Monday, October 30, 2006


While planning my office fun day, one of the organisers sent a mail asking people to volunteer for various games. He also needed someone to dress up as Snoopy - the mascot of our team.

"Yeah right!" Most of us thought when we read that.

I wondered who would agree to dress up like Snoopy for the event. It had to be one of the crazy designers or illustrators. Or maybe one of the crazy editors would eventually agree to do it. Someone like me.

So I was really surprised when I found out who had agreed to do it. The most amazing part was - she was the last person anyone would imagine agreeing to be the mascot. She was a dignified, elegant, calm and composed lady. Bole toh, apun ka exact opposite. And I thought to myself - how is it that someone who is generally as jumpy as me did not agree to become the mascot and someone like her did?

"There must be a catch!" I thought. "Why would anyone in their right mind go on a 5-km walk in the Macritchie forest wearing a Snoopy head?? Ah, I know! Maybe she's gonna tender her resignation and wants to make a statement before that!" Whoever heard my theory gave me the "You and your hyperactive imagination" look.

A couple of days after the fun day, said mascot tendered her resignation.

"I told you so!" I said it aloud to everyone who'd laughed at my theory.

Though I was proud to have had my theory verified, I was also forced to think. "What if she'd not quit? What if she'd really wanted to be the mascot? What if she just wanted to have fun? Why was I so suspicious of what could have been an earnest desire? Why should there necessarily be a catch if something is out of the ordinary?"

Every time we want to do something out of the way, we start thinking of what others will say. We try to get into the minds of everyone except ourselves, to see what they would think, what they would say. We try to cater to the expectations of everyone except ourselves.

Why are we so relcutant to behave out of the box? Whatever happened to the spirit of having fun? Why is it so hard for us to convince ourselves that if we're comfortable with ourselves, no one can make us feel uncomfortable? When did wearing something a little adventurous become an act of 'courage'? When did we start demeaning the concept of courage?

They say it takes a long time to wear a sari. It took me a year, to be precise.

Last year in my office when we had a Deepavali-Hari Raya party, and we had to dress up in ethnic wear, two of my colleagues asked me if I'd be wearing a sari.

"Are you kidding me?? Sari??? Me???? No way man! I'm SO not gonna make a fool of myself in front of the whole office!"

The truth is - I was DYING to wear a sari for the party. Any party. I was basically errr.. dying to wear a sari. To me, the sari is the ultimate attire. There's nothing quite as elegant as the sari.

It was not the fear of walking around like a penguin in a kimono that stopped me, it was my fear of what people would say/think if I turned up in a sari. This year, I realised how stupid I'd been last year, and how fortunate I was to actually have an event where I could flaunt my national costume in a foreign country. I just had to believe that I could pull off the sari look.

And so, this year, wear a sari I did. And I did not stumble or fall, nor did I walk like a penguin in a kimono.

Everything was fine. Everything was great.

As I reflected on how much fun it was, I realised that the little act of wearing a sari at my office party meant a lot more to me than I thought it did. The more I thought, the more questions floated around in my mind.

When did we become like this? When did we stop having harmless nonsensical fun? When did we start stopping each other from having harmless nonsensical fun? When did we start dictating one another's lives? When did we start imposing our standards on others? When did we start allowing others to impose their standards on us? When did insignificant things become so significant? When did we start staring and judging? When did we become so self-conscious in the company of others? And who are these 'others' anyway? It's us, isn't it? So when did we start making one another so conscious of themselves? When did we start penalising people for not being like us?

When did we stop giving a damn about all the things that really matter?

When did we start giving a damn about all the things that don't?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bossy behaviour

This post is for everyone who was, is or will be, in my team at one point in time or another.

Hey you,

I hope things are great with you. I haven't had much time lately to talk to you, or even to ask how you're doing. The workload's killing us all, isn't it? Don't worry, it will pass. Just be grateful that even though it's a lot, it's still what you'd prefer doing over anything else, isn't it?

I am so proud of you. Along with all the others that I hired. I still remember how I fought for you. "I think this person is more suitable to work on the books in my list." "This person is very creative. I think he/she will do a good job with the magazine." Sometimes it was just a simple "I want this person in my team." that did the job. I remember how I described you to people who asked me "So how's the new guy/gal you hired?" I'd say, "He's a happy guy." or "She's very cheerful." Those were aspects of you I remembered most vividly from the interview. And they played a very important part in getting you hired.

