Monthly Archives: June 2011

Seven Stones

 Update for week ended 24 June 2011

The shouts and shrieks from the little playground near the house was both deafening as well as pleasing. I don’t need to further describe deafening, but pleasing came from the sheer energy the children displayed; and in this day and age it was quite amazing to see the 10-odd year olds actually playing a team sport in the park – which was not cricket or football; but a perfect childhood game that many Indians grew up on. The play area was well defined – it was a large open space with imaginary elliptical border, staked at places with footwear of the children. The centre of the play area held the attention of all – it had stones perfectly balancing on top of another; seven in all. The team with the tennis ball in hand was spread around the periphery while the guardians of the stones were in the centre, yet at the start, keeping their distance from it. The game commenced, and the team leader with the ball aimed perfectly at the base of the seven stones, and down went the pile, as the ball bounced off to the other edge of the ellipse. The shrieks started, as the children in the centre scrambled around, picking up the strewn stones and quickly trying to recreate the seven stone mini-pyramid; while their opponents rushed to grab the ball and “re-aim” at the building stone stack to bring it down again. The kids from the centre team, were shouting out warnings so that the children in the centre don’t get “out” by a ball bouncing off them, or have to restart the stacking if the ball hits the stone creation once again. It was high energy, tension, high decibel, frayed tempers, trembling hands, nimble feet, strong shoulders all merging into a moment, repeated at least a dozen times in quick succession. After a while, when the team at the centre managed to successfully keep the seven stone stack standing with no wobbles or support; they yelled as they had scored a point, and now it was time for a team role reversal.

The D Boyz were reliving their childhood once again. They have done it in the past a couple of times (The Disappearing Children’s Parks that are making a comeback, Teenage Anxiety – from childhood to adulthood!) and they did it this week too. So if on Monday, one group of the Boyz aimed the ball onto the seven stone carrying SENSEX, tumbling them all down (the SENSEX fell 550 points during the day, that day), the other Boyz on the street tried their luck at restacking the stones, sorry! restacking the stocks. They could not manage it that day nor on Tuesday nor Wednesday – as anxiety over their European friends, some news from sunny Mauritius, some from stone owners (company owners) who had oiled the stones causing them to keep sliding off ( i.e. leveraging their stocks such that the D Boyz could not restack their fallen SENSEX). But on Thursday, they managed to get the base stones into place (approx 1.5 stones on Thursday -150 points) and on Friday, as global oil prices fell as people stayed away from it; the Boyz could relax that their stones (stocks) were no longer slippery and hence they could quickly put together their seven stone pyramid( the remaining 5.5 stones on Friday – 550 points); rejoicing as they restacked and won this round. So at the end of the childhood Seven Stone Game week – the SENSEX had restacked 2% to it by ending at 18240. There was rejoicing all around and a general happy feeling.

As the evening wore on, and dusk descended, the children went back to their apartments, and broke up into smaller groups – some playing hopscotch, while others deciding to play hide and seek. But they all resolved to meet again the next day to play another game from the past – Dabba Express or pronounced Dabba Ispice!

So what is your favourite team sport – outside the commercial world? Seven Stones, Dabba Express, Hee-Haw Hurrah, I declare a War against (country name), Crocodile Crocodile Can I cross the river? Please do share with me some of the games you played or still play. And have a nice and safe weekend.



The Bargain Hunter

Update for Week Ended 17 June 2011

Ravi was excited. His mother, Lalita, was planning on taking him with her to the market, straight from school. It was the bi-weekly PT day (physical training day – when the children wear their white uniforms with the house colour on the collars). Lalita looked a little miffed, when she saw him waiting at the school gate. “Beta Ravi, how could you soil your clothes so much?” she asked in her loving voice. “Mummy, it is nothing, look at Rahul who jumped into the water puddle and has more dust and soil on his clothes. And do you know what – he stinks because he says that the wtare tap ran dry when he just soaped up in the shower this morning”. Lalita did not actually listen to what Ravi said, though she was hearing him. She led him on with her red plastic market bag in the other hand. They headed to the vegetable market, mucky, crowded and slightly smelly, as the vegetable remains, like cauliflower leaves and other such paraphernalia lay in heaps around getting wet. Lalita was quite a brave woman to also venture out to this market in her white saree with that sky blue border and blue flowers. She smartly avoided the puddles, and walked to her regular vendor. As she was examining the white cauliflower, she casually asked its price. She was aghast to hear that the prices had almost doubled since her past week’s visit. “I will not pay more than Rs 10 for this one”, she insisted as she proceeded to choose the plumpest, red tomatoes. She never ever took her attention off her “beta” Ravi, as he skipped about the market trying to shoo a crow that was playing Catch with him. She only raised her voice twice, “Beta Ravi!” and that was enough to tame little Ravi in getting back to her. She was a stern woman and almost no-nonsense.  She added brinjals, ladyfinger, cucumber and carrots to her basket, and finally queried to the vendor, “how much?” The vendor mumbled something that sounded like Rs 50 – but Lalita had done her maths, and she sternly said, “I will only pay Rs 39.80” because that is how much is owed. He protested, but Lalita was determined to move ahead. She would bargain and get her deal.

