Tag Archives: Life

Shopping Misadventures or “What was I thinking?”

shopaholic1Less often than a blue moon, my compulsive globe-trotter (and now, entrepreneur, too) friend Achala Srivatsa decides to kick off her shoes, snuggle comfortably in her large First Class seat, and pull out her featherlite Apple Mac Air to write a post for me on a Singapore – Bangalore flight, thus preventing my blog from tumbling into total insignificance. And THIS is what she comes up with.  

 

 

Every now and then, I will read these articles on “How to Simplify your Life”, “The Bare Essentials”, “10 classics every woman over 20/30/40 should have” and have an epiphany. Yes, I say, if I throw out all the non-essentials in my wardrobe, I shall achieve a Zen-like sensibility, that elegant, minimalist classic Audrey Hepburn look that will make other women shrivel up with envy and men gape in awe. I shall have only classics in my wardrobe. Tomorrow is a new day, Operation Wardrobe shall start tomorrow.

This is usually a very, very bad idea because as I sift through my clothes, I am confronted by the Ghosts of Sartorial Misadventures past and present, which instantly drives me into a self-loathing spin. Some of the horrors I uncover display a level of wishful thinking, which borders on the delusional.

  • Delusions of Glamour – That Ao Dai bought in Ho Chi Minh is a prime example. After two days of Vietnam, I was seized with a need to shop. Every woman around me had on these flowing Ao Dais that were stunningly elegant and instantly this voice in my brain went “Buy this and look slender and stunning. People will gasp as you pass them… go now…” I rush into one of those charming little stores with bales of lovely silks that are designed to turn your mind into bubble gum. Yes, yes this brilliant green is so me… maybe this subtle shade of blood clot red… I remember forking over the doubloons and rushing out clutching my Ao Dai. It was only after I returned to Jakarta and I stood staring at a long flowing garment in bilious green, that I wondered what had possessed me to buy something that only a colour blind Vietnamese woman with a 14 inch waist and a 20 inch chest should be wearing.
  • The Slimness Delusion – I will also invariably find one tiny little black pencil skirt, one pair of stylish cropped pants that are 2 sizes too small both bought on an entirely unfounded conviction that I can drop 2 dress sizes over the next 2 months. In my defence, there was a time 20 years and 20 pounds ago when I used to live in these things but well, here we are. These will inevitably be reluctantly handed over to slimmer friends 4 disillusioned years later.
  • The Trend Train Wreck– Every now and then I will also find one truly bizarre item and, after racking my brains will identify it. Ah, a reminder of the scrunchy phenomenon of 1990, or the acid wash jeans of the ‘90s (horrors!)
  • The Cuteness Craze – –which happens when women in precious pale pinks and corals and baby blues surround me. Instantly my mind flashes the message “Go Pink and look adorable”. Shortly after, one putrid pink top bites the dust – or in my case cleans the dust off my bookshelves.
  • Delusions of Tradition – Half a dozen ridiculously heavy kanjeevaram silks (bought during my pious swadeshi phase) that I now almost never wear. Full Disclosure – just did this 2 months ago, but seriously how could I pass up a black and white kanjeevaram – umm that I most likely will probably never wear.
  • A corollary to this is the true Swadeshi phase of the early ‘90s when my friends and I went on a Fab India/Gurjari kick. Shapeless kurtas that blanched at the sight of water and mirror work that blinded everyone.
  • The Crisp White Pretension – Every now and then I will buy a super expensive white shirt in the fond hope that it will confer upon me a cool sophistication – a feeling that dissipates like dew in the sunlight as I stare at the 3 turmeric stains on it. Damn you Rasam!!

