Monday, August 31, 2009

Eat Cake

We read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies… many are good, too many are horrible, and few fantastic make the favourite list! But there are a few that leave their own mark, even if they were not appreciated worldwide and we don’t often hear about them. And they are slowly forgotten – the marginalised!

Lets see, we all hear about DDLJ and 'Sholay', but who really talks about ‘Dor’ or a very sweet personal favourite named ‘Socha na tha’? We all hear about ‘The monk who sold his Ferrari’ and ‘Shantaram’ but I’m probably the only one who’ll mention ‘Eat Cake’!

‘Eat Cake’ is one very lovely book I had once read – about 2-3 years back. It’s not a literary genius and doesn’t have a very brilliant plot, nor is it a heart wrenching drama. It’s a very simple book about a simple housewife who tries to pull her family out of a financial crisis with the help of her cakes.
Even as a young girl, this lady develops a close bond with baking, especially cakes. And her love for those cakes is brought out in almost every page of the book. Her life, her dreams, her problems too are described with the help of the many cakes she regularly bakes. Every layer, every scent, every flavour has its own meaning. And it leaves you craving for a cake of your own, even though her family really wishes she would stop baking them on a daily basis.

It even finishes with 2 lovely recipes for cakes in the end.

This book without doubt is meant for a foodie – one who can appreciate the writer’s and the protagonist’s cake fetish. And I enjoyed it for that, it’s still on my mind after so many years and I wanted to make a little mention about it here.

Of course, I should also mention that the book I had read was an abridged version – part of the RD special editions – which meant that the story was over within 100 pages, and I sincerely don’t think that the book had any more to offer. But if you’re looking for something light to take you away from stress, here’s a cute next-door story for a pleasant evening read.

Go… Eat Cake!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Silence plz...

Forget enochlophobia, crowds…
Forget slums and the stench
Forget the sheer size and the volume
Forget pollution and the smoke, the dust…
I might get used to them. But the one thing about Mumbai that I might never adjust to is the constant level of noise, the relentless activity, steady undying commotion in high decibels.

I am such a silence loving person that Mumbai literally gets on to my nerves.

Currently I’m sitting in my aunt’s one-bedroom ground floor flat in Andheri (E) trying to get on with my Financial Management Foreign Exchange problems, while a huge, loud Ganesh procession is passing by blocking the traffic, so that all I can concentrate on is the drums, tashe, loudspeaker-ed Marathi songs coupled with the blaring horns of the traffic while the Dollars, Pounds and Yen on my notebook do a well choreographed Tandav Nrutya in front of my eyes.

Yes, it’s a festival of a lot of joy, exuberance and splendour. There’s absolutely no way you can escape the energy. But why-oh-why do we need to turn it into a freaking carnival?

The same was with 'Gokulashtami' a week back. Just outside on the street on the morning of 14th August, I was greeted with a huge road block as I walked back home from my classes. The traffic had been diverted and a huge pillar was being lifted supporting a horizontal rope tied between two tall buildings on which was dangling a small earthen pot i.e. ofcourse the prized Dahi-Handi. I hurried inside expecting the worst and it came… sooner than I had anticipated. 10 minutes later, the loudspeakers started with ‘Dhan Te Nan – Ta na na na…’

20 minutes later – (Song: Singh is King)
It has reached an unbearable pitch, and I can already feel the old migraine kicking up.

12 noon – (Song: My Desi girl.)
I can hear my brain pounding against the walls of my skull, synchronising a nice background beat to go with the music while I wholeheartedly prayed the Desi guys to get on with the Dahi Handi.

By 2 pm – (Song: And we twist)
I’m twisting and turning in bed trying to drift into oblivion with pillow over my head, buried deep inside the blanket.

By 4 pm – My brain is numb, and my ears seem to be revolting. I have two large cotton balls stuffed in them with no use, and I have tears in my eyes. I mean who plays ‘Main talli ho gayi’ on Gokulashtami?

6 pm – Finally the Govinda team arrives to break the handi and claim the prize and I silently begin the countdown. (Song – Govinda aala re aala)

8 pm – Suddenly everything goes quiet. Have I gone deaf?
But no, the handi is down, the team has claimed their prize and the crowd slowly disperses. I have tears in my eyes again… this time of happiness!

I had immensely enjoyed the festival of Gokulashtami before this, but this year was a totally new experience – different and in no ways pleasant. If the Dahi Handi fod was scheduled so late then what inspired the need to play Bollywood songs throughout the day? Who had asked for such atrocious free entertainment? Is it just me who cannot understand the public mortification of our festivals?

But ofcourse with Ganesh Chaturthi coming up, I knew this was just the beginning.

To be contd…

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kaminey

Dhan te nan... ta na na na!

A little late with the film review but Mumbai was closed last weekend with the H1N1 scare and so I finally watched the movie I had impatiently waited for this weekend.