I want to teach you everything I know. I want you to understand the 'whys' rather than the 'hows'. I don't want you to come to me with a "Sayesha, do you like this?" or "Sayesha, what do you want for this?" What I like or want is not important. What the readers want or will like in the book is important. I like what they like. I want what they want. So even if you're using my liking as a scale for quality, I want you to know why I like what I like and why I want what I want.

I smile when I see you hard at work. I smile when I see your amateur mark-ups on the manuscripts. It's like looking at the same old stuff that I have been looking at for four years, but through your perspective. I smile when you ask questions because you can't figure something out. I smile when I point something out and you send me an 'Oooops' email. I smile when you pop by my cubicle at 12:30 pm with a "Sayesha, it's lunchtime! Go eat!" I smile when you call me even though I'm sitting a few feet away from you. I smile when I see you secretly checking your personal email account or surfing the net. It's okay, we all do it. If you finish your work and it's well done, you can do what you want with the rest of your time. But of course, I want to give you enough work so you don't have too much free time. Because I remember how restless I used to get when I was new and I did not have enough work to fill my day. I used to go to my surprised senior editor and say, "C, please give me some work." I smile when you come and tell me, "I'm done with this one. Do you have anything you can give me?"

Sometimes I want to take on a bit of your workload. Sometimes I don't want to tell you that there are 63 titles that must be published by March, and that our team strength is not enough to cope with it. I want to hide the ugly from you, I want you to believe, the way I believe, that we can achieve the impossible. Sometimes, I want to stay back because you're doing so even though I cannot give you anything but moral support. Sometimes I feel guilty when I have to rush to university three days a week and I don't have enough time to explain things to you in detail. It is my job to see that you develop, you become darn good at what you do. Especially because that's one of the reasons why they're paying me more than you. And I take my job damn seriously. I don't just want the books to be published. I want your experience of being in my team to include a lot more than that.

I had a boss in this company who had such a deep impact on me that my work ethics will always be influenced by her. And I will never ever forget what I learnt from her. If she could be such a great boss, can't I be? I want to be to you what she was to me. I actually used to think that my career was tagged to hers. I thought I would go wherever she went. And then one fine day, she went. But I did not. And realisation sunk in that our careers had separate paths. Your path too, is separate from mine. We make a great team, yes, but we must be capable of making great teams without each other.

Sometimes I wonder whether your lunchtime conversations are company-bitching sessions. Sometimes I wonder if you're still as happy as you were when you were brand new. Remember those days? You were like this excited kid who wanted to learn everything, who wanted to do everything right, everything perfect. I felt so much grown-up looking at you, even though we're only a few years apart in age. You were so excited, I felt excited looking at your excitement. And I'm glad that you still are excited, though signs of the heavy workload are creeping in.

I want you to not become cynical. I want you to see your work the way you saw it when you first fell in love with it. Always.

Then there was the day they came and took you away. Job rotation, they said. I did not protest. They were right. One has to do different things to develop. Look at me. I'm doing something I have never done before. With a brand new team with zero experience. And I'm facing many many challenges. Perhaps I don't like it as much as what I used to do earlier, I know I will learn to love it. Because I know that at the end of the day, this is where I belong. And sometimes I wonder how happy you are in your new team. Sometimes I even secretly wonder if you miss working with me.

I can tell you are in love with your job. Just as I am. The very fact that we're here in spite of the low salaries that kids' publishing pays, speaks for itself. That's what keeps us going, isn't it? The love for the job. And as long as I am here, I will try my best to ensure you stay in love with it. But if one day, you wake up and you know you don't love it anymore, I want you to leave it. To be fair to the job. To yourself. To me.

I'm still learning to be a good boss. I want to be your friend, but not too close lest you stop taking your deadlines seriously. I want to protect you when other departments turn against ours - sometimes at the cost of becoming the bad guy. Sometimes I wonder if I am adequate. Sometimes I wonder if you think I am adequate. Sometimes I wonder if I inspire you enough. Sometimes I wonder if I'm letting you make full use of your creativity. Sometimes I wonder if I am changing your ideas just because I am the boss. I want to keep your ideas. It's your book after all. I just want to guide you to make your raw ideas feasible. Marketable. Profitable. Because some day I want us to be in a position where I don't have to look through that manuscript because I know that you have.

