Sunday, April 30, 2006

The face of a sleeping angel

When I was a little girl, I used to spend my summer holidays at my grandma's place. I remember that particular year very clearly, even though it happened ages ago. It was my cousin Sid's birthday, and a grand party was going on. The kids were all on the terrace. Sid and his friends were playing a wild game of 'Run after the hapless Sayesha, burst a balloon near her ear and make her cry'. After an exhausting game which went on way past our bedtime, we started randomly flopping all over the big room upstairs. I did not even realise when I fell asleep.

The next morning, I was woken up by the sunbeams streaming into the room through the glass windows. As soon as I opened my eyes, I was greeted by the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. It was a face of beauty, of serenity, of innocence. It was the face of a sleeping angel.

It was the face of Som, Sid's best friend.

Freaked out by my own staring, I ran out of the room, and proceeded to avoid him for the rest of the summer. And this continued in the years to come. I'd be playing nonsensical games with Sid and his brothers, and as soon as Som walked in, I'd walk off. Whenever they'd be going to the park or to eat pani puri, they'd ask me to join them, and I'd decline.

Scared of the unfamiliar feelings I had experienced when I had looked at him that morning, I just did not want to see him.

Years later, something strange happened. I think I was about twelve or so. There was a letter in the mail for me. It was a 'love letter' from Som, telling me that he could not stop thinking about me. He'd got my address from Sid just so he could tell me about his feelings. All that at the age of twelve. He had enclosed his photograph and had asked me to send mine, with the specific instruction not to tell anyone about this. Puppy love. Sheesh.

I showed the letter to my sister. Then I went and told my Mom and showed her the letter. I believe she and Dad had a good laugh over the letter.

I believed that one day, when both of us were all grown up, Som and I would have a good laugh over it too.

But at that point in time, he was screwed. He knew that if he received no reply from me, it would mean that my Mom knew. And he was terrified of my Mom. Because my Mom and his Dad were childhood friends. And if his Dad found out, he'd be taken to task.

But Mom was wise enough not to make a big deal out of such child's play, and I was thankful to her for that. Sid pretended not to know anything, but he'd tease me now and then about Som, and say things like I was destined to get married to Som. "He wishes and you wish, man!" I'd say.

The next time we went to grandma's place in the summer holidays, I did not see Som around. Earlier he'd be at our place every single evening. But that year, he had completely stopped coming to our house. He'd turn up for Sid's birthday party, but he'd completely hide from me. He even came up with secret codes to avoid seeing Mom or me. He'd ring the doorbell thrice to indicate that it was him at the door, and Sid & co would go off with him. This continued for a few years.

I finally saw him a few years later. He was still very very good-looking, but he had put on a lot of weight. Prosperity does that to people, they said. His Dad was one of the richest guys in town. They owned a movie theatre, a hotel, a restaurant, a sweets shop, and had some other businesses too. Som, Sid and Sid's bro rarely ate at home. They would eat most of their meals at Som's restaurant. And all that unhealthy food was showing on him. That year, I bumped into him in the living room and we exchanged polite hellos. It was weird to meet him after so many years, to not have him run after me with an inflated birthday balloon pressed between his hands, screaming, "I'm coming for you, Sayesha! Watch out!" I guess we had finally grown up. And I thought we could go back to being friends the way we were. But we could not. There was an awkward silence in the room, and Sid and he left shortly afterwards.

In the years to follow, something or the other came up and I could not go for my annual summer holidays to grandma's place. But I did hear about Som now and then. About him neglecting his health, about his drinking, about some issue with some girl. I started to feel more and more negative towards him.

"He is spoilt rotten, and he's spoiling you guys too!" I'd say disapprovingly to Sid and his younger brother.

"But he's my best friend!" Both of them would say. Sheesh.

"First of all, decide whose best friend he really is. And if he considered you guys his best friends, he wouldn't be ruining your lives, along with his own of course. All that unhealthy food, the drinking... the getting into fights... "

They wouldn't listen and I'd get angrier and angrier at the guy. Of course my cousins were to be blamed just as much as he was, but somehow I saw Som as the leader of the pack.

The last time I saw him was at my cousin's wedding last year. He had put on more weight, and had a goatie that I found quite disgusting. He was not the handsome Som anymore. I was also told of his 'accident' where he'd lost a tooth, but no one would tell me what exactly had happened. I am sure it had something to do with a gang fight. The guys were involved in a lot of gang stuff. During the wedding reception, we were all dancing on stage and he spoke to me briefly afterwards. Nothing much, just casual 'Hello' stuff. The guys were drinking a lot, and we cautioned them to be careful when on the way home.

The same night, Som was involved in an accident due to drunk driving. When Sid recounted the incident to me the next morning, he looked so terrified. "You know Apa, when I saw him lying on the road like that... not moving... I thought he was... dead, you know." He was still shaken.

"Sid, what is wrong with Som?? Why is he ruining his life like this?? He's such a brilliant chap, and he can do so much with his life. But every now and then, he goes and messes up somewhere. And I hope you guys are not aping his lifestyle!"

The truth was - they were. And it worried me. And what frustrated me most was that I wanted to care only about my cousins. I did not want to care about Som. But I did. We had grown up together, he was my childhood friend.

But that year, I gave up on Som forever.

"Is ladke ka kya hoga?" ("What will become of this chap?") I thought dismissively.

I had not expected my question to be answered in the manner that it was.

A few days ago, Mom called to tell me that last month, Som suffered a stroke resulting from high blood pressure, and was immediately hospitalised. They operated on him, but he went into a coma. Sid and his brother flew down to India from London to see him, but it was too late.

Thousands of miles away from me, a guy my age, my childhood friend, had passed away on his best friend's birthday. He had died of something that people our age don't.

I wasn't close to him. I hadn't even sorted out my feelings for him. I shouldn't care much. But for some reason I do.

Som and I never really had that laugh that I thought we'd have. In fact, every time I met him, I disliked him a bit more than the last time.

But when I close my eyes and picture him, I don't see the drinking, I don't see the unhealthy lifestyle, I don't see the disgusting goatie, I don't see the missing tooth, I don't see the excess weight. I don't see the rich spoilt brat that I had grown to loathe over the years.

I see what I had seen years ago on the bed in that big room on the terrace.

