Surviving…

January 29, 2007
…but only just.

The family came and went. The computer workstation finally arrived in a nail-biting climax minutes before I left for the airport. Amit was sitting (dharna) at the shop in Comm Street threatening dire consequences if the damn thing, which was supposedly sent by auto ages ago, did not land up at our house in very very short order.

That apart, the weekend went off peacefully, with only

  • two sessions of waterworks (three women under practically the same roof for three days, what do you expect?)
  • three meals out
  • four trips to the malls and MG Road (each lasting about 5 hours; with cumulative damages somewhere in the range of a million dollars, or so it seemed)
  • half-a-dozen squabbles about picking up the bill (my father’s totally pig-headed, and so am I)
  • about a dozen bottles of alcohol down the collective hatch (beer, wine, vodka, whisky, and occasionally a mad mix of all of the above with a dash of orange juice!)

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts at forcing it down everyone’s ungrateful gullet, only half the frozen meat was consumed, which leaves my fridge still overloaded with two giant boxes of roast turkey and leg of lamb.

We dropped them to the airport yesterday morning and now, a scant 24 hours later, the house is back to its usual state of controlled chaos, the guest bedroom is as messy as ever and its little luxuries have been carted back to their rightful abodes in our bedroom. The washing machine is chock-full of bedsheets, as usual. All’s well with the world.


Three Weekends of Chaos

January 24, 2007

Two weekends ago, Amit and I had a long and serious conversation, at the end of which we decided…. Wait for this… that we really, really needed a second workstation at home. The reason was that, when we both work from home (whether working hours or evenings or weekends) one of us gets the workstation and the other gets the dining table and unadorned laptop. So far, I had been the “other” and hadn’t really minded. But now, I decided I needed the monitor to work on photographs (because the definition of “working from home” includes doing personal computer work using the home laptop and laptop screens don’t show true colors) and so Amit got to use the dining table. This was ergonomically so highly unsuitable for his build, that a new monitor was immediately purchased.

If you’ve stopped blinking at that brilliant non-sequitur, you’ll realize that this was just Amit’s way of getting us to buy a slim, flat, no-butt, BIG, sexy monitor, purportedly for me to use. This new monitor would sit on the dining table, and so would I (at, that is, not on) and I would use VNC (which it took him all day to configure on my office laptop – DON”T ask me why) over wireless to use the home laptop for photo-work. Amit, as before, would sit in the study, with the old (please note, the old) monitor at the old workstation.

That was the plan.

It didn’t last long. A few hours after the new monitor arrived, it had been firmly installed in place of the old monitor, and the old monitor had been firmly dumped in the guest bedroom cupboard (DON”T ask me why), where it was entirely inaccessible to me.

Thereafter, we spent that entire weekend trying to come up with a plan for how a second workstation could be concocted with the furniture we currently had in the house, because I could certainly not be expected to move the heavy, old, fat, ugly CRT monitor onto and off of the dining table every time I needed to use it. Amit enthusiastically set about dismantling a trolley that had always been part of our dining room furniture, intent on turning it into a workstation. After struggling at re-engineering it for one-and-a-half days, he was reluctantly forced to the conclusion that it was eminently unsuitable for workstation use. By that time, we had already purchased a replacement for the dining room, which I had spent roughly eighteen hours screwing together. It was a great example of totally unskilled carpentry, but it served the purpose and was a little more elegant than the trolley it had replaced.

So now we had a spare trolley, a spare monitor (not to mention a keyboard and mouse that had somehow slipped into the shopping cart along with the monitor), even a spare power strip, and still no second workstation.

Finally, last Sunday, after much discussion and experimentation we realized that none of the furniture we had at home could be adapted to workstation use, and we’d have to bite the bullet and go buy a ready-made workstation. So, like fools venturing where angels fear to tread, we hopped into the car and headed for Central Street. This, as many of you know, is stone’s throw from Shivajinagar – and that day, there were plenty of stones being thrown in the neighborhood of Shivajinagar, but of this small matter we were blissfully unaware. Pleasantly surprised to find little traffic and easy parking, we walked into the nearest shop, stated our requirements and were informed that the workstation would be manufactured and sent to us the next day, Monday. Of course, in the event, no workstation reached us on Monday, as Central Street closed down less than an hour later and did not reopen till Tuesday.

Now, the reason that it becomes really critical to get that big, fat, old monitor out of the cupboard in the guest bedroom and decently housed in the second workstation is that my parents and sister are visiting this weekend. And this weekend begins on Thursday!

My parents will not be staying with us due to various reasons too complicated to go in to here, but my sister will. And I can’t very well have her open the door of her cupboard and find the backside of a hulking big monitor staring her in the face. Well, I suppose I can, but I’d rather not.

