Thursday, December 31, 2009

What's the word?

"So what's your New Year resolution?"

It's the last day of the year and you see this question flying everywhere around you.

I got to thinking. Why do we make New Year resolutions? (Anyone saying "To break them!" will get the final whack of 2009 with my hypothetical rolled-up newspaper.)

Why is it that we need to make a resolution? Why can't we just wake up on any given day and carry out whatever constitutes the resolution we want to make, without saying it out loud to ourselves and others? Why do we make it for the New Year? Why not on any random day? What is it about the New Year?

And then the following points struck me, which answered the why, when and how of resolutions.

1. There is always something or the other about ourselves we want to change or improve.

2. We are inherently lazy.

3. We are easily distracted.

4. We need a plan and a deadline to do what we want to do.

5. Sometimes we need a friendly nudge (and at other times, a kick in the ass) to carry out what we want to do.

6. Sometimes we need a new slate because we have written so much on the old one and crossed so many things out that nothing makes sense anymore.

And a sum total of all of the above points is what makes us make New Year Resolutions. All kinds. Get better marks, get into institution X, play better, exercise more, keep the house clean, get a six-pack, blog more, read the news regularly, watch less TV, make time for hobbies, learn a new language, run the marathon, lose weight, get a promotion, stay in touch with loved ones, retire with XX dollars in the bank, judge less, learn to play a musical instrument, eat more fruits, grow plants, remember to use sunscreen, drink more water, control anger, forgive and forget, etc. etc.

When we declare our resolutions, it's a virtual contract we make with ourselves, and when we tell people, we get them to sign as witnesses. We need them to give us that friendly nudge (or kick in the ass, as necessary) to do what we set out to do. All of us need one another to do that. And we know how much we need the nudges and the kicks to get anything done.

However, there are two sides to having such witnesses. I read an interesting article somewhere that talked of a study which proved that people who share details of their resolutions with others (in an effort to push themselves further by bringing in more witnesses, I presume) are less likely to carry them out. Wow. Never thought of that. The reason given was that when people ask how the resolution is going, the person is likely to make up a couple of milestones achieved and actually believe them to be true! To the point that at the end of it, we may have achieved only 30% of what we set out to do, but we truly believe that we did 100%.

Here's an example. There is a difference between going to the gym and actually doing something in there. Sure, it sounds totally awesome to say "I go to the gym thrice a week, for two hours each." when someone asks "So how's your gymming going?" But what we do in the gym for those two hours is really up to us. And at the end of it, we may actually start believing that we work out for two hours each, thrice a week, but there are just no results. The resolution becomes a burden. And then we give up. We curse ourselves for sharing our resolutions. Hell, we even curse ourselves for making those resolutions in the first place.

But of course, there is the flipside. Of not sharing your resolutions. Of not telling anyone what you want to do, but having very specific objectives and a timeline. The problem? No witnesses. The deal is between you and you. So if either one of you wants out, the deal falls through without any dispute or settlement.

So there we are. Confused. To tell or not to tell, that is the question. Sure, we need the friendly nudge to push us into doing what we want to do, but we definitely do not want to have the questions flung at us when we're not able to achieve our targets.

So from now on, this is what I am going to do. I will come up with an extremely general word, which will stand for everything that I want to do in the new year. The plans, objectives and results will only be in my head, so no one can ask me specifics about my progress (and I wouldn't have to 'eat my word', so to speak), but a friendly nudge now and then on "So how's your [[extremely general word]] coming along?" wouldn't hurt.

My word for 2010 is 'discipline'.

Bewdas, do you have one? Consider the comments space a blank contract and feel free to put down your word for 2010. Just one word, okay? And if you leave your email address, I promise to send you that friendly nudge. Or a kick in the ass, whatever works for you. :)

Happy new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Annual report - 2009

It's time to look back at the year that has (almost) gone by and reflect.

2009 was the year when...

...Viv and I took a weekend vacation to Bintan, where we realised why I should never drive be allowed to drive any vehicle, and why life-jackets are truly life jackets.

...I retired from the birthday-surprise business. I have been here done this for years now. Quoting from Rocket Singh, "Maine is business ko ghol kar pee rakha hai." and it was a good time to retire. We had a good year, starting with Pizzadude's F.R.I.E.N.D.S. themed surprise party, followed by a surprise rendition of a medley of songs (including Dard-e-disco!) which the gang had been rehearsing for my birthday, then a surprise go-karting session for Sumanth's (I still remember his dance of glee on the roads), followed by us breaking into Shub's house and cooking her a fancy lunch (and dancing to 'You're my chicken fry'), and concluded in style by kidnapping Viv and taking him to Malaysia for some go-karting on an F1 circuit. Call it old age or what you will, but I actually feel a sense of relief after making the decision to retire. The only problem is that no one seems to believe it. :(

...Viv revived the artist in me by getting me an easel to serve as a constant reminder that I should start sketching again.

...two close friends I met on the blog got married, resulting in a very memorable India trip for the rest of us.

...we did the last of the airport surprises. Hopefully.

...Viv ran his first full marathon.

...Dad retired and moved to his own place to finally settle down after a career spanning 36 years and many many cities and towns, some big and some small, that hold tales of my childhood. Aish started talking. As in really talking talking. And singing. And talking. And talking. And talking. And talking. And talking. And she continues.

...Singapore made it to Division 5 in the World Cup league.

...I finally managed to get Viv hooked on the Harry Potter books. I got him the full collection as a birthday gift in September. It's December now. He's on book 1. :/

...I went on a sudden work trip to the US. Incidentally my office was an hour away from where my sister lived. The sister I hadn't seen in almost 3 years. The sister I casually ran into on the streets making her go, "OH MY GOD. WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE????"

...Viv and I made another sudden trip. To India this time. It was the first time Dad had his whole family at his own place. A memorable family gathering and lots of insanity.

...Shub and Sumanth ran their first full marathon. Viv ran his second. Pizzadude and I erm, cheered. (Hey, that's important, okay?)

...I got insanely obsessed with Javed Ali songs. I actually charged my ipod for 5 minutes this morning before rushing off to work, because there was zero charge and I just needed enough charge for one song. These days, if I don't listen to 'Tu hi haqueeqat' on the way to work and 'Aaj jao meri tamanna' once I get to work, I can't function normally. (I am not kidding.)

...I liked almost all Hindi movies I watched in the theatre. Just got back from 3 Idiots and loved it as well. Too bad my favourite reviewer Raja Sen gave it only two stars. I guess he went with very high expectations and I read his review and hence went with very low expectations.

Goodbye, 2009. There may have been some downtime here and there, but overall? Aaaall waazz well! :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Guess who?

Clueless sent Viv this interesting link where you can play 20 questions. The fun part is --- you decide on the character and the website does the guessing! Viv had been really impressed as it guessed the F1 character he had been thinking of within 20 questions.

What I found really odd was that the options were not just 'Yes' and 'No'. There were five options: Yes, Probably Partially, I don't know, Probably Not/Not really, and No. Wow, very close to a real-life game.

(Click to see a larger image.)

So I decided to give it a try. Knowing that the game will easily guess well-known international celebrities, I decided to try out someone different. No prizes for guessing that I went with a Bollywood character, and definitely no prizes for guessing that I went with umm... Himesh Reshammiya.

And only when I read some of the questions that I realised how critical the other options were, and how difficult it is to give a straight Yes or No answer to some of the questions!

Here are some of the questions the game asked me about Himesh, and what went through my mind as I tried to answer them.

Q: Does your character exist in real life?
A: I know it's hard to believe, but I'll go with a 'Yes'.

Q: Does your character have a double personality?
A: Ummm... many people think so.

Q: Does your character fight?
A: Only when he's one of the judges in a music competition on TV.

Q: Is your character an actor?
A: You see now... that's a tricky question...

Q: Is he the main character in his movie?
A: Unfortunately, yes?

Q: Does your character have curly hair?
A: No one really knows.

Q: Is your character less than 40 years old?
A: Errrr...

Q: Is your character both an actor and a singer?
A: Well, he thinks so.

Q: Is your character internationally famous?
A: Hmmm... I'm gonna go with 'Probably'...

Q: Is your character a star?
A: Yes, in some circles.

Q: Has your character made a career out of solo singing?
A: He certainly thinks so!

Q: Does your character play an instrument?
A: Does 'nose' count as an instrument?

Q: Does your character wear strange costumes?
A: Does this count?

Q: Is your character linked with death?
A: Only if you watch his movies.

You're probably wondering if the game finally guessed my character or not. Well, after three rounds of 20 questions each, this is what I got.

(Click to see a larger image.)

Try it. And while you're at it, you may also want to see what happens if you keep clicking 'No' for every question. ;)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unseen and unheard

I wanted to write a 'best of 2009' or 'worst of 2009' kind of Bollywood post, so I looked up the list of all Bollywood movies released in 2009.

And that's when I nearly fell off my chair.

Check out the list below. When did these movies come and go?? I am stumped.

Okay, be honest, how many of these had you heard of?

