Friday, August 31, 2007

Just one of those weird moments

Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: The elevator in the office building

I enter and hit the button for the ground floor. The doors open on the 1st floor and a guy enters carrying two enormous garbage bags filled with what looks like shredded paper. He apologises, and I nod. I have no idea what he’s just apologized for. The elevator is fairly large and dry garbage is hardly a bother. As the elevator heads past the mezzanine floor, he turns to me and asks, “You want paint for your fingers?” I look at him and even before I’ve processed the meaning of the question, I shake my head firmly, my ‘I-don’t-talk-to-strangers’ face falling into place. “For leg?” the man persists, although he’s now fairly sure of the answer, because he’s shaking his head and saying no to himself. The doors open and I quickly put as much distance between the janitor-painter and myself before I ask, “Did he mean ‘pain’ by any chance?”

Ever noticed how one weird question inevitably leads to another?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Got a flat, mate?

The flatmate's moving out in a couple of days. And I guess I should be used to it, considering the number of them who've moved in and out in the last 23 months I've been here. When the German couple moved out - the first of the lot to do so - I felt a little bereft. I'd gotten used to their friendly yet non-interfering presence. Cursory conversations in the kitchen, polite smiles in the passage - that was the extent of our interaction. It matched perfectly with my need for solitude.

Next came the fairy-tale girls - Cinderella and Snow White. I'm not kidding about one of those names. They came in and shook up the somnolent establishment from the first day itself. I entered the house to find all the bathroom paraphernalia on the floor in the passage. "We've got a cleaner to spruce up the bathroom," said one of them, "it was such a mess." It most certainly wasn't. The Germans were neat to a fault, and I'm quite particular myself. I was partly-miffed but also partly-relieved to have orderly flatmates.

That initial burst of tidiness concealed a rather contrary sloppiness which I discovered in the months that followed. There were other quirks as well - cooking after 11 p.m., canoodling with boyfriends outside the elevator and so on. It didn't bother me much because I kept to myself.

One of them moved out shortly, and a friend's friend moved in. She'd hit a rough patch and needed support and encouragement. I introduced her to friends, extended a shoulder when needed, and also allowed her unlimited access to my fiercely-guarded bookshelf. Things changed for her, and then changed some more and she decided to head back to India.

I wasn't looking forward to adjusting to new flatmates. And as fate ordained, I didn't have to. I got a new flatmate alright, but this was someone familiar. I could walk into his room and demand a packet of chips or harangue him with laptop woes, as well as throw a fit at unwashed utensils. There were days when I didn't see him and there were days when I woke him just to have a conversation. We had fights and arguments, and days of stonewalled silence, as well as moments of quiet friendship. Who'd have thought an intolerable younger brother could make a perfect flatmate?

Life moves on, and a new flatmate might soon move in. I'm not looking forward to it, but am not dreading it either.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Space Wanted

1 bamboo arrangement
1 Thesaurus
1 cellotape dispenser
1 Post-It note
1 mobile phone holder
I pen holder
4 coasters
3 thimble sized ceramic pots
1 Gary Larson calendar
1 photo frame
14 magazines that's been on the reading list for months
8 supplements from the weekend newspapers
1 notepad
1 job allocation notebook
1 envelope with certificates

And that's only the assortment on the desk.

The 3 side-table drawers are groaning with paraphernalia ranging from stale biscuits to DVDs, newspaper cuttings to invitations to bygone events, interior design magazines to odds 'n ends which have grown pale from the sustained absence of sunlight.

Tomorrow, all of that's going to be packed in a carton and moved to the new office a floor below. I haven't seen my new work station, but I've already requisitioned extra storage space...

An early post on the collection junkie here

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

That Human Touch

Circa 2004

Tucked in between clammy bodies, bony knees, knobby elbows and a profusion of body odours, I attempt to stay erect and concentrate on the book in my hand, as the train lurches from station to station. Somebody's wrist connects with my ear while straining for the overhead rack. A fierce scowl to the wrist's owner doesn't elicit more than a sheepish look. Muttering dark imprecations, I return to the book, reading the same paragraph three times before focus returns. 'Side pliss', the portly lady with the basket of chikoos rasps through broken, paan-stained teeth. I'm tempted to stand my ground, but seeing her plump elbows aimed like missiles at my ribcage, I capitulate, and lean back into the tall lady with jasmines in her fuzzy hair, while the chikoo lady oozes past. The former delivers a swift elbow jab into my back for the sudden, unwelcome pressure while the latter impales me with the same bulbous elbow I was trying to avoid. For a brief moment, there are four elbows connected to my body, and it's a matter of time before there are a few more, as I squirm and displace some of the other bodies in that ring of humanity...

