Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Straight talk

So I am all set to go for my badminton session on saturday when my phone rings.

Unfamiliar number.

Oh no, not another bank calling to sell me their new plutonium card. I get a lot of them calling me during office hours and I’m usually able to avoid them because I don’t answer my mobile during office hours. Heh heh!

But for some strange reason, I answered. Thank goodness I did.

"Hi, is this Sayesha?"


"Hi. You have a booking for a badminton court today, yes?"

"Yes, I'm about to leave now."

"I'm afraid there was a system error and it allowed you to book the court when it shouldn't have."


"The courts are all booked out for an event today."

"But my booking went through successfully. And the payment did too."

"Yes, we know. We're sorry for the error."

This was the kind of situation where at about this point, I would be really irritated. Seriously, nothing comes between my badminton and me. Especially when I have to book weeks in advance to get that one slot.

But something was different. Well, basically someone had recently been extremely nasty to me and it felt horrible and I didn't want to transfer it to another person.

"Uh... okay..."

"So don't come today, okay?"

"Okay... but will I get a refund or another slot?"

"I'm afraid I can't give you a refund, but I can get you another slot."

"That would do, thanks."

Apun ko kya, I just want to play badminton yaar.

"Okay, I'll call you back soon to confirm the slot."

"Thanks. May I know your name, please?"


So I waited and I waited and I waited for Tina to call and she didn't.

On the verge of losing it, I decided to call her. I flipped open my phone and to my shock, my phone had been switched off. No charge. Holy crap. So I put it to charge and then I called the number using my landline.

"Hi, may I speak to Tina, please?"

"May I know who this is?"

"This is Sayesha. She'd just called me about a badminton court booking."

"I'll get her to call you back."

So I waited and I waited and I waited for Tina to call. She didn't. It was exactly the kind of thing people write to the newspapers to complain about.

Anyway, after a while I flipped open my phone again, and to my shock, I saw that it had gone on silent mode. (My phone does that sometimes, goes into silent mode when I put it to charge).

There was a missed call. From Tina. Holy crap again.

By this time, I reckon both of us were sufficiently irritated at each other.

So I called the number again.

"Hi, may I speak to Tina, please?"

"Hi, is this Sayesha? I'd just called you."

"Yes, I know. I missed your call. Sorry about that."

"No problem."

"So did you manage to get me another slot?"

"I have one on sunday. Is that fine?"

"No, sundays are not good." (Viv has cricket on sundays.)

"Okay, let me check and I'll call you back."

So the phone rang five minutes later and I literally flung myself at it.

"Hello, Tina??"

"Good morning, ma'am. I'm calling from Standard Chartered. I was wondering if you would be interested in our..."


"I'm sorry this is not a good time. Could you call me back later?"

"Sure, ma'am. When would be a good time?"

"Uhh... maybe on a weekday? During office hours?" (*evil grin*)


The phone rang again.

“Hello, Sayesha?”

“Tina! Hiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!”

It was as if I'd suddenly bumped into a long lost friend.

“I’m sorry I only have the sunday slot. Is that okay?" She sounded really apologetic.

"Okay, I'll take it."

I don't even know what was happening. There was something really nice about her and I didn't feel angry at all.

"Thank you so much for your understanding, Sayesha."

"Thank you for letting me know about the cancellation, and for getting me another slot."

"Thank you for being so nice about this."

Okay, enough thanking already. We hung up. It was getting weird, us being so super nice to each other.

So today, during lunch, I see a missed call on my mobile. I call back.

"Hi, I got a missed call from this number."

"Hi, may I know who this is?"

"This is Sayesha."

"Oh Sayesha. Hold on, I'll transfer you to Tina."

Holy crap.

"Hi Sayesha!"

"Hi Tina! Are you going to cancel my booking for this weekend?" (yes, I ensured she could hear me smile.)

"Oh ha ha ha! No no! I just called to check if everything went okay on Sunday."

"Really? That's all?"

"Err... yes."

Wow. Who does that?

"Yeah, it was great, thank you very much."

"That's great. My event also went okay."

Oh no, I did not ask her about her event. How rude.

"That's great, Tina. About my booking this weekend... it's not cancelled I hope?"

"Oh no, not at all! Ha ha!"

"Thank you then!"

"Thank you again for being so understanding about that day. Have a good game!"



I was smiling after the call. I bet she was too.

I don't even know why I posted this whole thing. I just felt like it. Like these seemingly meaningless conversations with Tina had taught me a big lesson.

Just be nice yaar.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Just my cup of tea

"Looks like we're out of sugar." I told my mom-in-law.

