Sunday, October 25, 2015

Child's play

Calling Sid is never usually an instant process. Considering he is much too social for anyone's good, his cell phone is always engaged when one calls him. He thinks it is impolite to not take a call, and to not have at least a minute's conversation is unimaginable - even if it is a telemarketer (who I'm sure have blocked him from their call lists, as he tortures them with inane questions just to exasperate them). As his wife, a "privilege" I get is that he will cut the call he is on and ensures that he calls me back immediately to ensure that I am not stranded without fuel in the car or in the middle of some crisis  or needing him to ask him an important question like "Do you want me to buy you momos"? (if you don't pick up the phone, you don't get any!)

So I was quite amazed when I called him from work and his phone wasn't busy. He picked up after the third ring. Silence.

"Siddharth?"
"Bzzzz pssstt khchooo...this is Khandelwal"
"Who are you Khandelwal-ing?"
"Khandelwal to Khokhar, Are you getting this? Come in Khokhar"
"What are you doing? I don't have time for this stupidity"
"This is far from stupidity. This is life or death, Khokhar.  Survival on Mars to be exact"
"Are you playing The Martian again? Stop it immediately, I need you to pay attention"
"Uff baby, you are such a spoil sport.  What do you want?"

I quickly rattled off instructions to give to Sarina for lunch, which made him impatient, as expected.
"What is this mundane chit-chat? This is what you called me for? To get her to make lauki and daal?  Molly go call Sarina"! I heard some whining in the background and asked, "Have you made her wear those ridiculous cardboard antennae and green mask? Stop it immediately."  There was a pause and then a guarded, "No, I haven't", but before I could ask him again, there was some urgent scuffling sounds and an impassioned "Nooooooo, Mia don't take it off, Oh no she's swallowed Molly's antennae". And then silence, he had hung up on me.

I didn't bother calling back since the chaos at home tended to take time to unravel and I needed to get back to work, After wrapping up for the day, I headed home, distracted by various other things on my mind. I had forgotten about my earlier phone conversation with Sid and even if I had thought about it, I didn't think that the Martian phase would still be on several hours later. So I was completely taken aback to find the front door wide open, Mia the scaredy cat hadn't ventured far and was sitting right outside the door preening herself and bounded up happily when she saw me approach. "What are you doing outside baby, get in, come on" I said, while ushering her inside.  Wondering why in the world the door was open I walked straight into the living room, which had been shut, and walked on to the most bizarre scene. There was mud strewn around the room, and potatoes strewn around within the dirt.  The O'Jay's Love Train was blaring on the speakers and a large plastic sheet that I recognized as the talc sheet from the dining table had been pinned clumsily against a wall. Frolicking amid the potatoes was Molly, or rather Molly with a hair band - one antenna protruding from the right side of the band, while the stump of what must have been its partner, but had now been half chewed stuck out defiantly on the other side. Her green mask had slipped off her face and was hanging around her neck. She didn't look too unhappy about the situation and was amusing herself by pawing violently at a potato and delighting when it flew up in the air.  On the sofa, typing furiously, was Sid. He was eating a baked potato with ketchup and barely lifted his head to acknowledge my presence.  

"Siddharth, I spoke to you at 12 in the afternoon, it is now 7 in the evening. Please don't tell me you've spent a good part of the day on creating life on Mars! Did you get those papers I needed from the bank"?  He nodded towards the corner of the table to a few sheets of official looking papers were stacked and I snatched them up with a look of approval. "Thanks baby"! Nodding again he solemnly declared that "Meticulousness and ticking things off the list is what helped Matt Damon survive so long on Mars". I rolled my eyes and went to the kitchen to get something to eat. So much for meticulousness, I could see no signs of the lauki I had asked for, and went back to ask Sid about it. "I got aloo made baby, that's all that Matt Damon ate on Mars. We got to be true to the movie".  As I launched into a little rant about paying attention and knowing when to stop playing and take things seriously, he stopped me in my tracks. 

