June 18, 2014

Foreign Flashback

The nineties were a time when products from a ‘phoren’ country were seen as your ticket to fame. You would eagerly wait for a distant relative to arrive from an even more distant land and gift you something – chocolates with fancy wrappers, pencils with cartoons that weren’t familiar to you, an unusual toothbrush with a transparent handle. Soaps, keychains, talcum powder, socks, handkerchief, hairband - anything would work as long as it came from a foreign land.
As a kid, I couldn’t wait to show-off my prized possessions to cousins and class-mates.  The latter was trickier. Ma would insist I keep these things for special occasions only, not take them to school; there was always a fear of misplacing them. So they sat, beautifully arranged in a little drawer, one that I kept locked all the time. Every once in a while, I would open the drawer to absorb the sights and smells of a country I had never visited, but wished to someday. It would brighten up any dreary day, romancing the mind with the promise of an unknown adventure.
Two decades later, I see every international label in my city. Every fancy store round the corner has something ‘imported’ to offer. Still, it’s that little drawer that holds a very special place for me. It is the number of ‘likes’ I collected over years. It is the innocence of a time I ache to go back to. It is the romance of firsts, the alchemy of which can never be recreated.  

May 20, 2014

It's time


As a kid, she loved to play house. Wearing a dupatta, she would take on the role of the housewife. Never the husband, never the kid; she would always want to be the wife. The term ‘home maker’ was still alien. The wife could say goodbye to the husband and kids, finish the household chores and cook for the family all day. It was, indeed, the most important role.

After the fake dusting with a handkerchief, and the cleaning of the same handkerchief to suggest washing of clothes, she would begin cooking. The gleaming kitchen set was all hers to create magic with. She would take the little kadhai, put is on the wobbly stove and begin to make paneer. It was always paneer – it sounded fancy enough, she thought. Like in a cookery show, she would say it loud, “…in goes the paneer, the tomato and salt”. After a minute of stirring with the barely-able-to-hold spatula, she would taste and say how delicious the sabji was.

Then it would be time for the husband to come home. Ting-tong. She would open the door and welcome him with a glass of water. He would be tired, too many meetings at work. She would listen to his office talk, and talk about her day too. Dinner would be served lovingly. She would wait for him to take the first bite and appreciate the food. He would, and also be impressed by how clean she has kept the house. A few laughs and it would be all nice and happy always.

Always.

Baby, let’s play house.   



January 15, 2014

On Winters

Might be a li'l late for this post, but nonetheless...

Winter is beginning to catch up. You can feel the slight sting of chill. The skies are throwing new patterns and the sunlight is getting more balmy than prickly. There’s a certain ‘thehraav’ about winter mornings that makes me fall in love with it. Everything is the same, yet not. The pace of things begins to slow down as we carry the weight of more layers.  
It’s the season of slowing down. Of taking more time in sipping the morning tea. Of putting the paper aside and watching the silence of the city from the balcony instead. Of tracking the sunlight as it moves slowly from one building to another, until it kisses you.

I like this calmness of the season. There’s no restlessness to turn up the fan speed, no rush to reach the bus stop before the downpour. Winters let you take it easy. They make you feel like the first day of vacation, after the final exams are over. So you can hit the snooze button and cuddle under the blanket for five more minutes.

Make that ten.

October 16, 2013

The irony


As I go about my day, travelling in the bus and walking long distances, I see people glued to their mobiles. I hear daughter-in-laws cribbing about their in-laws, employees cursing their bosses, people complaining about their maids, boyfriends maddened at their girlfriends – I rarely come across anything that is faintly positive. And whether I like it or not, I enter the murky territory of their personal truths. Unhappy, unappreciative and unapologetic – that’s the picture I get in my head.

My visit to the grocery store reveals another facet. As I walk past several rows to look for the humble Parle G biscuits, I see racks full of readymade food. These aren’t your good ol’ 2-minuters; they are proper meals packed with preservatives. Snip, simmer and serve – it doesn’t get more convenient than this. The packet mocks at the current state of life when it says ‘packed with love’. Is how we serve love these days – fast and fuss-free? No careful picking of the ingredients, no painful hours spent in the kitchen, no watchful eyes over the simmering gravy. No time to waste, just a tad compromise on taste – that’s how we do it?

