Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Conversation with The Bride

MinCat is telling The Bride about a boy she knows here in Hyderabad, and how he's smart and reads, has a brain and isn't afraid to use it, and isn't scared of Strong Independent Women like MinCat. The Bride and MinCat were in gradschool together, here.

The Bride: um where have you found him?

MinCat: Hahahaha. . I have a bunch of *gasp* articulate well read entertaining boys to hang out with now.

The Bride: in Chennai?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Tale of Two People and a Little Hope

A Very Long Time Ago, in a city 1781 kilometres from here by train, there lived a MinCat. In those days her exciting pseudonym was something else, and she was a bright-eyed, bizarrely squirrel-like 20-year old.

One year, by a spate of terrible bad luck, or by just being a horrible person, she lost almost every close friend she had. She barely passed her last exam and ran home to lick her wounds. The next year she had, perforce to return and finish her degree. The first term she spent in the library and on her bed in the hostel, reading. The very nice girls in the hostel coaxed her back to some socialising, as did the very crazy people in the theatre club. A classmate invited her to come along and see a short play she was acting in at another college and sitting backstage she made friends with a lovely boy, whom, for the sake of discretion, we shall call Chica. He was very lovely, and played the guitar like a god. We began to hang out more and more.

The previous year I'd been co-opted as crew member for a trip to Bangalore, and had discovered my talent and love for backstage work. That year, when madness happened and the costume chief for the mid-term production went cuckoo, my friend, who was Joint-Secretary, asked me to step in. Three days of madness and esoteric costumes for an esoteric play (Tom Stoppard's Arcadia) that I had never read, sewing up people's chinos, while they were still in them, to make pantaloons, and fumbling in the dark backstage to redo the seams that had split managed to reorient me into college life, and soon Chica and I were fast friends.

Come November and we had to cast and execute the annual production, and during the long winter rehearsals of basking in the sun on the lawn I came to know Chica's friend, whom some readers already know as OOF. OOF was (and forgive me for this love) a not-tall, skinny boy with acne and wire-rimmed spectacles. He sang along well to Chica on the guitar, and soon enough the two of us became the three of us. People began to call Chica and OOF my left and right hands, only no-one know which was which. Many mornings, spent productively bunking classes that were so behind schedule that my revision was ahead of them, consisted of chai and the guitar sprawled on one of the lawns.

OOF was, irresistibly, sweet to me, He sent me smses - we even had one code one - and we talked about books, we bitched about the other girl who hung out with us, and giggled endlessly on long rickshaw rides to Chung Town. When I went home for the winter vacation, he wrote me emails almost every day, and we spent a lot of time chatting. This was the days of dial-up mind you. On New Year morning, I woke up to an email in my inbox, sent at 3.30am.

Dear MinCat
FIRST eMail I'm writing after getting back home: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

That's it, I was done for. For the first time in my life, I fell in love with someone, and he was only 18. I know, I know. He was also close to being my best friend, so when, one drunken night at a friend's house, she urged me to tell him, I did. He replied: I'm flattered. Right.

Time goes on, we're still close and we acquire a fourth person for the gang, whom y'all know as the Dragon, and she ended up with Chica. It was difficult to see them being a couple when OOF and I were patently not (or so I thought. I later discovered that rumour had us a couple). But we were very close, the four of us, and that's how we stayed.

March trawled around, and I didn't go home for study leave. The highlight of that month was one cellular service provider making incoming calls free a whole month before the rest - which meant OOF could call me and we could talk three hours a night. And we did. I was raised to be in bed at 9 and up by 6 and everyone knows that you're not allowed to call me after 11pm unless it's dire. When he called me every night at 12, I'd wake up and grab the phone and pretend to have been awake. It didn't help that my phone was temperamental, and the battery died halfway through the ring unless it was plugged in. My roommates, and all the people in the hostel who had to go through my room to get the loo got used to ducking to avoid the wire that hung across their path. They also teased me mercilessly about the phonecalls, once even chasing me all over the hostel making kissy noises at the phone. (Yes we were silly. Isn't that the point of college?)

These phonecalls were difficult, because OOF had several girlfriends through all this time, and he'd talk to me about them. Or about his first love. Or some friend of mine that he found irresistibly hot. And while I didn't want to hear about it, I knew that the only way I could not damage our friendship was to be his friend, because if I refused to listen to parts of his life then he'd slowly forget me. The phonecalls were also the highlight of my day, because we also just talked. About everything! Once he took me to breakfast. I was over the moon. At the cast party for that play, he kissed me. I couldn't believe it had happened, and he acted like it hadn't.

College was drawing to an end and it was breaking my heart. I had never been in a place that didn't penalise me for being an intelligent but conventionally unattractive woman, and it was exhilarating to be around people who DID read in their spare time, DID speak English and COULD do many things and excel academically at the same time. I was torn because I had a gang, these three people without whom I couldn't imagine life. But my academic interests were leading me back home and I couldn't imagine ever being happy like that again. And I couldn't imagine ever meeting anyone else who, once I had expressed my interest, wouldn't run screaming (which is what all of them pre-OOF did).

But I had to go. And things with OOF just got worse. He'd shower me with attention, and make promises to spend time with me, and then vanish because of another girl. He swore himself blue in the face he'd be there for my birthday, and then vanished to see another girl. He told everyone we both knew how much he missed me, but he wouldn't reply to my emails. I did some crazy stuff too, but nothing terrible given the periodic encouragement he gave me, besides, it's MY blog, I ain't gonna document it ;) There was more kissing followed by more ignoring. Everyone told me to cut him out of my life, because he was patently bad for me. But whenever I went back to visit, we had our gang and I couldn't break it up.

I went to spend New Year with them, and made them dinner in my friends' house. It was perfect, just the four of us. We ate, drank, talked, laughed, did our usual silly stuff. Then, about half an hour past midnight, OOF decided he must leave, because he wants to call his then girlfriend. We tried to convince him to stay, because it was supposed to be a gang reunion, and it wasn't the safest thing to be out driving past midnight on the 31st of December, but he wouldn't listen. Something snapped. I got up, walked to the front door and said, fine, leave. Slammed it behind him, locked it and collapsed in tears. I cried for hours that night and poor Chica and Dragon had to pet me and soothe me. I decided that the time had come, he was no longer my dependable friend, and I just could not handle how much it hurt every time he let me down anymore.

I went home the next day, and the next time he saw me on chat, he tried to apologise but I politely told him to have a happy life, and keep me out of it.

Time went by, and I was kept up to date on his antics. Suffice to say they were disturbing. Chica and the Dragon began to withdraw from him as well, and shook their heads saying they didn't know what to do. In August that year I had to go and visit. I was dreading it, because I was going to need a ride in his car, on his birthday. I decided to be polite. So very polite. "Thank you so much for giving me a ride, I really appreciate it." "I'm so sorry to impose, but I need a ride back to the Dragon's house. I had something else planned, but it fell through. I really hate to impose, but could you please give me a ride? Thank you so much." "Could you please pass my bag?" And so on, until one day he snapped, "STOP BEING SO POLITE". And then ranted all the way back. When I got home that day I was elated, because for the first time we'd had a conversation where he had been emotional and ranting, and I had been composed and distant.

The antics got worse. I won't detail them, because they aren't my stories. Suffice to say there were destructive, juvenile, selfish and very painful for people caught in them. I was even more grateful we were no longer friends.

A lot of time went by. I got over the scars, and stopped telling the story of the cruellest thing he said to me. I made other friends, met other boys, even fell in love a couple of times. We were in touch through the Dragon, and I was sardonically amused when he ended up working where my parents live, after breaking two promises to come visit me. I called him on his birthday and made fake promises to meet up that I fully planned to break. I delayed meeting him and his girlfriend. Then one day, I was desperately lonely and sad and decided that I needed to get out of the house. So I met them. And I LOVED his girlfriend. I went home and texted the Dragon: how the fuck does he land these incredible women when he's such a chhooth?

I went back to NY, and forgot about it. But then I came back and he was the only person I knew. He called me and said let's get a drink. I thought, what the hell. We had fun, because we're people who click. Then he called me again the following week. We went to karaoke, and sang college songs. We called the Dragon from the bar and she promptly came down to visit. We spent three days together, like college, except the two of them were discussing their true loves and the babies they wanted to have. It felt a bit weird, because they are both two years younger than I am. OOF came to my parents house and we had a long, alcoholic and hysterical sleepover. the Dragon went home. OOF and I started to hang out twice a week. I was cut off from the fairly full life I'd had in NY, it seemed I was unemployable, and his girlfriend was on a very long business trip. Every time I felt like I was going to burst, I'd text him: WEP? And he'd show up. He brought his friends to karaoke, and I brought mine. We all got along. Suddenly, he was my dependable close friend again. Suddenly, it was back to five years ago, except we were both grown up.

Today we are those kind of friends who are beyond fights. We can say and do almost anything (except talk of you-know-what after dark), and argue and lose our tempers, but it won't destroy what lies beneath. Not one of my friends from college and just after can believe that this relationship exits, heck OOF and I sometimes have to pinch ourselves. The last time I was in Delhi, I had to field four interrogations about him and deal with four sets of utter disbelief that we are friends again. And yet, here we are. A place where, no matter who told me I would be I wouldn't have believed them; a place where OOF and I would have been if we had never gotten derailed.

