Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Garba Nite

Garba and Dandiya - things that describe a true-blood Gujarathi. After jalebi and fafda of course!

My best friend Nikita is getting married this weekend, and she had organized a Garba yesterday instead of the traditional Sangeet. I was there for around 3 hours, dancing most of the time. But in that span of time, I got to know almost all of the 40-50 people assembled there.

For those of my friends who do not know what Garba is, here is a brief history.

It felt like a whole new way of learning about human beings and their behaviour. The evening started with catching up with old friends. The traditional Gujarathi songs felt good and few of us could resist hitting the dance floor. The good part of Garba is that it is a traditional dance form which has evolved over the years with the incorporation of more liberal and complicated moves. Yet the age-old form of clapping to the tune and moving in a circle is still as relevant. So even Uncles and Aunts who were on the other side of 40 could participate as easily as we did.

They say the best way to participate in Garba is to get on the dance floor as early as possible. The enthusiasm is infectious, and soon people start following your moves. So we took the lead and started off. Easy steps at first. It felt like a warm up. There was plenty of space here, unlike during Navratri, when space is at a premium and everyone jostles each other for a little more room. Soon Nikita's relatives joined in and we were dancing like a big, happy family. I love the free-style dance at a Punjabified wedding, but the Garba, with its disciplined layout, has a charm of its own.

After an hour or so, we switched over to Dandiya. Its an extension of the Garba, only with the addition of foot-long sticks in both hands. Dandiya is generally played in pairs, people keep moving and pairs keep changing after every set of 5 beats. It was an eye-opener for me. Each person had a unique style. And the way they played said a lot about their attitude. Some were shy or reticent, some were enthusiastic, they exuded a warmth with their smiles. Some were outright arrogant. Some were patient, some were not. I realized even 4 year olds knew how to play the Dandiya, (and I need to revise the steps each time I start playing). It was as rudimentary to them as learning the alphabets.

After 2 rounds, I knew almost everyone there. Atleast, I knew what their nature was. I still have a few more encounters till the wedding to know them better. The way you dance for an hour says all about you that even a week of conversation would not reveal. Its not surprising that Navratri is so popular for scouting prospective soulmates :) Gals are you listening?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why do we need friends?

1. To tell us what is missing in our life. The new dress on sale, the new cell phone in the market, the new car that he bought.

2. To help us judge our social standing and success. It feels good when we earn more than our friends.

3. To gossip to and gossip about

4. To listen while we crib. About topics ranging from parents and bosses to the latest stock market crash.

5. To dole out advice to. On food and looks, life and love, so that we feel all good and smart.

6. To stay over with, when we have a fight at home.

7. To pamper our mood when we are feeling low. Throw a party, order some icecream.

8. To take care of the kids when we want to go to the movies.

9. To make us feel that single (or committed) is good. We all are in it together.

10. To pamper our egos. To read the silly stuff that we come up with at 1 am and tell us that its a creative genius.

I guess we all are selfish when it comes to friends, though we hate to admit it. That is what makes friendship so cherished - we can all be selfish together, without feeling guilty about it.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

'A'typical Girlfriend

Sia loved the journey back home from work. It was around 2 in the night when she finished her shift. The cab was ready to leave by 2.15. Anusha was seated comfortably near the window. But Richa was late as usual. She came rushing down the stairs, balancing herself precariously on six inches of heels. "I'm sorry, lets go", she said. The driver eased the car out of the basement parking lot and breezed towards the highway.

Sia looked out of the window. Both Anusha and Richa were busy with their cell phones. Sia looked at them and sighed. "What do a gang of girls do when they get together after work? They call their boyfriends.", she thought. The thought of her boyfriend brought a smile to her lips. She loved Arun dearly and was proud of him. They had been dating for a year now, and he had never given her a reason to complain. He had always been caring and supportive. He respected her fierce attitude and complemented it with his patient temperament. And she prided herself about being the perfect girlfriend. "If such a species exists", Arun always joked. But Sia knew in her heart that she was not the typical girlfriend. She never nagged, never demanded a lot of attention and never cribbed. She was always independent, spent a good deal of time with her gang of friends and always let Arun have his space in the relationship. She never acted like a GPS around Arun's neck, calling him every few hours to check on his whereabouts.

