Thursday, December 23, 2010

get me a snowflake

Christmas time is a strange week. It makes you happy and want to whoop with joy, want to throw the hat in the air, have red cheeks get a glass of wine and sit on the oversized arm chair near a fire place with the cat on your lap as the fire crackles and there is inconsequential conversation floating around.

Clearly,  given that I am posting this sitting in Bangalore there is no hat on my head, no fire, wine or even a cat. Seems like I overdozed on the Hollywood ‘happy Christmas’ movies or maybe just maybe the infection is way deeper and can be traced back to the teenage years …… spent in a holier than thou convent school where one would stand in the cold quadrangale, shivering and mouthing the lyrics of Silent Night..

For reasons unknown I have always been exceptionally fond of Christmas and everything that went with it.. From the carols, and the midnight mass, the big meals and the expanded feeling of joy that seems to burst through. 

Remember this one foggy Christmas eve, I gathered some of the pocket money trooped to the local market and got tiny things for each of the family members. There were no stockings, so non imaginatively I placed them on the dining table, with little chits for each of them.

The gifts were horrible.. think I got my brother a pack of fluorescent erasers or some such nonsense. Years have flown by and I still want that one snowy Christmas, with a muffler tight around my neck, a duffel cap wrapped around me and rosy cheeks…. Wanna attend the midnight mass, only to be able to kick snow off the pavement on the way back home and open my eyes in wonderment at the lit christmas tree

Want red stockings, and elf caps.. want the gifts below the tree… and sit in the pajamas with hot mugs of cocoa and coffee.. get the floor to be a war zone between ribbons and wrapping paper with everyone amazed at the incredulous snow that’s falling on the ground outside.

One day I shall stand in my Victorian century church, understanding nothing, giggling at the solemn face of the pope and maybe sipping from the hip flask.. blashemphy.. but warm at getting my white very movie christmas

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

just like that

I have a good tingling feeling that is creeping up.  Its mellow, slips away unless I pay attention to it, it’s a strange kind of content anticipation that is looming in.

Yesterday evening, Sadhguru gave spoke from his heart once more.  I shivered and snuggled into my chair cold to the bone listening to that what he had to say.  He makes so much sense and a small meditation with him was enough to make me remember the tiny spark of divinity that there was sitting in me

There was a sense of expansion that got created a smile that sprung up and even though, I skipped the morning meditation session today, I was skipping as I walked the dog filled with new plans and schemes. The Big things of life seemed to be taken care of, there was love and laughter both at work and otherwise, there was learning and there was movement.

Lazy me needed to move, and the time had come to get the focus back to getting the simple me back and be a little more active. The year looked good. The universe was happy, and as I drove the monster car with the little furry ball whimpering for fun in the back seat I smiled in glee.  Pumped the volume  up for the music and laughed the nonsensical laugh at me, at life and at the moment. It was all the way it was meant to be, the bliss was settling in … slowly but surely the good times were here. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What the Modern Woman Wants

By Amanda Chong Wei-Zhen

The old woman sat in the backseat of the magenta convertible as it careened down the highway, clutching tightly to the plastic bag on her lap, afraid it may be kidnapped by the wind. She was not used to such speed, with trembling hands she pulled the seat belt tighter but was careful not to touch the patent leather seats with her callused fingers, her daughter had warned her not to dirty it, 'Fingerprints show very clearly on white, Ma.'

Her daughter, Bee Choo, was driving and talking on her sleek silver mobile phone using big words the old woman could barely understand. 'Finance', 'Liquidation', 'Assets', 'Investments'... Her voice was crisp and important and had an unfamiliar lilt to it.

Her Bee Choo sounded like one of those foreign girls on television. She was speaking in an American accent. The old lady clucked her tongue in disapproval...... 'I absolutely cannot have this. We have to sell!' Her daughter exclaimed agitatedly as
she stepped on the accelerator; her perfectly manicured fingernails gripping onto the steering wheel in irritation.

