Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

There was a time in my life that I insisted that weird stuff happened to me all the time. Now I realise, thanks to the Internet, that weird stuff happens to everyone. In spite of that, I still find texts like this from unknown WhatsApp numbers incredibly funny:

<Unknown person>: “Karishma get broom and dustpan tomorrow”
<Unknown person>: “Cleaning day”

Be right back. Currently dying of laughter.

PS: My name is Karishma. Also, I have absolutely nowhere to be tomorrow.


Om Namah Shivaaye

I come from pure Hindu Indian stock, meaning there is no other religion or nationality mixed up in my lineage. Also means that I have a boring-ass family tree. Purity is for the Nazis. The saving grace is that my mum is from Maharashtra and my dad is from Kerala. [For the non-Indian folk who read this, this state of affairs is unusual.]

My mum and her relatives speak Marathi and Kannada, and are part of a community called lingayats. This is a Shaivaite community, in that the primary form of worship is Lord Shiva/Mahadev/<enter a gazillion different names here>.

My father’s family are more erudite, with PhDs liberally sprinkled across the generations. They are not particularly religious, even though they are Hindus. They often stick to English, but a fair few of them do speak Malayalam too. My father’s Malayalam was terrible, and thus mine is non-existent.

Now, I have had more interaction with my mum’s relatives during my lifetime. They are mostly awful excuses for human beings who I have to interact with, because society. Most have been pleasant to me though; when I was younger, because of my parents’ prosperity, and now because they are downright nervous around me. [I am unpredictable in their eyes, and very few of the girls in the family lead independent lives minus husbands. Also, I retort fairly sarcastically when riled.]

One of my mom’s cousins is married to an overly sanctimonious weasel, who we will call MalMham for the purposes of this story. He is the sort of scumbag I am ashamed to be related to, because he is dishonest, unkind, unscrupulous, greedy, nasty, and much more. His wife is not much better, because she shirks work, and burdens other people with her needs. But, regardless of their obnoxious behaviour, the pair of them spend at least three hours every morning doing their ling pooja. Now, this is a prescribed ritual for all lingayats, but most normal people spend about five minutes doing it. Work and life don’t really allow for elaborate daily rituals after all, unless you are retired and have someone else do all your work for you.

My mum never taught me this ritual, so I don’t even spend five minutes doing it, even though I am technically a lingayat. Ditto for my dad, as he became one after marrying my mum. However, we are deeply spiritual people, and believe in being good people is far greater worship, than a token prayer coupled with atrocious principles.

One day, mum and I were on our way to Bengaluru from Mumbai. However, because we couldn’t get tickets directly there, we made a stop at Solapur. Solapur is my maternal grandmother’s town, and it is filled with her degenerate and disgusting relatives. Due to necessity, we were forced to spend a few days with MalMham and his family. [To refresh your memory, my mum and his wife are first cousins.] The stay was awful generally, except for one very amusing moment.

You may feel I have gone on and on about how fake their sanctity appears to me. The reason I set that stage is because of that one amusing moment.

My mum and I were sitting in the living room, and we suddenly heard a metallic voice say, “Om Namah Shivaaye,” loudly and repeatedly. Since the members of the family each happened to be elsewhere at that moment, we looked at each other in utter bemusement. This refrain, which is a typical greeting between members of a Shaivaite community, kept on and on. We couldn’t figure out what it was, because it didn’t sound like a bhajan [a devotional song].

Then MalMham’s younger son burst into the room, and asked us why we weren’t answering the door. The refrain was their doorbell! The realisation was so electrifying that we were struck dumb for a few minutes – which was fortunate because he was occupied before the overwhelming urge to shout with laughter came over us.

Hindus can be spiritual people, but this sort of display is certainly not usual. So my mother and I laughed till tears came.

Fast forward to a few years ago, and my mum’s family were attending a wedding. The groom was MalMham’s wife’s brother’s son, and therefore also my mother’s cousin, once removed. [In India though, they are referred to as nephews and nieces.]

Of course, MalMham was in attendance, and so were my parents. My father didn’t speak Marathi or Kannada, so he interacted with my mother’s family in mostly Hindi. And again, he is so different from what they are used to that 38 years of marriage had not made them comfortable around him. My father, however, had no such difficulty. He just interacted with them, with a slight air of amusement. [I think they realised that he really couldn’t care less about them.]

At the wedding reception, my mum was sitting opposite MalMham and my dad. My dad, after having heard the story about the doorbell several times, turned to MalMham, and with barely concealed glee, said, “Om Namah Shivaaye!”

I wasn’t there to witness this, but my mother has described it in great detail. MalMham sank into his chair, deflated with annoyance and impotence. He knew my father was teasing, but didn’t have the wherewithal to respond. My mother sat in complete stupefaction, torn between wanting to laugh desperately and wanting smack my father hard for being cheeky.

I had no such compunction. I laughed till the tears came again, and wondered if they ever changed that doorbell.