3 Nights 4 Days
42 Kms
Aao Wish Karein
Aasma: The Sky Is the Limit
Accident on Hill Road
Ada... A Way of Life
Aloo Chaat
Bachelor Party
Bad Luck Govind
Barah Aana
Blue Oranges
Chal Chala Chal
Chal Chalein
Chatur Singh Two Star
Chowrasta Crossroads of Love
Coffee House
Daddy Cool
Detective Naani
Dhoondte Reh Jaaoge
Dulha Mil Gaya
Ek - The Power of One
Ek Aadat
Ek Se Bure Do
Ek Second... Jo Zindagi Badal De
Fast Forward
Har Pal
Horn Ok Pleassss
Hum Phirr Milein Na Milein
Jai Veeru
It's a mismatch
Kaashh... Mere Hote!
Khalbali - Fun Unlimited
Kisse Pyaar Karoon
Kusar Prasad Ka Bhoot
Let's Dance
Little Zizou
Love Ka Tadka
Love Khichdi
Marega Salaa
Maruti Mera Dosst
Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye
Meri Padosan
Morning Walk
Mr. Fraud
Pal Pal Dil Ke Saath
Phir Kabhi
Raat Gayi Baat Gayi
Rang Rasiya - Colours of Passion
Red Alert: The War Within
Right Yaaa Wrong
Royal Utsav
School Days
Shaabash! You Can Do It
Suno Na
The Stoneman Murders
The Unforgettable
Vaada Raha... I promise
World Cupp 2011
Zor Lagaa Ke… Haiya!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Paa-pular demand

Random thoughts after watching Paa...

  • Having read and heard reviews, I knew that contrary to popular belief, the movie was not going to be melodramatic at all. But I had no idea that it would be so funny.

  • Abhishek Bachchan clean-shaven. WHEEE! Abhishek Bachchan with glasses. Double WHEEEE! Abhishek Bachchan as an honest politician. TRIPLE WHEEEE! I think I have forgiven him and am back to liking him.

  • Jaya Bachchan reading out the opening credits was annoying as hell. She didn't look like she wanted to do it in the first place. Watch how she keeps rubbing her hands and fidgeting as she pretends to rattle off names from memory. It's like the AB Corp people thought, "We might as well find a way to stuff one more Bachchan into the movie." I'm just thankful they did not get Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to play Vidya Balan's part. Oh the horror.

  • R. Balki seems to like the idea of Paresh Rawal finding himself in odd age-related situations with Amitabh Bachchan. While in Cheeni Kum, he was faced with a potential son-in-law who was older than him, in Paa he has a grandson who looks older than him.

  • Balki also seems to like the idea of giving inappropriate nicknames to his characters. Well, at least Auro calling his grandma 'Bum' is not as bad as Amitabh Bachchan calling that annoying kid in Cheeni Kum 'Sexy'.

  • Amitabh Bachchan effortlessly slips under Auro's skin, literally and otherwise. The make-up, the posture, the voice modulation. Simply terrific. There is absolutely no trace of the familiar "Rishte mein toh hum tumhaare..." baritone. I'm not surprised they said 'Introducing Amitabh Bachchan' in the opening credits.

  • Okay, this is going to get a lot of brickbats but I have to say it. This is the only movie where I have liked Amitabh Bachchan. I mean, the make-up was so great that they could have gotten any good actor to play this role, but there’s something unexpected that Amitabh Bachchan brings to this role that I can’t really explain.

  • Vidya Balan rocks rocks rocks every scene she is in.

  • Who would have thought Paresh Rawal and Abhishek Bachchan could look so uncannily similar? They really did look like father and son, and it wasn't just the similar clothes.

  • I'm still kinda mad at Illayaraja for recycling his own tunes in Cheeni Kum, so I didn't have high expectations. The music is ho-hum. The 'Udi udi' song is quite nice though.

  • I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the whole politics angle between Amol and Jaikrit, and where it was supposed to go. I’m just happy that they did not pull a gimmick where the ‘sick kid’ magically solves all of his Dad’s problems seconds before dying.

  • It was beautiful how Auro's progeria is shown to be totally incidental and not a pivotal point in the story. It could have been any kid.

  • I loved the fact that the rona-dhona was confined to the last 15 minutes of the movie. The rest of the movie is a laugh-out-loud comedy. The dialogues are really funny. R. Balki knows how to hit the funny bone and make the best of each scene.

  • Some of the best one-liners, apart from Auro's, were little Vishnu's. Watch out for the especially entertaining phone conversation between the two kids, which will have you laughing uncontrollably and trying to control it at the same time so you don't miss any of the lines. HILARIOUS.

Lately, Bollywood has been getting smart, getting mature and getting genuinely funny. Hmmmm... This year, I liked almost every movie I watched.

And that almost made me panic a bit.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Start over

I flagged the bus, got in, tapped my card on the reader and looked around for an empty seat. There it was, right at the back. I grabbed a pole immediately to steady myself and started making my way towards the empty seat. Very very slowly. Suddenly I had the strange realisation that there actually was no need to grab the pole. Or even to walk that slowly. The bus wasn't budging. At all. Maybe someone else had flagged it? I turned around, but there was no one. The front door had been closed.

And that's when I noticed it. The driver was looking at me in his rear view mirror. The bus was still stationary. What had I done? Was he going to holler, "Excuse me, you didn't tap your card!"? No, I was positive I had tapped my card. What was it then? Had I dropped something? No. Was there another vehicle in front of the bus? No.

Oh wait, had the bus broken down? I got on the bus and it broke down? I looked around guiltily at the people around me. Strangely, they did not seem to be annoyed or even curious about the stalled bus.

I turned around again and the driver still seemed to be following my movements in the mirror. "All right, what is it???? Move already!!!" I wanted to yell. But by then, I had already reached my seat.

The moment I sat down, the driver started the bus.

And that's when it hit me. He was waiting for me to get to my seat before he started the bus. He didn't want me to be jolted off my feet and fall flat on the bus floor.


And that's why no one on the bus was wondering why the bus wasn't moving. They had all been treated with the same care.

Among all the reasons for the stalling of the bus that had crossed my mind, this one just... wasn't there. The guy was just being nice.

To me, that was the real jolt.

I raised my hand to thank the driver and he smiled in the mirror and nodded an acknowledgement.

Inertia. Resistance to a change in state. Maybe all of us need a little dose of such incidents. To open up our minds a little more and get rid of the inertia that has made us thus.

Cynical by default.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gandhigiri at home

The investigations have been completed.

Mom and Dad have now eliminated the list of suspects in the curious case of the pumpkin thefts and now it's down to just one neighbour.

But there's one problem. You can't barge into someone's house and say "You! Gimme my pumpkin back!" If they did it, they'll deny it, and you've made an enemy. If they didn't do it, boy, are you in trouble.

Mom and Dad had been discussing all sorts of strategies to sort this out. I know just how much Dad values his vegetable garden, and how much it was stressing him out to have the fruits of his hard work just taken away from him like that.

So yesterday when I called to inquire on the case, Mom said something simple, but it was so freakin' awesome, I think my jaw is still on the floor.

"We have started giving vegetables from our garden to all neighbours. I think we should go over and give a pumpkin to the suspects. What do you think?"

Okay, how brilliant is that? You steal someone's pumpkin and the next day they come over to offer you another with a smile?

"Mom, you're a genius." I said. "Unko sharminda karo. Shame them in their own eyes. Gandhigiri at its best."

I don't even know if it will work. But I do think it's the best approach for sure.

Those who say Hindi movies teach us nothing useful should really go and watch 'Lage raho Munnabhai'.

Friday, December 11, 2009


"The little grasshopper has forgotten me!" Mom lamented.

('The little grasshopper' is a nickname Mom has given baby Aish. I think it does justice to her characteristics.)

"Mom... she hasn't forgotten you!" I tried to reassure her. (Look who's talking, especially after this.)

"She has! Now that she's back in the US, she doesn't want to talk to her grandma anymore. Every time your sister gives her the phone, she runs away!"

"She runs away?! What do you mean runs away??"

"As in... she runs away from the phone. I can literally hear her steps on the floor as she runs away."

It was only when my sister called me that I experienced the running away phenomenon.

"Here, Aish. Come. Talk to Mausi." my sister said. She put me on speaker.

"Mausiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii." Aish said.

"Hiiii Aish, how are you??"

Complete silence. Followed by the sound of pounding feet.

"Come back, Aish! Give me the phone!" I heard my sister dash after Aish.

"What's happening? What's happening??" I yelled out.

"She's running away with the phone this time!" My sister yelled back.

I was distraught. Mom was right then. Aish didn't want to talk to us anymore...

I heard some loud clattering noises next.

"She's trying to put the phone on the window sill, the naughty girl. I'll call you back if you get disconnected!" yelled my sister.

Complete silence again.

What on earth was the girl trying to do, taking the phone to the window?

"Hello?" I said, softly, wondering if the phone had been flung out of the window and if I was talking to actual grasshoppers this time.

And then the best thing happened. I think Aish leaned in close to the phone kept on the window sill, for I heard her whisper loud and clear.

"Look, Mausi... It's snowing..."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Kung pao Nutrela

I just realised that much as I love to cook, I have never shared any recipes on my blog! Sheesh! This one doesn't count as the recipe is in the comments section, and was produced upon request. Will try to have one recipe post every month from now on. :)


Kung pao chi is one of my all-time favourite Chinese dishes. However, there are two problems with it. The one you get outside contains MSG, and there's no point making it at home only for myself (Viv is a vegetarian).

So when I spotted a box of Nutrela soya chunks at the supermarket during my recent visit to India, I grabbed it for experimenting. I was apprehensive about the soya chunks turning out rubbery and too chewy, but they were perfect (just follow the instructions on the box, the hindi ones. Yes, the hindi instructions are slightly different from the English ones. Strange, yes.)

The eggs rolls I made with the Nutrela chunks turned out yummy, and the natural next step was to try to make Kung pao Nutrela.

