Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Groupie love

Z’s husband plays the drums. And we had a chance to watch him perform at BC’s Nostalgia Night. Since Z and I were below the age limit, we had to use the crew passes to get in. So Z, B, Dilettante and I were IJ’s groupies for the night. And although we didn’t get to hear a drum solo, we did hear some talented senior citizens crooning. Also, much dancing was done. It’s wonderful to watch old couples waltz and foxtrot with such tremendous grace. I was sighing most of the night as elderly gentlemen reached for their wives and led them to the dance floor.

B and I decided we’d be a waltzing couple (when it became appropriate for us to stop bouncing and bopping). When the waltz stopped and the jive and disco started, we hit the floor. I have now realised that couples need practice in order to coordinate their jive. Say this to B and he’ll shoot back ‘You have to improvise, see?’ before breaking into his Coorg tribal dance butt-shake while I’m still waiting for him to dip me. Sure, salsa classes helped, but then after a point he refused to attend, saying that he was spending money to watch me dance with other guys. (Our class had an acute shortage of girls, so we’d rotate.)

While we weren’t dancing, we were (okay, I was) checking out the women on the lawn and on the floor. Spotted were plenty of ladies I would love to look like when I become fifty. Speaking of attractive women, I saw Hot Gym Lady who comes to work out in the morning. At one point Dilettante and I were so busy checking out Hot Gym Lady (he, being more tactful than I, managed a great view - owing mostly to his height) while we were wildly flailing our legs in a can-can sort of item number, when we banged shins as a result of our shameless ogling - after which we decided to do the twist instead.

And Z would look lovingly at IJ sitting behind the drums and smile whenever he looked up and made eye contact. Z eventually confessed she was missing him. So, anticipating a break in between songs, we walked around to his end of the stage waiting for him to jump down. He disappeared backstage just then only to join B and Dilettante at the other side, looking for Z. That was such a movie moment.

I’d say we make excellent groupies!

Happy negligence

Gautam Bhatia in this Hindustan Times article writes of the emerging trend of gated communities and the new urban India. I found my views swinging as I read the editorial. Some of his points come across as pro-poor while he ended on what I interpreted as an anti-development note.
Of course, the umbrella term 'development' has different connotations for different people. (And has sparked many a debate on ACJ's terrace canteen - as also having induced deep slumber in the a/c lecture hall on the floor below.)
In my opinion, misguided development should have been more of the focus here.

He says:
'…the new India is an incomplete picture; its makers are on the road to trial and unabashed plagiarism. The perfect picture has already formed somewhere in the world and we are merely buyers on an expensive and indulgent shopping spree. Take an American highway and string it between Mumbai and Pune. Plant a New Jersey suburb in Bangalore, copy a California condominium in Gurgaon. Help yourself to South Korean rail technology, buy yourself German carriages. Ask a Spanish designer to build a world-class airport. Do it, because action must be seen to have been taken, and it’s just too bad if the international amalgam is a mess.'

I agree that such cut and paste techniques aren't the best solution to infrastructure development. Capital-intensive construction in a labour-surplus economy isn't the way to go. And importing the exorbitantly priced skills of foreign architects ignores the talent of our urban planners and barefoot architects who know infinitely more about appropriate technology.

'To wish a Shanghai on Delhi or Mumbai would kill the very reason cities are made: the variety of economics, cultures and sociologies that come together to share common space. For all its richness and squalor, Mumbai survives. It may not be glinting across the sea like Hong Kong, but the thick, messy geography of varied perceptions, people and places, fuelled by rural migrations and urban growth all makes into a one-of-a-kind city.'

Again, I agree for the most part. Even if this reasoning seems to somehow rationalise the squalor, making it seem palatable if only because we're Indians and we can handle poverty and filth and squatter settlements. Because it's taken for granted that those without choices are content with charity. The charity of allowing the poor to settle outside the city limits, only to push them away and allow them once more to live on the fringes. Okay, so I suppose I don't agree after all.