The advent of parents and sister has also made a lot of other activity necessary. For starters, cleaning up the house, an activity which is usually only undertaken under threat of death or in-law visitations; since neither situation had threatened for several months now, the house had returned to its customary state of being, namely subdued chaos. The guest bedroom has a tendency to become a junk yard in a very short time, so enormous amounts of junk need to be unearthed and shifted out (to the study) whenever visitations are impending. The cupboard has to be emptied, the carpet has to be laid out, and the bed has to be re-discovered and made. Making the bed in a proper “western” style (bottom sheet, top sheet, with blanket laid on top and sheet turned over the blanket-top, bed-cover tucked under and over pillows with pillow-cases matching the bed-sheets) is exhausting at the best of times and doubly so when the bed in question is a 40kg cotton mattress spread on the ground adjacent to the wall and needs to be hefted this way and that in order to tuck in all the spare miles of sheet.

Additionally, I have the delightful tasks of cleaning bathrooms, tidying the study, and changing all the covers and runners in the living room.

As if all that weren’t enough, I found that my house-cleaning maid has been shirking work in a big way (what’s new about that) and that the balcony attached to the guest bedroom had about 25 kg of dirt in the far corner, and, what’s worse, some horrible weed had begun growing in it!!! I got so mad that I managed to scrape my thumb and cut my finger (and will probably develop tetanus) trying to clean all that.

Naturally, whenever I’m doing all this activity, Amit is busy watching tennis on TV, which leads in short order to an extremely volatile situation (him shouting at the television set and me shouting at him).

Once I had the house looking almost respectable (but for the monitor in the cupboard, where skeletons should be), Amit mentioned that the car could do with a bit of a clean-up as well. I told him to send it for servicing, and guess what? He did. Instead of fixing the problems with the zip-zap-zoom locking (no, that’s not the brand name, but you know what I mean) they made it worse, and now the back door will neither lock nor unlock centrally. But at least it looks clean and smells nice.

On our last trip to Metro (stocking up on liquor for the parents), we had made a monumental error. We sampled the cold meat cuts by the meat counter and enjoyed them so much that we picked up a roast leg of lamb, and a roast turkey leg and breast. Total cost: ~Rs 1200! Since we hadn’t bothered to check prices when picking up the cold meat, we almost swooned on the spot when we saw the bill at the checkout counter. How could we have spent Rs 1200 on 2 kilos of non-veg?

Our fridge being too tiny to accommodate 1200-bucks worth of non-veg, we sent the turkey home with some friends (hoping they’d eat it and we could then charge them for it) and stuffed the lamb leg into our freezer. Somewhere during the following two weeks, the shock of the price tag wore off and we braced ourselves to thaw and taste the lamb. It was quite nice… it’d do nicely for the impending family visit. I thawed it overnight and sliced it into sandwich-size chunks for our lunches.

Now it’s Wednesday and I’ve almost caught up with the laundry overflow from last weekend’s cleaning spree, and the car servicing has set us back and extra 800 bucks spent on getting the upholstery spruced up (a first!). This is time for me to catch my breath before my family lands on Thursday evening. After that, it’s going to be a long weekend of food, booze, shopping (my mother’s all-time favourite activity), talking nonsense and stuff like that. I’m looking forward to this.


Women of Substance

January 16, 2007
Not that Women’s Day is around the corner (as far as I know), but somehow I got to thinking of all the things I admired in many of my women friends, and I realized how many “women of substance” I have in my friends’ circle. Here’s to the women…

  • Who, coming from a strictly orthodox family, experimented with non-vegetarianism
  • Who went abroad to travel, knowing that it would involve taking a loan she could scarcely afford, with a housing loan under way and no rich husband in sight
  • Who went abroad to study knowing that funds were scarce, and survived a week on a buck because she wouldn’t ask for money… ok, that was stupid, but I understand
  • Who made a controversial religious choice, and stuck to it
  • Who turned the traditional laws of marriage on their head, then steadfastly refused to get married on any terms but their own, even when it meant a broken engagement, intrusive questions from “well-meaning” friends and relatives, and watching year-by-year as friends and peers got married
  • Who left a home in a village, a conservative family where no woman had ever worked, and moved to a big city and made a life and a career for herself against all odds, despite efforts to force her into marriage
  • Who went ahead and bought a home (and a double bed), despite being single
  • Who gave up job, career, friends, and family and accompanied their husbands abroad, sometimes to non-English-speaking countries, knowing it would be difficult
  • Who made the decision to ditch a husband who was completely worthless, even at the risk of spending the rest of her life alone
  • Who survived – after the death of a husband within two short years of marriage – alone, miles from home, jobless, and deep in debt
  • Who had the courage to admit that she didn’t want what she had always thought she wanted

I’m sure there will be a part two to this some day, but for the moment, let me just say that this list is more indicative than exhaustive.