Circa 2007

I step out my building and amble over to the car park. The remote control unlocks the door while I'm a few feet away. Despite the summer heat, the car's cool inside, as I'd managed to park under the solitary tree overlooking the parking bay. I toss my bag on the passenger seat while simultaneously turning on the ignition. The AC leaps into action. I plug my iPod into the car dock, and Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' rolls into the cool, quiet space. I head out over the Bridge. A sedan slips into the small gap between my car and the one ahead. My foot automatically leans on the brake; my mind's far away. After the signal, I indicate and ease into the lane on the right. Th route's comfortably familiar, and providentially, against traffic. Regular glances in the rear and side-view mirrors ensure that I'm not veering too close to another vehicle and vice versa. At the signal, I notice the car in front of mine has a cracked bumper. The blue one on the left needs a paint job. I notice my agency's ad pasted upside down on the taxi up ahead. I make a mental note to inform someone at work. 15 minutes later, I pull into the sandlot opposite my office building. A curious thought occurs to me: it's possible to travel on a busy road every single day and yet not see a single human being. There's a twinge of unease when it strikes me that I can recall cars I've passed but not who was at the wheel.

The Dubai Metro will be up and running next year. Maybe I'll buy a season ticket for old times' sake.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Just in case you wanted my opinion

In response to my post - Facebook Face off - I received an email from Brian which I've reproduced here.

My name is Brian and I'm an intern at ( I wanted to let you know about's new Facebook Files application. It lets people manage all of their documents, photos, and files online so they can access them from anywhere, or share them with friends on Facebook or on their profile. You can take a look at it here:

Like I said in my post, I'm not too keen on numerous applications on my profile. And I like to keep my documents, photos and files offline. But if any of you find it helpful, just run along and add it.

Anyone out there wants me to review a Business Class trip to Paris? Or an opera in Venice? Or an evening with Christian Bale? Just let me know, ok.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


It's been an unprecedented 7-post week. It started out as a self-dare. I was curious to see if I could find something to write about every day. And I found that it wasn't as difficult as I'd imagined. Let's see how it goes from here...

(Ok, ok, I cheated with the date on this one. But that's only because it was the weekend and I don't have a net connection at home.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Facebook Face off

For the two of you who don't know about Facebook, it's a bit like a college canteen that's online. You hang out, yak with friends, exchange gifts, music and photos, write graffitti, join groups - all this while bunking important stuff. In blogging terms, one could liken Facebook to the melee in the comment section of fun bloggers like Alpha, Smiley, Anita Rodricks etc. Fluff, fun and foolin' around.

Having been on Facebook and introduced several of my friends to the network, I find I'm beginning to enjoy it a bit. But some things have begun to peeve me lately. And since Facebook doesn't allow one to blow off steam, it's time for the good old blog to bear the brunt. So here goes:

Peeve # 1: Folks rush to add you on as a friend and you never hear from them again. Initially it was thrilling to find an inbox filled with friend requests - old colleagues, school mates, long forgotten college buddies, and I happily accepted requests, going so far as to customise a 'how do I know X' message. But few do anything more than add you to their burgeoning friend list. Well, if you had 150 or more friends, you wouldn't really be able to do anything more than click the 'add as friend' button, would you? And why on earth would you need 150 friends anyway? The 75 on my list make me nervous enough already.

Peeve # 2: What do you do after joining a Facebook group? You sign up with a cool group with an intriguing name - 'People Who Always Have To Spell Their Names For Other People' - but again, apart from joining the group, what else do you do? I mean, how many times can you get a laugh out of the time someone spelt your name as Leek Levers?

Peeve # 3: Where is the 'Facebook for Dummies' when you need it? I realised how complicated Facebook was when I tried to explain to a tech challenged friend how to access a photo album on my profile. It took me a few weeks before I discovered that clicking on the little 'house' icon next to the Facebook logo on one's profile unearthed what all friends had been up to. In excruciating detail. "X is now friends with P; R sent a flower to H; M has ended a relationship and is now single; V squeezed the pimple on his nose and some white stuff oozed out..."

Peeve # 4: Let's not even start on all the curious widgety things that make ones profile look like an overdone Christmas tree. It's not enough to have a Wall, one must have a Super Wall. A Poke's irritating enough, but one must add a Super Poke where you can drop kick, throw a sheep at and defenestrate people. (Defenestrate! You've got to hand it to the creators of that application.) Some of the widgets are fun, but you won't find me adding Vampires or Fortune Cookies or Fluff Friends or Pimp my Facebook in a hurry.

Peeve # 5: The online/offline distinction gets blurred once again. As with blogs where people get carried away with online personas, on Facebook people want to carry as much of their offline world online. So colleagues and neighbours get miffed if you don't accept their friend requests. I see you every day, for crying out loud. What would I want to say to you on Facebook? I even had a colleague ask me about a job on my Wall. Fortunately I hadn't added the Super Poke application or she'd have b*#@h slapped me.

