Friday, September 28, 2007

Cricket equals patriotism?

Just two days ago, I was caught in a mad traffic jam. The men in blue had arrived after a glorious victory, with the 20-20 world cup. They were driven from the airport to the Wankhede stadium in an open van. Fans thronged the streets. Cricket fever gripped the city and jammed the roads.
Stuck there with nothing to do, I indulged in daydreaming. What if the equation changed? Imagine cricket no more being the symbol of patriotism. The symbol of patriotism would be, well, patriotism. All that passion and hero-worship would actually help transform the country.
Rather than comparing how many players have made centuries, imagine if there were world records on how many cases have been solved, or how many lives saved, or how many people employed.
Imagine, instead of Shahrukh Khan and Yuvraj, girls would go crazy about the doctor who did the first liver transplant in India or the cop who caught the beer-killer. A social activist would be made brand ambassador, and feature in ads. Awards would be given to the country with the lowest female infanticide rate.
This patriotism fever would spread. People would urge neighbours and friends to prevent aids because we gotta set a record. And every drunken driver would be attacked with the same fury reserved for any Indian who cheers Pakistan.
Magazines and news channels would feature the best teachers in the country. Or the best station masters. Etiquette would become a mandate. People would fear to litter or spit because – log kya kahenge!
The whole country would come together on the streets to plant trees, as a result of this passion. And everyone would ask – score kya huva – and mean the number of trees planted in a day!
There would be gully-cleaning. International festivals to showcase the number of new developments by each country. Money from international awards would again be put into building more roads, getting electricity and safe drinking water.
Scientists, engineers and economists would walk the red carpet, surrounded by the paparazzi. And everyone all over would want to improve his or her social and community skills. Being cultured would be the fad. Being honest would mean riches. And doing the right thing would hurl you into the arms of glamour.
Glamour. Cheering. Applause. Honk. I’m snapped back into reality. The traffic had started flowing again. The cricket team had moved on.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A letter to Bill Watterson

Dear Mr. Watterson,

I’m sure you’re working at a more thoughtful pace now, with fewer artistic compromises. Meanwhile, I’d like to tell you how things are at my end.
I’ve grown up with Calvin and Hobbes, and they are part of my daily life. I freely quote them and their philosophy. I own books and I’m part of C&H communities online.
Calvin & Hobbes are all over my cubicle and home.
In fact, I’ve struck lifetime friendships beginning with one question – Are you a Calvin and Hobbes fan? The credo I live by is – From now on, I’ll connect the dots my own way.
I’ve been with them building snowmen, riding toboggans, and even in the transmogrifier. I’ve played Calvinball, shuddered at the thought of Rosalyn and travelled with them in the time machine. They help me think, put things in perspective and inspire me to deal with everyday situations.
But I’m not here to tell you how they’ve influenced me. That, I’m sure, you know very well. I just want to tell you that there are times when I’m completely foxed. Because I’m facing a situation Calvin never did. Which, I’m sure he’d have faced had he lived for longer. They tell me Calvin just vanished. And they say the author doesn’t allow merchandising. Fair enough, Mr. Watterson, I too wouldn’t want to see them on towels and doormats. But on scary nights when I’m seeing my personal bogeymen, I fervently wish I had Hobbes to hold on to.
It may not be right to be greedy, but why shouldn’t I get more of what I love? My entire collection will be a legacy for my children. And grandchildren. And I’m writing to you because one day my grandchildren will sit on my knee and ask me about you. And they might just say, “But you were there in his time. Didn’t you even try to get him write some more?”

Yours truly,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I love bangles

I love bangles. And this is one of my favourite poems.

The Bangle-sellers

Bangle sellers are we who bear
Our shining loads to the temple fair...
Who will buy these delicate, bright
Rainbow-tinted circles of light?
Lustrous tokens of radiant lives,
For happy daughters and happy wives.

Some are meet for a maiden's wrist,
Silver and blue as the mountain mist,
Some are flushed like the buds that dream
On the tranquil brow of a woodland stream,
Some are aglow with the bloom that cleaves
To the limpid glory of new born leaves

Some are like fields of sunlit corn,
Meet for a bride on her bridal morn,
Some, like the flame of her marriage fire,
Or, rich with the hue of her heart's desire,
Tinkling, luminous, tender, and clear,
Like her bridal laughter and bridal tear.