My verdict of Kaminey - WICKED!
Four stars ****

Guddu - Innocent, naïve, an NGO worker with a stammer who gets his girlfriend pregnant... absolutely cute!
Portrayal by Shahid – m - m - mindblowing!

Charlie – A petty gangster, who lisps his way into your mind and fuzzes it completely! Reciprocal of Guddu...
Portrayal by Shahid – Abfolutely Fexy!

Sweety - Naughty knows no boundaries, not just a hapless lady love but a fierce feline who completes the movie.
Portrayal by PC – very convincing, I can’t think of a better person to play the role!

Other sundry characters are cast so well, it gives you an idea of how seriously Vishal Bharadwaj takes his movies. Out of them, the most memorable are Amol Gupte as the callous communal leader/politician Bhope and Chandan Roy Sanyal and Charlie’s half-boss, half-best friend Mikhail.

About the plot – The first half is impeccable. It’s full of rib-tickling dark humour and the story unwinds beautifully, comfortably flitting in and out of the lives of the two brothers who have wilfully separated, until fate collides their lives and turns it into an upside down roller coaster ride. But the first half builds a momentum the second half can’t quite keep up with. At times it loses its ground and drops its pace as the plot gets thicker and a bit confusing. It shocks and baffles you and you really need to keep track of who’s who and who’s killing who. But just when you start to feel apprehensive that it’s going to wander off track, it slams on the accelerator back again. The full on gang wars and violence can get a bit extreme but doesn’t go overboard. And the end wraps up the loose strings nicely, it’s predictable but fitting and thankfully doesn’t get too clichéd.

The film is extremely creative and fresh! Dialogues and sequences are mind-blowingly original and the humour cracks you up. After beautifully portrayed ‘Omkara’ I had high hopes from this one and it did not disappoint me. I’m one of those who watch max 2-3 movies in the theatres every year, ‘cos I simply hate wasting my money and patience on mediocre movies, but ‘Kaminey’ was definitely worth putting in my annual list! I don’t know how much the masses will like it (my own aunt and cousin didn’t have anything much to say about it) but I know it is one of the better movies I had seen in the recent times. And after a long time, it gave me somebody to swoon over – Shahid! His ‘Charlie’ is going to stay with me for a while and has set a benchmark that is going to be hard to compete with in the future, especially for him!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pothole

I know the monsoon started a while back, and so did the potholes.

But the pothole I’m talking about is a little different, the one I had anticipated, foreseen and yet I inadvertently managed to get myself into it. And now I’ve fallen so deep, all I can see is the muddy claustrophobic space engulfing me and the murky grey clouds obscuring the distant blue sky, waiting no doubt, to pour insult on injury. How did I get here, I ask myself… when did I sink so deep?

I had read somewhere a while ago, “There comes a time in almost every man’s life when he tries to run away from life. The trick is to know when to stop running and how to get yourself back!”

And as the sky starts to pour and the space around me closes in, I finally know it's time for me to stop running. As to how to get myself back up, I’m working on it!
I’M WORKING ON IT!


The woods are lovely, dark and deep...
But I have promises to keep,
And Miles to go before I sleep...
Miles to go before I sleep !!!
- Robert Frost


Dedicated to my repeated CA final fiasco…

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Size Zero

“Oh my god Sharvani, you look so thin!” I hear the umpteenth time.
And quite uncharacteristically, I roll my eyes, make an exasperated noise and march out of the group leaving everybody to stare at my retreating back.

Outside, I sit alone on the veranda wall, fuming. I was already in a foul mood, but had been dragged to the house-warming party of a relative by my ever-insistent parents. And now, whatever little mood I had left for the party had evaporated with that last statement.

Yes, I’m accustomed to it by now, but it still is quite grating to hear it everywhere I go.

I’m thin – so what?

Some clarifications
· Being thin does not mean I don’t eat enough; I’m just genetically built that way. I’m NOT a believer of size zero to starve myself for fashion. So leave me alone!

· Thin does not necessarily equal fragile. On the contrary, I’m one of the most energetic of my lot. I’m strong and I have great stamina. In my trekking group, I know how it feels to be one of the first to climb an arduous mountain and then watch others who are left behind huffing and puffing.

· Being thin also does not mean I’m weak. I boast a strong nervous system. Proof? I've never had a major sickness, I don’t remember the last time I had visited a doctor and definitely don’t remember the last time I had taken any medications except a few antibiotics for a wisdom tooth pulled out.

And people, it certainly means that I don’t have to watch my diet, constantly counting my calorie intake. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I can finish that entire chocolate brownie when many have to satisfy themselves with a tinsie little bite.

And as a added bonus, my mum’s cooking is one of the healthiest in the world. And I’m grateful to the healthy eating habits that my parents have inculcated in me right from my childhood. So there’s no way I’m going to put on weight, try as I might.