Wait a minute... we're out of sugar?? I asked myself. And it was a surprising fact because since I can remember, we have never been out of sugar. And then I figured it out -- I usually don't put sugar in anything, and that's why it seems like it lasts forever. But since the in-laws are here, we have all been drinking copious amounts of tea and that's why we are out of sugar. I love it. I love the idea that we're actually out of sugar. I love the idea that we have a use for sugar. I love the whole 'ghar par chai banti hai' idea. Strange, considering that I'm not even a fan of tea. Sometimes I prefer just making it to drinking it. But the whole concept of chai feels good. Feels hospitable, cosy, warm. Homely.

And the smell of masala tea is just so heavenly. More than the taste itself, the smell is therapeutic. I like to boil the cardamom and the cinnamon and the bay leaves with the tea when making masala tea. None of that instant masala tea powder nonsense for me. In fact, to the annoyance of some of my Singaporean friends, I say, "This is masala tea? Chheh! You should come home for real masala tea." And so it's absolutely great that the in-laws love my masala tea. Actually my Dad-in-law has a very strict policy on my masala tea. It's called 'Never say no'. All I have to say is "Chai?" Any time of the day. Any day of the week. I love it. There's nothing like sitting down, sipping tea and chatting with family. Throw in pakoras if it's raining and you've got a party going.

When I was a kid, Mom used to have a cup of tea every morning. In fact, she couldn't function without it. Dad, on the other hand, is literally a 'tea-totaller'. He used to drink a glass of milk every day with my sister and me (of course, in my case, a lot of it fed the plants, but that's a whole other story). In fact, once Mom was away, and my Dad lacked the inclination and skills to make lunch, and so had 2 litres of milk. For lunch. Yup, that's my Dad.

And so, since our childhood, Dad has been telling my sister and me of the evil addiction that tea is. Strange, considering my sister drinks tea every day. In fact, my sister is so virgo about her chai that I don't even dare to make her a cup because in the world of virgos, putting 2 nanolitres of milk less, or boiling it for 2 nanoseconds more, or not covering it for exactly 13.2 seconds before serving it 'ruins the tea'. Apparently. Too stressful I say. Make your own. And she does.

I'm not too sure if Dad knows she has crossed over to the dark side though. He still warns me about tea over the phone all the time. In fact, if you were to listen to one of my phone conversations with Dad, you'd think my Mom was a hard-core drug addict.

Dad - She's addicted, you know. There's nothing I can do.
Me - Dad, please...
Dad - No seriously. She tried to give it up, but she started having... what do you call it??
Me (wearily) - Withdrawal symptoms...
Dad - Yes yes! Withdrawal symptoms! And then she went right back. It's an evil addiction.
Me - Sigh...
Dad - Wait, you don't have tea at all, do you?
Me (pausing to sip my tea) - Not at all, Dad.

Well, that's kind of true. Tea only features in my home menu when parents or in-laws are here. Viv and I don't drink tea, so it's nice to have someone to make it for. The best part is that since we moved into the new house, we have reserved a room for the parents. The idea is to have each set visit us by rotation and stay with us for a couple of months each year. And so I know that there will be free flow of 'ghar ki chai' all year round.

It's a comforting thought.

Chai ho!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lost and found

So Dad and Mom made a trip to Kanyakumari last week. Dad couldn't be more excited. It was his dream to live the phrase 'Kashmir se Kanyakumari tak, Hindustan ek hai'. In fact, his first LFC (a sponsored trip that bankers get) was to Kashmir in the late 70s, and now with a few months left to retirement, he decided on Kanyakumari for his last LFC.

So after he got back, he wrote me two (!) long emails describing his trip to Kanyakumari, criss-crossing with his memories of his Kashmir trip. One of the highlights of his Kashmir trip was how my sister, a toddler back then, got lost in Srinagar. She was playing under the watchful eye of my grandma who happened to doze off, and my adventurous sis decided to wander off and quite literally live the phrase 'Kashmir ki waadiyon mein gum' (gum as in lost, not chewing gum in Kashmir's valleys). Mom and grandma ran out on the roads to look for her and after a while, found her, crying, but otherwise safe in the hands of a Sikh gentleman, aka "God Himself" in my Mom's words.

Dad went on to describe how years later, I, at the age of about 3 or 4, decided to repeat my sister's act, and got lost in a large and busy vegetable market late in the evening. I think I remember what happened -- this fisherman was cutting fish and I was so fascinated I just stood there and watched him cut the fish. (Bhai's violent streak started young, eh?) Meanwhile, my folks had been looking for me all over the place. Finally, they decided to go to the nearest police station. To their amazement, they found me standing next to Dad's motor-cycle at the parking spot. (Yep, those were the days, when my sister and mom would sit behind my dad and I would sit on the petrol tank (!) and we would ride around town, living the phrase 'Hum do, hamaare do'. Man! What's with my family and living the phrases??) Anyway, back to my lost and found story. Of course, they were stumped to find me there. Apparently I told them, "I knew you would eventually come here." Wah wah. Well done, baby Sash.

