The Older Young Person

I used to be a newspaper editor back in Goa. I was absurdly young at 27, and hadn’t a clue what I was doing when I was given the job. That changed, but some of the events on that journey were hilarious.

[Ignore the bits about J and A, because those two deserve section all to themselves.]

Nice Kid

One of the more annoying things about being a blogger is to have interesting stuff to post, and not having time to write about it. (Because the two are usually directly related.) Then to add insult to injury, taking out the time to write about afore-mentioned interesting stuff yields nothing because you’ve forgotten what it is you wanted to blog about.

Or at least that what usually happens to me. Today is no exception.

Lots of interesting stuff has happened to me over the past few months. I’ve introduced my readers to the idiot that is J, his charming partner A, and various other characters. I have resolutely refused to post about work, because let’s face it – I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. Plus I try and maintain a cordial working relationship with everyone, no matter what my personal opinion happens to be.

But today I make an exception, because the incident is harmless, and well, it just jolted me slightly. Not in a bad way – merely surprising. Maybe I am making too much of it, but then you can be the judge of that.

I was meant to interview someone this morning, with the view of hiring a reporter for my team. I desperately need help with the content, especially since I have very active involvement in the design process (mainly because I want to assure myself of it being perfect). I met the candidate, and frankly I thought she was pleasant, willing to work, had a good command over the language and was a good fit in my team. I was a little uncertain about her expectations, as she would have preferred to work in the features section and wanted minimal travelling. But on the whole, I was happy about her coming to work for my team, provided she actually wanted to, of course. (I want willing subordinates who are as invested in making the product successful as I am.)

I took her down to the HR department, and left her to their devices. She then met up with one of the new editors of the newspaper, who had just joined himself the same day.

Later on in the afternoon, I came out of my office and was accosted by a pleasant, silver-haired man. He smiled at me, and asked me whether I was Karishma by any chance. Turns out, he was the new editor. I had heard he was joining, so I was actually pleased to meet him.

We exchanged civilities and I prepared to move away. He then recalled my attention, saying that he met the candidate from the morning. He said that she was pleasant and would be good for the paper. I agreed with him, and we discussed her abilities a little further. He finally ended with, “… and she seems a nice kid.”

I just nodded and moved away. In the hierarchy of the organization, this silver-haired gentleman and I are possibly at the same level. Along with the magazine editor, and another new editor (that is a whole other post!), there are four people on that level. We all report to the main editor, although he interferes very little with the day-to-day running of the papers.

The other three individuals are ALL older than me. And the funny part? The candidate I interviewed in the morning was exactly a month younger than me. So if she’s a ‘nice kid’, what on earth does that make me?

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Bath-time

I used to think that all dogs hated baths, contrary beings that they are, even though most love swimming. But I have seen enough videos of happy dogs, well-behaved dogs, and the like, to know that my specimen was particularly badly behaved.

She was prone to ear and skin infections, and I ran through a massive gamut of ointments, salves, medicated shampoos, gels, medicines, supplements, unguents, and sprays, before being told of a simple, but extremely effective remedy.

[I’m going to refrain from putting it up here, because it is a home remedy, and it may have worked for my dog, but might not in other circumstances. I cannot be responsible for any being’s medical needs.]

The only problem with this remedy is that I needed to do it once a week. It was also the sort of application that requires washing off with soap. Therefore, the upshot was that I had to bathe the cow every week. And each session took about two hours to do.

Dear lord.

To add insult to injury, the fart always wanted to roll around on the terrace floor just after her bath. To avoid her wrecking two hours of manual labour in as many seconds, I used to dry her with a towel and a hair dryer set on low. During which, the lout had the ineffable cheek to fall asleep. She used to tire herself out by complaining incessantly about being bathed, and of course her royal highness needed her beauty sleep after.

I was usually a train wreck by the end of it all. Which is why I ended up drawing this:

Shwetu cartoonI am definitely no artist, but every time I see this, I want to laugh. She was such a pain, and yet such a darling.

Chef-in-Waiting

It is my considered opinion that a sure sign of maturity, and by extension adulthood, is the sinking realisation of how little one actually knows. Especially about oneself.

Growing up, my mum ordained that everyone has to help out at home. She was firmly of the opinion that just because I went to school and my dad went to work, doesn’t mean that we are absolved from making a contribution to housework. Of course, she too worked most of her life, and ran a business for the greater part.

Of course, as a youngster, I detested housework. I was a spoilt brat, being brought up in a country [UAE] where there are servants for everything. And when I mean everything, I mean EVERYTHING. But of all the chores I hated, cooking and cleaning was by far the worst.

There was a common thread to my hatred; one gets messy when cooking and when cleaning. Neither is a comfortable occupation, wherein hands stay clean, hair stay coiffed, clothes stay neat, and so on. You get the drift.

