Thursday 26 December 2013

Marriage in a Dump

People talk of their marriages being in the dumps and I am sure that there are a whole lot of them. There are a couple of stories in today's tabloids that have literally put marriages in a dump.

In the first instance, a newlywed woman has walked out of her marriage for lack of a toilet in her matrimonial home. This is probably a first. There have been enough women who have walked out at the altar before their marriages have been solemnized on account of excessive demands for dowry by the grooms' family. It also lends the much needed support to the Government's campaign exhorting people not to wed their daughters into homes without attached toilets. Such actions will not only improve overall hygiene but also increase safety and security without having to worry about getting attacked by humans and animals while attending to daily calls. I am assuming that in the present case it was an arranged marriage. So while one may have made adequate enquiries about the groom and his family's wealth and social status, it is equally important to know whether there are basic amenities attached to the house. I am sure no one would like to be standing in the middle of a field or a tiger infested forest with just a pail of water to defend with.

The other item is about a woman whose Mangalsutra was snatched by a thief. Now a Mangalsutra is a very sacred piece of jewellery for a woman since it signifies and symbolizes marriage. It is made out of black beads strung in gold wire and may weigh from 10 gms to 100 gms. It is to be worn around the neck and to stay there till death or divorce of either spouse. Coming back to our story, we have this thief on the run having snatched a mangalsutra from its owner neck. But luck was not on his side and he gets caught. So what does he do next? He does the next best thing that any self respecting thief would do to show his innocence. He swallows the Mangalsutra and says he never took it. So now the police to whom this thief has been handed over find nothing to show that this thief is indeed a thief.

The police are not going to give this up so easily. There is at least $ 500 worth of gold lying in the guts. They get an X-ray of the thief's stomach that shows the mangalsutra lying in some fold of his intestines. So how does one get this thief and also save a marriage? Our smart sleuths hit upon a brilliant idea. They feed our thief bananas and then lie in wait.

Now I don't think our cops have a glass pot on a pedestal attached to an appropriate filtering mechanism to segregate contraband from earth. This is where my question arises. Who does the job of saving this poor woman's "marriage" from the dump? And it is not so easy. Even after being rescued, it will go before a court as evidence and will be returned only after due verification. I will not go into the question as to what else will constitute evidence. And will our woman wear this symbol of her marriage and eternal love around her neck after what it has been through. Quite a revolting and repulsive thought. Or on the flip side has this marriage only become stronger like the coffee whose beans are passed through a goat's stomach before being roasted, ground and then priced exorbitantly.

While part one of this story is highly avoidable, part two can simply be said to be a case of bad luck. Anyway this is also how a marriage can end up in a dump.

