A Road Trip To South Maharashtra

A Road Trip To South Maharashtra

My husband had some assignment at the southern end of Maharashtra and he decided to travel by road. Should I join? Hmmm? Well, why not? On work front, there wasn’t anything much exciting nor any pressing task. So I decided to take this opportunity. A minuscule break, but with no agenda (at least for me) whatsoever.

So I threw a few things together and hopped in the car. We weaved through the office-hour Mumbai traffic, crossed Navi Mumbai (New Bombay) and left the city behind. I put on ear-phones, shuffled my favourite numbers and sat back.

But a few miles later we noticed something odd – the cars in front were taking a U turn and were going back. At first we didn’t bother, but then our car came to a stand still — just like the rows and rows of cars in front of us — and soon, even behind us.

The sun was moving towards its noon-time zenith and it wasn’t exactly comfortable sitting in a motionless car. From the rows ahead and behind, people were stepping out of their cars and were discussing ….. discussing what? Isn’t it strange that whenever such public situation arises, total strangers (especially drivers) immediately bond like long lost friends or Kumbh ke mele mein bicchade brothers?

Rows of cars stuck on the winding roads of Western Ghats

Then on the scene arrived an angel on a bike, carrying news from the opposite direction. Naturally every soul in that never-ending car queue was all ears for some news …. any news arriving from the direction where it all had started.
“Patthar gire hain — there is a land-slide. Nothing can move till four or five o’clock in the evening.”

There was a mad rush to turn around, before the U turn or the express-way in the opposite direction also could get blocked….. we were not exception. Herd mentality — yes, we too were guilty! Nobody tried to verify what that biker said. How blind (& also deaf  n dumb) can we get.

So we went back a few kilo-meters and took the now-rapidly-filling up old Mumbai-Pune road, abandoned since the easier, faster option of express-way was opened.

So the old,scenic route started winding up the ghats, unfurling old memories of childhood travels. But loosing oneself in the sweet past wasn’t possible, as the reality wasn’t all that rosy. The ‘curvaceous’ ghats and their steep, winding roads were causing naak mein dum for all the cars.

People usually generalise that city females find it difficult to put up with hardships. (being a female from city, I of course do not subscribe to this opinion – Absolutely Not). Applying the same (wrong) logic, the new age city cars were fast buckling under this sudden challenge.

There was a quickly spreading epidemic amongst the cars — with rapid succession they were falling victim to the ‘smokey’ phenomenon. Looking at the scenario, we were getting more and more worried about our ‘old faithful’. Whenever we detected even a whiff of smoke, we immediately stopped and checked whether our ‘grand dame’ has got a whim of having a smoke.

One after other, the cars were being pulled on the side for a breather, bonnets were opened to let out the clouds of smoke. The cars on the roads were anyway moving at a snails’s pace, so I tried to have a look at the open bonnets  of a car or two. But in return I received dirty glares.

Well, well, how well the human brains perceive what exactly is in the mind of opposite person — especially if it has some dishonourable thought like taking a picture of the gaping bonnet full of smoke. So a dirty glare was a natural reaction, I guess. Suppose if we were in their place, with our poor baby having tough time? No, no ….. it was not charitable on my part even to entertain such thought. So mentally wishing ‘get well soon’ and ‘speedy recovery’ etc. to those coughing, spluttering cars, we inched our way, keeping our fingers crossed.

There the next problem stood in the form of a traffic police — No going further on the old road, take the old-new connect and resume the journey on the express-way. Everywhere, on all the levels, the roads in the ghats were completely jammed. I wondered how the drivers could differentiate between old and new roads?

So we were back to the point from where we had taken a U turn. The same slow motion process continued till the ghats ended. There we saw the  real reason – an oil/petrol tanker had overturned, causing oil-spill. By then the area was made safe by spreading sand and gravel over the spill, so as to avoid any skidding. So much for the ‘Land slide’ of the biker messenger!

So the first half part of the journey we covered by car and the second part we completed by flight. Yes, we flew the rest of the way. You see, these professional drivers simply loath any kind of delay, they hate it when they get late ….. let the reason be anything.

