Wednesday, March 30, 2011


OMG this city just gets more an more ridiculous, the only way I found out India won the match is because there are firecrackers all over fucking town, leaking in to my living room through the balcony. The food delivery guy was shocked that we weren't watching the match and kindly told us the score. Even S's mom calls only after the match to find out how our Nepali dinner cooking worked. (Very well)

And pleeeease. Today was that wonderful rain holiday I have been waiting for, for years, spent all day at home. 

The last time I went to a toy store, before yesterday, was at Walden in Hyderabad in about 1995. To me, it was the most fascinating store, one that stored all the wonders of my childhood, pretty pencil cases, coffee table books on parrots, Enid Blytons, later Sweet Valley and Agatha Christie and the other shit I read then. (Although, I never read Mills & Boon, was Cynical From The Begining Girl). The section I liked best was the toys section, I loved the board games. Cluedo was my favourite then and a little earlier in my childhood, I loved those baby sized blonde haired, blue eyed dolls (for the lack of brown skinned, brown eyed dolls which, after all these years, are still not available, commercially. Why?). I remember my parents gifting me one of those dolls that costed Rs.700, then a HUGE amount. I remained eternally grateful till my older brother took a Reynold's ball point pen and wrote Count of Dracula and drew skulls all over her pretty peachy face. Every girl who grows up with an older brother is secretly traumatized for life. Now, a toy car, costs Rs.20,000 - one way trip to Europe, man!

The toy stores at the Select City (et al malls) scandalized me and the mall itself inspires a continuous cynical, satirical commentary in my head. My friends would say its bitterness at my inability to afford everything there. But they know that there is never a co-relation between what I can afford and what I buy.
I am the real consumerism's love child. I digress.

When I was a child, I was always disappointed that toys didn't mimic real life. A doctor's trolley was never pink in real life. I was lucky enough to have a white one with aluminium foil lined instruments- a choice I made over the pink one. That has changed. Now, there are toy food cans, toy hair dryers, toy barbecue sets, picnic-in-the-park sets, shopping trolleys and they are different degrees of realistic, and marketed that way. Everything I would have liked to have as a child, but never could have imagined seeing in a toy shop.

Except and I must bring in the pedantic feminism here, the barbies. Yes, there is the software engineer barbie with the pink laptop, the TV journalist barbie with skin like she has no stressful job, but then there are the homie barbies which make me sick. They sit daintily skirted at the edge of chairs. One even had a comic dialogue think popping out of her blonde head saying "Oh no, Ken is late again." (So, I'll wait here prettily till he comes back.)

There are dolls that sneeze and need looking after with fake tissues, they say mama and they cry and I recently learned that there are breastfeeding dolls.

I wonder if it is an inane question to ask: by why are there no father dolls? Let's try offering some bizzare explanations. Men's instincts tell them to spread their seed, not to nurture its consequences so there is no need to tap into "paternal instinct". Little boys like guns, little girls want to be just like their mamas. I don't know, really, if it's too basic a question to ask, or even a question to ask.

If you are politically correct, animal loving, technology retarded, mildly respectful of women, persongoing into a toy shop is like jumping bang into a future where you'll instantly be regarded as uncool. Sample this: a hunting game that you plug to your TV to shoot deer. The ad says "Catch the best that Mother Nature has to offer."
It also has a disclaimer: mild violence and crude humour.

Then there's the toy shaver, with real foam and fake blades that can make little Rahul feel macho. Rs.499.
Then there are the alien space ships, battery operated, to be assembled by (8+) children, the complexity of which made the waistcoated hag fag and I shudder. Was the world overtaking our ability to comprehend it?