Sunday 22 December 2013

Lingerie, Lingaree, and Briefs

The other day whilst passing through the local market I saw a newly opened shop that was more than apparently selling women's inner wear or should I say intimate wear given what was on display. What got my attention more than what was in the window was the name board that had the word "Lingaree" prominently written in the native devnagari script next to the name of the shop. I almost laughed out aloud. It instantly brought back memories of a conversation that happened many years back when I was interning.
 It was a lazy friday afternoon. I was sitting in my office cubicle attempting not to doze off waiting for the day to end. Across the common partition of my cubicle were Anthony and Kinjal. Anthony was busy working and Kinjal looked like she was reading some magazine.  Very soon I heard a question being asked by Kinjal to Anthony that had me all alert and very keen to know the answer.
"Anthony, what is the difference between Lingaree and Underwear?" It was Kinjal.
I heard the sound of a chair reclining in tandem with the drop of a pen. I rose from my chair as Anthony cleared his throat and was attempting a very straight face. Kinjal had a very attentive look on her face with a copy of an American women centric magazine lying in front of her.
"It's very simple" Anthony began "What you wear under your clothes is Lingaree and what I wear under my clothes is underwear".  It was a classic reply and to the point.
 I don't speak a word of French nor do I understand a word of it. If I were to read, it will be in my own way, of course. To me "vous êtes si belle je t'aime" is as good as "tune mere Bhains ko anda kyon mara" or for the pure Anglais speakers "Why did you hit my buffalo with an egg".
Lingerie must be one French word used commonly to denote women's underwear but with very few able to say it rightly in this part of the world. I don't blame them. The mere mention of this word causes men's imagination to run wild. Mannequins in my city are banned from donning any form of Lingerie and display them on the streets. Knowledgeable sources (a particular search engine) inform that in the French language this particular word is used to describe men and women's underwear. In the English language it refers to only women's underwear, for reasons unknown to me. Strangely men's underwear in English is referred to as briefs, that brings me to another incident I was witness to.
I was passing by the desk of a newly recruited legal assistant when I heard her instructing the court clerk to take a note to a senior counsel. Curiosity having got the better of me, I took a quick peek at the note that she had written. This is how it went "Dear Mr. XXXwala, Please hand over your briefs to the bearer of this note. Also hand over your other brief to him. Thanking you, XYXYXY". Poor Counselor, what was he supposed to do. What if that were all the briefs he had?
The last incident in the same genre is from a trip to Mauritius. Mauritius is nation where you will find the largest French speaking population with their origins in Bihar. In my room I found a cloth bag that had the words "Sac a Linge" written on it. To me "Sac" was a sack and "Ling" in my native language could mean either gender, sex or one's private parts. So to me the bag was..well... you know what I mean. It was only when I met a friend who spoke French I was informed that it was a laundry bag.

Monday 16 December 2013

Warning!! Disclaimer ahead

I love watching movies and television shows. There are some programs that I am happy to watch even if I have seen them a whole lot of times earlier. Of late, however, the fun is lost by the constantly appearing warnings and disclaimers that tend to overlap the sub-titles and mar your viewing pleasure, whether it be a regular show or even an advertisement. Sometimes these warnings and disclaimers simply make no sense.
About a year back or maybe more, the government introduced anti-smoking warnings to be carried whenever a movie or a show has any of the characters smoking tobacco. Before a movie or a show begins, the viewer is subjected to images of diseased human organs and the depiction of how tar accumulates in your lungs. Even before or during a scene that contains any of the characters smoking tobacco, you will notice an anti smoking warning something to the effect that "Smoking Kills" or "the actors do not endorse smoking". Has anybody made any research as to whether this has reduced the number of people who smoke or has discouraged people from taking up smoking. Make a note here that sale of tobacco and tobacco smoking is an absolutely lawful activity as long as you are not a minor. You also don't need a permit to smoke as opposed to consumption of alcohol where you need one. Now here comes the hilarious part. I happened to see three different movies. The first one has a dog smoking weed and getting stoned, the second one has a cat smoking a cigar, and the third one has a monkey smoking a pack and running drugs on the side. In each of the scenes, a warning appears informing the viewer that smoking is dangerous. My question here is who is the target audience for these warnings? Is it for other animals who may have been watching the show with their owners or on the sly. Or is it for humans not to imitate animals who smoke. And what about the dog who is smoking weed which itself is an illegal activity or the monkey running drugs. Shouldn't the warning have stated that the activities are themselves illegal.
Warnings aside, even advertisements and advertisers have become extra cautious and with good reason too. They are putting in disclaimers in their ads just in case someone tries an act shown therein. There have been enough cases of young adults trying to fly wearing a cape. Again my question is who makes these disclaimers? Most of the time it seems a copy paste job irrelevant to the content of the advertisements. My favourite one "The stunts shown here are performed by trained professionals. Do not try these at home". Seriously, especially when you show two guys driving a SUV in a jungle. This is seen in an ad for a SUV made by a primarily truck manufacturer. Here is, to me, what is wrong with the disclaimer.  For starters what do you mean by "professional". To a layman it could be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or even a masseuse. Ideally the two professionals in the ad should be a doctor and lawyer considering the rash driving they are indulging in. One can mend and the other can defend. Let's move to the next line which is "Do not try these at home". If I were to try them at home, what preparation would I have to do?
The cost of the vehicle starts at about INR 11 Lakhs (1.1 million). I checked the technical specs of the given vehicle and found that the vehicle weighs approximately 2000 Kgs i.e. two tonnes. Now I need a crane to hoist the vehicle into my home which is on the 2nd floor of a really old building with no lift for residents leave alone a car lift. I also have to knock down a wall and a window to allow the vehicle inside. The cost of a hydraulic crane is around Rs. 50,000/- per day and knocking the wall off is another Rs. 5000/-. I am not even discussing the strengthening of the foundation of the building. The vehicle occupies a space of about 150 sq. ft. and if I were to live in a SRA flat, that will leave me with just the bathroom and no other space. Coming back to my problem, once I have the vehicle in my home, do I really have any room left to maneuver it. What possible stunts can I try when the roof of the car touches the ceiling. Even if I were to back up my car, I will hit the ground on its rear. And that my friends would possibly be the only reason why you should not try it at home. Which also brings me to the other conclusion that the only person qualified to try it at home is Tarzan. The setting of the advertisement looks just like where Tarzan would live. And yes he is a professional.........a professional swinger.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Waiter there is too much Acidity in my Soup!!