The Footwear Foolishness merits a whole new page:

  • My Sturdy Shoe Phase – Black and brown Batas and Scholls of hideousness unparalleled, the salesmen swore these would be the most comfortable shoes I’d ever wear. In my case, I’d ever buy and not wear.
  • My Delicate Shoe Phase – As a size 7, really what was I thinking? The things broke before I could leave the shop.
  • The Sling Back Syndrome – 4 pairs of black sling backs and 5 pairs in assorted colours including – I am not making this up – lime green.
  • The Mystery Shoe – Every now and then I will come across a pair that looks perfectly lovely and go “Oh I wonder why I’ve never worn these lovely peep toes? Let me wear them today!!” 2 hours later, I stare at my bleeding foot which the upper part of the shoe has viciously cut into, thinking – “Yup, that’s why I don’t wear them.”
  • The Bling Bungling or the Metallic Craze – Three pairs of blinding metallic slippers and sandals all blinged up and nowhere to go.

I could go on but you get the picture. I blame most of my hasty decisions partly on all those size zero sales personnel who stand outside the fitting room giggling and going “ Maybe an XXL?” In sheer mortification, I walk out with as much dignity as I can and say, “No thanks I’ll take the Medium,” and walk out wondering whom I can gift the top to.

Meanwhile, let me get on with my wardrobe cleanse. I still need to figure out what I’m going to do with all my low cut sequined tops (The Diva Delusion of AD 2000).

 

Valentine’s Day, Or As Some Call It – Thursday

valentines_day_comment_graphic_13With feral disregard to Valentine’s Day propriety that prohibited them from being seen in public, five comprehensively single people, including moi, decided to meet up for dinner. And not just dinner at any place, we boldly decided to hit Ego’s, the Italian restaurant in South Delhi that is immensely popular among those of a romantic persuasion out to enjoy good food and great music with their match chosen by The One Himself. It was perhaps a symbolic choice for us considering that we had enough of it of our own (I mean Ego or Pride or Shamelessness, call it what you may) to not want to hide under our beds on a day when Non-Singles so heartlessly paraded their Facebook status.

One look at the abject appearance of our fivesome and the nimble-footed usher hurriedly chose for us a table situated in the remotest boondocks of the restaurant. Clearly, where we thought fashionably torn jeans, hawaii chappals, black t-shirt with haldi stains, customized unkempt hair, a two-day stubble etc. etc. were all motifs of cool hipsterishness, our man saw them no more than signs of date-less reality. Yes, we were confined to the ‘table on the far side’ – the one by the popcorn machine, and so close to the kitchen that one could smell the artificial pink color being used to make the cake frosting inside. When my friend Sanjiv twirled his finger at the host of untaken tables strewn all over more desirable real estate, his quizzical gesture was shot down with a firm ‘They are all reserved, Sir’. No doubt reserved for happier faces that would oh so seamlessly blend in amidst red ribbons and roses pockmarking every nook and cranny of the place today.

Chris de Burg’s “Lady In Red” spat out of the Bose sound system. Typical, I thought.

“It’s not so bad,” I said half-heartedly, as we were all seated at our outpost.

“Well, at least it’s a good view of the whole place,” Asha consoled herself.

“And no one can see us. I need some JD,” muttered Ravi.

Drinks were ordered at warp speed and were served just as promptly. Vodka, mojito, whisky and such like.

A young couple entered the restaurant and was quickly accorded prime seating. They seemed to have barely cracked puberty.

“How can Chintu and Munni even afford a place like this with their pocket money?” asked Goldie as she pointed at the newcomers with her eyes and used her hands instead to pick up the vodka glass.

“Maybe he saved all year to give his girlfriend a special VD present,” I offered intelligently.

“Must you call it VD?” said Goldie, making a face.

All of us sniggered at the VD joke, hardly justifying our chronological ages.

“But seriously, how? I bet you, Munni put her Barbie to bed before coming here,” Goldie pestered with her pertinent financial cross-examination.

“Parents are only too happy to see their kids go out and have a good time. Maybe this treat was a reward for them passing their Social Studies exam,” said Sanjiv trying to read the menu card by holding it three feet from his face. “Hey, why have they reduced the font size on this bloody thing? And why are the lights so dim?”

