Saturday, March 27, 2010

Around but not really

Rahul and I were travelling around Assam last week and this week I've been swamped with work up to my ears. Posting will resume once I resume breathing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Say My Name

Go on, speak it out aloud. Su-na-ya-na.

It's pronounced Soo-NA-e-na, focus on the second syllable and none on the third. I only spell it the way I do because my Bengali grandfather spelled it that way and a Bengali would pronounce my name Shoo-nau-yo-naa where the 'ya' is drawn out the wee-est bit.

A lot of non-Indians have this problem with pronouncing Sunayana, they simply don't know what to do with the 'ya'. I was reminded of it when I watched the Persian version of the BBC Blogworld Superpower show where they used clips from my video.

Now you know why Afee called me Sue all those years ago!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From Sunayana to Sue

My guest post for the BBC.


A lot of you like to speculate on my accent. Well, check it out on the video at the post. I'm embedding it here too for posterity.

Still Trying to Understand Why I Married Him

A conversation in the car:

Me: I think it's time Baba got over this peculiar guilt he feels towards you.

Vicky: What guilt?

Me: Oh, he feels that you didn't get anything when we got married, that I got all the jewellery and the trousseau and you only got the Mac and some model cars, even Ally* was secondhand and mine... I don't know why he persists with this because, really, he didn't get anything either when he got married and he's always been fine with that... Besides, you got me.

V: Maybe that's where the guilt arises.

*Ally is our car, a blue Alto I bought off Baba just before my marriage.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Of Viagra Cake and Lasting Colours

Last weekend was Holi, and like every year, we Bengalis celebrated a day ahead. So while the rest of the country made merry on Monday, getting a nice, long weekend, we ended our celebrations on Sunday evening and went around with pink faces and morose expressions all Monday. Excited chatter from friends celebrating in other parts of the country did not help.

On the other hand, the weekend was packed. Friday I put in my daily showing at that slave plantation that laughingly calls itself my agency (my boss reads the blog so I really couldn't resist, besides, he's being mean about my holiday next week) and I don't remember what I did on Friday evening so we'll let that pass but on Saturday the fun began. I finished my chores early and dressed the boy and self and took the Metro to office. I know, I know, it's my flexi day so I could have worked from home, but a colleague was kind enough to procure bhang for me so I needed to pick that up. Rahul was tremendously excited about visiting "Awphish", like always, and why not, given to him it's a place filled with kind friends and computers where he may watch videos and Babu even has crayons, paper and a little toy car stashed away in her cabinet for him...

It also happened to be the day my agency turned forty years old (which, if you ask me, is more than a little cool) so preparations were in full swing. I had to give the party a miss since I was supposed to meet Ma at Dakshinapan and in my hurry I left my phone in office. Rahul and I walked down to the tram tracks hoping to catch a ride but the one tram that did appear refused to stop for us, much to a Very Little Boy's disappointment. I'm afraid he took it a bit personally. Anyway, so we hopped into a despised auto (what's three wheels when you could be riding in almost a 'twain'!) and got off at Park Circus. Since we were running quite late and it was past lunchtime for Rahul, I actually had the temerity to stick him into a cab (a mere car!) and promptly had to deal with a royal tantrum.

Luckily, Ma was easily found in Dakshinapan (there's a coin operated payphone cunningly hidden behind a pillar from where I called Vicky and asked him to beep the mater) and then we started on our grand curtain hunting expedition. It will surprise nobody who knows us two that we managed to buy several cut pieces, five sarees, a greeting card, two dolls and a keyring before we even entered the curtain shops. And then we broke for lunch, deciding Vicky could jolly well bring us some cash while we recuperated our strength. In exchange, we fed him the leftovers of our lunch. We are pretty nice to husbands in my family.

No curtains were bought that afternoon but we did land a gorgeous crochet and kalamkari bedspread (alternating diamonds and a deep lace border) with matching pillowcases. That will be my final gift to the Aged Rs for the year. I think I've been far too nice to them already and it's only March. (I plan to hijack the bedspread after she's used it once, but don't tell that.)

Rahul went off to Murramudi (you know it as Moore Avenue) with Ma and V while I slept. And woke up panicking because we were running late for our dinner invitation. It took another hour for us to pack our kits and leave home (it was to be a sleepover) and then we had to go to Tollygunge to pick R up. Since our dinner was at Rajarhat, this did not have a happy effect on my temper. Ally's horn had stopped working some days previously and that added anxiety to my irritation. All in all, I was set for a great evening.

It was 9 pm by the time we reached Rajarhat. I hadn't had the time to bake the cake I'd thought to take over, so I'd brought over the pre-measured ingredients, my silicone pan and the hand mixer. I'd figured it would be a piece of cake (aaargh) but that's before I discovered that Nilu and Shoma weren't sure of the settings on their microwave... the cake came out overdone and with a raised centre. The centre had actually lifted itself up and stayed that way. I half-heartedly cut it into wedges and now I know I shouldn't have: Nilu took one look at it and said the wedges looked like "ashi bochhorer buro Viagra kheyechhe." I don't really want to translate that but it roughly means that the slices looked like, um, an 80 yr old trying out Viagra. You get the picture.

