Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ding dong, the rain is gone

After being nearly drowned, twice, in the deluge of last week, the sunshine and blue skies have come as a life-saver. My father and I both suffer from severe crankiness if the sun doesn't shine at least 4 days out of 7. One can well imagine my ghastly state of mind, seeing that Bangalore has been grimly Scotland-like in its demeanor for the past so many weeks. Thank God we don't have bagpipes- frightening, that.
The rain does have its little entertainments, though. Stuck in a teeny corner video rental store, I could see an electric pole just outside slowly smoking, sending up ominous little curls every few minutes. To divert myself from thoughts of impending death by electrocution, I focussed on people. One girl walked by in bare feet, splishing merrily in the flowing rapids on the sidewalk. On the opposite street, a man on a scooter delivered one of those steel thermoses full of hot tea to a bunch of guys stuck in a shop. Then a bevy of college-age girls trooped past, soaked and chattering. The tea-drinking boys suddenly fell a little silent as they watched this onslaught of drenched females float past- the laws of nature, plainly evident. I also half-expected one of the girls to start flinging her dupatta about, wriggle and sing- and the Director would then shout, "nahi, nahi, aur thoda jhatka do!"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The price wars

There she sits on the side of the road. Her cart is full of the best bananas I've seen in Bangalore, so what can I do but stop, right? So I do. The first time I bought some, she priced them at 20 Rs for five.

The next day, it was 10 Rs for five. Ok, I thought, maybe yesterday she just made a mistake. She is rather old and she dozes most of the day, so ok. Then, the other day, she grinned at me with her paan-reddened teeth and informed me that the bananas were 10 Rs for three. Eh? I said. Three for ten rupees, she said firmly. I didn't want her to suddenly come out of her stupor and start beating me with bunches of perfectly good bananas, so I bought them.

I think it was yesterday that I approached her wondering what the price would be- like a little stock exchange of its own, I could lose my life savings if I don't play wisely. Twenty rupees for four, she said. Er, I said. They were ten rupees for three yesterday, I said. No, she said, those teeth flashing. Twenty for four. So I sighed and paid up.

Then when I got home, I saw she'd given me six. Twenty for six, then. I can hardly wait to buy from her tomorrow. Each time I eat a banana now, I marvel at the complex economics behind that humble fruit- what tangled matrices must she weave, to come up with the perfect price for me each day? I am no longer blase about banana buying. But, excuse me while I go look up prices online for the banana shares today, so the banana mafia doesn't hoodwink me again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cosmic Balance is maintained

Watching an interview clip of Daniel Craig today, I was struck by a fact: he has now won inclusion into the List. This List is a beautiful thing, and allow me to show you how. Here, you will find the usual suspects- Denzel Washington, Dylan McDermott, Matthew McConnaughey. The new entrants- Imran Khan (the young one, not the old), John Abraham. And the surprise entries- such as this Daniel Craig.
The List is an ever-changing thing, with one rule: there must be no more than five names. So the big question is, whom to knock off, to make way for the Craig?
In view of the asinine gay-ridiculing act that I'm sure will befoul all our lives once Dostana releases, I regret to announce that it must be John Abraham.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The X-Files- I Want to Believe

There you are, Mulder and Scully! I was a somewhat addict of these two when they were on TV, and spent a goodly amount of time listening to Mulder mumble and Scully put up with him and then go along with his theories and his sunflower-seed munching.
So it was with a joyful heart that I went to see the movie. And this is where the joy ended. Oh, Mulder! Oh Scully! Why did you let us down so? I suppose I should have known when Mulder appeared with a scraggly beard going almost all the way up to his eyes. He did shave it off, so I held on with bitter hope until the movie hall guys decided it was time for an interval. Post interval, I just slumped.
Er, the thing is this- the plot was horribly disappointing. Organ transplants? Seriously? That's what it's about. OK, OK so the organ in question is the head. But still. And the location. Dear God, a small town in Western Virginia where it snows ceaselessly and it's always dark? No, no, no.
Anyhoo. I was pleasantly surprised to see Amanda Peet playing a FBI toughie and then her colleague, a delightful man with a juicy frown on his face the entire time. However, poor Peet meets a grisly death. And there are more grisly things involving dogs, medical procedures, and severed organs.
I don't need to say anything more about the plot. Mulder and Scully have apparently gotten together in the last movie, which I missed, so they are now together. Hmph. I feel cheated. In fact, this movie was positively sheesh-inducing. Witness the scene where Scully comes upon a drugged patient who is about to have her head chopped off. Scully says, "I've got work to do here." Sheeeeeeeeeeeeesh. That's what I mean.
Really, Mulder and Scully. I wanted to believe! I STILL want to believe! So if this means I will have to sit through another one of your movies, so help me, I will!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spell and be cheated

Dear Radio Indigo,

This letter is to remind you of a certain conversation we had two weeks ago. You ran a contest one afternoon, a spelling contest, and if we got all three of the spellings right, you promised us three CDs as a prize.

So, ok, I'm unemployed and all, and I can kick ass at spelling, so I called in. And lo, I was the first contestant. Needless to say, I got all three spellings right. Melody asked me to spell things like Chromium, Tungsten and Palladium. For frig's sake!

