Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 in retrospect

Last year, I started a little tradition of writing my own My World this Year post :) So keeping with this new tradition, here's the year 2011 in retrospect:

2011 was the first year when I actually kept my new years' resolution (yippie!). It involved visits to the gym (with reducing frequency, but what the hell, I take credit for going at all). It also involved my first trekking expedition (my first time away from K; that was a difficult cord to sever); my first modelling gig (!!!); some great family holidays; some memorable work trips; some interesting new friends; reconnecting with some dear old friends; settling into the new home - -it was a busy year. It was also a tough year in many ways, but we did a good job of keeping our chin up.

The uncertainty at work still exists; but its affecting me far less now. The financial crisis has made me give destiny a free hand in determining where I'll go professionally; I'm not too fussed anymore.

Watching my dad's health deteriorate has been tough for me & my family. There are days I'm thankful I'm miles away from the chaos he wields on others in my family; and there are days I really miss being with my family. After all those teenage years of complaining about why my parents get to call all the shots; I've realised that being in charge is not all that glamorous. I miss being able to pin all my shortcomings on them! :)

This year, K grew up into a little boy. Not a baby, not a toddler, but a little boy. He makes his own decisions; succumbs to peer pressure more easily than I would like; wants to be a fireman; gives the best kisses ever; loves all things 'grown-up'; and has been pestering us for a bicycle. To our great disappointment, he's also become a Justin Beiber fan. I look back fondly at the days when he used to love Barney & Elmo.

My resolution for the new year: To skype home as frequently as possible.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Scary things K has picked up

- K has picked up the word "shoot" (from friends at school, I guess) and uses it in all the wrong ways (I'll shoot the car into the wall; the elephant shooted water with its trunk; and so on). It's scary. Even though on a daily basis he continues to be a peace-loving child.

- K was told by an older girl in school that only babies wear diapers & grown-ups wear "panties". So he asked his dad to buy some panties for him. The dad, as expected, was aghast. (Incidentally, when K says he likes the colour pink, even that makes his dad uncomfortable).

- K has a plastic handphone. He clicks pretend-pictures on the phone & says aloud, "Let me put them on Facebook now". This is scary because at 2 if he knows about this, how long is it going to be before he expects us to give him a real iPhone? We've tried telling him about the value of money, but he insists that money is not a problem, its always available in an ATM.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A portrait of the man in a tie

The man in a Ferragamo tie,
With ironed pleated trousers,
And a jacket to match,
Loafers made of animal hide,
And a shiny metal watch.

A thumb rolling over the Blackberry scroller,
Eyes speed-reading an email,
While he quibbles on his phone,
About two basis-points,
That could cost dollars million & half.

Confident he'll meet his ambition,
He's been successful so far,
He's a man of aspiration,
I'm not quite convinced however,
That he knows what his aspirations are.

The lap of luxury is a gluey lap,
He worries about being able to stay high,
To maintain that abundance,
Although only a few years ago,
He wasn't acquainted with it at all.

A leader; a grabber of opportunities,
He's loved for his charm & suave.
And he lives it up high,
The fruition of five long days,
In a weekend of unfettered verve.

When the suit is off though,
A naked man stands in front of the mirror.
Before he learnt to live life with staidness,
He had knocked the ball that smashed the neighbour's window,
That impetous boy without the tie.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Attended an evening of poetry with the legendary Gulzaar at Singapore's Esplanade theatre & was absolutely blown away. Alongside Gulzar, was another writer - Pavan Varma - who has translated some of Gulzar's work into English. And although the english translation almost never had the same quality of expression, we were thankful for it in any case; mainly because it served as a guide for some heavy-weight urdu vocabulary (not a strength of mine).

I was apprehensive at first. Despite all my love for poetry, I'm far from being a master of urdu and wasn't sure of what to expect from an urdu poet. I went in with expectations of songs of love, longing, chaand, mohabbat and shikwa. I was pleasantly surprised though with the range of topics Gulzar has written about. There was a verse called "kitabe" about forgotten books; a gem of a verse about a diary full of incomplete verses like stubbed cigerrettes; about nature & the environment; about a grimy pub in Mumbai; about the charms of the afternoons in old Dilli, there was a beautiful little verse about RD Burman called "Pancham"; and he ended with a verse I completely loved, titled "Meghna" which spoke about his experience of his daughter giving birth to his grand-son (It got me teary-eyed to hear of a father's tumult at watching his little girl become a woman; a mother; going through the pains of labour.)