The face of a sleeping angel.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

'Buy' the way

When I was in India, my parents would take me shopping and buy me new clothes to wear on my birthday. On the morning of my birthday, I would wake up to the smell of chaawal ki kheer being made. Mom would do some puja, which I would pretend to be very interested in, only because the end of the puja signified that I could attack the chaawal ki kheer.

Then I grew up, came to live in Singapore by myself, never did any puja, started disliking all sweet stuff including chaawal ki kheer. But the one thing I remembered to do was to buy new clothes for my birthday. Because if I didn't, I'd hear, "WHAT? No new clothes on your birthday?? WHAT?" repeated a million times over when my parents called to speak to me. Mom had tried to send me clothes once, but she gave up when she realised my taste in clothes had completely changed, and that her choice was not my choice anymore.

So this year, in the midst of exams and work, I forgot everything else. A day before my birthday, I remembered that I did not have any new clothes. Darn. I did not want to get scolded by my parents again so I decided to drop by Giordano, because it was almost 9 pm, and that was the closest to my house.

I quickly picked up a pair of pants to wear the next day. As the salesgirl processed my payment, she said cheerfully, "Come back on your birthday, miss, and get 20% off."

"Errr... it's tomorrow, actually." I smiled.

"OH!!! Errr... do you want me to... ?" She paused her processing process.

I thought about it. It made sense. I could come back and buy it the next day. I would still have new clothes on my birthday. I would not be able to wear anything new in the morning, but I could always... errr... sleep in my new pants. The whole 'new clothes on birthday' was really was no big deal to me, but I knew it was to my parents. I could also imagine Mom's shocked face, "WHAT? You did not wear something new on the morning of your birthday???"

Buying the pair of pants the next day and getting the 20% off seemed like the rational thing to do, but have you ever tried explaining rationality to Moms?


"No, it's okay. Please go ahead." I told the girl, and she went ahead with the payment, after giving me a very queer 'how dumb are you?' look.

So I got through my birthday and I got through my exams. As part of my post-exam celebrations, I decided to go on a shopping spree. It was a good day. Exams had just got over, Ian was in hospital, and my salary had just been credited. And that's when I realised that there were a lot of good people in the world who were willing to give me great discounts just because it was my birthday month.

They say shopping is Singapore's national pasttime. I have managed to not get too influenced by this pasttime over my last seven years and none months of living in Singapore. I don't run to every place that I hear has a discount. But of course, when I do shop, I go crazy. However, the best part about my shopping is that I am not brand-crazy. I buy what looks good on me, and not on my credit card profile. I refuse to be one of those girls who go, "Oooh! Blah-blah boots has a 1
.03% off sale this week, and now the new leather-weird-unpronunceable-name-boots are now going for only $899.99! Oooh how cheap!"


My flatmates think that I am super-rich. I think they're going by my shoes. "Sayesha, I think you need a third shoe-rack." One of them said to me sarcastically coupla days ago. I did not bother to explain. Yes, I buy shoes like mad, but I don't buy the insanely expensive kinds. My shoes gotta fit my feet and my budget. Of course, things like make-up have to be branded because you gotta buy the best quality stuff for your skin. But clothes and shoes have a limited life span, and it doesn't make sense to buy a dress for 900 bucks and matching shoes for 300 bucks. Especially when you can't even carry yourself in them, which happens when people buy branded stuff without a thought for whether it even looks good on them.

I'm glad I never fell for the Prada-Gucci-Zara-blah 'brand craze'. I'm glad that I have learnt to pamper myself within my budget.

And oh, periodical donation of clothes helps justify fresh buying sprees. ;)

This whole week, I have plundered many a place in Singapore using my birthday discount. I'm sure many places have already circulated "Watch out, she's coming!" memos to their staff. :/

Any Hang Ten fans in the house? I have 50% off till the end of the month. :D

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Take it - 'cos there's no leave it!

Dear pregnant woman in the train,

The next time I offer you my seat in the train, you'd better take it!

Now don't give me that killer 'Are you yelling at me?' look. Yes, I am yelling at you. Don't think even for a moment that just because it is a well-known fact that a woman's hormones go a bit crazy during pregnancy, I am scared of you. (Actually I am, but you don't know it, do ya?)

Do you know that before I offer you my seat, it takes me a full ten seconds to assess whether you're pregnant or you just happen to have a paunch? I actually take the risk of getting verbally abused in front of fifty people in case you turn out to be not pregnant but merely in need of cutting your carbs and visiting the gym?

I take that risk and offer you my seat, and what do you do?

Smile and say, "No thanks, I'm fine."?

Did you forget your lines? You're supposed to smile, say 'Thank you' and take the freakin' seat. What's with the
onstage improvisation with a "No thanks, I'm fine."?

You're fine?? Lady, look at the size of that thing! Let me tell you missy, I have a history of blacking out and collapsing in trains. And if I choose to give you my seat, surely you need it more than me. Maybe from up there you can't get a clear perspective, but I can! Trust me, you're not fine, you need a seat. I know you're trying to do the whole independent woman thing, but this is not the place. We're not all equal. You're pregnant, I'm not. You should have the seat, I shouldn't. And that's the truth. You gotta face it.

How would you like it if I told your Mom or your Mom-in-law that you refused a seat in the train? You'd get it from them. Bigtime. Isn't it?

I'm not offering you my seat because the government instructs me to be courteous to fellow passengers. I'm not doing this because I want to rise in my own esteem. I am not doing this because there are four million closed circuit cameras all over Singapore that are taking note of the citizens' good deeds. I'm not doing this so that due to my good karma, some kind soul in New Jersey will offer my sister a seat in the train. (I can only hope that he does.)

I'm doing this because I believe that there is something fundamentally wrong in a society where I sit and you stand in the train.

And most importantly, sweetheart, you're getting attention. Take it! As soon as the baby is born, it will completely steal your thunder. Everyone will be talking to it in the universal alele-googoo-plu-plu-kuchi-kuchi language, and no one's gonna pay any attention to you. Not even if you break into the dhakki tiki dance. You'll be craving for it, but you won't get it.

So while you're getting attention, grab it I say.

See ya in the train. And oh, remember your lines this time.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My way is the high way

MC-we-don't-care-much-about gets on the stage.