Anyhow, all went well. Two people even listened in to my stab at fame. And then what happened? Nothing.

So let me get this straight. When you said I won three CDs, you didn't really mean I won three CDs. Because, if I had really won three CDs, I would have those three CDs in my possession, if one were to progress logically. Seeing that this is not the case and I, in fact, do not possess three new free CDs, here is the next logical conclusion: You lied!

Now please explain to me how I can explain to my American husband that Radio Indigo really just slipped up and didn't gyp poor unemployed people who dialed in to their thrillingly inane spelling contest. Tell me how I can assure him that this, in fact, is not the Indian Way. Tell me how I can convince him that this is not , just another case of chronic I don't give a frig what I promised, you mangy git! that plagues so many, many, many professionals in this city, from cable operators to bank officials.

Or maybe I really am the mangy git who didn't get that I was supposed to go stampeding to your office in search of my promised CDs. If that were the case, even then I would have expected some communcation from you. Alas, there has been none. (But then I also didn't put two and two together when you didn't tell me which CDs I had purportedly won, you crafty cretins! )

Now maybe I should call in to your next contest, win it, and then shout out the equivalent of the middle finger salute on your frigging live show.

Still listening, so watch it!


Saturday, October 18, 2008

The more

"No change!"
This pithy exchange, cheery though it may seem, can get to be a bit much, day after day. Where, I ask, is the small change in this country? Is the government, heedless in its recognition of the power of five and ten rupee notes, off not paying attention? Or is there a huge change cartel out there operating unbeknownst to us citizenry, hoarding the precious stuff like drugs and gold?
Auto guys are, of course, notorious for their ferocious espousal of the No Change philosophy. A clever trick to gyp the poor-sod passenger into parting with more fare it may be, but sometimes it seems they simply say No Change from force of habit. I, having a trick or three up my sleeves, have now taken to stuffing those tricky little pockets on the tops of my jeans with all manner of change. No change? No way. I am well equipped and will give you change until you beg for mercy.
About the only place I can head to with certainty when a crisis of small notes occurs, is one particular neighborhood supermarket. The place is miraculous. They may not have everything by way of supermarket essentials, but squeak to them about change and they will serenely hand you the blessed change. Or, hand them a 1000 and they will, batting nary an eyelid, simply count out the the remaining, fork it over, and go on with life.
There is another side to this whole saga. The passing off of bashed notes- that is to say, unusable notes. Poor J, being not of Indian descent, regularly gets it in the neck with this one. Cleverly folded and re-folded bum notes are palmed off in his unsuspecting paws. He now has a bitter little collection of these tattered keepsakes.
He has also now grown weary of the change-no change conversation. It closely resembles his exchanges with the fellow at the corner veggie stall near his former house. "Parsley?" J would hopefully ask.
"No Parsley!" the fellow would answer. They kept this up for a year, each relentless in his hope and stone-faced refusal, respectively. It was all the fellow's fault- he started out by stocking parsley, then it all vanished. Just like all the change.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Do not adjust your monitors

Idle tv-surfing gem: the promo of a new film titled-- wait for it--- Karzzzz. It stars Himesh Reshammiya. Instead of covering half his face with a baseball cap, he now uses his own hair for the same purpose. So the gem I witnessed was him singing a song titled--wait for it-- Tandoori Nights.
This is true. And, his heroine is the indefatigable Urmila Matondkar. Squirming under infra-red lights in a disco and pouting heroically to Tandoori Nights, she and the shiny-haired Himesh provided me much mirth; and more importantly, reassurance that our film-stars do after all have a sense of humor and are so willing to make fun of themselves.

Then a cruel blow struck. A few days later I saw Himesh talking about this very song in a serious interview and describing the creative process behind ta-tana-nana-tan-doori-nights, tan-doori this means it was not a joke.


Saturday, October 11, 2008


A couple of news items that stuck in my mind from the last couple of weeks. The picture of a German man who had a rare arm-reattachment surgery, on both arms. The man's smile was a radiant beacon of joy. What an amazing achievement! To reattach a person's two arms with such skill that he gets his life back! My admiration of surgeons continues.

Then, the embarassing media frenzy over poor old Big B being hospitalized with a stomach ache. Worse, it happened on the poor dear's birthday. Bas, the media literally tripped over themselves to get the best shot of the patient being carted off to the hospital accompanied by his son and daughter in law. I saw the clip of this. My God, it was horrifying. We sure have strange ways of showing our 'love' for these film stars, by suffocating them to such an extent that carrying on their daily lives becomes impossible for them. And come on, Bacchan is now an elderly man. Can't we at least let him go to the hospital in peace?

And the sad case of Sowmya Vishwanathan. A 25-year old TV producer in Delhi who got shot in the head on her way back home. What kind of city is this? Then again, it's not the city that matters. The pictures of the young woman that appeared in the newspaper were strangely haunting. A dazzling smile, full of life. I thought about her for a long time.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I have some news

The unemployed life is quite sweet. Suddenly there are many hours in a day, opening up before me each morning. Pleasures like going to the gym when I am the only person there. Walking on the sidewalks when there is least traffic. Drinking tender coconut on the side of the road listening to the conversations of the employed- their company ID tags (shudder) around their necks, their phones ringing, their watches ticking. Converting alcohol bottles into charming vases and buying orange gerberas to fill them with. Yes, indeedy.