Admittedly, its not easy listening to poetry being read aloud. You need time to take it in, ruminate over the words, build the imagery, and by the time you've done all that, you've probably missed the train of verse the poet is reading. Gulzar was a patient reader & allowed us enough time to digest every sentence. And seeing the poetry through the eyes of the poet himself; hearing his views & origins of the thoughts; was a treat. Having said that, I can't wait to get my hands on the book & re-read the verses in my own time & on my own sofa.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kopi & Teh

I was first introduced to the local Singaporean coffee and tea around 4 years ago, by some friends at work. A hot beverage with condensed milk & loads of sugar - -it was revolting at first & I continued to rely on my exhorbitant cup of Starbucks on most mornings. But over the period of time, I've learnt how to make the best of my local coffee or tea. The important thing is to ask for the right thing.

The regular Teh Tarik is excessively sweet for my liking. The Teh-C-Kosong comes with no sugar and with evaporated milk; rather than condensed milk. Then you ask for Teh Halia which comes with ginger; and you've got yourself something pretty close to the Indian chai. This I like.

For coffee, firstly I always ask for Kopi-Po which is not as strong as regular Kopi. Then you ask for Kopi-C-Kosong i.e. with evaporated milk and no sugar. I'm still not a fan of this coffee, but I have to say the kopi-flavour grows on you over time.

The terminology is complex - its Malay, infused with Hokkien, infused with Singlish. And I guess no foreigner ever gets the right tea/coffee the first time. Its a process of trial & error. The rabbit hole is full of new & interesting things if you're adventurous enough.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kumari - The Living Goddess

So this was the first time I ever heard of the Living Goddess Kumari. It seemed fine (somewhat) in theory - a young girl is an image of the divine female energy which gave birth to the universe. And in any case, there are many who believe that the divine resides in all of us; so I didn't think it odd that the Nepalis worship a Living Goddess.

But then we visited the Living Goddess' home (Kumari Ghar) in Kathmandu's royal palace. And as we set foot in that home, I couldn't believe that this was the home of a 5-year old. The 'palace' is ancient, stuffy...it was a dark, dingy temple rather than a home in the first place. We never actually got to see Kumari (foreigners are not allowed to enter her room or seek her blessings); but I could picture a 5-year old girl sitting with a painted face, away from her parents, blessing believers who bowed to her feet. And I couldn't help but wonder what was going on in that little girl's head. Does she believe in her own divinity; does she feel burdened with this responsibility of national welfare at the age of 5; does she wish she could run in the fields or does she feel superior to the kids who run in the fields or is she oblivious of the 'normal' life that other kids have; does she feel anxious that she will turn into a mortal once she reaches puberty; does she crave for her mother's hug?

The parents who get their daughters to 'contest' the selection process to become a Kumari obviously think of it as a privilege to have their little girl selected as a Goddess. But the mother must feel a tug at her heart when she sends off her precious little girl to a temple in the custody of unknown priests who perform secret rituals to her baby. The whole idea of that beautiful little girl in that temple made me shudder!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trekking in Nepal

Me & 17 girls from work went spent last week in Nepal & it was such an adventure! We pushed boundaries....physically its the longest I've walked & steepest I've climbed. We camped in tents, huddled in sleeping bags, found innovative toilet solutions in the wild, battled the leeches that got to some of us, walked downhill in slippery monsoony terrain and saw the most beautiful of sights along the way.

We started the trek from Kathmandu & our first campside was in Chisapani. We woke up at 5.30 am in the morning to watch this glorious sunrise & I couldn't imagine anything prettier then.That was until 2 days later when we reached Nagarkot, once again we were up at 5.45 am & in front of us was a valley at the other end of which were the Northern Himalayan range crossing across the Eastern range & a beautiful golden sun rising from the right & lighting up the right side of the peaks in the Northern range. It was a sight of such beauty, it left 18 girls speechless!We were girls from 9 different countries, confident, self-made, strong, funny, bubbly. We had a great time being together. Ofcourse, we also got a lot of attention :) There were Israeli trekkers chatting us up, there were Indian tourists asking us if they could add us as friends on facebook & there were Nepali shopkeepers willing to give us steep discounts. But these are the men who stole our hearts...our sherpas! Our strong, chivalrous & ever-attentive guides, who were the most earnest college kids earning some extra bucks during the Dashain (Dasera) holidays! We made many Nepali friends in our week there. But we met our most adorable new friends on our second day in Nagarkot. We went to a village school for which we had raised money in singapore to buy shoes, stationary & a new computer. We played & danced with the kids all morning; and fell in love with their bright eyes, runny noses & pahadi cheeks! I missed Kabeer the most that day :-(And finally, the beauty of the mountains was unbelievable. The sight of the snow-capped peaks is a privilege that my city-eyes are going to cherish for a long time to come!

