Friday, November 28, 2008

The Homes I've Lived In - Part II

Soon after my final exams, I moved to Delhi for my management studies. I lived in two hostels, there, neither of which I look back on with fond memories. My fond memories of b-school are of being in the canteen, on the college lawn, or even - gasp - in class.

I got placed in Gurgaon. I vowed never to live in a hostel again. With some help, I found a room with attached bathroom and kitchen that I could rent. I was very proud of living alone by myself, but the weekends were terribly hot and lonely. It was summer, and I had no AC, not even a cooler, no vehicle, no friends nearby, no TV.

I decided to move into a new friend's posh expensive apartment. That was definitely the swankiest (ok, the only swanky) place I've ever stayed in. Marble floors, granite bathroom - and to top it all, my roommate had an AC. Of course, it was too good to be true. Within a month, she decided to move back to her hometown and I was left holding the baby - in this case, an apartment with a rent that was nearly half my salary.

After some searching, I finally moved in with another new friend. I stayed there for about six months. The flat was large (or it looked so as we had hardly any furniture) and airy, and the colony was beautiful: clean, well-maintained, nicely lit, and with a lovely garden - with swings! Most weekends, my roommate would go home and I would have the house all to myself. I would walk by myself in the colony in the evening, or sit in the garden. It was peaceful, though admittedly lonely.

Then I moved to Pune. My employer put me up in a hotel for two weeks, though I spent some of that time with the Guy and his roommate. Then I moved in with them while I looked for a place. We found a dank flat in a run-down colony and took it because it was cheap and not too bad. We lived there for a year. (Technically, I lived there, but the Guy only went to his rooms once in a while, to sleep - he had moved too, by the way, because his earlier roommate was getting married and wanted to stay on in the same flat).

We got married, and the Guy officially moved in. We stayed on in that same flat for a few more months, but it had begun to seem increasingly small and shabby, especially as we had houseguests for much of the time.

We moved to a large airy 2-bedroom flat with nearly double the rent. It was summer, and the flat was so filled with natural light that our bedroom would heat up. I got heatstroke - partly due to that and partly to the bike rides to work, no doubt. but we were happy in that house. We felt well-settled, extravagant, having an extra bedroom with no occupant for most of the time. We lived there for over a year.

Then I changed jobs, and we moved to be closer to my job. We got a tiny one-bedroom flat half the size of the one we were leaving for nearly the same amount of rent. And then we found a flat we wanted to buy and booked it. The Guy went away for 2 months, and I appreciated living in a small flat. It was cosy, intimate, and comfortable, where I would have felt lost and lonely in a big house. There was hardly any room for furniture, though, and we wanted, at last, a sofa and a proper dining table. (Our earlier flat had come with some furniture - including a sofa, a double bed, and some cupboards.) We considered moving into a bigger flat. We considered renting one in the same area, so that I could be close to work, and putting our flat on rent. But finally we decided to move into our own flat.

The flat just got completed, and we got the keys some days ago. We hope to move in in a couple of days. It feels good to finally move into our own flat, to have the furniture we want, to 'settle down'. But I don't want to settle down. Part of me is a nomad at heart, and I hope we will move on from here as well in a couple of years. Till then, we mean to enjoy it.

Notice: We are moving tomorrow and likely to be without an internet connection for at least a week. I'll be back - do pray that I survive this ordeal.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


... at the events in Mumbai.

I have nothing to say, really. But I couldn't, somehow, put in another blog post as if nothing has happened.

Go read Lekhni, Falstaff, and Amit Varma.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Homes I've Lived In - Part I

I lived the first few years of my life in Guwahati, in the house that my grandfather built . I think my father made renovations, added on a room or two. It was an old-fashioned house with a tin roof, wooden windows (no glass panes - as far as I remember!), a small veranda in front and a little garden where we had roses and chrysanthemums and a small backyard that had a mango tree and beds of vegetables. A bamboo fence that just about kept out goats and dogs. A large rose bush that grew large red roses with the sweetest scent. Orchids grew on the mango tree in spring. I spent much of my holidays playing in the garden and the backyard. I must have been happy. I remember little of that time now - I lived there till I was about eight.

