Reflections At The Gym

If you thought that was a pun, guess what? You’re bang on! The gym I occasionally frequent (inching towards an oxymoron here folks) has mirrors all along one side of a wall and that really helps while you’re checking out your form or lack thereof. It frequently helps me bemoan the state my body’s in although am far from the age where any kind of remedial action is off the table.

The gym also has a couple of tvs on another wall, conveniently lined up with the treadmills and people prefer to watch Bollywood videos while they work out. I usually don’t; audios are fine but videos often throw me off my stride. Either it’s too inane or it just assaults your senses and sensibilities at 6 am. I prefer my sensibilities to be assaulted after breakfast thank you very much, not before.

Even the biopics or more realistic movie plots show relationships in a more theatrical way- the college days, the bike rides (usually an uber expensive muscle bike no matter how un-wealthy the family) and the ability to cross the time barrier multiple times in the course of one three-minute song while hop, skipping and jumping across continents. They may be cinematically aesthetic and appealing but darn it if it doesn’t make you think, “That’s not how it happens at all!!

Take for example two kids from “good” middle class Indian families who would like to spend some time on their own. Managing the logistics is hard enough without some hawk-eyed auntie staring at you while you make your way out of the house so imagine a scenario where you get me-time with your crush let alone have him hoist you up in the air and spin you around in glee. That my friend, is a challenge and a half! And one that remains a daydream for most young adults.

Take it from someone who has had one or two of those magical theatrical moments; it’s all too fleeting and it takes so much doing that at the end of the day you’d rather have the opportunity to hold hands under the table or walk along side by side with an occasional touching of the hands. Way more romantic and definitely more feasible especially when you run into someone you know out of the blue. And you *always* run into someone out of the blue when you’re dating and haven’t yet disclosed it to anyone.

Dating in India is a different kettle of fish or used to be when I had first ventured into it. We were awkward to the hilt and anything that was remotely romantic was blown up to assume epic proportions in one’s mind. Imagine a rainy street, two 20 somethings cuddled up on a bike and cruising along when the bike stops and the guy gets off, kisses the girl and they ride off again- why did he stop? Because he’d read it in a book (Chicken Soup For the Couples’ Soul) and thought it would be a memory worth creating. No matter how jaded you are, you can’t help but smile a tiny bit at the whole thing. It’s sweet. Very sweet. And for those you are saying, “CORNY!” Well…you had to be there.

Dating in any small town or a place with a small town mindset also means those extremely “well-meaning” aunties who watch out for you out of the goodness of their heart and an overwhelming desire to provide the latest dirt during their veggie buying outings.

With their heads on swivel for every boy and girl who walk by, they would put the intelligence agencies to shame with their ability to predict who is going to come to a sticky end, be up to no good or what’s happening behind closed doors in which home. Sadly this level of clairvoyance doesn’t hold good for their own homes. They have the other neighbourhood ladies picking up the slack for them there though so it’s all good.

When I think of the few dates I’d been on in my younger days, it was more of the thrill of doing something, going somewhere or the anticipation of something coming together that makes me smile with nostalgia. Whether it was sitting in a hole-in-the-wall eatery while the date spoke about how he used to have his morning breakfast there before heading to college or trudging through heavy rains while on a scooter and struggling to hold onto camera bags and keep the glasses from fogging over.

It was never about being hoisted into air during a song to feel special. And while that did happen, the guy had to take the day off from work the next day because hoisting buxom Indian girls wasn’t as easy as the movies made it look. Not by half!

Young Love

Young love is *very* different from not-so-young love. The expressions are off the charts and sometimes we look back at those days of being unrestrained and full throttle in our feelings and maybe cringe a bit saying, “Damn! Did I really do all that?”

From writing your name along with that of the one you want to end up with for ever and ever to wishing on stars to having “your song” light up your day and your mood; young love is heady to the hilt and there’s usually very little logic associated with it. It’s all heart. Miles and miles of it.

I tend to remember anniversaries. Red remembers ours of course else life would be way more hellish and his credit card would be taken on a revengeful ride he may never recover from.

But the little dates that led up to the actual BIG DATE he tends to gloss over. While we weren’t terribly young when we met, we weren’t too old either. Young enough to be frivolous and silly at times but we didn’t do too much of silly. We did a few standout things and then became the kind of “proper” adults married couples are when they argue about unmade beds, wet towels and why they can’t share the same sheet throughout the night.

