Thursday, November 12, 2009

Centre Table

I had read a lot about coffee tables and “the coffee table books”. The coffee table is not a very significant piece of furniture down south. In most houses that I have visited the centre table is pushed to the side to make space for movement. It remains a storehouse for dusty magazines and the homework books of children.

Not so in Delhi. The centre table occupies…yes the prime space! You generally find two centre tables in most houses. They have sleek glass tops and boast of attractive conversation pieces.

Why two centre tables? Well as soon as you walk into a Delhi house a tray of sparkling glasses with RO water is served. That occupies a corner. Bowls of fresh sweets, tasty fried snacks and dry-fruits are brought in. One centre table is done with! While it is groaning under all these calories you are encouraged to take something….at least a sweet! ... and you are thinking of the added rounds that you have to make at the jogging park … but the sweet is irresistible and you cant deny your taste buds!

In comes one more tray with paper napkins and hot samosas. Mmmm yumm! This finds place on the second table. Then come cups of hot chai. The second table is made good use of.

Aaah! With the tables well occupied we can relax and settle to a long conversation.

Good Hindi from one side and Hindi-English-Kannada one the other side. My Hindi is improving and so is their English and Kannada!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bubbles that cheer

Having spent more than 35 years in Bangalore we have now moved to Delhi. There is a fascinating difference in attitude, culture and thought. This blog will now feature some of the observations made.

We came here in the sweltering heat of Delhi in June. Even time tested Delhi-ites travel to the cool climes of Bangalore in this season and here we were ..... relocating to Delhi in peak summer from a city that had a natural air conditioning from the sky!!!

The heat notwithstanding we were quite geared up trying to fix our life with Delhi essentials. Curtains, AC, water purifiers, side tables, eating out and socialising with neighbours was high on priority list.

First the AC! The electrical shop is just down the road. We had hardly entered the shop and a dusty tray with glasses of water was proffered. Not sure if it was safe we refused as politely as we could. We completed the shopping. Feeling most de-hydrated we heaved ourselves into the hired cab wishing we had taken up the “water offer”.

Braving the scorching heat we drove to a carpenter’s at Amar Colony. Even the few yards of walking that we had to do were painful in that draining heat. Soon as we reached there he offered us refreshing glasses of cool Limca. Oooh! That brought back lost energy.

The next day we decided to do the upholstery. We stay in Mayur Vihar and the place has almost every kind of shop! As we walked into the loaded curtains shop a boy came up with a tray heavy with glasses of bubbly chilled water. Aaah! What joy - brings a plain glass of water - to a parched throat! Believe me, a few minutes of walking in the Delhi heat can leave the uninitiated … quite parched.

I realized wherever you go in Delhi their charming hospitality begins with cool life giving aqua. You could just walk into a neighbour’s house to drop the keys and she will ask you, "Want some water?" And even offer it to you without waiting for a reply. Every shop, house, outlet and agency has ready access to cool water.

Delhi has a weather that de-hydrates. A cool glass of water is always welcome.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Eight Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire!

It was thrilling to sit here before our small TVs and watch SM winning one award after another.
There was a flurry of phone calls made to dear ones. Did you hear? ....Hey! is the TV on? ....Watch this…
It was almost as if we had won a personal award…

The choreography of the stage performance to announce the nominations for best song was indeed amazing….Indian music blending into African beats...and the drummer disappears into the crowd beating the drum.

We find BBC rejoicing that a British film won an Oscar.
We find Indian Channels rejoicing that an Indian won the Oscar.
The award is the highest film honour bestowed by America.

We are living in truly great times…we see artists and creators world over, coming together on a single platform to create a wonder that has world appeal.

The language of happiness and hope is universal. AR Rehman put it so well when he said, there were many moments when he had to choose between hate and love. And he chose love…and so he is here.

Love is a force that heals, builds a bond and lights up paths. It is a force that creates in us a respect for others, enabling us to give our best. Hope is what we need lot of today.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fleet of Foot

My friends tell me yesterday’s blog was too heavy….too much gyan!!
Shows I have been reading heavy stuff and some of that gyan has rubbed off into my blog too!!
So easy to sound knowledgeable when all u got to do is write…errrr…. type!

