Saturday, February 01, 2020

The thinking cap

It happened some time last year.

I saw a tiiiiiny plant peeking from my compost pile. Now I had put all sorts of kitchen scraps in there so I had absolutely no clue what plant it was. I gently pulled it out and planted it in a pot, hoping that it was a green chilli plant. I'd been trying to grow green chillies from seeds and had proven myself to be a total failure. Or in the words of monk Jianyu, "pre-successful".

I watered it and the plant grew. And I watered it some more and it grew some more. Unlike my cherry tomato plants Tommy, Timmy, Tammy and Tom, who were sprouting flowers by the dozen, this plant, unwilling to reveal its identity, had nothing but leaves. Xena, frustrated at not being able to name it, asked me to do so and so I named it 'Wildcard'.

Weeks passed by. Nothing but leaves. So I decided to call in the expert. My dad, who has grown everything from ginger procured from an unwilling tour guide in Bali to coconuts found washed ashore at Singapore's east coast beach.

I interrupted my family WhatsApp chat group, which is mostly kept alive by mom forwarding us forwards and asking me to check if they are legit. My favourite is this one:

तुलसी के दो पत्ते मोबाइल के पीछे कवर मे रखे रहेने से मोबाइल का रेडिएशन एक दम चला जायेगा।
प्रैक्टिकल कर के दिखाया बाबा राम देव

Wow. Just... wow.

Anyway, I sent them Wildcard's photo.

Me: Dad, what plant is this? It grew from my compost pile. I can’t identify it. Hoping for it to be chilli.

Dad: Wait for some time; if chillies appear, it is so!

Me: This advice is not useful at all!

Mom: I don't think it's chilli. Maybe capsicum. 

Sister: Send for dna testing????


Anyway, fast-forward several months. I was out on the balcony plucking Tommy's latest offerings to make veggie uttapams, when I spotted something on Wildcard that made me do a double take. 


Ladies and gentlemen, Wildcard finally has a name! Please say 'hello' to 'CAPtain'. 

(And yes, mom, you're a genius. Please just stop forwarding the forwards.)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Annual report - 2019

Happy new year, bewdas! Hope 2020 has gotten off to a fantastic start.

2019 was quite an interesting year for me. It started off with me deciding quite suddenly to go back to the office full-time after 8 years of working from home. And it has been a roller-coaster ride. Things are so insanely crazy all the time, and though a part of me thrives on that sort of thing, I have had some trouble trying to do ALL the things that I want to do in my life. I hope to do better this year and have a better work-life balance.

The sense of having become so much older from the last time I worked at this company (I'd worked here years ago as a clueless fresh grad) never gets old. I have babies interns coming and going, and every time I look at one of their resumes, it hits me hard -- when I was in university, these guys were in... um... diapers. When/how did we all get so old?

2019 was also significant because both Xena and I passed inline skating level 5. It had been a loooong time since I'd had an 'exam' so I was really nervous that I'd flunk one of the tricky skills or fall flat on my face during one of the stunts, but all went well and now we have both earned our black certificates (to me, it's the equivalent of a black belt).

This is me, doing a skill called 'toe-heel transition'.

And here is Xena, demonstrating a rather tricky one called 'eagle'. 

2019 was also the year when I threw caution to the wind and travelled to India in June. 42 frikkin' degrees. And I call Singapore hot. But it was nice to catch up with my parents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and then it also rained so it wasn't too bad. 

Xena turned 8 last year, but her 8th birthday was different. Increasingly, birthdays had been making us sick, with all the gifts and the plastic and the wastage and what not. We were really glad when Xena was instantly on board when we told her how we wanted to celebrate her 8th birthday. We had a very small gathering and we expressly forbid people from bringing any gifts (including cash/vouchers). We told them that all we'd accept were homemade cards and handwritten letters and our friends stuck to the instructions. In addition to cards made by her friends, she got some lovely letters from our friends too. There were no return gifts of plastic items smothered in plastic packaging -- we gave the guests a copy of my friend Shub's amazing book on introducing kids to recycling, along with some homemade cookies that Xena had helped me bake. We did not use any plastic cutlery. For party games, we had a treasure hunt on recyclable and non-recyclable items. We hope to continue doing something like that this year too, and hope we don't stress out our friends who choose to have conventional birthday parties. Everyone is free to do what they want to do. This is just a small start towards leading a slightly greener life. There is so much we still feel SO guilty about, so much more we can do. 