I followed this recipe, substituting the chicken with the soya chunks. I don't have Chinese rice wine or sesame oil at home so I used regular vinegar and regular vegetable oil instead.

Towards the end, I threw in a bunch of roasted cashewnuts and a dash of green chilli sauce (it just wasn't hot enough!).

The mistakes I made were adding the spring onions too early (they wilted). Add them at the last possible minute before turning off the gas. I also didn't make enough sauce for the amount of soya chunks I had (serves me right for my 'andaz se' measurements!) so I had to top it up in the pan. The sauce didn't turn out very thick so I used some cornflour dissolved in water to thicken it. Since the spring onions had disappeared, I cut some fresh ones as garnish.

After all the repair work, I finally managed to make it look and taste like Kung Pao chi.

Click for a larger image.

Try it! :)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The boy wizard

No, not Harry Potter.

I'm talking about our own little wizard. Check out this amazing 1989 video.

If you notice, except for the diction which has gotten more refined over the years, nothing else has changed. Two decades. Countless world records. But the man continues to carry himself in the same humble manner.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Run of the mill will

"He's already done it once. Why does he want to do it again?" my Dad emailed.

"I don't know." I said. I really did not.

Viv and I have been discussing this for a while now. While his plan was to run one full- and one half-marathon every year, I suggested running only the half. Though I am fully supportive of all the sports he participates in, I was also a little worried.

"You're a wicket-keeper. That's already hard on the knees. If you train all year for two marathons and then run them, your knees will be in very bad shape." I said.

"But I can do it." He said.

"You're just addicted."

It's true. He was. And this morning, I understood why he was.

So here are the highlights from today's Singapore Standard Chartered Marathon.

First of all, congratulations to S2 on their first full Marathon! I am super proud of you, guys!!

Last night, as it poured, Viv and I were walking around inspecting a part of the track under an umbrella, and hoping for the rain to stop. Like he says, collective consciousness was what kept today a dry, and yet cool day. Rain would have marred the run for many, and the sun would have caused collective unconsciousness perhaps!

The runners had been given a blank label on which to write words of encouragement and motivation for themselves and/or fellow runners and stick at the back of their running vests. Viv and I brainstormed yesterday on what to write on his.

"How about 'I've got a serious case of the runs'!?" I asked.

Ahem, I could tell from his face that he didn't like it too much.

After going through all phrases with the word 'run' in it, I finally suggested something he liked.

"If it rains, you can write, 'This is not a dry run.'? Good, eh?"

"Yeah, I like it. Let's make it, 'This is not a dry run. Keep going.' so the pun is clearer." He said.

We had pretty much finalised when both of us thought of the same thing at once. If we wrote this, we'd have to wish for it to rain! Noooooooooooooo!

"Okay, forget that. How about we write 'Run of the mill' and then cross out the 'mill' and write 'will' on top?" I suggested.

"Yeah! Or we could write 'Run of the mill' and draw a guy on a treadmill, followed by 'Run of the will' and show a guy crossing the finish line of the marathon!" He said. I loved the idea.

Unfortunately, the label was too small for us to write and draw all of it, so we finally went with 'Run of the will. Keep going.'

Many people had got their kids to write on the labels so we saw many instances of 'Go, daddy, go!' Viv said he was quite confused when he read on a woman's back 'You're stranger than you think!', and only when he got closer did he realise that he had read 'stronger' as 'stranger'. I also saw a girl who had 'Chase me lah!' on her label. Some guy had 'virgin marathoner' written on his, while another had the learners' 'L', which I thought was hilarious!

The race marshalls were holding up placards with words of encouragement for the runners. In addition, there were people standing/sitting along the track, applauding and cheering the runners. There was even a woman who along with her two kids, was handing out bananas from a bag to the runners. Very very touching.

Speaking of touching sights, there was a one-armed man and a one-legged guy running with such utter determination, it was humbling just to stand and watch them. There were also people in their 70s merrily running and leaving youngsters behind.

Some supporters also came with a sense of humour. Viv said that when his legs started cramping around the 35-km mark and he started walking instead, a guy called out to him and pointed at the sign he was holding. The sign said, 'This is a no-walking zone!' Viv resumed running, and the guy grinned and shouted a 'Thank you!' after him.

Viv and S2 had their phones on them and they kept me updated every now and then of their status. When your friends are running such a long distance, there's not much you can do other than stationing yourself at key points in the route and finally at the finish line. You can, of course, send them random messages to cheer them up and keep them going. When Shub was near the 37-km mark, I sent her a few messages, "The end is nearing! Bhaag Dhanno bhaag!" and "You're in your late 30s! Go go go!" I almost fell off laughing when she replied with a "I'll never be more thankful to enter my early 40s!"

I read that a total of 50,000 people ran today in the 10-km, 21-km and 42-km categories. Plus, there was a kids' dash too! It was awesome to see the kids in their cute little running vests.

This is only the second full marathon I have witnessed, but I have come to realise one very important thing. When we hear about someone running the marathon, regular people like you and me tend to react the same way, "That's just insane." But only when you're part of the atmosphere, only when you witness the training and discipline it takes, only when you see the grit and determination on each runner's face as he/she runs past you, only when you see the pain the runners go through when muscle cramps set in, only when you see the kind of support they garner, only when you see the thrill on the faces of the runners when they cross the finish line, do you truly understand why people like Viv get addicted.

Viv finished in under 5 hours once again and I was very very proud of him. And finally, I began to see his point. I guess he saw mine too. And that's why we have negotiated it down to only one full-marathon every year. Only when he can't run the full anymore, he will go for the half.

And when he can't do that either, we will still go. We will stand by the track and hand out bananas to the runners.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A matter of time

Dearest Aishu baby,

I am SO sorry I lied to you. I had to. You clung on to me like a little monkey and said, "No, don't go. Don't go back, Mausi." I had no choice but to lie and tell you that I am going to see the doctor, hoping that would deter you. But you said you wanted to come along. It was only when your Mom said, "Mausi is going to get an injection! She'll come back soon." that you finally let go, but still giving me that half-believing look.

"I'll see you soon." I said. And I came back. Back to Singapore. Back to my crazy life. Your Mom told me you kept waiting for me and asking about me every day. Every time I look at this picture I'd taken on the toy train in the zoo that day, my heart breaks as I think about how I lied to you and made you wait.

Your Mom tells me that a few days later, you finally gave up on me and said, "Mausi went back to Singapore."

When I called you, you were not angry. I asked you, "When will you come to Singapore, Aishu?" and just like the many random things you say, you said, "I'll come at 3:30."

I don't know what that means. But whatever it does, I do know one thing.

I cannot wait for 3:30.

Lots of love,

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Story in pictures

So I was going through my 'bachpan box' when I came across it. Bound together and covered with what was obviously an advertisement from the 80s was one of my Amar Chitra Katha collections. It even had a label on it and written in possibly the world's worst handwriting was this.

NAME: Cuckoo (Dad calls me that. Quite apt, eh?)
STD: K.G. 1
SCHOOL/COLLEGE: St. Anne's Convent School

Kindergarten 1. That's like what... 1984? Wow. A quarter of a century has passed by, and yet when I flipped it open and started reading, I felt the same sense of wonder and fascination that I'm sure all of you who had the good fortune to read these comic books would be familiar with.

Birbal the wise. Bimbisara. Jayaprakash Narayan. Paurava and Alexander. Ahilyabai Holkar. Sambhaji son of Shivaji. Each priced at Rs. 2.50 (less than 10 cents). My sister and I had zillions of these books. Dad had got them bound into books that had about about 10 stories each. Going by how tattered the one I found was, I can only imagine the number of times I must have read it.

The artwork was simple, unlike the comic books of today, and the English was perfect, unlike the atrocious Chacha Chaudhry books they released in English, which were riddled with countless grammatical errors. The stories, mainly from history and mythology, were simply told, and yet captured the imagination like no textbook ever could.

Dad actually let me bring one back to Singapore. I'm totally having a blast swimming in nostalgia and refreshing my knowledge of mythology and history.

How great would it be if they did away with all the boring history textbooks and just had them Amar Chitra Katha style?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It's in the air

We had an overnight stopover at Kolkata during our recent India trip. Here are some airport and airplane snapshots:

  • The Hindi signboard listing the items prohibited as cabin baggage included 'gada' (mace)!!! LOL! The gada would be checked in and returned to the passenger at the destination. I was reminded of the Mahabharata scene from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.

  • The signboard listing the people exempt from security checks (e.g. Prime Minister, President, Dalai Lama, etc.) has Robert Vadra's name at the end. Hmmm...

  • The Bengali announcements in the plane are too cute. The "ladies and gentlemen" part starts with "Bhodro mohila..." I don't think I have ever been called a bhodro mohila before! Mogambo khush hua.

  • Another one. "Doya kori seat belt..." puts visions of the poor cabin crew going down on their knees and literally begging the passengers, "Take pity on us and put on your seat belts."

  • There was a lady who was directing JetLite passengers to wherever they were supposed to go. At first I thought she was saying, "Jet-lagged passengers this way please." I started imagining the tired passengers being led to a huge room with comfortable beds and satin sheets.

  • I cannot believe the two chaps in the domestic flight who were trying to flirt with the air hostess. If I had been in her place, I'd have rolled up the airlines magazine and thwacked the hell out of them.

  • There was a large beautiful butterfly inside the airport. I was looking at it in amazement when -- believe it or not -- a cat walked past! Yes, a cat! Inside the airport. A clean one though. Walking around like it owned the place.

