Archive | January, 2013

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

30 Jan
Javier Bardem

Javier Bardem

I have stopped watching movies for there is no dearth of drama in my life. Word is out that I am a bleeding heart and that I gainfully employ the broken-hearted. Those of you, who are familiar with my post on our love stricken cook, might recall that a not-so-fair maiden on the ground floor of my building jilted him heartlessly a few weeks ago. Much to my consternation, he bounced back from his heartbreak even before the month was over. Clearly love is a devalued currency in our times. One expects a man to mope around a bit after he has been left at the altar. One expects a man to come into work with blood-shot eyes morning after morning, for the craving heart knows no sleep. One expects a man to stay true to his word when he declares “I will not work here anymore, I cannot continue to be in the same building as her.” But my cook, I am shattered to say, is no such man

This chap had all the signs of the genuinely anguished initially but by the end of the week he was in full recovery mode.

In the meanwhile, I had found myself a cook of reasonable skills to replace him and was all set to open the doors of my house to my friends whose appetites had been hijacked by the presently lovesick man’s cooking on several occasions.

But what do I know? By week two, there has been a change of heart. I notice my cook saunter into my house with the insouciance of a man who walks around this world happy and free of any emotional attachments whatsoever.

Even though my taste buds have been on an indefinite mutiny against this man’s cooking, I am too impressed by the agility of his emotions to sack him.

But bear with me as the saga of my personal domestic help’s drama continues into another season. Don’t be a snob, for you all do enjoy watching Downton Abbey which is nothing more than a beautifully told drama about an Earl and his domestic staff. I for one, am a huge fan. But I digress.

Come January and the housemaid took off on her annual leave. Her replacement is a woman from across the border in Nepal who has sadly left her three-year-old child and come to Bombay to find work. She has lived in Bombay before, she claims, and went away to Nepal when she discovered she was with child, within a few months of her marriage. In the meanwhile, her husband, continued to make a living for his family by working as a cook in a building across the road from mine.

Since I seem to be running a shelter for those who are out of favour with Aphrodite, I hired this woman, maudlin looks and all, right away, even though she knows little Hindi and looks fresh off the boat. Her husband, who is nice looking in a very Nepali shepherd sort of way, has been popping by to look her up, now and then. I see her wiping her tears all day long as she goes about dusting my house efficiently. I assume those to be the tears of a mother who has been separated from her child for an indefinite period.

I find out today from my other staff that those are in fact, tears of a woman whose man has taken another wife. Nepali shepherd boy and another Nepali domestic help from the neighbourhood were married last year,  even as he continues to be married to this unfortunate woman. To make matters worse, he and his new wife, have recently produced a child together.

My sad maid has known this all along and has followed this Lothario back to Bombay to somehow reclaim his lost affections. The poor woman cries herself to sleep, while her husband spends his nights at the other woman’s house. She must have a very big heart, even though broken, for she goes down to play with the baby of her man and the other woman. I believe she thinks of it as her own child and is willing to live with the cook previously known as shepherd boy (Lothario) and his new wife because she loves him and so and would rather share him with some body than not have him at all.

I am outraged by the whole idea of it. But then, I remember Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Only difference is that, the movie had Javier Bardem (sigh!) and here we are dealing with an entirely Nepali star cast.

My maid is about to return from her leave and the sad Nepali woman is to be relieved of her duties shortly. But guess what? Now that I am aware of this love triangle, I haven’t the heart to do it.

“Ask him to move into our house, we can give him our older one’s bedroom”, jests the husband when I try to unburden myself by giving him the full lowdown. Useless person.

I offer to place her in someone else’s house. She does not know that I know, but tells me in broken Hindi that she wants to work in my lane itself. This is going to be a bit of a challenge, to find this woman a job in my own lane just so she can be close to her husband and the other woman. But I will have to do that till Javier finds a place for the three of them to live together as a family.

Or, maybe, I will just keep her until then.