And every time we think about it, it gives us hope.

"MinCat, if you and I can be here, then anything is possible."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Say Thank You

We are a country in crisis at the moment. We might be far from Mumbai, we might be around the corner from Nariman house. We're tense, we're scared, we don't know what is going on. How did this happen? How could they not have known it was going to happen? How long will this go on?

We don't know. We don't know why the intelligence failed. And we are not likely to find out either because it's going to become politics and elections. We are not prepared for a crisis this size, we don't have the social systems in place to make it smooth and easy.

On TV people are hurling abuse, pointing fingers: the blame game has begun. Narendra Modi has indicated quite clearly that the priority is winning the elections; the politicians haven't even waited for the crisis to end. One group that has been blamed for this is the police.

I want to take a second to just say thank you to those same abused policemen. The army, the navy, the NSG, the RAF, the reserve police: Thank you all for your efforts. Nobody trained you for urban guerilla warfare with so many civilians in the crosshairs. Nobody gave you bulletproof vests or AK47s. The enemy looks like the civilians. The media is busy broadcasting your strategy internationally and the terrorists only need to switch to CNN IBN to be up to date. The terrorists can kill civilians, and you'll be blamed. You have to fix this. And you're doing it, no questions asked.

So thank you.

And send it on. Add to it. Let's try and get as many people who are grateful to the security forces to articulate it and acknowledge it, and maybe we can let the forces know as well.

Below this is a post by a blogger I love to read. It's a good point he's making.

Dear Mumbai Police and NSG

I know you guys are busy right now with the terrorists but I HAVE to draw this to your attention. I have just been watching a program on the Times Now channel where four people namely Alyque Padamsee, Farooq Sheikh, Shefali Shah and one guy named Sohail, I think were discussing the situation with the anchor, a bespectacled gawd-help-us whose name I could not catch.

These four people are ANGRY. Not with the terrorists, who they feel are only misguided souls doing what they've been told, and doing it rather well, thank you very much, but with YOU.

Yes, they feel that you don't know what you are doing.

How can you take SO MUCH TIME? snarls Shefali.

What EXACTLY have you been upto during the last 20 hours? snarls Sohail, who also wants to know why the Mumbai Police had to wait 8 hours before deciding to call for Army assistance. He feels, and who is to fault his crystal clear logic, that the Army should be called for any situation including a bad traffic day.

Farooq Shaikh wishes you people were atleast half as well prepared as the terrorists, calling your performance amateurish.

And Alyque Padamsee just ranted something in an impeccable accent. Probably doesn't like the way you people dress.

All four also blamed you for allowing this kind of thing to happen. Don't you people KNOW, they ask, that you are not supposed to let terrorists fire at people?

Shefali also expressed disgust at the cursory way her car is checked when she frequently goes to five star hotels. Just a mirror under the car and open the boot. What if she's carrying AK47's on the back seat? It's YOUR fault, she insinuates. You don't teach the five star hotel security ANYTHING!

So people, brave and fearless though you might be, and though all of you have fearlessly jumped into battle with opponents you know next to nothing about, other than that they are armed to the teeth with high explosives, we feel you need some expert coaching.

Why don't you take these four wonderful people and shove them into the corridor in the Taj or the Oberoi? I'm sure you would learn a lot!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What is happening to my country?

I don't have the words to express this bizarre combination of numbness and convoluted emotion that's in my head.

I had a whole string of lighthearted life things I wanted i talk about, and suddenly I feel shallow for even thinking them worthy of note.

Who are these people angry with? I think sometimes that freemarket capitalism and the Protestant work ethic have so much to pay for.

My country, and yes I say my, because it IS mine and I love it fiercely with and for all its flaws, MY country was a place of tolerance. It was a the cradle of ahimsa. It was the place where your religion didn't matter in the larger scheme of things, everyone rubbed along. Not to say there was never any trouble, but there were no guns. There were no teenagers in t-shirts and AK47s shooting other teenagers in tshirts at a local hangout.

Some people say it started with Babri masjid. Some people say we should kill all the bastards, storm the madrassas and punish the fucking muslims. Will that ever help? Can anything help? What makes these people feel so alienated by the world that they think death is the only solution?

And what of our famously corrupt police force with 10,000 rupee compensations (picking a figure out of the air), terrible pay, no social security and forced to be the eternal scapegoat? At the twin towers so many FDNY workers died, but they had something in life, unlike these men who live in the chawls of mumbai and die in its terrorist attacks. Some of the top cops in Mumbai are dead, and many of those bottom ones as well. And there are the army jawans. Many people join up because its a steady job, many join up because they want to fight for their country. I don't think anyone joins up and expects to die in a shootout against their own fellow citizens, or kill them for that matter.

Hugo Chavez once said that a strong source of motivation for his forming the Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario was having to shoot the poor Venezuelans who were rioting because their daily wage was less than their daily bus fare after Carlos Andres Perez's reforms in February 1989. He said it made him realise that there was something wrong with the country if it turned its army on its citizens after pushing them to rioting by its policies.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recent Conversation at a Reception

Our kind and indulgent landlord invited us to his son's wedding reception, and never having been to a Hyderabadi Muslim wedding before, The Roommate and I eagerly accepted. I had the added thrill of finally having a place to wear my violently shiny yellow sari with the lovely blouse, and after convincing The Roommate that her ever so tasteful, restrained, exquisite handloom fabric sari would never do and bundled her into a fairly shiny sari, we hired a cab and took off.

Mistake #1
The invitation said 9.00 and we got there at 9.30.

Mistake #2
We didn't eat dinner beforehand, and so, by the time dinner was served at oh 1030pm, we were STARVING.

Mistake #3
Now I'm ambidextrous and usually eat left-handed, but I know how it upsets people and am fairly dextrous with the right hand as well, so I usually remember to eat right-handed at public gatherings. This time I forgot.

Cut to MinCat and The Roommate seated at a table of women, eating dinner.

Strange Lady on MinCat's Left: Why are you eating with your left hand?

MinCat: Er...I just do.

SL: Hmmm... Why aren't you eating any of the meat? (There were about 9 dishes at the table, the only vegetarian thing there was the Russian salad and we all know that doesn't count. Even the rotis were stuffed with mince.)

MC: Um... I'm vegetarian, I don't eat meat. *helping herself to green chicken that later turned out to be VERY well cooked mutton*

Old Lady on Strange LAdy's left (probably mother-in-law from the interaction): *loudly and waving a food-encrusted hand at me* seeeedhe haath se khana khaten hai!! (One eats food with the right hand!)

MC: *smiles politely* I've always eaten left-handed, from childhood.

OL: *screeching a bit* seedhe haath se khana khaten hai!!

MC: *ignoring*

SL: *stage whisper* nahi nahi, BRAHMAN hai, isliye! (she's a brahmin, that's why she eats left handed)

MC: *choking on her biryani* (since it's ever such a terrible thing to be left-handed among brahmins)

TR: *choking on her kabab*

MC and TR: *doing their best to keep straight face while whispering to each other in English*

SL: Are you from outside? (the country)

MC: Er...no...we're from here...well I am, but she's from ---

SL: No you're talking in some language you see.

MC: mmmphhh

SL: So, are you Brahman?

MC: Who meee? I don't know. I'm Hindu though if that helps.

SL: No, I thought you were Brahman.

MC: We might be (knowing full well we are), I wouldn't know.

SL: So do you two share a room?

MC: *choking on her paneer* Er...no..that's to say we share a flat, but we have separate rooms.

SL: Ah, so you and your family have one room and she and hers have the other.

MC: Um...no, it's just us. She has her room, and I have mine.

SL: And you have your men eh?

MC: *pretends not to understand* he he I didn't get that *turning to TR* TALK TO ME SO I DON'T HAVE TO TALK TO HER!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Things I've learnt on recent trips

  1. Even when an iPod is upside down, the volume control works the same way
  2. Never agree to switch seats in a chair-car train
  3. If you've only met someone once and you think you see them again when you're not wearing your glasses - don't bounce over to say hi, odds are it isn't them.
  4. Certain songs make my head spin by dragging me off into too many simultaneous spatially and chronologically distinct memories
  5. I miss The Roommate horribly if I don't see her once in three days :(
  6. Travelling madly and eating indiscriminately makes people think I've lost weight
  7. Delhi in the winter stirs my most deeply-suppressed ties to the city

Isn't it unnerving

how, when you have a crush on someone inaccessible, or perhaps you HAD a crush on them and it never had the chance to die out through normal interaction and revelation of ineligibility, that they are supremely unaware of it?

You enjoy each other's company, you laugh and joke and tease - only there are these awkward minutes when you're thinking DAMN I want to flirt, but you know you can't and they don't even seem to notice? Or they sneak up behind you and give you a full body hug from behind, causing your brain to short circuit and you to completely forget the events of the previous ten mintues, but their life just goes on.

