Friday, July 25, 2014

Selfies

Before selfies became an art, a photographer’s research area, a psychologist’s study, they were something that we did covertly. The duck face selfies, the funeral selfies, and the half naked selfies that essentially are supposed to centre around the new ear ring - are a relatively new fad. Long before these trends became popular, we had the silent, hidden, old fashioned, selfies –not called selfies but selfies they sure were. Yes, I clicked my first displayable selfie in 2005 or 2006. And when I displayed it shyly to my husband fishing for a compliment, he asked me, “Motte, did you smile yourself?” I mean he didn’t say did you smile FOR yourself? He asked did you smile yourself? I knew what he meant, but I asked, does someone else smile for you? And gall aye gayee ho gayee, but naal di naal meri lassi ho gayee. ( That picture not displayed here. I don’t want any riots on FaceBook. As it is, the world doesn’t seem a very safe place to be anymore.)

A few weeks ago, at a wedding, when I thought I was nicely dressed up, and had some tolerable makeup on, and when I thought it was a good occasion to get myself clicked, I handed over the phone to Rasan to click some nice pictures of mine. She is the one who gives me all my cover pics for the FB, she is good with the camera. However, only she knows or God knows what happens when she is clicking me. She forgets all her art. Or perhaps the teenage is fast catching up with her? I thought she would act like the paparazzi, and click some pictures when I was not looking, and in the process capture some nice shots to keep. What she came up with was some real ugly mug shots with my chin drooping, eyes popping, my fat displayed and hair disarrayed. Thank God, she didn’t make a point of taking the picture of the right ear. Then I called out to Jai, and he is, as you know by now, being raised as a mercenary kid. I had no money to spare, so he didn’t do a good job at all.

Finally I had to resort to, yes, clicking selfies. With age fast getting on to my side, my needs are also diminishing. I just need an angle that shows off a dimple and a mole, perhaps the one from where the cheek looks slightly thinner, chin singular, eyes slightly bigger with eyelashes prominent (sans that grey eyelash, of course), hair less grey and neck slightly longer – and the dupatta has to be in place and the background people have to be minussed. That’s all that a girl asks for.

Vanity, ah vanity !!

P.S. – By the way Microsoft word still shows selfie as a non existent word and gives me “sulfide,” “sulfite,” “sheltie,” “self,” “shellfire,” as alternatives. More on this later, I like "shellfire" !! But I wonder why selfie has not joined the MS Word default vocabulary.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Jai's Lunch Boxes

Jai forgets his empty lunch box (god knows if he leaves it empty or throws his lunch away and then on purpose forgets his lunch box) daily at the school. I end up buying bulk packs of plastic sandwich boxes to compensate. And I have been requesting him to bring back those 10 odd boxes.

Conversation today:

Mampi-Would you bring the boxes back or you want me to show up at the school, yell at you and then bring those boxes back?
Jai- (hands folded) please !!
Mampi- No drama ! Would you or would you not, dude?
Mahesh - (who happened to be around when this conversation took place, in his usual polite tone) - the boy said he would bring the boxes back !
Mampi- (ignoring the father) I am talking to you Jai, would you or would you not ???
Jai- (quietly) You heard the Rooster !!

(For the past three days, Rasan has been roaming about with a book on Chinese horoscopes - Going by the year of birth, Jai is a Horse, Mampi and Rasan are Tigers, Mahesh is a Rooster )

(May 15, FB)

The Martian Rooster

So while I was busy acting the good mommy and the witty mommy, and was posting stuff about his kids, the Resident Rooster was readying for the flight. He informed me two days ago that he plans on buying a one way ticket to Mars. I don't know where he heard it from that there are 40 men and women (they are all Indians of course; maybe there will be more now that there is apni sarkar in the centre) who have bought this ticket. I searched the internet to discover that people are indeed vying for that one way ticket. Now how he would get that ticket is entirely his problem. I, like a true bhartiya pativrata nari, offered him my company. He, in his quintessentially polite way, said, "Mampi, you, precisely, are the reason why I want that ticket !!!"

So much for selfless love !! Bah!!

