Saturday, May 22, 2021

Find Your Inner Peas


Past month has been so stressful that I find myself resembling Neha Kakkar on steroids. One moment I’m pumping up the sunshine and the other my spirits are so low that I can’t decide what’s going down faster – my boobs or my spirits. The cocktail of home confinement, zero socializing and incessant bad news has led to a great deal of emotional turbulence.
Watching me check my phone at two in the morning, the husband said, “You should practice mindful-ness.”

“The mind is full already,” I snapped. “How much can I fill it?”

As ironical as it sounds, taking up meditation sounded better than doing nothing. When I can stare at my balcony plants for hours, I can surely watch my breath for minutes.

So I’m in a solitary room with meditation apps and videos to morph into a serene Simi Grewal from a miserable Nirupa Roy. The background sound of splashing waves plays on the phone. Swish. Swash. Imagine you are in a happy place. Feel the warmth of your breath in your nose as you inhale. Notice the mild rise of your stomach as you inhale.
Focus on the rise and fall of your stomach.
For one, ‘rise and fall of stomach’ has become a very sensitive phrase after all the stress eating. Two, I’ve spent so much time on Instagram that gentle waves obscured by blue skies somehow take me to Maldives and Disha Patani’s bikini pictures. 

Yet, I return to my breath.

Proud of the focus. As I breathe, I’m counting backwards. Ten, nine….
At seven, I’m proud of my unwavering focus. I’m away from WA and Twitter. I haven’t checked the active cases or the TPR in last thirty minutes. For the uninitiated, TPR is test Positivity Rate and not Total Profit made by Radhe.

Feel the warm breath entering your nostrils. Rather odd, but for some reason I sense a burning smell. Must be milk on the burner. I call my husband in the next room and he sounds exasperated, “Forget milk. Forget everything,” he says. “Just focus on your breath.”
If it’s not the milk, what’s this strange smell? I can smell, right? Phew! That’s good enough for now. Back to meditation.
Inhale. Exhale.

I’m tempted to check twenty-three new WAs. What if neighbour’s oxygen saturation dipped below 90? If I’m a neighbour of any decent denomination, I have to help. Thankfully, the neighbour is fine. Inhale. OMG, there are two new cases in my tower. Exhale. Who could that be?
I continue to focus on my body. Feel the gentle sensation.

Why is the second molar hurting? It was fine in the morning. I wonder if the dentist is open because I saw his pictures from somewhere in Nainital. Gosh, how can he enjoy crisp mountain air when I’m calming the activity of parietal lobe of my brain? Nainital reminds me how much I’m missing a road trip. 

This is too stressful. I contemplate watching Season 3 of Downton Abbey? I can mute the television and find some peace in knowing if Mathew Crawley finally got married to Lady Mary. No. Are you nuts? It would be too embarrassing to burst the bubble of those who cheerily sent me to meditate. I don’t remember when I dozed off.

When I emerge from the room an hour later, two pairs of expectant eyes are on me.

“How was it?” asks the husband.
Men are totally to blame for women’s lies. Why do they ask such questions in the first place?
“It was so relaxing,” I brighten up. “I'll do it every day.”
“You must. Look at the glow on your face?”
Of course.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

A Good Thing


Lockdown Diary

It’s a warm balmy April night. I sit with my mother in the balcony. A rapt silence rules the apartment lawns around us. After a long sigh, Mummy mutters, ‘When will this end?’

The stars above us are specs on a hazy charcoal canvass. An occasional flight blinks in the sky, telling us that things are not normal but life goes on.

Same time last year, nature had claimed its territories and the sky was ablaze with stars. Haze had cleared to give us a glimpse of snow capped peaks from as far as Saharanpur. Remember, Hyderabad had spotted a leopard on a busy highway? Noida had galloping Nilgais. Why, my own A-ha moment was spotting a Kingfisher in the land of pesky pigeons.

As May and June broke lazily and lockdowns melted into each other the occasional, ‘When will this get over?’ became a weekly thing. 
‘By Diwali this pandemic will disappear like Sars,' I assured. ‘We’ll burn a bonfire of masks and dance to drumbeats in Holi 21. And then plan a trip to Chicago.’

There was hope.

With the ominous rumblings of clouds, monsoon arrived and restrictions eased over time. The house helps were back, as was air travel and eating out. Small steps but as delightful as moist clouds scudding over my condominium.

Diwali, unfortunately saw another deluge of cases. And a 75th birthday remained muted. A landmark anniversary celebrated over Zoom. A wedding cancelled. A job lost. A life mourned.