Chemistry is two-directional mi culo considerable.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Quantum of Solace: Notes from a Short-Circuited Brain

I wanted to review Casino Royale so badly it hurt, but then I never got around to it and then I forgot all the things I wanted to say. So, having seen it in the morning yesterday, here's what sticks about Quantum of Solace.

For starters, JAISUS AITCH! How much hotness can one movie have! Daniel Craig as Bond is Daniel Craig as Bond, and I don't think anymore needs to be said. Especially after they brought back that navy-blue t-shirt. I wish they're brought back the linen pants too, but the skin-tight chinos were an excellent replacement. Then we come to the English rose, whose name I am told is Strawberry fields. Verra naice. But, the crowning, or should I say, head-explosion-invoking glory was, without doubt, Olga Watchamacallit. Google tells me she has nice white Russian skin and no Latin American blood, so I'm even more impressed by her accent the lovely tan the makeup people gave her. But my god, when she and Daniel Craig are in the same frame, it causes some serious short-circuiting of the brain cells.

OOF was confused, cos he hasn't seen Casino Royale (I know I know!!!). Chap from School (CFS) was "underwhlemed". But me, I was absolutely TRIPPING. More than anything, what amazes me about Craig's Bond is how much he has returned to Fleming's Bond. He's no slick, savvy, gadget-loaded robotic man with no feelings and an endless sexdrive. He can have most women with a smile (Strawberry Fields) but he falls in love every time, with a woman who's bad for him. She will break his heart; she will walk away; she will leave him for a boring man; she will do SOMETHING; but that love will always torment him. It's a kinda warped romance novel. That's part of the whole Bond novel structure anyway. And then he has to get over her in the next one.

Bond has emotions, and not just with women. He will use a friend if he must but he will mourn that friend. Bond is not infallible, he keeps fucking up. Bond doesn't escape unscathed, he hurts. Physically, it costs him to perform the heroic antics he does. It costs him to keep up with the fugitives; he only catches them by sheer grit. All this comes through beautifully. Every action sequence is gritty (yuck what a word) and earthy. Every thud as he falls off something and onto something has a grunt of pain and a millisecond to catch his breath. Every grab at a ledge and every second hanging from one makes his fingers hurt and his arms cramp. You can tell. Whether it's a measure of Craig's acting or something else I do not know, but Bond makes your heart squeeze, because you want to help him. You feel his pain. He might be a double-o, but he's a human being. He's like you and me. (There's a whole lot of cultural theory and dissection of the Bond figure that I can go into here, but I shall spare y'all :) His grief over Vesper is palpable almost until the end. His anger, from both sources, radiates out of him. He is human.

Go see it :)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The House of Bernada Alba

The house is dark. It lives in the middle of a teeming city – and it’s a nice neighbourhood. It is set back from the street, which makes it feel like it is an island of tranquillity amid the chaos of the mad rush.

It is night. A piano plays in the darkness; scales, up the scale and down the scale, and up the scale and down the scale, endlessly.

It is a house of women.

In the tower, all alone surrounded by gadgets, lies the visitor. Her body is curled under the sheet, and her hands shield her head – from what it does not know. She has only been there a week and yet the soft, yielding, enveloping mattress carries the imprint of her body from every night she had lain there. How does she breathe, wonders the house, wrapped in all those layers of mattress? Her sleep is sound, however.

On the ground floor, on the ground, lies the woman who helps. Tiny, and enveloped in her shawl, she could be a bolster that’s been tossed off the bed.

In the bedroom sleeps the injured one. Her broken leg is propped up on a cushion, and her sleep is broken and restless from the confinement of one position. The bed around her is piled with clothes and bags, almost as if she too were a parcel waiting to be put away in a cupboard.

And in the living room, at the piano sits Bernada Alba. Hers is the force that holds the house together. She is the spirit who rushes through at unearthly hours only to collapse in sleep for many more hours. Her hair hangs around her face, streaked with grey, as she plays the piano in the dark.


Up the scale.
Down the scale.
Up the scale.
Down the scale.

And the house sleeps.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Deepavali Nalvazhuttugal

(Heavy nostalgia ahead)

When did I stop believing in celebration?

This year Deepavali resulted in a four-day weekend that I swore I wouldn't spend in Hyderabad, specially in the absence of The Roommate and Mommy. I spent it in Bangalore, dividing time between aunt's house and various friends. The house smelt of sweets and ghee the entire time, and the aunt was absorbed in mysterious alchemical activities that made my mouth water.

I didn't have any new clothes, so the aunt promptly packed me off to Shoppers Stop (apostrophe-free and hilariously oxymoronic) to acquire some. I actually found a kurta that [a] fit [b] was tasteful [c] was festive and [d] cost less than Rs. 1000. That evening we put on nice clothes, stuffed our faces and danced about in the living room - just the aunt, the uncle, one cousin and meself. It was lovely.

The next morning, levered out of bed at 7am, I had oil put on my head (having flatly refused to go the whole hog) and stumbled into the bathroom to shower and wear the new clothes before I was allowed any tea (oh cruel cruel). Then we spent the day eating. Seriously. Periodically the aunt and uncle would pop out to visit someone and take them sweets, only to return with more sweets.

It made me wonder. I don't think I believe in god, and I definitely don't believe in religion. If we have a religion in my family (Mommy, Appa, Scoo and I) it is skepticism. But we used to celebrate things, even Christmas, with gay abandon. Every year Scoo and I would torture some poor potted plant by draping it with nonsense and plot and scheme and save and buy presents, and my mum would get us plum cake. No one asked for a second about the god aspect of it. At Ganesh Chaturthi I would insist on acquring a really pretty new ganesha and then refuse to do the visarjan, having grown too attached in the intervening ten days. Pongal involved the ritual of whining and protesting and choking down the yezh-curry-kootu before I was allowed any sakrai pongal, and Holi involved tossing dry colour at people and hiding from the driver who would show up with a ton of gulal just after I had gotten clean. When we got older, Scoo and her friends used to do wild things for Holi.

But Deepavali was the thing.

I would plan and negotiate for days with my mum over the clothes, and heaven knows how I survived that much incredible excitement at the shops and the tailors. Then there were the giddy hours of choosing crackers, and of course, more negotiation. My mum, the poor valiant woman, would try and try and TRY to make us buy rockets and bombs and other Exciting Crackers, but all we wanted were sparklers, flowerpots and chakras. She would buy the lone bomb or rocket, and as we cowered in some corner, set them off. I remember I loved the black snakes! What a struggle it was to get me to hold a sparkler (yes I was a fraidy (you guessed it) cat). For the longest time I would only hold the long ones, until the sparks got too close. And how I HATED the coloured sparklers with those unpredictable bursts of light. One year my grandfather coaxed me into holding a normal sparkler with its tip stuck into a badaam fruit, and thus arrived my liberation. He also taught me to bend the tip and spin it to get circles. Of course we'd write our names in the air as well. Oh the woe if it rained at the time, and the tension while waiting to see if it would let up. And then, when it was all over, a big bonfire for the leftover paper and boxes.

The other excitement was the sweets. My mum would make chocolate barfi. *drool* Even once we went away to college we'd make her make it around Deepavali just so we could eat it. Once again the alchemy: how does besan (yuck) become that gooey joy! I remember skulking about the kitchen waiting for a taste, burning my finger trying to scoop some out of the plate as soon as it was spread, and ah the nirvana when she gave me the scrapings from the kadhai. The barfi would be jealously guarded as the days went by and the stock got lower.

One year, my friend who lived upstairs and I decided to go for a walk and collect spent rockets the day after. We amassed a huge collection that then lived in the musty "back-kitchen" with the cats for a very long time. I don't know what we did to it finally.

Deepavali was also the only time of year our darling doggie was allowed in the house, and she usually spent it cowering under the dining table in terror at the crackers.

As we got older and were allowed to handle the lamps there was the discussion about how many we should buy, where they should go, what the pattern would be, to pour oil before or after setting them out, who made better wicks, who got to light which ones in which order, whether we should paint them or not, what we should paint on them, whose were nicer, ad infinitum. One year I painstakingly learnt to write out Happy Deepavali in Tamizh, so I could put it in cards. We also used to SEND cards! Which meant more excitement in picking which patterns and who got to write out whose cards and what to say.

In all this, there was no god.

In the past few years I have done nothing for Deepavali. Well ok, I hosted a dinner in New York, and wore a sparkly salwar kameez and put candles in the window. Last year I forgot about it entirely. Both years I went to the fireworks and desi mela at Water Street in early October. I put it down to my lack of interest in religious things, how much it pollutes, child labour in making crackers, and so on. But I seem to have forgotten all the things it stands for that are important to me: family, love, food, planning, coming together.

This post is to remind me why I love festivals. If I worry about how religion is beginning to destroy my country, then I take this pledge right now: I will celebrate life and love and togetherness; I will take it upon myself to remember that we have festivals to rejoice in life and its patching-together-ness and therefore do all I can to live, rejoice and patch together.