Movie Review: The Fundamentals of Caring

Netflix threw up this suggestion for weeks before I took the bait and watched this movie. Somehow, road trip stories do not appeal to me, because they seem too literal in the interpretation of a journey. Plus, I detest actual road trips; unless they are under very specific (and rare) circumstances.

I’ll be honest; I decided to watch this movie because of Paul Rudd. I have had a major crush on him since Clueless (who hasn’t?), which was only intensified by Friends, and was only slighted dented by This is 40. And when Ant-man came out? Crush maxxed out.

The first blurb I read said that it was about a writer stuck in the past and a young shut-in, who discover friendship on a road trip. That sounded like the beginning, end, and middle of the story. I wondered what was left to discover.

Story: Ben (Paul Rudd) is a writer, who decides to become a caregiver. After his course, his first assignment is for a teenager suffering from muscular dystrophy, Trevor (Craig Roberts). The teen is irascible and fond of awful practical jokes, and makes Ben’s job quite difficult.

During the course of Ben’s caretaking, Trevor expresses huge fascination for the roadside attractions abounding in the US. Ben suggests that he go visit some of them, and after an initial reluctance, they go.

The trip is eventful, and each event deepens the understanding and friendship between the two.

Review: There are no surprises in The Fundamentals of Caring. The story is made with great sensitivity, without waking on eggshells around a disabled person. Some of the elements are beautiful, and some profoundly sad. There are equal doses of almost every emotion, and the characters are eminently relatable, and not picture-perfect.

Story: The story is paced well, and has its share of interesting points. The narrative doesn’t become flat, and the editing carries away top honours for that. Since it is set firmly in the present, the past unfolds slowly in a very effective way. This is a drama, and not a thriller, so there are no surprises – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Characters: Trevor is in a wheelchair, but he is a jerk. He uses his disability to make people uncomfortable, and manipulates them. His character is very strong, and thankfully not saccharine sweet. Ben has spirit too, but it appears to be crushed. Trevor’s jibes do a lot to penetrate the miasma that Ben chooses to envelop himself in, sometimes shocking him back to normal. Elsa, Trevor’s mother, (Jennifer Ehle) is not a long-suffering mother, but a strong woman who has accepted her life, and chosen to get on with it. The characters are amazing.

Acting: Superb acting on all fronts. Trevor’s role seems to be the most challenging, as he is suffering from a debilitating disease. He copes with the disease, and sometimes flounders under it. The rapidly fluctuating reactions of Craig Roberts is a beautiful thing to watch. Paul Rudd is incredible too. You can see the cogs turning in his character’s mind, and the mental transformation he portrays is sublime.

What I liked: Everything.

What I disliked: Nothing.

Rating: ✩✩✩✩✩

A must-watch movie: for the reality without grittiness, for the likeability without the overt sweetness, for the superlative acting, and most importantly for the sensitivity without condescension.


Biting the Bullet

After deciding to make an active effort to lose weight, I finally went back to the gym today. I am at the tail end of a 3-month membership, which I fully intend to renew.

I live in a relatively middle class area, without flashy homes or outlets. In keeping with the theme of its surroundings, the gym too caters to a gentler pace of life. It doesn’t have state-of-the-art equipment, nor ultra-buff trainers. It has a comfortable sort of appeal, and welcomes any kind of person to work out.

True to its overall appearance and rhythm, there aren’t pushy trainers. The gym is peppered with them however, and they more or less leave people to do their workouts as they wish. They are on hand for assistance or advice, but they are not overtly aggressive.

I’ve been a member for a little over two years now, and I have been prone to go in, do a little exercise, and leave shortly thereafter. There was no method to my workout, and I merely did the exercises I knew or remembered from previous sessions. I wasn’t particularly keen on getting a trainer to oversee my workout, because I have been severely low on energy, and as it was, my motivation was at an all-time low.

But today I walked into the gym, and went directly up to the trainer. I committed to coming in regularly, and sticking to a plan. For my part, I did tell her that I don’t have much energy, and I would prefer to move slowly. I am not in a rush to change my body, and would prefer a comfortable pace.

Tomorrow, she will take my measurements and set up a workout plan. I have finally taken the first step.

A Sweet Memory

I have always cherished time I spent with my family. We are a small unit: mom, dad, and I, and our extended family included my mom’s twin sister and my ex. Any permutation of five worked well, except that my father needed to have either mom or me, in case he was alone with one or both of the other two.

One Friday, my aunt was coming over from Pune, where she stays. She was going to spend a few days with us, and so we decided to go for a late night movie to kickstart a weekend of fun and frolic. I booked the tickets from the office during the afternoon.

The plan was to pick my aunt up from the train station at 8 pm, then about an hour later, pick me up from a local train station, and then head to the theatre.

At around 7 pm, an hour before I leave the office, there was a dogfooding session on. [I will reserve my rant for the IT industry abusing English for another post.] The product manager had ordered in doughnuts from a recently opened Dunkin’ Donuts across the street for the participants of the session. I wasn’t one, but he offered me a doughnut nonetheless, since I happened to be in the immediate vicinity.