To d3 or not to d3 – on sleep, hypochondria, sunlight and mothers

24 Jan

The biggest casualty of motherhood as we all know is sleep. I last slept a good night’s sleep nearly a decade ago. My nights, since the arrival of my children have been filled with episodes of conscious sleepwalking and like any somnambulist, I am fatigued and sleepy in the morning.

Part of the reason I wake up often is because my younger one is a *somniloquist and my older one is a raging **hypochondriac who gets her aches and pains mostly at night. She has the rare gift of identifying a dengue mosquito from an ordinary one because “it is fatter”. According to her, the mosquitoes that follow her around are mostly the ones carrying the dengue pathogen. She also checks her own temperature with the ear thermometer routinely just to be sure her temperature is well within the normal range.

Last night was another one of those nights when I could not get enough rest as my little hypochondriac, woke up several times with leg cramps induced by a tetanus injection that was administered to her yesterday. I had barely managed to catch up on some sleep in the wee hours when it was time to be up again to get the girls ready for school. I was sleeping in an upright position at 10.30 am when I was woken up by the whimpering dog who was eager to have his day started with the usual Marie biscuit dunked in (my) tea.  So much for being a concerned member of the family! You would think after all the years of me taking care of him and running up salon bills for his upkeep he would be more sensitive to my needs. But all this dog cared about was his Marie biscuit and chasing after petrified kittens in our building compound.

My mother had already called me a few times by the time I woke up and after none of her calls got answered she wrote an SMS to me asking me to be honest and tell her what was it that ailed me and kept me in bed this long. “You will not hide anything from me, promise me,” it read further.

I had recently mentioned to her that I had a vitamin d3 deficiency. My mistake. Turns out that with each missed call from my end, her fears for my health had escalated. I had to call her back as soon as I was done feeding the ungrateful canine to assure her I was fit as a Punjabi and there was no health related information that I was keeping from her. Relieved with my answer, she then asked me if I was pregnant. Before I could react she tried to salvage the situation by telling me good-humouredly that she was only asking since pregnant women overslept and are easily tired.  Her generalization was touching. As far as I was concerned this conversation was over and it was time to start my day.

I received a few more text messages and urgent phone calls from mum soon after, to draw my attention to the percentage of vitamin b12 in mushrooms and vitamin d3 in celery. Imagine my state, struggling to open one of my eyelids that was still shut, and I had to concentrate on a lecture on nutrition, no less.

And finally, she brought in my dad into our one-sided conversation. “You must go and get some direct sunlight on your terrace, don’t ignore this. I asked your dad and he also said there is nothing like the direct sun.”

In the universe of my mother, a point she is making to her children can only be validated further and made official if my dad seconds it. “The earth is round, dad also says so.”
“We are in 2013, I checked with your dad and he agreed with me.”

“I feel you don’t know how to discipline your children. I was speaking to your dad about it and he also said, “Shunali does not know how to discipline her children.””

“Manmohan Singh does not speak much. Dad was also saying our PM is a man of few words.”

You get the drift.

My mother then went on to dictate the recipe of sautéed mushrooms to me which I jotted down half heartedly, mostly because EVERYONE knows how to sauté mushrooms. If I wasn’t so groggy, I might have even been offended with my mother for assuming I did not know how to toss around a handful of mushrooms in a pan. I wanted to tell her that I might not have been a domestic goddess but I wasn’t a domestic retard either and that even Kim Kardashain must know how to do mushrooms.

Soon after she had ended the conversation with me, I crossed my fingers and Googled all the diseases that D3 deficiency could lead to. On realizing that I had most of those life threatening symptoms already, I sprinted to the terrace of our building to try and prolong my lifespan. Sitting there under the half-past-noon-sun, with beads of perspiration erupting all over my face, I pictured myself looking like Alok Nath breathing his last.