Post Bangalore Musings

There is a reason why I love being out with Acrosticus and my Fag. When we're out, usually in some pub in Bangalore, I feel like I'm sitting safe in an enchanted circle of warm love, and all the woes I pour out will be heard and taken seriously (even when they merit derisive dismissal for their blatant silliness) before being swallowed up by the circle, leaving me a little lighter and more willing to embrace optimism.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Optimism or Self Destruction?

For the past three years I've been a bouncy proponent of optimism and positive thinking, and expect the best from people. I'm fairly sure I was optimistic before that, but perhaps less evangelistic about it. This is apparent in the conversations I have with The Bride, who is a self-proclaimed and much confirmed pessimist about people.

Last week we were having a long chat, and here is what I had to say:
I'm generally an optimistic type. Look how excited I get at each new possibility. Sometimes I think pessimists are just optimists who are terrified of their optimism. Cynics are the real pessimists, because pessimists are incapable of being pleasantly surprised. If things go well they are always looking for the catch.

To which she said that no, as a pessimist, she is capable of being pleasantly surprised, it just protects her when things turn out badly.

Which might be true, only I find the pre-disappointing is as bad as the actual disappointing, so if you are disappointed it happens twice, and if you're not, the joy is reduced. Now my strategy is to ride the wave of optimism and revel in positive expectations, and sob out the hurt when it backfires. That way, at least I have the happy bits, which take the edge off the sad ones, and if there are no sad ones, there are no sad ones!

Well what if you can't bounce back?

The first time was very scary, I really didn't know if I could bounce back. But I did. And each time after has only been easier. And now I always know I'll be fine. I've learnt that people can rip me apart and make me hurt in ways I didn't know were possible. But one day, it doesn't hurt anymore. And there are many people who make me happy, in my life because I'm more willing to let everyone in, because I know I've survived some brutal people, and even ended up loving one of them again. Which is wonderful.


Except, I find I cannot do it anymore. Maybe inherent in that strategy of survival is the assumption that one day people will stop being fuckers. One day, you won't need the strategy anymore. One day, it will stop. Only it doesn't work like that, does it.

At some point it stops being a positive attitude and becomes a learning disability. I mean, if someone slammed their head against the wall, and then proceeded to go and do it again and again and again, you'd be testing them for something. It's not too far removed. It's supposed to be a coping mechanism that makes me less miserable, but mostly it's just a long series of self-flagellatory supposedly exhilarating experiences, and I find I'm miserable either way.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Single Space

Singledom is one of those issues, like religion, that one must tread carefully around. I've noticed that many single people love it, and can't bear the idea of being tied to a single person. Lots of paired people talk longingly of their carefree and delightful single days, or how they dread making the final commitment to one person. My views on THAT have been shared in the past. There are also the obviously deranged few, such as yours truly, who actively want to be in relationships.

A discussion with The Bride today raised the issue of social conditioning, and how we're all, somewhere, brainwashed to want to pair up in a socially acceptable manner such as marriage. Now, while I'm perfectly happy to get married (and don't see the point of not doing so to prove a point and rebel against the imposition of heterosexual monogamy by Society, while entering into legal agreements so complicated as to necessitate the equivalent of a divorce to dissolve) I'm equally open to whatever level of commitment a couple feels they need for security in a relationship. And, like religion, I think it's something each person and each couple should come to terms with in isolation.

But then I start to think of me, and I wonder. Sometimes I watch myself living and thinking, and I cannot imagine how I can begin to admit another person into my space. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the gross lady on the bus touching me, or feeling threatened by someone tapping my shoulder without an invitation in triplicate. There are times though, when it irritates me IMMENSELY that another person who is around me doesn't figure out that normally gregarious me wants some alone time. I can't imagine giving up my faithful bedfellow Apollo. What if said person always showers first, leaving me with the grossness of a wet bathroom? Or maybe he isn't good about leaving the mat outside the bathroom door. What if he doesn't rinse and soak dishes after he uses them?

Come come, you laugh, this is merely the normal glitches of any relationship, it's probably happening with The Rommate as we speak.

True. But the difference between romantic partners and roommates is that there is an implied continuity of closeness about the former that there isn't about the latter. There's nowhere to run. Unless, as my wise aunt says, you have your own room nevermind where you sleep.

Still, you counter, you have to ride it out. And then you'll figure out what works.

I agree. But I have noticed myself grow more and more rigid as time has gone by. And I also know that other people have only gotten worse with age. Of course, like anything, once you've done it once you know you can do it again, which removes a lot of the stress. There's the rub, because, never having begun to be in a relationship, I can only imagine it getting harder to start adapting as time goes by.

Which means, ladies and germs, I have a problem.

Or, the trend is a sign, and I'll never have that problem, cos I'll never be in a relationship. A thought that I have alarmingly begun to eye with relief!

Ride it out

The Bay of Bengal at Vishakapatnam

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Chennai amuses me: Part 2

This time it was the pattai on the windscreen of my cousin's car. Apparently you can also be bought an Iyer, though probably it has more to do with the hierarchical position of my cousin's driver than that of our grandfather.

This bit, though not amusing as much as ecstacy-inducing perhaps, also deserves mention: Saravana Bhavan idly-vadai-sambar-chutney is to die for.

Part 1

Friday, September 26, 2008

Note to all the IDIOT USAmericans who write Important Things

For the LOVE OF GOD.

Oversight is NOT (did you see that? yes, NOT. N.O.T.) the noun form of oversee. To get the noun form of oversee, we use this handy little thing called a gerund, formed by adding an 'ing' to the end of the verb 'oversee', and we end up with overseeing.

Which means that while reading the following passage:

In some cases, yes. But for the most part, these third parties cut up these securities, mixed them up, repackaged them, and sold them down the line in the form of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) or Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO). There was little, if any, regulatory oversight. At each step, the parties in this chain collected profits, and believed they were handing off the risk.
one does not go EH? Very little regulatory oversight is a good thing! Cos it means they DID oversee. They DIDN'T miss the checks, inspections etc.

If one uses the word overseeing instead.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And the last one for today

After the whining, two pickshures of two people who make my life better than bearable.


There was this Ace of Base song that was very popular when my sister was a teenager and I was on my way there. It was called "The Sign" and I remember we had a friend of the family staying with us for a while and she used to perform this energetic thrusting dance to it - I believe i was called stumping. It was quite a sight since she was quite...er...voluptuous. Anyway, the song says, I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes; which was then extended to some boy-girl thing and how to save it or end it or something.

The reason it popped into my head (apart from the 15 seconds of goggle-eyed distraction at the memory of said girl stumping) was because, on the way home today I said to The Roommate in the auto: I wish I had a sign. As I said the words I realised that well, signs are kind of redundant anyway, since they are about 90% interpretation. Remember my signs in the past? And how they ended? So I'm a little ahem cynical about this whole sign theory.

But I can't deny it is tempting.

I would love to know that this place I'm at in my life, right here and right now, with its joys and sorrows and immense frustration, is somewhere on the right road. I wish it were as easy as this morning, when I made a turn off the highway, stuck my head out the window and said: "Sagar road?" to a nice man, who nodded and jerked his head in the direction I wanted to go. Isn't there a shared auto driver on this road who can reassure me, so that I know no matter how many potholes on this road, and how unkempt it is; no matter that the lights don't work and there is so much roadkill; I will end up at the majestic dam, with its twenty-six gates of energy and enthusiastically flow downriver to the sea?


There isn't any really. Well, the Yahoo! Horroscope guys have stopped stalking me so yay!

The Roommate and I (and her Boy) seem to have gotten into a rhythm of Sunday expotitions (source anyone?). They are quite lovely, and seem to be getting further afield each week! Yay! Today we went to see the Nagarjuna Sagar dam, which has all of its 26 gates open and a reservoir that's quite disturbingly full. It looked a LOT like the Niagara Falls. Don't believe me?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Is it strange

That two of my deepest secrets were on postsecret this week?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rock on!

So I saw the movie and have been deeply affected by it. Sing the songs to myself most of the time. Read the reviews online. Force everyone I know to listen to the soundtrack. Offer to go and see it with anyone who's interested.

Some reactions to the film and music puzzle me:
It's a cliche! There's no depiction of the musical creative process! There's no psychological depth! The songs are basically ripoffs of much classic and pop rock.

Here's my point: What did you expect? It's BOLLYWOOD!!!!!!!!! The audience they are reaching out to is SO stratified that a common denominator has GOT to be low. Subtlety is great and all, but symbolism is more effective. Look at Indian politics and you'll see how well it works. Sometimes I wonder at people who insist on applying irrelevant standards to life and its aspects in India (and other postcolonial nations [wheeee long time since you saw that word eh?]). When I read Six Suspects, I'm not expecting a thrilling, psychologically socially layered text that provides insight into the workings of the Indian justice system. I'm expecting a fairly stereotyped, highly predictable, sensationalist jumble thats trying to be very smooth and slick. And that's what I got.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean that we have nothing subtle, or sensitive, or talented in our cultural sphere in India. I'm just saying that when you're in the middle of the churning of the creative process of a giant nation, theres going to be chaff. What you recieve transmitted from other nations usually has most of the chaff removed. So don't act surprised that you, with more capita, have more chaff per capita than they do after they have winnowed.

