Life's Like That

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rootless and loving it

While in Bombay, I met this gentleman who has recently moved to the city from Calcutta. Whi;le I understand that adjusting to a new city takes time, I was not prepared for the sheer negativity of his approach. He didnt seem to be able to find one good thing about the city he has just moved to. From the rains, to the tiny flats,to the cost of living, to the food, he found nothing worth liking. The last straw, as he told me, was the fact that his seven year old son was reciting Marathi poems and learning Marathi instead of Bengali. Now, forgive me if Im missing some Bengali love for the motherland type of sentiment here but whats the big deal? I would be very happy if my child learnt some other Indian language, apart from Hindi and his mothertongue. Its such an advantage. Is this irritating tendency to wear ones cultural roots on ones sleeve a predominantly Bengali trait? Or other communities as subject to it as we Bongs are?

I have not moved around the country as much as others whose parents had transferable jobs have. But I am prfoundly thankful I had the chance to get out of the city I was born in and live elsewhere. I was born in Calcutta and lived there till I was 18. I then moved to Bangalore where I still live. In between I have lived in Hyderabad for a year and Bombay for a few months. Thanks to the boy I can consider Chennai a third home. Living in a city is so different from merely visiting a city or holidaying in a city. The experience opens your mind, makes you more receptive to new cultural experiences, gives you a perspective on the city like nothing else can.

If I had'nt lived in Bangalore for as long as I have, would I have developed this taste for Iyengar puliogare? Or idlis from Veena Stores? Would I have known that in one of the little bylanes off Commercial Street there is a little hole in the wall that makes the best ghee dosas ever? When I first moved to Bangalore I almost threw up on biting into a banana chip fried in coconut oil. Today, I look forward to my friend's return from Kerala not just for the banana chips but for the jackfruit chips as well. Unlike some of my relatives I am totally comfortable travelling within the Southern states, the food, the language, the weather...its all something I am totally used to. I know a Tamil wedding takes hours with multiple sari changes and a Malayali Hindu wedding gets over in 5 minutes. I time my appearances accordingly. I know how to cuss and abuse in Kannada ( not that I do that loudly...but its good to know that I can if I want to). I no longer gasp at the sight of people dancing at the head of funeral processions. While I can't speak the language properly, I can understand what is being said to me. I can distinguish between the four South Indian languages. I know 100 places to go for weekend holidays. I can never be lost in this city.

Hyderabad taught me that the city of nawabs have a nawabi sense of time. No point expecting shops to open before 11 a.m. In Hyderabad I learnt to decipher the strange sounds made by some as "Hyderabadi Hindi". Once deciphered, I learnt to comprehend and appreciate the mutilated language in all its glory. I know the quickest item to order from the menu when one is in a hurry is the chicken biriyani. I first ate this divine something called pesarettu in Hyderabad. No place in Bangalore, to my knowledge makes it the same. I can take you on a comprehensive tour of the Old City, take you to the best bangle shop for bargains in Laad Bazaar, show you the best shops for buying Hyderabadi pearls and feed you the most finger licking good biriyani ever at Madina and Shadab and Basera( no Paradise biriyani does not come close). I can find my own way about the city from Secundarabad to Gachi Bowli. I am comfortable in an auto, a bus, a cab and even a seven seater. I can take you for an authentic Punjabi meal at Pappaji da Dhaba near Abids and show you a decent second hand book sale near the same. I know drivers in Hyderabad are slightly mad and don't seem to understand that red signal means STOP. I can take you down a 100 lanes, each bringing up some memory, each leaving me gasping and shaking my head at the changes that 8 years away from it have wrought.

Bombay....the city I love to hate. I know can never feel unsafe in Bombay. I know the average Bombay ite will not give you a second glance if you are being murdered on the road, but ask him / her for directions and he / she will practically walk you there. I know I can walk down Parsi Colony near the Five Gardens area in Dadar and feel transported back to Calcutta...the houses, the lanes everything is so uncannily similar to Ballygunge Place / Fern Road. I used to know some of the second book sellers near Churchgate, daresay I wont be able to recognize them now. I know that the city can get suffocatingly crowded. I know I only need to walk down Marine Drive or sit at the Bandra bandstand to feel gloriously free and happy. Rain or shine, these two places can be depended upon to lift my mood. I have favourite places to visit each time I'm in the city. Crystal on Marine Drive, Barista on the Bandstand, Sports Bar at Phoenix Mills, Lokhandwala market, Leopolds..so many memories intertwined with these places. I know I love to hear Marathi being spoken, its so sweet and similar to Bengali in the way they address each other as tumi. I know I detest the Bombay trains. Though I have fond memories of the "train friends" I had made during my short stint in the city...ladies who made space for me to stand, who smiled at me when I got into the train and smiled goodbye when I got off. I used to know all the stations in order from Andheri to Churchgate though I have forgotten some of it now.

Each of these cities have memories or experiences associated with places within them. A road here, a restaurant there, memories come flooding back. I cannot quite describe the feeling of coming out of an airport in a city that used to be your home and finding familar roads and landmarks around you. The best part of having lived in more than one city, I think, are the friends you make. I can reach Hyderabad in the middle of the night and have an option of calling 4 different people for a place to stay at night. Same goes for Bombay, Calcutta and of course Bangalore. In fact today I have friends across India. I can land up in Aizwal, Mizoram unannounced and depend on my friend P to put me up for the night. Had I not lived in Hyderabad would I have even known P?

I wanted to say all this and more to the discontent gentleman in Bombay. Embrace the new experiences life is offering you. Be happy your son has the opportunity to grow up in a city like Bombay, learning the local language. Be happier than you have this wonderful chance to live in a city other than the one you grew up in....that you have the choice to decide whether you like the city or not, which parts of the city you like and which parts you don't. Open your mind a bit...live a little.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Its a dog's life I tell you

An excerpt from a G talk conversation with my ex boss :

Ronita
I have this dog related event. Very stressed about it.

Ex Boss (EB)
Recession is not hitting pets.They r getting more and more luxuries

Ronita
which is why i want to be a rich mans pet labrador in my next life

Ronita
pray for me
1) decent turnout for this event 2) tht im a rich man's pet lab in my next life

EB
I'll pray for u
Pray for me as well
That I'm the rich man in next life

Ronita
no
i dont want to be ur labrador
ur not fond of animals
u wont trt me well
u wont take me to spas
n get me diamond studded collars

Ronita
ill pray tht ur A rich man in ur next life
maybe good friends with my rich man
but not my rich man

EB
Yeah
That's what I meant
I will be ur masters friend

Ronita
haan tht is fine
i will not bark at u

EB
And when I come visiting u I will ocassionally get u doggie snacks

Ronita
i shall wag my tail politely n walk away
how kind of u
i shall wag my tail in thanks

EB
And maybe sometimes a chewy bone

Ronita
how kind
i shal woof my thanks
n help u impress women too

EB
And hope ur master has a hot wife
So that I come visiting u more in ur master's absence

Ronita
no np
he is a bachelor

EB
Y but

Ronita
so all his love n affection and more importantly money is reserved for me

EB
Ok then let ur master be a hot woman
She can be spinster then
And I can spend a lot of time at ur house

Ronita
hmm
tht has possibilities
ok
thats fine
women are more likely to send their pets to spas anyways

All this while I am supposed to be working on this event Jai Ho for GTalk in office
Good to know I am still capable of inane and insane conversations :D