Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Notice: Contest Winners Announced

Winners of The Four Fountains Spa gift voucher contest have been announced. Please check the post for names.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Should Have

1. Had Rahul later.

2. NEVER allowed Vicky to convince me to move in with his parents.

3. Trusted my own judgment a great deal more.

4. Learnt to cook when I was younger.

5. Stayed in the workforce whether I liked it or not.

6. Gone for my singing classes.

I am glad though that I

1. Do have Rahul.

2. Don't have to deal directly with my mother-in-law or brother-in-law any more.

3. Am trusting my judgment now.

4. Am learning to cook and bake.

5. Worked in some way every single month, whether paid or volunteered.

6. Still have a voice I'm not ashamed to raise in public.

In future I plan to trust my judgment even more. If I think somebody is lying, odds are I'm right. If I think somebody needs me, I should go to them no matter what they indicate. If I think something or somebody is a lost cause, I will give them up like I want to. If I think I'm jobless I will find myself work or know the reason why.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pujo 2012

Pujo was something of a damp squib last year. I don't have a single nice photograph from then and offhand I cannot remember too many happy memories either. I had promised myself to do it better this year. Rahul stayed with us for a change and we move house after Pujo this year, not just before.

It started off quietly. A Panchami lunch at the newly opened Wasabi on the Prince Anwar Shah Connector (the food was decent, service more enthusiastic than efficient), another on Shashti at the Jimmy's Kitchen at Landmark. On Shashti evening Vicky and Rahul walked down to the Kalitala Sporting Club pujo behind our home to see the lights. I had sewed my mekhla-sador from our Assam trip all afternoon, so I put it on and went to meet them there. Seeing the crowds and hearing the bheNpoos finally made me feel more the thing. Rahul and I returned home so he could eat his dinner (homemade pasta in cheese sauce) and then we took an auto to Selimpur where we had ice cream, soft drinks and ghugni and chatted with Kaka and Tinku.

On Saptami evening the three of us drove down to Triangular Park. I wore a pista green saree with a matching cotton halterneck blouse from an earlier Pujo. We parked Ally right in front of the mela entrance and Rahul and Vicky had a ride on the 'dragon boat'. We walked down to Panditiya where we saw a couple of pandels including the Tibetan show on Manohar Pukur Road. Thanks to my Gourangamama we had VIP passes to this one and Deshapriya Park. Rahul got his introduction to ice gola at Deshapriya Park. He loves ice lollies and now loves these too. We ate Sweetmoon Bakeshop apple cake and chilli chocolate mousse at Ta'aam before heading back to the Traingular Park mela so that Rahul could ride on the car rides. We were home before 10 pm and in fact, the Pujo traffic was kind to us.

Early on Ashtami morning Rahul and I drove down to Kumartuli to see pandels there with Dana, Katy and Sumit. We had a fun morning wandering up and down Kumartuli and Sobhabazar. We got home around half past eight and after breakfast (dosa-podi for me, cheese dosa for him) and some R&R we went to Lake Gardens around 11 am for the anjali. He participated in his first anjali too, and not surprisingly, spent most of the prayer time keeping an eye out for his friend Zubin and another one on a cat in the vicinity. Oh and he also tried to filch some of the flowers to take home. I wore my Kerala set saree to the anjali, with my gold chandelier earrings from, where else, Kerala Jewellers.

We picked up chilli chicken and fried rice from Annapurna (oh how I miss the takeout of Lake Gardens). We both napped that afternoon because the evening promised to go on till late too. We were invited to dinner at DrD's. Rahul and I drove down earlier, before 8. Vicky had work and would join us later. Manashi and I walked down to the Golf Green Phase II pandel (fascinating work and atmosphere). We returned with popcorn and candyfloss for the four kids back home -- Rahul, Ratul, Chinky and Amrita, daughter of friends of theirs. It was well past midnight and after an evening of starters, biriyani, beer and wine, I finally drove us home. It was a nicer evening than I'd hoped for and for once I spent more time with the adults than the kids.

Nabami was quieter, as we recovered from all the partying. Rahul and I took a bus down to Selimpur and Jodhpur Park in the evening. We saw the lights and he had a mango ice lolly as well as an orange gola while I picked up momos and chowmein for dinner. The crowds were scary so we soon headed back home. In the wee hours though, Shuki (back from her holiday) and Dana and I met up to go pandel-hopping. We drove through Bhowanipore, chatted over tea at the new coffeeshop in front of the Mudiali pandel and stopped at the beautiful Kerala temple at Bangur Park before going home as the sky lightened. I stayed up to bake brownies for Vicky -- it's his birthday today on Dashami -- and let the maid in.