Then my dad got appointed the superintendent of a boys' hostel, in addition to his teaching duties in college. So we moved to the superintendent's quarters. A house built by the British - wide verandas, a kitchen that was some metres away and to be reached by a covered passage through the backyard, a couple of rooms near the kitchen for the staff (we didn't have any, apart from the hostel gardener who looked after our garden and backyard too and a girl who sometimes came in for help, so we used them as storerooms and as a home for our ducks, when we had them - and I claimed one to play in). There was a little lawn in front and a garden that appeared large to me. The mali wasn't very good with vegetables (we got nice brinjals and okra, but the tomatos and potatoes were the size of cherries and the cauliflowers hardly bigger than roses), but he grew magnificent dahlias as well as roses, pansies, and other brightly-coloured flowers. There was also a bottle-brush tree that parrots favoured - they often pecked away at the seeds and left the bottle-brushes severed, lying forlornly on the ground. There was a tree - not very tall - in the garden that I used to climb, though it didn't seem to be a good idea doing this when the college was in session, as we lived right in the middle of campus. My mother had made me a swing in the backyard, with a piece of wood and a sturdy rope. This and the other attractions mostly occupied me - there were no children nearby to play with, except the hostel staff's children in makeshift huts nearby, and I was too shy to approach them. Besides, they were younger. Then we adopted two kittens. One of them left home after he grew old enough to fend for himself, but the other remained with us for as long as we lived there.

When I was about fifteen, my father got appointed the principal of the government college in Diphu, a tiny town in a hill district. We had an even larger house and garden there. And we lived right next to a lovely public garden. Diphu had long power cuts, and every evening when the power went off we would sit out on the verandah and gaze at the stars. The stars seem nearer in the darkness, seen through less polluted skies.

I was there for about two years: by then I finished school and left home to go to college in Guwahati for my 'higher secondary' studies. I was seventeen, naive, scared and painfully shy. I lived in the hostel for nearly two years. I grew to enjoy my time there, had lots of fun, made many friends, and paid hardly any attention to studies. By the time those years were over, my dad retired and we all moved back to Guwahati. The old house had been sold off, and we moved into a flat that we had bought some years ago. I had a nice little room with a balcony all to myself. I loved my room. There was a laburnum tree right outside my window, and I would draw the curtains and open the windows to let the light, colour and breeze in. I would sit and do my studies and write my stories. In the evening, I would often sit with lights off, the moonlight streaming in trhough the window. I was doing my BA then, and those three years was the last leisurely time I have had for any length of time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Picture Blogging

For those who had asked a long time ago, and anyone else who's interested, a couple of pictures of our new home before we move in.

The living room

The balcony opening out from the kitchen

Our bedroom

While We're On Shopping...

Here are the most beautiful shoes I have ever seen. Never mind that they pinch my feet.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fall Fiction

I always liked the American word for autumn. Fall. It brought to mind a picture of brown leaves falling picturesquely. But the few trees I saw from my balcony were green. Only a few leaves were yellow. And the plants in my balcony seemed to be dying. Oh, that must be because I had forgotten to water them. And there were cigarette butts in the pots. Oh well, if the previous tenant had wanted them they wouldn’t have left them behind.

I had been saving my last cigarette because I was feeling too lazy to go out for replenishment, but the sight of those cigarette butts proved too strong for me. I lit up and tried to recollect the events of last night.

I realised that those cigarette butts couldn’t be mine. I had spent no time in the balcony last night, and they certainly hadn’t been there yesterday afternoon.

Mark had spent almost the entire evening on the balcony, with Leila. That was why I had drunk so much, torturing myself wondering why he had come only to avoid me and flirt with Leila. Wishing everyone would go so I could give way to my self-pity. But I was the host and I downed cocktails and laughed loudly and danced till my head throbbed.

I finished my cigarette and was about to shove the butt into the pot. But instead I flicked it over the balcony and leaned over to watch it fall.

(Written as an exercise for Caferati with the subject "fall")

On In-Laws and Family

I have often wondered recently why I have no in-law problems. No, I'm not complaining, thanks for asking. But most married people, especially women, seem to have them. I had put my lack of them to me being phenomenally lucky to have wonderful in-laws.

That part still holds true, but I realised I wasn't giving another factor enough credit. The Guy. (Okay, for those of you who feel this blog is beginning to read like a Guy journal, stop reading this post now.)

