Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Of Seafood, Sand, Stairs and Sex

This year the Memorial Day weekend turned out to be more eventful and memorable than I'd have expected. The weather sucked big time. It kept raining through the weekend washing out all chances of the usual backyard barbecue bonhomie and beer-bash and kept us mostly indoors.

Saturday afternoon, post a rather heavy brunch at a local seafood buffet, where I totally stuffed myself to the gills with dungeoness crab-legs and oysters with cocktail sauce (yummm...) I managed to drag a nearly comatose spouse to watch Prince of Persia - Sands of Time only because I wanted to ogle at Jake Gyllenhaal. I had absolutely no clue about the video game that had spawned the movie and had no expectations other than get an eyeful of puppy-eyed Jake. And boy was I surprised!! It was a total blast notwithstanding the weirdly fake British accent that Jakey boy was sporting. And gosh, he has beefed up seriously for the role.

There’s nothing much about the story – Jake Gyllenhaal is Dastan a sixth century hero, an orphan who was plucked off the streets by the good King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup). In a series of events that don't bear repeating, Dastan ends up in possession of a super-special mucho-mystical dagger that allows him to turn back the clock for a little strategic redo. His evil uncle (Ben Kingsley) wants the dagger. So does comely Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who joins Dastan on a quest to protect the sands, fend off evil and prevent some kind of dust-spewing apocalyptic maelstrom launched by angry gods.

Dastan, aided by CGI, bounds over the walls of a city. Dastan tippy-toes past cavernous sinkholes. Dastan copes with poisonous snakes and whirling-dervish assassins. Dastan outwits Amar (a brilliant cameo by Alfred Molina), a farcical sheikh who makes his living from ostrich races.

Through it all, Gyllenhaal pops those big baby blues and employs that strange British accent I mentioned before, and in general looks like he’s having a ball . Prince of Persia is this fun ride that is Pirates of the Caribbean meets The Mummy meets Raiders of The Lost Ark and as much as I love Jakey boy, I couldn’t help thinking that a certain Mr Roshan would have been able to do this role in his sleep without breaking a sweat!!

Sunday morning, I woke up early and wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet in the house with a steaming cup of coffee and my laptop. But fate had other plans of course, because somewhere between upstairs and downstairs, I missed a step and took a nice long tumble only to land on moi derriere. Needless to say that it hurt...LIKE HELL!!!! And, now as if I didn't have enough on my plate already, I have to deal with this and the consequence. Oh well...

On Monday night a met up with a bunch of high-heel wearing giggling women to watch Sex And The City 2. The reviews had been so horrible that I didn't have any expectations from the movie whatsoever. And the critics were right - it was a mess that boasted of extreme American obtuseness as well as ignorance and  apart from being crass, loud  and politically incorrect, it also let all of us down by displaying dozens and dozens of tacky clothes in the name of haute couture!! Well, to be kind, I have to say that there were some moments where I was reminded why I  fell in love with the show in 1998...but they were so few and far between that it was hardly worth sitting for two hours on an already sore seat!

One weekend and two movies, that too brand new releases – man, I’m back in action!!! And the critic in me is awake again....yippee!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Northeast and my lack of knowledge

This morning while I was going through the blogs of  Times Of India, I came across this one by Tarun Vijay, spokesperson for BJP. Very interesting perspective of the situation in the Northeast, specially in Manipur. I have never been to that side of the country - hell, I've never been to Darjeeling or anywhere north of Kolkata for that matter!! My knowledge about the Northeastern states are as hazy as the mist that lingers over the mountains and the last remaining rain forests of India. And I can count the number of people I have come across who hailed from that part of India in one finger.

