everyday beautiful.

the world is vast. the internet is mesmerising. everywhere i look, there are fascinating stories and unsettling images. but there’s something to be said for everyday beauty. brain pickings, that lovely site that usually tells me with a stocking-wrapped sledgehammer that time’s a-wasting, and i really should be doing more than chasing deadlines past dusk, served up this stunning little nugget today.

in it, an urban red riding hood gathers sidewalk flowers, and leaves them around her. a younger, more cynical me would have quickly commented on the lovely illustration, and gone on to figure whether it would make a great viral or activation — imagine consumers picking up what look like sidewalk flowers, but actually turn out to be a charity appeal by a nature-protecting ngo, for instance. but i’m less young, and even less cynical these days.

i see more sidewalk flowers today than i have in many, many years before.

the dirty white stray dog sitting upright at the end of the narrow lane, his dirty white tail swishing the dust as he waits for the lady who will give him his breakfast. the yawning little girl sitting on her father’s pushcart as he sells knotted bunches of fresh greens. the familiar, tinny sound of a mono ms subbulakshmi suprabhatam — which never fails to remind me of a distant niece named uttishta. yellow and lilac flowers, pink tabebuia, all ingredients in a devastatingly beautiful pollenbomb.

the things we walk past are forever lost to us. no matter how carefully some red riding hood laid them out for you to encounter.

the things we see, we’ll carry forever. and i’m used to the heft of baggage.

everyday beautiful.

december 16.

it’s a date with great personal significance to me, a long while before 2012. and since the 2012 delhi gangrape, well, i’ve refrained from adding to the words of outrage and shock, as i doubt i have anything to add that hasn’t been said before.

it’s been over two weeks since, and while the victim has passed on, and her rapists await trial, i’m left with a single, somewhat selfish thought: all the nights i’ve taken a local train home in bombay, all the evenings i’ve spent watching movies with friends and taken an auto home in bangalore, every single cab ride home from the airport, or from a late night at the office — is the fact that nothing grievous happened to me just a welcome accident?

true, like every other indian woman of my age, i have my share of horror stories to tell. disturbing, upsetting, etc. but these are still stories that i can (and have) been able to successfully shut out, and move forward from. but not like this. and it’s the most sobering thought in the world for me that every single aspect of personal freedom i’ve grown up with, and believed in — every single definition of doing as i pleased, and going about my life under my own steam — was sheer bloody luck.

i remember being bemused by stories i read about life in pakistan, about the divide between the affluent and the ordinary. how one world seemed to live like posh londoners, while the other struggled like residents of a bombay chawl. my reaction was always one of wonderment.

how different are we, if my only sense of public safety comes from being in my dad’s (or my husband’s, or my own) car? aren’t we just as confined and restricted, if we can only go safely to each other’s homes, and places with 5-star security? aren’t we just as removed from reality, if the reality is not being able to take a bus home one evening with your boyfriend, or lending a screwdriver to an autorickshaw driver to fix his vehicle, or going to the neighbourhood grocery store to buy something?

around me, people are talking about a feminist spring. newspapers are filled with prose on freedom and justice. the international press alternates between shock at the all-romantic, all-bollywood india, and a deeper look at misogyny and violence against women across the world. protestors carry loads of outrage and indignation that far outweigh their placards and banners. while i try and get my head around the fact that for the ordinary indian woman — the one who works, the one who drops her kids to school, the one who shops for veggies, the one who goes for a morning walk, the one who goes to commercial street for a haircut, the one who goes for a 3-d movie with her friend — the world outside her front door has become an even scarier, even more hostile place to set foot in.

in delhi alone, women are cutting back on their working hours. all across india, they’re confessing to feeling unsafe, and this includes places like nursing homes and hospitals. they’re trying to buy guns.

i remember reading this piece ages ago, and it’s a terrific reminder that when it comes to women, india stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of afghanistan, the congo, and somalia.

december 16.

quoting seneca.

always admired seneca, and not only for being known through history as seneca the younger, a tag i’d give my firstborn to hang onto. he also wrote something that was translated as “the pumpkinification of claudius” (some translations refer to it as the gourdification, which is just as bad). but i digress. my favourite seneca quote is: “begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.” which is a thought so utterly jaw-dropping, that it must at least be attempted. hny!