So to make up the lost time, our charioteer just vroomed the rest of the way. There was so much to enjoy along the way — the totally black soil, the swaying sugar-cane fields, the fully white, slim bullocks with long, pointed horns …… thanks to our dear driver the rest of the journey was simply a blurrrrrrrrr.

Even after our repeated reminders that we were not in any life and death hurry, he refused to ease his foot off the accelerator. At a point, I almost pictured myself wearing a helmet inside the four-wheeler. And no, it wasn’t a funny picture.
And this wasn’t my imagination, I’m pretty sure it was there — just above the rear-view mirror there was a sign flashing ….. Fasten –er, no, not fasten — ‘Tighten your seat belts…..we are taking off to the space!’

When we finally reached our destination, I realised that all this while I had been holding my breath!

Cosm(et)ic Invasion !

Cosm(et)ic Invasion !

(Please note that this article was written some years ago. I fully understand that it may sound atrocious in today’s time.)

The door bell rang on a windy winter afternoon. Still deeply engrossed in the book in my hand, I opened the door to a young girl of college-going age, apparently on a survey – cum – sales promotion.

“Good noon, Ma’am! Which facial cream do you use?” She fired her first query. No preamble, no introduction of herself or her company.
“None, I don’t use anything,” Still entangled in the plots of the novel, I blurted out the truth.
The vast array of fast fleeting expressions that my answer brought to the opposite face really shook me and jolted me out of my trance. Wonder, shocked surprise, disbelief and ultimately, incredulity; each replaced the other in a rapid succession. I am sure even a seasoned Thespian couldn’t have managed such fete in his best performance.
“Nothing??!! You mean absolutely nothing? Even in this winter season?” I was about to offer some support, in case she fainted of shock. But after all, she seemed to have been made of sterner stuff.
“No,” I replied, then added, “I don’t need any. You see, I have got an oily skin.” But it made me feel mad at myself. Why should I give any explanation? So what even if it happened to be the truth, where was the need for me to give justifications?

Not to be outdone so easily, she offered solution for my every objection.
“Oily skin? No problem, Ma’am. This cream won’t make you look oily at all.”
“But …. I don’t need anything.” I tried to stand my ground, “I’ve never used anything and I don’t want to start now—”
“If you try our product just once, Ma’am, you’ll never stop using it!” This said with an unshakable confidence any promise-giving, pre-election politician would envy.
“No, no….but….you see..” I groped around blindly for something — anything.
“Oh, take my word Ma’am, you can’t imagine how different  you’d feel once you use this regularly,” This could be my Granny telling me how her medicine would be good for me. “And within months you’ll see the transformation. Your husband won’t recognise you, so young you’ll look!”
Young? Of course! Wasn’t I the doddering ancient relic with countless wrinkles? (At that time I was around thirty)
But in the first place, if I belonged to such bygone era, then what was the need to resurrect me from my fossil form? And the bit about my husband not recognising me, well, wouldn’t that be the Prime Dangerous reason NOT to use such transforming magic potion? It took all my might to stick to my rejections.

Even then she tried her best with the tenacity of a true sales person, entire conversation conducted with an irritatingly patronising – or was that sarcastic? – smirk fixed on her face.
“It can be used as a fairness cream, too,” She persisted. I am sure this wasn’t said taking my skin-colour into consideration, at least I consoled myself so.

So many heavenly qualities packed in such a tiny jar! I peered at it with awestruck reverence. But expressing my total regret, I declined it as I was convinced that it wasn’t possibly meant for a mere mortal like me.
Ultimately, the ‘Angel of Beauty’ left me to dwell in my unbelievingly pathetic and primitive conditions.
That set me thinking. Really? Am I living in some bygone era? May be I wasn’t moving with the times, afterall. Probably applying various creams and lotions on your body, especially face, at different appropriate times of the day and season has become as mandatory and inevitable as, say, brushing your teeth first thing in the morning!
Of course, I do  am aware of these innumerable beauty products floating around in the market – you can’t possibly escape getting educated in these matters, even if you wish. The ‘N’ number of prolific commercials pushed down your throat via idiot box (and of course, many other media) wouldn’t let you remain illiterate about them. Well, the reason for my ignorance could be my (bad) habit of using these commercial breaks to rush to the kitchen to stir the curry on the gas-stove and save it from burning. How very unpardonable of me!!
Till this day I had not realised how backward I had retreated from the present-day woman. I sincerely hope that the sales – girl wasn’t too shocked to complete her daily rounds. Probably for all her next calls, she would first ask the lady of the house, “DO you use any sort of cream at all?”
Whether she asked it or not, I am planning to ask it as my first question in my own survey — A survey to find out rare specimen (like me) of the fast disappearing or almost extinct species!