Of course it reminded me of Leela - long ago, in another life I had met this beautiful Sikkimese girl called Leela in a NCC camp. We had instant camarederie even though I could barely speak Hindi and she could barely speak English. She had taught me how to say I love you in Nepali and kept correcting my awful Hindi grammar and when we parted ways after being joined at the hip for two weeks, amid copious amounts of tears and snot I promised to visit her in Gangtok. Needless to say that never happened and after writing to each other diligently for a year or so and thereby improving my written Hindi considerably, we drifted apart. Till date though, I cannot think of Sikkim without thinking of Leela - my sole connection with the remote Northeast.

My mother's cousin owned a fairly popular store somewhere in Assam (the details escape me) selling imported goods. I was very young then, but have memories of the dolls and electronic gadgets that he used to bring whenever he visited Kolkata, even though I actually can't remember his face. What I do remember is witnessing their family in shambles when literally over-night they had to flee Assam in the wake of a very violent anti-Bengali movement in the early 80's. He brought his wife and kids to Kolkata, to safety and went back to wrap up whatever was left of his business and found his store burnt to the ground. He was found hanging from the ceiling fan a few days later by his neighbors. To this day no one knows whether he ended his own life or someone killed him. Funny how I'd remember that one violent incident while I was reading about the insurgent groups that are terrorizing the northeast, spreading anti-Hindu, anti-Indian, anti-immigrant sentiments in the entire area.

When I lived in Bangalore, every now and then I'd come across groups of Northeastern students - they'd always stay in a pack, socialize among themselves, remain aloof and sometimes hostile to anyone who'd try to get closer. They were labelled as "chinkies" because hardly anyone knew who they were or where they came from - their Naga, Manipuri, Mizo or Tripuri heritage wiped clean by their flat Mongoloid features. They'd stand out like sore thumbs in the Aryan-Dravidian population of the metropolis - treated with disdain and ridicule. How much of it was because of  the ignorance of the  people and how much of it was their inability to identify or blend is a topic I won't even touch. I don't see it as any different from a group of Bengalis in Seattle who refuse to socialize with any one other than another Bengali. As human beings we tend to look for our own kind and feel safe as a tribe. Any one who is different is a threat anyway.

I need to read up on this issue a lot more. The lack of knowledge is very unsettling. Ignorance is as bad as indifference...and that needs to change!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A short trip

I just got back from Kolkata - I travelled alone and it was a short trip, 10 days actually - but the heat and humidity made it feel way longer! What prompted me to land in Kolkata in May you might ask...in fact every one I met asked me that same set of questions. It was strange that people have pre-conceived notions  about the NRI's and their travel habits. What are you doing here in May? How come you're traveling by yourself? Who's looking after the kids? Spouse let you travel alone? If those questions weren't bad enough, then came the wistful musings, specially from women - You are so lucky to have a spouse who would let you travel and volunteer to look after the kids!! The operative word here is "let", over and over again. Even my old-fashioned, traditional mother finally got sick of people going on and on about it.

I didn't quite understand the novelty of it much. In my world, women travel alone all the time - even moms travel alone all the time and dads take over the home front when moms are away. Sure, it's an adjustment for the dads - just as it was an adjustment for spouse. Not that I was having it easy either. Three days into the trip, I was missing the children so much that I nearly changed my ticket to come back early. But I had gone there with a purpose - to spend some time with Ma and if I didn't travel now I probably wouldn't have been able to see her this year at all.  And this time alone with her, was something that she needed and as much as I hate to admit it, I needed it too.

To be very honest, I was a little weary of traveling alone. In the past, I've landed in some soup or the other pretty much every time I got on a plane without spouse. This time I had braced myself for the worst - a terrorist attack or a plane crash even. But fortunately it was completely uneventful except when I was questioned for the Mexico stamp in my passport at Frankfurt...that was completely bizarre!! And if I can help it, I will never fly through Frankfurt again - their duty-free shopping sucks...big time!!!

