Friday, July 31, 2009

What's in the trunk?

The Indian media was agog with the news about an elephant, a young tusker, that ran riot through a film set (read). The elephant gored its mahout to death before ravaging the sets of the movie Ravana being directed by well-known director Mani Ratnam.

Of course, most channels immediately sought to reassure their (worried?) viewers that the stars of the movie, the famous cant-seem-to-get-out-of-your-face couple Abhishek and Ash, were safe and sound. I, however, seemed to be in the insignificant minority desperate for news on the fate of the elephant. Finally, one sensible channel informed me that the elephant was tranquilized. I heaved a sigh of relief. Invariably, the first reaction to any rogue elephant (or leopards that stray into towns, or mongrels that nip an interfering kid) in our land of non-violence is to club it to death. So this was a relief to hear.

The reason for the elephant's rage was musth. Ducky, like a lot of men out there, must be familiar with the phenomenon. I believe its equivalent in women is called PMS.

I was reminded of a picture I snapped during my recent trip to Jaipur. Elephants being made to give tourists a joyride in that scorching 45+ degree desert heat. They plodded along the burning tar roads, quite placidly tolerating the jabs and hoots of their mahouts. I felt immensely sorry for them, watching them amble along, desperately trying to keep themselves cool by spraying their own saliva on themselves with their trunks.

The greatest affront, however, could possibly be what I captured with my camera. Some busybody prying at the elephant's backside, trying to find who-knows-what, the Jaipur jewels? Take a closer look at that picture and tell me what you think he's trying to find! (For the more tech-challenged lot who haven't figured out how to leave a comment yet, email me:

Anyway, if that pachyderm had run amok after that, I couldn't blame it. Anyone would be super pissed off if complete strangers came poking at their backsides! Wouldn't you be?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mum's (Not) the Word

If you believe that all women are born with the maternal instinct and are really all just waiting to experience the glorious miracle of childbirth, then this blog post is absolutely not for you.

There are two types of people in this world: baby people and puppy people. I most certainly and totally belong to the latter. Show me a puppy (or a dog) and I'm pretty much willing to do anything for it. Scoop poop, mop pee, you name it. As for a baby? I'd rather gauge my own eye ball out with my bare hands than go within 100 miles of a dirty diaper, a wailing baby, a precariously dangling snot bubble, or a mound of semi-digested Cerelac that just sloshed its way onto the dining table.

I know some folks are going to blame this lack of maternal instincts on the 'evolution of the modern woman': a woman who has lost her innate (and most important) instinct to reproduce and nurture. However, that is not the case. There are just some of us women who would rather skip the wondrous experience of pushing a watermelon out of a keyhole (as someone once described childbirth). And if that isn't enough, spend the next N number of years in baby hell, surrounded by the stench of soiled clothes and baby barf, screaming tantrums, sore nipples and broken china. All this after 9 months of wobbling around gracefully like a walrus in stilettos.

"But don't you feel the urge to continue your lineage?", I've been asked. Eh? Call me selfish, but I really just want to get through this one life focusing on me, and don't particularly care about leaving behind any bawling legacies. Is that a cardinal sin? Pardon me if I haven't realized that the sole reason I am on this planet is to be the vessel for new life in one of the world's most populous countries. "To create another person in one's own likeness" - that's what God wanted when he created man, I believe, not what I dream about.

I really couldn't care for putting pictures of myself on the net, holding up a young squealer like a competition trophy. Don't get me wrong. I am not against anyone who loves kids or is dying to have one. They are just born like that. I just resent the ones who act supercilious about less-maternally-inclined women.

It is just that popping one out doesn't really figure on my list of life's ambitions. For those women who share my sentiment, there is nothing wrong with us. Just like there are tea drinkers and coffee drinkers, homosexuals and heterosexuals, Einsteins and George Bush Jr, and Ferrari fans and McLaren fans, there are pro-procreating women and the non. Let's just reconcile ourselves to stark reality, accept our differences and move on already.

