Friday, July 31, 2009

HIV test a must now for operations

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I had to get a minor op op done recently. And interestingly, for the first time in my experience with hospitals, I was asked to do an HIV test. First I thought something about my demeanour had prodded the doctor into suggesting it!! She had also marked blood test for Hepatitis A, which is a common and a highly infectious liver infection. The sonographer-cum-lab owner, however, assured me that this was now a standard procedure since in any such eventuality the entire operation theater and all the stuff used will have to be intensely fumigated. I was relieved. But the new, young assistants at the lab were curious. Why are you doing all these tests, they worriedly asked me. My husband and I always have a good laugh about how I look guilty as a a matter of rule and when such pointed questions are asked I look even more guilty!! That way, the situation was funny in an ironic way.
I must have imagined that, but the grins by the lab assistants and sonographer were wide and accepting after the results came out. It seemed they were relieved to see that I had got the all-clear! Even I felt that: because it is something to do with such tests that you dread their outcome!! But I am glad to know that clinics and hospitals are taking studied and scientific precautions....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Make-up artists in Mumbai

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Fortunately I am not famous. But occasionally I have to don some make-up for a shoot. It happens with New Woman magazine and had to, simply had to, do it for the TV series on Body and Soul. Ah, I remember the time, when I had to do that with for Harmony. Of the lot, the last had the most pro make-up artiste, possibly because the Ambani name kept the make-up artist well-behaved. No, actually, I think because Harmony also must have used an artist from other than the common pool.Whatever it was, it was not the intimidating, or nerve-wracking encounter that can happen commonly.

I remember the first sour experience happened during a shoot for Body and Soul. The make-up artist, first not so impressed that I was not famous (they get the same amount whether person is famous or not:) started looking at his watch pointedly several times after lunch. Though he was booked for the full shift (they work on shifts) he was keen on doing another one for which he wished to leave. Unprofessional. And trying to cover up by turning nasty and mean with the general body language and going on cribbing about the time, about everything in general. Sicko.

Then there was an interesting, quirky character who, the minute he landed at my doorstep, asked pointedly at me," Where is the model?" (This was for a New Woman shoot) I told him, there was no model, only poor I. Looking arch, he told me (he really really did), "You look like a boot (monster!)". To be kind to him (and myself) I think he meant my wild tresses, because next I knew my hair was bound with a big hair band he was carrying. (The journalist looked shocked and cringed; and later, when she came for another assignment remembered this incidence with great embarrassment. She told me that she was amazed that I did not react with anger to his jibe:) He did a great job and being a yoga teacher and understanding where that was coming from (a gay not allowed to be open his sexuality; from a lower middle class background dealing with snooty, cranky star types; being excellent in his job and yet being treated on par with the other mediocrities). Then, he kept a monologue about how awful some of the superstars, whom he had (all make-up artists will boast that they do superstars:) to salvage drastically. That petite dark-skinned star, such dark circles. And that beauty? Make-up artists hands quake when they are assigned to her, they have to do so much damage control. It will be great to write some features, based on interviews with these guys...Such colourful gossip!
But when he left, he kindly promised to get me a similar hair band to tie up my curls:)

Last time, I had a sweet fellow. But his make-up kit and brushes looked so unkempt that the minute the shoot got over, I ran and washed off my face since I was scared I will get some infection! And even he, despite his sweetness, when told not to use such a loud pink shade on my lips, cribbed: "She has two skin shades on her lips." God, you could be a mutant, the way these guys bitch!

Oh,my visitors are tailorbirds

I thought they were humming birds. But realised they don't display the `helicopter' like ability to hang, quivering, before a flower. The mistake I made was due to the long, curved beak. However, these beaks are still are not long as humming bird beaks, which need to be really long, to reach right into a flower's breast:)
So, yes, the tailor birds are still regularly visiting my balcony. They quiver, though not as intensely as humming birds, over some of my creepers. That may be, I wonder, if they want to build a nest here...
Let me see... Have brought more flowering plants now. That could attract even humming birds. Did you know, real gardeners plant gardens to attract butterflies or humming birds:) ? So nice.
In Mumbai there are always some mad gardeners. And equal number of people who are mad at them, for ruining the building facade with drippy, muddy water. There has been intense lobbying here, in our complex, to ban plants from balconies. That is also the norm in certain European cities. However, we have managed to fight it off... I think there could be insistence on ensuring that your plants don't drip over the wall, or your neighbours balcony. Fine those who mess up, do not keep plates under pots, or water them so much that they drip over your balcony and fall over somebody else's.
But come on, a bit of green could save this urban mess... If people can feed pigeons so they become pests, and resist street dog culling so that the city has several hundred dog bites daily, what harm can a few plants cause?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A restaurant shuts down?

