Monday, August 21, 2006

London on my mind

Here's a synopsis of my bizzaro dream from last night:

I'm at Blackfriars station in London (UK) and trying to buy a ticket to go to Kent. I want a ticket to Kent but an open ticket on the way back so that I may return via Victoria. I place my request at the ticket window and then suddenly in the middle of my purchase the guy gets up and walks away and then 10 mins later some other chick comes back in his place.
The new chick looks like some Shanta bai* who works for Central Railway in Bombay - complete with sari and chewing paan**(eeesh) - and she proceeds to tell me that she can't do that; at least not without charging me double... perhaps even triple. Of course this makes me quite angry and confused even coz I KNOW its possible as I did it the last time I was in London. Also.... all the delay is making me late and looking at my watch I realise that I have just 20 mins to catch the very last train of the day to Kent!

So now I'm not only angry and upset...but desperate - a lethal combination for sure! I storm into the office (don't know how I get in) and DEMAND a ticket to Kent ASAP to which Shanta bai tells me she can't give me a ticket to Kent coz there's no such place! I'm about to tell her that she's a fool and I know very well that there is a Kent when I happen to look around the office.....It's a splitting image of the admin office at Xaviers (my Alma Mater) although there's a hand written sign on the wall that says "Railway Office."

No wonder I can't get a ticket to Kent - I'm in Bombay!

Now.... does this mean I'll be making a trip to India instead????

* Shanta Bai - typical disgruntle Indian government employee.
** Paan - Chewing tobacco

Friday, August 18, 2006

Summer Antics

Today is a lovely sunny Friday in summer and instead of being out in the sun on staff day... I'm here at work! Thanks largely to my colleague who was supposed to work but who got beaned in the face with an errant fly ball last night! Ah well!

My very first year with the company we went to Wonderland for staff day and I recently found an account of what transpired that day! Looking back - it was prolly one of the first times I actually PARTIED in the T Dot!


One sunny summer's morning, passers by on a TO side street were surprised to see a large group of oddly dressed people armed with beach balls, balloons, party hats and even flag poles! Were they part of a traveling Circus that had somehow lost their tent... and perhaps even their wits? Close! It was Staff Day at the office! After checking the lists a 100 times to make sure everyone was present and accounted for... 200 employees were crammed into busses and we were off for a day of fun in the sun.

The day itself was a lot of fun.... and way too much happened for me to possibly be able to relate it all to you. The one funny story that I HAVE to mention was that we somehow persuaded our dept manager to go on one of the theme Park's wildest rides... only to have her throw up at the end! (yes, there are pictures).

All too soon we found ourselves back downtown that evening but like young Oliver Twist we wanted more! After much debate, everyone finally decided upon a dinner spot. Dinner and drinks turned into a full fledged pool tournament during which someone mentions Karaoke. And of course... we just HAVE to go for it! But where? Someone suggests Lee's Garden on Bay & Bloor.... and we all troop there. (Note: its already 10:30 pm.. and we've already finished SEVERAL rounds of beer).

Scene two (or is it three?): Lee's Garden - funny little Chinese restaurant. And I DO mean little. Several of us above 5 ft knocked our heads at the entrance! Once there, we take over 5 of the 7 tables and hijack the Karaoke machine along with the little man who attends to it. (yes he was little too). I discovered the Japanese in me that night...going up not once.. or twice.. but 4 times! I began my performance that night with a duet with the ever gallant Travis who had to support both me and the mike stand. Our very own rendition of Sony and Cher's I've got you Babe was an instant hit, catapulting us to superstardom - at least in the eyes of the Filipino group at table 3. At this point, I should perhaps mention that I had twisted my ankle the previous day and was barely able to walk let alone stand on a stage belting out numbers. The large amounts of beer was also not helping.

Little did everyone know, but Mr. Lee's Garden was equipped with some excellent surveillance devices. A fact we found out at about 1:30 am when 2 of Toronto's finest came in and asked management if everything was ok. At this point we realised that we were all damn good looking on tape.. sloshed as we were... and just as soon as the cops departed... (after a SEVERE warning not to attempt to drive, redundant as none of us had a car)...we spent a great deal of time trying to persuade the little Mr. Lee to give us a copy of the tape. Someone had the bright idea that we could sent it in to the next edition of Wanna Be a Rock Star. It would have worked if only we'd realised that Mr. Lee was really Mr. Wang.. and that he wasn't the owner.. just another patron at the restaurant.

Anyway.. that's about all I remember. There was a most hazy subway ride home.... and an excruciating pain in my ankle and head.... all of the next day - which is usually proof enough that it had been a damn good time!

The author cannot be reached for comment as she has very little factual evidence... let alone memory for most happenings that night.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Tryst with Destiny

Yesterday, India celebrated the 59th anniversary of her Independence from over 200 years of British Rule.

