Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Time of My Life

Readers of my old blog will know that I like Chennai. No, really, I do like this city. I'm not discounting the awful after-sales service of most companies (this poem was written after unsuccessfully repulsing the attack of a Godrej serviceman) or the water problems or the less-than-well-connected public transportation system, or even the language barrier -- all of which are, to me, the biggest cons of the place. The thing is, every big city has its share of warts. In addition to its problems, Chennai also has a great deal of charm.

Ask S. Muthiah, or as we in the family fondly call him, Smuthiah. Fascinating man he is too, as these two links will have shown you.

But back to Madras. I like the weather here for one thing. As it gets hotter I just shed a few more layers. I like the fact that it has the beaches. I like the two rivers, and I particularly enjoyed the idea of that silly Adyar being in spate next to our home recently. Walked down to look at the muddy, churning water and chuckled to myself. I'm fond of that damn nullah. I like the people here, all speaking in that language which is so familiar to the ear and yet which I can't follow. (It's worse in Bangalore, because there the script does the same thing to me as well!) I like the old buildings, I like wandering around Mylapore, even though they won't rent us non-vegetarian low-lives a place there. I like that cute Victoria Hall next to Central Station, and Fort St. George (shameless critter, aren't I?) and the Museum in Egmore. I am particularly fond of the vagaries of Moore Market where you get so many weird things, and the exhausting collection of Landmark, Nungambakkam, not to mention the cramped confines of the Giggles Bookshop in the Taj Connemara. Near my father's office at Parry's Corner, there's an MRT station, the Beach one I think it's called. It has an over-bridge where one can sit for hours just watching the world drift by.

Incidentally, talking about Giggles reminded me of Blossom's, Bangalore, where Vicky, Dhruba and I spent so many happy hours. Too bad we missed Select. This discerning gent writes of all three, I'm delighted to note.

I've only been here a few months, but when the parents moved down two and a half years ago, I already knew I would like the place. And I do, I really wish I could show you snapshots of all these places. Of the foreigners trying to feel at home in the lanes of the Boat Club Road, of the joyful expectancy that the East Coast Road invariably instills in me, of the bienvenue of Elliot's beach, of the possibility of going from Broadway to 'Paris' (Parry's) in one bus-ride. Of the temples constantly popping out at you from the centres of roads and the corners of innocuous-looking lanes.

I like almost every place I've been to, it's true, but Chennai seems to achieve the same affection I have for Calcutta. That awe and respect too. As a place it's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right. And I have had the time of my life.

For those who were confused by what I said about Tamil and Kannada being familiar yet unknown, I only meant that they both have this similarity with Telugu, which I can read and follow after a fashion.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Clumsy? Me?

Love's a mug's game, for those who luck out. No, but seriously. This is not a lover's rhapsody about Vicky and me. This is the one for the ones that didn't work out. And for the couple which came so close.

Everybody, guys, including lucky old me, falls for the inaccessible one. Happens at least once to us all. We can all live with it. I have, still do, and I think I'm happy with my life. Why doesn't anybody believe me when I say that's possible? Yeah, yeah, we all think our tragedies are the worst there have ever been. For us I'll say they are, too. But we all get by, dammit. What's so evil about the word 'compromise'?

I am sick of hearing about how tough it is to love somebody who is not free for you. I sympathise. But I also happen to believe there's a reason the lady is not free. Because -- and listen to me carefully as I say it out slowly and loudly -- it wouldn't have worked out. So S- marries a guy her well-wishers loathe (with reason) and I- can't convince her family to accept her man. So L- can't convince his girl to stay and N- can't work up the nerve to speak to the one he likes. I know that the important thing here is that all these people carry their own grief around. Well, so what??? Live with it. Try to remember that the ones who are already taken did their own choosing, and are probably content with their choice. And for heaven's sake, try to find some happiness/peace/contentment in that the object of your affection is happy, albeit somewhere else.

Yes, I'm mad. I know for myself how it hurts to love somebody you can't have. And I do try not to push the ones who are going through it. I know as well as anybody can know what it's like to lose, and I will not have mutton-headed idiots preach at me how not to hurt. I already know and I learnt it in the hardest school there is.

Yes, I'm angry and not a little hurt I was not credited with a bit more sense and tenderness.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Yah Boo to You, Too!

Vicky left tonight. After a week of such fun as we've had, it's a little daunting to think of a week's convalescence without him, but I guess I'll manage. Besides, something tells me, convalescence is not all about drives down to the beach and lying around in each other's arms and dancing around the city. Besides, I don't feel properly repentant about wrecking everybody's plans (and scaring them witless in the bargain) when he's here and being his usual charming self.

