Tuesday 15 November 2011

The Low Cost Air Bus

I recently boarded a flight chennai -delhi . Low cost everything, done electronically. The site kept asking me if I wanted to order a meal . Well I cant really decide if I need a sandwich one month from now. So I thought I will think about it. Its been a while since I travelled . It was my big solo flight after Akhil. So in between spit ups , keeping an infant from pushing keys (he jammed my dot key anyway which means.com is a whole new meaning for me) I bought my ticket.
After guilt pangs and trying to make a 7 month understand how much mummy loves him , the infant raised his hand when I said bye and that was it. Teary eyed mama drove off into the chennai airport .

After a 6 months of ba ba black sheep the chennai airport is a rude shock at 6 am. people in red mufflers, fresh malli poo and e tickets fight at the entrance. I remembered all this and got in . went through the check in and security after fighting with three ladies who thought we stood in a line to pass time. They were apparently shy to do security alone . By now I realised I had not lost my chennai touch . All motherhood and maternal feelings are nice with a seven month old , thrown into the real world the chennai citizen in me still lives.

So I sit at the gate reading a paper. Everyone around me is eating. Mamis had fresh idlis and chilli powder. Bengalis fresh from their Apollo hospital visits have tea in the hand. Gujratis had kakra. I could have managed a bowl of cerelac maybe. Everyone looked so fresh and clean. I looked sleepy , laptop , papers and bundled in. I took out my fleece and covered myself. I was off to Moscow so a 27C should not really deter me. Babies were squealing all dressed in great finery. My poor Akhil doesnt have such luck. He never gets such fine clothes. Pure cotton onesies and a pant if mama is in the mood.No black dots and threads to ward off evil eyes. Only T minic cough drops .

So we got on the Bus. One heavy duty vaadhyar boards. with a big naamam he could stop a plane in mid air with that symbol Lord Balaji ´s naamam maybe a tad smaller. the man is bare chested , but all neatly shaved or waxed . He takes out 2 Apple I phone 4 and talks to his clients. I am going to Delhi , cant come. Then to his mami . Enna di airport vandachu.
Then comes THE FAMILY. father mother two kids. We reach the plane. Everyone wants to get in . Well if we have come so far , the plane will take all of us. But Indians like to be first so eevryone wants to get in first. So we go in. No place in overhead cabin already. The ladies have all taken out their tiffin boxes. One auntyji took out bread, spread amul butter and kissan jam and gave all the munna munnis on the flight. How did she manage to take a knife through security ? Well I guess between a blunt knife and a razor sharp tongue? The tongue won.

I realised someone was sitting on my seat. So I said Sir this is my seat. Three men got up. Shook three other men in the adjacent row. They discussed it for 5 minutes and the man sat in my seat again. I said Sir I have that seat. But madam this is also seat. Ok trading a middle seat for an aisle is a good trade off. So i sat with my hand bag and belonging under my leg. With smells of food wafting around I was now really hungry. As the flight took off , the meal service started. At 150 Rs for a sandwich I was dreaming of a fat enriched mayo dripping beautiful piece of cholestrol. When the cart came to our seat , I said could I get a sandwich. The steward a desi version of Zeus and his friend artemis says No maam we have no sandwiches. Ok cake? No ok what do u have. Cookies and cashews. Well why cant I have sandwiches? It got over. How can sandwiches get over? I dont mind non veg also. Maam today everyone decided to eat sandwiches. Ah so thats the official excuse. Everyone gets up and says today lets eat jet airways sandwich. So i take some bad cashewnuts and chew slowly. We have 2 hours of flight to kill.

The uncle adjacent to me has a Vivanta taj snack box. Which he keeps proudly on his tray table. in fact he even refused to fold it during take off lest the box goes through some stress. Out comes banana chips, one apple, one banana , one bottle water. after all this uncle reclines and decides to sleep. Uncle 2 behind him , who has a sri krishna sweets bag , lots of management books , one studious looking spectacle calls Artemis and says ask that man to push his seat. To which vivanta uncle says , i boarded this flight in kochi(explains banana chips) at 6 so i got up at 3 and drove to airport without morning tea , i reach delhi by 11 and reach home by only 12.30 so i am tired and need to sleep. but other uncle says go to hell and pushes from back. but vivanta uncle just snores through it.