Last year was also the year Xena got majorly into Harry Potter. She's on book 5 now; she gets to watch the corresponding movie after she finishes each book. We still don't have cable TV and she still doesn't have any alone screen time (and it doesn't seem to bother her, which is great). Once in a while, we watch carefully curated movies together. So far, so good. 

I had some fantastically good fortune in gardening this year, though I have the blackest thumb I know of and I'm perfectly capable of killing even a cactus. We don't have space inside the house, so I planted some cherry tomato seeds in pots at the staircase landing and crossed my fingers. I also learnt from a neighbour how to do composting, but I still haven't nailed it yet. To my utter amazement, compared to the 6 cherry tomatoes we had harvested when I did the same in 2018, this year we had a bumper harvest. In 6 months, our amazing plants (Xena christened them Tommy, Timmy, Tammy and Tom) gave us about 60 tomatoes. Amazingly, 40 of them were from Tommy and he's still going strong. 

Tommy's gorgeous offerings

Our big holiday in 2019 was Tasmania, which is now my new favourite holiday destination. Highly highly recommended for kids. I've started updating the travel blog, though I'm afraid it will take a while. Because Tasmania is so beautiful, you cannot not take 23094839027534 photos.

This year, I consciously chose not to make any formal new year's resolutions, mainly because I need to sort my work-life balance before I can embark on something serious, but I do have a few vaguely-worded secret ones that I am working towards (and afraid of breaking). Let's see how that goes.

So how have you guys been? Any non-secret resolutions? :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Greetings from Tasmania!

Hello, bewdas and bewdis!

No, I’ve not moved to Tasmania (but I might, in about 2 decades or so), though I know it may seem like that, given my looooong absence from the bar. Many of you have written to me, concerned, and I could almost read between the lines — “Are you alive?”

I am, I am. And I’m super touched that you guys care enough to check on me. As you know, early this year I switched from a work-from-home arrangement (for 8 years!) to a fulltime position in the office and it has been CRAZY, to say the least. But I love it, so it’s okay. Publishing is crazy anyway, but this year has been especially cray-cray, leaving me no time to do anything other than waking up at 5:30 am to get breakfast and snack boxes and Xena ready, getting to office by 7:30 am and bolting at 5 pm so I can get to student care by 6 pm to pick her up, bolting home to get dinner ready and then after getting Xena to bed, settling down to a nice evening of... WORK! Everything that I can’t do in the limited time I have in the office is pretty much done at night, which used to be my Netflix/blogging time.

Weekends ka toh poochho hi mat. Our entire weekend is spent at the beach at inline skating lessons (I passed level 5 OMG OMG TOO EXCITED OMG but that’s a whole other post!). Hope that Xena can get her level 5 certificate soon so we can get our weekends back and move on to our next new hobby and complain again that our weekends are toh totally gone.

This Tasmanian holiday is the first proper vacation I’ve had this year. I’d forgotten how it was to expel all work-related thoughts from my head and fill it up with other random things. We did a 15-km hike on Maria Island today, with hundreds of wallabies and wombats running free around us, and it was something else.

Suddenly my head has been filled up with all sorts of other thoughts such as, “Gosh, wombat poop really is cube-shaped.” and “Hey, remember the time you used to blog?”

So here I am, not really “back” back, but kinda back, and determined to be “back” back.

Hope y’all are doing great and wrapping up a great year and looking forward to a brand new, smashing one.