"Ladies and gentlemen... We're here this evening to honour Sayesha on her great achievement. She has lived to tell us the story of yet another semester. Without further ado, I invite Sayesha on the stage."

Thunderous applause from the audience. Cat calls from three of the Chatur Chaar sitting in the first row.

Sayesha appears on stage, dressed in an elegant yet sexy halter-neck black dress.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen..."

Thunderous applause.

The crowd does not let her speak. She pauses for a while to let them recover.

"I'm a happy girl today. And not just because the exam I just wrote had 5 out of 6 questions on blogs and blogging. It is because I'm done with this semester. And I survived it, thanks to the endless support from parents, colleagues, friends and blog-buddies. I am tired, and sleepy, and hungry. The stress of juggling work and studies, deadlines and assignments, studying during lunch hour at work, surviving on four hours of sleep a night, getting by the day purely on adrenalin, it's all over. For at least two months. And at the end of it, I have one thing to say..."

The crowd waits in anticipation.

"Actually there are two ways of saying what I want to say. There's the dignified way... and there's the Sayesha way... Now this may not go with my dress, but I prefer the Sayesha way..."

The crowd is still waiting in anticipation.

Suddenly Shakti Kapoor aka Crime Master Gogo appears on stage.


Both break into dance in the middle of the stage. The crowd is a bit taken aback, but enjoying the spectacle nevertheless.

"Pssst... Sayesha!"

Sayesha looks around to see who called her name out. She doesn't see anyone, and goes back to her dancing.


"PSSSST!! Sayesha!!" The voice sounds more urgent.

Gogo stops dancing, and looks around.

"Sayesha!" He says. "Excuse me, Sayesha!"

"What is it?" Sayesha glares. "Why have you stopped dancing?"

"I think there's someone looking for you there." He points at the gap between the curtains.

Sayesha can't believe her eyes.

"What on earth are you doing here, Ian????????" Sayesha glares at him angrily.

Ian stumbles onto the stage.

"What am I doing here? What are you doing here?? Why are you doing that ridiculous dance in that beautiful dress?" He hisses.

"I'm celebrating, dammit. My exams are overrrrrrrrrrrr!"

"I know they are over. But don't start taking things too lightly. You still have to work on your thesis. You gotta meet your supervisor every wednesday. Perhaps you should start tomorrow. What do you say?"

Sayesha stops dancing. Gogo stops dancing.
MC-we-don't-care-much-about stops the music.

Tension in the crowd.

Looooooong pause.

Then Sayesha speaks.

"Ian, you're right. I do have to say something.
Actually there are two ways of saying what I want to say. There's the dignified way... and there's the Sayesha way... Now this may not go with my dress, but I prefer the Sayesha way..."


Amazed, Gogo looks at Ian, now flat on the floor.

"Baap re! Mogambo ki bhateejee..." Says his thought bubble.

"Gogo ji", says Sayesha. "Take it from the top... one... two... three..."


Monday, April 24, 2006

Peas in a pod

So I stepped out of my office and was greeted by darkness all around.

Eh, but I thought I left on time?

I looked at my watch. 6:15 pm. Besides, I had just bumped into a colleague, who, just like me, likes to leave on time.

Oh, so it was the dark clouds.

It was raining pretty hard, and as I opened my umbrella and made my way to the bus stop, trying to dodge vehicles that generously sprayed me with a light brown liquid, I figured that my 'Rain playlist' was in order.

It started off with the semi-classical 'Megha chhayi aadhi raat', then went on to the elegant ghazal by Jagjit Singh 'Garaj baras pyaasi dharti par phir pani de maula'. Soon, the beautiful duet from Betaab 'Badal yun garajta hai' was playing, followed by 'Rimjhim rimjhim' from '1942 - A love story'. 'Pani pani re' from 'Maachis' followed shortly afterwards. Then there was Asha Bhosle's quirky 'Chhoti si kahani se, baarishon ke pani se'. There was no 'On the roof, in the rain' (Sorry, Shekhar!) but the playlist ended with Raveena Tandon's sexy 'Tip tip barsa pani' from 'Mohra'.

And I could not help but wonder at the features of this amazing instrument.

  • Huge database of all kinds of songs
  • Instant recall function
  • Free songs, accessible from any part of the world at any hour
  • No piracy or copyright infringement issues
  • No charging required
  • Instantaneous rewind, forward, pause, delete and restore functions
  • 'Ban singer' function
  • Shuffle option available
  • Sort by 'singer', 'genre', 'composer', 'album'. Also by 'mood' and 'weather'.
  • Instantaneous switch if you don't like the song
  • Switch to 'remix version' feature
  • 'Change singer' and 'change accompaniments' functions
  • All lyrics available
  • Create playlists anywhere and anytime
  • Does not take up any space in your bag
  • Available in every imaginable colour
The all-new "I"-pod
With features your iPod can only dream of.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Crouching Sayesha, disappointing dragon(fruit)

Remember when you were a kid and you saw an elephant for the first time?


I was shaken to my very core.

Now I see elephants and go, "Ho hum..."

But even today, when I see something for the first time, my eyes pop out, and I turn into the kid that had stared at the elephant as it produced a medium-sized hill of errr... biogas fuel.

That's something that never really changes even when we're all grown up, does it? Though I've seen many people try to act all 'adult' and hide the mind-numbing excitement of seeing something cool for the first time, but deep inside, they're jumping with joy of the purest and most innocent kind.

I especially love to watch Mom and Dad when they're looking at something they have never seen before.

They never have a "We're too dignified to appear amazed at such inconsequential things." expression. Or a "So what?" or a "What's so cool about this?" or an "I've seen this before." expression.

And especially not the spirit-crushing "Aaj kal toh hamare India mein sab kuchh milta hai!" ("These days we get everything in our India!") which I get from a lot of people every time I take any gifts for them in my trip home.

My parents react to everything dil se.

And I am so thankful that it's in the genes.

So I took a dragonfruit along with me the last time I went to India.

After my initial excitement at the amazing appearance of the fruit had died down, I decided to share it with my parents. (I'm sure dragonfruits are available in some parts of India, but I knew my parents had never seen one.)

As I unpacked, I took it out of the plastic bag, and 'presented' it to them.

"So? Ever seen anything like this?" I grinned.

"WOW!" They gaped at it. "What IS this?"

"It's a fruit I got from Singapore. They call it 'dragonfruit'."

