Monday, July 25, 2005


So many thoughts
In so many colors
Lists and lists
Follow the Order
Sometimes a road block
Or an altered view
But it’s all okay
And it’s all not new


And then the tide turns
And along comes a bout
And all the old worries
They cancel each other out
And I merrily go with the flow
To see what’s in store
Knowing there’s change
And that there will be more
‘Cos it’s a very bad plan
That isn’t written to accommodate
The twists and the turns
Of fantastic fate!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Can it get any cuter?

We picked up this beautiful miniature working model of an old fashioned cycle (as we call them) from an Indonesian antique store. Complete with a chain guard that can be raised and the old-fashioned stand. All it needs is some grease on that adorable chain and some mud on those perfect tires! Many a ride I was given by the siblings on that front bar! It's a good thing it did not continue for long; else it would have resulted in some serious malformations of the behind. Well, it now graces our side table. Now if only I could get one of a Bajaj Chetak scooter too... so I can show visitors the exact spot I used to be squeezed into (on top of the fuel tank cap)! But that was the second we'll get there when we get there...

Friday, July 15, 2005


She straightened her skirt and flattened it out with her palms. “Silk crushes so easily” she thought. But she was glad she had been dressed to kill. Her suspicions of a year had not been unfounded, Dev was having an affair. His furtive glance at her whenever he approached the Bitch was just added confirmation that she wasn’t even looking for. The way they shot glances at each other throughout the evening, so casual yet consuming, had made her look away each time, hurriedly, hungrily seeking some solace. But nobody had noticed. Her midnight blue full-length ensemble, with her hair piled high made her look like the elegant, contented wife of a senior partner of the firm, not like the jilted one in a broken home of love that had long curdled. And that had been necessary.

She looked around the house from the chaise longue she was on. A long, hard, last look. It was time to leave. She would miss this beautiful house and the happy stories it's walls had once told, of earlier days and cleaner slates. But this crazy game had gone on for too long. It had been the time to leave a year ago when she had caught him in one of his contemptible bluffs for the first time. The confrontation had blown into a full throttled fight just as she had expected. Bristling with frustration, she had thrown her shoe at him. The coarseness of that act baffled her to date. She was not like that. She always acted composedly and competently and handled intense situations so well. Like, now. Memories of that first fight made her think of her shoes, and whether she had packed them all. She had. And the comfortable yet dainty ones she had on now would be perfect for the long trip ahead. She looked down at them and then quickly drew her feet in. The pool of blood around his cracked skull had grown at an alarming rate, almost half way to the chaise. She had been so careful and it would all be ruined if she was stupid enough to get blood stains on her shoes. She got up, carefully stepping around the Persian rug. Yes, it was time to leave.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Dosa Nirvana

My brother* is a South Indian Brahmin (SIB). And everyone knows what SIs in general are known for, besides speaking excellent English in bad accents and seeking curd-rice with an ache akin to that men stranded in desserts for weeks feel for water, we are also known for our love for dosas. (By the way, we as a family have the accent problem alright but it’s a Bengali one we are plagued with! Yes, we are a family with many problems). Now my brother, he is a man of discerning taste (Yes sister-in-law, you can take that bow now), and he will NOT settle for the passable, restuarant-dosa that his sister would happily devour. He will not settle for dosa batter made in a Sumeet mixie. He will not even settle for dosa batter made the authentic way by the local mami who will sell it to him at a great price. “Not sour enough!” he will say. Or at other times “Not quite airy enough”... His nose pointed skywards..almost. “It’s the ratio that’s a little off...” I’ve heard him explain at times, nose scrunched up and eyes squinting in concentration...”That is why it’ll not yield dosas that golden crispy!”