The Case Of An Angry Tooth Fairy!

The Case Of An Angry Tooth Fairy!

Someone please tell me a way to  appease the tooth fairy. Don’t know what I did in childhood to annoy her, but since then she has turned her back at me. Of course, that hasn’t stopped her from claiming my pearlies – one by one.
Now one would wonder, what has brought about this sudden outburst? What else? — one more has bitten the dust.
People generally get irritated if they find a kankar or a tiny stone in their food. In my case, when it goes ‘crrrruuuunch’, I know what it is. I rush to the mirror to check and find out which one was that! You see, my teeth have this bad habit of breaking off — without any pain, without any prior indication or warning. Just like that ! Strange indeed, but true ! The crown crumbles from the base, leaving behind the poor, (heart)broken root still firmly embedded in the gums.
So, that calls for yet another procedure. After having gone through so many of them, I shouldn’t actually get all worried by just a mention of a dental procedure. But each one of the past experiences has succeeded in putting me off for a life time. Even a whiff of a sound of that drilling instrument is enough to send me scurrying to the North Pole.
A close relative of mine always says that she has been through all the variations of pregnancy and child-birth – normal delivery, pre-mature delivery, bed rest,c-section delivery, the whole gamut. On the similar lines, I am eligible to say that I have seen all the permutations and combinations of the dreaded dental procedures – cavities and cavity filling, simple tooth extraction, complicated one with a curved root, root-canal treatment, cap fittings,cap removals, bridging the gap —– you name it and I have had it. All except implant — the thought itself makes me shudder …….but my experiences have taught me one thing, never say never, especially where my teeth are concerned.
It is said that when Lord Shrikrishna opened his mouth, Yashoda Ma experienced the greatest joy as she saw the entire Universe in the mouth of her little Krishna. I am proud to say that I have given that pleasure to innumerable dentists, who had the good fortune of cutting my teeth down to size.
One look at this ‘universe’ and I am sure, there is a quick call on the ‘Home’ number, “Honey, remember that jewellery set you were pinning for? Go ahead and purchase it, a gift to my precious wife!”  A number of Mrs. Dentists should be thankful to me (rather my teeth) for their jewellery and/or other pricey gifts.
Now, why did I say innumerable dentists? Visiting a number of dentists was never because of any arguments or disagreements etc. (It was merely due to circumstances) The dentists would not let me go so easily, because afterall I am a golden egg-laying hen for the professionals. And as for me, a dentist is as essential as the milkman, paper-boy, grocery shop-walla etc. etc. Actually I see these other guys less frequently than my ‘Saviour’.
I am sure, now you dear people are crinkling your noses, ‘Probably she can’t take good care of her teeth’, or some similar thing. Sorry to disappoint, but I have a dentist’s certificate regarding this matter.
A dentist couple, both husband and wife who are our good acquaintances outside ‘The Chair’ ( I mean the dentist’s chair obviously. Mind you, for me it is in no way less than the electric chair of the gallows!), once had a  ‘golden opportunity’ to treat my less-than-32. The husband called his wife, “Come here, have a look,” As if in there was the world’s Eighth Wonder waiting to be discovered, “See, her oral hygiene is so good.” The wife nodded and replied sombrely, “Yes, but the problem has already set in, so can’t do anything.”
Her words sounded the death-knoll for my poor teeth and the future was doomed.
So, if my oral hygiene is good, then —- why MY poor teeth, O Lord? My family shakes their heads in unison, ‘You have inherited it from Nani!’. Yes, my maternal grand mother had to start wearing dentures from the age of forty five. The funny thing was, no one suspected that anyone could be wearing it from that early age. So it was taken as her real teeth. When everyone complimented her on having a perfect set of teeth even after seventy years of age, Nani would just smile mischievously.
Oh well. So then what is the future of my precious ones, O Tooth Fairy?
Unlike me, you guys may not have been lucky to have had such ‘vast experience’ in this field. But most of you must have encountered this necessary evil of ‘the chair’ at some point or the other. Do share your experiences — at least that would give some solace 🙂

Resolution? Surely Not!