I suppose what they say is really true -- it happens only in India!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Composed by Burpy Lahiri

Mom-in-law, dad-in-law, sis-in-law and I are enjoying a popular old Hindi classical song that's playing in the car.

Enter Viv, who decides to translate a line from the song into English.

His translation: "Which hundred bodies have suppressed their burps?"

Can you guess the song?

Highlight the part between the * symbols for the answer.

Answer: *Kis soutan ne roki dagariya (the song is Raina beeti jaaye)*

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Plan view

When Viv and I met bar-bewda Urv in May this year, we had never imagined that in a few months, he would move to the same city as my Dad was moving to after retirement. So when our India trip was planned, we decided to surprise everyone. Mom... Dad... and Urv too! I only took my sister into confidence since I had sprung the last one on her. You only get it once, that's my funda.

However, Mom's sixth sense started acting up. You know how Moms are born with that 'Mom instinct'? Actually they're not born with it, I guess they acquire it when we are born. Anyway, so Mom started hinting to Sis, "If she's coming, she should tell me, yes? Then I can prepare properly, yes?"

So my sister asked me to tell her because it wasn't looking like Mom was going to react the way we wanted her to anyway. She'd have probably opened the door and said, "Aa gaye tum log? Achha. Keep your shoes on that rack." Sheesh. So we told Dad and Mom that we were coming, and both of them reacted the same way, "Yeah, we were pretty sure you are coming." Double sheesh.

We decided to keep the Urv surprise on though. So I didn't mention anything on the blog about the India trip. In fact, I didn't even blog at all for fear of letting something slip. A week ago he had mailed asking when we were going to India next, and I mailed back saying that I had no concrete plans but he should drop by my place and meet my folks sometime.

The problem was convincing him to actually do it.

Me - Mom, acting karogi? Ek zabardast role hai.
Mom - Kyun nahin, main toh Meena Kumari hoon.
[Yeah, she likes to give me such nautanki answers when I ask her such nautanki questions.]

But when I gave her the script, she got cold feet.

Mom - Wait, who is Urv, again?
Me - He's a friend of mine.
Mom - School friend? University friend? Office friend?
Me - Internet friend, Mom. I met him through my blog.
Mom - Achha, he's your junior kya?
Me - Erm... Mom, there's no junior-senior with Internet friends.
Mom - Achha...
Me - So you'll do it? You'll call him?
Mom - WHAT?! NO!
Me - Mom, please! I have already written to him and told him that you want to invite him to lunch. You just need to call him and confirm, without letting him know that Viv and I are here. Just imagine his face when I open the door!!

She still wouldn't do it. "Baap re baap, no way!" She said.

Me - Meena Kumari would have never turned it down, you know. This is the role of a lifetime.
Mom - Nahin baba, I can't do it.

Viv - So now what? Who will call? Dad? Jeeju? Apa?
Me - Are you mad? If Mom can't pull it off, no one can.
Viv - Maybe I can call and pretend to be your Dad?
Me - Naah, won't work. He knows us. He'll see right through it. Let me try emailing him.

If we could convince Urv to come over, Viv had suggested that I open the door holding baby Aish and introduce myself with a "Hi, I'm Sayesha's sister. She has told me so much about you!" and watch the changing colours on the poor chap's face as he tried to figure out what the hell was happening.

So I emailed him, "Mom is asking ki mere ghar kab jaaoge. Why don't you go see them today or tomorrow?"

And I waited for his reply with crossed fingers. He replied saying he was in the middle of his exams and that he could drop by in the weekend instead. Yikes! We would be gone by the weekend!

Me - Sigh, okay fine, surprise ko maaro goli. Let's just call and tell him.

So I called him and as soon as he heard that we were all there, including baby Aish, he borrowed his friend's bike and came over. He didn't stay long as he had an exam the next morning (Urv, please pass ho jana!), but it was really really good to see him again.

Even though the 'surprise' hadn't quite gone pilan ke mutaabik.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Family drama

Snippets from the general madness in the house during my vacation:

Me - Where's my towel? Who took my towel??
Dad - Look for your towel later. Come, look at the pumpkins I have grown in the kitchen garden.

(Viv was using the racket-like thingie that has taken the whole of India by storm, to annihilate the mosquitoes.)
Mom - Lo! Aa gaya, machharon ka yamdoot!

Baby Aish - I want to touch the touch-me-not. Where's my shteek? (another B.A.D. word [Baby Aish Dictionary word]. Dad has asked her to touch the touch-me-not with a stick to avoid the thorns.)

Mom - Whose tea is this??? It's stone cold!

Dad - And the neighbours stole the big pumpkin. I should have harvested earlier. I was waiting for it to become fully ripe and they stole it.
Me - Did you confront them?
Dad - I don't know which one of them did it. And that's why I can't come visit you in Singapore. You see? They'll just steal everything in my kitchen garden!
Me - You just need another excuse not to come see me!


Mom - Who took my slippers into the pumpkin patch? Huh? They're all muddy now!
Me (sheepish) - Umm... I don't know!

Jeeju - And then you click on this icon here called 'Dataone'. And then...
Dad - Wait wait, let me write that down. Once you go back, I will forget everything.

Me - Wow, this dress is nice!
Sis - You want it?? Take it!!
Me - No no, I don't want it. I just think it's nice.
Sis - Are you sure?? If you like it, you can have it! Seriously!
Me - No Apa, I don't want to have it... it's nice, that's all.

Me - Viv! Mosquitoes in Apa's room!

Jeeju - And then you click this icon here that says 'Internet Explorer'...
Viv - Or you can click the one that says 'Mozilla Firefox'.
Dad (to me) - So which one should I click?
Me - Will you people please stop confusing my poor Dad?

Baby Aish (to Viv) - Moucha, I want to play "Fly like an aeroplane".
Sis - Come, brush your teeth first!
Baby Aish - I don't want to brush my teeth. I want to play "Fly like an aeroplane".

Me - And where's my baby pictures' album??
Dad - This one!
Me - Why doesn't it have a sticker with my name like Apa's?
Dad - Errr...
Me - Special offer for first-born? Second-born gets no bhaav?

Mom - Seriously, whose tea is this??

Me (pointing to the showcase in the living room) - What on earth is this??
Mom - Don't ask me. Ask your Dad.
Dad - Arre! It's the statue of Liberty next to a statue of the Merlion. It's symbolic. It represents my daughters' locations.
Me - Hey bhagwaaaaan.....

Baby Aish - Mauchi, I want to play bubbles.
I start blowing bubbles while she jumps around bursting them.
Baby Aish - BEEEEG bubble! I want a BEEEEG bubble!
I blow a big bubble and two smaller ones.
Baby Aish (pointing to the small bubbles) - No I don't want the sad bubbles. I want the happy bubbles.
Me - Erm... Mausi is tired. Now you try, baby.
Baby Aish (disappointed at her sad bubbles) - When I become BEEEG, I will also make happy bubbles.

Me - Viv, please stop destroying the bubbles with the racket and focus on the mosquitoes.

Me - And where is my favourite childhood book?
Dad - Which one is that?
Me (horrified) - You don't know which is my favourite childhood book?
Dad - Errr...
Me - I'm sure you know Apa's favourite childhood book?
Dad - Errr... no. Which one is yours?
Me - The Lost Girl and the Scallywags. I can't find it. Did you trash it????
Dad - I haven't trashed anything from the time I built this house!!
Mom (looking at all the half-opened cartons) - Sigh. Tell me about it.

Me - Viv, please take a bath...
Viv - Wait wait, Sehwag is on 47...

Mom - Will you people please close and lock your suitcases when you're not in the room? The kaam wali is new...

Dad - Somebody get the phone!

Aish - I want to watch Dora.
Sis - Dora doesn't come on Indian TV, Aish.
Aish - But I want to watch Dora!
Me - Come let's watch Bollywood trailers, Aish.
Aish - But I want to watch Dora!

Mom - I love these coffee mugs you got.
Me - Then why aren't you using them???
Mom - What if they break?!
Me - Ya allaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!!!!!!

Me (examining baby Aish's tiny fingers) - Aishu, your fingers are soooo tiny and soooo cute. Mausi is going to eat them up! Should I eat them up? (making chomping sounds near her fingers)
Baby Aish - No no, put some sugar on them first. Then eat them.

Dad - Who has locked my mobile??
Me - I have. You should always lock it.
Dad - But why??
Me - Well, it will start dialing random numbers.
Dad - What?! How??
Me - If someone sits on it or something...
Dad - Why would anyone sit on my phone?????????
Me - Well, it could dial even if no one sits on it...
Dad - I have been using this phone for years now! It has never happened before. Why will it happen now??
Me - Errr...
Dad - How do I unlock it? I pressed 'Unlock' but nothing happened!
Me - You have to press the asterisk after pressing 'Unlock'.
Dad - Press the WHAT? You unlock my phone now. And don't lock it again.
Me - Sigh...

Mom (from kitchen) - Does he want more?
Me - More, Viv?
Viv - Nope.
Me (projecting voice towards kitchen) - No, he doesn't.
Mom - Are you sure?
Me - Yes.
Mom (comes out) - Some more, beta?
Viv - Yeah sure!
Mom (glaring at me) - See?
Me (glaring at Viv) - What the...?!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Settled down or settled for?