I would listen in bewilderment and some mild irritation, as he continued to explain the reasons they have a wet grinder at home. I once did the mistake of mentioning my Gits discovery in my early naïve days, when I was just finding my way around the kitchen in Chicago. And the appall that I had registered on his face continues to wake me up in a sweat even now some nights. As I shake my head and gulp down some water wondering what I had done to have let my family down so bad, to have had that look return to my consciousness, it dawns on me that some secrets are never meant to be shared with family members, however close they might be. No, blood thicker than water and all that is fine but live with caution girl!

Well anyway, earlier this year, while we were visiting them and enjoying the California sun that the inhabitants of that shorts-clad state take so much for granted, he whipped up these Amazing dosas. Yes they are Different. I had forgotten the taste of the asli-wet-grinder-wale dosas, jotting it down under Magic-that-only-Mom-weaves, I had moved on with life. A little deprived, the taste-buds a little less tingled and the heart a little more fond. But here it was again! The work involved though overwhelmed me. And I was only feigning polite interest when I remarked casually “We should get one of these.”

Now the hubby is also a SIB. In fact, he is that potent mix of Tam-ness and Brahm-ness, that I never thought I would voluntarily invite into my life. Again, though a non-resident of Tamil Nadu, his palate is predominantly SI and he is known to scoop and lap up a plateful of butter milk and rice with speed that Bruno, his German Shepard (Alsatian), used to envy. Along with being a SIB, he is also a Seizer Of Opportunities (SOO). As you will see. When we were in different cities catching up with family during our vacation in India, he casually mentioned to me on the phone that he had picked up the 110V wet grinder that “You had wanted so badly.””What?” I went. We say these things in people’s houses, but later we discuss stuff we really want...that’s normal practice, right!! And the fact that it had never again been mentioned by me after that one time, apparently did not count to this dosa-loving SIB. The true SOO does not believe in letting a single O pass by "unseized" you see.

So he lugged it back and set it up in a corner of our kitchen here in Boston. Silently. And it in turn sat there silently, slowly guilting me into making the dosas, and the idlis. And the uttapams. I am afraid I am very close to succumbing to the vadas soon. This weekend maybe. Have to soak the dal tomorrow.

So the domestication of Gabby continues. Successfully. The hubby can tell you all about it. Later. At the moment his mouth is full of chutney. But he does pause to tell me to check the vada recipe. “Ask your Mom” he says. “Or your brother.”

* The same one who made a short appearance a long while ago and then politely left. But that does not mean he is nowhere in our vicinity, he can be quite the lurker, when he wants to!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Baby Talk

Our friends are pregnant. The reason I say friends is because that’s how couples talk about expecting a child here in the US of A. We are pregnant. Like in we did it and we will be supporting this baby together. If they were a lesbian couple and were both truly simultaneously pregnant, I would have rested my case and looked for another topic for my rants. But that has rarely, (what am I saying? Never) been the case in the 20 or so instances I have heard the phrase and I am forced to start typing. Please, men have their own roles to play, but they cannot bear children so lets not all scamper into the pregnant wagon. They will not have to deal with all kinds of weird (yet beautiful) things happening to their bodies, they will not actually give birth to the child. So they should stick to the "We are expecting" phrase in my opinion. The phrase in question makes it sound like they are trying to assure us that the husband is indeed the father-to-be and there are no doubts whatsoever. We sure hope so! Ah, I would smile when my parents’ generation used the term "family way" to say a woman was pregnant, and I laugh when I here this modern equivalent to the pronouncement. Hypocrisy can swing so many ways.

Over the last year I have rarely been told this kind of news without it being followed by annoyance and anger about how this came to be. It surprised me at first but I rarely raise an eyebrow now. “I just don’t know HOW!” says one. Another gushes “Omigod, we’re so young! Who would have thought!!!” Apparently nobody is really trying. Methods that quote a 99% effectiveness rate have not been very effective at all it seems. “Why do we even bother with it!” – I began to wonder. Or have we been hanging with nice albeit stupid couples who are having trouble reading those instructions that are printed neatly behind boxes? Until. I. Caught. On. This now is the fashion ladies and gentlemen! Just like the lingerie-inspired camisoles, tiered skirts and round-toe flats, this too is the "cool" thing to do. Pretend your baby is the result of a wild, wild night when you threw caution to the winds. When you were young and carefree and boogieing away the night, along came the baby and really you weren’t even expecting a third at the party.