And by chance, I happened upon the speech given by Jawaharlal Nehru - India's first Prime Minister - on that happy and momentous occasion. I hadn't read this speech since my high schools days when once in a moment of insanity I tried to memorize it for an elocution contest. Five hours into the task I came to my senses and switched pieces! Still, it’s a beautiful speech. Well written and most importantly - not too long. How unlike a politician to curtail his need for verbal spewage!

In his "Tryst with Destiny" speech, Nehru spoke of India being poised on the threshold of a new era finally shutting the doors on a painful chapter of her history. Although optimistic about her future, Nehru was not blind to the pressing needs of the nation - poverty and illiteracy were rampant and many of India's sons and daughters were still in state of shock over the division of her political boundaries cutting off brother from brother; mother from child.

59 years later, many of India's sons and daughters still live in abject poverty; education is but a distant dream for many; politicians and their policies - many corrupt - have played havoc with the country's bid for progress and more recently calamities both natural and man made have shook India's foundations to the core.

Still, I see a bright future for the country of my birth. The country that for 20 years I called home. Although at first glance not much seems to have changed over the past six decades, in reality India has progressed in leaps and bounds making headways in areas of industry and infrastructure; finance to fashion!

So, I wish thee India - Happy Independence Day. You the land of the ancient, the now and the ever enduring.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Some hope left in the world

Just read a story about a baby snow leopard who was rescued after last year's Pakistan earthquake and is now being sent to the Bronx Zoo. HOW cute is that little guy??

Too bad the 1000s of people left homeless and helpless after the 'quake won't have the same opportunity for a life in security and safety.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bandra Speaks

I would like to preface this post by stating most empatically that I did NOT write the article that follows. I wish I could lay claim to its authorship as it is by far one of the most accurate descriptions of being a Bandra-ite that I have ever found! I hope one day to find out the identity of the author and thank him for a belly full of laughter every time I read this!
For folks who live.. Or have ever lived in that delightful "Queen" of the surburbs, this will bring back fond memories. For those who are clueless (ie most readers) - Bandra is the surburb in Mumbai that I grew up in.


I'm just a regular 'Bandra Boy' from dere only wanting to give back a little something to my favourite suburb. Someone (may have been me) once said 'You can take a person out of Bandra, but you can never take Bandra out of him'. And surprisingly, knowing how no one falls for 'profound' lines like that anymore (my favourite one being - I would if I could, but I can't so I won't), its quite true, because no matter where you are in the world, maybe even in a mall in Frankfurt and you suddenly happen to overhear 'Aaayee Gracie ...See this dress men....' Get the picture!!
Which brings me to the sweet, melodic and ungrammatical feature of Bandra and my ultimate favourite spice of Bandra - The Bandra Mac Accent (with no reference to a certain fast food chain organisation). No matter how much RJ's, VJ's, TV presenters or stand up comedians try to impersonate it, they can never get exactly right because you have got to live in it to, to get it totally accurate, it has to come from the (h)eart ... (Bit like the Scottish accent).
So let me give you a few basic ground rules so that the next time you are shopping in Bandra you can blend in perfectly.
* Always use 'D' for Th.
* Never use 'H' anywhere, they are always silent
* Using 'What' even if there's no question asked.
* Using a Hindi Verb with an English ending
* Using words twice to emphasise your point.
* Just like the Americans use 'man' in their slang, only we use 'men'.
* Just like the Americans use 'like' in their slang, we use 'no'

Correct use of the above grammatical rules will result in masterpieces like:
* 'Ow you men Larry? (Situation: Meeting Larry on Saturday morning in the bazaar)
* 'She was giving me dis dis small pomflits (while showing the size of her palm) for bledy 50 rupees men' (Situation: Larry's wife explaining her adventures in the bazaar, later that day)
* "Aarre, Dat bledy Sandy no, yesterday he lagao-ed solid whisky for the communion party" (Situation: The retired men from the village talking at the local Irani joint during the Sunday morning mass sermon)
* 'You don't have any sense what riding the cycal so fast' (Situation: Spinster aunty yelling to a schoolboy on Chapel Road)
* Cun, Men Savio, Put tru men, put tru (Situation: Classic line heard at Supari talao during a football match, asking Savio to bend the ball like Beckham)
* "Aarre see dere men, dere, arre left men, see dere men, arre big bugger men dere' (Situation: Boys stealing mangoes in the afternoon in May)
* Aaaye, what men basket, why you are saying anyting aboud my mudder and fadder, I call boys now...' (Situation: Often heard after a Saturday nite binge)
* (H)ail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou ... ..Norma, just see whether the back door is latched ...... amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus's closed ?.... ok .....Holy Mary...... (Situation: Family rosary at the Pereiras)
* You know, Theresa, dat day I took little ginger garlic, little onion, so much so much masala dat I ground, put chicken and the curry came good men...' (Situation: Swapping recipes while standing and gossiping at the junction with the black bag of groceries at their feet)
* Dat day no, solid rain came no so I made nice hot hot soup and we had with the khadk gutli which Peter brought... (Situation: Housewives talking at the Cross Feast party)

