Fest, Feast and all the Fuss

meme12I, for one, love the second half of the year. It is so full of festivals, celebration, and of course holidays!

A few days back we celebrated Rakhshabandan- such a beautiful festival with such a terrifying name, I used to think as a little girl. All this week, I have been busy in looking for feminists, wondering how they missed the chauvinism in this one! What do they mean my brothers taking care of their sisters? Do they think, we can’t take care of ourselves?! What the….oh, but gift! I think I will pass my feminism card this one time! After all, everyone needs some pampering some time or the other, you know! Touché.

No, but seriously, festivals are so much fun! There is such good food, get-togethers, dance, music, sweets, delicacies, celebration, holidays, parties, and the whole pomp. Oh, did I mention food? (I know now why my weight never shifts in the direction I wish it did!)

And before long, I realize, they are oh so noisy!

Last week we celebrated the birth of Lord Krishna. One minute silence to all the teenagers who thought that celebrating birthday at midnight is so today’s thing! Uh huh, you have no idea about the #swag that Krishna is all about- and that hashtag was important!

Cowboy, lover, fighter, philosopher, politician, practical humorist and great friend – which other God can match Krishna? Some bits of Krishna’s life are so relatable, but then again, he is the one responsible for Bhagvad Geeta – and how does one believe in a book that is a by-product of a story, in which there isn’t even one natural birth, to begin with!

Anyway, I love the other by-product of the same – Dahi Handi! Oh my God, so much fun! I mean who said people standing on people, amidst a large crowd, with loud music, and splashing water, just to break an earthern pot with not even enough “makhan” for all in it, is not fun! Of course it is, if you rule out traffic, noise, and safety and Supreme Court orders.

Yeah I mean, when the orders are not in our stride, who the hell is Supreme Court to stop us from celebrating the way we always do! It’s not like law is applicable to all – it is as per our convenience. With the way things are these days, one doesn’t know if it’s the lord’s devotion at play, or commotion create by politicians!

There is actual celebration, and then there is virtual celebration. And lo, with my phone beeping all day, it felt like it was my birthday, and suddenly I am dreading the many festivals aka “good” wishes slated ahead in the year! There were more photos of Lord Krishna on my WhatsApp than Mathura-Vrindavan put together!

Anyway, I think Janmastami is well-placed – a perfect warm-up for the upcoming Ganeshotsav, or as we like to call it – a systematic display of who gets a better DJ – singing songs with lyrics rebelling religions – till they irritate the hell out of us!

Phew! Brace Yourself!

Monsoon (A)Musings

It always begins with the wait. The long, drab tedious summer months create the perfect setting for welcoming the change that rains get with it! With the signs being there and the time being right, the yearning almost proliferates, and lo! When the clouds bless us with wonderful monsoon showers, the entire creation dances with joy! In no time, there is a dash of sinfully yummy bhajiyas in the air, social media is flooded with chai pictures and lazy posts, and it’s almost like an undeclared holiday!

Everyone starts planning weekend getaways, hiking trips, and rain parties – and for some – even long baths (considering the water shortage heretofore). Meh. People wish to take time out for reading/writing, painting, meditating, playing the guitar, or basically anything they like but never find time to do (weird, right?). But in any case, the difference in the surrounding is uncanny, and all of it is an expression of respite, of joy and life becomes a celebration.

For one week.

2013-07-01-Dear-Korea-#091Just before one realizes that the road to the hike is a hike by itself – probably a more painful one. The streets, or rather gutters masquerading as them, are 80%potholes, 10% smaller potholes and 10% dug by the government probably before I was even born. Just about perfect for a great body massage every time you step out. It’s cute when children think potholes were nothing but dried lakes and start floating paper-boats on them.

To add to the aggravation, there is a new bunch of 13-year olds joining social media every-year, with their enthusiastic not-so-new posts. And alas, all of them are either my family, or friends, or friends of family, or family of friends, or friends of family friends- and likes- and make it to my list. One of the most popular (read: repeated) monsoon posts is-

“I love walking in the rain, coz no one knows I am crying.”

Aww. I almost cried – out of its out-datedness. A lot of people read this, get emotional, and use every dramatic bone in their body – and try and live it. 12-year olds do this for failing that test, 15-year olds do this for failing to get that girl (and 10 others), and 22-year olds do this for not finding enough pikachus’. Well, that’s life. But, I can talk for all girls. We never cry in the rain, and exactly for the same reason. If no one can see our tears, then what’s the point? *Dumbfound*

Another of the experiences I look forward to during monsoons is – no electricity! It instantly hits nostalgia. I mean isn’t it great to know and experience how our ancestors in the stone-age lived- you know, in the dark and all. But it’s great if it is for as much time as a simulator. A little more than that and the MSEB is taking it too far!