Resolution? Surely not!

If resolutions are meant to be broken, then why make any in the first place!
  • So the first one on my Not-To-Do list would be – No Resolutions for the new year! There! I guess it is working already! Well, well I am already feeling light, you see. No trudging through the entire year with heavy burden of broken promises — which I had stupidly made to myself. No guilt of ‘Why-Couldn’t-I-Keep-My- Resolutions -even – for- a- decent – time period’. Hah! That’s some Freedom!
  • The next one is every female’s favourite! This year I do not resolve to go on any diet. No detox-diet, no vegan-diet, no low-carb or no-carb or whatever-carb diet for me. Enough is enough. Aren’t the repeated, innumerable, half-hearted, unsuccessful (There ! I finally did admit THE real reason!) attempts over the years sufficient reason to add this to my Not-To-Do list? So, now I can eat anything. ANYTHING!! Isn’t that a great, thrilling thing? Whatever the end-result or aftermath of this — it would be solved with the next year’s resolve.
  • It is not my resolve to endure the torture of the idiot box – which, by the way, is growing more idiotic by each passing day. In any given serial, I could never decide who is the mother, who is the grandmother —– or great grandmother ……so on and so forth. Any given set of females looks exactly identical – age wise, costume wise, in every conceivable way. If these sagas of the ‘Supposed-to-be-COMMON-Indian-household’ were not amazing enough, their mythological counterparts are dying to compete with them. Just a part of a mythological serial, which I accidentally stumbled upon recently, left me wondering whether I had mistakenly wandered into Jurassic Park. Nothing more to say.
  • Another of ‘Not My Resolve’ for this year, would be – not to hope for any change for better in the prices of my daily household requirements —–namely, pulses/lentils. Garlic (??), veggies ….. this list could go on. Looking at those prices, I guess I need not fret over the diet plan. The rocketing costs would automatically ensure that my diet (and consequently, my weight) would remain in check!
  • innumerable things could be eligible for this list —- many things one would wish to add to Not-To-Do list. But I better stop here, or else the readers might put ‘Me’ into ‘Not-to-read’ list 🙂 🙂

