Another decade?!

There are a bunch of writers whose creativity is like bottled champagne. POP! It will burst out, either in an ugly manner spilling the liq. all over your fingers, or perfectly beautifully, like a mellow upwards waterfall in its milky lather. You can decide for youself, where you want to place the writer of this piece of art.

Some odd duck is trying to get your goat. Playing possum won’t help.

This is what my horoscope for the day before the Disneyland trip read.

There are a number of ways to interpret this. I am a vegetarian, so, it could not be alluding to the variety in my diet. Though, that brings me to the question of whether human beings actually eat opossums.

Or could it be that some duck is trying to get me when I look like a goat. I don’t have a goatee exactly, but sometimes my protests sound like feeble bleats.

Maybe the horoscope was a precursor for the silly fun filled days to follow at Disneyland! I just have to schmooze my eyes in that wierd fashion and disney characters pop into my mind. Here, let me show you: *Wierd eyes*! I can see the Mickey ears on you right now! I don’t think anybody is too old for Disneyland, even when they look like goats and play possum.

Thank you Roy and Walt Disney for this legacy. I am not sure which is the greatest legacy of all time, but the ability to make people smile and forget their myriad worries certainly ranks way up high on my list.

Now, I read this news article that tells me we are going to have a blue moon on New Years Eve. Maybe, I get to play werewolf, while some otters try to get me, and playing hippogriff is not going to help!

The moon has always fascinated mankind – rightfully so. Such a beautiful celestial object, so tantalizingly close, yet so far. Have a go at the following quiz just for fun.

Wish you all a Happy New Year!

Hamara Bajaj & How I saved my brother’s life

Bajaj Chetak is like Maggi Noodles. Almost every middle-class Indian in my generation has some memories associated with it. So, I was saddened to see the news item bidding it farewell forever.

I learned to “drive” on my father’s Bajaj Chetak. Have I told you how brave the men in my life are? Let me explain by example – the simplest method really. I sometimes wonder why these textbooks write pages of theories when all they need is one example.

Situation: I had to learn to drive the scooter.
Tools: New scooter.
Lessons learnt: Each of us had a different story glean from my experience, so bear with me, while I recollect each ones learning.

1) The father learnt later, that it is not a good idea to give a new shiny vehicle to the teenage daughter with no strength and a very wobbly sense of balance. I carry the honour and the burden of the cross, since I broke the rotational gear or some part that makes the gears turn smoothly inside the engine. The parts are a little foggy – my knowledge stops somewhere around petrol tank and gears. Changing gears can be a very tricky business with these bally vehicles, you have to do something with the clutch and gargle the same time as the accelaration and finally cough with the change. All very complex of course, and I remember telling myself that practice was the only way to slap it down. I am trying to jog the memory, but all I remember is changing gears every 30 seconds to see if I still had it in me. Let’s say, I had it me, but Bajaj Chetak did not have it in it – One up for me! *Sticks tongue at Chetak*.

Years later, as it pulled through the steep hills of the Nilgiri Hills, it would sputter and jump from the first gear straight to the third, because it always slid past the second gear. The mechanic, who has never laid eyes on me incidentally, blamed it on changing gears often and unnecessarily.

2) The brother’s lessons were more philosophical than material. He learnt never to volunteer as the human lamppost for a vehicle-challenged dumb-bell. One profound life truth he carries with him to this day is that he loves me, but to love me, he had to live. I feel like a little background story is necessary here. My father stood as post A and my brother stood as post B. We were using a large 400 meter track ground for the purpose with an elevated viewing area. I felt like Androcles driving forth magnificently, sitting majestically on the beaming blue “Hamara Bajaj!” My elder sister stood a good kilometer away egging me on for moral support. Her own bicycle chronicles would fill a blog. She had never tried anything motorized before and beamed with pride as she saw me on the splendid new scooter.

My brother and father stood very close to each other (just about 500 meters apart), in which space I had to maneuvre with great skill and form an ‘8’ shape (a critical move to obtain a driver’s license in India)

I have provided visual representations of the ideal path and the reality for your reference.

The man the brother has become, learnt that it is a matter of seconds before the human pillar stands as a stone pillar frozen in time, run over by the “wheels of learning”. This was the path I took.

To my credit, I saved his life. I gave a blood curdling scream as I hurtled into his path, and he jumped aside, displaying a certain nimble movement that I hadn’t imagined him capable of.

Why did I scream instead of honking the horn? Because, it was a new vehicle and before I could remember to declutch and burp, before applying the brakes, and find the horn (phew!), this seemed easier.