I was talking to the bestie a little while ago and we were reminiscing (like we do a LOT these days) and I started to think back at all the little lovey-dovey things I’ve seen people do while they were in the throes of their first love. Maybe their second. By the third and fourth time you know there’s probably a fifth and sixth one in the pipeline so you don’t go all out. You do just enough.

But more on that later…during the time when the love is young and so are you, eighteen page letters (front and back) seem to flow with ease. Giving missed calls to each other on the newly acquired cell phones each time you miss one another is also a hokey thing we do. Of course it can be taken into account that in those days it used to cost money to receive calls as well as make them but young love sees no currency. Young love sees only hearts, rainbows, unicorns, bike rides, hugging in the rains, love notes scribbled on napkins at whichever restaurant you find yourself in and the list is practically endless.

There are long-stem roses on the eve of Valentine’s Day. Actual gift cards with babies dressed like cherubs and little bunnies (thank you Anne Geddes for boosting the card sales for Archies galleries across India!), being starry-eyed and being only able to talk and think of “The One” is par for course.

And don’t think it’s only the girls who indulge in all this mushy-gushy stuff. There are guys who wish on stars (very few though), write mini essays on every book they buy for their girl because just a 2 line inscription does not cut it at all! Flowers get pressed between notebook papers, major detours are taken just to have a glimpse of a loved one and long journeys filled with bumper-bumper traffic on the way back home is faced after dropping off the love of your life. The actual meeting might have been for 15 minutes; but you met. Your hands touched, your eyes met and often, that was enough.

I have and still do find the excessively long or even the short but extremely private communication between couples pasted on social media quite hokey and hard to relate to. I could never do that. I had to do it in private or not at all. And knowing Red the not-at-all was more likely because barring the initial days of “romancing” we settled down to a pattern of togetherness that was not just comfortable but it was something we did with ease. Autopilot even. And while many people are detractors of the autopilot mode saying spontaneity, fun, surprises are needed to keep things alive, autopilot is where we’re all headed eventually so it’s not a state that we necessarily “settle” for. There’s comfort and complacency both in autopilot. There’s acceptance and (passive)aggression in autopilot but there’s a sense of knowing where you are and the person you are with which is very soothing as well.

So for everyone with their heads up in the clouds of love, enjoy it. It’s a rite of passage. Those nervous knots in the stomach, the flutters, the sweaty palms, the racing heart…it’s meant to be enjoyed, experienced and learnt from. Those who already have gone through the stage are more likely to pop an antacid if those feelings crop up now when they’re on the far side of being ‘young’.

Be young, be silly, enjoy gifts of multicoloured bear plush toys which may make you sneeze your head off (true story) or of big blooms on Valentine’s Day; thoughtfully spiked with an adulterated Charlie spray, by an over-zealous street side florist. Enjoy the little cards that have sepia-tinted images of little kids kissing each other…you’ll look back at the days when poems were shared, heartfelt lines were penned, all for you and for the sake of that irrepressible young love!

Chronicles Of A Mom In A Car#1

Mothers spend a lot of time waiting for their children. Starting with the actual birth itself, then the latching on, followed by the weaning off, the all-important toilet training, eating solids, walking, talking, running and then the slow and inevitable process of growing up. And lest I forget…the UBER-important…the falling asleep.

Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for TO to wind up with classes/sessions of something or the other and then we head home. I don’t always have the comfort or inclination of a nice waiting area each time around so my default waiting room becomes the car. And for a short round woman, a car can be a very comfortable place to be in.

Incline the chair a bit, take a sip of your carry-along espresso, smoothie, soft drink (cough cough- we’re supposed to be eating healthy) and you have your own little queendom where blissful silence reigns and so does the ability to do whatever you feel like- for those 45 minutes to an hour.

I’ve read books in utter silence, I’ve headbanged to songs, I’ve had marathon calls with friends and family, caught up with old friends, churned out blog posts, binged-watched my favourite serials and most importantly- had time to think.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think a lot. A LOT. But at home when there are things happening around you all the time, the thinking becomes very guided. Transactional even. In the cocoon of your car, the thinking just brims over and flows rampant and a lot of decisions get taken then- right from the dinner menu to taking a stance about issues in life. And those are some solid decisions that get taken.

