Archive | May, 2012

The importance of being topless

31 May

ImageA few days ago I woke up to the nude shot of a model/ aspiring actress in the Bombay Times. The lady in question was a certain Miss Pandey who had offered to strip herself if India won the World Cup. Evidently, she saw in her offer an adequate incentive for our ‘boys’ to bring home the trophy and a more than adequate strategy to gain front-page coverage in the nation’s dailies.

I have not engaged myself with the matter of how her career or stripping schedule has panned out since we won the World Cup but I do know that she has a Twitter account that, in my imagination, must have a huge testosterone driven following.

Two days ago, when KKR finally won the IPL 5 trophy both Mamata didi and Poonam Pandey lost all inhibitions and made this victory their own. While the former ran about playing traffic constable for SRK and his team, Miss Pandey did her bit by shedding her clothes.

What better means to grab eyeballs than the hallowed pages of Bombay Times, a once respectable supplement, that lately is only too willing to idolize sensational non achievers. In the copy accompanying her nude photograph in the paper, Pandey promised that this was just the beginning and more was to be expected. She then went a step further to inform the uninitiated reader (if any), that she keeps her followers on Twitter charged by sharing her photographs from her bedroom and her bathroom at regular intervals. Well done ‘India’s leading daily’ for throwing such crucial information at us first thing in the morning.

Which brings me to the essential question here as a parent and a reader – just how irresponsible has our media become? A few months ago it was porn star Sunny Leone who hogged the headlines, then a topless Rozlyn for Dhoni and now a nude Pandey for the national sport.

As a society, it is one thing to be permissive but quite another to glorify career options of this nature. Now to add to the list of artist, singer, designer, doctor, writer…there are also choices like porn star and stripper available to our children. About time the media exercised its discretion. In the meanwhile, I am considering discontinuing my newspaper subscriptions until my kids reach voting age.

Aishwarya Rai and the bonfire of vanities

28 May

I saw Aishwarya Rai’s photographs from Cannes while I was still in Melbourne. Yes, the one in the Elie Saab floor length number. It seemed unreal. Almost as if someone had placed a thin Aishwarya in front of a funny mirror, the kind they have at amusement parks, and then published her distorted mirror image. Aishwarya in her Elie Saab reminded me of Queen Latifah; not only because of her XL size, but also because of how content and confident she appeared, presenting herself to the world in her new avatar.

Over dinner that night, we caught up with a few students from MBS and Aishwarya’s weight gain became a topic for discussion. Everyone had an opinion and most of them were unfavourably harsh. “How could she do this to herself?” the women asked. “She looks gross!” said the men.

As a woman who had been through two pregnancies herself, I can vouch for the fact that it is not easy to bid adieu to your pre pregnancy girl like body for the sake of procreation. Nature gives you nine months to prepare not just for childbirth but also to help you make a bonfire of vanities. In the first trimester you are mostly too sick to look or feel good. In the second trimester your body starts to expand inordinately and unflatteringly. By the third trimester your rib cage, your feet and in some cases (like mine) even your nose expands. By the time you are ready to deliver you are looking like a whale and indeed feeling like one too.

You would think thatImage once the baby is out you will go back to happily wearing your old jeans again. But unless you are Victoria Beckham, Kate Moss or my friend Mallika, chances are, that isn’t going to happen to you in this lifetime. The baby is out and you are now just a barrel albeit an empty one.

However, the thing about motherhood is that this life outside of you leaves you feeling grateful even as it takes up every ounce of your emotion and leaves you feeling bovine, mostly on account of your new job profile.

This is the happy sacrifice most of us ordinary women make to become mothers.  How much harder must it be for a woman like Aishwarya Rai, known and cherished for her beauty the world over, to trade her whole identity as a ‘beauty queen’ for motherhood? She could have gone on a diet and hired the best personal trainers to shed the extra kilos but since she has chosen to be a hands-on mum weight loss is not her priority at the moment.

A lot of the beauty business as we know, is about being obsessed with the self. If Aishwarya has chosen to be obsessed with her baby instead, we should not only grant her that, we should laud her for it.

