Friday, October 23, 2009

Yeh tera ghar yeh mera ghar......

i really wish beautiful homes conjured out of nowhere like they do in our good old world of Bollywood a la Dostana, Wake up Sid and several other movies. Even new-to-city strugglers live in certainly trendy and well-furnished homes. But alas the reality of making a beautiful home starts with sweat and grime. With visits to numerous sites and talks with builders. You could be in for an adventure if you happen to be a woman doing it for the first time all by yourself in a big city like Mumbai. Thankfully, Mumbai is a city with certainly a better attitude to a woman going around exploring unbuilt homes, so they don't ogle at you and understand that even though you are making the enquiries alone, there must be a husband somewhere in the wings. Right!

My quest for my dream home began one hot afternoon (didn't have a choice about the time of day) when i set out almost looking like an apparition having covered myself with scarves etc to protect myself from the blazing heat. I had a sheet of paper with names of builders and projects, phone numbers to most and almost complete addresses. Finding the first site wasn't very difficult as the helpful rickshaw guy hit bang on target. There was a convincing sales guy there who did his best to convince me how high-class my lifestyle would be if i chose to live in their tower, even though it wouldn't complete before 2011. Not a very happy thing. The next site had a so called sample flat ready but with a lot finishing yet to be done. How does one imagine one's bedroom with sand and gravel all around the place!! Well, the guy led me to look at the bedrooms. He pointed at one of them and said "Master Bedroom with attached toilet". My instant reaction was to yell "Are you kidding me?? But....through colossal efforts i managed to mask my mixed feelings of shock and disappointment. I didn't even have to move my neck to survey the the room from one wall to the other. And the "attached toilet" was nothing more than a tiny cubicle with a shower, commode and wash basin cramped next to each other. No good news here too!

I moved on to the so-called premier properties by well-known builders. The construction was certainly better but here too there was nothing masterly about the master bedrooms with equal chances of you hitting the corners of the bed. A little free movement in the bathroom could teach the body part that attempted it with a painful lesson to remember!

My journey of house hunting is far from over, but i did learn a few precious things from my mistakes.

1. Ensure that you leave home with the name of the builder and the project you are looking for along with the phone number.
2. If you are not sure of the location, call up the number and find out. Do not assume that you'll find it since even famous constructions lead an anonymous life in the eyes of localites.
3. Ask for the plot number, street number and landmarks if any. Finding houses in the making can be quite a task.
4. Make a checklist of things you'd like to look for in the sample flat (like whether there's separate space for washing machine, sufficient number of plug points) and points you'd like to ask the builder (like car park charges, availability of corner flats etc)

But this is just the beginning. The journey continues.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Next time you want to run your fingers through your hair....Don’t!

What’s with the super confident divas of the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherji, Konkana Sharma running their fingers through their perfectly blow-dried and gelled hair on TV? I couldn’t help but notice the blatant frequency of it while I ran into some old episodes of Koffee with Karan on the internet. Bollywood stars are our ultimate style icons with not a hair out of place. They mouth perfect lines for the media and make their appearances on talk shows only in designer clothes. But ever noticed what they say with their bodies? If you notice, they will let out signs of nervousness just like you and I do, while they are kinda cornered in talk shows and interviews.

Body language is a true mirror of what’s going on in our minds. Our thoughts and bodies work in co-ordination and no matter how much we try to put up a brave front, the body plays along with our thoughts. We need to feel confident to behave confident. Though we can consciously avoid the manifesting the sub-conscious vibes.

Running your fingers through your hair seems such an innocuous thing to do but body language pundits will beg to differ. Do that in an interview and you expert panel instantly knows you are ill at ease. This is the most common sign of nervousness, mostly in men. But notice how often women tuck strands of hair (that are not even stray) behind their ears while thinking of what to say. Running you fingers through your hair seems to help you buy time while you frame an appropriate answer in your mind. It also, on a sub-conscious level, makes you feel better since you just put your hair in place.

Have you ever noticed your hands going up to scratch your face in times you are doubtful or self-conscious? It’s mostly scratching the forehead, chin or nose - another quite common sign of nervousness. Notice yourself and the people around you in uncertain situations and you will see them do that. This is also like buying time and you fill those milliseconds with a scratch.

Other signs of under-confidence include, among others, holding a handkerchief (in case of women) or a pen (in case of women) in your hand when you have to face people in public, tapping fingers on the table, shaking one leg (in case of men) or hiding your hands in your lap or pushing your feet backwards under your chair (indicates you are trying to hide a part of you).