(May 23, FB)

The Procrastinator

Mampi-Jai ! Stop postponing things. (in Punjabi I said, 'ਪੈਰ ਘਸਾਉਣੇ ਬੰਦ ਕਰ')
Rasan- Jai, you are so lazy. You while away your time doing nothing.
Mampi- Jai ! You are such a procrastinator !!
Jai - What is a procrastinator??
Mampi - Go look up in the dictionary.
Jai - I don't have the time !!

Rasan chokes on the morsel in her mouth and yells (not subtly at all), "Irony Irony." She has been reading 'Macbeth' lately. Thank God she didn't yell "Blood, Blood!

(May 31, FB)

Narinderpal

Narinderpal was hardly 4’-8.” Her face was small, dark wheatish, and she would tie her very curly, very black hair in a plait. She gave the impression of being a little school kid – only until she opened her mouth. Her voice was too heavy for her height and looks.

We were together in the GNDU campus during our M.A. days. I was from Goraya, so I had to live in the university hostel. She was from Sultanwind, and still liked to live in the hostel. The top floor of the B wing ( I think it was B) was assigned to our class. Her room was right opposite the shared washroom, so we would often stop by to say hi to her. Her smile would extend right into her small deep-set eyes.

She idolized me – I never thought I was worthy of her attention, or of her hero worship, but she somehow looked upto me with a certain devotion that would invariably leave me slightly embarrassed. It never flattered. Sincere though they always were - I was always looking for ways to escape her compliments. She would love the way I made notes, love the way I planned my studies, love the way I carried myself, loved the way I handled the stage – but I somehow always wanted to escape that praise.  She would like to walk with me, but I was always kind of self  conscious walking with her –she was so short and thin, I was taller and plumper. (okay, fat perhaps)

She had a huge crush on our very handsome teacher who taught us "Saint Joan." Oh my, didn’t we all? She would look at the tall Sardar with moonstruck eyes while he would animatedly deliver Joan’s speeches and Bluebeard’s exhortations. (Why did I always think Bluebeard must have looked like him?)

M.A. I happened, and then M.A. II flew by. My father passed away just two months before our exams were to start. Narinder would offer support whenever she would find me sitting and crying alone in my cubicle. She would force me to come to her room, and would talk to me. I still remember she said, “Manpreet, you will die crying, stop this and focus on your exams now.” I would be amazed to see where she got the courage to scold me. I had always respected her, but she became some kind of a go-to person in those days. We somehow finished our exams and parted ways, with promises to write to each other. Yes, those were the days when we would actually write long letters to friends.

I began writing to her, as I wrote to all my friends during the hot summer days awaiting results of M.A. She would write back in her small, neat and emphatic handwriting. Then her letters stopped coming. I still wrote – angry some times, anxious at others – but I kept writing to her, asking her - "Narinder - Nanni/Nannu (we used to call her) - where are you? What's happening?"

Three months, or was it four months? I received a letter from her brother. It read something like, “Dear Sister, who are you writing all those letters to? She died three months ago!!”

I did not have the courage to ask what happened to her. I just wrote a letter of condolence to him.

She stayed on, in my mind, I always wanted to write about her, her voice still is around me. We were never very close, but she somehow still lives somewhere in my heart.

(June 13, FB)

Shards

Am I the mirror in which you wanted to see yourself ?
And on purpose you shattered me? To see your multiple selves ?
So why does it now scare you to hear that nightly noise from those numberless shards?
(June 21, FB)

Moms and Chaos

Jai is getting ready for school. His father is with him, sitting cross legged on the floor. Jai puts his foot with his shoe on, on his father's thigh. "Papa, tie the laces."
"Am I your servant?" retorts the father. "Well, that's what fathers are for," the boy is quick. Meantime I reach there and overhear the talk. "Aha, so what are mothers for, my sweetiepie ?" I ask and plant a noisy kiss on his unwilling cheek. "Mothers are for chaos." he is ready with the response.
"Umm, to remove the chaos from your life, right?" I ask, expecting him to say, yes, fathers cause the chaos and mothers tackle it.
"To remove some and to create most," he says dispassionately.
I am ready to shed tears !!! Bade beqadar ho ke tere kooche se hum nikle. Swere swere !!
(posted on June 25 on FB)