Aw, who am I kidding? I don't feel the teeniest bit repentant. I'm glad he came, even if it took the typhoid to get him here.

Oh, and he actually got me driving. I've driven around bits of the city -- the less crowded bits, and I admit I stayed off the main roads mostly -- but I do feel more confident than I did before. This afternoon I even went down to fill 'er up and actually parked Ally in her place in the garage. I haven't knocked into anything yet either. I suppose it's only a matter of time, but still, it's heartening to know the time hasn't come yet.

We had fun, the last one week. What with driving down to Elliot Beach, meeting the (IIT) guys even, meandering around Marina yesterday evening, buying silly things at the beachside stalls, braving the Christmas rush at Spencers' this evening in search of a pink Caddy, it's all been so cheering. I guess I got way more than I deserved, but it was nice being spoiled.

Oh, and hopefully the folks with taste (I don't refer to Vicky or my mother here) will be relieved to hear that the pink Caddy wasn't found. Instead, we bought a '31(?) Ford Pickup and a early '50s Studebaker in a beautiful sea-green with the dinkiest details inside. It was awfully cute, the way my 29-year-old stood at the counter trying out the steering wheels, opening bonnets and doors and trying to decide which model car he wanted while a line of little boys came to stare in wide-eyed wonder in front of him and all those cars laid out on the counter. And yes, he did press their horns and go "peep". I suppose I'm just marrying a great big baby, at that.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

All the love in the world is mine and it shows on my face. I know, because I saw it in the mirror.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Had a Ticket to Hell and Back

For those of you who’ve been wondering, hell is a hospital room. The one I went into, spent four days of the last one week in, was a large one by hospital standards, with its own attached bathroom. Had a geyser even. And it was filled with figures who came and poked needles into me at all hours, into all parts of my body. I spent my time being unable to talk, unable to eat, for the most part, unable to so much as enjoy a sip a of water. Everything in hell tastes uniformly bad, and there are peculiar smells that drive you crazy. Worst of all, there are windows showing you the outside world, where you see people walk about reveling in their freedom while you are a prisoner of your doctor’s dictates.

In other words, I am convalescing from a bout of typhoid. It is probably evident from my earlier post where I might have picked it up, and a week ago last Sunday, I succumbed to high fever and incredible abdominal agony. Poor Ma had the toughest time. It drove her nearly demented, trying to figure out how to bring down the fever, wondering what the stomach pain was all about. Baba took two days of it and then booked me into the hospital. I was subjected to a variety of tests, all of which came back clear (including for typhoid) but the symptoms point to typh anyway. I even got a nickname for it already. Cute.

It was horrible. But the hospital stay was probably worse than the illness. The constant injections, the foul drips. They made me feel even worse. The nurses were nice, but so confoundedly cow-handed with the needles. The doctor was a pleasant gent. Have to meet him again in a couple of days.

Ma has been such an absolute brick. Someday I want my kids to think of me the way I do of her, admiringly. My silliness has wrecked all her carefully laid plans and she has yet to utter a word of reproach. (Baba’s already had plenty to say, but when did he not?) And then, Vicky’s flown down for the week, and it’s nice having him here. He washed my hair this afternoon – in bed!! – and that one thing has made me more comfortable. I hated the dirty feel.

Incidentally, breaking news on the wedding front: V and I signed the registration papers and they’re on their way to the Cal registrar as I type. And cards, ours I mean, have been delivered, so V and I spent some time popping them into envelopes tonight. It's nice to have him around.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I've Been More Naughty Than Nice...

Am in a little bit of a mess, notwithstanding the optimism felt earlier in the day. Oh well, what the hell.

Yesterday H and I went out to see the Fort St. George Museum. After the usual changed plans and mix-ups we finally made it at 4 o' clock, only to find that the place was closed on Fridays. Had some of the excellent roadside coffee Madras has, to get over our disappointment, and then he offered to take me over to the other beach, newly developed, beyond Besant Nagar. It was a cold journey (although thoroughly enjoyable) and we were both chilled through by the time we reached. So we headed to the nearest restaurant and asked for hot stuff. Had some soup, but that didn't do the trick, so we asked for a quart each of brandy and vodka. He had the vodka and I finished the b with lots of hot water. I knew it was the cheap stuff but I didn't know just how awful those things could be. Well, I do now...