The Bhai sends a BEEEEEEG (word courtesy the Baby Aish Dictionary) apology to the bar and bewdas for suddenly going underground. I am now in India and would like to conveniently place the blame for the lack of posts on a certain individual who goes by the online (and offline) name Urv (more details on that will be in another post).


So my sis, Jeeju and baby Aish had to make a sudden trip to India a few weeks ago. My Dad immediately called Viv and me up and asked us to rush down too. "This will be a great occasion!" He said. You see, Jeeju and Viv had never met each other. Jeeju had not been able to make it to our wedding; in fact, this trip was his first to India in a decade. Dad had just retired a few months ago and having his entire family at the same place at the same time was indeed a very special occasion. So Viv and I rushed down for a quick holiday, first with my folks and then his, and also to visit other relatives in the area. 10 days, 5 cities. Only we know how we are doing it.

After years of living in the houses provided by his bank, Dad has finally moved to his own home. I had seen the place only once or twice but never properly. Now was the time to really explore everything that Dad had collected and stored over the years. Ancient cartons were opened and our childhood memorabilia were put on display. Some of them were rather touching, and some were just plain hilarious. I found my opinion diary from when I was in Std. V (1990) and the first one to write in that had been Mom. Viv was reading it and he suddenly burst out laughing. Then he went and showed that page to Jeeju who also burst out laughing. All of us crowded around curiously to see what the two of them were laughing at.

In the section 'My aim in life is:', Mom had written, "To get two brilliant sons-in-law."

Jeeju looked at Viv, grinned mischievously and then said to Mom, "Well, what can you do now?"

Friday, November 13, 2009

As heard on radio...

"Love is friendship set to music."

Not bad. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The pursuit of happiness

I don't even know how or where she learnt it, but baby Aish seems to have quite a good concept of 'happiness' and 'sadness'. When prompted to do some monkey-giri just for the amusement of her mausi at the other end of the line, she often responds positively when told, "If you sing, Mausi will become happy."

When I was in the US, I knocked my knee against something and was rubbing it when she came and said, "Mausi, don't be sad." even though I wasn't looking sad. (I just wasn't grinning at her as usual.)

Also, when I was packing to come back to Singapore, she was getting very upset, and kept saying, "Don't go, don't go back to Singapore!" It was only when my sister told her "If Mausi doesn't go back to Singapore, Mausa will become sad." that she calmed down and allowed me to come back.

Now that she's in India, she seems to be spreading the "happy thoughts" there too. In a rather odd way though. It seems that when Mom makes rotis, Aish observes her very closely. She looks at the ones that puff up real nice and says, "That's a happy roti!" and the ones that do not puff up are "sad rotis".

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The right pick

She looked around at the crowd around her. "Unbelievable..." She shook her head and muttered to herself. But she needed the crowd for the work she was about to do. She scanned each face carefully, looking for the right one. She kept looking, ignoring the advice of the voices in her head that said, "You don't have to actively look for them, that will draw too much attention and the whole thing could backfire. If you scare them away, you will never be able to achieve anything. Just relax, okay? They will come to you on their own, trust us. You're getting a bit psychotic and obsessive about this, you know. It doesn't have to be such a dramatic battle in your head first. You're not the only person who does this. There are many people out there who do this on a daily level. If it has to happen, it will. If not, you just go about your usual business and come back."

She didn't agree. "I have to find them myself." She thought. There had been times she had failed and felt miserable. When she felt that the target was within arm's reach and yet, she couldn't do anything because of the sea of people between the target and her. She scanned the crowd once more, looking for the right one. It had to be someone old and frail, preferably a retiree. Any younger and/or stronger and yes, the whole thing could backfire. Preferably someone holding a large heavy bag, she thought. She looked at the people around her and shook her head in disapproval. None of them were suitable.

And finally, after a long long time, she found the perfect target, standing just a few feet away. Very old. Completely white hair. Very thin and frail. He was holding a large white plastic bag, and looked like he was struggling with the weight. "That's the one. Finally." She smiled to herself. And the best part was --- even though he was not looking at her, he was walking right towards her.

She got up, tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention, and said as the bus rocked again, "Uncle, you can have my seat."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Ajab Ranbir Ki Ghazab Kahani

Even though it was released 15 years ago, Andaz Apna Apna stands tall and proud on my list of the funniest Bollywood movies. As I followed Rajkumar Santoshi's subsequent movies over the last decade or so, I wondered a la the joker, "Raju, why so serious?" Like many AAA fans, I secretly wished for a sequel of AAA and I wished he'd made it when the two Khans were still err... normal. Now, of course it's too late. Both Aamir and Salman have gone kinda bonkers, and not in a good way.

So when I entered the theatre to watch Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani last night, I kept my expectations low. After all, the comedy these days is of a different kind, and the comedy of those days would not work today. My favourite reviewer Raja Sen had warned that one would enjoy the movie only if he/she watched it with 80s-tinted glasses. And boy, was I glad I did.

Maybe Santoshi was waiting. Waiting for little Ranbir to grow up so he could make this movie. Because in this age, only he could have done the kind of justice that the character of Prem needed. It was only Ranbir that could take us back to the days of AAA and make us laugh out loud at things that we would otherwise roll our eyes at. Be it him flying through the air and making laddoos in his mithaiwala cape, or saying "Chalo hum log plate dhote hain" to his mother or saying "Tere thigh muscles loose ho gaye hain!" when Katrina spots him holding Sallu's leg and pleading, or casually asking his mother if she'd seen his 'top' (and even casually slipping it on!) or telling Jesus how the angry Shankar Bhagwaan's third eye will make him go 'phussssssss' or just the way he calls out 'Salluuuu' when Katrina eggs him to call out to 'his close friend Salman Khan'.

The movie is not all slapstick though. There are some very clever lines and scenes that just make you wish they'd pause the movie so you could finish laughing before you got ready for the next scene.

In spite of the predictable storyline, it's the AAA feel that makes it a delightful fun fest. The movie works because of the scenes and not because of the story. Even though some of them are so over the top you can't see the top anymore.

Even Salman Khan, who is barely tolerable these days, evoked hysterical laughter when he said, "Jaise meri girlfriend ko apni bata raha hai?" Maybe all the three brothers should stick to guest appearances. Remember the delightful Sohail and Arbaaz in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na?

Katrina Kaif does what she does best - sit pretty and spout a few lines every now and then in her accented hindi. It is easy to tolerate her because of two things -- first of all, she is so damn pretty it's almost distracting, and secondly, Ranbir is so damn good in the movie that at times it seems like no one else matters. That is one talented kid and he's gonna go places. Good job, Rishi and Neetu!

Viv and I had just watched 'Wake up Sid' some time ago and absolutely loved it too. It feels good to finally like an actor who is so good you can safely watch every movie with him in it. In fact, when the movie ended, Viv turned to me and said, "Do you think we should watch Saawariya?"

Yup, we're fans. Fans who can't wait for 'Rocket Singh - Salesman of the Year' to release.

PS: Just when I thought Katrina Kaif had the worst Hindi diction on the planet, Upen Patel opened his mouth.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Remember me?

"Hi, what's up?" Said my sister when I called. She's in India now, along with bro-in-law and baby Aish.

"Yeah hi, etc." I said. "Does she still remember me???"


"Does Aish still remember me???"

"Of course she does!" said my sister.

"Are you sure? Are you very sure?"

"Sigh. Again?!"

Yep, my sister thinks I'm being paranoid.

"She just met you like two weeks ago. Why would she forget you? Why do you keep asking that??"

"Because she's only three. Because she's only going to see me once a year (if I'm lucky). Because she's constantly surrounded by new people and new things. Of course she'll forget me." I lamented.

"Trust me, she won't. She talks about you every day."

"Really? What did she say today?"

"Well, I was using your face powder that you'd left behind, and she yelled at me."

"Hahaha! She yelled at you?! What did she say??"

"She said, 'Mama, put that back! It's not yours. It's Mausi's!!'."

I beamed.

Not just at how Aish was learning to throw back the words thrown at her, but at the fact that she remembered me.

And that she stood up for me and my face powder.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What (c)rap!

I took this video atop the Prudential Tower in Boston of two immigration officers rapping about American citizenship. I'm not quite sure if they meant this to be serious stuff, but it's T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E and H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S at the same time!

I've typed out the "lyrics" below the video.

"So you want to be US citizen?
No problem, step up to Immigration!
Before you become part of the US of A
Now you and I shall complete a little survey.
Don't be insulted, it's just a few questions.
But people must be consulted
Through what we call the constitution.
We might look tough, we might make you angry.
But we do this stuff to protect our home and country.
Who are you? Where are you from?
Where have you been? What have you done?
We need to know about you, that's no big fuss.
And you also need to learn about us.
What's your date of birth and address?
What's the Congress?
Are you crazy, violent or running away?
Are you trying to get in illegally?
Who's the father of this country?
Do you know what is Flag Day?
Are you a drug trafficker?
Do you have a social security number?
Now what is the declaration of Independence?
Are you ready to pledge allegiance?
Have you been declared legally incompetent?
Now do you know who was the first president?
Have you been a patient in a mental institution?
Can you talk about the constitution?
Have you been to war against the US of A?
Are you ready to fight for your new country?
What do you know about our history?
What are Texas, Delaware and New Jersey
In this country do you know anybody?
Where are you going? Got any money?
In God we trust, So in return you must
have good intentions to be part of our great nation
It's the home of the brave, the land of the free
The world that's great, the land of opportunity
It's a privilege to become a citizen
It's a privilege to be called an American!"