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Birds of Peace

Birds of Peace
Kabutar ja ja ja”….. No, there is nothing remotely romantic here. It was my last resort, my ultimate plea to these ‘humming’ birds to leave me and my home alone.
Don’t know why we have so many pigeons in our area. Probably that noble soul in the opposite building, who daily insists on spreading a parapet full of grains especially for these birds, is responsible for this. Only if that bird lover had a pair, just a pair, of them residing in his loft…… I’m sure he would never have thought of feeding even a single grain again.
I can’t decide from where to start the pigeon saga, so many are their antics. For some reason best known to them, they have decided to make our loft their home. The way to their abode goes from the balcony via my kitchen then passage and atop the loft. And they use this way as their privilege, rather right, and whoever illegal occupant (like for example, me) dare to stand in their way, better do so at their own risk; the pigeons wouldn’t be responsible for any scratching, wing-slaps or …ugh… any other dirty consequences. Nowadays they have become so bold, that if I don’t bend – rather bow in respect – in time for their arrival, they don’t hesitate clawing my head as a punishment.
And will somebody please give me the address of a bird-trainer (as in dog-trainer), who would give at least some toilet training to these birds of peace? I feel like doing them in pieces every time I inadvertently step into the designs they so lovingly decorate my floor with. (Well, before the animal-lovers stage a morcha on my house, let me explain that this just an impotent frustration finding its way through words; otherwise I am the type to wait even before killing a cockroach, offering it a chance to escape) 
Whoever says they are birds of love, should watch them fight. (They actually draw blood, I can vouch for it). Here, the fight was for the prime spot in what I once considered as my home. There are two pairs – or it is one popular lady and her three suitors? – and the way they all fight with each other! So much are they charged with the spirit that they wouldn’t even bother to stop when all my kitchen items come crashing down. Alarmed with the noise, if I rush to the kitchen, they calmly cock their necks and stare back at me – a doubt about my mental health clearly evident in their eyes.
If these pigeons find some pails of water left open in the kitchen, their merriment knows no bounds. They frolic around happily in the water as though those were their personal designer bath tubs. The water spilled all over the floor is, of course, none of their business, but solely my concern.
Earlier our area was notorious for crimes like house-breaking etc. So when a little nephew came to stay with us for holidays, he was always cautious. One day while playing, he suddenly stopped and slowly started sidling near me. When I asked him what the matter was, the frightened child replied that he could hear someone moving in the kitchen. “Oh, don’t worry, those are just pigeons.” With my earlier similar experiences I assured him confidently.
More than once my quiet afternoons had been disturbed by some nefarious activities in the kitchen and expecting the worst, when I cautiously stalked towards the kitchen with whatever weapon that was handy, those round, red eyes coolly stared back at me as if I had gone mad.
So I am not bothered anymore. I hope that this overconfidence wouldn’t land me in soup someday. Otherwise, God forbid, when someone really comes to take inventory of my home, I’d calmly continue with my siesta, taking them as my dear friends, pigeons.
Then some relatives arrived from the Land of Opportunity. They had naturally heard about all the diseases and epidemics in India. So when their six years old son saw the pigeon traffic, he exclaimed, “Oh my God! Now I’ll get bird flu! Oh, I’m going to die!” The parents of the boy were more embarrassed than us, by the situation. I tried to resolve his worries by pointing out that we were still alive, even after living with the birds for so long. I only hope that he did not carry some funny notions back with him.
Now wait, something – or someone – is there in the kitchen. I have to go and make sure that nobody is collecting my labor of love, but it’s only the birds of love spreading peace, love, — and my kitchen equipment — around!


Bang Bang

Bang bang……

Once again it is that time of the year when doors go Bang!
No….. it is no anger season. It is just rainy season…..and the season for the wooden doors to get jammed.
Science enters in all its curled up yoga postures to explain this phenomenon as – imbibition. Look, even the dictionary refuses to accept this word and shows up with red underline.  probably doesn’t know that it indeed is a phenomenon ….. something to do with –  ‘living or dead plant cells absorbing water with surface attraction’!  

So, come rains and the dead plant cells of the wooden doors promptly obey the science, dutifully drink up all the available water, moisture, water vapour — in short, all the possible forms of aqua and go the obese way, all plumped up.

The result? The door refuses to shut. Just like some irate, fuming toddler who refuses to listen to reason, puffs up his cheeks and throws a tantrum at the drop of a hat, the door, too, gets all worked up, puffs up and plain refuses to fit into the door-frame.
Why do these cells have this ‘surface attraction’ only for water, and not for their sibling cells of the door-frame?

And it is a community feeling. A single door won’t go into this ‘I-won’t-fit-the-door frame’ mode. The entire community of the doors follow the suit and none of the doors has any inclination towards getting properly shut. So what happens? The entire wing of the apartment block reverberates with bang bang of the doors. The neighbours who otherwise never miss a chance to get at the others’ throat at a slightest excuse, can’t utter a word  ……. as all are travellers of the same boat. Everyone has to just ‘wince and bear’.

If it stops only at banging, still it is somewhat bearable. But in case if the structure suffers from a ‘poor-construction-syndrome’, then heaven help the inhabitants! One never knows exactly which ‘Bang’ would open up the heavens ….. read here as ‘ceiling plaster, concrete, slab et al’…….on them! And this is no exaggeration! So each bang brings with it  –  a missed heartbeat, followed by a heavy palpitation. Then a suspense filled pause with bated breath, and if nothing comes tumbling down, then a huge sigh of relief……..

Ouch! There goes another bang somewhere upstairs and here I enter into the first step of the cycle. missed a beat, then ……….