Why? Oh why? Why pretend you never wanted a little one of your own?! I have heard of older generations pretending "mistakes" never happened and this here is exactly the opposite. But again it’s being insincere, albeit in a newfound way. Ever wonder what will happen when your little one chances on that information? Ever stop to listen to how your words belittle the wonderful gift of procreation? I do not write this to the 17 year olds who can’t wait and then bear the burden of their ways. Nor is this meant for the couples who are really surprised and are being honest with us. This is singularly for the couples out there who think it’s cool to lie about their attempts to have a child. You know who you are. You’re making life! Tarnish not it’s honesty - that too, in so trifling a way!

Well, despite the way these announcements are being made, I am incredulously happy for our friends. I jumped for joy. The hubby suspects my delight has something to do with having somebody in my age group lead the way, so we can all ease into it later knowing that the nanny-procuring techniques, car-seat research and all possible hand-me-downs are being covered as I write this. Well, I do not-so-secretly hope we will only have to drive by and pick up a neatly organized folder in the years to come.
*Something tells me it won’t be so easy but I remain the incurable dreamer*

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Edu Kondalu Vada, GOVINDA!!*

As we pulled into the beautiful Tirupati foothills, my husband asked “Will you able to walk in those?” I was in my highheeled sandals, chudidaar kurta, bindi and mangalsutra get-up, looking very delicate and bahu-like. I grinned, “Of course not, the DocMartens are in the boot”. His turn to grin. Just the image of me in DocMartens and a dupatta did it. “I don’t care how I look, it’s 3590 steps! Spaced out!” “Sure. I brought the camera” he said.

So we were setting out to climb the hills to Tirumala, something I’ve done before, minus hubby. So I had to tell him all about it, a hundred times. We were accompanied by the newly-weds and we let a younger college-going kid tag along, hoping we could strand him with the water-bottles and stuff. We set off promising to catch the rest of the party in 4 hours or so...after they had driven up in AC-ed comfort, showered, dined, burped, yawned and snapped their fingers, they would drive to the arches at the top of the hill where they could find us in a sweaty, collapsing, grumpy heap.

It happened much like we planned, though we did make it in 3 hours, the walk drew our attention to just how out-of-shape we were. The first hour was the most grueling and surprisingly the college-going kid was the worst off. The oodles of puppy-fat still on his cheeks glowed red and we thought he might have to be air-lifted off the hills. But he made it after much grunting, swearing and the uttering of many ungodly words under his breath. The hubby and the newly-wed boy discussed electronics and gadgets. The newly-wed girl had "bedroom" questions and I spared very little in fear of embarrassment while imparting gyan of all orders. I think, as a bunch, we broke a whole lot of rules while making our way to Govinda, but I’m sure He understands, He made us this way and we are pure of heart, He must know that.

Climbing up, commercialization hits you between the eyes every 30 steps or so. There are cafés with movie videos running non-stop almost everywhere. You can choose a Tamil, Telugu or Hindi café and watch Prabhu-Deva, Nagarjuna, or Abhishek, depending on your group, mood or inclination. The navels and heaving bosoms though looked very similar in all the movies, so I guess the Trishas and Shilpas act in ‘em all. Our little group would have had to split up into different cafés if we chose to really watch something. But we thought better than to lose complete focus and trudged past these diversions stolidly. The “neembu-soda” we did stop for was divine and we guzzled it down only to regret it when we resumed walking. “Travel light” was our motto henceforth and we saved the eating and drinking for later.