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Wonderland

We found this Chinese antique store in Singapore & I love shopping there. I like going there on weekends just to have a look. We have already got a lot of stuff from the store & sometimes I wish for a bigger apartment just so that I could fit some more of these pretty things in. I know it sounds insane, but how great is this 60-year old elm cabinet!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Madrasi in Singapore

We were in Chennai this weekend. For just two days - Saturday & Sunday. And on Monday morning, K spills his milk and goes,"Aiyo!" :)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Red Dress Poetry

I absolutely LOVE this piece of poetry - I love it for its complete lack of inhibition. I love the paradox: you hear the voice of a feminist but one who sees herself through the eyes of men; who is fearless enough to flaunt her desires but you wonder about the shallowness of her self-image; who wants to show how little she cares about men but finds it difficult to actually do so; who can start sentences with "I want" and end them with nothing more important than (or something as important as) "a flimsy & cheap red dress". Its about any/every modern woman in so many ways, don't you think so? Makes you wonder whether modern-day feminism is something to celebrate or deplore or both.

"What Do Women Want?"
by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A thing of beauty

This gorgeous creature is our unofficial new pet. It comes to our condo with a bunch of it's friends in the evenings to snack on the little cookie crumbs that our security guard leaves for them. Sometimes they come in twos, sometimes in fours. Some days they don't show up at all. Upon some google-based research, I found out that these birds are the "Oriental pied-hornbills" and are listed as 'Critically Endangered' in the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore. This makes our cladestine chance meetings with these birds even more precious!

Monday, September 05, 2011

The "Kabeer-should-learn-Hindi" project

H & I converse in English with each other & use Marathi as a "secret-language" in Singapore (when I want to say something nasty about someone in that person's presence or H needs to tell me its K's diaper which is stinking up a crowded room, we switch to Marathi). H has accepted generally that Hindi has little relevance in our household, but often gets bouts of "I would be betraying my roots if my son can't speak my mother-tongue" paranoia. So the "Kabeer-should-learn-Hindi" project has started multiple times, each time lasting about 2 sentences before H switches back to English.

ps: Meanwhile, Kabeer has mastered Mandarin & his Laoshi tells us that he speaks Mandarin better than the Chinese kids in her class. The irony is not funny.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The holiday

Before I had a chance to recover from the jetlag of the NY trip, we headed out to the US again. On holiday this time. And to the other coast.

It was all about family reunions in the cities (H's brother's family lives near LA; met with my cousin golfing goddesses in Vegas after I don't know how many years & then met with my cousins-I-grew-up-with in San Francisco & took a road trip to Monterey). As Indian family reunions go, a lot of great food was consumed in every city (the food in San Fran was outstanding, and in LA we dined at Robert DeNiro's fine dining restaurant one evening - how Hollywood :))

We spent the next week in the mountains: first in Yosemite & then in Napa. Yosemite was gorgeous and I feel like I've seen heaven now! There was a moment in our bike ride when we came face-to-face with a baby deer & its going to be one of the most beautiful moments of my life. The cliffs, the meadows, the waterfalls, the sun, the nippy breeze, the pines, the rocks....I have 600-odd pictures on my camera! The weekend in Napa was about, what else but wine, wine, and wine :) I can actually tell the difference between two kinds of wine now! That's a victory of sorts.Had a great time and have come back inspired & happy; as holidays should make you feel!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Movies watched in the-longest-flight-ever

Midnight in Paris - I really enjoyed it, although it borders on cheesy (before going back to being charming).

Water for Elephants - Could've been an epic love story, but isn't. Definitely isn't.

Limitless - Your staple Hollywood thriller stuff.

Source Code - Firstly, how great is Jake Gyllenhall. The movie is interesting as well. A thriller with a twist & the ability to make you wonder.

Kungfu Panda 2 - Awesomeness.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The week in Manhattan

It was exhilarating being a Manhattan banker for a week. I stayed in a hotel in midtown, walked to a bagel shop in the mornings for breakfast & coffee, then walked to Park Avenue for work, people-watching as I walked (both men & women in NY are so well styled!); I had a cubicle with a view of the Empire State building; and I lunched & dined in chic Manhattan cafes with interesting people everyday. The 5th Avenue was a few blocks away & although I'm not a big shopper I admit to have been drawn in :) It was a great way to see New York, sans the museums and parks (which I love dearly but didn't see at all on this trip). It was the business New York on this trip. And that too in one of the most chaotic weeks on Wall Street, close enough to hear the rumble & tumble.