Cookery shows on television have always interested me. Though I don't cook much, the shows do provide some amount of entertainment and a lot better than watching reality shows or the MiL-DiL battles. Till a few years back, the cookery shows were mostly studio based. There would be a host with a guest who would display her cooking skills or rather how she cooked a particular item. It would mostly be a low cost operation with a long shot of the guest and a close up of the food. Presentation was secondary. The host would keep jabbering in the background with no clue whatsoever as to what was being made. Soon the host got replaced by a starlet to increase viewership and so did the guest. The western versions were a little better. The host did the cooking and knew his stuff...well most of the times. There were no competitions or contests. Floyd was my favourite.

As time went by, there came a new show from down under which had a set of people, amateur chefs, competing amongst themselves to be the master of all chefs. It was a very interesting concept as the competitors went through various rounds with theme based dishes and getting eliminated as one moved to the next round. What made it interesting was the presentation of the show and the fact that the judges were accomplished chefs, owners of restaurants and food critics who not only knew their pots and pans but also the difference between sauté and satay. There would also be guest chefs who would bring in their creations and the competitors had to recreate them.

What the show did was add glamour to a socially unacceptable profession in this part of the world and transformed a person from a cook to a chef. What it also did was introduce the viewer to the entire process, technique and time that went into creation of dishes that takes us a very little time to devour. That a dish needs technique in its preparation and has various components was something I may say was unknown or rather unsaid to a layman. To most of us cooking does not entail much. You take a main ingredient, be it a veggie or meat, chop it or dice it, add oil, masala, water, bring it to a boil and it's done. If you want a curry just add more water. It's always the masala that added taste and that the taste of the main ingredient has to savored as well is simply unknown. The meat or fish is invariably overcooked beyond recognition and to repeat myself, masala is king.

Anyway coming back to our program, after watching several seasons, I have begun to look at my regular food in a new way. There are new terms added to my food/cooking vocabulary. Just collecting all the ingredients is now "mise en place".

My regular aloo subji is now made with the best potatoes from Punjab or wherever boiled to the right consistency without getting mushy. Lightly sautéed in oil with some cumin, turmeric, curry leaves and some green chilies to add "heat". Have it with Indian flat bread with some lime pickle for a very fulfilling meal followed by a yoghurt smoothie.

One also has to cook in a manner as to retain the original flavours of the main ingredient or the "hero" of the dish. That poses a great danger to those who anyway hate their Eggplants, Okra, and bitter gourd.

The other day my father declared that his raspberry sorbet had too much "acidity". Acidity is a term one normally associates with the stomach arising from eating too much or too little, symptoms being nauseous belches and a burning sensation. I have also been enlightened by a toothpaste advertisement that acidity is also caused in the mouth when going through the motions of eating. Anyway, what would normally have been called as sour is now acidity. One also needs to know how to "balance" this acidity with any sweetness of a dish.

Caramalization is another term that I used to associate with the burning of sugar. Now anything that is being browned is being caramelized including onions. If you want to have "protein" in your meal, a multi vitamin pill is not sufficient and meat is the answer.