So there! I’m proud of being thin. I don’t need to be told that I look like a combination of a hanger and a stick insect, which FYI I don’t. I don’t like to be greeted with a ‘Have you lost even more weight?’ I’m perfectly happy with a ‘Hi, how you doing?’ and I’m tired of the constant sermons of what I should or shouldn’t wear and how much I should or shouldn’t eat.

Those who flaunt my category or those who parade in the other extreme (always carrying a few extra pounds on their conscience), know that we don’t want that look from you, even if all you want to do is show you care. Because all that we’re thinking while pretending to listen to your ‘you’re-too-thin’ gospels is… Just. Get. Off. My. Back.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

11 august 2009

I had a dream - one of the few dreams that I actually remember.

I'm in a huge auditorium, conducting a symphony orchestra. I'm waving my arms delicately the baton in one hand and smile on my face, urging the tired and yawning band to play the one last piece for me.

The melody goes – and I sing along silently…
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday to me,
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday,
Happy Birthday to me!

The music stops. I turn around and take a bow. When I straighten up, I realise that the entire auditorium is empty.

I woke up with the same sick, empty sensation deep inside me. I try to shake it away but it doesn’t go. I don’t know why, but I dread my Birthdays, not because of the prospect of getting a year older but something inexplicably seems missing.
A Void – that always puzzles me. How? Why? Can anybody explain?

Monday, August 10, 2009

One snowy morning...

Scrap – swoosh – thump…
Scrap – swoosh – thump…

A pause to wipe the trail of sweat off the brow…

Again, scrap – swoosh – thump…

I check my watch, I still have another half an hour before dad comes out and I see the incredulous look on his face, the pride in his eyes.
And I get back to work.

20 minutes later I’m done. I look back at the stretch of the driveway that I’ve just shovelled clean – a feat that took me nearly 45 minutes, something I’m sure dad would have done in 15 minutes but nevertheless it was worth it. I look back up at the sky; it looks like its frozen solid, an ominous sign. “Oh god, please hold it for another hour!” I say looking at the occasional snowflake falling from the sky.

A quick check of the watch – 5 minutes. I rush back into the garage and fling the shovel aside, strip off my dad’s oversized and heavy gumboots and run upstairs.

5 minutes later, I walk back down in the kitchen where dad is sitting at the table, a half finished cup of chai and a newspaper open in front of him.
“… worst snowstorm in a decade…(sigh)… god only knows what’s waiting for me on the front walk.”
“Well, its hardly snowing anymore… you should get it done with” mum replied with a peek out the window.

Dad gets up and leaves. I take his place at the table trying not to smile but fail miserably.
“What are you so happy about?”
“Nothing!” I hide my face behind the glass of milk.

“Chitra…” I hear dad call out 2 minutes later, “Did u ask anyone to shovel the driveway this morning?”
“What?” Mum screams back, “I didn’t ask anyone…” but stops abruptly at the look on my face.
“Did you do it?” She asks me sceptically.
I grin from ear to ear in response and rush outside.

“Dad, I did it!” I say breathlessly while accidentally spraying him with snow as I come to a stop on the frozen lawn.
“Oh… well, thanks beta! But why did you do it?”
“It was a surprise for you.” I’m still grinning.
“But look at your hands…” he says as he pulls my palm closer to his eye, “they’re all sore. IT’S NOT A GIRL’S JOB, BETA!”

The words reverberate in the cold wind, chilling it instantly. No, he didn’t just say that.

“Mein kar lunga…” (I’ll do it next time) he finished heedlessly.

I feel like someone just dunked a bucketful of icy cold water on me, freezing me to the spot. Even my foolish smile froze halfway, uncertain.

And suddenly I’m 5 again, eagerly opening my birthday present. But instead of the video game I had asked for, out comes a very frilly, very pink, very blonde stupid doll.

And I’m 9 years old; my mum is telling me off for having an argument with the arts teacher.
“You need to respect you elders!”
“But he treats us like shit…”
“Don’t you use that language with me. It doesn’t suit girls to behave like this!”

Last summer – My dad drags me back home because I had been “…playing football with a bunch of boys”, while my older brother Nitin sniggers from across the yard with his friends.
“When will you behave like a girl?”

Two weeks back – I wistfully watch my friends sign up for the overnight astronomy trip.
“But its astronomy,” I had tried to reason; “it has to be done at night. Besides, you’re allowing Nitin bhaiya to go for his 3 days Tennis camp.”
“I said no overnight trip, that’s it! And Nitin is a boy, it is different…”
But I had already left the room.

And I’m 12, still frozen on the porch, watching my dad pull out on the recently shovelled, slightly slippery driveway… the injustice still rankling in my ears,
“… IT’S NOT A GIRL’S JOB, BETA!”