From romantic to frantic, from celebration to frustration, from a blessing to stress-ing, monsoon pushes every freaking button of us that there is to push, until a hidden Parsi aunty (yeah, there is one in all of us) from within us yells –

“WILL SOMEONE UP THERE PLEASE SHUT THE EFFING TAP? “

Comedy Mein Tragedy

The funniest thing that happened last week was that a certain Tanmay became a Bhat of all jokes! Alright, I know it is passé, but what is anybody going to do about it? Send some goons to chop my legs of? Doesn’t that sound bizarre? So it was when a certain righteous party threatened to act in a not-so-righteous way!

Fun fact: The title track of AIB in their videos is – Tragedy mein comedy. But who thought that comedy could end up being so tragic! Oh, not for Tanmay! I am talking about India. Tragic for India. I just realized it this week that the cumulative IQ of our country is far less than what I had imagined!  You know something is really amiss when a country wants to put a comedian behind the bars for an unfunny joke; and nobody cares or dares to talk about a terrorist’s call to a politician!

Cartoon-on-freedom-of-expressionYes the joke wasn’t funny. Yes it was crass. But so is IPL to cricket. Is anyone complaining? People who like it, watch it. People who don’t, switch the channel to watch Sooryavansham. So if you don’t like the video, don’t watch it. Simple. If you can make fun of one person on this planet, you can make fun of anybody! There are so many jokes on Raj Thackerey. I am surprised how he was not offended by them! Oh, maybe they were true! And exactly why this is not true. It’s a stupid joke!

Jokes apart, why do we take ourselves so seriously? Why are we always so offended?

I think our insecurity lies elsewhere. Identities have become our only anchors in a wild river of change. Actually, our social identity to be precise. Whether we are an AAptard, Gandhian, overweight, gay, Bihari, Salman-fan, engineer, Modi follower, or God forbid, Donald Trump – anything – but it cannot be a laughing matter for anyone else! And beyond that identity, please don’t ask who we are. Because, nobody knows!

However, we are offended by everything we are not. You can’t eat the food you like but I don’t, can’t read books that I don’t understand but intensely hate, and lately, can’t joke about Sachin Tendulkar or Lata mangeshkar, because I am a Marathi Manus, and so are they! Well, till now I believed you could only not construct fly-overs near their residence. But apparently, you can’t even joke about them! Touché.

But you know what, we are not offended by a child-marriage story being telecasted at prime time! We are not offended when lots of sexist and misogynist jokes become viral on WhatsApp. We are not offended when the government is drowning all its citizens in a cess-pool, when all they should being doing is create more cesspools! We are not offended when political parties don’t get so worked up about communalism or rape, as they do about a stupid joke on a stupid app that no one even knows about. Bravo.

The joke is on us.

Marred-Age

It is that time of the year. I am in that time of my life. This time of the year is the worst time for me to be in that time of my life – It’s when two idiots have decided to go for it, mahurats have matched and Taj Gateway has an extra banquet hall all ready. The wedding season!

*match-making aunty flicks a tear of joy*

Till now, it was easy to play hide-n-seek with about just a million wedding invites each year. I didn’t care about them, and the great news is, they did not either! I was happy saving 4 hours of my life, and they were happy saving Rs. 800 of my plate!

So just yesterday I was still sticking finger in my nose, and today I am getting invites to my friend’s weddings – not my elder sister’s friend, or friend’s elder brother buT MY FRIENDS! MY FRIENDS!!! I AM GETTING SO HYSTERICAL JUST WRITING ABOUT IT THAT I AM SHOUTING! WHY GOD, WHY?!B9hXCnPIMAAYUAM

And unfortunately, I love these people- So, I am not only going to attend a total of 5 weddings but all 50 thousand functions of all 5 weddings! One of the few times I wish I was Christian- I do. I do. We go.

Oops!! I can feel it. Intolerance is rising. Shut up! No cares when you are not Amir Khan. *Sulks*

Anyway…

It’s the first time that I am actually using all those motivational I-kid-you-not-kid speeches given to children preparing to get into courses that are actually kidding them: Life is hard. Life is difficult. Deal with it. I spend 20 minutes each morning, using all the knowledge I can remember from the compulsory Yoga class (that I spent doing Shavasana) at school, preparing myself to clear all three rounds of the upcoming trial-

  1. Laden self with 200 kilograms.
  2. Practice and execute dancing on DJ wale babu mera gaana chala do! Without alcohol!
  3. Stand in a line as big as the population of Hong Kong to meet and greet the grin-stricken face of the bride and groom for a micro-second! Oh wait, that is not even a micro-second.

…And get unnoticed! Too much pressure on this little one, I say!