I hope this blog is wrong -- but I passed Kutty's on the Link Road and saw that the shutter is down. No message either as to what is wrong. I had blogged on how great the food was, the ambience too, despite the squalid location -- but then, most of Mumbai is squalid and we eat our pavs over which flies have shat and which have, in their turn, sat on some shit...
But to leave those fulminations aside, am just saddened to see the shutter down on Kutty's -- great food at great prices. And nice shiny-faced Keralite receptionist. Felt was almost in Kerala.
Sigh Sigh...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Botox, I, and a big bad city:)

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Yesterday, having nothing else in life to do now that the daughter is away at boarding, I wandered into a cosmetic clinic for a facial (see the recent Kailash Kher song, exclusive on V channel and u know why I empathize with the bandit queen). The consultation with the dermatologist was free: recession and festive season contributing to this sort of bonanza. (Some shops are enticing with this line: Buy one, get seven free!!)..
Any case, I was asking about products, and the lady told me to give her a frown. Though my normal frown is rather intimidating (ask my quaking husband:) she said it won't do, and I must frown harder. Then she said to smile. While I smiled, my usual wide-mouthed grin (that embarrasses my kid, being so open, wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve sort of smile) she said I must smile harder -- the sort of Mr Bean mimic-the-clown-trying-to-get-out-of-dour-you grin. It made me foolish. I told myself I deserved this and more for having ventured here. Then she made me crinkle my face. Then she told me something -- and thank god it was a free consultation or I would have told her to give my money back -- she said that these gestures created deep lines. Helloww!! I know that already. If I frown and did not get a line on my forehead how the heck will the fellow whom I am intimidating know I am frowning? Or if I grin and people did not think I was smiling? The sheer effort, to make up for all that failed communication, would kill me!! But she sort of waved the proverbial syringe at me: I mouthed that dreaded word for her: Botox? I asked her astonished. I was asking for a facial and this lady says botox! Does she not know I do yoga, for heaven's sake!
She nods wisely and say, "Yes, it will make you look younger". Dead, was more like it. Have you seen those illiterate sad sacks in the entertainment industry who do botox and forget to smile and frown? Me, there? I, who thinks freedom means to frown and smile at will??

I walked out of the clinic, glad to have gotten out, smile and frown intact. This sort of nonsense, they call aggressive marketting. Watch out...
I even know a yoga student of mine who proudly told me that she has done training with a firm for such injections and she is not even a cosmetologist. Apparently in Mumbai, long before this post was even fretting to happen, socialites where having botox parties, giving each other shots to look younger....
Easy youth:)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Humming birds in my balcony

A pair of humming birds have been regular visitors to that strip of balcony for which we paid some neat amount(according to the civic rules the builder should not charge anything for this, so technically this belongs to the whole world! There is some nonsensical rule about balconies in Mumbai absolutely outdated about which, come to think of it, I will blog sometime this week:)
Earlier, parrots used to land here, gloriously screeching, brilliant and spanking green, a colour so brightly fresh that I always felt that they had just hatched out of eggs (that is dumb, since they were fully grown with gloriously long tails that dangled tantalisingly over my window sill) but they so looked green and fresh, untainted by this dirty, smoggy city.
But that was when we were new to this place which was rather empty, with buildings yet happening, the Dream Park had not dented the Thakur village's image,transforming it into encroachers' den (food stalls, the messiest encroachers). The parrots do not visit us anymore. Other urban dwellers do -- crows which are being fed by a stubborn old man in the opposite flat (though I have not seen him for some time now, is he dead?) and which drop some weird things on my balcony since there is a fish market in the direction they fly:) The fellow who lives below my flat is constantly seeking to fight with me... I wonder if he thinks I drop half-eated, raw chicken legs deliberately on his balcony?!! He does not know I am vegetarian.
I used to think pigeons are villains -- oh, these kabootharkhanas and their trusts mint a lot of money, did you know, in this city?? Which may explain why they keep sprouting about all over the city, messing it up so enormously despite some civic law that warns of a heft fine if you are found feeding such creatures in public places.. Abnd they are the ones who pluck out my flowering plants right out of the pot, nest on my cactus, shit on my drying clothes, and even, amazingly shit through mesh... I tell u, they fly and aim deliberately so the goo lands on my freshly cleaned window pane. Who said they are dumb?
Since pigeons are around, their enemies hawks /eagles also lurk. I have seen some heart-stoppingly large ones preening on the building opposite. But they are a common sight in this urban jungle. I remember while a wide-eyed feature writer with the Sunday Times, I had heralded the arrival of the Lemon yellow butterflies with a feature. I also wrote on these animals in the urban jungle -- cranes preening over their nests along railway tracks... All my articles, filed and bound neatly, got burnt in the fire at my home.. Time to put away some things....
Frank Moraes, the ad guru, once wrote a nice letter with a few lines, complimenting me on my choice of topics... Later when I met him, on some other assignment he, on a alcoholic high, did not remember the compliment at all..Which just goes to prove the transience of all things:)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why watching Harry Potter in Mumbai is so bleh-blahh!