"Hmmm... it does look like a dragon..." They took turns to inspect it closely.

Mom kept it in the living room in a bowl, and everyone who came to visit us looked at it in utter amazement. Mom and Dad loved the attention. I felt like I had a second sibling.

After a while though, curiosity got the better of them.

"Shall we open it to see how it looks on the inside?" Mom asked.

"But the outer covering is so beautiful." Dad said.

"But maybe the inside is even better! How does the inside look, beta?" Mom asked.

"Errr... I dunno, never seen a cut dragonfruit..." I replied.

"Hmmm... Okay, let's wait a few more days."

In a few days, the fruit started showing slight signs of drying up.

"We have to see the inside before it dries up. We'll cut it this evening." She declared.

Whoa, date and time fixed.

That evening, in a ceremonial fashion, Mom took her sharpest knife and hacked the dragonfruit into two, as Dad and I looked on.

Heavy silence from my family.

It certainly did not live up to their expectations.

Mom stared at it for a while, and then slowly said in a disappointed tone, "It's black & white..."

"Well, it's not a TV, Mom. It's a fruit. What, you thought it would be dark pink on the inside too?" I said. Actually, I was angry at the damn fruit. I was disappointed that the fruit had disappointed my parents.

"Well, I thought it would have some other colour... but it's black & white..." She looked quite desolate.

"Err... yeah..."

"Oh no! It was so much nicer earlier!! Why did you ask me to cut it open??" She asked.

"Huh?? I asked you to cut it open???? You couldn't wait to cut it open, Mom!" I protested.

She completely ignored my words.

"Okay, now what do we do with this?" Suddenly it had become a 'this' from that 'beautiful dark pink fruit that our daughter got from Singapore'. Sheesh.

"Uhh... eat it, I guess?" I took a shot in the dark.

"Hmmm.... eat it... how does it taste?"

"I dunno."

She cut a small piece and offered it to my Dad.

"Try it and tell me if it's nice?"

"Why am I always the guinea pig?" Dad protested.

"Arre, try it na!" Mom insisted.

Dad tried a piece. The expression on his face said it all.

"Say something na..." Mom urged.

"Actually... it kind of... has... errr.. no taste..." He said.

"Oh my God! It must taste horrible. Did you see his face?? And there was only one of it. Okay, whose bright idea was it to cut it??"

"Yours, Mom!"

"Now what do we do?" Dad asked. I believe that if he'd had his way, he'd have glued the two pieces back.

"Hmmm... we gotta mix it with something. Something that has... err... you know... taste! " She started to go through the stuff in the fridge.

"Oh I know! Let's make strawberry-dragonfruit milkshake!" She said.

"Strawberry-dragonfruit milkshake?? Errr... are you sure, Mom?" I asked.

"Arre, your Dad said the fruit is tasteless, na? So the milkshake will taste only of strawberry. But maybe the dragonfruit thing will give the milkshake a nice flavour or something."

Whrrrrrrrrrrrrr.... went the blender and in a few minutes, it was done.

I stared at the glass of pink liquid with black and white dots all over.

She held up a glass in front of Dad's face.

"No! I'm not going first this time." He said.

Then she looked at me.

"No way!" I said.

So she gave up and tried it herself.

Stony silence and expressionless face for a few seconds.

"Now the strawberry milkshake is ruined. Whose brilliant idea was it to add the dragonfruit?" She demanded.

Dad and I looked at each other in utter amazement.

"This tastes absolutely horrible." She shook her head in disapproval. "Your dragonfruit thing is no good."

That was it, man. I vowed never to take any cool-looking stuff home again, unless I had tried it myself.

I'm meeting them soon. Any ideas on what I can take for them this time?

Preferably something they've never seen before. ;)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Number slumber

So I ran outta pages in my passport and decided to apply for an extra booklet.


I wasn't pissed off that I was stripped of 120 dollars. I was pissed off because apparently they do not issue additional booklets anymore. You gotta apply for a new passport. And that's not the frustrating part.

They give you a new passport number!

:O :O :O

Sigh. So much for taking 8 years to memorise my passport number.

About three weeks ago, as I stood in the passport-application queue at the Indian Embassy and looked at the form that I had to fill, I panicked. The form needed me to fill up not only my current passport details (including date of issue and expiry!), but also my home address in India and phone number. Easy, you say? Not when your home address and home telephone number change every two years. So I sent an sms to my Dad to ask for the details. Following which, I relaxed. "He can take his time. This is the Indian Embassy. The queue will probably move an inch in the next half an hour." I thought. To my utter surprise, the queue started moving really fast. It looked liked the Indian Embassy was catching up with Singapore's ICA in terms of efficiency! As I reached the verge of panic, Dad smsed back. I quickly filled in the form, and managed to submit it just in time.

And as I walked back, I couldn't help but wonder.

In a world of open book exams, why is it that we have to memorise so many numbers to get by?

And I started thinking of all the numbers that surround my life. Numbers that make my life easy. Numbers that make my life difficult. Numbers that make me mad. Numbers I remember. Numbers I think I remember. Numbers I am clueless about.

And I decided to list them down.

Numbers I remember :)

  • Own birthday
  • IC number
  • Own mobile number
  • Best friends' mobile number
  • Office phone number
  • Numbers of buses that go to my office
  • Numbers in house address
  • Area code
  • Gmail password
  • Internet banking password
  • Blogger account password
  • Office email login
  • Family birthdays
  • Dad's and Mom's anniversary
  • Sister's and brother-in-law's anniversary
  • Some friends' birthdays
  • Date I arrived in Singapore

Numbers I forget every now and then :/

  • My home phone number (Hey, I don't call myself, okay! Errr... at least not that often.)
  • Sister's home phone number
  • University matric number
  • Old passport number
  • Area code of office address
  • University email password
  • Bank account numbers
  • Statcounter account password
  • Dad's shirt size (I have called Mom to ask this so many times that if my Dad knew, he would disown me.)
  • Brother-in-law's birthday
  • Date I joined my present company
  • Numbers in my salary

No idea! :O

  • Dad's mobile number
  • Home phone number (India)
  • Numbers in home address (India)
  • Numbers in sister's address
  • Sister's mobile number
  • Dad's/Mom's exact ages
  • Dad's car license plate number
  • Boss' extension number
  • Office fax number
  • New passport number
  • Passport issue date
  • Passport expiry date
  • Credit card numbers
  • Hotmail/Yahoo passwords
Did I miss out any?