'I can't DEAL with this anymore!' she yelled as she clicked the phone shut and hurled it angrily toward the backseat.. The mobile phone hit the old woman on the forehead and nestled soundlessly into her lap. She calmly picked it up and handed it to her daughter..

'Sorry, Ma,' she said, losing the American pretence and switching to Mandarin. 'I have a big client in America . There have been a lot of problems.'

The old lady nodded knowingly. Her daughter was big and important.

Bee Choo stared at her mother from the rear view window, wondering what she was thinking. Her mother's wrinkled countenance always carried the
same cryptic look. The phone began to ring again, an artificially cheerful digital tune, which broke the awkward silence.

'Hello, Beatrice! Yes, this is Elaine.' Elaine. The old woman cringed. I didn't name her Elaine. She remembered her daughter telling her, how an English name was very important for 'networking', Chinese ones being easily forgotten.

'Oh no, I can't see you for lunch today. I have to take the ancient relic to the temple for her weird daily prayer ritual.' Ancient Relic. The old woman understood perfectly it was referring to her. Her daughter always assumed that her mother's silence
meant she did not comprehend.

'Yes, I know! My car seats will be reeking of joss sticks!' The old woman pursed her lips tightly, her hands gripping her plastic bag in defence.

The car curved smoothly into the temple courtyard. It looked almost garish next to the dull sheen of the ageing temple's roof. The old woman got out of the back seat, and made her unhurried way to the main hall. Her daughter stepped out of the car in her business suit and stilettos and reapplied her lipstick as she made her brisk way to her mother's side.
'Ma, I'll wait outside.. I have an important phone call to make,' she said, not bothering to hide her disgust at the pungent fumes of incense. The old lady hobbled into the temple hall and lit a joss stick, she knelt down solemnly and whispered her now familiar daily prayer to the Gods. Thank you God of the Sky, you have given my daughter luck all  these years. Everything I prayed for, you have given her. She has everything a
young woman in this world could possibly want. She has a big house with a swimming pool, a maid to help her, as she is too clumsy to sew or cook. Her love life has been blessed; she is engaged to a rich and handsome angmoh man.
Her company is now the top financial firm and even men listen to what she says... She lives the perfect life. You have given her everything except happiness. I ask that the gods be merciful to her even if she has lost her roots while reaping the harvest of success.

What you see is not true, she is a filial daughter to me. She gives me a room in her big house and provides well for me. She is rude to me only because I affect her happiness.. A young woman does not want to be hindered by her old mother. It is my fault.

The old lady prayed so hard that tears welled up in her eyes. Finally, with her head bowed in reverence she planted the half-burnt joss stick into an urn of smoldering ashes.

She bowed once more. The old woman had been praying for her daughter for thirty-two years. When her stomach was round like a melon, she came to the temple and prayed that it was a son. Then the time was ripe and the baby slipped out of her womb,
bawling and adorable with fat thighs and pink cheeks, but unmistakably, a girl. Her husband had ticked and punched her for producing a useless baby who could not work or carry the family name.

Still, the woman returned to the temple with her new-born girl tied to her waist in a sarong and prayed that her daughter would grow up and have everything she ever wanted.
Her husband left her and she prayed that her daughter would never have to depend on a man. She prayed every day that her daughter would be a great woman, the woman that she, meek and uneducated, could never become. A woman with nengkan; the ability to do anything she set her mind to. A woman
who commanded respect in the hearts of men. When she opened her mouth to speak, precious pearls would fall out and men would listen
She will not be
like me, the woman prayed as she watched her daughter grow up and drift away from her, speaking a language she scarcely understood..

She watched her daughter transform from a quiet girl to one who openly defied her, calling her laotu, old fashioned.... She wanted her mother to be 'modern', a word so new there was no Chinese word for it. Now her daughter was too clever for her and the old woman wondered why she had prayed like that. The Gods had been faithful to her persistent prayer, but the wealth and success that poured forth so richly had buried the girl's roots and now she stood faceless with no identity, bound to the soil of her ancestors by only a string of origami banknotes.
Her daughter had forgotten her mother's value. Her wants were so ephemeral, that of a modern woman. Power, wealth, access to the best fashion boutiques and yet her daughter had not found true happiness.
The old woman knew that you could find happiness with much less. When her daughter left the earth, everything she had would count for nothing. People would look to her legacy and say that she was a great woman but she would be forgotten once the wind blows over, like the ashes of burnt paper convertibles and mansions.

