Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Between the lines!

I got the Oman driving license in November which was already announced from the rooftops, I can almost hear it still echoing from the mountains. My trainer bid me goodbye, his role handed down to the guy who had been trying to speak louder than me since 2008– my husband ;-) 

I must admit I miss my trainer.

Trainers in car driving are the ones whose jobs, by any means is no less hazardous than that of a suicide bomber. They have to focus, be patient, behave, teach and stay alive at the same time, not necessarily in that order. To achieve the staying alive part, one may forego at least one of the expected skill set – patience. My trainer’s voice and the subsequent reverberations can actually cause an accelerator to push on its own. However every time I had to be blamed. How mean is that?

Car training sessions are also the times one is expected to cry internally. The guy terrorized me to such an extent, that even tears were scared and shut themselves in. I held on to the steering wheel like one would hold on to a piece of slab just before falling off a 17 floor building. The suspense thriller may make one sit at the edge of the seat, but if I did that, there would have been more reverberations which could have resulted in opening a dam of tears.

My trainer taught me during the office lunch break, which was coincidentally his lunch break too. I’d have my lunch only after the session, which meant that I’d be dying from starvation during the session. However, my trainer prefers on-the-go lunches and juice. Which is chicken shewerma wraps with mayonnaise and salad. Drooling was not allowed. This means I had to stop two types of fluids from erupting 1.Tears 2.Saliva. I should also be alert and set my eyes on the road and play the traffic signs book and roundabout rules in the background. There are no prizes for guessing who gets paid at the end of this session.   

Image Courtesy: Here

However when the vacancy of a trainer was occupied by the husband, I did not expect that things could turn around for worse. This time I dint have to worry about stopping tears. It has been my strongest weapon since 1932. Now I have to keep my eyes on the road, focus, reach the destination alive AND talk back. I mean how is this expected from me? A little chat with my friends revealed the shocking fact that all husbands go crazy when women drive. I fail to understand this overreaction, because we do not get paranoid if they don’t move even a single muscle when yelled at or even if something is thrown at them when there is cricket on the TV. The situation is in control because I stopped listening a long time ago. I can feel the drama inside the car but can’t take it serious enough. This is a guy who cannot notice a change in hairdo or a dashing new dress but can pass a comment about the strand of eyebrow hair on the carpet.

The real challenge while driving in Oman is the basement parking in our building. Parking here is like taking a driving test every single day of my life, because 1. Basement is really dark and creepy 2. The lines between which we are expected to park = total width of the car.3. After lines there are pillars to ensure that we pay for our mistakes. Guess what, the husband makes me reverse park there. This is exactly like going to the labor room and telling the doctor that this procedure is not painful enough, I want to do it in a way I can actually feel it. The silver lining is that there is a reverse sensor, which has kept me sane since the whole ordeal started. I cannot even begin to think of the times people drove without reverse sensors. How is one supposed to see what is behind the car, when managing whatever is in front of the car itself is so hard?

It has been three months, the pillars are fine, and the car has survived some scratches. The building maintenance guys maintain that it is not ‘dark’ it is called ‘ambience’.  The scratches stand testimony to the days I reverse parked in this snake and ladder maze.

And in life, you cannot escape the lines. You will end up reading or parking between them.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hypocrisy has a new identity.

Image Courtesy : Here
During my teen years, I was such a die-hard fan of Aamir Khan that I had posters of him on my bedroom walls. It was a magical time before bad boys became cool, so yeah we liked chocolate boys then, the ones with pink lips and lesser facial hair than a new born baby. Aamir kept doing his goofy acts Mills & Boon romance and slapstick comedy and all the girls were happy. Slowly but steadily, a strange wind of social reform blew over him and there was no turning back. Aamir Khan got enlightened under the game changing tree of Bollywood when he realized that his role in this world is to impose his opinion on a nation he thought had no persona of its own.

I don’t distinctly remember when I stopped being a fan because his focus was diverted and with each passing day he looked more and more like some sort of a Bharat Ratna wannabe.
Meanwhile, in a parallel but steady track, SRK was scoring with his signature pose and coy smiles and like millions of girls in India, I shifted loyalties too. Well, what did you expect I did not sign some kind of YRF contract with Aamir Khan fan club. Aamir Khan's opinions and his movies with morals kept instilling in our nation, a feeling that he is an intellectual. Everyone else who made movies for entertainment looked like complete morons.

When he wore only a transistor in the poster of PK, he was getting into the skin of his character, but he is entitled to his royal opinion about Sunny Leone who usually wears more clothes than him. He did a whole movie about idol worship and thinks he can change an entire nation, its ancestors and a religion that was born a million years ago.