Dashami has been quiet. I didn't go for sindoor-khela this year either. I no longer feel like I belong there. I made spaghetti with meat sauce for lunch and threw together things from the freezer for dinner. My tiredness caught up with me so I spent the day napping intermittently and alternately teasing and cuddling Rahul.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cheap Thrills

Here on the Bypass the nights have turned chilly.

As Rahul snuggled into bed I suggested that tonight we could do something fun -- instead of me reading him his bedtime story, how about we call his Dadu (my father) and have him do the honours?

He turned the offer down without hesitation, even though Dadu is known to tell quite satisfactory stories, filled with dragons and dinosaurs and all kinds of monsters and vehicles and other such things calculated to give a little boy exciting dreams.

As he put it, "Dadu's stories are not as good as yours. Your stories are fantastic."

I know it's a cheap thrill but I'll take what I can get. As it is I barely restrained the urge to call my father and gloat.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wallowing in Luxury -- Maybe You Can Too

Scroll to the bottom of this post for the names of contest winners.

Last Tuesday afternoon I had an invitation to treat myself to a therapy at The Four Fountains Spa on Theatre Road (Shakespeare Sarani) courtesy their publicity department. I was ambivalent about taking up the offer because I do not usually write such reviews, and when I asked around I found Kiran had also received a similar invitation in the past which never actually materialised. However, curiosity got the better of the Sue and last Tuesday saw me walking into their little office.

I was made welcome by the charming Sylvia who had also called ahead to confirm my appointment and give me directions. She explained my options, had somebody bring me a welcoming glass of water and then introduced me to my therapist, Shanti, who looked as calm and soothing as her name. The people at Four Fountains apear to take their aim of de-stressing and relaxation very seriously because the staff makes it a point to appear soothing and the ambience, with the smell of lemongrass in the air, makes you feel calmer as you step in.

I asked for the Bastar Mitti Body Wrap. I was taken up to a little air-conditioned room called Peace (I think) prettily done up in brown and gold and beige. I wish I had a photo of it to show you guys but you’ll get an idea from their website.

Shanti offered me a set of disposable underwear and left me to change. She came back with a bowl of heavy jasmine oil and a lot of sea salt. She then proceeded to use a combination of the two to literally polish my entire body, front and back. Polish me like I was a beloved piece of antique furniture.

You learn something new every day. That day I learnt having my tummy and soles polished makes me squirm with laughter – it tickles!

After a good half hour of being ruthlessly rubbed I was sent for a shower and a change of clothes in the tiny attached bathroom while Shanti quickly prepared the room for the next part of the therapy. I showered off all that salt and oil with plentiful hot water and bath gel.

I returned to the bed, now covered by a large sheet of plastic, and had a cold mud pack slathered all over me. Shanti then tucked me up in that sheet of plastic, much as I once swaddled a baby Bhablet, covered me with a large bathing towel for extra warmth and marginal respectability I imagine, placed cotton pads soaked in rosewater or some such thing over my eyes, and left me to stew for the next 20 minutes. This part was less enjoyable because the plastic was itchy and I soon got annoyed with the pads over my eyes and had to blink them away. I sent a mental apology to my son for doing similar things to him when he was a baby.

When I was about ready to get off the bed, plastic and all, Shanti returned and liberated me. Another shower, a return to my own clothes, liberal moisturisation and I felt like a newly minted me. No exaggeration.

When I went downstairs once more Sylvia at the reception offered me a cup of green tea while she took me through a questionnaire designed to work out my stress levels. She also gave me some discount coupons for nearby coffeeshops as I left.

What I really liked:
1. The courtesy of the staff. They appeared to treat all visitors with equal warmth and attention. Shanti and Sylvia in particular were both very comfortable to deal with. At no point was I hurried or nudged into something I did not want.

2. The ambience. From the colour scheme to the well-appointed rooms to the plentiful toiletries and thick towel, everything spelled comfort.

What I did not enjoy:
1. My bathroom was a tiny space, set up so that I had to bathe standing against the frosted glass door with the light on me. Since Shanti cleared the room as I showered, this made me rather uncomfortable. A partially opaque door would solve the problem, or a realignment of the shower space.

2. That plastic wrap. It was stiff and itchy.

Now that you’ve read my story, here’s a chance to win a free therapy of your own at a Four Fountains spa near you. To enter the competition
a. Leave a comment to this post with a response to the thought “Does looking good make you feel good or does feeling good make you look good?
b. ‘Like’ them on Facebook.

This contest is open till  midnight Monday, 29 October 2012.

3 winners will be announced on the following Tuesday so don’t forget to check if your name is among them. If you win I will need some contact information!

(Please note that the choice of winners will be entirely at the discretion of The Four Fountains Spa personnel and cannot be contested once announced.)


