Archive | July, 2012

Fifty shades of Grey, dysentery and other things

22 Jul

I have noticed that the universe has its own way of telling you that the party is over.

Since I have been back from my vacation some not very good things have happened. At the top of my list of those things is Fifty Shades of Grey. I am ashamed to admit that I read this pathetic novel to be able to deal with my jet lag. While I hope I will be able to redeem my respect for self and forgive myself for doing the same in the future, I have no hope of every being able to forgive EL James. What in the name of God was she thinking when she wrote this trashy trilogy that Salman Rushdie has so eloquently called ‘Fifty shades of tripe’? Worse still, why has this book outsold JK Rowling? I finished the entire book in an effort to find an answer to that question. A friend who was in the US at that time, and whose intellect I have never doubted, had been reading the book and mentioned its popularity to me. I decided to give it a go and when I picked up this book at Waterstone’s in London I was gratified to see at least three other women in the queue holding their own copies of the same.

I was so enraged after reading Fifty Shades that if it wasn’t for my demanding life as a wife and a mother, I would have checked into a clinic over the weekend for therapy. Therapy from boredom intermingled with disgust. I rolled my eyes so much through my sleepless jet lagged nights, as I moved from one stupid page of this stupid book to the next, that now my eyes are rolling themselves involuntarily all the time making me look rather ridiculous. I believe there are other people in this world, who suffer the same.

Someone needs to be whipped for doing this to the world in general and to me in particular. One could start with whipping Anastasia Steele’s (read EL James’)’inner Goddess’ who is forever doing gymnastic. One could quickly follow this up by giving a sound thrashing at the rear end of James’  repetitive ‘subconscious’. We could start by whipping James in the elevator, in the car park, near the piano, in the kitchen,in Charlie Tango, in a hardware store, in a barnyard and finally in the Red Room.

James has described the Fifty Shades trilogy, as “This is my midlife crisis, writ large,”.

“All my fantasies in there, and that’s it.” These are her fantasies? And what does she think about her sons reading about her almost ridiculous bordering on hilarious (not to mention boring) fantasies? James has two teenage sons. I am certain that a sizeable percentage of her royalties from the sales of her books shall be spent on their therapy eventually.

She has spoken of her shock at the success of the book. “The explosion of interest has taken me completely by surprise” she is supposed to have said. [Source: Wikipedia (what else?)]

We are all surprised Ms James. We are surprised at what out world has come to if such pedestrian fiction written in poor English has become all the rage.  How exactly does someone ‘cajole’ someone ‘through clenched teeth’? I wish she could do it for me so I can see where I am going wrong.

I am going to write a book about my fantasies. My fantasies will be about getting even with EL James and her publicist. Fifty ways of getting even with EL James. You may presubscribe for your copies of the same on this very site.

Next on list of the not good things to happen to me since I returned to Bombay from  Europe is that both my kids have been under the weather with tummy related issues and a viral. I have had to do so many tests and witness such loose and generous bowel movements that I have composed a verse on dysentery. It is called Fifty shades of Crap. 

There are other things too that are not working out for me right now. I don’t to sound shallow by carrying on about that now, but if you really must know, it is things like my hair and skin. Just to give you an idea, the humidity is doing things to my overgrown hair and I haven’t had the time to tend to myself because of the kids tummies and have developed a hint of a moustache and some moisture induced acne to go with it. Last time I looked at the mirror I was looking less like myself and more like Jesus of Nazareth in his days of early puberty.

Other than that, all is well in my world. All is well in my world indeed.

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About stardom, Rajesh Khanna and meeting Tom Cruise

18 Jul
Tom Cruise and happy me.

Tom Cruise and happy me.

India’s first ever superstar Rajesh Khanna passed away today. I am not trying to imply that I am very young, but when I was still in my bloomers, he had already seen the height of his stardom and his career was on its decline. Legend has it that women all over India used to go hysterical over him and his mailbox often received letters written in blood from some of his crazy fans. The BBC documentary on Khanna, shot in 1973, hinted that some girls even committed suicide when he got married.