Drawing into the distance

These are pictures of the aquaeduct at Segovia, in Spain. We did a little day trip, with my dear friend's parents kindly driving us there and back. They have a Mercedes, and on the way to Madrid to fetch me on my previous trip, the car had a crazy accident, at something like 120kmph if I know her dad. They were on a very high bridge, as the highway curved, and the car lost control. I was received at Barajas airport by a BA official who, palpably relieved I spoke Spanish, told me to call a certain number, where my friend's mum told me about the accident, and that not a thing had happened to either of them, but that the car was totalled. It really was. The inside, however, looked like nothing had happened. They bought the same car with the insurance money, saying that if there ever was obvious evidence of the level of safety Mercedes provides, they'd already seen it!

The funny thing for me was that, in India, the Mercedes is the car of the obscenely rich, and so I told them they made me feel like a princess, riding around to sightsee in a Mercedes, and stopping by the side of the highway to get hot chocolate.

I really began to appreciate the first picture only when it was framed and put on the wall, because only then, against the blank cream expanse, does the way it pulls you in really come across. Ugh what a dreadful sentence. And here the Bride's been telling me how my writing's getting better!

Anyway, the MAIN story attached to this picture, forgive me if I've already told you, is the silly conversation my friend imagined between an Iberian slave and a Roman master while building the aquaeduct:

RM: You are blessed slave, to be a part of this great project to carry water across your land!
IS: er...that's all very well, but why do we need to build this giant structure?
RM: Fool! It is to carry water across the hills, by giving it a level path, for it could hardly flow UPHILL now could it??
IS: But...you don't need to build a platform! Water rises to the same level on the other side if you use a tube...in my village we use a tube-
RM: *cracks whip* silence slave! Generations to come will revere this great work! To work!


In case you haven't realised it Gentle Reader, MinCat spends a LOT of time online. And if you know her in real life then you also know that theres a 90% chance she is online at any given point of time. Obviously there are people she wants to chat with and people she doesn't. This can sometimes be a problem, but usually a quick, hi, hello, sorry I need to go now suffices to get rid of the people she doesn't want to talk to.

Why not chat invisible, you might ask. Well chatting invisible just feels shady. Though many of her friends have done it and still do it, to MinCat chatting invisible indicates a need to be in control of the relationship to a slightly scary extent. Seriously, I admit passive aggressiveness, or a general reluctance to be not nice to people whom you don't really want to talk to anymore is a good reason to appear offline, but isn't it a little messed up that when people who you DO like talking to want to talk to you they can never know if you're there?

Yes, too much free time, and much too much time online :)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Spanish Sunshine

Taken in Galicia, last sun-drenched June, during a startlingly idyllic interlude of wood-fire cooking, cherries off the trees and surprisingly cold nights.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Lost. Lost. Lost.

That's how I've been feeling for a year now. I remember last July, a time of Spanish sunshine and complete confidence. I came home on vacation and OF ran into me somewhere and he said: you seem different. Settled somehow. I remember riding a bus from Madrid to Valladolid and watching the sunset blur through the dirty windows. And thinking to myself with a smile, that for the first time in my life I was so filled with contentment. My life was full and so it promised to continue.

And then reality (such an ugly word, but why? Because it's always used as the pejorative form of life?) caught up with me. A year later, I'm fairly settled. I have a job, I have a flat, and I live with someone I love. I see my parents whenever I wish, something vital to me. I have found GOOD friends and happiness in companionship. But I'm lost again.

In some ways I'm happy like I never thought I could ever be, here in this place, giving up New York. I remember a friend talking sense to me: "No sé, es que cada vez que he tomado una decisión me ha jodido. Las cosas buenas me pasan sin tener que hacerlas." I said to him. "Pues si no ves manera de quedarte, no estás tomando ninguna decisión" he replied. So I left New York, with a heavy heart, but not so heavy that it drowned me. And now, six months later, I'm sure that things have happened as they should have.

But, I find myself torn and weeping, again, yet again, in this place, surrounded by love, joyous in my homes - both of them, but stricken without. And I think, yes I DID take a decision, and look, I AM fucked.

But what to do? I don't see a way out that's not cowardly.

And yet, here I am because of fear. Fear that I wouldn't succeed on the road not taken, fear that all that I have instinctively revolted against was merely the dregs of teenage rebellion. However, I find I cannot look myself in the face, because all those ideals, of fulfillment, of believing that what I do makes a difference, of taking control of the consequences of my actions, of not backing down, they have drowned in a cesspool of fear. It is easier to accept that I was wrong in my youthful whims than to accept that I might fail in my adult beliefs.

If this is what I fought against engineering and medicine and MBAs for, I might have been better off not fighting.

And that my friends is the unkindest cut of all.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wee fluffy cloud

Yesterday was the most extraordinary day. We had sunshine and heat, both fairly normal, and a blue blue sky with fluffy clouds. Also normal. However, the blue was this of this intensity that I have never seen in India before. If it is that blue then there are never clouds. It reminded me a bit of the world in that show Pushing Daisies. Anyway shall stop faffing and just show.

Edit: Dammit! For some reason it doesn't show in this photo. Grrrrrrrrr.

Monday, September 01, 2008


up into the trees. This picture makes me yearn. I had it as my phone wallpaper but I couldn't stand it after a day and took it off. It makes me grind my teeth and try to fall into it and has this inexorable pull that can only lead to pain.


Your result for The Animal Archetype Test...

The Cat

Domestic, Solitary, Serious, Intelectual: you are the Cat!

Cat represents a balance of strength in both physical and spiritual, psychic and sensual powers, merging these two worlds into one. Curious, intelligent, and physically adept, cat people tend to live in a world all their own.

This test categorized you based on four different axes of personality, which were then associated with a different animal. The four axes, as well as all possible results are explained below.

Wild/Domestic: This first axis categorizes you based on how much you are drawn to the outdoors, versus how much you are drawn to civilized situations. Domesticity has many shapes and forms, and varies from the joy of dolphins leaping next to a ship to the steadfast loyalty of a family dog.

Gregarious/Solitary: This axis measures how solitary you are. If you scored high, it means that you enjoy the company of other people, while a low score indicates that you prefer a more solitary lifestyle.

Trickster/Serious: This axis measures how well you line up with conventional trickster archetypes. People who fall into this archetype have a sense of humor and an excitable, highly chaotic streak. Scoring low doesn't mean that you don't have a sense of humor; it just means that you probably don't think dynamite is very funny.

Intellectual/Emotional: This last axis determines whether you are more emotional -- acting based on feelings and instinct, or rational and intelectual -- acting more on thought than on your gut feelings.

Take The Animal Archetype Test at HelloQuizzy

Sunday, August 31, 2008


I miss it.

Sunday Morning

It's good to be home.

On Friday night, as we swept past the flat en route to the parental house, it hurt. Even though I got conversation, tea and breakfast that I didn't have to make, not until last night, when I was curled up on the floor next to The Roomate and Her Boy giggling about something inane and slurping up the Spanish liqueur I swiped from the parents, did I sigh and think, I'm home.

I woke up this morning in a fuzzy purr, and even though there was no milk, The Roommate went to the store and bought it and Her Boy boiled it so MinCat could have her tea.

And now, as we sit on the living room floor caterwauling along with Adam Levine, all the angst, doubt and trouble of the past week melts away: This is why my life is the way it is, and This makes it worthwhile.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Portrait of a Lifestyle?

A photo of my bed, just before I turned in last night. The water: to prevent hangovers; the phones: personal and work; the laptop cord: to keep in touch with the universe; the bed in the new flat: to be an independent adult; the bedside lamp: to keep the monsters away.

In which we live and we learn

Did you know eggs could freeze? I had NO idea. Our fridge, which was kindly bequeathed to us by the parents, and kindly bequeathed to them by some other young independent woman when she upped, got married and left, has this interesting feature: everything freezes. For some reason, no matter how low (or high) one turns the dial, or how much one puts IN it, stuff freezes. So, on Monday morning we found our eggs with vertical cracks and well frozen solid. I made fried eggs on Monday by mashing an egg-shaped crystalline lump of eggwhite and then yolk. The Roommate was much amused.

Which brings me to a poll: The Roommate, in her infinite ignorance, claims that one must put the weight on the cooker from the first minute, not realising that doing so traps air inside WHICH can lead the cooker to explode. In her deprived life she has only used Hawkins don't-remove-the-weight type cookers, obviously, or she would know this simple fact about Prestige cookers. Anyway, the question I have is this: How many of you, my readers, all three of you, use Prestige cookers, and if so do you put the weight on first?

I had my first dinner party last night! It was Colombian in guests, raucous in nature and led to severe food comas in two of the visitors. Quite the success methinks. Conversation was varied, though it displayed a distressing tendency to veer towards the scatological. We did, however, discuss the elephanting of Ganesha, so it wasn't ALL sex and poo. Lovely, in short.

I have discovered that I manage to invent food as I cook it. It's quite a revelation, since I have managed to invent fairly nice versions of food I have never eaten, or atleast not liked the few times I have eaten it. Palak dal. Then the egg curry from last night. We do however have a problem, since The Roommate is obsessed, as are many foolish people who wish to annhilate their tastebuds, with madly chilly-filled food, and I cannot eat chillies in my food. So I've been putting in as much as I can handle, but then it's not enough for her and it's too much for me, and neither of us enjoys it! A solution must be found!

