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Friday, July 29, 2011

Stumbling in the canine world

I share a very shaky bond with dogs and that’s putting it mildly. It started when I was 7 and was on my way to the singing class. I heard a couple of dogs barking behind me. So, I tried to walk slowly before breaking into a run in a side lane. That turned out to be a mistake, as the lane was a hibernating space for three more dogs. They woke up. They growled. I ran. I looked back, and all the five dogs were looking amused, rooted to their original spots.

Nineteen years later, I am stronger and I don’t run. But I can’t pat them either. I tried it with one, and his hackles rose. I can bring it out in them I suppose.
But I can’t resist their eyes. I mean, all dogs look sad! So, I do the little things, like bad-mouthing or blogging about people who are mean to dogs, and giving them food (from a distance of course) when they look really starved. Smiling at them never seems to work, so I have given it up for now.

Which brings me to the subject of the post. One morning, while rushing from the andheri station to the auto stand, I saw a beautiful cream-colored dog. He didn’t look like a stray, but he seemed to be dying. He was lying in the middle of this crowd, and could barely keep his eyes open. I kept staring at him. He didn't stare back. I sat down. He didn’t move. I asked him, my voice shaking, “Enna da achu?” (What happened?). There was no reaction. I went to my usual vada-pav place, got an extra pav, and immediately went back. By then, a small crowd had gathered around us. I was on the verge of tears when I offered him the pav and he didn’t take it up. So I nudged it closer and touched his nose.

He woke up with a start.
Apparently, he was sleeping. He didn’t like waking up, and he definitely wasn’t hungry. I tried to walk away as quickly as possible (only the 7-year old me would run).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mother Pious Lady - Santhosh Desai

A collection of Desai's take on the common mannerisms of a middle-class Indian and the country at large.

Simple, Witty


Favorite Quote:
(M S Dhoni) exemplifies an attitude that small town India seems to possess in plenty – The lack of fear of failure.
We never travel alone – we travel with our entire way of life and sometimes that has trouble fitting into an airline cabin.

I haven’t read Santosh Desai’s column in TOI. That resulted in my approaching the book with minimal expectations, and was pleasantly surprised at its contents. Sadly enough, the high expectations developed mid-way through the book fell woefully short by the end. To be fair, the book is as interesting, unique and colourful as its cover.
The chapters are divided into three sections – Where do we come from, new adventures in modernity and dilemmas of change, thus moving progressively to the bigger picture. Each chapter has, on an average, 10 topics, which are about 1-2 pages long. The author thus cleverly ensured that even if the reader strayed, he can pick it up from where he left off.
If you are a typical middle-class Indian who travelled by trains, watched doordarshan, travelled with family in scooters, played antakshari and enjoyed the street food, the book will be a catalogue of all these happy memories. Apart from making you nostalgic, Desai also adds his own reasoning to these incidents, which are equally a revelation and a spoiler. As an example of the latter, at the end of the chapter describing the civilised middle crease in the trousers, Desai concludes by saying:

When we crease our shirts and comb our hair, we impose on ourselves a discipline; we reaffirm that we belong to a group and that we abide by its rule. By doing so, we hope that the system will in turn abide by us. This, of course, does not always happen, but as long as we believe, hope lives.

While the sentence formation here is beautiful, I find it overstretching. In my case, the central crease is courtesy the local iron-wallah, and I usually don’t notice it. My pants, creased or otherwise, do not reflect my thoughts or hopes from the society. All the chapters in the first section draw similar parallels between what we did and what we expect, and to be fair, Desai hits the mark most of the times. It is his misses that stand out.
Section two becomes an amalgamation of the contrasting tones of section one and three. The chapters in this part focuses mainly on modern India, and youth Icons (from Rakhi Sawant and Shah Rukh Khan to MS Dhoni). However, where Desai was a passive intelligent narrator and observer in the first section, with larger issues in hand (media and politics mainly), he becomes either questioning or preachy. The passiveness and the objectivity were lost in his quest for being witty and sarcastic. For example, his take on Indian slums ends thus:

The slum is not the ‘other’ India and Dharavi is not an aberration. It is both a condemnation and a celebration of who we are. We need to own it, change it, admire it and hate it. We don’t need to ignore it. And if some Western director makes a film about it, we don’t need to fear it.

If Desai wanted to use this book as a medium to show his analytical prowess and reasoning power, he has succeeded. But I wish he had stopped when he was ahead, and not joined the hoard of gasbags who think that by raising the “right questions” and by vague & sage advices, the country will improve.

Its difficult to give a final verdict for this book. Parts of it are brilliant, and some are downright mediocre. However, it is ideal for a 15-minute-read-every-night before sleeping.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why I hate Fair & Lovely ads

My neutral-feminism feelings have nothing to do with it. When a close family friend asked, “How did you land such a fair and handsome husband when you are dark?” for example, I did not think of blaming the ads for moulding his thinking. Again, when I got all the jobs I have interviewed for, I did not think of showing a finger to them either.
No, my extreme feelings are due to the state of my wedding album. Like all Indian girls, I was garishly dressed for the reception, and was very uncomfortable in all the bling and make-up. I was therefore surprised to see that the photos looked even worse, and bore no resemblance to my brownish-pink colour. On asking the photographer, it turned out that he had added a yellow filter to “make me look fairer and minimise the color difference between me and my husband”.

His one well-meaning (?) act ensured that I haven’t looked at the album more than once, and I look at the floor while crossing the framed-photos-covered hall.

So, yes I do hate these ads immensely - not for wanting to make darker-prettier girls inferior, but for the quality of thoughts they send out to common households and enthusiastic photographers.


Coffee is bad for me,
that I know for sure.
But, however hard my resolve,
I cannot have less than four.

First cup to wake me up,
And second to sustain it,
Third cup to pass the day,
And fourth to seal it.

I did try to give it up,
By having milk and juice.
But with a crying baby in hand,
A headache is NOT good news.

So I have relapsed to my old ways,
With four cups every day.
But over time, I will develop the will
To get this out of my way.