This morning, I was cooking up a quick lunch while the Guy spoke to his mother in a language that I guess I've begun to understand (or probably I only understand it when the Guy speaks it). And from what I heard of that one side of the conversation, I could see that she was suggesting we move into our new flat on an 'auspicious' day. And I heard with some amusement as the Guy brushed her suggestion off.

And I suddenly wondered, what if he had been the kind of guy who would take such a suggestion seriously - either because he believed in it himself, or just to 'please his mother'? I would have been hurt, angry - and if I had given in, I'd feel frustrated. And probably blame the mother, not the son.

I remember when things weren't this great, when we had just been together for some time and had started to get to know each other's families. There was apprehension and eagerness to please on both sides. There were cultural differences - they even speak a different language. And I was insecure and scared of the influence his family had on him.

In a way, the cultural differences probably helped - any unfamiliar behaviour on my part was probably put down to a culture they had little knowledge of, where a bride of the same community might have been criticised more strictly. Any wounds were minor, and caused totally by accident. They treated me with kindness and respect, taking pleasure in the fact that I made the Guy happy.

The Guy and I grew even more happy and comfortable together. We soon learned that any decision in our lives were ours to make, that friends and relatives might offer their opinions - politely - but we would do what pleased us. Most of the times, we want the same things. And because disagreements are rare, compromises are easier.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

On Buying Furniture

With just a couple of weeks left till we – hopefully – move into our new flat, the Guy and I went hunting for furniture. And got a rude shock.

We saw a bedroom set that I loved, and that the Guy did not dislike (which is a compliment to the furniture). It included a large wardrobe, which we definitely need (our clothes currently jostling for space in the one steel cupboard, three suitcases, a couple of cardboard boxes, and the little wall cupboard we have); a queen-size bed, which we need but thought we could do without for another couple of months (we have been making do the past two years with two single beds pushed together and a double mattress - it's been holding up quite well, surprisingly); a dresser, which we hadn’t budgeted for but realised we couldn’t do without; and a nightstand.

We actually wanted to buy a sofa first. We will definitely need it to rest our aching backs, espeially after we make the move. But there was nothing remotely in our price range.

So we booked the bedroom set. They have promised we can have it in 25 days.

So even if the rest of our house looks bare and messy, we can rest in our luxurious bedroom.

And it looks like it’ll be that way for a while. Last night, we calculated – rather, recalculated, based on more realistic estimates – what it will cost us to furnish the entire house.

We’re stuck with this car, honey. And no foreign holidays for a long time.

But at least we’ll finally have a well-furnished home! Maybe we can sit together on the sofa and dream of exotic locations.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Banno's Lilkee

Banno very kindly sent me a DVD of Lilkee. This is not an unbiased review, because I was fully prepared to like it before I'd seen it.

And I did.

What had first made me want to watch the movie was
this lovely song, written by Banno herself. And I still like it so much that I sing it to myself and the Guy once in a while.

The movie was lovely. It felt real and unpretentious. Everyone acted well, and the story was touching. I found it a little slow, but that might very well have been because I knew the story already - plus, of course, it's a children's film.

The only bone I have to pick was that everyone was so nice in the movie and the problem seemed to sort itself out miraculously, with no details given. Yet in the world we live in, it's nice sometimes to catch a glimpse of pure sunshine.

For the entire story of the movie,
go here.

On Quantum of Solace

I watched the new Bond movie, and liked it. I haven't watched many Bond movies, and it's not something that's high on my list, given the apparent sexism and mindless violence. But this one had a Bond who was not really Bond. He had only one sexual escapade in the whole movie, makes no move on the heroine, and actually betrays emotion. The Bond girl is a strong, capable woman who is as focused on her goal as Bond himself is. And whose only physical overture towards Bond is an almost-chaste kiss at the end. Let me point you to this review, as I agree with it and can't write as well myself.

By the way, there are so many posts today because what with not being able to blog from work and long power cuts every morning, I haven't been getting much time online. So I had written a couple of posts that I finally posted today.

Three Years with the Guy

It has been three years! It does seem very long away, that time.

You had come over to meet me, at my insistence. I was overtaken by this urge to see you. We had spoken so much over the phone, grown so close. I remembered the friend I had had a year ago. but he had been reserved, restrained. Who was this guy who unfolded to me the secrets of his soul? I have to see you, I insisted. We need to meet, to decide where this is going.

Do you remember that cool, windy day? You were waiting for me as I arrived. It was early in the morning, and we had nowhere to go. So we sat on the stairs at the mall and talked.