Perhaps I did.

I guess some of them fall in the category 'numbers I couldn't give a rat's ass about'.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Boo! Open boo(k)!

Why the hell do they call it an 'open book exam' when they don't give you any time to open the freakin' book??? >:-(

So Ian flew to Delhi this morning on a budget airline and took a connecting flight to Lucknow to insitigate my parents.

There was no other explanation to the weird phenomenon otherwise.

Why else would Dad, who never worries about my exams otherwise, send me an sms this morning, "Call after exam."?

After the so called 'open book' exam, I had no intention to call him. But I knew he would be waiting for my call. So I tried to get away by sending him an sms, "Exam did not go very well. Paper was too long. Could not finish."

Then just to ensure that he did not call me to probe further, I added what I thought was a clever touch.

"Don't wanna think about it. Wanna concentrate on tomorrow's paper."

Three seconds later, my mobile was ringing.

Sigh. Nice try, Sayesha.

"Hi, Dad." I tried to sound really tired.

"Your exam didn't go well? Why not?"

"Uhhh... I told you, the paper was too long. It was the first time they used an online exam format for this subject, so maybe the professor could not estimate how many questions to set."

"Hmmm... but why didn't you do well?"

"Uhhh... the paper... was too long?"

Heavy silence. From both Dad and Ian.

Suddenly, Mom jumped into the conversation. I did not even know she was on the other phone!

"But how did the others do??" She asked.

"Badly, I guess. They looked pretty unhappy after the paper. I think everyone screwed up."

"Oh everyone screwed up??? Then it's fine na!" She said happily.

Hehehe! :D

"Then it's fine na!"

Mom, you're de best! :P

I feel so much better now.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Notice to all bewdas

Budh-war, vrihaspati-war

Pareekshaayein lagataar
Kaisa hai yeh atyachaar?
Kaisa hai yeh bhrashtachaar?

Daftar hai desh ke is paar
Aur vishwavidyalaya us paar
Idhar udhar bhaga daudi se yaar
Jeena ho gaya hai dushwaar!

Shehzadi gulbadan, husn-e-bahaar
Ho rahi hai imtihaan ke liye taiyaar
Lekin nahin maanegi woh haar
Band nahin hoga yeh bar!
Band nahin hoga yeh bar!


Monday, April 17, 2006

Mere desh ki English

Today was a day of mixed feelings.

It was the first day of a company-sponsored 2-day editorial course. Most of such courses are not really useful to us, because the speaker talks about things we already know, or have learnt on the job. And yet, I attend them for a couple of reasons:

1. At the end of the course, they give nice looking certificates with our names printed on them. And no matter how crappy the course is, it usually has an impressive-sounding name, which can be pitched as 'skills upgrading' at job interviews. Often, our resumes reach a stage where they become stagnant, and certificates such as these make them look current and updated.

2. I want to make sure that the things I learn on the job in my company are industry-standard. And so even if the course is very basic, it helps to know that you're not a frog in the well, living in your own world, unaware of how others in the same field do things.

3. I use these courses as research material on what makes a good speaker. I observe the speaker and the listeners, and try to study why some speakers can effortlessly put people to sleep, while others make them actively participate and enjoy. It gives me tips on what to do and what not to do in my own presentations.

Anyway, so there I was, at the course venue, waiting for the course to start. A course that was about to make me happy, sad, angry, furious, stressed, bored, hungry and sleepy, all in one day. Not necessarily in the same order though.

It all started off with merry laughter.

The trainer was talking about how editors should avoid hyphenating monosyllabic words. He used the following example.

"Some say that lo-
ve is such a bore."

"Remember, love cannot be hyphenated." He declared solemnly.

I don't know what it was about the way he said it, but my editor Banana and I found it incredibly funny. We burst out into peals of laughter.

"Wow, so profound... Love cannot be hyphenated..." She said.

"Oh man, I'm so gonna blog about this tonight!" I said.

"Yeah, I'll wait for that post!" She said.

Soon, there was another gem.

He asked one of the editors how she handled hyphens in her books. She said that in her company, they avoid such hyphens.

"We don't break up the word." He colleague pitched in to clarify.

Another very solemn statement.

More laughter from Banana and me, as both of us jotted it down next to the lo-ve statement, to have a good laugh later.

This reminded me of a course in editing I had done two years ago. The trainer shared how he was trying to explain the typesetting format to his author.

"Your book is not justified." He'd said.

Apparently, he had to spend quite some time calming down the furious author who demanded to know the name of the person who thought his book was not justified.

Coming back to today's course, explaining further examples on hyphenation, the trainer asked us how we would hyphenate the word 'therapist' if we had to. To our horror, we realised that one of the ways would be to write it as 'the-rapist'?? :O I'm so sticking to my rule of not hyphenating words which are not naturally hyphenated.

This reminded me of the last issue of the magazine Banana and I worked on. A part of the article was on how hydra reproduces through budding to give rise to a new organism. We had a little cartoon of a hydra and its bud in a picture frame. Banana gave it a clever caption -- 'Best buddies'. Smartass Sayesha thought that the 'bud' pun would not be obvious to the kids, so I suggested we put single quotes around the word 'bud'. All was fine till the proofs came back and I realised to my horror that it read like 'Best bud dies'. :O We promptly reverted to the original.

The trainer also gave us examples of how over-enthusiastic proofreaders can cause more damage than good to a manuscript.

One of the sentences in an article on some national hero went something like, "He made his money from gambier." (Gambier is an extract obtained from the leaves of a woody vine, used medicinally and in tanning and dyeing.)

The proofreader promptly changed it to "He made his money from gambling."

Hahahaha! :D

This reminded me of an ex-editor in my company who changed the statement "Methane is also produced when cows burp." to "Methane is also produced when cows burn." My co-editor and I referred to this incident for many many months as the 'burning issue of the cows aka issue of the burning cows'. :D

So it was all fun till the trainer pissed the hell outta me.

He was explaining about American spelling and style vs. those used in the UK. I put up my hand to ask a question.