I did not like PK for two reasons. One, it was preachy. Two, I don’t care about what Aamir Khan thinks about my religion; so why like a movie that propagates Aamir Khan’s opinions and enhanced lips?

Basically everyone is entitled to their opinions. Aamir Khan voiced his utterly hypocritical view on AIB roast as well. Next thing you know he will make a movie about humor that is not his type. I watched the three videos of AIB at least three times each. I shared it to everyone I knew who’d appreciate a good laugh. But my opinion on MY blog after watching each of the videos three times is nothing like Aamir Khan, the self-proclaimed voice of young middle aged India judging it without even watching it once. If Monica Geller’s parents can coin the term ‘pull a Monica’ we have every right to call ridiculous hypocrisy ‘pull an Aamir Khan’.

The house maid who does not turn up regardless of giving a speech earlier about how she never misses work, the friend who betrays after building up a lot of trust, that girl who scores record breaking marks despite promising that she dint even open her book, the girlfriend who cheats after threatening her boyfriend of dire consequences if he cheats on her – are all different shapes of Aamir Khan.

How to deal with the Aamir Khans in our lives, you ask? Let’s take a hint from Shah Rukh Khan. IGNORE and keep doing what you are doing. It is pretty much working for him; I think it should work for us too.    

Monday, February 9, 2015

The only plausible explanation.

The cool mornings and windy winter evenings continue to pamper us sun-burnt people of the Middle East. We make the most of this climate, which visits us only for a brief period and later gives way to THE SUN (and not summer as they call it in other parts of the world).
So on a cool sleep-worthy weekend, we went on a walk at the Muscat Festival grounds. I sacrificed my precious afternoon nap for this, so this festival better be worth it, I thought. Luckily for them, it was. It was also good to see families laughing away the stress and spending quality time with each other without those lines of stress on their foreheads… they may have applied anti-ageing cream, we’ll never know. And there were also people in Disney cartoon costumes walking about the park posing with the kids which was a blessing to all parents who had come just to let their hair down. The kids were also overwhelmed in knowing that they had come to the same place that Mickey Mouse chose to spend the weekend. My son accepted the bribe and even agreed to eat dinner.

There were donkey, horse and camel rides. Donkey rides were available for toddlers and young children. My son was terrified of the donkey, but agreed to take the ride if I joined him. He probably didn't notice the tired face of the malnourished donkey which could die the moment I even think about sitting on it. Camels looked too tall for a smooth (peaceful) ride and I refused to take it so we were even. No animals were harmed at the festival grounds.   

Of course there was a place where we could shop for authentic stuff that are usually not available at malls and branded stores. This time I skipped that area because experience has taught me that if I buy something, I’d have to pay for my sin by carrying the bag myself hours inside the festival grounds resulting in sore hands and thus bringing back the lines on the forehead. I missed my son’s stroller. I used to dump all my shopping bags in it. Sigh. Around forty five minutes later I started craving for a stroller myself.

Image Courtesy: Google Images.
One of the iconic crowd puller shows at the festival was the motordrome,  otherwise called the ‘Wall of Death’ wherein four motorists rode their bikes at high speed in a metal dome structure, defying gravity and senses of the onlookers.  My son got so excited that he wanted to ride his tricycle inside it. Sometimes the motorists rode so close to each other and sent waves of ecstasy through the crowd but it left me rather terrified. I told hubby ‘I may not be looking sometimes, okay?’ (I think he chose not to hear me). 

I covered my eyes with my hands. Watching through the gap between my fingers was reassuring. That was when one of the motorists started waving at the crowd with both hands. I watched him with sheer disbelief and exclaimed ‘Look at this guy…don’t you think this is too much? May be he lost the will to live or something’.

And hubby replied ‘Yeah, he is married’. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

With love, from Thiruvananthapuram.

One lazy day, as I browsed through channels on TV I came across this white guy on an international food channel, probably on his first visit to Kerala, saying that kappa(tapioca) and red fish curry is his ‘comfort food’. I almost laughed aloud. Comfort food it seems. That is MY comfort food my friend, yours is bread, I thought, with a typical bigheaded grin. And this grin is typical of Mallus, as we are known to take immense pride in our food. And our ego comes from the fact that even though the world eats bread for breakfast, we Mallus eat bread only when we are sick or dying.