One of the most common ways of gossiping among the older generation is done in a very six degrees of separation - ish kind of way, in which a person maybe linked up with anyone from the owner of Johnny's Cold Storage at Pork Market Junction to the Cardinal. Ok here goes... another example of conversation.
"Do you know Joe's son Eric is getting married to Diana? - Who, Die-na, men? - Aaree, Diana men, Alfie's and Maggie's daughter... - Who, Alfie men? - Alfie men from dere, Remember, when they were small they used to stay near Brian's house on Chapel road, near the bakery men...He married that girl Maggie from Shirley village. - Who Maggie, Mary's daughter? - No. Annie's sister, Joannie's daughter. You know Annie no, her son Clyde was married to Hazel and they were living for donkeys years in the Gulf, then after Clyde had his stroke, he retired and they settled down here. Their son is dat Leslie he was an engineer very very smart boy now all dat drinking has ruined him. - Yes, yes I know he was married to that nice girl Corina from Chimbai, but then after she had her miscarriage, all his drinking and all started ... and they got divorced... ...and in this way it keeps on going on and on , talking about everyone they know and not going back to poor ol' Joe.

(This account has been purely fictional, any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental)

Walking through any village in Bandra on a Sunday afternoon and seeing the men sitting out in their balconies with their whisky or gin, country music playing from his music system which he brought down from the Gulf enjoying a quiet weekend before the hectic Monday and after a hectic party on Saturday night. You can hear the pressure cookers steaming with their pea pulao and smell the tinge of Lonvas curry floating though the air while the mixture of coconut milk and bottle masala bubbles violently under the aluminium lids of the vessels. The watery orange concentrate drinks in a plastic cup and the hot steaming boiled chick peas given to you after the rosary at the local village cross while the aunties ask mothers what their son is doing in life and discuss their children's lives. The rush of crowd at the cold storage and the bakery closest to the church after Sunday morning mass. The rush of men to the Irani restaurant closest to the church as soon the Sunday mass sermon begins for a chai and a smoke. The husbands in short pants, a striped T-shirt, cap and sunglasses on their scooters with their wives on the backseat also in short pants and a old blouse going to do their weekly shopping in the bazaar on a Saturday morning often stopping in the middle of the lane to have a quick chat with other couples on their scooter going the other way.

Sometimes when you are asleep in the wee hours of the morning just after a late night binge with the boys, the phone starts to ring at 6:30 in the morning, you pick it up and there is an old lady on the other side of the line telling you "Son, just tell your Grandma, that Aunty Mathilda passed away", so in your best hangover voice you sweetly say goodbye and go on the pass on the message to your grandmother who is already up and saying the rosary for world peace and then you realise, that your grandmother doesn't even know who Bloody Aunty Mathilda (may her soul rest in peace) is.... so you made that brutal effort to get out off bed for nothing, then your mother comes in and your grandmother asks her , "Who is Mathilda" .... and she says... "Aarree you don't know Mathilda .....Anthony's sister in law..?"..... Oh Jeez .... here we go again.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Morning Commute

When riding the subway in to work this morning, a man sat down across from me.

A man who looked like he had stepped right off the pages of a travel book or the Lonely Planet calendar. He didn't belong on a subway bound for downtown TO. He should be been sitting on a sunny bench outside a little shop, on a busy bazaar street somewhere in a little town in northern Africa. Tunisia perhaps.

Only he could have pulled off the ensemble he was wearing - khaki pants, a blue striped shirt, faded green vest and red cap. A Muslim prayer cap. It was his unusual ensemble that first caught my attention, but then I looked closer and saw his face… and then his eyes.

They were old eyes. Tired eyes. Eyes that saw without seeing - looked without looking. Eyes that had probably seen long years of hardships and suffering - perhaps still did.
He sat very still throughout the ride and stared past me into nothingness. Was he thinking about his past, his home country… so many miles away? Or was he merely lost in the early morning haze that most commuters envelop themselves?

My stop arrived and I stood up in preparation. Just as I stepped towards the door, he looked up and our eyes met. I smiled. He smiled back.
And then I saw what I had not seen before. His eyes - be they old and tired, were also wise and kind. And when he smiled at me, his whole appearance changed. He was no longer an old forgotten man on the subway. He was now someone's dad, someone's granddad and once, perhaps still someone's great love.

I stepped off the train surprisingly awake and alive! I think my day is going to be a good one!

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