Well, not so much. I was shy and you were nervous. You wondered why I was so quiet. It was difficult for me to reconcile the person sitting next to me with the friend I spoke to every day or even the friend I had known a year earlier. But then you made me laugh, and I saw both those friends in you again.

How magical that weekend was. We were together as we had never been before. We realised we wanted to be together that way, that we had walked beyond the boundaries of friendship.

Was it only three years ago? it seems like forever. We have come so far since then. There is less excitement now, perhaps. But there is also less fear and no doubt. Yet, so little has changed. We still talk for hours everyday. Life doesn’t seem worthwhile without that. And you can still make me laugh.

Three years ago, he had got me orchids. This time, I got these.

An Ad on Religious Conversion

...aired before my movie yesterday. Actually, it was an ad against conversion, and blatantly set forth the lie that trying to convert is an offence. It called for citizens to report to the police when such an act occurs.

The freedom to practise and propagate one's religion is a right guaranteed by the constitution.

Nowhere in the ad was there any mention of 'force' or 'coercion'.

I Watched Dostana

... last night. I'm not going to waste much more time on that movie, but I wanted to put down a few thoughts.

The one word I'd choose to describe it would be 'horrible'. A heroine who tries to pimp out her "gay" roommates to her boss in the hope of getting a promotion, and then cries over her disappointment at not getting the job after all, after all the "hard work" she put in. The "best friends" who cheerfully stab each other (and anyone else) in the back in the hope of winning the girl. One of them goes farther than the other and conspires at having his friend molested. (Is assault any less funny when it happens to a male than to a female?)

There was just one scene I liked: when the extremely loud, overbearing, melodramatic mother (played by - who else? - Kirron Kher) has a change of heart and welcomes her son's "boyfriend" home like she would her daughter-in-law, asking him to step over a pot of rice and gifting him the gold bangles she had kept for her bahu (and no, she doesn't insist he wear them, she merely offers them as shagun).

What disappointed me more than the movie was the fact that the audience seemed to enjoy it. Such portrayal of sick humour and prejudice is extremely popular in India. The people around - mostly with their families, seemed to enjoy it, laughing loudly at every disgusting "joke". A few in the row ahead of ours laughed loudly at the mere non-mention of the word "fuck" (that is, when it was implied, not even said aloud). Imagine how much laughter they would get into their day if they lived with me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rent and Religion

A friend who is looking for a flat to rent asked me to speak to someone about it. She cautioned me to make sure I inform them that she is Catholic. She said she and a Muslim friend had had a lot of trouble in another city when they went looking for a place to rent.

They claimed it was to do with eating non-veg, she said.

I rubbished that. It's not like all Hindus are vegetarians. If that was the problem they'd have stated it upfront.

Even though I shouldn't have been surprised - after all, there have been enough stories and news items about such discrimination - it left me feeling vaguely disturbed, this reminder of the prejudice and discrimination in my country.

Such a person, who doesn't want someone of another religion using their property, must not care to ever make friends with someone of a different religion. To eat together, to visit their homes, to learn about them. What a pathetic, narrow life.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I Ordered That!

Is it THAT unusual that a woman might want a cocktail for herself, while the man with her drinks Coke?

Last night, I ordered a Planter's Punch and the waiter felt the need to assure himself I knew it was a cocktail - you know, with rum in it. And then the Guy asked for his routine Diet Coke. Yet when the same waiter brought the Coke over, he offered it to me before I pointed at the Guy.

Now, the Guy and I rarely order alcohol. He can't stand it, and I can't hold it. (Seriously - one drink is more than enough to give me a hangover. Yesterday was a case in point. I didn't even finish my one drink, made sure to keep drinking water, and yet I woke up with a throbbing headache more than once during the night, and it's lasted most of the day, too.)

The last time something similar happened was at Le Meridien - seriously, aren't they used to women drinking there? I ordered a Baccardi while the Guy wanted his Coke, and of course, they handed the Baccardi to him. (I don't remember now if it was the same person who took the order and brought the drink - but in any case, they could have asked.) Hmmphh.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Random Thoughts

I am happy that the Guy is back, but with power cuts every morning, and him working from home nearly every night, I get little chance to blog. We need a second internet connection, or a wireless router.