{This post is a general opinion piece and does not in any way reflect the goings-on in Basically Blah's personal life. This means that those of you trawling this blog for hints of gossip: stop trying to read between the lines!}

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Television Never Replace Reliable Old Keyhole

Television never replace reliable old keyhole.

So says a supposed Chinese proverb. Of course, these hilarious "Chinese proverbs" that throng the Internet are highly unlikely to be either Chinese or proverbs (Man who fart in church sit in own pew?!) in the first place, but they are quite likely to evoke a chuckle or two. Anyway, debating the authenticity of these "proverbs" is not my intention right now (or any time in the future, for that matter). I am just glad they are there so I can put them up as silly status messages on Facebook or Google Talk once in a while.

While the wise saying goes that TV will never equal spying through the (t)rusty keyhole, it looks like this could very well happen with the number of bare-all, expletive-heavy, will-do-anything-for-TRPs reality shows on air. There's a voyeur in all of us and that's why these shows are immensely popular. One of the latest is Sach Ka Saamna, a ripoff of the American show The Moment of Truth. Ripping off a reality show, of course, seems like the prerequisite for reality shows in India.

Like everybody else hungry for a whiff of scandal, I have watched a couple of episodes, gasping at revelations of home truths and rating each participant higher or lower on my "scumbag meter", reveling in my holier-than-thou smugness. Once the truth is out, word spreads and YouTube steps in to cater to anyone who might have missed a spicy revelation.

Now it's time for the culture vultures and moral police to show some signs of life, lest the general population forgets them and their beatings. Not to be outdone, (or possibly feeling slightly eclipsed by the with-the-times, net-savvy Tharoors and so-evidently-do-not-write-this-myself Advanis and Laloos of the political world), members of Parliament have begun protesting "the obscenity" of shows like Sach Ka Saamna. Not surprising though, considering truthfulness has never been their strong point.

So while Mamatha Banerjee reads out a railway budget that is really just a haha-in-your-face-take-that-Laloo tirade, MPs sit by and probably go:
-MP #1: Man, I really haven't a clue why I'm sitting here. I just had to write "BC" on a slip of paper, then people dumped a load of garlands on me, paraded me around town with loudspeakers.
-MP #2: You too? I did all of that, read a big "Banana" list of promises, got a bunch of them farmer guys drunk on cheap brew and sent them to the voting booths.
-MP #1: Ah, yes, it's all about the people, isn't it? Not only that, I got my bouncers to dole out free money and then free beatings to anyone who didn't put my name into the ballot. Works wonders.
-MP #2: Check out the [Mamatha Banerjee screeches] on Sushma.
-MP #1: Pity Renuka isn't around. She had a better [Mamatha Banerjee screeches].
-MP #2: True. Does Sushma always look like that or did she just see one of those new Manforce bubblegum and vanilla flavoured condom advertisements on TV?
-MP #1: Manforce? Isn't that the name of Mulayam's Anti-Womens-Reservation Bill protest campaign?
-MP #2: Oh, I thought that was the name of the new park with Mayawati's gigantic statues.
-MP #3: Dudes, quick, we need to raise a protest and disrupt this parliament session. The railway woman is driving me nuts and her [Mamatha Banerjee screeches] is not worth looking at either.
-MP #2: How about the Manforce commercials?
-MP #3: Dude, we're supporting Mulayam's campaign. We can't protest that.
-MP #1: How about one of those reality shows where women wear skimpy clothes?
-MP #2: No way, we need those. How about the boring one where one guys asks questions and the other answers while his family watches and cries?
-MP #3: Yep, that should do it. It's so bland, even Vajpayee the certified bachelor has better revelations to make. We do everything they confess to doing and more and we don't get an applauding audience. Besides, with no skimpily clad women to ogle at on the show and in Parliament, our existence stinks!

On news channel ticker tape that evening: Members of Parliament protest the airing of television show Sach Ka Saamna saying it goes against Indian culture.

