Monthly Archives: June 2008

>A House for Ms. D

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I’ve not been able to let go of ideas I nurtured as a child. And I was only a child when I got into my head the idea of an extravagant house I had to live in. Six months after my grandfather passed away, we moved out of the home built by him because it wasn’t large enough to meet our needs. He wanted it too when he was alive, but my four year old mind that had fed on some impractical filmy philosophies decided that that was the house that I’d buy back when I grew up.
Things changed over the years and I became enamoured with the concept of well-designed, palatial houses that I saw, sometimes in magazines and sometimes around me. I was a school girl when I started collecting clippings of rooms, bathrooms, beautiful homes from magazines that I thought I would refer to when I built my dream house. When we got our first computer, I learnt to use the Paintbrush software to design my bedroom. Incidentally, my bedroom now isn’t far from what I’d conceived it as back then.

As I grew up I understood the dynamics of building the kind of house I’d dreamt of. Yet when The Guy and I decided to get married, when I realised I wanted to marry this guy, the first thing on my mind was our home should look like. Yes, I was so obsessed with the idea of a house for Ms. D that not even my love could blind me. Set in 40,000 sq ft of land, the house was palatial enough, yet not even close to what I’d imagined my house to be. It wasn’t chic, it wasn’t modern. It wasn’t even ethnic. It was just over a 100 years old and and very difficult to renovate. I made as many changes in the house as I could afford to and was allowed to. But I didn’t stop dreaming of that perfect house I had envisioned all these years. I thought how I could break that wall and merge those rooms and get modular fittings for the kitchen and built that TV cabinet there; I thought when I would get new sofas and where I would set my library, the entertainment room, where the recliner should be placed and where I would place the crystal I want to buy. I thought of landscaping for the garden, little garden lights and new chandeliers. I thought of contemporary teak wood furniture and 4-poster beds…

So why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because at this point in time I could be as close as I have ever been to that dream house or farthest from it, depending on how things shape up. As a matter of fact, our 40,000 sq ft of open space is threatened by land sharks in the garb of the government. And love as much as I may the idea of building from scratch the house I want, I hate the idea of losing the open spaces I have grown to love. I know I might never again have the chance to throw a party in the sprawling lawns of the house I live in. Or to plan the Christmas party that the huge Christmas tree in the lawn always has me thinking of. Or to just know that there’s always space to build another room if we want to.

It’s a scary feeling to lose what you have without knowing what will replace it. It’s scarier still for people in my family who’ve spent most part of their lives in this home. The worst part is that for law abiding citizens like us, it’s just not fair. It’s one thing to leave something of your own volition, quite another to be forced to pack up and leave and see your house turned to rubble for some people to park their cars there! A house isn’t just a place made of furniture and floors, walls and doors; it’s made up of memories – good and bad. It’s what you call home.

But there has to be a silver lining somewhere: a change of residence could finally end the problems that seem to have grown up like weeds in a beautiful garden and taken over the lovely flowering plants. I’m not going to let the clouds cast a shadow over my life.

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Too strong to be a woman that a man could want,
The woman, they say, who wears the pants at home,
I ain’t coy and I ain’t shy,
And I won’t wait for life to pass me by.
I love my work and would rather be
In my office, than at home counting the laundry.
I can think faster than the man next to me
Won’t ask him for some silly little pocket money.
And because I’m married and don’t have children yet
Must mean my husband is henpecked?
Because I have an opinion on things
I’m not the kind of wife you must bring.
Since I am only pretty and not naive,
I’m far from the “perfect” wife!
I can stand up for myself, speak my mind
Won’t take his surname and give up mine.
I’m sorry if I don’t fit your stereotype:
I flirt a little and get drunk on wine.
I don’t have a mangal sutra
And don’t wear the vermilion,
If I don’t even feel the need to be protected,
Then, I’m told,
I must be too strong for a man to want.

>Kashmir Diary

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“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
– Lao Tzu

I’d been absorbing that quote during my obsessive viewing of Discovery Travel & Living on T.V. the last few weeks, nay months, when I had grown too desperate for a holiday. The channel let me travel places I wasn’t going to be at, at least this summer: France, Spain, Greece, China. And let me want more than ever to be out of the depressive heat, the monotonous routine and the exhausting work hours.

Last week, after much deliberation over how and when, The Guy and I managed to take off for a much needed, much awaited holiday. I needed it because one and a half years of gruelling work, setting up a new venture – eating, breathing, sleeping and thinking every waking minute about it – had taken a toll on my efficiency. This was the first time I’d worked without a break for that long and I needed to replenish my energies to focus on things afresh. The Guy needed the holiday because, well, his wife needed one. Since the conception of the idea and its birth, we’d both been waiting to see our little baby of a business stand on its own two feet, before we could go off on a holiday. ‘Now’ seemed to be the time for it.

But coming back to Lao Tzu’s very interesting quote that was impressed on my mind, I was wondering how I was ever going to be able to enjoy the travel as much as the destination. It’s not me, you know, to look through the window pane of a moving car and stare into nothingness and lose myself in it; I’ve always been in a hurry to arrive where I set out for. But the valleys of Kashmir made the task very simple. There was a view from the window, every window, that you could wonder at!