Frankly, I don’t mind other people getting married! I mean free food- Yaay! But things really turn seriously funny, or rather funnily serious when your parents start getting ideas! And it’s worse when you haven’t found anyone yourself, and they offer to help you out! I mean it makes you feel like a failure! It’s their way of saying – Tumse na ho payega, beta!

*digs a hole and goes underground*

I think for my own sake I should stop here. You guys can continue with surfing the web for latest trends, thinking of a reason to avoid that ONE wedding (share your ideas with me as well), buying cheap gifts that look expensive. And while you are at it, I would recommend investing in a great pair of shades. Too much bling is not too good for our eyes, you know!

*gets back to DJ waley babu…*

Karmic Cleansing Retreat

So, Nashik is all geared up for probably its biggest event – the one where you would wash off all your sins in the most unhygienic way possible! So much for cleansing your mind, only for being able to do exactly what you have been doing all your life, with revived gusto and a clean slate!

Nashik has gotten its 12-yearly makeover done, which probably – according to me – is the only good thing of this fanfare. With roads widened, temporary structures in place, portable loos adorning the city, river cleaned (erm?), ghat extended, we are all-set for this mega event – by booking ourselves on vacation and vacating the town for people with purpose. Just the kind of thing to do on an extended weekend, right?

Now that the dates are so close, people have started pouring in in the city – by which I mean all the photographers are already here to get a “feel” of the place. They are just trying to capture one image, without a person with DSLR in it. This Kumbh Mela will be witness to the first time ever air traffic issues during the “snan” – with all drones bumping into each other. It’s going to be a new learning experience for the officials, and next time they will have a special team and an ATC set-up right next to the ghat. After all, documentation of people taking selfies as a proof of their purity cannot be missed, you know!

Besides, this time it is going to mark a great example of technology-meets-devotion. Around 700 CCTV cameras will keep vigil to ensure better security. LED screen have been installed to keep giving live updates to people. Community radios have been set up in buses to disseminate information to pilgrims and travelers. Of course, not mentioning the coming of age Sadhus, who have renounced even their clothes, but an iPhone! iPhone 6 to be precise.

One of the exciting things in the last few weeks was to visit Sadhugram and see the structures come up. One drive through these temporary colonies is enough to know the stature of these godmen – from corrugated sheets to air-conditioned tensile structures, everything speaks of their respective grandeur. They have now started to be occupied with various people coming in from all over the country. Numerous events and sabhas have been organized, where people lose themselves in this high intoxicating energy. It is of course devotion at work. We all know that.

Another interesting thing will be to see a lot of tourists – oops, “travelers” – coming to Nashik, and combining their holy dip with a trip to the vineyards! And why not? What is important is to attain Nirvana, one way or the other!

Amidst all the religious pomp, people like me are content having a shower of Godavari in our humble abode. At least our body is washed, if not our sins. Perks of staying in Nashik, I say!

PS – Have fun in Goa, by the way!

(This is my column in Deshdoot Times, Nashik – 22 Aug, 2015)

Anti-(alcohol)-climax

Saturday Night! Wohooo!
We all know what it is, right? We sort-of struggle through an entire grilling week with this meek ray of hope. It absolutely is that time of the weekend, where we make grounds for a terrible Sunday headache. Those few hours are just so magical, they are such a bliss, that we voluntarily invite the hassle of next day, in a life that is a hassle anyway.

But I really do not understand the entire hoo-ha around it!
I mean we all have that one friend who is against alcohol and suddenly starts drinking – the ceremonious welcome they get and all the cheer from others who live in a beer drum is priceless, just like a proud father watching is son all grown up! Suddenly, this friend becomes “cool” enough to “party” with, as well now!

I don’t get any combative reactions when I tell people that I do not have coffee, while sitting in a coffee-shop. Or that I do not like the taste of raw onions, while at a chaat-stall. But try telling the same people I do not have alcohol! Woah! The expression on their faces change and every single of their muscles is yelling, “WHAAAAAAT?”

And generally it follows with an hour full of trying to understand why do I have such “offensive” behavior. Yes, offensive. They see it as offence on my otherwise modern attitude, an offence of their preset judgement of me, an offence on their idea of our beer-date, an offence on my liberal and urban upbringing, an offence on me attending SulaFest, or even coming from the Wine capital of India! Some of them even start doubting their choice of friends, since a non-alcoholic, a teetotaler is on the list! This ends with them taking the responsibility on themselves of showing me the world on the other side! (PS – None of them have been successful, just FYI!)

There are a lot of judgements, a lot of labels attached to the drink that you are holding. Not that it matters to me. But writing this post in the hope that it stops mattering to everyone as well, and the jauntiness around alcohol mellows down. It signifies absolutely nothing else, but that you don’t like drinking, and I hope the subject becomes as irrelevant as a person confessing that he doesn’t like lauki-ki-sabzi.