Back then I was not allowed to watch many movies, or flip through celebrity gossip magazines by my strict mother who had missed her calling as Mother Superior of an all girls convent school and was making up for it by becoming Mother Superior of our house. Doordarshan, India’s only television channel at that time, telecasted family films every Sunday. These I was allowed to watch sometimes. As a bonus I was allowed to watch Chitrahaar (a 30 minute capsule of songs from Hindi films) every now and then. I remember watching a popular song from Aaradhana, starring Rajesh Khanna and wondering why the middle aged Rajesh Khanna whom I watched in the movies on Sundays did not look half as good as this man. The Rajesh Khanna of my growing years was a man with a broad face and a funny hairstyle. The Rajesh Khanna of Aaradhana had a boyish face and looked very handsome and very Hollywood. In spite of not ageing very well, Khanna had many liaisons with several beautiful women, most of whom were actresses.

Today there was a traffic jam on Carter Road because of the crowds and media gathered outside his house. People on Twitter paid their tributes to the actor and a good number of them emphasized that he was not only a good actor but also a good human being. Many people expressed their disbelief at the death of the original ‘superstar’.

I asked a friend, who knows his family well, if he was indeed a great human being. “Don’t you know, when somebody dies, people like to glorify him and call him a great human being even though he may not have been one” she laughed.

She is right, I realize. In India, we like to deify the dead, don’t we? Even if a bad, corrupt to his last toenail politician, with charges of rape and murder passes away people are heard saying, “Woh mahaan aadmi thhey.” Meaning – “He was a great man.”

I tell her I cannot imagine he was such a big star and liked by so many women in his hey day. She tells me he could be very charming and had the love of many women who would do anything to be with him, even in his old age. Then, as if to establish this point better, she gives me my own example. Oh please, it is not like what you are thinking! I did not want to be with Rajesh Khanna (God rest his soul), my friend is alluding to my love for Tom Cruise.

Ah yes, the same Tom Cruise who leaves all his wives at 33, jumps on Oprah’s sofa like a lunatic, follows an apparently freaky religion and yada yada yada.

So I like him. As do most women of my generation. I cannot remember liking any ‘star’ as much as I like Tom Cruise. I think it would be fair to say that he was my first crush and as far as first crushes of women my age go, he has kept up with his good looks and aged fairly well.

You know what they say about wanting something badly enough and the universe conspiring to give it to you? I wanted to meet Tom Cruise and hang out with him ever since I watched Top Gun. I did not dream of becoming a doctor or a writer or an astronaut like other average brained hopeless girls my age. Judge me if you like, but I dreamt of meeting Tom Cruise. Fortunately for me, the universe conspired to make my dream materialize last December at a party the husband and I were invited to at the Taj Colaba, Bombay. I don’t think I took such pains to dress up for my own wedding as I did for this occasion.

Industrialists and movie stars from Bombay were all waiting to meet him and when my turn came to meet him(what seemed like hours later), Tom Cruise was so easygoing and real that I could not believe he was Tom Cruise, the star. He was actually interested in listening to what you had to say. He smiled a lot and it was not a look-how-hot-I-look-when-I-smile kind of smile. It was such a genuine and disarming kind of smile that I almost considered signing up at the church of Scientology to feel spiritually closer to him (in the very least).

The husband is too self contained to be anybody’s fan and was amused by what he calls my “teenage girl like” behaviour. However, he  indulged me by happily clicking ‘our’ pictures. By ‘our’ pictures I mean Tom Cruise’s and mine, not the husband’s and mine. Though I must confess, I never imagined I would say ‘our’ for Tom Cruise and myself. Being a thorough gentleman, Tom (ahem!) waited patiently for all the photographs to be clicked since we clicked pictures from two different mobiles, and one time the flash did not go off so we had to do it again. Fate was helping me prolong our arm-to-arm moment, I suppose. I hate to sound ungrateful but sometimes the universe reads the message all-wrong. Meeting Tom Cruise was great but it was not a ‘to have and to hold situation’ exactly. I acknowledge I should be grateful that I got to meet him at all, and that too before I got my menopause or worse still, my cataracts. Imagine liking someone your whole life and finally meeting him or her when you are walking around with a walking stick in an adult diaper.