Arrey, give it to Ravi, let him order. You just make sure that you check-in all of us on Facebook!” I said, thus ending Sanjiv’s unsuccessful tryst to hold the menu right side up sans reading glasses. (Ravi, incidentally, is 28 dog-years younger than all of us)

“Should I order ribs?” Ravi suggested. The three vegetarians at the table looked at him glumly.

“Don’t tell me they are going to serve them drinks! They are what, twelve? Fourteen, tops!” wailed Goldie observing from her vantage point.

“Let them be happy. Chocolates, roses and tea are the new combination on Valentine’s Day,” Asha said authoritatively. “And by tea, I mean the one from Long Island that comes in a tall glass!”

“Amen, Sister!” said Goldie, and the ladies sipped copiously from their glasses.

Food was ultimately sorted. It was decided to “just order lots of appetizers”, which is infinitesimally easy to manage, though it also ensures that only microscopic portions of the “awesome” stuff eventually end up getting passed around.

A young couple walked in with their small kid. The kid was five, perhaps ten – we were unlettered in matters of kid’s ages. Or kids, generally speaking.

“Who brings kids to their romantic dinner? Fools!” said I categorically.

“My friend just moved to Bangalore. He is having trouble getting his kid admitted to school,” Ravi said.

“Terrible,” said Sanjiv munching his jacket potato with oodles of butter, cheese and chives.

“Why? I think it is great!” said Asha as she looked at Sanjiv suspiciously. Ravi looked up from his buffalo wings quizzically.

“Oh, I meant the whole school thing – terrible. The potatoes – YUM!”

“My colleague at work has invited me to his daughter’s happy budday this Saturday”, I said. “What should I take as a gift?”

That set off a cackle of laughter at the table. Despite choked food pipes, loud coughing and misty eyes, the other four still managed to mock at my predicament.

“Do get us all return gifts. UNCLE!” managed Sanjiv through more hysterical laughter.

“Bastards!” I said.

The food and drink ravage-fest continued. Presently, the unfriendly usher came by our table again. He enquired pointlessly if we were enjoying our evening, to which we nodded politely.

“I have a request,” he added, this time a trifle sheepishly.

“What is it?” asked Ravi.

“We start our Valentine’s Day Special in an hour. This will become a couples-only restaurant after that. Couples Only. No single people. Not even in groups.”

“Yes, yes, we know,” said Sanjiv gruffly.

“I just thought I should remind you all. Thanks for understanding,” the usher added as he flashed a creepy smile and begged our leave.

“Asshole,” I said once we were safely out of his hearing range. Everyone concurred.

“I am not coming out on Valentine’s Day. Ever again,” said Goldie, as she gulped the last of her vodka.

Asha looked at her and smiled.

“Let it be, dear. One last round? Happy Hour doesn’t end until 6.30. We can still be out of here by 7 before the crowds come in.”

 

To be clear, I shall remain tightlipped on which parts of this story are true and which not! But, do know that all the characters in this story are absolutely real – these are my close friends, who also happen to be happily single. Also typical are their reactions!

And please don’t get angry at the management of Ego’s! It’s an awesome restaurant in New Friends Colony in Delhi…fun, lively, good food – you should definitely visit!

 

When Hell Freezes Over

Is it just me or does anyone else also feel that January hardly ever turns out to be that stellar beginning that we all want our new year to have?

Let’s face it, January is never a good month for anyone. It marks the end of vacations (that’s a big problem right there, see?) and the resumption of work, emails, conference calls and the year-end appraisal process. The traffic is awful because everyone is back to their wrong-ways on the roads, despite the Dense Fog. The Dense Fog itself is an invention of airline companies so that they can happily make paper planes with their schedules and then poke our eyes with them. And, have you observed how suddenly this Dense Fog wafts into your life at the most inopportune moment – like, when you are about to leave home for a long-awaited dinner party 25 miles away? Or, when you must pick up an elderly relative from the station when his train arrives – the one that is running with a delay of…umm…anywhere between 2 to 36 hours?