Thank you for all your entries, humorous and serious, to The Four Fountains Spa giveaway. As you know, there were 3 free spa therapy vouchers for prizes. The winners are

S Rai, Bangalore



Congratulations you three! Please email me your postal addresses at sunayanaroy@gmail.com so that you can receive your free gift vouchers.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tumi baaje

Tumi kaalke amar schooler bondhu ke lathi diya merechhile.

(You're bad. Yesterday you hit my schoolfriend with a stick.)

Favoured visitors and startled grandparents are regularly informed that I'm a bad mother and beat him up. The ways in which I do this are highly inventive. Apparently I slap him awake every morning and sometimes I just come out of the blue and smack him silly and yet other times I scare him so much he doesn't ever want to live with me.

You would have to be looking into his face to see the unrepentent twinkle in his eyes and only then might you realise that he is lying his little ass off. Sometimes, even then you have your doubts. Why, after all, would a child say such things about his mother of all people?

Because, and I cannot stress this too highly, not everybody is Rahul Niyogy. He doesn't do the things you might expect him to do (or not do).

Speaking for myself, I am highly relieved we do not live in countries where children are apparently taken away from their parents on suspicion of beatings.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Women Who Laugh

I know, all women laugh (it's the best medicine and don't we know it) but here are two women who laugh at themselves and the people they love best, and in doing so, they remind you to do the same.

As I said, the best medicine.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Express Yourself

Kamini of the wonderful Holmemade Cakes shared a link this morning to a video of Karen Walrond's 1,000 Faces Project.

It's a nice video, with 10 points on how to show your true beauty. Point #7 says

Express yourself. Often, kindly and without apology.

This roughly describes my own thinking these last few months. I could work on the 'kindliness' of my 'expressions', I'm sure, but I am pleased with my lack of apology.

Some time, when I'm in the right mood, I shall blog about this at greater length.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Power Play with Arena Stage {Violence Against Women Awareness Month 2012}

Thursday, 11 October 2012 was the first ever International Day of the Girl Child. While it will always annoy me that we are such a threatened species that we need a day to focus attention on ourselves, I would like to tell you about what we were doing last Thursday here in Calcutta.

A four-member team from Arena Stage, Washington DC, is travelling around India right now, hosted by the US Department of State, workshopping with young people and helping them put up plays based on their own autobiographical experiences -- as a part of the Arena Stage Voices of Now ensemble productions. These four, Anita Maynard-Losh, Ashley Forman, Raymond Caldwell and Mitch Mattson, are superb at what they do, sympathetic and open to stories, talented at extracting the dramatic potential in these stories and eventually crafting a thought-provoking performance out of them. (They deserve every superlative adjective they get, they really are that good.)

A motley bunch of nearly 40 odd artistes came together from schools and colleges and repertories around Calcutta and outside. We workshopped with the Arena Stage team for about two and a half days to work out the issues that resonated within us. Surprisingly, given the relative youth of nearly half the group, we found we were constantly referring to gender powerplays, talking about what it felt like to be a woman in this city and how the men have it here. We could have talked about the poverty and pollution or history and tradition that hits you when you reach Kolkata but we talked about gender.

We talked about power and powerlessness: the helplessness of the women who sit at home wondering about the safety of their families in these times of political change, the people who have power or are perceived as powerful (male, Brahmin, rich, or born into the 'right' minority but invariably male -- in a region headed by a female chief minister and where the mother goddess is worshipped in various avatars.)

We talked about how our society perceives a "good" woman: who studies to be a better mother and covers herself up and is a trained dancer who performs only for family and who knows better than to "understand" politics, economics or international affairs. A woman who "does not use her body to express herself in plays" -- a thought that my otherwise cosmopolitan father has been trying to get me to accept for over a decade now.

We depicted through tableaux and words how it is to be a single woman living by herself. Not only are you at the mercy of your neighbours and general junta who have no compunction in tearing your all-important reputation into shreds unless you confine yourself to their extremely narrow definitions of respectability, but you always live with the threat of "burning torches, people out to exorcise the prostitute who'd out-stepped the bounds of her morality." Funnily enough, you can continue to work or party as you wish so long as you have a husband at home. Then the neighbourhood no longer feels responsible for you or your morals. It startled me to realise how many of us felt that in this day and age, that in a city like Kolkata where I have always felt women have more freedom of expression and choice than the other places I have lived in, women continue to be taught that all their talents and learning should only ever lead on to marriage. Because that promises safety and societal acceptance.

Interestingly, we also worked on the restrictions placed on men, how they have no choice but to be the strong one, the breadwinner, and also how to them power comes and goes with career earnings. Who places this burden on them? Is it their women?