I sat under the blazing sun till I was dizzy and my sebaceous glands had outperformed themselves. Only when I was convinced that I had improved my chances of survival did I finally return home dehydrated. Tomorrow morning, I intend to reach my terrace by 8 am. If I manage that, I will be spared two things:

1. Harsh rays of the afternoon sun and the subsequent dehydration .

2. Sermon on nutrition/parenting/gardening or general living from my mother.

Oh wait, but I live for those sermons.

(Mamma, if you are reading this, I love you and your sermons. Do keep them going, it gives me material to write.)


* Someone who talks in his or her sleep.

** I am told the hypochondria gene was passed on to the child by me.





When alcohol is thicker than blood

14 Jan

My extended family

There are certain perils that come from being related to somebody in the business of selling alcohol. Erhm, this is not at dig at anybody from the Mallya family. In fact, I speak about some of my own relatives. To be more precise, this is about a person who has the good fortune of belonging to the same gene pool as me.

So my sister runs a booth from where she sells country liquor and she may well be called a bootlegger for want of a better name. Okay, just kidding. My sister works for Diageo – a company that makes consuming alcohol seem as purposefully posh and significant as an education at Eton. Be as it may, I am all for people who commit their lives to social causes such as selling intoxicating beverages to demographics that range between awkward first-timers to those compelled to tipple to keep their joints from going stiff.

In all the years that K has spent in this company, she has appeared busier to me than an undertaker during the black plague epidemic of the 19th Century. If there are any perks to my sister’s job, they are well kept from the family who is encouraged to purchase her brands such as Johnnie Walker Blue, Gold Label and Talisker at MRP. At dinners hosted by me, I am asked to only serve her repertoire of brands and on the few occasions that I have not complied, I have actually seen her retreat to the quieter rooms of my house with her black magic kit. At times, I have hinted to K that my affections and loyalty can be bought, but such suggestions have been cruelly ignored.

When a friend lost her dog recently, I rang my sister to suggest something that would cheer up my grieving friend. “Babe, send her a bottle of Bailey’s” was her ‘spontaneous’ suggestion. Last year, she rolled her eyes at me when I told her that I was to spend a few days at a Chateau in Bordeaux soaking my senses in some fine wine. “Wine is so passé’. Go to Scotland and do the whiskey trail instead. I can help you book, just give me your credit card details,” she offered generously. When I reminded K that I had done Scotland and the famed single malt trail and it still could not get me to like the drink, she just shrugged her shoulders and told me “Babe, you have poor taste, you cannot be helped.” Ignoring the barb, I informed K that I happened to prefer fermented grape over fermented potatoes or barley. “Oh then Ciroc vodka is the drink for you, it is made of grapes,” she declared.

A few weeks ago, I asked K if a pair of designer earrings would make a nice ‘Thank you’ gift for a dear friend who had recently done something very thoughtful for me. “Ewww, jewellery is so predictable, why don’t you send her a bottle of Kettle 1 instead?” was my sister’s reply. Yesterday, after spending an afternoon in her company I have come to the conclusion that K is not unlike Americans who think that America is a universe by itself. K believes that us humans were put outside of the Garden of Eden with the sole purpose of embracing booze manufactured by her company, as a way of life.

Sometimes I wonder just how long I can go on dealing with K’s psychopathic obsession with getting her family to consume alcohol owned by her company. But then I remind myself that things could have been worse. K could be working for Bayer, for instance. She would then go around putting a gun to our heads asking us to use insect repellents at the slightest opportunity or better still go around gifting bottles of ‘Hit Cockroach’ to our unfortunate friends on their birthdays and anniversaries.

Or worse still, K could be an insurance agent, forcing us to buy and gift redundant policies to our friends. When I look at things in this light, I realize just how much happier I am about what K does.  I must ring her and tell her about my epiphany. Better still,  I am going to  make her a ‘thank you’ card. Here is what the card will say, “DEAR TALISKER, I AM SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU FOR A SISTER”.

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