When one lives in Singapore for too long, one begins to expect glitz & shininess out of big cities. New York is old, there are old cars for taxis, old elevator in brown brick buildings, old hot dog vendors selling from old stalls. A city with age has a charm, no?

But I'm longing to go home now into the arms of my two favorite men, and a 19 hours flight stands between them & me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Big Apple

Off to New York this Sunday for a week. Its going to be my longest work trip since Kabeer (Hong Kong was 5 days, but for NY the long flights eat into the weekends on either side of the week). So while I'm excited prefessionally as well as personally, the thought of a week without K throws me into occassional bouts of depression. Besides, the time-zones are going to make it impossible to Skype very often.

On a less depressing note however, have a long list of shopping & restaurant to-do's from my New-Yorker-in-exile friend A; although every 3rd row in her list reads "I'm so jealous of you" or "I wish I could come along". Also excited to meet with friends & family there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An economist's take on Israel-Palestine

Read this paper by an economist on the Palestine-Israel conflict. Mahatma Gandhi would've said, "I told you so" (well, perhaps not); but politics and nationalistic fervour do not have the rational approach of an economist or a pacifist, I suppose.

Econometric techniques allow us to empirically test the degree to which violence on each side occurs in response to aggression by the other side. Prior studies using these methods have argued that Israel reacts strongly to attacks by Palestinians, whereas Palestinian violence is random (i.e., not predicted by prior Israeli attacks). Here we show that when nonlethal forms of violence are considered, and when a larger dataset is used, Palestinian violence also reveals a pattern of retaliation: (i) the firing of Palestinian rockets increases sharply after Israelis kill Palestinians, and (ii) the probability (although not the number) of killings of Israelis by Palestinians increases after killings of Palestinians by Israel. These findings suggest that Israeli military actions against Palestinians lead to escalation rather than incapacitation. Further, they refute the view that Palestinians are uncontingently violent, showing instead that a significant proportion of Palestinian violence occurs in response to Israeli behavior. Well-established cognitive biases may lead participants on each side of the conflict to underappreciate the degree to which the other side’s violence is retaliatory, and hence to systematically underestimate their own role in perpetuating the conflict.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Explosions in Mumbai. Again.

I can't say I'm particularly disappointed in the Intelligence folks. Anyone who has been at Kabutar-khana or Zaveri-bazaar can vouch that there's no way to spot that man with a bomb in those crowded markets.

They perhaps could've stopped the bombs from entering the country or city? But in a city where a fake passport comes so cheap and hundreds of shanty-boats offload tonnes of who-knows-what on its coasts illegally everyday, how could I expect them to spot three small packets with bombs in it?

Besides, how difficult is it to make those things onshore? They could've been made 3 miles from my home in Mumbai & I wouldn't be shocked.

I'm not sure I'm especially disappointed in the politicians & policy-makers either. I don't think the events on the day would've played out any differently if there was a different CM, PM or party. I'm not sure what I expect my leaders to do in the face of these temperamental outbursts of vain anger. For now, I would just like them to focus on not selling telecom rights for bribery.

Like everyone in Mumbai, I have learnt not to expect any different, I guess. The promise of change is jaded. All I've been able to do so far is 'like' a Facebook page called 'Terrorism sucks'.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy Anniversary

It was our anniversary this week & because I often get paranoid about the death of romance in our marriage-after-kids, we did take a day off from work. But eventually spent it doing odd pending chores (there simply are so many things to do!).

I complain about it to H, but not whole-heartedly. There are different kinds of romances. There's the romance of the Paris-kind (which is most often referred to simply as 'romance') and there's the romance of the Mumbai-kind (best personified by those couples seen sitting at Juhu beach convinced that they're in an isolated romantic setting, despite the scary hijara-gang approaching them; the smell of human feaces & the muddy-brown sea water with plastic waste floating on it.)

Romantics are optimists (and perhaps all optimists are romantic?). Life is running our life at the moment, but we took the time; the day to feel. We still believe in the specialness of our togetherness. The phase of manicness will pass. Or so I hope!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dan Dan Noodles

My love for certain types of food comes & goes in phases (Have been through a "Din Tai Fung" phase where I ate dumplings for lunch all days of a week; have been through a McFlurry phase where every meal had to end with McFlurry for dessert; and have been through a Butter Chicken phase which lasted 9 months of my pregnancy)

This is my current phase: Dan Dan Mian. I wake up every morning telling myself that I will not eat the same thing for lunch again today; but around lunch time my body takes me to the same restaurant. What's wrong with me?

