Saturday, March 29, 2008


Third time unlucky

Always the bridesmaid. And still the bridesmaid. 1 freakin' point. But, as the wise bodybuilder turned guv'nor said, "I'll be back."

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Just another ‘Holi’-day

Another sleepless night. Another early morning of watching the sun rise. The only thing that makes this particular night different from countless others is that today is Holi. The festival of colours. What I believed was the Hindu New Year till an argument with other wise-guys in the hallowed portals of our ever-alluring mess forced me to be less confident. What was surprising was that everyone else came up with his own opinion of what the New Year was. The result of the argument is still pending, probably because all of us are too lazy to check up the facts on the net. Note to self- check up the facts on the net after typing out this post. Unlike most other people, Holi holds no charm for me whatsoever these days. Before my aunt announced that she would be visiting this evening with my cousins, something that I’m eagerly looking forward to as I’ve not met them for some time now, the high point of today was going to be the latest Roadies episode. Followed by Premiership Saturday, which again pales into comparison with Grand Slam Sunday that awaits us tomorrow. Here’s hoping for a United victory. How different all this is from the little Lefty who would be shivering with excitement till a couple of years ago, as this momentous day dawned.

Back in my hometown, the night before Holi, I would be quivering with excitement, supremely confident that I would never get any sleep in this titillating state of exuberance. I’d get up early in the morn, don the clothes discarded so long ago, that would miraculously appear that day, and impatiently wait for the ‘council of elders’ to deem it sunny enough to go out and indulge myself. Our huge ancestral home was more often than not filled to the brim with near and dear relatives, who had managed to squeeze some time off to be at home that day. For us younger ones, the festivities would begin with filling up buckets of water and adding generous amounts of colour to them- ammo for our pichkaaris, those beloved piston shaped plastic weapons. Some senseless and almost ineffective squirting on each other would set the tone for greater things to come. We would then all unite and proceed to the terrace. An unsuspecting stranger in an inviting spotless white shirt or kurta, a squirt, a splat, a triumphant whoop and a gleeful “Bura na maano holi hai” would round off the proceedings.

By then, the council of elders would have decided that time had now deemed it prudent for them to start too, and the entire melee would proceed to colour the grounds. The optimistic mater and the aunts who chose to minimize the damage by applying oil, would be wiped clean of the same before being subjected to considerable doses of colour by the doting devars. We, on our part, would go from house to house in the neighbourhood, armed with buckets, pichiikaris and colour, waiting to pounce on the clean friend who came out. The same soul would come out with his own ammo, hopelessly outnumbered but determined not to go down without a fight. In the vicinity, the infamous gwalas of our beloved Railway Minister’s fame would be playing their own brand of holi- cow-dung galore. Eggs and even mud was considered positively genteel. Considering the high standards of rowdiness that were set before us to try and emulate, it is nothing short of shocking that we didn’t even tear off each others pockets. How disappointed the gwalas must have been with us. The only way we allowed ourselves to be affected was to be exceedingly careful in house-hopping, lest some stray cow-dung found our way to us.

As morning wore on, the festivities would become more intense. Water balloons, Holi battles with teams, pukka rang- you name it. Our innocent and charming visages would soon become a palette of badly mixed colours, the already worn clothes now resembling rags. Exhausted and hungry, and outdoors in the same ragamuffin guise, we would gorge on the puas and steaming hot mutton that had been prepared. Then the time of undoing the damage done would come. Water, soap and shampoo, scrub-a-dub-dub, expletives to that malicious soul who had put dry colour on your hair so that water would exacerbate the damage rather than mend it. An hour or so of hard work and one was almost clean again. In my case, the palms would always bear telltale signs of holi. Pulao-meat for lunch and then, siesta time.

Holi evenings and mornings are as disparate as chalk and cheese. While the mornings are nothing but exhausting wildness, the evening rituals are solemn and formal. Everything is arranged in its proper place- the abeer in that segmented glass plate surrounded by tempting dahi-bades and other assorted snacks as one either goes visiting relatives or waits for the same to come calling. Apart from touching the elders’ feet in the quintessential gesture of asking for blessings, the same feet are adorned with abeer by the younger ones. The elders then reciprocate by sprinkling abeer on your face along with the traditional teeka. It was a standing joke that I would be given my own spotless white kurta-pajama every year for the evening which I would only wear that once in the entire year. After meeting some relatives and friends, we would generally all assemble at some place for a mega-gathering. While the elders sat and chatted, we would indulge in the mindless but eminently enjoyable games of tag or something, our games punctuated by the arrival of yet another relative who would be added to the gathering, meaning the aforementioned ritual had to be repeated on the latest additon. Wiping myself clean of the abeer with the new hanky that came along with the kurta-pajama, totally spent, I would, with some regret, call it a highly successful day which had sadly ended.

Those days of innocent mirth seem so far off now. Today, I shall probably just wish my folks a happy holi, have my breakfast of Puas and doze off while they go play holi with the neighbours who I hardly know or make any effort to know. I’ll join them for the traditional lunch of Pulao-meat of course. Except that it’ll just be us. A lot has changed since back then.

