Thursday, October 28, 2010

By The Water Cooler

It’s time for Parul to pop out her second (book) and while I’m willing to bet there’s no way it’s going to outdo her other second (baby) I’m also willing to put my money where my mouth is. That is, I mean to buy her book because dudes, I really enjoyed the first one. On the other hand, why buy if you can get for free, right, so here I am zooming in with my entry for her ‘By The Water Cooler Contest’. Autographed copies for prizes, woot!

Now, I don’t have very many funny work tales which is weird because I have worked in some seriously funny setups. I have worked, for instance, in a call centre, and I have even worked as a caller but instead of offering credit cards or free holidays, I was performing in a play.

This play, Call Cutta, had us in a large room of a busy call centre. We worked mainly European hours since our audience was mainly in Europe (both version 1 from 2005 and version 2 from 2007). The idea was of a ‘call centre worker’ (us) talking over Skype to a theatregoer (them in Europe). Unlike them though we ‘chatted’ from a script and while variations were welcome, major deviations were not.

This format led to a wide variety of experiences and some degree of generalisation. For example, I found the people of Hamburg mostly dull and those of South Korea glued to their other, actual phones to the exclusion of the show they were paying to experience. Belgians were fun but not so much the Parisians. The people in Zurich, mostly an older lot, were interesting and fascinating in how they took for granted that machinery and systems would work, that life would not, at the slightest chance, tumble into inchoate disorder – I, living in India, have no such conviction at all!

Mexicans were incomprehensible but enthusiastic while the people of Berlin were wistful and demanding in turns. Copenhagen turned up fun ‘customers’ but I can’t tell you about the Irish voices from Dublin because I went on holiday and missed that month. The people of Helsinki were, for some strange reason, frequently quite scared of us. This despite me promising not to sell them any credit cards or holidays.

Obviously, these are broad brush strokes and there were plenty of people who stood out for various reasons, not least being that they didn’t conform to the generalisations. There was, for instance, Axel the Brazilian with whom I naturally discussed Guns’n’Roses; Frank from Switzerland who started the show with a yodel (Judihui!) and later sent my teddy bear a teddy bear by mail; then there were the Hindi film fans merrily chattering about Shah Rukh Khan; the girl who wept on hearing me sing 'Waqt ne kiya'; and the guy who grew his own marijuana and told me about the care needed for the plants.

It was fascinating work, not least being the water cooler aspect of things. For one thing, in version 1 we had the room to ourselves but no bathroom. So we had to pop downstairs to the call centre/office whenever we needed to use the loo, which could be quite the problem when one had only a couple of minutes free.

In version 2 we shared an office space with people to whom we seemed to be slightly more exotic than a bunch of Vulcans. I could see why they would think so… version 2 ended with us dancing to Hindi film songs on video chat and I clearly remember a hush falling over this huge room in the early days as telemarketers stopped mid-sentence to gape at the sight of us swaying in front of our monitors.

What with one thing and another, perhaps you can understand why I find my current job at the ad agency rather humdrum. Advertising has its moments but nothing beats directing a bunch of strangers down unknown roads in another continent only to have them confuse their rights and lefts and end up anywhere except where you wanted them to go.

So, anyway, that’s my entry. You can read more here. And if you’re planning to write too, please remember that the contest ends on 31 October. That is this Sunday, folks.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Art of the Metaphorical Insult

Li'lpet, the 4 year old Suzie Derkins to Rahul's Calvin, mostly manages to wind Suhrid, her father, quite easily around her little finger. But every now and then Suhrid feels the need to Take a Stand and accordingly, tries to do so.

Recently he felt such a need and told her categorically that she couldn't have her way because he was bigger. Unable to fault the awful logic of this, Li'lpet stomped away in a fury.

Just as Suhrid was starting to breathe again, about to congratulate himself on a job well done, she stomped back up to him, pointed a quivering finger in his face and said, in ringing tones, "Tui Made in China!"

(You are Made in China.)