So apparently, Indian home truths must not be voluntarily aired on TV for all to savour; they ought to remain at home, where neighbours can spy on them and spread the gossip themselves. Now that's Indian culture.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pitaya on my Plate

So this morning, my mother went off to the local grocery around the corner, Namdhari's, and returned soon after, thrilled to bits with her 'spoils of war'. She took out this flaming pink fruit with tiny green flaps all around it. It is called 'Dragon Fruit' and retails at 160 bucks a kilo. Which basically means you get one fruit for that price.

Since we're both fruit bats by nature, our excitement over this new find could scarce be controlled. I dashed off to get my camera while she ran to telephone her brother with the news. Even the birth of a new baby in the family couldn't possibly evoke as much excitement.

Once the photo shoot was done, I did what any normal person would do in these circumstances. I Googled it. As it turns out, this fruit is also called Pitaya and is found in parts of South America, China and South-East Asia.

Now all that's left is to cut it open and eat it. Aut viam inveniam aut faciam!

Monday, July 20, 2009

They All Fall Down

Even scorching 45+ degree heat could not deter a chronic shoppaholic like me. So, with Ducky in tow, I strolled around the bustling market of Sarojini Nagar. I've noticed that salesmen up north are much more aggressive in trying to drive up sales than their more benign counterparts down south.

And so it was in SN that we haggled with and were hounded by dozens of salesmen. We finally approached a store where there was a 'fantastic' sale on - pick anything in there for 75 bucks. It had a mound of t-shirts, shorts, kurtis and whatnot with dozens of enthusiastic shoppers burrowing into it like frenzied moles. The salesman, who stood outside the store bellowing for people to check out his fantastic sale, would put any foghorn to shame. "75 rupees, any item, all item, super sale! ", he hollered.

Three women strolled past him, lugging a whole lot of shopping bags. They paid the foghorn absolutely no attention. He would have none of that. "Arrey, Madam! Dekho kya gir gaya!", (look what has fallen down!) he shouted suddenly. Startled, they turned around, worried eyes scanning the ground. "Kya gir gaya?", (what fell down?), one of them asked him anxiously, obviously thinking one of her precious purchases had fallen out of her bag.

"Madam, dhaam gir gaya!", (the price has fallen), he whooped with a broad smile, gesturing toward his shop as laughter erupted all around him.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stone Deaf

In Delhi, I got the chance to attend a workshop conducted by a well-known crystal healer and tarot-card reader, Bindu Maira at The Maximum Store. Ducky was dragged along for good measure and cowered at the back of the room while the otherwise all-women audience waxed eloquent about the supposed fantastic power of gem stones on one's life. While I am still quite sceptical, the overall session was interesting.

At the end of the session, I went over to Bindu and asked her whether she could suggest any crystal for Ducky, since he's in the army et al. Only families of defence personnel must worry for the safety and protection of their loved ones every single day. Bindu suggested Larimar for Ducky, saying it would do his lungs good. Rarefied air at his high-altitude post and ciggie smoking is a bad combination!

I promptly told Ducky that he required Larimar and we decided we'd pick it up from Bindu some time later.

Days later, while shopping in Jaipur, I was busy thwarting the attempts of a resolute salesman trying to interest me in earrings made of semi-precious stones. "Ok, Madam, take a look at these bee-yoo-ti-ful earrings made of Lapis Lazuli", he persisted. At this point, Ducky, who had thus far displayed marked disinterest in the proceedings, suddenly pricked up his ears.

"Lapis Lazuli?", he said, eyes gleaming brighter than the gems on display. "Do you have just the stone?" Looking pleased as punch, the salesman enthusiastically fished out a tray with the bee-yoo-ti-ful stones. Deep blue with little flecks of gold. I had to agree. They were bee-yoo-ti-ful.

"Shall I buy it?", asked Ducky. I could see his mind was made up already. Nothing I said could deter him now, not even if I threatened him with the world's largest cannon (Jaivana) that was parked nearby. "If you like it so much, buy it", I said. And so, Rupees 1,550 later, we strode out, Ducky beaming and the even happier salesman doing the cancan behind a terracotta camel.