ਰਾਤ ਕਿਣ ਮਿਣ ਤੇ ਹੋਈ ਏ

ਤੈਂ ਸਚ ਈ ਕਿਹਾ ਸੀ, 
"ਸ਼ਰਤ ਲਾ ਲੈ, ਅੱਜ ਮੀਂਹ ਨਹੀ ਪੈਣਾ," 
ਰਸੋਈ ਵਿਚ ਖੜ੍ਹੀ 
ਪਸੀਨੋ ਪਸੀਨ ਹੋਈ 
ਮੈਂ ਹੱਸੀ ਸੀ, 
ਬੜਾ ਹੱਸੀ ਸੀ, 
"ਹਾਂ, ਤੇ ਮੈਂ ਕਦ ਕਿਹਾ ਮੀਂਹ ਪੈਣੈ?
ਇਹਨਾਂ ਦਿਨਾਂ ਵਿਚ ਮੀਂਹ ਨਹੀਂ ਪਿਆ ਕਰਦੇ, 
ਬਸ ਮਿੱਟੀ ਲੱਦੀਆਂ ਹਵਾਵਾਂ ਸਾਹ ਘੋਟਦੀਆਂ ਨੇ..."
"ਨਹੀਂ, 
ਕਿਹੈ ਤੂੰ ,
ਮੀਂਹ ਪੈਣੈ,
ਮੈਂ ਕਹਿਨਾਂ
ਮੀਂਹ ਨਹੀ ਪੈਣਾ।"

ਤੈਨੂੰ ਕਿੰਝ ਪਤਾ ਸੀ,
ਅੰਦਰੋਂ ਮੈਂ ਮੀਂਹ ਦੀ ਉਮੀਦ ਲਾ ਕੇ ਬੈਠੀ ਸਾਂ?

ਮੈਨੂੰ ਲੱਗਦਾ ਸੀ
ਮੈਂ ਸ਼ਰਤ ਹਾਰ ਗਈ-
ਪਰ ਬਾਹਰ ਬੱਦਲ ਆਏ,
ਮੈਂ ਅਸਮਾਨ ਵੀ ਘੋਖਿਆ,
ਸਵੇਰੇ ਤੈਨੂੰ ਝੂਠ ਮੂਠ ਆਖਾਂਗੀ,
"ਰਾਤ ਕਿਣ ਮਿਣ ਤੇ ਹੋਈ ਏ" -
ਤੇ ਤੂੰ ਹੱਸ ਕੇ ਆਖੇਂਗਾ,
"ਲੈ ਬਾਬਾ ਤੂਹੋੰ ਜਿੱਤੀ।"

ਆਹੋ ਮੈਂ ਈ ਜਿੱਤੀ ਆਂ-
ਅਖੀਆਂ ਅੱਜ ਏਨਾ ਕੁ ਵਰਸੀਆਂ
ਕਿ ਸਭ ਬਰਸਾਤਾਂ ਹਾਰ ਗਈਆਂ ।

ਰਾਤੀਂ ਮੀਂਹ ਪਿਆ ਸੀ-
ਬੜਾ ਮੀਂਹ ਪਿਆ ਸੀ ।

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dear Life - Alice Munro

Alice Munro builds her stories the way Jackson in her story Train renovates the barn and the farmhouse. She finds a good foundation and then repairs and builds the walls and then works on a sound ceiling. You are willingly trapped in the story, and yet you are free to go. There are no doors. At times, there is no foundation, she just waves her hands and behold, there is a house!

I just finished reading Dear Life (Penguin 2012).

The stories are snippets from, before and soon after the Second World War, and of the mid twentieth century - my favourite era.

Her characters are real- from day to day life. At times, they look like me, like you and you wonder if you had ever met her, if she had seen you inside out – from up close, close enough to know you and to write about you. 

Some of the male characters you hate but you love. Harris is the poet Greta’s longing who surprises her by reaching Union Station. Howard is the crafty architect who eats his cake, has it, and stashes some for the future too.  Uncle Jasper is the expert doctor and the imposing husband. Another doctor decides to marry the young teacher, and chickens out at the last moment to abandon her, eventually bumping into her years later on a Toronto street.
For me, it was the same as when I left Amundsen, the train dragging me still dazed and full of disbelief.
Nothing changes really about love.” (Amundsen)

Her women are marvelous. Lilian - the supposed blackmailer, Corrie - the blackmailed, Greta - the passionate poet married to an engineer, Aunt Dawn- the repressed housewife – I love the scope of Munro’s vision. Leah, the shy girl who somehow unexpectedly transforms as the scandal maker, a villain and the temptress; and ‘my mother’ who with her two children, leaves her loving but boring husband to go to live in a trailer for an exciting life with Neal, the theatre artist who eventually abandons her with a new born baby – both are unrepentant but lonely.  Belle, the lonely farm girl, amazes you when she reveals that she has been an alumnus of Bishop Strachan School, and her father had been a reporter for The Toronto Evening Telegram and an unpublished novelist.  