You may have heard a more inventive, comprehensive and altogether wittier insult.

I have not.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Happy birthday to the Ace!

When this post goes up, with any luck we'll be rounding off an all-nighter, our biggest party in a very long time.

Moore Avenue was free of all inhabitants this weekend, so Vicky celebrated his 34th birthday with a rooftop party there.

Hope you had a good one, Joe, and here's to many more such celebrations.


P. S.
Here's a bit of advice: LISTEN TO YOUR WIFE. It will make your life immeasurably easier. Because, dude, she's always right. And when she isn't, she's still more likely to be right than any silly husband of hers.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

When the child was born

... if anybody had asked me if I knew quite what a cartoon he would grow to be, I would probably have said yes. However, I don't think one can ever anticipate such heights of hilarity as he reaches with alarming frequency.

What they are doing in Vizag


Why The Boy Does Not Miss Home Or His Parents

I got a call from Ma this morning, in which she related a monologue by Pintsize:

Amra aajke kothaye jachchhi?

[no response from fagged audience]

Oh, amra kothha-u jachhi na? Amra aajke haan korey baritey boshey thakbo?


Where are we going today?

[no response from fagged audience]

Oh, we aren't going anywhere? Are we going to sit and stare at the walls today, then?

Of course, you need to hear him say it in his own, inimitable, utterly charming way. He had no real fault with the programme outlined above, merely wished to know if that was the plan.

Heaven help us when the little gadabout returns.

I read my horoscope as I eat a chicken roll for lunch

It is about time that you cultivated healthy eating habits [...] Eat vegetables or salad for a healthy lifestyle, suggests Ganesha.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Wear a Saree – Madisar, Iyer Kattu

First off, do you have a madisar? A madisar or madisaar is a Tamilian saree that’s about 9 yards (as compared to a normal 6 yard saree). You can only try this drape with cloth that long. There are many tucks in this drape and it took me several trials before I remembered them all, but once I understood the logic behind them, it wasn’t that difficult. I learnt it from an aunty who is a Palakkad Iyer so for all I know it is not quite what your grandmother wears.

Now, let’s start.

Wear your blouse and skip the petticoat &/or panties. You won’t need ‘em with all that cloth around you.

Take the non-pallu end of the madisar and make 8-10 3” wide pleats in your left hand. Shake the saree out as you go to ensure that the pleats go down to your ankles. Pleats can be more or fewer depending on body types, so I suggest you try 8 to start with.

Take the pleats in your left hand behind you to your left butt and turn slowly while guiding the saree with your right hand to make this circle:
left butt -> under left arm -> across midriff -> under right arm -> across back (over the pleats; pull the pleats out a bit over the new circle to keep them in place) -> under left arm -> navel.

Your grandmothers didn’t turn in circles but turning is easier to describe! (I stand and turn the saree around me.)

NOTE: In this step, if you look at your ankles, you should see the reverse side of the zari. Ensure this is so when you place the pleats at your left butt. If it doesn’t happen, you’ve pleated the wrong tip of the non-pallu end and need to fix it now. As you will discover, I do it a lot!

Tie a knot at the navel, with the long, long free end and a bit of the circle that you gently tweak loose.

Tuck a bit of the saree under your right heel and make sure you don’t let this go until your drape is completed. If you let it go then the drape reveals an unseemly degree of leg!

Now, cross a few inches of the saree to your right and tuck beside the knot.

Stick your left hand under all that material flowing towards your left, maybe 6-8” from the far border and make a wee ‘tip’.

Pick up that tip – no need to turn the saree – and tuck it to your left, beside the knot. The saree border, which has been horizontal all this time, is now mostly vertical and there is a U-shaped bunching below your tummy.

Now gather that material flowing down firmly in your right hand – keep those pesky left butt pleats out of the way with your left hand – and send all that material between your legs to your back.

I’m holding the left butt pleats with my left hand and the cloth I just sent between my legs is in my right hand. My right heel holds the saree down and the pleats at the left ankle hang free.