 

 

Notes from Down Under

25 May

My Sydney experience can be summed up in one word – Sake’. “Sake’?” you ask. “The-Japanese-rice-drink-with-alcoholic-content Sake’?” Yes, that’s the one.

Sydney is the flaring and the iconic Opera House. She is also the steely high rises juxtaposed against smaller structures from another era. She is ‘The Rocks’, with its buzzing bars and restaurants. But to me, she is Sake’ because that is the restaurant where we had one of our most spectacular Japanese meals ever. Sashimi, Barramundi, a fruity Sake’ and then the ‘tea & chocolate’ dessert recommended by the dimple bearing French waiter Martin.

There is another thing I will remember about Sydney, the youthful seventy something lady who took our pictures at the harbour, whose joie-de-vivre was so palpable that I told myself that growing old need not be a bad thing if one could be like her. She was dressed more like a university student in khakis and moccasins, than a woman of seventy. Something in her body language told me she was in love with life and the fine lines across her face seemed to have appeared from laughing too much. The photos she took of us were not very nice at all but she made the trip memorable for us, all the same.

Today is my fourth day in Australia and having spent a day at Hunter Valley in New South Wales, we are now in Melbourne. Hunter Valley is the stunning wine country of Australia and we could have gotten more out of our one day there had we not spent the better part of it trying to find us a good hotel. It was a weekday and we had not made prior bookings in our bid to be spontaneous for once, but clearly it wasn’t such a good idea.

Arriving into Melbourne last night, we met with the husband’s professor from 15 years ago, Richard and his delightful Aussie wife over a salubrious meal at the Carlton Wine Club. Paula’s sunny disposition was in sharp contrast with the cold weather outside and we spent a wonderful evening laughing and chatting over food and wine.

This morning I have woken up to find a cold and rainy day outside. Our room looks over one of the busy yet welcoming streets of Melbourne and in spite of the weather I am tempted to go outside.

The husband is busy working away on his speech to be delivered tomorrow at the Melbourne Business School and I am making plans for my day ahead. The Australian dollar is as strong as the US dollar and the depressing new Rupee rate does not encourage one to shop much. But Melbourne is really pretty and really busy, just the way I like it and maybe I can do some sightseeing instead.

A picnic at the Mall

22 May

I have had no time to pen my thoughts, leave alone ruminate, since I last posted. If you ask me, I haven’t had time to think at all. There is so much that goes on in India to occupy the mind and so many opinions one is compelled to hear over controversies that the mind develops an immunity towards its own thoughts. Now that I am on a never-ending flight to Sydney by myself, the backlog of thoughts is airing itself and I find that I suddenly have too much to ponder over.

Even for someone afflicted with wanderlust from a very early age, Australia has never figured on my to-do list. Part of the reason is the distance, but the bigger reason is my disinterest, even disdain for countries that have no real history to speak of.

However, the reason I am Australia bound in spite of such reservations is because I am on a filming assignment of sorts. No don’t get excited, it is not a cool Bollywood kind of filming assignment but something more personal in nature. You see, the husband is to be the keynote speaker at his alma mater, the Melbourne Business School on graduation day and the mother in law’s bosom has all but exploded with pride. She has kindly asked me to record the entire event on my handicam so she can savour it on our return to Mumbai.

I am always loathe to leave my children and travel but decided it was an important day for the husband and my presence was definitely required.

To make up for my absence, I offered to do something special with my girls. The younger one wanted to go on a ‘picnic’. The older one wanted to get some clothes. I decided to satisfy both and took them to a mall, which in my opinion is as close as one can get to being at a picnic spot in Mumbai. Good decision in hindsight as it turned out to be a delightful afternoon spent laughing, shopping and eating, not necessarily in that order.

Our first stop was Zara. Shopping with daughters at a clothes store to a parent is what bonding over football must be like to a parent of boys. The older one wanted everything pink or blingy and the younger one wanted everything the older one wanted. I was not very obliging to either and gave them a choice between picking two items of clothing each or buying a toy each from Hamley’s later.