Monday, June 27, 2011

An Ode to a Sovereign Debt Crisis

The ancient land,
Where the Gods were born,
Land of a mighty Hercules,
And his fits of Insanity.

As the Parliament argues,

Over austerity & EU bail-outs;
Who survives that grave fall from glory,
But Insanity.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Embarassing parent moments

K (loudly, pointing to an old bearded Muslim man): Mama, look Santa Claus!
Me: Stop pointing please. That's not Santa.
K (still pointing & loud): That's not Santa? Is that Mr. Gnome?
Me: The waiter is getting coffee for everyone. We've asked him to get some coffee for you too!
K (when the waiter is at our table): Mama, is this man getting some?
K saw his dad coming out of his bathroom in a towel, promptly ran out to the living room & told his nanny: "My dadda is running around without clothes".
A neighbour in our condo gave K a cookie.
Me: Wow...who gave you that cookie, K?
K (pointing) : The fat man.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A personal tragedy struck us on Sunday. We got a phone call from Dubai that we had lost a friend. To a mental-illness which we knew of, but never suspected it to be life-threatening in this fashion.

Seeing the tragedy of untimely death so closely has made our whole world questionable. The thought of people being transient - especially the ones we love so dearly - is excrutiating. Time starts to feel oddly powerful, a mercenary. The things that we keep ourselves busy seeking turn pointless, silly. Priorities re-stack. I know the grief will probably pass. But the feelings of futility & powerlessness? Maybe even guilt? Do they ever pass?

We are leaving for Dubai tonight to attend the funeral & I can't lose the big pit of emptiness I feel in my stomach at the thought of seeing his surviving family. The wife- my dear strong friend, the son, the mother. How do I empathise with them when I can't even bear the thought of being in their shoes? It haunts me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Shame" By Salman Rushdie

The book has been on my bookshelf for a long time, but hadn't been picked up. It's an old book as well; written a while ago. When I did finally read it though, I absolutely loved it & I am glad I read it when I did. If I had read it 30 years ago (roughly when it was written), it may have seemed excessively pessimistic. But reading it in retrospect, in light of where Pakistan is today, it reads like a crystal ball of a book. A country (and a world) which chose to ignore every warning that the book hoped to give it.

As far as Rushdie & political novels go, I'm not sure I liked it as much as 'Midnight's Children' simply because I'm not sure whether he's got the essence & texture of Pakistan right (I know very little of the Pakistani society), but it is every bit as powerful, hard-hitting, frank and possibly more opionated than 'Midnights Children' was. Rushdie makes an appearance in the book many times as the narrator with his sometimes-strong, sometimes-equivocal views on politics, religion & religious zealots, women, rootlessness, freedom of speech, and the partition, among others. It's such a multi-layered book where the story of two families seeks to explain the story of Pakistan & the story of Pakistan seeks to explain the story of two families.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Shakespeare in the park

Shakespeare in the park was back this year with Macbeth and we had almost-front row seats (some enthusiastic queuing up that was!) in Fort Canning Park. It was my first time watching a Shakespearean play since college (was my second time watching Macbeth actually); and the first time ever watching a play in a park. We had our picnic mats & picnic baskets & beer cans - we had fun.

Adrian Pang as the lead character was outstanding & I am a fan. Having gone in with limited expectations from a Singaporean tv actor; we were completely blown away by this performance. The girl who played Lady Macbeth was not the best of actors; neither did she look the part of the sexy/ devious/ conflicted woman. She probably did her best work in the sleep-walking scene. (Was that harsh? Well, all stage actors - anyone who remembers all those lines & says them on stage without shaking in front of thousands of people - deserves some applause; so I hate being critical of them)

It was a stuffy humid evening & the breeze was being rather coy; so we were not envious of the costumed & leather-jacketed cast members, but they maintained their energy levels inspite of it all. Thank you for a great evening.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Terrible Two's!

We didn't see it coming. We were the smug delusional parents who were in denial. Our cute & calm little K would never be a victim of Tantrumitis; we said. But it came. And it got him.

A plate full of food was thrown on the floor yesterday in a fit of rage. Followed by a refusal to say 'sorry' (and he used to love saying sorry & thank you only a few months ago!).

The power of stamping feet, thumping angry fists in the air & crying Bollywood-style has been fully understood by that tiny brain & there's no turning back now.

Is it time to play the disciplinarians? Man, I hate that part! I suck at giving punishments & sticking to them. My mama-heart gets gooey & melty all too quickly. He has those puppy eyes; so it's not entirely my fault.