On one hand, toys are mimicking the real world's complexity in subjectively ''healthy'' ways. There are toys that harness wind energy to work a robot, toys that you can perform medical surgery on.I went to visit my niece in England sometime back and she had one of those. Five years old, she lived in a room that was entirely pink- bed, wardrobe, linen, frocks, tennis clothes everything. (The mother care store in Delhi said above the "girls clothes section"- "colours of the season and of course, pink." On the other hand, it worried me, the passiveness that is passively encouraged in young girls. At 5, she was already so self conscious and positively obsessed with how she looked. She wanted to use make up. (I still don't know how to.) Going to tennis class was not about the tennis class but about the image of it, the pink pants, the huggie goodbyes, the prospect of getting sweets after. I wonder if I am being harsh but obviously this is more a comment on the society she is in.

There is another friend of mine, Nathan, aged 4, who knew the Star Wars by heart and played fake gun games with a very bewildered me all summer, that year. I don't remember all those characters from the movies he constantly referred to but I remember he wouldn't let me be a leader because " I am a girl." :)

CQ's mother, being American feminist Wiccan and all this believed that boys should play with dolls and made sure her son did.
Will women fall in love with men who have played with dolls and are in touch with their feelings? Not women who have been conditioned to expect fake strength from a man,anyway, right?

So, it starts with toys, our first real playmates, who engineer this constructed conditioning of how we are supposed to be. MY parents mostly disapproved of Barbie dolls and my barbies came as gifts although they once agreed to buy me the "School Going Skipper", so I didn't die failing to look like one. But the point, is we need to seriously think about some basic things that go unquestioned about toys. Why is a toy guy,(Freudian slip..I meant toy gun), a toy?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rhododendron Wine

It's a sunday after a rhododendron wine night, Pahadi Phool is making fun of my too-loose-new dress. N is putting on make up in the bathroom and ish  is sleeping. Sou ditched, of course. PP and I watched The Hours the other day and have been throwing away lines from it since, even though he watched it for the 36th time. I apologize for my previous post, it was completely random. I should get up and make chai but then Sunday morning will begin and then end as consequence. 
Aiyoooo I went (too late) for a Japanese festival with M and we felt totally lost in a sea of Japanese.Before that she convinced my to go to TGIF where they raped my sensibilities by throwing chunks of raw unwashed carrot and half heartedly steamed Zucchini in my  pasta. I know I am vegetarian but there is really no need to do this to me. I had to make a fuss and order some generic tex-mex thing that they always do well. 
And then again I went with her to a Francophone festival at alliance where she quickly got entrapped in a speaking to some Congolese men, when we left out, unwanted and linguistically challenged went to fantasize about Swiss country bread in the corner- the only true highlight. There is a domestic dispute about who will make coffee going on..pp has made me breakfast. I must begin my Sunday.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Even as I hit a relative rock bottom, the world is violently  revealing a latent acaocalypse. I am so caught up with my own life that I can't even fathom the enormity of all that is happening in Libya and Egypt and Japan and I just want to actually sit and think and write but I must be rational and practical and try touching base with people I should interview today. In a way, as my roommate says, (the relative rockbottom, it's got to be relative when 18,000 people are dead in Japan) is a turning point in your life in a city. In a way it's true, you are comfortable enough in it to stop protecting yourself and just give in. 

I guess. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fashion Show, watched through a blackberry.

The blackberry zoomed in and out. Bosom/legs/bosom/legs. We were watching a prelude to the Wills Lifestye India Fashion (WIFW) Week standing behind tall men. Young designers showed their work in front of judges which included designers Namrata Joshipura and Rohit Gandhi. The clothes alternated between banal, fabulously futuristic and even burqa inspired. (Shashank Singh said he was saddened by burqa bans in cruel Europe and is kindly making the burqa glamorous, yet practical.) Rohit Gandhi tittered away after telling us that

Aishwarya Rai could do with more of his clothes. (Read: Diplomacy on her fashion sense.) Namrata Joshipura told us about her upcoming collection at WIFW making us promise it's a Tehelka secret (one that's kept apparently) She was more scathing than her counterpart judge and begged to redress India's fashion grievance : Rakhi Sawant.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Aap itni Bhakt ho"/ "Purse key neeche kya hain madam"