We followed this up with a trip to Foodhall, one of the fancier supermarkets one has in Mumbai. As expected, both the girls wanted their own shopping carts. While the older one was adept at pushing hers around, the younger one being shorter, had her vision obstructed by the shopping cart itself. As a result she zoomed around with abandon and I had to keep abreast with her with my heart firmly in my mouth, lest she run into something or someone.

While the older one consulted me as she carefully chose the food items she wanted, the younger one trailing behind us, used her discretion to put just about anything that she could lay her hands on inside the cart. She then went a step ahead and picked up some cold cuts and generously left them inside her older sister’s cart knowing well that the latter is averse to the sight of non-vegetarian foods. An Israel-Palestine style war ensued and matters came to rest only when I reminded them that they would not be taken to Hamley’s if peace wasn’t restored between them.

We wound up our day at the tills of Hamley’s but not in the usual manner of purchases being made but in the unusual manner of recovering my children after losing them in the blessed toy store and after announcing their names over the microphone.

I am about to arrive in Sydney, where the husband awaits.  Can’t describe just how much I am looking forward to this landing. Not for the love of Australia, but because I cannot wait to speak to my babies. This is the longest I have ever gone without speaking to them.

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Of cervical pains and Florence Nightingales

17 May

I am not the ungrateful sort. I spend a few minutes daily counting my blessings and offering gratitude to the cosmos for them. But it took a cervical attack of sorts today to make me realize the extent of my good fortune. Unbeknownst to me, I realized today that I had given birth to two Florence Nightingles.

Pardon my hypochondria, but I was suddenly in no condition to stand up straight this evening. Passing out on my bed and unable to deal with all the cacophony in the room, I asked my children (aged 9 and 4 yrs resp.) to please maintain some silence unless they wanted me to faint.

A look of anguish flickered over my older ones face as she pulled a blanket over me and hugged me tight asking me if there was anything she could do to make me feel better. I immediately put her at ease by telling her I was acting it out to show her how men usually behaved when they were even slightly ill. (In out house, men=the husband, unless you want to count the dog who has been fixed as a man).

I then forced a smile to reassure her and asked her to bring me a glass to orange tang to help me feel better. Within seconds my doll came in carrying a tray with not just orange tang but also my favorite cookies, which I eat only sparingly in my bid to keep my fat cells from multiplying infinitely. “Mamma I got you your cookies, today you can eat them, I know you love them,” she said. I was so moved by her concern that I was beginning to forget my discomfort and pain already.

My 4-year-old who had probably never heard the word “faint” before was somewhere in the backdrop trying to figure out stuff for herself. When she saw all this fuss being made over me by her didi, she starts kissing my face and says, “Mumma please don’t drown”. Laughing through my headache I assured her I was not “drowning” and was just a little exhausted.

It was the sweetest thing ever. I figured she wanted to say “faint” but her 4-years-old mind could not recall the word and used “drown” instead. Then she lay next to me and feeling my tummy over my t-shirt says to me, “Mumma, you are so thin, you are sooooo thin.” Could she have found more appropriate words to make me feel better? I think not.

She then gets into a debate with my older one who told her that her mother was not “THAT thin after all!” At the end of the debate the final words I heard echo through my room in her high-pitched baby voice were “You don’t know anything. She is not fat. So that means she is thin. Okay?”

Enjoying this exchange but unable to deal with my drowsiness I asked the girls to go to their room and play. Seconds later, as I tried to get some rest, I was aware of them popping by quietly to ensure I was still afloat. No sooner had I started drifting into sleep than the little one came by again and cupping my face in her tiny hands said, “Please don’t go under the water my jaan, don’t go under the water please”.

My older one was in splits at the dramatic use of the word jaan (meaning sweetheart), as she was too small to use such a word while I just hugged her and assured her that I was not going under water and was going to join them both for dinner. Whatever it was that was ailing me had to beat a hasty retreat because with so much love and concern around, who can faint or drown or stay underwater for long?

