Saturday, July 22, 2006


Last few weeks have been all about reconnecting with people I knew once upon a time. While I was away, I kept in touch with some and lost touch with others. Over the years I’ve come to terms with my inability to sustain high maintenance relationships…I get very claustrophobic as soon as I realize that the other person is expecting me to call, write or e-mail on a regular basis and I start looking for a way out. I love people who are as socially inept as I am and don’t hold it against me that I haven’t once called or emailed in six months. But the social creature that I am, I need people around me hence the need to reconnect!

There is this lady, much older to me and for whatever reason is extremely fond of me. Sometimes I wonder what she has seen in me to bestow that much of affection! Anyway, this lady actually threw a small dinner party to welcome me back to Seattle. Unfortunately I wasn’t really aware that there were to be guests other than us. I landed up in a Bong party wearing jeans and shirt…that was a complete sacrilege! I was immediately accosted by bejeweled, besaree’d didis who demanded an explanation for such behavior…didn’t I get any decent salwar kameez or saree to wear in my two and a half year stint in India!! I mumbled some vague excuse about not finding enough time to go home and change while the truth is that I was taking an extended afternoon nap when spouse reminded me of the invitation and I simply rolled out of the couch and sat in the car!

I think they forgave me as a first time offender (I swear this was the very first and hopefully the last instance that I broke the unwritten dress code…I have to be completely out of my mind to willingly invoke the wrath of the Didis!) and then they moved on to filling me with the latest gossip in town over the sumptuous five course meal that our hostess had painstakingly prepared. The biggest discussion was about the scarcity of daal in the Indian stores and how prices have gone up from 70cents a pound to $2. They shuddered at the plight of the poor South Indians who need daal in some form or the other in their meal (idli, dosa, sambhar anyone?) while we Bongs can live on Machher Jhol alone! I nodded my head meekly not daring to point out that I haven’t had Machher Jhol in last 15 years, yet can do without daal till Indian government decides to lift the ban on daal exports, even if it takes after another 15 years!!

We bumped into a cute little kid, who I realized was the son of yet another affectionate didi. This kid was born a few days before my son; the only thing I remembered about him was that the tyke used to scream all day and all night…so much that I sometimes felt like wringing his little neck! Since I was terribly ashamed of such impure thoughts, I actually started avoiding his mother! Anyway, he’s all grown up now, doesn’t scream as much…quite the precocious thing he is I was told, requires his mom’s French perfume to sniff while he goes potty! His mom took me aside and asked me for potty-training tips to which my answer was “Um…errr…take him to India!”
“But he needs to go to school this fall. How am I going to explain this habit to his teachers?” she cried. Now, I had just finished reading Indu Sunderesan’s Twentieth Wife and Feast of The Roses and my imagination was still wandering somewhere in the Mughal courts. So I told her, “Why don’t you tell them that your son is a re-incarnation of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He cannot stand the smell of his own excretions, and needs the perfume of fresh roses to mask the unpleasantness!” She regarded me with suspicion, not sure if I was being serious or pulling a fast one. Then everyone else in the room burst out laughing. She wasn’t pleased at all, I could tell, but joined in half-heartedly.

The hostess’ son, a young whipper-snapper fresh out of Cornell (a model kid; every Bong mom wants a son like him) was trying his level best to be friendly to us, even tried speaking in heavily accented Bengali just to fit in. What a sweet guy! Everything was fine, till his mom requested me to find a suitable girl for him! What the…?? Do I look like someone who has little black book full of names and phone numbers of potentially marriageable girls?! Of course I refused point blank, instead offered my services as the wedding-planner if she couldn’t afford one when the time came! (I love to shop, you see.) Poor kid, he’s started working less than a month back and his mom is already planning to get him hitched!

The other day I drove my brand new Liquid Yellow Mini Cooper over to a friends place. She said I am suffering from mid-life crisis and the car is a sure sign of crying for attention and that the indicator knob reminded her of a dog in heat! What’s up with that? It’s only a car…at least I haven’t colored my hair Liquid Yellow! Since then I have exchanged cars with spouse. I drive his more understated elegant car (that’s what he calls it) and he gets around in my attention-seeking four-wheels. He’s a lot more comfortable with his mid-life crisis as far as I know!

Few days back I caught up with an old friend. She left Seattle about the same time I moved to Hyderabad and has settled in Chicago. It was wonderful talking to her…we picked up exactly we where parted two and a half years back. Neither of us complained about the lack of communication, didn’t accuse each other of indifference…we just talked like we never said goodbye!

So here I am, reacquainting myself with the milieu. Sometimes it’s pleasant, sometimes I wish I didn’t bother, but it’s an enriching experience all the same. So here’s to friends, old and new!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Gameboy and Sequels

Ever since we got back to Seattle, our social life has plummeted to an abysmal low. Evenings were being mostly spent in sitting in front of the TV or surfing the net, till we realized the power of Gameboy. Baby-sitters cost $14 an hour and typically an evening out will be nothing less than 3 hours, so that’s $42 plus tip down the drain to a pimply teenager barely able to look after him/herself. A Gameboy cartridge on the other hand costs $20 and after a skillfull bit of negotiation we were able to buy co-operation (read silence) from a 5 year old boy in exchange of a Gameboy cartridge every sixty days. We can now go to movies…yeah!! A small beginning, but a beginning nonetheless!

So, past few weeks we have been catching up on movies with a vengeance…anything to get out of the house after sundown you see :-) I have been noticing a pattern in the releases this summer…they are mostly sequels to blockbusters that came out couple of years back. In fact the last three movies we saw were all sequels.