So next time, mind your body along with your words.

Mall Dhamaal!!

Mulundwalon, hamare pass bhi Ma(a)ll hai!!

The opening of swanky malls in Ghatkopar has certainly upped the cool quotient of the Central suburb in Mumbai. Neelyog Square next to the station, R Odeon Mall near Vallabh Baug Lane and R-City in Ghatkopar West are the superstars of Gahtkopar’s new found status among other suburbs.

R Odeon Mall has only Cinemax to its claim to fame at the moment. But that's good enough for now. The interiors are really different with trademark patterns with red and comfy seats. Right now, only 2 out of the 4 screens will be used ofr screening. All the other shops have interior work going on in full swing and should open up shortly. i'm waiting to peep into the spa for women.

Neelyog Square, by Neelyog constructions, is a three-storey building with ample parking space. Shop around the floors and enjoy the latest Bollywood flick in the theatre on the third floor. Reliance Fresh outlet is certainly below standards and expectations. I found fungus growing in boxes of strawberries!!! The movie hall, Fame, is certainly at par with the best standards. With a capacity of about 1250 comfortable seats, excellent audio systems, AC halls and world-class movie projector makes for a great family movie watching session. The station is just outside, so your ride home is not much of a hassle!

It's R City at Ghatkopar West, a Runwal creation, which takes the cake. This is a full-fledged, swanky, really spacious, air-conditioned, 3 storey mall in its full glory. Famous brands have opened shop here. It's pretty organised as well. You have 2 big chunks of psace on the ground floor taken by Pantaloons and Lifestyle respectively. The first floor has saree and ethnic wear shops among others and the third floor has restaurants and the food court. The walking areas is quite large and hence no jostling around even during Diwali shopping.

Big Cinemas, the movie theatre in the mall, has 7 screens to enjoy your favourite movies. R City also has a dine and movie concept unique to the mall culture. There are tables set for you depending on the number of people in your group. The movie and dinner cost Rs. 500 per person. Still haven't tried out how it works. Watch out this space and you will know!

What will find special mention here is a great store called Ethnicity. It has an array of lovely ethnic stuff under the same roof. Indian Wear like sarees from most states in India, Salwar kameez, jootis, artifacts. Traditional junk jewellery, arty folders, rustic decorative items (like a man and a woman siting in an open horse cart made of cane) and a huge collection of artificial jewellery that looks simply gorgeous. The collection of most things is also not the usual we find at other places. Ethnicity also has it’s own eating corner with snacks like chat, pani puri and other tit bits. You can also buy a variety of delicious pickles from this store. Another unique thing about this place is they have something new keeping in the mind the flavour of the season. There was a mehendiwali sitting for Raksha Bandhan and Karva Chauth. The table at the entrance has a beautiful collection of stuff pertaining to the festive season - diyas for diwali and garba pits for navratris. There’s also a Tarot card reader for a change!

R City also has a shop for unique custom-made gifts. You could get pictures etc of your choice put on to mugs, bags, pens, t-shirts and anything else that you fancy!

What I also find unique about these malls is the range of food choices of in the food courts. R Odeon and R City have muti cuisine joints coming up. There's Italian Lasagna and Chinese manchurian with Lucknowi Kebabs and KFC sharing space on the same floor with a huge hall for sufficient sitting space.

So let the party roll on for we too have malls to cheer for.......

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mumbai Local - an inside view of an outsider

i am no authority to discuss the spirit of Mumbai since i’ve lived here for just a little less than 2 years as opposed to people who have spent their entire lifetimes here. In that little time that i’ve lived her, i can say with confidence - the city has a great spirit and an indomitable at that. And nowhere is that spirit more visible than on a local train during peak hours! Every time i travel by a local train, i cannot help but be absolutely astonished and intimidated at the same time at the way people herd together and set out for their destinations. (Thankfully i don’t need to do that everyday like other job-goers, or i’d crumble in a day!)

In my opinion, you need quite a bit of grit and courage to step into that mammoth locomotive that breathes like a living being during peak hours!! The most popular mode commuting in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, the Mumbai local faces overcrowding as a compelling problem. The 9 car rake with a capacity of 1700 holds about 5000 passengers during the peak hours in the morning and evening. That is 14 to 16 people passengers standing on per square meter of floor space! Phew! Those are mind boggling statistics indeed!