Even though stuff drives me nuts at work, I always want to talk of work in a positive manner so I don't affect you. We face a lot of challenges in a very stressful environment and a very competitive market. And I don't want you to be negatively affected by it. I want to highlight certain things as issues, not problems. I want to be positive. I want to be the person whom you look at and say, "That's how I gotta be."

Some day if I become jaded and cynical, I want to be able to look at you and say, "That's how I gotta be."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The (NR)I-ndian defence force

So one of my professors in my Master’s class was telling us about this book called 'Negative News' which basically talks about how the media in developed countries only seems to report bad news from developing countries. Floods, famines, coups, bombings. Such news not only establishes certain images of certain countries, but it also reinforces existing stereotypes about these nations. I'm sure not everyone in Somalia is starving. I'm sure not every girl in Venezuela is born with a fabulous body, has a head that is customised to just about nicely fit the Miss Universe crown, and can't speak English. But that's the image of these countries I had in my head for the longest time, reinforced again and again by the media.

The professor was telling us about his days in the US. In one of his undergrad classes, he was talking about using a hair dryer, and a hand shot up.

"Dr S, you mean you have hair dryers in India??"

Pat came the Prof's reply. "Yes, we may live on trees. But somehow we have hair dryers."

One of my classmates also shared her experience. She told us of the time when she had gone to Princeton for a seminar. When the speaker found out she was from India, she asked my classmate, "Do you have electricity in India?"

I remember the time when I had just entered Singapore. One of my classmates in my first year who was very curious about my origins, asked me, "Oh, you're from India! So back home do you travel on elephants and stuff?"

"Elephants? Sure, I used to go to school on one." I said.

My class had many international students and I was surprised at the image they had of India. At first I used to get really pissed off when I encountered such questions. Especially when the person who asked the question was disappointed to learn that India was not really the jungle he/she thought it to be. "Oh you mean Indians can speak English? Darn!"

So within my first few days here, I'd figured sarcasm was the best way to get through such situations.

I had a list.

"Yes, we kill all the female infants at birth. Except, of course, those who look like they're gonna bring home the Miss Universe or Miss World crown."

"Oh yeah, my dad is a snake-charmer. All dads in India are. You didn't know that?? Really??"

"Yeah, it's our culture to sing and dance around coconut trees. Our ancient texts specifically mention it."

"Yeah, that's how we wear a sari. We lay it flat on the floor, lie down against one edge and just roll and roll till we reach the other end."

"Bathroom? What's that? In India, we use a pail to fetch water from the village well and then sit there and bathe."

"Cows wandering on the roads?? Oh no no, they're traffic policecows - government employees."

"No, we don't have drinking water in India. Sorry."

A few years later, when wisdom sank in, I realised that I'm probably doing the same thing that the media was doing - reinforcing the stereotypes about how primitive India was. So I changed my strategy. To one which I called the 'BUT - HAH!' strategy.

"Yes, many people in India are illiterate. BUT you should thank your stars they are. If they were literate, India would take over the global IT industry. HAH!"

"Yes, our government is very unstable. BUT we don't have morons running our country like many other countries in the world. Do you know how qualified some of our leaders are? Our president is a nuclear scientist. HAH!"

"Yes, you guys earn more than us and live in more comfort. BUT we know how to chill - we know how to stop and smell the flowers. HAH!"

"Yes, many people are very poor. BUT have you seen how some of our sportsmen who come from poor backgrounds kick ass? HAH!"

"Yes, many of our TV serials are stupid and cliched and uncreative. BUT our ads more than make up for them. If you see the level of creativity in Indian ads, you'd die of shame. HAH!"

"Yes, we learn Sanskrit - a dead language - in school. BUT we invented zero. HAH!"

"Yes, there are tiny villages in remote corners of my country. BUT the capital city of my country is bigger than your entire country. HAH!"

"Yes, violence is rampant in India. BUT did you see how fast Mumbai sprang back to its feet after the train blasts? HAH!"

