Archive for the ‘People Watching’ Category

Of Jangh and Afghanistan in Dilli

On a wintery, sun-warmed day, few pleasures of life are sweeter than Singh sahab’s gajjar ka halwa. There is a gram of ghee for every ten grams of halwa. Probably why it tastes divine! 

Singh sahab’s corner shop is tucked away in a dirty by-lane of Bhogal, just beyond Jangpura extension.

I was introduced to the kaleidoscope of this hidden world years ago. It started off with tagging along with Aunty to the Mangal Bazaar for weekly errands. Eventually it became ‘our’ thing. Her happiness to explore what’s new in the stores and my  joy to experience purane sheher ka bazaar-haat. There’s something very India, very 1980s about the Mangal Bazaar.  Bright, woollen salwar kameez ka kapda jostles for space with Made-in-China LED lights. The air is thick with the smell of aloo tikki  and fresh jalebis. The whitest of mooli and the greenest of saag patta  beckon you to taste winter in all its glory.

And just when you think that there’s not much to discover, voila!  The aroma of freshly baking bread entices you from the Afghani bakery. 2013-11-24 16.31.01I’ve often passed by Abdul’s shop, tempted by the warm loaves of yeasty goodness. But never really found it in me to stop and do justice to the cravings. Today however, the pull was irresistible. As we crossed the road, it was easy to see why his simple shop front was always three-deep crowded. They make just the naan roti!  Just the one product. And just so delectable!

2013-11-24 16.31.11 (1)What’s not to like about salty, slightly chew, 100% fresh, hot-out-of-the-tandoor bread, I say! So a naan  was bought. And the journey home was peppered with loud conversation debating the best accompaniment to the naan.  Of course it had to be tea. Of course it had to be sweet, ginger tea, replete with creamy milk.

Every time I am in Bhogal, I seem to discover a Delhi that’s well-hidden in full parade. From the sardarjis who grace the chairs outside ancient cloth stores, to the Janghis who still make the best shalgam gobi ka achar  this side of the border, this mini-world is teeming with life.

Of Dreams

Being a lawyer today carries certain unwritten text around it – if one is even half-way capable of stringing a sentence in grammatically correct English, one is expected to be making so much per annum. Sub-text involves owning a car, some form of an artificially intelligent telecom device, a fruit-featuring computer and regular illustrated updates of holidays and/or revelry-making.

Is life only about getting to the next milestone?

Why is the constant rush to achieve and accquire called the “rat race”? As far as one is aware, rats are not known to race in the natural state of affairs.

Or is it – very quietly but very much in reality – the realisation of the Great American Dream by India – albeit half a century later?

Look around you – the symptoms are all there.

Suburbia? Check.

Mortgaged Apartments/Houses (American for Home-Loan)? Check.

EMIs for everything including the kitchen-sink? Check.

Ill-brought up children with dysfunctional upbringing in two-income working parents’ homes? Check.

Prolific “fast” food that is over-priced and ill-tasting? Check.

Mushrooming malls and ugly, mass-produced matrial goods that just shouldn’t exist? Check.

Why do we do this to ourselves? It seems, if we can’t get the Oh-so-coveted Green Card, we merely bring the accompaniments to our doorstep.

Ill-cut skirts and too-short shirts replace well-tailored salwar kameezes.  It’s un-cool for working women to “enjoy cooking” – a cook is a must – and the regular griping on the lack of culinary skills of said cook follows. Entertaining at home is a chore – let’s just catch up over an unrecognisable-in-Italy Italian meal at a chain restaurant. Schools teach and young adults still graduate without the faintest clue of when the Second World War ended.

This *may* read like a rant – but it isn’t. It’s a thought – said aloud.

Is it a stage of natural Darwin-like evolution on a country-wide level? Is it merely the lesser following the greater in a tried-and-seems successful method? Or an unconscious collective practising of a mentality that is inherent to oour culture?  Or is it a deep-rooted inferiority complex where if the gora sahib  has it, then it must be worth having? So politically incorrect in the times where “racial studies” connote mildly enlightened perceptions!

Think about – on the next break off the wheel.

Knocks and locks

After having sat through a rather disappointing watch of the movie “Fire”, one is left with a bunch of unsettling questions that seem to have no answers.

For starters – why is it that Indians just do not lock doors, especially when they are about to indulge or engage in activities that they do not want to be disturbed at? Have you noticed just how many lives have been ruined on celluloid, by accidental and not-so-accidental discoveries of what happens behind “un”locked doors? If one was to have a penny for every time a protagonist who was caught-with-a-sheepish/shocked-look thought “Damn! Should have locked that door!”, one would be very rich indeed!

Which brings one to the second question of knocking on said (un)locked doors. Why, O WHY, do people never EVER knock on doors before opening them?! It’s obviously asking for too much to pause mid-suspense scene in the slow-turning-of-the-handle-while-anticipating-nefarious-goings-on-on-the-other-side and KNOCK ON THE DAMN DOOR!  Besides, who are we kidding! Saying “please” and “may I” and “thank you” is considered being so formal. Aao-jao, ghar tumhara, so why bother with knocking-shocking, no?