"I have noticed that in Singapore, they do not put a dot when they abbreviate words such as 'doctor' and 'mister'. I have noticed this both in newspapers and books in Singapore. But I have not seen this to be true for many other countries. I come from India, and even there we write 'Dr.' and 'Mr.' with the dots. What is the rationale behind Singapore choosing not to have the dots?"

"As I mentioned before (!!), India is still in the victorian age." He said. "But you have to keep up with the times. You have to be modern. All these extra dots are unnecessary. You need to save ink." Was his answer.

I usually don't lose my temper, but this did it. And as happens many a time, I control my anger by saying what I want to say, in my own head. And I say it all in one breath, till I cool down.

"I beg your pardon, sir. Your country has been very good to me, and I am grateful for that, and just out of respect for your age and seniority, I would not want to get into an argument about my country vs. your country. Blasting someone in public is really fun, and trust me, we Indians are really good at it. But you see, my victorian culture teaches me to respect the elderly, which is why I am saying this in my head and not out loud. If I were sitting here in my individual capacity, you would have heard at least something from me. But I am here as a representative of my company, and I will not bring it a bad name. Dude, there may be a lot of things that are wrong with my country, and a lot of things that are very right about yours, but Singlish ain't one of 'em. If you're so modern in terms of using language, why is it that many CEOs and top managers here can't even say a simple sentence in correct English? It makes me physically sick when I see English teachers asking their students, "You got do homework or not?" You think my country is victorian? Victorian are you, sir, because you don't know how to talk to people, especially foreigners, in a modern multi-cultural society such as yours. Firstly, your stating that my country is victorian in terms of language is not even answering my question. If you'd said you didn't know the answer, I'd have respected you so much more. Secondly, you had already said that once in your lecture that India was living in victorian times. Saying it, again, to me - obviously the only Indian in the room - as an answer to my perfectly valid question, says a lot about you. And finally, if one's modernity was determined by how much ink one saves, Singapore would not be using British English in its education system. It would use the much simpler-to-spell American English. Or perhaps Singapore would have come up with its own spelling system, using the services of sykoz like you."

Phew. I'm done.

Breathe, Sayesha, breathe.

"Thank you." I said to him, in my most sarcastic voice. I was still seething though.

Perhaps storming out of the room would have been better.

And that would have given me so much time to prepare for Wednesday's exam. :/

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Awesome mausam

When you're studying for exams, you gotta plan your time very well. You gotta make an agenda for the day.

So today, on my agenda was Salaam Namaste, parts of 'Goodness Gracious Me', checking email, reading blogs, a big packet of Ruffles sour cream & onion and two tubs of Ben & Jerry's (dark chocolate and cheescake-strawberry). This was to be followed by vegetarian maggi mee moreng at my favourite 24-hour roadside hawker centre.

Studying Statistics and Media & Marketing was also on the agenda somewhere.

I think.

(Now you know why I had to hire a bouncer to keep an eye on me over the long weekend to make sure I get some studying done.)

But hey, study I did.

Till the damn weather distracted me. As I pored over topics like nominal variables, chi-square tests, analysis of variance, independent-samples t-test (how interesting. :|), I heard thunder! An avid lover of rain, I rushed to my cope bhavan to check out the awesome mausam. It was simply brilliant.

First the dark clouds, and then the wild rain beating down so hard that it sounded like hailstones against the windows. Soon, I had to shut the window, but I could still see the rain. Heavenly.

"I'm so glad glass is a transparent material." I declared, as I watched the rain through my window pane.

My bouncer laughed.

Ah, well. That's me. I am thankful for weird things. I rejoice about things that would ordinarily make people go "Duh!" In fact, every year I go, "Wow, Good Friday falls on a friday this year?! Long weekend, yeay!"

I know. :|

Call me idealistic or ultra-optimistic, but I refuse to join the 'everything sucks' gang, who are forever cribbing about their lives, and saying that there is not much around them to rejoice about. I refuse to be negative just because being negative is the new 'cool'. If anything, I'm sure glad I have not lost my ability to appreciate.

If we really look, there's plenty of things to celebrate, isn't it?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Express lunch delivery

Sayesha's checklist before going to the gym:



Mobile phone?

Gym card?

Bottle of water?

Gym towel?


Yep, that's right. I said 'bread'.

On my way to the gym, I pass by a dirty pond with gazillions of fish and turtles in it. And these guys know my aahat. Each time I pass by, they come running towards me. (I'm not kidding, it is not a swimming action - it is a running action! You gotta see it to believe it.)

The first time I saw them, I wondered if anyone ever fed them. They looked really hungry. After gym, I went to the little mini-mart below the gym and bought myself bread for the next day's breakfast. And I decided to donate the top and bottom slices (which I don't like anyway) to the hungry fish and turtles.

Now it's become a weekly routine. I carry the bread with me on the way to the gym, feed the fish and the turtles, and then go for my workout.

It's quite fun to watch them push and shove each other to get to the bread. Once I took videos of them eating. (I'm sure they hated it as much I hate it when annoying shaadi wala cameraman videos people eating, as if there is nothing better to video in the shaadi.)

Most of the time, it's the agile fish that get most of the bread, while the turtles are left hungry and helpless. Once in a while, one of the turtles will come very close and in a eeriely humanlike manner, lift its head up and look at me with its mouth open, and I will carefully drop the piece of bread in its mouth.

Sometimes little curious kids will come to watch me feed them. But they're too scared to feed the jumpy animals themselves. So they watch till they get bored and then go back to playing. I never get bored.

Sometimes I pretend that they are my pets. Cos they give me special treatment. Like I said before, whenever I pass by, even if I am far away from them, they start running towards me. But they completely ignore other people. Ha!

Maybe they have a sixth sense for food.

Or maybe they just like me.

But there's one thing about me I'm sure they don't like.

I only buy brown bread. :|

Friday, April 14, 2006

Being 25 (2nd edition)

My 25th (2nd edition) birthday was made very special by surprises from friends, some really cool gifts and cards, and one more thing. Being wished by many people who have never met me in real life.

So I came back to office after a meeting in a school, to be greeted by the sight of two envelopes on my desk. I opened the first one and I was so utterly surprised that I had to rub my eyes to confirm that the country name I saw on the stamps was not my imagination.