The weirdest thing happened to me today.I had to go to South Extension to pick up furniture from a friend who is moving out of Delhi. So I ordered a tempo - they reached my friend's place and waited till I got there by an auto.
. (It didn't even occur to me that an excursion like this could be unsafe.) When I reached, they had already loaded all the furniture. The light skinned, light eyed driver of the tempo offered me the front seat. I got on, and had planned to come back in the tempo anyway. He was very friendly initially and I made polite conversation. Although, his tone was much more respectful on the phone - as if he had thought I was an older woman. He  asked where I was from and if I was married. I didn't want him to think that I was an outsider so I just said that I have been living in Delhi for many years.He insisted on knowing where I was actually from so I told him

Everytime there was a traffic signal, his gaze was fixed on me in the most unnerving manner possible. I began to get very nervous and resorted to using my favourite security blanket - texting. I then became busy having an existential conversation (on sms) about being lost in life and scared and all this quarter life crisis kind of thing with a friend in Bombay,

He then looked at me and asked " Purse key neeche kya hain madam." He might as well have been asking "T shirt key peeche kya hai madam", seriously, that's how his tone was. (What is under your purse, madam?/What is under your Tshirt madam.) So, I usually carry a bag with me but today I just carried my wallet and trust me to be foolish (why is it foolish?), a pack of cigarettes.I quickly lied to him that it was my brother's. He insisted with a sly, flirtatious smile " Aap hi peethe ho" I remained firm that the cigarettes were my brother's.He was curious to know if my brother lived in Delhi. He initiated a long conversation trying to establish how this "cousin brother" was related to me. And then he told me about a girl from NIFT who smoked ganja in her Hauz Khas flat, and how he has seen girls smoke with his own eyes. I looked suitably shocked.

By then, I had already told him that I live with my sisters and that there was a joint family living below us who were also family friends. (I have people to protect me.)
And then, every time there was a traffic signal or we were stuck in a traffic jam (Bloody Nehru Place), he started masturbating. He didn't take his pants off or anything but he kept looking at me and masturbating. I freaked out. On one hand, I wanted to yell at him but on the other I was petrified because here I was, in his tempo, and there were two other men sitting behind so even though this is broad daylight Delhi, newspapers have led me to believe that anything can happen. And then I made a mental list of all the people I could call but I felt really chicken to call someone because was I just
overreacting? By the time someone reaches, he would have stopped and I'd have been home - I was thinking. 

So, I called another male friend, again in Bombay, and launched into a conversation pretending he was my brother who was waiting for me at my place. (Also the silly thought in my head was to tell him that I am a journalist and he can't mess with me. But as if being a journalist means anything..hahaha)He continued masturbating, but stopped after a while, hopefully in response to my new found aggressive voice. 

When I reached home, I wanted to ask my landlord to come up with me. The thought of him moving the bed into my bedroom made me feel extremely violated, however illogical this may sound to you. So, he came up to the third floor. My landlords have an elaborately done up pooja room next to my house. The moment he saw the pooja room, he said " Haaaw, Aap itni bhakt ho". And seriously, there was an expression of shame on his face. As if he in someway violated a good girl, not one who carried cigarettes under her purse. Like he performed a surgery on the wrong eye.He then graciously said, he was leaving. (He didn't enter my house and let the other men take the stuff in.)

So, what should I have done. Insisted the cigarettes are mine, yelled back at him and taken the risk? Or just tortured myself through the ride. And even if he hadn't done anything "major", was I over -reacting because I felt so violated. Well, I can't deny it - that I was but what bothers me the most is the fact that I am even questioning this. Especially after being so involved in this.

I can't stop wondering why this happens to me all the time. The last time my room mate and I shifted, it was totally fine. 
And just for the record, I was wearing blue jeans and a loose pink Tshirt. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Falling in love with the wrong man is ...

Swara Bhaskar ( google her, she did a bit in Tanu weds Manu) says in a little Tehelka interview that "acting in bollywood is like falling in love with the wrong might ruin your life but then " can't deal with the what if feeling..

