Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Magic of 90s Boy Bands


Any self-respecting girl-child, born in the late 80s would have heard of Westlife, Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. These bands not just shaped our childhoods, but also influenced major life decisions, such as, do I want my husband to be have a dimple on the cheek or not? And let's face it, these are important decisions. So while our parents presumed we were deeply absorbed in our Maths or History homework, in reality, we had our Walkmans on and had silent tears streaming down our face as Shane Filan, Markus Feehily, Kian Egan, Brian McFadden and Nicky Bryne crooned "An empty street, An empty house, A hole inside my heart, I'm all alone, The rooms are getting smaller" 

They got it. They just got it. They understood late 80s born teenagers, like no one else. They were our best friends. Their music was like balm to our broken souls and their voice, like honey on a scorching summer day. 

So what were our life problems as teenagers? Nothing really. But we loved the drama. We loved amplifying the bite of a mosquito on our raw skin and the taste of vanilla ice-cream on a wintry evening. And these men helped amplify those feelings.  

As I blared Backstreet Boys' "I want it that way" for the millionth time from my stereo system, oblivious to my mother's incessant pounding on my bedroom door, yelling at me to reduce the volume, I would find new layers to the song. Did Nick Carter have a breakup? Is that why they wrote this song? Was he single and ready to mingle? How can one man have such a perfectly blond mop of hair on his head? And that dimple. My oh my!

As my mind worked in overdrive, along came NSYNC with their cheeky "Bye Bye Bye" and that delightful video to go along with it, which showed the band members being strung like puppets, climbing over walls, over a train and just running all over the place, in general. That video and song, gave teenage girls everywhere an ego boost. We suddenly realised that we're apparently "players, in a game for two" and men don't want to become"fools for us". 

So from mopey teenagers, girls slowly transformed into rebellious teenagers who were suddenly too cool for school. This was also the time when Linkin Park was formed. So some of us girls, slowly began to cheat on our boy-band staple, with bad boy Chester Bennington. Here was a guy who was heartbroken as well, but with delightful rough edges, complemented by his million piercings and tattoos. There was pain and rebellion in his voice. What a deadly combination! 

As the noises from my bedroom grew more and more violent and the pounding on my door became more and more incessant, I grew up. I slowly began to listen to heavier and heavier music. The posters of all my favourite British and white American men, were slowly being ripped down from my walls and being replaced with deadly looking posters of Slipknot, Metallica and Linkin Park. 

But I would be lying if I said I didn't go back every now and then, to "Seasons in the Sun" and "Backstreet's Back". Even rebellious teens, had their mopey days. We were allowed one delicious shot of familiar, comfort-music (the equivalent of ear Gaajar Halwa if you may), on the bleakest of days. 

Thank you for the stunning memories Westlife, Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. You've touched lives in more ways than you can fathom. If ever you re-unite and do one last concert, expect to see a whole bunch of women in their 30s along with their babies and husbands at your concerts. We probably married those men and had those babies, because of you. Take a bow! You've more than earned it.

(All images sourced from Google) 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Chocolate, The Elixir of Life


Chocolate, the reason to live. Chocolate, the mood enhancer. Chocolate, the stress buster. Chocolate, the saviour. Chocolate, dreamy chocolate. Creamy, gooey, molten, solid, dark, milk - whatever be it's form, the impact it has on the individual devouring it, remains the same. Pure undiluted joy. There can be no greater love, than the love for chocolate. Wars, marital disputes, familial disharmony, whatever be the problem, chocolate and only chocolate can save the day. 

There was a time (not too long ago) when my husband would not enter the house, sans a box of chocolate in hand. He would religiously buy a gigantic slice of white chocolate coated, red velvet cake and a bag of chocolate coated almonds from Starbucks. "For you my dearest", he would croon lovingly. I would go to sleep instantly with white chocolate dreams in my head, only to wake up to an empty icing ravaged box, stuffed unceremoniously in the fridge, the next morning.

Then there were mornings, I would wake up with a mad desire to drown my soul with copious amounts of molten, hot dark chocolate. We would head out the door, faster than lightening and drive for close to an hour, sometimes more, to reach Chocolateria San Churro in Bandra. We would invariably be the first and only customers so early in the morning. The server behind the counter, would give us a dubious stare, as we placed our orders for black coffee and hot chocolate at 10am in the morning. 

