Archive | April, 2014

Election 2014 – Abki baar voters list sey utaar

24 Apr


As far as the Government of India is concerned, both my husband and I are dead. Or missing. Or we have shifted out of Bombay. I am in the midst of an existential crisis as we speak and along with me, several thousand other Mumbaikars.

Like many other citizens of the world’s largest electoral democracy, I showed up at the polling booth in North Central Mumbai armed with my Voter ID this morning only to be told that neither the spouse’s name nor mine was on the electoral roll.

“So does this mean that even though I have a Voter’s ID, I cannot vote?” I asked the person manning the booth incredulously.

He nods his head. “Not possible madam.”

“I have a voter’s id, a passport and even an Aadhar card but I am being denied my right to vote” I was belligerent.

Ham kya karega, aap kyuon bhadak rahey hain? Aap bada saab sey baat karo na” the diminutive chap at the booth suggested helplessly.

I could tell that I was not the only one who got left out because I could overhear a conversation between the Pandu on duty and an angry Sikh family whose members’ names are not on the Voters List for the first time in forty years.

I returned home determined to fix this matter and immediately went online to look for my name on the Voters List of North Central Mumbai.

The website failed to load due to some technical error. I sent an SMS to 9869889966 (the number provided by the Election Commission) to see if I was on any voters list at all but as expected I did not get an SMS back. The fault dear Brutus, is in our stars.

Not one to take no for an answer easily, I turned to the social media and started to outrage. I rang the husband to inform him that both of us did not exist. He assumed I was about to embark on a UG Krishnamurthy inspired discourse, which is not unusual for me and informed me that he was in a meeting and did not have time for philosophical banter (ooh that reminded me of Tarun Tejpal somehow).

I had no choice but to cut to the chase and inform him about our fate at the Electoral office. He was in denial. “Did you look carefully?”

I did.

Then he was ANGRY. Yes, you got it; we were following the Keble-Ross model of the five stages of grief. “This bloody country does not deserve my vote,” he said screaming on the phone. “I am NEVER voting again.”

As if you have a choice. You cannot vote again even if you want to until your name shows up on that list.

Up next was the stage of BARGAINING. On recommendation of the husband’s uncle we downloaded Form 6 from the election commission’s website and after filling in our particulars we optimistically drove towards booth # 77. We met more wannabe voters who had been denied a chance to vote at the voting centre. The good people working on behalf of the EC seemed pretty clueless themselves and after much persuasion they resignedly asked us to head to the EC office at a short distance from the voting booth.

This did not feel normal. I felt like I was chasing a pair of limited edition Louboutin shoes. Exercising my right to vote ought to have been easier than this.

At the office, a throng of irate voters surrounded one harassed EC official who was in no position to oblige them with a convincing answer, perhaps because the poor chap was as perplexed about this situation as the next person.

“Sar, I am sawrrry but you cannot vote in this election, this form is useless today. This Form 6 A is to be submitted in case you want to vote next time,” he informed us.

It was frustrating to come back home without an inked finger after all the forethought and deliberation that had gone into figuring out which party was more deserving of our votes. But we have ACCEPTED out fate. More importantly I have accepted that the selfie I was so keen to post on FB will have to be given a miss. All my friends are flashing their inked fingers like war ribbons and badges of honour and poor me, I feel so last season.

Now I hear that Deepak Parikh and Ram Jethmalani did not find their name on the voters list either. Someone just tweeted that they are filing a PIL against the EC. I am not sure anything will come out of it. All I know is that my civil rights as a citizen have been violated. I can only hope that in due course some heads will roll. They ought to.

In the meanwhile EC should have had this slogan for Lok Sabha 2014




My life is an open Facebook and other perils of introducing your mother to social media

7 Apr

My mother has a new passion that is consuming her during most of her waking hours. But before I tell you what that passion is, a preface is in order. Mom is a cerebral woman of far too many talents. Not only is she  well read but she also aces at almost everything she puts her mind to. However, things, as we know, have a way of balancing themselves out. What skills god has bestowed on her in other areas of her life, he has made up for by creating a huge deficit when it comes to giving her the ability  to operate anything that  involves technology.

Most of her life mother has been a competitive level technophobe. She has been avoiding gadgets and appliances like Narendra Modi avoids media interactions. The few electronic/ mechanical inventions that she has used successfully over the years would be of the nature of fans, automobiles, mixers and grinders, refrigerators, ovens and hair dryers. For the most part, as a family, we have accepted this failing in her because if someone is so compellingly committed to the Stone Age, who are we to stand in their way?

I remember the time when microwaves were slowly gaining popularity in the Indian households when after much hesitation mom agreed to get one. But once it had arrived in our house, dad had to work hard to convince mother that it was just an innocuous little contraption for heating food and not a weapon of mass destruction that would explode in her face if she pressed a wrong button.

Dad spent years trying to teach mother to use the PC, even promising her a laptop as soon as she had learnt to click on the basic keys, but she always found a way to put it off.