While all this happens THE family comes into role. The baby is crying. Well she had been since we boarded. But by now she is howling . The mother just sits quiet and smiles benignly at us. the Uncle who lost the seat battle now wants to win the baby battle . He calls Artemis. Pls. ask baby to keep quiet. Artenmis says yes sir. Now I wanted to see how a child is going to take instructions from artemis and say oh sorry for crying I will just shut up . the crying reaches new heights. All the men in the near shake their heads . the women all mutter. the mother feeds her other child and husband with a wailing baby. This was a new skill for me. Everyone was looking at the lady . Me only a 7 month mom decided to plunge right in. Do you have a dummy? She looks at me strangely. Something to chew? Some milk or candy? Some cotton for the ears , a toy or board book? Having exhausted babycenter´s 10 tips for travelling with infants I sit back . Maybe I should hold the baby. But I think if only my husband was there to restrain me Well in a long time I dont smell of spit ups. Do I really want to chance a punjabi thali meal coming on my dress . I decide to shut up. After an hour , the father after eating his fill. slowly gets up and carries the toddler. the child looks really terrible. uncontrollable sobs , runny nose , cold feet . The father walks hesitantly and within seconds the child falls asleep. meanwhile two men in front pull out an ipad and place it in th tray table. I crane my neck , to see if any free movies are coming on. For my luck its his home video collection. Fat ladies dancing at home in front of a TV . Dadaji dadiji eating ladoo. Munna Munni dancing like movie stars . One munni singing . Oh god . first no food now no entertainment. I miss my akhil.

Atleast we land in 30 minutes . At this point jet airways gives out some scratch cards . Apparently they sell stuff no one needs on board and also have a scratch and win contest. In fine print it says pay only 699 for the pick up of the gift. Three auntyjis pull out their hairclips and start scratching. They all get same gifts. They call Artemis and complain. Stoic artemis explains in jet airways language we understand your disappoint but this is the contest. Anyway auntjis are happy. something free .

Soon we land at the posh delhi airport . The hostess says jet airways aapko delhi antarashtriya bla bla swaagath.... By now auntyjis cant wait for gift. they get up . Artemis says behto behto . Elderly auntyji says they will say that you go in front. But gravity takes care of evrything and small size aunty sits.

By now we can use mobiles . A hundred nokia tunes burst into the flight along with some chamak challo tunes and skanda shashti sthrotram( mr. vaadyar had logged in)
Some people had luggage all over the flight. they jump, signal and get in line. One man decides to jump in front. literally squeezing my hand. I wait patiently. My fellow passengers says madam please get up. I will but where do u want me to go. But they decide to plaster me to my seat and move. So I thought I better fight my way too . I stand and the man behind me mutters apparently he would get out one nano second after me. That is a long wait.

So we come out on to the luggage belt . the new airport looks excellent. Its full of people and food places. Screaming kids, tired mothers, angry mother in laws, cozy honeymooners with mehendi . Hundreds of people come to receive their guests . Its so nice to be in a posh indian airport !

I get into my car and drive to the hotel. Gurgaon looks impressive. At the hotel I am the only desi . Wow this is also India. Phoren kids in their sunday clothes quietly jumping on the bouncy castle while the parents eat oysters and sip champagne . The prices are steep , expat prices you see . Well I yearn for the airport samosa but now I will also be a posh desi , sip my virgin mojito and dig into my pak choy while watching pictures of akhil on my really cheap nokia ....

Thursday 23 June 2011

The Great Indian Room makeover

In our new Sub urban Chic avatars we bought Bauhaus tables , Roche bobois chaise lounges , the Shanghai Tang lamp and then decided to bring it in to our gated comm unties . First is to bring it in through the staircase so that all neighbours notice that you know habitat from ikea .After this globe trotter furniture orgy indulgence I asked Kalimuthu and Vairamuthu to put the furniture down , they scratched their heads which meant 20 rs tea money . One more scratch of the head meant Tea money at USD rates . See this is phoren furniture . If you can buy furniture that can scald your credit card , then the Muthu twosome should get some decent tea to go with it. The M brothers then ask Ma can we remove the plastic on the chairs ? Remove the plastic on the chairs ? NO NO . Aiya will do it later. Aiyah doing it later means it will never get done .