Part of watching a game in the stadium or doing yoga in a group or sitting in a satsang or watching a play at the theater or sitting in a music concert or going to a movie is the contributing factor of the group energy. The group, its collective appreciation, adds something to the whole experience. Comparable to or even better than having popcorn while watching an entertainer or wearing a good swimsuit when the body is toned:) It sort of completes the experience in a subtle but definite and powerful way.

Which is why it is always, for me, extremely disappointing to watch good films in Mumbai. Perhaps it is because of where I live -- Thakur village -- a place where English is really a foreign language. Where even teachers make the gaffe of calling kids, "ChildrenS!". Or perhaps, it is because the collective attention span of the average Mumbaikar is so limited that they cannot watch a film whose main strength may be its lines. Visual films make a bit hit here, I notice. However, if while attending a great visually strong film which also has super lines and you desperately wish for someone else to cackle along with you -- as while watching Shrek or Ice Age -- then you are a wishing for the impossible.

For instance, the latest Ice Age had so many great one-liners, what you may even call `Adult' jokes. However, the only time I caught even the teenagers laughing was at those slapstick moments intended to tickle the toddlers. When the toddlers laugh at those clownish pranks, everybody else is laughing!! But when those great one-liners intended to explode your funny bone roll off the screen, no one is laughing!! I remember the same thing at Shakespeare in Love -- feeling somehow of being in the minority appreciating those marvellous ageless lines as they rolled off the lips of the actors....

During Harry Potter, mid-way, you could hear most people talking loudly amongst themselves. Or making loud calls on their cell-phones.

Even the luxurious scenes of the film could not hold them, because most seemed not to follow or understand or bother to follow the film. The film had lost them. But since it was in the rave, must-see list people are going to say they saw it and how great it was.

Though this blog does sound snobbish about that sort of behavior, that is not the intention. It is just an expression of disappointment, that as a rule, since I have known it in Mumbai, only slapstick, or loud films seem to make an impact. That way, if you long for group enthusiasm in a cinema hall -- forget it. You might as well be the only one munching popcorn and having a great time watching a great film. But you cannot even make-believe that way, to shut out the rest of crowd. Because everybody else is determindedly ruining that for you, by walking about, desperately ordering samosas, or mobile-phoning away as if they were in an open park ....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Borivli National Park, on a wet Sunday

We were at the national park this Sunday. It was drippy green, brilliantly green, wet and looked like an overgrown jungle it was. I remember when we had first visited it we had spotted feeding deer, and were very charmed. In the monsoon too, on the several times we'd been there, we saw exotic mushrooms looking webbed white against dark, mossy trunks. Overgrown bamboos,burdened with their own extravagance, slumping elegantly. Groups from all over the city, all classes, trekking safely along the tarred roads, or eating their packed lunches, and guzzling booze from ill-concealed plastic bottles with deliberately misleading labels like Pepsi (instead of Old Monk:).
Kids, adults, groups of men -- loud, boisterous, drunk but jovial -- keeping within the limits of social good behavior since police vans are patrolling to ensure that there is no drunken mishap...