People joke around saying you just need to make it to the front of the entry and the crowd behind you will ensure you are pushed into the compartment. My initial experiences were a little different. i always ended up being the last one in the crowd after being pushed away by the rest who knew how exactly to make their way and it was too full to get in by the time the other women have stuffed themselves. i am still by no means adept at making my way first, but i do manage to throw myself on the crowd which ensures that am shoved into the boggie! And i need to get right inside unlike women who insist on standing at the edge of the entrance holding the pole! It took my breathe away a couple of times when i was stuck there since i couldn’t puch in any further and couldn’t afford to miss the train!

Once inside there’s no way the jerks and bumps of the moving train can make you fall. Since everyone is held tightly packed in place by the crowd around. i can just about manage to turn my neck a wee bit and push my eyeballs to the corners of my to catch a glimpse of people my co-passengers (who just don’t look like co-sufferers!!). Everyone except me seems to feel at home and some even strike a perfectly animated conversations with their train friends about anything under the sun. i don’t need to hold on to a pole to steady myself is good news but with no freedom of movement, there’s precious little that i can do with my hands except try my best to ensure my personal things aren’t pulled away along with people getting down at stations.

A few journeys during peak hours threw up patterns and i realised there is a method to the madness. The lucky ones sitting comfortably are the ones who’ll stay till the last station. They have the luxury to be chatting with friends they've made on these trains, even share snacks turning the journey into a picnic of sorts. Then, there are people turning towards either doors and there are people stuck in the middle. The ones near the door are going to be out at the nearest station and the others will take their place for the next station. It’s after going through hard times that I realised how lethal it can to put yourself in the way of that mob on its way out. Now I ensure that I stand right in the middle, neither turn left nor right and stay away from the powerful stream of people waiting for their exit.

The Mumbai local also has a serene almost listless side to it. The second class ladies compartment in the not so rush hours is fun. You can just doze off on your seat or pass your time with lots of itsy bitsy stuff on sale. From clips to junk jewellery, stickers, kids books, cheap toys, even vegetables, Women also get home-made snacks for women who would want to munch to keep hunger pangs at bay till they reach home. Those are times you can see the city go by and extract your moments of peace on the train.

It’s only a true-blue Mumbaiite with his undaunted spirit who can go through the grind. Not accidents on the tracks, not the crowd, not the sweat, not even bomb blast succeeds in taking away the resoluteness and faith that the Mumbaikar has in this great phenomenon called Mumbai Local.

Salaam Mumbai!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wake up Sid - some thoughts

Wake up Sid, broadly speaking, has that freshness about it. It’s not the usual mushy Karan Johar flick with loads of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai-isk overdose of melodrama. The plot is simple, real and narrated as simply with no luxurious foreign locales or extravagantly shot numbers, not even for the glamour element. (Though the temptation to do that could have been too strong to resist and would spoil the whole effect of the movie)

Ranbir Kapoor, i think, greatly contributes to the fresh appeal of the film. It’s time that middle-aged men stopped playing college lads in Karan Johar’s films and someone young stepped into their shoes. None of Ranbir’s previous films have worked too well so he is not yet typecast. He perfectly fits the bill of a careless, spoilt-brat-of-a-rich-dad with no aim in life. His verve and spirit of partying and having fun add sparkle to the character. But, thankfully, his transformation is realistic through photography, which is one of his passions. It would be very unrealistic to show him succeed in his father’s business or through a 9-5 job.

Konkana Sen Sharma, unfortunately doesn’t match Ranbir’s fresh appeal. She is as brilliant as ever in her art but we have seen her to many times as the wannabe independent girl in pursuit of finding and maintaining her own identity. (Life in a Metro and Page 3, Luck by Chance are cases in point). Manish Malhotra also doesn’t seem to be too impressive in dressing her up. She’s in boring kurtis all through the film (ok, the glamour quotient is on the lower side in the film, unlike other KJo movies) and she could have been given a better look considering that she is the main lead here and its a commercial film.

Anupam Kher’s performance needs no words of praise as a helpless father of a truant son who refuses to grow up. I have no clue how Kashmera Shah or the old landlady add to the plot. Rahul Khanna is great in his cameo as the editor of Mumbai Beat and looks quite mature.

The portrayal of emotions is quite subtle in the movie. You just feel the helplessness of a father or the growing friendship between two people of opposite sex. i like the pace at which their relationship grows gradually and doesn’t presume love or sexual tension between the two right from the beginning. Sid coming of age is also brought out with ease through his struggle to mend his ways as circumstances force him to do that.