I think I should write one for Singapore! ;)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A flour-y tale

So we're at the supermarket when Viv gets into 'Viv mode'. It's the mode when he grins to himself so hard you know he's bursting to tell one of his "jokes". So I decide to put him out of his misery.

Me - All right, fine. Out with it.

Viv (grinning) - What do you call flour that has no parents?

Me - Huh? Flour that has no parents?? What the..?!

Viv (grinning harder) - Come on. Tell me. What do you call flour that has no parents?

Me - I.. don't know!

Viv points to something. I look in that direction and what do I see?


Monday, October 26, 2009

(S)no(w) kidding

So I was having lunch at the Cheesecake Factory (as an ardent fan of the show 'The Big Bang' theory, I simply had to go there for a matha-teko when I was in the US), when this waiter said to me, "So it's gonna snow on Friday, eh?"

"Huh?" Was my very friendly response.

"I heard that it's gonna snow on Friday!" He said, excitedly.

"You heard that it's gonna snow on Friday???" I asked.

"Yeah, isn't that awesome?"

"Hahahaha!" I laughed. My exact thoughts were: People in the US are so funny. They like to talk so much, they'll say anything!

He gave me a "Have-you-gone-mad-you-already-insane-woman-I'm-serious-and-I'm-hurt-by-your-laughing' look. (Yeah, that's one complicated look.)

"Err... Wait, you're not kidding me?!" I asked.

"No! It's gonna snow on Friday!"

"Serious? You believe that??" Pardon me, but I have never been big on weather forecasts.


He went on to tell me that he was from Florida and he had just moved to Boston the day before. He had never seen snow in his life and was really excited about Friday.

I cast aside all thoughts of taking his menu and gently patting his head with it in a 'Oh you poor poor dhakkan' gesture. I didn't want to break his heart. He looked so earnest and sincere, believing that it was going to snow in the middle of fall. Believing that one could forecast on Wednesday that it would snow on Friday. In the middle of October.

"Well, I hope you get your snow on Friday!" I said to him, as I left.

"Thanks!" He smiled.

Oh the poor poor guy, I thought to myself. Was he in for a disappointment or what.


So when I opened the window that Friday morning and looked out, here's why I couldn't stop smiling.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sabka rab ek hai

One of the bar's bewdas TMaYaD sent me this really cool video. A contestant at Taiwan Super Idol sings a Hindi song 'Tujh mein rab dikhta hai'.

Watch it. It's adorable.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Making the connection

"Hi, Aish!!!!" I was ecstatic. I was looking at my niece after almost 3 years! The last time I had seen her she was 6 months old and I was trying to teach her John Abraham 101.

Baby Aish gave me a confused look.

I was heartbroken.

"Don't you recognise me, baby???" I asked.

No answer. She gave me an uncertain look.

"Why doesn't she recognise me????" I asked my sister.

"She was a baby when she last saw you." Smiled my sister.

"But she speaks to me on the phone every day!"

"But she hasn't seen you in 3D. She has seen your pictures and heard your voice. We need to connect all of it."


"There's a process."

"A process??"

"Yes. Watch."

My sister took out a photo album of Aish's baby pictures.

"She loves looking at her baby pictures. She looks at these pictures every other day."

She flipped through the album and stopped at a picture of a 3-day-old Aish and me.

"Who is this, Aish?" She pointed at Aish in the picture.

"This is me!" She said.

"And who is this?" My sister pointed at me in the picture.

"Mausi!" said Aish promptly (and quite happily, I must add).

"Good!" said sister. "And who is this?" She pointed at me. The 3D me.

Aish looked at me, still a bit confused. My sister pointed to the picture again. Aish looked at the picture, then at me, then at the picture, assessing carefully.

Suddenly, she pointed to the picture and then at me, and yelled out gleefully, "Same same! Matching matching!"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The synop-sis

My sister has always told me that I should visit her in fall. I kept telling her that I would but never really did anything. To travel to 'the other side of the world' is big stuff and needed some serious planning. So when I was asked to go on a business trip to Boston, I almost fell off my chair in disbelief. My manager readily approved a week's leave after the trip for me to visit my sister. I hadn't seen her in 3 years! The last time I saw baby Aish was when she was an infant and now she was a walking talking machine. It was time to show her that Mausi did not live inside the telephone. And of course, I decided it would be more fun not to tell my sister I was coming but to suddenly turn up at her doorstep. (Disclaimer: When I said I was retiring from the surprise business, it referred to birthday surprises only.) Of course, I had to take my bro-in-law into confidence to ensure she'd be at home when I turned up.

"But she'll get mad at me when she finds out that I knew but I didn't tell her!" He said.


"You know her... she'd say 'But the house is so dirty!' and 'I didn't cook anything special!' and all that. And then she'd cry."

"Okay, I'll take care of all that and take all the blame. Please don't tell her anything, okay?"

"Okay." He agreed.

The same evening, my sister called me up and said something that made me jump.

"So... do you prefer chicken or mutton?"


"Do you prefer chicken or mutton?"

"Why are you suddenly asking me that???"

"Nothing... just like that."


So I sent my bro-in-law an email, "You told her???"

"Of course not!" was his reply.

Hmmm... I was a bit sceptical but decided to trust him anyway.

So I landed in the US and earnestly did all the presentations and meetings, and did not think of the vacation part of the trip until I was done. Soon all the work ended and I was all set, waiting for my bro-in-law to pick me up from my hotel and drive me home. The plan was for me to turn up at her door, ring the bell and keep the video camera on when she answered it.

As I came out of my hotel, bro-in-law told me he also had to pick up a friend who was waiting just around the corner. We started walking and next thing I see - my sis and baby Aish are walking towards us!

"JEEJU!!!!!!!! DOUBLE-CROSS!!!!!!!!" was my first thought.

And that's when I realised that my sister was totally oblivious of me walking towards her! Bro-in-law had planned things such that we sisters just bumped into each other on the street.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE????????????????" yelled out my sister in utter disbelief, while I looked around to see where bro-in-law had disappeared. There he was, in a corner, clicking and grinning away.

"Phew. No one can yell at me now. It's a double-surprise!" He said.


As we got into the car, my predictable sister's exact words were, "But the house is so dirty! And I didn't cook anything special!" while bro-in-law and I guffawed. Aish joined us too, though she wasn't quite sure why.

I had not even told my parents I was going to pull this one because my sister calls them up every day and I was sure Mom would have unintentionally blurted something out. So the next step of the plan was to break the news to Mom and Dad.

So my sister set up a conference call with my parents and Viv (Viv was jumping out and down when he told me to make sure he was in the call when we told the parents). Mom thought it was one of our regular conference calls with Viv and me in Singapore and my sister in the US. So I told Aish to break the news to her grandma.

"Aish, say - Grandma, Mausi is playing football with me." I prompted.

Aish said it, but with six people on the line all trying to speak at the same time, all my Mom heard was "Playing football."

"You're playing football, Aish? Very good." She said.


Bro-in-law prompted her again, "Aish, say - Grandma, Mausi is playing football with me in America."

Once again, all that got through was "Playing football with me in America!" which amused my Mom to no end. "What is she saying? Ha ha ha!" She laughed.

We were all getting really impatient. We asked everyone to be quiet and prompted Aish once again. By then, I guess she was really irritated and she said, "Grandma is playing football with me in America!" causing all of us to howl in laughter.

"What is happening? I am so confused." said my Mom. "Why is everyone laughing?"

And that's when we realised we needed someone credible to tell her the real deal. From the entire group, only Viv and bro-in-law were eligible. So bro-in-law got everyone to be quiet again and told Mom in detail about how I had surprised sis.

And then Mom said the words that caused another round of uproarious laughter.

"My goodness!!! But you know what? That is SO her!"

Muahahahaha! :D

Friday, October 09, 2009

On the Saif side

Here are 5 reasons why I would have much preferred to see Saif in the role of Yogesh Patel than Hurrman (is that how he spells his name now? I give up!) in What's Your Rashee?

1. Priyanka has a very strong screen presence and if you go and pack 12 of her in the same movie, it's very difficult for the guy to get noticed at all. Especially if all he has to do is react to the eccentricities of the various Priyankas. Saif is a master of such scenes and would have totally held his own, while being utterly entertaining. Think his two-thumbs up when Preity Zinta says "I love Aman." in Kal Ho Na Ho. Or his reactions in DCH to the Subodh character. On the other hand, Hurrman totally sucks at reactions. Remember his tepid "What?" at the airport when he realises his family has duped him into flying from Chicago to India and he has to get married in 12 days? Sheesh. I can totally Saif throwing up his hands in shock and going "WHAT?!"

2. Saif would have excelled at the part where Yogesh has to look at his brother and say in a mix of awe and sarcasm, "Jeetubhai, you are awesome." Hurrman's rendition was a waste of that scene (he actually said it like he meant it!) and Ashutosh should have just gotten that part edited out -- it sure would have made the movie a tad shorter.

3. Saif has already successfully played the nice Gujju boy in Kal Ho Na Ho and would have easily slipped under the skin of the character. Though it's true that Yogesh Patel needed to have an innocent bechara-looking face which Saif doesn't exactly have and Hurrman does, but Saif sure can pull off the 'half-embarrased-of-his-parents-bechara-deekra' look very well. Hurrman looked quite duh instead of bechara in some scenes.