Despite the “Kalyanam” puja we all did, the actual darshan lasted precisely 1.5 seconds before I felt a female usher give me a hard shove and push me ahead. Last time around, they did not have them female shovers, so I could hang around taking sloooow steps till a male who had been shoved, shoved me by reflex and I moved away. So they’ve smartened up. But, with a high of 100,000 visitors per day (averaging about 30,000 per day), they are left with few choices, I know. It’s OK for us and more so for the affluent to make this trip and drop thousands of rupees in the Hundi**, if they want to. Do it, it ain't a bad practice. But when I hear about this poor man who can barely make ends meet, using up all his life’s savings and trudging here with his family, standing in that free-darshan queue for 30 hours and then dropping his remaining savings in the Hundi, I can’t help but think “Come on Govinda, wouldn’t you have wanted him to put that money to better use?”

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. ~Mahatma Gandhi

* A cry often uttered while pilgrims make their way to see the Tirumala-Tirupati diety of Balaji or Lord Venkateswara. It means "Oh One of the Seven Hills, Govinda!". Govinda being yet another name for the same God.

** Offerings made in the name of God. It's the main source of income for this temple, donations last year were in the region of Rs.800 crores which is $186 million!!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Like a summer breeze you came
To make it bearable
Before we knew that we would need you so bad
Before we would lay all our cards on the table...
That you would soon do what I should have done
And in a way so much better...

With a grin and a giggle
You brought short moments of cheer
To a home that had lost it’s fight
Long, long before
There ceased to be
any real light.
You appeared from nowhere
And took your place
In this play of ours
Like a fairy godmother
Sent down, just for us.

Who sent you?
A debt long forgotten
Karma in play?
You make me want to believe
That there is indeed some God
But then again,
If there are debts and karma and reincarnation
Then this God of yours must believe in fair play
And knowing enough to have sent you
Yet making you necessary
Makes me think
This job being God
Mustn’t be easy
And maybe He was someplace else
Looking at another point of view
That I just cannot see
While we stood aside
Hands tied
Watching it all slip away
For good.

And then you disappeared too
Your work done
You seemed incomplete and
you felt incomplete.
At some level
You had played out your piece
And it was time to move on
Make another life
Another home.

An Arranged Chaos

Four years ago, Mr.Gabby and I attended his friend David’s marriage. It was a beautiful Southern wedding held in Florida. The bride Jen looked radiant and the wedding went off without a hitch. At least it seemed like that to us and that speaks for itself. The ceremony brought tears to my eyes and the dancing and reverie at the reception left us all quite breathless. When David and Jen did the rounds later, stopping at each table to say hi and thank us for coming, David made as if to reach out to hug me. Maybe I took a second longer than natural to respond and he paused and whispered “Gabby, want to hug now?” Well I’ve never been asked that question, and I found it a wee bit odd but said yes and we hugged. Later, I understood that if he had reached out and I had not responded, the part of the wedding video that showed Mr.Gabby and me greeting them would have had to be removed and he did not want that. WOW. If that isn’t an orchestrated wedding, what is?

Now I’m back from attending an Arranged Marriage. Maybe they should make that term an “Arranged Match” and leave it at that because Indian weddings are as un-arranged as they can get. I’m sure my own must have been crazier being an unarranged match to begin with, but the bride at the time was blissfully ignorant as was the bride this time around. Mostly. Except for the one time the bride and her beautician had a yelling match an hour before the wedding which I refereed and might I add that I have a high-pitched voice myself. Then the keys went missing (The keys. I will have to devote an entire post to just the Keys and their Mysterious Wanderings. The senior members of Mr.Gabby’s family *I love them and all* have an obsession with the hiding of the keys. Godrej1’s * keys will be in the locker of Godrej2, Godrej2’s keys will be under the lining of the 2nd shelf of Godrej3 and so on....till you hit the Safe room key. Once you’re inside the Safe room you need a GPS to find what you came looking for. But it’s best to holler for help. Might I also add that this sequence of Godrej1 > Godrej2 > Godrej3.... is a non-repeating one. It will keep changing so you have to be in the loop and figure out the latest pattern. Which is tiring when you are told that as well as “Gabby here is very responsible and will be in charge of the keys” in a language you barely understand!)