And I have not talked about many others. Somehow her women emerge stronger than her male characters. Is she biased?

For four days, my house did remain unkempt, food was hurriedly cooked, shower postponed with excuses of ‘just another story and then I am going,’ and kids not yelled at for watching endless episodes of Pokemon or staying on Facebook well past their curfew time – that is what your pen does in my life, Ms Munro.

Its all about -
“She was a certain kind of woman, he a certain kind of man”.







Monday, November 18, 2013

The English Patient

The novel had been on my reading wish list for a long long time. Finally finished reading it. And I loved it - in parts. The part on bombs, while very comprehensive, frankly did not interest me. I devoured the passages about human relationships and love. Loved Kip, got intrigued by Almasy and Caravaggio, adored Hana and admired Katherine. I wanted to post many many small bits from the novel. But somehow after some time, I forgot to put markings in the novel and lost the pages. Here are a few of the selections - in random order.

****

“She had always wanted words, she loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. Whereas I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water.” (238)

“Women want everything of a lover. And too often I would sink below the surface.  So armies disappear under sand, and there was her fear of her husband, her belief in her honour, my old desire for self-sufficiency, my disappearances, her suspicions of men, by disbelief that she loved me. The paranoia and claustrophobia of hidden love. (238)

Death means you are in the third person.” (247)

“If I gave you my life, you would drop it. Wouldn’t you?” (145)

“- the old guy upstairs is asleep. Hana’s obsessed with him. I am obsessed with the sanity of Hana, I’m obsessed with my ‘balance,’ and Kip will probably get blown up one of these days.” (121)

“I’ll rewire him in the morning.” He puts his left hand on her shoulder. (115)

“… Could you fall in love with her if she wasn’t smarter than you? I mean, she may not be smarter than you. But isn’t it important for you to think she is smarter than you in order to fall in love? Think now. She can be obsessed by the Englishman because he knows more. We’re in a huge field when we talk to that guy. We don’t even know if he’s English. He’s probably not. You see, I think it is easier to fall in love with him than with you. Why is that? Because we want to know things, how the pieces fit. Talkers seduce, words direct us into corners. We want more than anything to grow and change. Brave new world.” (120-21)

Words, Caravaggio. They have a power. (234)

“This alcohol will probably kill me.”
“Nothing will kill you, my friend. You are pure carbon.” (109)

“You have to protect yourself from sadness. Sadness is very close to hate… if you take in someone else’s poison -  thinking you can cure them by sharing it – you will instead store it within you.” (45)


How did you hate me? She whispered. You killed almost everything in me. (257)

*****

The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
Vintage Books Canada Edition, 1993

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

on the acquittal

I am ashamed 
of living in a country
which rejoices in meting
injustice to my people
and
which justifies blood
that I am, till today, washing away from those cool marble tiles
with my tears
ever since those tanks crushed the delicate vines
on the floor
ever since the guns thundered inside an epitome of peace
and much before.

I am ashamed
of growing up in times
when I didnt know 
if that random bullet
would strike me
or my turbaned father
or his unturbaned friend
or my conscientious mother
or a random stranger going to his fields.

I am perhaps ashamed 
of growing up at all.

yes, these words make no sense.
Dear Facebook, I wish you hadn't asked again 
what is on my mind.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Murderous Murder 2

Ludhiana: 8th July, 2011. 9: 00 pm onwards-

Mampi on whatsapp (hereafter referred to as WA) with cousins from Jaipur: Garry. Its been a while since u said – “Bhabi ji ki jai ho.” Make me smile. Say that.

Garry (on WA from Jaipur to Mampi): Bhabiji ki jai ho. Howz life, hubby, and kids?

Mampi: Same old life, same old man, same old kids. Going to see Murder2 today. (remember readers, this used to be our routine? Friday night – movie, however rubbish it might be.. remember?)