3) My lessons were simple: keep trying, and you will succeed. Thereafter, everytime, I had to take a ride on the scooter, I had to entreat one of the stronger folks to take the scooter out of the stand, kick start it and give it to me. Then, I got to my destination, and implored somebody else to put the stand. When I decided to take the trip back, I had to find a third somebody to take it out of the stand and start it for me. Very simple.

I loved our Bajaj!

Adieu Bajaj! Middle class India will miss you.

Tea anyone?

Is there a TA group? Sometimes, I find myself in remission, and other times I have a furious re-lapse. For those of you who already know me, it is no surprise, but for others, it’s time for a confession.

I am a teaholic. Anytime, you put a cup in front of me, I can do justice to it. I can drink out of the cheap tea-glasses in tea-shops on the roadside with the same fervour and enthusiasm I accord to petite cups fit for Princesses. I can sound like a camel thirstily slopping water at an oasis or slide the life-saving noiselessly into the opening. Sometimes, I can drink tea soon after I’ve polished a cup of icecream, and still walk and talk normally.

I grew up amidst tea estates and had access to the finest teas! I am proud to admit that I took advantage of all these opportunities. I am not so proud to admit manipulating the brother when he was gullible enough to make tea for me endlessly for a little bit of praise.

“Wow – you know the best tea? It is what you make dear brother!”

The effect was phenomenal: he would swell with pride, and his eyes would pop. He would run and bustle about making a cup of tea for me. Sometimes, in my praise, if I went overboard, the brother would go overboard too, and bring in biscuits on a tray with the tea. Even when his tennis or football, or whatever bally game it was he was playing at the time beckoned him, the man would deliver. Of course those times, the tea did look too much like ditch water for comfort, but if you closed your eyes and drank it, it was fine. I am a trifle sad that he has since grown up, and my polished gestures of appreciation are not greeted with the same enthusiasm of his youth! Passage of time does that to one. Sigh.

While critics have criticised me for the obsession, I wish to throw this study out at them, and tell them that I have only been keeping diabetes at bay all this while.

This story has lightened my heart. Now, I am off for a hot cuppa in this cold and hostile weather. I am looking over my shoulder as I say this

“You know the best tea in the world ..?” (Well, it is the holiday season, I tried it to see if my little brother would come in with tea and biscuits! But sad luck, I’m on my own!)

Bring me those afternoons again!

I have to tell you – there is something magical about an afternoon nap. I hear the father quipping in the background – “It took you this long to listen to the wisdom that your father has been doling out through the ages?”

The father swears by it, and regularly catches his snores after lunch (even when he worked full-time). He was a teacher who was in charge of the timetable. All he had to do, was to make sure that he had the first period after lunch off, so the rice and the dals could settle down before the buttery biscuits came down with tea. I am convinced of it, if we could read newspapers after lunch, you’d find half of the corporate world gently snoring. But this information age, and the pace of life and all that has taken its toll. One of the finest traditions of life (I meant to say mankind, but who can deny seeing the lions laze in the African heat isn’t peaceful, so, life it is!) to go has been the afternoon nap.

The Saturday dawned wet and rainy. The mind half hoped to not go for the trek up the mountain in the rain. How many people would go for a long hike in the rain and sub-zero temperatures? Those, who see the beacon of hope in the afternoon nap – that’s who! I am sure I could move mountains and shift oceans if I could look forward to the kind of nap I had that day.

The hike had me hungry. My stomach felt like a woman’s handbag. The true capacity of which can only be measured by actually filling things in it. I stuffed myself at an eat all you can salad place (it’s-healthy-coz-its-salad being the general argument), and I groggily made my way home. I felt like a heavily inebriated elephant, which brings me neatly to the question that has been burning in my mind.

We have laws against drunken driving, but nothing to prevent an over-eating sloth behind the wheel. I can assure you heavy eating slows response times. Shouldn’t they have these weighing machines to weigh your food intake and tick you off if you’ve eaten too much?

Anyway, I got home, and the daughter and I slept. Oh….the waves of over-powering sleep. Who was that great guy who called sleep nature’s sweet restorer, or something like that? Call him, and give him a medal! The sleep just poured out of my every pore, and engulfed me in its welcoming arms. It conquered me. The distant sound of traffic faded, and the hum of the heater sang its lullaby in my ear. I woke sometime later, and flopped back for an encore. I wasn’t putting up much of a struggle, because I needn’t have bothered.