It was awe-inspiring, the scenery. My first feel of the snow, between my fingers, under my feet that struggled to find a foothold in it. The clouds that kissed the mountains peaks and became intangible tufts of feathery mist as they descended upon us. The gurgling of the water streams, the smell of pine trees on the hills. The blues and the greens of the skies, waters and the trees, as they intermingled and became one. The sloping roofs of the lone house on a hilltop and the winding roads that led up to it. The flowers in full bloom – the bright purples and oranges, pastel pinks and mauves, creations of nature we’d never seen before. The sunset on the Dal Lake and how it turned the water golden, orange and amber. The shikara full of flowers that came early morning to lure foolish romantics like me. The horses trotting up and down the mountain sides, carrying wide-eyed holidayers like us. The natural springs that gushed forth clear, cool waters. The sunlight as it lit up half a mountain peak. The chill in the night under the star-speckled, clear skies.

You know how it feels when you’re falling in love? If I could paint that feeling, I’d paint a picture of Kashmir.

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During our holiday to Australia, I’d felt practically ashamed of myself to be so far from home, exploring a foreign land when I’d seen so little of my own country. And that’s when I’d decided I was going to see India and love it more for its beauty than I already did. Kashmir topped my list of must-see places then and was I glad to be where alone Paradise could be, if one existed on Earth.

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We’d been hearing of travel tales to Kashmir from friends and family who’d been there recently. Yet, it was difficult to forget about security issues while planning a trip there. Pa-in-law went as far as to suggest we try some place safer like Manali. But I’d set my heart on the northern-most state of the country and wasn’t going to let some terrorists I’d never seen spoil my plan!

Once there, we were told by just about every local that things have been under control from the last 5 years and that any blasts now are wholly engineered by politicians and the media. But like they say in a very cliched way, there’s no smoke without fire. There was just enough proof of that on the highways and roads where jawaans were posted at a distance of every 100 metres, at the airport where we went through security checks 4 times before we could finally board the flight from Srinagar, at the long military cavalcades that all cars maintained their distance from, at the highest snow clad mountain we could climbe in Gulmarg where the BSF personnel forbade our Kashmiri guide from going any further because the LoC was only a few minutes’ trek away…

We were not there to see the Kashmir ravaged by years of militancy, yet it was a past that spoke to us through the deliberate silence of the Kashmiris trying to make a living out of the improving tourism in the state.

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According to rather believable estimates, there were some 2 lakh tourists in Kashmir at the same time as us. So could you blame the locals for trying to make the most of it? A lunch of Maggi, a measly and unappetising portion of pulao, aloo paratha inedible noodles cost us approximately Rs. 500! The taxi we hired in Kashmir was not allowed on the roads of Gulmarg once it had dropped us off at the hotel; from then on our only mode of transport could be horse-back because the ghoreywalas also had a living to make! A bottle of beer that comes with an MRP tag of Rs. 30 cost us Rs. 140 there. My friend was sold bulbs for blue roses that are available only in Srinagar. Shopping for Kashmiri shawls and carpets was like trying to find the real Cinderella among all the fake ones. And then, there was a commission set for the taxi driver/hotelier who recommended the shop to you.

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But the hospitality more than made up for everything. The aged owner of our house boat stayed up to serve us dinner. And another white-haired, agile Kashmiri refused to let us order our choice of dishes at a restaurant. Instead, he insisted on serving what he thought was the specialty there: rista, gushtaba and rogan josh. We didn’t regret giving in to his gentle persuasion.

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And then there were the stories, the unmissable, ingenuous stories that made all journeys so entertaining. The horsemen sold us incredulous tales of tigers who ate up lambs and trekkers; a shikara wala shared with us his love affair with a Delhi girl, the man Friday at our house boat told of a marriage proposal from a foreign tourist that came up against VISA problems, a steward talked of young men from his village who had turned into terrorists. All of them believable, and yet not quite.

Like the beauty of Kashmir.

>The Secret

>Seems like a coincidence that just when I was contemplating writing about a book that’s given me a positive outlook in life – The Secret, I’ve been tagged by Chandni to reveal 10 secrets! And that’s not easy considering that I have the most complex kind of open-book personality. Nevertheless, I’m going to try:

1. I’m an outgoing person, love to be with people. The secret though is that I love being alone just as much.

2. I can live without T.V. Yes, I really can.

3. I’m addicted to my husband.

4. I can’t stand the smells of gutka, stinky socks and bad body odour.

5. I want children, but I don’t want to get fat, take a break from my career or give my current lifestyle. If that makes me greedy, I am greedy without guilt.

6. I want to be a writer. Be known for my writings. I want to author a book that’s always remembered even if I never write another one again.

7. I’m falling in love with food. Can’t seem to say no to all the good food around me even though the weighing scale is beggin me to stop this crazy, fatty love affair!

8. Sex is extremely over-rated. No secret that, is it?

9. I had a T-shirt once that said: “When I’m good, I’m great, but when I’m bad, I’m terrific”
So true.

10. There’s something wrong with Facebook today!

And the 10 people I tag are:
Nisha
Solitaire
Macabreday
Dharmabum
Pointblank
Prince Kazarelth
Vinod R Iyer
Simplyme
Ab
Finn

>Thoughts from the week that was

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One-liners to sum up my observations from last week:

  • Would you rather others pitied you than respected you?
  • I don’t know about the fruit of patience, but the taste of revenge is certainly sweet.
  • The mobile phone could well be my husband’s mistress!
  • Truth hurts. And it hurts like hell.
  • Kill me if you have to, but I’m not going to quit Scrabulous!
  • You can be mean to be me, but don’t dare try that with my family – I’m not going to take it.
  • Going for a holiday needs a lot of work.