My grandmother who was born and raised in Gujarat would love to add some Lasan Sev or leelo chivdo to her veggies. I have also followed her footsteps and do it whenever the opportunity offers. Now I realize that such sprinklings add some "crunch" to otherwise mushy and tasteless vegetables.

Ice cream is no longer made at home by freezing some sweet flavoured milk. You can have some made instantly with liquid nitrogen. You can also have some "rocket" in your food, a term I am still looking for the local equivalent. Edible flowers is the other thing though using rose petals in the form of Gulkand is an age old thing. The humble raw mango/amla Murrabba is a "preserve" or is that a "reduction". If you feel you have to bite into your Pasta, remember if still hard it is not uncooked but "al dente" and that's how it is eaten.

And not to worry if your Undhiyo is not what it is supposed to be. It can always be your "take" on the traditional one. Even if you don't assemble all the "components" and present them individually, you are being innovative with a "deconstructed" one.
I have also been made aware that testicles, tongue, trotters and brain are beautiful and need to be cooked with love and care. This will surely help those with low appetites. Bon Appétit .

Sunday 8 December 2013

Of the Un-usability of Toilets

In my earlier post I touched upon the issue of non-existent or existing but unavailable or unusable public facilities. In continuation I will move to the other equally larger issue of the inability to use public restrooms despite close proximity of access, in a state of unlock and well sheltered with ample supply of aqua. What I will not discuss is the primary issue of maintaining toilets even if you are willing to pay per use.
It is said that you should leave your newspaper and the bathroom in a state that you would expect it to be when you need it. Therein lies the problem. Neither will you get your paper crisp with all sections in place nor will you ever get the bathroom dry and clean unless you are the first one in line or at home..well maybe.
My focus will only be on out of home facilities frequented by the general public whether municipally maintained or in the private confines of corporate headquarters. What you do in your home is entirely your private business though most tend to reflect that in public settings as well.
If I were to list the reasons for the inability to use the toilet, it would mostly be wet floor, wet seat, soiled seat or incomplete disposal of solid waste by the previous occupant followed by broken lock or lack of paper or wet paper. You may tolerate a wet floor but in no case you are going to go through the pain of wiping the seat unless things are going south at a rate just near to the speed of sound and there is nothing else available. In any case desperation will dictate what you do and what you can't.
The crux to me lies in the fact that more than half of this nation's population is growing up without toilets and therefore no one is really trained to use one. As rural moves to urban or becomes urban, habits also move but unfortunately do not reform or adapt to the changed environment. For a population used to squatting in the open fields, it is difficult to adopt a closed and private setting with the additional responsibility of disposing your own mess. You may have even seen government advertisements asking women not to marry into a family whose house does not have a toilet attached. With a larger stress on western styles especially in cities, it is even more difficult. To find foot prints or shoe marks on the toilet seat is not uncommon. Manners and Etiquettes, even if they do exist, do not matter.
While squat toilets provide for a water tap and a "mug" chained to the tap most western settings will have a roll of paper hanging on the side wall. This itself is an alien concept and causes fear in a population likely to tread on western shores. It's a mutual feeling as most westerners find the idea of using water instead of paper revolting.
Squat toilets, however they may be looked down upon, will not have any part of your body touching anything that has had previous contact with some other's body. Though in a corporate setting, it's a wee bit difficult to use one wearing a suit.
I remember reading an article in a tabloid many years back written by a highly aggrieved gentleman who was complaining of five star hotels with western installations providing only paper and no water. He found it to be highly un-Indian especially on Indian shores. He further went on to add how difficult it was to haul oneself on to the wash basins and make use of them well against their primary intended use. I found it hilarious.
A solution to our aforementioned gentleman's problem soon arrived in the form of rubber/plastic or metallic tube attached to a tap at one end with a lever driven nozzle cum spray head at the other. Technically it is called a Personal Hygiene Faucet and popularly called a jet spray. Call it by whatever name, it has gained immense popularity and leaves one with a squeaky clean feel. But this one too has its own set of issues. Manageable issues which can at times leave you drenched as well. Weak water pressure leaves you uneasy and high water pressure may leave you with wet pants. If the water is too cold or too hot it makes you hesitant but you have no other option. A scary issue is whether the nozzle went too close to some body part and left some unwanted residue on it.
I will close with an incident that happened a few years back. I had to use the facilities in my office. Since it could not be avoided till I reached home, I quickly made my way to the men's room. Under self imposed rules of etiquette, I will always occupy a stall or urinal next to an empty one. However that day out of the three stalls, the one in the middle was occupied leaving me with no choice but to enter either of the end ones. No sooner had I settled down, I heard the sound of spraying water. This was followed by the sounds of water being splashed and slapped. A sound usually heard at Dhobi Ghats. As I looked down the side wall which was open a foot from below, I could see water dripping all along the edge. It looked like the toilet version of the scene from the movie Psycho where the murder takes place in the bathtub and blood trickles down the tiled walls. I had no intention to know what was happening in there and who the culprit was.
It must have been my quickest exit.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Where do you go when you need to go

