Monday, January 23, 2017

Dressed to kill

"Have you decided on your costume?"


Two days later...

"Have you decided on your costume?"

"Thinking still..."

Three days later...

"Have you decided on your costume?"

"Not yet."

"Seriously, Viv?? Here I'm threatening my friends that if they don't turn up in costume, I'm gonna disown them / turn them away at the door / make them sing/dance at the party, and you're just sitting on your ass with no ideas at all? If you need any help to buy/sew/fashion some props, I can do it for you now. If you ask me on the last day, I won't be able to help you. Okay?"

"Okay." That's all he said to my very long lecture.

It was infuriating. Here I was, running around, looking for a really short dress and a dirty brown wig so I could be Preeti (Saira Banu) from Poorab Pachhim at our New Year's Eve Hollywood/Bollywood costume party, and he was just sitting there, coolly, not doing anything.

Of course I knew the real reason why I was so furious. I was secretly scared that he'd do something spectacular at the last possible moment and steal my thunder.

And of course, he did.

First, he started rummaging for Xena's skipping rope. What on earth was he going to do with that?

Then he asked me if I had cardboard. I handed him some cardboard from a craft project that Xena and I had been doing (we were building a house for all her dinosaurs).

"Will you tell me already what you're dressing up as?"

He opened up the computer and showed me this picture on Google images.

Holy crap. He literally had all the props. Blue shirt, check. Brown pants, check. Rope, check.

He has even fashioned his billa number 786 using cardboard and a marker.

Viv was going to be Vijay from Deewar. 

"Can you make me a beedi?"


"Can you make me a beedi? As my prop?"

Of course I could make him a beedi. But did I want to make him a beedi, after my threat to him that I would render no help to him whatsoever if he approached me at the last minute?

It turns out I'm not as hard-hearted as I think I am. 

"Fine, I'll make you a beedi."

And make him a beedi, I did. From the finest brown paper found in our art and craft drawer. 

He even googled AB's iconic dialogue in that get-up, "Tum log mujhe dhoondh rahe ho, aur main yahan tumhara intzaar kar raha hoon." I really wonder why this dialogue is so iconic. I mean, he's just stating a fact, not making some dramatic statement. A dialogue cannot get any more factual than this! I guess it's AB's charisma. Some people can say anything and get away with it. I'm sure if Salman Khan casually says, "Arre, meri shirt kahan gayi?" in a movie, it will become an iconic dialogue. 

Anyway, back to Viv. He practised posing like AB in the picture above and I actually took a picture of him like that with the computer in the background showing the original picture. Finally, he was all set. 

I was all set too, but I had only managed to find a blonde wig instead of the matte brown one I was seeking, and in spite of my very Preeti-esque dress, I wasn't quite sure people could tell who I was supposed to be.

I had dressed Xena up as Anjali from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I had shown her a picture on the computer and she had agreed to dress up like that. The outfit was simple enough -- just a cutesy top and a skirt, and a fabric hairband. But it was the hair I had a tough time with. Xena has long hair, which I was trying to fold and form into the signature Anjali fringe. After about 347897 tries and 238947823975 hair clips, we managed to nail the look.  

The door bell rang. It was the sister-in-law. 

A few days ago, she had come to raid my wardrobe and Viv's too. She asked me if I had a dull, frumpy, long dress. I gave her a look. Did she not know me at all? I loathe dull-coloured clothes of any kind. I did have a long dress, but it was full of the brightest colours on the planet. She sighed and took it for lack of anything better. She also took a white shirt from Viv's wardrobe. I had no idea what she had in mind and knowing her, I assumed it was some Hollywood character she'd choose. 

So when the doorbell rang and I opened the door, she was dressed in that colourful long dress with Viv's white shirt over it. I had no clue what was going on until she went into my room and came out with an emoji pillow stuck under the dress. She also had a backpack on her shoulders and a pair of sunglasses perched on her head. Goodness! She was Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) from Kahaani! It was perfection. I was very touched because I knew she'd chosen a Bollywood character only for me when she's actually more of a Hollywood person. 

The next person to arrive was Pizzadude, winner of our last costume party, the Govinda-themed one. He was dressed as a character from... Dostana! No no, take your dirty minds off John Abraham's yellow trunks. He was Abhishek Bachchan from Dostana, in a pink shirt, sunglasses, and a scarf around his neck. 

