Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Bother of Birthdays

I have never been a birthday person. I don’t remember ever having looked forward to a birthday. It is not that turning a year older has really bothered me.

What does bother me about birthdays is the absolute fuss created over them. I balk at the attention. I have come to realise that there are birthday people and then there’s us who are rather unruffled by it all.

“Come to Delhi for our birthday, okay? We can have chocolate cake with gems!” said my wide-eyed niece, Piggy, excitedly. She and I share the same birthday. I looked at Piggy’s excited, cherubic face and mulled it over. I absolutely love her to bits. I do. She is the best birthday present ever. But I don’t quite fancy spending a birthday wading through a bunch of hyperactive, screaming four-year-olds to get to my chocolate cake with gems.

It is simply too unnerving considering the utter violence I was subjected to in my early days at the merciless hands of Terror#1 and his equally diabolical sibling. And I now have my hands full with BC and KO screaming, pinching, biting and clawing each other every time they disagree over what to order for dessert.

Birthdays are harrowing experiences for anyone who doesn’t much care for them. Of course, Bin does not share my sentiment. Bin adores birthdays. She is the type who begins planning her next birthday the moment she blows the candles off her current birthday cake with the pink icing and the silver bells.

One year, Bin called me up about a month before my birthday. “What plans for your birthday?” she squealed excitedly. “Nothing. May be just head out for a drink with the hobbler and the squabbler or something. I don’t care for birthdays anyway. Blah,” I replied tonelessly.

“What! How can you not like birthdays?! I feel like a princess on my birthday! It’s the ONLY day anyone ever pays any attention to me!”

“Err…”, I said in a valiant attempt to sound empathetic.

“But then you wouldn’t know anything about how that feels now, would you, Principessa?!” she shrieked back all distraught.

Oh, dear. I had just succeeded in irking the Keeper of Birthday Sanctity or something. Now every time Bin enquires about my birthday plans, I put up a cheery front, punch the air and add, “I am having the best birthday party ever, with balloons, frilly party frock and my awesome tiara. I am so excited!”

Then there’s BC, who decided we would celebrate by downing one shot of tequila for every year we’ve spent on earth. We quickly gave up on that idea. We realised that if we pressed on, we would probably spend an equal amount of time calling Jesus on the big porcelain telephone.

The stress of planning a birthday celebration is far too much for the likes of me. It must stem from planning those birthday parties back in boarding school. Oh, the tough decisions young infantile minds had to make. Coconut balls or elephant ears or scones or samosas? To invite the fightercock and the crybaby or not?

I haven’t come too far since then. Now it is all about deciding between vodka or gin or beer or a sickly sweet fruity cocktail. Or choosing between apt responses to keep the peace between friends who are gauging each other’s eyes out over the pronunciation of “Thomas”.

Yes, this birthday shall have to be a peacekeeping mission like any other day. Unless there's an offer of skydiving someplace or a nude wedding.

So, sorry, Piggy. Not this birthday. May be our next birthday - you'll be five and old enough to crack open your first can of beer and all that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Art of Giving Unsolicited Advice

1. One must be above the age of 30 to be eligible to impart so-called pearls of wisdom. If not 30, then one must be at least three years older than chosen advisee.

2. Always be on high alert for any opportunity to begin advising; even if met with mild protestations, suddenly vacant rooms, requests to use the restroom or feigned deafness. Keep in mind that not everybody actually wants advice; but everybody needs advice.

3. No conversation is above being interrupted for your pearls of wisdom. Pick up on snippets of a conversation and take off from there. Nobody dare argue that it is completely out of context. If they do, follow #4 - it unnerves them.

4. Remember, your stance is important. Clutch your left breast (or moob or whatever), tip your chin slightly upward and wax eloquent with your eyelids half closed, nodding emphatically every now and then for effect. Master #4 and the world is your advisee oyster.

5. Left-breast clutching must always be accompanied with the opening line, “As an older and wiser person, I will tell you…” Never shy away from stressing the fact that you are older and hence, automatically wiser.

6. Advisees are stupid people. Period. Never listen to their differing points of view, no matter how logically argued. As an older and, ergo, wiser person, you always know best. It doesn't matter that people may think otherwise. You know best!

7. Persistence pays. Unwilling advisees can be worn down if you keep repeating a line until they pipe down. Raise your voice if you need to. Shout “lalala” and shut your ears if you must. You will and must have your say.

8. Advisees must be treated like complete nincompoops. Smile patronisingly at all they have to say. Chuckle indulgently. It infuriates them, weakening their defences.

9. Everything and everybody is your business. Dispensing free, unsolicited advice has no bounds. There are no jurisdictional limitations on where you can advise people. At home, at the airport, in a public restroom, at the traffic signal, in a supermarket aisle.

10. Try and corner your advisee in a tiny space where escape is difficult. At the water cooler, the copier room with the single exit, the lift. Do not shy away from using an arm or a knee to pin them down. (There's no better listener than someone with a squashed windpipe).

Remember, everything you say IS “advice” because you say so. Sound all-knowing. It is not WHAT you say that matters, but HOW you say it.

Take it from an older and wiser person.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Siren Vs. Siren

Men and their priorities!