It has been a long while since I attended an arranged marriage and for the uninformed about this kind, I have to tell you the one thing that really stands out about such a wedding. Everyone is very happy, except for the bride and the groom who tend to get into these pensive moods. Obviously. The families have bonded and gelled. Now what remains is the bonding and gelling of the people getting wedded. But of course they will grow to love, that’s what happens, doesn’t it. For the record, despite the undertones you might be sensing, I don’t have much against the concept of an arranged marriage. If you haven’t met that right person for you yet and you’ll like to get married - here’s some help, is what it is. The concept is gaining popularity in all parts of the world and I was amazed to see many instances among my Asian and American friends. The period of interaction between the boy and the girl is significantly longer though and they say they “met through their parents” instead of saying “Arranged. Not Love” as we Indians often put it. Let’s not do that, let’s not rule out love right away!

Well in these weddings, the barriers that different religions, castes, social-status and mother-tongues usually pose are non-existent and people in general have less to worry about and for that matter comment about. So they can concentrate on how everyone is looking and the giving and the taking and the transactions of wealth in general. Jewelry is a hot topic and so is the amount of zari on sarees. Pure zari. God forbid if somebody has some ‘spun’ or ‘tested’ zari on their sarees! (I will not go into what those terms mean, suffice to know that they are inferior to the real thing). My husband’s community loves their diamonds too so ears and necks adorned with our best friends shone with a brilliance that threatened to overpower the video camera lights. I dryly commented on a lady of the newer family appearing in a different saree for almost every ceremony several days before the actual wedding (An Indian wedding usually runs for 3 to 6 days, composed of several ceremonies of increasing significance) and was told in no uncertain terms that my “American” style wouldn’t work and I better do the same. So I joined the herd and left no stone unturned, fishing out my 3 year old wedding trousseau and loading on the jewelry much to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

Confusion abounds in all our weddings and in this one I saw a new thing or two. Bangalore traffic contributed in more ways than one, stranding the artist who had to perform in the reception for hours. The "boy's side" continues to cluck under their breath about it and the "girl's side" will continue to pretend we din't hear them. We all tend to be forgetful when we have so much on our minds and I won’t be surprised if I miss a hair-brush or a garment while I’m unpacking now but there were instances when people forgot entire suitcases in this wedding! When I heard about it, I tried to show the appropriate level of dismay on my face but I failed miserably and burst out laughing and luckily for me a lot of people also saw the hilarity of the situation. When I thought I had seen it all, I was told about a story that does the rounds in my hubby’s family. Apparently after our own wedding, Mr.Gabby forgot to wake up his sleeping grandfather in his hotel room while his family was leaving. So the party set off and remembered midway to the airport that they were missing the senior-most member of their family. The suitcase story slid from its number 1 position and this one with my own Mr.Gabby starring in it quickly took it’s place.

There were so many more and I’m sure they will all find their way to this blog someday. Someday soon, when I’m not so jet-lagged and there’s plenty of coffee and milk in my house. I’m so tempted to reveal this blog to the bride and groom. They will be able to add so much and they can laugh about their wedding for ages. The gossip, the food, the nakhres of the boy’s side, that fat socialite lady who talked about her own daughter’s GRAND wedding for so long we had to gently remind her after a bit that it was years ago and please snap out of it already. I wonder what David and Jen laugh about, I guess they have their own stories and a lot must have lingered for way after the wedding, much of the evidence though must have long vanished, been edited out with appropriate questions that were whispered at just that right instant before a hug.

* Godrej is a well known company in India that makes steel almirahs among several other things. Almost every household will have a couple of these almirahs that usually hold the family's clothes and valuables.