The next group to arrive was Maya and R. I had been quite apprehensive about R, as he's the kind who'd preferr to cut off all ties with me rather than dress up as a movie character. So I was relieved and overjoyed to see him dressed up as... Arjun Rampal from Rock On! This was his look, and to my surprise and delight, there was an actual guitar. These guys, who had travelled all the way from the west with their toddler, had lugged a guitar just for his character to be authentic. 

Maya, who had disappeared into the guest room to put on her finishing touches, emerged and I couldn't hold my excitement. I literally squealed with delight. She was Bobby (Dimple Kapadia) from Bobby. Come on, you all know that signature look

The last two people to arrive were my friends S and P. S was dressed as Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction (unfortunately, she had to tell me who she was, I didn't know as I haven't watched Pulp Fiction), while her hubby S was dressed as Indiana Jones, complete with the hat, shoes and whip (another dad borrows his hapless daughter's skipping rope; I couldn't stop laughing at the sight of him and Viv brandishing their skipping ropes!). 

In case you're curious if anyone guessed who I was supposed to be, well, everyone thought I was Helen, so after a while I just decided to go with it. So there I was, in my short black and white dress and long blonde hair, Helen from... every Helen movie, I suppose. 

Though it was a very small dinner party with the closest of my friends, it was a total riot. We played 'Never have I ever' and found out very fun/interesting/scandalous things about one another. Initially it took a while for people to think up of things that would keep them in the clear while forcing others to drink, but soon we all got the hang of it. After a while, even Xena knew how the game went. She raised her hand, saying, "I have one, I have one! Never have I ever... had beer!" 

We were supposed to pick a winner based on whoever had the most sips or whoever played the cleverest game or whoever had the most interesting stories, but it got so fun that we didn't even remember that the game was supposed to have an objective. In comparison to the others', my statements turned out to be quite mellow, though I scored big when I said "Never have I ever... lived in Bangalore!" (Seriously, what is up with Bangalore folks and me?? All my closest friends hail from Bangalore, and now the sis-in-law, also a close friend, is moving to Bangalore!)

Along the way, someone suggested that we switch the game from 'Never have I ever' to 'I have' where each person talks about something they have done that others are unlikely to have done. Once again, the stories I heard in that round were quite mind-boggling, while my only claim to fame in that round was 'I have been to Pakistan! Ha!'

Considering the 'sharaafat ki moorat' that all of us are, the party came to a modest close shortly after midnight, and people dispersed soon after wishing one another a very happy new year. After they had left, I turned to Viv and told him how proud of him and his costume I was. Later, a friend of mine saw his photos and remarked on what a great sport he was and how most men wouldn't even bother to dress up for a costume party. So I told her that he wasn't always like this. 

He'd just happened to marry the right girl. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Eye on the Boll(ywood)

So I have one year to get Xena's Hindi school-ready. This is her last year of preschool and because her school only offers Mandarin as a language, I'm homeschooling her in Hindi. At the moment, she's learning to write the letters. She understands me 100% when I speak in Hindi, but to my frustration, her responses are always in English. To that, I simply say that I can't understand her if she answers a Hindi question in English, and she immediately switches. Phew.

But I think we are far away from the prerequisite for taking up Hindi in Primary One next year, which is that the kid must be able to read and write in Hindi. I'd been racking my brain to think of other ways in which I can increase her exposure to Hindi (I really don't want to put her in tuition at this age) when suddenly the proverbial light bulb lit up right above my head. How had I done it?

My dad got posted to Bihar when I was about six and I was flung headfirst into a totally alien, Hindi-speaking world, of which I understood nothing. And even though it was an "English medium school", it was also Bihar, which meant that not only was the Hindi teacher teaching stuff in Hindi, EVERY single teacher was teaching in Hindi, including the English teacher!

I wonder how I survived the first six months, because after that, there was no mai ka lal who could beat me at Hindi. If I could do it, so can Xena. But wait a minute, it was different for me. Hindi was being blasted at me from every direction. My friends at school and in the neighbourhood all spoke Hindi to me, so I had no choice but to bite the bullet. Xena, on the other hand, has only Viv and me as the source of Hindi, and we speak a mix of English, Hindi and Singlish.