"Can you hear yourself, you're arguing about bloody lauki! Take it easy, there's enough of the mundane nonsense to deal with everyday, a little change from the most boring vegetable in the world is not going to turn your world upside down". And with that rather explosive statement, he went off to the bar. I noticed, while he was poured out some drinks, that he had bits of aluminium foil stuck to his track pants.  He came back, handed me a glass, and walked past me. Before I could follow him I got a call on my phone, after speaking for a few minutes I hung up feeling tired. Just another reminder of things I had left to do. This year has just been insane. I've lost a parent and watched the other become seriously ill almost immediately after. I've changed jobs in the midst of this madness, worked with my sister, brother-in-law and Sid to try and deal with the situation as best as we could - dealing with things a day at a time. The pressure has been so overwhelming at times, but the person who (as expected) would help me through this is of course Sid - or rather the child in him.  

Whirling around the house with the dogs, or calling me to tell me about a stupid joke he heard on the radio, or playing the Martian - even a few minutes of ridiculous distraction is totally therapeutic. I took a sip and walked back into the living room. Sid was strapping Molly into her harness and pulling her mask back on to her face. He looked up at me and asked if I wanted to play. When I nodded he tossed me some aluminium foil and explained, "I obviously don't have space suits so we will make do with tacky costumes, but it's all in the imagination"! As I pasted bits of foil on to my pants, I asked him what in the world had happened to his Downton Abbey phase where he would wear the most ridiculous wigs and drink tea and make Molly wear a tiara and sip cocktails, while Mia had to be the butler and answer the door (since she refused to budge from the front door usually!). "Oh babe, we're going American. Ever since you stopped working for the British, we're being loyal and now we're only doing American movies and shows. Next time we're playing Quantico. I've been practicing Priyanka Chopra's accent and I've bought the dogs toy guns and FBI badges, it'll be amazing"!  I chuckled at the thought of him crying and saying "No, I've been framed! Why would I do this?" while Molly pointed a gun at him.  He nodded in approval at my now silver-foiled pants and said, "Ok, so Mia is the Hermes space ship and we are in the rover.  We have to hurtle towards her and she will catch us and pull us to safety. Considering Mia can be resistant to orders, let's do a trial run with this Molly. Help me chuck her across the room, and if Mia catches her we'll go next"! As I helped him pick up a unsuspecting Molly, I thought of how I had been sucked into this ridiculous game. But two minutes in and I was totally caught up.Mars had thrown everything it could at me and I had survived, help was on the way!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The choir types!


“You don’t look like the choir type”, snickered a colleague, when I announced that I was leaving to make it in time for CCM practice. I asked him what a “choir type” looked like and everyone around chimed in with their version of what fit the bill – words like “sedate”, “reverent looking” and “pious types” were bandied about and some high pitched notes were shrieked out for my benefit to showcase what “choir types” sounded like. I tootled off for practice, after explaining to them that I didn’t sing in a church choir and that even if I did, church choirs hardly consisted of pious singers (sweet choir boys and convent girls are a myth J).  I listened to the learning tracks in the car (as with many of the other members of the choir, I listen to everything last minute in panic that I will be singled out during rehearsal to check if I know my music) – a rather “reverent” list ranging from “Who put the bomb in the bomb ba bomb” to “Heal the world” to rock gospel and everything in between.

Over my 3 years at the Capital City Minstrels (arguably Delhi's most well known and one of its oldest choirs) the “choir types” I’ve sung with are probably the funniest and most irreverent bunch of people I’ve ever met.  A few incidents come to mind over the years.  Our previous conductor, Fiona, was taking practice a few seasons ago and we had the accompanying percussionist, Suchet, thrum and drum and pum pum pum through one of the songs and finish with a flourish. Fiona (and all of us!) had watched him through this and when he ended she let out a long sigh to denote her approval/pleasure and within seconds a cheeky drawl directed at Fiona came from the ranks – “Cigarette?”. We erupted in raucous laughter and that one word still makes us remember that afternoon practice session.


We were in Goa for a music festival in 2012 and the sea air is enough to make everyone a bit crazy. Feni (that heinous drink that I am sure a few choir members who will not be named, have eternally
sworn to never partake of again), boisterous dancing including some on the bar counters, and more hedonism ensued over the next few days amid singing at a stunning church for the festival (such a memorable performance!) and at the governor’s house overlooking the sea!  One of the afternoons when we were all together at one of the shacks, Vanshika received a call on her cell phone - it was the cab driver from the night before. Sanjaya and a few of us were around her and overheard her saying something about “Whatttt…your pants…no, how could I have your pants, what are you saying?”. Sanjaya, always quick to jump into anything that looks vaguely murky, said “Oh my god Vanshika, what is this with the cab driver and his pants. What happened last night? You girls uff”.   We all roared with laughter and Vanshikha tried to make sense of the cabbie’s rantings.  It all settled down after a while as it turned out that she had picked up a packet from the cab, thinking it was hers, and therefore depriving the poor man of his trousers!