While everybody looked on in wonder when an ATM alarm began blaring for no apparent reason, a guy (note: with a girl on his arm) appeared oblivious to it all.

You can see where his attention lay. Blaring sirens be damned.

Based on a real-life incident.
Illustration: Cousin Binky
Concept & idea: KO and Basically Blah

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ur in trouble, missy

I always think twice now before I pen a post on a visit to the hospital for an ultrasound scan. After my last post on the subject, I was flooded with email, texts and messages on Facebook – 80% of which bore the words “Good news?!”

I have just two things to say to those "well-wishers":
1. Such “news” at this point in my life would hardly be “good”.
2. In case you were wondering why you never heard back from me, I’ve read that the use of the interrobang (?!) denotes a rhetorical question.

I have come to loathe ultrasounds given my rather bizarre experiences with the people handling them. This time around, I showed up bright and early, hoping to beat the queue of techies who invariably arrive on a Saturday for their company-sponsored medical checks - proudly flaunting their stool samples while fumbling with precariously balanced urine samples. You know you're in Bangalore when people around you are pulling stool and urine samples out of laptop cases.

The woman behind the desk beamed kindly at me when I presented my scan requisition form. I beamed back, thinking nothing of it until I plonked myself on a plastic chair near here. “Sit on the cushioned sofa, ma. You will be more comfortable, you know”, she said gently before casting a not-so-discreet glance at my belly and beaming. Oh, Lord. The beamer thought I was pregnant.

Do no single, non-pregnant women have ultrasound scans these days?

I sat there for an hour, glugging down water every five minutes. I did not want a repeat of the “Is your bladder full experience”. An hour and three chapters of Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue later, I had a bladder that would bring a tear to any good radiologist’s eye.

“Basically Blah?”


“So sorry, ma, but the machine is out of order. Can you come back after two hours or on Monday?”

Great. So much for gloating over my scan-worthy bladder. It was now reduced to a plain case of bloating. And when you gotta go, you gotta go.

I did what anybody, who shies away from hospital loos, would do. I called KO who lives nearby. A friend in need is a friend indeed and all that. Or so I thought. However, this is KO we’re talking about. The one who insists on burying her phone in a bag so large that it also doubles up as a cover for the Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium during the rains. In fact, if you are in Bengaluru and spot a bag with legs - that's KO.

There was no answer to my desperate calls.

I finally drove back home at top speed, hazard lights blinking, horn a-blaring et al. This was an emergency as good as any other.

Hardly five minutes after I had sighed with relief, my phone rang.


“Hello, ma. The machine is working. Can you come now?”

“I can get there in half an hour,” I said in dismay.

“Come with a full bladder, ok?”

Absolutely. Why don't I just swing by the local supermarket on my way there and pick you up a nice full bladder?

I drove all the way back, downing gallons of water on the way with the AC on full blast while saying “Ssssssssssssssssssssss” – hoping something or everything would do the trick. Classless. Absolutely classless. But desperate times called for desperate measures.

Is there a God? I cannot say for sure. However, this is certain: There is @$#@$ Murphy and his @#!@$ law.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Adam’s in Brine

You know you are at a Braying Adams concert when:

1. Someone at the gate offered to pay you to take all his tickets.

2. Tickets were being hawked for a “charitable cause” – the BA Aids Foundation.

3. You spot your dad and his cronies in the crowd.

4. Your dad thinks he spots his dad and his cronies in the crowd.

5. Everybody, including the samosa vendor, the stagehand and the traffic cop, knows every lyric of every song. Everybody except the teenager in the “I Love BA Forever” t-shirt who is pulled onto stage to sing along.

6. There’s a group of screeching Persian-speaking chicks clawing, biting and poking their way through the crowd to get to the edge of the stage.

7. One of the Persian chicks has a clump of your hair, which is possibly still in her mouth.

8. You are standing on one foot because there is no place to put the other one down.

9. Your cousin isn’t even on the ground; she’s hanging onto the collar of the unknown guy in front of her, who is slowly but surely dying of strangulation.

10. You finally find a solid bit of concrete to stand on. Ten minutes later, the guy behind you tells you that you’re standing on his feet.

11. Mr Concrete-Blocks-For-Feet decides to tell you where he’s from, says you look familiar and then asks whether you would like to sit on his shoulders.

12. There’s a middle-aged rotund drunk jumping up and down and dancing when people barely have place to stand.

13. People are playing pass-the-parcel with the middle-aged rotund drunk, steadily shoving him out of the crowd.

14. People are pointing and laughing at a woman who looks like she’s been in labour for 72 hours but who is really just on the verge of fainting.

15. You can tell firsthand that the guy pressed up behind you has chosen today, of all days, to go commando.

16. You are so tightly squashed against the person in front of you, there’s no way you couldn’t have lost a cupsize.

17. While leaving, you have to scramble over the middle-aged rotund drunk now lying face down on the ground with a Pepsi billboard thrown over him.

18. You leave the concert venue looking like you’ve been dragged backward through a hedge, drenched in perspiration that is not your own, vowing never to attend another BA concert.

19. Someone at the gate is still trying to pay people to take his tickets.

20. You stay up all night with your cousin discussing people at the concert rather than the actual performance itself.