Love always,

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Home away from home

  • A sweltering 42 degrees outside
  • The first rain after the 42 degrees
  • The smell of that rain falling on the soil
  • Not having to wake up at 5:30 am
  • An avalanche of adoring relatives descending upon me (half of whom I don't know; I did not grow up there)
  • Being told that I've become too thin (Erm, my weight has stayed the same since the year 2001, except for when I was preggers)
  • Being told that Xena is too thin (you don't say!)
  • Being asked if I give her food
  • Xena being asked if I give her food
  • Getting lunch/dinner invitations from relatives on a daily basis
  • Getting lunch invitations from relatives of relatives (ok that's very sweet, but why?)
  • Mom constantly asking me what I want to eat
  • Cousins and cousins-in-law constantly getting me all the things I like to eat
  • Chicken biryani from the restaurant whose name no one knows but which is known as "the place where the owner makes the biryani himself and refuses to remove the dum until IT IS TIME, no matter how long the queue of starved patrons is
  • Mutton biryani from the above-mentioned place
  • Remembering the trauma experienced during my last visit and swearing off street food (blame it on two decades of living in super sanitised Singapore) 
  • Thinking "Ok I will only have a little bit and early enough during my trip so I don't fall sick just before the flight"
  • Roadside chicken samosas on day 2
  • Eating said chicken samosas in a parked car next to the stall, with tears streaming down my face, thanks to the freshly chopped onions that accompany the samosas
  • The driver opening his window because tears are about to roll down his eyes too
  • Roadside chicken pakodas on day 3
  • Roadside chaat on day 3
  • Telling myself that's the last of the street food, but then spotting the pani puri man
  • Trying not to think of the 'behind the scenes' as I eat the street food
  • Roadside pani puri 2 days before my flight (to my credit, I stopped myself at 6)
  • Guiltily offering roadside food to Xena and feeling relieved at her polite rejection
  • Mango season
  • Masala Thums Up
  • Egg rolls
  • Intercity drives to see more relatives who feed me and then feed me some more
  • A flabbergasted Xena looking at Virat Kohli's face on every other giant billboard, selling everything from steel to sherwanis, asking me, "Mama, when does Virat Uncle play cricket?"
  • A flabbergasted Xena counting the cows and bulls (134) spotted on the road during a single (but long) car ride 
  • Shopping, and shopping some more
  • Weighing my suitcase on a daily basis to make sure my shopping didn't exceed my baggage allowance
  • Wondering how the driver passes the time when we go on long shopping trips
  • Getting excited to see the giant bottles of Thums Up at Big Bazar
  • Kaam wali bai touching my feet! (omg she's probably the same age as me)
  • Xena refusing to touch anyone's feet, but doing a shy namaste to save her unsanskari mommy from total humiliation
  • Saas-bahu serials still going strong, which ladies now watch on their phones as they cook
  • More people to send me random WhatsApp forwards
  • More random relatives adding me on Facebook 
  • Hearing fireworks and wondering if someone is getting married or watching the World Cup
  • Kids as young as 1.5 years old swiping away on mobile phones for literally hours
  • Xena discovering in utter amazement that there is such a thing as cable TV that has channels only for children omg
  • Relatives finding out that Xena doesn't get "TV time" and "mobile phone time" and "tablet time" and asking me why I'm torturing my child
  • Trying to cross the road with vehicles coming at me from every direction
  • Trying to cross the above-mentioned road with Xena
  • The sheer affection from people 
  • The utter chaos in everything, everywhere
  • Feeling strangely old and young at the same time when I'm there (perhaps because I have spent my entire adult life in Singapore)
  • Thinking to myself, "What was I thinking? NEVER doing this in summer again!"
  • Thinking to myself, "Oh, come on."
  • Do I hate it? Do I love it? I hate it. I love it. 

Yup, that about sums up my recent India trip.

Friday, May 03, 2019

A gif(t) that keeps on giving

This post is for you, t.

t had posted the following comment on my 'O ajnabi' post:

OMG Sayesha, I've enjoyed all these posts I've read so far! How do you make such high-quality gifs? Sometimes the actions in some gifs are too fast, but yours are perfect. Do you have a post on creating gifs? If not, at least for fan junta like me, please write one :)

I discovered the art of creating gifs last year during the A-Z blogathon when I was trying to find a way to bring across some of the ridiculousness of our Bollywood songs in a more visual manner. Once I discovered the amazing world of gifs, I stopped doing screenshots.

So here you go -- my step-by-step guide to make a gif. And since you seem to have watched endured this horrible Prem movie, I've made the tutorial on one of its songs.

I know there are plenty of sites where you can create gifs, but I personally love because it doesn't ask me to register/log in and it's very, very easy to use.