"I'm afraid I have some news for you."
"Yes, doctor?"
"You may never work again."

"You mean, like, I may never go to an office again?"
"It looks like it, I'm afraid."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Mistress of Spices

To begin with, I was a bit skeptical. Two things made it so. First, the very story- a girl who can talk to spices. And second, Aishwarya Rai. So I was quite curious to see what the effect would be, and I was not much surprised.

Rai is the title character, having learned her craft of divining the most suitable spice for a particular person based on her clairvoyance and her communication with the said spices. A kind of 'doctor', if you will. Background? She was kidnapped as a child, and while she was being borne off by her captors on a boat, she escaped and was washed up on a beach where she met an old lady who was known as the First Mother. This old lady (Zohra Sehgal, no less) teaches her and a bunch of other young girls all they need to be Mistresses of Spices. They are then dispatched to all major cities of the world to spread their healing powers and our heroine lands in San Fransisco.

She is named Tilo- after 'til', or sesame. Now all grown up, Tilo runs a store and dispenses kindness and spice mixtures to her mostly American customers. All is going well- Tilo is draped in pale sarees and has a sugar-tipped accent that barely betrays her Indian origins while she goes about bettering many lives. Then, one day, she spots a handsome (and I do mean handsome- it's Dylan Mc Dermott and his damned blue eyes) man outside her store. Uh oh!

But why is this a problem? Because the First Mother had warned her about the three strict rules of her trade- one, never to leave the store; two, to never touch another human's skin, and three, never to use the spices for her own desires. See how this poses a giant hurdle to Tilo getting with dreamy-guy-across the street? Comically, the red chillies in her store try to warn her of impending disaster. Alas, the plot leads the guy, Doug, into falling off from his bike and, bleeding hand and all, he arrives at Tilo's imaginatively-named Spice Bazaar.

This is where the full human-doe effect of Rai comes even more into play. Her pale, wide eyes, dewy lips and coy diction are further enhanced by relentless close-ups. The poor man Doug doesn't stand a chance. He's smitten. And who wouldn't be? Poor Rai, too. She is so ethereally beautiful that any performance she tries to squeeze out fades into the background.

Well then, suffice it to say that these two embark on what has to be among the most tepid love affairs one has seen on screen. Doug shares with her the story of his mother, a sub-plot that comes off as a bit weird. He also breaks it off with his current girlfriend because he's becoming besotted with the translucent, untouchable Tilo. But meanwhile, things start going wrong for Tilo, she stepping dangerously close to breaking the cardinal rules. Her spices start having disastrous effects on her patrons. At the end, she chooses to go back to the spices, abandoning Doug and her own desires. But there's a twist in the tale and all ends well.

Anupam Kher puts in a nice act as a grumpy traditional grandfather. Padma Lakshmi makes one unintentionally hilarious appearance as his granddaughter in an eye-popping pink shirt. The other cast members are ok- there is one sweet taxi-driver who insists on calling Tilo "lady-jaan", a title I've never heard in my life. Is it a Pakistani thing, I wonder. Ayesha Dharker is wasted as his neighbor and eventual fiancee.

Ultimately, the movie is undone by Rai's coyness and the desperate lack of chemistry with her hero. He, on his part, tries manfully to inject some passion into the proceedings. But what could he do? He doesn't even get to kiss her in the one half-hearted love scene. Also, Rai talking breathily with the spices, saying things like "thank you, spices!" is a bit of a mood-kill. The basic premise was an interesting concept, intriguing, even, but just did not translate well into film.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Grey's, once daily

The season 1 cast of Grey's AnatomyImage via Wikipedia
A new addiction has surfaced. It's Grey's Anatomy, M to F 10am. Ah, the pleasures of daytime television! Earlier when this show aired weekly, I didn't really get into it. It seemed more to me like a who's sleeping with whom kind of thing, thinly paraded as a medical drama. On closer inspection now, though, it's more than that, that still being a major component.
I've always been sort of drawn to medical shows. The intricacies and complex workings of large hospitals fascinate me, not to mention an abiding fascination for surgeons themselves. It helps if it's a brain-surgeon. I personal connection with them. Anyhow, Grey's has a brain surgeon in attendance, whom the title character, Meredith Grey, has famously named McDreamy. Now McDreamy is married, not to Grey, but these two are in love. Then there are Meredith's roommates, diffident George and the wholesomely pretty Izzy.
Christina Yang is another intern, who is having an affair with the resident cardiologist- Dr. Burke. Now despite the wavy-haired, green-eyed presence of McDreamy, I find that the real hottie is this Burke. Ha! For once the brain surgeon takes second place. And my joint favorite is the interns' boss- one Dr. Miranda Bailey. She is short, grumpy, taciturn and always has the perfect put-downs for anyone and everyone, any time of the day. I love her!
Now that I've watched long enough to figure out the basics, the addiction grows.
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