So coming back to the point, I had to be reminded how I feel/felt about Tom Cruise to understand how certain women felt about Rajesh Khanna and why so many geriatric hearts would have broken today. May they all find their peace and may God give Tom Cruise a long life.

p.s: I have gone blind in the eyes googling all there is to be googled about the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes split. Please don’t believe whatever is being said and written about Tom C. Those are all lies.

Irish castles, Indian kids, Skyping the dog and other things.

15 Jul

After making Salthill our home in Galway for a few days we were glad to be back in London. It was about time we left Galway for we had become very comfortable in Salthill and our familiarity was beginning to tell. The bartenders at the sea facing gastro-pub, Oslo and the servers at the charming bakery Tart Company now knew us by our face and gave us welcome ‘you-are-back-again’ smiles.

Clad in boots and trench coats, we ignored the rain and took the kids to the petting zoo and communal fairs where we spent precious Euros losing silly games. We dined-in over Chinese or Indian take-out. Our clingy children basked in the knowledge that they had us to themselves in the evenings, for much to our relief and theirs, Galway offered us no nightlife. We even made it to the local hospital for I had broken into hives and needed my allergy to be treated.

We feasted on handmade chocolates and marshmallows. In the evenings, sitting by the cafe,we watched cyclists and joggers pass by but stayed committed to the task of eating and drinking, undeterred. The husband smiled and slept more than his annual quota usually permits. Our life was beginning to look like the settings of a sitcom where happy families hang around each other doing pretty much nothing except coming up with clever lines.

We petted other people’s dogs from the neighbourhood and sorely missed ours and  Skyped him every other day to reassure him that he had not been abandoned forever. *(I see some of you are smirking/rolling your eyes at me but the dog is like one of our children and our staff in Bombay has been taught to sign into Skype to make our face-to-face chats with the canine possible.)

We drove across the breathtaking Irish countryside to stunning castles, both of which our children showed no interest in. One constantly cribbed about motion sickness and the other only wanted to know when we were reaching every five minutes. Each time we hit the road the husband cursed himself and me for planning this holiday with the kids.

The highly oxygenated air of Galway also encouraged the brain cells to develop overtime, thereby leading to some disturbing disclosures. The four-year-old confided in me one day over lemonade, that if I removed her skin I would see that she is a ‘rock star’ from inside and that when she grows up she wants to start a singing dancing place where only family will be allowed in for free but old people will not be allowed [sic].  I am now the proud parent of a child who aspires to run a nightclub when she grows up, where in all probability I will not be allowed admission.

At another time, I caught her howling away in her bedroom. Over copious tears and heavy nasal discharge I was accused of being a bad parent by my little girl for giving birth to her sister many years before her, thereby making her come last.

By day five, our urban kids had run out of things to do in Galway and were alternating between the iPad and fighting with each other to make their lives more meaningful.

I had fallen in love with my simple life in Galway but London beckoned. The kids needed the big city and we needed our time out.

 

Gorillas, Oscar Wilde and a pint of Guinness in Dublin

2 Jul Rooftop view from the Guinness storehouse

From the moment we arrived in Dublin last week, I was struggling to like it. The first aspect of my struggle was that, as always, I was unwilling to leave London. The second aspect was that I had been given a rather dull picture of Ireland and warned that I should brace myself for a week of blah-ness.

It was late evening when we landed but the sun shone bright and I could not help but notice rows of dismal looking brown bricked houses with spartan facades along the streets, as we were being driven to our hotel.