It was good to be myself again for a change - not the wife, the mommy or the daughter-in-law...just me, the way I used to be once upon a time...well almost! I say almost, because over the course of the 10 days, I realized how much I have changed since I left home over 15 years ago. Through my late teens and early twenties,  Ma used to be pretty strict about late nights and we locked horns so many times over that issue. I was never given the house keys, nor the car/driver for late night uses. Even when I used to live alone in another city, she used to call up to check if I was home or gallivanting around town in the middle of the night. That used to drive me completely crazy - of not being able to get away from her scrutinizing gaze even after leaving home. This time, the house keys were handed over without having to ask for them, there was a car waiting for me 24 hours, no one asked me where I was going, who I was meeting and yet, every time I went out, not only I explicitly told Ma where I was going and with whom, also I was back home well before mid-night every time...voluntarily! What does that mean? Am I more responsible now? Or am I just old?

Bumped into some people I knew in another life in a club. Nothing seemed to have changed. They still meet at the club on Saturdays - sit in the sealed air-conditioned chamber smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey, the DJ still plays music from 80's and early 90's way too loud and the dance floor is still filled with aunties and uncles who has a bit to drink and have shed their inhibitions - the conversation has changed a bit...now they talk about their kids and their high cholesterol rather than the hot deal or the hotter babe they have landed. Some of those babes are now wives and have puffed up beyond recognition and I didn't know how to react to the "OMG... you haven't changed one bit!" squeals and the air-kisses. It was like stepping into a time capsule and it was surreal!! Once upon a time, I'd have been perfectly happy spending my Saturday evening there, but this time, I couldn't wait to get out. I stayed there for a polite half-an hour and then bid adieu to  a place and time in my life I refuse to be nostalgic about any more!!

So I'm back. The boys clearly missed me - sonny boy showed a rare display of affection by hugging me in front of the whole world, when I went to pick him up from school. Bonny baby's vocabulary has tripled and I realized that I literally live to hear him call me "mammy"!! The girl has become a woman and the daughter has become a mother...it's good to be back home!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Random Ramblings of The Disgruntled Kind

I'm  in a crabby mood...so what's new about that? I am always in a crabby mood!! I cannot even blame it on the wrong side of the bed because I always sleep on the same side and get out of that side too.  Then what?

May be because all of us are sick - nothing serious...just the razor blades inside your throat, runny nose all day and hacking cough in the middle of the night variety. Add to that, a few throw up bouts on the comforter by sonny boy and I-can't-talk-yet-so-I'll-cry-and-keep-you-up-all-night routine by bonny baby. Add to that, spouse is at a fancy conference in Las Vegas where he's chowing down delicately flaky and moist fillet of  halibut while my too tired to cook sorry bones are being fed 15 day old rice from some chinese take-out with frozen sambhar!! No, I'm not mad at spouse! Poor guy offered to abandon the conference and come back home to nurse us  and keeps logging into Skype three times a day and watches his babies with a forlorn look on his face from the other side of the computer!! Parenting is tough enough but single parenting is just way too tough!!!

I'm trying to read the not so latest Dan Brown potboiler - The Lost Symbol...it's kind of lame, actually!! It started slow and stayed slow for sooooo long that I almost stopped reading it.  Finally after 50 some chapters, it picked up but now I have already guessed the identity of the so called fearsome villain! *Yawn*

Quicksilver doesn't believe that all the pictures of Vidya Balan in ghastly outfits that she has posted in her blog are actually designed by Sabyasachi! I personally don't think Sabyasachi is a great designer, but a lot of women I know swear by him, so I'll keep my humble opinion to myself. Talking about designers, I just bought myself a Manish Malhotra knock-off saree. Now why the hell did I do that?? Where on earth am I going to wear that - considering that I'm on fall-out spree with friends!! I should have spend that money on a knock-off  Birkin  instead...since there's absolutely no effing way I can afford the original.

