August 26, 2010

Roach runner

What India trip is complete without my fleeing a room in utter terror thanks to Mr Muchad? This time was no different. A different house... a different setting. S and I were just going to turn in for the night. I went to adjust the AC and I'd taken off my contacts. So you know what that means. I couldn't precisely see small things. Which means I couldn't see very clearly that the big, brown blob was indeed a cockroach. All may have been well if S didn't actually call my attention to it... as they say ignorance is bliss. But once he did, in a matter of milliseconds I'd fled the room.

A few minutes later, S came out to assure me that he had chucked the intruder into the attached bathroom. After a few minutes of coaxing, I entered the room tentatively, still bleary-eyed. In one quick motion, I dragged the doormat and stuffed it into the crack under the bathroom door. Convinced that the roach was locked in, I went to bed, a cautiously peaceful woman. It was bout 5 minutes later I was jolted into full alert by the click of a light. It was S going to the bathroom. Was he kidding me? I snapped up and grabbed by glasses, this time to make sure my vision wasn't handicapped and trained my eye on the bathroom door. Nothing. But it in that instant, in that second with the light flooding out from the bathroom door, I knew there was something that wasn't supposed to be. Some movement. Some muchad. I spun to my left and realized in horror that my intuition was spot on. I saw the monster cowering by the wardrobe door, shrieked and fled once more. Turns out S had let the beast be and tried to fool me into sleeping. And as I would have it, only one of us could be in the room - me or the roach. Turns out, it was the roach.

August 19, 2010

The grand experience

The intoxicating smell of ghee wafts in the air as girls dressed in matching yellow saris attend to crisping jangiris on one pan and browning bondas on another. Surely, surely this is how heaven must smell. Yes, I was at one of the sites responsible for Adyar's fame - The Grand Sweets and Snacks. The sheer sight of all the mamas and mamis bustling around the counters trying to yell out their orders to the overworked, hypertensed staff is a sure indication of the popularity of the place. And nothing that was sold there tasted bad, like, at all.

Indians are foodies... and there's no better example to illustrate this point than to stand at one corner of this iconic sweets and savories shop and observe for a few minutes as people yell out orders for everything from badam halwa to the legendary puliogare mix sold here. My father has vanished even as I took a backseat to observe an everyday 20 minutes and he returns with a plate fashioned from some dried leaves. But what's most important is whats on it - 3 piping hot, insanely delicious bondas with chutney. Unable to resist the aroma, I pop a steaming hot bit of it right into my mouth only for it to smoulder within and bring tears to my eyes. But while I glance around, it is patently obvious that I am not the only one who's impatient. At least 4 other stuffed mouths unable to swallow look around guiltily. A wry smile later, I am back in observation mode and Appa has vanished once more to order some stuff we need for a function at home. Every sweet conceivable to the Indian mind lurks behind the counters, most of which to I have no clue to their names. But I am quite sure that this small hurdle won't take away anything from its taste.

After a while it strikes me that though the staff is slaving away, their system isn't very efficient. Appa, however assures me that it runs as well as a well-oiled machine. I am skeptical as I see a long line of impatient token holders waiting for news of their order. And after what seems like forever even in nasal nirvana Appa is back, finally having placed the order. He hands me the receipt to keep inside and I glance it. Even living in Europe doesn't prepare you for price inflation in India. Well, heaven ain't cheap but then I suppose that's rhetorical.

August 14, 2010

Going down memory lane..

Every trip to India is incomplete without an extremely nostalgic trip down memory lane and usually this is jump-started when I tend to clear down one of my many "shelves" back at home. Last evening was no different. In an innocuous corner of the house where I expected to unearth nothing, I found a pile of some of my oldest books instead. Apparently reading was a very early hobby for my brother and me. And we had had the foresight to sit and record our names and the dates of purchase of the books on the front pages of all the books we'd bought. And so many of them were in the early 90s. And so many of them were the downsized "S Chand & Co Publications" which gave young minds a first exposure of many precious stories like "Jane Eyre" and "Vanity Fair". Indeed I found a tonne of these books which I set aside immediately to hand down to other kids in the family so that the reading habit was at least one thing I could inculcate in them early. And then there were the Sidney Sheldon novels... a craze that struck me in high school, alongside the Sweet Valley Twins series and the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys... Each book had a story behind it. Either they were picked up by my brother and me at a yearly trade fair in Chennai, an event we waited fervently for to visit the fair grounds and pick up a good deal on these books year after year with none spared... or they were picked up full price at Higginbothams or the roadside bookstores of Besant Nagar and Adyar.