And here I was in seventh heaven planning to leave footprints on the sands of the e-world…..

Look! All I thought was that I would at the least put a foot at the door of some good blogging….
But my friend tells me I have instead put my foot in my mouth!

Now that leaves me on a back foot….forcing me to have a re-look at what I upload. No problem, I am sure with help from lots with whom I am on a friendly footing….
I would soon be wearing the boot on the other foot.

I recall a dear pal who would often tell us that we ladies must put our foot down and get what we want. To do that …she would further advice…just put your best foot forward and move on! After all football is a game of two halves…..

Are you saying “My Foot!”
I agree, my volley of free advice is fine…as long as you don’t shoot yourself in the foot. For when you do that you are left stranded and nobody would touch you with a ten foot pole!”

I think I have stretched this ‘foot thing’ a bit too far….and ……..
Before you ask me to foot the bill for the headache pills,
let me hot foot out of this page!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Using The Blessed Emotion of Fear

There is some solace in doing a thing for many years with the regularity of a ticking clock. That is what I have read somewhere. The article mentioned potted plants that were watered, dogs that were taken for walks, clothes that were ironed, weekly letters written to mom …etc

But I have never had the grit and determination needed to do this. Just look at my blog entries! This time I have come back to say hello after almost 2 weeks!
But I take solace behind Paulo Coelho’s words. Some are born to plant seeds and some to build he says.

I like to convince myself that I am a seed planter. Now pods burst when the time is ripe…right? Not when the clock ticks…right?
So what shall we talk about today? What seed shall we plant?

Have you noticed? One of our most powerful emotions is fear. The heart to reacts, blood rushes, and our thoughts are out of control. Fear is a great emotion.

Fear can be as helpful as it can be harmful.

Fear of God keeps us on the right path. Fear of calamity helps us to be cautious. Fear of failure allows us to be prepared for events. We can use fear as a positive emotion that guides us toward preparedness. It saves us from the embarrassment of a sloppy job. Fear improves our performance and enhances our self esteem.

But this can happen only if we are able to use the fear for positive action. Fear must be a starting point. It can mould our thoughts toward better planning. Can I anticipate a disaster? What can I do to prevent it? If I cannot prevent the disaster, how am I prepared for it? If I have done everything I can possibly do, then I can rest and be peaceful, for fear has served its purpose.

But if fear gains control, if the fear is faceless or nameless then it is corrosive. It deletes the joy in present life, for an unidentified and perhaps improbable disaster in the future. Ultimately such fear forces us to live in constant sadness, visualising and perhaps living a calamity that is not true.

These are tough times. Recession troubles us all. But let not thoughts of sadness take away what little joy there is in our everyday life. Every problem has a solution. This too will pass. Meanwhile the world has learnt a lesson. A lesson about the virtue of fear…

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The coffee vending machine and its many avatars

Bon jour. You do not need a board of instructions explaining how you to use the seat in the park. Right? Obviously not! Even the greatest dummie would know that right?

Well, the French have been using coffee vending machines for so long that they think instructions are for dummies and so not necessary.
Obviously……..they did not expect us to visit their country?
Back home in Bangalore, we just hand over the cash to the guy who mans the vending machine. He asks coffeenaa teanaa? All you got to do is say coffee! And yehhh! A steaming cuppa is in your hand!
Well, our encounters with the coffee vending machine are hilarious…..and how!
read on.....

Attempt 1
This vending machine was in the railway station in the city of Orleans in France. We dropped a precious euro coin into the slot and started trying to punch in the coffee selection. I had just managed to read through some 4 options, when all lights blinked a couple of times and the coin dropped into the pocket for discarded coins. We were supposed to make the selection first and then drop the coin!
Now the coin fell with such force that it jumped right out and rolled under some chairs. France is soooo cold in February! There I was, in hard-to-manage multiple-layered-clothing, trying to reach a coin under lounge chairs!!! Not a very amusing experience…I must say!!! The coin was found and we were back at the machine. We had paid 60/- rupees for that precious Euro. We could not let it escape.
Never say die!