PS- Let a few of us be. After all, we take you back home in the night! 😉

Done Done London!

Well yeah, I know that it is a very off-the-wall phrase from the movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan, meaning “it’s a deal”. But I have used it as a very bad metaphor to have checked “Visit London” off my bucket list. I am not even sure if it qualifies as a metaphor actually!

Anyway, 2014 has been a great year! A very quick, not exactly last minute, but a sudden plan to travel around England turned out to be a brilliant one! Thank God for sisters who decide to do their masters abroad – you get to plan a I-will-go-get-her-back trip there, not to mention she is the one who actually gets you back! (Also, is it too soon for Can-I-accompany-her-for-graduation ceremony-next-year?) It was also a one-of-a-kind trip abroad, since it was only us three sisters travelling! (We really missed you Jiji!)

Well, of course anyone loves to explore any area “as the locals do”, but when you come to London, I think there is a charm in doing the clichéd touristy routine – at least once in your life – whether it is the mesmerizing view from the London eye, taking a typical picture with the red bus, booth or cab, walking over tower bridge, feeling patriotic looking at Sachin’s pictures at Lord’s, visiting Buckingham Palace, feeling a star at Madame Tussuads or paying to see our very own Kohinoor at the Tower of London.  And meeting old friends at far off land is incomparable! They are local guides to places no internet website will mention but are worth every penny! The best lunch I had there was a place Samidha hunt down for us vegetarians! :*

And London aakar agar koi musical nahi dekha toh kya khaak London aaye! It was one of the most beautiful visual treat at lyceum theatre, watching the gorgeously done Lion King. Oh my! It has been one alluring sight I have witnessed in the longest time.  While we are talking about sightly, I have to mention the day trip to breath-taking Stonehenge, splendid Roman Bath and the exquisite Windsor castle! *Note to self – Next time in UK, stay an extra day at Bath.

Inserted between was a brief trip to Manchester! Though I am not a die-hard football fan, there was no two way about visiting the plush Old Trafford stadium! One just cannot stop gawking once there! And then a visit to the delightful York was very pleasing! It is definitely a must-visit town in England, just for the sheer beauty of the countryside!

And when you are with Vinita, there has to be some adventure (read amusement park) added to the outline – so that she leaves you at peace with rest of the list! And that led to a day well spent at Alton Towers – one hell of a park! I haven’t been to any other park with this variety of roller coasters! While I am really a scaredy-cat, I did manage to ride quite a few of them! *beams with pride*

Phew! We did manage to pack quite a lot of things in the short week in England, but that place draws you to it. The swanky London architecture, unblemished streets, neat parks, swift and smooth underground, delicious cupcakes, lively city centres….Ah! I just need a reason to be back there, and I dare say – hopefully soon! And of course, Scotland is yet to be checked off the list, you know!

A Very Colourful White-Wedding!

A few days back, I attended a traditional Belgian wedding. I was so excited when Bruno (well, that is another story about how he is family) informed us about his wedding! Of course travelling to Europe was like a side-effect of it, but this highlight turned out to be so much fun!

I felt the contrast in an Indian and a Western wedding right from the beginning. Having come from a kattar Marwari family, and attended a lot of these great fancy Indian weddings, dressing for a western one was so different! How can you attend a wedding without wearing things that do not weigh double your weight? That’s blasphemy!
Anyway, all formal prim and proper, we left for the church. We did not understand anything that happened there, since it was all in French, but the kiss signaled that the main part was right there! Yes, I am smart that way! It was so nice of Bruno to say a part of his speech – that is not elaborated in the movies – in Shudh Hindi. Very heartfelt, we were so touched! Love you, bhai! 😀

What came later was a great surprise!
The wedding party then shifted to the outdoors, at a resort nearby, and was called – The Sunmount Festival.
There were these funky badges, and entry bands tied around our wrist at the entrance. Custom made neon glasses were all over the place. Champagne was served at the entrance, with tables already laid out with snacks. Every family member was given like an ID card with their name and title written on it! It was a bright sunny day in Belgium – a celebration in itself!

A full-day event was planned, with a few stand-ups, photography session, video session, dance party et al lined up. Bruno composed and sang a song for Carolina, while playing four instruments simultaneously! How wonderful that was! A very helpful Italian family member of Bruno’s helped us with all the translation, and made us feel so much at home! In fact everyone there seemed thrilled to have us, coming from so far for the event, and were so helpful, so courteous, that it did made us feel like a part of their culture, their family.

We spent the entire day at the ‘carnival’. The photography session took place in the backdrop of a tree, with funky props to choose from for everybody – right from bows to mustaches, tiaras, bunny ears they had it all!

We left tired. We left happy. We left with good memories, a different experience, and with prayers for the bride and the groom.