But today Sia decided to call him. It was rather late, so she settled with texting him. She was delighted when she got a reply, but the smile soon faded. Arun was not well. He had a bad cold and was trying to get some sleep, he said. "Will call u 2moro". Sia understood perfectly well. "Any other girl would have been suspicious, but not me", she thought. "What are you doing now?". Sia heard Anusha shouting into the phone. "Why dont
you stop eating those oily bhajiyas? Your will put on. And the cholesterol is not good for your heart." Sia smirked. A typical girlfriend, she thought. She went back to her window and gazed at the moving world outside. Suddenly her eyes widened in alarm. Did she see Arun at the end of the road? It was a blurred figure in a green t-shirt and very far away. As the distance between them closed, Sia stared in disbelief. It was Arun! What was he doing there? There were three friends with him. And they all looked drunk! Did that mean Arun had lied to her? She was too stunned to answer that.

Arun woke up the next day to a bad hangover. The sound of the doorbell made his head ache even worse. He slowly made his way to the door. The sight of Sia surprised him. She smiled sweetly and came inside. Closing the door after her, she sat down at the dining table. "This is such a pleasant surprise", said Arun bending forward to kiss her. She turned her head away. She would never have done that. "Where were you last night?", she shouted. "You told me you had a cold and were too busy to meet me. And I see you in the middle of the night, dead drunk with your stupid friends. How can you lie to me?", and Sia started sobbing. If Sia's visit had surprised Arun, this was a jolt out of the blue. He was visibly stunned. He tried to offer an explanation, but she would hear nothing of it. She kept sobbing and flung all the cushions on him that she lay her hands on. "I hate you", she kept saying. After a minute or two, she stormed out of the house. Arun ran after her, but she simply brushed him aside and left. 

The next two days were living hell for him. He tried to call her, but she did not answer his calls. He tried to meet her on her way to work, but she refused to acknowledge his presence. It took two weeks and an endless trail of phone calls and emails, visits to coffee shops and one to Swarovski to finally get Sia to forgive Arun. Its been twenty-five years since then, and Arun has been absolutely honest to Sia.

How do I know this? Because I am twenty and have been dating a nice guy for a year now, and when I told Mom today about him, with the customary maternal advice, she added "Dont behave like a typical girlfriend, though I once did,". And told me this story as an afterthought. So fond of proving herself smarter than Dad! A typical girlfriend!

P.S: This is a totally fictitious story churned out by the writer. There is absolutely no resemblance to anyone :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Skimming through life past

It is a strange feeling when you read your own diary. Revisiting the nooks and corners that defined the way your life has taken, smiling at all the fears that shuddered you then, smiling even more at the happy moments that braced you.

You know that you have grown and improved, that you have learnt and are wiser now, that your are stronger and have more patience, that you have faith in yourself, that you still treasure those friends and the time you spent with them, that some people have left an indelible mark on your life, and that nothing can ever go wrong in life again. The most important thing that you realize is the number of people you have forgiven - the friend at school who taunted you over grades, the snooty professor who troubled you with an assignment, and all those people who had made life difficult for you. It is sheer nirvana when you traverse all those episodes again and realize the wounds no longer bleed.

And then there are times when you mentally start filling in the missing details; the ones you deliberately left out because they belonged to you and nobody else. Guilty secrets, if I may call them. Some make you smile, some make you sigh, but most of them remind you that those were in fact the best moments of life.

As you complete the journey down memory lane, you are reminded that not all memories can be frozen in a frame or captured in words. Some are best left wafting around the mind and lingering in the heart.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A time to stand and stare

I remember my first day at the Sathaye college library. I was a new entrant into FYJC and college life on the whole. In fact, I think I was in the library to avoid being ragged by the SYJC seniors (It was later that I realized that students in SYJC do not attend college :D).