On one particular Friday night, the husband landed in Bombay at 10pm and wanted to head out immediately. I resisted at first, but he lured me with the promise of chocolate. He would soon eat his words, as we drove for close to 3 hours, to reach Sweetish House Mafia in Lower Parel. By the time we reached the joint, half their decadent cookies were over and the servers looked at us in astonishment, as we placed our cookie and coffee orders at 1 am in the morning. 

I celebrate Easter every year, just to gorge on a gigantic chocolate Easter egg. Not the marzipan one, the thick chocolate coated one, that can be broken in half. But of course I never broke it in half, I would always stuff the whole thing inside my mouth and then attempt to break it, with a  mighty crunch. One time I almost broke my teeth and dislocated my jaw, but it was absolutely worth it.

Is this normal behaviour? Without a speck of doubt in my mind, I'd say a resounding yes. All is fair in love, war and chocolate. If you don't eat that delicious looking piece of chocolate, someone else will. Embrace it, celebrate it, drown yourself in it. Chocolate is your best friend. Always was, always will be. 

Bad day at work? Stuff your face with some chocolate. Crazy fight with your better half? Grab that spoon of Nutella. Can’t loose weight? Eat some dark chocolate and then go for a run. Can’t wake up in the morning? Grab a piece of Ooty chocolate already with a steaming hot cup of black coffee and get moving!

(Image Source : https://www.google.co.in/search?q=chocolate&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwidwpWEvZ7bAhWBq48KHT_SAFYQ_AUICigB&biw=1280&bih=611#imgrc=1Y65lrutcwulvM:) 

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Konna Poovu



There are certain aromas, food items, music and inanimate objects that have the magical ability to throw you right back into your childhood. Some of these memories are happy, some nostalgic and some bitter. The happy, nostalgic ones are the best. You're taken in back in time and your eyes instantly get that hazy, faraway look that most often, puzzles people.

The Konna Poovu (Cassia Fistula, in Malayalam) does this job for me. Each time I see a Konna Poovu in full bloom, my heart does a happy flip-flop and my brain goes into a nostalgia overdrive. I'm overcome with a mixture of happiness and sadness, all at the same time. I'm happy, because it reminds me of my ammumma (grandmother in malayalam) and the gorgeous Vishu Kani (Vishu arrangement) she would meticulously set up in the prayer room, every single Vishu season. I'm sad, because I can never be that carefree, overweight kid again. 

Vishu is the Malayalee new year. Every year on Vishu day, I would be woken up between 4 and 5 am, with a blind-fold on my eyes and only my grandmother's hands, to guide me into the prayer room. The minute I enter the prayer room, she would remove the blind-fold, whereby allowing me to feast my eyes, on the beautifully arranged Vishu Kani. A typical Vishu Kani, comprises of copious amounts of Konna Poovu, decorated imaginatively around the idols of the Gods, along with  offerings of fruits, flowers and money. 

When the start of the day is so beautiful, you just know that you're going to have a splendid day. The rest of the day, post the Vishu Kani goes by in a blur activity, comprising largely of eating a senseless amount of food and receiving clothes and money from all the elders in the house. A couple of visits to relatives are also squeezed in, depending on the amount of Sadhya (a large celebratory Kerala meal, typically eaten on a Banana leaf) you've thulped down. 

Each year on Vishu, I would roll around proudly with a large leather handbag, stuffed with notes of money. Just for that one day, I would feel like an important banker, who had the responsibility of safeguarding, collecting, counting and re-counting the notes, to ensure that no-one pinched anything from the precious bundle, each time I took a pee, lunch or siesta break. 

I would dream of all the burgers, medu vadas, Kerala fried chicken and Sharjah shakes I would devour with my Vishu loot. Unfortunately, that dream would only remain a dream, because my clever mother would lure me into her bedroom by nightfall and tempt me with shiny, jiggly coins. She would convince me that Re 1 equates to a Rs 100/- note. I readily believed her each year, because coins anyway had more weight than untidy, smelly notes. I would quickly shove the bag of notes towards her and greedily bring out my pink piggy bank, from the hiding spot in my closet. I would watch her like a hawk, to ensure that she puts me in the right number of Re 1 coins into my piggy bank. Rs 5000/- meant she had to put in fifty Re 1 coins and Rs 10,000 meant she had to put in a hundred Re 1 coins, and so on. After counting and re-counting the notes and coins, I would have a sound sleep with my piggy bag, placed next to my pillow.
Unfortunately all good things come to an end. So does Vishu. I would wake up the next morning, with my Vishu hangover blaring in full blast in my head, and try on all the clothes I would have received from my family, only to discover that they would all invariably be either too tight or too lose for me. Typical fat kid problems. Sigh! 