Saturday, March 05, 2011

A date with myself

I have a date with myself, as in I am on it right now looking out through glass walls at scyscrapers on Barakhamba road bathed in benevolent Spring sunshine. Ever since I stopped being a carefree college student , which is way back in 2007, I have accumulated a toxic collection of fantasies of things I want to do on weekends. Invariably, these fantasies only involve myself - as self obsessed as I am. One of these was to spend a whole day in a book store with no agenda at all. It would be a quaint book store with a cafe attached with me alternating between reading parts of random books and sitting on my laptop and drinking coffee. The funny thing is, in all these years I haven't done it even once so here I am at the Oxford Book Store at CP. (I am the sort of crazy person who will make such a long journey to do this.) Unfortunately, and predictable my photon isn't working so I don't anymore see the point my indulging my luxurious attempt with having two internet connections- one wifi and one photon given that I do such things once in four years.

There are more things like this such as going for picnics, having wine nights at home etc etc.

So yes, I am in the crowded midst of a book store that has an ongoing 80% off sale. The people behind me are covering that nowadays dreaded topic of who is getting married. I am sort of still in denial of the fact that people my age are old enough to get married It can't be, really.

Yesterday CQ tried calling me a feminist so I told him I am not. I found myself performing laproscopy on a light bulb recently. So, to put it more simply, I fixed a light bulb and felt proud about it. And then, I felt so ashamed that a twenty something woman should feel proud about achieving a normal thing such as fixing a light bulb. To be fair to me, the socket was reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally high up so, yes, I was sort of performing laproscopy- I couldn't see what I was doing, only guess. The point is I wrote a long introspective mail that started with the light bulb and went to all sorts of topics. So there, that, according to CQ is what defines a feminist. Feeling proud of fixing a light bulb, then feeling ashamed and then writing an introspective piece about it.



Friday, March 04, 2011

The perils of the PR person

The perils of having PR people sitting around to intimidate and channel conversations is something anyone who has vaguely worked in media will know. So, yesterday, I went and the executive chef of a very well known international hotel chain. 
It was three pm and I found myself in a largely empty expanse of space called the main restaurant. 

The chef was seated, opposite to two pr professionals, one in a suit, and the other in makeshift work clothes, jeans, an over sized top and chunky silver watch. I sat next to the chef who was ready with his leather planner, with notes jotted down with ball point pen. In this extremely hostile environment, I tried my best to break the ice, speak about the world cup - clearly, for me to do that is an act of desperation. I hinted to the two PR women that it wasn't necessary for them to take notes on our meeting. 

They didn't take the hint and i continued to ask questions to the chef but he was so nervous that he repeated the same three points throughout the interview, no matter what question I asked. Yes, so people are looking to eat something new, Avant garde Indian cuisine is the next best thing and people want their food to be well presented.

I asked him generic questions like what his favourite restaurants were and I sensed it was taboo for him to utter the names of the competition. He would evade my very basic asked out of fascination rather than any form of advertorial obligation to their competition (I mean clearly, I wans't going to write a PR piece on the hotel, what did they think.) 

So this poor, little man was at the mercy of stares from the two women staring directly at him and the other mercilessly throwing questions, the answers for some of which he read out. He fumbled throughout. w

The point is that I got nothing out of this interview, he probably is thinking now about the hundreds of things he could have said. After the conversation, I asked if I could see the kitchen. They agreed and asked me to give them five minutes. I waited and after ten odd minutes they told me they had gotten the open kitchen ready for me. The open kitchen is well, an open  kitchen that all guests can see anyway. I asked them why I can't see the kitchen but they had no real answer except that apparently it was off limits to outsiders. The funny thing is that just ten minutes ago they had agreed, probably too zapped and not ready with a PR strategy to refuse my offer. It's not like I have illusions about how clean or non clean fancy kitchens are but that is a different story. 

What exasperates me is that as it is , it was hard to get this guy to be comfortable and it is completely impossible to do an interview with someone who doesn't in some sense become your friend by the end of it.