Shoma's brother and sister-in-law had come over and we had a great time chatting. I was out early (midnight) because I was so tired from all the running around I'd done all day but the boys were still chatting at 4am when I woke up.

The upshot of it all was I was up, bright as a button, at 6 and had nothing to do, so I scrubbed Shoma's bathroom for her. I know, I know, I'm weird, but I'd have scrubbed mine if I'd been home and Shoma's an accomodating hostess in these matters.

Eventually we went up to the terrace to play Holi well into the morning. It was great fun. For once both Vicky and I forgot our ashaj and played and Rahul spent the whole time with his two wee hands stuck into the bucket of coloured water. He could not believe his luck, that not only was he allowed to do this but that he was actually encouraged! He did not think much of the abir (coloured powder) business, complaining that we were making him dirty, but oh, the joy on his face as he sat with all that water... he filled up his little "phishkiri" (phichkiri, a little bottle for squirting coloured water) and emptied it right back into the bucket so as not to waste it on people. We all got thoroughly coloured and the guys got well and buzzed on the seriously loaded thandai. The bhang in it caught up with Vicky soon enough, to his bemusement, so he and Shoma's brother slept it off while Nilu, Shoma and Shoma's boudi made lunch (mutton curry and rice, as different from the chicken curry and rice of the night before).

Shoma's boudi taught us a neat totka to help us get all that colour off our bodies: you make a paste of haldi (turmeric), besan (chickpea flour) and milk and smear it on yourself and let it dry. Then you rub it off in circular motions and bathe as usual. Worked really well. If you don't have besan handy you can use atta (wheat flour) as well.

After a late lunch a buzzed Vicky, a nap-refreshed Rahul and an amused I went to visit Li'lpet and her parents. We ended up spending the whole evening with the, watching the kids play and chatting among ourselves. Dinner was some lovely, light homemade pizza by Payal (Li'lpet's mum). Turns out all around us are kids the same age as ours who can write and recite and what not, while our little illiterates barely know the alphabet. OK, to be honest, Rahul doesn't even know that but he is rather fond of saying "E for W" and that's a start innit. I mean, there is a vowel and a consonant right there if you look properly. Anyway, so we felt properly proud of our brats and figured that they'd lose nothing by learning this sort of shit six months later or whenever it is that they do learnt the stuff.

Drove back home late, past 9.30 pm and got a bit psyched by the psychos on the bypass. If you remember, Ally's horn still wasn't working. Got back home, tucked the boys into bed and waited for Dana and Shuki to come over. After they got here, the three of us sat around chatting till 4 am over homemade strawberry ice cream and bhang (If you've never had bhang with ice cream, you should. Beats thandai, in my opinion.) Such a lovely Holi it turned out to be. Especially since Shuki gave Dana and me head massages with hair oil. Awesome stuff and it got a great deal of the colour out of my hair at last.

Of course, to make life even more interesting, the next night (Mon) Shuki and I tried to catch the 11.30 show of Karthik Calling Karthik only to be told once we were parked and inside South City that the show'd been cancelled. So we checked out the 'new' 24 hour place at Chrome called Nosh. Decent coffee. And sat around chatting and drove around chatting and chatted some more sitting in the car in front of her house. I regaled her with horror stories from children's birthday parties and we morosely compared notes on buying flats.

A good weekend. A rough week followed, with all kinds of appliances giving notice and me PMSing or something, basically I was tetchy and a pain to live with. On Thursday night Vicky and I went to dinner at the new Taaja, called Bibi of Taaja's and located at Dhakuria. The paella was good but not exquisite like it used to be. When held up against the raised prices it didn't seem value for money, really, and that's a pity given the proximity to our home. But we had fun the two of us, holding hands and crossing the street. It's been a while since we went out to dinner like that.

I leave you with a photograph of Rahul coming home from school the Friday before Holi. He was most indignant that his "Aaantie" (teacher) had 'dirtied' him.

We are still faintly pink all over but less so than before, thank god.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

K-k-k Kreative Me!

A long, long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away, of course) Kiran Manral passed me this cute blog tag, for "boundless creativity and generosity" as she put it.

It took me quite a while (several months, I believe) to stop goggling because, really, creativity isn't my strong suit except when it comes to alibis and yet, if milady sees it in me, who am I to disagree?

So thank you, Kiran, I love how this quilt-y looking badge makes me think of my recent art projects.

I am no longer sure what else I was supposed to do when I got this award but I see Usha mentioned some hitherto unknown facts about herself, so here goes nothing:

1. I'm dead scared of posting wishlists on this blog. MM and Sole Vita both picked on an old list I once made (no, I'm too embarrassed to link to it ever again) and sent me lovely stuff and you know, it's such a sweet thing to do, it still makes me blush just thinking of it. And here you were thinking nothing could achieve that.

2. I love meeting friends over good food but I invariably grumble beforehand about having to socialise. That's not because I don't like my circles but because I'm a lazy bum.