Garry: Okay, Delhi Belly?

Mampi: Seen.

Garry: What a comedy, nahi?

Mampi: Oh yeah.

Garry: Whats the show time today?

Mampi: 10:45 pm

Garry: (Suddenly wakes up) Haha, the old man is fitter than all of us…whats going on with Ajj da Masla (Remember folks, I have been doing a TV show for the past few months on the good old boring DoorDarshan? This is what he is talking about)

Mampi: Will do one next week (Dear readers, don’t forget this)

Twist in the story: Garry’s sister, Gunnu joins us in the conversation.

Gunnu-Oye how are you?

Garry-I am your older brother stupid, tameez naal gall kar.

Gunnu-Oye, I m sitting two feet from you and you decide to shout in the chat?

Mampi-LOL

Gunia-Bhabhiji how is the Qatl Dwitiya (Murder2, sweeties, Gunnu is really funny.)
Mampi-Yet to start

Gunnu-Apna dristikon hume awashya bataiyega,

Mampi-JI Medem

Gunnu-Beta Raabart tum kahan ho?

Garry-Yahin hoon sambha.

Mampi-LOL
Garry-Bhabhiji, u alongwith kids?

Mampi-WHAT?

Gunnu- Beta Raabart, its an aedult filym. No kiddies.

Garry-(the gentleman that he is) Ok Bhabji, enjoy the movie. catch you later, tell me how the movie was.

Mampi-(5 mins into the movie now) Ppl are whistling (Emraan Hashmi is back to his old ways-the bijness of kissing and garment removal but I don’t reveal it to them)

Gunnu-Aaye haye seetiyan baj rahi hain Raabart beta chalo naachna shuru karo

Mampi-(forgets about the movie)- haha ha ha ha haha ha ha ha

(by now there is this gory murder sequence on the screen and I am beginning to feeling sick.)

Mampi- Horrible movie, folks.

Gunna-Tai tai phisssss, Raabart, beta nachna band kardo, bhabiji ko movie achi nahi lagi.

(and somehow my laughter is out of control when I read this. On the screen the girl is struggling to survive, I am fighting hard to control my callous laughter. )


Intermission.

People around our seats are looking with a great sympathy at Mahesh. Secretly they are happy-for it is the other man who has a mad wife. I suddenly look like a pervert, laughing uncontrollably, albeit silently. My forehead crinkles, my breath stops-I cannot control it when I laugh so hard. Rabart dancing in front of us, and ppl whistling, the image still haunts.
Intermission continues. And I prepare to run out of the hall, the supremely composed Mahesh sits there stoically, sagely commenting- it is a lousy movie. I give him an I-told-you-so look, (I had looked up the reviews in the evening) giggle and quickly descend the stairs.

And promptly I rush out of the hall. My laughter is so intense that I don't think I can walk on ramp. I feel like rolling on the ramp laughing. I dial Gunna’s number, I have to talk to her. I manage to find a seat in the waiting area and laugh my head off for the first one minute of the call. “Okay okay, what happened, you wanna talk about the movie?” Oh she thinks I need a catharsis. “No silly, I wanna thank you. I was sooo under the pressure of the movie. And you guys made me laugh.” And then I go on to tell her what an anti-climax the WA conversation was.

But for them, the movie would have been unbearable.

I go inside the hall, movie begins again. I know what Emraan Hashmi will do. Now that he has done enough of the kissing wissing for one movie, he will do the needful with the social service also. (But who told him long hair go well with social service?)

Garry: Is the movie at least a one time dekho?

Mampi: No beta, don’t go to watch it. Not even if someone else sponsors the ticket.

Garry: Is it that bad?

Mampi: Yes, even if they sponsor your popcorn and cold drink, decline politely.

Mampi to you all – surely give it a definite miss. It would have been more appropriate to call it Murder of the Audience 2011 instead of Murder 2. The only redeeming factor in the movie is Prashant Narayanan who I hated perfectly in the role that he did full justice to. Girls who are drooling to see another six packer in Emraan Hashmi, please hold your royal drool back, he shows these packs only in posters. Bibi Jacqueline has really pushed the limits as she claims, but she still remains unimpressive. Its not that I missed Mallika who I recently discovered has been posing with her tongue stuck permanently somewhere in her hard palate.

But I loved the time out. I call it counting my blessings.