Step 1: Go to and click on 'create' on the top right.
Step 2: Enter the URL of your video in the 'Add any URL' field.

Step 3: This will bring you to this preview page. The bottom number circled in red will give you your start time so you can choose that based on where you want your gif to start. The top field circled in red gives you the number of seconds that your gif will last. I usually go for the default 4 seconds but sometimes you may need a few more seconds to capture something hilarious, so go ahead and increase it by a couple of seconds. Once you're happy with your gif (the preview will keep playing so you can play around with the two numbers to get the best gif), click on 'Continue to decorate'. 

Step 4: At this step, you can do a lot of embellishment to your gif, but I never use this feature because my amazing actors are enough and need no embellishment whatsoever. Click on 'Continue to upload'. 

Step 5: Click on 'Upload to Giphy'.

Step 6: Click on 'Embed'.

Step 7: Copy the html code and paste it in your post. 

Step 8: Let Kareena Kapoor's talent blow you away, like it has done with Hrithik.

Hope I was clear in my instructions. Please do try it out -- making gifs is easier than it sounds.

If you have any questions, drop me a note. My email address is in my profile info.

Enjoy! :) 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Z is for Zehreela zehreela pyaar

I'm so sorry to subject you to two Urmila songs one after the other, but there could not have been a more befitting end to the A-Z blogathon than this song from the 1997 Ram Gopal Varma movie Daud. In this movie, Sanjay Dutt and Urmila are on the run with a tiny briefcase that they think contains gold, but it actually contains a nuclear bomb. Yep, a nuclear bomb. In a briefcase.

The song starts off with Sanjay Dutt being followed in the middle of a jungle. Creepy vibes all around.

And then he spots the ghost. A sleeping ghost that lifts her ass a little too high with each breath.

Understandably, just like any normal human would do in the middle of a creepy jungle, he goes and touches the sleeping ghost. And very understandably, the sleeping ghost immediately breaks into a song about 'poisonous love'. This is already a toxic relationship for sure.

Urmila starts her usual RGV-heroine antics. Levitating bum and all, you know.

This jungle is amazing. It even has its own massage parlour.

Then they play Vikram aur Betaal for a while.

Can't quite tell who looks scarier.

Even the owl in the jungle seems creeped out by them.

Have a good fright!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Y is for Yeh khabar chhapwa do

My top choice for Y would have been 'Yara o yara' just for Sunny Paji and his out-of-order scooter. But the playback/giphy problem occured again so I had to bump that off and have this instead.

The song, from the 1997 movie Aflatoon, is a riot of colours.

Yellow yellow, dirty fellow

This is perfectly normal behaviour next to a railway track.

And this reminds me of pancakes that are flipped a little too late.

So literally everything on her is green. Even contact lenses. Matlab kuchh nahin bakhsha.

I dressed Xena up like this once because it was dress-up day at preschool and she wanted to be a tree.

Assault on the eyes

Ants in pants

And what step is this?!

I've always wondered what locals think about Bollywood actors who make complete asses of themselves when shooting abroad. Matlab seriously, kuchh bhi?

What to do -- we are like this wonly.


Saturday, April 27, 2019

X is for Mr. X

Okay, the letter for today is X so thoda cheating toh allowed hai.

Today's offering is the title song from the 2015 movie Mr. X, in which Emraan Hashmi plays an invisible vigilante. I can only imagine the discussions that led to this movie.

Emraan Hashmi - I don't want to do any more ghost movies.

Mukesh Bhatt - Errr...

Emraan Hashmi - And I'm sick of the serial kisser tag too. So no kissing either.

Mukesh Bhatt - Errr...

Emraan - I'm just very sick of doing the same old things. Let's please do something different. So no ghosts and no kissing. Okay?

Vikram Bhatt - OH. Great idea. How about you play a kissing ghost?

Emraan Hashmi - You got it.

Needless to say, the movie (which Vikram Bhatt insisted was not a copy of Hollow Man) tanked badly. Excerpts from some reviews:

Rajiv Masand: "a singularly humourless film"
Hindustan Times: "a bizarre tale of an invisible kisser"
Firstpost: "Emraan Hashmi, intelligence and talent, everything is invisible in the film".
Daily News and Analysis: "There's nothing to see, not even Emraan Hashmi."