Attempt 2
This time I quickly selected an option and put in the coin. Oops! The cups are stacked on the side! Hey…the coffee is pouring into the drain!! Hey get me the cup…here…collect whatever you can…aah! Got a half cup……….
Gross! This is black and cold! At home we call this decoction! And this is only one of the ingredients required to make my steaming cuppa! Where’s the Milk? And the Sugar?

Attempt 3
Our next attempt was at the mall. There was no one at the lounge and the coffee machine beckoned with alacrity. We went up to the machine and almost made the selection. Aaha …this time we remembered! Let us get the cup first. Where is it stacked? How inconvenient! The machine has no cups…look there are the cups…by the water dispenser! Ok...we place the cup, make the selection and put in the coin!
WHAT IS THIS? The machine has a hidden stack of cups and a single specimen comes out like a stiff soldier when the coin is placed.
You can guess what happened! The soldier cup pushed over the thin cup that we had placed AANNDD…………………….!!! We ran!

Attempt 4
Then there was this coffee machine in a library offering some 20 selections! Coffee ……..with sugar and milk, without sugar with milk, with less-fat milk, with thick-cream, with extra sugar, a strong half cup option, a weaker double amount option….then there was all these made with real decoction too. Everything costs one euro. I took my time and gradually made a selection. Dropped a coin, collected my steaming cup and then made a selection for my husband, dropped another coin and collected one more refreshing cup. With a satisfied smile we turned back ……………and waved sheepishly at the line of patient persons waiting silently for us to finish! I dint hear a whisper of complaint or 'Arre Yaar' from them!

But! Yes, within a week we had all those machines in place……..we could order for and get exactly what we wanted! We learnt to decipher their French instructions too!

Have a good day

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Honesty is the best policy? Satyameva Jayate?

Imagine this……
Host presses the guest to have one more puri, just one laddu……….come on…one more helping of pulao…
The guest vehemently refuses………reluctantly takes the puri and the sweet
And manages to finish the meal
The host and the guest are quite satisfied with this interaction and the dinner is a success.
The host thinks…..we must take good care of the guest…….he expects us to force him to have more…let me force him
The guest thinks…….. I like this person...if I refuse the food he will feel bad...I must not hurt his feelings………ok, let me have some more…….

Have you seen the saas-bahu serials?
The little sister appreciates the jewel box. The sacrificing sister in law tells her that she can have it. The little sister protests weakly but the sister in law pushes the precious box into her hand. It is assumed that the bahu really did not mind the transaction and more important…the little sister really wanted the jewel box.
What if the little sister actually didn’t care…….and what if the bahu actually priced the box a lot?

That would be very ironic……right?

Do you think such second guessing happens only in serials and advertisements? Well, not really
We Indians are adept at saying what we do not mean……… As a result we also do not take what others say at face value

This makes the head reel

For we are often left in doubt……………does he mean what he says? We try to second guess, and often end up in a mess

The mother tells her extended joint family, she does not mind the cooking and the cleaning
The boss tells his assistant manager, the product must be ready for despatch in 30 days.
Both do not mean it.
The mother would rather take it easy and laze…… after all she has spent 35 years caring for the family.
The boss knows the product requires 60 days for completion…..anyway the manager never delivers on time

The daughter in law says………its Ok ma, I will help
The assistant manager says …….yes sir, the product will be ready
Both do not mean it
The daughter in law would rather hire a cook……..and spend precious time with the children before leaving for office
The manager has already decided that the product cannot be readied……..anyway we can always blame it on something later

Why do we complicate our lives? With whom will the buck stop?

Just for this week I will say exactly what I think………let me see if anything around me changes?
Don’t they always say? Honesty is the best policy

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Developing Nation

We had an amazing experience yesterday. We were at a signal in JP Nagar. Just when it was about to turn green, an elderly couple began to cross the road. I held my breath as the lights changed. Would the hapless couple be caught in a volley of vehicles swishing past them on either side? But amazingly that’s not what happened. Every car at the crossing stopped till the couple safely reached the other end. There was a lot of impatient honking from cars at the back…perhaps they could not see what had held up the flow of traffic. But we witnessed a great moment of understanding patience.

What makes a nation a developed nation?
Is it merely a yard stick to measure the wealth of a country? Is the answer that simple? Is every rich country a developed country?