The scene changed, albeit only momentarily, as majestic Medieval churches rose over the nondescript buildings every now and then. Closer to the city centre, the shades of brown and gray had not gotten any better but the sight of people in grunge clothing enjoying their beers outside the ubiquitous Irish pubs lifted my spirits.

It was only when we entered the city centre that the most dramatic visual comprising mostly of Gothic and Medieval structures unfolded in front of our eyes. There wasn’t much life on the roads and one could easily be led to believe that one had time traveled into the 12th Century BC or some such. Europe is full of Gothic and Medieval architecture but nowhere does it come together in as compelling a fashion as it does in Dublin. But that said, the rest of the city is lackluster and unlike any European capital that I have been to in its abjectness.

Everything in Dublin seems basic and functional: the shops, the restaurants, and the vehicles. There are no elaborate window displays outside stores, neither fashionable shops nor any luxury brands in sight and most people dress up like they pick up their clothes at a thrift shop.

However, the few people one interacted with in the three days that we were there, one could not help but notice was the people seemed happy even though they did not possess any obvious labels of success or wealth.

We took our children for a walk through at the Vikings museum that took us back into the Viking times in Ireland from c 800 AD to c 1150 AD. The exhibition was brought to life with the help of detailed sets made to look like Viking streets, their homes, their slave markets, their arms and armours, their runes and most interestingly their costumes that both my kids tried out enthusiastically.

I digress when I say this but I am certain that my father, if he reads this post, will surely lament about the fact that I have not given my kids an insight into the ancient Indian civilizations. The problem with India is that it makes it difficult for children to revisit history. We all know about the state of our museums but that is a topic for another post.

As far as I was concerned, our visit to Europe’s largest zoo, also in Dublin, was insufferable for the most part. After going through so many zoos courtesy my children, I have lost my appetite for wild life and done with my quota for zoos for this lifetime in the very least. The gorillas however, were a delight to watch and we spent a long time simply observing their human like behaviour.

The famous Temple Bar was buzzing with tourists like us who had also brought their children along. I must mention here that the Irish take their children to pubs, which are not considered to be merely watering holes, as in India, but are more like large family rooms where people chat loudly, drink and get merry (not drunk) while their children are served soft drinks and root beer with fish and chips.

We saw the Dublin castle and churches too but I don’t think I should spend more time writing out stuff that the Lonely Planet does a better job of than me.

I do, however, want to write about my visit to the Writer’s museum in Dublin. The writers featured in the Museum are those who have made an important contribution to Irish or international literature or, on a local level, to the literature of Dublin. Needless to say, the museum is home to portraits, manuscripts, personal memorabilia and photographs and lesser known details from the lives of writers like Jonathon Swift, Bram Stoker, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett to name a few. This had to be the most rewarding part of my trip to Ireland and being in that environment, surrounded by portraits and busts of these literary greats made me suddenly feel enormously grateful to country. Among other things, I was surprised to learn that most of these writers featured at the museum had graduated from the Trinity College, Dublin. The quiet café’ housed inside the museum was, for want of a better phrase and just because I do not want to let go of the obvious pun, the icing on the cake. I ended my visit there over ‘breakfast tea’ (as opposed to English breakfast tea) and a fantastic coffee cake.

The sublime, as expected, was followed by the ridiculous when I joined the husband for a walk around the iconic Guinness Storehouse.

The view from the topmost floor, the highest in Dublin, was amazing, but my first pint ever of the dark and creamy beer, fresh from the source, was amazing by notches. From that height Dublin continued to seem gray and industrial, in spite of the bright sun that shone generously over it. Perhaps another pint or two of Guinness would have made a difference to the eyes of the beholder.

But two drunken parents around a good nine-year-old kid and a frisky four-year-old toddler do not a good example make. Dublin could wait.

P.S: My next post is about Galway and talks about how I fell in love with Ireland.

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