4. There was a lot of scope for improvisation in the movie but Hurrman pretty much stuck to what was given to him. At the risk of being really mean to him, I thought his most convincing scene was when he plays the robot in that song with the corporate Priyanka. Saif rocks at improvisation. For the uninitited, the two-thumbs up scene in Kal Ho Na Ho was him at work and not the script.

5. WYR was overall okay, and I didn't hate it as such, but it didn't make the cut for my DVD collection (Requirement for a movie to make the cut: I can watch it 10 times). Saif would have made the movie way funnier and increased its repeat value.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Squeaky Sneaky clean

So I see this ad for 'Outback detergent' where they list all the things that this powerful detergent can clean - tree sap, fish slime, volcanic ash, pond scum, and what not. And then they show a demo where this guy smears a white shirt with some of these things and uses Outback detergent to produce a spotless shirt.

And then I see the text at the bottom of the screen. :/

(Click to enlarge picture.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

The little shop of random things

I stepped in and at once, recoiled. Something was not right. Why were the shelves half-empty and what were these boxes doing on the floor?

"Hi, are you renovating?" I found the lady and asked.

"No..." She smiled sadly.

"You are relocating??!! Nooooooooooo!" I was shocked. Where were they going? I started thinking of just how far would I travel for this shop. Choa Chu Kang? Bishan? Yio Chu Kang? Ang Mo Kio?

"No..." She gave me another sad smile.

"Oh. My. Goodness. You're closing down????????????" I could not believe it.


"But why???????"

"Curren contract end oredi. Rent too high lah... cannot oredi. What to do?"

"But... but you sell... like... everything!"

She smiled at me and then turned to answer the phone. It was probably another aghast customer calling to check if the horrible news was really true.

As for me, I was stunned. This nameless shop had been my haunt for many many years now. It really was nameless. Even though they gave you a receipt, it only said 'THANK YOU' at the top. Oh wait, it just struck me that maybe that was the name of the shop! THANK YOU! If you don't believe me, check out the picture of their last receipt to me.

It was one of those tiny shops that sell random things. Things that I never knew existed. Things that were actually amazing inventions. Things that came with some hilarious instructions. Sample this (I had blogged about this here):

Special Function
This glove is made from high quality microfiber nylon No smell, No harm for the body. It Can get rid of the dirt which attached on the skin, strengthen our body and cosmetics.Even more,it Can Refresh the cell.strengthen the circling of blood therefore makes the skin smooth,gentle,and soft
YiFan bath glove comfortable and convenient

Using Method
You Shoud put some soap on your body body before use the bath towel The glove can Suck a little water when it comes across water. this can strengthen the function of cleaning dirt. It suit for all kinds of soaps and other products which can protect the skin.

And more here:

I had bought the first pair of my amazing bathing gloves from this shop. Following which, I was flooded with orders from relatives and friends (yes, even guys!) and subsequently bought at least 12 more pairs. I had bought my amazing mirror cleaner from this shop. I had bought my amazing facial sponge from this shop. I had bought my amazing four-in-one pedicure set from this shop. I had included this shop as one of the landmark places in the Singapore tour for my parents and in-laws. Every time I'd be early for badminton, I'd pop by the shop and see if they had anything new for me. They always did.

She put the phone down and turned back to me, jolting me out of my thoughts.

"Last two days. Clearance sale. 30% off. Until tomorrow onni. Tomorrow close down oredi." She smiled.

And I was there the next day. On its last day. To celebrate its existence and mourn its closing down.

There wasn't much left to buy; I just roamed around the shop, looking at the half-empty shelves, remembering all the times the shop and its little trinkets had surprised me.

Thank you, 'THANK YOU'.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tag utha insaan

So Dil Se has presented me with the honest scrap award, and tagged me with the honest tag.

Here are the rules:
“This award is bestowed upon a fellow blogger whose blog’s content or design is, in the giver’s opinion, brilliant.”

a) Show off your honesty (and modesty) by thanking the person who gave you the award and link to their post.

b) List 10 honest things about yourself, please no cheating here!! that's the fun part.

c) Select 7 other bloggers you think deserve this award and pass it on to them.

d) Notify the bloggers about the award and invite them to be the honest ones next!!

a) Thank you, Dil se. Dil se! :)

b) Ahem... here goes.


1. Sometimes I am so anal about discipline and punctuality that I think I scare people (and myself too) a little bit.

2. I am ashamed at my poor knowledge of the Chinese language after being in this country for 11 years.

3. There's a huge difference between the person I was when I first started blogging and the person I am now. Over the years, I think I have become slightly (yes, only slightly) more mature and cynical.

4. I spend a lot of time thinking about the good things about life and celebrating them. And that's not just because I am generally a happy person. The other reason is that I am terrified that some day, without my own knowledge, I might reach the 'point of no return'. (The 'point of no return' is this horrible place in life you may end up at, where you dislike everyone and everything, and you trust no one and nothing, and you think the whole world is out to get you.)

5. I can't drive. I mean, I can drive, but I have come to terms with the fact that I shouldn't. I just don't have a knack for it. Sample this childhood incident. The fact that I caused Viv and me to be flung off a jet-ski into the middle of the South China sea doesn't help my confidence either.

6. There is this person I know who dislikes me very much but religiously follows this blog. I don't know why.

7. I love Bollywood, but I wish they'd get a little sensible. Things are definitely much better than before, but every now and then, there will be a movie which will make me thunk my head on the walls of the movie theatre. I'm always up to defend Bollywood, but sometimes I just don't know how to, and end up sounding silly.

8. In spite of a cricket-heavy childhood and a cricket-player husband, I still don't know ALL the rules of cricket. :/ I still laugh in my head when I hear or read the term 'leg bye'. I imagine the umpire raising his leg and waving goodbye with it.

9. It was only last year that I found out that something I had been using in every other email was totally wrong. 'With regards to your query' should be 'With regard to your query'. ('Regards' refers to 'feelings of esteem or affection' and unless we're expressing those feelings towards the query, the correct term to use is 'regard'). Oooh. Embarrassing, but at least I found out! Phew.

10. I know I ruffle a few feathers whenever I diss Singapore, but I live here and this is my home too. I love both Singapore and India (for very different reasons) and I believe I have every right to diss Singapore the way I diss India.


c&d) As is my rule, I tag all the bewdas who have been neglecting their blogs for a month or more. Tag utha, (lazy) insaan! :)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Double role

So I am walking towards my bus-stop after work when this dude in pointy boots, standing outside this line of eating places, looks me up and down and says in the most annoying desi-road-romeo manner, "Helllllooooobeautiful...!"

Now this kind of thing just doesn't happen here so for a brief moment I stop in my tracks, very very confused. The radio station located in my head is playing "It happens only in India!" (including the 'tadang-tang' music that follows right after). And just when I am contemplating whether to ignore him or give him a dirty look (I've been in Singapore so long I have forgotten how to deal with these morons), he suddenly remembers that he's actually a waiter and is not supposed to do this to potential customers. His facial expression instantly changes, and he suddenly goes all polite and earnest on me, as if it's the first time he's speaking to me.

"Hi ma'am, set dinner for you?"

What the..?! :/

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sole proprietor

Q: What's the best way to make each pair of shoes last longer?

A: Buy manymanymanymanymanymanymany pairs of shoes! :D

Friday, September 18, 2009

Better left unsaid

So I caught sight of this ad at the bus stop and took a picture with my phone. This company New Moon likes to pay school toppers (carefully picked, one from each racial group) to declare that they got their marks by taking essence of chicken. But that's not the odd part. Neither is it the fact that they have not found any more agreeable essence-drinking toppers since 2004.

What struck me as odd were the words "From left" just below the names of the kids. What the heck is that? What is the need to label so explicitly?? Trying too hard not to be racist, to the point of getting annoying? Did the ad people really think people would look at the ad and wonder which one is Foo Xiang Peng and which one is Ashish Kumar?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Small wonder

Presenting baby Aish's first public recording... I recorded this on my phone when she was wishing her "moshaaaa". :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

(Under)Cover drive

So the email thread was titled 'Rani Mukherjee's new movie'.

However, neither was it about 'Dil bole hadippa' nor are we all that interested in Rani Mukherjee's career to have 299 emails on that subject. The email was actually to plan the details of Viv's birthday surprise. I had named the thread so in order to ensure that Viv would take absolutely no interest in it if he was standing behind me when I was on the computer, and happened to catch the subject line of the email.

This year, we had had some pretty good surprises for all gang members. It started early in the year with Pizzadude's F.R.I.E.N.D.S themed surprise party, followed by mine where they surprised me with a Bollywood themed party, complete with an item number 'Dard-e-disco' they had been rehearsing right under my nose! Sumanth's birthday was next, and we blindfolded him and took him to a go-karting place (he, like Viv, is mad about go-karting). Following that was Shub's birthday, where we stole her house keys, broke into her house (is it still called 'breaking in' if you use the keys, albeit stolen ones?) and cooked her an entire spread of International cuisine and then hid in the bathroom for her to come home and discover us. Looks like she got too distracted by the food and was unable to locate us, while four of us, crammed into a tiny bathroom, finally got too restless and pressed the flush lever. Needless to say, she discovered us immediately.

So finally, when the only birthday left this year was Viv's, we decided that old age was catching up with us and we were out of energy and ideas to continue the surprises next year. So Viv's birthday was to be the crescendo of all surprises this year.

So we decided to kidnap him.

We had the perfect personnel in place. Sumanth had the driver's license and all the required research on car rentals. Shub had found the perfect accommodation to hold him hostage. Pizzadude was the official route planner for the getaway. And my job was to get Viv's visa done, pack everything he would need during the trip and generally keep him from suspecting that something was happening right under his nose.