It's the first non-fun thing I'm going to have to do as a parent & I'm dreading it!

Road trip to Kuantan

We drove to Kuantan on the eastern coast of Malaysia over the Easter weekend. Malaysia is very diverse and none of the places we've visited so far have been like the other (Kuala Lumpur was the quintessential busy Asian city, Cameron Highlands had the hilly tea plantations & forest areas, Port Dickson had the small 'kampong' appeal & Melaka had a side-serving of history & heritage).Kuantan has the good old blue-beach-white-sand combination which never goes out of style. What surprised us about Kuantan is that its much more urban than we expected & has its share of high rises; highways; western coffee shops & malls (I learnt later its one of the big cities in Malaysia). It's famous for a turtle sanctuary which we never made to because K refused to get off the beach (why poke a monster when he is content) & the spa was more enticing :)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

It was disturbing

Bin Laden is dead. It should've been a tale of 'good wins over evil' but was not quite. I think it was the image of Americans cheering on the streets that made it ugly. They looked a lot like the jihadis cheering over revenge; thirsting for blood. They were carrying posters of "Osama 0; Obhama 1". There's something savage about a street party when a man gets shot & dies - even when the man is a mass-murderer. Perhaps they were people who lost near & dear ones in 9-11. That would make it more disturbing though.

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's been 4 years....

....since we left Dubai & moved to Singapore. Even today, given a chance I would move back to Dubai in a heartbeat. I don't hate Singapore, but I don't love it either. Dubai, I do love. I love it for its people & I miss sorely everyone I met there.

ps: This post comes after a phone chat with a long-separated friend from Dubai. I loved hearing your Middle Eastern accent; catching up on the going-on's in everyone's life; and talking about the good old days...it's been so long! :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Amusement Park

We went to an amusement park on Sunday. It was my first time in one since (I think) Essel World in Mumbai maybe 10-12 years ago. I wasn't a big fan....the spinning rides made me queasy. But this time we stuck to the rides that basically don't make you want to throw up and suddenly we were 5-year-olds again :)

The water rides were perfect for a warm sunny Singaporean afternoon. K enjoyed the 'choo-choo train' whereas the kiddie roller coaster had him totally upset....Maybe he's too young to get the adrenalin rush?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Have-nots

A young girl working her second shift,
in a factory on the outskirts of Guangdong,
sticking the last "Made in China" sticker,
just before she returns home by bus,
away from the loud groaning machinery.

Grateful for the big order this month,
for the extra cash that she would send home,
and keep 20 yuan back perhaps for a treat,

She felt like a princess today,
This was it; the last batch of memorabilia,
"The Royal Wedding- William & Kate".

Friday, April 15, 2011

The 2-year old

In the past few months, we've been noticing in K a wonderful new thing that's developed out of nowhere - Imagination.

It started off slowly -- he's been playing with his miniature cars and pretending they made a vrooming sound; he has had a pretend-dispenser for rice & porridge in his toy kitchen because he couldn't be bothered to cook; he has always insisted that Humpty Dumpty did get fixed by the horses & the men after he got an 'ow'; and our coffee-table has been a train-tunnel for many months now. The other day, he held his toy-broom in front of his nose & said, "Mama, I become elephant", and then the same broom was held in his hand & he said, "Mama, I play guitar". The poor grammar aside, he uses his imagination very cleverly.

I think K (and I suspect its true for all toddlers) doesn't need toys or "things" at all to amuse himself (its probably just the working mom over-compensating for not being home all the time). And I can't help but feel at least a little envious of his fun & uncomplicated world where people & things are whatever he wants them to be. I hope he never loses this very-own-private-world-of-possibilities.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Joys of Parenting

I read this article in the NY Times today. Researchers trying to resolve the debate on whether there is a correlation between happiness & having kids. This is their interesting conclusion:

"The most striking findings revolved around parenthood and age. Whether it is a function of exhaustion, bickering over diapers or something inherently unpleasant about raising little children, the data doesn’t say, but parents under 30 are decidedly less happy than their child-free peers. Then, once parents hit 40, the relationship reverses and people with children are cheerier than those without."

The finding is not surprising, although I think its too west-centric. It would be interesting to see whether Asian parents under 30 enjoy their life as parents more than their western counterparts. The more individualistic the society you live in, the more likely you would perhaps be to resent the loss of personal freedom that happens when you have kids?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

That special match last night!

My throat is sore from screaming too much & and my palms are sore from clapping too often!