And yet, there was hope.

‘When will this end?’ her voice now had a desperate tone. 

‘Soon,’ I sighed. ‘This will soon turn into an endemic. We can live with that, right?’

‘I’m not asking for much. I only want to see my dentist, go to the bank and hug my grandchildren without this gnawing fear,’ she said.
So what if we didn’t have a normal 2020, we will have a blast in the New Year. The promise of vaccines held light within.

A refreshing March arrived holding bright spring in its arms. As more and more people got vaccinated, it was time to book tickets to Goa, fix wedding venues and fly to meet the grandparents.
And then the adage, ‘Life happens to you when you are making other plans’ sprang up to ring true.

The respite was short-lived.


We were back in the prickly arms of March 2020. Forget dancing around a mask bonfire, I was ordering a N95 to ditch fancy cloth masks.

Worse, now we had mutants. And ominous words like ‘immunity escape’. When the world ought to move on, it was going on and on in tiresome waves.

The goalpost has now shifted to 2022. Because there is that stubborn thing. Hope. It sees light despite all the darkness. It jumps months, leaps years.

So when mother asks, ‘When will this end?’ I joke, ‘Soon. Hamari filmon ki tarah, end me sab theek ho jata hai. Agar theek na ho to picture abhi baki hai.’

Mom regains enough pep to retort. ‘Don’t give me Bollywood crap.’

‘Ok, Hollywood crap chalega?’ I chuckle. ‘You should watch Shawshank Redemption.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Same thing in English,’ I smile. ‘That hope is a good thing. Probably, best of all. And a good thing never dies.’

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Smart Desh Ka Smart Vaccine


To begin with, let me tell you that this post is your most unhelpful guide to vaccination. All because instead of studying vaccines and their efficacy data, I’ve indulged in a vest-by-vest comparison of who got what vaccine. Unless you live in a cave, you must have seen the trend of docs posting vaccination pictures and inadvertently exposing ‘andar ki baat’. As one doctor friend said, the various side effects of the vaccine are malaise, mild pain, fever, myalgia and photo achchi nahi aayi. But all is not painful or in 'vein'. There is a bright side to getting injections because we may get to see Dr Nene getting his jab in his Amul Macho - Ye To Bada Toing Hai.

As for me, I’m thankful for our population, pollution, BCG immunisation and golgappe wale bhaiya’s armpit sweat that helped us develop strong immunity.
Regardless, we should all get vaccinated so that we can happily go back to our national pastime - jhappis and pappis. It’s been sooo long, even Modi ji hasn’t hugged a world leader. Also because I want to go back to a cinema hall and watch a movie. I'm tired of watching Pankaj Tripathi in every second Netflix show.

If you are the anxious type, you can play the wait and watch game. Like your friends did after your viva exam. But the waiting game can be dicey. For one, a mutant strain can land you in the arms of a ventilator. And two, when Zydus, Sputnik, Novavax, Sinopharm and Genova enter the vaccine market, picking the right one can be as confusing as being a fart in a fan factory.
Sample this for a future. You walk into a chemist shop with the best collection of vaccines in town, including vaccine patches and vaccines sprays. The competition will be so tough that pharma companies will rope in Bollywood to endorse their vaccines.
Smart Desh Ka Smart Vaccine.
Zydus Hai Jahan Tandurasti Hai Wahan.
Isko Laga Dala to Life Hai Jhinga lala.

Your chemist will proudly announce, “Sir ye lijiye, market me naya hai. Imported hai. Nahi nahi Sir, China wala nahi hai.” You will look so profound as if you are advising Joe Biden on Paris Agreement but finally end up saying, “Ye Anil Kapoor wala laga de bhai.” Unless you are the guy who will take any vaccine that does not require alcohol abstinence between doses. Alcohol, after all might not help with herd immunity, but it’s worth a shot.
Other relevant thoughts pass over me like clouds. Why can’t we get the jab the ‘Hip Hip Hooray’ way in our gluteus maximus instead of the deltoid muscle and make Kim Kardashian proud? In case of any minor swelling, the lady can serve cocktails on her tail bone.
Even better. What if we rope in Jhon Abraham as the poster boy for our vaccination drive? It will be a ‘jab’ well done.

Come to think of it, if scientists can invent a vaccine in record time why haven’t they found one that gives us a body like the national heart throb Ms Patani? How difficult is it? Dear Bharat Biotech, once you are done with this pandemic, think of something that makes French fries cleanse my arteries. Let aging add to my hair volume and not my waist volume.
How about a vaccine that burns more calories while sitting than exercising?