I remember having sleeping period in school, when I was about a knee high. (when I was around as high as my current knee is now I mean) The funny thing being, I spent all those precious afternoons whispering and chattering with a girl named Shiny and god-knows-who about worms and wet squishes. Perfect rot, bring me that time, and I’ll show you how I can surpass myself now. That afternoon bears testimony to the fact that I have it in me.

Go Blazing Turtles!

Well I suppose you live your life thinking your blood flows in your veins and all that. I am no physiologist myself, but I know that blood is a viscous liquid and is essential to life as it flows between Point A and Point B. So, imagine my chagrin when my blood froze! I tell you, it is a physical phenomenon that happened to me. Recently. At the California International Marathon Relay that self and a couple of fellow sufferers ran in bitterly cold conditions.

These are the times when I suspect the husband of ulterior motives. Regular readers would remember that he ran his first marathon 4 years ago in Sacramento (the same one). Maybe, he felt I hadn’t gushed enough, or given enough credit for running in the cold. So, we found ourselves under this very man named as Captain running the relay in sub-zero temperatures.

So, here goes: I grant it to him. You were awesome running in the cold like that. I think you were topping old man, just fantastic (lay it on thick, lest he signs me on for some more of these cold-blooded events. Never does any good if you find yourself freezing and running in the whipping icecream maker just because you were a syllable short in the praise is it?!)

The team was christened ‘Blazing Turtles’.

I was the last runner, and was consequently pottering about with nothing to do for a good 3 hours after the race started. To get to the relay exchange point, Oba from Suroba fame, displayed an impeccable sense of direction to get me to the right spot. All she had to do was the exact opposite of what I was telling her to do with the help of a GPS. Voila – there we were. In the right place at the right time. Very simple really. I don’t know what all the fuss was about. Tsk Tsk. Thanks Oba.

The husband was the third runner, and there is something vaguely disconcerting when the relay runners hand over the chip, if they happen to be husband and wife. As he fumbled for the chip, we chatted a bit. On reflection, it resembled a grocery list. I was telling the husband to buy some

(a) Hot cocoa for the daughter, and while he was at it

(b) Some cream. You know what?

(c) Maybe, some chocolate chip cookies too.

I would have gone on in this perfectly inane vein, if the husband hadn’t give me the stern look, and sent me packing. We were running out of toor dal and tomatoes at home!

The term ‘breezing past’ is eerie in this context, since the reader will think I was breezing past somebody else, but it was actually the wind breezing past all of us! I wasn’t running all that fast. I just felt that way, as I was running with a bunch of people who were at Mile 20 of a full marathon. I felt a trifle guilty to be running this energetically during the last leg of what must have been a COLD marathon. I started around mile 20, and was legging it with the ease of one who had no intentions to staying out there a minute longer than was expected. If you’d set a dog behind me, I would have liked it better, since the Sports teacher at my School found my performance impressive on such occasions. However, I belonged to the team called Blazing Turtles and worked hard to justify the latter part of the team name’s spirit & plodded along.

The event was great, and in keeping with my finish line tradition, I finished before my folks could find parking in reasonable spots. I loitered about the spot, picking up free goo-gels and wondered why I hadn’t bought a book along. If I could carry 12 lbs in clothes, why not another 2 lbs as a book on my person?!

The team finished in 4 hours and 9 minutes. Always a pleasure to blog about it after the blood has started flowing again and the cheeks have gotten their rosy flavor back.

Go Blazing Turtles! (Team: Viv, Sur, Sri and Sau)

So many things to tell you

So many things to tell you,
So many things to share.
And so little time to do it all….

Blazing Turtles ran the California International Marathon in sub-zero running conditions in 4 hours and 9 minutes. (Team Captain: The husband – hear hear everybody, my husband was the team captain of the Marathon Relay team!) It was owing to the fact that he registered the team, but he has been given a title and would like to flaunt it. I don’t deny people simple pleasures in life. So, Capt Husband it is. More to come – stay tuned.

I saw policemen in tights riding horses like they belonged to the Genghis Khan Gobi Desert Preservation Squad. If I’d known how to whistle, I would have, because policemen in tights on horses is a rarity. I didn’t realize they still had equestrian training for cops in cities.

The flash storm has brought with it snow in the Bay area, something that I’ve never witnessed before. It snowed for a few minutes in San Francisco, and I was very tempted to go out and play. Or, in my delirium, it could have been hail that I perceived as snow! The surrounding hillsides look very pleasant with all the snow, but the nose feels most unpleasant being exposed in the cold like this. Seemed like an appropriate time to get snowing on the blog.