The Muthu brothers give me a look , this is what happens when women do men´s work.
So we have textured walls , state of the art furniture which we have no idea how they looked as they are all cocooned in bubble wrap. Every time guests come the bubble wrap is carefully folded , and the visitors are signalled to mount their backsides politely on the settee . When someone says very comfortable , just slides in. My husband looks at me. He would never know , all that he knows is when he gets comfortable the bubble wrap starts getting all bubbly and with a silent stern I look at him. We cant waste bubble wrap .

But not only our sofas get the plastic treatment my in laws ensure that the microwave is covered in plastic , the TV remote has so much plastic we sometimes don't know which channel we press. My 1995 camera and 2002 mobile phone still have the plastic stuck on to them with cello tape. The screen is cracked and the numbers doused in turmeric powder. Between A & D there are pieces of appalam that never come out but the screen is completely plastered.The Tv has a plastic cover and a cloth cover . My maid constantly covers the bathroom shelves with so much newspaper that my teeth turned whiter just reading the headlines from a 2 year old paper.

Then one day my husband says Oh you know our neighbours have this Roche bobois chair seems extremely comfortable , you should try it . I give him the look of Satan . What do you mean . I am the Roche Bobois woman of the community. We were the first ones to buy it. Remember we dragged it all the way up 3 floors . He said this bubble wrap thingy is that chair . So I decide gloves off and exhibit the brand new chair . No one dares sits on it though. So I decide to get the 3M combo of Kali, Vaira and carpenter Cheena Muthu. Cheen comes in takes a look and says Madam , idha Rocha chair a . In local material I can make it for 10000. So cheena does the job. 10000 and the Bobois local thambi is up and working. So now with our textured walls we have one chair in bubble wrap and the local thambi chair that looks as chic as the original next to it. By now local thambi has had his fill of rasam , sambar and full south Indian meals doused on it. The original Anna sits in the corner with the bubble wrap contemplating the little crudite that fell on his lap and was quickly cleaned with sofa rage and Bang off .

In a few years we may soon forget that the chair actually has a colour , and a life. My maid says this is the best chair in the room, that cleaning it is so easy . Yes cleaning bubble wrap must be easy. We have since sold the old bubble wrap , bought new bubble wrap by selling one months aaavin covers and English newspapers(they have more value)but removing the wrap completely takes a lot of courage and a change in our plastic coated DNA

Sunday 2 January 2011

Kutcheri besh besh

The Music season in chennai is slowly coming to its end. When RTp and Kaapi mix with malli and keerai vadai , chennai comes alive for a month of music.

I have been going to the Academy from the time when Nalli´s sent pavadais home on consignment basis and bodice pavadai with a big tuck was the in thing . As a seven year old it was mandatory that I went to all kutcheris at the Academy from 4 in the evening. The accompanying members would all change but I was the constant.
I would be asked to carry the program booklet , mark the ragams , put the thalams , keep the kanadis and reserve the seat with my kerchief . I didn't mind all this if in return I got my daily fix of pocorn and five star chocolate . The Academy canteen was taboo for me and I had not yet discovered that you could sneak in for a quick sugar fix.

Normally Patti would take me for the stellar kutcheris. Going with patti came with a lot of pre requisites. I had to wear the Nalli pavadai , hair in single jadai , December poo and jimkis. I had to sit and put all the thalams and identify ragams . In return Patti was very generous. When the RTp started she would open her money purse and give me a 5 rupee note for my goodies. The only painful job was if she spotted a diamond shining in any ear at a km radius she would ask for her kanadi and zoom in on the stone in question, I then had to walk by the mami and check 8 stone , open setting bling bling bling . But normally all the other pattis were busy doing the stone probe so it was not so bad.

Going with thatha was a terrible experience. Thatha would sleep so you had to keep putting thalam .... even during RTp. when the musician started ta nam tha , I could smell the popcorn in golden hues frothing over the machine .I would nudge thatha for my 5 rupees. Thatha would then start in the year 1930 I was in Loyola college 2 annas got me one dosa and coffee I would save one anna and keep it for my books .... and then would come the Wholesale price index of 1930 followed by the deterioration of moral values since . By now I had no appetite for popcorn and was happy thatha would go back to sleep and i could keep putting the thalam.

