Thursday, July 29, 2010

Have they taken Royal Admiration Tea-oo Far?


I had been planning to tell you about this place before I left for India. I visited this place a couple of days before I lugged my bags halfway across the world to India. So there we were - the Chinese Chatpati, Finnish Femme Fatale, the Mexican Mambo No.1 and the Indian Idiot - out like the Brits to try 'a spot of tea' with the Royalty.
Now, the average Brit might be not too posh or gushy about their royalty, but inside every Brit git there is a heart that beats for the Royalty. I mean, think about it, why else would they pay thousands of pounds every year to maintain the Queen and her brood? Would a couple of extra pounds less on their crippling taxes have not been preferable? Not really, if you are a Brit, it seems. The mandatory curtsy by men and women at the Wimbledon are the best reminders of that, for me...
We had been planning this for a while, let me tell you. It all began with a discussion across a crowded University pub about this 'awfully pretentious' place, where if you weren't dressed right and didn't know how to hold a teacup right, you could be refused to be served and thrown out!!! Chinese Chatpati knew someone who had been told to unpark herself from the hardly comfortable chair and leave..Kind of like Fit in or Ship out Mate!! 
Now Finn Fatale and Indian Idiot found this snortably funny. So we tested our repertoire of funny sounds and found that between us, we had a good collection. Mexican Mambo is the only guy in our class who is always willing for any spot of fun, even when it comes in the form of tea. The idea was to go there and irritate the crap out of the management if possible after sitting down for tea and see if we would be thrown out.

There we were, on a weekday, expecting to be the only people in Brighton with the idea of having tea at 2PM in the afternoon. From the outside and inside too, it looked as kitschy as Chinese Chatpati had said.

First glitch - No entry till 3PM, for there was a private bunny party on. We thought it would be in honour of the christening of someone's child, turns out it was a hen party. Women dressed for their girlfriend like bunnies..I thought it sounded kinky, and funnily that too in a tearoom!! We had little chance but to head elsewhere to spend some time till the tearoom could take in 'non-party' guests. At 3PM we were told, no entry till 3.30PM by a totally drunk bunny. A punch was folded back without being delivered, we decided to stick on, so much wait justified a teaful completion, didn't it?
At 3.30, we barged in, unmindful of the rude bunnies, ready to barbeque them alive if they even tried to move their whiskers. Sat down, right next to the windows. And that's when the kitschiness of the place hit us. Not a spot without some tacky or crazy Royal reminder of Britain's blue bloods.
This is when the second rude shock was delivered - the tearoom had changed management. We could snort and point our pinkies till our heart desired, there wasn't anyone to tick us off for our heathen behaviour, apparently. Deflated, we settled down to behave like ladies and have tea...ohhh..and the Mexican Mambo to be politically correct...
The Menu... Felt like we were invited for tea with the Royals themselves - Princess Anne tea and what not...What you think you will get is drastically different from what you get. The English tea service turned out in chipped cheap china teapots hidden behind gaudy tea cosies. Unmatched tea cups and plates must have been supposed to demonstrate quaint British charm. I'll refrain from commenting. 
The scones with clotted cream and marmalade is supposed to make up for all the shortcomings in British cuisine in other departments. Unfortunately, I was served scones baked about a week in advance of our visit, the tea was too weak to even be protested against. ( I refuse to believe that it is my inbred Masala Chai snobbery) 
 Poor Finn Fatale opted for sa'wiches over scones, only to find that it was made of pasty white store-bought bread lathered on tar thick with butter and sweet chutney. Chinese Chatpati quietly stoically sipped her tea, while I think Mexican Mambo was the most accepting of the situation. He had a simple question - what do you expect from a 12-pound service? The cheap Indian idiot said quite a lot more..Why in India in 12 pounds I could get you some fine tea and better service at the Tea Centre!!
 Then he laid down the killer line - but would you have had so much pictures to make up for the bad tea? True that...while we quietly paid up, we all said that to each other. Atleast we took a million pictures - Paisa vasool...We didn't get a chance to be thrown out or the satisfaction of having tea with the royalty. Hmmm..some cheap thrills are never meant to be.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotted Mind


It's been awhile since I came here myself, time to dust out the cobwebs formed due to disuse. More importantly, make some noise and resettle myself so that I don't feel like an alien in my own space.

I have come armed with a pail and gardening gloves to weed out the straggler creepers that have set up home in this little sanctuary of mine. I guess I must blame the monsoons in India, it makes such a wonderful breeding ground for anything unwanted..

My very very black laptop bag that was left unused in my room after I landed in Kochi, turned a unholy shade of sickly gray in just a week. I didn't need microscopic vision to see monsoon fungus spreading all across it..

Kochi seemed to grow old in the months that I had been away. Strangely I have never felt that when I visited from Mumbai or other cities where I lived for most part of my adult life. I wonder if I sound like a rambler. Hear me out. There's something poignant about going back to your hometown that have always been coloured in with your fond memories.

The problem is the disenchantment is sharper. The city not only has to make peace with crumbling infrastructure but also the heavy burden of living up to our expectations. As I made my way to the Marine Drive and the Boat Jetty in Kochi, I wondered how I never noticed how rundown it had become over the years.

