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The Charm of Christmas…

My Brother: Di! I have hung my stocking on the bedpost. Where is yours?

Me: Mine is on the handle of the bathroom door!

This was a conversation we had every Christmas. My brother and I. It was a ritual actually. And we always had it when mom  was in the vicinity. We were young and quite stupid but we weren’t stupid enough to believe that Santa would manifest out of the clouds, come riding on his sleigh, slip down our chimney (something that our house didn’t even possess) and place delightful little things in our stockings. We knew it was mom who played Santa each year. We just knew it.

Every year we would jump out of our beds and grab our stockings which were always filled with gifts of our choice- chocolates, candies,  Barbie dolls, G I Joe figures and what not. One Christmas morning we found that our stockings were empty. Crestfallen and a little miffed we went down to the kitchen and started nibbling on aaloo parathas. “What happened?”, asked mom. “Santa didn’t give us presents this year”, mumbled my brother, trying to keep his tears from rolling down. “Aww… When the gifts are very big he places them under the pillow. Just go and check”, said mom as she winked at us. No sooner did she say that than we ran towards our bedroom and hurled the pillows to the other end of the room. And there they were, two large boxes packed in red and golden wrapping paper.

Christmas eve was always spent decorating a giant pine tree which stood gloriously in our courtyard. Dad is extremely fond plants; actually his love for plants borders on insanity. Needless to say that a pine tree was procured promptly and placed in our courtyard when we asked for it. Its glistening leaves covered with twinkling lights, cotton-wool snow flakes and tiny match-box presents looked so enchanting that we couldn’t take our eyes off it.

My younger brother would dress up as Santa albeit a tiny and skinny  one and distribute sweets in our colony. Grandpa would set up a small bonfire and we would spend the evening eating cake, sipping on piping hot tomato soup and playing dumb charades and antakshari. 

We have stopped doing it now. Perhaps the entire exercise has become a tad too childish for our liking. Or may be we just don’t have the  time. But Christmas still brings out the child in me. Yesterday when we stopped at the signal I saw a peddler selling Santa caps and I couldn’t stop myself from buying one. As we moved ahead the Christmas decorations on the shops and malls flashed by and the childhood memories came trickling back. The tune of “Rudolf, the red nosed rein-deer” started playing in the mind and I chuckled. I guess no matter how old you become, the charm of Christmas always remains.

Bangalore Traffic Blues…

The traffic is moving at a reasonably good pace and you are sitting in the bus, thanking God for the millionth time for the mercy he has bestowed upon you today- giving you the opportunity to sit on one of those cushiony little things. You look at a person standing in the aisle, sandwiched between two others, exchanging sweat, perfume and what not. The sight grosses you out and you squirm in disgust. The person turns towards you and kick starts a telepathic conversation. You know he is cursing you and you turn your gaze away.

The driver speeds up and before you know it the bus begins to sway past all the puny cars and autorickshas like a Batmobile. They seem like insignificant worms crawling on the road. You watch their owners drive them in fear. “Ha… You might own a shining Merc, pal. But no one can beat the King of the Road.”  Gripped with a sense of complacency you sit back and relax.

Suddenly Batman decides to come to a halt when the traffic lights turn red and the bus, racing at a whooping 70km/hr stops in a matter of seconds. You are thrown forward; your head hits the seat in front of you. You suspect a minor crack in your skull and perhaps a broken spine as well but you beam from ear to ear. The sheer bliss of sitting comfortably on a seat is indemnifying.

Your eyes fall on the traffic around you. While the car drivers push their vehicles in any nook and corner they find empty a few bikers, probably the descendants of Einstein, think a little out of the box. They haul their bikes on the footpath, flash an impish grin at the car drivers and zoom away. “The pedestrians can go to hell”, you think, “It’s high time the humans learnt how to fly.” 

The traffic light turns green and a deafening noise pervades the surrounding. The honking game begins. The rules are pretty simple. If the vehicle in front of you stays put for a few millisecond you honk and you honk so loud that the entire humanity turns deaf for a a moment or two. Fearing permanent damage, you cover your ears with your hands.

The bus lurches forward and halts at your stop. You get off in the hope of catching a breath of fresh air. But Batman decides to bid adieu  by blowing a puff of hot, toxic gases straight into your face. “Didn’t I get a facial done yesterday?”, you think as you walk towards your office. “Well, they say that activated carbon is good for the skin. Why waste seventy bucks on a stupid Ponds facewash when one can get this carbon free of cost.”

You walk briskly towards your workstation. After all, your grumpy boss is waiting for you in his cubicle and the power point presentation is still battling its way towards completion. But you smile. “After braving the Bangalore traffic I can surely handle my boss”, you think.