I think of blog posts late at night before falling asleep, when I am talking to the Guy, when I am out. Needless to say, when I actually get some time at the comp, nothing comes to mind. It's late at night now and I'm very tired, but I couldn't sleep and realised I needed my blog.

Sometimes I fantasise about quitting my job so I can have time for all the things I would want to do. I stop when I remember that if I quit my job, I won't have money for any of the things I want to do.

On that note, a shout-out to you, my readers. All of you who come over and read and comment. You make me feel I'm not shouting in a vacuum. Sorry for being lazy with posting and responding to comments quite often. It doesn't mean I don't read or appreciate the attention. Thank you.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I Hate Titles

... because I find it so hard to come up with suitable ones. Anyway, here's what happened.

A little while ago, someone rang the doorbell. I was alone and just warming up my lunch. There was a young woman and a young man outside, holding some files. They were from a well-known NGO. The woman did all the talking, except for the "Thank you, ma'am" the guy said at the end. Why am I writing about this? Because there were a couple of things about the encounter that annoyed me. Because I admire people who volunteer and I am sure this organisation does admirable work, so I was disappointed in the way they went about this. Of course, it might just be this person's fault, not the organisation's - which is why I'm not naming it.

She said they are "trying to raise awareness among working people". Then she asked if I was "working", and I said yes. She responded, "Great." I am sure she did not mean to come across as patronising (I'm sure they are asked to be positive and encouraging), but she definitely did. Then she invited in. Now this is something that usually gets my goat. It's my house - let me decide when to invite you in, especially when you've called without notice and I am alone at home. She did not bother asking if I had some time, or if it was convenient. But they were from an NGO, and I wanted to hear what they had to say.

As soon as they were in, she asked for water. Again, not a big deal, but it's just not something I would do. Not until I had established friendly relations first. (Not in these days, at least, where you can find bottled water at a store within every few metres.)

Anyway, she started off with asking me where I work. I said, "in an IT firm." For one, I saw no reason to give her the name of my employer - for another, it's so small and obscure that no one recognizes it. She then asked if I work at Cybage (?). I answered very succintly, "No." She then mentioned the name of someone at Cybage and asked me if I knew her. I had no idea where the conversation was heading at this point, but I am on my period and was feeling dizzy, so I just said 'no' so as not to prolong it. Thankfully, that ended that part of it, though I think she looked suspicious - like I probably did know her friend but was denying it.

She then talked about what the organisation does, and it seems to do significant, worthwhile work. It did not help that she seemed to have a rehearsed pitch, but I tried to look past that and listen to what she was saying. Then she came around to what I could do to help, and waved a form with lots of numbers in it, and spoke about tax benefits. There was no mention of volunteering, of spreading the word. This was just a polite demand for money. She shoved forms at me and ran through her rehearsed pitch without giving me a chance to say anything - and without of course, asking if I was interested, or if I was involved with any other causes.

I finally interrupted her to ask if I might speak. I told her that I am already involved with another NGO and I work with them. Then came the bit that most annoyed me. She did not graciously retreat, but pressed on, and spoke about not being able to ask for help from people who've never helped anyone (only she couched it in much less polite terms - I don't remember exactly and don't care to). At the moment, I was only irritated at the demand - as I always am when someone demands money of me: it's my money and I'll decide what to do with it, thank you. But there's another aspect that's more disturbing. She's going door-to-door and asking for money, and I'm sure they expect that many of the people they talk to are not involved with any charities. Yet she found it all right to speak disparagingly of them to me?

When she pressed on, I reiterated that I prefer to focus my energies on one cause. She then urged me to 'extend a bit'. I had to stand up and politely say, "I'm sure you understand" before they made their exit with something of an apology.

This makes me even more glad that I work with the wonderful people at Friends of Children: in all the time I have known them they have been always perfectly polite and generous. They always thank other volunteers for every bit of help, and never judge people who decline to help or make commitments that they don't keep. This is especially great because they are volunteers themselves, and take out so much time from their full lives to run the show.

It saddens me that an organisation that does great work needs to resort to disreputable sales tactics to ask for donations. By demonstrating a little politeness and respect, by telling the story of one disadvantaged person instead of talking vaguely about trafficked children and medical expenses, they might be much more effective. What do you think?

To the Person from Saudi Arabia

... who reached here trying to find an answer to "how can i change my marital status": if you don't know the answer to that, you probably shouldn't be trying.