The line in the soup place I went to for lunch snaked all around and turned back and looped again forming concentric circles due to the cold. I could not think of a single day before when I’ve seen this many people wanting to tuck into some hot soup. I don’t know how soup places in these really cold places like Minneapolis estimate demand.

It is 25 years since the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984. The apathy and suffering is appalling, and the images most disturbing.

Speed = Distance/Time

Generally, when I run, I blend with nature. The sun is shining, the clouds are peeking out delicately, the birds are flying. Now, you zoom the camera lens earthward and you find me prodding along down below, but with the spirits keeping the old birds company in the sky. That is me running.

Unfortunately, all the birds seem to have migrated for the Winter as I see none. But that could also be because with the start of Winter, I have been hibernating longer, and by the time I am legging it to work, there are no minutes to spare hobnobbing with birds and definitely not birds with soaring spirits. The spirit on these occasions stays with me, firmly routed on the ground. Terra Firma.

To cut a long story short, after a considerably long time I went to a gym to run today. I hadn’t noticed the way those treadmills psyched me before, but they do! There I am running along minding my own business and looking at the blinking displays on the treadmill occasionally. To the left is the time going (denoted on the x-axis in my mind, hence marked with x)

x:54 x:55 x:56 x:57 x:58 x:59

And to the right is the distance (y axis) going not nearly as fast, but close

y.56    y.57     y.58

The tongue is hanging out and I am watching the competing scales race against each other. Every second seems precious now, and I rashly increase the pace to a number that is making my heart pound. Just for a little while, I assure myself. And then…Sorry, but I have to put this thrilling narrative on hold for just a moment.

I don’t know whether you have ever been at the receiving end of a boomerang before.  I haven’t, but I am pretty sure that this is how it must have felt. You are looking keenly for the wretched object to keep going, and what does it do? Come right back at you! NOT doing what you are expecting it to do in other words. Now, back to the t.narrative.

Just as I am eagerly expecting both the axes to turn to x+1 and y+1, the time turns x+1 alright, but the distance just turns y.60. What the? I mean, why couldn’t it have been the other way around. When one is sweating it out and looking definitely like a warm bath and a cozy bed would do, why would the World thrust upon me the fact that a minute has only 60 seconds, while 0.9+0.1 miles make a mile, not 0.59+0.01?!

I complained bitterly, and even swore loudly at the treadmill. But treadmills don’t distinguish between people pounding on them or kicking at them, do they? They just go on cheating people by showing 60 seconds to a minute and 0.9+0.1 miles to a mile. That’s why, when once calculates my speed today, it is far from impressive. The standards are unfair.

Speed = Distance/Time! Humph and Humph again!

Black Duppatta becomes Red Hot Fashion Icon

With all the festive spirit, I walk around like a Christmas Tree. I don’t have the frightful blinking lights on me, but only just. I have equipped myself with a bright red coat – a beastly red, and a slightly long one at that, just in case people don’t notice. Yesterday, I stopped a trucker in his tracks – silly goose was trying to drive at an even pace in the city. I stared at him with piercing eyes, and after the effect of the coat had worn off, he noticed the wrath in the inner eye and skimpered down. I saw him sink an inch into his seat.

I shook my head stoically, and gave the fellow a warning look. Don’t let me catch you speeding again, was the general gist. Next time, he steps on the accelerator, he shall remember. That was the look. I saw a policeman look on most approvingly at the color choice.

IT frightens me to know that I have since become somewhat of a fashion icon in my circle of influence. I can right-away imagine a couple of damsels giggling hard thinking of me as the fashion icon. I admit to being guilty of passing pillow cases off as dresses and using large sheets (Queen size) as dupattas. But those days have passed. Couple of folks came and told me that I am a trendsetter!

I now freely pass on fashion tips to folks on platforms.  The other day, I decided to give the red show stopper a break and cloaked thyself in a dull grey. A  girl on the train asked me if I was the red coat lady, and what happened to my coat. Flattering, I tell you, flattering.

I might start a  fashion blog if this trend holds out. I am also freely giving advice on the choice of scarves and shawls to fellow sufferers. You see, I like wearing scarves over plain clothes, and now a fair few have shown interest in that direction as well.

All very complimentary of course. As girls, the sister and I were lovingly nick-named by the scoundrels on the wayside as “Black dupatta”, since we had 2 sinister dupattas – one black and one white to go with any dress – cream/pink/mauve/beige/crimson/teal. I found black went with more clothes and also required less washing, hence “Black Dupatta”.

Who would have thought “Black dupatta” would wear a bold red coat and stride forth with the head held high? Yet, here I am.

Merry Christmas – HO HO HO!

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