This was a card sent to me by a very smart blogger. In fact, this chap would do very well in the stalking business. He had guessed my birthday using the combination of my yahoo id and my zodiac sign. Then he had used his ip tracker on his blog to track my company, googled it to find my mailing address and sent me this card. But since he knew neither my full name nor my department, he addressed it to 'Sayesha, Editor, Children's books section'. I nearly died laughing when I saw that. What an absolutely adorable geek.

Then I turned my attention to the second envelope. I'd guessed right, it was from ROS. She had sent me a handwritten letter, a card and a very interesting book. As soon as I saw the nice handwriting on the card, I knew Virdi had had no hand (literally) in it. ;) It was evident that her geneROSity had forced her to include the names of the other two blokes in Chatur Chaar too. I guess it is difficult to plan a Chatur Chaar surprise without the official surprise planner. Okay fine is saal maaf kar diya, agle saal yeh sab nautanki nahin hona chahiye. *Sayesha looks coyly at her nails.*

ROS had "edited" the book, and changed the story to a hilarious one. The book had snippets of fairy tales, and she had changed the characters to hilarious ones.

"Snow White Sayesha hears singing in the forest. Who can it be? It's the seven dwarfs Chatur Chaar!"

"The prince is holding a wonderful ball at his royal palace. Who will be his dancing partner? It's Cinderella Sayesha! The prince falls in love as soon as he sees her."

"Everyone thinks Cinderella Sayesha is beautiful...

...except her jealous stepsisters MACs!"

Other hilarious lines included:

"Jasmine Sayesha and Aladdin Mithunda (our favourite) take off on the magic carpet. Wicked Jafar Shaan is foiled again!"

"Flora Virdi, Fauna ROS and Merryweather Vikram wonder where Briar Rose Sayesha has gone. Oh, there she is, singing in the forest. The woodland animals love to listen to her. Prince Phillip Shaan is also in the forest. He hears her beautiful voice and falls in love!"

On Wednesday morning, I found this cute little envelope from a colleague who was gonna be on leave on my birthday, so she had warned me not to touch the card till Thursday.

I recognised her handwriting, but decided to be patient and honour her request and open it only on Thursday.

On Wednesday night, I figured some of my friends would be turning up at my place at midnight, so I spent some time cleaning up my room. These days, my room only gets cleaned up when I am expecting people. Sheesh.

Two of my closest friends came a bit early. We were sitting and talking when another friend called. "Achha, which cake do you want?"

Why are you asking me?? Can you like surprise me??" I said.

"Errr... there's strawberry, there's almond..."

"Eeeeks! I HATE almond cake and strawberry cake! Don't get that!"

"Errr..." He said.

And then I realised why he had found it safer to call me before getting the cake. I am the kind who has very specific dislikes, especially when it comes to birthdays.

"You know what I like yaar! Just get what you think I'll like." I said.

"And don't forget Nachos and my super spicy dip!" I reminded him.

This is my all-time favourite snack. I remember a time when a friend and I finished a whole big packet of it within half an hour while watching 'Dil toh pagal hai'.

He got me a cheesecake! Yeay! He said he got it cos it was called the 'Princess cake'. (Yes, in some circles, I am known as the princess.) Lately, I have developed an affinity for the colour pink, and so I was quite thrilled to have a pink Princess cake (which was NOT strawberry!) with 25 (please note the number) candles on it.

Soon, old friends from university started streaming in. From the blog world, Clueless and Starbreez came. Just around midnight, calls started pouring in. I got a call from Kusum, followed by one from Rohit. Virdi called soon after, and Vikram called just when I was about to cut my cake. (Yes, that's Viks on the phone in the picture above.) My friends got impatient and started singing "Happy birthday to you!" and so I had to hang up. ROS sent me an sms. I think she tried to call but my line was probably busy.

There I am, cutting my pink princess cheesecake!

Hilarious card from my friends A and R - the front

The inside! Hahahah! :D

Knowing my obsession with the series, Starbreez got me the SATC book! Yippeeeee! I think I need someone to confiscate it till after my exams! :O

Clueless got me a magnet that perfectly matches my beliefs, and an anklet that I have been looking for, since last year when I broke my old anklet - a single strand anklet with very little frills - a most perfect piece of jewellery. Singapore only seemed to have double strand anklets. In fact, I looked for it when I went to Manila too. But they only showed me what looked like cowbells. I had almost given up when Clueless got this for me. And the most amazing thing is - she had no idea I wanted that anklet so bad! In fact, she was wondering if I would like it!

Search over! Yeay!

My friends hung around till about 1 or so... by the time I cleaned up and went to bed, it was almost 2 and I had to get up at 6 am the next day, as usual, to go to work.

So I showed up at work, my eyes drooping with sleep, when I got something that totally woke me up. The receptionist in my office called to tell me that there was something for me outside. Virdi had sent me roses - the most beautiful white roses ever! And they were in this cute little bucket-like thing. The bouquet was much admired by my colleagues. Some curious ones asked me, "Hmmm... secret admirer?"
"No. Hand-stalker." I wanted to say. :D
But I said, "From my friend in India."

His note was hilarious. It said, "Tum jiyo hazaaron saal, saal ke din ho pachaas hazaar." (Note how it contradicts and yet validates my new age structure.) Happy birthday to you. Now give me your hands quick! :)" Hahahah! I was reminded of Sholay's "Yeh haath mujhe de de, thakur!" :D

Another friend sent me a Sasa skincare set. But what was more extraordinary was the little accompaniment he had sent. A handwritten three-page letter from a guy who's the laziest bum on the planet! That was such a HUGE surprise!

My colleagues also landed me a surprise, brilliantly executed by my team, notably by my editor Banana who can give anyone a run for their money in the creativity department. She and I have planned so many surprises together, that she knew she had to outdo whatever we'd done so far, all by herself. And boy, what a job brilliantly done!

My team is *touchwood* the most fun team in my company. We have two e-fairies, one elf and a new-bee (the newest editor), and I am the queen bee (a name I am not too fond of, but have been living with). So my team decided to give the queen bee a royal surprise. Purple being the colour of royalty (and a colour I like, besides blue, pink and black), everything about the surprise was purple. They got purple roses delivered to the reception. The receptionist then called me to deliver it. The bouquet was beautiful but it had no card!

"Who delivered this?" I asked her.

"I don't know!" She said.

"Which florist was this?"