(Image Source : http://decodingeswari.blogspot.in/2018/04/blog-post_27.html)  

Thursday, April 19, 2018

My Teddy Bear Dowry


I was 12 years old, when my mother brought home an adorable, teddy bear shaped, Salt and Pepper shaker set. The ceramic duo, looked like they had tumbled out of an Enid Blyton novel. Instead of sitting daintily, on a prim and proper British family's high tea table adorned with muffins and croissants, they were stuck in front of my dad, who was at present, viciously murdering a fluffy, vegetable stuffed omelette, with his fork and knife. I was appalled with the way he was vigorously shaking the teddies, for a generous dose of salt and pepper on his already sodium-overdosed, deep fried egg.

"I want these teddies to be sent along with me, as part of my dowry", I blurted out to my mother, without thinking. My father put down the shakers momentarily and gave me a dubious stare. My mother just ignored me, as always. "Mumma, I'm serious. I don't want them to be used until the day I get married and go to my new house", I persisted. "Don't be ridiculous, Gayu", she replied promptly and went back to sipping her morning coffee. 

When I came back home from school the next day, I observed that mom had washed and put away the shakers in her kitchen cabinet. I hurriedly opened the cabinet doors and smelt the shakers, to ensure that it was thoroughly clean. Satisfied with the odour that wafted up my nostrils, I walked into my parents bedroom and planted my mother with a huge sloppy, wet kiss on her cheek. "For rescuing the teddies", I explained, while she stared at me quizzically and tried her best to wriggle out of my iron grip.

Fast forward to present day, I'm much married and have set up a house of my own. The very first curio set I put up in my house, were the teddy bear shakers. There is almost always, a single tear drop, that fills up inadvertently in the corner of my eye, each time I clean them.

My sofa cushions, eerily resemble my mother's. I'm endlessly wiping and dusting my house from top to bottom, all day, everyday. And my kitchen counters, sparkle like diamonds. If you stare at them long enough, you can see your face reflecting right back at you. While I made fun of my mother's obsessive cleaning my entire life, I realize I've become just like her. 

I've always been the most punctual person in my class, office and among my group of friends. I deliver promises, even before I can make them. Once I've made up my mind, on getting a task done, I'll do it faster than spandex wearing superhero Flash. My punctuality annoys people. My habit of getting things done, faster than I can think about it, irritates my husband. But I can't help it, I am my father's daughter. I'm a stickler for routine. I'm in bed by 9pm everyday, out of the house by 7am latest for a jog/walk/run/swim or a quick workout in the gym. We're restless beings, my father and I, but we're disciplined, restless beings. There is always a method to our calculated madness. 

Our parents try their best to inculcate in us, excellent habits. So the question is, are we ready to face the world, all by ourselves with these values ingrained within us, subconsciously? I would like to believe, yes (with a generous dose of "occasional" babying from mom and dad of course). 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Judgy McJudgerson


Ever had that hair-raising, goosebumpy feeling, of having two eyes pierce down your soul? And just when you turn around, to catch their gaze, they look away? But it begins again in less than 5 seconds? Welcome to the world of Judgy McJudgerson. 

Married but don't wear a mangalsutra? Hawwww! Coloured and cut your hair so short? Hawwwww! Wearing dresses with sneakers? Hawww! It's time for the "Hawww" to STOP! My body, my choice!

Just because a woman is married, doesn't mean she has to look like a Christmas tree everyday. She can keep her hair as long as Rapunzel or as short as Peter Pan. Her choice! She is a girly-girl and a tomboy, so she can wear dresses with sneakers or saree with sneakers if she wants to. Her damn choice!

It's time for all the Judgy McJudgersons in the world, to snap out of it and grow the hell up. While women demand equal rights at workplaces, do they treat their own kind with dignity? I'm afraid not. It is women who put down other women everywhere. And I mean, literally everywhere! Be it at home, at work, at beauty parlours and even in the 2 second ride up the elevator. 

