Monthly Archives: June 2005

Navel-gazing aka ‘Main Shilpa Shetty Banna Chahti Hoon’

Serious short stories and intellectual book tags might give us the pretense of respectability, but one should never forget one’s humble beginnings. What is the blog’s real USP?, we asked ourselves, and on not finding an answer, in sheer desperation, asked Ajmeri Baba, while he was in town to solve the problems of the world. And his voice echoed through the corridors of the empty Hyatt Regency ballroom with the resounding answer — ‘Bachcha, it is a very special brand of mindless nonsense mixed with pseudo-seriousness. That is what you do best.‘ Humbled by his gyaan and out of gratitude for the man, we promptly suggested a tagline for his business — ‘Aaj-meri baba, kal teri baba‘. Alas, he failed to see the brilliance of it. Hmpfh. Oh well.

When I started my blog, I imagined it to be a place where I could be myself without letting the role I was playing, influence it. No compulsions to be the exasperating daughter, annoying sister, curious friend or nosy neighbor. Just my thoughts, expressed my way.

Venn DiagramI thought a blog resolved the dichotomies we face as individuals. It blurred the lines between what we revealed to people and what we hid from them. We no longer separated our public and private lives. A blog overlapped these spaces to an extent. If Rao sir from class VI were present here, he would have interjected with — ‘Waitt, aii weel yekshplain with pickchar. You seeee, the red circle is public space. Blue circle, private space. And intersection set — purple flower petal shape, that is a blog.‘ Yes, we had a lot of bahaaron phool barsaao-ing in classes VI and VII. But you get the drift.

Dancing guyBut now, as time has passed, I am more aware of the fact that I don’t always shoot my mouth off and say things like I was sharing a private thought with myself. When someone pisses me off, I don’t tell them how I’d like to boil them in oil, hang them upside down from a tree, paint them like a voodoo doll and do an African victory dance chanting —? jumbaaye agumbaye yaa aaygo aaygo aaygo. I visualize it in Eastmancolor, with twenty-four track stereophonic sound. I imagine being dressed like Sridevi in a jungle outfit, with a hibiscus phulwa coyly tucked in my hair, fluttering my two-inch long eyelashes while I do the dance. But, but, but — I don’t express it. Instead, I find myself thinking before I write, because I know I am being read and watched. So the dichotomy, albeit a different kind, is still in place.

In that sense, a blog is not just an online journal. As bloggers, we don’t simply write. We write for an audience. It doesn’t mean we necessarily pander to them. Well, sometimes we do, but that’s just because we luuuve you, don’t we precious? But we write, hoping to be read and knowing we are being read. Every blogger, no matter what they say, started their site because they want other people to read what they have to say. So, say what you will about ‘self-expression‘ and give the highfalutin spiel about how ‘I write only to give vent to my own feelings, I don’t care if anyone reads it‘ but at the end of the day, a blog is not just about introspection, it is also about performance. It isn’t navel-gazing alone, it is as much navel-baring.

So my conclusion — All bloggers hope to be Shilpa Shetty one day. Wait, I will yekshplain. This time, sadly, not with pickchar. You see, bloggers are like the sidey extras dancing behind the heroine in a Hindi film. The heroines, of course, are the A-list bloggers, while the sideys behind them are the ones hoping to make it big someday. So that brigade of tummy-baring starlets dancing behind the heroine — that’s us. Yes, this includes you men too. You wear those clingy transparent black shirts and dance in studio rain, so you’re just as bad. We’re all in the same boat. A bunch of bloggers, diligently baring our navels and souls, each hoping to get noticed, hoping to be the next Shilpa Shetty. Aw c’mon lets face it, when it comes to navel-baring, there’s not many who do a better job than her. Wot say?

Tags, memes and a weird kid

It’s meme time! We have been book tagged four times now — by Anshul (yes, I do read your blog, contrary to what you think), by Kaashyapeya (understanding his typical blog post requires two dictionaries and a bottle of scotch) and twice by Dharmendra (an extremely well-read chap, but what is the point of all the books in the world if he didn’t figure out that my not noticing the first tag was an intentional oversight?)

So apparently, I give people the impression that I read. Total intellectual-wintellectual types. Ahem ahem. Okay, in their defense and to my credit, I have read. Please to notice the past tense. I was an avid reader as a kid, one of those ‘I will carry my book to the dinner table and read while I eat so I don’t have to look at that eggplant that mom is forcing me to eat‘ types. Substitute eggplant with karela on special occasions. But I was also a weird kid, when it came to what I read. I was a weird kid for several other reasons that are outside the context of this blog, so we won’t go there just yet.

A sample story goes thus — in my 8th grade we were given a book review assignment. A bunch of students wrote reviews of Sweet Valley High books. For those not in-the-know, SWH was a series about these blonde-haired, blue-eyed, perfectly-tanned-in-the-Californian-sun twin sisters and their many boyfriends. These were the junior, less-steamy versions of Mills & Boon romances, so don’t get any wild ideas just ‘cos I mentioned blonde twins.

So — giggly schoolgirls wrote SWH and Nancy Drew reviews, not-so-giggly ones wrote reviews of The Secret Garden, A Little Princess and Anne of Green Gables. And then there was me. What did I pick? We, The People by Nani A Palkhivala. A brilliant man and an exceptional book. But Palkhivala in the 8th grade? Yes, I was definitely a strange kid. As if this was not bad enough, the book made such a big impact on me that I went on to read it four more times. I digress from the topic of this post to include an excerpt of his Vision for India speech, to give you a sample of the man’s writing —

When I was in the United States, I was often asked one question — How does India, with its great human potential and natural resources, manage to remain poor? The correct answer is very unflattering and hardly the type of answer which an ambassador of any country may be expected to give: We are not poor by nature but poor by policy. You would not be far wrong if you called India the world’s leading expert in the art of perpetuating poverty.