So I wondered if it was time for me to introduce Hindi movies to her. She's still not allowed any screen time, and we know that we need to relax the rule at some point to avoid turning it into the highly desirable forbidden fruit. However, we definitely don't want her to watch some nonsensical "kids' channel" for no good reason, so I figured I could maybe watch some good children's Hindi movies with her. After editing out the inappropriate stuff, of course.

And for some reason, the first movie that flashed across my mind was Mr. India. As a kid, I had watched the movie about a bazillion times and loved it each time. Those were the days when we rented the VCR and the video cassette from the shop in order to watch the movies we wanted to watch. I did wonder about the 'Kaate nahin kat-tey' song but the rest of the movie was too entertaining for me to worry about Sridevi gyrating in her blue saree.

But I knew I had to remove the song for Xena. I could totally picture her bewildered look and I even knew exactly what she would say, "Mama, what is this Aunty doing? Is she not feeling well?"

So Xena and I watched the movie together in 15-minute slots over several weekends (and I sneakily fast-forwarded the song without her even realising it). It was heartening to see her enjoy it so much. Once in a while, I'd pause and repeat the dialogues and ask her if she understood them and she did. Every scene that I had laughed my guts out as a kid (the kids waking up to jets of water installed in their bunk beds, Sridevi's Charlie Chaplin act, Bob Christo worshipping the flying Hanuman statue) was making her laugh. It was very touching. Bollywood mommy's Bollywood baby.

Today, her post-school stories included something very interesting.

"Mama, I told Zac about Mr. India!"

Zac is 'da man' of her class. He's the leader, the boss man, the cool dude. Stuff endorsed by Zac is stuff indeed. A few weeks ago, he came up with his own league of superheroes (Xena is Oreo woman; apparently she shoots Oreos out of her wrists at the bad guys. Don't ask.)

So yeah, Zac's approval was important to her.

"You did?"

"Yes, I told him THE WHOLE STORY!"

"Wow. What did he say?"

"He listened to THE WHOLE STORY."

"Did he like it?"

"Yes, he said he liked it very much. But he said he's very confused now."

"Why is he confused? About what?"

"He says he's confused between Magneto and Mogambo. He doesn't know who is who anymore."

That made me laugh out so loud, I think I scared Xena a bit. My successor for my 'Bollywood takes over the world' agenda is on the right path.

Mogambo Mommy khush hui. 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Cutting chai

"No teh halia???" He asked.

"No teh halia." I answered calmly.

He looked too stunned to continue entering my order into his machine.

Okay, let me start at the beginning. So there is this tiny Indian restaurant near Xena's school where I grab a quick lunch once a week or so, before picking her up. And no matter what food I order, I always always order a teh halia with it. Teh halia is Singapore-speak for ginger tea. (The other important teh here is teh tarik, which always reminds me of Sunny Deol and I imagine him as a tea addict, going, "Teh tarik pe tarik pe tarik!")

So last week, when I placed my order without a 'and a teh halia' suffix, it caused quite a stir. The guy at the counter Purshottam (actually I don't know his name but I refer to him as Purshottam -- if you've watched TVF's 'Permanent Roommates', you'll know why. Basically, he's a devar-figure in my life.) shook his head in disbelief as he entered my order.

I walked over to my table and sat down. Barely had my bum descended on the chair when a hand appeared out of thin air and deposited a cup of teh halia on my table! I looked up and it was the other guy (I really should think of a name for him too). Apparently, as soon as he'd seen me enter the restaurant, he'd started making the teh halia! Erm. So I told him (rather nervously, for I knew what was coming) that I hadn't ordered it.

"It's teh halia," he said, blankly.

"I know. But I didn't order it."

"You didn't order teh halia??" He asked, still kinda looking blank.

"Yep, that's right."

Trying not to give away the hurt+shock on his face, he picked up the cup and went back.

I could hear him say to Purshottam, "She didn't order teh halia."

"Yes." said Purshottam.

Their collective disappointment in me was palpable.

I was feeling really bad, and under normal circumstances, I'd have accepted the tea since he'd made it already. But this time I couldn't. I simply couldn't.

Viv and I are doing a 40-day no-sugar-no-alcohol challenge.