The D Boyz were quite excited to hear that their caretakers, or real mothers, would pick them up – these caretakers were also white – except that they did not necessarily wear white, their skin was that colour as they came from afar – from Europe and the Americas – the Foreign shores. The news out there was positive, so the D Boyz looked forward to some perking up on D Street. However, what followed was not – they followed these Foreigners who took them through murky streets (almost muddy and bankrupt – like a Greek Moussaka gone bad!). And the muck on the streets only added to their heavily laden shoes getting heavier, making it difficult for them to walk and work – and after all the street walking, they lost some of their Chowannies (25 paise coins) near the Central Bank street and paid more for their food and other necessities as prices continued to soar and were finally poorer by 398 points (down to 17871) – they felt 10 times worse than some Ravi.

Lalita was being followed by a cameraman and his reporter who stopped her in her tracks – and remarked, “you are a good negotiator and bargainer” to which she smiled knowingly. He continued, “but why spend more for your detergent?”………. The rest is a legend that many Indians would know. The D Boyz felt disgusted that they mistakenly tuned into a channel that was airing vintage TV commercials.

Have a nice weekend ahead…. Cheers.

DreamGirl on Canvas

 Update for week ending 10 June 2011

The bearded man had just completed his touch-up of rouge on the heroine’s cheek. She looked glowingly beautiful with almost an aura around her bouffant hairdo. Her dimpled cheek and that little beauty spot above her upper lip gave her the required sensuousness. Her eyelashes looked slightly exaggerated but she was angel-like and looked real. The painter had just completed his job, and damn well, I must say. He worked on the makeshift bamboo rafters and after a long hard day’s work, completed the poster for the newest blockbuster movie that would open that Friday. He had missed his Friday prayers, but work was worship for him. He walked back home, along the Ballygunge Circular Road. Hunger pangs gnawed his insides, and so he decided to stop at the dhaba, a wayside eatery by the roadside run by the elderly Sardarji. He ordered the cheapest, but tastiest rajma chawal, rice and beans dish popular in northern India. He sat at the shaking wooden bench and table, and polished off the aluminium plate with relish. This was one eatery he must revisit more often, he mentally noted. That was way back in the sixties. Cut to 2 decades later, when the painter had carved a niche for himself as a serious abstract painter while his maverick style, prolificity and carefree attitude had made him quite well known. His artworks were exhibited at leading art galleries around the country and he was on one such trip to the city of Joy. As the guest of a leading industrialist, he was housed in their mansion at Ballygunge. That evening, after his exhibition and small party, he decided to walk along the same route he took regularly to work and back, many moons ago. Being in a city that did not change much, he quite expected the little Dhaba to still be there, perhaps more decrepit than in the past. He was surprised, as he saw that a leading soft drink company had put up glow signs over the eatery and the Sardarji was still there, older and more prosperous though. The painter approached the Sardarji and wanted to congratulate him in maintaining the place and continuing in his duty of feeding hungry mouths with his delectable rajma chawal. The Sardarji was taken aback by the visitor, he recognized him immediately as the famous painter and felt honoured to host him in this little eatery that still retained its old name. The painter complimented the sardarji on the place and wondered if the rajma was still as tasty as on that Friday night when he had painted the Dreamgirl on a Canvas. He asked for it, tasted a spoonful and was pleased that the Sardar had not diluted his standards. The Sardarji did not immediately recall this gentleman as the same who would polish off the aluminium plates, like an Oliver Twist of this era; but accepted the compliments. In return, he asked the painter for an autograph or even some comments on a tissue paper that he may proudly frame and post on his walls. The painter looked around, as if for something else.

The D Boyz’ life was one of hard work, late hours and not much pay (of late at least). Their street resembled a makeshift bamboo pole rafter, shaky and temporary, as if it needed all the support to the SENSEX, their favourite toy, from falling. The Boyz had to get down quite often for ordinary chores like a catch up on meals, catching a wink or two on a busy D Street. All of this, despite a bearded young man in Northern India grabbing all eyeballs for much of the week, while another bearded man, caught everyone’s attention close to the week’s end. No horses or goddesses in dance poses were needed to pull the Boyz towards the elder gent’s attention, and this tugging and pulling and bamboo pole holding, left them tired and losing a little over his 95 years of age – 7 actually, such that the SENSEX dropped 108 points from the previous week to end at 18269.