"Err... From the building opposite our office..."

"WHAT?" I was a bit freaked out. Anonymous guy from the building opposite delivers a bouquet for me to my office? As I walked back to my cubicle, still pondering over the mystery of the bouquet, I saw like half the office at my cubicle. They were all grinning away, and there was my favourite cake (cocoa exotica), complete with candles, sitting smugly at my desk.

After I blew out the candles, I wanted to cut it immediately, but Banana said, "No no, see the card first! If you cut the cake, everyone will take a piece each and go back." (Ah! Experience!)

So I opened the card. The creative darlings at my company had made a mock cover of my magazine and called it the 'birthday issue'. It was a sunflower field and the faces of my colleagues were sprouting from the centre of the flowers. My team members and I had bodies of bees, and we were shown hovering above the flowers. The card was a treat to see! (Can't put up the pic here, as it has photos of other people).

The elf had written me an ode, but the e-fairies and the new-bee did not like it too much, so there was a disclaimer beneath his 'Ode to the queen' saying "We had nothing to do with this." and signed by the three girls. It was super hilarious.

I turned my attention back to the cake, only to hear Banana say, "No no no! Open the gifts first!"

"But I wanna cut my cake..." I protested.

"No no no, open the gifts first!"

Okay, fine.

The gifts were adorable. More skincare stuff, a set of pink and purple towels from Esprit, and a pair of REALLY comfortable bedroom slippers. I was asked to wear everything and pose for a picture. So I pretended that the towel was an elegant pashmina shawl and put it around my shoulders. Then I took off my shoes and wore the bedroom slippers. I think I looked quite a sight. I was scared they'd ask me walk around in them the whole day, but thankfully they did not. The slippers were so spongy and comfortable, I could not help but hop around in them for a while.

Finally, the photos of a ridiculously dressed Sayesha were taken, and I asked Banana, "Okay, may I cut my cake now?" My 'boss for the day' finally granted permission and I attacked the cake.


Banana then proceeded to take pictures of what she called "competitors' gifts". (See how market-oriented my editors are?) She put the two bouquets side by side and took a shot.

That's one incredibly sight, isn't it? When I was carrying the flowers back home, I got a lot of jealous stares in the train and the bus. Yippeee!

Many bloggers also sent me emails/e-cards - Hitler's soul, Rohit Talwar, The girl who sold the world, Harshi, Macho Girl, Sinnerman, Surreal Reality, American Pie and Shub.

Thanks everyone, for making my birthday so special! Thanks for all the gifts, cards, emails, phone calls and sms messages. Maza aa gaya bilkul!

Happy birthday to me :)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hit me baby one more time!

Apparently, the HR department in my company is working on a new 'wage structure' to control the high employee turnover.

But if I know anything about my HR department, my new 'age structure' will be in use long before their new wage structure has even been conceptualised.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I said new 'age structure'.

If I were the HR manager at the..err... divine level, I'd propose a new age structure for humans. The core of my proposed age structure involves two important concepts.

1. We should die at 50.
2. We should be able to live certain years of our lives for more than one year.

Okay, now I shall elaborate.

1. We should die at 50.

The reason why I feel that we should die at 50 is because I believe that's all our generation can handle. Our parents have made our lives so easy that we're incapable - both physically and mentally - to cope with the hardships of life, especially as we get older. Pampered and spoilt, all our generation does is sit and crib about things without the will to change anything ourselves. If we compare ourselves to what our parents went through to earn a living, to make a life, what we're doing is like a joke. Every little thing that happens to us seems like a huge hardship to us. In fact, we're changing the very basic definition of 'struggle' and 'hardships'.

Our parents' generation knew how tough life was - and perhaps that's why they found such happiness in small things in spite of difficulties. But look at us - we demand so much more to feel even a little happy. We always feel that we don't have enough money, love, support, happiness, intelligent company, etc. etc. You name it, we don't have it! Not to mention we want shortcuts to everything. We're not appreciative of what we have because we have been spoiled and pampered so bad. Looking at the present situation, I believe that if we're cribbing about life when we're hale and hearty, there is no way we can take it when we're old, frail and helpless.

So here's another shortcut then - everyone dies at 50. Simple. 50 is a nice age to die at. You're neither too old, nor too young. Hopefully you would have achieved what you wanted to in those 50 years and would be ready to die a happy death, while you're still hale and hearty. Also, since you know exactly how many years you have, you would be able to plan your life better.

2. We should be able to live certain years of our lives for more than one year.

We like certain years of our lives much more than others. So the new age structure will give us the flexibility of applying for an extension of a certain age. Let's say, you loved the year you were 18. A month before your birthday, you can apply for an extension and choose to stay 18 for another year. Extension will be granted based on your performance in the year re-applied for. This extension will be applicable to only three ages in one lifetime, so make your choices wisely. I foresee that most people will choose ages such as 16, 18, 21 and 25. But it's really upto you. Because you will be the one choosing what to do in that extra year. And oh, it does not mean that if you sat for your boards in the first year of being 18, you gotta sit for it again in your second year of being 18. You can choose to do anything you like, but your age as per records (and people's memories) will be 18 in the following year too.

Extensions will be granted upto three years, but one year at a time. This relates to point 1 mentioned above, as your total age will still be 50. So if you decide to live the age of 18 for three years, and the rest as per normal, your age on the records will be 47 when you die. But you would have lived the same as everyone else - 50 years. That will also make sure that death does not become too predictable. Since you would not know how old a person really is, you would not be able to tell who's gonna die when. You can only tell for yourself.

Sounds good, huh? To me, it does.

And if I were to take advantage of the new structure, I'd choose to stay 25 for 3 more years. And it's not just because I am already past the 16 and 18 and 21 marks.

It's because I believe that 25 is the perfect age.

It is the age where you are still kinda clueless about where your life is headed, but you have a vague idea. It is the age where you're still learning things at the workplace, but you're also being taken seriously. It is the age where you can pull off any kind of clothes, from a 16-year-old's to a 35-year-old's. It is the age where you start thinking of marriage but you can still afford to be unsure. It is the age where you're mature, but yet you can pull off a kiddish side. It is the age where what you make of yourself as a person will stay with you for life.

It is the age where you are most you.

And that's why I, Sayesha, on the stroke of midnight, 13th April 2006, refuse to turn 26.