 

quoting seneca.

when we were fab.

absolutely, positively, psychotically love the akon remix of “wanna be startin’ somethin'”. which, as anyone who was young back in the days when mj was black and just plain creepy (as opposed to being certified) will remember, was right up there with “smooth criminal” and “give in to me”. (and those who disagree are welcome to moonwalk off this page at a stately speed.) 

all that ma-ma-say-ma-ma-sa-ing got me thinking about a whole lot of equally nostalgia tripworthy things that simply aren’t accessible anymore. in this incredibly age-revealing blog, let me tell you about:

1. buster, dandy, and beano: sublimely stupid british comics.

2. the william books, especially william and the brains trust.

3. flash, the other superhero in red tights. wore wings on his ears, and featured a hypercomplicated plotline involving, among other things, time travel and a wife named iris.

4. green lantern, not to be confused with green arrow or brainiac. quite literally unforgettable: in brightest day, in blackest night/ no evil shall escape my sight/ let those who worship evil’s might/ beware my power, green lantern’s light!

5. double decker chocolate bars. and caramello. and a vaguely squishy purple bar that i think was called plus, it’s so far back that i’ve forgotten.

6. phantom cigarettes (since the reprinted comics are now available all over the countryside).

7. mandrake, or he who gestures hypnotically.

8. top hits, that collection of song lyrics that was at the very apex of every schoolgirl’s must-have list.

9. the sun magazine, for its posters. also the old sportstar.

10. top of the pops on videotape, a one-stop source of bad fashion and worse lyrics. solely responsible for introducing me to the likes of t’pau, aztec camera, and bananarama.

i’m pretty certain there are more, but this list has made me happy enough. shall continue/ complete it soon.

when we were fab.

naya pankha.

so i’m not the biggest supporter of the ipl. i’m particularly opposed to the stringent media restrictions they’ve had in place, particularly when it comes to specialist cricket websites like cricinfo. last evening, as i saw lalit modi smile sagely and pseudo-modestly while tv interviewers gushed at his vision and talent, i couldn’t help but cringe at the sheer pettiness of it all. 

neither is the huge influx of money heart-warming, coming as it does to the wealthiest sport in the subcontinent. 

as for srk, the mehtas, the ambanis, the wadias, and all the other guys who’ve shelled out millions for their franchises, well, they’re all businessmen, right? and an expensive punt is still a punt.

sure, it’s special to see jayasuriya and tendulkar walk out together. to hear crowds roar for tanvir and mcgrath and shoaib akhtar. to see sehwag grin as his bowlers get bashed around the park. 

but what really warms the cockles of my jaded heart is this: the new cricket fan.

much like the casual gamer, the n.c.f. is predominantly female, has a shortish attention span (but great loyalty), and really couldn’t give a fig about history.

her affections shift from match to match, but she knows whom she likes. she has a point of view on cheerleaders. there’s great affinity to the franchise owners she knows or recognises. and, night after night, she’s watching a form of cricket that she understands, appreciates, and, most importantly, enjoys.

if you think it’s about moms and aunts abandoning their saans-bahu serials due to family pressure, you’re hugely mistaken. it’s about discovering a brand new source for your daily fix of drama, emotion, excitement, and fashion inputs.

and it’s fabulous.

didn’t require mandira or sidhu. didn’t need fandom campaigns or jingoistic cheers. this is the n.c.f., and she knows exactly what she wants from her 8 pm show.

and she’s getting it.

ps: do take a look at sambit bal on ipl. it’s a lovely piece.

naya pankha.

the king of badly-behaved times.

dear dr. mallya:

at the outset, let me clarify that i am no fan of the royal (laughter) challengers. on paper, they were a dull, uninspiring, utterly random team. on the field, they make that description seem flattering. their efforts have gone from lame (82 all out v. kolkata) to struggling (final over victories v. mumbai and hyderabad) to amusing (126 v. mohali) to downright pathetic (143 v. mohali just last night).