I think I am designed to be a housewife. Seriously! I have been so thrilled with cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, making sure The Roommate gets off to work with her lunch packed and so on that it leaves me facing the fact that I LOVE BEING A MOMMY. The downside of course is that The Roommate, who leaves the house to go to work, gets heavy princess treatment, and one of these days I'm going to be mad and leave her a note saying "There's not fairy in the kitchen who does the dishes you know..." Her response, she says, will be "Really? I had no idea! Ok, you look after the house while I go off to find one."

Airports and Suchlike Pandemonium

Now that MinCat has a Job and is an Important Person she gets to fly about at the whims of her employers, who very kindly favour the full-service airlines Thank Darwin. This means I get to disdainfully compare airports, and well can I just say this and have it set in stone?


It seriously rocks. The ultimate comparison will be with Bangalore, if and when it happens, but seriously, we fuckin rock.

Chennai airport has the GROSSEST loos EVER. I thought Delhi was bad, because somehow the ventilation only brings in the smell of stale piss, but Chennai is like the waiting room at a third rate railway station!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Moving House

Perhaps we're just preternaturally lucky, but the Roomate and I decided to hunt on Saturday, found the perfect place on Sunday, signed the lease on Wednesday, moved on Friday, shopped and set up on Saturday and Sunday, and have a fully running house as of Monday morning, allowing for the cooking of lunch in the morning before she left for work!

It really is a nice feeling to be living with someone I love so much :) Yes we get snippy, especially at 11pm while washing and drying the last of the dishes to be put away. And we're used to different styles of cookers, and different brands of tea; I must have the fan on and she mostly prefers it off, but it just works. There is little to match the joy of actually setting up a kitchen with someone who will treat it with the respect a kitchen deserves!

I just love my new flat :) It's just the right size for the two of us. My room is full of light and the Good Night keeps the mosquitoes away. The fan groans just the right amount, and theres enough signal on my datacard to manage to check work email and not fall behind. And did I mention, it's about 15 minutes away from most of the places I like to go with my friends! The best bit is that I get to pop off home to the parental house and luxuriate in internet and generally being in their house, which mitigates missing them.

And now I should go and do something. Like think of what else I wish to filch out of here and smuggle off with me! :D

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Of Tributes, Copycat behaviour and New directions

Recently one of my fav people branched out into photoblogging. And dear me, if anyone should photoblog it is she. However, aside from the two people who read this blog who will now go see her fabulous photos, I bring this up because, as happens often with the two of us, the same idea was simmering in the back of my head - especially since I have nothing to SAY anymore.

Therefore: in tribute to one of the finest and most dedicated photographers I know, and an attempt to revive my own interest in blogging, I'm going to post photos too!

This one is from our road trip up the 101 from San Francisco in March.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Hi. If anyone's left.

I have no excuse, only reasons. I was so very stressed out about The Future and suchlike animals that I really didn't want a post a series of whines. And then I landed a job and was whisked off to other cities and now am so busy I can't breathe.

Apparently I am a natural trainer. Seriously. They tossed me into the deep end, and despite big holes in the material I'm doing fine. My trainees haven't noticed my extreme inexperience, and well, maybe just maybe all will be good.

Spending so much time in Singara Sennai I find that I am immensely tickled by a few things. For starters, I just love the fact that half the drivers of people's air conditioned cars, when they emerge for whatever reason, are wearing veshtis! I just LOVE it. And then, there's the cabbie who took me to the client site yesterday, who sadly informed me that all us city people with our insistence on running the airconditioning are ruining his health, since he was raised in a village and can't manage without fresh air. I refrained from asking him if his village was actually situated IN an exhaust pipe, because I can't really see any other way he could call this fresh air.

I have also resumed my halting and, frankly, backward attempts to read Tamizh, as a source of amusement for those who travel with me. Then there was this other cabbie who wrote out my receipt in Tamizh, citing that fact that we are in Tamizh land, and as such shouldn't be required to write in white people's languages. When we're in THEIR lands we can write in English. I solemnly agreed and averred that there is bound to be SOMEONE in my office who can read Tamizh, especially in the expenses section, so we'd be fine.

Alas the sun appears to be out today, blech. And my cab is here, so I'm off! Dreading another day of 8 hours talking non-stop. Sigh. You'd think MinCat of all people would be eminently suitable for THAT job, but apparently it ain't that simple!

Thursday, July 03, 2008


The last post was #100. woo.

Was out again last night with OOF, since he's headed off to forn parts to see his girlfriend, and I hadn't seen him in a *gasp* week. Also, my employment is taking longer and longer and really, sometimes I can't stand it. Sometimes I look at my life and think, FUCK this is exactly how it was 2 years ago, when I ran away to make some progress. In a big circle. And that's when OOF reminds me that no, I ain't back in that horrible hole, because my life IS different. I can call people and actually have them come out! And then sing loudly along to Britney Spears and Savage Garden while we're at it. And run in terror when I sing along to Enrique Iglesias, accompanied by loud hisses of "YOU KNOW THE WORDS!!??!?!?!?!!?!?"

But I digress....it's reassuring to know that patterns do not, after all, exert themselves unbreakably in my life. It's reassuring to know that I can, do and will continue to meet interesting people, in my lil hellhole, and have a social life of the kind I appreciate, with everyone's friends all tumbling together in a big ball of puppies. I'm so very happy to discover that everyone isn't the same, and there are people who are willing to emerge from their ruts, no matter how comfy they are inside. And lastly, I'm ecstatic to report that there exists a club that has salsa on weekends, with no cover!! Guess where Ima be every weekend?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Disturbing Realization

Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For is REALLY very monotonous.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Delivered as promised

Yesterday in the evening, I was going nuts. Seriously. It's been 6 months since I graduated and almost a year since I started jobhunting in earnest, and I'm still unemployed. Well yes I teach part-time. But I'm still denied the independence I've been used to, and sometimes it drives me nuts. So when OOF said, hey, want to meet in Favourite Haunt in an hour I gave him a "yes please!"

We arrive there well ahead of our usual arrival time and have the entire place to ourselves. As we await the Karaoke DJ another friend V texts to say want a drink? I tell him we're at FH and he turns up with Gerard, the Irish Guy.

Now GIG first came up in conversation last weekend, when V was holding forth about the fun people he's met. There's this crazy Irish guy he says, he's become a good friend and we go drinking a lot. OOF and I nod politely and the conversation goes on. The rest of that very long evening is very hazy *ahem* but I remember many mentions of GIG. Dunno why. So naturally I blurted out, oh YOU'RE the IRISH GUY! and got a startled look for my pains. I then proceeded to indulge in more spinal reflex speech and tell the White Elephant story (which is a plan to recruit all the white people in the city and then rent them out to give parties hat extra je ne sais quoi.) Then OOF proceeded to show off his cartoon strip, and GIG gamely looked at a couple before giving up.

However, much beer and singing and animated discussion of bands and concerts later, we're all getting along fine. And then GIG is staring at the screen where the lyrics are projected and I ask him if he's taking notes for his anthropological monograph on the behaviour of drunk Indians in karaoke bars. He said no, he was going to write it up in his blog. Naturally MinCat goes oooh my you have a blog! what is it?? To which he says, I started it this morning. Pooh-poohing such wannabe-ness, I proceeded to rattle off all the blogs I've ever had. He then fixed me with his serious Irish look and said, you're gonna be in it you know. How could I not respond in kind! I promised him a whole post, even if it were only one line, and he pleaded for two. Well GIG you got more than you bargained for!

In other news, OOF and I wandered down memory lane last night, and he made me count my clos friends, Jesus. Aitch. Christ.

Thank you, universe :) I'm the luckiest lil kitty in all time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Arbit lines from songs stuck in my head

शेर से में कहूँ तुमको छोड़ दे, मुझे खा जाए।

केहेना चाहूँ तुमसे भी मैं कया कहूँ?

याद कीया दील ने कहाँ हो तुम?
(Apologies. for some reason the transliterator has lost the इ की मातरा। )

Any guesses what my playlist is called?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

iPod Musings

iPodito has been with me only over two years, a fact I can't quite wrap my head around. I do so love him everso much, but man who knew iPods could complicate life so much, something that was brought home to me forcefully last week when our i Pod friendly car was in the shop and I had to revert to CDs. *gasp*

To start with, I'm suddenly all OCD about how files must be named, and it drives me crazy that theres no way to crosslist a song by more than one artist! It also took me about a year to finally get all the files named the Right way in the computer, only to discover I hafta do it all over again in iTunes!

Then, and this is exacerbated by the CD event, my playlists are too long. As in, the favourite songs playlist is something like 1000 songs long! How on earth am I ever to get to the song I like or am in the mood for?? So then I need to make all these different playlists, but even then they're like at least 50 songs long, and then I have to scroll and remember what's on which playlist. A corollary: I spend all my time hunting for particular songs!