"Yes, we sing and dance at weddings a la Bollywood movies. BUT that's just our way of preserving our culture. What's yours? HAH!"

In time, I realised that some of it was so lame. I felt like I was being too defensive and not really addressing the stereotype. At times I felt like I wasn't even qualified to defend India. Having lived comfortably for the past 8 years in the 'air-conditioned island-country' enjoying a full sponsorship from the Singapore government, perhaps I was not even qualified to talk about India's problems. Perhaps it's easy for me to make grand statements in the defence of India because I don't live there, like the millions of people who struggle with life on a daily basis do. Perhaps I don't even know what the real problems are. What I do know is that things are changing for the better. It's not like India enjoys its problems. India is fighting them and it's not an easy task. The factors that affect development in India are specific to India. There's no point comparing it with how fast other nations are developing.

So I'm changing my strategy again. There is no point hiding the negativities behind the positivities. They will never balance each other out. Every country has things that make its citizen proud and things that embarass them. There is always some good and some bad. And repeating the good things again and again will not make the bad things go away. We have to celebrate the good things and acknowledge the bad things and try and change them. Like they said in Rang De Basanti "Koi bhi desh mahaan nahin hota, usey mahaan banana padta hai." ("No country is born great, we have to make it great.")

So yes, we have too many people in my country. Yes, the pollution level in some cities is so bad people have to wear masks. Yes, summers can get so hot and winters so cold that people who live on the streets die. Oh, did I mention that many people live on the streets? Yes, we have street dogs. Yes, cows on the street often disrupt traffic in many cities. Yes, it's been more than 50 years and we've not yet resolved our problems with our neighbour. Yes, if you're a girl walking on the road by yourself, you will most probably encounter tuneless singing of songs in your praise by eve-teasing roadside romeos. Yes, some people chain themselves to their suitcases when they're travelling in trains in order to still find them there when they wake up the next morning. Yes, the water in some cities is so hard, you have to boil it just to shampoo your hair. Yes, our politicians fling chairs at one another during parliament sessions. Yes, there are cities where you do not have electricity 24 hours a day. Yes, the monsoon can bring the entire system of some cities to a complete standstill. Yes, there is firing across the border every single day. Yes, many of our roads have more potholes than speed bumps. Yes, bombs and guns go off almost every day in my country, killing innocent people.

So yes, my country still has many many problems.

You mean yours doesn't have any?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Her 'high'-ness

After getting almost arrested at Heathrow airport for carrying twice the maximum allowable limit of cigarette boxes for my teenager cousin, I expected him to bow before me and kiss my feet. (Now don't give me a lecture on what a maha-papi act that was; I was at the Singpaore duty-free when he called, and the sheer length of the word 'Pleeeeeeeeeeeease apa pleeeeeeeeeeeeease?' was enough to make me go buy whatever he wanted.) Besides, he said he wouldn't smoke the whole thing himself, but would sell it to his friends, and I thought I should help my poor student bro get some gainful employment. Okay, enough of justifying. Even I am not convinced with my moronic arguments. Especially because I am totally anti-smoking. It was a stupid stupid act on my part, and I'd never do it again.

So he takes one puff and says, "Your Singapore... hmmm... Everything is very mild in your Singapore."

"Excuse me??" I retorted in anger and then suddenly realised I actually had no defence. And then I realised that I had.

"Dude, ever heard of Singapore laws?" I did my coyly-looks-at-her-nails act.

Yup, not mild. Not mild at all, my friend.

So yes, maybe the cigarettes in Singapore are mild and the alcohol is mild too. Just last weekend, I had a chance to reaffirm this.

After the first phase of the editorial training session for the new editors in the company, we seniors looked at the feedback forms and realised that it had been a success. So the four of us decided to celebrate. It was a Friday evening and we were close to Clarke Quay, so we decided to go to Cafe Iguana. Happy hour was on, and we ordered a pitcher of lime margarita, which promptly got over. So we ordered another pitcher of mango margarita and some nachos and chicken quesadillas. The food was served with habanero chilli, which I realised to my delight-first-horror-later, was the hottest chilli I'd ever had in my life. My mouth was on fire and water didn't seem to help. Even cubes of ice did not. The only thing that seemed to help was the sweet mango margarita. So I realised that it had been less than an hour and I had downed four and a half glasses of margarita. My colleagues were looking at me funny, expecting me to start behaving all drunk, but I felt fine.