Tuck in as tightly as you can at your spine and use as much as you like, say 6-8” of cloth.

Now, at your back, using your right hand, pull a bit of the border to your right hip and make a small tuck. The border returns to horizontal.

Ease it back over your butt to finally bring it out front under your left arm. Cross it over your front (l -> r) to cover that U-shaped swathe you made when you sent the cloth between your legs.

In the photo I’m making small horizontal pleats to narrow the saree at my left so that it hangs above my left knee for easier movement.

The border will be the right way out now. (The photo above shows the wrong side because I had made a mistake in the drape. Went back and corrected it but forgot to photograph that particular stage!)

Now, send what remains of the saree under right arm -> across your back -> under left arm -> over your chest.

You need to have a little more material behind your shoulder than I do here. Also, note that the material needs to be higher over my left knee for free movement.

Bring the saree across your back (r -> l) -> under left arm and tuck at right hip keeping the border horizontal and displaying the pallu to best advantage. I ran a leetle short of cloth as you can see.

To end, curve the left butt pleats (remember those?) into the left 'leg' created by the drape, to cover most of the left ankle. Check to make sure that the portion of the saree that went between your legs is visible neither from the front nor the back -- showing it is considered indecent.

And that's it. Go show off to your grandmother. And if you need to use the bathroom you'll find that the cloth parts quite conveniently.

This post comes with apologies to SM for not being up last week – things were quite, quite mad here. In a nice way, I hasten to add.

M says

Wanted to add - if you're over 5'6" tall or built on er, generous lines, you can get special 10 yard saris. Secondly, for taller/heavier women the amt you tuck in the back (6-8" recommended in this post) - makes a big difference. Experiment with as little as you can get away with. For taller women, since you're tucking in less material, you may want to tie a nada around your waist as an added assist for tucking stability.

Reva recommends the nada too. I haven't found it necessary myself but I haven't worn a madisar for more than a couple of hours ever.

Also, Boo suggests short tights (cycling shorts) underneath the madisar for, um, modesty, should certain people worry about being left drowning chaddi-less in a sea of saree.

Instructions for the old-fashioned Bengali drape are available here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Rahul went to Vizag with my parents and brother a week ago and will only be back for Kali Pujo. He's driving them batty in his own inimitable way... here's a sample:

Diddi, tumi o-dikey takao tahole ami dushtumi korle tumi dekhtey parbey na.

Diddi, if you look that way then you can't see me if I happen to be naughty.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Fourth Birthday

Rahul celebrated his fourth birthday a day early with a wee banana cake for him to cut at school and cupcakes and cheese straws from Cal Club and orange Tang (courtesy Dadu) for his classmates in lieu of goodie bags. Baking the wee cake was rather traumatic what with a series of oven disasters (that YFMY, I tell you!) but his teachers were kind enough to say it tasted good. Here it is, before and after a coat of supremely garish yellow icing. He had four little racecars for candleholders alongside but I don't have any photographs of all that because it happened at school.

He celebrated once more with an insect-themed party on that Saturday morning. I had a great time looking up ideas on the 'net and even managed to implement a few. Vicky, on some coaxing, designed invitation cards (soft as well as hard versions) that were duly sent out to friends and classmates. The work is all his, including the funny, apt lines.

He also designed placemats as a return gift for each child, an idea of Aunty Kiran's that gelled rather well with the spoons that Giga had bought for this express purpose last December!

Before gift wrapping and packing in homemade newspaper bags, I taped a spoon and some 3D insect stickers on to each mat. What I really liked was how Vicky managed to fit in the story as well as most of the pertinent pictures from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book that has been a huge favourite of Rahul's ever since Aunty Cee sent it to him two years (?) ago.

Not all the invitees turned up but the ones who did managed to fill our small flat to bursting. From grandparents

to the mama (my brother)

to people like Dipali, Evie and M4 with her duo. (No pics for privacy reasons, I'm afraid.) Ratul brought his mum and charmed the company, as he did the last year. I have no idea how any child of Dr D's can be quite so beautiful. All credit can and does go to Mrs Dr D.