While it is lovely to have 30GB of music to carry about on my peson, I have also found that I never end up actually listening to all the music, because leaving it on random play can result in some STRANGE songs popping up when leat expected, and not leaving it on random play means I ever listen to songs not in a playlist.

And then, if someone else is doing the DJ honours, they inevitably run out the battery by scrolling through all the music and picking single songs, since they can't have already created a playlist they like, or they are clueless about my iPod and can't find me the songs I want!

But, at the end of the day, it's brilliant to never have to worry about changing CDs on a long drive....or any other time the music runs out.

Strange Meetings

Who woulda ever thought that this day would come again? This day being the one where I'm spending a lot of very happy hangout time with a once-old-friend-who-i-wasn't-talking-to-for-a-long-time.

Heh. I really need to do something about this whole abbreviation thing. Speaking of which, shouldn't abbreviate be briefer?

Now, regulars might remember that MinCat's favourite pastime is bellyaching. One of the recent gripes has been the fact that she knows no one here anymore! She was mortified when, at a play with OOFWIWTTFALT [that sounds a bit like German, no?] HE knew tons of people there, after his one year here, and she didn't know a soul. Cept when she ran into someone from school she had no idea was back.

Another popular bellyache is how MinCat only knows women, how on EARTH is she to stop being single (and bellyaching about it) if she never meets men!

Well last night, at most recent favourite haunt, with OOFWIWTTFALT [ok ok lets abbreviate the abbreviation, OOF] she ran into not one, nor two, nor three but FOUR people she knows, ALL of whom were boys. Imagine this:

MinCat: whine whine I don't know anyone in this damn city curse swear whinge - hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! how ARE you???? *giant hug* come and sit down and talk to me now now now!


Monday, June 02, 2008


In case y'all haven't noticed I'm just not blogging anymore. Can't understand it but every time I look at this window I simply cannot do anything but close it. So I'm heading off and out of here for a while.

I now have a job and it appears that I might just have made the right decisions after all :)

While I'm away go look at this

Friday, May 23, 2008

Para mi loquíta

अगले जनम की इंतज़ार में।

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Muvver's Day!

This says it all. Only it won't lemme embed the photo for some reason. Maybe it's the comp I'm using.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Nothing more than feeeeeeeeeeelings...

It amazes me how one can talk oneself into feeling things. Or not feeling them. Or how one can manage to just turn off a certain part of one's mind. Everytime I realise what exactly comprises my life at the moment I get upset. I grind my teeth and rub my eyes. I take deep breaths and count out whole legions of tens. I make plans, I set goals, I tell myself that everything will be all right (rock-a-bye).

And then I get an email from a friend; I scroll through photos to print them; I watch a movie, or a sitcom, or even a video clip; I read a book; I actually look at the photos lined up all over my room; every so often I come across a post like this or this, someone I know makes a trip to NY or plans one (Acrosticus will probably be there this Fall and oh oh oh I won't be there with him), and I suddenly realise just how much I DO miss it, just how much I've chosen to leave behind, just what I've walked away from and just how many doors I have closed.

And I wonder, was it a choice born of reason and feeling or was it one born of fear?

Sunday, May 04, 2008


I love my home, my parents are here, I grew up here, it's MINE. I have a great time with the World's Best Parents, and the doggies. Our cook is a goddess. My clothes are dropped in the basket and return two days later, magically clean and folded. The fridge is NEVER empty. The car always has gas, and is always clean. There is air-conditioning and two TVs! The club exists, with its library, air-conditioned gym, delicious swimming pool, really cheap alcohol, and lots of eyecandy. The sailing club exists, with the nimbu paani and the spectacular views of the lake. Mangalgiri! My beloved tailor!

And yet, once I've been home two days, less if I arrive on a weekend, that familiar sinking begins. My head starts to hurt. My eyes burn. I'm sitting in front of the computer or the TV like a zombie. I think morose thoughts. I feel sorry for myself. I'm convinced that nothing will ever happen right. The inevitable hopelessness beings to close in. I can see it coming, I can tell how far away it is, I can hold it off, but I can't stop it.

And I can never figure out WHY! But last night it came to me in my half-sleep (along with the most appropriate lyrics from a very familiar song that, of course, I can't for the life of me remember this morning.) You see, in all the fifteen coherently remembered years of the twenty that home has been here I don't ever, even once, remember being comfortable outside my house. I realised that, apart from one year in the Pisspot, I have never had friends whom I didn't feel I was imposing on, into whose lives I didn't feel I was intruding. What makes it worse is that, of the people I was happy with while at the Pisspot, several have receded from that comfort into the jaw-grinding discomfort of not knowing if I can believe they welcome my company. Right now, in this city, I'm always nervous around every single person whom I know well enough to call a friend (except O), simply because I never know if they mean it when they say I'll call you, or let's hang out. I feel like I'm being tossed crumbs, because the really interesting people are busy tonight.

It's a depressing realisation that almost every single one of the people I call friends can't be bothered to return a missed phonecall, let alone actually make the effort to call me.

It's a horrible feeling. No wonder my teeth hurt! And no wonder I'm on edge when I'm here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Conversations with Hot Spanish Flamenco Dancer

Me: What room are you in? (So I can call to confirm early morning appointment.)
HFSD: You want to spend he night in my bed so we can wake up together?
Me: No, I want to give it to my dad so he knows where to look if I never turn up at home again.

HSFD: I can't thank you enough! (For going with him to check out dentist and make sure he's doing ok.)
Me: Don't worry I'll make you pay for it :)
HSFD: In flesh?

Jesus! I guess Russell Peters was right eh? (The bit on oversexed Latin men is at 2.45)

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Weekend of Fluff

The past months of extreme Earnestness have resulted in MinCat being heavily weighed down by the cares of the world. Seriously! It's ridiculous! Therefore, I hereby declare this

The Weekend of Fluff!!

In Honour of which...

You Belong in London

A little old fashioned, and a little modern.

A little traditional, and a little bit punk rock.

A unique soul like you needs a city that offers everything.

No wonder you and London will get along so well.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What IS this Democracy Thing Anyway?

Recently I had a VERY loud and pretty long discussion-verging-on-argument with Acrosticus and Said Person, and other people trying to get a word in edgewise on both sides. The subject of the er... debate was Manmohan Singh. "What!" you might cry, "you couldn't possibly mean the mild-mannered economic genius who is currently the head of the Indian Executive!" But yes indeed I do. The reason for the contention was simply that someone had said that it amazed them, in a bad way, that Manmohan Singh has never stood for election, i.e. he has never been directly elected to any post by the People of India. I was, frankly, puzzled about why this was important at all, since due process according to the Constitution had been followed, and hey the man is highly competent and is doing a great job! (Well ok I'm not so sure about absolving loans and yes I know that's not that correct word.)

The Prime Minister of India has to be a member of Parliament within six months of his/her appointment to the post. Manmohan Singh was quickly elected to the Rajya Sabha (upper house) under the P.V. Narasimha Rao government, so that he could be Finance Minister and save our butts. Since the members of the Rajya Sabha are not directly elected by the people, i.e. they do not run a campaign and have a majority of some constituency press the button corresponding to their name in the voting booth, their eligibility for Prime Ministership attacks the foundation of democracy.

The reason for the consternation of my friends was their understanding of the term democracy. Democracy has changed greatly in meaning over the years, especially in terms of its acceptance as the optimal form of government. The conditions of nationhood have also changed vastly since Athens, and this has affected the definition of democracy. At one point, liberalism was terrified of democracy, and now neoliberalism waves it about wildly as its very own flag. Obviously there are multiple understandings of the term and what its relevance is to the experiences of individual nations.

I remember learning, in Civics class in school, that a democracy is a government "of the people, by the people, for the people". I think I can safely say that this is also how democracy is generally understood: the general body of people select their leaders, usually through a free and secret ballot in such a manner that the person/party that is selected by the greatest number of people wins. The crux of the process being, of course, that the people choose, by directly picking the person or indirectly picking the party, who has the right to rule them; i.e power to the people.

The people, or the majority, are the important factor here, something that comes from the very origins of modern democracy: citizens have the right to a say in who governs them and therefore how they are governed. Of course this system is far from foolproof. For starters, who IS a citizen? The 18% of adult males who had enough property to pass the bar after the famed 1832 Reform Act in Britain? In the modern world, after we have come to accept universal suffrage as sacrosanct, issues like race, gender and money don't come into it, theoretically anyway. So universal suffrage is definitely a part of the definition. Which means that the world's first modern democracy becomes New Zealand, where universal suffrage was introduced in 1893.*

Secondly, what does majority mean? What about the tyranny of the majority? Just because 51% of people pick someone (of course it's usually more like 40% or even less. Rafael Correa of Ecuador won with 36% of the vote!) does not mean that said person can actually be fair to everyone. Ah you might counter, said person is fair to more than 50% of the people, which better than a system that is fair to 50% or 5% of the people. Well, this is true in theory. But think about it, DO all 51% of the people get what they want? Obviously not. The wider the voter base, the greater the standard deviation from the ideal. But that comes with the territory; after all parties exist to create a platform and continuity that enables identification with voter bases. Fair enough.