Yesterday while I was waiting for the fresh and blood to decompress from his day-long online classes and wield his cricket bat like the stylish cricketer he thinks he is; I was on a trip down Retro Lane. Retro Lane is chockfull of Retro Music- rock, R&B, ballads, pop and what have you. And this song came up-

A lot of time has been spent sighing, pining, staring into space and smiling over this song…it’s been an anthem of sorts from the college days when crushes had more of a scope to flourish and when “heartbreak” was equally rampant amongst the newly minted young adults. It’s too bad Cutting Crew never got around to anything else that became as lasting as this song but it’ll do for me and my ilk. We have memories galore associated with it and that’s a good thing to look back at sitting in my 40s…

So crank up the volume and explore your own Retro Lane! Who knows what forgotten treasures will come up!

Coming Back Full Circle

As a parent I find myself doing things which have an echo from my childhood. The things my parents did, decisions they took etc.

Just over the past few days I’ve had a few instances come up which have made me hark back to my (extreme) youth, am still youthful by someone’s yardstick so I won’t say when I was a child.

The famous Roman roads

I don’t remember which grade I was in but it was possibly the same as TO, 6th grade, when we had to study the Roman civilisation and back then computers were mainly used to reference the library catalogues instead of having a whole digital library’s words at our fingertips. At least for the grade school students.

A Roman dude in a toga

I remember not having enough information to choose from while writing my paper and the books at the library in my school were all checked out by my classmates.

The Encyclopaedia that my father had loving bought for our home had a LOT of information but it was still a bit too much, all crammed into one place for me to pick and choose the right bit that I needed for my paper.

With my father (and by me, many a times) to think is to act. He saw I was getting stuck and he didn’t remember enough about the Roman Empire form his own school days to be able to help so he did the next best thing- he ran down to the neighbourhood Barnes and Nobles and got me a paperback which are nicely illustrated for kids and it had so much useful information culled out just for kids.

A Roman aqueduct

I got to know about aqueducts, Roman city states and the simple language of the book helped me pick and choose the right kind of information for the assignment. And getting access to the right information at the right time helps in forming long term memories with useable information even now.

Fastforward another 30+ (ahem ahem) years and the information is still largely available in my mental database…the city states, the Roman roads which led to the coinage of “all roads lead to Rome” and of course the Roman orgies! Beautifully detailed and portrayed by Albert Uderzo and Rene Goscinny in the timeless Asterix series, everything was another look into Roman civilization; albeit cheekily at times.

So when I heard the familiar words from TO’s Humanities teacher over the speaker, it was a very familiar trip down memory lane…over Roman roads one could say…

The Throwback Bloglet

When life was all about onesies, pouty lips and chubby cheeks and when Netflix wasn’t in its current avatar.

The Mother’s Day Post

I first got to know about Mothers’ Day a few months after landing in US. Suffice to say India of the 80s didn’t celebrate moms as a rule. That we do it now is more to do with the influence of various types television shows over the decades. Plus people like their social media timelines blowing up and making a song and dance about stuff so these days fit right in!

Archies galleries started stocking cards to celebrate all sorts of occasions Indians didn’t know about earlier and it became a very lucrative business for them I imagine…till everything went online. There were ecard sites like Bluemountain, 123greetings and my personal favorite which I can’t remember now but it had all sorts of funny and insulting ecards. The day I discovered it, I went crazy sending ecards to everyone who was on my list. Sadly, the list was about 5-6 people only back in ’98, ’99 but it was still pretty funny waiting for them to see something they thought would be out of the Hallmark channel instead it was just a “in-your-face-sucka!” kinda thing.

Back to the days of yore when my class teacher announced we’d be making Mothers’ Day cards and gifts. There was a big tray with wooden shapes cut out, glitter, markers, lots and lots of glue and the best thing ever for FOTB me….GOOGLY EYES!! I just went nuts and created the ugliest thing that I’ve ever made and handed it to my teacher.

American teachers are very diplomatic. They say something is “interesting” when they lack for words to describe an output which is clearly borne out of not having any artistic vein at all or being a very young and trippy stoner.

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My teacher added lacquer to the brooch I’d made, added some rubber cement/krazy glue and stuck a pin on the back and voila! Ugliness impersonified was ready to go home and be given as a gift to a very unsuspecting woman.