The old woman wished she could go back and erase all her big hopes and prayers for her daughter now that she had looked out of the temple gates. She saw her daughter speaking on the phone, her brow furrowed with anger and worry. Being at the top is not good, the woman thought, there is only one way to go from there  down.

The old woman carefully unfolded the plastic bag and spread out a packet of beehoon in front of the altar. Her daughter often mocked her for worshipping porcelain Gods. How could she pray to them so faithfully and expect pieces of ceramic to fly to her aid? But her daughter had her own gods too, idols of wealth, success and power that she enslaved to and
worshipped every day of her life.

Every day was a quest for the idols, and the idols she worshipped counted for nothing in eternity. All the wants her daughter had would slowly suck the life out of her and leave her, an empty souless shell at the altar. The old woman watched the joss stick. The dull heat had left a teetering grey stem that was on the danger of collapsing.

Modern woman nowadays, the old lady signed in resignation, as she bowed to the east bone final time to end her ritual. Modern woman nowadays want so much that they lose their souls and wonder whey they cannot find it. Her joss stick disintegrated into a soft grey powder. She met her daughter outside the temple, the same look of worry and frustration was etched on her daughter's face.

An empty expression, as if she was ploughing through the soil of her wants looking for the one thing that would sown the seeds of happiness. They climbed into the convertible in silence and her daughter drove along the highway, this time not to fast as she had done before.
‘Ma,’ Bee Choo finally said. "I don't know how to put this. Mark and I have been talking about it and we plan to move out of the big house. The property market is good now, and we managed to get a buyer willing to pay us seven million for it. We decided we'd prefer a cosier penthouse apartment instead. We found a perfect one in Orchard Road .. Once we move into our apartment, we plan to get rid of the maid, so we can have more space to ourselves....."

The old woman nodded knowingly. Bee Choo swallowed hard. "We'd get someone to come in to do the housework and we can eat out 
– but once the
maid is gone, there won't be anyone to look after you. You will be awfully lonely at home and, besides that the apartment is rather small. There won't be space. We thought about it for a long time, and we decided the best thing for you is if you moved to a Home. There's one near Hougang – it's a Christian home and a very nice one."

The old woman did not raise an eyebrow. I"ve been there, the matron is willing to take you in. It's beautiful with gardens and lots of old people to keep you company! Hardly have time for you, you'd be happier
there." "You'd be happier there, really." her daughter repeated as if to affirm herself.

This time the old woman had no plastic bag of food offering to cling tightly to, she bit her lip and fastened her seat belt, as if it would protect her from a daughter who did not want her anymore. She sunk deep into the leather seat, letting her shoulders sag and her fingers trace the white seat.

Ma, her daughter asked, searching the rear view window for her mother. "Is everything okay?

What had to be done, had to be done. "Yes" she said firmly, louder than she intended, 'if it will make you happy,' she added more quietly..

‘It's for you, Ma! You will be happier there. You can move there tomorrow, I already got the maid to pack your things.' Elaine said triumphantly, mentally ticking yet another item off her agenda. 'I knew everything would be fine.' Elaine smiled widely; she felt liberated. Perhaps getting rid of her mother would make her happier... She had thought about it. It seemed the only hindrance in her pursuit of
happiness. She was happy now. She had everything a modern woman ever wanted; money, status, career, love, power and now freedom without her mother
and her old-fashioned ways to weigh her down......

Yes she was free. Her phone butted urgently, she picked it up and read the message, still beaming from ear to ear. "Stock 10% increase." Yes, things were definitely beginning to look up for her and while
searching for the meaning of life in the luminance of her hand phone screen, the old woman in the backseat became invisible and she did not see her in

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

u r ?