The one gadget she did take to however was the mobile phone because she could keep tabs on her wandering children from any remote corner of the world. If back then, there were GPS chips available to be embedded into humans to keep a track of their whereabouts and hence safety, I am sure mother would have been the first one to apply for a lifetime subscription for a pair of those chips for both my sister and me.

However, when we suggested she upgrade her old-fashioned handset to a smart phone, mom turned down our suggestion because “a smart phone would confuse her and then I will never even know how to make a phone call” were her words.

Precisely because of her own mental block about technology, mom felt impressed easily when she saw that her children could manage to start computers or use the dial-up internet on their own. Mom and I were on vacation together and when I used a ticket vending machine with her in Paris to buy us tickets on the train (Metropolitans) she had proud tears in her eyes. She hugged me, in front of other commuters much to my mortification, and then said “Oh you are just the most clever person. I am going to tell dad what a bright kid you are.” I was 29-years-old at that time and already a mother.

I remember her expression of awe mixed with delight when she saw me use my new i phone deftly. “You. Are. Just. So. Brilliant,” she proudly told me.

When I removed the batteries from a camera pack to recharge them, while  on a family holiday in Istanbul, she smiled at me with admiration before extolling my prowess to my sister with a, “Oh isn’t your sister such a genius at everything.”

When confronted with that rare occasion when she has to use her ATM card, mom looks scared and flustered. In fact, if the need arises, she will borrow money from a complete stranger sooner than she will use her ATM card because “Oh my god, what if the machine sucks in it and chews up my card!” Right! Because the ATM machine is actually the Lochness Monster capable of biting off your fingers on a day that it has been denied its breakfast.

My sister gifted mother a Blackberry a year ago and insisted that she hand over her old phone to us just to enable her to use the smart phone out of desperation, if nothing else. This time, she surprised us all by picking it up in no time and we witnessed months of hourly BBM status updates, often with out of focus or incorrectly cropped pictures. Let me tell you though, that both my sister and I did not feel any less proud of mom than Neil Armstrong’s family in Ohio felt when he took his first steps on the Moon’s surface.

Encouraged by her success with the Blackberry we gifted mom an i-pad six months ago. It lay there, in its virginal state for nearly a month and we had to pester her to use it. My older one taught her grandma the basics and mom did manage to learn to use it very quickly.

But I noticed something peculiar. Mom would shut down the ipad  every fifteen minutes and put it away. “I do not want it to get heated up and spoilt,” she informed me, hugging it with both her hands protectively as though it was an abandoned infant in need of love and security. In time she did get adept at using her i-pad and even got onto kindle successfully.

When a close friend suggested we get mom a Facebook account to help her stay connected with all of us we leapt at the suggestion. It was indeed time to introduce her to the enchanting world of social media. We had no idea then that we were unleashing a monster and that my socially reluctant mother would become a Facebook enthusiast before we knew it.

She began her journey on Facebook with status updates, now and then. This continued till she went on a holiday to Devigarh to be with my cousin who committed the grave error of teaching mom the art of uploading pictures on Facebook. It started with photos of the landscape around the Lebua, Devigarh palace, glamorous pictures of my cousin followed, and then came the pictures of the various suites and rooms of the hotel. Photographs of temples and deities appeared shortly on her home page and just when I was expecting to see the photo of clouds outside her seat window on the flight back, mom disappointed me by not uploading any.

She made up for the two hours of airborne abstinence once she was back home in Dehradun by clicking pictures of pictures from photo albums at home. These were mostly clicked from random angles leading one to believe that the person behind the camera was taking shock therapy and clicking pictures simultaneously. While I am still dealing with this, my sister keeps zapping unflattering pictures of me to her. It is almost like a syndicate now between mom and her because mom has uploaded only beautiful pictures of her younger daughter but mostly only weird ones of me. I am waiting for pictures in my of my unwaxed upper lip from my adolescent years to appear any day now and I life in constant fear of that.

When I am feeling too vain, I only have to look at mom’s FB page to see unflattering pictures of my chin and me slouching over the laptop or passing out on the couch in the grip of lassitude. When I ask her about the source of these pictures, she sweetly tells me it is my sister. “She sent them the last time she and you were together at your house,” she says innocently.

This is a covert operation clearly for I haven’t a clue that we have a shutterbug amidst us when the sister and I are together. Then last evening, I was having a perfectly normal Sunday when I found an awful picture of mine on mom’s Facebook page from the John McLaughlin concert that I attended on Saturday with the Machiavellian sister. The angle from which this particular picture has been taken is so terrifying that I look like I swallowed both John McLaughlin and Ranjit Barot along with their guitar and drums because there weren’t enough snacks floating around.

“How did mom get that picture?” I was belligerent on the phone. “Uh, oh, I sent it to her last night. Mom feels involved this way.” She is keeping it matter-of-fact. “Really? Is your conscience on chloroform? Just look at the picture, it is on FB”. I was too overwrought for words. One would never expect that one’s own flesh and blood would do something like this to you. “Calm down, just take the password from mom and delete it,” suggested the cool cucumber.