I have new respect for Nehra - for delivering a good performance when everyone doubted whether he deserved to be there.

I have new respect for Raina's composure - dude, I had to pee twice in two overs just watching you play and you were there. In the middle of it all.

I have new respect for Sachin's shoes - I can't imagine being them; imagine if people went around calling you God's shoes; the sheer weight of a billion hopes would wear you down.

I have new respect for tiramisu as a dessert - for getting India a wicket every time I took a bite.

I have new respect for Afridi - that was a good-spirited post-match speech way too mature for his young age of 20 (what, we're not sticking to that story anymore?)

Clearly, Manmohan Singh is not a person for photo-ops. He couldn't have looked more bored.

I dreamt of Mumbai last night, with people merry-making on the streets; with loud fire-crackers waking up those old folk who didn't bother staying up for the game; with its empty offices the next morning where people don't show up because they assume its a holiday when India beats Pakistan in a World Cup. And then the camera (my dreams are cinematic) zoomed in on Wankhade Stadium & there were drums rolls, colourful wigs, a thousand flags, cheers & a packed house waiting expectantly. It's been so long since these people believed in anything.

Friday, March 25, 2011

And in the spirit of the season....

The agony of that wait
Both hands on the head
The sinking of the heart
And then a glimmer of hope
Perhaps a benefit of doubt?
Perhaps not?
Holding back a cheer
But letting go of a clap
As the world moves in slow motion
The fate of a billion
Reviewed by one third-umpire!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The worst days at work are made of this:

* I'm half-way through with making changes in a spreadsheet when Excel crashes & I have saved nothing.
* I fill-in an online form & the "Save/Submit" button at the bottom has turned a dissmal grey & my mouse does not have the power to save or submit all the information I've painstakingly typed out.
* I make a presentation in a new version of powerpoint but when I open it from a laptop with another version of powerpoint, all my pretty pie-charts are climbing on top of one another.
* I forget the Lotus Notes password I changed only a moment ago.

And people still think the Financial Crisis was tough on bankers!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Kathakali Dancers of Kumarakom

One of the coolest moments of the trip was when we got to see the dressing room of the Kathakali dancers. I have studied Indian classical dance, but this was my first exposure to Kathakali in particular. It's unique in many ways; its much more colourful, theatrical & larger than life as compared to a Bharatnatyam; even the music makes louder & more dramatic use of percussion; the focus being on story-telling as much as the raw art of dance itself (I think modern day Bollywood may perhaps be the closest cousin if it could qualify as classical).

And while I don't think the performers we saw were the best in the business -- they were tourist sell-outs actually rather than enthusiasts of the art -- but the experience of watching them put on their "show face" was a treat by itself. The painting of the face & wearing of the elaborate costume is a long laborious process & is symbolic of various themes (the male hero is green-faced; the villians are red-faced; and so on). It was shocking to see how much the whole costume actually weighs; it must take a strong man to dance with that skirt & head-gear.

I would love to watch a more "real" Kathakali performance someday!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A week in the backwaters of Kerala

We landed in Kochi on Saturday & took a taxi to Kumarakom the following morning. After driving past hundreds of Mamoothy billboards & numerous cafes called "Malabar Palace", we reached our resort facing the beautifully tranquil Lake Vembanad. There was a constant (but slow & peaceful) traffic of fishing boats & house-boats sailing past our villa & we saw postcard-like images of the rustic life on the backwaters. On Thursday, we boarded a house-boat to Allepey. As we sailed past the lush green, we realised that this is how life should always be: surrounded by loved ones & with complete peace of mind. The coconut palms & clear skies are just a bonus.Special thanks to our boat-man Biju who turned out to be a great cook & gave Kabeer a new career aspiration ("I want to be a boatman, mama"). He also rocked the lungi.

The town of Kottayam was the exact opposite of Kumarakom; it was bustling with activity & felt like Laxmi Road in Pune on a Sunday afternoon. There were red ST buses; roadside hawkers; cars, rickshaws & bicycles; and a thousand pedestrians all using the same narrow "highway" under the blissful delusion that there's ample space for everyone. God, how I love Indian cities!

Friday, February 25, 2011


In a week where revolutionaries took to the streets, dictators tumbled and oil prices made everyone nervous; we focussed on things that matter the most: Food & mojitos. We had a barbeque party at home.

Our friend D told us that barbequed garlics are tasty, but we didn't believe her. Turns out, they're not all that bad.

Another first - barbequed mock meat. For our vegetarian friends. Turns out, not that bad either.