But cooking had the worst rap. I was a raging feminazi when I was young, railing and ranting against all things “feminine”. I didn’t really need to be, because neither of my parents discriminated between girls and boys. I was never told that I couldn’t X, Y, or Z because I was a girl. Those diktats were contingent on safety and sense, the latter of which I severely lacked.

Cooking for me was anathema. I hated the concept of it. To be fair, I was a poor eater at the time, thanks to an undiagnosed allergy to capsaicin, aka the main enzyme in chillies, aka the main ingredient in Indian food, aka the food of my people. I hated cooking. I helped my mother in the kitchen most unwillingly, and was generally a pain about it.

I also loudly declared that I would marry a chef, and the bugger could cook for me. [Feminazi behaviour lends itself to extreme oversimplifications and hypocrisy.]

My father used to chuckle quietly, and my mother dismissed my antics with a sage: “Famous last words.” I was infuriated. How could she think she knew what I would want so far into the future, better than I did? I railed and ranted some more.

Turns out, she was right. I love cooking. This morning, the both of us disappeared into the kitchen together, and I reminded her of that ranty child. We both laughed, and I hugged her tight. Of course she knows me best. It is one of the reasons I love her so very much.

Hello from the Hinterland

Thanks to an ongoing project, my circadian rhythms have changed quite a bit. I can no longer get up before 8 am, without feeling like a truck has rammed into me. I do, on occasion, clamber out of bed around 7:30 am, but only if I’ve made a concerted effort to sleep before 2 am the previous night.

All of this boils down to me being rather unpleasant when I am unexpectedly woken up at oh-no-o’clock. Which happened this morning.

In India, I have learned to deal with three things I absolutely hate: the lack of personal space, the disregard for anyone else’s time, and complete absence of any sort of etiquette. Usually, I am able to handle behaviour symptomatic of this with mild irritation, and brush it off. Today, I nearly exploded.

My phone started vibrating in the morning, indicating that there was a call. I was fast asleep, so was surprised to hear it at all. I answered the phone, only to hear a voice peremptorily demanding: “Who is this?”

Another one of my triggers. If I had been awake, I would have calmly told the rude asshat that he had dialled the wrong number. But I just disconnected, thinking he would get the message. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

He called twice, and I turned off the ringer. Again he called twice, and I was so cheesed off, I answered the call both times, and presumably he shouted into thin air. The fifth time, I disconnected and turned off my phone.

When I finally woke up, I turned the phone back on again. It was a good hour after the calls had initially come in, so I assumed that anyone with a modicum of a life would have gotten on with it by now. But I was wrong.

I got another call. This time, I was so furious I gave the phone to my mother to answer. [I would have yelled if I had answered.] She answered and told the idiot on the other side off. Finally the calls stopped.

Unfortunately for me though, I was so annoyed with the casual crassness of this individual, who thinks it is absolutely fine to call early in the morning, constantly pester someone with calls even though they clearly are not interested in speaking to you, and have the temerity to demand who they are calling.

I know I cannot change the world to suit my preferences, but today I would happily beaten down on this specimen of Indian village mentality till he got my point.

Pulling a Fast One on the Fat One

During our time in Goa, my family and I lived in a three-storey row house. The topmost floor had the master bedroom and the terrace, the middle floor had the living room and a second bedroom, and the ground floor had the kitchen and dining room, and a small third bedroom.

Because my father was incredibly lazy, he chose to stay in the third bedroom. His logic was: no stairs. When my aunt moved in, she took the middle floor bedroom, because it made sense to her. Therefore I got the top bedroom.

Now, my dog loved me, so she occasionally came upstairs to say hi. But more than me, she loved the terrace. My dog pathologically hated closed doors in the house. If a door was closed, she was instantly miserable and wanted to be on the other side of it. Thankfully, the main door was exempt from this ridiculous diktat.

Like all dogs, my dog was obsessed with people coming in. If the doorbell rang, hell broke loose. She had a particularly shrill bark, which grated on everyone’s eardrums. She also insisted on being centre and front when the door opened, generally tripping people coming in or people going out without any compunction. Unlike other dogs, my dog was a badly behaved little lout, with a strong inclination for her own way all the time.

One afternoon, my dad was at work, and mum and I were hanging about in the kitchen. There was no one else in the house, so the top two floors were silent. Basically, there was no reason whatsoever for my dog to go upstairs.

Of course, that’s exactly what she did though.

My mum and I were a little amused to see the fat podge slowly ascending the stairs. One paw at a time, the small rotund body was rolling upwards. My mum called out to her: “Come down! Where do you think you are going?”

My dog stopped, looked disdainfully over her shoulder for a few second, and continued upwards.

Stifling laughter at this flagrant disobedience, which incidentally I would never have dared to pull on my mum, I called her too. I didn’t even merit the disdainful look. She continued upwards.

It became an ego issue. I kept calling, till my mother silenced me. “Wait. I have an idea,” she whispered. “Let the miserable cow get to the top floor.”

