months and she expects me to go there 5 times.
Me: "Isn’t there anything I can do at home?"
She (firmly): “Hmm...at home isn’t good enough you will have to come here"
Me (looking at her piteously):"Nothing whatsoever?"
She: “You can try this new L'Oreal shampoo-conditioner"
Me: "Where does one get it?"
She turns to her assistant who promptly gets it and puts it in front of me.
She continues:"You must use it - you really need to take care of your skin and hair you know"
Me: (meekly): “This is good is it?"
She: "Yes not as good as a treatment here but if you insist this is decent"
By this time my spirit is utterly broken.
Me: “Okay I guess I will buy this

All the while knowing I am being conned - hell I work in advertising I know how to con consumers into buying things they don’t need or want and I still fall for this!

By this time, the haircut is also done and I walk out the reluctant owner of a very expensive shampoo and conditioner

Beauty? Gah!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Minding the Mind

I was wondering the other day – does intellectual growth, the appetite to learn, also fall in a bell shaped curve – rises steeply for a while and then starts to peter down soon after?

This thought came from musing over my reading habits – I am and have always been a voracious reader. Books have been my addiction, my companions and my escape throughout my life (I nurse my emotional wounds not with food or alcohol, but with my well-worn, time-tested comfort books).
But if I look at the kind of stuff which I find myself reading these days, instead of scaling and seeking intellectually challenging books, I find myself unerringly aiming for the stuff which I used to read maybe twelve- fifteen years ago. (I have also noticed that I no longer pick up books which have very small font or are very bulky. But that might be just age and failing eyes). These books – my bubble gum reading of then, have suddenly become my staple diet – which leads one to wonder about brain cell atrophy or brain cell laziness and all that.

And this phenomenon seems to be happening across the board – be it the television shows, the magazines, or even the conversational ambit which I operate in.

I have been mulling over this and I believe that are three possible hypotheses.

The first hypothesis is the one I have already mentioned. Namely, like the physical growth-peak-decline (I would assume one hits the peak somewhere in the mid twenties), so with the mind. Thus, the athlete who is at the top of his prowess at 22 only to find that his reflexes and his strength are ebbing five years later – so with the intellectual who attains this pinnacle of cerebral attainment, only for it to de-grow in a few years. (And of course this happens with the lesser mortals such as yours truly, who are neither athletes nor intellectuals).

The other possible explanation for this could stem from the unique state of the generation – a generation brought up on Internet, leet speak and text messages which has been conditioned to use only a minuscule part of the brain and has been accustomed to get all inputs in a ready-to-eat, easily digestible format. This would in effect discourage any heavily intellectual pursuits because well – the value which is obtained is neither immediate and also, there is a definite benefit-effort mismatch – why spend so much time and energy pursuing something, where one can get distractions in a much easier format? The twitter phenomena as it were - not blogs, but micro blogs. Everything in byte sized pieces - caused by and resulting in low attention span.

The third hypothesis springs from a life-stage, age, societal flux kind of area. If real life, earning one’s livelihood, responsibilities are quite difficult enough without having to grapple with leisure activities which also task and challenge one’s mind. So the popcorn stimuli are exclusively escapist in their nature.

I would like to believe it’s the last one – well, because then it becomes a conscious choice rather than an involuntary (physiological or environmental as the case may be)and worrisome one.

What do you think?

P.S. all of you who are scaling intellectual Mount Everest’ as you grow older, kindly refrain from stating that – my lethargic mind has been tying itself into discomfited knots as it is.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Notes from the Guitar Class

In my old age, I suddenly decided to go and learn the guitar. Bucket list and all that.

So a few months ago, I toddled off to a class and registered myself. The spouse accompanied me and put on a long-suffering air stating that “Now you can’t say that marriage has stopped you from pursuing your dreams and hobbies”. Full melodrama this – I’m not really the martyr types who will sacrifice her life at the altar of matrimony.

So like I was saying I went and registered in this class in my neighbouring suburb and have been going there twice a week ever since.

This guitar class is a one man show run by an elderly-catholic-gentleman who from what I can gather has been playing the guitar professionally since 1950 or so. Being definitely old school in his approach to life in general and guitar in particular, he believes in all those old maxims of hard-work and practice makes perfect, 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, and no progress without duress ( is that a maxim or did I just make that up?) – Anyways you get the gist.

As an aside and for the record, I would have much rather had a hot, stubbly young rocker-teacher types but I couldn’t because a) I didn’t find anyone of the sort and b) S claims ( quite unjustly) that I need someone who will figuratively cane me into practising – and this gentleman seems to fit the bill.

He, let’s call him Mr. M was quite fascinated by me when I first started attending his class. A female keen to learn the guitar was rare, a person on the wrong side of ..well never mind the numerical age, but the wrong side of the guitar-learning age was rarer (most of his students appear prepubescent to me - smaller than the guitars they play on.) and a person who is married is also quite unusual. So a person who combined all three was an oddity quite deserving of deep suspicion and an unshakable conviction that “She won’t last for more than a couple of weeks” and I think the fact that I do turn up quite regularly, never fails to surprise him.

As I mentioned earlier , he is quite the old style school teacher – balding, be-whiskered, beer-bellied ( ah for the young rocker, sigh) - he regularly scolds and clucks around all the unfortunate students for everything – whether it is not doing homework ( which is practising some 4 hours a day) to smoking ( “Next time you come I will SMELL your mouth and if I think you have smoked you better ‘WATCH IT”) and for not covering notebook ( this last particular one was directed exclusively at me – I kept on forgetting to cover the damn thing ( incidentally the first time he told me to cover my notebook I gaped at him like a half-wit – no one had told me to do that for close on 15 years. I also spent some pleasant time contemplating what stickers I should put on them – the Hello Kitty ones or Snoopy. Ok. I am being nasty).

He is also exceedingly meticulous (although I suspect terribly dated) in his music classes – one is expected to write down the theory (and seriously, all you typer-sharks out there are you able to write extended passages even now? I seem to struggle to write anything more than my signature these days), followed by a long diatribe on lack-of-practise ( he firmly believes that practise is more important than other minor things like earning-one’s livelihood or preparing food) and then some exceedingly excruciating exercises’ for one or the other hand – yes, I am still stuck at those (exclusively-arachnidan named) exercises’ - I have been doing these for months now, and I suspect I will be doing them till the end of time.

Also Mr. M and I seem to have quite differing definitions of what constitutes a relaxed hand. He will contort his hand in a quite impossible angle and make me do that with mine and insist that the hand is not relaxed enough. Well, I agree with that – my claw looks like it’s in the throes of rigor mortis. But I defy anyone to hold the hand in those particular positions and be yogic-ly relaxed at the same time.

And I suspect my fairly flippant attitude to learning is something which he views with deep disapproval. He wants to make a professional guitarist out of me - despite all the odds and despite the unpromising musical raw material. He periodically drops broad hints about how a so-and-so- restaurant is in need of someone who can play and sing and how in a few months I might consider it (It might be worthwhile to broach this proposal in front of my Ma– I am sure her reaction to the news that I am considering singing and playing a guitar professionally ought to be quite interesting. I'm sure band bajega. Quite literally)

So anyways I plug (pluck?) on with the guitar. In a few decades if you see a white haired old lady standing and crooning on some stage with a guitar, stop by to say hallo, it just might be me.