Here's the thing... I'm not very sure exactly why I am doing it though. It's not like we are overweight/unhealthy, or big sugar or alcohol consumers, expecting some kind of miraculous body transformation by undergoing this challenge. But before we embarked on it, I did sit back and try to go over our sugar/alcohol consumption. Neither of us drinks tea/coffee on a daily basis, we don't buy juice, we generally don't order sweet drinks at restaurants, and we don't go and party over drinks every weekend. I don't like ice-cream, Indian desserts, or cake icing, so I rarely have them. I never step foot into a Starbucks.

Once in a week or so, when I have company or if I'm at Purshottam's restaurant, I have tea. And since I don't have it every day, when I do have it, I don't hold back on the sugar. I'm quite unapologetic about liking my tea sweet.

I also bake a lot, but most of it is meals and not really cakes. The exception would probably be brownies, which I used to make almost 2-3 times a month because both Viv and Xena love them. The other source of sugar would be the occasional moscato that accompanies our Netflix sessions, or when we have a party. We eat out at least twice a week, and there's bound to be a lot of sugar in outside food, even in food that is not typically considered sweet, such as a bowl of tom yum soup. And then there's all the added sugar in stuff like salad dressings, ketchup, pasta sauces, etc.

Doesn't seem like very little, and doesn't seem like a lot. So what I really want to see is what the 40-day challenge would ukhado. I also need to take into account the fact that I have changed two variables at once (upped my gym time to 45 min this year), so any fitness-related 'results' would not be purely because of the challenge. I'm just curious about what it would do. And whether at the end of the 40 days, my body would reset its sugar-meter to the point that I can't even look at a slice of cheesecake. (Sounds very unlikely, if you ask me.)

Here's the thing -- even if nothing happens, I don't think this will be a futile exercise. I'll at least be armed with all the knowledge I've been gathering about stuff that has added sugars. Did you know, for instance, that Maggi noodles' seasoning has sugar? Holy cow. Sometimes, I just want to go for something without reading the food label, but the next moment, I chide myself, read it and then put the item back.

The other day, I almost 'cheated' without realising it. Xena couldn't finish her bowl of grapes, and out of habit I just grabbed the last one and popped it into my mouth. Before I could bite into it, I remembered that the no-sugar challenge extends to fruits too, and the next second, I was PTOOSHING it out of my mouth straight into the bin. Good girl.

Viv has an unopened can of Redbull in the fridge (leftover from our new year's eve party) and he says, "The true test will be to see how long that can remains in the fridge." He used to drink Redbull many many years ago, but after we found out more about its effects on the body, we completely shunned it. Now we buy it like once a year or so, e.g. if there is a big party and we need multiple drink options. So the fact that the can, joblessly sitting in the fridge just like that, has not tempted him, is quite amazing. Good boy.

Realistically, I think this is what will happen after the 40 days -- I won't give up sugar forever but I will become very sugar-conscious (e.g. no need to have birthday cake at every party that Xena gets us invited to, no need to smother that samosa/pakoda with ketchup, no need to reach for a big helping of sweet fruits because "fruits are so healthy"), and I will hardly have alcohol.

So that's that. Let's see how this goes and what this does. So far, so good. The giving up alcohol has been super easy, mainly because we never drink that much anyway. In fact, last night, we had dinner at Cafe Iguana and we didn't order their margaritas. True fans of Cafe Iguana will tell you what kind of blasphemy it is to step inside Cafe Iguana and not order their margaritas. We had never done that before. Ever.

I've also managed to cut out the sugar pretty easily. But the one thing I miss is my beloved teh halia. A few friends have been telling me to simply have it without sugar, but that is a grave insult to teh halia. To me, that's unthinkable. I might as well not drink any teh halia, than drink such a heavily compromised version.

But once the 40 days are over, no matter what I decide to do about sugar for the rest of the year, one thing is for sure -- I will break my fast with teh halia.

And I will shock Purshottam and co. all over again. 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Dancing queen

Last week, Viv and I went to Bombay Cafe after ages. Bombay Cafe used to be one of our favourite hangouts many years ago, with its novel so-pink-that-it-can't-get-pinker-than-this walls, the posters of old classics and a TV that played songs from the 90s. It also was probably the ONLY place in Singapore where you could order an old-style glass bottle of Thums Up, and I just loved it.

I also have a soft corner for Bombay Cafe because some 11 years ago, I had ranted in a blog post about how they were out of Thums Up when I had gone there, and they had immediately shipped a complimentary carton full of 24 bottles of Thums Up and Mangola to me! Whoa. Thumbs up, for sure.