'A happy third world city.'

Excuse me? But who exactly is it that gets to decide who is happy? Certainly not the slum dwellers themselves? Surely not the migrant labourers who are treated even worse than Maharashtra's resident poor?
In this case apparently, it's by an architect.
It's one thing to voice concern over the misguided priorities taking over the urban elite. And it's quite something else to pass off our own government's negligence (just because we live with it) as romantic.

Friday, January 27, 2006

As of now

Two from this group of four are married

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Settle for less

Yesterday I visited one of our project sites near the ITPL. The slums there have proliferated rather fast compared to other parts of the city and one would expect more by way of facilities and access, considering this is where the money is. But the people there had a long list of complaints and point to where a fence is now being constructed.
That land was ours
, they say, we still haven’t gotten anything for it.
I nodded quietly, taking notes and listing names of CEOs and Managers I need to speak to, on the other side of the barbed wire.

I ask them about toilets, running water, electricity, drinking water, fodder and such like.
(Most are unavailable or very hard to come by.)
Questions answered, we sat down to drink syrupy tea. And I asked a young man - who was a security guard on the nightshift – whether he thought the area had ‘developed’.
Of course, he said, signalling to his friends that I was a moron to be asking such a question. The land prices have more than doubled in the past three years. Even if we haven’t gotten paid as yet, the amount we’ll get ensures us a profit of something atleast.

But they've been pushed back and fenced out. That they don’t have drinking water or electricity or functional toilets didn’t figure in his little assessment.
When I pointed this out to him, he laughed and said they set lowers standards for themselves.

I find myself easily depressed these days.

B used to tell me that CSR is nothing but a gimmick and I’d click my tongue and roll my eyes. (At the time, I was more of an idealist than a realist.)
I still haven’t been able to prove him wrong, though.

Monday, January 23, 2006


It's nice to know that weddings don't change people.
Z can still laugh out loud when I’m lining her eyes. We still pull faces at each other when nobody’s looking and speak in incoherent sentences that somehow only we can understand.
I’m glad to have held her hand when she became suddenly nervous. I’m glad to have caught her eye from the back row when she thought I had left.
I’m glad she’ll be close enough for weekend lunches and movies and pyjama parties.
And like she says, when it’s time, I’ll be glad to be the backpacking godmother who babysits (on occasion).

Monday, January 16, 2006

Unladylike for one night

Z's bachelorette party was pure, unadulterated madness.

Here's a do-it-yourself kit for brides-to-be:
*soothing golden lotus instrumental music in the background*

  • Get your best friend to treat you to a day at a spa. (In this case that friend would be me.)
    Make sure the aforementioned friend treats you to a large, late lunch at a restaurant of your choice.
  • Go with said friend for some last minute girly shopping. (This would include lingerie, phone charms, flip-flops and funky stationery.)
  • Discover during the course of the day that your cousins and some close friends (aforementioned friend included) have planned a night out for you.
    Feel flattered that they went to all this trouble.
    Promptly call husband-to-be and tell him the heartening news.
  • Say goodbye to your companion for the day, making plans to meet a few hours later, all dressed up and ready for a night out on the town.

*soothing golden lotus instrumental music fades out*

And here's the do-it-yourself kit for friends of the bride-to-be:

You will need --
(for the girl)
One bright yellow stretchy synthetic skirt with pink and orange sequins
One fitted, matching top (sold as part of a set with the skirt)
Black pantyhose
One fluorescent orange teddy bear bag to complement the yellow outfit
One pair of translucent pink plastic high heels
One pair of pink plastic earrings which proclaim I Love You to the world
Two bright orange scrunchies
One pair of red lacy hair clips (yes, they don't go with the colour scheme, but our girl needed something extra)
A generous amount of yellow bangles
Talcum powder
Plenty of make-up
A paper sign which warns No Making Nuisance!