So yeah, he's invisible. We got it.

This is him mouthing the lyrics of this bizarre song "You can call me X." while Jacqueline Fernandez Lite (aka Amyra Dastur) writhes around.

However bizarre it may be, the underwater kiss is not a new concept in Bollywood. But the underwater invisible kisser sure is!

Speaking of weird underwater behaviour, here is our heroine casually taking a bath in a bathtub, wearing all of Bappi da's jewellery.

Because why not.

Oooof so much happening in one gif, I don't know where to start the description.

Enjoy the title track of Mr. X.

PS: Apparently the "You can call me X" part of the song was sung by Mahesh Bhatt.
PPS: Apparently, the movie also stars Tanmay Bhat as Hashmi's friend Popo.
PPPS: Okay, I really think we should all watch this movie right away. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

W is for Why not Jimmy?

Okay, so my gif woes will not end. My first choice for W was this song called 'Why not Jimmy' from the 2008 movie Jimmy, starring Mithun Da's son Mahaaaaakshay Chakraborty (also known as Mimoh). But like what happened before, Shemaroo will not allow playback on other sites so I can't generate gifs. Normally, I'd just pick another song in a case like this and I did consider some options, including 'What is your style number?' but I couldn't do it.

'Why not Jimmy' is that amazing.

(Though I have to say I'm still wondering if it's supposed to be 'Why not Jimmy?' or 'Why not, Jimmy?')

Anyway, for this song, I decided to make do with screenshots instead of gifs. Though I'm heartbroken because the gifs would have been kickass. You'll know what I mean when you see the full video.

The song starts off with Mimoh trying to be Keanu Reeves from The Matrix.

Except that this Neo has only one fan backing him up -- literally. And that's daddy Mithun.

This reminds me a conditioner ad. With Mimoh showing the 'before'.

Let's take a closer look. Bad hair day for Mimoh? Or bad heir day for Mithun?

And now it's only fair that we also see some post-conditioner photos.



And oh, btw, he's also a dancer like daddy. In fact, when he dances, sparks fly. Off his shoes. Like, really.

All I can say at the end of this song is 'Why, Jimmy, why?'

Check it out.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

V is for Vada pav

This is like a sequel to the Batata vada song.

This movie Daal mein kuchh kala hai is actually from 2012, but it has a very dated look. In fact, when I first saw the song, I thought it was a movie from the late 80s or early 90s.

This is the plot of the movie according to Wikipedia (warning: your head will hurt after reading this):

Daal Mein Kuch Kaala Hai is a tale of a budding actress (Veena Malik) who is over motivated to become a successful in Bollywood. The story starts with Mr. Dabu who is a middle aged man in his forties, a total loser absconded and is being left unaccompanied in life. All of a sudden he gets rich after hitting a roll-over prize of birthright, and then decides to walk off to this actress to share his destiny and his future in the company of her. The starlet gets surprised and shocked after witnessing so much of wealth with him in cash. She initially agrees what his boyfriend had planned out to con Mr. Dabu, but is totally puzzled on what to carry out. They both sooner or later travel to the mysterious island, which is further followed by her boyfriend and a couple of unknown friends. The entire journey is filled with full humor, enjoyment and entertainment.

Aside from vada pav, the song also features some other highlights.

You know how some Bollywood movies have hero ka duplicate? This song has duplicate ka bhi duplicate. Check out "Anil Kapoor".

OMG. Bhai is going to have a fit if he sees this. And the guy on the right looks like Nawaz's duplicate (or maybe Nawaz himself before he became a superstar?) but I'm not too sure.

And here comes "Mr. Bachchan". Parampara, pratishtha aur pav.

And who is this supposed to be?!! Govinda????!!!! Chichi has become chhee chhee!

The worst part about this song? It has made me crave vada pav. At 10:13 pm.

PS: Oh, Judwaa 2 also has a song called 'Vada pav' that goes something like 'Pav mein vada, vada mein pav, chutney laga ke sabko khilao, maza nai aaya toh bhaad mein jao'.