Ting Tong…

I rise above the ground and start floating in the sky. The air is cool and crisp and the magnificent blue of the sky is spotted with stray clouds which are connected to each other by a colourful lace. I hop on to one of the clouds and feel the wind brushing against my cheeks. A few trees appear magically out of nowhere and the flowers on them fill the air with their scent. The birds start humming a soft tune which reverberates in the space around me. It’s delightful. I lie down on the cottony cloud and relax.

Suddenly a short and sharp sound comes crashing through the clouds. Ting Tong! I ignore it. It happens again. Ting Tong! I open my eyes and find myself in my bedroom, tucked inside my sinful blanket. The clock tells me that it’s seven o’clock in the morning. I try to gather my thoughts. “Hadn’t the Sleep Goddess sent her minions to guide me through the labyrinths of my subconscious?”, I ask myself. Yes. But as it turns out some wretched and insensitive human being has decided to sabotage my tour by ringing that goddamn bell.

With eyes heavily laden with sleep, a mind replete with incongruous thoughts and a mouth more than willing to dole out a collection of choicest expletives from the urban lexicon I amble across the room towards the main door.  Argh! The peephole is inaccessible to me and the tiny stool purchased for the sole purpose of adding a few inches to my height on such occasions is nowhere to be seen. “Why can’t they place it a wee bit lower”, I mumble, “how hard is it for people to squat for a couple of seconds?  Or why can’t they have two instead of one to cater to everyone’s needs”. I stand on my toes like a skilled ballerina. My right eye meets the peephole and I look into the corridor. It’s empty. A few newspapers and milk packets are lying on the floor but their takers are nowhere in sight. “Why would anyone do that? Ring the bell at seven o’clock in the morning and then disappear! What has this world come to!  People! I tell you….”  My train of thoughts comes to a haltI find myself at a loss of words and realize that I am too sleepy to curse mankind for ruining my Saturday morning.

I walk groggily towards my room, tuck myself inside the sinful blanket and prepare myself to get lost in the lanes and bylanes of my subconscious once again. But the tour guides have vanished. Alas! They are probably bowing in servitude before the Sleep Goddess, taking orders to indulge another pampered little princess in some other part of the world.

I stare at the walls.  The sunlight filtering through the peach coloured curtains lends a rosy tint to my room. However, the morning does not seem rosy anymore.

A Treat for My Senses…

I get frustrated, almost cynical, when I start talking about the traffic in Bangalore or the heavily chlorinated water which gushes out of the tap every morning. The air pollution makes me nauseated and a million vehicles, all honking in unison, make my ear drums ache. Having spent most of my life in a small city, the hustle bustle of a city as big as Bangalore always leaves me a little lost. I complain incessantly about the buses that always seem to be bursting with office goers and the auto walas who ask you to part with a mini fortune for taking you to place barely two kilometres away. However, comes the month of July, bringing with it cool, crisp winds and cloudy skies, and my soul starts dancing with merriment. No matter how burdened my mind is with house hold chores and office work a blast of the fresh, monsoon air is all it takes to melt my worries away. I love the climate of Bangalore and monsoons make it all the more delightful.

What is it about this season which pleases me so much?

Monsoons are a treat for my senses, natures own sweet way of giving me a cost-free full body massage (who wants to spend thousands of rupees in a commercial spa anyway?).

The touch of the rain on my skin makes me ecstatic. A rain drop gently hits my face as I walk down the road and I look at the sky with anticipation, waiting for the clouds to explode. And after a few minutes, when they do, I become a mischievous seven year old girl once again. A soft whiff of air caresses my face and makes me beam from ear to ear. The feeling I get when my hands are wrapped around a mug of hot coffee cannot be conveyed through words.

The pitter patter of the rainfall creates a music so enchanting that it always leaves my ears wanting for more. Whenever the wind makes a swishing sound I find myself bending over the railing to listen to what they have to say. The leaves that brush against each other and whisper a secret message always leave me wonder struck.

I adore the rainy season for the myriad scents it carries. In the evening as I make my way towards home a waft of air  heavily laden with the aroma of spices enters my nostrils and I know that pakodas are being deep fried in one of the neighbouring apartments. The fragrance of freshly brewed coffee never seems as alluring as it does in this season. I often find myself sauntering towards the nearest coffee shop even when a heavy load of work awaits me in the office. And what can I say about the scent of drenched earth. Every morning I stand in my balcony and take a generous dose of this earthy smell. Saying that it transports me to heaven and leaves me in a trance would be an understatement.