Journeys inside and out

The world of couch surfing came a little closer to me this year, with a host of different couchers that came and walked through the door, interacted with us and left.  As I watched them in and out, there was a mix of emotions that surged – emotions of jealously for the travel or surprisingly fatigue, exhaustion or a sense even of protection.

Each personality evoked and pulled a different chord; depending largely on who they were and how they were approaching the entire episode of travel itself.  If pressed I would maybe bucket them into a few large pools.

The harried traveler

It is the energy about them that gives them away, they have a map and an agenda, they come into the room and want to know once the niceties have been taken care off, about the places to see, how to go what to do and then get down to the practicalities of the journey.

They usually are very well packed, gadgets just the right ones, have an exact idea about how much is a fair price for things and move from one place to the other – remaining somehow aloof, a hovering person above the scene.

Conversations and exchanges with others, is done but with a sense of detachment.. the entire pace is to see, view, take in, and get back to life that has been suspended. It is a holiday. Not traveling…. It is about getting the energy to get back to life that they have left behind…….

The seasoned traveler

The line here is a little tough to draw,  but these are the people who have a slightly more relaxed pace of life… they are still here to experience but there is no haste there is nothing great that they must return to, no sense of agitated panic at now being able to experience the whole nation in a go.,.. a more relaxed joiedevore stems through them ….. but the one thing that this Travel- not a holiday is for them is still an experience. It shall get them somewhere, maybe shall be converted into some cause, they shall write about  it… or maybe it shall become a world tour cause for aids or child rights…. But there is a sense of storing the stories and then one day when the time is right this shall come to use

Then there is the travelers who you see only once in a while.  Travellers they are, but not the ones who are travelling externally.

These are for me the Internal Travelers……… in the course of the year I came across two… On the surface they seem to be the seasoned travelers, having been to a lot of places and seen a lot of things but there is a deep sense of difference. They seem to be travelling inside.

A sense of silence or peace surrounds them, time is not heavy but to be spent with a cup of tea actually engaging with the other person. A lot of their travel is about how they have changed with the passage of the days. They move- from one city to the other, and with each movement there is a stillness that comes.

Temples, museums, mountains , relics cast off their allure.
People, relationships, experiencing interactions cling on with more meaning
They seek themselves, and trot around the world to get there.
but for them this is not a travel or a holiday
somehow somewhere without them knowing it..
it’s a pilgrimage from home to themselves.

To my pilgrimage. On a yoga mat or through 100 flights taken through the world?

Friday, December 10, 2010


Its been a  busy morning already at 8.45 am.

Woke up at 6 something, shook awake the dog who promptly began the diligently licking himself, his legs and his dick all over, and then proceeded for a shower, a walk, the paper, the morning coffee, and now emailed done its time to commence working. Have not felt this enthused in the entire week, so it must be a good thing.

Saw three crappy movies yesterday. Yup was bumming the fever off.

Due Date
From the maker of hangover, the movie that had one in splits came as a huge disappointment, the jokes were insipid, the situations far fetched and overall the movie was a bit of a let down.One where you wanted the movie to be over more than anything else.

Leap Year
One of those,"you really want me to believe that" kind of movies where the cliched i have it all under my control american lady is suddenly taken by surprise at the charm of a certain irish man, the nature with its timely showers and hail storms does its thing and before you know it , she finds that she needs to give up her perfect new york life to come and serve dishes with him at the irish bar............COOOOOOOOOOOME ON!!!! Like do you even know one real story like that????

Going the Distance

A movie with the very real and believable Drew Barrymore. something about her non nonsense very grounded attitude makes a movie far more easy to relate to. A 31 year old she is running behind her so called timeline- of getting kids, finishing school, becoming a reporter etc etc.. who falls in love with this guy in New york and then the drama of a long term relationship commences.... etc etc... Was more believable and the least painful amongst the entire lot of movies.