And as I walk back home, listening to more venting of unhappy people and walking past many more packaged foods, I wonder – is this the life we wanted? We are wriggled away by time, controlled by economics and tied to our burdensome responsibilities. This is not how it was meant to be. This is not what we wanted from our job – more blood pressure and less time. This is not what we wanted from our social life – strained relationships and unhealthy opinions. This is not what we have been working towards as a species.

And if this is what we get in the name of progress, I’d rather be left behind.   

May 08, 2013

over. and over again.


“So how does the story end?” he asked

“I don’t know”

“What do you mean ‘I don’t know’, you read the book, didn't you?

“I ripped off the last page”

“Why did you do that?”

“It was all so beautiful; I didn't want it to end.” 


December 12, 2012

Bangalore Flower Market

Wholesale markets have always fascinated me. The huge stocking, the clutter around, the availability of the unimaginable, the rock bottom prices – it’s an ecosystem that has an uncommon beauty to it. And no matter which part of India you are in, it doesn’t change much.

As if I had not seen enough flowers, I was itching to visit the Bangalore flower market, which would be my first wholesale market visit in this city. We chose Ugadi, the Karnataka New Year, as the day. This would either mean that we were in for a treat OR that we would be swarmed by the crowd. Add to it the warnings we got from friends - don’t argue if don’t know the local language, don’t wear any jewellery, beware of pick pocketers and the likes. Nonetheless, we decided to go.

We reached around 8 am and the market was already bustling with activity. As soon as we entered, we could smell fresh veggies. There were veggies everywhere – incredibly fresh and oh-so-interestingly arranged.











Visiting local bazaars opens up a whole new world for you. Not to forget, it’s a great study in buying patterns too. Interestingly, India is known for micro-sales. So when I saw the mini packets of garam masala, I wasn’t surprised. Fit for daily use, these packets are especially for buyers who don’t like to stock too much. Just enough is just right.




A little ahead we got to the heart of the flower market. I felt like a kid in a candy store.  Multi coloured vermillion, spices and clothes– I loved every bit of it.






And then came the main attraction – the flowers. Garlands, loose flowers, gajras – they were in numbers I had never seen before. The sellers were attracting buyers with the best prices, rolling out streams and streams of fragrant garlands and briskly weaving some new without batting an eyelid.











But that wasn't all. Every corner was full of surprises.



Like the man who said the cow ‘talked’ to him.




Or the one, who oblivious to the chaos, was reading the morning news.



We saw gems of indigenous organizational skills 



And a world of exotic colour and fragrances



I was, once again, amazed to see how these bazaars effortless bind together modernity and yesteryears’ charm. There’s a constant push to keep up with the times on one hand, and a seemingly untouched and unchanged way of living on the other.



Suddenly all clutter looked beautiful





and even what I couldn’t decipher, began to enchant.



:)

July 17, 2012

Flower power

When I first landed in Bangalore (almost a year ago), one of the many things that struck me (apart from the beautiful weather and the bad traffic) was the sheer number of flowers around. From embracing vehicles to adorning women’s tresses to creating a neat colourful border on either side of the road – there were flowers everywhere.



                                          

   


Every season, a new variety of flowers would bloom. On one of the Bangalore walks (another post that’s pending), I learnt that the Britishers had thoughtfully planted these trees so that no season would be without flowers, thus lending the city great cosmetic value. And they were so right. Walking around the neighbourhood and travelling to places proved to be sheer eye candy. Bright yellows, pretty lilacs and cotton candy pinks took turns in welcoming me on my way to office. 



Frequenting temples became a joyful experience. And the flower show clearly stole the show.



My indulgence with flowers grew. I began to buy the mogra malas for the small temple at home. After the trip to the temple in the neighbourhood, I’d even pin the flower the panditji gave, in my hair (like others did). And the house would never be without some pretty stems on the table.


                                   


 It’s been over a year in Bangalore. 3 flower shows, 2 spring seasons and several visits to the temple – the beauty of the ‘garden city’ has grown over me.

                                   

A trip to the Bangalore flower market is pending since long and I know that I’m going to be smitten by the sheer number of flowers there.

PS: I finally made it to the flower market. More about it in another post :)