A day later, Ducky mentioned that he was glad he'd picked up "the stone that Bindu recommended". Dramatic pause.

- What? She suggested LARIMAR, not this!
- What! Then what is this?
- Lapis Lazuli!
- What! I paid 1550 for a stone I don't even need?!
- Hahahaha!
- Why didn't you tell me!
- [Choking] How was I to know that you'd gotten them mixed up? I thought you liked the stone. It is bee-yoo-ti-ful.
- I don't believe this!
- [Sides splitting] Oh, well, if nothing else, Lapis Lazuli has definitely taught you to listen to your woman!
- $$#@&%&*^*^^%**#@

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Giant Momo

If you're wondering what to have for lunch today, consider this: Thaifu.

I discovered this while frantically looking for a restaurant in Kalimpong that served lunch at 2:30 in the afternoon. Apparently, everybody eats at exactly noon and then looks amused when famished strangers show up asking for lunch at 2.30 pm.

Having been denied nourishment at Cloud 9 and The Park Hotel - both restaurants that I'd recommended in Kalimpong earlier - Ducky and I spotted a Chinese/NE cuisine restaurant tucked away in the basement of a ramshackle building. The restaurant, whose name escapes me now, was quite clean and nicely done up, a stark contrast to the dinghy surroundings.

The friendly waiter, sporting tattoos and a million piercings, probably noticed the disappointment writ large on my face when he said there were no non-veg momos available. He then recommended I try "Thaifu", which wasn't on the menu, but which, he assured us, was very much like a big momo and would taste good too.

He couldn't have been more right. The giant momo on my plate, served with the delectable red dallae chilli sauce, was delicious. The inside was stuffed with mince fried with spicy green chillies, coriander, peas and a little cabbage. Ducky sorely regretted the fact that he'd balked at experimenting with a new dish as yours truly wolfed down the Thaifu in delight.

Five stars for fabulous food and pleasant service, little nameless restaurant in Kalimpong!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jatties & Jaipur

Ducky and I just returned from a weekend trip to Jaipur. This trip was a hallmark of sorts considering that Ducky is a Rajput who has never set foot in Rajasthan!

We made it to Jaipur from Delhi in roughly five hours by car and spent almost that same amount of time trying to locate the Officers' Mess where we were to stay. Apparently, nobody can give directions straight in Jaipur. I have concluded that the hot desert sun has fried everybody's brains.

Amidst the chaotic traffic, we got stopped by a cop for not wearing our seat belts - something we'd forgotten in the confusion of hopping in and out of the car to ask for directions. However, the military I-card worked its wonder and we trundled off scotfree. Those of you who know how anal I can be about wearing a seat belt, this is your moment to gloat.

We finally located the elusive Mess (we'd passed it over a dozen times), ably guided by Scion over the phone (he had a satellite map open). Once we'd freshened up, we headed to the local markets. My glee and enthusiasm soon wilted as I found myself groped, fondled, leered at and more - all this with Ducky at my side. Soaring heat and soaring male hormones - that is chiefly what I shall remember about Jaipur.

The rest of the trip passed off in a blur - shopping for jooties, clothes, and knickknacks for an as-yet non-existent house, walking around forts, more shopping while ducking lecherous advances from strange males, and dinner at a restaurant that promised traditional folk dances. The single woman dancing with a couple of pots on her head was only interested in performing for the couple of foreigners sitting in the place. No sword and fire dances - sorely disappointing.

I was only too glad to get out of Jaipur as soon as possible. The blazing sun beat down on us as we drove out. I rummaged around for something like a towel to hang against the window to keep the heat and glare out. When I found nothing, Ducky suggested that I hang his recently discarded chuddies** across the window. With no better options, I complied. So we drove all the way from Jaipur to Gurgaon with a pair of checked undies flapping gaily in the wind. It most effectively cut the heat. Long live the jatties**.

**Jatties = Tamil language term for underwear; Hindi equivalent would be chuddies