To Rahul's intense excitement, Chinkydidi came along. Unfortunately, his excitement precluded him from wanting to be photographed. After all, all these kids were playing with his toys. Not the time for posing with mothers!

I'd settled for a 2 hour party from 11 am to 1 pm. Around noon almost everybody had come -- Taishan and his folks came late and I can't find any photographs of them or of "Sheejan", Rahul's very best friend from school who turned up with his grandfather despite not being very well and whose appearance was greeted with even more excitement than before, ending with Rahul lying flat on the ground from sheer euphoria -- and by then everybody had had some tea/coffee. So I started herding them towards the cake.

Kim the Caterpillar was made for me by my mother and aunts for my 6 or 7th birthday. Ma managed to actually dig her cookbook out in time for me to figure out how to replicate their efforts. It's not a patch on the original but I thought she looked rather nice, all the same. You can see the step-by-step creation here. Two ring cakes (sponge bundts) sliced in half and aranged in a wave, then iced with buttercream in sections and decorated with biscuits and Gems.

To the right are the candy snakes I saw by chance at the mall. Guess who loved them the most? Dipali and Evie! Rahul spent much of the first hour trying to sneak off with one. I told him he had to wait until his guests arrived so the appearance of almost every guest needed a fresh explanation as to why he couldn't have them just yet!

There were also egg and lettuce sandwiches made by my mum, mac'n'cheese, 'worm cakes' with honey (buttermilk pancakes piped into worm shapes, with raisin eyes), popcorn, tutti frutti ice cream (Rahul fell in love with 'orange' ice cream in Shillong), chicken patties and mushroom-corn cups from Cal Club and apple juice, orange Tang and lemonade. The idea was to arrange the sandwiches as butterflies and macaroni is known as pasta poka (pasta insects) in the house but I ran out of enthu.

I loved how all the kids got together and blew the candles out. As a kid I remember all of us being rather proprietal towards this part of our respective parties.

I was a bit worried as to whether M4's EO and Chinky would not find the party a bit childish what with me not providing any games or anything, but they seemed to have a merry old time with the toys. EO charmed the old Thomas the Tank Engine set out of me and even got me to give him permission to paint my fridge!

He extended his painting skills, this time with actual paint and not just water, to the box -- but I drew the line when he asked if he could paint his younger brother! It was a great party and Rahul got lovely gifts, all of them. Thank you guys for making it so much fun and thank you Evie and Dipali for the photographs. :) Oh, and Vicky, thanks for all the unwilling Photoshopping.

When Pintsize is away

... first the mother goes all damp-eyed and stifled sob-ey at Howrah Station.

Then she parties all night.

Then she goes into deep, deep depression for the next four days, emerging only when Sir Beq in shining red cloth comes marching up and scolds her and mocks her until she snaps out of it.

Then she ignores the silence in the house and decides to blog again.

Then she goes to meet Ratul-boy and cuddles him and tickles him and makes him giggle and starts missing Pintsize all over again.


On the other hand, this I suppose is the ideal time to tackle the house. I'll do that. Eventually. Also, great time for sex and late night socialising.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


I did a lot of cool things last month. Apart from wearing teeny dresses to children's parties, I mean.

One of these was learning to wear a madisaar from a friendly neighbour. I was thinking about blogging the method but given the time-consuming photographic session that will be required, I'm asking you, is anybody really interested? If you are, please let me know. My post on wearing a saree shadharon bhabhey probably gets the most hits on this blog, even overtaking the Survival Guide for DILs. Hence my indecision.

Are you ever likely to want to drape a nine-yarder, huh?

*That* Mother

When we were in high school we were all deliciously scandalised, albeit mildly, at hearing of a classmate's mother who wore jeans -- jeans -- around town.

Now I'm the mother who hosts parties for pre-schoolers in a deep-necked, strappy, short little number, to the consternation of various grandparents.