Foodie Weekend

January 8, 2007

It started on Saturday with an omelette for breakfast (Amit’s culinary contribution for the weekend) followed by a mundane lunch of dal-rice, enlivened with fresh peas made with lots of oil and lots of onion. From then on, things just got better. An evening of extensive snacks (while watching Bridget Jones’s Diary) was followed by a dinner of meat loaf and topped off with bread pudding for dessert.

I awoke on Sunday feeling surprisingly virtuous, because the meat loaf was made without any added fat (and one can easily ignore the inherent fat in mutton, right?) and the bread pudding, which had a mere 100 gm of butter (my cakes usually have almost double that) had only been partly-demolished, so I figured we were doing well on the calorie counter.

I hadn’t planned on any extensive culinary effort for Sunday, but a power cut put an abrupt end to computer work (my laptop’s average battery life being a spectacular 23.56 minutes from full charge to full shutdown) and banished all ideas of catching up on household chores such as laundry and ironing. So, perforce, I found myself in the kitchen, staring at four leg-and-thigh chicken pieces and wondering what to do with them. Without making any conscious plan, I found myself putting together the ingredients for a dry chicken masala sort of preparation. Then, I soaked a cup of basmati rice, and somehow, an hour later, something emerged that sort of resembled the biryani that we often order from Lazeez. I would have thought that both Lazeez and my cook make a more delicious biryani, but Amit said mine was better, and who am I to argue with that?!

Biryani naturally demanded raita, and my raita even I consider to be a killer app that easily makes a feast out of even the most mediocre biryani.

The bread pudding had finished at breakfast time, so naturally I had to conjure up a dessert. Steadfastly ignoring my lactose intolerance, I boiled some milk, added cocoa, sugar and corn flour, poured the concoction into separate moulds and left it to cool, and in short order I had a delicious, thick, creamy chocolate blancmange which I could just as easily have passed off as a chocolate mousse.

By 5 p.m., we had been through two rounds of biryani and two rounds of blancmange. I had also been through two rounds of lactose enzyme, despite which my digestive system was outraged at the sudden onslaught of milk products.

What to do for dinner? You’d have thought that after two lunches, there wouldn’t be much scope for dinner, but then, you’d have been underestimating us. Dinner consisted of soup and toast – but what a soup. Did you know that, if you boil up two whole chickens (minus the legs and thighs that went into the biryani) with chopped potato and onion, then pulverize the potato and onion and add it, minus the chicken, but along with the stock, to a packet of Vegetable Sweet Corn soup, you get a quite remarkable chicken sweet corn soup? The potato adds a wonderful flavor and thickens the soup beautifully. Topped off with the last of the chocolate blancmange, it made quite an excellent dinner for a lazy Sunday.


Looking Forward

January 2, 2007

Sigh. End of the year. Start of the year. Time to look back. Time to look ahead. Time to make resolutions… and to break them. Most importantly, time to make nonsensical lists, like those that follow.

Things I Want To Do in 2007

  • Get pregnant

If not, then ALL of the following (in any order):

  • Lose weight
  • Improve at tennis – specially backhand!
  • Go back to playing the violin
  • Take the next level of German course
  • Stop doing dull, boring, meaningless work and get involved in something meaningful – or at least exciting
  • Make at least one new friend
  • Read at least a book a month
  • Watch at least two movies a month (at a movie hall)
  • Travel
  • Get a publisher for my travel book
  • Create a photo book

Things I LIKED About 2006

  • Work (specifically, the lack of it)
  • Colleagues (specifically one or two)
  • My boss (former)
  • Friends (all)
  • Husband (most of the time)
  • Health (apart from the odd dose of antibiotics)
  • My bike
  • German class (97%)
  • E61 (features!)
  • Travel (Ladakh, Ranthambhore)
  • Money (income)

Things I DIDN’T Like About 2006

  • Work (specifically, the lack of it)
  • Colleagues (specifically one or two)
  • My boss (current)
  • Health (gynecologists!)
  • German class (eight months of weekends)
  • E61 (bugs!)
  • Travel (Rain! Relatives!)
  • Money (wealth)

And here’s why I’ll never be a poet… I just can’t get it out of my head that poetry should involve metre and rhyme.

…Looking Back

Same desk, same laptop, same old work,
An older boss, a smaller team.
Different projects, all the same,
Sheer boredom makes me want to scream.

A year gone by at the tennis courts,
Struggling with backhand and serve
Slipping, falling, holding on,
Coach says: “She’s got a nerve.”

My book is still a manuscript,
The way it was a year ago.
At least one publisher took a look,
I waited, prayed, hoped… they said “no.”

Go here! Go there! Do this! Get that!
So many ways to fill the days.
Trying too hard, thinking too little,
Question marks lost in the haze.

Eating, drinking, living well,
Gaining weight! It’s a shame.
Some clothes still fit, some don’t, not quite,
At least the shoes are still the same.

The hair is longer, wilder, but,
Just as thin and just as black.
The face in the mirror looks just the same,
Me looking forward, me looking back.


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