And so the madness continues – these are the only “choir types” I know really.  But don’t be
mistaken, for there is reverence as well.  We may not be a professional bunch of singers, some stronger than others, but the enthusiasm, passion and absolute mad joy on our faces when we’re belting out the notes – now that’s reverence!


After our summer concerts in the city, for two weeks in June 2015, our merry band of minstrels, 30 strong, will be journeying to Europe. The group consists of 27 singers, our brave leader – conductor, Carolin Remy (she is truly brave to embark with a raucous bunch for two weeks!) and two brilliant musician accompanists.  Eight concerts will be performed over 12 days in Hungary, Germany and Switzerland.  Along the way we intend to take touristy pictures and selfies galore as we travel to these places and assume that much of what happens in Europe will stay in Europe! So if you’re planning a holiday this summer, or have friends at any of the places mentioned, we’d be delighted to have a cheerleading squad there.  We work hard and have a wonderful time performing and are looking forward to a brilliant summer of singing in Europe!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Do a Ranthambore

"Dolling", shrieked Sid, stumbling in laden with books.  "This year I have resolved to make New Year resolutions. No one makes them anymore because it was so "last-year" to make resolutions that I've decided to be a trend setter, go against the tide and make it fashionable again.  Resolutions are now "in", forget "last year", they are soooo "this-year".  I blew gently on to my steaming cup of tea, nursing the plump mug between my palms and asked him what the trend was in resolutions this year. "Oh I have a whole list m'love, starting with being a part of this HT Brunch book challenge...I shall put the challengers to shame! Will read so many books their heads will spin...well, I may not read all of them, but I will upload pictures of all of them so that in the world of social media I will be the champion. Facebook, after all, is all that matters.  As long as the pictures are up there, people will believe anything no?!"  I rolled my eyes and said, "In your case, they should definitely be judging a book by it's cover, nothing beyond the jacket! What a solid plan...such resolution! To spend more time on Facebook uploading pictures of a fake life...so on-trend!"  He chuckled, "Oh bubz, I will of course read most of them, but what if they're absolute snoozers, like this fellow here - Chetan Bhagat? Writing about some IIT chappies...like I really want to know about them!  Might have to skip him.  Now this Ben Okri chap...pretty cover, I'll tackle this one first." I bit my tongue and let him continue.  "Molly, Mia", he bellowed and for once the two hounds trotted towards him on hearing their names, maybe their new year resolution was to be more obedient!  "Come with me chaps, I may need your help tackling these books. If I need to upload pictures, we need to make sure the books look like I've thumbed through them and given them a good read. Chew on this one a bit Molly, and Mia you can dog-ear this one...". I tried to explain to him that 'dog-ears' weren't made by dogs, but they had already vanished to the bedroom.

He emerged ten minutes later looking utterly exhausted.  "Bubz, this reading is very tiring. I need a
break. Be a good girl and fix me a cup of coffee, please!" As I switched the machine on, I asked him what he had started reading, which elicited the surprised response of "Read what? Oh the books - I was writing my name in all of them."  I told him that he was continuing much in the tradition of most new year resolutions, abandoning them mid-way, or in his case, even before he could start!  He pish-toshed me, and made some other strange sounds to convey his disregard of my opinion and then said, "At least, I am making the effort to make a resolution. What about you? What's your's bubzie?"  I thought before I answered - I had actually thought quite a lot about it over the past few weeks - "To do a Ranthambore".  He "pish-toshed" and snorted and made various other guttural sounds before saying, "Oh please, that isn't a resolution, you want to go to Ranthambore - that's not a resolution. That isn't even hard to do - you have to choose something that takes some effort, not plan a holiday with jaunty hats and Shikari Shambu outfits!"  I silenced him with a snort (we are both adept at conveying a wealth of meaning through sounds emitted through our noses and throats!), and said "Not GO to Ramthambore, I mean a metaphorical Ranthambore...oh dear god, I've lost you already, pay attention".  He shut his gaping mouth and decided to listen. Hmm, perhaps obedience was also going to be one of his resolutions this year (unintentional of course!).