At every family reunion, we would talk about these two stories. And more, of how cousins got lost and were found. Of how the neighbours' kids got lost and were found. With the help of the panwala, the domestic helper, the police, the watchman, the dog, the nukkad ka lafunga, a complete stranger, and what not.

Over the years, I discovered that as a kid almost everyone had been lost at one point or the other and been found eventually. I guess Sonpur ka mela doesn't happen to everyone.

As kids, when we were lost, someone or the other knew where we were. Someone or the other found us.


Damn. Wish it was as simple now. Now, as growns ups, we're all lost again, but in a different way altogether. And sadly, this time around no one knows where we are. No one really knows where to find us. We just have to do it ourselves.



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The learning curve

So today I was wondering how far my friend Pizzadude has progressed in his Spanish lessons, when a voice boomed over my head, "Kisi aur par ungli uthaane se pehle apne girebaan mein jhaank kar dekhna chahiye!" No, it wasn't Viv -- I highly doubt he even knows what 'girebaan' means. In fact, he's probably reading this and wondering what it means. Dude, it means... *straight face* ..."fallen arrows" okay?

So I have been trying to learn Tamil for some time now, and have been rather unsuccessful at that. It doesn't help that the in-laws speak fluent Hindi and English, but I must admit that having them around has helped the cause more than Viv's contribution.

So I decided not to be too hard on myself (it IS a tough language, okay!), and encourage myself by listing my progress report so far:

1. Last year, I could only say the number '9' in Tamil. (Ahem, that's because the train stations announce the emergency number 999 in all four of Singapore's national languages - English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.) This year, I can count 1 to 10 in Tamil. Thanks to the idea of counting in Tamil while doing crunches.

2. Last year, I could not differentiate between "kannadi" ("glass"), "munnadi" ("in front"), "pinaadi" ("behind") and "takkali" ("tomato"). Also "periya" ("big") and "nariya" ("a lot"). This year I can.

3. Last year, I did not know that "carrot" in Tamil is "carrot". This year I do. Woohoo! (Nooooo, this is NOT cheating!).

4. Last year, the first thing I'd say to Viv after he came home from cricket was, "Eeeeee! Po, kuli." ("Eeeeee! Go, bathe."). This year, I say, "Pongo kulingo." ("Please go and have a bath."). Respect!

5. Last year, Viv used to say that I don't know anything. This year, I can say "Onnaka onnum teriyaadu!" ("You don't know anything!") back to him. Nothing like a non-Tamilian yelling in Tamil I say.

6. Last year, I could not say "vattakozhambu" and "oorulaikazhangu". This year, I can.

7. Last year I did not know too many adjectives so I used "madiri" ("like") a lot, e.g. "koranga madiri" ("like a monkey"). This year, I can say "somberi" ("lazybum")! (I love that word. Easy to remember. Like strawberry.)

8. Last year, I only knew one question word "yaar" ("who"). This year, I know 'em all - yaar, yengay, yaen, yeppidi, yevlavu, yeppo and yetana.

9. Last year, I knew "mani" meant "time" because someone told me a joke about a Tamil economist for whom "time was mani". This year, I can ask "Yetana mani?" ("What time?")

10. Last year, every time someone from his family asked me, "Tamil teriyum?" ("You know Tamil?") I could get away with saying "Konjum konjum" ("A little"). That would amuse them so much they wouldn't ask anything further. This year, I can proudly proclaim, "Rombha nalla Tamil teriyum!" ("I know very good Tamil!"). Although even this seems to have the same effect on them. I don't know why. Teriyaadu.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mixing it up

The original Gayatri mantra:

Om bhoorbhuwaha swaha
Tat savitur varenyam

Bhargo devasya dheemahi

Dhiyo yo naha prachodayaat

Remix by DJ Viv (written in celebration of his psychotic Virgo-ness):

Om bhoorbhuwaha swaha
Tat savitur varenyam

VIRGO devasya dheemahi

Dhiyo yo naha prachodayaat

Remix by DJ baby Aish:

Om bhoor bhoor swaha...
...undecipherable babble...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Barenaked lady

So 'Satyam Shivam Sundaram' was playing on TV today, and since I had not watched it, I decided to watch it and find out what the big deal about this movie was.


My jaw is still on the floor.

Question for Raj Kapoor:

It was 1978! How the heck did you get away with it??