*sigh*

Indians, as a whole, disapprove of thanking for a cup of tea. Or excusing themselves to attend a phone call. Or requesting permission to take a seat. Or knocking on doors before entering rooms.

Why are we like this only?

Notions of Infancy

Does India, as a culture, allow its Indians to grow up?

Think about it.

Twenty-five year olds stay at home with the ‘rents if employed in the same city. Laundry and food, gratis. To even suggest moving out into a single pad would be considered a heniuos crime-against-the-hands-that-changed-your-diapers. Even if such a move would actually ease the daily tension of living that is inevitable in closely inhabited areas.

In more households than not, it is unheard of to even shut the door of a bedroom – especially if it is to accquire some “quiet time alone”. Such a concept goes against the grain of Collective Indian Living – and no, one does not refer to the rural lifestyle. In modern, today-India, an average family of four, having a son and a daughter, where both partents hold at least post-graduate degrees, a two-bedroom life-space would be considered more than adequate. After all, why can a brother and sister not share the same room?!

Are we as a culture, really so smug as to deny human beings the fundamental right to personal space and privacy? What is this “liberty”, “freedom” and “independence” that the Constitution guarantees if each one of the members of the adult, middle-class Indians is denied the right to being an adult by his or her own family? Where is this liberty if something as fundamental as choosing one’s life partner is not to be one’s right but an imperial order handed down by the Powers-That-Be of every Family? Where is that freedom when all one can “choose” to be is an engineer or a doctor? Where is that liberty if a mere evening out to have a drink with friends is constantly monitored with phone calls and text messages of “Beta, we are awaiting dinner for you. Have made your favourite rasam.” Why are Indians so sold on the ugliness of emotional blackmail and its accompanying power play?

What does it say about the culture as a whole? That we are so insecure about living for ourselves that we will eschew every opportunity to be responsible. Schooling? Someone else’s responsibility. Choice of Profession? Fikar not, Appa will choose. Marriage? Oh don’t worry! GrandFather and Great-Grand-Uncle-Thrice-Removed have long ago come to an understanding. Where to live? Here only – why do you want to waste “apni zameen”? Which car to buy? – Arrey! Whichever is the biggest, after all, family has to be able to travel together, no? When to have kids? – Shaadi ke baad do saal ruk liye – now you must have your first child. How many kids to have? – Eklauti santaan achchi nahi – hum do humare do. Ek ladka aur ek ladki.

So on and so forth.

It’s interesting to note how we, Indians, are not expected to take any decisions for ourselves. As children, young adults, grown-up members of society. It’s always someone else’s responsibility to make our choices for us. In fact, one could go further and say even the degeneration of old-age and the following decline into the Final Oblivion is for someone else to sort out. Why else would you have children if not to be your “budhape ka sahara”? Self-reliance is a blasphemous notion and independence the germ of all that is evil.

In a society that is now adapting to its Audis and INR 5 crore apartments, it’s disappointingly disturbing to see that these are still, at the end of the day, property of the Hindu (Un)Divided Family.

Ten Symptoms Of Adulthood

10. You side step a puddle instead of splashing through it in glee.

9. You don’t slllurrrppp the dregs of chocolate milk shake in the cafe.

8. You don’t presume the cherries on all the desserts across the table are there for your picking.

7. You don’t “clap your hands” when you’re happy and you know it.

6. The nurse at the doctor’s clinic gives you the Nasty Eye if you pick a sweety off the bowl.

5. It takes more than a mug of hot cocoa to make you feel fuzzy and warm and it’s usually alcoholic.

4. Pocket money refers to the money in your pocket – literally – and not what you filch off mum in the five second breakfast before dashing off to school.

3. Boys are not “yuck” and vice-versa.

2. You don’t strip off offending pieces of clothing when you’re too hot or it’s floppy and in-the-way of whatever you’re doing.

1. Eating a lollipop attracts more attention than it should.

Introductions.

There are two entities that I introduce you to today. A friend. And me.

Actually, it goes like this. A friend wanted to put up a 100th on her blog and asked for audience participation in the form of questions. I – like the wonderful nutcase that I am – asked her things about us. Of course that turned out to be not-so-bright an idea since the rest of the world doesn’t exactly know me and my history with her!

But by then, the idea seemed really good! So instead, I sent across fresh non-topical questions for the 100th anniversary post AND a bunch of questions for her to answer to do as a guest post here! So now what you have coming up, is an introduction to the authoress and her take on me!

Natasha

She’s born half a day ahead of me – literally. She’s witty and quippy. She’s glamorous and so together. She’s elegant, poised and a very successful career-woman. She’s a child when it comes to enjoying the simple pleasures of food, family and friends. She’s taught me, laughed with me, partied with me and seen me grow up. I – in turn – have watched her come out of a relatively cocooned life to watch the world with honest eyes and accept with grace the fact that life deals different cards to different people. She is one of the treasures I cherish and is a mirror to my life – as clean as they come. Here’s her take on me.

Q.Why do you think you and I have lasted over so many years?