January means acting on New Year resolutions about things you have to resolve yourself into doing because, frankly, there is no way you would do them with a sane mind. Like, ‘I will go to the gym five days a week’, or the death-wish to slip into those jeans from 2010. Or give up Vodka! I mean, really, who are we kidding? Give up Vodka? In this weather? If December is already cold, January is like God teaching Al Gore some kind of a twisted lesson. And have you noticed that frequent urge to pee that seems to get triggered by the mere sighting of water? The eternal conflict between a bursting bladder and the warm razaai, and you cringing in the middle of it, trying your damndest to stay away from your Siberian-cold toilet for as long as possible. It’s the month when morning showers are quickly dispensed with, and strong deodorants are celebrated as your armpits’ best friends. The jaanghiye and baniyaans take at least four days to go from wet to still-damp when you put them on. And then, there are all those pages of your cheque-book that you have to scratch and destroy because you can’t seem to get the bloody year right in the date field. As if signature-matching wasn’t problem enough.

Makes you doubt if that fancy New Year Eve party at the 5-star hotel was really worth breaking your Fixed Deposit for. All that naach-gaana, drunken buffoonery and Facebook check-ins. Such a premature ejaculation of happiness. And for what? January? Like they say, premature of nothing is ever good.

Strange wonder, then, how we still never learn. How we never wait until February to make New Beginnings. Or, better still, March. That one word even has entire phrases like ‘We shall overcome!’, ‘Press ahead!’ and ‘Go seek your destiny!’ built right into its definition!

No, January it always is.

Despite all the miseries I have spoken of above, January is when everyone chooses to soar their highest, only to then land on their backsides with a resounding phus. It is the month that Sallu Tiger picks for the release of his latest magnum opus. The man is sure ballsy but such a pity that his movies only ever smell of the kind made of naphthalene. “Maa Kasam!” you exclaim using the endearing ‘70s vernacular equivalent of the modern-day ‘Holy fuck!’, as you shake your head and exit the theatre after watching ‘Jai Ho’, “that was way too soon after Uday Chopra!”

Then there is that other charmer, Rahul Gandhi, who has shamed until eternity all parents who once adoringly named their sons Pappu or Prince. (Side note : The ones who named their children Prince Pappu or vice versa deserve to be shamed). Indolent Gandhiji lands a January-date with insolent Go-Swamiji, the dimpled man feeling strangely plenty empowered to boldly go where no man has gone before and has ever returned unscathed. The assumption, possibly, being that the cold of the winter hardens ear wax, making all the 1.2 billion people watching Times TV go temporarily deaf – simply unable to hear what is being said.

The less said about the Indian Cricket Team the better. Its gravest nemesis is the Republic of India Passport that allows it to spend its January in the sunny summer of a distant land, where flightless birds and Hobbits can shit on its face repeatedly and with alarming accuracy.

So, no matter whether your name is Kejriwal, Khobragade or something much easier on the lips, January is not likely the most auspicious month for New Beginnings. It’s more like, ‘Let’s Seize the Day some other day’. Frankly, why even look for a reason to delay rolling in the good times? There are 365 days in a year, after all.

So why Day 1? I say, Day 32 (or Day 60) sounds just as good as any to ring in the New Year!

Happy February (Happiness of the visual is courtesy Google - what would Bloggers do without it?)

Happy February
(This Visual Happiness is brought to you by Google – a Bloggers best friend)

The Sad Tale Of My Very Fat Royalty Payments

The Imperative Subterfuge (When Eva Braun Met Gandhi)

The Imperative Subterfuge (When Eva Braun Met Gandhi)

So, first, I thought I’ll go for some prime real estate in London. Preferably the townhouse next to JK Rowling so I could go borrow sugar or the occasional copy of her next book written under an innocent pseudonym whenever I wanted. But then I worried that her neighborhood might be infested with the Russian Mafia of many hues – after all, they are the only folks buying property in London, as per the newspapers. I didn’t want to get shot just because I don’t have a ‘Y’ and a ‘Z’ in my name.

