Payment Terms

I thought I knew all my parents’ stories, because to be fair, I have heard them many times over. It is a source of constant joy, as I think of them coming terms with the world as rather adorable. Neither of them spared themselves or their pride in the retelling, so the piquancy of each tale has lasted.

So when I heard a new story about my dad a few days ago, I was really thrilled.

When he was working in Goa as a hotel general manager, he had a trusted lieutenant in the form of his HR manager, AM. AM, in turn, had immeasurable regard for my father and, since his passing, has kept in touch with my mother regularly. My father had only praise for this younger person, and always said he would go far.

A few days ago, AM messaged my mom to express how much he missed my father and his stewardship. He stressed on how much he learned, just by being with my father, and he narrated a tale to that effect.

One evening, a security guard was yelled at and slightly roughed up by some of the hotel guests or surrounding taxi drivers. He was understandably upset, and marched off to the HR manager to lodge a complaint. My father called him into his office, offered him a seat and a glass of water, and asked him what had transpired.

The security guard went into a harangue against all and sundry. Once he had quietened down a little, my father asked him what his name was. He replied: Namdev. Next: what is your salary, Namdev?

AM, in his retelling, said that he was in shock when he heard this question. What was the GM up to?

The guard went very quiet. My father asked again: what is your salary Namdev?

15000, he replied.

And what does a guard usually get paid?

5000, he replied.

That’s right. This is a difficult business [the hotel had a casino attached, although my father had nothing to do with that part of the business], and there are going to be upsets. We will take action as necessary, however the fact is that we pay extra because being a guard here is difficult.

“You get 5000 to be a guard. And 10000 to take shit.”

I was so flabbergasted on hearing this story. My father was a practical man, but he had a very kind heart. But above all, he had charm and humour oozing out of every pore. I was stunned when AM said that the guard nodded and left without further discussion.

Apparently, I haven’t heard everything.

Scammy Persistence

Persistent scammer thinks I’m an idiot.

Call 1.
Scammer: “Madam, your ATM card is blocked for security reasons.”
Me: “Which bank are you calling from?” [It’s a mobile number. No way this is a legit call.]
Scammer *after short, whispered conference with fellow scammer*: “Umm.. Bank of Maharashtra.”
Me: “Don’t have an account with them.”
Scammer:Nahi, sorry. Bank of India.”
Me: “Nope not them either.”
Scammer: “Ok madam. Sorry wrong number.”

A few hours later. Call 2. Same number.
Scammer: “Madam, humne aapko subhe phone kiya tha.” [Cheek!]
Me:Haan. Bolo.”
Scammer:Aapka number registered hai is account ke saath.”
Me:Achcha? Kaunsa number?” [I have 2 other numbers’ calls forwarded to one phone, in addition to mine.]
Scammer: “Um.. yehi wala.”
Me: *letting it go* “Achcha. Address kaunsa hai?”
Scammer: *click*

Two days later. Call 3. Same number.
Scammer: “Madam, aap kaunse bank ka ATM use karte ho?”
Me:Aap kaunse bank se call kar rahe ho?”
Scammer: “SBI.”
Me: “Don’t use that ATM card.”
Scammer: *click*

I know I shouldn’t indulge these conversations, but can’t help myself. Far too funny.

Movie Review: Hawaa Hawaai

Going for a movie with my parents was one of my great pleasures in life. We drove down to the theatre, usually with pre-booked tickets in the comfy sofa seats, bought sundry snacks, and sat down to a few hours of mindless entertainment in comfort. Nowadays, with dad gone, we’ve stopped going. But there was a time where one or sometimes two movies a week was the norm.

A few years ago, a common trailer was played before several of the movies. It was of Hawaa Hawaai, and it seemed like a down-on-his-luck guy comes out on top story. I love those kinds of movies, plus it had something to do with skating. And lastly, I loved this song that played when the trailer came on. It was just lovely. [Doesn’t have subtitles, sorry, but this is a pretty decent translation.]

Story: The story opens with a young boy, Arjun Waghmare, sitting next to his dad, praying. The rest of him family is around, smiling. The next scene, you see Arjun  getting a job with a tea stall owner. His mother stands next to him, extremely distraught, but he convinces her to let him work.