So Viv and I had placed our orders and were chit-chatting as we waited, when suddenly our collective ears perked up. Was that... were they playing... it WAS, wasn't it? We looked up. The TV was playing 'Akhiyan milaaun kabhi akhiyan churaaun' from Raja! Yes, that movie which really should have been called Rani instead, considering it had powerhouse Madhuri Dixit paired opposite a tame Sanjay Kapoor. (I've never been able to take Sanjay Kapoor seriously, not after his hilarious 'Aati nahin' song, not after all the constipation-related jokes that got associated with it.)

I couldn't get myself to watch Prem, or Raja, but the 'akhiyan milaaun' song was something else. Madhuri OWNED that song, and his presence didn't even matter. It was 1995. Countdown shows were the 'in' thing those days and for us 'brought up on Doordarshan and not even DD2' kids, they were 'da bomb'. I remember how obsessed everyone became with this song as soon as it came out. We knew every beat, every step, every eye movement and we LUUURVED her outfit, though now when I watch it again and realise that her top, jacket, earrings, belt and rings match one another EXACTLY, I wanna do a Phoebe-esque 'MY EYES! MY EYES!' and run away.

But look good she did, and how.

Recently, I read an interview of choreographer Terence Lewis, who said,
Madhuri is the best. She's not mechanical. I've realised why she's so good -- when you give her something, she can dance on the spot. She understands it, takes it in and when she is doing it, it makes her happy. 
Most dancers like Aishwarya, Deepika, Priyanka and Kareena are fabulous but I don't see them enjoying it the way they should. Their focus is on, 'Am I looking beautiful?' 
When you see Madhuri, she doesn't even realise that a earring may have fallen off. She is lost because she's so happy. 
I also see that in Govinda. But not in Hrithik or Shahid.

I was nodding at every word. Even the bit about Govinda. Hrithik and Shahid are fabulous dancers indeed, and even though I'm not a big Govinda fan, I have to admit that when he dances, you can clearly see that he's IN the music and the music is IN him. And the joy on his face when he's dancing is simply irresistible, not to mention infectious. And yes, Madhuri has the same thing. She lets the song get under her skin and simply carry her away.

Sharing the song that brought back some amazing childhood memories of the one and only dancing queen of Bollywood.

Good times, man. Good times.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Poetry in (slow) motion

At the recent New Year's eve party we hosted, we played 'Never have I ever' with some very interesting, and not to mention scandalous, results. I will post about that party very soon. I also realised that compared to my friends, my life has been very tame (think "Never have I ever skipped a lecture in university" and the likes, which made everyone shake their heads in utter disbelief that I was their friend). But... there was one statement I made that brought on collective gasps.

"Never have I ever paid more than $100 for a new phone."

After the "what?!", "how??", "not possible" hullabaloo had died down, I explained. I don't really care much for mobile phones and so whenever I renew my contract, I pick up whatever lowest-priced phone they have on offer. And on most occasions, it has been $0. The $100 was that one time when they didn't have anything lower. Seriously. I told you. I don't care. I don't want to get a $800 phone and then lose or drop it and feel horrible afterwards. I don't even use my phone all that much and I have no apps or fancy stuff on it. On hindsight, never have I ever called an Uber from my phone, simply because I don't even have the app.

Viv keeps insisting that I should get an iPhone, but I believe it has nothing to do with husbandly love and care. All he probably wants is to upgrade to the next iPhone himself, without feeling guilty about ditching his still-newish old iPhone. So he wants me to take over his hand-me-down phone, putting forth the "strong" argument that it will still be a $0 phone for me, but it will be infinitely better than the ones I've owned so far. Nope. You get yourself a fancy phone and then you put the fancy stuff that goes into your fancy phone and bam, your life is not as simple as it was anymore. I know it works for others, but it just won't work for me.

He, of course, is a big fan of the iPhone and has recently started taking slow-mo videos with it, which I admit are impressive but are hardly the reason for me to switch. So this weekend, after he came back from cricket practice and showed me this iPhone slow-mo video he took, I doubled over with laughter.

My man was behind the nets, taking a slow-mo video of his teammates' practice, and got so engrossed that he forgot that when a ball is coming at you, you need to remember who you are at that moment (photographer, not wicket-keeper).