From the 6 weeks that I spent in France I know for sure that this courtesy to a pedestrian would not have amazed anyone. I remember that as a pedestrian there, I was often amazed at the courtesy afforded to me. I saw amazing courtesy and precision in almost every aspect of life. Patience and perfection! As a people that seemed to be what they stood for.

As a nation what are we proud of? That I think decides whether we are a developed nation.
Is the driver of the bus proud to stop every time exactly at the stipulated area or is he proud that he can stop the bus anywhere and no one will question him?
Is the doctor proud that he gives appointments and keeps them or is he proud that he has a line of patients waiting in the lobby?
Is the manager proud of giving his visitor complete attention for a duration of the session or is he proud to be interrupted by phone calls?
Is the energetic young man proud of treating the elderly with kindness or is he proud of being able to ignore them?

Fifteen years ago the first option would be the obvious choice of most Indians. But India was not so rich then. Now India has more wealth. We have economic stability. With increased education and increased wealth we should have become a nation that is proud of right choices. Somewhere along the way we have lost sight of where we are going.

I had read somewhere that
Success lies not in achieving what you aim at
But in aiming at what you ought to achieve.

Are we progressing towards being a developed nation? Or are we going to merely be a wealthy nation?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The swearing-in ceremony of President Obama

20 January 2009
The TV was turned on in a million homes across the world. We sat and watched with wonder as thousands of people converged to the Mall, on that cold winter morning. Every person interviewed said that it was history in the making. Every person there knew that he had no chances of getting even a glimpse of the real Obama. They had travelled miles, were willing to stand for hours and brave the fierce winter winds to witness together, the big event on big screen. And they had absolutely no complaints; on the other hand, we heard jingles and songs and lots of fun time.
Like actor Will Smith said, Obama is an Idea.
Every nation today is a tired victim of senseless violence, hatred and corrosion. The perpetrators of this violence belong to no particular religion, race or nation. They have no accountability, no responsibility.
We have learnt the hard way that prosperity and adversity have chain reactions. If my neighbour suffers, I suffer too. But we are so caught up in suspicions we cannot stretch out a hand in friendship without looking cautiously over our shoulder. The irony of the day is that people hired to the dirty job have turned against the hirer himself.
The sane world wants peace. The world wants to be friends. The world is looking to Obama to be the catalyst that brings peace and harmony to the world. Enough wealth can be created in peace, so that every nation on earth evolves into a developed country.
That is the hope the world has in Obama.
Obama must succeed.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Who is the True Indian?

The latest fad seems to be India Bashing. We see this in elite drawing rooms, chai dukans, TV news and even in classrooms.
The roads and pavements get the biggest bashing and perhaps a close second come the politicians.
I don’t claim to be free from this malady….

Why do we as Indians enjoy playing down our own lot? We revel in articles and cartoons that highlight, often sarcastically, our “chalta hai” attitude and callousness. Over cups of steaming coffee we talk about people who spit on roads, take bribes and sell the country. Then satisfied that we have done our bit we walk away to chores left unfinished, with a smug smiles.
Have you watched the Western news channels? More often than not, the gruesome aspects of their life is left out or under played. We see politicians well in control of the situation, dignified reporters who are respected, and citizens proud of their country.

I dream of a news channel that throws spotlight on developmental projects.
I dream of a news channel dedicated to showing what is right with the country.
I dream of a news channel that looks at everyday heroes instead of zooming in on criminals and rogues.
I dream of a news channel committed to showing us what India can be.

I believe that if we make ‘Being Proud of India’ the done thing, rather than ‘India Bashing’, then India will become a country everyone would be proud of. If auto suggestion can work for individuals why would it not work for the country?

I will narrate an incident that should shock you…
An NRI family was enjoying the lovely glasshouse in Lalbagh. The 6 year old son was troubled by the chocolate wrapper that needed to be disposed off. He was searching for the dustbin – that was actually just round the corner and made to look like a tree trunk! – his mother, looking smart in her jeans and top said, “beta this is India, you don’t worry, just throw the paper anywhere”.
Let us please highlight, that such behaviour is the exception and quite contemptible. This is not INDIAN!!
What do you say?
Let us be INDIAN.