I remember attending Semangudi´s kutcheri once , when someone got up mid way through a song. The old maestro stopped singing and spoke into the mic sir you seem to be in a hurry we will wait. I was always scared that one day they would catch me with popcorn frothing at my mouth .... and patti could then say now we will see who in mylapore marries you.
Amma normally came with me for the dance program. Amma is strict in keeping traditions. So pavadai was just de rigeur , a gagra maybe .

Dance was always the glamour den. You had to be noticed and to be noticed you had to dazzle . But I liked the dances because the popcorn break came built in . They had clearly thought of people like me .

I was always fascinated at how some enthusiastic mama´s were . They would be fast asleep , and even snoring then suddenly get up at random and say bale , besh . The mami´s would always compliment with an inbuilt criticism . I felt the ragam was a bit superficial. The violin was a little loud. Mic was not ok . Some rasikas would read, some even do a sudoku now days . Some even try to talk to the musician , like saying reduce the mic, move back etc.

When I graduated from the Nalli´s bodice pavadai to the more femine pavadai davani my role in the kutcheri scene also evolved. See we had a cousin brother to be married . Rosapoo colour , well educated , dollar salary , respectful to parents , religious does sandhya vandanam in new york cold. In short hey mami catch him before he catches next door Mary or Susie.So we had to go for the kutchery even before the doors were opened. This was very important in marking out the prey . I was then asked to take a good look at all these girls . I had to file past and take a good look , diamonds tick , sari tick , homely looking tick . Who has she come with tick and also did I know her from school that was a major tick. Sometimes Patti had some preys already waiting . So at the appointed time me and my cousin had to walk past and pretend he was buying me popcorn and she would buy the same and looks could be exchanged. Later on I had to give the full nayaka nayaki avarum nokinan ... sanchari bhava to a rapt audience . Years later my husband confessed he had once been taken to a similar hunt . The only problem with this carefully laid out hunt is , he being who he is was seated in the front row . So all the preys ended up at the back . So he was asked to turn in a gradual natural motion and zoom in. He said every time he did , the mami behind would glare back at him . Somehow after this image of a stern Pattu mami glaring like a light house with diamonds on ear , nose and neck, fantasies of a bevy of good looking girls filing past were immediately squashed.

When I reached marriageable age , I was not asked to carry program booklets anymore , rather carry myself with grace. I didnt make much of an impression on the hunts , as I was living in Mumbai and in advertising ... My patti wasnt sure if the Mylapore crowd would find that a red flag . So I actually got to enjoy kutcheris with just the requisite of having to look like a good family girl.

The crowd at the sabhas seem to now include the NRI brigade who are now the backbone at many sabhas. They take over all the hotels near by and can be spotted in their haversack with a bisleri bottle and sanitiser. The mami´s will be in the most brightest silks . The NRi with his flowing kurta, crocs and a little fruit of the loom vest peeping out is the most knowledgeable. He shuns the oily food , brings his own pecan nuts , takes out his kindle and never misses a beat. They usually know the musicians well and will tell you of how Sanjay stayed at their home in LA and Aww did he like my pongal. And then continue inga mari illa mami .

Now as a married woman I get to enjoy kutcheris , watch the mami´s still in their lovely silks discussing the singer´s vaira thodu and pothy´s pattu very much like how MS blue became a rage with the elderly women.The canteens have become very important. The caterer in the canteen reflects on the management of the sabha. Some mama´s can be seen sneaking out to have a bonda and halwa while mami is inside lost in the music . One mama confessed , mami romba strict , cholestrol irokono so only olive oil and oats at home. The crowd in the sabhas are as knowledgeable about the RTP as they are about the bonda chutney outside. Many youngsters throng the sabhas and clearly the accent is on the arts . Wannabe mamis like myself in our designer cottons and clutch bags keep a keen eye on little girls in pavadais . Just to see if they put thalam in the kutchery and one day become a modern girl with traditional values.
Till then we have put away our music booklets away and warmly await the next margazhi when chennai puts out its most melodious face.