You don't have to squeeze out personal information from a person, however close he/she is to you. If someone wants to talk to you, they will. Poking and prodding incessantly, just makes you less approachable to them. When will people understand this?

I've never been clingy. I never call my husband during the week, even if all hell breaks loose. I don't understand clingy people. When people ask, "Oh no Gayu, how will you manage without Raj for the next two months?", or "Don't you feel lonely, with Raj in another city altogether", my response is, "Firstly, I'm not two years old. Secondly, if my mother in her early 20s could live all by herself in god-forsaken hill stations, plagued with panthers that too, had no clue about when my father would return or even where he was, I think I can survive in a metropolitan city." 

Being independent and staying in a positive frame of mind, is all in your hands. Man comes alone in this world and goes back to his creator alone. So, you could have 20 children and 5 husbands if you like, but you are alone in this world. And that, is completely okay. 

Stop judging, stop criticizing, stop prodding for information and most importantly stop with the incessant staring. It's not cool. NOT. COOL. 

Friday, March 09, 2018

Poetry In A Ceramic Mug


Four years since I discovered the bliss of sipping on thick, molten hot chocolate. My life has never been the same since that fateful, sweltering hot afternoon in Mumbai. Whoever says hot chocolate should only be had in freezing winters, should be shot in the head and punched on the face, twice, by Hulk.

Chocolate by itself is a divine thing. Imagine it being melted just the right amount, to give it that beautiful, thick, slurpy consistency which of course must be relished slowly and deliberately, in a pretty looking, thick, ceramic mug. I shiver just thinking about it. There’s nothing a well-made cup of hot chocolate can’t solve.

If only Adolf Hitler had been served hot chocolate during World War I and II, if only Ed Gein was given a cozy cuppa split seconds before he committed those heinous murders and closer to home, if only the Stoneman or even Gandhi Ji had one sip of hot, heady cocoa, countless lives could have been saved, wars could have ended and the history of mankind as we know it today, could have been re-written. Who knows! 

A well-made cup of hot chocolate, is potent. It lingers in your mouth and lives on as a happy memory, long after you’ve consumed it. You could even call it a beautiful dream, which you wish never ended. But end it does, unfortunately, like most things dreamy and too good to be true, in this cruel, unforgiving world. And all you can do, is wait helplessly for your next cup of steaming, hot, molten cocoa.

I’d like to believe, hot chocolate is 100% fat free, because it has zero carbohydrates. It’s always best to drink your calories, than to gulp it down, because then the fat flows straight out of your body, as opposed to accumulating in god-awful nooks and crannies, you didn’t even know existed. This is what I tell myself, each time, I drink a sinful mug. 

Whoever invented this glorious dessert, deserves nothing less than a global recognition. If ever mankind ceases to exist, hot chocolate is what we should be remembered by. This is our legacy to the world. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Life Lessons from Beauty and the Beast


As little girls, we were continuously spoon fed, larger than life, syrupy fairy tale romances that almost always had a happy ending. Then how can you blame us, when we grow up and want the same in real life? Each fairy tale, taught us that prince charming was head over heels in love with the not so financially stable girl. He fought against the world for this girl and he changed completely for her, sometimes from a beast to a man. And we lapped it all up, with absolute glee.

If we look at relationships in the real world, it's sadly a whole different story. The girl is expected to sacrifice her entire identity, starting with her name, her lifestyle, her home, her likes and her dislikes. Suddenly, there's an overbearing man in her life who doesn't want to change the way he lives. Why should he, he is the breadwinner and the man of the house, correct? (Indian logic!) 

The little girl is suddenly told to "adjust", "give in", "sacrifice" and "blend in", while her whole life she has been reading stories about prince charming who will and can be changed. While the Beast doesn't exist in the real world, I think he is symbolic to ego, selfishness, being stubborn and self-centered. For a relationship to work (any relationship - be it friendship, family or with work colleagues) one has to let go of these wonderful beastly characteristics. 

Before we talk about equality at work, let's re-look at the equality in our own homes. Let's raise feminist sons and all rounded daughters, who have the empathy to play ball from both sides of the gender. After we achieve that, we can talk about catching up with Japan and truly stepping into the 21st century as a broad minded, technologically advanced nation. 

(Image Source : http://movies.disney.com/beauty-and-the-beast)