I forgot to thank Magpie for making me read Shutter Island many moons ago...that was one helluva book dude!! Anyway, so after sending an application to spouse three months ago, I was finally awarded with a   date afternoon couple of Sundays back. We went to watch Shutter Island. Of course the movie was great - aren't all Martin Scorsese (did I spell that right?) movies great, after all?  I mean who am I to criticize the great Mr Scorsese (I have a strange feeling that the spelling is not right...what the hell!!) and his movie making skills, right?? Is it okay to say that I was a little freaked out by all the imagery - spooky trees, ominous buildings, a creepy mental hospital for the criminally insane, angry-god weather, rat-filled caves and gruesome hallucinations??!! But I do have to say this, the man knows how to convert a book into a movie without killing it first.  Does anyone remember Age of Innocence - a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Edith Wharton adapted into a touching movie by Mr Scorsese in 1993?

I haven't  reviewed a movie in a very, very long time. I miss it. How much I loved to shred those movies into pieces and fantasize that I'm doing the whole movie-watching mankind some kind of a favor. No, I don't do that any more. How sad, na? That's because I hardly ever watch any movie these days. As I mentioned earlier, that I have to apply in triplicate to spouse three months ahead of time in order to weasel out a movie-date. It's just too tedious. So, yes, I haven't yet seen Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Alice In Wonderland and a host of other movies that has released since...like...summer of 2007!! I did catch a horrible excuse of raw-stock waste called 3 Idiots on DVD and had I caught it within the first week of it's release, I'd have loved to have shred that one. But by the time I watched it, it was already the highest grosser of the year...what's the point of hurting my arthritic fingers by typing up a review after that, you tell me?!

Talking about arthritis - I have a new malady...it's called Fibromyalgia. Nice name, innit? I like it...it's almost...pretty!  Of course it causes me a lot of pain and I have been asked to manage my stress...haha...what a joke!! If I manage to manage my stress, then I'll be so boring...probably even nice...and not  so disgruntled any more - and no one will read my blog!! OMG!!! Nah, too much at stake. I'll strive to remain what I am - high strung, paranoid, judgmental and acerbic. Bah humbug!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Of Friends and True Feelings

After a long period of writer's block, posts are now coming out like a deluge.  Don't know if that is a good thing or not - but sometimes it does feel better when I get things out on this page - my refuge, my confession box, my cave...

An impertinent boy I know keeps talking about how I need to shaken up - like a martini...that will apparently cure all my inertia. What I haven't told him that I don't need shaking... I've been beaten up like eggs , time and again - what I started with and what I have now are so different in color and texture that I can barely recognize it myself!!

I am a little sick of Facebook - the novelty has worn off. Actually it wore off quite sometime back...now it's a habit, like brushing teeth twice a day! I'm not really interested in other people's lives.  In fact my lack of curiosity and apathy towards people posts, sometimes makes me wonder why I am still hanging out in the social networking quagmire! The friends that I had hoped to find has been found - communication channels have been reopened - old wounds have healed - tears wiped and snot dried...now what? My status updates are becoming more and more vapid, my albums show a picture perfect but completely bland suburban family on vacation...at parties - just looking at those pictures makes me want to throw up!!! Old class-mates who are now married, some with grown up kids are leaving suggestive comments on my profile pictures - I guess at my age I should be flattered by such attentions. My friend-list used to be pretty decent sized and made me feel all popular and wanted till I went on a ruthless spring cleaning and deleted half the lurkers and inert people who had nothing important or interesting to add to my life or to my wall for that matter.

Talking about friends, I have this friend - actually I have no idea why I call her my friend...in the last 10+ years that I have known her, she hasn't done anything remotely friendly. She owes me money, takes advantage of my generosity and decency all the time,  doesn't have any positive thing to say about anything or anybody, raises my blood-pressure and gets me agitated every time I speak to her...overall the most toxic person I have ever known. I cannot remember a single instance where she has helped me in my times of trouble or has lend a hand or shoulder when I needed a friend. If anything, she has tried to poison my mind against common friends and I'm pretty sure she has been bad-mouthing me to other people too. After all, those who gossip with you, will surely gossip about you too!! Anyway, so this person's husband had a ski accident last week and has torn multiple ligaments and is going to be out of commission for a while. That's really terrible! She's of course depressed and worked up.