My cousins and friends who made anniversaries of this day so eagerly awaited and enjoyable are scattered across various corners of the country- Manipal, Kolkata, Tumkur, Bangalore, Kanpur and even as far as Malaysia and Arkansas. The others are in that merciless grind which is sadly necessary to put you in a decent college. Following our move to the national capital, the ancestral house has lost the tag of ‘home’ that it had borne for almost 7 decades. Every year on holi, a relentless wave of nostalgia comes crashing down on me as I recall all those memories that form an indelible and cherished part of my life. I miss it all. I miss my hometown. I miss the rambling old place that I used to call home. I miss my narrow gali and the familiar muhalla. I miss the frequent meetings with my cousins and the daily games with my friends. Like all other paradoxical beings who “long to grow up when they are children and long to become children again when they’ve grown up”, I miss my childhood.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The Chicken Pox Diaries

I realized in the beginning of March that the purest, most magical of words could have negative connotations. Word in question being Chicken. The word so far synonymous with succulent kebabs, oriental genius and continental creativity was suddenly associated with big fat spots that quarantine you for the best part of ten miserable days. Worst of all, for those ten miserable days, you are denied the culinary pleasures of life. To be precise, it’s not nice. The previous sentence rhymes, by the way.

The prolonged hiatus from the outside world that was enforced upon me had, like everything else, some up sides. It meant that I could rekindle my long lost love affair with that amazing invention of John Logie Baird. The flame, I saw, still burned strong. I watched every episode of MTV Roadies 5.0 around 5 times. For those interested in following the show, Praabhjot was voted out in the last episode. It was a bit sad to see everyone ganging up against her. But it did mean that Shambhavee, who I might add is very very cute, remains for at least one extra week. I also managed to see every goal that was scored in EPL about a dozen times. United, sadly, lost to Portsmouth in the FA Cup. But at least they’re top of the league now. And the Gooners drew their last game which means we could have a 3 point lead. Woo-hoo. The Champions League draw is out, leaving me in the hope of a repeat of last year’s heavenly thrashing of the Italian behemoths.

I’ve also been watching many of the news channels with great interest. Zee news, in all seriousness, had a half-an-hour show discussing whether The Great Khali, of the WWE fame, needed a girlfriend to win more matches. They lamented on how he was losing to the lesser opposition of the Undertaker and Batista and went on to harp on the benefits of a ‘female partner’. The same fight sequences were shown again and again along with profiles of the eligible ‘female partners’. A complete waste of half-an-hour of news time, some might say, but very entertaining to watch. I also try to tune in to CNBC once in a while. Udayan Mukherjee is at his knowledgeable best, analyzing the tremors in the market. It’s all very intellectually stimulating and there’s a lot to learn from it. Sadly, I don’t understand a thing, but continue to watch it due the feeling of superiority that it entails. There’s a nice late night show on it where they analyze NYSE and the Dow Jones Index and some wise people give financial advice to some not-so-wise people.

I’ve finally got around to appreciating the NBA. I actually woke up at 5 one morning to catch some matches. I’m finally beginning to realize what terms like ‘point guard’ and ‘fast break’ mean. Still looking for a team to support though. Phoenix Suns had a good match with some guy called Abutmeyer or something playing very well. Shaq too did a good job as point guard. Boston Celtics have Kevin Garnett and the Lakers have Kobe, which is all very nice. I was specially impressed by the Hornets though. They played together very well as a team. Chris Paul was impeccable and some 7-footer called Chandler was very good too. They beat the Lakers in a close game helped by some atrocious shooting from the more-fancied team, despite a great game by Kobe.

Despite the absence of a grove to recline in, I’ve managed to do a lot of soul-searching. Enlightenment is only a tree away now. Placed in room-arrest, I often was in that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts brought sad thoughts to the mind. And the opposite. I concluded that the timing of Chicken Pox was Life’s subtle way of telling you that there will be times when things just won’t go your way. It was bad enough missing the Trip due to jinxed calendars, but to have missed the PD after a month of blood, sweat and toil was pretty much the last straw. I felt that I let the Decayed Canine and L.O.V.E. (previously known as Politically Correct Person) down for we’d really thought we had a good shot at the title. Sadly, things just didn’t go our way.

In the end, Chicken Pox also turned out to be Life’s subtle way of making me thankful for the amazing set of friends that I’m lucky to have. Amazing is so much of an understatement here. A Kurta from Udaipur as I wasn’t there. And here, I must break the cardinal rule of this blog which hitherto had been so easy to follow- thou shalt not betray any emotion. It’s ironical that there are around 20 synonyms for touched and overwhelmed in the best of the Thesaurus’s but I still can’t put how I felt in words. What was even stranger was that in some way, when I saw all the photos and heard the juicier tales, I felt as though I’d not really missed everything. I felt as though I’d been there with them for most of the trip. I could actually picture myself there, picture my reactions to the (mis?)adventures as they took me through the happening 5 days. Every pic I saw had a Lefty in some corner with some characteristic expression on his visage. And in some small way, they knew it all too. My physical presence might have been missed along with my brilliant jokes (one always hopes) but that, I think, was it. In every other sense of the word, I was there. And I guess that’s what friendship is. Thanks guys.

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