Friday, February 22, 2008

Tag! I'm it.

I've had a dull sort of day. Finished off two bits of work yesterday, and thought I'd give myself a rest. Spent the day feeling d-u-l-l. Read other people's blogs and loved the way the write, and felt like I shouldn't be writing at all, since I can be neither brief nor clever. Then found this and it cheered me up mariginally - in the way pop quizzes in magazines used to when I was younger. So here goes.

A -Available?
In my dreams.

B-Best friend:
Umm. Am a Hard Kaur these days, and not thinking 'bast frands' at all.

C-Cake or Pie?
Actually, paal payasam, pressure-cooked till it's light pink.

D-Drink of choice:
Can't believe I'm saying this: Peach Iced Tea

E-Essential thing used everyday:
Chashma and cushion!

F-Favourite colour:
Turquoise maybe, or red, or sea-green.

G-Gummi bears or worms:
Worms, any day. I hate GBs.

H-Hometown:
Chembur

I-Indulgence:
Comics - like Bloom County, Doonesbury, Asterix and Tintin

J-January or February:
January. It has so many possibilities.

K-Kids and names:
One. N.

L-Life:
Short, painful, brutish. But with some lovely moments, of course.

M-Marriage date:
Dec 8

N-Number of siblings:
One

O-Oranges or apples:
Oranges

P-Phobias:
LIZARDS!!

Q-Quote:
Mars needs Moms!

R-Reason to smile:
N. She makes me grin, giggle, groan.

S-Season:
Monsoons

T-Tag three people:
Can't. Practically all the other bloggers I know have had this done to them. Will tag just one, and hope Paro doesn't mind it.

U-Unknown fact about me:
Better let it stay that way, no?

V-Vegetable you do not like:
Paapdi

W-Worst habit:

Talking on the phone. Incessantly. Being able to not work even when there is a lot to do.

X-x-rays you have had:

Many.

Y-Your favorite food:
Oh god, where do I start. I LUHVE food. Dahi batata puris and chicken biryani are the stuff I dream about.

Z-Zodiac:
Scorpio

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Gourami also rises

I’ve always, always longed for a fish tank. Or maybe just one bowl, round, perfect, like a bubble with a golden blob of a fish bobbing in it. Growing up there was no question of it, of course, people at home wouldn’t hear of it. Then, with Amit, there were these prolonged discussions when he’d say, “I’ve had a fish tank, and the fish keep dying, and you’ll feel sad…” Hahaha, I’d laugh out loud, my head thrown back evilly, and say that I see fish only as food, not as friends at all, so no one’s going to catch me feeling really sad about a dead fish. Which, for some reason, instead of reassuring him, only made him blanch.

Time passed and n happened, and we got given a betta fish in a tiny fishbowl by Priya. She had researched the fish carefully: it was a native of the paddy fields of Laos, and was a loner (not for nothing was it a.k.a the Cambodian Fighter), and breathed air from the surface. So a.) it liked small spaces, and b.) didn’t need an oxygen pump. Most importantly, it didn’t like or need company.

Two days after the betta – who n named variously: ‘black-and-white’, ‘spotty’ and ‘swimmy’ – came home, we googled it and found that you should change the water every two or three days to prevent toxicity. With great care and dexterity we transferred it from small bowl to large bowl via a tea cup and an old sieve and it never once popped out and writhed as we were told fish do when you change the water. Yes, well, that done (we nearly sprained out pecs patting ourselves on our backs), we set out for some photo session at n’s school.

Back home an hour later, I looked at the fish, thought there was something odd about it, peered closer and saw that it was belly-up. Of course. The net doesn’t warn you about the chlorine in Mumbai’s water and how you need to pour in a de-chlorinating fluid before you blithely change the fish’s immediate environment.

Calmly I called Amit, who was first sad, then bitter, then devastated – when he heard of the chlorine thingy. That evening he flushed it away mournfully, as I patted his back. For days he lectured us about the pitfalls of having a fish at home; and how he wasn’t worried about himself, but see how it was upsetting ‘everyone’. N registered it in passing, but, typically of someone her age, I think, discussed it only days later when I was asked, ‘Why Swimmy died, amma?’ Before I could think of a suitably deep and yet simple answer, she said, ‘Now Swimmy dead no, so you must get me a pet rabbit.’