And true to her nature of being an Indian parent, my mother did not hold back her feedback at the brooch. Her slightly agape mouth and comment of, “Eta ki?” [ a.k.a what is this] followed by “eto gulo chokh keno”? [ why are there so many eyes] is something I’m laughing at now but then I figured she’d go gaga over my thoughtfulness for her. That did she didn’t was a bit of a downer but I was getting into a very American groove so I did the whole shrug and “I don’t care” thing and went my way.

She did make it up to me and wear the hideous monstrosity once over a very beautiful saree. Thankfully my inner aesthete kicked in and I asked her to go with a safety pin instead of walking around with an alien prototype on her shoulder for the whole evening.

This is for you…cheers Ma…missing our post-lunch beers today!

Parents: Reblogged

This post is more than 13 years old and when I was apparently going through an e.e.cummings phase:

the last 2 days have been quite a lot of fun. reason? took my parents shopping. it went something like this-
Me-ma why are you eyeing that suit ka kapda? you want it?
Ma-na re. expensive and i dont really need it now( eyeing it summore)
Me-mum! stop ogling it already and take it.
Ma-noooo. i dont need it now…have enough suits.
Me-but you dont have this color, oh lord! wait, i’ll get the drool bucket!
Ma-beshi bokish na( zyaada mat bolo!) but the color does catch your eye doesnt it?
Me-mammaaaaa, he’s about to make the bill, it’s a lovely color, you dont have it.BUY IT NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOU PEACE! 
Ma-why do you have to dramatise everything to this extent.i dont want you to spend so much on a suit right now. i said no.
Me-ok. calm down. i wont force it on you if you dont want it.
Ma-dint i say i dint want it.
Me-ok bhaiyya, we wont take it. baaki sab ka bill bana do.
Sales guy-ok ma. amma you want the blue one?
Me-no she doesnt, she said she doesnt want it.
Ma-such a fuss.FINE! if you insist…bhaiyya, usko bhi bill mein jod do. (turning to me)-not a word out of you and DONT TELL YOU FATHER!!!!

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Last nite with the pater-
Me-this is for you! surprise!! you may thank me now.
Baba-is this black? you KNOW i dont wear black! it’s got front to back embroidery. it’s too much!
M-it’s not baba, you dont have something of this kind. Ma& i thought you’d look gooood in it.
B-it’s BLACK!
M-it’s not. take it out of the cover and see it in the light and you’ll find that it’s…
B-ok it’s blue but what are all these triangles?
M-it’s made from jute and the latest style.
B-alright,alright. dont breathe down my neck. let’s go the shop and let me see if anything catches my eye.
M-alright. exchange it. why bother that your only offspring went and bought it for you out of love and affection.
B-uff! chup thaak ma.
M-maaaaaaaaaa. baba’s being mean.

so off went the happy family to the dukaan. once inside-
B-can you show me all the dull,no-jhango colors and designs you have?( that’s what he meant i know it!)
Salesman- sir, yada yada yada.
B-NOT THIS ONE! it’s black. it’ll make me look like a sabarimala pilgrim!
M-how many of those ppl do you know that wear 1800 ka kurtas to the pilgrimage?
B-chup!
after many agonizing minutes later.
B-i think i’ll keep the one you bought, the salesman said it’s the latest design and i really dont have anything of this type. and i think i’ll take the black one also. it kind of grows on you after a while. it has a certain class to it.
AND DONT TELL YOUR MOTHER!!!
M-of course not!
once we got home-
M-maaaaaaaaaaa! guess what baba did. you 2 deserve each other..fickle shoppers. god gimme strength!

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Red Reblogged

In order to write I need to read. Sometimes reading what’s passed through my head ages ago isn’t just hugely entertaining but quite enlightening. This one wasn’t enlightening in any way; caused major eye-rolls because things with Red are still status quo in some aspects of our lives.

Here goes:

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Red likes me to tell him Sardarji jokes.
I do it in my Punjju accent and put in plenty of “oye papeys” to punch things up.

A few days ago he told me via mournful sms that I hadn’t told him any Sard jokes of late.

To rectify the situation, I sent across a joke today that goes like this… A Sardar declares: I will never marry in my life and I’ll give the same advice to my children also! 

My Homer Simpson-loving husband mails back, baldly stating that one doesn’t need to be married to have children. Now, I know that and apparently so does Red…but who’s going to tell the poor Sardar? 