I cant recollect what I was reading. I'm sure it wasnt anything to my liking, because most of the time, I was listening to the discussion two FYBSc girls at my table were having. They were trying to solve some maths problem. I remember one of them. She was dark and had long hair tied in a neat plait. Her spectacles gaver her a nerdy look and she kept saying 'If G is abelian, then...'. It sounded all wise and fancy to me. 'Abelian' is a nice-sounding word. Then she said something that made me take notice. "What do we do now?", the friend asked when they got stuck with the solution. "Now we stare at it.", the girl said. And they both just sat and stared at the half-solved problem, till something struck them.

'Stand and stare'. It is such a powerful way of solving things. It forces us to slow down and watch the problem from a distance. And it is amazing how much better it is to be an outsider to all the chaos. The mind is clear of clutter and we can think more clearly. And that is when the solution strikes.

Stare-at-the-problem-till-something-strikes has been one thing I have oft done since then, albeit subconsciously. And whenever I do that, I am drawn back to that rainy afternoon in the library.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hey, don I speak English?

I had read about England and Englishmen in the works of Wodehouse, Forster and the likes. I knew all about their stiff-upper-lip, their love for the evening tea, their lack of panic (or emotions) in situations of crisis.

But yesterday, when I met a real Englishman and started conversing with him in his mother-tongue, it suddenly struck me how different our styles are. To start with, I greeted him as 'Hi FirstName' instead of the customary, 'Good Morning Mr. Lastname'. I am not sure how it struck him. All through the day, I found myself using short sentences, incomplete ones too (which is grammatically incorrect), dropping syllables like silencing the 't' in 'dont' and the 'f' in 'of course'. I felt I was using a drawl, which stood out against his crystal-cut accent.

And that is when I realized how all those years of interacting with Americans in the IT industry, all those movies, and the attempts to sound cool and trendy have profoundly distorted the so-called Queen's English that we leant in school. It is now flavoured with the American accent, tempered with its grammar, particulary the verbs (Brazil are a great team/Brazil is a great team), and seasoned with a dash of American slangs.

Do I regret it? Not one bit! Because language should always evolve to survive. It is only when new words are added to it and new intonations get associated with its words, that a language stays relevant. And that, I think, is the very reason why English has such a wide acceptance.

N that reminds me, the next book on my wishlist - 'We are like that only'!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An 'Unconquered' Dilemma

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was busy doing what I love the most - reading. And this time, it was Somerset Maugham. The short story was titled 'The Unconquered'.

Maugham narrates the tale of a German soldier, Hans, who is posted to a French village near Soissons, after a hostile takeover by Germany. In a state of drunkenness, he rapes a farmer's daughter. He keeps running into her quite often since then, and tries to strike a rapport, just for fun. The farmer's daughter, Annette, is a school teacher and a true French patriot. She loathes the Germans, and particularly her perpetrator, with a fierce passion. Her hatred causes Hans to become more obsessed with her. Eventually, he realizes that she is carrying his child, and that she could not rid herself of it.

The thought of the child evokes a strange tenderness within Hans, and he offers to marry Annette. By this time, the farmer and his wife are won over, but Annette refuses and remains stubbornly firm. As she gives birth to the child, her mother sends the message to Hans. Hans rushes over to visit his child. When the farmer's wife goes to fetch her grandson, she realizes that mother and child are both missing. As panic strikes the room, Annette walks in through the door and tells Hans that she drowned the child in the river. Hans screams like a wounded animal and rushes out through the door. And Annette feels proud that she has remained the unconquered.

As the narrative closed, I kept asking myself whether it was right for Annette to kill the child. Does a mother have the right to decide whether the child should live or not? What motivated her to take such a drastic step? Was it revenge against her rapist, patriotic feelings, societal norms against a child born out of a wedlock, or pure egoism?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On P.G. Wodehouse

There is a charm to the way PGW writes. He has the most eccentric characters I have ever known. His protagonists range from disillusioned lovers to dog-biscuit salesmen to obsessed earls. His characters have an earthly flavour that makes them all-humourous, all-endearing and all-so-timeless.