The monsoon this season has been weak, half-hearted, so the water levels in the otherwise dry rivulets did not surge abundantly as in the previous years. Only ankle level.There were no fishes yet, nibbling at our toes,in those little pools these temporary rivers form. We sat on the gushing water, as crickets chirped over the water's soft sweet rush. We ate our food and felt child-like. The men got drunk, but that is another story...

A visit to the Borivli National Park is a must. Ideally you must take a vehicle. Keep to the tarred roads. Going too deep or off the trails can be risky if you have a boisterous group that cannot contain itself. The rocks can get slippery. The rivulets can turn treacherously fast. The rocks are moving with the water, and walking barefoot in them could mean cut feet.. and when u walk with sandals you cannot quite gauge where to place your feet in that shifting surface.

Also, groups of men can get annoyingly boisterous(Middle-aged Indian men can act like teenagers in such occasions that it can be quite a kill-joy), so keeping to sides where people are, can ensure safety if you have women with you. Not all people immediately rush to your aid if there is a problem, but I remember once, here, when our car tyres got stuck in the mud and the men with us did not know to manoever the vehicle, some boys gamely lifted it out to safety....

All in all, only one of those few ways you can get back to nature in this concrete jungle -- a wet day in the monsoons, at the Borivli National Park...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Handwriting hassles in heartbreak city

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Free MySpace Animations!My handwriting keeps changing. My Lic agent always says that when I sign a chq ... However, I know that a handwriting specialist will be able to decipher that it is the same person signing it. So I am not too bothered about that: I know I can get away with that shaky signature of a person who has not made up her mind what to be.
But this can be a tough one. I remember at my bank locker, the bank staffer looked oddly at me and with concealed irritation and archness asked me if I remember my full signature:) She must have thought, with the increasing prejudice my community draws, that I was just another illiterate in western clothes...
Any case, I am teaching a young boy to read and write English. At 26 and not having attended school as a kid, he is rather vulnerable though full of dreams. He signs his name with capital letters and small ones all jumbled up, but painfully separate. It looks like that of a four-year-old. Before I started him on cursive writing, which has not advanced further than `f', I warned him that he must remember his current signature clearly.Otherwise he will have problems at the bank or with other official stuff he has signed, using that childish scrawl. He grinned. He said he knows that already, how important it is to stick to his signature. One of his friends, also uneducated has had a problem at his bank. His account his now locked since his current signature is not matching his earlier one!!

This city is so full of people who come like that ... from small towns with big dreams...If that ever changes this would not be the Mumbai that is so beloved to all of us...If we could -- all of us who love it -- keep it clean, warm and safe it would be our tribute to this beautiful city ..

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leaking blankets, rain and a weird dampness

I picked up these blankets at D'Mart a few months back. New and wrapped and unused, I finally unravelled them for the monsoon when I need over four-five thick blankets to keep me from the dampness and chill. However, something peculiar about these bed-sheet-cum-blanket. They are oozing moisture. First time, feeling lazy and sluggish, before going to bed, about two hours ahead I spread all the blankets the way I liked them, layered, so that when I felt like hitting the sack, I could just slide in underneath them. It felt damp that night. I did not pay much heed since I thought it was the weather. Feeling quite sick for the next day or so, I shivered through two nights till I realised that the bed also was feeling distinctly wet and not just damp. Amazingly, there were wet patches on the mattresses. Since I am not not (yet) incontinent I wondered at that, and put a yoga mat on top of it, thinking I may have inadvertently left a window open that day when the monsoon descended... But the wet patch kept spreading.And with the other bed sheets feeling damp I was distinctly uncomfortable. I put all of them on my clothes drier, to dry them out. And amazingly found dribbles of a brownish sticky water oozing from the ends of each of these blankets.
Seems something in the blanket was trapping moisture from the atmosphere. Both blankets continued to leak this way while they hung up... and left an unmistakeable trail of water on the floor. Strange. I was glad I had not kept these blankets with expensive clothes, since they could have stained them... I have now dumped both blankets ...
Anybody has any explanation to this strange behavior of my blankets? I am all ears:)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Elpehantine garlands, only from Tamil Nadu

My husband and I got married here Matunga). Apart from the register marriage (where the registrar HAD to be given a box of sweets:) we had several ceremonies, simple, often just the two of us and two stragglers, either family or friends... because we were Muslim and Hindu. I was cooking for the friends and families, so it was not a wedding in the usual fairy tale fashion -- but it felt right:)

Any case, we bought garlands hereabouts I remember, at Matunga's flower stalls. Those were small garlands unlike the usual big, elephantine ones that are on sale here... Tamils, it seems, like their women, and their garlands, big!