First was Krrish (I hope I got the spelling right…these numerology influenced titles always confuse me to no end!) Now, I completely, totally, absolutely, entirely, utterly hated Koi Mil Gaya…and thanked my lucky stars a zillion times that I chose to watch it on DVD instead of putting myself through sheer torture for 3 hours! Then why on earth did I actually land up in a theater to watch the sequel you’d ask? Confession time…I missed Hrithik Roshan! Actually I didn’t realize how much I missed him till I walked into Totem Lake Theaters, Auditorium 3, (which smelled of greasy samosas and was occupied by talkative desis) and saw Hrithik running…muscles heaving, tresses flying, nostrils flaring and it all came back to me in a rush…I’m a Hrithik groupie!! Yes, I did get distracted and side tracked recently by the rising temperature of Baby B, but that’s what happens to hysterical female fans whose memory is only slightly better than that of a gold fish (3 sec) and Hrithik was away from more than 3 years (wasn’t he?). Anyway, he’s back…and with a bang! Krrish is all about Hrithik and showcasing his various talents…such as wearing designer clothes that mould to his perfect body like a second skin, dance with uninspiring music composed by Uncle Roshan like he was made of rubber, execute hideously choreographed Matrix-like fight sequences with panache, making Bambi eyes to a shabbily dressed Priyanka Chopra and give Oscar-worthy performance mouthing completely inane dialogues written by proud Papa Roshan…ok I was kidding…he still can’t act…but who cares as long as he looks so dishy!!! Overall, Krrish was a teensy-weensy bit better than its preposterous prequel.

Next up was Superman Returns. When was the last Superman movie released again? And who watched it?? I had vague recollections of the first two movies…didn’t have the time or the energy to rent them from video store for a quick recap. And I remembered Christopher Reeve better from The Bostonians and Somewhere In Time than the man wearing his red underwear over his blue tights. Even though I was curious about the new lad Brandon Routh, I really didn’t know what to expect. But Superman Returns didn’t disappoint. It was a fun movie. Of course, there were loads of tributes and references to the older movies, which I completely missed, but it didn’t matter on the whole.

Brandon Routh had pretty large boots to fill and I must say he was very endearing, not to mention a total hottie! Routh’s Clark Kent was slightly insipid though, but this movie was very little about Clark Kent and more about Superman and the new boy looked like he was relishing every minute of doing all the Supermanly stuff like deflecting bullets with his eyes. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane was nice to look at and that’s about it. Her on-screen chemistry (or lack thereof) with Routh reminded me of Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson in Bride & Prejudice. I have vague memories of Gene Hackman as Lex Luther from the first two Superman movies…Kevin Spacey (as much as I love him) was a bit of a disappointment…he was more Dr Evil than Lex Luther. The special effects were mind-blowing, as was the overall look of the movie. A total paisa vasool film in my humble opinion.

Last night we saw Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man’s Chest. I have only one thing to say…What the heck happened? I so loved Curse of the Black Pearl; it was total masala movie that had all the ingredients right and has been an oft watched DVD in our household along with the Harry Potter series. I was looking forward to the second installment with great eagerness, not just because of Johnny Depp (I don’t think I’ve missed any of his movies including the very bizarre Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), but because of the whole action-adventure-comedy genre that Black Pearl so successfully attempted and I hoping for a reprise.

Johnny Depp is still there as the foppish, mercurial, sexually ambiguous and probably very smelly scoundrel Captain Jack Sparrow along with Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, who finally have something to do other than stand around and look pretty. This time around Sparrow’s nemesis is Davy Jones, captain of the Flying Dutchman (isn’t that what KLM is called?) an undead maritime goblin who's been on the water so long that he's sprouted tentacles all over his head. Somewhere beneath this Medusa rig is an unrecognizable Bill Nighy, the lovable old rocker in "Love, Actually" and a sublime character actor. What a waste!

The movie is too long and there are way too many sub-plots with five times the special effects that the first "Pirates" had. The most amusing side trip finds Sparrow captured by a tribe of primitives who worship him and want to eat him at the same time. That leads to a funny and clever chase scene in which everything Sparrow does makes him look more like a human shish kebab. A lot of time has been committed to watching people chase one another around, turn, and chase one another the other way. After a point it just gets tiresome. Also, the art department went totally overboard with the make-up of Davy Jones and his crew. Every man in Davy's crew has fish-man disorder: One sailor looks like a blowfish, another like a hammerhead shark, one has a starfish stuck to his cheek, and several resemble piles of barnacles. These billions of blue blistering barnacles made my stomach too queasy to actually applaud the talents of the people who created them! Seriously, did it have to be so in your face?

The ending, though it involves a surprise decision that is completely out of character for one of the leads, at least leaves us with a cliffhanger, and there's a rousing final twist. It's like Lois Lane said, the world doesn't need Superman, but it could use more of Jack Sparrow. The galley is well-stocked for "Pirates 3," coming next year. Aaarrrr!

Coming back to Gameboy and its merits thanks to which all these movies were watched in packed theaters without any interruptions or tantrums. If Lego was the toy of the last century, someone should start a campaign to vote Gameboy the toy of this century!

PS: Also saw The Da Vinci Code: BORING…yaaawwwn! Fanaa: Hummable music, Kajol looking great, Amir Khan should retire! Devil Wears Prada: Diluted from the original book, great shoes, bags, coats & clothes, Meryl Streep great as usual…over all ho hum!