To create an effective birthday surprise, there has to be a fake one (though we have totally overdone this and I suspect it won't work with us anymore). So on his actual birthday, the usual suspects turned up early in the morning with a cake just before we were about to leave for work. We had also gotten him to solve some pictionary puzzles, the final clue of which led to a video we had done up for him.

And he thought that was that. Until three days after his birthday.

It started innocently enough. Viv and I took a morning walk to the beach on that fine Saturday morning. He was dressed in shorts, a T-shirt and floaters. He insisted on leaving his wallet behind, so I said I'll keep it in the safe, but what I actually did was quickly slip it into my bag along with a million other things he had no idea about. So we walked to Komalas where Shub, Sumanth and Pizzadude met us for breakfast. After breakfast, we started walking homeward, but stopped near a carpark. Suddenly we broke into the song, 'Aaja meri gaadi mein baith ja!' by Baba Sehgal, a song rather close to Viv's heart because it was shot where he used to live in Bombay as a kid.

Next, Sumanth opened the door of a sleek grey Mitsubishi and Viv's jaw dropped. We told him that Sumanth had borrowed it from a colleague and we could take it for a spin as Viv's special birthday surprise treat. Viv reminded us that he had cricket training at 10 am and we assured him that after the spin, we would drop him off at the cricket ground. So off we went, and it was only when we neared the Tuas checkpoint did Viv start fidgeting a bit. He pointed to where we could take a U-turn to go back. All of us ignored him, and Sumanth continued to drive straight ahead. When we actually got to the checkpoint counter, Viv's jaw dropped. "We missed the U-turn! We missed the U-turn! Where are we going??" He kept exclaiming. Sudden silence followed that. I actually have a 1-minute video of a speechless Viv with his left hand stretched out in shock.

We just kept grinning. It was then that he realised we were driving out of the country. Straight to Malaysia!

"But I don't have my passport!!" He said.

"That's what you think." said Sumanth, as I fished his passport from my overstuffed purse and passed it to the gaping Viv.

"But I have training at 10 am!"

"That has been taken care of." I said. "I have spoken to your captain and he is very supportive of you missing training today."

We were treated to a modern version of Dasavataaram, as the look of confused shock on Viv's face changed to displeasure and then anger and then back to confused shock and a mixture of other undescribable emotions.

"Don't get angry. We will bring you back for tomorrow's match!" I said feebly, now actually getting a little scared. Viv is not the kind of guy who generally gets angry, so when he does, it's quite scary.

Then I fished out his wallet and his driving license and passed them to him. (You can drive in Malaysia on an Indian license and the dude sure loves to drive.) I was running out of things that I could fish out of my purse that would change his mood. It took him about 10 minutes to fully recover from the shock, and finally come to terms with his early morning kidnapping. Once everything had sunk in and he had accepted the turn of events, he exclaimed, "Did you pack my clothes or am I supposed to stay in these clothes for two days??" That lightened the atmosphere considerably. Phew! All the madness of the last few days was finally worth it.

And what madness it had been!

Viv had recently come home after a major tournament and had told us that the next few weekends would be free of cricket. Based on that very unreliable information, we decided to go on that road trip we had always talked about, but never done anything about. The only difference was -- it was to be a surprise for Viv. So we booked the car and the hotel and planned everything else. We even got him to apply for the Malaysian visa, by telling him that we would plan a trip to Taman Negara sometime this year and everyone should have their visas ready so we could do anytime.

Then, a few days later, he dropped the bomb and told us that the weekend was actually not free. He had training on Saturday and a match on Sunday. SHEESH! Knowing how seriously he takes his cricket, we decided that it would be better if we didn't make him miss the training AND the match, but have him miss only the training. So I messaged his captain (I had his number stored from the the last birthday surprise I had planned for Viv) to let him know, because Viv was coordinating with everyone on the training timings and would look like a complete ass if he himself didn't turn up after coaxing "the boys" to do so. The captain didn't reply and I was freaking out wondering if I'd offended him by behaving like a bimbotic unsupportive wife. That night, I checked Viv's phone for the captain's number and found two numbers! I re-sent my message to the second number and within seconds, captain replied with his support. Phew.

On Friday night, I met Pizzadude and passed him our luggage. I had been very careful about packing Viv's stuff, because our Virgo-man is so particular about everything that it's stressful just to pick out socks for him. After ticking off all items on a long checklist, I was done. To avoid the possibility of him coming home early on Friday and bumping into me frantically packing (Main maike chali jaungi tum dekhte rahiyo?), I told him I was working late (so he would also work late) and quickly got home, finished packing and passed the bag to Pizzadude. Sumanth had reminded me to pack shoes for Viv for the karting as he was most likely to wear floaters for the "walk to the beach". The tough part was to pack his stuff without him noticing that they had gone missing. So about a week before, I started pushing his brown shoes further and further into the shoe rack, a few inches each day, until they were no longer visible, otherwise he would have come home on Friday night, noticed the shoes were missing and raised a racket. It worked, and by the time the shoes actually disappeared on Friday night, he didn't miss them.

Back to the road. I assured him that his luggage was in the boot. He made a few calls to his teammates, we cleared immigration and drove on. Though he asked a few times, we didn't really tell him where exactly in Malaysia we were going. He was probably under the impression that we were off to Kuala Lumpur.

We had a whole bunch of CDs for the trip, and we even played songs off a thumbdrive (cool car, huh?). Sumanth and Viv took alternate turns on the wheel, while the rest of us just chilled.

We were playing some Kishore Kumar oldie on the way back and guess what we saw on the road? A vintage Citroen!

Pizzadude remarked that he wished he had learnt some Malay words so I decided to tell him the joke that a senior of mine had told me when I was a freshie.

Q: How did the Indian guy respond when the Malay guy said to him, "Terima Kasih!" ("Thank you!")?

A: "Tera baap Haridwaar!"

Pizzadude laughed and laughed until he could laugh no more, and then every now and then he thought of it and laughed again.

I love Malaysia. It's laid back and relaxed and often gives you the India feeling. And just like India, some signboards can be really funny.

This made me laugh out loud. Though 'wakaf' means 'small hut', when said with the right emotion, it can sound dangerously like something else.

One more signboard that had me laughing out loud. MAA-Assist!

And we saw the sequel on the way back. Jai Mata di!

We had lunch near the Highway Hotel. Note the tagline 'Now everyone can stay!'

On the way, he saw the signboards saying 'Sepang F1 circuit' and Viv said, "Hey, maybe we should go there first!" What he didn't know was... that was exactly our plan! We didn't say much but drove on, and soon enough he realised where we were going. From then on, the man just couldn't stop grinning...

...especially when we got here.

At Sepang, we took a tour of the National Automobile Museum.

Early history of F1

The only thing at the museum that interested me was this... that too because of the colour and nothing else!

One of the posters at the museum that caught my attention. How can safety ever be astonishing???

We spotted an iguana near our car!

After this, we took a tour of the Sepang F1 circuit.

Cars testing on the circuit

The F1 circuit

After taking crazy shots of ourselves on the winners' podium, and the circuit itself, we finally landed at the go-karting place.

The go-kart circuit

The guys couldn't wait! The track was actually built of the same material that actual F1 circuits are made of. They had 4-stroke engines and 2-stroke engines, and obviously the guys chose the very powerful, albeit expensive, 2-stroke ones.

The karts were so fast that every time I wanted to get a close-up shot of them driving, this is what I would get. :|

So finally I resorted to taking videos of the crazy karters.

After the 10-minute spin, they got out of their cards, and as Shub and I had predicted, after a brief 'Aankhon hi aankhon mein ishara ho gaya', were off for a second round. We knew that look. It means, 'One more, bro?'. They often give each other that look after finishing a jug of beer so we were quite used to it. Bro-mance was blooming. So they had another 10 minutes of what Viv calls the best go-kart experience of his life.

Spectators are present at their own risk?!

Soon, we were off again, this time actually to Kuala Lumpur. Can you spot the Petronas Towers?

We stayed at the Rainforest Bed and Breakfast place, which Shub had found and booked online. Good place, great location, awesome price.

We had dinner (part I) at this very nice organic food cafe, which I believe Pizzadude will soon blog about, and dinner (part II) comprised maggi mee goreng (YUMMY!) and roti canai. After that, we went to a drinks place and hung out, cracking nonsensical jokes as usual and playing dumb charades.

The next morning, we packed up and left at 7 am so we could get Viv to his 2-pm match. Impeccable planning got us to the ground exactly on time. Unfortunately, we lost the match (the opposition reached the target in the very last over), but Viv got two stumpings and one run-out so it wasn't too bad for me.

Over the whole weekend, the grin on his face was still intact about his multi-level birthday surprise.

"This is my best birthday ever." He told us. Then he paused and said, "So far."

I gave him 'that look' and said, "Dude, don't you 'so-far' me, okay? This is it. We're all done. Exhausted. Out of ideas. Next year onwards, all of us will have only regular birthdays. Cut the cake, open the gifts, take us to dinner. Finito."

Yup, voluntary retirement it is. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. It's like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. If only they had known when to stop, the last few seasons wouldn't have gone crappy. We have done good these few years. It's time we pat ourselves on the back and retire from the scene. Look back and smile at the good times.

Maybe when all of us actually retire, we could set up a company called 'Surprise me!' and people will pay us to plan surprises (and some shocks like this and this) for their loved ones.