I lost no time in asking mom for the password and the picture was duly deleted. But this morning, I noticed a comment made by a friend of my mother’s against my sister’s picture. “Shobna, you should be a proud mother of a beautiful & confident daughter.” (Sic) Please notice the ‘a beautiful daughter’ in this compliment. The lady has been on FB with mom long enough to know that she has two daughters. Need I say more.

What can I say, except that it is my fault? I should’ve known better than to introduce mom to social media. But it is too late for regrets because thanks to mom, for now, my life is an open Facebook.

my mother

The Facebook enthusiast


Look who is having the last laugh!

1 Apr

Dear diary,

Don’t we have to lie in the bed we make for ourselves? Mother is just about learning to do that. Last night I found her washing the paws of the four legged brainless fur ball that believes our house is nothing but a large lavatory where she is free to ease herself as and when she pleases.

Mother kept asking the children to bring her some shampoo quickly and when no one obliged, I caught her using L’Occitane shampoo that I believe belongs to father, to get some poop off Tiffany’s paws. One can see that no indulgence is being spared on this creature that does not have the common sense to know that one does not walk around in one’s own ordure while I, the discerning one, am bathed with some regular dog shampoo.

So talking about mother, she brings this dog into my life and takes off with her children for some kind of a holiday that involves packing in more clothes than Cleopatra and her entourage of eunuchs and maids might have carried when she went off to meet Mark Anthony. Not that it is any of my business, but somewhere in that luggage, the puppy got lost. She probably got mistaken for a fur hat and packed away. I was relieved and offered no olfactory help when the family panicked after noticing her absence. In my opinion it was extremely irresponsible of mother to want to leave behind a puppy of excessive innocence and limited intelligence, if at all, in the care of my apathetic self, in the first place. As my bad luck would have it, she got found just as the older child was going over the contents of her own suitcase looking to make sure she had packed her pair of gloves. She had fallen asleep somewhere in the heap of clothes.

On my part, in spite of the mounting pressure from the family, I wasn’t about to feign any kind of interest in her to please them. About a week after Tiffany arrived into (was thrust upon) my life, I was being forced to muster up an emotion for her that I wasn’t capable of feeling. Her so-called ‘cuteness’ had made no impression on me and mother kept putting her in my face as I mentioned in my last post. So one day I just woke up and accidentally on purpose sprayed her kennel with the generous contents of my bladder. This would have been enough to let someone know how I felt about her. You would think that anyone with half a brain would get the message from what you might call an obviously vulgar gesture on my part, but no, not her. The infernally persistent creature continued to follow me around, now and then sniffing around my male belly looking for teats. As though there was any possibility of them sprouting on my hairy chest if she kept at it!

The family returned and mother, in her obvious bid to overcompensate me, was overdoing her love for me to the point where it seemed unnatural. Talk about being guilty and all that! She asked the staff at home if “we” had become friends in her absence and they informed her that the prospects of that happening were bleak as I had growled at the over friendly Tiffany several times while the family was away. A disapproving eyebrow or two was raised in my direction before she proclaimed that we all ought to be patient and by the summer Tiffany and I would be inseparable. Her optimism in life and faith in me moves me to tears. But I would be lying if I told you that it was enough to make me change my mind about the pup.

In the family’s absence I did catch her chewing up mother’s pile of books kept on the lower shelf of the rack and a few other sundry items within the reach of someone a little taller than a caterpillar. But I have shown stoic refrain from standing in her way because, and pardon me for relying on so many cliches, but it is oh-such-fun to watch someone dig their own grave.

This morning was particularly interesting as mother woke up  and screamed in horror when she saw an unusually sober Tiffany  sitting in a corner with a moss green face. I wonder how completely oblivious she was of the fact that she looked any different since the previous night. It seems tat the scavenging imbecile had found a tube of oil paint in the children’s room and because she seems to live by the principal of ‘when in doubt eat it’, she sank her teeth into it only to have it rupture all over her furry face and the living room floor.

I would have preferred had mother not L’Occitaned her yet again and left her looking like some kind of a decaying pantomime artist. But she lathered her face, washed her up and then plugged in a hair dryer to blast dry her face. You should have seen just how perfectly that scared our intrepid friend.

She smelt like a lemon orchard for the rest of the day and I could not bear to sit next to her. Us dogs don’t like perfumed things as you might know and do not treat dogs that do not smell like dogs with respect.

Be that as it may, I am looking at mother in a new light. You see, there are enough stray puppies on the street and if you were a person of even the slightest degree of compassion in you, you would bring home one such puppy. Instead you find a pup that looks like the Harrods teddy and have long, over familiar conversations with some breeder in another city and organize for her transportation. Then you take her pictures all day long marveling sighing and gasping at her pristine beauty. How truly shallow!

I must concede however that even though I have not taken any fancy to this dog, her arrival has added a new sense of adventure to my life because living under the same roof with Tiffany is like being a prop on the set of a giant slapstick comedy set. Cupid may be nowhere near the corner but Gelos is smiling wholeheartedly at us indeed. Besides, aren’t I having the last laugh?

Yours truly,

The only wise dog in the house,


Tiffany is green

Green Tiffany


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