In any case, one book was hardly likely to cause that kind of monetary windfall, so I pegged my sights a bit lower.

I thought, how about an expensive holiday? I considered Brazil, Turkey, Egypt and Japan, the only four places I might be interested in as a tourist (I am not much of a traveler). A quick Google search on the first three landed me on news reports of Anna Hazare – Kejriwal styled street demonstrations (or British soccer fan styled hooliganism, take your pick). Mental images of me at a hospital getting six stitches on my forehead because a stone (or broken beer bottle, take your pick) landed there promptly made me scratch those country off the list. As for Japan, I still remember the tsunami videos quite well. (I just saw them recently in fact – someone was passing those off as “Must Watch Video From Uttarakhand!”)

Good that the luxury travel plans were scaled down from 100 to 0, quite likely that the royalty checks were not going to be that substantial anyway.

Maybe I’ll just upgrade to a brand new computer, I thought next. My old laptop is still going great, but it is 5 years old. And, it runs Windows Vista, for goodness sakes. ‘How’s your Windows 8 laptop doing’, I asked a friend. It was not nice to see a grown man weep like that.

So, no computer either.

New phone, you suggest? Yep, I suggested that to myself, too, only to find out that the iPhone 5S (or 6) is still a few months away. Plus, no one buys Apple these days and I won’t touch Android.

All this happened while I patiently waited to hear back from the kind editors at Amazon Kindle Singles. They had been reviewing my debut book – The Imperative Subterfuge (When Eva Braun Met Gandhi) – for several weeks. Yesterday, they wrote back to me declining my request to have my novel be considered as a Kindle Single, but offering me to go ahead and release it via Kindle Direct Publishing. Rejection! I instantly felt kinship with Rahul Gandhi – a pretty face and yet no takers.

Amidst watered down images of JK Rowling, that luxury spa in Rio, and the swankiest new iPhone, the image distortions possibly caused by welled up eyes and heartache, I did just that – self-publish my first book via Amazon last night. (For the worriers, the heartache was because of some terrible samosas I ate the evening before, so STOP worrying!)

And now that I am a self-published author who is unlikely to see any large (or small) royalty checks in his mailbox anytime soon, I will just have to settle for a self-funded ice cream at best. But, in order to afford that, YOU, my dear reader, will have to go and check out my book at the Amazon store. And download a copy.

Won’t you do that for me? And while you are at it, do spread the word around as far and wide as you possibly can!

 

Note : You don’t need a Kindle device for reading the ebook. All you need to have is the Kindle App on your smartphone, tablet or PC. Click here to get the free app for your preferred device.

 

 

Do They Do It With Mirrors? (A Mystery Of Agatha-Christie-esque Proportions)

There are a mere handful of people who have seen me naked since I gained adulthood. Yeah, I know that’s pathetic considering I have lived the life of a debauched single guy for many years. And, it is especially so when I confess that I have included in that handful, all the barbers that I have had rendezvous with during this time. Yes, barbers, because that is one breed of ravagers who have seen me at my most vulnerable. Them, with their shifty eyes, fidgety hands and obtrusive tools, chipping away at my soul one thrust at a time, and me, perched atop their chair, tender and defenseless under a flimsy satin sheet. With naked fear in my eyes. Ripe for pillage. And the subsequent shame, ridicule and ostracism that always ensues.

Barbers. The Modern Day Barbarians.

The good old days when I would just run the lawn mower on my head myself every 5 days.

The good old days when I would just run the lawn mower on my head myself every 5 days.

The other day, the sadomasochist in me reared his ugly head again after lying dormant for months. My hair had gotten too long and anarchic and needed to be clipped, nipped and whipped into submission. Within minutes, I found myself bound and gagged (ok, so maybe not literally) to a beauty chair at a salon called Finesse (oh, the irony). The perpetrator, who introduced himself as Brijesh, may not have been in leather but was wearing earrings, which was quietly reassuring. The man looked at me and asked me how I liked it. “Well, why don’t you surprise me?” I said. He was flummoxed for this was not what he was accustomed to hearing. He was a simple man with 3 simple settings – Short, Medium and Long. Anyway, he proceeded to give me an explanation that made no sense. As my blood pressure elevated and my pulse rate shot up under my deceptive composure, Brijesh Scissorhands went about doing bad things to me neck up. After half an hour of elaborate fussing, I must say, I did look like a human being with a real address. Well, for ten minutes, anyway.