Now, there is this neurosis I have: I always feel the need to pack up goodies for home too. And the doughnut was very nice indeed, and I wanted to take home a box to share with the family. The only drawback was that my mum had previously loudly proclaimed her strong dislike for Dunkin’ Donuts. [Apparently, the few times she has been, the doughnuts were less than great.]

Also, I was getting heat from my folks to leave office on time, seeing as they would be waiting at the station to pick me up. I decided that I would risk the ire, and went across the street to pick up a box of doughnuts. Initially I wanted to buy a dozen, but quailing a little at the thought of my mom’s dislike, I stuck with half a dozen.

Luckily, I caught my train, and I reached the station on time. I clambered down the stairs, clutching the oblong box firmly aloft. It was really delicate, and wasn’t built to withstand commuting in Mumbai.

I reached the car, and passed the doughnuts to my mum and aunt in the back seat. I didn’t realise it till that point, but I had been holding my breath. And I released it with a sigh of relief, when the box was greeted with squeals of delight. Whew.

Dad was driving, but he wanted a doughnut too. So he pulled into a parking spot near the station, and the four of us dug into a doughnut each. I remember my father being unable to decide between two, so I handed him one, took the other, and we swapped halfway through. After polishing off four of them, we headed to the theatre.

I have hundreds of memories like this, but they flit in and out of my consciousness. I think blogging about them will create a record that I can read for ages to come.

Change is a Good Thing

[Somehow, as I wrote the title, I heard it in Martha Stewart’s voice. Heh.]

I have had a few relationships over the years, but only one was truly toxic. The others were variations of two incompatible people being attracted to each other at the wrong time. Except my last relationship, of course. That was true love, at least from my side. But I digress. The truly toxic ex was an expert in dragging me down, and one of the things he always said is that I change my mind too often.

At the time, I strenuously objected to being ‘vilified’ thus, and made huge, often ridiculous, attempts to prove otherwise. I had once said I find African-American men very attractive, and a few months later I said I didn’t. This example sticks out most in my mind, because he was a jerk about it. [As an aside, I realise that my attraction to any given man doesn’t factor their race into the equation.]

Many years down the line, I read a lot about psychology to understand the workings of my mind and its reactions. There, I came across something called consistency bias.

In short, consistency bias is a memory bias that makes you believe that your thoughts, beliefs, tastes, and attitudes are the same as they are now. And no, they aren’t.

Not only does our environment change, but we as individuals change dramatically as well. Our life experiences are hardly ever stagnant, and our reactions to those experiences is always slightly different.

There was a time in my life when I hated food. Or at least I thought I hated food. Of course, that no longer holds true. I was just eating food that didn’t agree with me, and I created a mental association between feeling poorly and eating.

Today, I am a vastly different person to the innocent, gullible child I was, not understanding so much of what happens around me. I have matured and become kinder, by understanding the guiding forces behind people’s behaviour.

If I ever meet the toxic ex again, I will feel terribly sorry for him. His poisonous mind can’t have made life pleasant for himself. Or for those around him.

Three Years & Many Tears Later

Three years ago today I lost my dog. However, rather than focus on how I lost her and relive those painful memories, I thought I dredge up an old blog post about a morning spent in her company.

img_0004My darling little fatso; I miss you more every day. Love you always.

Take that, Dog

Last night I decided that today needed to be a new start. I had gotten into the habit of sleeping very late, getting up mid-morning (at 8) and therefore getting into work really late. As a natural consequence, I have started staying in the office till 8 – by which time it is crawling with lizards, and my nerves are frayed to breaking point. So I decided to get up early, so I went to bed at 10:30 last night.

Best. Decision. Ever.

I woke up, bright and shiny, only to realise that I needed to let the dog out before I could water the terrace plants. I padded down to the parents’ room, and saw one small black nose emerging from under a pile of blankets. Quelle surprise.

I prodded. Poked. Hissed. Whispered. Shook. All to no avail – she didn’t even open her eyes. I shall but glance briefly on the sonorous yet rhythmic noise emanating from her throat. The pain just wasn’t waking up.

Finally I ripped the blankets off her, only to be rewarded with the flicker of opening eyelids and the blissful cessation of afore-mentioned noise – which was promptly replaced with a warning growl.

To which I raised an eyebrow, and lugged her off the bed. And dumped her (carefully) on the floor. And grinned.

Hustled a protesting cocker spaniel up two flights of stairs and ushered her out into the dewy morning outside.

Take that, dog, for waking me up at the odd hours of morning just to be let out, and then do nothing while I sleepily prop myself against the door-jamb. The number of times I have hauled my butt out of my cosy bed to lift her sorry bottom onto my bed, only to have her curl up on the very spot I have just vacated, because it is the warmest. The innumerable occasions where I have woken because a freezing nose was shoved into my neck, demanding cuddles and covers – and then subsequently reawakening shivering, only to realise the dog has appropriated all the blankets and I am left with nary a stitch of blanket.

Revenge is sweet.