You may think that on a map, Kerala looks like an strand of onion that fell out of your Biryani, but remember, this is God’s own ‘country’ and we have diverse slangs and cuisines across districts. I was brought up in the capital city, Thiruvananthapuram, and had a tough time communicating to an earlier housemaid from Calicut. There was nothing common in the Malayalam we spoke to each other; sometimes I had to use Google Images to make her understand vegetable names. Not to mention the number of situations Google decided to get naughty when I searched vegetable names on it:-/

I married a guy from Cochin and that turned out to be something like ‘2 States’. This household makes me question my proficiency in Malayalam. When Cochin people get angry or frustrated, they say ‘Manga Tholi’ and scratch their heads/bang their fists. ‘Manga Tholi’ translates to mango peel, and why they swear with a reference to the harmless and actually delicious mango we’ll never know. But for me, this is highly amusing. :D I still laugh when I see Cochin characters in movies tearing their hair apart and saying ‘Manga Tholi’. Another distinct feature of people in Cochin is that they look down on Thiruvananthapuram, our slang and food.  They also migrate to Thiruvananthapuram in large numbers for jobs, to attend good colleges, schools and for better living in general. Because Cochin has only malls, more malls, and a whole load of Manga Tholi ;-)  

Seafood, especially the red fish curry traditionally slow cooked in a mud vessel brings us all together, despite our differences, which is a feat accomplished earlier by the Janashatabdi Express. Even hard- core non-vegetarians (majority of the population) enjoy the purely vegetarian sadya on the banana leaf, complete with four payasams. A true blue Mallu will lick his fingers when he finishes the last payasam. And that is how it is done. We also intend to invite Oprah Winfrey for Onam to eat a full-fledged sadya with fork and spoon.

Image Courtesy: Here
Sadya in Thiruvananthapuram is different from other places as we have a special item called Boli with Aripayasam (Paal Payasam). My husband hadn’t heard of Boli till he married me. And he claims to have eaten Sadya! How ridiculous is that? Pity, I say. Firstly, living up to age 27 without knowing the awesomeness that is me, and secondly, not knowing Boli? Sigh.

Now Boli is a traditional sweet, served with payasam for Sadya.
Boli and Payasam: Image Courtesy
This is a unique item mostly known and enjoyed only in Thiruvananthapuram. And that is my idea of comfort food, my friends. I eat it with my soul. I have attended innumerable Hindu weddings for it, without any idea about the bride or the groom. 

This Christmas, Mummy Boli and Payasam at home and needless to say, it was the best thing about Christmas. I invite all my friends reading this, to try this delicious dish, if you haven’t already. 

We forgive you for hating Thiruvananthapauram.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The pre-Christmas pickle.

December 14, 2014.

Hubby had to leave from Muscat to his home on emergency, which left me and Aaron in quite an unforeseen situation. Our tickets were booked for the 19th of December and we had four more days to go. 1. I had to manage work, home and Aaron alone for four days. 2. I had to control him at the airport alone on the day of travel. 3. I had to pack our stuff and keep a tab on the weight 4. Last but not the least, I had to calm down.

On the first night without the hubby I realized that I was not a brave parent. So we slept with a small light on, so that any ghosts, thieves or serial killers wandering in the corridor may find us sooner than they intended to. For a three year old, ignorance is bliss and he is a testimony to that. He ate, drank, watched TV and slept peacefully. It was me who stayed awake till 2 am trying to hear imaginary noises.

After successfully staying alive for three nights (yoohoo!), came our last day before flying off to our vacation. It was an extremely busy day at office, but I took a few moments off to check-in online and I logged on to the airline website. The website was sophisticated well designed and had all possible options an airline website could provide. I was impressed.  The air hostesses on the cover page of the website looked like they just fell off from heaven. I clicked on the link ‘Online check in’.

I entered the confirmation number from the ticket only to get a message that said ‘We are unable to check in using this number. Please contact customer care’. My heart raced.  I called up customer care and the conversation went like this.

Me: ‘Hello?’

Useless female 1: ‘Hello, Good Morning, This is Airline office. How may I help you?’

Me: I have two tickets tomorrow on your flight  XYZ. I am unable to check in online.

Useless Female1: ‘No problem Ma’am. Please give me your ticket number’

Me: “It is 12345.”

Useless Female1: ‘I am sorry Ma’am your ticket was cancelled five days back. You may want to book ticket again at our revised ticket rate’

The revised rate of the ticket looked like the approximate net price of the aircraft.

Picture courtesy: Here
Me: “This is ridiculous! My husband had booked three tickets, and he cancelled only his ticket. Just his. My son and I are travelling tomorrow!”

Useless Female 1: “Madam, we have refunded the amount of all the three tickets”

Me: “ WE DID NOT request cancellation of all three tickets!