The tall buildings look ugly and squat, the colour run off in channels, leaving mildewed trails. Those 'big showrooms' with 'impressive stuff' look like figments of my imagination. The swanky malls and brands apart, little supermarket chains like Varkeys that gave Kochi its maiden taste of having the choice to decide your product preferences was all about, lay deserted. Heard they are shutting down. Many shops that I frequented as a child are no more. They either gave up the space for road widening or folded up as people queued up at newer shops.

The Children's Park and Subhash Park of my weekend memories look like emaciated old ladies, unable to keep their spine straight, overrun with weeds. I saw kids still swinging on rusty swings, parents standing by uncomfortably, for the concrete benches had green puddles of stagnated water. The main attraction - the 'huge fountain' at the entrance looks like a sorry runt of an excuse. Ma used to sit there, waiting for us - children - to exhaust ourselves, before letting us make a mess of cone icecreams - dribbling it all over the pretty frocks. Now I look at those ugly orange cones and I cannot fathom how I thought they were 'the bestest in the world!'

Did my city grow old or did I grow out of it? It reeks of uncaring authorities and no sense of civic pride in keeping it pretty. Where do the taxes go? I have seen 20 monsoons there before I upped and left. Did I never notice the apathy or has it just creeped in now?

Maybe a city goes to seed just like our personal spaces go to seed. Disuse, abandonment, uncared for existence - black words but maybe my memory is at fault here. When I sit miles away, I see only the things I want to see, remember it the way that is convenient for me. The rest are tossed into the drawer of things I don't need. I don't know when my city found its way into that drawer.

What's the point of this lament? Perhaps, I should begin the weeding and the clearing of cobwebs in my head first. Let's begin here. Clean up my little cyberspace apartment, light up some candles and mull it over.. Moreover, the famed English summer is in hiding, its dreary and cold. Maybe that's adding grist to the 'rumination' mills. :)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Oh Why, Oh Why?!!

So I have been tagged again...The Analyst ensures that I don't feel left out, a lone ranger in the blogosphere. I first saw this tag on The IndianHomeMaker's blog. I followed it on several blogs that I follow pretty regularly. I wasn't sure if I had much to write. But once I started writing, it was fun...

My Sins Against Gender Stereotypes are primarily a set of questions - I'm open to debate, ..A sensible point is always welcome, I don't entertain rants..Some are confessions, others are points I ponder over..

1. I have sinned against concepts of feminine allure - I like strong manly colognes over subtle whiffs of girly fragrances for myself. Thankfully there seem to be enough perfumes made for woMen like me..

2. I don't think that my prototype was fashioned out of Adam's spare rib...It gives me no happiness to hear that, just makes me unbearably argumentative.

3. Feminism is not a dirty word - I hate that gender stereotype of an outspoken woman being branded as a bra-burning feminist. Having an opinion has nothing to do with the decision to wear a bra or abandoning it altogether

4. Why do girls have to grow up to be like their mothers? Moms out there, take no offense, you rock - but why stereotype moms as 'homely' and then take the insult a step further by creating suffocating moulds for their daughters to fit in or be labelled 'rebels'?

5. Why does an unmarried Indian woman over 28 have to answer the World and His Uncle why she isn't married yet? Why is remaining choosy at 30 plus seen as a sign of 'sour grapes' or a desperate excuse for masking faults? 

6. Why do 'Man among Men' have to have booming voices and/or be Tall, Dark and Handsome?

7. Who said being emotional is a feminine attribute? What is a masculine and feminine attribute? Most of my macho cousins 'cry like girls', while the girls are 'as brash as boys'..damn stereotypes..

8. Why do men who enjoy cooking and knitting rather than watching football while guzzling down pints of beer have to always hope that their friends will give them 'the benefit of the doubt' over their masculinity? Does it have to be asserted by having a girlfriend in tow?

9. Continuing from point 8, why do girls who are more passionate about sports than girlie frills have to suffer the tag of either being dubbed tomboys or pseudos trying to desperately fit in with their guy buddies?

10. Why does God have to be a Man, and why, oh why do people have to shake their head so vigorously in agreement when someone claims that God must be a Man? Can't he be an Elephant for all we really care? Does making him a Man solve the mystery over how the earth evolved or what's currently happening here? Conversely, Why blame Men for everything going wrong? ;)

( Another stereotyped peeve - So who said women are bad drivers? That men drive better?)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Smell of Home...Truly

Visiting Kerala during the Monsoons is always a pleasure...The lush green colours of my state always warms my heart. Two days ago, I revisited my mom's village in Thrissur. Can't call Triprayar a village anymore. This time I couldn't take any pictures...But reposting the pictures I took on my last trip there...