The painter looked for some sketch pen or markers. Finding none at the little eatery, he walked into the kitchen; saw the huge piles of coal used for cooking, picked up a piece and walked back to the eating area. He asked a waiter to wipe a wall clean, and then using deft strokes, he sketched out his characteristic horse – front legs raised and mane flowing backwards as if in motion. On the white wall, the black coal marks looked definitive, and the horse lifelike, as it stood 6 feet tall. In about 3 minutes, the painter was done. He scribbled his name in capital letters at the bottom, wiped his hands on the kitchen towel and thanked the Sardarji for the good food he ate there and went back to his host’s mansion down the road. Walking barefoot.

Monsoons are here in Mumbai and wishing everyone a safe weekend.


TV Addicts – anyone?

 Update for week ended 3 June 2011

As the rotund Saas, mother-in-law glared at her Dev-Raani’s, sister-in-law’s Bahu, daughter-in-law, her own Bahu  meekly brought in the tray of hot chai and naashta, tea and evening snacks for all. Dev-Raani’s Bahu was chewing her lips giving dirty looks to the Saas’ Bahu, as her own thoughts could not be heard by anyone in the room, except the millions of viewers who don’t miss this daily soap, come rain or shine. So if you want to know how to make Gujarati Daal, don’t go looking for that ever smiling chef who runs a cookery show on TV, but catch it on the daily soap – and it does not stop with Daal, sometimes a disciplinarian Daadi, grandmother, would supervise a prospective daughter-in-laws Kheer, rice and milk pudding, making skills. And how else would the contemporary Indian woman know what to do on a Vata Savitri Vrat (a festival seeking the long life for the husband – immortalized by the Mythological Savitri-Satyavan tale), like avoid salt in one’s food. Karva Chauth is so passe’ as effeminate and Swiss loving Movie Directors have done it to death. But will all this still keep an Indian TV viewer glued to their LCD and LED screens? Or will they need some eccentric singers and loud musicians to judge auto-rickshaw drivers and sweepers and vegetable vendors singing Hindi film songs to attract the kohl lined eyeballs of the Indian TV viewer? Or will some movie star who has not had a hit movie in recent times have to drape pythons around his neck mouthing inane nursery rhymes do the trick? The fickle TV viewer who perhaps is looking for wholesome entertainment, was busy watching colourful cricketers and their antics on and off the field for a large part of this summer. And with the monsoons threatening to thunder in soon, staying indoors may get boring. So the viewer is hoping that the TV would have some decent fare that can be “enjoyed”. Iffy times for the Indian TV viewer.

The D Boyz are not big fans of TV – or maybe they are. So when some woman in a cape said something sinister about a southern TV Channel, the Boyz went hysterical – they lopped off a quarter of the value of the channel…. And switched off spicy airline preferences; and even when the Big Daddy of the Indian Industry went to meet his shareholders, the Boyz did not like what they heard, and shook up the SENSEX. Perhaps the Lady who accompanied him (who was a regular on TV wearing her blue T shirt and trademark glasses) was not her usual cheery self ready to hug the Boyz, she prefers bearded and turbaned cricketers. But not all of the TV types were lost on the Boyz. The Boyz were partial to the soaps that lather a lot, the soap preferred by all filmstars, and the Boyz left no lever unturned with their thumbs up. So whether it was a thumbs down sometimes, and cheers at others, the topsy turvy world of the remote less D Street saw the markets add 110 points from the previous week to 18376.

A child-bride’s trials and tribulations, one would think, would end when she grew up and her considerate parents and in-laws reconcile with the rude granny. But no – the show must go on. And forgotten characters from their past catch up to extend the glycerine induced cries. And it beats me how, illiterate dacoits wearing black tilaks, forehead marks, can suddenly become sophisticated up-scale Delhi-ites. Are the real Vasant Vihar Walas screaming out from roof-tops that this TV character is actually a Mumbaikar and not an uppity Dilliwala – never mind the “Delhi-Shelhi style-shyle dialogue-shialogue”. Sometimes, the stories on TV are so absurd, that I wish I get amnesiac and don’t remember any of this. Wait! I don’t even want that – because this is also a track doing the round…. Help – get me the remote control and let me switch to Krishi Darshan – Monsoon is around the corner.

Have a nice and safe weekend ahead… And for those TV addicts – my apologies if I hurt any of your or your favourite TV character’s sentiments. It was not intentional.