Now the grandma has taken it on herself to get a new fish and make it survive, or else. So today – despite parental disapproval – a Golden Gourami has come home. With blue pebbles for company and a packet of dried Red-Sea worms, and a bottle of de-chlorinating fluid. He / she is from the Laotian paddy fields (where there must be no fish left at all), a cousin of our old friend the betta. We are still not sure of the aggression levels (some sites say Gouramis love company; others say they just love to eat company), so the poor sod just has us and the pebbles to look at.

He / she is a stunner, though. Gold and with black stripes and spots, and with a lovely pair of long, thin whiskers… Fingers crossed that this one doesn’t end down the loo as well!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kapkapi - The Shivers

I hate the cold. I’m from the coast originally and have lived in Bombay all my life, and I’ve realized now, through this oddly cold winter, that I like my weather muggy, hot and squelchy. I love the normal Bombay winter because it is merely a state of non-heat; one where the mercury drops to say, 27, and we’re all like, ooh, there’s a nip in the air, do you feel it? Lovely, no? Delhiites and other Northerners look at you, one eyebrow raised, and say, call this a winter? You should see the ball-breakers we have back home.

No thank you, I say, keep your winter snobbery. It’s warm weather for me (regardless of how much I crib in summer). It’s so cold this year that - unusually for this city - you don’t need to turn on the fan ever. And if you do, it’s only to keep away the mosquitoes. It's so cold that you got out in the evening for a walk, the wind blows, and leaves a welter of angry goose pimples on your skin. Forget nippy, it’s like the air has grown a million sharp little teeth with which it bites into you. I’ve seen people shivering and huddling around makeshift fires all over Chembur, fergodssake, and I cannot tell you how unlikely a sight that is.

I do not like the strange sense of stasis that this cold brings: the reluctance to put my feet on the chilly floor, the numbing cold of the water that flows out of taps, the fact that we don’t have the woollies or the mindset needed to take this weather on the chin. I don’t like it being so dry that my skin stretches after a bath simply because it’s too darn cold to cream up before you cover up. I hate the thought that if we find it hard to cope living in our warm flats, how horrendous it must be for street people, and even for the average, very poor Bombay-ite who doesn’t have the money to buy warm clothes.

I wouldn’t want to agree with any of the Thackerays on anything, but when young Raj Thackeray calls Vilasrao Deshmukh Khallas-rao (khallas means the end, destruction), I find myself pausing to think. Apart from selling off all available open spaces to the builder’s lobby, the man has other fine points. One of them is a blind-spot towards the very poor – evident in his cruel, totalitarian slum-demolition drives. You’d think any right-thinking government would start some donation drives of warm things, or maybe give away blankets to the poor. Some way to help people who have always lived in a balmy city to deal with the cold, right? Nothing short of a cold wave and people dying would wake this one up.

The bitter cold puzzles n too. She asked me, “Why this winter not going away, amma?” Why, indeed. It reminded me of my friend Gouri Patwardhan’s film on seasons. It had a small animated traditional story – an Eskimo myth about the rotation of seasons – called Kapkapi. One year, Old Man Winter refuses to leave the earth. People shiver and huddle together, because the trees and plants have shrivelled up and died, and they have run out of food and firewood. There’s frost and ice everywhere.

Finally they pray to the Sun and he comes down. “Go away!” he says to Old Man Winter, which just makes the short, bearded, dark-eyed fellow angrier, more determined to stay. Grim, sullen, he waves a fat palm at the sun dismissively. The sun blows at him, a warm, yellow-orange breath that makes him shrink till he finally sits on a white owl and flies off.

I love this little sequence because Gouri’s rounded figures and lovely colours are so delightful. In the climax, the ice on a pond cracks, the water gleams through and then morphs into colourful birds. It’s breath-taking. Done in pre-comp days, the entirely cel animation has a lovely, uncluttered feel to it. The vo, because it was recorded back in them days, is dire. But watch it a couple of times, and you begin to enjoy the animation and forget the sepulchral narration. Weather like this really makes me think of those shivering people and how they must have longed for the balmy touch of spring. Wish I could find an image and put it here, but hard luck on that one. Might rig up something in the future though, so watch this space.

Any winter food favourites? Mine is the lovely sweet potato snack outside CP in Delhi And of course Sindhi Camp’s artery-hardening fried pakwans.