Of course, you see the usual KJo strokes in the revamp of an entire house by the leading lady even wen she doesn’t even have a job. I mean you can afford to paint and furnish your entire house and still afford to pay the rent for a Mumbai property even before you earn “apne paise” only if you have a producer’s deep pockets supporting you.

Overall it’s a great movie with a fusion of fun and emotion. It's worth watching.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I am trying to see the backside of the house.....

I cannot follow what you tell ma’am.... Can you please repeat again?

My name ij sudhasu.... I study in graduason 2nd yr and come here ....phor learn englis. Englis important...... phor job and in study

I phrom Bihar but live in dilli....i living alone....and cook myself phor dinner......

The above sentences represent the almost existential aspiration of every middle class and not so middle class Indian to spout the highest sounding language with the best foren accent. i’ve borne all this and been up close to that aspiration in every communication class of mine for about 2 yrs while i was in the garb of a Call Center Trainer (and even the rest of the years in other roles). That once ubiquitous, but now almost extinct tribe, was responsible for the metamorphosis of the Indian youth into an angrezi speaking workforce of some employer in the West.

Yes, English is important in today’s global world if you want to get ahead in life. But what’s it with Indian English that simply refuses to correct its grammar despite English speaking schools in every street corner and grammar classes in every locality of the country!! But alas the kind of English that even the so called educated class speaks ensures that aspiration remains pretty much what it is - an aspiration.

Grammar is taught right from the primary classes in our country. And great emphasis is laid on the propriety of usage of words and correctness of grammar. Everyone’s heard of Wren and Martin (not noticing how they turn in their grave when people blatantly flout all the rules of grammar they set down) whether or not the follow them. We are proud of following the Queen’s English as opposed to the slang version of Americans. Yet, the lack of expertise somewhere peeps in through the holes of unfamiliarity with the language during conversational English.

The first group i’d like to pick up are the representatives of firang counterparts - the call centre executives. Yes, Indians are very versatile and their tongues can be twisted to speak any accent. But most call centres that seek to offer help are badly marred by the poor language their executives speak. Even the ones that stand for reputed companies- from Dish TV to HDFC bank call centres and Airtel phone services. And this after, i am sure they have gone through training in language and accent skills. The only sentences they can spew with perfection are the stilted - “may I put your call on hold ma’am?” and “thank you for holding, we appreciate you patience Ms. Kher” or “thank you for calling Airtel, this is Charan Das, How may I help you?” or even more tedious “ is there anything else that I can help you with ma’am (when you answer in the negative, not having found a proper solution even to your current query), thank you for calling Airtel. We wish you a very pleasant day ahead”. Deviate one bit from their verbal screenplay and the cracks start emerging - lack of even basic conversational English!

Even if you look at the educated, office going category - even people who speak English on a daily basis make mistakes that are not expected of them. I got pulled by a sales executive of an international brand of cosmetics in a mall today. She dutifully pulled out lipstick testers and started applying on the back of my hand with helpful product info - “this lipstick also work as lip balm and have lip moisturiser, ma’am”. And I am like what the hell - error that’s so basic and we hope to attract international clientele with something like this!! ( I went hoarse all my training life explaining to my students that agreement of the verb with the subject is the life of a sentence - and Indians are champions in taking that life away!) some of the most atrocious announcements in the most horrendous English and accent happen in reputed chains like Big Bazaar!

The examples can be endless. Skills sets - most importantly, mastery over the global language - is a must if India with its workforce of 1.07 billion has to register its power in the international geo-political scenario. We have the people, we only need to equip them with the right skills. Being humans, speaking the right language has to be the first step.

(More post-mortem of the educated class English in future posts!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pati Patni aur Woh

i ran into, of all programs, Pati Patni aur Woh on NDTV Imagine. i watched it out of sheer curiosity and was downright disappointed, not that i expected anything great out of it. The show seems to have brought the Swayamvar Saga to full circle with kids raining in the lives of 7 couples out of nowhere. And just 5 minutes into the program you realise how devoid it is of any parental affection and warmth. The name of the show itself projects the baby as the source of all trouble - the “Woh” of Bollywood!. And the couples with parenthood inflicted on them are as gauche handling babies as the little ones are uncomfortable with them. The attempt at simulating a happy family is a complete mockery of the divine feeling of being blessed with a little angel.