I waited. I had no idea what my mum was up to.

We heard her start upon the next set of stairs, and finally reach the top landing. My mother, with all the stealth of a ninja, carefully unlatched the front door, snaked her arm out, and rang the doorbell. And then quickly shut the door again.

The reaction was instantaneous.

My dog pelted down the stairs, barely allowing her paws to touch each step, crying with excitement. Someone was at the door! OMG OMG OMG.

She reached the ground floor, and ran to the door, preparing to bark her silly head off. Only to realise that there were no new smells. I could see the cogs turning in her head, while she tried to figure out how the doorbell rang but the expected outcome of new people and new smells was missing.

She looked back at me expectantly, and I obligingly opened the door for her. She gazed in consternation at the empty porch, as if to will someone to be there. I shut the door in front of her bemused face, and collapsed into a chair to laugh.

My mother was already crying with the effort of not to laugh, and her last thread of self control snapped when I started to laugh. My dog finally cottoned on that she had been played, played masterfully at that. She slunk into her basket, and refused to talk to us for a few hours after.

100% worth it.

Movie Review: Dil Dhadakne Do

An opulent saga in the true tradition of Bollywood escapism, this movie is the ultimate eye candy in terms of visuals and people.

Story: The Mehras are a wealthy family from Delhi. The husband is a self-made man, and he has the requisite society wife and two children: a daughter, who has married well, and a son he is trying to groom to take over his company.

Kamal Mehra (Anil Kapoor) and his wife, Neelam, are, on the surface of it all, perfect. They have a beautiful home, great kids, and so on and so forth. Under the picture perfect appearance however, there are many ripples that threaten to ruin everything.

The story is told mainly from the perspective of the family dog, Pluto, and takes place on a cruise liner, where Kamal and Neelam decide to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary with their nearest and dearest.

Review: I didn’t expect too much from this movie from the outset, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Story: The story is extremely well-crafted. The ebb and flow of personal relationships and the nuances that embody each in a typical Indian family, albeit high society, is perfection. There are a few superfluous elements, in the form of secondary characters, but all things considered, it was not that big a deal. My caveat in all of this is that, in the obvious effort to tie up all loose ends, the movie is almost three hours long. That’s a considerable investment of time.

Characters: Each main character is a complex mix of emotions and characteristics. They are each flawed in their own way: one is unfaithful, the other is cold, the third is uncertain in the face of parental authority, and the fourth is irreverent.

I especially identified with Ranveer Singh’s character, Kabir, when he finds himself in the midst of very serious situations, and chooses to say flippant things, with the utmost seriousness. The scene with his sister’s mother-in-law, where she dramatically holds a knife to her wrist was my favourite. His reaction was exactly what was going through my head seconds before he uttered the dialogue. I may have squealed in glee.

Acting: A star-studded cast really shows each character in excellent detail. Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, and Priyanka Chopra were brilliant. I am in awe of acting skill that can convey a character’s entire nature with a well-executed muscle twitch or an almost imperceptible nostril flare. Ranveer Singh was good too, but he was rather eclipsed by the others. I also think that Farhan Akhtar was great, but then again he is always great.

What I liked: Sumptuous visuals, a compelling narrative, liberal doses of humour, and realistic scenes. No unnecessary melodrama whatsoever.

Special mention for the effort to justify running after someone immediately, under extreme circumstances, with reasonable logic. Ditto for songs.

What I disliked: It was rather long, although it didn’t take away from the experience. I didn’t catch many of the other characters’ names or motivations. They were a bit like living scenery. Again, not a problem as such. Songs were a bit blah.

Rating: ✩✩✩✩

Immensely watchable.

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Cuddle-pot

One of the things I miss most about my dog is her constant need for cuddles. And because she was a roly-poly little tub, she was an awesome snuggle buddy.

One evening, my parents and I decided to drive down to Miramar chowpatty in Goa, to have shawarmas and kathi rolls. [We were non-vegetarians back then.] We piled into the car, dog in tow. She loved these short outings in our little car.

Because madam was a short cocker spaniel, she needed to sit on me to see out the window. So sit on me, she did. But she soon got fed up, and waddled off to the other side.

We had our kathi rolls and stopped for ice cream on the way back. I was pleasantly drowsy, and had snuggled into a corner of the seat to drift into a semi-slumber. Turns out, little miss fatso also had the same idea.

Only, the car seat wasn’t the most comfortable for the furry brat. Oh no. So she clambered into my lap, one paw at a time, tucked her snout into the crook of my arm, curled her legs into my abdomen, wedged her bottom into my other arm, and went off to sleep.

I looked on in a mix of awe, love, amazement, and happiness, as this little little being found her sanctuary in my arms. If I ever felt blessed in my life, that was the moment.

Anand and ShwetuAnd because I don’t have a picture of that moment, here is one of her using the French Student as a sofa. He loved it too.