"Are you fine?" One of them asked.

"I'm fine."

"Hmmm... so how often do you drink, Sayesha?" One of them asked me.

"Err... twice a year?"

Okay confession time. I'm not much of an alcohol person. Could be because my Dad is a teetotaller who drinks only milk, not even coffee or tea. And Mom too always looked at alcohol as "chih!" stuff. Could also be because the first alcoholic drink I was offered had been beer. YIKES. I took one whiff of it, and ran for the hills. The smell was so terrible it put me off alcohol for my entire university life. In fact, I had my first alcoholic drink at the age of 24. My friends in India refused to believe it. "Come on! You went to Singapore when you were 18! Surely you must have started drinking then?" Truth is - I didn't.

It was only in 2004, when I was sitting in a bar in Cambodia with a bunch of friends having the greatest holiday of my life, when one of them ordered me my first alcoholic drink - pina colada. Not bad, I thought. The realisation that all alcoholic drinks do not smell like beer was a happy one. But even then, I could tell that alcohol was not really my thing. After we got back to Singapore, I tried a few other kinds, but I was never really crazy about it. Even today, I feel much happier and 'higher' on pure orange juice. My friends think it's rather weird.

Earlier this year, when I was in the US, my sister was relieved to know that I had finally tasted my first sip of alcohol.

"Finally!" She said. "It took you 24 years to try it."

"Yeah!" I grinned proudly.

"That wasn't a compliment."


"Okay listen, you HAVE to try the margarita at Chilis." She said when we made plans to have dinner there.

"Errr... Naah, I don't think Mom will like it if I drink in front of her." I said.

"Let's ask for permission then?" She said.

"Yup okay!"

So the obedient duo of the 29-year-old and the 26-year-old went to ask Mommy for permission to drink.

"Alcohol?" She said.


"Strong wala? Are you gonna get drunk on that?"

"No, Mom, it's pretty mild. Besides, she won't have too much. I just want her to try it." My sis intervened.

"Okay." Mom agreed.

So I had a glass of the Chambord 1800 at Chilis, which I must say was phenomenal. After dinner, I did feel a bit 'strange', but I just sat in the car and slept through the drive home, so noone really knew what was up with me, except for "Poor girl must be really tired."

The next morning, I wondered if it was really true. If the same drink in the US was stronger than that in Singapore. Perhaps it was true - instead of wild things, Singapore has mild things.

Perhaps that was the reason why I was sitting there at Cafe Iguana, feeling perfectly fine in spite of the four and a half glasses of margarita. Unless the reason was the other one. The
copious amounts of orange juice I drink which keep me on a perpetual high. The kind that no kind or amount of alcohol can compete with.

Arz kiya hai... dohri (doha+shayari)

Jo bewdi har pal talli, jaage ho ya soye
Saadhe chaar margarita se uska kya hoye?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Akele akele?

A gal struggling with a wisdom tooth that has been playing 'Kabhi khushi kabhi gum' for the last three days is one hungry gal. I have had to cut my meals in half. No, I'm not dieting, but that's all I can manage with half a mouth. Chewing food with only one set of premolars and molars is exhausting. I can open my mouth enough to talk, but not enough to eat normal-sized bites of food. So I take longer to eat. Worse, I was one of the trainers in a 2-day editorial training programme on Thursday/Friday so I had to talk a lot.

So between half the amount of food and twice the amount of talking, I was one hungry gal.

On Thursday, after finishing my training session, I dashed to university to attend class. I was running short of time and yet starving, so I picked up a sandwich on the way. I got to class at 6:20 pm and tried to eat whatever amount I could eat in the ten minutes I had before the class would start. And as I sat there eating it and watched my classmates walk in and out of the class, I had a sense of deja vu.

Memories of my school days rushed to me when the guys in my class would flick my lunchbox and gobble up everything in it. In fact, some of them considered it their birthright to do so. They loved Mom's cooking. Due to Dad's constant transfers, Mom had picked up a lot of yummy recipes from different states in India. She'd get up really early and carefully pack my lunch, and I'd have a surprise waiting for me every day. But of course, I'd have to unwillingly share it with the guys almost every day, and sometimes even have to give up the whole thing. They didn't care even if it was half-eaten. If they saw it, it was theirs.