As I couch potatoed through the day, I thought of only how visiting America seemed to the lowest on my horizon for a long long time, there were so many more nicer places to head to that the world seemed waiting and willing. So as of today am making a new aspiration for myself .. cant reveal it because then it doesnt come true. so they say ;-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

sick musings

ha! now i know what made me dress like an Eskimo in Bangalore... was sick just never realised it till the silly temperature was bubbling like fresh soup. hmm, hence have been spending an inordinate amount of time in bed, reading - a lovely book called the tao of pooh and the te of piglet, 5 episodes of How i met ur mother followed by a disasterous attempt to see Taxi Driver and an exceedingly long amount of time staring at the ceiling waiting for it to move.

Well it didn't and I did.

So the dramatic weekend, gave way to a rather pale Monday. Spent Tuesday shivering on the office couch, and Wednesday on bed. Respite on a Thursday, think a fresh glass of orange juice had something to do with it, made me get up, rub my eyes and see the world again.

Jack Johnson and a cuddle dog- who i am convinced is petrified of his dog trainer are keeping me company along with a rather astounding plan.

I am not liking this whole becoming an adult business. There is looming idea that if one has to do the travel thing then you have to bite the bullet, n make a few tough choices. Choose to trust ur future earning power, the fact that things shall work out in the long run and make a dash for it. Just up and go, get some cushion money and enjoy the travel for the period it is

make it happen... thats the plan. yup its short term but hey long term deals were never my thing

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Career changers

As I sat in front of the computer yesterday, the coldness was making me freeze. Was dressed like an Eskimo in the city of Bangalore with 4 layers of clothes protecting me from the cold that insisted on sweeping into the house. 

P called them all excited about how he had gotten a chance to meet MS a venerated photographer in Bangalore, who does wedding photography and made a career change for himself at the age of 28 when he decided to move away from the structured calling of a corporate life. 

As we drove in to the house, there was the cutest thing from Japan who was there as well - like the energy they have in general. But I digress, the point of the matter was P was keen to create a long term plan to throw away his career as a commodity trader and study to become a photo journalist and choose to make a whole new life that enabled him to study -then combine travel and image taking with making money. 

The conversation moved from photographers, to taking the leap of faith, to knowing that it took time and the life that came as a result of it. I sat there, knowing the direction of the tales that would come, from immesne frustration to using savings to make the leap, the struggle and the eventual payoff. Seems I can create a whole repository of such people and such stories

I wondered to me, is that what i want to do? become a photo journalist. nopes.... left the question hanging and then asked them if how many outstanding female photographers with familes were they aware of? the answer was none, or well the ones that were successful were the ones that had chosen to trample off the natural instinct of children etc and then pursue a profession. 

It seemed like one more mans world, with a few additions here n there of female presences. This created an interesting situation, did then having an interesting freelancing passion driven career mean a death to family ? was it an either or? was an this "and" that possible?

Dont have the answers but know that if you have the desire then anything at all can happen. Anything - what then is the desire is to be found out ! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

relaxing into life

Introducing Puppy Singh. - A post from the eyes of my four legged love with the namaste ears

the world from his eyes

mmmmmmhhhmmmm, hmmmmhhhmmm.. I opened my mouth letting out a satisfying yawn, cocked open and eye and sighed with contentment, for once that evil huge fellow wasnot there, which meant that today was a special day. I could sleep without being unceremoniously kicked out of bed in the middle of my dreams just because he felt like it... I swear that guy has the worst timing ever. Just yesterday, I had a dream that my round bed was floating in the sky, the clouds were juicy pieces of chicken with ham stars and I was standing on the bed, my mouth wide open, a fluffy cloud was centimeters away from my teeth when.............. WHOOOM... I landed with a thud on my back, kicked out of bed, sleep, dreams and heaven!

Bugger him..

but today was easy.  only that weak women was there, she somehow has this cuddle thing going, making it super simple to be on the bed all the time .. and man its cold here ... need to pee, need to eat.mmmmm eat.. chicken. that was dinner yesterday, if I am smart may get it for breakfast, Time to wake fatso up!