On a serious note, unless you trust your immunity or your doctor suggests otherwise, everyone should get vaccinated. And if for some reason you wish to wait, the choice is yours. Ultimately it is about choice. After all, exercise and Tequila, both can make you look good.
And if this reads like the most logic deprived crap like Ram Gopal Verma ki Aag, I warned you in the beginning. Nope, I don’t feel guilty for wasting seven minutes of your time. If it was five, you did not read the whole thing. You deserve Chetan Bhagat.

Cartoon Courtesy : Stock Illustration Google Image

Friday, December 18, 2020

Hearbeat at your Feet

There are two kinds of people. Those who stay away from pets.  And those who think life is meaningless without four legs and a happy tail. I belong to the former. So far. Who knows what tomorrow holds? Hell, we don’t even know if 2021 will behave better than 2020. Or if Salman will ever get married.

I don’t mean to exaggerate but petting a dog was my biggest lockdown achievement - second only to meditating for thirty seconds. It was not always like this. Let me flashback to my childhood when I could cuddle a pet without the mental image of getting mauled and getting my bum injected.

 We used to live in a sprawling railway bungalow where spending a leisurely afternoon meant scaling guava trees and biting the raw ones before parrots did.  It was a childhood that entailed chasing butterflies and picking dead ones to preserve in your Enid Blyton. It meant letting a lady-bird crawl on your hand as you whispered ‘pass-fail’ to watch the insect fly away on ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. It was also about plucking a spring onion shoot and blowing air in the hollow stem to make a farting sound. And giggle dementedly.

One afternoon while counting the snails, I chanced upon a fluffy kitten in the bushes. Promptly, I knew where my cup of Rooh Afza laced milk belonged. I picked it up and named her ‘Juhi’ only to realize that ‘Juhi’ was Tom and not Molly. As months passed, the cat grew bigger, greedier and angrier. Needless to say, it was a ‘wild cat’ and not a friendly kitten.  Soon the cute meows turned into loud yowls and high pitched cat fights. There were days when we shoo-ed him away, but he jumped in the ‘angan’ with lifeless birds hanging from his mouth. The more we distanced ourselves, the more dead rats and birds landed in our house. That was the end of my pet affair. Ending simultaneously with my Kumar Gaurav infatuation.

Decades passed, I got married and my son began pestering me to get a dog. “If you can’t get me a baby brother or sister, get me a dog”, he pleaded. It was always a steely ‘no’ that brooked no discussion. There is an adage that if you are forced to stay away from something as a child, it is the first thing you do as an adult. So this year my son fulfilled his dream of adopting a dog.

Sometimes it is the pet that picks you and not the other way round. My kids met an abandoned pup whose parents had died in a car accident and they chose to adopt him. Yes, very filmy and very Nirupa Roy-ish. They named him Ozzy, despite the house-help calling him Ooji, Awji and Rozy.

The first time I saw Ozzy, he was less than a month old and very sick.  He opened his doleful eyes and curled up with a mild tail wag. I think he smiled a bit with his tail. The incredible softness and the serene eyes made me pet him minus the fear of a swollen bum. My children nursed him to health by taking him to the vet for almost a month for antibiotic injections. There were days when Ozzy was just a loud mouth at one end no sense of responsibility at the other. There were days when it was like feeding a mouth that bites you (ok nibbles, he was teething). All the while, I remained a distant observer.

Today, after six months of several chewed laptop cables and plants, the little chap has brightened up the work from home aka ‘work with pressure cooker whistles’ life of my kids. Ozzy is a blessing when it comes to physical fitness, patience, unconditional love and Insta stories. When my kids arrive at home, the wagging tail is happy for the entire city of Gurgaon.

 Wait. Don’t get me wrong. This does not mean I’ve become a pet lover. I still don’t get what song the doggo sings that my kids understand. My heart continues to lurch in my throat when he jumps on me. I can’t bring myself to hold or cuddle him. I still don’t understand how wet doggo kisses make people emotional.

 And yet, I remain a distant lover. Seeing Ozzy’s picture first thing in the morning brightens my day. When my friends ask, “How is the furball story going? I say, “Thoda sa pyaar hua hai, thoda hai baaki.”





Thursday, November 19, 2020

Diana - Whatever in Love Means


The Crown

This is not a review. Just musings.

I don’t mean to exaggerate but after baking sour-dough bread, the greatest lockdown survival tool has been Netflix. So I made the important announcement of watching Season 4 of The Crown on my WA group. Only to be told that others had already binged. Yes, this is what we discuss.  Netflix. Disappointed? What else were you expecting? A mRNA vaccine code?