I avoided calling the first few days because I knew they'll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of well-wishers dropping by and calling to check on them.  Finally when I called she ranted and riled about how horrible it has been with non-stop phone calls and deluge of visitors. Between doctors appointments and entertaining visitors she has absolutely no time to even collect her thoughts. I let her vent, as much as she wanted and offered her words of wisdom from my own experience in knee-surgery - what to expect and what not to do etc.  including the contact information of my surgeon.

Last night I met another couple for dinner.  Boy, news travels fast!! The first thing I hear from them is that  how I didn't offer any sympathy to this friend in this trying time and apparently how I told her that her husband being the unfit sloth that he is should have thought before going to the ski slope and if he has torn ligaments he totally deserved it! I was completely stunned and I still am. I have no reaction other than to feel sad and let down yet again by this woman. Unfortunately, I cannot block her out completely from social contact - at least till I get my money back...but whatever precarious thread this relationship was hanging on has now finally snapped.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I have been extremely disturbed by the gross videos of Swami Nityananda Paramhansa with Tamil actress Ranjitha, that's doing it's rounds on the web. No, I don't have a problem that two consenting adults were engaging in a sexual act - he's a man, she's a woman - they can do what ever the hell they want to do in the  privacy of their bedroom. In fact, I find it very violating that someone taped their very private moments and handed it over to the media. Of course the whole aesthetics of the video is completely cringe-worthy...but  that's also not my problem. What I am getting really miffed about is how this so called god-man is justifying himself. Apparently he was sick and the starlet, a devotee was taking care of him - his body was unwell and his mind was in a trance and he wasn't even aware of what was going on around him. What a joke!!! He was just lying around on the bed watching TV and generally being served by this woman in more ways than one.

What is with these god-men???!!! Is there any one who's genuinely enlightened - spiritually or otherwise?  Why does all of them have to be crooks and liars?? Is that the pre-requisite of becoming a god-man??

Swami Nityananda has a temple in our neck of the woods. They do roaring business - the hundis are overflowing with donation from the rich desis. It's difficult to even find standing room during arathi time.  I go there from time to time - not because I particularly believe, but because it has become a habit to go to a temple during the kid's birthdays for a quick prayer and this particular temple happens to be the closest from home.

Last year, I was going through a rather low phase in my life. I was down - really down. And when you're feeling weak, you tend to seek divine intervention. So one morning I found myself in the temple. There weren't too many people there and after the usual routine of praying etc I got pulled into a conversation with the temple secretary. He began to educate me about the life and work of "Swamiji" and I was told how he from a very early age it was evident that he was the enlightened one and how he's a baal-brahmachaari, completely devoid of any worldly desires and entrapments. He was coming to Seattle for a two-day spiritual healing workshop I was told and the temple secretary almost convinced me to attend. He even promised me to get one on one time with Swamiji so that I can have my all my problems solved. For whatever reason I never managed to register for the workshop and the forms and a calender with Swamiji's mugshot on every page got buried under the mountain of papers on my desk.

A few weeks back, I was finally cleaning up my desk and found those forms and the calender. I recycled the forms along with all other junk mails and expired coupons and random papers that has been crowding my work space. But some how I couldn't get myself to recycle that calender. Somehow, it just didn't feel right. So I put it  back in the somewhat smaller "keep" pile.

Today, after the watching the vomit-inducing videos all I could think was how the temple secretary was selling the swamiji to me - enlightened spirit, devoid of worldly desires....my ass!!! Liars...all of them!!! I'm more angry at myself for even giving them the time and consideration in a moment of severe self-doubt  and low self-esteem!!

Swamiji's calender now rests in the recycle bin.