Ten minutes later, I was found weeping into my pillow at home. It was the same old story. Was I ever going to learn?

Barbers (and I am including everyone of their ilk in this generic category – from the pretentious hair stylists and experts to the unassuming neighbourhood ‘saloon’/’parlour’ boys and girls) have got to be the worst clairvoyants in the world. How else to describe someone who has absolutely no idea as to what his own creation is going to look like the very next day (or in the next ten minutes, as my most recent episode)? And that brings me to a side-bar question – Given the proclivity of ‘Haircuts’ to fail within hours, why aren’t verbs like disintegrate, dissipate, evaporate etc. used more often in their context? For example, this is how one could use them in a sentence (or three) – “Jack screamed ‘I’m the King of the World’ as he left the hair salon, but even before Rose had a chance to check out his sick style, his haircut had evaporated. Jack felt robbed, after all, he had paid 5 whole shillings for it. Eventually, none of that mattered much because within the hour, his boat sank and he was dead.”

Now, while your salon-style haircut may have the lifespan of an insect, do remember that all barbers are not equally bad. Some are worse. For example, I am wary of those who are extremely chatty. They want to know everything about you – who you are, where you live, whether you like parrots etc. I am not quite sure what their modus operandi is. I suspect all of this kind to be serial killers. You know, the ones who would keep a lock of your hair as a memento? Those. Next time I run into one of this kind, I am going to make sure I take away with me every single strand of my chopped hair. Beat that, bitch!

And then I got tired of the lawn mower....and let the hair grow.

And then I got tired of the lawn mower….and let the hair grow.

Then there is the category of barbers who have complicated conversations with you about your hair. They would make you sit on that chair and stare at you for several minutes, inspecting you like an unsculpted rock from all possible angles. Prepare for impending disaster if they start discussing your “options”, much like a brain surgeon discussing a trickily located tumor. For example, a simple question from you like – “What do you recommend?” – could yield the following answer, with some swishy moves of their stylish hands – “I am thinking we should approach this from the top – give it a longish look from the right and a slightly conventional look in the front, because, frankly, there isn’t much to go on there. Then, some heavy trimming at the back to control the bounce otherwise it will be difficult to manage all that body. And the back should be roundish, not like it is now. But if you absolutely prefer squarish, we could do that, too, but we should really, really try to avoid that. Ok?”

Say what? You lost me at – ‘there isn’t much to go on there’. For the next 30 minutes, you can think of nothing else but that giant bald spot that is to be your fate by, what, next week? And then for several nights, tossing and turning wondering what to do about it. Olive oil? Multani Mitti? Curd? Milk? Hamdard ka Badam Rogan Shirin? Aishwarya’s 5-solutions-in-1 shampoo?  And, pray, who is “WE” for goodness sake? How many alter egos do I need to tip here?

Occasionally, you will be accosted by a barber whose first reaction after fondling you for several minutes will be – “I love it –so soft! How about I style it like Johnny Depp (or worse, Harry Styles)?” When faced with such a scenario, I urge you to run, not walk out of the salon. Don’t even bother picking up your iPhone and car keys – those trifles of your life can be replaced once you are safely away.

And more still

And more still

In closing, alas, I have no golden thoughts. If you have no hair, or if Hobo is your look, rest assured that God has been kind to you. The rest deal with this eternal question every waking moment of their lives – How is it possible for plain-jane-ordinary you to look like John Abraham when you are given the 360 mirror treatment at the salon, but promptly decompose to a Mayawati the moment you step out? HOW is that possible?

Next time, I am going to take a closer look at those mirrors.