I remember in Tamil Nadu, my father, a government official, would often be felicitated at speechifying functions with these enormous garlands. For days the house would reek of mogra,jasmine, roses, and the intoxicating lilies. We little girls used to try to retrieve some of those golden threads, complete flowers ... but that was always an effort. It bothered me that so many flowers could be cut off for a momentary felicitation where the man, burdened by the garland, would keep it aside, not to look at it again. We human beings.
But at least at Matunga the garlands are being made for god. And for marrying couples.
For couples, somehow, that makes sense... some moments to be remembered in a flush of floral bouquet... moments that reek of jasmine, roses and sticky sweet lilies whose fragrance lasts and lasts...
But that day, this year, last month Matunga's flower stalls were smelling of roses. Hey, if there is a floral association to be made that with Tamil Nadu, then it has to be jasmine. That way Matunga has changed -- from mogra to roses:(

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lying back to watch a film: cinema in style!!

Oh we were at the new cinema hall, Kulraj broadway (Kandivli East, Thakur village, off the western expressway). To watch Kambhakt Ishq. And see what we got for Rs 175 per ticket. Recliners. Amazing. At button push you are lying on your back and watching films,with a snack table attached to your chair, and waiters taking orders (heavens, that means I don’t have to stand in Queues where Indians have made it an art to jump) , and popcorn for Rs 55 and Iced tea for Rs 50 ( a tall glass) and samosas (WARMMM!!!) for Rs 30 only.
The recliners are an event clearly. At In Orbit cinema we pay Rs 180, but no recliners. The recliners – called Gold something – is around Rs 400 I think… I am being vague because it was so expensive that after asking once we have not even thought of it, with our middle class wallets and deprived class mentality. At PVR, which my tight-fisted husband cribs is very high, is Rs 200, no recliners etc. A fantastic theater, he concedes while clutching on to that wallet…
I liked the crowd too… something clean, not grabbing as I felt at the Shivam Vishnu hall, also closeby in Thakur village. Interestingly that is the experience all the women acquaintances who have been there and who have not wanted to go back. Not many like the Thakur Cinema too… smelly, now, with rats and the airconditioning sometimes flowing late if the crowd is thin… Suburban theaters each have their own personality. Some have become seedy… and I hope the Kulraj broadway does not go that way…

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ayyappan Tiffin Center: Madras food in Mumbai

Told u, was at Matunga -- generally to get a Chennai-feel, since my kid is there now:)
And at the Ayyappan Tiffin Center, at Telang Road, at Sankara Matam, had quite a feel of it, with all those South-Indian snacks. With some strange Mumbai concoctions: Pizza dosa (yuck!), Pickle dosa (tickles that tongue), and the usual suspects like Paneer dosa. But when you are nostalgic you don't want to experiment and settle for that simple good old food that your mother made and at which you turned your nose.. Can U imagine? Sometimes when I salivate over the stuff which I rejected as a kid, I wonder what perverse twist of fate makes me yearn for it now? My kid does/did the same thing with me. Karmic backlash. I tell her too:)

So yes, Pongal with sambar dripping over it, and some coconut chutney. My husband has his fav vada -- that lentil variation which you do not get anywhere except in a pure South Indian spot (another snacks joint that serves that up is the Dosa counter at the food court of Inorbit). I became greedy,and overordered (the excuses of pining women worldwide) and ordered an unending Ayyappan Special dosa which was filled with all sorts of spicy things and which made me feel very bloated... Avoidable experience -- though the dosa may be shared by four sparse eaters.

Palak dosa too! Though I mercifully resisted the urge for that one.

The center also caters apparently.
  • A cute appeal: To park the vehicles elsewhere before coming over to eat here!
  • The waiters, at this roadside stall, have their own uniform (See image!!).
  • We managed to overeat, two of us, at Rs 60 for both. If you ate wisely (which I did not) you can finish a good meal for half that price!
Roadside food - I missed that at Chennai definitely though they have their stalls all over the place which seem, at the outset, to be male-dominated. Chennai-in-Mumbai is my style really:)