Let me be honest, I prefer to be in the accessible range of a clean toilet if I am stepping out of my house. My friends will vouch for it. A No. 1 job is manageable but for a No. 2, I would rather go home. Why is it that most of these commonly and genuinely necessary facilities are either not available in a public setting or not in a usability state for even the remotely hygiene conscious.

I remember, as a child I was often asked to use the bathroom before we stepped out. Be it to go to the movies or to a fair or even a train journey. And the reason would always be that there may not be toilets available in which case one has to hold till one comes back home or .....well let's just not say it.

So all these years I have religiously followed the motto "drain before you get into a train" before I step out of the house. It has served me well. I still do so. However on my visits abroad, which are not many, I have relaxed my own rules as the availability of the aforesaid facilities is high with a good level of hygiene and so I do not worry much as to what I eat and therefore where I go.

Anyway coming back to the subject, it has always intrigued me as to why there are no toilets or facilities in public places to relieve oneself. Is there no statutory requirement that there should be such facilities wherever humans are likely to visit. And even if made available there would invariably be no water or they would be in a state of compete disrepair. On a recent visit to a national park within the city, I discovered that the facilities within your reach had either no roof or no water or were locked. Locked, as I was told by a municipal guard, to avoid misuse which for some reason is considered worse than being in use. I think the authorities wanted all visitors to communicate directly with nature whenever she called. Why bother with a via media and affect the quality of transmission.

Visit any old commercial building or public office and you will find these place bereft of toilets. So where do the staff go when they have to go. Well everyone uses the wall behind the building would be a common reply. I have not checked as to where the women staff go but I know a friend who made friends with the employees of a neighbouring bank and would visit the branch whenever she required. Have things changed over the years. I am not so sure. My first job was in a firm with its office in a really old building which just had one common gender non-specific toilet block on every floor for all the offices on that floor. Being an old building, there was no room for expansion and there was no water storage facility. It was as good as not being there. As I moved jobs to a well known company who had its offices in a relatively new building, I expected a better situation. But that was not the case. For the roughly 200 employees on the floor, there was exactly one set of toilet each for the men and women. The men's room had 2 urinals and one potty stall and one wash basin in roughly an area of 40 square feet. At rush hour which was usually around lunch time it would take a while just to gain entry. The ladies room was even worse. There would be a queue of women standing outside waiting for the door to open. I remember my senior, a lady, who would make umpteen rounds to the ladies room waiting for a chance to get it. Once she even had the security guard stand outside and to call her the moment the earlier occupant stepped out.

As building and overall construction gets fancier, are architects factoring in more and better toilets and facilities. I don't think so. The only thing improving is that toilet fittings are getting fancier. In fact the installations are more of a designer kind. Whether they provide greater functionality or practicality is highly debatable. It would not be wrong to say that more functional toilets can be built in the cost incurred for the designer ones.

That brings me to the point that how do architects or planners measure the requirement for fitting some basic facilities. Do they ever consider the number of persons that are likely to be occupying or visiting a particular place.

Where the government is encouraging construction of toilets in villages, why are cities being ignored. Do real estate prices dictate what can be built and what can be done away with.