A. You mean apart from the fact that we have diametrically opposite tastes in men? LOL. Come to think of it, we have always been fiercely individualistic and still managed to be great friends. I guess one half of the trick is being honest about our opinions, likes and dislikes. And as ‘beauty-pageant-final-answer-type’ as it may sound, the other half is the inherent respect we have for each other. Of course being born on the exact same day must mean that somewhere deep down we’re not that different.

Q. What’s the favourite memory you have of any time we have spent together and why?

A. Hands down the silly NDA Ball we went for back in the day. Hell I still remember how excited we were about it and how minutely we planned the whole thing, down to the bloody makeup. Don’t think I will ever forget how my date freaked me out and yours won the title of Mr. NDA. The Cinderella treatment was a whole other issue! Remember that crazy girl we befriended in the bus, the one that later absconded with a rather cute cadet? God that was an awesome (and crazy) night!

Q. What’s the one mistake you think I have made that has had the biggest effect in my life?

A. Law school… duh! 😉

Ok seriously, I think most of your decisions are made with other people’s best interests in mind instead of your own. As a result you’re always trying to do stuff that makes other people happy. Wish there was one instance in particular but there have been too many to pin down (you know that!). Which brings me to your next question…

Q. What’s the one thing about me that makes your really proud of me, presuming there is one?

A. I cannot even begin to tell you just how proud it makes me to see you rediscover yourself, the girl I knew back in college with a head full of dreams to make it big in life, with a passion to achieve great things.

The last few years have been difficult, having to deal with the responsibilities that circumstances forced on you and a few wrong choices you might have made. Every time you spoke of wanting to settle for second best, it made me cringe because I knew that was not like you at all.

Today I see you getting out of your comfort zone to transform your dreams into reality and it makes me so proud! You’ve wanted this for so long and no one deserves it more than you do.

Q. What’s the one thing you really want for me or to happen to me?

A. A few years back I might have said I want you to meet someone wonderful who gets you, the essence of who you are. However as they say, one gets wiser with age. Neither of us needs someone to make us feel complete, we’re a little too good for that!

So to answer your question – I really want you to become the person you have always dreamed of being… The kickass professional who works for the betterment of society while fulfilling her inherent need to make a difference to the world at large instead of some sellout attorney like most batch mates we know have landed up being J.

Q. What’s the one thing you think I can change about myself and should?

A. Can I mention two things please?

One – I think you let people into your heart and life too easily. It doesn’t take much for you to trust someone and that is not really the best trait to possess, especially if it has serious repercussions on your life later on.

Two – You need to experiment with the joys of colours and fashion. There are too many pretty clothes and styles out there for you to be stuck with the staid and boring!

Q. What’s the one thing you think I should not change about myself ever?

A. Your unique brand of craziness. I have never met someone so intelligent and so crazy at the same time.

Q. What’s the one thing you’re happy to have found/achieved/learned through me – presuming there is one?

A. Women can ride motorcycles.

Sharing a chocolate dessert and catching up on life with a friend is more fun than dolling up and going out on a date (sometimes 😉

It takes a lot of balls to say ‘Get the F*$^ out of my life’ and mean it.

Living alone in a foreign land isn’t as romantic or fun as one might believe.

You can’t go wrong with a short black dress.

Q. What is the one thing you want for me and you in the next 12 months?

A. A dream vacation exploring the splendors of Europe together, replete with holiday romances, bouts of alcoholism and a visit to the Louvre.

Wanted: One Conversation Partner

Due to global warming (and the sudden drop in obesity in Tonga), the following position is vacant. Interested candidates may forward their resumes, along with expected returns and previous positions held, to the author.

Position: Conversation Partner

Skills required: An ability to listen without a glazed look in the eyes. Talking is not a required skill.

Qualifications: Must know the history of England as published by Sellars and Yeatman. Should be aware of the Rising Yen. Is aware of the fact that Tom and Jerry is possibly one of the greatest inventions of mankind. Will help if possesses an ability to laugh at M*A*S*H* reruns. Must never tire of random ideas being the topic of the day. Should agree that Shakespeare is overrated.In fact, should agree that pretty much all “classic” literature is overrated. With the exception of the Greeks. And Wordsworth. Should know the origin of the Divide-and-Rule policy (no – the Raj is not the correct answer). Must never ever inititate a discussion on Really Bad Indian Authors And Unfortunately Winners Of Awards. An ability to sit through hours of silence is a pre-requistie. Must not interrupt meaningful viewings of Soppy Movies that induce late-night discussions on relationships. Or the lack of them. Must never question the purcahse of books, even when there is clearly no space left to put them in. Must never reprimand said owner of books for wild tantrums when books are found to have been dog-eared, upended or (gasp!) written on, by others. In fact, must never reprimand. Period. Should cherish the oldest copy of Wren and Martin’s for its sheer beauty. Must find Nabokov to be an Exceptionally Repulsive Mind. Should want to watch “Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy”. Should not want to watch trash cinema. Must know who Ertha Kitt was. Must find it incredibly sweet to name a child Pica Farhad. And smile at that. Must discuss the weather.

All of the above are man-dat-ory. If you don’t get the pun in that, don’t bother to apply.