The most common pick-up (lunchbox) line they used was "Kya Sayesha, akele akele?" followed by a big grin. Literally translated it means, "What Sayesha, eating by yourself eh?" but what it actually meant was "Gimme that. NOW."

Of course there were other lines too.

"Aur Sayesha, aaj Aunty ne kya banaya?" ("Hey Sayesha, what did Aunty make today?")

"Sayesha, mere liye thoda sa bachana. Hindi class mein khaunga. Sir hadd se zyada bore karte hain." ("Sayesha, leave some for me. I'll eat in the Hindi class. The teacher bores the hell outta me.")

"Dhokla???!! Arre wah, aaj dhokla laayi hai??? Chal idhar la." ("Dhokla? You got dhokla today? Pass it here.")

"Arre wah! Dosa? Tera ek, mera ek, theek hai?" ("Wow! Dosa? One for you, one for me, ok?")

"Abbe dekho, Sayesha chhole bhature laayi hai! Sayesha, yeh ke Parle-G ka packet, tiffin box la idhar." ("Guys look, Sayesha's brought chhole bhature today. Here, you can have my biscuit packet, pass us the lunch box.")

"Arre! Aam ka achaar?? Ber ka achaar kahan gaya??" ("What? Mango pickle?? Where's the berry pickle?") *indignant look*

Me - "Khatam ho gaya." ("It's finished.")

"Tuney khatam kar diya???" ("You finished it??) *angry glare*

Me - "Abbe gadhe! Khatam tuney kar diya!" ("You donkey! YOU finished it!") *angry glare back*

Once in a while, I'd bother to protest.

"Oye! Tum log roz mera tiffin kha jaate ho. Kabhi khud kyun nahin laate?" ("Hey! You guys gobble up my lunch every day. Why don't you bring your own?")

"Kya?? Tiffin box aur hum?? Mard tiffin box nahin laate!" ("What? Lunchbox and us?? Real men don't bring lunchboxes!")

Me - "Achha? Aur mard ladkiyon ka tiffin box maar lete hain, haan?" ("Oh yeah? But real men have no qualms flicking a girl's lunchbox, eh?")

"Ladki? Kaun ladki? Tu toh bhai hai bhai!" ("Girl?? What girl?? You're the bhai!")

Sheesh. So I rolled my eyes and gnashed my teeth and watched them eat what was rightfully mine.

Back to the present. So as I sat there, thinking about all this, some of my classmates walked in and greeted me. The usual formal greetings.

"Hi Sayesha, how was your day?"

"Hi Sayesha, how is work going?"

"Hi Sayesha, how's the thesis going?"

As I smiled at them and supplied the polite and rehearsed answers, I sighed. Truth was - I missed the guys back in school really badly. I missed the way they asserted their rights to my homework, my pencilbox, my water bottle, my lunchbox, everything. In the last 8 years that I have lived here in Singapore, I have not really seen this kinda sense of 'haq' that I am talking about.

And in that moment, as I sat there holding my sandwich and
staring into space, suddenly I felt very sad. I felt my eyes get moist. I wished that one of those schooltime dhakkans from my class would just drop by, grin at me and say the magic words.

"Kya Sayesha, akele akele?"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Grow up, will ya?

Hey you,

Why are you doing this again? Do you actually like torturing me or something? Do you derive some sort of sadistic pleasure watching me in pain?

Last year you made me cry buckets. In spite of that, I decided that I wanted you to be with me for life, and I meant it. I thought you wanted it too. I thought we'd sorted out whatever problems we had. But what's with this now? You're hurting me again. Sometimes I feel numb with pain. At other times, I can't even talk. I can't discuss you with anyone, not even with my closest friends. Not even with those who have been through the exact same thing. The truth is that I don't want to discuss you with them because I know exactly what wisdom they have to share with me.

I don't want you out. Do you want out?

Last night I could not go to sleep. I tossed and turned in bed thinking about you, and then decided once again that I will not give up. Perhaps I am being foolish. But I don't care. I don't think we need third party intervention at this point. We managed fine last year, didn't we? Let's make this work, shall we? One more try for the sake of all these years that we've been together?