Useless Female1: “Hold on, Madam, I will pass your call to the concerned Department”

Why did this female answer the call if she was not the “concerned” person? From the way these people handled airline booking I dint think that anybody was really ‘concerned’.

Useless Female 2: “Hello, Madam, you should know that the entire amount for all three tickets was refunded, you have to purchase ticket again”

Me : “What the hell are you talking about? Does it occur to you that unless it is mentioned explicitly you cannot cancel tickets at your own discretion?”

Useless Female 2: “Then you have to talk to that person who sent the cancellation number!”

Me: “What do you mean ‘THAT PERSON’. Who is THAT person? Do you have someone who can solve this issue? A phone number you can give ? How responsible are you?”

Useless Female 2: “We can’t do anything about this Madam…”

I disconnected the call. I had emptied the fridge, packed and informed all my colleagues. Our minds were anticipating this trip for months. That’s not all. To make matters worse, I wished my colleagues a happy new year in advance as I was going on vacation, and now I dint know how to undo any of that.

This was a kind of pickle I did not expect to be in the last moment. I could somehow explain the situation to my parents and Aaron, but showing up at office another day, after broadcasting my itinerary to everyone as if I was going to Malibu was beyond me. I quickly made plans B and C in my head, one of them being taking my laptop and working behind the office Christmas tree. Meanwhile I logged on to another website to check if there were any other flights available for the 20th of December. And there was one at a reasonable fare.

Finally when the aircraft touched down my home grounds, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I took immense pride in myself, for all the things that happened in the last moment and how we managed to see through it. It was like a Christmas suspense thriller with a Bollywood climax.

I am now back from a blissful vacation. J

Thank you, Jesus, for the strength. May be next time you could consider giving me surprise tests at other occasions and not Christmas. Just saying.  Hope you had a great birthday!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

When there is more chaos than Christmas.

It's December…Christmas is here…! And we are going home for the season! Yoohoo!

We booked the tickets two months in advance as season tickets are staggeringly expensive. Well we had been religiously methodical and highly proactive about setting a reminder to be the first ones to book when the online ticket window opened. We are always the people straight out of ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ when it comes to booking tickets to go home. And it goes without saying that we reserve this habit for booking etickets only.

So what really happened was, in the early hours of the first of December, a new project kick started at office. 

The expression when new project was announced 

All of November, I was trying to wind up official stuff and prepare mentally for the forthcoming intellectual freedom. Like someone said Man Proposes, Office Disposes. By the look of some people, wrinkles on their foreheads and the complex(mostly pointless) words written on some documents I realized that it was not going to be a smooth ride to the airport. I am supposed to write and deliver a certain code just before I exit for vacation.

For those lucky people who do not work in software, a new project means this:

1. Somebody’s brain child is converted into a task list with the names of victims (commonly called software engineers) against it. 

2. They seem to have no idea what life was like before it.(I swear we were just fine)
3. It is always on HIGH PRIORITY. There is nothing called a low or medium priority project. 

As far as software projects are concerned, people do not believe in postponing them to start ceremoniously after the New Year.

So here I am, bound in a file, eloquently named ‘Task Assignment’. But my hope is still looking up. Amidst all this, there is Christmas purchase, expenses that came out of nowhere, the tree which had to be decorated, toddler who has to be kept away from the tree and the ceiling fan and geyser pipe which collectively declared strike this week. All year Muscat is warm and when it starts getting cold the geyser screws up. Being a highly effective person does not give me more skin to endure the biting cold so among all this chaos I have to keep up with the maintenance guys whom I suspect to have hibernated for the season.

To complete the mess, the sudden change in climate brought with it all kinds of viruses so I am also coughing and sneezing as I type this. I am pretty sure my keyboard is now the dance floor of the most vivacious germs. It may even turn into breeding ground at night.

I am also gearing up for the major event that is packing for vacation. And this activity is
Image Courtesy: Here
scheduled next week

 In movies, when a guy gets banished from the family, he walks out leaving all his stuff behind taking with him just his ego. However when a girl runs away from home she has her stuff. Some of it are sent through cargo.

But this is strictly restricted to movies, my friends. During packing we realize that a whopping 65% of the space is occupied by the superficially free spirited, supposedly ‘light’ traveler husband with his shoes alone that needs a cargo box. However when I pack few extra earrings the most undeserving one speaks loudest. Have I told you that everyone in my house go completely out of their minds while I pack (which includes THEIR stuff)?

 I need to take a vacation alone just to pack in peace.  

So, how do I pack for my packing vacation?