 

Travails of a New Age woman

10 May

Of late I have wondered if I am suffering from early Alzheimer’s. I knew it was lurking around the corner somewhere since a few years but a Chinese test I took last week (via an email forward) has confirmed my suspicion. I shut my eyes and stood on one foot and could not manage it for more than a few seconds and practically keeled over. This according to the spam mail is a sure shot way to gauge if one is a good candidate for Alzheimer’s in the future. I am not merely a good candidate for this darned memory related disorder; I am in fact a sitting duck waiting with open wings in a manner of speaking.

Based on my own tell tale signs and this Chinese spam test, I want to say this to those losers in the US who are working away in labs trying to crack the real signs of Alzheimer’s from an early age that they need to just open their life to spam mail and forwards and read them carefully. There they can find the cure to a host of dreadful diseases and thereby stop wasting their time and R&D budgets of the failed economy of the United States.

My friend Simi fondly calls me “Al”, short for Alzheimer’s ever since we watched the movie Black together. For those who do not know, Black is a movie about the struggles of a man suffering from Alzheimer’s. The premiere of Black with all the stars in attendance was hardly the place for her to break into a fit of laughter, that too in the middle of a poignant scene, but this is exactly what Simi did. Choking at her own laughter she said between giggles, “Shun this is you. This is you all the way. These are your signs.” She had arrived at this conclusion based on the funny incident where I had served her a glass full of a thick syrupy concoction mistaking it for coke. You see, this was a syrup made with precious Himalayan herbs and an ayurvedic doctor had prescribed it for me to improve my already failing memory when I was in my twenties. For some reason I had transferred two smaller bottles of this tonic into a large Coke bottle and as you can see it was a mistake anyone could have made. Simi never let me ‘forget’ this incident. “If you serve your memory syrup mistaking it for Coca Cola then you surely do need it,” were here words.

I suspect I am not the only one whose life is a kaleidoscope of memory lapse related mishaps. This I believe is a malaise that strikes most of us multitasking new age women. We are so busy trying to be everything all at once; good mothers, good wives, good daughters, good hostesses and successful career women. Add to this the stress of having to look good and keep fit.

Have we bitten off more than we can chew? Maybe. Did we have a choice? Not really. Not in this century of tiger mothers and go-getters. Not when we have people like Angelina Jolie who stand for beauty, brains, generosity and motherhood and above all for managing to have her man and keep him too. A man like Bard Pitt no less, who in my opinion should have been generously shared with the world and that Angelina has not done. So she is not THAT generous after all, I take that back.

I don’t know how Angelina handles all these avatars but this multitasking business is slowly but surely killing my brain cells. Sometimes when I cannot remember the name of the friend sitting across the table from me at a lunch or when I commit to meet too many people at the same time due to my inability to remember engagements, or I send my children’s school fees 6 days late after repeated reminders from the teacher, I actually begin to worry.

It gets worse. Like when I dial my phone but cannot remember whom and for what reason I am making the call to. Or when I pay the cook’s salary to the housemaid and her salary to the children’s nanny and leave my keys to my wardrobe in the fridge.  Or when I can’t introduce two friends to each other at a party because recalling two names at the same time is an ability that does not figure much on my curriculum vitae lately.

The husband says to set up reminders on my phone for all the things I tend to forget but I may as well write a book if I am going to be jotting down reminders all day. There are social engagements to be remembered on behalf of the whole family, children’s schedules to be adhered to, household errands to be run, catch-up calls to be made to family and friends, bills to be paid and spa appointments to be met and the list goes on.

I doff my hat to women who are managing kids and careers at the same time and still haven’t lost their sanity. Because even without a real career I am on the verge of checking myself into an asylum. If there is anyone else here who shares my suffering, contact me ASAP. Asylums give good group discounts I am told.

Confessions of a heavy packer

6 May

It is that time of year when almost everyone I know is either leaving on vacation or in midst of planning one. I look forward to vacationing almost as much as I dread packing for it. And so I procrastinate the ritual of packing till a few hours before my flight, just as somebody in denial of death scripts his will minutes before he is ordained to breathe his last.