The process of parenthood entails months of mental preparation and reading up on the general knowledge of bringing up kids. But people on this show seem to have dropped their shopping bags and happily picked up kids. Only to realise, to their horror, kids are not cute all the time. The all-of-a-sudden parents make parenthood seem such a terrible nightmare since most kids are bawling away to glory at least this early into the show. Any kid would with a new set of parents being thrust on them overnight. Our trend setting queen of the Swayamvar saga has broken all records in looking her ugly best. If feels as if the kid doesn’t even let you wear decent clothes and comb your hair. (no wonder her kid cries the most!!)

The couples are thoroughly unprepared for basic tasks like even nappy changing! One of them is trying her hand at cooking for the first time! And their attempts at pacifying a crying toddler is just as desperate. Just like you would handle someone else’s kid given to you for a few days! I am totally aghast at how the kids’ real parents agreed to subject their babies to such a blatant screw up, such immature treatment of their loved ones!!! Some of them are already shedding tears of anguish.

Guess, money makes the world go round and reality TV attracts eyeballs!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jaane kahan gaye wo din......

i really wanted to listen to something soothing last night. Switched on the radio and heard the latest hits being churned out for the umpteenth time. So i went online and started playing oldies...ummm...and that’s literally music to the ears. Golden hits from Anand, Abhimaan, Anupama....

It just set me thinking... These songs still retain their charm and pristine innocence that pulls at our heart strings even decades after they were first heard. Almost everything that belongs to those times has become obsolete...but not the music! Their appeal is just the same, their melody as sweet. Hummable at all times, in all moods. Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha, Bhonsle, Manna De, Mohd Rafi and others of their era are the true legends living through generations. The fibre of their work has the tenacity to last for ages - from our grandparents, parents down to us and who our children as well!

Simply great is also the simplicity with which they are shot. No flashy costumes, no glaring make-up and had anyone heard of size zero?? Naah! And yet the leading Ladies look so alluring and lovely in their big hairdos, kohl adorned eyes and beautifully draped sarees. Plump by our current standards yet truly gorgeous! Just the cliché running around the trees or looking into each others eyes but truly romantic and a feast to the eyes.

Today, we have hit songs and superhit ones produced out of electronic instruments (or something of that sort). We have one set of hits played day in and day out only to be replaced by another set in due course. Yes, this is contemporary music and we possibly couldn’t live without the music of our times like other things. These songs define present taste and the popular demand. They are a reflection of our times, our comfort zone.

But can never match up to the ones from the yesteryears. When we need some comforting and go looking for something different from the jang...jang...jang we listen to on our way to work and back, there’s always the tranquil and calming masterpieces to turn to. So let the music play on.....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Crackers, sweets and lots of fun.....

It’s that time of the year again when we are in the midst of festivals and celebrations. We had just gotten over the excitement of Ganapati immersion and it was time to don our best Garba gear and dance away till the crack of dawn. While we fasted for Navratras, there was the holy month of Ramadan fasting for the muslims and Paryushan Parv for the Jains as ways to uplift themselves spiritually. And no it’s not over yet! Dussehra celebrated the victory of good over evil by burning Ravan effigies and we are anticipating Diwali to mark Lord Ram’s homecoming with his bride for Diwali.

Such is the sweep and richness of the Indian culture that we have occasions to be bursting with festive spirit all through the year. Every festival, no matter which community it belongs to, has its own ancient cultural and mythical significance. And when we look around, we’ll find that we have so much to learn. These festivals usher in a didactic message - All religions are one. Our festivals mostly marry worship with celebration, fasting with feasting, austerity with opulence. The fasting signifies strengthening of the moral fibre and the successful completion of the penance calls for celebration. All, like the others, have a way of worship through penance for your past sins, a way of getting closer to our Creator. The twin themes of worship and celebration runs throughout. The feast of Diwali has Lakshmi Pooja and Raksha Bandhan has a prayer for a brother's long life. Delhities fast during Navratras culminating it with 
Ashtami pooja while Mumbaikars gyrate to dandya songs and worship Garba (the pot with diyas)

We might have our own ways of merry making but food, drink and dressing up are invariably a part of it. The market places are decorated, teeming with activity as people catch up with their shopping. Dandya sticks and Garba garbs, Rakhi for brothers, buntings to decorate the house, diyas to light outside and lots of sweets to gorge on.

The festivities is also a time to catch up with near and dear ones and shore up the ties with them. It is in India that we have so many occasions to be a big large family! An occasion to take time out and spend some quality time with old parents, school friends, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents and the neighbourhood who saw you when you were a little kid!!

So go all out and enjoyy!!