On the flip side, think of the facepalm moments of a person who lives with! a guy who tries to make sense of Sardarji jokes!

Oh teri!”

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Nostalgia Endures

My father moved around a lot while I was growing up. And it was a good way to live, everything considered. Met new people every few years, or met the same old faces in different cities and towns and had a good time catching up.

India of the late 80s was a vastly different place from what it is now. And while that is a rather DUH kind of statement to make, it’s still very true. In 1988 my father moved to US for a few years. And we were as FOTB as they came. While my folks still knew something about the country and the people, I knew bupkiss. And when the learning began, I was like a sponge. Red still likes to say that I’ve yet to leave the accent and thought process behind although the country was left behind decades ago. With emphasis on the decade. Husbands!

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For me it was a magical place. Imagine if the height of television watching till then had been the weekly mythological serials that the whole family lined up to see on Sundays and then cut to an 8 year old totally having a braingasm in front of a telly with more than 2-3 channels (back then) just for cartoons!

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And there began the journey with music. Till then music was what my folks played on the turntable or what was on the radio or the Bollywood stuff on the t.v. There had been a brief exposure to BoneyM as a tiny tot but that was quickly forgotten as well.

Suddenly there was VH1, and MTV and music videos galore. And it was amazing. It played 24/7 and all you had to do was listen and you’d find something that stuck to your mind. Good or bad it stuck.

Things which kids are exposed to in their formative years always stays with them. And so the 90s with its big poofy, hairsprayed hair (for both men and women) stayed with me. The ripped denim, Gene Simmons’ make-up and guitar smashing and for some reason Slash’s weirdly placed bellybutton…all made an impression. I don’t like B-52 but remember their music. I don’t like any songs from Shakespeares Sister but can listen to Stay on a loop at times.

And that’s why even after all those years, after having spent more time away from that influence rather than time with, I still fall back to that music when I feel restless and fidgety. Listening to Winger (never heard any other song except Miles Away), Skid Row and even Heavy D…all seem very very comforting. Because that’s what music does to you. It transports you to new (and old) experiences, emotions and by the time you descend back to yourself, you’re set. For that moment.

I have a varied playlist on my phone and every now and then when I hit shuffle it comes up with things which really make me stop and listen purely for the nostalgia quotient. And that’s when reality intrudes with a rather jarring sound- that of DJ Snake’s Magenta Riddim because small hands found the phone and thought it would be fun to shake things up a bit from the boring U2’s With Or Without You….kids!

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Ps&Qs

I constantly swing back and forth from amusement to annoyance when helping my son with his homework. Especially his language homework.

My own language “skills” are middling to not-bad-at-all and my pronunciation of words (especially the word pronunciation) is usually correct. Of course Red did tell me that I’d been pronouncing ‘Audi’ and ‘apropos’ wrong my whole life and then sniggered his pert behind out of the room. In my defence I’ve hardly ever pronounced apropos; mainly used it in my emails and writing so there!

Anyhoo, the offspring gets help with learning his words phonetically. And while saying them out loud every now and then his eyes glaze over and I know he’s in the land where Korra the Avatar exists and his mother’s voice correcting him is a drone that he can relegate to the background and forget. And while doing so he mispronounces a sound he’s been saying 10xs over in the last few minutes. That’s when my angry eyes come into play…

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See, the thing is this…I was taught English (my adopted 1st language) by crusty nuns who had no compunction about rapping delicate young knuckles HARD with their even harder rulers and following that up with DAMN-YOU-TO-HELL looks for mispronouncing words or not speaking the Queen’s English; never mind that the grand dame hadn’t been our queen since well before we were born or the nuns themselves were supposed to embody compassion and not be more like her! Psst….follow arrows down

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My flesh and blood warbles while he reads, fluctuates between accents (courtesy yours truly and Youtube) and affects a sing-song reading style which would have earned me an entire class on my knees had I dared to read things any differently.

For those of us brought up on Wren&Martin ,English (the British variant) correctly isn’t a matter of choice. It’s a way of life. Add to it a few years of English literature classes where you’re liberally applying your penchant for poetry and prose with panache while being taught by teachers wearing a pince nez and you are stuck with correcting peoples’ pronunciation for life.

And you know it’s a bordering a disease when you’re correcting it in your head when you can’t do it aloud.

Alliteratively Yours,

Moi

P.S: This bit from My Fair Lady is rather apt for this post methinks…