Whines notwithstanding, Facebook isn't all as bad as I've made it out to be. One of my original motivations for signing up was that my taciturn teenage cousins were on Facebook. Long, impassioned mails returned with monosyllabic replies. It seemed the only way to get across was to join them on their turf. And I've gotten to see quite a different side of them. Not so much the sanitised, studious picture their parents paint of them but the wild, fun, adolescents that they are (and ought to be!)

Also Facebook helps rekindle that community feeling one experienced in college, at some workplaces and even in good old blogland. Sort of brings all your friends to the same party. Even if they happen to be clueless aunts or ex-bosses or friends who've only set up a Facebook account but don't know how to proceed from there.

Still, when it comes right down to brasstacks, it's Facebook, not face-to-face.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

For the record we never gave up...

I still have the half-finished post on the Russell Peters show which I started writing a few months ago. The other half's written out in my head, now buried under layers of other incomplete pieces. Friends who've been tracking the blog have repeatedly asked why I've stopped writing. Just like that, I say. Are you ever going to write again, they persist. Maybe, I shrug. It's a habit that just fell away one day. And stayed away for five months. If not for Alison's birthday post which has become a ritual of sorts, I might have dragged my feet some more.

Coming back feels good though. Like returning to a house you once lived in, and finding it both familiar and strange. Should one attempt to recreate the old magic? Should one try something new? Ah, let's not try to figure it all out. For now, this feels good.

Let's see what new-s the blog's missed lately...

A new acquisition - the Red Devil.
A new obsession - Alternative Rock
A new passion - the gym, resulting in...
A new weakness - strained back
A new ad award - five, actually
A new close friend - T
A new history - R
A new groove - salsa
A new discipline - waking at 6
A new ritual - the Morning Pages
A new freedom - from old blighters
A new discovery - peace

Right, that sums it up.

Thanks Keya and Fairy for the 'welcome back'. And Patrix for dutifully commenting on an old post which Bloglines mysteriously posted. Thanks to all who've left a comment while I went AWOL.

Lindsey, of course I remember you!! There's no way to get in touch on your blog. Mail me or leave an i.d.

Monday, August 20, 2007

You know you've got good karma when... arrive at Deira City Centre on a Saturday evening and nail a parking spot within 3 minutes enter the mall bracing yourself for shoppers, smokers and shrieking kids, and instead are greeted by opera singers doing a mesmerising, goosebump-inducing rendition of your favourite Lakme Flower Duet.

... you end up in the shortest queue at the check out counter, and even get a smile from the checkout clerk

... you get a free parking spot not too far from your building even though it's past 11 p.m.

You know your good karma's good run is over when...

... you stagger to your door, arms quivering with grocery bags and realise you've left the keys in the car.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


I picked it up on a lark. It was so kitschy, so flimsy, I thought you’d get a laugh out of it.

But I was wrong. You loved it. I could tell from your voice that you were giddy with delight. They told me you couldn’t wait to come home and get your hands on it. And once you did, you didn’t put it down for the whole weekend. Maybe you even dreamed of it at night. For someone with a short attention span, that sure counts for something.

Perhaps, if I were six and I’d been gifted a glittery tiara with fake diamantes along with a shiny, star-tipped wand, I’d have been the same. Every little girl dreams of being a princess. And given the right embellishments, namely a tiara and a wand, the gulf between the dream world and humdrum reality is finally bridged. This ‘Middle Earth’ is a lot more exciting and believable, and best of all, is free of boring, unimaginative adults.

I’m told you went around waving the wand and making wishes. I still smile when I think of the urgent ISD call only to ask me for the ‘code which unlocked the wand’. I was stumped and mumbled something about whatever magic word you use that’s the code. Your snorted at that and querulously told me that I shouldn’t keep secrets from you. You weren’t going to buy a politically correct answer for sure. My next, equally unimaginative answer - Abracadabra – you dismissed as ineffective. D-uh, I almost heard you say.

I must have thrown in a few more options, but in a moment you forgot about that, and went on to tell me that the wand Really Worked. Yes, you said with conviction, I pointed it at the TV and it came on, and I also pointed it at the fan and the fan started moving. I found myself cheering along with you, ignoring the muffled laughter I heard in the background. Of course, it works, I said. It is a magic wand.

What's magic, anyway, if not a dream coming true. And don't all dreams start with a desire, a thought. There you have it. That's the 'code', the magic phrase.

So, as you turn SEVEN today, along with all the cutesy wishes, I wish you the power and possibility of magic. Don't ever stop believing...

Earlier posts: Five & Six