i’m not even a great supporter of the hype-pl, it’s way too much cricket, night after night. not only has it dented my reading, it has also completely eradicated all other telly watching for me. don’t get me wrong, i think it’s sweet and inspiring to see the pakistanis play alongside the indians, and it touches me deeply to see the country-neutral teamsmanship, especially in outfits like chennai super kings, delhi daredevils, and rajasthan royals. but it’s still too much.

however, i’m digressing. this post isn’t about the ipl, or even about the royal challengers. this is purely about your stunningly atrocious behaviour (as documented by the media, and i do hope your pr agency makes you go over the news reports again and again, so that you may see what an ugly spectacle you make) of the past few days.

in fact, i’m in grave danger of sympathising with the challengers, as i now believe you are single-handedly responsible for their dismal performance.

think i’m being harsh? let’s take a look at your ipl-related activities (bit lofty to call them achievements):

1a. you take your popular whiskey brand, add an ‘r’ to it, and then explain it away as a whole new concept — “born in bangalore to thrill the nation”, etc. huh? does that even mean anything?

1b. just for kicks, you also plaster the logo onto other teams with space for sale: like the rajasthan royals. (and no, i don’t buy the ‘royal’ connection, as at least two other teams are ‘kings’.)

1c. after seeing the happy ‘fly emirates’ branding on epl teams like arsenal, you’ve gone and pasted ‘fly kingfisher’ on all umpires. copycat.

2. you appoint, as brand ambassador, a hongkong-born, hawaii-bred, british citizen — who lives in mumbai!

3. you advertise, shaan se. and continue to advertise!

4. you wax eloquent about the wonderful team you, rahul dravid, and charu sharma have put together. three weeks later, you talk about some other ‘list’ of players you had in mind but somehow — magically, wondrously, unbelievably — couldn’t assemble.

just one question, dr. mallya: why?

are dravid and charu sharma so influential that you couldn’t get a word in edgewise? or was the auction money outsourced? or were you just hungover/ jetlagged/ drugged silly/ temporarily insane?

besides, who in the world foisted sharma upon you?

sure, dravid was an icon, and therefore came with the territory, but if you really didn’t want him, you could’ve bid for another city, couldn’t you? god knows either the kingfisher or rc brands are appearing on more than three-quarters of the teams.

since you come from a business background, let me ask you this: if you launch a new product, and it fails to take off, wouldn’t you promote it aggressively, i.e., reward people for buying it? so why aren’t you trying to incentivise your team, instead of bashing them in the press? remember, they couldn’t care less: you’re still bankrolling them for the next three years, unless they get traded next february. (and yeah, i can see the other franchises falling all over themselves to take kallis and joshi off your hands.) ironically, it’s young charu who’s saying all the right things in print, at least.

another, slightly more dire solution would’ve been to pull the product. (and not fire the product manager. gracelessly. and without a media gag in place.)

don’t you feel the liberation of being the bottom-ranked team in the league? you could play an all-indian team for the next match, in a mad display of patriotism. or an under-25 team (i’d say under-19 but hey, unlike me, you’re into older men). or bench dravid and make kohli captain, in an irreverent hat-tip to his under-19 world cup victory? or, indeed, any crazy combination you feel like? say what, if the rules allow it, how about opening the batting yourself? maybe with katrina at the other end — she’s a kaif, isn’t she?

why not turn the rest of the ipl season into one giant party?

have you learned nothing at all from your force india outing? now sitting pretty at no. 10 on the overall ranking. with zero points. (yes, there is a no. 11, and yes, they’ve withdrawn from the championship.)

or your stunning politicial debut in 2000? yeah, the one where your party didn’t win a single seat, in spite of contesting almost all 224 of them?

come on, dude, you should understand losing well enough. or is the only spirit you understand the kind that comes in a bottle?

you’ve taken a crap, underperforming team, and actually justified it by being an arrogant, insensitive ‘owner’. maybe, in all that ranting about the corporate implications of team sport, you’ve forgotten that you are still the larger, more visible, most permanent face of united spirits.

and boy, does that face make me cringe.

the king of badly-behaved times.