So as I was saying, I think book tags/memes are a rather difficult experience for me. A music tag, on the other hand, I’ll take any day. Illusions apart, I don’t read much, so I will naturally crib and whine about the whole exercise. This in turn, will make me look like an ungrateful wretch to the kind souls who tagged me. And then there’s the business of finding some unsuspecting goats to pass on the tag to. More wretchedness. All this, so people get to know what books I own, read and like, something I highly doubt people care to know in the first place. Sigh. Now for the drill —

  • Total number of books I own:
    Approximately 400 + 200 at home in India. I haven’t read at least half the books I own, which apparently is typical of a book-lover, so looks like I’m on my way to becoming one. Much coolness. But I do intend to read them all soon. Honest.
  • Last book I bought:
    Pre-ordered the sixth HP book — Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Yep, I am one of those.
  • Last book I read:
    Asterix at the Olympic Games. Yes Asterix comics count as books. Don’t even think about arguing with that. Not seeming so well-read anymore, are we now?
  • Five books I love:
    I usually hate ranking things I love. So I shall pull my ‘it’s against my principles to objectively rank something that is inherently subjective‘ dialogue and chicken out of answering this one. But I must mention Enid Blyton. She is the reason I started to read, and my childhood and imagination are infinitely richer thanks to her. And Zorro! The swashbuckling hero was the primary reason I learnt to ride a horse. Pining for a masked man on a horse to sweep me off my feet was too passé. I wanted to be the flamboyant one *riding* the horse, fighting the baddies and whisking some man off *his* feet. Yes, I told you before — weird kid. Speaking of weird kid, add Calvin and Hobbes to the list. Truly, one of life’s great joys.
  • Five people I shall tag (aka Five people who will refuse to visit my blog again):
    This is the fun part! I pass on this tag to —
    1. Rajesh (Unlike me, he actually reads. Expect a liberal sprinkling of Pratchett, Asimov and Douglas Adams in his responses)
    2. Sivani (I see she hasn’t been tagged yet, and if ever there is a blogger who is the very epitome of being well-read, it is her)
    3. aNTi (He got music-tagged but not book-tagged, and he shouldn’t miss out on the simple pleasures of life)
    4. Sriram (He has an opinion on everything and loves to express it, so here’s his chance to put that talent to some good use, for a change)
    5. Deepak (Another avid reader who has been music-tagged. What is this? Everyone gets music-tagged except me. No fair!)
    6. gvenum (He reads even less than I do, and I’d love to see how he deals with this. Hee haw!)
    7. iii (He hasn’t blogged in six months, so am hoping this will wake him up?)

All done. Seven bakras .. er, I mean book-lovers. Yes, I went beyond the stipulated five. I’m so generous no? And if any of you readers would like to answer these questions, just consider yourself tagged and use my commentspace to spread the joy. No, seriously, please do so. It’ll be fun!

Since no post of mine is complete without at least one Bollywood reference — talk of Zorro reminded me of Shahrukh Khan dressed all Zorro-like in the title song of Baazigar (1993) — a most unintentionally howlarious moment in a relatively serious film. Which in turn reminded me of another song from the same movie that seemed appropriate for this post. So for your listening pleasure, I conclude with singing —

*pam pam pam pam papampam pam pam pam pam papampam*
kitaabein bahut sii padhii hongii tumne
magar koii chehraa bhii tumne padhaa hai ..

You may have read many a book, but have you ever read a face? One can find deep fundas in the most unexpected places in Hindi films if one looks closely enough, no? *pam pam pam pam papampam .. *

Short Shorts : One : The Wait

We stood around waiting for her time to come. But she figured we could wait some more. She smiled with a twinkle in her ninety-four year old eyes, at us — kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. “Why the impatience?” her eyes seemed to say. “Did I not wait all these years? For my son to return home to the village while he moved from city to city? To take me to his home after he settled down with his new wife? For my daughter-in-law to bring me that extra-strong coffee I always liked? For my first grandchild? For my great-grandchildren every summer when they promised to visit me?”

We waited in silence. She smiled again.

Grandmother died. Ailed of old age, they say.

The clouds are here

All rested, relaxed and more annoyingly chirpy than before. The break was most wonderful — I got to unwind, see places, spend time with family, catch up with friends and other warm and gooey stuff that vacations are supposed to be about. I also took pictures, but the camera and I didn’t see eye to eye on most things, so what I have instead are pictures of blurry lights, a sad-looking plant desperately in need of watering and my niece’s elbow. If you are curious, some of these might find their way onto this blog in the coming months, so worry not.

Now that I am here, the nonsense cannot be too far behind. I also plan to catch up on responses to comments on previous posts and the doodleboard, as well. Of course, there’s the minor matter of digging my way out of my Inbox and accepting invitations to enhance certain body parts, donating money to a Nigerian dictator who cannot be named and forwarding the good luck chain letters to twenty-five of my unsuspecting friends. Now you know why I saved the email address of my erstwhile roommate-from-hell. But right after I am done with all that, the blogging shall resume.

The monsoons have just about arrived back home in desh, and dense clouds hover over Boston today. And the me has returned. Call it silly, but I love these little coincidences. Thank you all for continuing to read my blog even while I was gone.