3. Paperwork petrifies me. It scares me, really, and puts me on edge. I hate dealing with it.

4. I like being called khurima/jethima/mashi/mami, whatever. I don't find it aging, I find it cute.

5. I swing in continuing circles from obsessively self-disciplined to slobbishly lackadaisical.

In turn I pass the badge on to

Sailu, for maintaining and constantly bettering a damn good site.
Itchy, for the variety she keeps bringing into her life.
Debo for her painting posts. Also because I'm open to bribery to get her to paint me something.
Priyanka and Saya for their cookery blogs -- blog long and prosper, my children.
And let's have an honorary mention for Jammie's Boy here, just for this instance of kreativity.

Here are the rules of the award:
1. The winner features the badge on her blog, linking to the person who passed it on.
2. Nominate 5 other blogs and link to them.
3. Leave a message for your nominees.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Sunny Days on BBC, Actually

The BBC Blogworld has featured this blog. Is that cool or is that cool?

You know what this means, don't you? It means I think you guys are the coolest readers ever. Thank you.

The 'actually' comes from the Sharabh Niyogy. He has begun to sprinkle it into his conversations. Whatever next...


For over a week in January I wasn't wearing my wedding ring. I've put on a bit of weight this winter and the ring feels uncomfortably tight. I vaguely remember taking it off at some point and forgetting to wear it until the week after.

It should have been a big deal but somehow, it wasn't.

Symbols are a big deal to me or so I always thought. I tend to go deeply into the symbolic aspect of words, deeds, actions and objects, convinced that there must be more to them than is revealed superficially.

When I got married four years ago, I took the symbols of the married state very seriously. So I set my shankha-pola (bangles of conchshell and red coral, respectively) aside so they did not break within the first year (a bad omen), I allowed my beloved wedding saree to be packed away in safety away from me so that it should not be damaged in the first year (another bad omen), I didn't wear black and I did wear my ring and loha (bangle of iron) on my left hand. When I was furious with Vicky in that first one year I threw his ring and bangle in his face, renouncing him and the marriage in my characteristically subtle, tactful and understated manner. Because those symbols meant so much to me.

Even now, when I wear sindoor in my forehead and slip my shankha-pola onto my wrists, I do feel a sense of being married that seems to add an extra shine to my day. But I no longer feel that way about my toe-rings and now I find I no longer feel like I'm doing something wickedly satisfying when I take my wedding ring or loha off. I tend to not take my loha off because I've gotten attached to it like I was once attached to my childhood loha, holding it when scared at night, considering it a blessed protection like an amulet (I scorn amulets by the way but I've never claimed to be consistent) and yet, I no longer instinctively feel like I'm putting Vicky's life in danger by going around unadorned "like a widow".

In my late teens and early twenties I found myself consciously rejecting many superstitions and mini rituals that I had picked up as a kid, refusing to believe in something that didn't make sense to me. When I got married I fell for a bunch of new beliefs -- it's hard not to when you feel like somebody out of a novel, when you see an unfamiliarly beautiful bride looking back at you from the mirror: something changes irretrieveably or so I felt then. Now, without thinking about it, without realising it, I've lost the need for these particular symbols. I don't need my shankha to break while I'm flirting with danger to realise I need to get back to my own home and husband. I don't need the dimaond winking on my finger to remind me that I have duties to fulfil today. And I don't need the sindoor in my hair to feel a bond that only death can break.

I don't know when this happened, but at some point in the last four years I've stopped needing these external reminders of marriage. I feel a wife and a mother and a daughter-in-law and a married daughter, I no longer feel like Sunayana Roy, swinging single. What is somewhat more disconcerting, this change actually feels right.

And yet, I don't discard all superstition. Some, like wearing not black to auspicious events I do follow and make Vicky and Rahul follow too. That is not because I think I shall bring bad luck to the occasion if I were to turn up in black but because I know many people don't like it and we have enough formal clothes to be able to avoid black at weddings, pujas and so on. I daresay nobody will actually complain if I do wear black but it costs me nothing to avoid it and I know some of the older people do take note of these things, so I don't mind.

Another little habit I was taught by Mejopishi is not precisely a superstition but I do make a point of it: she taught me to wear little sindoor and very discreetly at that to houses where women have just lost their husbands. I don't think any widow would take umbrage at a headful of red on me and yet, I think it's one little way of showing your solidarity, of not rubbing in their loss. Just one of those discreet things like not wearing too much jewellery or a bright saree.

It's a funny line to walk, clinging on certain superstitions and discarding others -- all for no particular reason. I'm aware that many friends find these habits laughable and pointless especially given my esoteric choice of which to retain and which to discard, but I find myself following this code of conduct by choice, because it makes sense to me. So, I wear my wedding ring because it reminds me of Vicky when I am aware of it but I freely confess I'm glad I no longer feel like I'm gambling with his life should I take it off and forget to replace it on my finger!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

This Is The Way We...

... er, progress down the path.

First we run.

Then we fall behind.

Then, when an exasperated Jimmashi tries to pull us onwards we grab Giga's hand too...

... and launch ourselves upwards...

... and away!

Walking down to the car park after a lovely lunch at Park Baluchi in the Deer Park in Delhi.