What was most fascinating however was unearthing some of our first self-written works which we had entitled "BP Arts Creations". We even had a logo and each story was painstakingly handwritten. Now with a shrewd eye that has read some of the best authors in the world, as 8-12 year olds I still think we had a pretty good grasp of a "story line" and tried to lend an air of mystery and suspense to our stories. Ah those days.. when my brother and I would sit nights and take turns to use ink pens to fill sheet after sheet of the inside of a discarded diary of some previous year with our creative juices. And then I found some of my individual work too... things I wrote after my brother moved to the US and was no longer co-author with me. True golden years. Where all we cared about was scoring some good marks on lousy tests in school... on sneaking to the movies on the pretext of a British council visit (I'll never forget our tryst with Aladdin) and how we'd painted yesteryear's Chennai red with our exploits.

And so not surprisingly... after all the years gone, the mere sight of those books we bought together is capable of reminding me of the extreme fun I've had with my brother. And how I miss those days even now.. even with a changed viewpoint of fun.. with more things to entertain us.. and I think I now the reason why. India isn't where we live anymore. Its merely a vacation. A vacation that's busier than daily life elsewhere. A vacation without the main elements of the past. But a cherished vacation nonetheless. Here's to discovering more memories and more walks down memory lanes!

Sands of time...

Nope, this isn't about the semi-new Prince of Persia movie that shares the second half of it's name with this blog's title. It's about how as time goes on and you reflect on some of the decisions that you've made before you can't believe you did them. Take your friendships for example. You're pretty darned fortunate if all the people you chose to be friends with and vice versa are still close enough for you to call and ramble as you please. Chances are that the friendship has faded. Sure there are those friends who far beyond made the cut that even if you spoke to them after a year, nothing has changed and you can pick up exactly where you left off. And exclusive as that category is, not too many people fit in there.

Sometimes when I look back at some of the 'friends' I've had... I find it very hard to justify why I was friends with them on one hand, or how we let it all go away on the other. And it's usually a mix of the two.There's as much relief as there is regret. Sometimes you "keep in touch" with a bunch of people, usually through one person and its almost always because this person means enough to you to do so. Of course the vice versa cases do exist. and each one is painful in its own way.

And this realization becomes stronger everytime I make an India trip. That none of my friends live where they used to when I used to be here in India. And yes, it's true... it's none. Everyone's spread across the length and width of our glorious country or worse across different parts of the US subcontinent or elsewhere in the world. And it's like playing a very complex game of chess to arrange to meet anyone even if they happen to visit the city you're in and vice versa. Throw in the spouses' schedule, the traffic situation, their new relationships and friends, and now you're playing a high-speed timed Chess as well. Ah the logistics... the pain.. the planning, all centred on meeting and spending time with those precious friends.. be it an hour, a few hours or a couple of days if you're lucky. As fate would have it, this trip quite a few friends are in tantalizing proximity and I pledge to do all I can to at least meet all of them before I leave Indian soil once more. Cheers mates!

August 9, 2010

Night blossoms

I wish this was some night-blooming jasmine I was talking about. However I am talking about those latent conditions in your body that are seemingly non-existent when you go to sleep at night.. yet when you wake up they almost seem like an integral part of you. Be it a pimple… an infection… a cold or a fever, symptoms seemingly aggravate overnight when your defenses are lowered and you’re sleeping away that “beauty” sleep.

Like I woke up with a swollen eye. And the second I woke up, I knew something wasn’t right. My left eye felt puffy. I figured I’d probably slept on one side forcing the blood to one eye (does that even happen?) And went in to brush my teeth, I could appreciate the full extent of the overnight onset of a ridiculous heat boil. The core at the rim of my eye was clear evidence of what was to come. And sure enough while it seemed to subside through the day, another night’s sleep seemed to fuel it further. I guess the WBCs are busy attacking elsewhere and are too good to fight these tiny 2 day infections. And so what do we do? I guess we apply life and world philosophy to these tiny hindrances. This too shall pass.