The recently washed flora with glistening leaves and vibrant flowers is a sight to behold. I almost giggle with childlike excitement when I watch tiny buds tossing their heads with all their might each time the wind blows a tad too strong. The trees, which sway from side to side and do a little jig of theirs, are such a pleasure to watch. The green on the plants is so delightfully fresh that I don’t mind staring at it for hours at a stretch. Nature, on the whole, seems bejeweled. The tiny raindrops on the leaves seem like little drops of emeralds; the ones on the crimson flowers, rubies. The entire spectacle is supremely majestic and yet so soothing. It relaxes my eyes immensely and makes them strain free.

At this time of the year my diet plans conveniently take a back seat as I wipe off plates full of oily samosas and pakodas one after the other. No amount of low-calorie salads and sandwiches can satiate my appetite for aloo parathas with dollops of rich butter, gulab jamuns soaked in sugar syrup and kachodis with tangy, green chutney. My taste buds spring to life at the mere thought of a buttery donut oozing steaming hot chocolate sauce or a cup of piping hot Cuppuccino making its way towards my lips. (I can feel a blast of moisture inside my mouth right now!) For the few moments that these culinary delights stay on my tongue I experience an indescribable bliss.

This season renders me nostalgic and rekindles the memories of my childhood days. Sometimes I picture my mother with her hands dipped in the pakoda batter as I sit perched on the kitchen platform yelling “Why do you have to dip your fingers in this thing? It’s so messy. Why can’t you use a spoon instead?” It has been a couple of years since I last spent a rainy evening with my mother and those delicious pakodas have still not been successfully replicated. I guess you just can’t do it with a spoon. Quite often I reminisce about those carefree days when I used to jump from one puddle to the other, splashing water on either sides each time I did so, much to the chagrin of my mother. Those innumerable games played with friends and siblings will always be etched in my mind. The joy of not attending school on account of a “rainy day” can never be forgotten.

Monsoon is the time when Nature dons its finest attire and glows like a shimmering creek. I find myself awestruck by its charm.

The minuscule drops, the lush green trees, the windy skies- all take on the responsibility of serving mankind. My senses never feel as pampered as they do in the rainy season.

I might crib about the heavy traffic and crowded buses in Bangalore but I can never thank it enough for the beautiful gift it gives me at this time of the year.

Battling the Cyber Crisis…

For the past few weeks my inbox has become a cyber junkyard where all the spammers in this world discard their digital waste. Or, may be, all of a sudden the netizens have experienced a very strong attraction towards me given the reference to my slender waist, which, mind you, is not that slender, in one of my previous posts. Anyway, whatever it is that is causing them to follow me wherever I go, just like the Vodafone puppy does and as flattering as it might seem, I wish they will stop being my ardent fans as soon as possible. I am deeply grateful to them for having conferred upon me this celebrity status but these guys should understand that even celebrities need some alone time.

Whenever I visit a website to make an online purchase I always forget to uncheck that little square box which says “Do you wish to receive updates”. My order might take a fortnight to be delivered to my address but it does not take more than a few nanoseconds for their so-called “updates” reach my mailbox. They do offer the me luxury of clicking on the “Unsubscribe” tab but my experiences have convinced me that they generally don’t work. In a few cases I don’t even visit their site to make an online transaction but these lurkers, who might give a few detectives from the Scotland Yard a run for their money, are able to hunt me down. And what comes as a greater surprise to me is that they are able to make my inbox their permanent abode. The spam folder sits silently in one corner waiting for new visitors to arrive.

I have received e-mails that have left me in splits of laughter.

Digilog Systems promise that they will protect my vehicle from theft. Ironical, since I don’t even possess a vehicle which might get stolen.

HDFC Bank thinks that I am one of their bona fide customers who deserves to be pre-approved for a platinum credit card. My current debit card is enough to vandalise my plans to save a few bucks for a secure future. Now these people want a credit card, and a platinum one at that, to give it company!

Naukri.com has never failed to give me my weekly job alerts in spite of the fact that I have never requested its assistance. Has it sensed that my current employers are going to kick me out?

Oureducation.in has decided to give me an honorary MBA degree. Well, after Amitabh Bachchan and M.S. Dhoni who have received such honours it will definitely be Chhavi Kapoor who’ll be remembered for her glorious contribution to the field which I have yet to figure out.

And I can’t even count the number of times I have been selected for a million dollar prize but a rough estimate tells me that the money should be enough to fill a swimming pool sized room in which Uncle Scrooge used to dive.