Thankfully H needed no explanations and brought me home straightaway, where I walked from the front door into bed without so much as stopping to change my damp kameez. The parents were nice about it, tucking me in with a hot water bottle and letting me sleep it off. They were even nice this morning, when Baba asked me what it was that I'd had. They aren't being nice any longer, although Baba's wrath seems to have taken the edge off Ma's anger. Ah well, I knew it would happen. Was expecting too much to think I could actually show up drunk in front of them and get away with it. Wish they’d blame me for my mistakes though. Nobody leads me anywhere, hasn’t for years.

Note to self: try not to think of offspring as children beyond their legal majority. They are not, nor do they act like it, and they certainly do not like being treated like it.

Further note to self: read these notes when offspring attain majority.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Chennai Routine

I never did write of my week in Cal. A packed one it was too. Well, what’s to say? When you stay with the (Sumit) Roys, things are usually fun. V’s ‘birthday’ sticks out. I’d promised him that we’d celebrate it this visit since we were in separate cities on the day itself. So we caught Goblet of Fire and then went down to Cakes on Rawdon St., where we polished off a pound of truffle cake between the two of us. We had quite an audience, ranging from a fascinated staff to a bawling kid who couldn’t believe our luck and didn’t want to.

And now I’ve been in Chennai for the best part of three weeks. Have been taking driving lessons, with indifferent success if you ask me. I daresay I’ll always be a nervous driver. Oh well, at least I have a car to drive. And a license to do so as well, yippee! Spent a few evenings happily drinking with the IIT crowd, some others just chatting over coffee at the beach. One time, Nancy and I went around with Curly and his father to buy a ‘fridge and washing machine for their new place. Have been reading some, focusing on Amanda Cross’ Kate Fansler mysteries, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Agatha Christies and Lemony Snickets. A nicely gory and depressing lot, very entertaining in this combination. Also read a collection of Roald Dahl’s short stories, come to think of it. I do like the Gymkhana Club library.

Have also been working frantically (at sporadic stretches, mais si!) on my embroidery. There is so much plain sewing to do too.

That’s my life now, at least for the next one week until Ma and I leave for Calcutta.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Writing Back?

A certain ‘friend’ has been nasty about my style of writing. Come to think of it, how do I write? At times I am quite stilted, at times a certain humour creeps in, but the latter usually happens more or less involuntarily. It’s a bit embarassing to admit it, but when I read certain passionate entries written in my diary at the high points of teenage angst, it requires a great deal of self control not to burst out laughing. I shall never be a dedicated, conscious humourist though,I fear.

In passing, may I add I strongly object to MS Word underlining in red the word “humour” each time I type it out. Twerp!

Baba and I discussed English and englishes this morning, over a delectable breakfast of Welsh rarebit, which in our household goes by the inelegant name of dim-alu-tomato. (For those who are out of this culinary loop, I’m talking of fried tomatoes, fried boiled potatoes and fried boiled eggs tossed together in a little oil, salted to taste. Magnificent recipe.) Anyway, so Baba and I were mounted on one of our favourite hobbyhorses, where he cringes at what passes for English these days and I tell him it’s the age of the englishes and that’s no bad thing either. For one thing, the day of ‘correct’ English as written by, say Nehru, is indeed over, seemingly in Britain too. But the englishes that have come up in its place, all the lingoes of the ex-colonials, the new colonizers (I refer to the Asian immigration invasion, as some are pleased to term it) and well, of the new generation, is so rich, so varied, so very densely packed with social, racial, political moment, it would be a shame to ignore it for an older and far less democratic lingua. Or so I feel. Baba does not agree.

He said, nowadays, very few writers use the old phraseologies, the little touches that made one’s writing more authentically English than one’s peers. To use, for instance “Don’t tell a soul” in favour of the “Don’t tell anybody” more commonly heard outside England. I myself would prefer to write in the language that allows the delightfully esoteric “Cover sale outside” (to indicate that envelopes are sold outside the post-office). This line is all but incomprehensible to a non-South Indian but to me its beauty lies in that, that to understand it one requires some knowledge of the land one is standing in, where envelopes and plastic bags are universally recognized as “covers”. If one's language does not reflect one's immediate surroundings, how authentic is it and if it is less than authentic, what claim can it lay to being heard?

I suppose we will agree to disagree. We’re from different worlds, he and I, although he heads the IT department of his company and I’m shocking my circle by getting married at the incredibly young (?) age of twenty-three.