See, if you are a woman my age the new season of The Crown is special because it introduces Diana. Charles and Diana saga remains most watched wedding spectacle, second only to Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. Their romance was like a fairy tale on steroids. So this season I got to huddle around a campfire of recollection - events I had seen on television, news I had read in the papers.

A lot changed in the last few decades. Diana passed away and Charles married his love Camilla despite professing platonic friendship. Pity, Brits didn’t know what Bollywood taught us all along – Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte. Telling you, if you follow Bollywood, you can never go wrong.

So back in the 80s, arrival of Diana heralded a new era for the stuffy British royalty. I was enamored by her. Watching her helped me escape my own political reality of dull khadi and drab dhotis. We wanted the same haircut. Perhaps Diana’s life evoked a fairy tale romance for girls who had outgrown Cinderella but were too young to follow movie stars. There is no denying that the likes of Angelina Jolie or Kim Kardashian couldn’t match the enigma of Diana, no matter what they did. Whether her charm resided in her beauty or the bucking off the stiff upper lip legacy; Diana occupied a special place in our hearts. Like triglycerides. 

Transfixed to my telly, I remember watching her play with AIDS infected kids, work for landmine deactivation and waltz with John Travolta wearing a blue velvet gown. Yes, I have this quality of remembering the past even though I open the refrigerator but forget why I opened it.

Coming back to The Crown, Emma Corrin does a splendid job of bringing Diana magic back to life. With the deeply researched script and eye focused on detail, we see Diana grow from a royalty smitten teen in frumpy frocks with frilly collars and baggy sweaters into a determined fashion icon. Same nervous tilt of the head, same gangly walk, and same coy smile. Capturing that beauty was never easy.

I could flashback to the time when Charles was asked “You both look very much in love?” Diana blushed, “Oh, yes, Absolutely”, but Charles quipped, “Whatever being in love means.”

( If you like you can watch here)

Emma Corrin captures the same perplexed look Diana had in that moment. Which means it’s ok to be cold and callous as long as you are royalty. Imagine saying that to your fiancĂ©e today and she will stuff the engagement ring up your nostrils. Or spank you in public.

The rest of the cast is equally brilliant. Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles is perfect in portraying an unsure gawky Prince with a slight stoop. Also, The Crown 4 is not only about Diana but about Margret Thatcher, played by Gillian Anderson. As someone said, she looks more like a mimicry artist than the stoic Thatcher we remember. And yes, we also get to witness the Falkland fiasco amid flashes of spectacular country side.

Going by the news, the royals and the royal biographer is unhappy, claiming that the show vilifies the royals. Perhaps he knows better but the show works because the director has not given in to the temptation of royal indulgence. It is a far cry from routine biographical accounts as it paints the characters with a realistic human brush. Even in the slightly nauseating sense of royal entitlement, their humane quirks resonate.

If you watch it, note that the middle class upbringing of Margret Thatcher as a workaholic does not auger well with the royals who prefer the aristocratic upbringing of Diana even though she lacks academic or social brilliance. Which tells us parents are the same world-over. Ladki apni jaisi honi chahiye.

Going back to my brilliant memory, just before the royal wedding Diana’s virginity had become a speculative sport. The world was debating her virtues when no one questioned 31 yr old Charles. In many ways, Charles and Camilla saga was like Silsila where Amitabh continues his intimate encounters with Rekha even as his wife Jaya waits patiently. Only Crown does not have Charles chewing pan, high on bhang and singing double meaning ditties. Bela Chameli Ka…..that would be so un-royal. Like Pierce Brosnan doing a Gutka ad.

Jokes aside, do watch The Crown for a well researched script, brilliant acting and spectacular sets. As with all nostalgic shows, only once you’ve finished watching it you feel a sense of void, making you unhappy that it ended.

And I’m back at the refrigerator wondering why I opened it. So much for a trip down the memory lane.



Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Chintu ka Birthday - Zee5 Release

Download Chintu Ka Birthday film Full HD For Free Online on ...

You enjoy a movie for different reasons. The story is one of them. Direction and acting, of course. Your company is equally effective. As is your connect with the movie. 

So on my son’s birthday this month, we decided to watch Chintu ka Birthday, a digital release on Zee5. I was keen because AIB (All India Bakchod) has produced the film and I wanted to see how they’ve matured from Bakchodi to movie production. 

The movie is set in war torn Baghdad during the Saddam Hussain and George Bush hostilities. 