Anyway, my important e-mails often find themselves buried under a pile of these menacing spam mails and locating them is as herculean a task as finding a needle in a haystack. So, in order to sort things out a little bit and also because I was inspired by a few bloggers who have email IDs dedicated to their blogs, I decided to create one for myself. I went to the “Settings” panel and changed the “Administrator e-mail address”. No sooner did I make the change than my WordPress account went absolutely berserk. Half my updates went to my previous mail address, some of them to my new one and the remaining got lost in the labyrinths of the blogosphere, facing threats from nasty viruses and beastly malwares. Sadly, my question “How to divert post alerts to new e-mail address in WordPress?” met with a plethora a technical jargon on Google.com which did not help me at all. I visited the WordPress forums and tried to seek some help. I made a few more changes in my settings but in the end I was forced to unsubscribe from a few blogs and then re-subscribe to them. (Thankfully, I follow most of the sites through my reader.) Many of you might have received an e-mail saying

“Howdy, Chhavi has just subscribed to your blog. This means they will be notified every time you publish a post. Congratulations”

and wondered “ Wasn’t this pest of a blogger already following me?” Now you have the answer. Please don’t think of me as a psychopathic cyber stalker who follows, re-follows and re-re-follows peoples’ blogs. I can assure you I am quite sane.

I am receiving all the updates now and I hope that things are working fine. However, I am still not certain if my new posts are spamming my beloved readers’ inbox or not 😉 I hope that they are. So, if this post reaches you in good health do let me know.   🙂

Blackout…

I have never been a very prudent user of electricity and have invited the wrath of my granny on multiple occasions. She is immensely chagrined by the fact that I never turn off the light before leaving a room and whenever I am caught red-handed she delivers one of her very famous monologues which briefly summarizes our generation’s total disregard for the fast vanishing natural resources. She narrates tales about her childhood days when people used to make the most of daylight by waking up at the crack of dawn and finishing off all the house hold chores before sunset. Her stories, as inspiring as they might be, have had little effect on me and in-spite my repeated attempts to mend my ways I find myself committing the same mistake over and over again.

The people at the Electricity Board, however, have a totally different way of reminding me that electricity is a prized resource and must be used judiciously. Unlike my granny they don’t unnecessarily rant about it all the time. All they do is pull down “one of those tiny little levers” which cuts off the electricity supply in the area of their choice thereby compelling the residents to live the lives of their grand-parents and great grand-parents for a few hours. The privileged few, ones who have inverters and generators installed in their homes, are spared this trouble leaving commoners like me to rot in boredom and sweat. This vicious trick of theirs, called “power cut”, has wrecked my evenings and nights on countless occasions in the past but the series of events which occurred last Saturday deserve a special mention.

It was one of those doomed Saturday nights when all my friends had abandoned me to gulp down a couple of tequila shots. I could have joined them. I wish I had joined them. But on that particular night the Teetotaler in me suddenly manifested out of nowhere and tried to convince me to stay sober. I was quite surprised. He is a very laid back guy and doesn’t generally do that. On most of the occasions it is the Mild Alcoholic that dominates. 😉 I made an exception that night. Taking the Teetotaler’s advice , I decided to stay in my apartment all by myself, think about some wonderful things and find my inner peace. Little did I know that the members of the Electricity Board had already devised a fool-proof plan to ruin my alone time and put an end to my eternal quest of finding inner peace. 😦

After my friends left I decided to watch a movie on the television. I had barely settled down on the couch with a packet of chips in my right hand and the remote control in the left one when my entire room got plunged into darkness. Instantaneously the idiot box stopped blabbering and my laptop, whose battery had died, followed suit. So, these guys had played a prank on me once again and that too on a Saturday night! Fumes of fury began escape my ears and nose as I cursed the stupid Teetotaler in me for the millionth time. I am pretty sure he is dead by now 😉 The fumes subsided after a while and I made my way towards the kitchen to find a few candles. To my horror only two candles were left and not the big ones that stay alive for a couple of hours; those tiny, scented aroma therapy candles which might help you in spicing up your love life but are lesser than useless when used as source of light.

I am one of those delicate darlings who is afraid of darkness. I was beginning to get scared and desperately needed to talk to someone. So, I picked  up my mobile phone, which was thankfully still conscious, and dialed the toll-free number of Electricity Board. Something crazy had gotten inside my head which told me that our friends in the Electricity Board would make me feel better. A certain gentleman received my call and told me that the connection would be restored “very soon”. I tried to cheer my self up despite knowing the fact that both of us differed greatly on the definition of “very soon”.

There was nothing much I could do at that moment. I lighted those two candles and tried to read a book but after a while my eyes refused to co-operate.