We ended with a story from Burdwan, where a theatreperson learnt that she too can bring about change if only by showing the next generation the possibilities of change. It helped remind me that women in Bengal, despite the limitations placed upon them, nevertheless do have certain powers -- the freedom to move, if not freely then still move from place to place, to have careers, to have a say in the upbringing of their children. These are powers that much of India still cannot take for granted.

It was a performance that posed questions. Solutions were suggested but not dictated. I for one had no idea that so many of my concerns were shared by so many of my fellow artistes, but knowing now that they do share them makes me feel, shall I say, a little more powerful.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I was walking home yesterday in the rain after the Arena Stage performance at ICCR and it was the end to a long, exhilarating day. I was exhausted and close to the point of finally letting the balls drop.

But then, I remembered, there's always something more to lose.

I try, I really try, to only lose that which I gain nothing by keeping, or that which wants to be lost. For the rest, I am grateful for my blessings. Especially the one that stands 4' high and makes homecoming a little easier.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Looking for McDreamy

It seems like a really long time since I had a crush on anybody, male or female. It's easy to see why, of course. I have not gone out or met too many people this year. Most of the people I meet aren't my kind, not to crush on, anyway.

But it would be good to fall in love a little, I think. Just have that little spurt of excitement in my day. I am so tired right now of the unavailability of the men in my life. One is married and therefore unavailable and the other, well, he is married and unavailable. No, I will not tell you who is which. It is enough to say they both make my head and my heart hurt. Just for now I dream of somebody really cute who does not need to know I'm alive but who will make my days and my fantasies a little brighter. Really, is that too much to ask for? A cute guy?

Friday, October 05, 2012

Sometimes when I miss you

I put on the necklace. Never the ring. But the necklace is comforting. Soothing, almost.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Why Our Parents Worry {Violence Against Women Awareness Month 2012}

It was Shuki's birthday this Tuesday and she was to be pretty busy all day. Dana and I thought of visiting her at midnight the night before but plans fell through because Dana's mum asked us not to drive around at night.

Shuki, Dana and I meet at night. It's what we do. We also meet during the daytime but given that each of us has commitments that necessarily keep us in different parts of town and that keep up occupied most of the day, after-dinner coffee became our time to catch up and unwind. Mostly we just sit and chat. We used to go for drives until the price of petrol made that uncomfortable. Sometimes we would go for a coffee at one of the all-night cafes. There aren't too many affordable all-night cafes within safe driving zones in Calcutta anyway and the ones there are don't always welcome three women who just want to sit and chat over coffee. We don't sleep over because at least two of us have school things the next morning and we don't even do this very often. But we like our nightly chats because they are usually so peaceful, undisturbed by the demands of our daytime lives.

For the last six months our night-time meetings -- and essentially, our meetings -- have grown fewer. After the Park Street rape case, the media has made it a point to report all the news of assault on women (and police callousness) that it can find in Bengal. The stories are alarming but what is alarming still is that the three of us who have earlier dealt quite calmly with stalkers and police patrols on our night-time drives no longer feel comfortable driving about at night.

It would be easy to say this intangible sense of fear is caused by the media frenzy but there have been such media outbursts before, most notably as an aftermath of the Bapi Sen incident. It seems to me as though what is happening in Calcutta right now is a part of a larger movement, a movement sweeping across the country, most notably in Guwahati, Mangalore, Mumbai... I could keep adding to the list of cities but you, too, read the papers.

This violence against women out in public, in daylight, in front of crowds, this resentment against women for wearing clothes or going places or performing activities that do not meet with certain individual codes of behaviour -- our acceptance of this violence, our lack of sustained action against people who shrug and say, "Oh, what can you expect in a place like that?" or "We all know what to think of women who dress like that!" or "Why wasn't she home at that hour?" -- all of this makes me reiterate why we members of Team VAWM crowd our already busy festival month with this draining awareness programme. We do it because if we don't stand up for ourselves, nobody else will.

Whether you support our efforts or not, please support any women who find themselves under attack in front of you. A catcall is an attack, as is a failure to support a women who is trying to fend off attackers.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Violence Against Women Awareness Month: October 2012

It's October and once again, we're talking about Violence Against Women. This year has been especially unnerving, especially for women like me in Calcutta, but also for women all over India as rapes, battering and other violent attacks seem to be a daily feature of our morning headlines. Even Aamir Khan talked about it.

If you, like us, take these incidents seriously, please join our Violence Against Women Awareness Month 2012. You can

'Like', share and join our discussions on Facebook
Tweet, retweet and share our conversations on Twitter
Join the blogathon and follow all VAWM news on our blog

As always, you are welcome to share your stories, insights or any other information by emailing us at vawawareness@gmail.com -- requests for confidentiality or anonymity will be respected.

If you have problems with the badge code from the blog, you can do what I do i.e. download and then post the badge image and link it to the blog. It takes a minute more but it's just as effective.