(for complete strangers encountered during the course of the night)
One bright red Y front
One very large dabba of impotence medicine
Plenty of creativity

  • Firstly, while escorting the sentimental, gushing girl to the first girlfriend's house, tell her how much you love her. Start the evening with a drink of her choice and kick up your feet and channel-surf while the rest of the girls make final phone calls to one another, out of earshot.
  • Again, keep reassuring bride-to-be that no matter what, she will be loved.
  • And just when the warm fuzzies start enveloping her, introduce her to the contents of your Bachelorette Kit.

Z was such a sport. She wore the yellow child's outfit with grace and an inimitable sense of good humour. I braided her hair into two neat plaits and attached the clips and scrunchies at the ends. Her cousins powdered her face, geisha style, and extended her eyeliner just beyond her eyebrows. Red lipstick and green eyeshadow completed her look for the evening.

  • Proceed to a crowded nightclub and be sure the sign on girl's back does not go unnoticed.
    Introduce her to a many people as possible, after all, it is her party.
  • Hand over a list of tasks which must be completed before the ridiculous club-curfew.
    This would involve auctioning the Y fronts and impotence medicine and anything else that catches your fancy.

Aside: a group of stags is always an easy target, especially when the bachelorette has a posse of women with her at all times. Phone numbers are often asked for in addition to the Y fronts. In such situations, it helps to change a digit or hand over a boyfriend's number. (Sorry B!)
The undies, medicine and her teddy-bear bag were sold for ridiculously high amounts. (Yes, all to members of the opposite sex.)

Again, Z was wonderful. She worked that yellow pencil skirt and swung her braids and smiled for the camera. Even though the future-husband condemned it. (But, why WHY are they doing this to you? Tell them I don't approve!)

Well, I think a wife with a wild streak is infinitely more fun.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday the 13th fiction

They left at daybreak. Dust flying from under their parched heels.
Baby bounced as she looked over her mother's shoulder. The toddler clung to the pallu as his tiny feet tried hard to keep up, making him rush forward everytime the cloth was pulled straight.
The bus left just as they broke into a run.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

So unsexy

Can't get this out of my head...

Oh these little rejections how they add up quickly
One small sideways look and I feel so ungood
Somewhere along the way I think I gave you the power to make
Me feel the way I thought only my father could

Oh these little rejections how they seem so real to me
One forgotten birthday I'm all but cooked
How these little abandonments seem to sting so easily
I'm 13 again, am I 13 for good?

I can feel so unsexy for someone so beautiful
So unloved for someone so fine
I can feel so boring for someone so interesting
So ignorant for someone of sound mind

Oh these little protections how they fail to serve me
One forgotten phone call and I'm deflated
Oh these little defenses how they fail to comfort me
Your hand pulling away and I'm devastated

When will I stop leaving baby?
When will I stop deserting baby?
When will I start staying with myself?

Oh these little projections how they keep springing from me
I jump my ship as I take it personally
Oh these little rejections how they disappear quickly
The moment I decide not to abandon me.

-- Alanis Morissette

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Urban decay: revised and scheduled for renewal

The switch from a rural to urban environment, from rural to urban issues, from grassroot-level to advocacy work has been engaging as well as exhausting. I hope certain people are right when they say that my skills are being better utilised at the policy level.

I'm finally done with this.

Those who are interested in the subject (a number of people have refused to even glance at the first drafts - even my colleagues - so be warned) do send across any comments you might have.
Also, I apologise for the strange, blindingly blue colour that the boxes and text have taken upon themselves when I converted the Pagemaker file to PDF. Still can't figure that one out. Technophiles who might know how to retain image quality and true colour composition while doing such a conversion, do keep me in the loop.

Monday, January 02, 2006


Overheard on my way to work, as I passed by three girls with a cricket bat --

One of the trio (calling out to another girl perched on her compound wall, across the street):
Come ya, tell fast. What you want to do? Batting or balling?

Girl on the wall (examining her baby pink nails):
No ya, I only want to faint.

This year

I want the universe to conspire with me for a few seconds everyday.

(Happy 2006!)