The only option left was sleeping which thankfully does not require any source of illumination. I opened the windows to allow fresh air to enter my room and climbed onto the bed, waiting for twinkling fairies to fill my eyes with pleasant and romantic dreams. But sleep doesn’t come easy when a band of raucous mosquitoes are hell-bent on humming a tune, which sounds like a cross between one of Metallica’s hard rock song and Beethoven’s symphony, in your ears. I could have shooed them away but doesn’t that seem rude? They had clearly hand-picked me to show off their musical skills. And anyway, how many virtuoso musicians go through the trouble of whispering their music right into your auditory canal?

Their concert was clearly not going to end in the coming few hours striking “sleep” off my to-do list. So, I did the next best thing i.e. standing in the balcony, gazing at the star-lit sky, admiring the leaves dancing to the whispers of the wind, drinking the beauty of the shimmering reflection of moonlight in tiny puddles on the road. I won’t deny that the dormant poet in me was beginning to drag its lazy bums off the couch and getting ready for some action but perhaps it got intimidated by the magic that had been created by Mother Nature.

The ambiance was perfect for romance and things would have been totally different had the arms of a big and swarthy hunk been wrapped around my slender waist. Sadly, my sweet-heart was otherwise engaged that night and so were Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.  😉

A few hours passed before the Electricity Board took mercy on me and brought “one of those tiny little levers” back to its original position. My idiot box started giggling but I did not.

My granny might overlook my shortcoming on a few occasions but I know the members of the Electricity Board sure as hell won’t. 😦

P.S. The previous post was published by mistake. Kindly ignore it 🙂

It Happened to Me (II)…

The children residing in my building, with their innocent smiles and perky faces, are an extremely adorable lot that make my heart leap with joy every time I look at them. They resemble tiny, carefree rabbits that romp about in the building, enjoying the golden days of their lives to the fullest. Of course, the above statements hold true only as long as their hands are tied and lips are glued because in the absence of these binding agents the wild and untamed monstrosity that resides within in their tiny structures is unleashed, making the lives of all the adults in our neighbourhood miserable. The moment these young imps decide to scream in unison our entire building begins to vibrate. The doors and windows of my house have succumbed to their persistent yelling and their calliopean cries often enter my room giving rise to tiny tsunamis  in my head. However, when quiet, these children look like angels and are an absolute delight to watch.

The other day, when I was walking towards my flat, these young angels were engaged in their evening games. A million assorted toys were scattered on the floor of our corridor. As I was tiptoeing from one island of free space to the other like a dainty ballerina, a ball flew out of nowhere and landed right in front of me. I would have kicked the ball aside and continued to make my way towards my flat had it not been for one of those tiny brats who called me from behind and made my ear drums explode. Well, it was not the decibel level of his voice that gave me a shock; it was what he had said.

“Aunty, ball please.”

Aunty! For a moment, a stood there in a state of utter shock, trying to assimilate the information which I had just received and when the realization, that I had joined the prestigious league of the aunties of the building, dawned upon me I cried out in disbelief. The image of a Bollywood actress, with her face tilted at an angle of forty-five degrees above the horizontal and hands pressed against her ears, yelling “Nahi!  Ye nahi ho sakta” (No! This can’t be happening) three times, flashed across my mind. I know it sounds a bit melodramatic but it never hurts to spice things up a wee bit to overcome the banality of our day-to-day life.     😉

It was totally uncalled for. I am just twenty-three years old, a little over five feet tall and I look like a young teenager going to college (that’s what I used to think before this incident took place). I don’t even possess the basic attributes that qualifies others to call me “aunty” leave aside a marriage certificate which I still maintain is a prerequisite to enter auntihood. This was not supposed to happen to me. Not so soon. He could have called me didi (elder sister). I am perfectly OK with that. Peeved by his audacity I decided to ignore his request. However, on second thought, I stepped into his shoes and tried to analyze the entire situation from his perspective. I recalled my childhood days when I had faced the similar aunty-didi dilemma on several occasions. I was never quite sure of addressing a lady who was older than me and did not form a part of my gigantic family tree.“Aunty” had always been my first choice. Little did I know that roughly a decade and a half down the line the same title would be conferred upon me in such a brutal fashion.

Anyway, after gaining an unsolicited passport to auntihood, the last thing that I wanted to do was joining the ranks of evil and spiteful aunties who refuse to return toys and are boycotted by all the members of the tween club. I picked up the ball and threw it in his direction ensuring that all this while a beautiful smile was adorning my face. “Thank you, Aunty” came the reply.

Now I have become an aunty and a rather cool and friendly one at that. So, what does that make me? The “new aunty on the block”?

(This post has been written as a sequel to one of my previous posts “It Happened To Me“. )