I explained to him about how I had been thinking a lot about Ranthambore.  Last month my parents were going to be in Delhi for Christmas with us. After that, my sister and her family, Sid and I, some friends and my parents were going to take off to Ranthambore for a couple of days for a short holiday.  Over the last two years or more, with work and travel being fairly hectic for me, I had become fairly lazy and busy to focus on some of my personal relationships.  I didn't visit my parents as often, I didn't speak to or meet my friends as often and even with Sid who I live with, I take for granted the time we have together.  We didn't go out as often or go on holidays like we used to initially.  The little time I wasn't travelling on work, I just wanted to be at home and not go anywhere. I had felt quite guilty about not going home to see my parents as often, though they did come to Delhi a couple of times, and even our phone conversations had become brief and hurried as I was always having to rush somewhere or the other. I was happy my parents were coming to Delhi for Christmas, something they had never done as we always went to them in Bangalore, and I was looking forward to showing off some of my Christmas baking and cooking for them, and especially for my dad - Ranthambore. He loved travelling with us and as soon as I suggested we go out of town for a couple of days when they came to Delhi, he immediately jumped in excitement and said "Let's go for a safari...Ranthambore".  I was happy that we would spend some quality time there and amidst trying to spot tigers, we would play endless games of Taboo, eat and drink aplenty, whine and moan about my dad wanting us to do everything on schedule, and generally have a good time. Planning was well underway and my dad was driving all of us quite crazy with his calls about what time we would take the safari and what in the world did I mean that I didn't know and "Whatever" was not a reply and nations were not built and wars not won with a "Whatever" attitude! He wanted to know who was going to sit in which car on the drive over, the occupants in each jeep for the safari and had detailed conversations with Siddharth about buying another camera for the trip.  The calls to each of us asking the specifics and details became rather incessant and if one of us didn't pick up, he would immediately call the other to complain that his calls were not being answered!

Unfortunately, Ranthambore never happened.  The trip that all of us, and especially I, was looking forward to, spending some much needed time with my dad - to make up for being rather erratic in the quantity and quality of time I had spent with him recently.  And now it was much too late.  I looked
up and Sid had a strange look on his face, a mix of sadness and alarm.  I asked him if he was alright.  He nodded and said, "I know it's sad Bubz and I was looking forward to it too. I have a confession to make. You know how your dad secretly thought he took better pictures than me? I had full intentions of taking some kick-ass pics on this trip and showing off in front of him. I also thought I would knock his elbow every now and then so his pics would come shaky. Oh god, do you think he is hearing all this?" He looked around alarmed as if my dad's hand would come shooting down from the heavens and swat his bald head. He flinched as if imagining it! I burst out laughing, "Well if he is listening, he's probably thinking that the next time you're shooting, he'll definitely knock your elbow just to pay you back for thinking that!"  He looked a bit worried, while I continued, "So anyway, for me "Ranthambore" isn't the actual trip.  I want to just be there more and spend more time with family, friends and people who I have tended to overlook because of work or being busy with something or the other. Mine is not so much a resolution, but rather something I'm unfortunately learning the hard way. I couldn't do Ramthambore with him, but there are others I need to do this with.  He looked like he was going to cry, "Oh bubz, your's is so meaningful and my resolution is crap. The dogs have already eaten part of that Chetan Bhagat book and I don't wanna read all those books...I want your resolution". I looked at him amused, "I don't have ownership over it you know, you're welcome to do a Ranthambore yourself".  He cheered up immensely at this prospect and declared that he would be the bestest son, husband, dog-father, friend, son-in-law that ever was that year and starting that very minute he was going to call my mom to have a chat.  Minutes later I heard him speaking with her, "Yes yes you must come over...and make me laal maas please, oh and biryani, oh and that chocolate truffle tart". "Siddharth", I called out threateningly from the other room, "Spending time does not mean asking her to come over and make you something to eat!" I heard him lower his voice and say "Ma'am this Reem is being a spoil sport. I will have to call you later"!  I smiled to myself and settled in with my half chewed book - this HT Book Challenge fit in quite well with doing a "Ranthambore" - making time for the things and people you love!