As the movie unfolds, the viewer is taken through Arjun’s day to day existence as a poverty-stricken child in Mumbai. His father has passed on, and the boy does his best to help his mother run the household, as does all the members of the close-knit family. He has a bunch of friends, all working children, who eat lunch together and have each others’ backs.

The tea stall is set up in the parking lot of commercial complex. However, at night, it transforms into a classroom for skating children, taught by a dedicated trainer, Aniket Bhargava. Arjun is fascinated by the skates, and wants to try doing it.

When the skates prove too expensive for their combined slender means, the boys band together and make a pair of skates out of refuse. The trainer is so impressed, he volunteers to train Arjun for the next skating competition.

Review: The story is an upbeat one, but there are so many underlying subtle commentaries about social ills: genetically modified grains destroying farming families, poverty in the cities, childhood labour, disgraceful medical facilities, and so on. The subtexts are so powerful, their sorrow sometimes overwhelms the narrative, although in a necessary way. Basically, I was in tears several times.

Story: Beautiful story, with well-executed story arcs. Only, at the end of the second act, the major setback was too contrived for my taste. The director did build up to it, but it was too coincidental. Somehow, in stories, coincidences are irksome, even though they do occur in real life too!

Characters: Immensely relatable characters, with complex personalities and true pathos. Indescribably transcendent.

Acting: Terrific performances, especially from the child actors. They could have been real street children, lifted from the slums of Dharavi.

What I liked: Everything. I usually avoid dramas, because the sorrow lingers far longer than the happiness. But in this movie’s case, it was worth it. Yes, there is happiness with a good outcome, but it doesn’t change the fundamental sorrow at the heart of this movie: that father’s death.

What I disliked: Nothing. Beautiful, beautiful movie.

Rating: ✩✩✩✩✩

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Whittling Down Happy Days

3rd April was my birthday. My 33rd birthday to be exact. My first birthday without my father. [We lost him on 5th April 2016.] Two days after my 32nd birthday.

These thoughts have been ringing in the same staccato fashion in the confines of my head for the last few months. I realise my extreme good fortune that of having had such amazing, loving parents at all. I also recognise that I was lucky to have the most amazing father in the world, who was a father in all the right moments, but like a brother in others, and a pal for most of my life.

Doesn’t stop me from feeling incredibly sad though. In fact, this post has been languishing in my drafts folder since the 3rd, which means I have had to go back and change the tense and add a few explanatory lines.

I am not a great believer in date milestones. Funnily enough, it started off with my grandfather’s death. On 11th August 2002, he breathed his last, and my mother went into a complete tailspin. It took her months to recover the shreds of her sanity, and year after year, I felt the same tremors of grief engulfing her on the 11th.

After we moved back to India, I moved away to college in Pune. It was hard to make friends, but I fast formed a lasting bond with one girl. And her birthday was on the 11th of August.

At that point in our lives, birthdays were a big deal. And I was always part of the celebration, but at home there was an ambience of sheer despair. What was I supposed to do? Ultimately, the penny dropped. I refused to remember the anniversary of his demise; I would rather focus on the anniversary of his birth: an arguably happier occasion.

As I’ve grown older though, new year’s days, Valentine’s days, and the like lost significance. A concerted effort to blot out sadness on death anniversaries of grandparents, beloved pets, and so on has made those days pass by too. The only remaining days of significance are birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

The only wedding anniversary celebrated by my family is my parents’. Now with dad gone, that’s become a sad occasion too. I’m not married. My aunt’s marriage didn’t work out.

Finally, birthdays. Mine: 2 days before my father died. My father’s? Without him, it’s sad. My aunt and mother are twins. That leaves a grand total of one day of celebration in the year.

Why bother?

Movie Review: Stardust

I watched Stardust again after a very long time. I remember chancing upon it quite by accident, before I’d heard of Neil Gaiman, let alone read any of his books.

I loved it the first time around, so I was quite pleased to watch it again. Sufficient time had elapsed, so the story was familiar enough for me to pick up on smaller details I missed the last time, and yet be delighted anew.

Case in point: I never noticed the embroidered waistcoats of the princes of Stormhold. Of course, Mark Strong acts in a way that makes me swoon, but really this was a gross oversight.

Story: The village of Wall in England, gets its name from a long wall that borders it on one side. Dunstan Thorn crosses the wall, and visits a market in the magical world of Stormhold. He meets an enslaved girl, who says she is a princess, and invites him into her caravan.