 A trip through Malabar, my dad's land and a stop by in mother's little dot on the map...seen through my Kodak lens.. Just testing my camera.... first pointed towards the sky...then downwards... The hyacinths floating across the river....painting even the river green, they hurry along with the currents but the glide is oh- so- beautiful....and when the purple flowers make an appearance, its prettier... You know you have reached Triprayar when you cross 'This little bridge over our own little Kwai' and across you see the majestic Triprayar temple....I sat on the steps of the temple, feeding the fishes....its called Meen of my favourite rituals unique to the temple here.
When I was a child, I had fond memories of fishes... that came to nibble on the rice being dropped....Tiny little squiggles they were then...then you could stand on the lowest step and feel the fishes nibble on your feet as you dropped the little bits of rice...Now they are huge fat little monsters and there is even a little bar that prevents you from walking till the last steps....I couldn't capture the fishes but see the rumble of the waters as they flap their fins... And then I got distracted by the view across the river.....My dad dreams of building a little house by the river here...Now so do I...nestled among the coconut groves...with the gentle breeze and sunny skies...And the break over....our car chugs on....destination: Arakkuparambu in Perinthalmanna in the picturesque and forest covered Malappuram district of Kerala..Along the all the temples visited, I once again saw an art, they say is dying...typically Kerala - the temple art is practised by trained local artists who used only vegetable dyes to produce most temples, the centuries old art lies mold ridden and ruined...neglected..unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum where I have seen some of the best works... The journey continues, northwards....Malabar is a blur as we speed along...But the greens change hue...its deeper, the contrasts starker...the terrain gets hilly...and as we climb up one and go down the others, I realise why this is God's favourite nook in the whole universe...his own land....
The Sunlight streams through foliage, painting some green, yet others greener..while the thickets embrace darkness.... Thats a little abode created for snake gods...another kerala touch...the sarpakkavu at Dad's tharavadu temple.. Behind the sarppakavu are rubber trees....where little drops of white rubber go drip drip into little coconut shells all year long... The little green the oft trodden track.. Anywhere you turn and press the shutter, you find a frame... Red bricks....the little building blocks of memories for any true blue Mallu... after incessant rains, the ground had turned slippery....the green of the moss in stark contrast to the weather-stained red bricks... And just as I turned the corner...there far below, nearly half a hill down lay a pond...Even as my feet tickled to dip my feet into it, came my father's nostalgic description....'When I was a child these steps used to lead to the coldest pond in the whole universe...' That little child is now 63 years old, but the enthusiasm in his voice - ageless. It was my first trip to dad's land....discovering a little patch of the soil...lush, steeped in history..

Thursday, July 01, 2010

This is Going to Hurt Just a Little Bit!!!!

My bucket of woes overfloweth. Got here just in time for my dentist to begin his protracted and may I add, calculated rape of my gravely endangered set of 32..(Not sure I have 32 anymore!!) 

Every sitting that I go to him for, he finds new things wrong with my teeth. So in two sittings, I am halfway through a root canal, the mandatory gum cleaning and an assorted number of fillings. Every time, he suggests a new procedure, I console myself - imagine shelling out pounds. In the money, I would have had to shell out to my UK dentist ( who would have taken longer to grant me an audience as well) I can buy a dentist and his practice in Kochi..

After chuckling over my vivid description of what transpires on the dentist's chair ( stop imagining wicked things - he does everything with his dentist wife looking over his shoulder :) my friend e-mailed me this poem. I had read it sometime when I was in school but had forgotten about it,till she reminded me of it. 

Reproducing it for all those who have been on the dentist's chair or know how lousy it feels. Psych Babbler, you for one, are in my thoughts..:)

This Is Going To Hurt Just A Little Bit by Ogden Nash

One thing I like less than most things is sitting in a dentist chair with my mouth wide open.
And that I will never have to do it again is a hope that I am against hope hopen.
Because some tortures are physical and some are mental,
But the one that is both is dental.
It is hard to be self-possessed
With your jaw digging into your chest.

So hard to retain your calm
When your fingernails are making serious alterations in your life line or love line or some other important line in your palm;
So hard to give your usual effect of cheery benignity
When you know your position is one of the two or three in life most lacking in dignity.

And your mouth is like a section of road that is being worked on.
And it is all cluttered up with stone crushers and concrete mixers and drills and steam rollers and there isn’t a nerve in your head thatyou aren’t being irked on.

Oh, some people are unfortunate enough to be strung up by thumbs.
And others have things done to their gums,
And your teeth are supposed to be being polished,
But you have reason to believe they are being demolished.

And the circumstance that adds most to your terror
Is that it’s all done with a mirror,
Because the dentist may be a bear, or as the Romans used to say, only they were referring to a feminine bear when they said it, an ursa,
But all the same how can you be sure when he takes his crowbar in one hand and mirror in the other he won’t get mixed up, the way you do when you try to tie a bow tie with the aid of a mirror, and forget that left is right and vice versa?

And then at last he says That will be all; but it isn’t because he then coats your mouth from cellar to roof
With something that I suspect is generally used to put a shine on a horse’s hoof.

And you totter to your feet and think. Well it’s all over now and afterall it was only this once.
And he says come back in three months.

And this, O Fate, is I think the most vicious circle that thou ever sentest,
That Man has to go continually to the dentist to keep his teeth in good condition
when the chief reason he wants his teeth in good condition
is so that he won’t have to go to the dentist.