Some are purple and gold flecked grey
For she who has journeyed through life midway,
Whose hands have cherished, whose love has blest,
And cradled fair sons on her faithful breast,
And serves her household in fruitful pride,
And worships the gods at her husband's side.
-- Sarojini Naidu

I think, this is the best poem Sarojini Naidu wrote. But we ain’t discussing poems here. We’re talking bangles. Best described as rainbow-tinted circles of light.
I’m not much of a jewellery person, but bangles are something else. I’ve got boxes full of them. To go with each saree or salwar kameez. And I don’t mean those metal thingies you get these days. I’m talking glass bangles. Metal somehow can never be a circle of light, na. Metal bangles just don’t feel right. Their tinkling feels artificial.
The real tinkle is that of glass bangles, which sounds like a nymph who’s laughing out loud (dil khol ke) at a really funny joke.
And bangles have to be worn by the dozen. Two dozens for each hand. At least. They work best in multiples. Their function being? To cheer you up, and make you feel at the top of the world. Bangles make you feel proud to be a woman. And privileged, of course!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cab woes

Lower Parel station
9.30 am

My first day at work. I get out of the station and come on the street. Waiting to get a lift from a cabbie. Anyone who lives in Bombay knows that here auto and cab drivers only give you lifts. Paid lifts, but lifts nevertheless. They start out for a particular destination, and they’ll take you along only if it’s convenient and in the way.

After five ‘nahi jayegas’ I get one cabbie to agree. I open the door and four people appear out of thin air, get in and drive away. Moral: There should be no time lapse between opening a cab door and getting in.

Having learnt my lesson, I’m ready for the next cab. After a manoeuvre that would’ve done Rajnikant proud, I manage to get into a cab at last. But before I can get the door shut, three girls jump into it. I look at them bewildered. The cabbie drives on as if nothing has happened.

‘Is this a hijack?’ I think. Meekly I ask one of the girls, ‘Where are you headed?’
‘Exactly where you are,’ she says.
How the hell does she know where I’m going? As if reading my mind she answers, ‘We heard you ask the cabbie.’
Phew, at least it isn’t a hijack. They probably just want a lift and forgot to ask me. The relief that followed had set my benevolence levels rising. They were all welcome to the ride.

I make it to office safely and pay the cabbie. Suddenly, before I know it I hear jingling. My co-passengers vanish leaving me with a handful of coins. That’s when realisation dawned. They’d all paid their share.

Life has been smooth ever since I understood the principle. Every cab here is shared. The separate queue for the share-a-cab thingy is just a formality. Now I’m living happily ever after. In fact, if you see me any morning at Lower Parel station, you’ll realize I’m a pro. As soon as I hear the name of my destination being mentioned anywhere near a cab, I dive straight into it. Sometimes, the person who’s already inside looks at me bewildered.
‘It’s okay’, I say with a reassuring smile.

Friday, September 7, 2007

my first

Mr. Kalra, aapki bahu kya karti hai?
My heart skips a beat.
The clever man changes the topic effortlessly, and points the limelight towards Atalji.
This is the side effect of working in advertising. Nobody knows what it is that I do.
“I write,” I told my dad when I got my first job.
“And they give you money for that?” He can’t believe I actually have a job that involves writing.

My in-laws have stopped trying to understand what I do. When I first said I work in an ad agency, his grandma said, “matlab?”
I told her I make ads. She suddenly stiffened, “You’re a model?”
“No, no. I make them. I make the ads. The models work in my ads.”
“You’re a director?” and elderly aunt quizzed.
Er, not really.
“You’re the cameraman?”
No, but…
“You work in the TV channel?”
Thankfully dinner was announced.

My parents wished for a normal child who would become a doctor or a lawyer. And here I am, a copywriter in full bloom. Aaj kal ke bachhe, they say sorrowfully.
And when anyone asks them what I do, they say ‘service karti hai.’
Whatever that means.