Puppy Singh, proceeds to claw and scar face of the so called weak women. She kicks him off the bed a trick she has learnt works, he is faster, jumps right back, claws with frenzy until she is up, awake, kisses him and lets him off to the promised heaven of food.

Yummy, they really should not eat all the chicken themselves, now to get the other one to walk me and life seems to be shaping well. AAAAAHH what weather, makes me come up with novel ideas.... plan hatched and ideas cracked I ran towards the big german shepard gleefully daring him to do the same at his place, the first dog to succeed would win the bet tomorrow.

Deal, high fived on the road and virtually ran home. Uff these women walk so slowly.. annoying. 

I slid into the room, pretended to be zonked post the morning excitement and slid below the table. Watched lady 2 leave the house, shutting the door. The weakest 2 women remained and one strange man, he was a wuz -ignore!.  

Timing ... it was all in the timing.  

She seemed to be getting up; she did. 
This was it my only chance. I leapt from my pretend slumber- stretched to the table, clasped the cigerettes in my mouth, dashed to the sofa, ripped the filters 
and created the most FABULOUS TOBACCO RAIN EVER!!!!!!

The flakes leapt in the air... they came down slowly
spiraling in strange patterns
no 2 patterns the same
I sat there, mesmerized by my own genius.... 
savoring the moment


Oooh ooo... she was back
hmm. Thwak thwak, she slapped me a bit
threw me in the veranda
I knew the drill- 10 min and this would be over
small price to pay for the rain that was ;-) ;-)

Sigh.. lets get on with it. plan 2 was still waiting. So I made myself cozy on the news papers there, and began the whinny yelping puppy noises that made all humans skin crawl. 3 whines per 10 seconds and a looooooooong yowl to complete it.

The rhythm was set. 
she must be really mad, normally this should be over by now. 
Yoooooooooooooooowwwlll!!!.. hmmmmm, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

she is coming, the door is opening. I give her my sheepish sorry look, slink out, hide below the table, surverying the room from the corner of my eye.
her phone rings, 
I lunge for the ciggies on the table, and chew the rest below

I win i win.. double dare ;0 won. So going to be the champ on the road tomorrow. 

Since I was on a roll I decided to make the best of it. 12 waking hours - destroyed 

  • 2 packs of ciggies
  • 1 imported high value ear phones
  • 1 car tyre  from my toy car
  • set of tissues
  • the daily paper
  • toothpicks 
  • squeezed out an extra walk; and
  • even managed to coax a chicken meal
A day well spent. sweet dreams world
I am ready to return to dream land... the warm bed, the quilt, lights off, chicken clouds here i come..
oooooooooohhh nooooooo
the big mean bully was back..... darn

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Its the 1st of December, a favorite month in the Calender. DEC- a  month that since childhood stood for holidays and christmas, mornings where the cold fog would envelope your bed and as you opened your eyes snuggling into the quilt was pleasurable. 

a month of endings and fresh starts. When you looked forward to christmas - which as an Indian living in Delhi really did not mean much, but as a girl marooned in a convent meant mystery and fantasies. One would gaze hungrily at the winter shop displays and the massive christmas trees that sprung overnight, the little cherry leaves and carols. 

December was more than xmas and Rudolf the red nosed reindeer. Going to school meant shivering on the bus stop, with the cold making the knees freeze. The bus everyone sat huddled into their seats and mufflers, breathing warm air to keep the hands warm.  the afternoon sun was welcome, making for a warm spot to sit and read the paper in, with fresh carrots keeping you company

the wardrobe changed, the food was allowed to become hotter and less spicy
tempers became less frizzy, people smiled a lot more and nodded their heads
the pigeons puffed themselves up as their cooed themselves to sleep

the last week meant celebrations, dinners and the ability to wear scarfs and coats
hot baths and lingering mousterising sessions 
and lip balms became best friends
winter had come and life was happy again

now i am in blore, content with a sweat shirt as a sum of all my layers
my breath does not come in wispy layers, 
but the cool breeze has a sense of winter
and for the now that is enough