I have a friend who actually visits toilets at every job interview he goes to. His logic is simple. If he is to spend more time in the office than at home it better be comfortable. And the condition of the toilet will reflect the company's attitude towards employee care.

To me it is clear that toilets are always an afterthought in this nation. So what if you get UTI, toilets are still a cost center.

Next time toilet etiquette and manners, yeah right!

Thursday 30 May 2013

A New Name for Aapro Zubin

Dinshaw Bamboat heaved his massive self up the first floor of the Jehangir Ruttanshaw Hiramaneck building. It was hot summer day but he had to be there. The Young Zoroastrian Parsee Boys and Girls Association had organized a special meeting of its members and this was one meeting that Dinshaw was not willing to miss. Not for the adrak pudna chai or mawa cakes from Merwanjee but for the single point agenda that was to be discussed. The community had fallen behind times and the future of the new generation was at stake. And the reason for this were the family names adopted by the previous generations  of families that had continued into this present century and had no connection whatsoever with the present generation. The convener was Mrs. Aloo Gotla, who it seems was highly troubled wherever she went. Most thought she was born during a scam and so was referred to as Ghotala. The fact that her first name also meant a potato did not bother her that much. Her daughter had threatened to marry a parjaat rather than a boxwalla or a gadiwalla or a havaldar. In today's times, you could be born in surat but end up with a name like Adenwalla and not know where Aden is. Thanks to your great-great-grandfather who once went to Aden, you had to carry the name around and bear the misery of people asking you whether you were from Aden. Also was the case of Aspi devlaliwalla whose family has lived in Godrej Baug for the last three generations and would much rather be called a Napeansearoadwalla.

At the stroke of 4, the meeting began. Aloo Gotla thanked all the young parsees for assembling at such a short notice and called upon the president to being the proceedings. Dinyar Daruwalla was the reigning president. In fact he had been president for the last 70 years of his 90 years ever since he established this Association. Dinyar was also as troubled as Aloo and there was reason enough. Dinyar Daruwalla was married to Binaifer Batliwalla. Their sons were married to Mehroo Todywalla and Kainaz Ginwalla respectively. Outside of their community the rest of world had begun to refer them as the Bevda family.

Dinyar rose from his Burma teak wood chair and took the mike. "My young friends", he began his address "Apre Punchayat has been kind enough to listen to our voice and the voice of young parsee zorastrians the world over. Our petition for new family names has been accepted and new names will be released by tomorrow". This was followed by a loud applause.

Percy Driver rose adjusting his sudreh kusti. "O Khodaiji maro dikhro will be so happy. He is a pilot in aapre Air India and everyone calls him Captain Driver. Ketlu embarrassing".

As the applause died down, Dinyar announced, "We shall now celebrate. everyone please proceed to the snacks counter and don't forget to hand over your coupons".

And what a majenu feast it was. Mutton pattice, chicken farcha, mutton cutless, raspberry soda, ginger lemon, and ice cream soda.

The next day the new names were out.

A historic decision declared Parsiana. Loss of parsipanu went the Jame. There were letters from Zubin Forbes, Mini Cooper, Jamshed De Vitre and Zeenia Commissariat protesting against the new names and corruption of the culture and minds. But who cared for the decision was made.

And so a new era began with these modern day names

1.       Settopboxwalla

2.       Cuffeparadewalla

3.       Kempscornerwalla

4.       Ambyvalleywalla

5.       Londonbridgewalla

6.       Sydneywalla

7.       Californiawalla

8.       Cablewalla (for limited period only)

9.       Sparklingwinebottlecorkopenerwalla

10.   Discjockey

11.   Pilot

12.   Informationtechnologywalla

13.   T20walla

14.   Monoraildriver

15.   Dukesraspberrygingerlemonbatliwalla

16.   Hiphopmoderncontempararysalsadanceacademywalla

17.   Minister

18.   Flightattendant

And last but not the least


Note: This article is a work of fiction and is to be read in a humorous way. All names/organizations are fictional. This article in not meant to bring harm to any person, living or dead, or any community or bring disrepute to any of them.