But, to use an example dear to my most obnoxious professor, what happens in the case of a coalition? The 10%, the 20% and the 30% parties might all get together and form a government putting the 40% party in the Opposition. But, if the interests of the 20% and the 30% are widely different, then in actual fact the coalition cannot really be said to represent 60% of the people's interests. Obviously, somewhere along the way the one-to-one correspondence with individual voter needs has morphed into representation. And how could it not; the only reason the idealised Athenian city state flourished was because its size and suffrage were tightly controlled.

Mexico, from 1929 to 2000, had regular elections, secret ballot, universal suffrage and a revolutionary democratic government. And only one major party. Some people say that in Mexico, when you ask someone who they're going to vote for, they say whoever wins. Obviously there is more to democracy than an electoral system. In the Indian case, the elected leader of the party with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) is invited, by the President, to form the government. However, sometimes no single party holds an absolute majority. In this case, a coalition is formed, by haggling between the parties, and some person is put forth as the head of the coalition. The President then invites that person to form the Government.

The president of the majority party can also choose to nominate another person for the office, which is what Sonia Gandhi did in the case of Manmohan Singh. Which means that there a way to put someone in office that does not involve the people - except in their election of the majority party, of course. Which, one might say, is as good as it gets in today's world, and I tend to agree. However, it could be argued that the people might not have voted for the party in question if they had known that this new person could end up being PM.** True. But this person one might not have voted for might actually be the most effective person for the job, just bad at campaigning. On the other hand, a party leader who's completely useless at governing but very good at campaigning could be elected in good faith and turn out to be USELESS. Or, because of inter-party politics, an idiot is chosen to head a coalition simply because he# doesn't step on anyone's toes. Does that mean that the second guy, despite being bad for the majority of the people, solely because of the process of election, is a better democratic government than the first one? Or does it mean that the first guy, because he actually acts in the interests of the majority of the people, despite the indirect process of selection, is a better democratic government than the second?

Neither, according to me. Well, the first guy is a better choice because he benefits the country, but that has to with competence not democracy. What would make the government democratic in the most contemporarily relevant sense of the word would be if the next elections reflected the public reaction to the person in office: they re-elect guy number 1 because he acted to their benefit, they reject him because they take exception to the manner of his ascendancy to office, they reject guy number 2 because they are sick of incompetence, or they re-elect him because they believe in his campaign again. Well ok, to me the definitive proof would be re-electing the competent guy on the basis of his strengths or rejecting the incompetent one on his weaknesses. But the point is the enactment of public opinion through the ballot, and the acceptance of this public opinion by those in office.

Therefore, democracy in the contemporary world means accountability. A system of elected governance that ensures the accountability of persons in office is, for me, the definitive democracy.

*To compare, it was introduced in England in 1928, and in the USA in 1920 but not enforced until 1964. Wow, India has been a democracy longer than the USA!

**For example, many people expected Sonia Gandhi to be PM as president of the ruling party, which is why I did not vote for the Congress in 2004.

# He here referring to person with no intended gender bias. If you take offence from gender bias that you derive, go stuff yourself :)

La Coca no es Cocaína*

The single fact that drives me insane with anger when it comes to drugs is the complete erasure of the responsibility of the drug-using countries, combined with their refusal to see any solution other than those that penalise the countries where the source plants are grown.

Let us examine the famous USAmerican "War on Drugs". To begin with, why is it a war? Who are they waging the war against? Nature? Chemistry? Their own citizens who are caught with 1 ounce of marijuana and spend 10 years in jail? There are several hundreds of websites that detail the costs of the War on Drugs to the USA, its healthcare, its prison systems, etc. Lots of calls for the legalization of marijuana exist, but has anyone ever considered legalizing hard drugs? It would make them a lot easier to control. It would also render the whole illegal trade redundant. Ah but that would mean the end of so many lucrative treaties like Plan Colombia, which makes SO much money for the armament industry in the USA.

Let's start at the beginning though. Coca. Coca is the root of cocaine (and Coca-Cola and Novocaine, but you know that). Coca is also a plant with many traditional religious and nonreligious uses all over the Andes, to which it is native. The altitudes and the hardship of life made it a useful leaf, employed by native Americans for decades before the advent of Europeans. The Spanish arrived and declared it Devil's weed, thereby banning it. Eventually they accepted the importance of its traditional role and settled for levying a 10% tax.

Along came a German, Friedrich Gaedcke, who proceeded to isolate the cocaine alkaloid in 1855. Albert Neimann, another German scientist, improved the purification process in his PhD and published the thesis in 1860. Richard Willstätter synthesised it in five steps first in 1898. An Italian doctor, Paolo Mantegazza, was the first recorded person to experiment with the alkaloid. A chemist Angelo Marani, became the first person to market it in Vin Marani in 1863. In 1885 USAmerican company Parke-Davis was selling cocaine in all sorts of products. (Wikipedia zindabaad!) Once its addictive properties were revealed steps were taken to control it, and it was officially listed as a Controlled Substance in 1970. In the contemporary world it is an illegal recreational drug, whose usage is second to marijuana.

To recap, cocaine was first isolated by a German. The purification process was developed by a German. An Italian began experimenting with cocaine, and another Italian began marketing it in wine. A USAmerican manufacturer began selling the drug in various forms. And finally the United States declared it illegal. Notice the entire cycle was started, sustained and then panicked about by Western Europeans and USAmericans, who probably make up the majority of the contemporary market.** Coca growth spiralled because of the foreign demand for the processed drug. Because of this demand many more people began to cultivate it, much like coffee export becomes an incentive to move away from food crops towards coffee cultivation.


Moving on to the mechanism of the War on Drugs. In my not so very intensive internet research and one and a half years of listening in class, I have gathered that the main prongs of the war are:

  • Eradication of Coca
  • Military assistance to Colombia, to control growing, processing and trafficking
  • Zero tolerance of drugs inside the USA
  • Extreme pressure on Andean nations to involve themselves in the eradication of coca

The observed effects have been an increase in coca growing, an increase in the drug trade, increased civil war in Colombia, the spread of cultivation to other parts of existing coca-growing countries as well as non-coca growing countries, ridiculously escalating violence inside and outside the drug producing and consuming countries, increase in entry points and routes to the USA and a ridiculous number of people in jail in the USA on charges of possession of marijuana.

Eradication of coca is a ludicrous strategy because, firstly, it kills all plant life, including food and cash crops, without affecting coca itself too much, since coca was originally a weed. It has also been noticed that new strains of the plant are emerging that are resistant to the herbicides being used. The destruction of plant life then causes erosion in the delicately balanced areas of the Andes where the eradication programs are in force. Viable agricultural alternatives don't really exist because [a] nothing will grow after fumigation, [b] most alternative crops can't match the money, [c] even if [a] and [b] were surmounted, there is no infrastructure to ensure that farmers have secured transport of perishable products to markets far away, and [d] there is no guarantee that once they reach the market they won't be priced out by agriculturally subsidised USAmerican and EU products!

In the hypothetical Utopia where these things are all surmounted, there remains the issue of the violence. Agreed Colombia has had its civil conflict since about 1964, and while there are enough conspiracy theories that believe that the war on drugs began as a war on communists and las FARC, we shall set them aside and believe the US assertion of its motive being the eradication of drugs. However, thanks to the illegality that raises profits to an almost silly number, everyone, the Colombian military, las FARC, the paramilitaries and the (sing choirs of angels) US army are now involved in the drug trade. The paramilitaries were originally created to protect from the military who were ostensibly around to fight the guerrillas. The USAmericans were there to "aid", "train" and "assist" the military.

Firstly, the average campesino in this situation is basically shot. You don’t cooperate with the military, they shoot because you're a guerrilla; you don’t cooperate with the guerrillas, they shoot you because you're a spy. You don’t cooperate with the narcos, you're a problem and they shoot you; you don’t cooperate with the anti-narcos, you're a narco and they shoot you. It is inevitable that they are sucked into one of the sides in this kaleidescope of a conflict.

Secondly, everyone is in the drug trade! This is the most incredible story ever, of the wife of a US Army Colonel, posted to Colombia as part of the war on drugs initiative, who trafficked using US Diplomatic Mail. Of course the amazing part is how neatly it was ignored and everyone is still yelling about how it is the producing countries who cause the problem.

The self-interest of the "enlightened" "developed" world never ceases to amaze me. Despite the costs to themselves, their own population languising in jail, dying of overdoses, lives destroyed by drugs, they cannot begin to admit that perhaps a significant part of the problem comes from themselves, and take healthy steps to address it, because those steps might actually have more benefit for "developing" nations than themselves. I hate to make such emotional and frankly excessive accusations, but I can think of no other reason for the persistent destructive belief in the rightness of their stand of the part these nations in the face of lives lost and years of evidence to the contrary.

Coming soon, Neoliberalism is Evil!

*Evo Morales - The coca plant is not cocaine.

**Somebody find me some statistics that show what percentage of the population of various countries are hard drug users. I tried and got lost in anger along the way. I'm willing to BET it will bear me out. From what I know Spain has the highest percentage with 3.0% of adults.