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Run for it (and don't define the 'it')

So last Sunday I travelled to NTU for a 4-day company-sponsored course. True to its name, the course was intensive to the degree that we did not even have a reason to step out of the Nanyang Executive Centre where we stayed, studied, worked and slept for 4 days. On the third day or so, I started to feel it --- the 'conditioned air' in the air-conditioned building was getting to me. I needed some fresh air and decided to take a walk around my alma mater.

I hadn't taken my running shoes with me, so I wore my slippers and walked. I walked all the way to the running track in the Sports and Recreation Centre (SRC) and that's when memories of my third year in university came back to me. I was interning back then, and to shed a couple of extra kilos, I used to come back from office and run 6 rounds on the track every night before dinner. Some amazing results ensued, and that's when I got into the whole fitness thing.

However, that did not last long as my knee pain came back. In my first year at university, I had fractured my knee while jogging on the roads at 1 am (Don't ask. I was young and foolish back then. Now I am old and still foolish.) Of course, Viv likes to incorporate a hot Mauritian guy into the how-I-broke-my-knee-story. I assure you, the hot Mauritian guy was by no means fictional, and it is indeed true that he was so hot that when I first saw him, I skipped a step and sprained my ankle, but he had nothing to do with the fateful night I went jogging on the roads and ended up with a broken bone. In Viv's version, I apparently ran after the hot Mauritian guy on the roads at 1 am and ended up with a fracture. Many people prefer his version of the story. Sometimes I do too. It is more fun than mine.

Anyway, so when my knee pain came back, that was the end of my jogging. Undeterred, I found other means of staying fit, such as going to the gym, badminton, walking, walking a lot, walking very fast, and attempting to swim (believe me, I am still attempting). But the walking bit really helped me stay in shape.

So this evening, as I wore my shoes to walk to the beach, I decided to go for a run instead. It was unthinkable at first. I hadn't run in a very long time, and the last time I tried to run, I got rashes all over my legs, my knee hurt and the left side of my stomach started aching. It was like my body had developed an allergy towards running. But memories from 8 years ago, of the 6 rounds on the track at the SRC egged me on, and I wanted to see if I still had it in me.

I didn't.

I'd barely run about 15 minutes when the rashes came back and my stomach started hurting. So I stopped running and started walking very fast. After a while, I felt like I could run again. I ended up toggling between running and walking for about an hour or so, and even though I wasn't running very fast (let's just say I run at the pace of Roop Kumar Rathod's 'Tujh mein rab dikhta hai'), it felt great before the pain came back. Each time.

And I felt like I finally understood why people run. You've seen them at the beach, just running. Some are training for the Marathon, yes, and some are trying to get into shape, but a lot of them are just running. No reason. Just running.

I had not taken my watch or my mobile phone along with me, but I did have my ipod (hey, I can sacrifice the sense of time and connectivity, but not music) and it was great to run when Sunidhi went "Bounce baby bounce" and walk when Shaan crooned "Kuchh kam roshan hai roshni" (yes, the world has graduated to Delhi 6 and I am still hooked on the Dostana and Fashion music albums). I had time to observe things around me --- a dad encouraging his son to run faster, a lady with a pram full of dogs, a dad on a skateboard with a toddler balanced precariously in front of him, a grandma taking a walk with the aid of her domestic helper. And slowly, amongst the sweat, breathlessness and heat, a sense of calm prevailed. Usually, when I see cyclists riding at crazy speeds on the walking track, I feel like shoving a branch between the spokes of the wheels. But this time, I didn't feel that. Peaceful co-existence and all that.

And then a guy stopped me to ask me where the hawker centre was. I was amazed. In spite of the 'double-protection-do-not-disturb-me device' (running+ipod), he had stopped me. It was a beautiful welcome change. You don't see this kind of liberty-taking, interfering-in-your-life act, where a total stranger stops you as you're running, waits till you take your earphones off and asks you for directions. It just doesn't happen.

"You just walk down this path all the way." I said.

"Very far, ah?" He asked.

"Uhh... not really. About 5 minutes?"

He thanked me and went on his way, while I wondered, "Did I make it clear to him that I meant 5 minutes by walking, and not running?" And then I wondered if I wonder too much. Maybe it's true. Maybe we all wonder too much. And maybe that's why this physically exhausting activity of running helps. It does not give us time to wonder too much. And that's probably why so many people run. Without a cause.

In a world where we're either running after something or away from something, sometimes it's kind of nice to, you know, just run.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Thrilled to death

Zee TV's synopsis of the 1991 'from-the-scrawny-Sallu-days' movie 'Love'.

"This Sunday afternoon be entertained by yet another thriller entitled Love."