Valued thirty-second tooth and fourth wisdom tooth of mine, I have one little request.

Grow up, will ya?

Thank you.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Yara silly silly

My playlist usually consists of either very new or very old songs. Feeling kinda sick of them, I decided to play songs that were very popular during my teenage years. And suddenly memories came rushing back. Memories of the silliest movies with the silliest scenes and costumes and dances and songs that I had lapped up years ago when I was growing up in India, but which seem so incredibly ridiculous now that I decided I had to write a poem on them.

Silly movies with silly scenes
Silly heroes and heroines, silly costumes
Silly laughter, silly tears
Oh, how I miss my teenage years...

When there was no Abhay or Bobby
And Sunny was the only Deol
When he danced to 'Yara o yara'
The whole nation went 'LOL!'

When Ventakesh played a village boy
Tried to speak hindi and hoped for a fan
Anil Kapoor said, "Nice try, dude!"
But I'm the original muchhad man!"

Then Jackie Shroff went "Hey, what about me?!"
And put on a silk red shirt with bandhni print
When Urmila wore a slip (and just that)
And at the beach, she did a sprint

When Raveena wore long skirts
And her hair was big and frumpy
When Nana always played the husband
Screaming and bashing and grumpy

When Kajol refused to put on make-up
Dress well, or thread her unibrow
When Mamta churned out hit after hit
Everyone wondered, "How??"

When Shah Rukh wore a pink blazer
He somehow managed to pull it off
When Govinda tried that (with yellow pants)
We all went "Cough! *choke* Cough!"

When Sallu worked out in his room
In the hope of turning brawny
Bhagyashree peeled peas and cooked for him
Yet he stayed thin and scrawny

And when she wore hawaii chappals
Bata saw a sudden spike in sales
She cooked with her long hair all loose
And yet was the desire of all males

When Rekha, Sridevi and Jaya Prada
Wore clothes that made 'em look like aunts
Jeetendra did a little jig on the grass
In white shoes and white pants

When treating congenital blindness
Was really so simple
You didn't have to go to the hospital
Just DIY at the temple!

When 'caterpillar' Karishma wore jail clothes
And this dude called Harish did too
They looked so much like each other
You wondered who was who!

When mothers only knew how to cook
The stipulated three main dishes
Gajar ka halwa, alu ka paratha, chaawal ki kheer
Against the heart doc's wishes

Sisters were often blind or widowed
But they had the same culinary skills
And the poor fathers toiled
In the cruel bosses' cotton mills

When Meenakshi, the brave bahu
Hired a lawyer with a good physique
To scream in the courtroom on her behalf
"Taareekh pe taareekh pe taareekh!"

When Rahul Roy flicked his fringe
And all the girls went "Sigh!"
When they saw the plain Anu with him
They gnashed their teeth and went "Why???"

Kajol and Juhi turned up in silk shorts
And horrified people into sleepless nights
And Tabu ran after Ajay's bike
Wearing ridiculous red tights

When Ayesha wore frilly frocks
With huge pink bows in her hair
And dupattas were always released from a cliff
To go flying through the air

They flew to Switzerland to sing songs
In snowy weather that was freezing
The guy got to wear sweaters and overcoats
In a sleeveless chiffon sari, the poor girl would be sneezing

If the guy and the girl hated each other
They were bound to fall in love
And flowers (and sometimes apples!)
Magically fell from above!

Silly movies with silly scenes
Silly heroes and heroines, silly costumes
Silly laughter, silly tears
Oh, how I miss my teenage years...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The screwed-up system that actually works fine

Remember that quote we used to write in our friends' autograph books when we were young?

"Friendship is like chinaware
Beautiful, fragile and rare
Once broken, can be mended
But the crack is always there"

And then we grew up and these quotes started to appear silly. We started to behave all mature and diplomatic. We started to pretend we did not see the cracks.

However, at times I feel that I may have natured in many ways, but when it comes to my friends, I lose about 20 years of my age.

Even though I have become more cynical of friendships over the years, and I have very few friends who I'm really really close to, but I love them, get angry with them, miss them, get jealous when they get close to someone else, accuse them, hurt them, fight with them, forgive them, ask for forgiveness and often get very silly and emotional about them.