Fade in. The film starts. You witness a special day in an emigrant Bihari family settled in Iraq. Played by Vedant Chibber, it is six year old Chintu’s birthday. The writer duo, Satyanshu Singh and Divyanshu Kumar have tried to capture the innocence of a child and the optimism of a father in a way that it reminds you of Life is Beautiful. Remember the Roberto Benigni’s Oscar winning movie? The film where a Jew father uses humour to shield his son from the horrors of a death camp? You can seldom go wrong when you portray emotions of family and bonds of friendship in the backdrop of a gruesome war. 

The directors let the anti-war sentiment seep in inadvertently as the film gathers pace. Whether it is the grandmotherly indulgence, sibling banter or Iraqi-Indian bonhomie, the film touches each aspect briefly yet subtly. 

Vinay Pathak as an indulgent father shines at what he does best – being a gem of a person. He’s played that role in so many films like Bheja Fry and Khosla Ka Ghosla that you know Pathak’s optimism will see the film through. That the innocent family devastated by war will be redeemed by love. Eventually. Albeit briefly. 

Tilotma Shome as the mother was a pleasant surprise as was Bisha Chaturvedi who essayed the role of Chintu’s elder sister. Like a quintessential elder sister, she owns the scenes where she tries to make her baby brother’s birthday special. Seema Pahwa as the grandmother has little to do and yet you are glad she is there with the family as bombs explode and soldiers torment.

The 80 minute short film is set in one house and moves through crests and troughs of emotions where you desperately want Chintu to cut his birthday cake. It is in the capturing of moments between Chintu and his family that the director pulls your heartstrings. It is in conveying the message that we have to make the most of life despite problems that are beyond our control. 

The film is simple. Sweet. But it’s not great. Or memorable. 

I enjoyed it because of the company. And the Chintu connect with my own Chintu. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Rear View Mirror


Scrolling down my twitter feed, I stumble on a tweet that says, ‘Post a picture of a landscape taken by you. Let’s travel virtually and flood this place with landscapes’. I promptly scour my picture folder and share pictures. One, two, six, ten.....

These days I find myself looking wistfully at my vacation pictures and childhood photos. Frozen moments. Happy memories. 
See, if you lose your mind as often as I do, it makes sense to take the mind off unpleasant things for the peace of mind. 

Got it? Never mind. 

What I’m simply trying to say is that nostalgia acts as a reminder that if things were beautiful once, they will be again. Forced in a lockdown, we are passengers watching months flit by like scenery from the train.  At a time when there isn’t much to the ‘present’ and future is as uncertain as Tusshar Kapoor's career, past is the only happy place to be explored. 

I refuse to feel guilty about it. All through this lockdown I have tried to pump up the sunshine. I have tried to be as bubbly as a laughter show judge. But in Lockdown 3.0, there are days when anxiety sneaks in. 

I’m sure it happens to you. Days tick by in a whirl of a mop but evenings present you with a lot of time to ponder. There you are sitting in your balcony empathizing with prison inmates, watching the neighborhood hottie wield a broom and suddenly it comes. A tickle in the throat. Cough. Wham, you forget everything, ‘Could it be that’? Your palm reaches your forehead. All well there. Must be some allergy. Or was it the ice cream last night? Ah, stop being a Covidiot. But what if ? 
Like all prisoners I try to take my mind off the pandemic track. The news anchor from the living room blares ‘Hum aap ko dikayenge Corona Ka Kehar’. I ignore.
I try to talk to a friend and relive college memories. 
I try to think of scenic places and happy moments. 
George Clooney. 

Needless to say, looking at the rear view mirror helps. Which is why people are happy travelling back to the 80s and 90s. Whether it’s watching Ramayana and Mahabharata or Chupke Chupke, Chasme Baddoor and Khoobsurat, we are triggering memories to make our lives meaningful. There are days when I’m so bored that I’m willing to go back to school and savour the whack from my mathematics teacher in sixth grade. Okay, kidding. 

Truth is, the new normal of not being able to go out even for a walk is telling us not to take things for granted. We are yearning for simple joys that seemed frivolous earlier. Is it any surprise that I absolutely loved an underwhelming Netflix series, The Panchayat. For a Breaking Bad and Narcos generation, what is it about Panchayat that is making us fall in love with it? Perhaps the message that we can find meaning in toughest times? Or perhaps the fact that we can find interesting in the boring? 

This pandemic is threatening things that made our life meaningful.  Reliving memories is an inadvertent attempt to restore our sense of purpose. It can be travelling on a song, a movie or a picture. Nostalgia may be a liar, but if it helps tide the present, I’m willing to seek comfort in the arms of a liar.