What amazes me is the humour that he manages to concoct out of everyday occurences. It is marvellous what a random thought can transform into. Use of irony, toungue-in-cheek humour & good grammar can translate a drab idea into an interesting read. A mundane incident becomes the most loved story and 'Plum' becomes one of the most popular humourists of all times. That is the magic of Pelham Grenville Wodehouse!

On draping a saree

I recently had a conversation with a friend over draping a saree. And as I pondered over the origin of my proficiency in draping a saree, my mind drifted off to those oft-quoted-oft-missed childhood days.

I always used to watch my mother get ready in the mornings. Mom would thrust a glass of milk in my hands as I would dreamily stare into nought, battling the overweight sleep that would swing on my eyelids. What else can you expect a child of four to do when she has been woken up at 6 in the morning to go to school? After raising her voice to get me to drink the milk, Mom would start her daily routine of getting ready for work. She would comb her hair into a neat plait, tuck a flower into it occasionally.

And then she would pick up the saree that she had chosen for the day. This was be the moment that always toppled sleep off my eyes.

I would watch with rapt attention as she unfolded the saree. It was an act of magic. Six yards of fabric - silk, chiffon, cotton, just about anything - draped with such elegance! I would watch her turn the saree around, fold it into neat pleats, tuck them without creating a single extra crease. A gentle tug to align it, a pin there to hold it in place, a glance in the mirror to make sure it was perfect, and she would be ready, neat and pretty. A mere five minutes of activity would leave me awe-struck every morning. And I would yearn to hold the surreal six yards in my tiny hands and create my own magic.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

On tweeting

It is amazing how social networking is blurring the boundaries between the common man and the ones in power. If my local MLA is on Twitter, I can reply directly and instantly to his tweets, and he cannot ignore them. Twitter started off as a tool to keep in touch with long lost friends and acquaintances in an easy, hassle-free way. It helped do away with all the book-keeping associated with an email. It was quick and the restriction on the number of characters ensured it was crisp. But the benefits soon started growing as people discovered better uses to this tool.

Today it transcends networking. It helps build brands, voice opinions, start a movement and much more. I was recently tracking the initiatives by Vir Sanghvi and Pritish Nandy around the Padma Awards controversy. It surprised me how convenient it is to garner support through the social networks. And there is a sense of rawness associated with tweets. The recent tweet by Gul Panag about the COAS is an example in point. You end up saying the things you really mean without much fanfare and fancy around it. The shroud of diplomacy is out.

Every person on Twitter is his own brand ambassador. There are articles which tell you how to increase the number of your followers, what kind of users to follow, how to use the bio space to the best and how to choose a theme picture for your profile. Twitter has become one of the best ways of disseminating information quickly. I find following the ET tweets better than reading the newspaper itself.

As one of my friends joined Twitter after a lot of reluctance, I could not help but realize that love it or hate it, no one can afford not to be tweeting. Even as I write this, I see three new tweets on my twitter tab :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

On starting the day early

Waking up early in the morning is an enlightening sensation. Though I have always been a shining beacon of 'late to bed, late to rise', I am discovering a strange feeling of contentment on rising early.

Sunlight does wonders to the mood. A few rays of brilliant gold, defeating the tightly drawn curtains to gleam into the room and create a warm glow, can uplift the bleakest of moods. Scientifically, one may attribute it to the natural rhythm of the body resonating with the frequencies around.

Then, there is the leisure of having a warm bath, soaking up the luxury of being alive and well. It is soothing, relaxing and reassuring to feel a trickle running down ones face. A lazy breakfast braces one for the challenges of the day. The very thought of piping hot dosas and coconut chutney, butter and toast and jam, eggs and fruit, and a cup of milky coffee is delight itself!

Starting the day early also gives one the psychological advantage of being ahead of the snoozing friend. You have finished half your work by the time he rises with a large yawn. There are very few emotions which are comparable.