Nine months later, Dunstan receives a baby in a basket; his son Tristan.

Tristan grows up, and tried everything to woo a local heartbreaker named Victoria. He is an unremarkable person on the surface of it, and Victoria appears to prefer Humphrey more. Until Tristan promises to bring back a bit of a star that he sees has fallen to the earth.

Now the star is Yvaine, and she’s been knocked out of the night sky by the king of Stormhold’s enchanted necklace. Since he has more than one surviving son, the one that possesses the necklace is next in line to rule.

Add to this chaos, three witches see the falling star and are after her for her heart.

There is so much complexity to this story, it is fantastic.

Review: I read much later that the book was better. Of course, it always is, but I hadn’t and still haven’t read the book. I love the movie. Perhaps once I read the book, I might change my tune.

Story: A fairytale story of magic, good and evil, romance, laughter, and so much more. There is danger, and killing is quite casual to be honest. Some of the humour is so subtle, it is perfect.

Characters: The characters are supremely one-dimensional. They have one motivating factor, and that’s it. The only one with any depth is Captain Shakespeare. Hilarious and poignant all at the same time.

Acting: What incredible actors. Mark Strong, Robert de Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer were incredible. This is the movie I developed a crush on Ben Barnes for his tiny role as young Dunstan Thorn.

What I liked: Gorgeously sumptuous movie, with extravagant sets and locales. The fast-paced momentum was great, but I truly loved the editing. The story was wonderful too, and while it had plot holes, it didn’t matter to me. The whole thing was a dramatic extravaganza.

What I disliked: Loved it all.

Rating: ✩✩✩✩✩

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April Madness

My birthday is in a couple of days, so in that sense April has always been a little special.

Or maybe I am telling myself that so that I feel a bit better about starting to exercise today, instead of January 1st.

Whatever works.

Today I have started on my new regime:

  • Exercise to a plan. No random pinwheeling around like a demented scarecrow.
  • Take up Duolingo again. I am losing my grip on my French skills. Connard!
  • Finish the Khan Academy Math programs. I left this excellent resource halfway. Argh.
  • Signed up for sketching classes too. Drawspace. Pretty excellent thus far.

Just being my normal, random self. Yay.

Chocolate, Please?

I shouldn’t be surprised by now, when something out of the ordinary happens to me. But then again, a renewed sense of wonder is not a bad thing at all.

A few months ago, mum and I were at our neighbourhood tailor. We had some clothes that needed adjusting: a seam needed taking in, some buttonholes needed to be made, and so on. I happened to be chewing on a bit of candy, Pulse, at the time. I love Pulse candy, especially the raw mango one with the spicy powder centre. [Here is the craptastic page on the company site with a better description.]

In our family, there is a tradition: one never eats alone. So, as per tradition, I offered the tailor and the two other people in his kiosk a piece of candy each. To my mild surprise, they accepted. [Generally, orthodox Muslims do not accept food or drink from Hindus. I guess they weren’t that orthodox. Also, rarely does someone from the service stratum accept food from me. I am not being classist. Just an observation. Never stopped me from offering at any rate.]

Anyway, this evening mum and I had some more work at the tailor’s. We handed over the top, and he asked us to pass by again in 15 minutes to collect it. Sure thing, and we sauntered off.

On our return, I ask him for the top. He then silently hands the bag to me. As my mum is checking it out, I ask him how much I owed him. After paying him, I was putting my wallet into my bag. And he says:

Tailor: “Madam, you don’t carry chocolate around with you any more? That day you had some with you. It was really very nice!”

I was so surprised at this, because even though I have been friendly with the dude, he has rarely responded in kind. I wouldn’t say he was surly, just uncommunicative.

So this salvo was entirely out of the left field. I blinked in surprise, and laughed a little. My mum was also very amused, and she suggested I get the sweets from a neighbouring kiosk. I trotted off and bought a few for him.

I came back, and poured 10 candies into his hands, and he laughed saying he didn’t want so many. I took one, and told him to keep the rest. It was a pleasant, light-hearted moment, and it made me feel really good.

As we walked away, my mum started chuckling. When I asked her why, she said that he was surprised that the sweets were available here in India. He had thought they were ‘imported’.

Another nut, who despite seeing me practically every few weeks, thinks I am from abroad. And I speak to him in HINDI!