And then the regular meat-lovers' stuff. Very good indeed.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Thai countryside

We spent the Chinese New Year holidays in Thailand this year. Our cousin lives in Banchang - a small town off Pattaya - working on a power plant project there. We visited them, enjoyed good family time, ate some yummy food, visited Pattaya and some other non-touristy beaches along the coast, and watched K spend some time with his older (but still little) cousin Arnav-bhaiya. Some picture memories of our relaxing week there:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I think..."!!!

Since last week, K has started using the expression, "I think". It came out of the blue & just like that, he was using it in everyday conversations. Not that he has any deep profound thoughts yet; he thinks simple things like, "I think we should go swimming"....but the expression itself is a big deal - an assertion of his individual self & his mind; and a reminder to us that he's growing up fast!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Being the modern Asian parent

Read this very insightful article in the New Yorker - it's not about parenting at all; but about the science of the mind. Coincidentally, in the same week I read a lot of articles on the superiority of the tiger mom - how a disciplinarian Asian mom raised two very accomplished girls.

Being a modern Asian parent is a tough balancing act, I would imagine. On one hand, we Asians are conditioned to believe - in varying degrees - that softness in parenting is not good. There is the argument that "we had strict parents & we turned out just fine". On the other hand, we have this growing exposure to the western thought of "the parents' job is to instill confidence & love in their child" and their style of treating kids like little adults doesn't come intutively to most Asians - to be honest, I am not entirely convinced it works. Asian parents today don't intend to be the sort who order their child to get A+; but they're also unable to be the sort who sit back and say, 'at least you gave it your best shot' when the child gets a C.

Going back to that article from the New Yorker though, this is probably what really counts:
"He’d been taught to think vertically, moving ever upward, whereas maybe the most productive connections were horizontal. He’d been taught that intelligence was the most important trait. But there weren’t even words for the traits that matter most."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Art galleries at home

Over the weekend, we went to the OH! Open House Walkabout - it's an art exhibit held in peoples' homes and this year the curators chose 5 HDB homes in Marine Parade as the venue of these exhibits. The concept was very cool - to bring art out of pretentious galleries and place it in unpretentious HDB homes associated with middle class heartland Singapore.

The artists drew their inspiration from the Marine Parade neighbourhood (born out of a large government project of reclaimed land, its dolphin sightings, the associated ghost stories and earthquake tremors) as well as the individual home owners & their personalities.

Some of the exhibits were quirky & imaginitive - a black curtain with small peepholes symbolic of the lack of privacy in HDB homes; or an upside-down room with a mirror-floor which gets one confused between reality & perception; or the visually deceptive image of a HDB lift landing. Some of the exhibits were beautiful - I loved the TV-painting in the second home with a lovely music installation in the background. And the paintaing of a team of gold-medallists was gorgeous.

And then there were some exhibits I didn't quite get - a peephole into the room of lonely girl playing piano in a room filled with outlandish stuff.
The tiny cluttered rooms of HDB apartments may not be one's idea of a perfect art gallery (some were not even well lit), but I thought it worked. What did not work, was that the number of people who turned up for the walkabout were way more than what the HDB could cope with; making the whole walk a bit of a drag with a tour guide filling the empty waiting time with some simplistic observations about Marine Parade & the art!

PS: How brave do you have to be to allow hundreds of strangers walk into your living room & bedrooms for a whole weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I don't get why men never drink Diet Coke.

Why do they consume calories for a drink which tastes almost the same? How different is one cola from another, really!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Back to Bombay

As always, the last week of December was spent in India. Every year, Bombay & Pune look different to us - We've been living outside India for long & its interesting to see these new versions of our much loved cities.

Almost every consumer brand in the world is drooling over the Indian cities and its amusing to see their "indianised" products. Wrigleys chewing gum has ayurvedic satva in it apparently and Domino Pizza's tagline is "Khushiyon ki home delivery" (a bit ambitious for a pizza company, no?). There were queues to get into shopping malls & it makes me a bit sad that the mall culture has arrived in India.

I love listening to radio in India; I miss Indian music in Singapore - didn't know that Sheila was such a phenomenon. And then there are the "countdowns" which I love. One of the radio channels had its listeners vote for the Top 10 scams of 2010 and most people had a tough time deciding whether the CWG or 2G scam did the most harm to taxpayers (All the scams have acronyms).

TV in India still sucks. I can't believe Akshay Kumar's experience as a cook in Bangkok makes him qualified as a judge on Masterchef India; and I can't believe how loosely the Indian news channels define "breaking news"!

Insurance is probably the most advertised product ever in India. And probably have the most creative advertising teams in the country. This one makes me smile...