And the most amazing thing is - I do all these things not just with people I know, but even with my blog friends, people I have never met before, but some of whom I cherish deeply.

What scares me is that contrary to my belief, I may never meet them in this lifetime.

But other than that, they're as much my friends as my real-life friends are. The funniest thing is - I have even had such major fights with a few of my blog friends that they have ended in fallouts. And I often wonder - do, or rather, can grown-ups really have fallouts with people they have never met??

Sometimes we take certain liberties with our friends, we say and do things that we don't mean in the way it is received. And we don't realise they may have hurt our friend. And if our friend does not talk about it, we just move on not even realising that a friend is still nursing a wound caused by our words. It's only when one fine day, we're hurt by our friend's words, and we don't talk about it, that we realise that our friend does not even realise we're still nursing a wound caused by his/her words.

If you're fortunate enough to be able to bring it out and talk about it, things may heal for good. Sometimes you can forgive easily, sometimes you are forgiven easily. But at other times, it's not so easy. And it's tempting to sweep the matter under the carpet. We may feel that's the mature thing to do. Just forget about it. But if we can't forget, why pretend? What's the point in being all mature and grown-up, if the problem is still gnawing at the back of our minds? By pretending to be okay when we're not, we're being unfair not just to ourselves but also to our friend who thinks we're okay. Sometimes, a fallout is better than a friendship held together for the mere sake of holding it together.

Over the years, I've come to realise that fallouts are not personal failures. If you can't forget, there is no point forgiving. You just have to move on. Don't look back - just let it go.

But what I am glad about is that there are certain friendships where you can have a fallout, you can patch up, and surprisingly, the crack will not be there. The only problem is that such friendships are extremely rare. Chemistry like that happens only if you're very very lucky.

I guess it's part of the package. You hurt your friends. Your friends hurt you. Fallouts happen. There's no way out of it. That's how the system works.

Luckily, there's something so endearing about the bond of real friendship, that when we find friends who really matter, we just find a way to work around the screwed-up system.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not bad, bad guy!

I was doing my usual Youtube surfing to catch the latest hindi movie trailers when I found something truly A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. It's a video of Salman Khan in a stage show singing songs from his movies. Yes, I said singing, not lip-synching. And doing a pretty good job at it! He even managed a decent rendition of the high-pitched 'Tadap tadap' (which, I'd like to stress, would NOT make KK want to murder him.)

Video courtesy Romony: Youtube link

"Not bad! Not bad at all!" I found myself saying.

"Dekho dekho, Sallu can sing too!!" I told my flatmate who was busy watching TV.

The flatmate showed no interest whatsoever. I understand. We all know how insecure Sallu's muscles make all men. So the flatmate actually preferred to go back to watching 12 monkeys. Which was kinda strange, considering that the movie stars two hunks -- Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis! Guess it's because they don't go topless as much as Sallu does.

Actually, I'm not a great fan of Sallu. Though at one point in time during my teenage years, I do remember being hopelessly in love with him, I think it was after watching Hum Aapke Hain Koun. But over the years, we kinda grew apart. Mainly because of my belief that guys with hot bods are even hotter if they keep their shirt on. (Did anyone catch that movie where an incoming train is seconds away from a girl who has been tied to the railway tracks by the bad guys, and our hero here decides that he must spend precious seconds taking off his shirt before he goes to rescue the dying damsel? Sheesh!) Having said that, you gotta admit that the dude works hard on his body. Besides, there must be something to his star value and fan following, otherwise why would his movies still be hits even though his reputation has been completely ruined first by the Ash-bash, and then the black bucks and the footpath killing? His reputation as 'The bad guy of Bollywood' didn't seem to affect anything.

I watched the video twice. And I was still amazed. The last time I was bowled over like this was when I'd seen Saif Ali Khan play the guitar. I guess when you're known to be really good at one thing, we don't really expect you to be good at other things, so when we discover the other talents, we're taken by surprise. But if you're a jack of all trades and master of none, no one is really surprised even if you do a decent job at a million things.

All of us are good at many things. But there's got to be that one thing we're really good at. One that not just sets us apart, but also makes all our other smaller talents rise and shine.

So what is that one thing that you are really good at?