You may think that packing is no life or death matter and this metaphor is inappropriate. But to me, not finding the right clothes when I dig into my luggage on a holiday is the equivalent of a near-death-experience (NDE). And so I avoid such NDE’s by packing all the options. When in doubt, don’t make a choice; throw in all the possible choices. This is the dictum I live and travel by. As it turns out the husband is no different in this regard. One look at his suitcase and you will know that we are a match made in ‘excess baggage’ heaven.

For what it is worth, the husband does not like to stay over at friends’ or relatives when we travel as he feels it is unfair to impose on somebody else’s space. I, on the other hand, have no such reservations. During my solo sojourns I have scared many a hosts with the size of my suitcases into believing I was not merely visiting them but in fact was considering moving in with them permanently. Friends and family with a more positive outlook however make no such assumptions and merely expect to be at the receiving end of many gifts carefully packed inside them large suitcases.

Truth be told, I have often looked at the contents of my suitcase and asked myself “What was I thinking? Who did I expect to meet on this trip – the queen of England?”  I figure heavy packers like me and the husband like to be well equipped at all times. It is good to be prepared if the head of state calls on you while you are vacationing in his/her country you know.

I remember arriving into Venice with the husband and the kids and settling into the speedboat with all our bags a few years ago. The beautiful Italian boatman and his helper were awestruck as they went about loading our luggage one after another. If I was any better at math, I would be able to arrive at a directly proportional relationship between the number of bags we had on us that day and Berlusconi’s sexploits in that particular year and ever since. It would not be an exaggeration to say that as the last item of luggage got loaded onto that boat, I saw the water levels in those canals rise and felt a definite shift in the plates of earth below the Adriatic Sea. If any tremors were felt subsequently, they might have gone unnoticed in that floating city where the ageing Venetian structures manage to stay upright only by the sheer will of the local tourists and not much else.

On yet another holiday, even before the children had arrived, I spent the better part of my vacation making trips to the airport and sending luggage back to Mumbai with a dear friend who was a flight attendant with British Airways.

This other time our children sat in the back of the rented car suffocated, as the husband’s oversized suitcase could not fit in the boot and had to be accommodated between the kids on the seat. It almost seemed like we were taking that suitcase on a holiday and showing it around while the kids had been fitted on either side for the sole purpose of holding the suitcase in place. Our poor children could not walk straight for a week thereafter, to say nothing of having bad memories of driving around Italy to this day.

We went to a spa resort near Rishikesh two months ago and in spite of being told that we will not have an opportunity to flaunt our own clothes as most people stuck to the white cottons provided by the hotel, you should have seen how many clothes we took along with us anyway. It was ridiculous in hindsight. But we are compulsive packers. Send us to a hermitage and we will be no different.

I recently took lessons on how much to pack from a friend who travels the world with just one or two items of hand luggage and no check-in baggage whatsoever.

So here is how one is to pack: A pair of comfy walking shoes and a pair of evening shoes in a neutral colour.

A white shirt, two other shirts/blouses to wear in the day, a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, a night suit, a scarf, a little black dress, a pair of casual linen pants and a dual coloured belt, a winter jacket and a cardigan/jumper if one is going to a cold place. That’s it.

That’s it?!!! Only monks can travel like that. No evening bag? No extra evening dresses? What about a pair of dark jeans and a pair of fade-outs or ripped jeans? And flip-flops for a warm day and boots for a cold day (for countries where the weather can change suddenly)? And track suits? Will one not get bored of wearing the same jumper day after day? What if it gets wet in the rain? And white jackets that always look so chic? And a black jacket for the white is bound to get dirty in two days?

The answer is: use the laundry service and buy the extra shoes or the extra dress if the need arises and cut out the frills.

I have pondered over this recipe for good packing and I am determined to travel light in the future. This would probably mean that henceforth I will only be headed to destinations with beaches for sunblock, swimsuits and sarongs can’t require much space. But at least I will be able to proudly tell everyone that I too can travel light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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